Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

February 11 roundup

State of the Union speech

Update: I’m in this Cato video, my brief contribution on the president’s executive order powers beginning around the 2:15 mark:

I tweeted and liveblogged the State of the Union address last night so you wouldn’t have to watch. Here are Twitter highlights, in regular rather than reverse chronological order:

Vending machine calorie label mandate

It’s coming as part of ObamaCare (earlier here and here) and it might wind up restricting consumer choice [AP]:

The rules will apply to about 10,800 companies that operate 20 or more machines. Nearly three quarters of those companies have three or fewer employees, and their profit margin is extremely low, according to the National Automatic Merchandising Association. …

Some companies may use electronic displays to post calorie counts while others may opt for signs stuck to the machines.

Carol Brennan, who owns Brennan Food Vending Services in Londonderry, [N.H.,] said she doesn’t yet know how she will handle the regulations, but she doesn’t like them. She has five employees servicing hundreds of machines and says she’ll be forced to limit the items offered so her employees don’t spend too much time updating the calorie counts.

David Boaz comments:

In my experience, vending machines shuffle their offerings fairly frequently. If the machine operators have to change the calorie information displayed every time they swap potato chips for corn chips, then $2,200 [per operator per year] seems like a conservative estimate of costs. But then, as Hillary Clinton said when it was suggested that her own health care plan would bankrupt small businesses, “I can’t be responsible for every undercapitalized small business in America.”

“President Obama’s Top Ten Constitutional Violations of 2013″

Half of them arise from the White House’s ongoing effort to rewrite the terms of ObamaCare on the fly without actually going back to ask Congress to change the law. [Ilya Shapiro, Forbes]

Incidentally, the Executive Branch’s claim of power to suspend various provisions of the ObamaCare law at its whim stands on quite a different and weaker footing, constitutionally, from the well-established tradition of prosecutorial discretion (or the even more well-established power to pardon individual violators). In requiring the president to take care that the laws are faithfully executed, the Constitution’s Take Care clause necessarily implies that not all aspects of law enforcement can be suspended at executive whim, and discretion is necessarily narrower when it comes to the enforcement of statutes creating general civil schemes of private rights and regulation than it is in the realm of criminal enforcement, which necessarily labors under a scarcity of investigative and correctional resources. English kings like James II long asserted a “dispensing power” to suspend the operation of otherwise applicable laws at the royal will, but civil libertarians fought for centuries (and with much success) to cabin and curtail that power. Zachary Price of Hastings recounts some of this history, as well as contemporary readings of the Take Care clause, in a new article that is getting a lot of attention.

While on the topic: ObamaCare’s corporatism is sacrificing both the rule of law and transparency, argues Mickey Kaus [first, second] The program’s atomistic individualism [David Boaz] And Megan McArdle on the Administration’s “willingness to take large risks with the program’s stability” by altering rules.

President Obama and the pardon power

I’ve got a new op-ed for Bloomberg View (first time I’ve appeared there) calling last week’s venture in presidential clemency “mingy and belated” and, if aimed at prison overcrowding, “like trying to bail out Lake Michigan with a paint can.” On Thursday President Obama commuted the sentences of eight inmates caught up in the crack cocaine sentencing fury, all of whom had already served at least 15 years for what were often relatively peripheral involvement in the drug trade. Clarence Aaron, for example, was serving three life sentences without possibility of parole for a first-time nonviolent offense. Many advocates from all political viewpoints pushed for Aaron’s release, among them Debra Saunders who wrote dozens of columns on his case in the San Francisco Chronicle over the past 12 years (Also in Minneapolis Star-Tribune and other papers, and AP roundup of opinion columns; & Scott Greenfield, Pardon Power).

Surveillance roundup

  • “Old crisis creates new leviathan” [Barton Hinkle] Some other things that maybe should happen before Snowden gets prosecuted [Bruce Schneier] “Were they here, my parents might have asked, ‘What happened to America?'” [Nat Hentoff]
  • Candidate Obama, meet President Obama; on surveillance, you’ll find you have little in common [graphic courtesy Caleb Brown, Cato at Liberty] Don’t say the president wants to be trusted with complete discretion unfettered by the other branches of government; that’s his assassination program, not his surveillance program [Jacob Sullum]
  • A different view: two leading libertarian legal thinkers, Roger Pilon and Richard Epstein, defend the NSA surveillance program [Chicago Tribune]
  • How very wrong David Simon is about the NSA’s capabilities [Clay Shirky, Guardian]
  • Tracking by advertisers just as bad? No, here’s why state surveillance is worse [Jason Kuznicki, Brian Doherty]
  • I’m not the only one wondering whether prosecution of QWest’s Joseph Nacchio relates to his non-cooperation with NSA [Michael Kelly/Business Insider, Scott Shackford/Reason, Greg Campbell/Daily Caller]
  • What would it take to bring back a Watergate-era spirit of reform? [Jesse Walker]
  • “As the NSA has made all too clear, unless we update our concept of the Fourth Amendment to fit the realities of the Internet Age, those general warrants [despised by colonists] will be back — on a far larger scale, and in secret.” [Julian Sanchez]

Schools roundup

Matt Welch on Benghazi and speech

His latest. The Reason editor-in-chief has consistently focused on the Benghazi angle that should most concern libertarians, namely the Administration’s scapegoating of speech (I think I’ll go ahead and coin the term “speech-goating.”) Here he focuses on a David Brooks column seemingly intended as a defense of the process that led to the famed Benghazi talking points, but which winds up putting them in a bad light indeed:

…in the absence of a clear narrative, the talking points gravitated toward the least politically problematic story, blaming the anti-Muslim video and the Cairo demonstrations.

Why was it deemed “the least politically problematic” course to spread an untruth, already widely known to be such by many senior officials, that sought to focus public and world anger on private speech, and by implication on our First Amendment protection of free speech about religion?

One should note carefully Ken White’s powerful argument at Popehat that the arrest of filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula wasn’t in fact legally irregular because Nakoula had clearly violated the terms of his supervised release and revocation of his release was par for the course under the circumstances.

Even so, the questions remain. The Administration sent Susan Rice out to five talk shows on the weekend of the attacks, where she pressed the line that outrage about the video fueled the attack. Brooks makes the case that interagency rivalries and secrecy got in the way of telling a fuller story. Maybe so. But why should American free speech be left as the “least politically problematic” thing to blame after a terrorist attack?