Archives for June 2012
Charles Sipe is Executive Editor of Criminal Justice Degree Schools where he manages news coverage of the latest topics in the criminal justice field. He is also a graduate of University of Washington and US Army basic training.
A groundswell of opposition and concern has risen regarding the growing military use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to attack suspected terrorists overseas which has included American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki last fall. The idea of faceless killer machines flying overhead is no longer a figment of science fiction. Earlier this year, Congress approved the use of drones in U.S. airspace that could lead to the widespread proliferation of drones above U.S. soil. The following infographic provides some important facts that you should know about military drones.
Infographic by Criminal Justice Degree Schools
Earlier this year we fought the battle against SOPA and PIPA, the draconian, Internet altering legislation that was awful for reasons both political and technological. Then there was CISPA, which wasn’t a government takeover of the Internet like SOPA and PIPA, but it put way too much power in the hands of the government.
We suspected that wouldn’t be the end of the fight for freedom online, and we were right. This week Google released another transparency report, showing requests from the second half of 2011 by government entities to have content removed. The scary thing is that much of this falls under the realm of personal expression.
Just looking at examples of requests from within the United States, Google was asked to:
Earlier this week, I noted that Mitt Romney had taken a view of presidential war powers that was even more troubling than that of President Barack Obama, who had taken part in a bombing campaign of Libya without congressional approval. Romney told Bob Schieffer, host of Face the Nation, that he didn’t need authorization from Congress to go to war with Iran.
For all the recent talk from our conservative friends about executive overreach by President Obama, Romney comments are perhaps even more startling given the potential consquences of unilaterally going to war with Iran, both from constitutional and foreign policy perspectives. And even though he has endorsed him, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) isn’t happy with Romney’s recent declaration:
I do not yet know if I will find a Romney presidency more acceptable on foreign policy. But I do know that I must oppose the most recent statements made by Mitt Romney in which he says he, as president, could take us to war unilaterally with Iran, without any approval from Congress. His exact words were:
I can assure you if I’m president, the Iranians will have no question but that I will be willing to take military action if necessary to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world. I don’t believe at this stage, therefore, if I’m president that we need to have a war powers approval or special authorization for military force. The president has that capacity now.
This is a misreading of the role of the president and Congress in declaring war.
I haven’t heard yet that SCOTUS has ruled on Obamacare, but in a bit of good news, the Federal Communications Commission can no longer fine broadcasters for obscenities and nudity:
The US Supreme Court has prohibited the FCC from imposing fines and sanctions for spoken obscenities and nudity on television in a ruling today. While the court didn’t tackle the constitutional validity of the FCC’s authority to set indecency rules, its decision shows that it has begun to back away from policies that were implemented prior to the ubiquity of media over the internet. Broadcast networks work under a set of indecency rules no internet outlet is required to consider because they use scarce public spectrum, and prior to today’s ruling, they faced severe penalties for airing curse words or nudity that violated the FCC’s policy.
This doesn’t mean that broadcasters will start worshipping at the feat of St. Carlin and drop f-bombs left and right, After all, they still have an audience to maintain, and many audiences frown on vulgarities and nudity (or at least, its inappropriate for said audience. Like many of my fellow United Liberty contributors. [Stop picking on Doug. - Editor]
Even so, despite whatever the hell Middleborough, Massachusetts thinks, there is absolutely no role for government to keep our mouths clean. Free speech, after all, is free speech, even if you don’t like it. And besides, when you consider that most youth can easily get porn and whatever on the Internet for free—yeah, your “parental controls” don’t really mean anything, because your kid knows about about hacking then you know about word processing, in all likelihood—the fines are sort of irrelevant.
Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) warned opponents of ObamaCare, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, not to be too giddy if the Supreme Court strikes down the law:
House Speaker John Boehner issued a warning Thursday to fellow House Republicans, firmly stating they should avoid celebrating if the Supreme Court overturns the controversial health care law passed by Democrats.
“No one knows what the Court will decide, and none of us would presume to know. But if the Court strikes down all or part of the president’s health care law, there will be no spiking of the ball,” Boehner said in a memo to GOP members of the chamber.
Even if the high court rules in favor of Republicans’ argument against the controversial law, Boehner on Thursday encouraged House members to stay focused on the economy–not claiming victory.
“We will not celebrate at a time when millions of our fellow Americans remain out of work, the national debt has exceeded the size of our nation’s economy, health costs continue to rise, and small businesses are struggling to hire,” Boehner stated.
Good luck with that. I get what Boehner is saying, but I doubt you’re going to find many that heed his advice. I’m not saying I disagree; the approach is certainly important. The economy is the biggest issue facing the country, so it is wise to stay on message.
The Constitution is being threatened here. If the Supreme Court does find an excuse to deem health care to be a “unique market” and somehow find the individual mandate as constitutionial, a new precedent will be set that will only be used to further government power each time there is some perceived crisis. This is very much a debate over a limited government versus one that is limitless.
By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Operation Fast and Furious, which actually is not an effort to catch illegal drag racers. Instead, it’s an operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) where it’s been alleged that BATFE agents let tons of firearms flow south of the border by people they knew to be buying for the Mexican drug cartels. One of these guns was reportedly used to kill US Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
The gun rights community, predictably, is up in arms (pun unintended) about it. Some are going so far as to claim it is all part of an effort to push forward increased gun regulations here. Yesterday, President Obama claimed executive priviledge regarding documents that Congress and subpenoaed. They had ordered them eight months ago.
Now, first let me address the conspiracy theory regarding using Fast and Furious being a way to push forward regulations here. I might have had something to do with that one. Months ago, on a blog that is no longer up on the net, I wrote that if I were inclined towards conspiracy theories, I would believe such a thing. After all, the use of American guns by drug cartels was cited by both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as reasons why we needed tougher gun regulations in the US. This was while Fast and Furious was going on and sending a proverbial buttload of guns down to Mexico…guns that BATFE knew about and did nothing to prevent.
Of course, a report from CBS News from December, 2011 looks like I might have been on to something:
The main news out of yesterday’s press confernce with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was the extention of Operation Twist. But the central bank also announced that growth forecasts for the rest of the year had been revised downward, painting a less than rosy picture for Americans weary of tough economic times:
The Federal Reserve has sharply lowered its outlook for U.S. economic growth and thinks the unemployment rate won’t fall much further this year.
In its updated quarterly forecast, the Fed lowered its prediction for growth in 2012 to 2.4 percent, a half percentage point weaker than its previous forecast in April.
That isn’t much better than the economy’s tepid 1.9 percent annual pace of growth in the first three months of the year.
The Fed also downgraded its outlook for unemployment. It thinks the unemployment rate will fall no lower than 8 percent by year’s end. That’s more than its prediction in April that the rate could be as low as 7.8 percent at year’s end.
The unemployment rate is now 8.2 percent.
With job growth weaker and the unemployment rate still high, consumers have pulled back on spending. Retail sales have fallen for the past two months. Part of that is due to falling gas costs. But even excluding gas sales, spending barely rose in May and fell in April.
Businesses also appear less confident about the economy. They are placing fewer orders at factories, which has slowed manufacturing output. A measure of companies’ investment spending has dropped for two straight months.
If there’s one thing that can be said for the national GOP leadership, it wouldn’t be that it has fully considered the long-term ramifications of its current predicament. Consider the “presumed” nominee this election cycle, one Willard “Mitt” Romney. Formerly a liberal Republican when it suited him in Massachusetts, the wily politician is hoping that eight years in absentia from holding office and growing distrust of our current President will propel him to the highest office; all without having to stand tall on any conservative meat and potato issue.
The last time a Republican won with this strategy, it was a squeaker of an election. Eight years of Clinton fatigue made even some democrats weary (a mathematical necessity if any Republican can expect to win the Presidency)..
Consider that Dubya in 2000 at least threw a bone to anti-war liberals and conservatives by claiming he would institute a humble foreign policy and eschew the nation-building that had ended so tragically for our former allies in Serbia ( ironically the US sided with extremist Muslim groups tied to Osama bin Laden ) and our troops in Somalia. In fact, it was this particular stand that may have solidified conservative support for Bush and some moderate anti-war liberals.
To add a bit of intrigue into the mix, Ralph Nader decided to run on the Green Party ticket splitting some of the anti-war left away from Gore and Bush resulting in a nail-biting affair that left most astute watchers with a bad taste in their mouth. It was not pretty watching weeks of hanging chad on TV and ugly legal challenges to election results that left the real outcome in doubt.
The legal battle between the Koch brothers and Ed Crane over the future of the Cato Institute may or may not finally be finished. Details of the supposed settlement have not yet been made clear, but here is what has been reported up to this point:
“Looks like we’ve come to an accommodation with the Koch brothers,” Cato founder and President Ed Crane said in a Tuesday e-mail to employees.
Crane said that staffers will be briefed on Monday on the “settlement” by Cato Chairman Bob Levy and John Allison, a prominent libertarian and former BB&T chief executive officer, who mediated the negotiations. “It will be great to get all this unpleasantness behind us,” Crane said.
In a follow up email to staff, Crane cautioned that negotiations are ongoing.
The deal will settle a lawsuit that the Koch brothers filed in February over shares that determine control of Cato. It results from the original division of shares between the two Koch brothers, Crane, and the late Cato Chairman William Niskanen.
After Niskanen died of stroke complications in October, the Koch brothers claimed that a founding shareholder agreement gave them the option to buy his shares. Crane held that they should go to Niskanen’s widow, which would leave him in effective control of the organization.
Yesterday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke held a press conference for financial reporters:
Could more stimulus be on the way?
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke certainly left the option on the table Wednesday, making perfectly clear that he stands ready to do more should the U.S. economy take a turn for the worse.
“In case things get worse, we are prepared to protect the U.S. economy and financial system,” Bernanke told reporters at a press conference.
It was a point he reiterated several times and a sign that many outsiders took to mean the Fed has left the door open on a third round of asset purchases known as quantitative easing, or QE.
“Mr. Bernanke’s press conference surely left few doubts that the Fed will take more aggressive action and renew QE if the economy fails to perform as they expect,” Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics, said in a note to clients.
Meanwhile, University of Pennsylvania Economist Justin Wolfers tweeted: “I read the Fed as saying: One more bad jobs report, and we’ll do more.”
So Ben’s going to go back to the printing press if we have one more disappointing jobs report. He’s going to initiate another round of quantitative easing (QE), which is basically creating money out of thin air. It will be yet another round of quasi-stimulus spending which is basically trying to throw more money at the economy, hoping and praying that it does something. The best name for this kind of economic thinking is “print and pray” economics.