Dallas Communities Eye Free Guns For Protection Via Armed Citizen Project

Last week, we told you about the expansion into Tucson, Ariz., of the Armed Citizen Project (ACP), a private, Houston-based gun distribution and training program for residents living in high-crime areas.

Now the program is set to launch in North Texas, where receptive residents in and around Dallas can qualify to receive a free shotgun for personal protection after they’ve completed a safety course and demonstrated they’ve lived at the same address for at least a year.

In addition to providing a free shotgun for qualifying citizens, ACP also hopes to keep track of crime statistics in areas where the free guns have been in use — and then use those numbers to compare crime in gun-rich areas with crime in areas where gun-control restrictions prevail.

ACP has gained in popularity as news of its mission has gotten out, and the organization’s website states the free gun program is establishing a footprint in other cities — ones where the outcomes could make for some very interesting comparative studies. In addition to Houston, Tucson, Dallas and Indianapolis, ACP is also working to deploy in Detroit, New York and — perhaps most interestingly — Chicago.

Democrats Want To Force Gun Insurance, Saudi Women On Bikes, Texas Governor Digs In Over Obamacare, L.A. Wages War On Gridlock, There’s Gold In Them Thar Hills: Tuesday Morning News Roundup 4-2-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Texas Governor Rick Perry is still holding out on his State’s anticipated acceptance of nearly $100 billion in Federal health insurance funds, sticking to his long-standing pledge not to make Texas a “hostage” of the Federal government by accepting the terms of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

 

  • Some Congressional Democrats are pushing to make a Federal gun-control law that would force any gun owner who doesn’t take out liability insurance pay the government a $10,000 fine. You’ll know it as the “Firearm Risk Protection Act” when the TV talking heads start chattering.

 

  • Women are being allowed to ride bikes openly under a kinder, gentler interpretation of Saudi Islamic law. They can do it only for fun — not to actually go anywhere — and they have to be covered from head to toe. And they have to have a male relative with them at all times while pedaling about. (How does that work?) And they still can’t drive.

 

  • City life: Los Angeles has somehow managed to synchronize every single one of its traffic signals in an effort to reduce the city’s legendary gridlock.

 

  • A New Mexico man has left treasure in the ground in the mountains north of Santa Fe. If it actually contains gold, maybe it’s worth looking for right about now.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

No Fooling: President Declares April ‘Financial Capability’ Month

President Barack Obama has issued a proclamation declaring April “National Financial Capability Month,” urging individuals and families to become more conscientious about how they manage their personal budgets.

The proclamation states the Administration’s conviction that there’s “no economic engine more powerful than the middle class,” and refers would-be home economists to two government websites, mymoney.gov and consumerfinance.gov, to help them attain greater “financial literacy.”

The apparent lack of ironic intent on the part of the Administration for selecting April, of all months, as a time to encourage Americans to do not as the President does, but as he says, was quickly seized upon by one Internet site after another, after another.

Some snippets from the President’s proclamation:

During National Financial Capability Month, we recommit to empowering individuals and families with the knowledge and tools they need to get ahead in today’s economy.

My Administration is dedicated to helping people make sound decisions in the marketplace…

…Together, we can prepare young people to tackle financial challenges — from learning how to budget responsibly to saving for college, starting a business, or opening a retirement account.

Of course, there’s no point in the President issuing a proclamation on personal finance without throwing in a little regressive economics:

We also know that too many families are living paycheck-to-paycheck, unable to take advantage of tools that would help them plan for a middle class life. That is why we must build ladders of opportunity for everyone willing to climb them – from a fair minimum wage that lifts working Americans out of poverty to high-quality preschool and early education that gets every child on the right track early. These reforms would encourage the kind of broad-based economic growth that gives everyone a better chance to secure their financial future.

CNS News nicely parsed the absurd irony of this President entreating Americans to live by the basic financial principles that no one in the White House (and few in Congress) have managed to apply toward government borrowing and spending. The national debt has increased by $53,377 per household. It’s increased more than $6 trillion, up from $10 trillion in 2009 to $16 trillion today. And the President still hasn’t submitted a fiscal year 2014 budget.

Poll Finds Most Religious U.S. Cities Vote With GOP, Least Religious With Democrats

A poll released last week links Americans’ measure of religious devotion with geography, noting a clear pattern shared among the Nation’s most-religious (and least-religious) cities.

The Gallup poll, which ranks residents of America’s metropolitan areas from most religious to least, noted the majority of areas where people strongly identify with religion lie predominantly in the South, as well as in Mormon-dominated Utah.

The Provo-Orem, Utah, metro area topped the list, with more than 77 percent of residents who responded identifying themselves as “highly religious” and only 12 percent claiming they are “not religious.” Following Provo as “highly religious” cities are Montgomery, Ala. (64 percent); Jackson, Miss. (63 percent); Birmingham-Hoover, Ala. (56 percent); and Huntsville, Ala. (55 percent).

Other Southern cities also approached the top of the list, including metro areas in South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina. Only one Northern metro — Holland-Grand Haven, Mich. — was listed among the top 10.

For purposes of the survey, “highly religious” means respondents attend worship services weekly or almost weekly.

By contrast, Northern and Western cities abound on the bottom of the chart, with Burlington-South Burlington, Vt., claiming the fewest respondent — 17 percent — who identify themselves as “highly religious,” followed closely by Boulder, Colo. (17 percent); Manchester-Nashua, N.H. (21 percent); Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, Maine (21 percent); and Santa Rosa-Petaluma, Calif. (23 percent). The metro areas of San Francisco; Eugene, Ore.; Boston; Bremerton, Wash.; and Albany, N.Y., rounded out the bottom 10.

Using the poll’s numbers, it’s simple to relate so-called “religious” areas with residents’ mainstream political leanings, as CNS News has done:

The poll results show that the states with the 10 least religious metro-areas went to Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, while nine of the 10 most religious metro-areas were in states that went to Republican Mitt Romney.

In the bottom five cities on the list — plus San Francisco; Bremerton; Springfield, Mass.; and Bellingham, Wash. — more than 50 percent of those surveyed indicated they were “not religious” at all.

Taken in the context of another Gallup survey done in late 2012, it’s apparent that more Americans identify culturally with religion — primarily Catholicism or Protestant Christianity — than actually practice it in their daily lives. However, the survey does seem to indicate that such a strong cultural connection to Christianity is closely linked with conservative voting patterns in mainstream national politics.

Another Country Jumps Ship On U.S. Dollar For Chinese Bilateral Trade

China and Australia have entered into an agreement that will allow for the direct converting of the Australian dollar to the Chinese Yuan, in the process cutting the U.S. Dollar’s present status as a reserve currency out of the conversion process.

The move makes Australia, already a major consumer of Chinese goods, the first non-BRICS Nation to agree to buy and sell directly with China in its native currency. It differs from previous bilateral economic agreements between China and other countries, which thus far have provided for currency swaps, but never a direct conversion from a trading partner’s currency to the Yuan.

Instead, the U.S. Dollar has stood as the reserve currency for Chinese trading relationships with other countries – although China’s push to supplant the Dollar with its own currency in bilateral trade agreements is gradually marginalizing the Dollar’s status, as this Zero Hedge article details.

Study Reveals U.S. Schools Used To Do More With Less

Since the 1950s, public schools in the United States have seen their administrative rosters swell more than sevenfold, while their success at educating students has proportionately declined.

That fact, likely intuited by many who remember an era when American education was a lot more personal and a lot less bureaucratic, was revealed last month in Part Two of an ongoing study by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

Entitled “The School Staffing Surge,” the report notes that faculty employment numbers have so greatly exceeded the growth in public schools’ overall student population that schools seem now as equally obligated to cater to teacher demands as they are required to educate students.

Between 1950 and 2009, the number of public school children attending grades K-12 grew by 96 percent, while the number of full-time employees at public schools grew by 386 percent.

Amazingly, the study learned that “administrators and other non-teaching staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students” during that same time period.

At the same time, the study found that kids haven’t benefited in proportion with that kind of increase in teachers and administrators:

[T]he increases in public school employment since 1992 do not appear to have had any positive returns to students as measured by test scores and graduation rates. Some likely will try to cherry-pick an individual state and point out that a particular measure of student achievement increased at the same time that public school employment grew dramatically; however, such an approach is misleading because, across all states, public school employment surged, while student achievement did not measurably increase. If student achievement increased in a certain state, why did it not increase—or why did it decrease—in other states when public school employment increased?

…One should ask whether the significant resources used to finance employment increases could have been spent better elsewhere.

Friedman Institute fellow Benjamin Scafidi, who authored the report, called for a new approach (or, perhaps, a return to old ones) in revising the inefficient and still-accelerating administrative bloat in public education, noting the “burden of proof is now on those who still want to maintain or even increase the dramatically larger staffing levels in public schools.”

Rand Calls Gun-Hating Celebs’ Use Of Armed Security ‘Hypocrisy’

Famous people who back gun control are being hypocritical when they retain the services of security guards who carry handguns and other firearms, said Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) last week.

Speaking on the “Hannity” show on FOX News, Paul said gun control devotees like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as famous Hollywood types, are right to hire security to protect their famous selves from personal harm; they’re just wrong to oppose the rights of other Americans to own firearms so they can accomplish the same thing.

I don’t begrudge any famous person like Mayor Bloomberg, or the President or the President’s family for having protection — I think they all should; there’s enough crazy people out there who would attack on the right or the left. But I think when you are being protected by people who have weapons, or responsible people, I can’t see why you would be opposed to that for other people.

So yes, many rich Hollywood celebrities have armed guards with them at all times and many regular people who live in a poor neighborhood, who have a business in a poor neighborhood and a neighborhood that may have higher crime — those people have to suffer the vicissitudes of violent crime without protection sometimes, because of gun control laws. So, yes, I think there is a certain amount of hypocrisy.

Paul and other colleagues in the Senate have pledged to filibuster gun-control legislation ahead of an expected vote next month.

Lone Star State Wants Federal Reserve To Hand Back Its Gold

Texas Governor Rick Perry is supporting legislation that would create a bullion depository in the State and bring home $1 billion in gold, currently housed by the Federal Reserve in a New York vault, for State-level protection under the aegis of a new bank that would be created for the purpose.

If the idea sounds like something former Congressman Ron Paul of Texas would have come up with, that’s because he did. Although not officially involved in the current legislation, Paul told the Texas Tribune last week it’s a sound idea:

“If you think gold is a hedge, or a protection, you always want it as close to the individual and the entity as possible,” he said. “Texas is better served is it knows exactly where its gold is, rather than depending on the security of the Federal Reserve.”

Perry also sounded very much like a leader who doesn’t think the United States is immune from a banking debacle similar to the ongoing crisis in Cyprus. Perhaps in mind of Cypriots who can’t get their own money out of failing, thieving banks, Perry went on national radio last week to drive the point home, saying: “If we own it, I will suggest to you that that’s not someone else’s determination — whether we can take possession of it; bring it back or not.”

The idea behind the bill, sponsored by Republican legislator Giovanni Capriglione, isn’t to put the State into a secessionist position by stockpiling a new State bank with bullion and creating its own monetary standard.

Rather, he explained, it’s to ensure Texas is viewed by residents, businesses and anyone considering any type of investment in the State as the kind of place where leaders are serious about fiscal responsibility as they prepare to weather a broader financial crisis.

There’s more than a little concern that the Federal Reserve wouldn’t easily part with Texas’ 6,000-plus gold bars, mainly because of its practice of rehypothecation, in which gold collateral held in a depository is used as collateral yet again by the Feds on leases it makes to bullion banks. In other words, Texas’ gold may be spoken for because the Federal Reserve has encumbered it to make a speculative profit. Until that encumbrance clears, the Feds could tell Texas, “IOU.”

“We don’t want just the certificates,” Capriglione told the Tribune. “We want our gold. And if you’re in the State of Texas, you should be able to get your gold.”

Arizona Program Offers Free Shotguns For Protection

A new privately backed initiative in Tucson, Ariz., is taking the fight over residents’ powers of self-defense straight to the people, establishing a program whereby law-abiding citizens can get a free shotgun to help protect themselves and deter would-be assailants and thieves.

The work of a small coalition of residents fed up with the city’s underfunded police service, the program aims to reimburse residents in mid-to-high-crime areas of town who purchase a specific style of shotgun — once they’ve received firearms training (which the fund would also pay for).

The Tucson effort is part of a larger grass-roots crime prevention experiment that began in Houston, called the Armed Citizen Project (ACP). The ACP is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to facilitating the arming of law-abiding citizens, and analyzing the relationship between increased firearm availability and rates.”

The program has a larger goal as well: a statistics-based study of whether, and how, crime rates will change in the high-crime areas, one city block at a time, where residents have been armed with the ACP shotguns. ACP Executive Director Kyle Coplen, who conceived the project while a grad student at the University of Houston, explains the program’s logic this way:

Gun-control advocates often argue that an increase in guns in an area will lead to an increase in crime, while gun-rights advocates often believe that fewer guns result in more crime. While both sides often argue that their opponents’ policies will result in more crime, gun-control proponents have largely been the victors when it comes to policy implementation…It is our belief that gun-rights activists must take the offensive, and actively encourage the increased presence of defensive weapons in society. Both sides believe that their policies will result in less crime, and it is about time that our side begins to act with the conviction and courage that it will take to win the debate.

The single-break-action shotguns supplied to participants were chosen for their cost, facility of use, comparatively safe design and lack of appeal to criminals. But just because the group is using Vice President Joe Biden’s self-defense weapon of choice doesn’t mean they’ve spurned assault weapons. In fact, it’s to prove a point the gun grabbers often fall back on:

Another big reason for using this style of defensive weapon is to challenge the anti-gun lobby on a claim they often make. We are now quite used to hearing arguments along the lines of “why do you need an ‘assault weapon’ for home defense?” These gun-control proponents often insist that they do believe in the right to bear arms to some extent, and we are challenging them to prove it. If an “assault weapon” is too extreme to be used for home defense, then there must necessarily be a weapon that is acceptable for home defense, or else the gun-control proponent is being blatantly intellectually dishonest. This style of firearm [the shotgun] is likely to be the most palatable to any gun-control proponent that claims to believe in the right of self-defense, and we challenge them to reveal who they really are.

Back in Arizona, organizer Shaun McClusky, whom locals recognize as a former mayoral candidate, told the Arizona Daily Star he’s aware he’ll receive a fair amount of public scrutiny — both positive and negative — for launching the effort in a city that, for different reasons, has long attracted both liberal pro-regulation nuts as well as strong advocates of individual liberty. He’s unconcerned about any bad PR.

“Saying guns are responsible for killing people is like saying spoons are responsible for making people fat. If someone wants to bring me the publicity for free and sue me, bring it on,” he said.

“We need to take back our city, and it needs to come back to the citizens and not the criminals. Right now, the criminal element is winning.”

Congress Set Out To Expand ‘The Most Outrageous Criminal Law You’ve Never Heard Of’

The House Judiciary Committee is set to present Congress with a new draft of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984 (CFAA) next month, offering up a slew of expansions to a set of laws already derided by freedom watchers for its sweeping powers — and punishments — over nebulous computer “crimes” with arbitrary definitions.

Written into the revised version of the Act is a new provision, one that would make it a crime to use digital equipment to access information for an “impermissible purpose.” According to cyber law scholar (and former attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice) Orin Kerr, that means you could be found guilty of committing a felony if you lie about your age in an online dating profile, once you’ve gone on to begin a conversation with anyone you intend to get to know better.

The scenarios for which such draconian legislation could theoretically apply are endless. Mike Masnick of Techdirt posits a hypothetical case in which a parent who fibs to Facebook in order to help his 12-year-old child sign up for an account (the Facebook age requirement is 13) could be subject to felony charges.

In addition, those who are authorized to access protected information, whether in government or in the private sector, could face charges if they can be proven to have misused the privilege. Given the proposed draft’s vague language — “even if the accesser may be entitled to obtain or alter the same information in the computer for other purposes” — demonstrating someone has misused their access privileges is open to almost any interpretation that suits a hungry prosecutor’s whim.

Kerr describes the “new” CFAA language as “really, really broad:”

It would make it a felony crime for anyone to violate the TOS [terms of service] on a government website. It would also make it a federal felony crime to violate TOS in the course of committing a very minor state misdemeanor…In short, this is a step backward, not forward. This is a proposal to give DOJ what it wants, not to amend the CFAA in a way that would narrow it.

The draft also proposes that anyone who uses a computer in any attempt to commit a crime — even if they never follow through with the criminal act itself — should be prosecuted, so long as the government can demonstrate what ill will the suspect was harboring at the time he was tapping the keys.

The kicker: Kerr points out that nearly everything in the current rewrite is actually a copy-paste job from a version of the Act that President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice helped draft, and attempted to push through Congress, back in 2011.

Columbia University’s Tim Wu — himself a 2008 adviser to the Obama campaign — blasted the DOJ’s justification of how it wouldn’t abuse any newfound powers earlier this month in a blog for the New Yorker, calling CFAA “the most outrageous criminal law you’ve never heard of” and demolishing the whole “trust your government” line:

When judges or academics say that it is wrong to interpret a law in such a way that everyone is a felon, the Justice Department has usually replied by saying, roughly, that federal prosecutors don’t bother with minor cases—they only go after the really bad guys. That has always been a lame excuse—repulsive to anyone who takes seriously the idea of “a government of laws, not men.”

The 40-member Judiciary Committee (23 Republicans and 17 Democrats) is expected to make a fast dash to get their draft passed during mid-April, when a gout of legislation aimed at regulating the digital space is expected to push through Congress all at once.

Oil Drives ‘New Trade Axis’ Between Iraq And No. 1 Customer China

China’s thirst for Iraqi oil is propelling an alliance between the two Nations that, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), promises to send 80 percent of Iraq’s future petroleum exports to China.

The agency’s chief economist said there’s “a new trade axis being formed between Baghdad and Beijing” at a time when American interests in Iraqi oil are as low as they’ve been in the 10 years since U.S. troops first occupied the country.

Couple China’s aggressive search for a generous petroleum reserve with the American oil industry’s reluctance to brave the instability of Iraq’s infrastructure, safety and political climate, and the Iraqi-Chinese “axis” comes into clearer focus.

“The fact that [Chinese oil company] PetroChina is expanding in Iraq is not to me a sign of their strength; it’s a sign of their weakness,” said a New York-based energy consultant.

That’s because, despite the massive public investment that went into the United States’ invasion and reconfiguration of the Iraqi regime, American companies have the luxury of choosing more attractive petroleum mining options elsewhere (including on their home soil), rather than deal with the postwar headache that Iraqi oil logistics has become.

China, meanwhile, has far fewer options, and currently lacks the technology to explore recent and unconventional extraction methods that are benefitting U.S. companies at home and in West Africa.

 

 

Newark Mayor Says Late-Night Businesses Invite Violence, Shouldn’t Just ‘Have Their Way’

The Newark, N.J., mayor who once opposed regulating local businesses to death in the name of safety appears to be softening, suggesting now that the city should stop allowing businesses that stay open late at night to “have their way.”

CBS New York quotes Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s apparent change of heart in the wake of two deadly late-night shootings: one at a local IHOP, the other at a convenience store.

“Irvington closes their bars an hour before we do. East Orange closes restaurants at 10 p.m., so why in Newark [do] we let folks kind of have their way and go a lot later?” he asked. “We also want people to be safe and we’ve got to strike the balance. We need to start talking, questioning that. And if you want to stay open later, maybe there should be certain requirements.”

McCain And Gang Tweet Immigrant’s Pain, Gold Can’t Save You?, Mainstream Media=Robot Reporting, Dodgeball Breeds Psychopaths, Snail Sex Is Worth Your Money : Thursday Morning News Roundup 3-28-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Gang-of-Eight RINO John McCain hung out around Nogales, Ariz., and allegedly watched someone try to scale an 18-foot border fence into the United States. He allegedly took a picture Johnny-on-the-spot, tweeted it and then tweeted again that the poor soul allegedly had been caught.

 

  • Global bank larceny has gotten so out of hand that financial seer Marc Faber is now warning investors not even gold will suffice as a haven to abide the coming meltdown. “My concern is that we are going to have a systemic crisis where it is going to be very difficult to hide,” Faber explains. “Even in gold. It will be difficult to hide.”

 

  • Finally, they’re carrying one of the de facto truths of mainstream media to its logical conclusion: Computers are starting to robo-report the news in place of mainstream media journalists. The Los Angeles Times is doing it (though another paper, of course, reported the story.) May the droids fare better.

 

  • A local school board in New Hampshire is getting tough on dodgeball and other “human target” recreational mainstays. Drawing a line between the childhood staple and bullying, aggression and violent tendencies that carry over into adulthood, the board voted to ban the playground and street games — over the opposition of some parents who called the vote a “nanny state” move.

 

  • Priorities: The University of Iowa is spending nearly 1 million Federally awarded dollars to study whether New Zealand mud snails get anything more than kids out of having sex. It’s been ongoing since 2011; but, you know, with snails, these things take time.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

What’s This? Healthcare Premiums Could Rise Under Obamacare?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — you know it as Obamacare — inches closer and closer to revealing itself as the social-engineering bill of goods many Americans saw it for, from the moment it first passed in 2010.

This week’s revelation? That coverage premiums will actually rise — for the demographic most in need of the so-called affordable care — as the new law comes online.

That admission comes from no less than a member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet: Kathleen Sebelius, secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Next year is the first fiscal cycle that many of the Obamacare plan’s most sweeping provisions are set to take effect. Ahead of the changes, insurance companies are due to start making their 2014 rates known in coming weeks.

“As a former insurance commissioner I have watched what transparency does to a market. This is the first time ever in the history of the United States that insurance companies have to file their rates, it has to be very transparent, they have to offer the same kind of coverage without 5,000 tiny little lines and internal caps, and they have to compete for customers,” Sebelius told reporters Tuesday. “And I am a believer in the market strategies that in and of itself will minimize the rate impact.”

The idea that Obamacare “forces” insurers to be transparent in their rates schemes, and thereby introduces a self-correcting bit of market competitiveness that’s supposed to drive coverage prices down, has been a major point of contention. From Day One, the Obama Administration has put its full faith in the idea that insurers will reduce their prices in order to stay competitive.

But then, according to The Wall Street Journal, Sibelius said this of young people and others who are currently either without healthcare coverage, or who are underserved by their current insurance:

These folks will be moving into a really fully insured product for the first time, and so there may be a higher cost associated with getting into that market. But we feel pretty strongly that with subsidies available to a lot of that population that they are really going to see much better benefit for the money that they’re spending.

Truth is, no one knows what insurers’ rates will look like for customers new to the Obamacare-influenced market next year; but there’s a lot of reason to start saving now. A study released this month indicates that per-person medical claim costs under individually insured plans could jump 32 percent, on average, once the law is in full effect. Add to that a separate WSJ report last week that insurance companies are already cautioning brokers to get ready for a steep increase in individual and small business-sponsored healthcare plan premiums in 2014.

Sibelius’ comments Tuesday simply mark her as one of the first Obama officials to actually acknowledge that plain fact — however grudgingly.

NYPD’s UnConstitutional Stop-And-Frisk Game

Imagine walking down the street in some less-traveled part of Manhattan — say, the Morningside Heights neighborhood. You’re enjoying the mild weather and urban hum of an early April evening. Maybe you’re a visitor who wants a street-level view of residential life in the big city. Maybe you’re a Columbia University student, walking to the bus stop after a day in the classroom.

Or maybe you’re a run-of-the-mill native New Yorker, one of millions of city dwellers whose parents or grandparents put down roots in the Nation’s greatest ethnic melting pot, all in a bid to realize the American dream.

Now imagine a squad car pulling up and a pair of NYPD’s finest pouncing out of the vehicle with their guns drawn — on you. Imagine being thrown against a wall, your pockets emptied, the contents of your backpack dumped on the ground, the feel of pistol steel against the back of your head. Imagine not knowing a thing about why it happened, having no inkling of what was about to happen — or why. It just happened, and then you’re back on your way.

Oh, and imagine that every bit of that happened less than a block from your own home.

That’s the stop-and-frisk experience for many New Yorkers each day, as it has been since 1971, when the policy was first allowed under a court-established legal precedent. The city has come under increased criticism in recent years for allowing the police to rely more heavily on the policy than in the past.

Now, police testimony in a class-action lawsuit against the city confirms what many already knew: The cops are targeting minorities and using a quota system that’s driven from the top down. The Guardian describes the testimony of two New York Police Department officers who testified in Federal court last week, noting the stop-and-frisk program is “driven by a high-pressure quota system imposed upon lower-ranking officers.”

One of the cops, officer Adhyl Polanco, said Tuesday that “there’s a difference” between what the police are supposed to do and “what goes on out there.” He also said cops in his Bronx precinct had been expected to issue 20 summonses and make one arrest every month, with tangible repercussions for failure. If they couldn’t, a senior officer would hop in the squad car with them, take them out into the streets and show the younger cop how it’s done.

“We were handcuffing kids for no reason,” he added.

There’s an undeniable connection between the jump in residents’ stop-and-frisk complaints over the past decade and the tenures of both Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and nanny Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Stop and frisk has seen its search count increase by 600 percent since Bloomberg became mayor. Since it began, the program has accounted for more than 5 million impromptu searches, a dubious honor it acquired just last week.

While crime has declined in New York City, plaintiffs in the lawsuit point out that it’s not an exceptional trend, that crime in most U.S. urban centers has experienced similar declines — without policies in place that authorize unConstitutional searches.

The lawsuit understandably seeks an end to stop-and-frisk on 4th Amendment grounds. Nearly 90 percent of all stop-and-frisk searches end with no arrest, summons or citation. By far, most of those who’ve been searched have been black or Hispanic. The Guardian article references one cop who described the target demographic for stop and frisk as “male blacks 14 to 21.”

A Republican Congress In 2014? GOP Senate Takeover Gains Momentum

In the years in between Congressional elections, punditry over each party’s bid to control the U.S. House and Senate tends to die down. But with the announced retirement of one Senate Democrat who hails from a largely red state, political forecasters are reviving the 2012 election-season talk that predicts a GOP takeover when the 2014 elections roll around.

Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.C.) announced Tuesday he won’t run again when his Senate seat comes open in 2014. That brings to 21 the total number of Senate seats currently held by Democrats that will come up in the 2014 election cycle. Five of those 21 will be available because Democratic incumbents like Johnson retired.

That’s double trouble for the Democratic Party, because retiring Democrats from Republican-leaning States often take with them a measure of moderate, crossover rapport that dries up as younger and, often, more liberal candidates come on board. Johnson’s retirement marks the second instance of a Democrat — one representing a State that voted Republican in the 2012 Presidential race — stepping away from the Senate after his current term.

In contrast with the Democrats’ bid to retain 21 seats in 2014, Republicans must retain only 14.

Right now, there are 53 Democrats in the Senate and 45 Republicans. Two more independent Senators caucus with the Democrats. That means the GOP must gain at least six seats to form a simple majority. There might be other political eras when those kinds of numbers would present a tremendous challenge to GOP leaders. But in the lame-duck days of President Barack Obama, Republicans are already sharpening their knives.

“It’s murderous in 2014,” said The Washington Post of Democrats’ chances, back before the 2012 elections had even taken place.

The Obama voter-backlash factor could be decisive on a national scale this time, expanding far beyond the 2010 and 2012 backlash witnessed in conservative regions, where polls saw an abundance of straight-ticket GOP voting. Voters everywhere will finally be getting their first real taste of Obamacare — a big wild card that could strongly affect public opinion going into the 2014 season. And in order to retain some good will among even Democratic voters in all but a handful of predominantly urban states, the President would have to swerve course dramatically, between now and next year, on hard-line gun control, civil liberties, spending and White House transparency.

“The playing field and weather conditions are great for us,” a GOP spokesman told The Hill Tuesday. “Now we have to go out and execute.”

Hunters Threaten Boycott While Gun Grabbers Run Colorado

Following last week’s passage of three pieces of legislation making Colorado a pretty unfriendly place for guns owners and the exercise of 2nd Amendment powers, some hunters are uniting to deny the State something very empowering indeed: revenue.

Websites where gun and hunting enthusiasts share ideas have now become bulletin boards where word of the boycott has begun gaining momentum, according to a Gazette story Wednesday.

Outfitters have also begun reporting cancelled trips from out-of-State hunters, though not in devastating numbers — so far. One hunting guide said it’s likely the trend will grow.

“There’s a united front of sportsmen that are tired of having their freedoms and liberties and fundamental rights taken away from them,” said Chris Jurney, who offers support and guidance for hunters in the State’s northwest corner. “That kind of unity among sportsmen is going to be big, and unfortunately for those of us who live here, we’re going to suffer the consequences of this misguided legislation.”

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, signed the three pieces of controversial gun control legislation into law on March 20. The laws limit the size of ammo magazines to 15 rounds, require universal background checks for gun transactions and force customers to pay for the background checks.

You already know about Magpul, the Erie-based business who’s in the process of moving its operations out of the State in response to the ban. The Outdoor Channel’s Michael Bane is following suit, declining to film his hunting programs in Colorado while the State’s new gun laws remain.

Pardon Me, Mr. President?

An irony of the Administration of President Barack Obama is the President’s parsimonious attitude toward one of the office’s most distinguished powers: the Presidential pardon.

According to an analysis by Reason, Obama’s record on extending clemency is unmatched for stinginess.

Of the 43 U.S. Presidents who preceded Obama, only George Washington, William Henry Harrison and James Garfield pardoned fewer people than the current President has done through a single term in office.

An Illinois political science professor explains that those three examples would be hard for any President to match: as our Nation’s first President, Washington likely didn’t receive many clemency requests; Harrison died after serving one month in office; and Garfield made it four months before he was shot.

Where does that leave Obama?

Way behind Republican bulldogs like Richard Nixon and George (take your pick) Bush:

The odds of winning a pardon from Obama so far are 1 in 59, compared to 1 in 2 under Richard Nixon, 1 in 3 under Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, 1 in 5 under Ronald Reagan, 1 in 10 under George H.W. Bush, 1 in 5 under Bill Clinton, and 1 in 13 under George W. Bush.

The President of social compassion and second chances is one tough customer when it comes to clemency.

TSA And Pepper Spray Don’t Mix

Good grief.

A Transportation Security Administration agent sent six people, including himself, to the hospital this week by being an idiot. (He’s clearly not alone.)

The New York Post reports the agent, Chris Yves Dabel, spotted a pepper spray container at a security checkpoint and evidently mistook it for a laser pointer.

Well, everybody knows how fun those are to play with — especially while in the employ of a government security agency whose sole mission seems to be letting would-be bad guys get onto planes while making the flying experience nearly unbearable for everyone else.

So Dabel started “playing around with it,” according to an official at Kennedy Airport. He ended up squirting himself and five of his good TSA buddies, and they all went to the hospital together.

Mercifully, no passengers were injured. The security lines at Kennedy were delayed about 15 minutes.

SCOTUS Hesitant On Nixing Prop 8, Cyprus Thugs Ready To Impose State Control, Gorbachev Says Putin Has ‘Destroyed’ Progress, Gun Rights Supporter Flips Jim Carrey Autograph To Buy Handgun: Wednesday Morning News Roundup 3-27-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court may have sent a signal during Tuesday’s oral arguments that it’s in no hurry to play the role of lawmaker when it comes to overturning California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy cautioned that same-sex marriage advocates are asking the high court to “go into uncharted waters.”

 

  • You knew this was coming: Cyprus is contracting with a giant British security company to deploy guards to control the mobs angry that they’ve been ripped off. State-sanctioned theft and brutality: The system works!

 

  • A candid Mikhail Gorbachev says the reforms he tried to institute after the former Soviet Union dissolved have been “distorted or completely violated, destroyed” under the hawkish Vladimir Putin, a man who thinks the breakup of the USSR was the biggest “geopolitical catastrophe” of the past hundred years.

 

  • One enterprising gun rights supporter (and former Jim Carrey fan) decided he’d had enough of Carrey after watching the actor’s gun-grabbing “Cold Dead Hands” propaganda video. So he put his autographed photo of Carrey up for sale on eBay.  His goal? $640 to buy a Glock.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

 

SCOTUS Rules Cops Can’t Just Show Up With A Dog And No Warrant

A majority opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court this week frustrated the State of Florida (as well as the Federal government and 26 other States) by ruling that police who bring a sniff dog onto a homeowner’s property and turn up evidence related to the dog’s signaling are conducting a “search” as defined by the 4th Amendment.

That means cops can’t suspect you of growing marijuana in a house, turn up casually at your front door with a dog — you know, just to ask a few questions — and thereafter develop probable cause to search the house, as the dog sniffs around at the front door and begins indicating there’s something illegal inside.

That’s exactly what happened to one homeowner in the Miami area in 2006, when police acting on an unverified tip visited the home of Joelis Jardines, with Drug Enforcement Administration agents waiting in the wings. They didn’t have a warrant, and the tip alone wasn’t sufficient probable cause to obtain a search warrant. The cops let the dog sniff at the front door. The dog signaled that narcotics were somewhere nearby. And the cops then applied for and received a search warrant.

The police had initiated no contact with Jardines during this episode. That contact came only when they returned to the house with the search warrant, found the marijuana being grown inside and arrested Jardines.

The Florida Supreme Court had already sided with Jardines after he appealed a lower court’s ruling that dog searches aren’t covered under the 4th Amendment. Realizing the broad implications the decision could have to limit search powers, the State then appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

And lost.

It’s worth culling the high points from Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion:

Since the officers’ investigation took place in a constitutionally protected area, we turn to the question of whether it was accomplished through an unlicensed physical intrusion…

…As it is undisputed that the detectives had all four of their feet firmly planted on the constitutionally protected extension of Jardines’ home, the only question is whether he had given his leave (even implicitly) for them to do so. He had not.

…We have accordingly recognized that “the knocker on the front door is treated as an invitation or license to attempt an entry, justifying ingress to the home by solicitors, hawkers and peddlers of all kinds.” This implicit license typically permits the visitor to approach the home by the front path, knock promptly, wait briefly to be received, and then (absent invitation to linger longer) leave.

Complying with the terms of that traditional invitation does not require fine-grained legal knowledge; it is generally managed without incident by the Nation’s Girl Scouts and trick-or-treaters. Thus, a police officer not armed with a warrant may approach a home and knock, precisely because that is “no more than any private citizen might do.”

But introducing a trained police dog to explore the area around the home in hopes of discovering incriminating evidence is something else. There is no customary invitation to do that. An invitation to engage in canine forensic investigation assuredly does not inhere in the very act of hanging a knocker. To find a visitor knocking on the door is routine (even if sometimes unwelcome); to spot that same visitor exploring the front path with a metal detector, or marching his bloodhound into the garden before saying hello and asking permission, would inspire most of us to — well, call the police.

Well said.

Two disappointments, though, about Tuesday’s decision:

  • It was close. The majority decision came after a 5-4 vote.
  • Tuesday’s victory for 4th-Amendment freedom stands in contrast to a misstep the court made in January, when it held that police dogs’ training and certification is itself sufficient grounds for courts to admit evidence based on the accuracy of their signaling. That decision came in spite of evidence that “real-world data demonstrate that even trained or certified dogs have a high rate of false alerts” and can take their signaling cues from handlers or from other stimuli in their environments.