Thursday Morning News Roundup 12-27-2012

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.

 

 

 

  • Social Security’s deficits are depressing and the number of Americans applying for disability benefits hit an all-time high this month.

 

 

 

  • There seems to be less excitement about President Barack Obama’s second inauguration than the first. Could it be his record?

 

 

 

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Newspaper Treats Gun Owners Like Perverts

Thousands of Americans were shocked and angered at one New York newspaper’s attempt at Orwellian vilification of gun owners after it published an online database of gun-permit holders in its locale in the wake of the Connecticut Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy.

The Journal News, based in White Plains, N.Y., published a sensationalized gun-ownership story on Dec. 24 entitled “The gun owner next door: What you don’t know about the weapons in your neighborhood” linking legal gun-permit holders to violent crime. The newspaper collected permit information on 44,000 people in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties proclaiming that one out of every 23 adults in the area are licensed to own a handgun.

From the article:

Anyone can find out the names and addresses of handgun owners in any county with a simple Freedom of Information Law request, and the state’s top public records expert told The Journal News last week that he thinks the law does not bar the release of other details. But officials in county clerk’s offices in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam maintain the public does not have a right to see such things as the specific permits an individual has been issued, the types of handguns a person possesses or the number of guns he or she owns — whether one or a dozen.

The story quickly caught the attention of conservative news sites and media outlets and drew heavy criticism. Gun rights advocates likened the publication of a map pinpointing the location of every permit holder in the area to an attempt to portray gun owners as a societal danger like sex offenders.

“We knew publication of the database would be controversial, but we felt sharing as much information as we could about gun ownership in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings,” said CynDee Royle, editor and vice president/news told USA Today.

“People are concerned about who owns guns and how many of them there are in their neighborhoods,” she said. “Our Freedom of Information request also sought specifics on how many and what types of weapons people owned. That portion of the request was denied.”

Of note, newspaper giant Gannet Co. Inc., owns both USA Today (which published a follow-up story on the controversial gun-owner list) and The Journal News.

Ron Paul: ‘Government Has Zero Moral Authority To Legislate Against Violence’

The Nation is still mourning the terrible loss of life that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., nearly two weeks ago. And the debate about how to prevent future mass shootings, particularly in schools, continues with emotional—and often irrational—suggestions from individuals and organizations all over the country.

Coming to the conclusion of his Congressional career and after a failed bid for the Presidency, Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas) has been noticeably out of the media spotlight for a number of weeks. But as everyone from the National Rifle Association to leftist anti-gun groups throw in two cents about how the Nation should proceed in the conversation about guns, mental illness and violence, the Libertarian icon took to his Congressional website recently to plea for rational discourse.

Paul points out the misguided logic that both the political right and left have employed in trying to understand how America should proceed:

Predictably, the political left responded to the tragedy with emotional calls for increased gun control.  This is understandable, but misguided. The impulse to have government “do something” to protect us in the wake national tragedies is reflexive and often well intentioned.  Many Americans believe that if we simply pass the right laws, future horrors like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting can be prevented.  But this impulse ignores the self evident truth that criminals don’t obey laws.

The political right, unfortunately, has fallen into the same trap in its calls for quick legislative solutions to gun violence.  If only we put armed police or armed teachers in schools, we’re told, would-be school shooters will be dissuaded or stopped.

Paul goes on to make the same case he has for more than three decades: More government regulation is not the answer. Putting aside emotion, the veteran Congressman points out that the tragic killing of the children at Sandy Hook mustn’t be used as the political lynchpin for increased Government tyranny in the United States.

He writes:

[D]o we really want to live in a world of police checkpoints, surveillance cameras, metal detectors, X-ray scanners, and warrantless physical searches?  We see this culture in our airports: witness the shabby spectacle of once proud, happy Americans shuffling through long lines while uniformed TSA agents bark orders.  This is the world of government provided “security,” a world far too many Americans now seem to accept or even endorse.  School shootings, no matter how horrific, do not justify creating an Orwellian surveillance state in America.

The point, Paul contends, is that the violence Americans are witnessing on a near daily basis is the result of decades of “moral and intellectual decline.” Furthermore, can Americans trust a government that kills thousands of people overseas with unmanned drones each year to have the moral authority to implement legislation to keep them safe from the occasional deranged gunman in the homeland? Paul’s answer: They absolutely cannot unless they’re willing to live in a totalitarian state.

Read Paul’s full message here.

Lawmakers Toe The Fiscal Cliff

America’s fiscal cliff anxiety is reaching a climax as lawmakers are expected to come to an agreement—for better or worse—sometime within the next ten days.

Most economic experts agree on three things: 1) Lawmakers are highly unlikely to reach an agreement before Jan. 1, when deep automatic spending cuts and crippling tax increases will automatically occur. 2) When they do implement a fiscal cliff plan, it will probably be little more than a quick-fix to avert only the harshest consequences of their failure avert the cliff. 3) Talks over the fiscal cliff have become more about political grandstanding and less about protecting Americans’ bottom lines.

President Barack Obama reportedly cut short his Hawaiian Christmas vacation Wednesday in order to return to Washington and ready himself for a Senate proposal on a fiscal cliff plan. The President and fellow Democrats are unwavering in demanding that high-income Americans not be sheltered by Bush-era tax cuts after the Jan. 1 deadline. Meanwhile, Republican opposition to any tax increase has been strong.

The two sides seemingly made progress last week when Obama offered to set $400,000 as the income threshold for a tax rate increase rather than the $250,000 he had originally proposed. Republican House Speaker John Boehner countered the President’s proposal with a $1 million income threshold for the tax increase, but was quickly cut down by other members of the GOP who outright oppose any tax increase.

More recently, GOP lawmakers appear to be softening in their opposition to higher tax rates because pressure from Democrats is creating a situation of political gridlock and making even small fiscal cliff agreements impossible.

Representative Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.) said on CNN, acknowledging that Republicans have little choice but to allow some tax increases: “If that’s where people have to go, we’ll make the threshold as high as we can. Because the more relief we provide, the better off we’ll be.”

The GOP’s weakening stance on higher taxes has provoked threats from anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, who vows to mount political assault in the form of primary challenges against Republicans who violate a pledge they signed against ever voting for a tax increase.

Meanwhile, as lawmakers continue to fail to create a plan, the economy is already experiencing the initial impact of what may result from the underwhelming political response to impending fiscal calamity. On Wednesday, reports from Wall Street indicated a weakening stock market despite being on the heels of the usually rallying holiday season.

“There’s just no certainty and people don’t know where to step,” Stephen Guilfoyle of Meridian Equity Partners told NBC. “We’re kind of in a quandary here—the market didn’t catch at 1,422 like it was supposed to and the next catch point is 1,415 on the S&P. There’s not a lot of volume and you have a lot of traders with question marks on their heads right now.”

Wednesday Morning News Roundup 12-26-2012

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.

 

 

 

 

  • Some doctors say that if you get nonsense text messages from a friend or loved one, you shouldn’t always assume it is due to autocorrect. “Dystextia”—or unintelligible text messages—could be signs of a stroke.

 

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook.

Gallup: Americans Have Mixed Feelings About Guns

A recent Gallup poll shows that Americans are more likely to favor an increased police presence at schools, increased government spending on mental health screening and treatment, and decreased depiction of gun violence in entertainment than assault weapons bans to prevent mass school shootings.

Fifty-three percent of respondents to a recent Gallup poll said that increasing police presence on school campuses would likely be the best option for preventing future school shootings. Similarly, 50 percent favored increased government spending on mental health services to help recognize individuals likely to carry out violent acts.

Banning the sale of assault weapons was considered the most viable option for avoiding mass shootings in the future and was favored by 42 percent of respondents. Party affiliation was an important indicator of how the respondents felt about such a ban. Sixty-one percent of Democrats favored the idea; only 26 percent of Republicans did. More favorable among Republicans (49 percent) was ensuring that at least one official on every American campus was armed with a firearm. Only 27 percent of Democrats thought arming teachers would be a good idea.

Just less than half of those polled (47 percent) indicated that violence in television, movies and video games attribute to violent outbursts and mass killings.

Congressmen Want Answers On DOJ Spying

Anyone following liberty-related current events already knows that the Federal government keeps vast troves of data on virtually all American citizens, even those never accused of a crime. Following a write-up in The Wall Street Journal, a couple of Congressmen want the specifics on the Department of Justice’s justification for its sweeping and unConstitutional surveillance procedures.

Last week, Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking just what the DOJ is doing with the massive amounts of data it collects. They want to know if the DOJ seriously believes it has the legal authority to keep data on citizens who are not suspected of any crime, analyze aggregated government databases and change fundamental rules governing surveillance without approval from Congress. All of these things, the DOJ has done in secret in recent years.

From the letter:

If the WSJ report is accurate, these new powers represent a sweeping departure from past practices, which barred the NCTC from storing information about ordinary Americans unless a person was a terror suspect or the information sought was related to an investigation.

If the WSJ report is accurate, it raises numerous concerns and questions.  As elected Representatives and members of the House Judiciary Committee, we are concerned such sweeping, fundamental changes would be made to existing policy without public input and Congressional approval.  Changes, which fundamentally alter the relationship between the government and the governed, should only be made with input from the people by and through their elected Representatives.

The Congressmen have requested a response by the end of January. The American Civil Liberties Union has also done extensive research into the DOJ surveillance program, which can be read here.

A Christmas Opportunity For Unity

Political tensions at home and abroad sometimes cause us to forget that as human beings — no matter our backgrounds, beliefs or ambitions — we are all in this together. Bitter partisan bickering over domestic policy has the potential to ruin families and friendships and make us hate complete strangers. And propagandized reports from abroad can lead us to view entire populations of people with disdain.

There will always be evil in the world. No amount of scientific research or religious study will ever reveal to us a definitive answer as to exactly why that is. But for the vast majority of us, life is about families, friendships and personal goals; things, in a perfect world, that would be encumbered only by the stresses of basic survival.

This, however, is not a perfect world. We are each subject to political quarreling amplified by the always-on media and sanctioned by motive-driven people in positions of power close to home and all over the world. Many of us remain engaged in a constant battle of Us versus Them which we are encouraged by leaders and pundits to live out in almost every aspect of our lives.

We are citizens versus aliens.

We are Republicans versus Democrats versus Libertarians.

We are conservatives versus liberals.

We are religious versus non-religious.

We are Americans versus non-Americans.

We are ethnicity versus ethnicity, race versus race, religion versus religion, gay versus straight, man versus woman, young versus old and everything in-between.

America is polarized and, in fact, the whole of the world is. But what should remain above all: We are all humans. The vast majority of us share the same love for those closest to us, the same pain for the loss of those loved ones and the same want for the best possible outcomes in life. We all require food, water, shelter and clothing; and we all do what we feel we must to acquire those things. Some of us seem obviously misguided in our pursuits; but in one way or another, we all are.

In the weeks leading up to the holidays, there was much anxiety throughout the Nation as people who care for one another, but often share diametrically opposed political opinions, prepared to gather for festive fun. College students will have come home, often only to turn their grandparents’ faces red with newfound liberalism. To everyone’s dismay, drunken uncles will proffer confused renditions of political talking points from the most extreme and misguided pundits of either right or leftist philosophies. Family members and friends, perhaps having imbibed one too many, may get into heated and worthless political quarrels.

But a better option would be to leave the political discussions alone — not because they are unimportant, but because they are far less important than the camaraderie of those around you. There may come a time when policies cooked up in Washington no longer matter; basic survival and cherished relationships might then be all that remain. The shift would likely move us all closer to the prospect of a more perfect world.

If you think it is impossible to lay aside staunch political beliefs, consider the often-repeated story of the remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914, at the height of World War I.

Nearly 100,000 soldiers — mostly British and German — on Europe’s Western Front allowed for one silent night in the midst of a war that would eventually claim 14 million lives.

In 2005, The New York Times compiled a series of excerpts from the letters, journals and memoirs of the men who were there:

The truce broke out spontaneously in many places. Pvt. Albert Moren of the Second Queens Regiment recalled the scene on Christmas Eve near the French village of La Chapelle d’Armentières:

It was a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere; and about 7 or 8 in the evening there was a lot of commotion in the German trenches and there were these lights -I don’t know what they were. And then they sang “Silent Night” – “Stille Nacht.” I shall never forget it, it was one of the highlights of my life. I thought, what a beautiful tune.

Rifleman Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade recalled how the mood spread:

Then suddenly lights began to appear along the German parapet, which were evidently make-shift Christmas trees, adorned with lighted candles, which burnt steadily in the still, frosty air! … First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up “O Come, All Ye Faithful” the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing – two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.

The shared carols inspired Capt. Josef Sewald of Germany’s 17th Bavarian Regiment to make a bold gesture:

I shouted to our enemies that we didn’t wish to shoot and that we make a Christmas truce. I said I would come from my side and we could speak with each other. First there was silence, then I shouted once more, invited them, and the British shouted “No shooting!” Then a man came out of the trenches and I on my side did the same and so we came together and we shook hands – a bit cautiously!

The enemies quickly became friends, as Cpl. John Ferguson of the Second Seaforth Highlanders recalled:

We shook hands, wished each other a Merry Xmas, and were soon conversing as if we had known each other for years. We were in front of their wire entanglements and surrounded by Germans – Fritz and I in the center talking, and Fritz occasionally translating to his friends what I was saying. We stood inside the circle like street corner orators. … What a sight – little groups of Germans and British extending almost the length of our front! Out of the darkness we could hear laughter and see lighted matches, a German lighting a Scotchman’s cigarette and vice versa, exchanging cigarettes and souvenirs.

On Christmas Day, some Germans and British held a joint service to bury their dead. Second Lt. Arthur Pelham Burn of the Sixth Gordon Highlanders was there:

Our Padre … arranged the prayers and psalms, etc., and an interpreter wrote them out in German. They were read first in English by our Padre and then in German by a boy who was studying for the ministry. It was an extraordinary and most wonderful sight. The Germans formed up on one side, the English on the other, the officers standing in front, every head bared.

According to several accounts, soccer games were played in no man’s land with makeshift balls that Christmas. Lt. Kurt Zehmisch of Germany’s 134th Saxons Infantry Regiment witnessed a match:

Eventually the English brought a soccer ball from their trenches, and pretty soon a lively game ensued. How marvelously wonderful, yet how strange it was. The English officers felt the same way about it. Thus Christmas, the celebration of Love, managed to bring mortal enemies together as our friends for a time.

Second Lt. Bruce Bairnsfather of the First Warwickshires saw an even more unusual fraternization:

The last I saw of this little affair was a vision of one of my machine gunners, who was a bit of an amateur hairdresser in civilian life, cutting the unnaturally long hair of a docile Boche, who was patiently kneeling on the ground while the automatic clippers crept up the back of his neck.

Not everyone was so charitable. Cpl. Adolf Hitler of the 16th Bavarians lambasted his comrades for their unmilitary conduct:

Such things should not happen in wartime. Have you Germans no sense of honor left at all?

When Gen. Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, commander of the British II Corps, learned of the consorting, he was irate:

I have issued the strictest orders that on no account is intercourse to be allowed between the opposing troops. To finish this war quickly, we must keep up the fighting spirit and do all we can to discourage friendly intercourse.

Inevitably, both sides were soon ordered back to their trenches. Capt. Charles “Buffalo Bill” Stockwell of the Second Royal Welch Fusiliers recalled how the peace ended early on Dec. 26:

At 8:30, I fired three shots into the air and put up a flag with “Merry Christmas” on it on the parapet. He [a German] put up a sheet with “Thank You” on it, and the German captain appeared on the parapet. We both bowed and saluted and got down into our respective trenches, and he fired two shots into the air, and the war was on again.

We’re all in this together, regardless of what media pundits, power-hungry leaders and motive-driven lobbyists have to say.

Merry Christmas from the offices of Personal Liberty Digest™.

Student Santa Suspended

A Georgia high school student was visited by police and suspended from school last week after posting on his Facebook profile: “Students of cchs ur in for a big surprise tomorrow <let the games begin>”

John George, a sophomore at Crawford County High School, had made plans to dress up as Santa Claus and hand out candy at the school first thing in the morning. But parents and police officers who viewed the post took it as a threat in the wake of the horrific school shooting in Connecticut.

“As soon as we got to school we were going to meet up in the bathroom and get dressed and then go to the gym and give out candy canes and chill with our other friends,” John told a local news station.

But before he could carry out the plot, police arrived on the young man’s doorstep.

“We then spoke briefly about the nature of the post and how with the recent tragedy of school shootings that had occurred that the post could cause unrest if taken the wrong way. We then left the residence without further incident,” the police report stated.

No charges were filed, but when John returned to school he was promptly suspended. School officials said his words were “disturbing” and described his Facebook profile as having a “very Gothic and dark theme.”

Monday News Roundup 12-24-2012— Merry Christmas!

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 NYPD is working on coming up with new ways to identify potential mass shooters before they act. One plan involves using algorithms on the Internet that would search for terms mass shooters have used in emails in the past.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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