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Quote of the Day on Executive Overreach

National Review’s Yuval Levin hits on what I really don’t like about the Obama Administration:

In one sense, the approach the president is said to be contemplating does fit into a pattern of his use of executive power. That pattern involves taking provocative executive actions on sensitive, divisive issues to isolate people he detests, knowing it will invite a sharp response, and then using the response to scare his own base voters into thinking they are under assault when in fact they are on the offensive. That’s how moving to compel nuns to buy contraception and abortive drugs for their employees became “they’re trying to take away your birth control.” This strategy needlessly divides the country and brings out the worst instincts of people on all sides, but it has obvious benefits for the administration and its allies. Liberals get both the substantive action and the political benefit of calling their opponents radicals and getting their supporters worked up. Obama’s legalization of millions would surely draw a response that could then be depicted as evidence of Republican hostility to immigrants, rather than of Republican hostility to illegal executive overreach that tries to make highly significant policy changes outside the bounds of our constitutional order.

It’s not that he’s liberal. I’ve been through liberal presidents in my lifetime. Despite Clinton being far more damaging on guns than Barack Obama could ever dream of, I never developed the visceral dislike of Clinton Administration that I have for the Obama Administration. Maybe that’s partly psychological. The Clinton years were good. I look back fondly on that time in life. In contrast, the Obama years have been hellish both financially and in always feeling like we’re living on the razors edge just a hair’s breath away from losing everything we thought we believed about this country.

Philosophically, I think Barack Obama is a fairly conventional progressive in the mold of Woodrow Wilson; another ends-justify-the-means president who isn’t above flaming the worst instincts in the populace if it benefits the promotion of his political agenda. But I also can’t help but to take a swipe at Republicans here.

You know what makes Republican cries of overreach ring hollow? Maybe because your guy did it over the howls of the left during the last Administration? I would be the first to agree that Bush’s crimes with executive overreach pale in comparison to Obama’s, but Bush set the stage. You reap what you sow. I’m deeply angry at the Obama surveillance state, but it was Bush who laid the foundation for it. Let’s not kid ourselves.

Many people on the right call on President Obama to be impeached for a his overreach. Like the author of this piece, I am more sympathetic to handing out green cards more liberally than the majority of conservatives. But if he unilaterally, and without legal authority, implements amnesty without action by Congress, I believe he ought to be impeached. That would be a bridge too far for me when it comes to illegal executive actions. I know the consequence of that is President Joe Biden. I’d take it.

However, you know what makes impeachment politically impossible for the Republicans? You know what makes Obama invite the very idea? Progressives well remember what happened the last time Republicans decided it was a good idea to impeach the last Democratic president over the very important topic to the future of the country: lying about whether he did or did not get a blow job from another consenting adult.

Impeachment is serious business. It should only be for very serious things. But when the GOP made President Clinton only the second President in the US to be impeached by the House, over being dishonest about blow jobs, they cheapened the very idea. Along comes a president who has actually done some things I think may deserve impeachment, and sorry guys, you surrendered the moral high ground.

So Obama won’t be impeached. And you can thank Newt Gringrich for that.

Joe Manchin Costs Jobs with Gun Control

This letter would seem to indicate that Beretta considered relocated to West Virginia, having been wooed there by politicians no doubt looking to bring jobs. But Beretta indicates they were “looking first and foremost for a widespread and stable place of political support in any potential location,” and Joe Manchin’s recent actions on gun control were enough to give them the heebee jeebees. It’s not like West Virginia needs jobs or anything. Working class people struggling for good manufacturing jobs ought to take note of where Democratic priorities lie.

BerettaLetter

So It Has Come to This: Obama Gets Me to Cheer Mike Bloomberg

The Obama Administration has taken such an egregious action that is has me actively cheering gun control wallet-in-chief Mike Bloomberg. From today’s edition of Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt, on what he’s calling a de-facto travel ban to Israel, quoting Bloomberg:

“This evening I will be flying on El Al to Tel Aviv to show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel,” Bloomberg said in a prepared statement emailed by former City Hall spokesman Marc La Vorgna shortly after 8 p.m.

“Ben Gurion is the best protected airport in the world and El Al flights have been regularly flying in and out of it safely,” Bloomberg continued. “The U.S. flight restrictions are a mistake that hands Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately. I strongly urge the FAA to reverse course and permit US airlines to fly to Israel.”

It’s not like anyone flying to Israel isn’t aware there’s a war going on. If people want to take their chances, it’s no business of the FAA’s. I agree with Geraghty that this is back channel pressure on the Israelis to comply with US demands. You know, US demands that it basically not defend itself.

I’ve said over the dinner table that if the drug cartels in Mexico were launching rockets over the border into El Paso at the same rate Hamas has been launching them out of Gaza, in a few days there would be no living cartel members. If the US Army wouldn’t invade Mexico and clean house, Texans would. There wouldn’t be all that much concern for collateral damage, as long as all the rockets and heavy weapons were found and destroyed quickly. A hostile Mexican government would likely be deposed. We all know we would do that. Even most liberal Americans faced with rocket attacks would demand action.

Yet this Administration apparently expects the Israelis to “show restraint.” They are. The fact that it took this long to go in shows remarkable restraint — restraint that Americans would never exercise in the same situation.

Dual Citizenship Laws

Tam was wondering how two Americans, recently killed in the hostilities in Gaza, were legally serving in the IDF while retaining citizenship. I am far from an expert in this, but there have been a number of Supreme Court cases involving this topic of dual-citizenship for those of you interested. But my understanding boils down to this: you generally won’t lose your citizenship unless you renounce it or take some action in a manner that shows intent to give up citizenship. US law and policy is generally favorable for people holding dual-citizenship, residing abroad, and serving compulsory military service, which Israel requires. I also think you can even join a foreign military voluntarily, since routine oaths are generally not sufficient to cause the loss of citizenship.

What’s interesting is that the State Department policy that allows one to keep citizenship as a result of a “routine oath” is just that — State Department policy. The case law is less clear as to when one renounces one’s US citizenship or not. Take the case of Vance v. Terrazas, where a dual-US/Mexican national lost his US citizenship when he signed a form having to reaffirm his Mexican citizenship when he went to college there.

What does this have to do with guns? I direct you to question 11(j) on ATF Form 4473, “Have you ever renounced your United States citizenship?” I’m not sure there’s much case law on prosecutions for lying on 11(j), but I could be wrong. I think serving compulsory military service of your dual country is probably fine, but if you voluntarily joined a foreign military, or took any action that could be interpreted, through preponderance of the evidence, that you had intent to give up your citizenship, you could find yourself facing a long time in federal prison if you answer that question incorrectly on 4473. It’s a good idea for dual citizens to be cognizant of any oaths or actions that may have been taken that could be interpreted as intent to surrender citizenship.

Civil Service vs. The Spoils System

This is a topic I’ve long struggled with: are we better off with modern civil service protections, or would we be better off under the Spoils System? Lately, I’ve tended to agree with Glenn Reynolds “that the entire Civil Service system should be scrapped.” I’m think the civil service tends to perpetuate the opinions and prerogatives of a small handful of elites, and is fundamentally anti-democratic. Not that I always believe “anti-democratic” is a bad word, but it has to serve a purpose in the framework of individual liberty and protecting political minorities from the worst excesses of democratic government. I think civil service protections fail this test. I’d like to highlight his current top comment in Glenn Reynolds post, which I think offers food for thought. His commenter supports a return of the Spoils System:

A real spoils system would have several advantages:

  1. You could get rid of them all by electing a new party to office.
  2. Bureaucrats might be restrained by knowing that they will soon be turfed out into the private sector so they will want rules that they could live under after the next election.
  3. They might also be restrained by the knowledge that if their behavior got to obnoxious they would cost their party votes and potentially end their employment.
  4. Everyone would realize they are partisan hacks and thus not excuse their overreach behind some sort of non-partisan good government BS.

Lately, I’ve been thinking the same thing. The downside is there are people in the civil service right now who are actually knowledgable, do a reasonable job, and not political hacks. But there are far too many political hacks hiding behind civil service protections. These days I tend to agree we’d be better off with the spoils system, provided it was operated with the knowledge and understanding that there’s a lot the government does that requires people who are competent and willing to work hard. I’d hate to see, for example, document preservation exports cut loose at the National Archives because they were hired by the “wrong party.” But I’m willing to concede that civil servants who live by the sword (politics) can also die by it. That’s probably how it should be. An awful lot of civil service protections were generally meant to promote big, permanent government and rule by unaccountable “experts.”

Fairfax County Playing Games with License Holders

Virginia gun lawyer John Frazer has information for Fairfax County concealed carry permit holders who may be facing minor misdemeanor charges that won’t impact their eligibility. According to John:

Fairfax County gun owners should be aware that the Circuit Court clerk’s office may treat concealed carry permit applications as incomplete, and forward them to a judge for review, based on disclosure of pending criminal charges. …

People whose applications are denied in this situation can either wait until their pending charge is resolved, or challenge the denial in an ore tenus (“word of mouth”) hearing in circuit court.

There’s a little more that people who might know someone in this situation should read.

When I renewed my permit there, they tried to play games with me, too. I was told that I would hear back in just beyond the deadline. I asked her if she meant to say that they would have a permit to me before the deadline, and it’s clear she was not happy about an informed applicant. I got my renewal on the last possible day.

Of course, she was also probably a little angry at me because when I said I was renewing, but the county it was issued from was Montgomery County, she went off about how it’s not a renewal from another state and how I needed to learn my new local laws, etc. When she stopped, I finally let her know that there is, in fact, a Montgomery County in Virginia that issues Virginia carry licenses. (h/t to VSSA)

Holder Shaking Down Banks to Kill Gun Industry?

The details of Operation Choke Point came out in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago, but now more details are coming out suggesting that the DoJ may be pressuring banks to cut access to the financial system to gun shops as well, citing this article from a few days ago:

The Libertis’ battle with BankUnited began last month. For seven years, they say, they had no problem with the Miami Lakes-based bank. T.R. had run a gun store in the Garden State, and when he opened Top-Gun Firearms on Calle Ocho, BankUnited operated the account.

But when T.R. decided to retire and let Elizabeth take the store online — under the new name Discount Ammo-N-Guns — the Libertis found themselves suddenly under fire.

A March 12 letter mysteriously informed them that BankUnited was closing their checking account “pursuant to the terms and conditions listed in our Depositor’s Agreement.” It gave the Libertis three days to transfer their cash elsewhere. When the Libertis called BankUnited for an explanation, they were politely informed that none would be forthcoming.

Stories like this often come out and there is often more going on than the parties are saying, but even the original Wall Street Journal article noted that ammunition sellers were among the targets. It’s not much of a stretch to assume that Holder wants to go after gun dealers as well. This certainly merits concern and further investigation.

Via SayUncle, who also notes they are going after porn. They told me if I voted for Mitt Romney, dour puritans would go after guns, drugs and gambling, and they were right!

You Have to Take the “Special” out of SWAT

Bob Owens covers the NBC News story showing that Boston cops were over gunned and undertrained in the aftermath of the Boston Bombing. I think it’s very psychologically bad to make police feel separate from the civilian population they are actually a part of. The S in SWAT stands for “Special,” and I tend to think when you hand young men “special” weapons, without the rigor of military discipline to control those young men, you’re bound to get a lot of little napoleons and wannabes. When that same young man hears, “yeah, I have five of those” from his “civvie” shooting buddies upon presenting his shiny department issued AR, that perpetuates a culture where you’re nothing special, and where you might actually have a culture from which you can learn, and be more willing to learn. Massachusetts is a state that has endeavored to destroy that culture, and elevate its police to something very different from its civilian population.

Cooler Heads Prevail in Bundy Ranch Situation

BlmOver the weekend, while I was busy with yard work, the Bureau of Land Management backed down from their confrontation with Cliven Bundy in Nevada. It’s actually been the foreign media that seem to be most fascinated by all this, as the coverage at the UK outlets Daily Mail and The Guardian, and Australian outlet the Sydney Telegraph, aptly demonstrate. A pretty good article about the confrontation appears in Breitbart, which is not entirely sympathetic to Bundy’s position, but provides a good bit of background.

This whole incident is baffling for an east coaster, because grazing rights on federal land seem more like a policy dispute rather than an dispute of fundamental rights, or the government reaching beyond its Constitutional constraints. Few people would argue the federal government doesn’t have the power to control it’s own property. It’s in the Constitution. This has never seemed to me to be in the realm of things we draw lines in the sand and threaten to shoot people over.

I get the fundamental unfairness of it all; that the feds are ruining the livelihood of ranchers over a desert tortoise, when Harry Reid and his former staffer who now heads up BLM is busy defiling that very tortoise habitat with a solar farm to benefit one of his big donors. I get that the federal government is currently flush with overreaching bureaucrats who have little regard for the people their policies impact. But to me this looks like something we’re better off changing at the ballot box. I also don’t really have very much sympathy with the Sovereign Citizen Movement, which Bundy seems to have leanings toward.

I won’t pretend to have a strong understanding of the west’s land use culture. To east coasters, westerners have always seemed rather eager to kill each other over things that people on the east coast take for granted, like water. But that’s not to say I’m on the federal government’s side in this whole affair. While I believe the federal government is probably in the legal right, I think they’ve squandered their moral right when they decided to threaten protesters and corral them into first amendment pens like herds of cattle. When I say what’s happening with Cliven Bundy isn’t worth shooting people over, I’m speaking to both sides. The BLM didn’t have to come in with a cocky attitude and pushing people around. I’d rather live in a country where’s a healthy spirit to resist bureaucratic whim, than live in one where people are expected to be obedient little subjects and step aside. Bundy stood up to the federal government and he won, and there’s part of me that celebrates that no matter how I feel about the actual policy issue. The famous quote from Thomas Jefferson is quite apt here:

God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people can not be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13 states independent 11 years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half for each state. What country ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.

In a political climate where a large portion of Americans didn’t feel like they were constantly under the boot of the federal government in general, and this Administration in particular, these kinds of public policy disputes wouldn’t risk starting a civil war. The federal government backed down because it did not want a bloodbath. I think that was the prudent and moral thing to do. If the federal government is going to deal with grazing on federal lands, it’s going to have to earn back a its legitimacy from the large segment of the public that now questions it. This Administration has taken to politicizing every aspect of American life, and these are the wages of that policy.

The BLM Debates & Taking a Stand

I’ve only been vaguely following the issues with the Bureau of Land Management out in Nevada, and neither Sebastian nor I will pretend to be experts in either the land use policies or the land use culture of the West which is very different when you consider that the federal government owns about 86% of Nevada, with about 2/3 of the state falling under the control of the BLM.

There are some folks saying that the rancher is completely in the right and not at all behind on payments for grazing access, and others in the media that claim he admits to about $300k in debt over the issues. To make it worse, a local government official apparently had a message for outside protesters: “if they come to Clark County to support Bundy they ‘better have funeral plans.’”

From what I understand, even though local folks are encouraging people to come in, they don’t want it to be about guns and camo-clad masses. Unfortunately, not everyone may listen to them and things could easily end up escalated, as illustrated by the Clark County’s Commissioner’s remarks. Anyone who ventures out there needs to make sure that they do fully understand every legal issue at hand and determine if they truly classify this as a government overreach that is serious enough to warrant possible jail time (multiple people have already been arrested) or worse if the Clark County Commissioner has his way.

I’m rather surprised at the backlash over something like grazing on land that is established as belonging to the federal government when there’s a case in Texas brewing of the BLM preparing to take over the management of 90,000 acres that landowners have deeds on and have paid taxes on for years. This a report from the Texas Farm Bureau on the issue:

Interestingly, BLM inserted itself in the Texas-Oklahoma border dispute after an Oklahoman sort of “invaded” Texas to set up a dredging operation and declared the land his after careful study of the laws and history of the Red River. That man is fondly known by my family as “Uncle Buck.” Because of that opened door, the BLM now wants more land under their control, and I haven’t found any mention of any offers to compensate current owners for it fairly – either by the federal government or Texas agencies that screwed up in including it in deeds and charging taxes on it. I would think that taking privately owned land without compensation would be a much bigger issue to drive protest than one’s desire to graze cattle on established taxpayer-owned land.

I’m not sure I really have a conclusion to this post. It’s just something that Sebastian and I have been observing and talking about the last few days. It’s been interesting to see what kind of policy debates are getting people worked up about federal overreach, but others that are falling by the wayside when they seem to be more direct constitutionally-related issues. Personally, we both hope that people keep their cool in Nevada, contrary to whatever extreme rhetoric is coming from Clark County officials.

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