Pregnant Nurse Refuses Flu Vaccine, Loses Job

A Pennsylvania nurse faced a choice: Accept a mandatory flu vaccine in order to comply with workplace policy at Lancaster General Hospital, or decline the vaccine and be at ease that she wasn’t doing anything to endanger her pregnancy — after two previous miscarriages.

She chose not to receive the vaccine, and she was fired. She told her employers she was happy to wear a mask while interacting with patients, but that was, for the hospital, an unacceptable alternative.

Dreonna Breton, 29, had worked at the hospital for five years. In the past year, she’s had two miscarriages, and she didn’t want to introduce any complications into her current pregnancy by injecting her body with anything extraneous to her pregnancy until after her child is born.

“It’s frustrating to me to be forced to do something that you’re not comfortable with,” Breton told CBS Baltimore. “The known risks are low. I understand that. But there are still risks.”

The American College of Obstetricians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend flu vaccinations for expecting mothers as a safe preventive for both mother and unborn child.

But Breton said having control over how she brought her baby to term is more important than jumping through hoops for the sake of her current job.

“I’m not worried. I’m not worried because I know I did the right thing for me,” she said.

She told the local TV station she has no plans to sue to win back her job. She just wants hospitals to think about how their blanket policies can affect the freedom of their employees — many of whom are medically trained — to make their own healthcare choices.

New Year, New Laws

Are you ready to greet 2014 with more government? Not surprisingly, the government is. From municipalities to States to the whole Nation, plenty of new laws and policy tweaks will be in effect by the time you read this. Will any of them affect you?

In the case of Obamacare’s fines for not signing up for insurance, it’s hard to say. Jan. 1 was supposed to have been the deadline to enroll for coverage, via Healthcare.gov, in order to have insurance that lasts the whole year. Penalties assessed by the Internal Revenue Service against eligible citizens’ tax refunds (there’s technically no provision to enforce the penalty against anyone who actually owes the government money) were not to be levied unless holdouts aren’t enrolled by April 1. Here’s how that penalty is supposed to be assessed.

But with President Barack Obama applying the King’s quill to one Obamacare change after another, it’s not clear whether anyone will even face a penalty — or, as the Supreme Court calls it, a “tax” — this election year.

Obamacare is easily the most far-ranging new law that (sort of) kicks in this year. But others are at least interesting, even when they aren’t controversial.

CNN compiled a sampler of other new laws rung in by the New Year: some quirky, some that vastly overreach the Constitutional powers of the state. Nearly all are completely unnecessary.

Connecticut, for example, is now forcing people who buy State-defined “assault weapons” and high-capacity mags onto a State registry.

California is expanding SNAP (food stamp) eligibility to “homeless youth,” striking down a standing minimum wage stipulation. And kids in California can now use whichever bathroom they want at school, regardless of their anatomy.

New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and California are all hiking the mandatory minimum wage.

There are a few positive signs at the State level, though.

Arkansas joins the ranks of States requiring voter ID. Oregon is prohibiting employers from forcing their workers to share personal passwords for their social media accounts. And Illinois has made it illegal for law enforcement to deploy search drones without obtaining a warrant. Also in Illinois, drones can’t be used to mess with outdoorsmen in the field — a reaction to a plan by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to monitor hunters through something it had dubbed the “Air Angels” program.

Are there any local laws, new or old, that drive you crazy? There are a lot of strange things on the books, especially at the State and municipal level, that seem absurd to people who live elsewhere. A few of them seem absurd to the people who have to live with them.

Share your dumb local laws with your fellow readers in the comments. If you really have a stinker, go ahead and drop us a line at newstips@personalliberty.com.

2013: The Year Of Too Many Cops Doing Too Many Bad Things

This may have been the year the police state topped itself for abuse of power and double standards. We’ve reported this year on plenty of outrageous crimes for which cops have received little or no punishment, but there were too many cases of cop abuse this year to stay on top of in real time.

Take the case of Milwaukee officer Michael Vagnini, who was sentenced to 26 months in prison earlier this year for conducting a series of illegal strip searches over the course of at least two years. The searches involved anal probing, willful humiliation and genital fondling; and a series of lawsuits filed by the victims allege far worse.

Vignini’s family thinks the sentence is too harsh, but the victims’ attorneys can’t believe two years is all he got.

Vagnini pleaded no contest in April to four felony charges of misconduct in public office, as well as to four misdemeanor charges for conducting illegal strip searches, in exchange for prosecutors’ dropping of seven counts of sexual abuse against him. He, along with three other officers, had all been placed on suspension with pay for their involvement in the ring of illegal searches, but Vagnini’s participation — along with the fact that all the victims are black — provided the common threads that ran through each incident.

Cavity searches in Wisconsin cannot be done by police officers — only medical professionals under the sanction of a search warrant.

Vagnini’s abusive behavior may have begun before 2008, when anecdotal complaints of illegal searches began coming in to the Milwaukee Police Department; but the department began investigating the allegations in 2010. Court documents reveal that he would initiate contact with his targets by pulling them over on probable cause for not wearing a seat belt or having windows with illegal tinting.

Then, according to a summary of lawsuits filed against Vagnini, he’d start “searching.” From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Robert Mann, 55, contends that Police Officer Michael Vagnini stopped him as he was walking near N. 31st St. and Atkinson Ave. in June 2011 and without probable cause, pulled down Mann’s pants and put his hand in Mann’s rectum “in an unsafe, unhygienic, and intentionally humiliating fashion.”

No drugs were recovered from Mann.

[A] juvenile, identified as K.F., was 15 when he was riding in a friend’s car that was stopped by police on N. 26th St. in December 2011. According to the suit, he was ordered out of the car before Vagnini reached into the teen’s pants, touching his genitalia and his anus while Police Officer Jacob Knight watched.

No drugs were found, but K.F. was still taken to a police station and cited for an ordinance violation. The suit does not specify the violation.

In July 2009, Chavies Hoskin, 28, was stopped while driving on N. 13th St. Vagnini reached into Hoskin’s pants and pulled a bag with cocaine from Hoskin’s anal area, while Sgt. Jason Mucha and Officer Thomas Maglio watched.

Hoskin was charged with delivery of cocaine. His suit contends that the officers lied in reports, and that Vagnini also falsely testified under oath about how and where he found the cocaine.

Because Vagnini avoided sexual abuse charges, he does not have to register as a sex offender. The other three officers, whom the investigation deemed to have only assisted while Vagnini performed the cavity searches, got fines and community service.

“[W]hy should twisted individuals get lighter sentences for these acts due to their wearing a badge and a uniform?” asks watchdog website Police State USA. “If a gang of strange men approaches a person, accosts them, threatens them with violence, detains them against their will, and penetrates their orifices with parts of their bodies, that should be considered rape or sexual assault, and those involved should be considered accomplices.  That’s what would happen to a normal person without a badge.  ‘Official misconduct’ is only the tip of the iceberg for these monsters.”

Maybe so. Nevertheless, 26 months is apparently a devastating sentence for Vagnini’s family, who packed the courtroom awaiting the June ruling. “His wife broke down sobbing when Circuit Judge Jeffrey Wagner finally announced the sentence at the end of the two-hour hearing, and Vagnini was led away in handcuffs,” the Journal Sentinel reported.

H/T: The Daily Caller

Grudging Harvard Prof: Tea Party Is Here To Stay

Despite all the mainstream media punditry that’s ready to shovel dirt over the casket of grass-roots conservatism and truly liberal (as opposed to radical progressive) thought, at least one Harvard professor thinks the Tea Party isn’t going away anytime soon.

Harvard sociology professor Theda Skocpol actually believes Americans are more fed up today with the ossified stubbornness of the political class than they were in 2007, when “Tea Party” became a household phrase.

It’s clear from the tone of his article that Skopcol is anything but an apologist for conservative values (he calls sequestration “draconian budget cuts,” conservatives “saboteurs” and Ted Cruz “arrogant”), but she sees the future written in Americans’ present disgust with the government they have now:

Americans may resent the Tea Party, but they are also losing ever more faith in the federal government—a big win for anti-government saboteurs.

Then she ponders how to be rid of “the damage the Tea Party is inflicting on American politics” and faces some realities that, though she laments them, are hard to ignore:

For one, at least three successive national election defeats will be necessary to even begin to break the determination and leverage of Tea Party adherents. Grassroots Tea Partiers see themselves in a last-ditch effort to save “their country,” and big-money ideologues are determined to undercut Democrats and sabotage active government. They are in this fight for the long haul. Neither set of actors will stand down easily or very soon.

Also worth remembering is that “moderate Republicans” barely exist right now. Close to two-thirds of House Republicans voted against bipartisan efforts to reopen the federal government and prevent U.S. default on loan obligations, and [John] Boehner has never repudiated such extortionist tactics. Tea Partiers may not call for another shutdown right away, but they will continue to be able to draw most GOP legislators and leaders into aggressive efforts to obstruct and delay. In the electorate, moreover, more than half of GOP voters sympathize with the Tea Party and cheer on obstructionist tactics, and the remaining Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are disorganized and divided in their views of the likes of Ted Cruz.

…Finally, Democrats need to get over thinking that opinion polls and media columns add up to real political gains. Once the October 2013 shutdown ended in supposed total victory for President Obama and his party, many Democrats adopted a cocky swagger and started talking about ousting the House GOP in 2014. But a clear-eyed look shows that Tea Party obstruction remains powerful and has achieved victories that continue to stymie Democratic efforts to govern effectively — a necessary condition for Democrats to win enthusiastic, sustained voter support for the future, including in midterm elections.

Those pesky obstructionists! If only they’d allow Democrats to “govern effectively.”

Of course, those who watched Democrats shut down the government, blame the Tea Party, and then proceed not only to get everything they wanted in the first place – but to rewrite the rules of Senate procedure to their benefit – see a very different set of political motivations than the ones Skopcol sees.

It’s almost as if, grudgingly, progressives are already trying to take control of the narrative for the kind of political fight they’re (finally) realizing they’re doomed to face in the years ahead.

Run On Guns In California As New Registry Deadline Approaches

California residents are lining up to beat a new ban on unregistered shotguns and rifles, as a 2011 law that creates a State registry for long guns is set to go into effect at the start of the new year.

The law basically treats all long guns sold after Jan. 1, 2014 as handguns. It was passed in a legislative session that also saw the revocation of any form of open carry statewide.

Currently, California handgun owners must register their weapons in a statewide database. But starting next week, owners of long guns must do the same.

As 2013 draws to a close, CBS Sacramento reports that California residents are racing to stores in the hope of acquiring long-barreled firearms before the law requires them to join the ranks of registered gun owners:

Even though the law is at least temporarily boosting his bottom line, Just Guns owner John Deaser isn’t a fan. He says requiring people to register their rifles and shotguns is an unnecessary invasion of privacy.

In the last week of 2013, he says sales of long guns are up 30 to 50 percent.

The new registry ends California gun dealers’ standing practice of destroying the records of their customers as soon as they’ve cleared a background check. It also means that guns currently in existence, including heirloom weapons that have been handed down from one generation of family members to the next, will have to be registered for the first time when they next change hands.

The new State registry will record the make, model and serial number of every firearm owned or purchased in California; and gun owners must voluntarily report any transfer of ownership to the State.

Say Goodbye To Incandescent Bulbs As Government Ban Takes Effect

A law signed by President George W. Bush is set to enter its final phase in a long-term plan by Congress to phase the simple incandescent light bulb out of existence. Starting in 2014, you won’t be able to legally get your hands on household 60-watt and 40-watt incandescent bulbs.

Some artists, architects, photographers and people who do specialized work in medicine, engineering, research and other demanding fields prefer incandescent bulbs for the quality or the stability of the light they produce, despite their relative inefficiency compared to fluorescent and LED bulbs. Others question the benefit of alternatives to incandescent bulbs in saving energy or preventing environmental damage.

Standards outlined in the Energy Independence and Security Act, which Bush signed in 2007, make it illegal to manufacture or import 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs into the United States after Dec. 31 of this year, leaving it up to stores to sell off what they have left. Those same standards have already phased out the 100-watt bulb (in 2012) and 75-watt bulbs (this year).

And while the change was set in place in the name of conservation, critics argue Congress and the President ignored the role of free choice when they agreed to limit American consumers’ options. If the incandescent bulb is so bad, they argue, the free market will eventually drive them into marginal use anyway — just as film cameras still exist, but have been roundly eclipsed by digital cameras in the hands of average consumers.

According to The Heritage Foundation, the flap over phasing out incandescent bulbs reflects the government’s increasingly statist role in tinkering with even the smallest choices of American citizens:

Proponents of government-imposed efficiency standards and regulations will say, “So what? There are still plenty of lighting options on the shelves at Home Depot; we’re saving families money; and we’re reducing harmful climate change emissions.”

The “so what” is that the federal government is taking decisions out of the hands of families and businesses, destroying jobs, and restricting consumer choice in the market. We all have a wide variety of preferences regarding light bulbs. It is not the role of the federal government to override those preferences with what it believes is in our best interest.

Families understand how energy costs impact their lives and make decisions accordingly. Energy efficiency has improved dramatically over the past six decades — long before any national energy efficiency mandates.

If families and firms are not buying the most energy-efficient appliance or technology, it is not that they are acting irrationally; they simply have budget constraints or other preferences such as comfort, convenience, and product quality. A family may know that buying an energy-efficient product will save them money in the long term, but they have to prioritize their short-term expenses. Those families operating from paycheck to paycheck may want to opt for a cheaper light bulb and more food instead of a more expensive light bulb and less food.

Some may read this and think: Chill out — it’s just a light bulb. But it’s not just a light bulb. Take a look at the Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program. Basically anything that uses electricity or water in your home or business is subject to an efficiency regulation.

When the market drives energy efficiency, it saves consumers money. The more the federal government takes away decisions that are better left to businesses and families, the worse off we’re going to be.

Rural Oregon Residents Organize Community Patrols To Offset Lapsed Sheriff’s Coverage

Regular readers of Personal Liberty Digest™ may recall a May story that described what can happen when people are confronted by the reality that the police provide neither blanket preventive protection, nor an instant recourse, against crime. Crime is unpredictable by nature, typically affecting people when criminals know their targets are at their most vulnerable. And that’s a fact no amount of police coverage will ever change.

When a woman in rural Josephine County, Ore., called 911 to send a deputy to help fend off an ex-boyfriend who ultimately entered her home and attacked her, the dispatcher told her: “Uh, I don’t have anybody to send out there.” The attacker didn’t kill the woman, but he did hurt her. The cops later caught up with him and arrested him for kidnapping, sex abuse and assault.

That attack came at a time when the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office had laid off 23 deputies, closed its Major Crimes Unit and slashed its in-service patrolling hours to eight-hour weekdays. Budget cuts from the termination of Federal timber subsidies, which had long helped fund the sheriff’s office, had forced the sheriff’s office to make the cuts. Residents had already voted down an additional ad valorem tax, leaving the county with no other option.

In the wake of that decimation, former law enforcement officials in the area decided to come up with a stopgap solution. It’s not one that will prevent imminent crimes from occurring, but it could sanction the popular acceptance of a do-it-yourself ethic — one that encourages people to view personal protection as an individual responsibility, and not the sole task of cash-strapped, far-flung rural sheriff’s offices.

From a FOX News report Thursday:

Ken Selig — who was the longest-serving law enforcement officer in all three local agencies when he was forced to retire from the department due to cuts — told FoxNews.com he found the sheriff’s declaration unacceptable. And he felt compelled to guard his community’s vulnerable members.

“Who else is going to protect you when your government can’t?” Selig said.

Over the objections of county officials, who viewed the ad valorem increase as the only viable solution, Selig and a friend created the North Valley Community Watch, a grass-roots crime-fighting organization that covers all of Josephine County and recruits residents to participate in monthly training sessions that focus on personal safety. The group has about 100 members, as well as a smaller, 12-member response unit that will respond at the scene of any non-life-threatening situation. (The group is still leaving life-threatening response scenarios to the sheriff’s office in order to avoid the wrath of the sheriff’s office, but the response team does carry firearms.)

Selig doesn’t claim that the watch group — one of several similar groups that have emerged to address the lapse in law enforcement coverage — is a cure-all, or that it can miraculously stop crime before it starts. But he does believe that citizen involvement makes a big difference in changing the culture of dependency on the state for personal protection — a culture in which criminals thrive.

“We believe responsible citizens doing responsible things make it hard for criminals to do irresponsible things,” he told FOX News.

Ohio State Senator Caves On Controversial Home School Law

You may have seen our recent story about a controversial Ohio proposal to regulate who can and can’t home school their children by submitting parents to a background check process.

That bill, introduced by Democratic Ohio State Senator Capri Carafo, was informally known as “Teddy’s Law” in commemoration of a home-schooled child who was beaten to death at home by his mother’s abusive boyfriend.

The proposal generated a lot of controversy, with home schooling advocates decrying a new State intervention in their domestic affairs as the “worst-ever home school law;” an idea “breathtakingly onerous in its scope.” The pressure quickly got to Carafo.

By the time our report on “Teddy’s Law” went live, Cafaro had already withdrawn the bill. The State Senator announced late last week her intent to pull Ohio SB 248, saying the passions it brought out in people demonstrate there’s more to consider about the rights of parents to decide what’s best for their children than her bill was intended to address.

“SB 248 was never meant to be a policy debate about educating children in the home,” Cafaro said. “It was meant to address weaknesses in the law pertaining to child protection. Unfortunately, the true intent of the bill to curtail child abuse has been eclipsed by the issue of home schooling… After consultation with Teddy’s family, we have collectively decided the best course of action is for me to withdraw SB 248, and instead pursue a more comprehensive approach to address the current challenges in the state’s social service and criminal justice system.”

Cafaro also pledged not to include any language in future child-protection proposals that would single out home schooling for special government scrutiny.

 

Report: More Than Half Of Counties Covered By Healthcare.gov Can’t Afford Obamacare’s ‘Affordable’ Prices

A USA Today report Thursday shows that the Affordable Care Act is anything but affordable in more than half of the counties in the 34 States where eligible buyers must purchase insurance through Healthcare.gov, the Federal government’s online insurance marketplace.

According to the analysis, more than half of the counties on the exchange don’t even offer customers a basic bronze-level health care plan. Among the color tiers that denote insurance plans that run the gamut from affordable to luxurious, the low-tier bronze plans are regarded as the cheapest, in part because they require higher copays and have higher maximum payout limits that customers must meet each year before the insurance plan kicks in.

“More than half of the counties in 34 states using the federal health insurance exchange lack even a bronze plan that’s affordable — by the government’s own definition — for 40-year-old couples who make just a little too much for financial assistance,” the piece reports:

Many of these counties are in rural, less populous areas that already had limited choice and pricey plans, but many others are heavily populated, such as Bergen County, N.J., and Philadelphia and Milwaukee counties.

More than a third don’t offer an affordable plan in the four tiers of coverage known as bronze, silver, gold or platinum for people buying individual plans who are 50 or older and ineligible for subsidies.

…”The ACA was not designed to reduce costs or, the law’s name notwithstanding, to make health insurance coverage affordable for the vast majority of Americans,” says health care consultant Kip Piper, a former government and insurance industry official. “The law uses taxpayer dollars to lower costs for the low-income uninsured but it also increases costs overall and shifts costs within the marketplace.”

The newspaper considered whether premiums for the most affordable insurance plan, at any “color” level, amounted to more than 8 percent of an eligible customer’s annual household income – a method similar to that employed by the government to calculate whether people are eligible to opt out of buying coverage under Obamacare based on their ability to cover the cost of the premiums they’d have to pay.

“[T]he analysis clearly shows how the sticker shock hitting many in the middle class, including the self-employed and early retirees, isn’t just a perception problem,” the paper found. “The lack of counties with affordable plans means many middle-class people will either opt out of insurance or pay too much to buy it.”

Democrats’ Greatest Hits: A 2013 Video Retrospective (Now Send Us Your Favorites)

The Washington Free Beacon has put together a video montage of the stupidest things that Democrats have said in 2013, drawing from the oratories of leftist talking heads, elected officials and Obama Administration appointees to compile a train wreck of gaffes, dissemblings and bone-headed obfuscations.

Our favorite is State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki telling the AP in August that “there was a determination made that we need to — not need to make a designation” over whether the U.S. would regard the ouster of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi as a coup d’état. It’s almost painful to watch Obama’s staffers die inside, little by little, each time they attempt to maintain dignity while telling mind-bendingly absurd lies that hew to the party line.

But there’ll always be a special place in our hearts for Vice President Joe Biden’s “boom!” pantomime in January, when he stood up in front of a bunch of mayors at a Washington, D.C. conference, put on his best wooden-toothed grin, and pretended to shoulder-fire his most beloved 2nd-Amendment-approved weapon: the humble 12-gauge.

What do you think? Did they miss any other silly sayings from Democrats in 2013?

Hey, while you’re at it, give us your favorite (or least favorite) one-liners from Republicans as well. We’ll put them in a separate, year-end post if we get some quality submissions.

Send your favorite political bloviating moments from 2013 to newstips@personalliberty.com and use “Dumb Politicians” in the subject line.

Just be sure to indicate whether you’d like to remain anonymous, be credited by name, or be credited with your nickname. And, of course, you’ve got to provide us with a link to your source.

H/T: The Washington Free Beacon