Pro-life protest on the US Supreme Court steps
40 years after the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling, where does America stand on abortion -- and how did
we get here?
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on April 27, 2013)
Abortion has been legal in the US since 1973, when the passage of Roe v. Wade divided the nation on lines that still separate the champions of unborn life from the advocates of the woman’s right to choose. For a generation of young adults who have no memory of the years before abortion was legal, it may seem that this conflict is interminable and has no end. However, while the battle is still raging as fiercely as ever, in recent years some signs have appeared that seem to indicate a shift in the tide of popular opinion.
In 2009, a Gallup poll indicated that the majority of American adults were identifying as pro-life, rather than pro-choice. Gallup commented, “This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995.” Since that date, subsequent polls show that the pro-life majority has remained more or less constant.
What occasioned the shift? While it’s hard to say for certain, it’s undeniable that technological advances have enabled physicians and ultrasound technicians to gain more understanding than ever before of the nature of life inside the womb. 3D ultrasounds allow parents to see lifelike photographs of their unborn children and the vast accumulation of medical experience that has occurred since 1973 points relentlessly to the complexity and humanity of the fetus.
Disillusionment with the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, may also have something to do with the trend towards cultural acceptance of the pro-life message. Virgina-based student activist group, Live Action, started by then-fifteen-year-old Lila Rose, has generated nation-wide media coverage with their videos exposing Planned Parenthood corruption. Other reports from former Planned Parenthood employees have drawn attention to the massive fraud perpetrated against taxpayers by the abortion giant.
However, it is not far-fetched to surmise that the biggest factor influencing this astonishing and even unexpected trend is the accumulated testimony of hundreds who have come out of the abortion industry or have experienced abuse at its hands. From abortion survivors to post-abortive women, to former employees of abortion providers, to victims of botched abortions at the hands of physicians like Kermit Gosnell, the cries proclaiming the brutality of the industry have becoming impossible to ignore.
Nurse Kathleen Malloy of Jacksonville Florida writes of her own experiences in this disturbing fashion,
“I worked the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, and when we weren’t busy, I’d go out to help with the newborns. One night I saw a bassinet outside the nursery. There was a baby in this bassinet – a crying, perfectly formed baby – but there was a difference in this child. She had been scalded. She was the child of a saline abortion.
This little girl looked as if she had been put in a pot of boiling water. No doctor, no nurse, no parent, to comfort this hurt, burned child. She was left alone to die in pain. They wouldn’t let her in the nursery – they didn’t even bother to cover her. I was ashamed of my profession that night! It’s hard to believe this can happen in our modern hospitals, but it does. It happens all the time. I thought a hospital was a place to heal the sick – not a place to kill. While doctors will go to extraordinary lengths to save the lives of premature babies such as these, babies born alive during abortions at the same age are left to die.
I asked a nurse at another hospital what they do with their babies that are aborted by saline. Unlike my hospital, where the baby was left alone struggling for breath, their hospital puts the infant in a bucket and puts the lid on. Suffocation! Death by suffocation!”
Supporters of legal abortion are quick to dismiss such heartbreaking anecdotes as addressing circumstances unique to late-term abortions, which they tout as being only a miniscule portion of abortions performed in the US. However, it is a telling observation concerning the entire industry that it has repeatedly opposed all legislation restricting these brutal late-term abortions. In a shocking incident in March, a Planned Parenthood representative from Florida went so far as to voice support for “post-birth abortions.” Fortunately for humanity, the vast number of Americans don’t concur, and the majority seems to be slowly but surely pulling away from this callous attitude.
Last month, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul introduced his long-awaited Life At Conception Act before the US Senate. Such bills have been ridiculed for years as useless, and dismissed as attempts on the part of politicians to pander to the pro-life voting bloc. But, despite the fact that Paul’s Life At Conception Act is unlikely to ever get a vote in the US Senate, there is still something different about this year’s bill.
What’s different is that this year, for the first time since the war on abortion became main-stream in the US, two states have already passed historic legislation stating that life begins at conception and that unborn persons must be afforded all of the rights and protections offered under the US Constitution to all persons.
Just a few years ago, it seemed this kind of legislation could never be passed. Yet Kansas’ bill was signed into law by Governor Sam Brownback last week, a testimony to how much can be done by dedicated activists with science on their side. The new law reads,
"On and after July 1, 2013, the laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development, all the rights, privileges and immunities available to other persons, citizens and residents of this state, subject only to the constitution of the United States, and decisional interpretations thereof by the United States Supreme Court.”
The new law bans abortion providers from providing sex-education materials for schools and from accessing public funds or tax breaks. It also requires doctors to provide material about fetal development and resources to help pregnant women. Additionally, the law bans sex-selective abortions.
North Dakota’s bill has not yet been signed by Governor Dalrymple, but provides for a statewide referendum to be on the ballot in 2014.
Obviously, neither of the bills directly address the issue of banning abortion entirely. Legislators say they are hoping the new language will prompt a lawsuit that will end up at the Supreme Court level and result in the annulment of the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling. That they’ve made it that far is a cause for great jubilation in the ranks of the pro-life movement, and serious consternation among the supporters of legal abortion.(First posted at The Washington Times Communities.)
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)
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.)
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.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus
The RNC Power Grab:
Ignoring GOP injustices makes 'us' as bad as 'them.'
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on September 03, 2012)
GOP Presidential Candidate Ron Paul
Ron Paul is showing remarkable foresight in paving the way for a future generation of liberty people, even as he begins to see the end of his own road in sight
(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 23, 2012)
According to the latest reports, the "liberty man” is not going to be given an official speaking slot at the Republican National Convention in Tampa at the end of the month. Texas congressman Ron Paul is missing from the RNC’s list of announced speakers, The Blaze reported Friday. Although this is hardly an unexpected omission, it has served to heighten the tension surrounding the event. Delegates from all over the country will meet in Florida on August 27th to nominate the Republican Party’s presidential candidate and Barack Obama’s opponent. Paul supporters, which comprise a hefty number of the delegates, will certainly be making their presence felt, as they have been doing for months.
The Ron Paul Campaign has planned a rally to be held on the afternoon of August 26th, with the theme ‘We Are the Future – A Rally for the Liberty Delegates’. Another rally organized by Paul’s supporters will run simultaneously in Tampa. These events are expected to draw huge crowds and put a spotlight on Paul’s gigantic influence, despite the Republican Party’s snub.
Paul supporters, of course, are still holding out for a Ron Paul presidency. Although it’s becoming increasingly likely that the party will nominate Mitt Romney at the convention, it is theoretically possible for Paul’s delegates to pull off a last-minute takeover next week. This possibility may shed some light on the Republican Party’s seemingly dangerous and unwise decision not to humor Paul supporters by giving their spokesman a speaking slot. Perhaps the RNC organizers know that Paul shines on a podium when given a reasonable amount of time to explain his views and that when his remarks are not limited to sound-bite-length statements in a televised debate, his fact-based arguments are fascinatingly convincing.
Paul supporters are weary of seeing their man ignored and cheated out of his votes. Many are fed up with the party and some have taken to wearing buttons which declare boldly, “No One But Paul: good luck winning without us!” They understand something the GOP doesn’t seem to grasp. They have become a massive electoral base, and if they abandon the party this November, Mitt Romney and his supporters will be in a sorry state.
But what about the man himself? Where does Ron Paul come down in all of this confusion? Although he can’t help but be aware of the injustices done to his campaign and of his supporters’ frustration, the congressman is showing remarkable foresight in paving the way for a future generation of liberty people, even as he himself begins to see the end of his own road in sight.
In a message to his supporters, concerning the rally his campaign has planned in Tampa, Paul said, “I’m sure it will not only be a great time, but it will also go a long way to proving you and I are the future of the Republican Party.”
Ron Paul’s dream is to see his supporters take the message of liberty into the heart of the GOP and transform the Republican Party. He wants to see his dedication to fair play, his passion for the Constitution, his commitment to push back on the overreaching US government, and his enmity towards the Federal Reserve reach the utmost corners of the establishment. He wants the Republican Party to radically redefine its idea of government authority.
Paul continues to urge respectful discourse. He know his supporters are inclined to get excited, and he wants them to fight their battles courteously, bearing in mind that kindness and patience are more effective than threats and taunts. He is paving a way for them to take when he is gone. Ron Paul still has hope for the GOP. He has a vision of what the GOP can become.
Paul knows that he won’t be around forever and that unless his supporters can learn how to fiercely guard their principles and at the same time work amiably with the powers that be, they will soon become an irrelevant minority. He understands that they must find a way to keep their passion pure and unadulterated and still show the GOP they can be team players. He understands there is a danger that the movement he has started will die out with him, and he wants his supporters to understand that they will have to move on when he is gone and fight for the truth even without a charismatic and popular leader to unite them. He wants them to carry their values forward even without a nationally recognized spokesperson to lead the charge. Does he hope his followers will one day be able to charge under the banner of the GOP?
Fortunately, the GOP has left some loopholes open for kindly and pleasant discourse with the Paul supporters next week. They have announced that Ron Paul’s son, Sen. Rand Paul will be given a “very prominent speaking place,” and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told Fox News yesterday that Ron Paul supporters are "welcomed with open arms" to the convention.
There are a lot of things that remain to be seen. It remains to be seen whether Paul supporters will embrace the path their leader has paved for them, or whether they will allow their resentment to get the best of them and to choke out the message they bear. Additionally, it remains to be seen whether the liberty people will be able to find enough common ground with the GOP to enable them to get along, as Paul seems to hope they will. “Unity is important but what do we unify behind?” Paul asked a crowd at the Texas Republican State Convention in June, making it clear that he doesn’t advocate giving an inch of the moral high ground. It remains to be seen how the GOP will treat these steadfast and impassioned liberty people.
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
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
Americans are giving up their liberties to the TSA and aren't even getting security in return
(Posted by Bryana Joy on July 10, 2012)
The TSA, which has attracted much attention over the past few years for coercive and idiotic behavior, continues to behave coercively and idiotically. The agency has also added a number of new behaviors to their repertoire, making headline news repeatedly in recent weeks for behaving callously, disrespectfully, inefficiently, and indecently.
Last week, Indianapolis resident John Gross underwent a painful and emotionally exhausting experience at Orlando Airport in Florida when a TSA agent opened the sealed jar containing his grandfather’s ashes and spilled them on the floor of the terminal. Gross says the agent, a woman, spilled up to a third of the contents and then laughed as he frantically tried to pick up the bone fragments. He also later found out that according to TSA's policies, a crematory container in carry-on baggage must pass through the X-ray machine at the security checkpoint but should be opened under "no circumstances."
“I want an apology,” Gross told The Indy Channel. “I want an apology from TSA. I want an apology from the lady who opened the jar and laughed at me. I want them to help me understand where they get off treating people like this." But how can an apology fix a system that flaunts such blatant disregard of privacy rights and human dignity?
In February, a Dallas woman complained when she was told by TSA agents that she had a “cute figure” and was scanned three times by the controversial full-body x-ray machine. According to the rather shocking results of an investigation by CBS 11 in Dallas, the passenger, Ellen Terrell is only one of many women making similar complaints about TSA scanning procedures. Many women say they felt sexually harassed by the agents.
Last year female novelist T.P. Alexanders was arrested for reciting the Constitution of the United States during a TSA inspection at the airport in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She has since been hassled and harried in an alarming manner. In April a disturbing video surfaced revealing a woman sobbing during a pat-down at the airport in Madison, Wisconsin. In May, a new mom was forced to show security her freshly pumped breast milk before she could board a plane with a breast pump. In January, two TSA agents admitted to stealing $40,000 from a checked bag at JFK Airport in New York. In April, a TSA screener admitted to accepting $1,200 in bribes from drug traffickers. In December, rapper Freddie Gibbs claimed he got away with smuggling some marijuana on a flight. The TSA agent who checked his bags left him just a note which read: c’mon son.
You’ve doubtless heard other tales of horror and high surprise: grandmothers in walkers and wheelchairs being strip-searched, infants and toddlers being subjected to lengthy pat-downs, and countless reports of stolen items, from cake to ipads.
Yet another controversy has erupted this week, with passengers displeased by the TSA’s recent decision to randomly test beverages which passengers in the secure area of the airport have purchased in the secure area of the airport. Even travelers who don’t object to the TSA’s other controversial screening measures are confused and disturbed by this new development . "I'm always glad that my safety is a priority, I just think testing drinks after they've already been bought might be a little extreme," Jennifer Smart told radio KJTC8. Passengers want to know just what it is that the TSA is testing for in drinks that come from the secure area of the airport, but the agency has declined to explain themselves.
The TSA is outrageous. And the important factor is they are not outrageous only or even primarily because of outrageous breaches of protocol. They are not outrageous only because they have had the misfortune to hire a ridiculous number of incompetent and even criminal employees. They are not outrageous because these employees violate the agency’s policies on a regular basis. The TSA is outrageous because their policies are intrusive and inappropriate from the get-go.
It is not good enough to have a policy against gratuitous or voyeuristic exploitation of scanner images. The problem lies in the fact that passengers are subjected to this humiliating imaging process in the first place. It is not good enough that the TSA apologizes for employees who make inappropriate comments about passengers’ personal belongings. The problem lies in the fact that these personal items should be scrutinized and uncovered in the first place. The TSA’s arrogant and unconstitutional intrusion into our lives is wrong based on principle, not on individual horror stories – although those horror stories do a lot to demonstrate the consequences of such widespread misappropriation of authority.
Sadly, it appears that Americans are undergoing this degradation to no real purpose. On multiple occasions over the past few years, passengers have accidentally boarded planes or have passed through security with loaded guns in their luggage. ABC News shares some alarming reports of security test failures at major US airports:
“Federal agencies have conducted random, covert ‘red team tests,’ where undercover agents try to see just how much they can get past security checks at major U.S. airports. And while the Department of Homeland Security closely guards the results as classified, those that have leaked in media reports have been shocking. According to one report, undercover TSA agents testing security at a Newark airport terminal on one day in 2006 found that TSA screeners failed to detect concealed bombs and guns 20 out of 22 times. A 2007 government audit leaked to USA Today revealed that undercover agents were successful slipping simulated explosives and bomb parts through Los Angeles's LAX airport in 50 out of 70 attempts, and at Chicago's O'Hare airport agents made 75 attempts and succeeded in getting through undetected 45 times.”
We are trading our privacy, our rights, and our liberty, and we’re not even getting security in return.
We can talk and complain and fume about invasive pat-downs and intrusive baggage checks and naked-body scanners, but unless we actually take action against the tightening noose, all of our anger and our words are wasted. I’m not suggesting a we won’t fly campaign, as we obviously will fly, but something less demanding and perhaps even more effective.
As election season rolls around, it’s a great time to put pressure on candidates and incumbents at all levels of your state and federal government. Perhaps this year you might consider taking time to make a few calls to your representatives and let their offices know exactly how you feel about the TSA and how their stance will affect your vote. Don’t let them get away with stating generically that they oppose the agency, but ask them what they’ve done to curtail it and how they plan to fight it in the future. It’s very painless to make these calls and you will probably speak with a sympathetic and polite secretary who will do his or her best to help you. There are a number of tools online to help you find out who represents you.
Unfortunately, the furor and the uproar over the TSA’s overreach has not been sustainable. People have to fly. They have to work. They have to see their aging parents and grandparents, go to funerals and weddings, and take vacations. It’s unrealistic to expect them not to. It is not, however, unrealistic to ask them to object and to do it courageously and regularly. America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. We all fight tyranny in different ways, but the important thing is: are we fighting it, or are we just complaining?
Trayvon Martin, victim of February 26th shooting incident
"What’s special about him is that the newsmakers have latched onto his story, & insist on hashing out every little nano-second of intonation in the small amount of data available"
(Posted by Bryana Joy on April 25, 2012)
On Saturday night a man was beaten up so badly by a mob of African-Americans that he’s in critical condition today. Witnesses say that as the attackers walked away, one of them remarked, “now that’s justice for Trayvon Martin.”
A few days ago, painter Michael D’Antuono sparked outrage with his painting, A Tale of Two Hoodies, which depicts Trayvon Martin as a small child extending a bag of candy to a gun-wielding officer in a KKK mask. Martin’s package of sweets is labeled share size, implying that he’s offering the other to partake of them. The officer is shown aiming his weapon at the infantilized Martin’s skull.
It is not my intention, however, to dwell on any of these rather disturbing incidents, or to analyze the role of celebrity support for Martin in the resulting conflicts, or to point out the fact that President Obama should be expected to make a statement condemning the violence that has occurred in retaliation against George Zimmerman, but to ask the real question, and the one that is not being asked by enough people: what’s so special about Trayvon Martin? And why has his story claimed so much of our lives?
It should be over by now – the public’s fascination with the crime scene and their outrage over the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26. It’s been almost two months, after all. And in that time period there have been almost 2000 gun-related homicides in the US. What’s so special about Trayvon Martin?
What’s special about him is that the newsmakers have latched onto his story, and insist on hashing out every little nano-second of intonation in the small amount of data that is available.
As a proud television non-owner, I acquire my understanding of current events through the medium of internet. I have no patience with commercials and I enjoy having the freedom to choose to read about the stories that interest me and that I consider significant, rather than relying on the altruism and qualifications of the talking heads. Consequently, throughout the first month of the duration on the Trayvon Martin saga, although I was cursorily aware of the incident, having read several stories concerning it, I failed to understand what had prompted this one tragic event to skyrocket to the top of trending search-engine terms lists, and to make out of every social network account-owner a fiercely opinionated political enthusiast.
In the last week of March, my eyes were opened when I stayed for several days in the home of some friends who owned a television and ended up watching the brief clip of George Zimmerman entering the police station at least 100 times.
You know the one: he walks into the police station.
And then again. And then again. And then again. And then again. And then again. And all the while some bright-eyed young person in a suit stares straight at the camera and tries to speak animatedly about the month-old story and the skittles and the absence of blood on Zimmerman’s scalp in the 5 seconds of evidence that is available.
But it isn’t like that when you’re seeing it on the screen. When the actual images are flashing before you and the music is playing and the reporters are giving you the run-down in very official-sounding voices, an illusion is spun around the case that makes every solitary viewer feel like his knowledge of the Trayvon Martin story has plugged him into some huge, pulsing organism of national furor. The spin has given viewers the illusion of a cause, of something to stand up for. It has been seized upon by the major media networks not only as an opportunity to promote their particular ideologies, but also to hold the attention of the people of the United States.
The newsmaking establishment has spun us another distraction. Our job as citizens is to figure out what they want to distract us from.
Citizens of the United States, let’s get on it.
Russian police officer detains man in bridal gown during gay rights protest in Moscow.
New St. Petersburg law bans homosexual propaganda in public places, US State Department bullies Russia
(Posted by Bryana Joy on March 22, 2012)
Controversy erupted last week when a Russian city adopted a new policy designed to protect young people from exposure to propaganda by homosexual rights groups. On March 7th, St. Petersburg Gov. Georgy Poltavchenko signed into a law a bill that will fine individuals up to $170 and companies up to $17,000 for violating a ban on "public actions aimed at propagandizing sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, and transgenderism among minors.” The new St Petersburg law also includes amendments introducing stricter punishments for pedophilia, which is commonly associated with homosexuality.
The Russian Orthodox Church has applauded the recent legislation and is calling for a similar nationwide ban to be enacted. Dmitry Pershin, head of the Church’s youth council, praised the St Petersburg law for “ helping to protect children from information manipulation by minorities that promote sodomy,” and said that, “the persistence of sexual minorities and their intention to rally near children’s establishments indicate that this regional law is highly needed and should be urgently given federal status,” referring to homosexualist activist Nikolay Alexeyev’s stated intention to organize rallies near children’s establishments to protest the new law.
Naturally, gay rights groups are unhappy and clamoring for redress against the government in St. Petersburg. The activist organization All Out, which succeeded last year in getting Paypal to shut down blogger Julio Severo’s account and suspend his funds, is crying foul and calling the law a “gag rule” that “muzzles artists, writers, musicians, citizens and visitors.” They have launched a campaign, We Won’t Go There, and are threatening to boycott travel to the Russian city.
Oddly enough, another institution has joined them in expressing disapproval, the State Department. “ Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights,” states the official website for the State Department, quoting Secretary Hillary Clinton. “We have called on Russian officials to safeguard these freedoms, and to foster an environment which promotes respect for the rights of all citizens. We have also consulted with our EU partners on this issue. They share our concerns and are also engaging Russian officials on this. The United States places great importance on combating discrimination against the LGBT community and all minority groups.”
Russia did not take kindly to the US government’s interference. " We view with bewilderment the American side's attempts to interfere, what's more, publicly, in the lawmaking process," foreign ministry representative for human rights, Konstantin Dolgov, told the Interfax news agency, adding that there is “absolutely no discrimination by Russian law in the application of civil, political, social, economic and cultural human rights, including on grounds of sexual orientation.”
Dolgov went on to explain that, “ the legislative initiatives of the regional bodies of authority…are intended to protect minors from the respective propaganda …Of course, the decision took into account the traditional cultural and moral values prevalent in Russian society, considerations of the protection of health and public morality, and the inadmissibility of discrimination through the encouragement of the rights and interests of one social group without proper regard for the rights and interests of others.”
It turns out that Dolgov has been well-informed. As shocking as it may seem to Secretary Clinton, Russians, by and large, don’t like public displays of homosexuality and many believe homosexual acts to be immoral and unhealthy. A 2010 poll by the independent Levada Center in Moscow found that 74 percent of Russians regard homosexuality as a result of bad moral choices. Is it right for our State Department to pressure the Russian government to go against the will of its people?
If the Russian government were, in fact, violating human rights, the answer would certainly be yes. However, the bottom line is that while freedom of speech, property rights, the right to a fair trial, freedom from unwarranted violence, freedom from involuntary servitude, etc. are human rights, freedom of sexual expression in public thoroughfares and in the presence of children is not, and categorizing it as such is a trivialization of the real human rights abuses and injustices enacted every day across the globe.
“Keep the government out of the bedroom!” has become a favorite slogan of pro-choice and gay rights activists, who are irritated by what they see as excessive legislation of sexual activity. The Russian government has obliged and has withdrawn from the afore-mentioned bedroom. Now, however, these activists are no longer content with confining their controversies to the bedroom, but continue to insist on dragging them out for public display. The issue is that much of what they wish to flaunt is not at all suitable for public display in the first place.
Are gay rights human rights? Only insofar as they are the same rights afforded to everyone else.
Thus, while the rights of gay people to be given equal protection under law are human rights, their “rights” to put on sexually explicit parades in public places or to indoctrinate children against the wishes of their parents, are not rights at all.
(First posted in Bryana's column over at The Washington Times Communities)