Sometimes the Media Does an OK job. Sometimes

NOTE: After being interviewed pretty extensively for an op-ed on nullification that ran in the Chicago Tribune, it was suggested to me by the author that if I wanted to write a rebuttal, the letters editor of the paper was certainly open to publishing my thoughts as a short letter.

The following is the text of that letter to the editors of the Chicago Tribune – published on August 21, 2013.

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The Chicago Tribune’s editorial, “Nullifying Washington,” did something unusual. It didn’t approach nullification as a wild, partisan movement of neo-confederates hell-bent on stopping Obama, or reinstating slavery.

As founder of the Tenth Amendment Center, considered the epicenter of the nullification movement, I’ve spoken to many reporters. They rarely discuss nullification like The Tribune did.

Fairly.

Here’s the standard rundown:

Nullification is pro-slavery.

Nullification is used only by the far-right. 

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We All Agree. Now Let’s Debate!

Over the weekend, CSPAN aired a discussion on nullification featuring Ian Millhiser of the progressive Center for American Progress and Ilya Shapiro of the libertarian CATO Institute.

Presumably, the discussion was journalistically balanced because it featured two men from polar opposite ends of the political spectrum. And while that might constitute “balance” in some sense of the word, it certainly wasn’t a balanced discussion on the principles of nullification, because everybody in the room opposed the idea.

Millhiser kicked things off by rightly pointing out that states gave up some sovereignty when they delegated specific powers to the general government, but went on to totally misrepresent nullification.

“Now you’re seeing some states who are basically saying they want to go back on that deal that they made when we became a union and say that the states should be allowed to overrule valid federal law that they don’t like.”

Shapiro essentially agreed, with the caveat that the feds can’t force states to enforce federal statutes.

“The Supreme Court has been quite clear on that. What states cannot do is stop federal officers from enforcing federal law. States can’t pass a law that, as Ian said, nullifies federal law.”

There you have it. These two guys agree. No nullification!

What a great “debate!”

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ThinkProgress Getting on the N-Train?

Leftists often attack nullification.

Sometimes, it seems that MSNBC makes a living at it. However, there is some hope that many who lean left are actually starting to embrace the concept, although still loath to use the word. For example, the ACLU has created a toolkit for local and state resolutions against the NDAA.

So, could that venerable far-left organization known as ThinkProgress ever climb aboard the nullification train? Not likely, eh?

BUT WAIT!

In their article, Berkley to Federal Prosecutors: Don’t Mess With Our Medical Marijuana Program, they reported positively on Berkley’s attempts to stop the feds from future seizures of property belonging to the cities’ medical marijuana dispensaries.

“The city is arguing that the federal government is improperly interfering with the city’s own financial and regulatory interests, as well as its residents’ medical interests.”

The article also lists Oakland as another California city taking similar measures. Of course, they don’t use the “n” word: nullification.

Some of the comments left by readers of ThinkProgress add an interesting railroad spike to this story – hardly a crowd that can be called ultra right-winged nutjobs.

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Setting the Record Straight on The Daily Show’s Nullification Bashing

On July 31, the Daily Show did a little piece ridiculing nullification. The sketch centered around a Second Amendment Preservation Act passed by the Kentucky Senate during the last legislative session. (The bill died in the House.) After they make the bill’s sponsor look foolish, they bring in a nullification opponent  to make the principle itself look foolish. LaRue County Judge/Executive Tommy Turner serves that role. I should note that in Kentucky, a judge/executive serves as the chief executive of a county – essentially the mayor of the county. They are not judges, and the job requires no legal training.

The following is a letter I sent to Judge/Executive Turner

Dear Judge Executive Turner,

I saw your little spot on the Daily Show.

I admit it was mildly amusing. A total distortion of nullification, but amusing nonetheless.

I know it’s supposed to be comedy, but the piece was clearly intended to make a political point. Little does the Daily crew realize – the joke is on them.

Did you know that the “nullification” bill passed by the Kentucky Senate was absolutely constitutional  - even according to Supreme Court opinion? The bill was a simple noncompliance bill that would have prohibited state cooperation with any federal attempts to enforce acts violating the Second Amendment. It made no provision for state interference with federal actions.

There is absolutely ZERO serious dispute about the fact that the federal government cannot “commandeer” the states (or their political subdivisions, local governments) to carry out its laws. None. Even the Supreme Court has affirmed this multiple times.

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Tom Merchant Fails to Make the Sale

Tom Merchant, for the Sentinel Tribune, wrote an article called, “Between the Lines,” focusing on the recent NSA surveillance revelations. In his effort to defend the NSA’s actions, he listed a few of the amendments from the Bill of Rights and argues that many are now antiquated.

He made cases against the Second and Third Amendments to justify his position. There are elements of his arguments that are clearly debatable.

This kind of thinking is clearly dangerous. If we drop the “original intent” of the Constitution to keep up with “the signs of the times,” then none of our rights are truly protected. And if the Constitution needs to be updated, there is something called the Amendment Process.

Merchant writes:

NSA is not actually listening to peoples conversations, but if the government wants to know where I am going out to eat and other mundane things, I really don’t care. It is probably unfortunate that we must give up some of our privacy, but that is just a sign of the times

I really don’t see anything in the amendments that relates to personal privacy, other than the Fourth Amendment preventing the government from unreasonable search and seizure.

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The Mainstream Media Is Recognizing The Supremacy of Nullification

We at the Tenth Amendment Center have promoted the idea that nullification brings people from both sides of the political equation together. And although we have seen mainstream voices from the establishment left and establishment right come together to denounce nullification, the idea continues to catch on amongst the freedom-starved American people. One recent example of nullification catching on comes from the left as author W.W. Houston wrote a recent article for the Economist on May 9 triumphing the idea of nullification and states rights.

Houston began his article with an interesting anecdote about the founding of the Republic of Texas. According to legend, freedom fighters in Texas held up a flag over their cannon that said ‘COME AND TAKE IT’ in defiance of their Mexican oppressors. Houston brought up a recent bill that had passed the Texas House that declared all federal gun control laws to be null and void, comparing it to their revolutionary ancestors. Usually, you would expect a mainstream media outlet at this point to go on a tyrade against this legislation calling it “crazy”, “racist”, “extreme” and every other derogatory term they could come up with. However, this time the Economist has thrown us a curve ball and is actually running the pro-States Rights point of view.

The article goes on to give a solid description of the arguments and counter-arguments for nullification before closing tremendously with an eloquent defense of states rights. “The discretion of states to decide what federal laws they will enforce strikes me as part of a healthy division and balance of government power. Requiring that states devote its citizens’ resources to the enforcement of laws with which the state legislature disagrees seems to me straightforwardly to deny the democratic sovereignty of the state’s people,” Houston said.

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New Marijuana ‘Controversy’ Being Pushed by Bureaucrats, Newspapers

With the economy struggling and cities going bankrupt left and right, you would think that bureaucrats in the state of California would focus on shoring up the spending problems before expending more precious resources toward a crackdown on medical marijuana. But that is not the case. The Los Angeles City Council voted to ban medical marijuana dispensaries back in July, a decision that won the ire of voters.

This unanimous 14-0 bipartisan agreement that cut off commerce and jobs at a time when they are so desperately needed was so reviled by voters that signatures were quickly collected in enough time to get a repeal measure on the ballot in November. With marijuana being more widespread and popular than ever, it is very possible that these bureaucrats will have their prohibition overturned and the medical marijuana industry will be allowed to grow without senseless laws stifling them.

But according to a Sept. 23 editorial in the Los Angeles Times, the medical marijuana industry cannot be allowed to

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Prop 19 and Delegated Powers

I was glad to have the opportunity to discuss something that rarely comes up in political debate these days, how the constitution actually applies. This time, California marijuana, prop 19, in the Huffington Post. Here’s how I was quoted: “The federal government is only authorized to exercise those powers that ‘We the People’ delegated to…

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Nullify Now! Tour Coverage

From The New American (h/t Jamie Davis): On Sunday, 10-10-10, hundreds of freedom-lovers gathered at the Omni Championsgate Resort in Orlando, Florida to celebrate the Tenth Amendment and promote the idea of state nullification of unconstitutional laws. Sponsored by the Tenth Amendment Center and WeRefuse.com, along with organizations such as The John Birch Society, local…

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