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.
Sería terrible tener un jurado de sus pares que no entendía Inglés. The California Assembly passed a bill Thursday that could make the State the first in the Nation to allow illegal aliens to serve jury duty. But the good news is that the new bill doesn’t do away with the requirement that jurors be proficient in English.
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have joined forces as a weird, elderly, out-of-touch legislative super duo in declaring that the “red line” in Syria has been crossed and calling for “strong” U.S. intervention. The Senators’ call for war is based on unsubstantiated reports that chemical weapons are being used in the country.
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A continuing movement against genetically modified food by consumer advocacy, environmental and business groups gained some legislative steam this week with bills introduced in both chambers of Congress that would require manufacturers to clearly label food that has been genetically altered.
According to reports, the bipartisan-backed bills would require the Food and Drug Administration to develop standards requiring food growers and producers to connote whether foods have been genetically engineered.
“Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families,” said a statement from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) announcing the introduction of her Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act in the Senate.
In the House, Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced similar legislation, announcing, “When American families purchase food, they deserve to know if that food was genetically engineered in a laboratory.”
Polls indicate that a majority of Americans support efforts to require GMO labeling. But previous efforts to require disclosure have been quashed by large food producers that claim labeling is unneeded and will cause consumers to shun certain brands based on unproven claims about GMOs. The United States is currently one of the few developed nations that don’t mandate GMO labels. It trails 64 countries, including the European Union, South Korea, Japan, Brazil, China, South Africa and Australia, in requiring labels.
Co-sponsors of the Senate bill include: Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).
And DeFazio’s House effort is co-sponsored by: Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), James Moran (D-Va.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), George Miller (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
The Southern Poverty Law Center has built a legacy around pointing out instances of hate and dangerous extremism in the United States. As times change, however, so do those examples of hate and extremism; but many people have suggested in recent years that the SPLC has lost its way in keeping up with those changes and simply moved to cry “hate” in the direction of any group out of line with its left-leaning philosophy.
The validity of such criticism is perhaps more evident than ever in the case of domestic terrorist Floyd Corkins II, which has been largely ignored by the mainstream media.
Corkins carried out a shooting attack on the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the conservative Family Research Council last year. Upon entering the building posing as an intern, the man opened fire on security guards, wounding one, before being wrestled to the ground. Had his plan not been thwarted early on, a much grislier scene would have unraveled, as the perpetrator reportedly planned to maim and kill as many people in the building as possible before smearing their faces with Chic-fil-A sandwiches he carried with him as a political statement.
Corkins has since pleaded guilty to an act of armed terrorism and assault with intent to kill.
Earlier this year, it was reported that Corkins made the decision to attack FRC based on their designation as an anti-gay hate group by the SPLC. The report was largely disregarded by mainstream media outlets and bears mention again because the FBI released video of the interrogation that revealed the connection for the first time this week.
“Southern Poverty Law lists, uh, anti-gay groups,” Corkins told agents who asked how he found the organization. “I found them online — did a little research, went to the website, stuff like that.”
The day after the attacks last year, FRC President Tony Perkins said that SPLC gave homicidal zealots like Corkins “license” to violently attack conservative organizations by labeling them as hate groups.
“I believe he was given a license by a group such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, who…labeled us a hate group because we defend the family and we stand for traditional, orthodox Christianity,” Perkins said. “It’s time for people to realize what the Southern Poverty Law Center is doing with their reckless labeling of organizations who they disagree with.”
More recently, SPLC has defended the basis upon which it designates groups or individuals as hateful. Heidi Beirich, a representative of the organization, said during an MSNBC interview earlier this month:
The criticism that we get most heavily from the right-wing are complaints about our listing of groups like the Family Research Council or the American Family Association as anti-gay hate groups. And the fact of the matter is that those organizations are akin to many of the white supremacist organizations that we list in the sense that they lie about gay folks.
White supremacist groups lie about African-Americans.
In the case of something like the Family Research Council, they put out all kinds of defamatory information about how gays are child molesters at higher rates and so on, with the intention of destroying that particular population and making them appear to be lesser. So, you know, for us, it’s a no-brainer to put groups like that on our hate list.
And other organizations on the left have also jumped to defend SPLC. The left-leaning website ThinkProgress published a column this week contending that Corkins’ use of the SPLC website to pick his victims simply confirms that FRC is an anti-gay organization.
From the article: “The video of Corkins’ interrogation proves only one thing: the Family Research Council is anti-gay. This is a true fact regardless of whether the SPLC posts a list of anti-gay groups or not, and certainly there are plenty of other websites (including this one) that describe FRC as anti-gay.”
The author also cites another “true fact”: Corkins also told investigators that he visited the FRC website, acting on the SPLC suggestion that the conservative organization hates gays, to learn more about the organization. The author opines that this helped the sick individual to concrete his belief that FRC was indeed a hateful, anti-gay group.
Of course, if you visit the FRC website and are a reasonable person, the assertion would seem hard to believe.
In fairness, FRC does use statistics to its own advantage by interpreting numbers in a way that helps to make its case for traditional family values. But certainly SPLC representatives have not been deaf to similar criticisms made about the way that organization goes about compiling facts in ways that suit its agenda.
While not exactly a scientific method of examining SPLC’s preferential qualifying characteristics of boogeymen, a visit to the organization’s website to conduct a few searches of published material offers a cursory view: White, conservative, small government, Constitutionalist, Christian and fearful of Federal authority are all present. The organization does include a handful of write-ups and examinations of black separatist groups and even extremist Muslims (though most of the Muslim-related stories are about discrimination against Muslims by the greater American public); but those topics are approached with nowhere near the bravado of stories about Christian groups and small-government advocates.
For conservatives, the problem is that SPLC is accepted widely as an authority on discrimination, hate and extremist dangers by all manner of mainstream media organizations and is quoted widely in stories covering these topics. Meanwhile, SPLC routinely lists conservative politicians and benign religious organizations whose only real goals are to proselytize and influence public opinion in a way that furthers the Christian religious agenda alongside groups with dangerous and inflammatory radical histories like the Aryan Brotherhood, Ku Klux Klan (which, by all accounts is pretty powerless in modern America) and the joke that is Westboro Baptist Church.
By allowing political motivation to trump its stated mission of seeking justice and equality for society’s most vulnerable, SPLC has become no better than the most hateful of hate groups it has historically rallied against in the eyes of people who don’t adhere to leftist ideology. Corkins’ lethal actions last year are representative of hate. The bombings carried out by Islamic extremists in Boston earlier this month are representative of hate (SPLC did cover some of this, but with a decidedly apologist bent). And it seems that in the eyes of conservatives, SPLC — in spite of its claim to seek justice and equality for all members of society — is and will remain as culpable as any actors in these hateful activities as long as it allows political ideology to construct its definition of tolerance.
This photo from TheAssociated Press and its accompanying caption are sure to give many conservatives a chuckle:
AP captioned the photo:
President Barack Obama shares a laugh with former first lady Barbara Bush at the dedication of the George W. Bush presidential library on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Thursday, April 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama is undoubtedly a fan of big government. But remarks from the President on Wednesday illustrate just how much he adores burgeoning bureaucracy — and why he thinks American citizens do, too.
In discussing how Americans express “compassion and concern and fellow feeling” with donors attending a Democratic National Committee fundraising event at a private residence in Dallas, the President said government is key.
“That all of us have a stake in their success, and all of us have a stake in a country that expresses this incredible quality of compassion and concern and fellow feeling, not just in our churches or our synagogues or our mosques or our temples, not just in our workplaces or our neighborhoods or our Little League, but also expresses itself through our government,” Obama said.
The President went on to explain that citizens express their compassion when they support growing the size of government and more taxes in the name of helping the poor, young, elderly and vulnerable.
Obama did not explain what the average American might be expressing by way of rampant government waste, massive deficits and horrific atrocities resulting from misguided foreign policy initiatives.
Many people have noted that prominent leftist mainstream media pundits and a number of other left-leaning American blowhards have gone to great lengths to downplay the link between the Boston Marathon bombers and the Islamic faith.
But Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, mother of terror suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is making it difficult for apologists with remarks made during a press conference this week.
“If they are going to kill him, I don’t care,” she said on CNN of Dzhokhar.
“My oldest one is killed, so I don’t care. I don’t care is my youngest one is going to be killed today. I want the world to hear this. And I don’t care if I am going to get killed too. And I will say Allahu akbar!’
It is no secret that in this age of Internet-everything identity theft is a growing problem. And new research shows that online credit card thieves are among the most well-organized criminals in cyberspace.
Michigan State University criminologist Thomas Holt took a look into the underground world of credit card theft, discovering that the crooks involved have built a sophisticated online marketplace similar to a black market version of eBay or Amazon. By getting together online with other criminals, the thieves are able to sell data and money laundering services, often on Web forums, and send and receive payments electronically or through a third party.
“These aren’t just 15-year-olds stealing credit card info online and using it to buy pornography,” said Holt, associate professor of criminal justice. “These are thieves who come to trust one another. There’s a layer of sophistication here that can’t be understated, that’s very different than what we think about with other forms of crime.”
The thieves begin by stealing credit card information either by hacking into the database of a bank, retailer or service provider, or by sending fraudulent emails with official-looking logos to individuals in an attempt to “phish” for sensitive details such as usernames and passwords. The information can also be stolen in the physical world by attaching a hard-to-spot device on an ATM or by co-opting people who work in sales to swipe the card details with electronic devices.
Then, many thieves opt to sell the card information online to avoid using the stolen card and creating a paper trial. Holt said that stolen information for a Visa Classic card, for instance, will routinely sell online for between $5 and $20.
According to Holt, the card buyers are then able to turn around and find a trove of criminal services online, which — for a fee — help them use the cards for purchases or cash withdrawals without being tracked down by authorities.
The criminologist said that the Internet-based marketplace allows the criminals to take a very Democratic approach to building a vast organized crime network, unlike traditional criminal organizations that have relied on hierarchical structure.
Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been taking heat from his libertarian-leaning supporters after making comments on Monday about domestic drone use that were either resultant of parapraxis or representative of a flip-flop from the positions he held just more than a month ago.
Paul said during a FOX Business interview late Monday, “Here’s the distinction: I have never argued against any technology being used when you have an imminent threat, an act of crime going on. If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and $50 in cash, I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him. But it’s different if they want to come fly over your hot tub or your yard just because they want to do surveillance on everyone, and they want to watch your activities.”
The Senator’s statement, which suggested that he was fine with drastically lowering the threshold at which government agents should be allowed to carry out lethal drone strikes on American citizens, stirred up a great deal of consternation among supporters who championed his anti-drone filibuster in March.
Drudge Report exclaimed in its signature headline-centric fashion: “Rand Paul Learns To Love the Drone!”
And The Daily Paul, a libertarian news and opinion blog kicked off by Ron Paul supporters, garnered heavy readership on a post entitled: “Rand Paul is a FRAUD and another Obama!”
From that piece:
He redeemed himself in my eyes when he accomplished the epic 13 hour filibuster which I actually watched more than half of. I was thrilled he was standing up for all of us and the country. I became a Rand Paul supporter once more.
NOW…. he has committed treason against the U.S. people and he has nullified his epic filibuster by going directly against it.
Rand Paul says at 2:30 point of the video below “If someone is coming out of a liquor store with a gun and $50 dollars I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him.”
You – Rand Paul….. Don’t Care if a drone is JUDGE JURY AND EXECUTIONER of someone ROBBING a store? So someone should be KILLED for robbing a Store?
How Dare you….. believe drones should KILL people during a crime instead of letting a jury of their peers convict them!!!! Also, who is to say the real robber didn’t toss the person out with the gun, no one knows what the real situation is, until evidence is completely provided in a COURT ROOM!
Paul responded to the criticism on Tuesday, in an attempt to recast his earlier statements in a more Constitutionally affable light.
“My comments last night left the mistaken impression that my position on drones had changed,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “Let me be clear: it has not. Armed drones should not be used in normal crime situations. They only may only be considered in extraordinary, lethal situations where there is an ongoing, imminent threat. I described that scenario previously during my Senate filibuster.”
Liberty advocate Judge Andrew Napolitano came to Paul’s defense Wednesday, also during a FOX Business interview, contending that poor word choice was what made the Senator’s statements seem so opposite his past positions.
“The filibuster was about the concept of targeted assassinations, about the President picking and choosing who to kill in the U.S. or elsewhere who have not received due process of law,” Napolitano said. “They have not been charged of a crime, they have not been convicted of a crime, they’ve just gotten in the President’s crosshairs. That is the essence of the filibuster.”
Napolitano went on to say, “He probably should have said ‘Coming out of a liquor store shooting and with 50 bucks.’ If someone is using a deadly weapon on police or the civilians, the police can use a deadly weapon with which to repel that person.”
The White House and several officials continue to moan and groan and cry “wolf” over sequester cuts, but here’s yet another story to illustrate why bureaucrats reap what they sow. This year, the Federal government is slated to spend nearly $1 million on service fees for bank accounts that it doesn’t use.
According to The Washington Post, the Federal government currently has 13,712 bank accounts with nothing in them, which will cost taxpayers at least $890,000 in banking fees for the year.
The accounts are supposed to be closed by bureaucratic employees, but it seems no one really wants to do the paperwork required to close them. So, as government workers and the White House continue to talk about the devastating impacts of sequester, taxpayer dollars are still being used to pay $65 per year, per account to keep them open.
Citing rapid behavioral changes that occurred in his 20s, some people have posited that Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev could have been more easily radicalized to the point of carrying out acts of terror because of brain injuries he may have sustained in his fledging boxing career.
Researchers say that the possibility that brain injuries played a role is worth looking at, but not likely.
Two pioneering researchers of brain disease among athletes in violent sports recommended Saturday that investigators conduct special autopsy tests on amateur boxer Tamerlan Tsarnaev to determine whether the Boston Marathon bombing suspect could have been affected by boxing-related brain damage.
The researchers expressed serious doubt the disease — chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE — could have factored in the wave of violence that led to Tsarnaev’s death early Friday in a firefight with police.
But they suggested investigators would be remiss if they did not autopsy Tsarnaev’s brain for signs of CTE. The disease can only be diagnosed through post-mortem forensic tests of the brain.
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