ISFLC 2015

On February 13th, 14th, and 15th, Students for Liberty held their annual International Students for Liberty Conference in Washington, D.C.  Some of the featured speakers this year included: Former Representative Ron Paul, Andrew Napolitano, former Mexican President Vicente Fox, and, via satellite, Edward Snowden.

This year’s ISFLC marked my third, having previously attended in 2013 and 2014.  Unfortunately, as was the case last year, no students from James Madison University made the journey.  Nevertheless, Nicholas Farrar, the former president of Madison Liberty did make the conference.

I intended to attend only on Saturday, but on Friday morning I received a call.  Apparently a group of students traveling to the conference from Nashville, TN, broke down in Mt. Jackson, VA, about thirty miles north of my home.  As luck would have it, they ran into a Methodist minister (who also happened to be my last roommate from college) who contacted me.  I was unable to find anyone who could transport the students the rest of the way to the conference and therefore prepared to do so myself.  However, right before leaving Harrisonburg, I received word that a bus coming from Texas would pick up the stranded students and thus that particular crisis was averted.

Early Saturday morning, I left for ISFLC along with a new friend and local Democratic activist.  The drive north was uneventful, though I was disappointed to discover that the conference was not in the same location as it had been the previous two years.  After parking, we made our way from the garage through a dimly lit maze of hotel corridors until we found the check-in counter.  While waiting for the annual taping of the Stossel Show, we explored the various informational tables.  A handful of groups, like YAL, the Koch Institute, and the Libertarian Party had booths in very visible locations while the majority were clustered on a lower floor.  During this time, we ran into the 2014 West Virginia Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate John Buckley.

Marc Allen Feldman
Marc Allen Feldman

One of the first fellows who reached out to me was Marc Allen Feldman, an individual who is seeking the 2016 Libertarian nomination for president.  Although neither the Republican or Democratic Parties has ever had a booth at ISFLC, The Republican Liberty Caucus did, staffed by former RLC national chairman Dave Nalle.

As we sought out lunch, we ran into Representative Thomas Massie (KY-4).  He was speaking to a gathering of students on a variety of topics.  IMG_2805

Over a hundred people stood in line for well over a half an hour as we awaited entrance to attend the Stossel Show.

IMG_2815Although not boasting a list of controversial speakers as they had in previous years, the program did include Representative Justin Amash (MI-3) and a variety of folks who spoke about the abridgement of students’ rights on college campuses, not only in this country, but internationally as well.

Afterward, Representatives Amash, and Massie as well as Young Americans for Liberty leader Jeff Frazee, spoke to a rather sizable gathering of students. IMG_2824

As I mentioned to him before the conference, I would have liked to speak to Representative Amash in person too, but the opportunity never presented itself.  Nevertheless, I was able to snap a photo of him as he hurried from one meeting to the next.  IMG_2827

Given the threat of snow, we decided to leave the conference around 5 PM.  I found that unlike previous conferences, parking was exceedingly expensive, $33 for about seven hours.

The drive back started out relatively uneventfully, though a light snow began to fall as we took I-66 through Manassas.  By the time we reached Front Royal, the snow reduced visibility to several feet and so I pulled off the road, hoping that the weather would subside, worried that I’d have to spend the night in my car.  After a short pause, the snow became lighter and so we continued on.  Shortly after turning on to I-81, we were forced off the highway and told the interstate was closed due to several tractor trailer wrecks.  Switching to US-11, the journey slowly advanced south for several miles until we could return to the interstate.  Although the roads were not in the best condition, we were able to return to Harrisonburg without incident.  A drive that normally takes about two hours instead took four.

All in all, it was another enjoyable conference, though it is my sincere hope that many JMU students will be able to experience it for themselves in 2016.

Extending the Patriot Act

Today, members of the House of Representatives got a chance to vote on whether or not to extend some of the most onerous provisions of the Patriot Act.  Yesterday, I called my Representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6), to ask how he was planning to vote on this issue.  His Washington office did not have an answer at that time and so I encouraged him to vote no.  As Benjamin Franklin once said (and I have quoted several times), “they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” –Memoirs of the life and writings of Benjamin Franklin.  This so-called “Patriot Act” is the modern manifestation of this struggle.  In our great desire for security, would we give up our freedoms and the rule of law, that which separates us from the despotic nations and peoples who attacked us on September 11th?  Unfortunately, we failed that great test back in 2001 when the Patriot Act originally passed and then again in 2005/2006 when many of the provisions were extended the first time.

As the dust settled today, the final vote in the House was 277 in favor, 148 opposed, and 9 nonvoting.  Given that the bill required a 2/3rds majority to pass, it has been defeated…at least for now.  I was disappointed to see that a vast majority of Republicans, including Bob Goodlatte, voted in favor of this bill.  In fact, only two of Virginia’s eleven Representatives voted against the bill:  Bobby Scott (VA-3) and Jim Moran (VA-8).  I’m starting to wonder if the Tea Party’s call for limited and constitutional government has fallen on deaf ears.  Will most of the newly elected Representatives and Senators support big government business as usual?

Prior to the vote, several members spoke out in opposition to renewal.  I submit to you the words of Republican Rep. Ron Paul (TX-14) and Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH-10).

Update: Senator Rand Paul (KY) now shares his opinion this topic.

Lastly, I’d like to share one more video.  Several years ago, Judge Napolitano offered his thoughts on the Patriot Act.  In short, his opinion is that it was passed in Congress in too great of haste and erodes our Constitution and our liberty.  Watch and see if you agree.