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Archive for Category : Issues: Personal Freedom & Liberty


Denver Neighborhood Bans Children From Drawing Chalk Art On Sidewalk

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Published on: June 21, 2012

Original Article - Denver Neighborhood Bans Children From Drawing Chalk Art On Sidewalk

Denver mom Sarah Cohen says drawing sidewalk chalk art is one of her three-year-old daughter Emerson’s “simple pleasures in life.”

“It’s definitely better than video games,” Cohen told KCNC.

However, the homeowner’s association in Cohen’s neighborhood feels differently. They say Emerson’s drawings — usually of hearts and flowers — are distracting and offensive blights on their community.

“My initial reaction was, ‘You have to be kidding me,” Cohen said.

The association, called Innovations and Courtyard Traditions at Stapleton, temporarily banned children from drawing on sidewalks, saying anything that offends, disturbs or interferes with the peaceful enjoyment is not allowed on shared spaces.

They said neighbors have been complaining about chalk drawings like Emerson’s.

The group’s attorney told the station that the association is going down a path of “do no harm” and is temporarily banning the chalk art until it is discussed in depth at a later meeting. It will then be up to the residents to decide if the art will be permanently banned.

Cohen said she has not personally received any complaints from neighbors, and her daughter will continue to draw as a sort of mini protest against the temporary ban.


Dislike soda bans? Then restore the Constitution

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Published on: June 21, 2012

Original Article - Dislike Soda Bans? Then Restore the Constitution

Last month, the day before National Doughnut Day, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans to tackle obesity by banning the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces. Eager for the newly nicknamed “Soda Jerk” to Think Again, comedian Jon Stewart joked that Bloomberg’s proposal “combines the draconian government overreach people love with the probable lack of results they expect.”

The website “Renegade Chicks” reflected citywide disapproval in asking, “Weren’t there bigger issues at hand (like) … say the declining economy and rising unemployment rates? If this soda ban is passed, what’s next?” Apparently, milk drinks and popcorn, which goes to show that there is nothing so bad that politicians can’t make worse. At least New Yorkers can move to a different city.

Not so for Americans wishing to escape the interventionist sweep of the Affordable Care Act, whose constitutionality we’ll soon know. Perhaps more important than whether the law stands is whether the Supreme Court decision will enable the steady mission and power creep of the federal government beyond the boundaries set by our constitutional framers.

Those who advocate such creep believe in a “living Constitution” that allows government to concentrate power in order to meet societal challenges, a noble goal. The ends justify the means for such advocates as UC-Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, who asserts, “Congress can force economic transactions” and “in theory … use its commerce power to require people to buy cars. Power can be used in silly ways, and the Constitution isn’t our protector against undesirable government actions.”

One needn’t be a constitutional scholar to know that unlimited and unchecked federal government power was the evil our founders wanted to prevent. They designed the government to limit federal authority to enumerated purposes, leaving remaining powers to sovereign states and individuals. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor explained, “The Constitution protects us from our own best intentions: It divides power among sovereigns and among branches of government precisely so that we may resist the temptation to concentrate power in one location as an expedient solution to the crisis of the day.”

Embedded in our founding documents is a uniquely American and revolutionary set of governing principles designed to protect our natural rights and liberties, not create man-made ones. This philosophy created the freest and most prosperous society on earth by proclaiming that every human being is born free, equal, and independent with inalienable rights that are permanent parts of our nature. Because we’re equal, no one — not a king, a neighbor or a mayor — can be the ruler of any other human being, and each of us is equal in our natural rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness.

Since a just government derives its power from the consent of the governed it must be, as Thomas Jefferson said, a “wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”

Nevertheless, the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which empowers Congress to regulate interstate trade, has been used to justify dramatic federal government expansion. Congress wants to stretch this power further to include the regulation of individual choices never before considered commercial or interstate — like deciding not to purchase health insurance. If Congress can mandate Americans to purchase health insurance simply because we’re alive, what constitutional principle prevents government from forcing individuals into other purchases?

The debates surrounding this question, and other constitutional issues like executive privileges and orders, are instructive. Not only have Americans learned more about the Constitution, we’ve discovered that many lawmakers neither understand nor respect the document they’re sworn to uphold. Even worse, we have leaders intent on fundamentally transforming the relationship between the citizen and government in a manner the Constitution doesn’t allow.

By allowing these politicians to create and impose solutions better left to sovereign states and individuals, we permit their government-driven agenda to trump our liberties and their Leviathan government to limit our choices and make our decisions. This is not the fulfillment of our Founder’s dream — it’s their nightmare.

Americans must ask: Do we want a government whose role is limited by the sovereign people to certain designated purposes, or an amorphous and unlimited one that can do to us whatever it wants? How long before the federal government deems a 32-ounce soda oversized or worse, a $320,000 salary excessive?

On July 4, Americans celebrate the liberty and natural rights for which our Founders fought. They gave us a brilliant political system which, to paraphrase William Gladstone, was the most perfect ever devised in the history of mankind. Now, it’s up to us to reclaim it.

Think Again — your liberty depends on it.

Melanie Sturm lives in Aspen. Her column runs every other Thursday. She reminds readers to Think Again. You might change your mind. Melanie welcomes comments at .


Pelosi Promises to Replace ObamaCare’s Mandate if Struck Down, Insists “You have to eat your vegetables.”

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Published on: June 21, 2012

Original Article - Pelosi Promises to Replace ObamaCare’s Mandate if Struck Down, Insists “You have to eat your vegetables.”

Answering questions from reporters today, Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi previewed her party’s likely legislative response should the Supreme Court strike down ObamaCare’s health coverage requirement, suggesting that Democrats will look for a functional alternative to the mandate — a way to mandate insurance coverage without running afoul of the Constitution:

You have to eat your vegetables — you have to have the mandate in order for this to work from a financial standpoint…If Americans like the idea that they and their children cannot be deprived for a lifetime of health care insurance because of a pre-existing health care condition, then that will require some other action if that is to happen. And what would that be? There could be something passed in the Congress, similar to what we had originally in the House bill, which was a surcharge on the wealthy to pay for aspects of that … States can take their own actions.

[Via ThinkProgress.]

“You have to eat your vegetables,” eh? A poor choice of words given the critical emphasis on the question of whether an insurance mandate would allow Congress to mandate the purchase of other private goods, such as broccoli? Maybe so, but in context the reference seems intentional. After insisting that the mandate was “iron clad constitutionally,” Pelosi brought up the broccoli question explicitly: “Let’s hope and pray that the Court will love the Constitution more than it loves broccoli and that we will have a decision that is based on the merits and the Constitution of the United States.”

The political prospects for a mandate alternative of any sort won’t be strong in the immediate wake of a high court ruling striking down the current requirement. But Pelosi’s remarks make it clear that regardless of how the Supreme Court rules, some Democrats will still want to explore alternative means of asserting congressional power to mandate coverage.

Last year I took a look at a number of possible mechanisms that might replace the mandate.


Glenn Beck’s New Book “Cowards”: A Must Read

No matter what you think about Glenn Beck’s politics, you have to admit that he has a point. The premise of this book is simple: we’ve gotten to a point in our society where diverging from the status quo is uncouth, socially detrimental, and even dangerous. There is a standard in our culture today, built by politicians, academics, media, and business leaders, and anyone who steps out of line will be instantly questioned, denounced, and perhaps even censored. As a result, we are living in a strict ideological tyranny that allows only the status quo to proliferate, a condition that will end up bringing us to our self-destruction.

Beck would know–he has been defying the status quo for his entire career, and, from personal and tertiary experience, he has seen exactly how detrimental that can be. Just by challenging the standing beliefs of what is necessary in government, he is trashed, called insane, and belittled.

As Beck argues, this is in every way anti-American. Not only is dissent subdued, but the lie that stands as the standard is explicitly opposed to the American ideals of freedom, industry, diversity of thought, and moral duty.

In this scathing diatribe, Beck identifies thirteen major issues that have not been treated justly in the modern debate, and will probably be shunned in the coming election cycle as well. In order to help provide an alternative to this Orwellian dystopia, Beck surveys each of these issues and offers the contra to popular culture’s status quo.

Focusing on the issues as he does, Beck does not offer a grand examination of how we got into this mess or even how to get out. For that, I recommend the superb Juggernaut: Why the System Crushes the Only People Who Can Save It, which any reader of Glenn Beck will cherish.

Meanwhile, stock up, because something’s in the air!


The Angry Black Man – Whatever Happened to Common Sense? (Video Awesomeness)

Buy the Book “Whatever Happen To COMMON Sense”

Website: http://www.whateverhappentocommonsense.com
Twitter: Commonsense39


After Issa and Holder Meet, Still No Documents, Contempt Charges Still Looming

Original Article - After Issa and Holder Meet, Still No Documents, Contempt Charges Still Looming

The meeting between Attorney General Eric Holder and Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa has ended after 20 minutes of discussion. Holder came with an offer of a briefing on Fast and Furious documents, but did not physically turn over any documents. This is unsatisfactory to Issa who has said repeatedly that in order for Holder to avoid a contempt vote Wednesday at 10 AM, he must hand over 1300 Fast and Furious documents to the Committee.

“The documents they may choose to give in the future, we need before tomorrow,” Issa said to reporters. ““Ultimately the documents needed for postponement seem to be in their possession.”

Holder’s failure to produce documents at the 5 PM meeting come after he failed to present them by this morning as requested, after he failed to respond to an October 2011 subpoena as requested and after more than a year of requests for transparency surrounding his role in Operation Fast and Furious.

Issa said there is a chance Holder would submit the requested documents tonight but that a contempt vote is still scheduled for Wednesday and has released an official statement.

“I had hoped that after this evening’s meeting I would be able to tell you that the Department had delivered documents that would justify the postponement of tomorrow’s vote on contempt. The Department told the Committee on Thursday that it had documents it could produce that would answer our questions. Today, the Attorney General informed us that the Department would not be producing those documents. The only offer they made involved us ending our investigation.

“While I still hope the Department will reconsider its decision so tomorrow’s vote can be postponed, after this meeting I cannot say that I am optimistic. At this point, we simply do not have the documents we have repeatedly said we need to justify the postponement of a contempt vote in committee.”



During remarks to reporters from Attorney General Eric Holder, he said he made an offer to Issa and the Oversight Committee to make these things [Fast and Furious documents] available and blamed politics for the looming contempt vote. He said the vote will move forward due to Issa “rejecting his extraordinary offer.” His offer, in short, was to brief the Oversight Committee on documents they’ve already requested be handed over.

“They are acting more in political gamesmanship than trying to get the information they say they need,” Holder said. “Ball’s in their court.”

Holder also said there is no effort by his Department to mislead or deceive Congress in their Fast and Furious investigation.

“We need the documents, not the briefing,” Issa said.


Anti-Islam Protesters Taunt Muslims With Pig’s Head: ‘You’re Going to Melt in the Fires of Hell!’

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Published on: June 19, 2012

Original Article - Anti-Islam Protesters Taunt Muslims With Pig’s Head: ‘You’re Going to Melt in the Fires of Hell!’

Anti Islam Christian Protesters Show Up to Arab International Festival

If you‘re looking to spread God’s love, it’s probably not a good idea to show up to the Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Michigan, with a pig‘s head on a stick and signs telling Muslims that they’re poised to burn in hell. Yet this is exactly what happened over the weekend when some Christians from an anti-Islam group showed up at the event and confronted Muslim adherents with some unwelcome messages.

One of the protesters yelled, “You’re going to burn in hell,” among other sentiments. The signs the individuals held were less-than-covert in their messaging as well. One read, “Islam is a religion of blood and murder” and another said “Muhammad is a…liar, false prophet, murder, child molesting pervert.” Clearly, those in attendance weren’t there to play nice (caution: language).

Among the most tense moments during the Friday showdown occurred when some of the Arab Americans present at the conference began throwing water bottles and pop cans. Some of the attendees chanted “Allah-U-Akbar,” which translates to “God is the greatest.” The Christians responded with, “Jesus Akbar.” Most of the protesters who engaged in this debate were from an anti-Islam group called “Bible Believers.”

In the video, below, a man — purportedly part of the group — can be heard yelling, “You’re going to go straight to hell you little dirtbag, wicked heathen.” Then, he continued screaming at the the Arab attendees, claiming that they have “a religion of hate” and that God is going to “melt” them “one day in hell” (at another point he says, “You’re going to melt in the fires of hell forever!”).

Watch and listen to the protester going berserk:

Authorities in Wayne County attempted to keep calm and order between the two parties, as they tried to separate them — a difficult task considering the religious nature of the fighting at hand. The Detroit-Free Press has more about the festival and past drama that has unfolded there between Christians and Muslims:

The three-day festival is the largest public gathering of Arab-Americans in the U.S.; it has drawn Christian missionaries for years, but in 2009, some become more aggressive, leading to arrests and legal feuds. Dearborn has the highest concentration of Arab-Americans in the U.S., many of them Muslim, making it a magnet for some Christian missionaries.

The Bible Believers [one of the groups present among the protesters] also protested at last year’s Arab Festival, holding up both anti-Muslim and anti-Catholic signs and causing one Arab-American Muslim girl to cry.

As the Free-Press notes, there were also peaceful Christian protesters at the event. These individuals spoke kindly to the Muslim attendees and handed out flyers. One Christian woman work a shirt that read, “I [heart symbol] Muslims,” while handing out gospel pamphlets.


Researchers Whose Work Was Cited to Justify Bloomberg’s Large Soda Ban Explain Why it Won’t Work

Original Article - Researchers Whose Work Was Cited to Justify Bloomberg’s Large Soda Ban Explain Why it Won’t Work

In trying to justify his proposed regulation banning large-size sodas, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg cited the work of economists Brian Wansink and David Just. In this recent Atlantic article, Wansink and Just explain that he got their work wrong:

New York City’s mayor proposed a restaurant ban for any soft drink over 16-ounces. The hope is that by banning big drinks people will drink less and weigh less. He and others cited our research as the science behind the policy. Indeed, a dozen of our studies show when you randomly give people large sizes of food like popcorn and French fries, they overeat….

There’s a critical difference between the lab and Lexington Avenue that the mayor’s office didn’t account for: when Joe the Plumber and Bob the Banker buy soft drinks, they buy the size they want. They aren’t randomly forced to take a 44-ouncer when they really wanted a 12-ouncer. Moreover, their Coke or Pepsi doesn’t magically refill itself. If that happened, they’d overdrink. Instead, most restaurants give us a choice of a small or large drink — just as nearly every fast food outlet gives us a choice of small, medium, or large fries, and every movie theatre gives us a choice of small, medium, or large popcorn. People who want a little buy a little, and people who want a lot figure a way to get it.

Yes, we have found that when people are given larger portions, they do drink or eat substantially more. But to claim that these results imply that the ban will be effective is to ignore our larger body of work. In our experiments, subjects were given larger or smaller portions of food in a dining or party setting, where they were unlikely to notice portion size. It is exactly because participants weren’t paying attention that we got the results we did.

The mayor’s approach, however, overtly denies people portions they are used to be able to get whenever they want them. In similar lab settings, this kind of approach has inspired various forms of rebellion among study participants. For example, openly serving someone lowfat or reduced-calorie meals tends to lead to increased fat or calorie consumption over the whole day. People reason that because they were forced to be good for one meal, they can splurge on snacks and desserts at later meals.

As I explained in my previous post on this subject, paternalistic policies are not going be able to prevent obesity merely by restricting sodas or some other specific food or drink. People who like sugary or fatty foods will simply gorge on something else. The only potentially effective paternalistic solution is comprehensive regulation of people’s diets and possibly exercise as well.

I would oppose the soda regulation and others like it even if they did improve health. Individuals should be able to decide for themselves to what extent they are willing to accept health risks in order to satisfy other preferences. I get less than the optimal amount of exercise in part because I spend a lot of time reading and writing. As a result, I am less healthy than I might be otherwise. But that is a tradeoff I should be able to make in a free society. The same goes for people who are willing to accept health risks for other reasons – including because they want to continue eating the types of food they enjoy.

That said, I can at least understand the case for paternalistic regulations that have genuine health benefits. Paternalistic regulations that don’t even work are just gratuitous infringements on freedom without any justification at all.

UPDATE: In my previous post, I explained why these kinds of paternalistic regulations can’t be justified by the existence of externalities caused by government subsidization of health care.

UPDATE #2: For a more extensive look at the relevant evidence showing that soda restrictions are unlikely to improve health outcomes, see this article by well-known law and economics scholars Jonathan Klick and Eric Helland.

UPDATE #3: In the initial version of this post, I accidentally got David Just’s first name wrong. Thanks to readers for pointing this out. The mistake has now been corrected.


Obama’s Lawless Presidency Close To Totalitarianism

Original Article - Obama’s Lawless Presidency Close To Totalitarianism

The Obama Record: The chief executive who swore to faithfully execute the nation’s laws picks those he’ll ignore and makes up others through regulation and executive order. He sees no need for a Congress or Constitution.

Maybe it’s because Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts stumbled a bit in leading President Obama through the oath of office that the president doesn’t feel bound by it.

But through the awkwardness these words were heard: “I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

It would not take Obama long to make clear he meant his interpretation of the Constitution, not the Supreme Court’s, a principle established in Marbury v. Madison, the 1802 case that formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the U.S. under Article III of the Constitution.

In his State of the Union address a year later on Jan. 27, 2010, he shamefully scolded the justices on national television for “having reversed a century of law” in the Citizens United ruling in which the court was protecting the freedom of political speech enshrined more than two centuries ago in the First Amendment. We agree with Justice Samuel Alito’s eloquent rebuff of the president, in which he was seen mouthing the words “Not true.”

Then came ObamaCare, which would prove to be a monumental assault on the First and 10th Amendments to the Constitution. Virginia, along with other states, filed suit challenging the landmark health care reform law on the grounds the law’s requirement that its residents have health insurance violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Never before had a citizen of the United States been required to purchase a product just for being a citizen of the United States.

The Constitution according to President Obama also requires a suspension of the First Amendment guarantee that Congress shall make no laws restricting the free exercise of religion. Arguably, the Congress did no such thing in passing ObamaCare. But it left the door open when it replaced “We The People” of the Constitution with “the Secretary shall determine,” a phrase that appears in the bill a mind-boggling 1,563 times.

One of the things Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius determined was that religious institutions be required to provide health coverage in violation of their faith and religious conscience. HHS argues that churches are exempt, but the 43 Catholic institutions that filed suit argue the government has no right to define what a church is and that acting on their faith through everything from hospitals to colleges to soup kitchens is constitutionally protected.

The role of the president, according to Article II, Sec. 3 of the Constitution, is to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Laws were intended by the Founders to be passed by Congress and signed by the president. Obama finds this a mere inconvenience.

“Whenever Congress refuses to act, Joe and I we’re going to act,” Obama said in February at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, with Vice President Joe Biden off to the side. “In the months to come, wherever we have an opportunity, we’re going to take steps on our own to keep this economy moving.”

Obama took that opportunity regarding immigration when he announced he was unilaterally suspending the deportation of some young illegal aliens and allowing others to apply for green cards, essentially implementing the provisions of the so-called Dream Act he has been unable to get through Congress, including one in his first two years dominated by his own party.

Article 1, Sec. 8 of the Constitution, which enumerates the power of Congress, states that “Congress shall have the Power To … establish an (sic) uniform Rule of Naturalization.” Congress has passed numerous laws pertaining to immigration and naturalization, including laws requiring the deportation of illegals. Congress? Obama don’t need no stinkin’ Congress.

Can’t get cap-and-trade or the Kyoto Protocol through Congress? Let the EPA implement through regulations and then ignore the courts when they think your energy policy has crossed the legal line.

Louisiana Federal District Court Judge Martin Feldman found the Obama Interior Department in contempt of his ruling that the offshore oil drilling moratorium, imposed by the administration in 2010, was unconstitutional. After Feldman struck down the initial drilling ban, the Interior Department simply established a second ban that was virtually identical.

In January, the president illegally appointed a director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, along with three appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, all without the approval of a Senate still legally in session, as the Constitution requires.

The president also selectively decides which laws he’ll enforce and which he won’t. Regarding education, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently granted waivers to 10 states, freeing them from the strict requirements of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act.

In February 2011, the Justice Department announced it would not defend the Defense of Marriage Act against court challenges. Last August, Obama’s DHS announced it would no longer deport the noncitizen spouses of gay Americans — a direct contradiction to DOMA as well.

Maybe all this works in Venezuela, but it won’t wash here. We still have free elections, and there’s one in November when we can fundamentally restore respect for the law and the Constitution.


Rand Paul Tries To Shoot Down Drone Surveillance

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Published on: June 18, 2012

Original Article - Rand Paul Tries To Shoot Down Drone Surveillance

The junior senator from Kentucky seeks to protect the Fourth Amendment from the advance of technology and require that all forms of surveillance by law enforcement require a warrant from a judge.

Does the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures include aerial surveillance of your house and property? Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., thinks so.

He introduced the Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act, which would require the government to get a warrant before using aerial drones to surveil U.S. citizens.

“Like other tools used to collect information in law enforcement, in order to use drones a warrant needs to be issued,” Paul said Tuesday. “Americans going about their everyday lives should not be treated like criminals or terrorists and have their rights infringed upon by military tactics.”

We live in an age awash with cameras in stores, banks, parking lots, and most public places. Many cities have red light cameras at intersections to catch scofflaws and cameras on neighborhood corners to monitor gangs and other bad guys lurking in high-crime neighborhoods. Police cars are constantly on patrol.

The operative word here is public and in these situations the expectation of privacy does not apply. Certainly as we fight an ongoing war on terror we tolerate, despite the excesses, an invasion of our privacy in the form of body scans, luggage searches and the like.

We accept these actions because they aid law enforcement in its legitimate duty and help protect us from the dangerous and the criminal.

The argument is that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. Yet we know the store is looking for shoplifters, the camera on that pole is looking for people running red lights or gangbangers selling drugs. We can see the police car driving down the street. We can’t see the drone over our house as we barbecue with friends and family.

To tap our phones or search our premises, law enforcement must go before a judge and demonstrate that there is probable cause that a crime is being or has been committed. How are these things different from a drone flying over our homes taking pictures of our homes and equipped perhaps with infrared and radar that can “see” through the walls of our homes?

Sen. Paul says his bill allows exceptions “such as the patrol of our national borders, when immediate action is needed to prevent ‘imminent danger to life,’ and when we are under a high risk of a terrorist attack.”

In all other situations, he suggests we put a bell on the government cat.

As we have reported, the Environmental Protection Agency has been flying drones over the farm belt looking for violations of the Clean Water Act. Such drones pick up footage of the farm, but also any activity on it by the farmer and the family. Is this a legitimate function of government?

With whom is all this data being shared, and just who is watching the watchers?

“Our Founding Fathers had no idea that there would be remote-control drones with television monitors that can feed back live data instantaneously—but if they had, they would have made darn sure that these things were subject to the Fourth Amendment (protecting individual privacy),” Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, told Fox News.

Giving law enforcement every possible tool to protect us would seem to be a good thing, but that must be balanced against the protections of our liberty. Americans have a right to privacy, the presumption of innocence, and a right to be secure in their homes (and backyards) from unwanted and unwarranted surveillance.

Benjamin Franklin once said that those who are willing to trade liberty for security deserve neither. And, history shows, they are likely to wind up with neither.


Google: Obama Administration Increases Requests for Content Removal

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Published on: June 18, 2012

Original Article - Google: Obama Administration Increases Requests for Content Removal

U.S. authorities are leading the charge as governments around the world pepper Google (GOOG) with more demands to remove online content and turn over information about people using its Internet search engine, YouTube video site and other services.

Google provided a glimpse at the onslaught of government requests in a summary posted on its website late Sunday. The breakdown covers the final six months of last year. It’s the fifth time that Google has released a six-month snapshot of government requests since the company engaged in a high-profile battle over online censorship with China’s communist leadership in 2010.

The country-by-country capsule illustrates the pressure Google faces as it tries to obey the disparate laws in various countries while trying to uphold its commitment to free expression and protect the sanctity its more than 1 billion users’ personal information.

Governments zero in on Google because its services have become staples of our digital-driven lives. Besides running the Internet’s most dominant search engine, Google owns the most watched video site in YouTube, operates widely used blogging and email services and distributes Android, the top operating system on mobile phones. During the past year, Google has focused on expanding Plus, a social networking service, that boasts more than 170 million users.

Many of the requests are legitimate attempts to enforce laws governing hot-button issues ranging from personal privacy to hate speech.

But Google says it increasingly fields requests from government agencies trying to use their power to suppress political opinions and other material they don’t like.

“It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect — Western democracies not typically associated with censorship,” Dorothy Chou, Google’s senior policy analyst, wrote in a Sunday blog post.

That comment may have been aimed at the U.S., where police prosecutors, courts and other government agencies submitted 187 requests to remove content from July through December last year, more than doubling from 92 requests from January through June.

Only Brazil’s government agencies submitted more content removal requests with a total of 194 during the final half of last year. But that figure was down from 224 requests in Brazil during the first half of the year.

Brazil’s requests covered a more narrow range of content than the U.S. demands. The submissions from Brazil covered 554 different pieces of content while the U.S. requests sought to censor nearly 6,200 items.

One U.S. request from a local law enforcement agency asked Google to remove 1,400 YouTube videos for alleged harassment. Without identifying the requesting agency or the targeted videos, Google said it rejected the demand.

Google wound up at least partially complying with 42 percent of the content removal requests in the U.S. and 54 percent in the Brazil.

Other governments frequently reaching out to Google included Germany (103 content-removal requests, down 18 percent from the previous six-month period), and India (101 requests, a 49 percent increase).

At least four countries — Bolivia, the Czech Republic, Jordan and Ukraine — asked Google to remove content for the first time during the final six months of last year.

Governments also are leaning Google more frequently for information about people suspected of breaking the law or engaging in other mischief.

The U.S. government filed 6,321 requests with Google for user data during the final six months of the year. That was far more than any other country, according to Google, and a 6 percent increase from the previous six months. Google complied with 93 percent of the U.S. requests for user data, encompassing more than 12,200 accounts.


The #@*&! Problem (Nannystate Town Bans Cursing)

Original Article - The #@*&! Problem (Nannystate Town Bans Cursing)

BY A VOTE of 183-50, town meeting members in Middleborough, Mass., last week approved a bylaw making public cursing a civil offense and authorizing police to enforce the ban by fining offenders $20.

Town Hall may find it hard to collect on those fines. Assuming Cohen v. California is still good law, the First Amendment’s protection of free speech extends to using four-letter words in public, and as soon as the new ordinance is challenged it will almost certainly be struck down. Legally, town authorities don’t have a leg to stand on. But their concern with enforcing public standards deserves better than the eye-rolling mockery it has been getting.

Cohen was the 1971 case in which the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a Los Angeles man arrested for disturbing the peace after he appeared in municipal court wearing a jacket with the F-word on it. (The jacket, with the word spelled out, read: “F— the Draft.”) Writing for the majority, Justice John Marshall Harlan conceded that “the particular four-letter word being litigated here is perhaps more distasteful than most.” Nevertheless, he continued, “one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric” — and “it is largely because governmental officials cannot make principled distinctions in this area that the Constitution leaves matters of taste and style so largely to the individual.”

When it comes to freedom of speech, my convictions are generally libertarian: The proper response to bad speech is not censorship, but better speech. The First Amendment wouldn’t be worth much if it protected only anodyne and sensible expression. What makes it such a vital safeguard of American liberty is that it shields ugly and obnoxious speech as well — even that of odious hate groups or lying propagandists. I line up with Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who wrote more than 80 years ago that the Bill of Rights safeguards not merely “free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”

Freedom of expression, however, isn’t the only value a healthy civil society depends on. Common courtesy and reasonable standards of public conduct matter too. In other areas most of us take it for granted that the rights of communities, not just those of individuals, are entitled to some deference. Middleborough wouldn’t have made national headlines last week if town meeting members had voted to impose fines on anyone trashing public spaces with litter or graffiti or dog droppings. Should it really make Page 1 when civic leaders look for a way to curb the befouling of public spaces with loud and unrestrained cursing?

Maybe Middleborough merchants and officials are exaggerating what they say has become a plague of public profanity, especially among the young. (“They’ll sit on the bench and yell back and forth to each other with the foulest language,” says former selectwoman Mimi Duphily.) But there can’t be much doubt that vulgar speech now courses openly through American society to a degree that would have been unthinkable just a few decades ago.

The potty-mouthing of our culture is ubiquitous. Go to a new play, take in a movie, turn on a prime-time TV show, and you’re all but guaranteed to encounter the kind of language that used to get mouths washed out with soap. Some shows revel in their crudity: “South Park” is notorious for its foul-mouthed fourth-graders. One episode of “The Wire” contrived to use the F-word 38 times in under four minutes.

One man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric? These days it can be another’s Grammy-winning hit song: Just ask Cee-Lo Green. Or it can be another’s campaign rhetoric: When he was publicly flirting with a presidential run last year, Donald Trump delivered a profanity-laced speech to an audience that cheered and applauded each time he dropped the F-bomb.

Let sewage flow into a river long enough, and eventually it may catch fire. Ignore graffiti and broken windows long enough, and eventually anti-social crime can make a neighborhood intolerable. What happens to a culture in which obscenity and raunchy language are omnipresent?

“That the air may at times seem filled with verbal cacophony is … not a sign of weakness but of strength,” the Supreme Court said in Cohen. “In what otherwise might seem a trifling and annoying instance of individual distasteful abuse … fundamental societal values are truly implicated.”

But that was in 1971. Today we are a lot further down the slippery slope. The crudity polluting American life no longer seems merely “trifling and annoying.” Middleborough’s solution is all wrong, but the problem it’s trying to address is no small matter.


Bogus Homeland Security Funded Study Pushes “Tea Party Terrorism” Narrative

Original Article - Bogus Homeland Security Funded Study Pushes “Tea Party Terrorism” Narrative

In an era of agenda-driven academic research, who watches the watchers? Or more accurately, who gets to designate and categorize the “objective” data? This is the question raised after examining a study and related dataset recently published by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland.

START was launched in 2005 with a $12 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security, and is recognized by DHS as one of its “Centers for Excellence.” In December, DHS announced it had renewed START’s funding to the tune of $3.6 million.

A recent START study titled “Hot Spots of Terrorism and Other Crimes in the United States, 1970 to 2008” puts the “excellence” description in question. A press release announcing the report states the study concluded that nearly a third of all terrorist attacks between 1970 and 2008 occurred in just five major metropolitan areas. The study was based on a START database called “Profiles of Perpetrators of Terrorism in the United States,” and both the report and database are supported by the DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s Human Factors/Behavioral Sciences Division.

Reading through the study, some baffling issues arose. In Table 4 (p. 22), titled “Hot Spots of Religious Terrorism by Decade”, three “hot spot” areas — Los Angeles, Manhattan, and Wasco, Oregon (former home of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) — are identified:

But there seems to be some data missing when it comes to known Islamic terrorist incidents in New York City and Los Angeles. The study shows no religious terrorism in Manhattan during the 1990s. How about the 1993 World Trade Center bombing? Or the 1994 Brooklyn Bridge Jewish student van shooting by Rashid Baz that killed 16-year-old Ari Halberstam after Baz heard a fiery anti-Jewish sermon at his local mosque? Or the 1997 Empire State Building observation deck shooting by Ali Abu Kamal that killed one tourist and injured six others before Kamal took his own life?

And then there was the 2002 shooting at the Los Angeles Airport El Al counter by Hesham Mohamed Hadayet that killed two and wounded four others. The FBI and Justice Department concluded that the attack was a terrorist attack by an Egyptian assailant bent on becoming a Muslim martyr.

These are reflected nowhere in the study. Perhaps, like the 2009 Fort Hood massacre by Major Nidal Hasan, who gunned down his U.S. Army colleagues while shouting “Allahu Akbar,” these incidents are considered acts of “workplace violence” and not religious terrorism?

Have these incidents been redefined to prevent facts from conflicting with an agenda-driven narrative? Or have these data points been excluded altogether?

Struck by these glaring omissions, I went to the START “Profiles of Perpetrators of Terrorism in the United States (PPT-US)” dataset that the study is based upon. START describes the findings from the database:

Preliminary findings from PPT-US data also illustrate a distinct shift in the dominant ideologies of these terrorist groups over time (see Figure 1), with the proportion of emerging ethnonationalist/separatist terrorist groups declining and the proportion of emerging religious terrorist groups increasing. However, while terrorist groups with religious ideologies represent half of all emergent groups in the 2000s (three out of six), they only account for six percent of groups over time. (Emphasis added)

It’s easy to conclude that religious ideologies are insignificant when you exclude well-known instances of religious-based terrorism from your analysis. And speaking of the Fort Hood massacre, I would note that the cutoff date of the database, 2008, excludes other acts of Islamic terrorism (Fort Hood, the Little Rock Army recruiting center shooting). Convenient, indeed.

But looking at the START dataset’s codebook, other startling problems emerge.

Compare how the START researchers define “left wing” and “right wing” extremism. Left-wing extremism is defined at follows:

Extreme left-wing groups want to bring about change through violent revolution rather than through established political processes. In addition, this category includes secular left-wing groups that rely heavily on terrorism to overthrow the capitalist system and either establish “a dictatorship of the proletariat” (Marxist-Leninists) or, much more rarely, a decentralized, non-hierarchical sociopolitical system (anarchists).

Fair enough. Now, right-wing extremism:

The extreme far-right is composed of groups that believe that one’s personal and/or national “way of life” is under attack and is either already lost or that the threat is imminent (for some the threat is from a specific ethnic, racial, or religious group), and believe in the need to be prepared for an attack either by participating in paramilitary preparations and training or survivalism. Groups may also be fiercely nationalistic (as opposed to universal and international in orientation), anti-global, suspicious of centralized federal authority, reverent of individual liberty, and believe in conspiracy theories that involve grave threat to national sovereignty and/or personal liberty. (Emphasis added)

If you’re fiercely nationalistic (pro-American), anti-global (anti-UN), suspicious of centralized federal authority (like the Framers), reverent of individual liberty (like Patrick Henry), and believe in “conspiracy” theories (like the federal government allowing the sale of assault weapons to Mexican drug cartels to justify limiting American’s rights under the Second Amendment, a la Fast and Furious), then according to these taxpayer-funded researchers, you too are on the “extreme right-wing.” Many Americans would be surprised to find themselves so categorized by the researchers at START.

It should be no surprise that two subgroups identified in the codebook under “extreme right-wing” include “gun rights” and “tax protest.” Tea Party terrorists, anyone?

Again, this raises the question: who gets to categorize the data?

Anti-Semitism is included in the codebook as a subgroup for both the “racist” and “extreme right-wing” categories, but it is missing as a subgroup for the extreme left-wing. Because after all, it’s not like extreme left-wing groups like the Center for American Progress revel in their anti-Semitism, right?

It is amazing what you won’t find when you don’t look, or more specifically, when you define out the possibility or exclude data that conflicts with your predetermined conclusions altogether. But when you examine the roots of the taxpayer-funded START program, no one should be surprised at its agenda-driven study.

The recently appointed director of the START center is the Obama administration’s de facto Islamophobia czar, Bill Braniff. An example of Braniff’s blindly partisan research methodology can be seen in his statements quoted in a July 2011 NPR article, where he spies widespread Islamophobia in law enforcement training:

I think this is something that happens across the nation fairly consistently … No one is tracking this with numbers, but anecdotally we are hearing about it all the time. The Muslim-American community is being preyed upon from two different directions. One, the jihadist recruitment and radicalization that is actively preying on their sons and daughters; and two, the elevated levels of Islamophobia — Islamophobia at worst and distrust and alienation at best.

Note Braniff’s sweeping assessment (it “happens across the nation fairly consistently”) and his immediate admission that there is no objective basis for his assessment (“no one is tracking this with numbers”).

But Braniff goes further to demonize anyone who disagrees with his rampant Islamophobia conspiracy theories, by equating “Islamophobes” with al-Qaeda and accusing them of “preying” on the Muslim community like jihadist recruiters. Such is the standard of scholarship from the director of the START program (the NPR article itself was criticized for deliberately eliminating salient facts directly relevant to the matter).

With such hysterical and partisan leadership from Bill Braniff, it is no surprise to see the START program so eagerly promoting the Obama administration’s preferred ideological narratives (such as Janet Napolitano’s redefining of terrorism as “man-made disaster” ). Nor is it a surprise to see START steamrolling facts to define out of existence domestic terrorism committed by Muslim terrorists, while simultaneously spying a looming terrorist movement from Americans concerned with the direction of our country, like the Tea Party. (And let’s not forget the actual domestic terrorists now emerging from the Left’s Occupy movement.) We’ve seen these bait-and-switch efforts from Homeland Security before. Repeatedly. And using highly suspect sourcing.

The far Left is free to engage in these paranoid fantasies as they see fit. It’s a free country after all. But it is another thing entirely when they are funded by the U.S. taxpayer — whom these “academic” studies regularly demonize — and form the basis for actual policies for federal law enforcement and national security agencies. (Such as launching FBI investigations into returning war veterans, or targeting American citizens as potential threats because of the bumper stickers on their vehicles.)

Who is watching the watchers? Nobody, apparently.


Burt Rutan – Human-caused Catastrophic Global Warming a BIG LIE

Original Article – Burt Rutan – Human-caused Catastrophic Global Warming a BIG LIE

World-famous aircraft designer Burt Rutan finds “deception – even fraud – behind the assertions of global-warming alarmists,” says this article in the Coeur d’Alene Press.

Human-caused catastrophic global warming exposed as big lie

By Mike Satren

(Excerpts) - World-famous aircraft designer and North Idaho resident Burt Rutan looked at climate data and found deception – even fraud – behind the assertions of global-warming alarmists intent on implementing a world-wide climate fix that could bring about economic chaos.

“Rutan started his career working as a civilian flight test engineer for the U.S. Air Force where there was no room for error in interpreting data – all the data.

“If you want something to be, maybe a theory that you’ve modeled in a computer, you can ‘prove it’ with data and you can convince anybody who doesn’t really look at all the data,” Rutan said. “It’s really easy to convince somebody that this is true and I found out real early that it’s not true.

“I found out immediately that they weren’t being ethical.”

“If someone is aggressively selling a product, whether airplanes or carbon credits, based on complex experimental data, he is likely lying, Rutan contended.

“The amount of CO2 that we add to the atmosphere by our emissions is minuscule and it’s tiny compared to the amount of CO2 that used to be in the atmosphere,” he said.

“Earth had six to eight times as much CO2 in the atmosphere when dinosaurs roamed. That period also held the greatest diversity of species ever and the earth was green from pole to pole with no deserts.

“If you want a green planet, then you want our air to be like your green house where you pump CO2 into it,” he said. “CO2 is not a pollutant, it is the essence of life for plants.”

“Within the last several million years, earth’s atmosphere got down to only about 180 parts per million (PPM) of CO2. That was a severe threat, since below 150 PPM, all plants die. Now, we are being told we are at risk of catastrophe because we have a small increase of plant food in our atmosphere, even though the increase is beneficial.

“Rutan also found that we are currently at what could be the tail end of an unusually long and stable 11,000-year warm period between ice ages, which occurs every 80 to 100 thousand years.

Did you catch that? “We are currently at what could be the tail end of an unusually long and stable 11,000-year warm period between ice ages.”

“The recent previous warm periods were brief,” he said. “And they were all hotter than now.”

“It is during these warm periods when all the planet’s species proliferated but it’s during the ice ages when they die.

“Who is to say that the temperature is perfect and we’ve got to hold it right here?” he queried. “Our ability to feed the population will improve if the planet is warmer than present.”

“But then Rutan found out that the climate alarmists were even messing with the data that shows that we are warming.

“Rutan admits he’s not a climate scientist and doesn’t know the science that was used for these predictive models, but he does know a lot about processing data and plotting it to inform and he knows it can easily be plotted to deceive.

“For example, the famous hockey stick graph predicting unprecedented, drastic global warming leaves out the much warmer Medieval Warm Period (600-1100 a.d.) and the Little Ice Age (1450-1780 a.d.) temperature variations.

“Data also showed him that historically high periods of CO2 didn’t ’cause’ global warming, rather CO2 elevations followed warming by around 500 to 800 years.

“And then I got mad,” he said. “Nobody’s doing anything about this.”

“Actually some were, but because the government got scared it started pumping funding toward anyone who said he was working on global warming Rutan said.

“Worldwide funding for climate research increased by a factor of more than 30 since the early 1990s, all of the increase was driven by the false fear of climate disaster, Rutan said. The people who were really manipulating data falsely were rather small in number, Rutan found.

“The 2,500 scientists from IPCC do not support the predictions of catastrophe,” he said. “That is not a consensus at all, and never was.”

“The actual ‘consensus’ is that nearly all scientists agree that the planet has warmed in the last 50 years and that at least some of that warming was due to human emissions. Only a tiny faction – acting out of greed – showed that the warming was dangerous and that stopping human CO2 emissions was a critical need, he said. Now, after 15 years of no global warming while human CO2 emissions continue to increase, there is no consensus that we risk catastrophe.

“Rutan thought he could use his findings to convince some global warming alarmists online but instead he was personally attacked with brutal name calling.

“I found out real quickly that with these people, it’s their livelihood and it’s like a religion to them,” he said. “They don’t look at the facts.

“They call us deniers and it’s them that are denying the data.”

“He found every one of the global warming alarmists’ computer projections have been wrong.

“Because he has had some serious heart problems, Rutan decided he would forgo any of the political battles that will be necessary to turn the tide of efforts to change global weather. He makes his findings available to anyone who wants to pick up the ball, whether Rutan gets credit or not.

“I put it out there just because I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I have no financial interest in this at all.”

See entire article:
Thanks to Burt Rutan for this link

See also:
Burt Rutan calls Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) a Fraud
An engineering approach to the AGW debate, by Burt Rutan


McConnell Warns of Attempts by Obama, Media Matters to Silence Critics

Original Article - McConnell Warns of Attempts by Obama, Media Matters to Silence Critics

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called out the White House Friday for maintaining a long-standing relationship with Media Matters for America, despite the liberal group’s attempts at “driving [conservative] voices clear out of the public square.”

“It’s hard to imagine a more broadly-accepted proposition than the fact that Americans are free, above all else, to speak their minds openly and freely without fear of punishment or reprisal from government authorities,” McConnell said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute. “Human nature being what it is, however, I think we would all have to admit that there will always be a temptation, particularly among those in power, to muffle one’s critics.”

During the speech, entitled “Growing Threats to Our First Amendment Rights,” McConnell emphasized what he views as a continuing effort by the Obama administration and its surrogates, like Media Matters, to “muffle” free speech by exposing “critics to harassment and intimidation, either by government authorities or third party allies, and that should concern every one of us.”

“The attacks on speech are legion,” said McConnell, placing special emphasis on efforts by Democrats to turn back political speech protections afforded by the Supreme Court’s decision in the infamous Citizens United case.

“President Obama has publicly accused the Kochs of being part of a, quote, ‘corporate takeover of our democracy,’ whatever that means,” McConnell reminded his audience, referring to conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, “and not only did his campaign publish a list of eight private citizens it regards as ‘enemies’ — an actual old school enemies list — it recently doubled down on the effort when some began to call these thuggish tactics into question.”

The Kentucky Republican noted that President Obama must not oppose efforts to silence conservative critics, because he has never condemned intimidation tactics aimed at his opponents, ranging from targeting businesses that support conservatives to the illegal tactic of “SWAT-ing” — whereby conservative writers have been harassed using 911 services to claim murders in the homes of targeted individuals.

And that should come as no surprise, McConnell explained, when the president has allied himself with the very groups that specialize in intimidating critics of the government.

“The tactics I’m describing extend well beyond the [Obama] campaign headquarters in Chicago. To an extent not seen since the Nixon administration, they extend deep into the administration itself,” McConnell warned.

“News reports suggest that top White House officials have long participated in a weekly conference call with a left-wing organization in Washington whose stated purpose is to track conservative media voices, seize on potentially offensive content and then use it to mount corporate intimidation campaigns aimed at driving these voices clear out of the public square,” said McConnell referring to the liberal messaging group, Media Matters for America.

As reported by The Daily Caller, Media Matters has indeed participated in a weekly strategy call with the White House and the far-left Center for American Progress during most of President Obama’s time in office. It is unknown if those conference calls continue to this day.

What is known is that Media Matters has been credited both internally and by other liberal groups with organizing campaigns aimed at silencing such media voices as Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Don Imus and most recently, Rush Limbaugh.

That effort, to have Limbaugh forced out of his number-one rated radio show, has since gone dormant after failing to scare enough advertisers away from the program. The group mounted its campaign against Limbaugh after the talker came down on liberal activist Sandra Fluke for testifying before Congress that college students should be entitled to taxpayer-funded contraception. Limbaugh used an analogy he later apologized for: “It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.”

To McConnell’s point, despite regular contact with Media Matters, the White House made no effort to head off the groups’ attempts to silence Limbaugh. Instead, the president joined them in condemning Rush and even called the 30-year-old Fluke to console her.

And Media Matters’ support of President Obama continues to grow. TheDC reported last week that the tax-exempt group has published defenses of the president at a vastly higher rate as Obama undertakes his 2012 re-election campaign than it did in 2011.

McConnell told the audience Friday that any effort by the government in unison with its third party allies to intimidate or silence critics flies in the face of the First Amendment.

“Lets be very clear,” said McConnell, “No individual or group in this country should have to face harassment or intimidation or incur crippling expenses defending themselves against their own government simply because that government doesn’t like the message that they’re advocating.”

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Watch McConnell’s speech:

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