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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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Why has the Mexico Permanent Commission voted to ask the US Senate for a registry of guns in border states?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on Feb 21, 2013)

— In the wake of a tense national clash regarding the issue of gun control, Mexico has taken an action sure to fan the flames of controversy. In January, the Mexico Permanent Commission reportedly voted to formally ask the United States Senate for a registry of all commercialized firearms in the border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

According to Informador, the proposition was introduced by Senator Marcela Guerra, who stated he introduced the resolution in hopes that it would make it easier to trace guns used in violent crimes. InsightCrime explains,

“Close to 60,000 people were killed during the six-year presidency of Felipe Calderon, who left office in December. The US Southwest is a significant source of weaponry for Mexico's criminal organizations, who typically purchase firearms from US gun stores via a middleman or ‘straw buyer.’ ”

Given these facts, it might not seem surprising that the Mexican government is interested in taking action to curb the acquisition of weapons by violent criminals on their side of the border. However, given the recent history of government-initiated gun trafficking on our side, neither is it surprising to hear the comments of enraged gun-owners who feel that the Mexican request is absurd.

“It’s an infringement, on its highest level,” said one Arizona gun-owner interviewed by KPHO TV.

“My first reaction is, I don’t like it,” said another. “In light of what happened, with, you know, all the weapons, the assault weapons, that went over there.”  

He was referring to the national ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms) gun-walking scandal, Fast And Furious, in which US government agents allowed guns to pass into the possession of suspected gun smugglers in order to track them up to high-level Mexican crime rings.

Over 2,000 weapons unfortunately did end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartel members, but rather than leading to any arrests or information, the guns were somehow lost. They are in the process of being recovered, of course. Each time another innocent like US border agent Brian Terry or Mexican beauty queen Maria Gamez, is victimized, we discover the final landing place of another Fast and Furious weapon. The price, however, for the failed operation, has been high. With an estimated 150 deaths, some say too high.

Not surprisingly, law-abiding gun-owners are balking at the idea of being tracked as a potential threat to Mexican lives when their own government is responsible for causing so much of the problem. If there needs to be action taken on the issue of gun-smuggling, they say, start with the smugglers! They don’t feel that’s them.

And under the administration of a President who persists in treating gun ownership like a malicious cancer in American public life, they’re not sure they feel comfortable having their names entered into a national registry of cancerous cells, which is periodically being delivered to foreign governments. Who can blame them?  

 
 
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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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Incomplete Victory: Senators
Rand Paul, Feinstein and Lee take some of the teeth out of indefinite detention

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on December 01, 2012)

“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?” asked Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, speaking before the Senate on Wednesday evening. “When zealots of the government arrest suspects or radicals without warrants, hold them without trial, deny them access to counsel or admission of bail, we have shorn the Bill of Rights of its sanctity.”

Earlier this month we learned that Sen. Paul was planning to force a vote on an amendment to protect the rights of American citizens detained under the controversial 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

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. The explosive 2011-2012 NDAA bill included a wildly unpopular clause in Section 1021 which provided for the indefinite detention without trial of American citizens judged to be involved in terrorism or “belligerent acts” against the US.

Sen. Paul has been a vocal opponent of the indefinite detention clause in the 2011-2012 NDAA bill, lamenting what he considers “Orwellian” developments and staunchly defending the right of all American citizens to a jury trial. For two weeks he has been threatening to put the 2013 NDAA bill on hold unless he was granted a vote on his amendment to restore the jury trial rights of Americans in military detention.

Liberty activists were hoping that the massive public outcry which ensued following the passage of the 2011-2012 NDAA bill would pressure some Senators to swing over to Sen. Paul’s side.  However, due to the fact that his colleagues in the Senate this lame-duck session were mostly supporters of last year’s NDAA bill, Sen. Paul’s chances of getting them to undo that legislation seemed slim.

On Wednesday evening, something different happened.

Rand Paul rose to speak in support of a different amendment. Amendment #3018 was sponsored by California Sen. Feinstein and Mike Lee of Utah. It provides 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.”

And – would you believe it ? – the Senate did something right. Albeit, it was merely an undoing (and, admittedly, a partial one) of something that was already horribly wrong. Nevertheless, it was a mighty demonstration of the power of the irate and tireless minority when the amendment passed the Senate on Thursday night. The vote was 67-29.


Marring an otherwise joyous occasion was the sad realization that the supporters of jury trial rights for American citizens are no minority at all among American citizens, but rather a massive majority. That they should be represented by only a minority – even a noble and brave one – in the Congress of their representatives, is appalling.

(First posted at The Washington Times Communities)


UPDATE: Considerable contention has arisen since the vote, with some liberty activists arguing that the last clause of the amendment undoes all of the protections it claims to restore.

Congressman Justin Amash said,

“ ‘…unless an act of congress expressly authorizes such detention.’ Well, that Act of Congress is the 2012 NDAA, which renders the rest of the Feinstein amendment meaningless.”  

Others, Congressman Ron Paul among them, seem to disagree. The elder Paul wrote on his official facebook page this morning,

“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.”


 
 
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Rev. David Lynn and Toronto Police Officers


Incident at Toronto Gay Pride Parade demonstrates the potential for injustice that is imminent when government takes sides and acts apart from the law

(Posted by Shannon Lise on July 13, 2012)

Canada Day in Ontario this year was marked by a disturbing incident when Rev. David Lynn and a small group of friends attended the Toronto Gay Pride Parade. Setting up a small stand on a street corner with a microphone and a video camera, Lynn preached, held conversations with passers-by, and handed out Bibles and tracts – that is, until Toronto police wearing LGBT rainbow stickers shut him down and forced him to vacate the area. Ignoring the profanity and violent behavior of angry parade attendees and demonstrators who verbally assaulted the group and even doused Lynn and his cameraman with water, police told Lynn he was ‘promoting hate’ and must leave.

Despite Lynn repeatedly requesting to know what law he was violating and why he was being shut down, the police never quoted any relevant regulation or by-law and refused to explain their actions beyond insisting that Lynn was ‘causing a disturbance.’ Instead, some twelve officers surrounded the stand, assaulted the 17-year old cameraman, and yelled at the crowd to go away and stop listening to Lynn, refusing to let anyone near.  Video footage of the event shows one officer shouting, “Guys, everybody, by staying and listening to him you’re helping him get his message across. You ignore him and it all goes away.”

However, these same zealous would-be enforcers of laws that don't exist proved less than enthusiastic about dealing with the multiple displays of nudity going on at the same time in the surrounding area. Although public display of nudity is illegal according to the Canada Criminal Code, police apparently did not write a single ticket for nudity during the parade.

Whether or not preaching about the love of God at a Pride Parade is ‘promoting hate’ or being disrespectful may be up for debate, but it is not something for the Toronto police to decide. By choosing to ignore the illegal and disruptive conduct of parade participants and arbitrarily shutting the preacher down instead, the police have taken sides in a complicated national dispute that is beyond their jurisdiction. The police are supposed to enforce the law, not support the interests of a particular group at the expense of someone else' rights. Police officers are well within their rights to have whatever private sympathies they like, but if those sympathies are allowed to influence their decisions when they are acting in an official capacity, then they are just part of the angry crowd, with the difference that they are able to exploit their position in order to intimidate and coerce other people, especially the people they disagree with.

Let’s not forget that the police represent the government. The authority abused by the people who enforce the law can be just as easily abused by the people who make the law. The role of the government as a neutral arbiter of justice is undermined when the government refuses to protect everyone’s freedom equally. In Lynn’s words, ‘You’re here to defend my rights, too.’ But when the government takes sides, freedom is redefined to mean the freedom of whichever side the government is on, to the exclusion of the rest of society.


[You can watch the shocking footage of the incident in the three clips below. Please note that these clips feature a generous amount of uncensored profanity on the part of incensed Pride Parade attendees. Viewer discretion is advised.]

The first video clip shows the first ten minutes of the confrontation, ending when an angry officer snatches the camera from Rev. Lynn's cameraman.

This second clip shows what happened after the camera was restored to Lynn's camerman.
This clip, recorded by a third party, documents the officer's confiscation of the camera and the subsequent confrontation.

Angered and disturbed by what you've seen? Don't leave it at that! Utilize the contact information below and let the authorities in Toronto know that they overstepped their rightful authority.

Names and badge numbers of Toronto police officers identified by footage captured by Lynn’s cameraman:  

T. Adams, 9114
Staff Sergeant R. Pasini, 4528
D. Sinclair, 9678
D. Rubbini, 6346
M. Duffy, 1095

Contacts:

Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD)
Ph: (877) 411-4773
Complaint against police form


Rob Ford, Mayor of Toronto

Office of the Mayor
Toronto City Hall, 2nd Floor,
100 Queen St. West,
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2

Ph: (416) 397-3673
E-mail: mayor_ford@toronto.ca

 
 
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New report indicates Planned Parenthood ignoring Hyde Amendment, charging taxpayers for hundreds of thousands of abortion services

(Posted by Bryana Joy on February 20, 2012)

If you're concerned about the $330 million in taxpayer funding which Planned Parenthood currently receives each year, chances are you’re all-too-familiar by now with the Hyde Amendment: a legislative provision that’s supposed to bar federal funds from going to pay for abortions. My guess is that it’s been flung at you time and again if you’ve dared to suggest that your government shouldn’t be giving your money to the largest abortion-provider in the US when you are personally opposed to abortion.

The Hyde Amendment, of course
, is utterly bogus, and it does nothing to protect pro-life people’s consciences and keep their money away from abortion. It does, however, stand as a legal assertion of the fact that it is unjust and immoral to force people who are staunch opponents of abortion to pay for them. For this reason, the Hyde Amendment is something that pro-life people should look on with fondness –  if frustration – perhaps as a mother looks on a three-year-old child who wants to “help Mommy cook supper” but only succeeds in breaking dishes and burning herself on the stove. Unfortunately, a new report released by the Alliance Defense Fund suggests that Planned Parenthood is not content to use your money for graphic sex-education resources, birth control, and STI testing, but is determined to force you to pay for abortions as well.

The report, which found upwards of $99 million in waste or possible fraud, included evidence of illegal taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion-related procedures.
LifeSiteNews reports that the 10 known audits which took place in California, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Washington state, uncovered numerous instances of financially questionable practices such as wrongly billing Medicaid for medications provided as part of an abortion in violation of the Hyde Amendment, overbilling for prescription drugs, dispensing prescription drugs – including oral contraceptives – without a prescription, double-billing, charging for medically unnecessary services, falsely claiming services were provided for family planning, and unsigned or missing documentation. The ADF report identified 12 types of potential fraud, and stated in one place that,

In New York alone during one four year period, it appeared that hundreds of thousands of abortion-related claims were billed illegally to Medicaid.”

Just last week,
the Lufkin Daily News reported that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast is a defendant in a federal lawsuit after a former Lufkin clinic employee alleged a fraudulent multi-million-dollar billing scheme. The complaint names Karen Reynolds as the whistle-blower in allegations brought against her former employer of 10 years, Planned Parenthood.

According to Reynolds’ complaint, filed in October 2011, she was instructed by the organization to maximize billing revenue by fraudulently charging Medicaid and the Women’s Health Program for unwarranted services, services not covered by Medicaid, and services with patients did not receive. She says Planned Parenthood also falsified patient records, and claims these procedures were employed in in all 12 Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast locations across Texas and Louisiana.


The Lufkin Daily News has more disturbing details: 

“An example given in the suit is Medicaid being billed for birth control counseling. The suit states almost all Women’s Health Program and Medicaid patients were handed a bag of at least two birth control devices despite the fact the items were not needed or requested by the patient. Pursuant to corporate policy and instructions from clinical directors, after merely handing the patient a bag of condoms and vaginal film on the way out the door, clinic employees then entered billing codes to be submitted to the government at an average billed cost of $57.85.”

In her complaint
, Reynolds quotes a clinic memo as stating, “If the client [getting an abortion] is getting on birth control make this the focus of the visit and put a note in the chief complaints that the client had a surgical or medical abortion ‘x’ weeks ago.

A former employee who was chief financial officer of Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles, P. Victor Gonzalez,
claimed in a 2010 lawsuit that PPLA paid “$225,695.65 for Ortho Tri-Cyclen birth control pills, yet billed the government $918,084 – for a profit of $692,388.35.” 

Steven Aden, vice president for human life issues and senior council at ADF, told LifeSiteNews,


"Americans deserve to know if their hard-earned tax money is being funneled to groups that are misusing it. Planned Parenthood has to play by the same rules as everyone else. It is not entitled to a dime of taxpayer funds, especially if it is committing Medicaid fraud."

It’s a good day to remember some words of Thomas Jefferson’s, which perhaps indicate that the statesmen who founded this great nation in turmoil and trials are spinning around and around in their graves this week:  


"To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical. "


(Originally posted at The Washington Times Communities)


 
 
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Student video shows kids can't answer basic civics questions, educational establishment scrambles to insist clips do not reflect reality

(Posted by Bryana Joy on February 17th, 2012)


“A nation under a well regulated government should permit none to remain uninstructed.

It is monarchical and aristocratic government only that requires ignorance for its support.”

                                   -Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man

“Do you know
[the name of the] Vice President of the United States?” asks Austin Oberbillig of several Olympia High School students in a youtube video which has garnered nearly a million views since it was uploaded at the beginning of the month.

Definitely not,” responds the first student.

George Bush?” suggests another, giggling nervously.

Umm, the bald guy,” answers a third girl. “Clinton! Clinton, right?

One student grasps at straws, throws out, “Bin Laden.”

In what war did the US gain its independence?” Austin goes on to ask.

Several female students stand before him, silent for a moment. “I don’t know!” says one irritably, after a brief interlude.

Umm, uhh – the – British – war?” a male student queries uncertainly.

The Civil War?”  another poses.

Shoot, I just did this and I don’t remember!” laughs a frustrated high school girl.

Over the course of the five-minute video, Austin proceeds to ask the students other basic questions about geography and civics, finding most of them to be incapable of providing the correct answers. Most are unable to name the two countries which border the United States. Most don’t know how many states are in the Union. Several can’t name any countries that start with the letter, “U.” One, in desperation, suggests “Europe.” Another, “Utopia.” One student says that Canada is a state.


Pundits on both sides of the political divide have been having fun with this ludicrous tape, and it has been played on both radio and television, causing it to go viral. News sources as varied as
The Blaze and the Huffington Post have held up the piece as an example of a failed education system. Glenn Beck talked extensively about the video on-air. Laura Hibbard expressed concern over the poor knowledge of history that the video highlighted, reminding readers of a 2010 study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress which showed that only 9 percent of fourth graders could correctly identify a photograph of Abraham Lincoln and state two reasons for his importance.

Sadly, since the video’s release, Austin and Evan Ricks, who produced the film together, have come under fire, and recently released a statement explaining that the political firestorm which occurred as a result of their work has surprised and dismayed them. They boys
were also interviewed by Kiro 7 South Sound, during which period the interviewer offered them several opportunities to assert that they did not intend to criticize the educational establishment, offering prompts like, “and certainly it was not a condemnation of the education system?”  The boys eagerly took the cue, saying that the video was not an attempt to show education in the Olympia school system or Washington as a whole.  The interviewer also stressed the importance of the “lessons” they’ve learned about social media and journalism since their piece went viral.

The Olympia School District has reacted defensively, with school district officials saying that the video doesn’t accurately reflect the strong academic performance of Olympia students.
“Olympia High School is one of the top five-percent performing high schools in the state,” said Ryan Betz with the Olympia School District.

Presumably Betz doesn’t realize that his statement only suggests the problem is worse than even the most outspoken opponents of public education are making it out to be. If students in one of the top five % performing high schools in Washington State are unable to name the US vice president, give the number of US states, or correctly identify the American war of independence, who wants to even imagine what educational standards are like in the other 95 % of Washington schools?


Other critics of the video are pointing to the fact that only the funniest clips were included in the final project, and that those students who answered the questions correctly were ignored. We should ask these willfully blinded viewers, many of whom were undoubtedly supporters of the No Child Left Behind act, if there is to be no thought given to the students who have been left behind? If there are even two or three (or, in this video, five) students in a high school who don’t know how many stars dot the US flag, if there are even three or four who can’t name the current Vice President, if there are
thirteen who don’t know the name of the war for American independence, is it truly fair to point to the students who can answer the questions and say, “Look, our education system is just fine”?

“The bottom line,”
said Austin and Evan in a statement, “is that we made the video to get a few laughs around our school, and it turned into something bigger.”

Laughter, however, is not an appropriate response to the tragedy that we see enacted in front of the camera in this increasingly controversial collection of clips. While students may be laughing, parents, educators and politicians should not be amused in the least. The fact that there is laughter, rather than outrage, is a terrifying indicator of a national attitude of apathy concerning educational standards, and shows a disregard for basic knowledge of significant historical and civic value.


The most stunning and tragic moment in the video probably occurs when Austin is fishing for a student who can name the American Revolution as the war in which the United States gained their independence. “
I was never taught that knowledge,” asserts a student politely, sitting at a table in the cafeteria.

But he must be mistaken, of course, because Olympia School District is one of the top 5 % performing high schools in Washington State. Obviously he is mistaken.
 

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