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Is domestic law enforcement paranoia turning the US into a police state?


(Posted by Bryana Johnson on November 7th, 2013)

Judging by the way the Department of Homeland Security is spending your money, domestic unrest may be coming soon to a city near you. The DHS has been making purchases lately that seem to signal a federal fear of riots across the nation in the coming months. The obvious question is, what do they know that they American people don’t? A more enduring and chilling question is what will be the end result of America’s increasingly militarized police force?

PressTV reported this morning that the DHS has stated its intentions, via the Federal Business Opportunities website, to spend half a million dollars on 240,000 pepper spray projectiles, 100 pepper spray launchers and 36 “riot expansion kits.”

PressTV explained,

“The PepperBall TAC-700 pepper spray launcher ‘features full auto, semi-auto, or 3 round burst providing up to 700 rounds per minute, and is accurate to 60 feet with area saturation up to 150 feet.’ According to a video demonstration, the TAC-700 has a ‘strong psychological influence’ on the people it is being used against because it is so loud and sounds like an automatic machine gun.”

The equipment was designed for use in riot control situations, although the contract on the website states that the purchases are being made for training purposes.

The recent controversy is only the latest in a string of far more alarming incidents involving what many see as paranoid behavior on the part of the federal agency.

In February a ruckus was caused when it came to light that the DHS was training officers with practice targets featuring photographs of children, young mothers, pregnant women, and disabled elderly people who were depicted as armed with handguns.

The No More Hesitation campaign was supposedly designed to break down stereotypes associated with generally non-threatening figures, for the purpose of saving officers’ lives. However, judging by the ensuing outcry, the American people seem to feel there are good and noble reasons why civilization has erected these constraints around the lives of the young and the aged and the vulnerable. Furthermore, they don’t want those constraints shot down by the domestic task force that has been constructed to protect them.

Last week, it was revealed that the DHS is set to spend $80 million dollars on hiring armed guards for use at “public demonstrations” and “civil disturbances” in upstate New York. The information was acquired via another posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

But it’s not just the policy-makers at the DHS who seem to be developing paranoid habits and an irrational fear of the American people. In recent months, local law enforcement personnel all over the country have drawn fire repeatedly for actions that many insist constitute severe violations of civil liberties.

In August, Sarah Boaz, a Texas resident of Richland Hills, was ticketed for running a stop sign. The New York Daily News reported Boaz lost the ticket and failed to pay it on time. She expected to receive a late fee, but was shocked when a city marshal handcuffed her outside of her house one morning and carted her off to jail, where she was unexpectedly subjected to a strip search that left her overwhelmed and confused – and not a little indignant.

In a similar story, accompanied by outrageous surveillance cam footage, Dana Holmes is suing officers who she claims illegally strip-searched her after jailing her for a DUI arrest. However, the only thing that isn’t entirely certain is whether the search was illegal, since video evidence shows it clearly occurred. In the seriously disturbing clip, three male officers and one female officer jerk Holmes off of wall and onto the ground, drag her into a padded cell and then proceed to remove all of her clothes.

“I just felt helpless and degraded… I was actually afraid they might come in and try to rape me,” Holmes told the local news station. “I just had all kinds of things going on in my head. I was scared and I lay there crying.”

Holmes’ experience is not the only instance of its kind. The Houston Chronicle reported in August that two Texas women are suing after they were subjected to cavity searches at traffic stops. The women were pulled over for speeding and considered the searches completely unwarranted and inexplicable. Thousands of Americans agreed, and Angela Dobbs, one of the plaintiffs, said she has received worldwide support.

Dobbs also said she’s heard from numerous other women who have experienced cavity searches after being stopped by state troopers, but who were too afraid to come forward. Clearly the outrage that Dobbs and Hamilton suffered was not simply a poor decision made by a rookie officer.

In an article for The Guardian earlier this month that raised questions about the 1033 program, an initiative that allows the Defense Department to donate surplus military equipment to local police forces, Michael Shank pointed to the mounting evidence that suggests the police force in America is looking more and more like the military. 

The growing militarization of the United States appears to be occurring at home as well as abroad, a phenomenon which is troublesome and sure to continue without decisive action,” he wrote, warning of, “the blurring line between military forces and the local police who are meant to protect and serve.”

Someone is training law enforcement officials in this heavy-handed behavior. The question is why? And what will become of civil liberties in a nation that tolerates these abuses at the hands of domestic officials?

(First published at the The Washington Times Communities)
 
 
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NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden and national intelligence director James Clapper both broke the law. What's the difference?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on June 27, 2013)

Whistleblower and former National Security Administration (NSA) employee, Edward Snowden, has been making headlines since he stunned the citizens of the United States three weeks ago with one of the most significant data leaks in the history of US classified intelligence.

After months of planning and preparing, Snowden abandoned his girlfriend, family, comfortable lifestyle, salary and job to flee the US and release from hiding in Hong Kong a collection of shocking documents revealing massive federal wiretapping programs operative in the US.

The documents revealed the existence of a project called PRISM, which has been utilized by the NSA for years to monitor internet and telephone communications between the US and foreign nationals. According to the Prism PowerPoint slide, the data it can collect is essentially unlimited. For just $20 million a year, the agency is able to monitor “email, chat (video, voice), videos, photos, stored data, VoIP [internet phone calls], file transfers, video conferencing, notifications of target activity – logins etc, online social networking details” and a mysterious category called “special requests.”

Other disturbing details revealed by the leak include the court order that compels Verizon to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis, all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls,” and forbids Verizon from disclosing the existence of the order to anyone.

Snowden also divulged information that he claimed showed hacking by the NSA into computers in Hong Kong and mainland China.

After capturing public notice by releasing the sensitive documents, Snowden has eluded captivity and set out on a dubious globe-hopping venture that continues to attract worldwide attention.

And not all of that attention is positive. The 29-year-old fugitive’s actions were illegal, after all. Some are calling the leak that disclosed NSA bullying of private companies like Verizon, “treasonous.” Kentucky Republican Representative King said Sunday that he thinks it is, “important for the American people to realize that this guy is a traitor, a defector, he’s not a hero.”

But when asked for his own thoughts on the criminality of his actions, Snowden told The Guardian, “We have seen enough criminality on the part of government. It is hypocritical to make this allegation against me.”
  
One Senator seems ready to agree with Snowden’s charge of hypocrisy. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said Sunday that it remained to be determined how Snowden’s memory would go down into history, but gave an insightful warning regarding the opinions of generations to come.

"They're going to contrast the behavior of James Clapper, our national intelligence director, with Edward Snowden," he said. "Mr. Clapper lied in Congress in defiance of the law in the name of security. Mr. Snowden told the truth in the name of privacy."

Paul was referring to an incident that took place in March, when Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, asked Clapper whether the NSA collects "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans."

"No sir," Clapper responded. "It does not. Not wittingly.”

“He [Clapper] said they were not collecting any data on American citizens,” Paul said, “and it turns out they're collecting millions of data on phone calls every day. So it was a lie. What I'm saying is that by lying to Congress, which is against the law, he severely damaged the credibility of the entire intelligence community."

"I would say that Mr. Snowden hasn't lied to anyone,” Paul continued.

"He did break his oath of office, but part of his oath of office is to the Constitution, and he believes that, when James Clapper came in March, our national director of intelligence came and lied, that he [Snowden] was simply coming forward and telling the truth that your government was lying. This is a big concern of mine, because it makes me doubt the administration and their word to us when they talk to us, because they have now admitted they will lie to us if they think it is in the name of national security."

Snowden and Clapper both broke the law, thus undermining our nation’s system of government. The difference is that one of them did so in the name of truth-telling and honesty and the other through lies and for the sake of keeping hidden what the American people have the right to know. One did so in the name of correcting the ills of the system of government he breached, and the other for the sake of protecting those ills by burying them deeper yet into the gaping well of classified information.

 
 
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Whistleblower who revealed NSA wiretapping activities speaks out from hiding in Hong Kong: "you are not even aware of what is possible."

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on June 16th, 2013)

In a scene like a nightmare, the US government confirmed on Thursday night the existence of a mass-scale federal wiretapping project called Prism. The confirmation from the feds came after an anonymous whistleblower leaked the relevant documents. What the materials disclosed was horrifying.

For years now, Prism has been utilized by the National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor internet and telephone communications between the US and foreign nationals. And, according to the Prism PowerPoint slide, the data it can collect is essentially unlimited. For just 20 million a year, the agency is able to monitor "email, chat (video, voice), videos, photos, stored data, VoIP [internet phone calls], file transfers, video conferencing, notifications of target activity – logins etc, online social networking details" and a mysterious category called "special requests.”

Major companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Youtube, Skype, Google, and Yahoo are involved, although it is not yet known whether they participated knowingly or involuntarily.

Earlier this week, it also was revealed that the NSA has been collecting telephone data and phone records from millions of US Verizon customers under a classified court order. The order directs Verizon Business Network Services to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis” the “following tangible things”:

“All call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

To add insult to injury, the order forbids Verizon from revealing this fact to anyone, including, obviously, their own customers. There is also nothing is the order telling the NSA when this information must be destroyed.

Amy Davidson of The New Yorker, writes,

“The government seems to have a list of all the people that Verizon customers called and who called them; how long they spoke; and, perhaps—depending on how precise the cell-phone-tower information in the metadata is, where they were on a given day…And the customers of other providers shouldn’t be reassured: it is likely that this order is simply one of a type—the one that fell off the truck.”

This starkly alarming data leak discloses only the latest incident in a string of deceitful and abhorrent acts perpetrated by the current administration. But it is one of the most significant, as it reveals the tip of the wide iceberg of federal espionage that fetters the freedom of the every American citizen.

Today, the 29-year-old NSA whistleblower responsible for the leak has come forward. "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” said Edward Snowden, who is a former technical assistant for the CIA and has been working with the NSA for four years now.

In an interview with The Guardian this morning, he explained his decision to disclose the explosive information,

"The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards…You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place…I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under."

Snowden, who says he’s had a comfortable life with a salary of around $200,000, a home in Hawaii with his girlfriend and a loving family, chose three weeks ago to leave his former existence behind. Perhaps forever.

“I am willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building," he said.

After copying the last set of pertinent documents for the leak, Snowden boarded a plane for Hong Kong and took up residence in a hotel, where he is still residing. His lifestyle may seem paranoid to some, but Snowden understands the capabilities of the government that is hunting him. He used to be one of them. Having observed the Obama’s administration’s aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers, he realizes that his situation is precarious at best. He also had some comments to make about President Obama’s marked policy shift on personal liberties, saying,

“A lot of people in 2008 voted for Obama. I did not vote for him. I voted for a third party. But I believed in Obama's promises. I was going to disclose it [but waited because of his election]. He continued with the policies of his predecessor."

Snowden says he fully expects the US government to do everything in its power to seek him out and punish him for the remainder of his life, however long that may prove to be.
 
"I am not afraid,” he says, “because this is the choice I've made."

Snowden’s biggest fear is that the revelation of his identity will distract attention from the issues at hand. "I don't want public attention,” he said, “because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing."

 
 
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A mentally handicapped woman who narrowly escaped a forced abortion in Nevada has delivered a healthy baby

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on May 13, 2012)

In November of last year, the case of mentally-handicapped Elisa Bauer attracted nationwide attention when a Reno, Nevada judge asserted that he had the right to force the Catholic woman to undergo an abortion and sterilization against her will.

Elisa Bauer of Washoe County is a 32-year-old woman who suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome. Adopted by William and Amy Bauer in 1992, Elisa is an epileptic who reportedly has the mental and social capacities of a six-year-old. Her parents, who retained their guardianship over her and had legal authority to make final decisions concerning her health and welfare, sympathized with Elisa’s insistence on carrying the baby to term, and had six qualified couples lined up, who were eager to adopt the baby, even if he or she turned out to be a special needs child. The parents were also providing Bauer with appropriate pre-natal care for a high-risk pregnancy.

However, when Washoe County Social Services expressed their concern that Bauer’s pregnancy would be detrimental to her health and that of her then-unborn baby, the case went to court, where Judge Egan Walker reportedly asserted, “I have inherent authority to [override the wishes of Elisa’s parents] because the court appointed the guardians and they are agents of the court.” The court-summoned doctor recommended abortion and sterilization in no uncertain terms, stating, “End this pregnancy and tie her tubes.”

Fortunately for the Bauer family, the story prompted outrage across the nation, as readers scrambled to file petitions and place phone calls and express their views in strong terms. Kirsten Anderson of LifeSiteNews, who originally broke the story, writes,

“The stories we posted about the case spread like wildfire around Facebook and Twitter.  Readers were understandably horrified that something like this could happen in America.  They wanted to know what they could do to stop it. Rebekah O’Brien, our social media coordinator, suggested they call the judge’s office and make their voices heard.  She provided his contact information.  Our readers filled his voicemail box with messages until the system couldn’t store any more.  After that, they called the governor. That was about the time the court started changing its tone.”

Elisa’s adoptive father, William Bauer, wrote on the facebook support page, Save Elisa’s Baby,

“Even though the judge proclaimed that our religious views were of no effect in his courtroom; even though the judge clipped our statements and said he wanted only expert opinions; even though he brought in several experts, including lawyers, who wanted death for the baby; even though the judge treated us parents as if we sat on the stoop of our trailer eating pork and beans out of the can and watching re-runs of He Haw... Elisa's baby won a right to be born. Our attorney, supplied by the Thomas More Foundation and by another pro-life group, arranged a mediated conclusion to the treachery planned. We gave up our guardianship in trade for the life of our grandchild. The due date is May 11, 2013. The baby appears normal, and, since Elisa's retardation is not genetic, the baby will probably have normal intelligence.”

On May 2nd, Elisa Bauer gave birth to Cierra Marie, a healthy, full-term baby. The Bauer family’s lawyer, Jason Guinasso, wrote, “She is sweet and good natured.  By all measures, she is perfectly healthy and sublimely beautiful.”  Guinasso said that a loving adoptive family has been identified for baby Cierra, adding, “I can't adequately express how seeing her face makes my heart full.”


(This article first posted at The Washington Times Communities.)
 
 
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Pro-life protest on the US Supreme Court steps

40 years after the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling, where does America stand on abortion -- and how did
we get here?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on April 27, 2013)

Abortion has been legal in the US since 1973, when the passage of Roe v. Wade divided the nation on lines that still separate the champions of unborn life from the advocates of the woman’s right to choose. For a generation of young adults who have no memory of the years before abortion was legal, it may seem that this conflict is interminable and has no end. However, while the battle is still raging as fiercely as ever, in recent years some signs have appeared that seem to indicate a shift in the tide of popular opinion.

In 2009, a Gallup poll indicated that the majority of American adults were identifying as pro-life, rather than pro-choice. Gallup commented, “This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995.” Since that date, subsequent polls show that the pro-life majority has remained more or less constant.

What occasioned the shift? While it’s hard to say for certain, it’s undeniable that technological advances have enabled physicians and ultrasound technicians to gain more understanding than ever before of the nature of life inside the womb. 3D ultrasounds allow parents to see lifelike photographs of their unborn children and the vast accumulation of medical experience that has occurred since 1973 points relentlessly to the complexity and humanity of the fetus.

Disillusionment with the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, may also have something to do with the trend towards cultural acceptance of the pro-life message. Virgina-based student activist group, Live Action, started by then-fifteen-year-old Lila Rose, has generated nation-wide media coverage with their videos exposing Planned Parenthood corruption. Other reports from former Planned Parenthood employees have drawn attention to the massive fraud perpetrated against taxpayers by the abortion giant.

However, it is not far-fetched to surmise that the biggest factor influencing this astonishing and even unexpected trend is the accumulated testimony of hundreds who have come out of the abortion industry or have experienced abuse at its hands. From abortion survivors to post-abortive women, to former employees of abortion providers, to victims of botched abortions at the hands of physicians like Kermit Gosnell, the cries proclaiming the brutality of the industry have becoming impossible to ignore.

Nurse Kathleen Malloy of Jacksonville Florida writes of her own experiences in this disturbing fashion,

“I worked the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, and when we weren’t busy, I’d go out to help with the newborns. One night I saw a bassinet outside the nursery. There was a baby in this bassinet – a crying, perfectly formed baby – but there was a difference in this child. She had been scalded. She was the child of a saline abortion.

This little girl looked as if she had been put in a pot of boiling water. No doctor, no nurse, no parent, to comfort this hurt, burned child. She was left alone to die in pain. They wouldn’t let her in the nursery – they didn’t even bother to cover her. I was ashamed of my profession that night! It’s hard to believe this can happen in our modern hospitals, but it does. It happens all the time. I thought a hospital was a place to heal the sick – not a place to kill. While doctors will go to extraordinary lengths to save the lives of premature babies such as these, babies born alive during abortions at the same age are left to die.


I asked a nurse at another hospital what they do with their babies that are aborted by saline. Unlike my hospital, where the baby was left alone struggling for breath, their hospital puts the infant in a bucket and puts the lid on. Suffocation! Death by suffocation!”

Supporters of legal abortion are quick to dismiss such heartbreaking anecdotes as addressing circumstances unique to late-term abortions, which they tout as being only a miniscule portion of abortions performed in the US. However, it is a telling observation concerning the entire industry that it has repeatedly opposed all legislation restricting these brutal late-term abortions. In a shocking incident in March, a Planned Parenthood representative from Florida went so far as to voice support for “post-birth abortions.” Fortunately for humanity, the vast number of Americans don’t concur, and the majority seems to be slowly but surely pulling away from this callous attitude.

Last month, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul introduced his long-awaited Life At Conception Act before the US Senate. Such bills have been ridiculed for years as useless, and dismissed as attempts on the part of politicians to pander to the pro-life voting bloc. But, despite the fact that Paul’s Life At Conception Act is unlikely to ever get a vote in the US Senate, there is still something different about this year’s bill.

What’s different is that this year, for the first time since the war on abortion became main-stream in the US, two states have already passed historic legislation stating that life begins at conception and that unborn persons must be afforded all of the rights and protections offered under the US Constitution to all persons.

Just a few years ago, it seemed this kind of legislation could never be passed. Yet Kansas’ bill was signed into law by Governor Sam Brownback last week, a testimony to how much can be done by dedicated activists with science on their side. The new law reads,

"On and after July 1, 2013, the laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development, all the rights, privileges and immunities available to other persons, citizens and residents of this state, subject only to the constitution of the United States, and decisional interpretations thereof by the United States Supreme Court.”

The new law bans abortion providers from providing sex-education materials for schools and from accessing public funds or tax breaks. It also requires doctors to provide material about fetal development and resources to help pregnant women. Additionally, the law bans sex-selective abortions.

North Dakota’s bill has not yet been signed by Governor Dalrymple, but provides for a statewide referendum to be on the ballot in 2014.

Obviously, neither of the bills directly address the issue of banning abortion entirely. Legislators say they are hoping the new language will prompt a lawsuit that will end up at the Supreme Court level and result in the annulment of the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling. That they’ve made it that far is a cause for great jubilation in the ranks of the pro-life movement, and serious consternation among the supporters of legal abortion.


(First posted at The Washington Times Communities.)
 
 
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Does the new birth control mandate "compromise" really do anything to protect religious freedom?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on Feb 5, 2013)

The Obama administration sparked a massive controversy last year when it was announced that a new federal mandate would require all health insurers and employers to include coverage in their health plans for every form of contraception approved by the FDA. The mandate also required coverage for sterilizations.

Faith groups who teach against the use of contraceptives became immediately fearful that such a mandate would force violations of conscience. Some Catholics view every form of contraceptive use as sinful. A far broader base of Christian people accepts the use of most contraceptives but opposes the use of abortifacient “emergency contraception,” like the “morning-after pill.”

Unfortunately, the Obama administration did little to allay their fears. While the mandate included a religious exemption, it only applied to church organizations themselves. It did not apply to church-affiliated non-profit institutions, such as hospitals, or to employers. An amendment was proposed that would have made provisions for employers to “refuse to include contraception in health care coverage if it violated their religious or moral beliefs.” The Blunt Amendment was voted down 51-48 by the U.S. Senate last March.

Between then and now, nothing much has changed. After an unsuccessful appeal to the Unites States Supreme Court, the Christian owners of the craft store chain Hobby Lobby announced at the beginning of this year that they would refuse to add the contraceptive coverage to their employee insurance plan. According to NPR, their attorney stated that they consider the emergency contraceptives “tantamount to abortion.” The company faced up to $1.3 million a day in fines for defying the mandate. Two weeks later, however, it was learned they had discovered a way to delay the fines. Peter M. Dobelbower, the company's general counsel, stated, “Hobby Lobby discovered a way to shift the plan year for its employee health insurance, thus postponing the effective date of the mandate for several months.” But their time is running out.

Late last week, the Obama administration released a new version of the infamous birth-control mandate. Religious and pro-life groups were hoping the new regulations would spell out broader conscience rights for employers – like the Hobby Lobby owners – and institutions whose faith prohibits them from funding sterilization and various forms of contraception. Sadly, after examining the altered version of the mandate, pro-life legal groups have bad news. The new proposal barely changes existing policy and still allows for no business or individual opt-out, they say.

Dr. Charmaine Yoest, CEO and President of Americans United for Life, stated Friday, “With another phony compromise, the Obama Administration continues to insult the intelligence of the American people and trample our Constitutionally-guaranteed rights.”

LifeNews reports of the new proposal that it will not have any impact on businesses run by people of faith, such as Bible publisher Tyndale House or Hobby Lobby. They also explain that it provides no options for individuals seeking plans that accommodate their values on the exchanges.”

So, what does the new proposal do? Well, the only major difference for people of faith seems to be that the religious exemption has been modified so that it no longer specifies that churches must have “inculcation of religious values” as their purpose and primarily employ and serve people of their same faith in order to qualify for the exemption.

This doesn’t sound like much of a concession, once you get down to it. The change only broadens the definition of a church for the purposes of the exemption, and does nothing to protect the conscience rights of for-profit employers and individuals. 

The absurdity of this state of affairs is truly remarkable. To state it plainly, the Obama administration has conceded the right of churches to opt-out of participating in the funding of procedures their faith prohibits, but won’t provide the means for members of these same churches to avoid violating the dictates of their faith in their workplaces. What is the point of protecting the rights of a church as an institution and then trampling the rights of the individuals that comprise that same institution?

 
 
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Senator Rand Paul: "I’m afraid that President Obama may have this king complex sort of developing, & we’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen."

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on January 18, 2013)



President Obama yesterday released a list of descriptions of the 23 executive orders he is planning to put into place following an extended national debate regarding gun control. While some of these descriptions are so vague and redundant that they add practically nothing to our understanding of the President’s plans, others are plainer and more alarming.

All are confirmation that an arrogant and authoritarian approach to guns on the part of our leadership is imminent. All demonstrate powerfully the presence of a deadly epidemic in our national consciousness. That epidemic is our population’s ill-founded and seemingly inexorable insistence on trusting in authority figures to fix everything, to always know what to do, to make everything better for us.

Fortunately for the American people, Senator Rand Paul is one legislator who doesn’t seem to be suffering from this malady. Consequently, he released a plan of his own yesterday.

“In the United States, we do not have a king. But we do have a Constitution. We also have a 2nd Amendment. I will fight tooth and nail to protect it,” he wrote on his facebook page. “There are several of the executive orders that appear as if the President is writing new law. That cannot happen. My bill will nullify anything the president does that smacks of legislation. No president should be allowed to overstep the bounds of the Constitution.”

Paul’s bill is called the Separation of Powers Restoration and Second Amendment Protection Act of 2013 and it has several purposes. The first purpose is to condemn the use of executive orders which undermine the powers reserved for Congress. The bill points to Article I of the Constitution, which states, “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.”

The bill then declares that the President’s recent executive actions and impending executive orders “could be construed to describe an attempt by the executive to make laws in violation of the Article 1, Sec. 8 of the Constitution and the 2nd Amendment.”

A Capitol Hill source reportedly told The Daily Caller that Paul’s legislation is “expected to do three things: nullify Obama’s executive orders, defund them and ask the Senate to file a court challenge to them.”

“I’m afraid that President Obama may have this king complex sort of developing, and we’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Paul said in an interview with Hannity Wednesday night.

The Kentucky Senator didn’t limit his criticism of executive action to the current President, however. “It's been a long battle that we've been losing gradually and even Republican presidents have also usurped their executive privilege to exert more authority than the constitution gave them. But, you know, our founders looked to Montesquieu, and Montesquieu wrote that there can be no liberty when you combine the executive and legislative powers.”

Paul says his bill should be introduced early next week.

But Senator Rand Paul is not the only one to challenge the President, and there is reason to believe that his bill will receive widespread support from citizens all over the nation. State legislators, sheriffs, and other authority figures from a number of other states, including Mississippi, Missouri, Texas, Tennessee, Wyoming and Oregon have offered negative responses to the President’s actions.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said in a letter to Mississippi House Speaker Phil Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves that the president's Executive Order "infringes our constitutional right to keep and bear arms as never before in American history. I am asking that you immediately pass legislation that would make any unconstitutional order by the President illegal to enforce in Mississippi by state or local law enforcement,” he added.

In a letter to Vice President Joe Biden, Oregon Sheriff Tim Mueller wrote, "We must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals no matter how heinous the crimes to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws." He added that he would not enforce any laws which “offended the constitutional rights” of residents in his district.

Early in the week, Texas State Rep. Steve Toth declared that he will be filing legislation to "assist the protection of the Second Amendment." The Firearms Protection Act would make "any federal law banning semi-automatic firearms or limiting the size of gun magazines unenforceable within the state's boundaries.”
He also explained that "anyone trying to enforce a federal gun ban could face felony charges under the proposal."

"We can no longer depend on the Federal Government and this Administration to uphold a Constitution that they no longer believe in," Toth said in a statement. "The liberties of the People of Texas and the sovereignty of our State are too important to just let the Federal Government take them away."


 
 
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Vice President Joe Biden says Obama may resort to another executive order to deal with the gun control debate

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on January 10, 2012)

If there’s one thing Vice President Joe Biden is not known for, it’s that rare combination of intelligence and eloquence so crucial to those who live in the fixed glare of the national spotlight. Biden’s mouth is not exactly a fountain of life from which wisdom and understanding pour forth abundantly. Indeed, his mouth seems to spend more time hosting his foot that it does emitting words of knowledge. Nevertheless, there has not yet been any suggestion that his particularly inflammatory statement of this morning was any kind of gaffe.   

"The president is going to act," Biden said Wednesday, regarding the touchy issue of gun control. "Executive order, executive action can be taken, we haven't decided what that is yet. But we're compiling it all with the help of the attorney general and all the rest of the cabinet members as well as legislative action, we believe, is required. [sic]"

This statement came as the Vice President was preparing to meet with groups representing survivors of mass shootings. Biden was appointed by President Obama in December to oversee a new task force assembled to provide "concrete proposals” for the reduction of gun violence.

In his statement he called the issue of gun control a “moral issue” and stated that "it's critically important that we act. As the president said, if your actions result in only saving one life, they're worth taking. But I'm convinced we can affect the well-being of millions of Americans and take thousands of people out of harm's way if we act responsibly.

Politicians make mistakes. And that’s OK. We the people are – often unwisely – very forgiving. We will  forgive a leader’s embarrassing misstatements, his or her injudicious metaphors, slips of the tongue, and unexpected moments of public confusion.

Speaking in Ohio in 2008, Biden famously said, "Look, John's last-minute economic plan does nothing to tackle the number-one job facing the middle class, and it happens to be, as Barack says, a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S, jobs."

We can forgive the Vice President for forgetting how to count to four in a tense moment and before the prying eyes of millions of American people. Millions of American people can forgive this, have forgiven it, have ceased to think about it anymore. What we cannot forgive, what we must not forgive, is a statement like the one the Vice President made today.

We have pardoned little unintentional insults and innuendos and manifestations of human error and finite capabilities. What is unpardonable in a leader of our nation is the suggestion that at his whim he intends to throw out our history and our legislation and our hard-won liberty in order to replace it with a vision that violates our trust in him. What is unpardonable in a man who occupies such a position of trust over us is the glib arrogance that disregards the very oath of office which binds him where he stands and subordinates his visions to our particular set of laws. What is unpardonable in our executives is a vision which trespasses on the Constitution they have sworn to protect.

Article 1, Section 1 of this Constitutions states,

“All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”

What is unpardonable in a leader of this great nation is the seizing of such powers as belong to other representatives and the forcing of his will upon an unwilling and divided citizenry. This is what is unpardonable in both Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama himself.


(First posted at the Washington Times Communities)

 
 
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Senator Rand Paul warns indefinite detention is back: a House-Senate committee led by Sen. McCain has presented a new draft of the 2013 NDAA bill – without the Feinstein-Lee amendment

(Posted by Bryana Joy on December 21, 2012)

Just a month ago, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was making headlines by threatening to hold up the 2013 NDAA bill. The NDAA is a federal law that is passed every year, specifying the budget and expenditures of the US Department of Defense, although each year's act also includes other provisions. Paul’s demand was for a vote on an amendment to secure the right to a jury trial.

“If you don't have a right to trial by jury, you do not have due process. You do not have a Constitution. What are you fighting against and for if you throw the Constitution out?” he pleaded in an address before the Senate on November 30th.

As anyone knows who stayed up into the wee hours of the morning on the night of the 30th with c-span on their screens and their hearts pounding, he seemed to win a quite glorious victory.

Amendment #3018, which was introduced by California Sen. Feinstein and Mike Lee of Utah and enthusiastically supported by Rand Paul, passed the Senate by a wide margin of 67-29 that night. It provided that,

“an authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States unless an act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.”

Many embraced this amendment as a solution to the wildly unpopular clause in Section 1021 of the 2011-2012 NDAA, which provided for the indefinite detention without trial of American citizens judged to be involved in terrorism or “belligerent acts” against the US.

Others were not so sure, insisting that the line about an Act of Congress “expressly authorizing such detention” was a loophole allowing for Section 1021 to remain in effect. Congressman Justin Amash stated,

“Well, that Act of Congress is the 2012 NDAA, which renders the rest of the Feinstein amendment meaningless.”

Mike Lee offered his full response countering Congressman Amash’s concern on his website.

On the whole, most defenders of freedom seemed to agree that, if not perfect, amendment #3018 still offered some protections to American citizens. Texas Congressman Ron Paul, a practically legendary champion of liberty, wrote on his facebook page,

“I applaud the Feinstein-Lee amendment for moving the debate forward. In the House most Republicans believe that a habeas hearing is sufficient for due process. The Feinstein-Lee amendment makes clear that anything short of a jury trial is not due process.”

Today, Senator Paul had some sad news to announce: A House-Senate conference committee led by Senator John McCain has stripped amendment #3018 from the new draft of the NDAA bill. Senator Levin confirmed this, saying, “The language of the Senate bill was dropped,” but, according to Politico’s Juana Summers, declined to offer any further comments.

"The decision by the NDAA conference committee, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to strip the National Defense Authorization Act of the amendment that protects American citizens against indefinite detention now renders the entire NDAA unconstitutional," Sen. Paul warned.

When I entered the United States Senate, I took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. It is for this reason that I will strongly oppose passage of the McCain conference report that strips the guarantee to a trial by jury,” Paul further elaborated.

The good news is that your senators took that same oath. The bad news is that they need regular and animated reminders of the fact. The good news is that you have the opportunity to give them exactly that.

Now is as good a time as any to dial up both of your two senators at all of their offices and leave your message explaining the latest developments in the struggle for individual liberty. Remind them of their oath. You might also need to remind them that you watch, you listen, you care and you vote. They had better do the same.


(This article was first posted at The Washington Times Communities.)
 
 
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A woman waits to hear news of her sister, a teacher at Sandy Hook


Why the nightmare school shooting in Newton, CT means we need more guns

(Posted by Bryana Joy on December 15th, 2012)

In an incident that has stunned America, on Friday morning a young man whose mother was a teacher at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newton, walked into the school with four guns and brutally massacred nearly thirty people, including his mother, the principal, the school psychologist, and twenty young children. The suspect has been identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza. Officials have stated a dead body was found in the suspect’s home.

After working his will on the defenseless children and staff members of Sandy Hook, Lanza reportedly killed himself inside the school.  

There is not yet enough information available about this incident to enable us to form a complete mental picture of the horrific episode, but if it was like the other tragic school shootings that have occurred in our nation’s history, it was a nightmare of unbelievable carnage.

We must imagine the terror of hundreds of students as they learned that their school was going under lockdown and that a gunman was loose on the premises. We must imagine the horror of parents who received the automatic call to their phones, alerting them to the fact that there was a “possible gunman” on the campus where they had deposited their beloved children safely just hours before. We must imagine their acute sense of helplessness as they realized that their children were under lock and key with no defense against a madman. We must imagine the awful understanding that there was absolutely nothing they could do, that they did not even have the opportunity to give up their lives in defense of the children they loved.

Witnesses say they heard at least one hundred shots. We must imagine the acute terror felt by these twenty utterly vulnerable children as they took cover frantic cover and sat motionless, their hearts pounding in their chests, watching their friends lying in blood. We must imagine this because they did not live to tell us about it.

We must imagine the teachers and other adults in the building. We must imagine the way the understanding came to them suddenly that they could in no way defend either themselves or the children that surrounded them.

We must realize the significance of the report that the gunman who lies dead now at Sandy Hook died by his own hand. If this turns out to be true, it means that there was no savior for the students and teachers of Sandy Hook. That no one walked in on the gunman and put a welcome end to his rampage as he lowered his weapon for another shot. From what we are able to discern, there was no armed security guard who came in to cut off the violence. No burly math teacher who utilized his permit to concealed carry, no white knights. No, the shooter at Sandy Hook picked off his victims at his leisure. When he’d had enough, he put an end to the affair himself by turning his weapon on his own body.

But how different this could have been if, instead of discouraging guns on school property, we welcomed them heartily, accompanied, of course, by strict and proper licensing. How different if the report of the gunman on campus had stirred several teachers or staff members to whip out their own weapons and fire before the masked killer had his way with them. How different if after the first shots had been fired by this maniac, felling several of the beautiful youth of Newton, some armed staff member had rushed in and saved the lives of the twenty or so others whom we mourn today. How different if the principal had looked up from her desk into the eyes of her would-be killer and dealt the first – and last – blow herself.  How different for dozens of stricken parents and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and grandparents and best friends and husbands and wives.

The White House, which never misses an opportunity to push its particular agendas, jumped on the supposed “policy implications” of the incident, with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney saying there would be time later for a discussion of policy implications – but immediately declining to wait until later by adding the observation that Obama remains committed to trying to renew a ban on assault weapons.

This statement by Carney, however, sounds uninformed and opportunist in light of the fact that Connecticut already has some of the most stringent laws in the nation regarding assault weapons. Michael Hammond, a legislative consultant to the organization Gun Owners of America, has stated that Connecticut "basically banned semi-automatics.” But then, when has the legality of an action ever done much to deter killers and criminals?

Although it’s not at all clear yet how the gunman involved in the Connecticut killings obtained his weaponry, the history of school shootings in America shows that many of these tragic occurrences have involved weapons which were illegally obtained in the first place, including the infamous Columbine High School shooting in 1999.

Until this story unfolds more completely, the shape of the narrative remains to be seen.

 

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