Individual Liberties

Gun Control Activists Are Right: Guns Kill People

Gun control is in the news again. Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the Tuscon shootings, when alleged gunman Jared Loughner killed six people and injured thirteen — including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is still recovering from her injuries. The Daily Caller reports that despite lobbying from gun control activists the White House has offered little more than a nod in their direction, perhaps fearing the impact of any new anti-gun legislation on the president’s reelection efforts in key swing states such as North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. But gun control activists aren’t backing off; progressive news program Democracy Now! reports that one survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, Colin Goddard, is pushing for new gun curbs.

A very different story has also been in the headlines. A recently widowed teen mother, alone at her isolated home in Oklahoma with her 3-month-old son, shot and killed an intruder on New Year’s Eve. 18-year-old Sarah McKinley of Blanchard, Okla., said that she had to make a choice between her son and the intruder, 24-year-old Justin Shane Martin when Martin busted down the door to her home. “I chose my son over him,” said McKinley in an interview with CNN, describing her decision to fire the 12-gauge shotgun that killed Martin. No charges will be filed against McKinley and prosecutors have said that an alleged accomplice, 29-year-old Dustin Louis Stewart, may actually be charged with Martin’s murder.

Why do you trust your government?

I mean, there’s things like SOPA and the NDAA and the Patriot Act and your typical corruption and whatnot, but then you have ridiculous stories like the Texas teen who was accidentally deported to Columbia:

Turner said with the help of Dallas Police, she found her granddaughter in the most unexpected place - Colombia.

Where she had mistakenly been deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in April of 2011.

“They didn’t do their work,” Turner said. “How do you deport a teenager and send her to Colombia without a passport, without anything?”

News 8 learned that Jakadrien somehow ended up in Houston, where she was arrested by Houston police for theft. She gave Houston police a fake name. When police in Houston ran that name, it belonged to a 22-year-old illegal immigrant from Colombia, who had warrants for her arrest.

So ICE officials stepped in.

News 8 has learned ICE took the girl’s fingerprints, but somehow didn’t confirm her identity and deported her to Colombia, where the Colombian government gave her a work card and released her.

The only thing going for ICE in this is that the girl gave a false name. Yes, she probably shouldn’t have done that—but how in the world could ICE, in her mother’s words, deport a girl to Colombia who knew no Spanish and failed to even do the basic work of, you know, confirming this claim? You would think law enforcement officials would expect teenagers to give false names upon imprisonment; it’s not that uncommon.

#SOPA Delayed, But It Should Be Dead

In one of the few instances of “good news,” or at least “not that terrible news,” the Stop Online Piracy Act has been delayed until after the winter recess:

 

WASHINGTON POST - The House Judiciary Committee confirmed Tuesday that it will delay continuing debate on the Stop Online Piracy Act until after Congress returns from its winter recess.

Committee spokeswoman Kim Smith said in an e-mailed statement that the hearing is expected to be scheduled for “early next year.”

Well, that is certainly good news on one front. It at least means they won’t be shoving it down our throat today.

But they’re going to try again. It always happens.

There was widespread outrage when TARP was first proposed, and under that public onslaught, the House of Representatives bucked its campaign contributors and shot the plan down. There was much rejoicing—until they passed it, with even more pork, four days later.

Now, I’m not saying this is necessarily what will happen with SOPA. It may come back and it may be defeated. That is certainly a possibility. But it will come back. The Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America—which I have heard sarcastically referred to, combined, as the MAFIAA—have far too much invested in controlling your Internet access and your personal computer. Do you think they’re just going to give up the possibility of more control over your lives? Of course not. No corporation that could obtain such lucrative rents from the government is going to give it up that easily.

14 Fixes For Our Messed Up Country

Everyone seems to be proposing fixes for our country lately, whether it’s amendments to repeal the First Amendment or ban gays or whatever. I have a few ideas of my own that I think will go a long ways towards restoring some sanity in government and fixing what’s wrong with our society. Some of these will require constitutional amendments, and I don’t expect the entire list to actually get enacted unless magic somehow returns to the world and we resurrect Barry Goldwater, F.A. Hayek, and George Washington all at once.

I originally drafted a list of some 23 ideas, but I figured that it would be way too long for a blog post, so I shortened it to 14, a baker’s dozen. None of these are simple or light fixes, they are not tweaking around the edges to ensure a marginally better outcome. Judging from the situation our government and economy is in, from the horrific hard place our civil liberties are wedged behind, and the unmanageable mess that is Washington, I don’t think that “moderate” or “conservative” changes will do anything. We cannot pussyfoot around the issue; we need radical alterations to how our government works if we’re going to get us out of this morass. Again, most of these may never pass, but that’s to be expected.

Certainly, if you wish to hear my entire list, let me know and I’ll write it up, but for now, here are my 14 ideas for fixing our country:

1. Establish Approval Voting

I’ve already talked about this idea at length here, so I will not bore you again. In this post, all I will say is that I believe if we are to get anything done—and I do mean anything—we need to systematically reform how people actually get into office. That’s the foundation upon which any democracy stands, and when you’re up to your eyeballs in tar, the only way to get that fixed is to drain the swamp and start at the beginning.

List of Pols against #SOPA Blows My Mind

I’ve been following the progress of the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” or SOPA, also known as the “Internet Blacklist Bill,” for some time now, but haven’t posted about it because I feel that other websites cover it far better. Recently, though, I’ve seen some news I feel I have to share to United Liberty readers, because it comes straight from the “Holy Crap I Never Saw THAT Coming!” department.

For a good summary of why SOPA is a bad law, you should read the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s explanation. You can also grab the actual text of the law here. In effect, the bill would criminalize “casual piracy”—linking a music video on Facebook would land you some stiff penalties, as well as penalties for Facebook. Goodbye Youtube, as well. For that reason, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, Google, and a host of other Internet giants have come out against the bill, in addition to groups like EFF, DemandProgress, CreativeCommons, and Mozilla.

Occupy the Republican Party: YES

Conor Friedersdorf has an interesting idea: instead of occupying Zucotti Park, disgruntled liberals and democrats should Occupy the Republican Party:

What if the left registered its discontent with Obama and its disgust for the GOP frontrunners by registering Republican? It would only matter during primary season. And what a message they could send! One long-shot Republican candidate, Gary Johnson, visited Zuccotti Park, affirms that Wall Street banks got unseemly favors, wants to legalize marijuana, opposed the Iraq War, favors bringing the troops home, and even wants abortion to stay legal. Another, Buddy Roemer, has made the centerpiece of his campaign “fighting the corrupting influences in Wall Street and Washington, ending favors to big donors and the misuse of federal funds to benefit major corporations.” Though the typical Democrat would disagree with both of them on various issues, they’d surely prefer either to Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, or Rick Santorum; elevating either would send a powerful message on several of the most important issues that has the left upset; and like all quixotic stunts worth trying, there is a huge upside and no downside.

Think about it.

Real Reform Begins In The Ballot Box

I remember about a month ago there was a lot of bruhaha about Pennsylvanian Republicans trying to change their contribution to the Electoral College by divvying up the votes based on Congressional districts, like Maine and Nebraska. Naturally, a lot of people got upset with that, with some (like Doug Mataconis and George Will) saying we should keep the Electoral College just like it is now, and many others saying that we should instead move to a National Popular Vote system. Now with Occupy Wall Street taking over our media senses, some of that talk has been pushed aside, with people instead focusing on Wall Street rather than Pennsylvania Avenue.

I would like to go back to the Avenue, however, for multiple reasons. First off, I actually think that a lack of serious political reforms is the reason for much of the discontent we’re seeing in Zucotti Park. Second, we have Congressional deadlock, as always—but in recent years, the vitriol and polarization we have seen has increased dramatically. Third, even with the 2010 GOP landslide in the House, we still have a very high incumbent reelection rate—although it was lower in previous elections, it still stood at 87%. Fourth, we have not seen any new ideas with regards to the major issues of the day: our debt crisis, our flagging economy, our eroding civil liberties, or our overburdening government.

Clearly, the emphasis is on the egg and not the noggin in the egg nog, here.

Very little can be done to change or institute major reform, even though we need it, badly. Part of that is by design. The Founders wanted a system where it would be difficult to radically change it, in order to preserve the liberty they had fought so hard for. In the modern era, that backfired. Instead of preserving liberty, the system is preserving the corrupt bog from which liberty is being drowned in.

Time, Place, and Free Speech

You would think the First Amendment is a relatively easy legal precept to grasp, and that the idea of free speech is an equally easy general concept to comprehend. Naturally, this being 21st century America, that just isn’t so.

Take this example from the Arizona Daily Star, this Tuesday:

Northern Arizona University students who were passing out American flags Friday in remembrance of 9/11 got a bigger response than they expected.

No fewer than four university officials and a police officer descended on the group, accusing them of hindering foot traffic and lacking an advance permit.

“9/11 is very important to me,” said student Stephanee Freer. “That’s why I do the event. Every year, I do something for 9/11 and it’s never been disrupted like this.”

University spokesman Tom Bauer said it had nothing to do with what they were saying and everything to do with keeping traffic moving.

“I don’t think that this is a freedom of speech issue. We were not asking them to be quiet. We were not asking them to leave,” he said. “We were asking them to move to a different location within the same area. This is basically clearing the walkways.”

Freer said she meant to pass out flags all weekend but canceled the rest of her plans after the dust-up.

Read the rest of the story. Read the arguments of both sides; the students basically say “First Amendment! Free speech!” while the school officials just say “time, place, and manner.”

“Clearing the walkways,” uh-huh.

The Real Tragedies of 9/11

As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches this Sunday, I cannot help but feel it will be a commemoration of not one, not two, but at least three different tragedies that have befallen the American people. The first is the obvious tragedy of the attacks themselves, which took thousands of lives in an act of barbarism and insanity. The second tragedy is what happened to the American consciousness afterwards. And the third is what our children understand about it.

I read earlier this week about a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The results were disquieting, to say the least. Some of the highlights:

  • 71% of Americans favor surveillance cameras in public
  • 47% support the government reading emails outside the US without a warrant
  • 30% support the government monitoring emails within the country
  • 58% support random searches involving full-body scans or patdowns at airports
  • 35% support racial or ethnic profiling at airports
  • 55% support the government snooping into financial transactions without a warrant
  • 47% support a national ID card to show to authorities on demand (a “Show-Me” Card, if you ever watched Fringe)
  • 64% believe it is “Sometimes necessary to sacrifice some rights and freedoms” in order to fight the war on terror
  • 53% think you can’t be too careful dealing with people (which is a slight improvement from 2002, I suppose, which was 58%, but…)
  • 54% would, between counterterrorism and civil liberties, come down on the side of civil liberties

Like I said, disquieting. All but the last should be far lower; the last should be far higher. Only 54% would go for civil liberties? That means 46% would put counterterrorism operations above what it actually means to be an American?

First they’re Hobbits, now they’re…Zombies?

I’ve seen a lot of tasteless things in my life. Donald Trump, for instance. Former Rep. Alan Grayson’s remarks about, well, everything. Christian pastors blaming 9/11 and earthquakes on “teh gayz.” (And, for that matter, the entire Westboro Baptist Church.) The Socialist Weasel.

And then, there is this. A so-called “game” entitled Tea Party Zombies Must Die.

TeaPartyZombies

Ahem: WHOOBOY.

I really can’t look at it myself, so I just read the Kotaku blog post on it and got my information from there. I’ll admit it, I’m shameless. I listened to the Scorpions when Hurricane Irene battered my apartment building. But this is just a whole `nother bag of snakes.

Clearly, somebody wasn’t paying attention when President Obama, the Democratic Party, and the entire left-wing chattersphere went on and on about “civility” and the “new tone” (granted, I don’t think many of them were paying attention either, especially Obama) that we all needed to share. And now somebody is making a video game that explicitly targets conservative leaders.


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