Civil Rights

Obama has gotten one individual liberty issue right

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Call it a case of the proverbial broken clock being right twice a day. President Obama has been terrible on most liberty issues, of course. He came into office promising a hands-off approach to medical marijuana states, but his DEA and FBI have kept the pace of the Bush administration on clinic raids. He has proposed and supported restrictive gun regulations, though his infamous “executive actions” didn’t end up amounting to all that much.

The myriad Obamacare mandates are egregious violations of individual and organizational liberty. But there’s one area where Obama has gotten it exactly right, or at least as well as can be expected from a modern President: individual rights for gay Americans.

Coming out and the prevalence of special interest days

CarbonNYC (CC)

In case you missed it, today was “National Coming Out Day” in the U.S. In the general scheme of things, it probably isn’t particularly meaningful to anyone that isn’t highly concerned with gay rights, or is in fact homsexual. Yes, there probably was a fair amount of lampooning of the day on social media, but other than that, there are far too many other issues weighing on Americans right now to worry about this one.

And that brings up an interesting thing to consider - do we really need all of these “special interest awareness” days? This is something that has been brought up about various national holidays (are they really anything more than an excuse for governmental workers and banks to take a long weekend?), and some obviously commercialized ones (who else thinks it’s insane that a dozen roses costs roughly four times more in the second week of February, versus the second week in January?) So, there’s an obvious capitalistic reason for most holidays at least, and merchants have taken advantage of the various “banker’s holidays” to get more customers in their doors. But these awareness days are a different beast entirely.

Yes, there is much love for days devoted to the various ribbon campaigns - the consensus is that cancer is bad, and it’s always good to increase the public’s awareness about warning signs for diseases. Stopping the abuse of children obviously needs some public attention. Then there are the fun ones that leave us with freebies - who doesn’t like a day when we can get a free cup of coffee, or a free donut? But, the whole National Coming Out Day thing? Well, that’s a horse of a different color. The whole point of it is to foster an environment where people can talk frankly about what they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms. Why?

MLK+50: Civil Liberties and the Civil Rights Movement

This weekend, being the 50 year anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom - the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s epic “I Have a Dream” speech – the National Action Network led a march of over 100,000 people, urging America to “Realize the Dream.” That Dr. King is the only non-President with a monument on the National Mall is a sign of his lasting legacy. He is truly a founding father in modern American history. On this anniversary, it is prudent to assess the progress of the Movement he led and to compare and contrast what he stood for then, its importance today, and where it’s going.

First off, just as an individual should be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, the merit of a movement should not be judged by the human flaws of its leadership but by the principles for which it stands. Fifty years later, when it is assessed by those principles, it is clear there are signs of tremendous progress by the Civil Rights Movement. Most notably, in 2012, President Obama was reelected with much less attention paid to his race than his 2008 election. Culturally, we are much more racially egalitarian in our daily interactions. On the surface, race doesn’t seem like that big of a deal anymore.

On Libertarian Populism and the Liberty Movement

 Much is being made of this idea called ”Libertarian Populism” and its perceived value as a winning political strategy. The problem is, few seem to know what those words really mean. As such, a range of politicians and policies have incorrectly been grafted onto specific words that have specific meanings.

I’ve silently watched as this LibPop movement(?) has unfolded; see this litany of articles at this link roundup provided by Reason Magazine. The term seems to have been coined at a book forum for Tim Carney at the Cato Institute. In its next iteration, Ross Douthat succinctly defined Libertarian Populism as:

“A strain of thought that moves from the standard grassroots conservative view of Washington as an inherently corrupt realm of special interests and self-dealing elites to a broader skepticism of ‘bigness’ in all its forms (corporate as well as governmental), that regards the Bush era as an object lesson in everything that can go wrong (at home and abroad) when conservatives set aside this skepticism, and that sees the cause of limited government as a means not only to safeguarding liberty, but to unwinding webs of privilege and rent-seeking and enabling true equality of opportunity as well.”

5 items in the PRISM report you need to read

Last week, the Congressional Research Service released a report on the National Security Agency’s domestic spying programs. Essentially, it is a “What You Need To Know, Mr. Representative” memo, mostly a summary of issues that have already been discussed publicly at length. It is nonetheless a useful document for the public to catch up on what is known.

Packed in its 15 pages are a number of interesting datapoints, with these being the big things you should know:

1. The standard for investigation is subjective.

The report notes the authority to investigate and take someone’s domestic phone records is invoked by crossing a very low bar. Section 50 USC § 1861 (b)(2)(a) asks that an investigator submit “a statement of facts showing there are reasonable grounds to believe” an investigation is necessary. The report notes there is no statutory definition of “reasonable grounds,” though it speculates that the standard is probably less stringent than “probable cause” and may be merely a synonym for “reasonable suspicion.”

Moreover, federal statute authorizes law enforcement to obtain personal communications data if “there are reasonable grounds to believe” that data is “relevant and material to an ongoing investigation.” There’s no definition of relevancy, either. Relevancy, instead, is “generally understood” (the report’s words) to require “only that the information sought would tend to prove or disprove a fact at issue.”

In today’s surveillance world, that doesn’t serve as much of a check on government snooping. If agents believe your records of ordering pizza (or ordering pornography) may disprove or prove some fact at issue, then they’ll be sure to get those records.

Your Ox Will Eventually Be Gored

It seems logical that every American, regardless of political affiliation/philosophy, race, religion or creed, would be concerned about the revelations concerning domestic spying on the part of the NSA. If the Obama administration can spy on and mistreat the Tea Party and other right wing causes, the next Republican administration could spy on and mistreat Occupy Wall Street and other left wing causes.

As it turns out, this is not necessarily the case. According to an article by David A. Love, the black community has largely greeted this news with a shrug and a yawn.

Is this lack of concern because many blacks do not want to be critical of the first black* president? This might account for some of this shrugging but Love suspects that there is something much deeper at work here:

The black community has decades of experience being monitored, so this type of surveillance is nothing new. Given the long history of being spied upon, many blacks already assume they are being monitored by the government […]
[…]
African-Americans are no strangers to surveillance, as their activities were highly regulated through the slave codes, laws which controlled both slaves and free blacks.

The mistreatment of blacks did not end when slavery was abolished, of course. Love goes on to describe several other atrocities such as the Tuskegee experiment, J. Edgar Hoover’s illegal spying on Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and others.

CPS Tyrannizes Again; Abolish Child Protective Services Now

Yet another incident of Child Protective Services violating civil rights has emerged, this time in Sacramento:

SACRAMENTO, CA - A Sacramento family was torn apart after a 5-month-old baby boy was taken from his parents following a visit to the doctor.

The young couple thought their problems were behind them after their son had a scare at the hospital, but once they got home their problems got even worse.

It all began nearly two weeks ago, when Anna Nikolayev and her husband Alex took their 5-month-old boy Sammy to Sutter Memorial Hospital to be treated for flu symptoms, but they didn’t like the care Sammy was getting.

The mother had questions about what was going on with the care, but it soon escalated out of control:

Anna said Sammy suffers from a heart murmur and had been seeing a doctor at Sutter for regular treatment since he was born. After Sammy was treated for flu symptoms last week, doctors at Sutter admitted him to the pediatric ICU to monitor his condition. After a few days, Anna said doctors began talking about heart surgery.

“If we got the one mistake after another, I don’t want to have my baby have surgery in the hospital where I don’t feel safe,” Anna said.

Anna argued with doctors about getting a second opinion. Without a proper discharge, she finally took Sammy out of the hospital to get a second opinion at Kaiser Permanente.

“The police showed up there. They saw that the baby was fine,” Anna said. “They told us that Sutter was telling them so much bad stuff that they thought that this baby is dying on our arms.”

Refuting Progressives: So Easy A Blogger Can Do It

A blogger by the name of Allen Clifton over at “Forward Progressives” has put out a list of “facts” that annoy conservatives and Republicans, supposedly for fun. Allen writes:

I highly encourage all liberals to share this with their conservative friends.  Then watch as they haplessly try and argue against each comment.

It’s irresistible. And, as I expected, it doesn’t actually make us look bad. It just shows that progressives like Mr. Clifton haven’t thought their argument the full way through. I’ll leave the points Mr. Clifton makes in bold and my responses below.

Let’s begin:

1. Nowhere in our Constitution does it say we’re a Christian nation.

2. In fact, no where in our Constitution does the word “Christian” appear even once.

These points are actually true, and I cannot argue with Mr. Clifton. The Constitution does not mention the word “god,” and while many of the Founders were religious, it is questionable whether they were hardcore Christians or rather deists (or, in Mr. Jefferson’s case and the case of others, Christian Deists.) There are mentions to God in the Declaration of Independence, but again, are these references to the Christian conception? The Declaration refers to “Nature’s God”—a deist term, not a Christian one. The only time the Constitution mentions God is in the dating: “ the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven.”

That’s hardly grounds for making the Constitution a Christian document. That’s just how you told the date back then. These days, we replaced “Lord” with “Common Era.”

ACLU on the Side of….Conservatives?

Freedom is nonpartisan. At least, that’s the message I got this morning from my Twitter timeline when these two stories appeared. The first is out of Alaska, where the local ACLU chapter is defending an…anti-abortion group?:

The ACLU of Alaska is urging Alaska Governor Sean Parnell to provide more information about some creative censorship by state workers earlier this month during a street protest in Juneau. The street protest was staged by a group called the Center for Bioethical Reform, a fringe anti-abortion group that displays explicit pictures of aborted fetuses in public places to get their message across.

That’s what they were doing early in April on the sidewalk across the street from Alaska state Capitol building. The protest wasn’t exactly a rally. The CBR group included between four and six people, as counted by the Press from videos and photos of the incident. The group was around the Capitol about four days total, and on Tuesday, April 2, some state workers grew tired of the banner featuring a giant photo of an aborted fetus.

Some state employees parked delivery vans on the street, in between the protest banner and the capitol building. Rather than move their banner, the CBR protesters held their ground and began making video of the rather awkward attempt at censoring the graphic images. It’s “attempted censorship” because the CBR protesters could have simply walked to another part of the sidewalk. Alternatively, they could have recruited more than a half-dozen people to help them display graphic images of bloody fetuses in public places.

Mexican Cartels Invade America: End The Drug War To Stop Them

Last week, a scary new report came out from the Associated Press on the drug cartels presence in the continental United States:

Mexican drug cartels whose operatives once rarely ventured beyond the U.S. border are dispatching some of their most trusted agents to live and work deep inside the United States — an emboldened presence that experts believe is meant to tighten their grip on the world’s most lucrative narcotics market and maximize profits.

If left unchecked, authorities say, the cartels’ move into the American interior could render the syndicates harder than ever to dislodge and pave the way for them to expand into other criminal enterprises such as prostitution, kidnapping-and-extortion rackets and money laundering.

Cartel activity in the U.S. is certainly not new. Starting in the 1990s, the ruthless syndicates became the nation’s No. 1 supplier of illegal drugs, using unaffiliated middlemen to smuggle cocaine, marijuana and heroin beyond the border or even to grow pot here.

But a wide-ranging Associated Press review of federal court cases and government drug-enforcement data, plus interviews with many top law enforcement officials, indicate the groups have begun deploying agents from their inner circles to the U.S. Cartel operatives are suspected of running drug-distribution networks in at least nine non-border states, often in middle-class suburbs in the Midwest, South and Northeast.

“It’s probably the most serious threat the United States has faced from organized crime,” said Jack Riley, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Chicago office.

 


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