PicturePrince William & Princess Kate and the Royal Baby

What's wrong and what's right about the #RoyalBaby celebrations: who can say which are the children that will change the world by being in it?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on July 24th, 2013)

Let’s face it: the media buzz and twitterverse hype over the #GreatKateWait and the subsequent #RoyalBabyBoy has been a bit ridiculous, a little over-the-top. From CNN’s Victoria Arbiter calling the Duchess of Cambridge “brilliant,” for delivering a boy on the first try, to Pampers seizing the moment for some timely advertising by tweeting, “Every baby is a little prince or princess. SHARE pics of yours at http://www.pamperslovesleepandplay.com,” the celebrations seem a little out of balance. Thousands were glued to their screens to watch the livefeed of the royal couple leaving the hospital. “Here’s the important question,” tweeted self-titled “royalty blogger” Brooke. “Will they give us a name when they leave? #RoyalBaby.

But even if the virtual chatter about the baby seems a little out of whack, on the whole all this talk and joy is a good thing. Because a child was born and our shallow, confused culture somehow decided to called it good.

We live in a culture where respected senators can wave wire coat hangers high over their heads in demand for unabridged abortion rights and thousands will march to protect the legality of late-term abortions that end the lives of fully-viable babies. It’s a country that elected a president who voted for the infanticide of partial-birth abortion, and a country where family planning agencies will defend the right of a doctor to kill children born alive and breathing.

But when Prince William and the Duchess walked through the swinging glass doors of the hospital Tuesday evening, cradling their frail and blanketed, unnamed baby in their arms, the spectators lining the streets erupted with a volley of wild cheering.

Is it possible the western world does know, however shallowly, something of the beauty and intrinsic preciousness of new life?

We must ask another question. Was this cheering a celebration of the fact that a new man has entered the world and, like every other man and woman already here, and yet distinct from them, has the opportunity to work his one precious life to inconceivable glory? Or was it a celebration of the supposed fairytale life that this one remarkable human has been born into?

There is a young woman is China who is not so lucky today as the world’s darling Kate. ChinaAid reports Li Fengfei, at 18 months pregnant, was dragged to the office of Family Planning officials on July 9th and beaten so that her front tooth was knocked out. Her fingerprint was forced onto an abortion consent form and she was given a dose of labor-inducing medications.

An estimated 35.9% of Chinese citizens are still living under China’s infamous one-child policy, and Fengfei was just one of these. In her case, however, everything didn’t go as planned, and her body did not immediately respond to the abortifacient drugs. 72 hours later, she was given another dose. Several days afterwards, it was reported she was in critical condition with her dead baby still inside her. According to a doctor who examined the report, she had been given a fatal dose of the drugs. Her fate is still unknown at this time.

In June, another victim of the brutal one-child policy, Feng Jianmei, was photographed lying stunned on a hospital bed with her aborted seven-month old baby beside her. The woman was reportedly taken from her home and beaten while her husband was at work. When her family did not pay the fine required by family planning officials, the child was forcibly aborted. The photos are graphic and horrible.

But these women aren’t Kate. Their babies aren’t royalty. They don’t live in palaces and wear chic clothing and dodge cameras and get featured on magazine covers. Their children wouldn’t have been third in line for any throne anywhere. They would, perhaps, have lived their whole lives in relative poverty, and known few material comforts.

But they might have been happy.

They deserved that chance, at least. At least they deserved a chance.

Until our culture makes as much fuss about the brutal murder of a poor woman’s child as we do about the happy birth of a wealthy woman’s son, we do not know anything that really matters.

Maybe Pampers did get it right after all: Every baby is a little prince or princess. Glad congratulations to William and Kate on the child they have brought into the world! And glad congratulations to the parents of every naked, squalling baby birthed yesterday in half-lit, sweltering hovels in the slums of India or Brazil. Who can say which are the children that will change the world by being in it?


First posted at The Washington Times Communities.

 
 
Picture
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.

 
 
Picture
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."

 
 
PictureJanet Napolitano
FBI terrorism task force targets a pro-life leader & people begin to wonder if the Obama administration needs to learn a thing or two about religious liberty

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on May 31, 2013)

When US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said in 2009 that the “opponents of abortion" are likely to engage in extremism, and included pro-life activists on a list of possible terrorist threats, she engendered a wave of backlash. Many religious groups felt not a little trepidation at the prospect of being lumped together with violent suicide bombers simply for planting their feet on the opposite side of the Obama administration regarding the issue of abortion. Some felt that the statements made by Napolitano were indicative of a growing tendency on the part of the administration to heavy-handedly counter traditional Christian virtues.

This opposition to their work was keenly felt by those involved with crisis pregnancy centers, (CPCs) of which there are an estimated 2,500 in the US today. These clinics offer varied services to women facing unplanned pregnancies. Some provide medical assistance like ultrasounds and pregnancy tests, free of charge, while others offer only resources and counseling. All are dedicated to promoting the value of life, discouraging abortion, and educating women about parenting and adoption options.

Sadly, it seems that Napolitano’s threatening tone towards the non-profit work of CPCs was only the precursor to a steady wave of intimidation tightening around the pro-life movement. The latest in a string of incidents involving pro-life leaders being harassed by government agencies, it was revealed this week that the FBI terrorism task force has called in the national director of a chain of CPCs “for questioning.” According to LifeSiteNews,

“Agents of Joint Domestic Terrorism Task Force told Chris Slattery, national director of Expectant Mother Care (EMC) FrontLine Pregnancy Centers, only that they wanted to meet him ‘for a mutually beneficial relationship.’

‘In other words, if I don't meet with them, it will not be beneficial for me,’ Slattery joked. ‘I'm not sure what I'm going to get out of it.’ ”

The summons from the FBI comes as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has subpoenaed Slattery’s group for not abiding by the standards of a consent agreement that Slattery says he believes expired more than 20 years ago.

Why does an FBI terrorism task force feel the need to go after peaceful, non-profit, domestic, religious, care groups? Slattery says he doesn’t know, but that “if the President orders them to do something, they have to do it.”

Last spring, the Justice Department was forced to drop charges against pro-life counselor Susan Pine and pay $120,000 of taxpayer money in attorneys’ fees when a judge ruled she had been wrongly accused of trespassing on property belonging to an abortion clinic. Her attorneys argued that Pine, a post-abortive pro-life activist was being targeted in a concerted effort by the Obama administration to silence sidewalk counselors. It seems they managed to convince Judge Kenneth Ryskamp, who wrote,

The Court can only wonder whether this action was the product of a concerted effort between the Government and the [abortion clinic], which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities rather than to vindicate the rights of those allegedly aggrieved by Ms. Pine’s conduct.”  

One particularly interesting case involving a pro-life activist facing government pressure is that of AbortionWiki founder Andy Moore, who was visited by FBI agents last summer after the administrators of a late-term abortion clinic complained about his use of a bullhorn on the sidewalk outside of their facilities. Moore claims the agents pressured him to expose the inner workings of the pro-life movement and made indirect threats to separate him from his wife and family through imprisonment or deportation.

Aside from the horrendous impropriety of the FBI’s alleged actions, the soul of the controversy can perhaps best be realized by a video of the incident that provoked the initial complaint. The footage shows Andy standing on the sidewalk, reading off a list of facts describing the gestational growth of a human fetus. He concludes his reading by saying, “I just want everyone in there to know that I have nothing but love for you in my heart.”

After a time, Andy is called aside by police, who inform him that a city ordinance prohibits the use of a megaphone within 150 feet of a hospital. A trifle embarrassed, perhaps, Andy puts his megaphone away and resumes his activities without it. In his strong New Zealand accent, he says, “I just want you all to know that there are other options available, even in this last minute. I believe sincerely that women deserve better than abortion.”

How strongly do you have to believe in something to be willing to stand alone on the street and proclaim it through a megaphone to a crowd that actively disagrees with you and will almost certainly be extremely offended by your words?

What if you really do believe in it that strongly?

What if you really do believe that abortion is murder and that every woman who walks through the doors of the clinic in front of you is going in to take part in the murder of a child and will be coming out with a wound that will haunt her for the rest of her life? And if you really do believe that, how unloving to do you have to be to refuse to do everything within your power to prevent those abortions from occurring?

Atheist Penn Jillette, perhaps, says it best in a moving video about Christian evangelization. “I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize,” he says. “If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell and that people could be going to hell, or not, and having eternal life…how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”


Regardless of how you feel about abortion, or the existence of God, or any other system of belief, it is a self-evident truth that faith is morally compelling. There are things that, if you sincerely believe them, compel you to take certain actions. It is for this reason that religious liberty and freedom of conscience are foundational American principles. Unfortunately, they are principles that the Obama administration doesn’t seem to understand.  

(First posted at The Washington Times Communities.)
 

May 21st, 2013

05/21/2013

 
PictureThe Romeike Family

The German homeschooling family that fled to America in order to homeschool their children has
been denied asylum by the Obama administration

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on May 21, 2013)

The verdict on a massively significant case in the Sixth Court of Appeals has been returned. In a shocking development, the court has upheld the Obama Administration’s bid to deny asylum to the Romeike family, who fled to the US in 2008 after persecution in their native Germany for homeschooling their five children. The decision was announced Tuesday by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). The HSLDA has been representing the Romeike family throughout a seven-year struggle to educate their children in the way they think best.

Uwe Romeike and his wife Hannelore are music teachers and evangelical Christians who withdrew their children from German public schools in 2006, after becoming concerned that the educational material employed by the school was undermining the tenets of their Christian faith, and that the school was not providing their children with an ideal learning environment.

“As we were confronted with opposition to our choice we began to feel more and more that our faith required us to homeschool our children,” Uwe explained Wednesday.

Unfortunately for the Romeikes, homeschooling has been illegal in Germany since it was outlawed by Adolf Hitler in 1938. According to the German Supreme Court, the purpose of the homeschooling ban is to, “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.”

The family accrued the equivalent of around $10,000 in fines, and faced police visits to their home and the forcible removal of their children from the home. On one occasion, their children were dragged away and taken to school in police vans. Uwe explained in an interview with The Blaze that current German law does not require police to obtain a court order before removing children from parental custody.

In 2008 the Romeikes fled Germany to seek asylum in the land of the free and the home of the brave. In 2010, the HSLDA helped them to become the first family ever granted asylum in the US for the protection of their homeschooling rights. Federal immigration judge Lawrence Burnam, who initially granted the Romeikes political asylum, ruled that they had a reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs if they returned to their homeland. He called the German policy “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans.” 

However, it seems the Obama administration doesn’t concur. In 2012, the Board of Immigration Appeals tossed Judge Burnam’s ruling, forcing the family to head back to court, where Attorney General Eric Holder sought to revoke their asylum and force them to return to Germany.

HSLDA’s Mike Farris explained, “The U.S. government contended that the Romeikes’ case failed to show that there was any discrimination based on religion because, among other reasons, the Romeikes did not prove that all homeschoolers were religious, and that not all Christians believed they had to homeschool.”

In Farris’ opinion, this shows that, “the US government does not understand that religious freedom is an individual right. Just because all adherents of a particular religion do not abide by a certain standard does not mean that individuals who feel compelled to abide by this standard do not have the right to do so. Religious decisions must be made by individuals, not by groups.”

A crowd of the American people agree with Farris and have rallied around the Romeike family by signing a formal petition on the White House website. Part of the petitions reads,

“Every state in the United States of America recognizes the right to homeschool, and the U.S. has the world’s largest and most vibrant homeschool community. Regrettably, this family faces deportation in spite of the persecution they will suffer in Germany. The Romeikes hope for the same freedom our forefathers sought. Please grant the privilege of liberty to the Romeike family.”

The number of signers has exceeded the threshold necessary to earn a response from the White House, and the response is still being eagerly awaited. However, the verdict from the court has created a major setback for the Romeikes and makes their status in the US uncertain. The family may be faced with deportation.

Michael Donnelly, an attorney for the Romeikes, told ABC News the family remains hopeful.

"They feel very comfortable that, in the end, things are going to work out for them," he said. "There is a lot of support for this family in Congress, it is possible that Congress might take some action."

Farris expressed his indignation at the verdict, stating, "You can't look at the lenient attitude to 11 million people who came here for economic opportunity, why we would not treat people who come here for economic freedom on par with people who came here for religious freedom I don't understand.”

Farris said the family is planning to appeal the decision first to the entire Sixth Circuit Court and then to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

READ MORE:
Deportation of German homeschool family affects US homeschool freedom
Interview with the Romeike Family
 
 
Picture

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.)
 
 
Picture



How NYC Mayor Bloomberg's "big sugary drinks" ban has received a serious setback -- and why that's good for the American people

(posted by Bryana Johnson on March 14, 2013)

I’ve never found occasion to drink a 16 ounce soda in my life, much less one of those newly controversial Big Gulp sizes, which yesterday narrowly escaped being rendered illegal in New York City. Indeed, I consider the regular consumption of such beverages not only ill-advised and unwise but probably irresponsible as well. However, the fact that I am no fan of the Big Gulp does not prevent me from being a wholehearted supporter of Judge Milton Tingling’s ruling this Monday.

Judge Tingling’s strongly-worded statement on the legality of big sugary drinks was a long-awaited response to NYC mayor Bloomberg’s “sugary drink ban.” The mayor caused an uproar several months ago when he announced the ban that was to have gone into effect yesterday. The New York Daily News reports the rule would have banned sales of sugary sodas larger than 16 ounces by restaurants, movie theaters, pushcarts and sports arenas.

A large number of businesses were annoyed. So were a large number of people. Including some who, like me, don’t even buy big sugary drinks. What’s all the fuss about? Well, it comes down to one word: responsibility.

Whereas we, in traditionally American fashion, think it’s the responsibility of the individual to make their own choices about health, Bloomberg thinks that responsibility is just one more in an ever-increasing number of responsibilities that belong to the government. That he holds this view is made especially evident by a recent statement he issued in defense of the ban:

“With so many people contracting diabetes and heart disease,
” said the mayor. “With so many children who are overweight and obese, with so many poor neighborhoods suffering the worst of this epidemic . . . it would be irresponsible not to.”

Really? Because people are irresponsible and reckless and sometimes plain dumb, it would be irresponsible not to pass regulations determining how much liquid sugar they are allowed to drink at one time? If history were a testimony to the general rightness of government authority, Bloomberg might have himself a case. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is true.

Even regarding matters of health, our own government has historically proven itself to be no reliable authority – even in very recent years. One simple example is the infamous “food pyramid” we all grew up with as children. Our governing bodies spent our money touting this diagram that purported to show the quintessential nutritional diet. It was drilled into our heads from kindergarten. We thought it was true.

But it isn’t, and it never has been. Nutritionists have known that for years now. In the past couple of years, First Lady Michelle Obama has been spearheading an effort to overhaul the food pyramid and replace it with a new diagram entirely. Rough luck for all those taxpayers who had to contribute for twenty years to a nutrition campaign that claimed 6 to 11 servings of straight carbohydrates were essential to a healthy diet.

Am I suggesting that big sugary drinks might not be unhealthy after all? Of course not. The point is that governments make mistakes too, and it isn’t their responsibility to make our health decisions for us. Especially since they aren’t even very good at it. The NYC ban on sugary drinks is objectionable because it bolsters the false and dangerous idea that such interference on the part of our local and federal authorities is acceptable and to be expected.

“They’re soft drinks,” berate those undaunted believers in the power of the state to save the world. They roll their eyes. “We’re not talking about taking away something that anyone could possibly need to have.” It’s true. We’re not.

But what we are talking about is laying yet another straw on the back of the camel of personal freedom. What we are talking about is one more affirmation of the authority of government officials to determine what the ideal life looks like. It’s a reinforcement of the already too-prevalent belief that the stupidity of mankind in general must be mitigated by the surpassing wisdom of the officials they have elected to positions of power. What we are talking about is little green frogs submerged in a saucepan with wide smiles on their faces, simmering, bubbling, boiling away.

Fortunately, we don’t have to talk about it anymore, for a time at least. Calling the decision “arbitrary and capricious,” Judge Tingling rendered it invalid on Monday, adding that while the Health Board can promote rules to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, it has no power to deal with obesity. Only the City Council has that power, he ruled, explaining, “One of the fundamental tenets of democratic governance here in New York, as well as throughout the nation, is the separation of powers. . . . No one person, agency, department or branch is above or beyond this.”

Mayor Bloomberg has vowed to appeal the court’s ruling, stating,

“Anytime you adopt a groundbreaking policy, special interests will sue. That’s America. We believe that the judge’s decision was clearly in error, and that we will prevail.”

“People are dying every day. This is not a joke,” he went on. “We’re talking about lives versus profits.”

Mayor Bloomberg did get one thing right: we are talking about lives. The issue is that the American people want to live theirs according to their own choices and Mayor Bloomberg thinks he should be the one making the choices for everyone.


(Article first posted at The Washington Times Communities)
 
 
Picture

Why are law enforcement agencies requesting practice targets featuring armed women and children?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on Mar 2, 2013)

Minnesota-based Law Enforcement Targets, Inc (LET) has been awarded $5.5 million in contracts with the federal government, including $2 million with the Department of Homeland Security. In light of this fact, it’s no wonder that the American people were outraged last week when it was uncovered that the firm had released a series of practice targets featuring a pregnant woman, a child, a young mother and grandparents.

This No More Hesitation series includes seven total targets, titled Pregnant Woman, Older Man 1, Older Man 2, Older Woman, Young Mother, Young Girl, and Little Brother. Each of the depicted subjects is armed. The “pregnant woman” is seen in front of the backdrop of a nursery. The “older woman,” is depicted in a bathrobe in her kitchen. The “young mother” is seen on a playground, holding a toddler’s hand. “Young girl” is standing in a driveway with a sack purse slung over her shoulder. “Little brother,” who is a very little person indeed, is depicted in a backyard with a privacy fence behind him. “Older man” stands in his home, in front of a bookshelf.

LET said that the targets were requested by law enforcement agencies and designed in order to “train police officers for unusually complex situations.” In a statement released to Reason’s Mike Riggs, they stated, 

“The subjects in NMH targets were chosen in order to give officers the experience of dealing with deadly force shooting scenarios with subjects that are not the norm during training. I found while speaking with officers and trainers in the law enforcement community that there is a hesitation on the part of cops when deadly force is required on subjects with atypical age, frailty or condition (one officer explaining that he enlarged photos of his own kids to use as targets so that he would not be caught off guard with such a drastically new experience while on duty). This hesitation time may be only seconds but that is not acceptable when officers are losing their lives in these same situations. The goal of NMH is to break that stereotype on the range, regardless of how slim the chances are of encountering a real life scenario that involves a child, pregnant woman, etc. If that initial hesitation time can be cut down due to range experience, the officer and community are better served.”

However, the American people didn’t seem to concur, and the ensuing outcry resulted in LET withdrawing the targets from circulation.

"We apologize for the offensive nature of our 'No More Hesitation' products," they posted to their facebook page last week. "These products have been taken offline due to the opinions expressed by so many, including members of the law enforcement community."

While the removal of the targets from the online marketplace may seem like a step in the right direction, the fact that they are being used by our supposed peace officers in the first place is sinister in its own right. The fact that our own Department of Homeland Security may be spending our money on them is disturbing as well.

In the unlikely event that a domestic law enforcement official is faced with the unexpected threat of an armed eight-year-old or a threatening mother in the presence of her toddlers, hesitation is not only the natural response, but the moral and correct response. There are good and noble reasons why civilization has erected these constraints around the lives of the young and the aged and the vulnerable.

The first and most obvious of these is that pregnant women and grandmothers and little boys rarely constitute “threats” to police officers. And if an officer is being threatened by one of these civilians in their own homes or backyards, perhaps he should consider whether it is possible that they have a genuine grievance against him? There is a certain horror accompanying the idea of conditioning our homeland security officers to fire without hesitation or consideration on the women and children and elderly people of their own nation.

LET claimed in their statement about the No Hesitation campaign that hesitation was, “not acceptable when officers are losing their lives.” But a big chunk of the American people begs to differ. As much as we respect and admire our security personnel and police officers, we also understand the impossibility of eradicating suffering from the earth, and we prefer a humane society with traditional constraints and protections for the weak to a nation ravaged by fear and bereft of all codes of conduct. We prefer a society where the life of a child is not taken without hesitation by the officers employed to protect him. And if some – a very small number – of our officers are going to end up honorably sacrificing their lives for the sake of these codes, we prefer that to the alternative of a senseless, robotic police force that will not hesitate to riddle our disabled grandparents with bullets.



(This article first posted at The Washington Times Communities)
 
 
Picture

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?  

 
 
Picture

The Romeike family fled Germany for the right to homeschool their children. Now they face deportation from the US. What does this mean for US
homeschool freedom?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on Feb 15, 2013)

In 1938, the practice of homeschooling was outlawed in Germany by Adolf Hitler and the infamous Third Reich. It was a rough period in German history, as thousands of young people were being pried from their parents’ direction and authority and drafted into the Hitler Youth program, where they were supposed to be trained as Aryan supermen (and women). In a few short years, vast numbers of these youth would be bleeding out on the battlefields of Europe, on the wrong side of the war for the soul of the world.  

Sadly for freedom and for many families, Germany has never lifted this archaic and totalitarian ban on homeschooling. On the contrary, the German government seems to have stepped up its opposition to home-educating parents over the past decade, forcing several families to flee, and others to enroll their children in state-approved schools against their will. The German Supreme Court has stated that the purpose of the homeschooling ban is to, “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.” It sounds like they aren’t really big on religious or philosophical diversity over there.

Some notable victims of this small-minded and grasping totalitarianism are Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their five children.  Uwe and his wife are music teachers and evangelical Christians who for years have been unsuccessfully seeking the right to homeschool their children. The Romeikes withdrew their children from German public schools in 2006, after becoming concerned that the educational material employed by the school was undermining the tenets of their Christian faith and that the school was not providing their children with an ideal learning environment. “I don’t expect the school to teach about the Bible,” Mr. Romeike said, but “part of education should be character-building.”

After accruing the equivalent of around $10,000 in fines, and facing police visits to their home and the forcible removal of their children from the home, the Romeikes fled Germany in 2008 to seek asylum in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Their case was taken up by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which helped the Romeikes in 2010 to become the first family ever granted asylum in the US for the protection of their homeschooling rights.

The HSLDA explains, “The U.S. law of asylum allows a refugee to stay in the United States permanently if he can show that he is being persecuted for one of several specific reasons. Among these are persecution for religious reasons and persecution of a ‘particular social group.’ ”

On January 26th, 2010, Memphis federal immigration judge, Lawrence Burman, granted the Romeikes political asylum, ruling they had a reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs if they returned to their homeland. Judge Burman also denounced the German policy heatedly. In a statement, he called it, “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans.”  

HSLDA’s Mike Donnelley called the ruling, “an extraordinary recognition of the fundamental importance of the right of parents to raise their children according to the dictates of individual conscience.”

We were so relieved!” Hanne said. “We had been trying hard not to get our hopes up too high. [The HSLDA attorneys] had assured us that even if we lost at this level, we would appeal and that an appeal could take years. So we knew that we wouldn’t have to go right back to Germany. But to win at this point was such an answer to prayer. Our children were jumping up and down and everyone in the room was hugging us and celebrating. Tears were flowing in gratitude for God’s protection for our family.”

The Romeikes were able to continue quietly homeschooling their children in a small Tennessee town. For a time.

Sadly, their period of respite was not to last. The Romeikes’ case is now before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, with the US government seeking to revoke their asylum and force them to return to Germany. And the details of Attorney-General Holder’s arguments in the brief for Romeike v. Holder are sinister, to say the least.

According to Holder, parents have no fundamental right to home-educate their children.

HSLDA Founder, Mike Farris, warns,

“[Holder’s office] argued that there was no violation of anyone’s protected rights in a law that entirely bans homeschooling. There would only be a problem if Germany banned homeschooling for some but permitted it for others.

Let’s assess the position of the United States government on the face of its argument: a nation violates no one’s rights if it bans homeschooling entirely. There are two major portions of constitutional rights of citizens—fundamental liberties and equal protection. The U.S. Attorney General has said this about homeschooling. There is no fundamental liberty to homeschool. So long as a government bans homeschooling broadly and equally, there is no violation of your rights.”

Farris goes on to reveal another argument presented by the Attorney-General,

The U.S. government contended that the Romeikes’ case failed to show that there was any discrimination based on religion because, among other reasons, the Romeikes did not prove that all homeschoolers were religious, and that not all Christians believed they had to homeschool.”

The US Government, says Farris, “does not understand that religious freedom is an individual right.”


Just because all adherents of a particular religion do not abide by a certain standard does not mean that individuals who feel compelled to abide by this standard do not have the right to do so. Religious decisions must be made by individuals, not by groups.

Farris contends, “One need not be a part of any church or other religious group to be able to make a religious freedom claim. Specifically, one doesn’t have to follow the dictates of a church to claim religious freedom—one should be able to follow the dictates of God Himself.

The United States Supreme Court has made it very clear in the past that religious freedom is an individual right. Yet our current government does not seem to understand this. They only think of us as members of groups and factions. It is an extreme form of identity politics that directly threatens any understanding of individual liberty.”

While Romeike v. Holder is clearly crucially and immediately important to one huddled family yearning to breathe free, the implications of the arguments currently being presented by the US government against them are ultimately important to all American people. Will our courts uphold the rights of parents to raise their children in the ways that seem best to them, or will a government standard be imposed upon the 2 million homeschooling families of the US?

A look at historical precedents puts me in a big hurry to be on the side of liberty.

I give you Friedrich Hayek, from The Road To Serfdom:

There is scarcely a leaf out of Hitler’s book which somebody or other in England or America has not recommended us to take and use for our own purposes. This applies particularly to many people who are undoubtedly Hitler’s mortal enemies because of one special feature in his system. We should never forget that the anti-Semitism of Hitler has driven from his country, or turned into his enemies, many people who in every respect are confirmed totalitarians of the German type.”

For more information about the Romeikes, check out the following sources:

Land of Liberty: The Romeikes’ Journey (HSLDA, January 2010)
US grants home schooling German family political asylum (The Guardian, January 2010)
Judge Grants Asylum to German Home Schoolers (NYTimes, February 2010)
Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Homeschoolers (TIME Magazine, March 2010)
German families look to US for asylum (Global Post, April 2010)
The Romeike Family: Still Waiting on Asylum Appeal (HSLDA, October 2011)
German Homeschool Case May Impact U.S. Homeschool Freedom (HSLDA, February 2013)
 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...