civil liberties

Amash amendment to defund NSA snooping defeated

The House voted against the Fourth Amendment last night after a heated debate about the amendment that Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) introduced which would defund the NSA’s unconstitutional spying programs.

The vote was remarkably close, with 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats voting for the Amash amendment. More remarkable still was the unanimous opposition to the Amendment by both Republican and Democratic Leadership. As Roll Call reported:

The vote made for strange bedfellows. Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., all voted against the amendment. Pelosi spoke against the Amash’s amendment at a behind-closed-doors Caucus meeting Wednesday, according to a source in the room.

This debate really gets at the heart of the problem with the NSA spying programs. Those that spoke out against the bill said that it would cripple our national security. Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) said that it would set us back to where we were on “September 10.”

While of course national security is important, there is no reason for the NSA to collect millions of phone records and emails without a cause – and without a warrant. This is the exactly situation that the Fourth Amendment was written for, and it looks like a majority of our elected officials in the House are willing to destroy it.

Once again, laws don’t matter to Obama

President Obama clearly believes what Nixon once said, that if the president does it, it’s not illegal.  Now, he’s trying to circumvent the law that helps protect patient privacy in order to restrict millions of Americans from buying firearms.

From Reuters:

President Barack Obama said he wants to see state governments contribute more names of people barred from buying guns to the database, part of a sweeping set of executive actions he announced after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December.

The database, called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, is used by gun dealers to check whether a potential buyer is prohibited from owning a gun.

States are encouraged to report to the database the names of people who are not allowed to buy guns because they have been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, or have been found to have serious mental illnesses by courts.

Many states do not participate. So the administration is looking at changing a health privacy rule - part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) - to remove one potential barrier.

Here’s the problem with that.  You see, the law actually prevents people who have been adjudicated from owning firearms.  It says nothing about specific diagnosis.  It requires a court to determine an individual is unfit to own firearms.

President Obama seeks to skirt two laws in one fell swoop.

Unsurprisingly, gun rights advocates have reacted, sending thousands of letters to the Health and Human Services Department.  However, the department also received a number of comments from health professionals.

Illinois becomes the 50th state to enact concealed carry

Illinois

For gun rights advocates, it’s proof that miracles really do happen…or else hell has apparently frozen over in July.  Illinois has now shed its title as the only state with no concealed carry.

The state legislature overturned Governor Pat Quinn’s veto by a margin of 41-17 in the senate and 77-31 in the House, a veto Quinn used to push for changes he felt were necessary such as prohibiting guns in restaurants that serve alcohol and limiting gun-toting citizens to just one firearm at a time, despite there being no demonstrative advantages in either of these proposals.

For gun rights advocates in Illinois, the fight is sure to continue due to the structure of the concealed carry law:

The law as approved by the Legislature permits anyone with a Firearm Owner’s Identification card who has passed a background check and undergone gun-safety training of 16 hours — longest of any state — to obtain a concealed-carry permit for $150.

Training is a sore point for many in the Second Amendment crowd, and for good reason.  A training requirement can easily be used to artificially limit the number of people who are allowed to carry a firearm by making the requirement an difficult as possible.

However, many Second Amendment rights observers are sure to be surprised by the law’s “Shall Issue” slant, something not expected in such a progressive stronghold state.  While the training requirement may be used to limit, there is no language in the law that permits law enforcement officials to have an arbitrary determination over who is permitted to carry and who isn’t.

Despite the training requirement though, the law isn’t all that bad.  For example, what if Quinn had gotten his way?:

America, Land of the Free (but get permission first)

“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be tomorrow.” — James Madison, Federalist No. 62 (1788)

Having celebrated the 237th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence this past Thursday, I was once again reminded of what a great country we live in; the “Land of the Free” where man is free to pursue happiness as he determines that to be, where you be anything you want to be and do what you want to do…anything at all!

Unless…

You want to choose your own health care plan, one that meets your needs and doesn’t force you to pay for coverage that you don’t need, that doesn’t make you pay for alcoholism coverage even if you don’t drink, coverage for smoking-related illnesses even if you’ve never smoked, pre-natal and maternity coverage even if you are a single man or a great-grandmother whose child-bearing years ended sometime around the Carter administration (sorry, you can’t do that).

Punk rock is still politically dead

Back in November, Mark Judge wrote an interesting piece at Acculturated entitled, “Punk Rock’s Moment,” that explained how the punk rock genre and cultural has an opportunity to “become relevant once again” after President Barack Obama’s re-election.

“Punk is often considered an anarchic or at least liberal art form, but politically it has been all over the map. Most famously there was Johnny Ramone, the right-wing guitarist for the Ramones,” noted Judge. “And while the famous Washington, D.C., harDCore scene, once lead by Fugazi, was–is?–full of left-wing activism, the ‘straight edge’ philosophy of some of the band–no booze no drugs–could almost be considered monastic. The Replacements was always more about parties and poetry than elections.”

Judge explained that the Dead Kennedy was one of the “great satirical punk bands of all time,” pointing to the band’s ability to question their own beliefs, which is something he says is sorely missing in today’s punk scene. Instead, he explains, punk bands of today are “afraid to touch [their] messiah,” President Obama.

“Satirical art has collapsed under Obama. The left is afraid to touch its messiah, and the right is reduced to silly gestures like doing ‘freedom raps’ and other ham-fisted foolishness,” wrote Judge. “When I was coming up in the 1980s, punk groups like Fugazi, Husker Du, the Replacements and the Dead Kennedys meant energy, passion, and, sometimes, political activism. But they also meant self-reflection and aiming the lance at even your own sacred cows.”

Companies working with the NSA could get blanket immunity

National Security Agency HQ

The common American might be at a much more vulnerable spot now that Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of the NSA, asked lawmakers for more authority in order to offer liability immunity to companies working closely with the National Security Agency in digital defense programs.

The change in law would allow for mistakes to go unaccounted for in case a company hits the wrong target while attempting to block the home base of a suspicious or seemingly threatening source. While this change in the law seems harmless to some, it could offer protection to companies that act on behalf of the agency, and leave innocent consumers without any access to legal recourse.

Congress was left with the duty of rethinking how private companies are held liable. According to POLITICO, a White House official assured that the Obama administration would be willing to accept a change in the law in order to maintain a company protected while participating in defensive countermeasures online. The source remained anonymous.

While many companies still fight to protect their reputation after news regarding the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs broke, the increased immunity would strip a firm’s only incentive to resist government pressure: its good name.

While certain companies still take their consumers’ privacy into consideration, some fear losing their strong presence in the market, which is why they might be welcoming to the change in the law. Some companies may see this as an opportunity to have their assets protected by avoiding being hit with lawsuits over possible target errors.

NSA Scandal Not about Republican vs. Democrat — It’s about Liberty vs. the State

Liberty and the NSA

It’s been a week since Glenn Greenwald broke the story on the National Security Agency’s broad surveillance of calls made on the Verizon network. There have been a lot of arguments made for and against this program over the last week, and the battlelines have been clearly drawn.

First, let’s recap. This sort of surveillance has been around for at least seven years, perhaps even longer. The difference between what was going on with the NSA under the Bush Administration and what is currently going in the Obama Administration is that the former didn’t bother with court orders or warrants to conduct this sort of blanket surveillance.

So when the apologists for the program say it’s “legal,” like Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) did yesterday, they’re referring to the the statutory authority granted via Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, a controversial provision of the law that allows intelligence agencies to obtain a court order to collect this information from businesses. More on this in a moment.

Using this section of the law, the NSA obtained authority from a secret court, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), to force Verizon to turn over the phone records of millions of customers, even if they are not suspected of terrorist activity.

Senator Obama vs. President Obama on Government Surveillance

President Barack Obama and his apologists in Congress have launched a full-scale defense of his administration broad use the PATRIOT Act, through which the NSA is surveilling millions of Americans who have done absolutely nothing wrong. The reversal on the part of Obama is astonishing.

As the NSA scandal — and yes, it is a scandal — was breaking on Wednesday and into Thursday, news outlets began uncovering some of the past positions Obama took when he was a Senator and a presidential candidate. While his presidency has been more like George W. Bush’s third and fourth term, Obama once took a strong stand on civil liberties — believe it or not.

The Hill noted last week that then-Sen. Obama co-sponsored legislation in 2005 that would have banned the mass collection of phone records, like the NSA has done with Verizon. And during the summer of 2007, when he was campaigning for the Democratic Party’s nomination, Obama knocked the policies of the the Bush Administration and pledge that he would take a direction that respected civil liberties.

Big Brother Looking Out for Us or Just Looking at Us?

Mike Herrera is a songwriter and record producer from Bremerton, Washington. He hosts The Mike Herrera Hour every Friday night on IDOBI.com. You can catch more of Mike’s musings on Tumblr.

What if I told you that the government knows you are reading this? In an article on June 6, 2013 by Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian, more damning evidence surfaced that “NSA PRISM program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others. The top-secret PRISM program claims direct access to servers of firms including Google, Apple and Facebook.” However, one day before from Greenwald again, “NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily.” Did he say daily? With these two huge stories on top of all the recent White House scandals — including kill lists, Predator drones, and the IRS debacle — this could read as a racy Hollywood drama much like the aptly named TV show, Scandal.

The real life scandals are worse! I feel consciously detached from the fact that some if not all of us are being recorded by the government. Many US foreign policies and our ongoing policing of the world has made me nervous to be an American on foreign soil many times over. I’m suddenly hit from behind by the fact that a large majority of US citizens don’t have a clue and don’t really want to know that everything you search online is recorded, every email saved in a government file. Ignorance is bliss. But when it suddenly affects those individuals, it’s too late.

NSA Scandal Brings Opportunity for Constitutionalists

 RonPaulProblems.Tumblr.com

During the commencement address last month at Ohio State University, President Barack Obama talked up what he views as the virtues of big government and told graduates that they should “reject” those who warn of tyranny.

Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works,” President Obama told the students. “They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner,” he continued. “You should reject these voices.  Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”

Since that speech, four major scandals have emerged — the Benghazi cover-up, the Internal Revenue Service’s politically-charged targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups, the Justice Department’s war on the First Amendment, and, now, the National Security Agency’s broad seizure of millions of phone records. Each of these scandals bring a unique dynamic to the political landscape, but the NSA scandal is one that the blame is equally spread between the Obama Administration and members of both parties in Congress.

The NSA’s complete disregard for the Fourth Amendment has drawn outrage from all sides. The New York Times notoriously Leftist editorial board wasted no time in condemning the Obama Administration for its secrecy.


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