Clash of Intrastate and Interstate Commerce in Los Angeles

Once again, the nine robed federal employees filling seats at the Supreme Court failed to check constantly expanding federal power.

The feds have tried to unconstitutionally regulate intrastate commerce in many ways through agencies under the purview of the executive branch. Using a several different alphabet agencies, they have maintained  bans on hemp and marijuana, and even regulated food, environmental conditions and  firearms within the borders of individual states.

While the Constitution delegates power to the federal government for regulation of interstate commerce – trade crossing state lines – the federal government was never intended to interfere with economic activity confined within the borders of the state.

On June 13, the Supreme Court rubber stamped this unconstitutional exercise of federal power, concluding federal acts override state and local laws.

In 1997, the Port of Los Angeles (“the Port”) introduced a plan to expand its cargo terminals to better accommodate its high shipping volume. Following public concern that the plan could significantly increase air pollution, the Board of Harbor Commissioners adopted a Clean Air Action Plan (“CAAP”). The CAAP aimed to reduce emissions and specifically targeted the Port’s drayage truck business. Roughly 16,000 drayage trucks regularly serve the Port, transporting goods between customers and the cargo terminals. Beginning in 2008, the CAAP banned drayage trucks from the Port, unless the carriers entered into a series of concession agreements. These agreements imposed a progressive ban on older trucks and provided incentives for drayage truck operators to convert their aging fleets to cleaner trucks.

American Trucking Associations (“ATA”), a national association of motor carriers, challenged several provisions within the concession agreements and brought suit against the City of Los Angeles and its Harbor Department. ATA argued that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (“FAAA”) preempted the agreements. The FAAA Act prohibits a state from enacting any regulation related to the “price, route, or service of any motor carrier.” ATA claimed that the concession agreements amounted to such a regulation. ATA further argued that the State could not limit a federally licensed motor carrier’s access to a port.”

The FAAA legitimately preempts state and local laws when regulating commerce in such places as ports, where interstate and foreign commerce takes place. However, off-site parking falls under to state and local authority and not federal regulation. But the Supremes opined that since neither California nor the city of Los Angeles ever had a problem with FAAA regulating things just outside the port before, well, then it’s just fine and dandy for the feds to regulate it under the FAAA now. Therefore, the strict regulations imposed by the state of California and the city of Los Angeles are now null and void under this ruling. Not only that, the FAAA can stop a city or state from preventing trucks access to a port based on consignments of statute all across the U.S.

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Federal Court Decides: Federal Rangers Supreme

In a move that would make Joseph Story and John Marshall rise from their graves and offer him high-fives, 10th Circuit Judge David Nuffer made himself the sole arbiter of federal and state powers, ruling last Friday that federal park rangers’ authority supersedes that of the State of Utah in matters concerning local law.nuffer

Gov. Gary Herbert signed  HB155, on April 3. The new law prohibits federal Land Management officers from acting as agents of state and local law by “limiting the authority of specified federal employees to exercise law enforcement authority within Utah.” The bill came in response to officers of the Forestry Service taking it upon themselves to administer local traffic laws, making such unauthorized actions class-B misdemeanors; punishable by a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

We don’t want Utah citizens going before a federal magistrate for a speeding ticket,” said Utah AG Swallow, in the AG’s press release on May 13. “Federal officers should be enforcing federal laws and state and local officers should be enforcing state and local laws. We are concerned about the federal government once again encroaching on states rights and we will vigorously defend the constitutionality of HB 155.[Emphasis added.]

Federal attorneys promptly sued, and on May 13th, Nuffer granted a temporary injunction, stopping the law from taking effect. Last Friday’s ruling extends the injunction until the issue is settled at trial.

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Federal Laws: To Infinity and Beyond!

How many federal laws are on the books?  500?  1,000?  5,000?  Go ahead, take a guess.

Give up?

Yeah, well, so does the Library of Congress.  In an attempt to answer the frequent question of how many federal laws there are, Senior Legal Research Specialist Shameema Rahman recently reported that “trying to tally this number is nearly impossible.”  Well, that’s great.  Congress has officially passed so many laws that their own repository of documentation can’t even keep track of them all.

As it turns out, the federal government hasn’t been able to keep track of their own laws for quite some time.  Rahman reports that, “in an example of a failed attempt to tally up the number of laws on a specific subject area, in 1982 the Justice Department tried to determine the total number of criminal laws. In a project that lasted two years, the Department compiled a list of approximately 3,000 criminal offenses.”

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Is Obamacare on Life Support?

Remember a couple of months ago when the Obama administration sent letters to four states promising to use federal agents to enforce Obamacare if the states failed to?  Well, it appears that smug arrogance may have been a bit premature.

Reuters reported last month that many of the Affordable Care Act’s supporters are getting concerned that the states are not doing enough to support the legislation and that, without their help, enough people may not sign up.  It turns out that there is good cause for these concerns because “most states have balked at the exchanges and the Medicaid expansion.”  The exchanges are the infrastructure on which Obamacare is built and the states’ refusal to create them has created complexity for the federal government’s efforts to implement it.

Talking about the federal government’s limited ability to advertise the program, one advocate said, “It’s going to require a very robust effort in the private sector.”  The expectation of this would appear to be an unwarranted exercise in optimism given the fact that the public “is highly skeptical…about the most complex social legislation since…the mid-1960s.”  A recent poll shows that only 37% of Americans think that Obamacare is a good idea while 49% believe that it is bad.  Only 38% of respondents think they will be better off as a result of the ACA.

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Judge Napolitano Slams FBI’s Mueller

On Studio B with Shepard Smith, Napolitano lambasted Mueller for testimony given before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday on the government’s surveillance of Americans’ phone and email communications, alleging that he’s “still singing the tune that Constitutional liberties can be subordinate to the government’s need to [find the bad people].”

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It’s not Edward Snowden who Betrayed Us

by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom Foundation

When you cut through the fog, the NSA controversy is about whether we should trust people with institutional power. Edward Snowden’s courageous exposure of massive secret surveillance separates those who say yes from those who say, “Hell no!”

The trusting attitude can be found among progressives and conservatives alike (with notable exceptions), and even some who have identified themselves as libertarians. Matt Miller, an occasional guest host on the progressive network MSNBC, left no doubt where he stands when he flippantly wrote in the Washington Post,

Do you empathize more with those who govern — and who in this case are charged with protecting us? Or has the history of abuse of power, and the special danger from such abuses in an age when privacy seems to be vanishing, leave you hailing any exposure of secret government methods as grounds for sainthood?…

Is there potential for abuse? Of course. An Internet-era J. Edgar Hoover is frightening to conjure. But what Snowden exposed was not some rogue government-inside-the-government conspiracy. It’s a program that’s legal, reviewed by Congress and subject to court oversight.

So it’s okay if the government monitors masses of innocent people as long as it’s reviewed by a clique of gagged members of Congress and a secret rubber-stamp “court.” That’s what I call trust in power. Frankly, it’s more alarming that the spying is legal rather than rogue. Michael Kinsley once said, “The scandal isn’t what’s illegal, the scandal is what’s legal.”

Miller’s progressive colleague Richard Cohen said much the same thing in much the same tone:

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Government Spying a Bipartisan Affair

While the fervor created by revelations that the U.S. Department of Justice recently wiretapped American journalists, and IRS agents targeted Tea Party and conservative groups raged, an online anti-war magazine quietly filed a lawsuit indicating these federal government abuses of power go deeper and reach much further back than most Americans realize.

On May 22, Antiwar.com managing editor Eric Garris and longtime editorial director Justin Raimondo filed a federal suit against the FBI demanding the release of records apparently compiled on them and the 17-year-old online magazine. Filed by the ACLU of Northern California on behalf of Garris and Raimondo, the suit also demands the FBI stop collecting records of constitutionally protected speech.

A heavily redacted FBI memo released after a 2011 Freedom of Information Act reveals the FBI began spying on Garris and Raimondo as early as 2004.

“It’s easy to blow these recent scandals off as some kind of partisan, anti-Obama witch-hunt,” Raimondo said. “But clearly, this total disregard of basic constitutional rights and gross abuse of power go back to the Bush administration, and probably further than that. This is not a partisan problem. This is a systemic problem. The FBI pretty much does whatever it wants, whenever it wants in the name of ‘fighting terror,’ and has been for a long time – the Constitution be damned.”

According to the suit, the ACLU made several futile attempts to obtain the FBI records after release of the memo. The documents indicate the FBI has files on Garris and Raimondo, and at one point the FBI recommends opening a preliminary investigation of Antiwar.com “…to determine if [redaction] are engaging in, or have engaged in, activities which constitute a threat to national security.”

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Why They Really Spy on You

by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom Foundation

If you’re a good little citizen who doesn’t make waves and loyally supports whatever the federal government does, always deferring to its authority and trusting its officials, and if you maintain this mindset for the rest of your life, the probability is that you don’t have anything to worry about with respect to the government’s keeping records of your telephone calls, your emails, and other aspects of your private life.

But if you’re the type who has an independent mindset, one that might come to recognize that the warfare state is one great big racket by which power-lusters use federal power to plunder and loot your wealth and income, and if you’re the type of person who might begin objecting to this racket and calling for a restoration of American freedom, then it’s entirely possible that the files that the government is keeping on your private life might come back to haunt you.

Recall what they did to Daniel Ellsberg, the man who disclosed the Pentagon Papers, which revealed that national-security state officials were knowingly lying to the American people about the progress of the Vietnam War. They went after him with everything they could. For revealing their lies, they considered Ellsberg to be a super bad guy, a traitor. He certainly wasn’t a good little citizen who deferred to authority.

So, what did they do?

For one, they had him indicted and tried to send him to jail for a long time.

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Nothing to See Here, Says the Mainstream Right?

Last week we received a few heckles for posting a Facebook meme of George Bush signing the Patriot Act. We stand by our intent – Republicans and Democrats, George Bush and Barack Obama – are sell-outs and equally culpable for the security-surveillance industrial complex of whose scary details were leaked to the press last week.

If you are the sporting type and keeping score, the Democrat-Republican Party is beating the Constitution by six touchdowns going into the fourth quarter. These dudes are on the same team, even if it took you half the game to figure it out. Behind the inexorable expansion of the state, the Right and the Left often stand as one.

Take, for instance, Rich Galen, a neo-con who blogs at Townhall.com, writing today about NSA-whistle blower Edward Snowden:

As a taxpayer, I’m not paying you to look out after my Fourth Amendment rights. I’m paying you to do whatever job you were hired to do, and if you find that job too ethically distasteful, then you should quit.

But keep your mouth shut.

Galen suggests a long federal prison sentence would be just deserts for Snowden for exposing a creepy, out-of-control national government sifting warrantlessly through our personal emails and internet searches. After all, Galen declares, he is a 66-year-old guy with nothing to hide.

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Government Spying: You Shouldn’t Be Shocked!

by Ron Paul

Last week we saw dramatic new evidence of illegal government surveillance of our telephone calls, and of the National Security Agency’s deep penetration into American companies such as Facebook and Microsoft to spy on us. The media seemed shocked.

Many of us are not so surprised.

Some of us were arguing back in 2001 with the introduction of the so-called PATRIOT Act that it would pave the way for massive US government surveillance—not targeting terrorists but rather aimed against American citizens. We were told we must accept this temporary measure to provide government the tools to catch those responsible for 9/11. That was nearly twelve years and at least four wars ago.

We should know by now that when it comes to government power-grabs, we never go back to the status quo even when the “crisis” has passed. That part of our freedom and civil liberties once lost is never regained. How many times did the PATRIOT Act need renewed? How many times did FISA authority need expanded? Why did we have to pass a law to grant immunity to companies who hand over our personal information to the government?

It was all a build-up of the government’s capacity to monitor us.

The reaction of some in Congress and the Administration to last week’s leak was predictable. Knee-jerk defenders of the police state such as Senator Lindsey Graham declared that he was “glad” the government was collecting Verizon phone records—including his own—because the government needs to know what the enemy is up to. Those who take an oath to defend the Constitution from its enemies both foreign and domestic should worry about such statements.

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