EFF Petitions SCOTUS on DNA Dragnet

The Electronic Frontier Foundation urged the Supreme Court recently to require law enforcement agencies to get a warrant before forcing individuals to give DNA samples upon being arrested for a crime.

In an amicus brief filed Friday in Maryland v. King — a case which challenges a Maryland mandate that requires all arrestees to submit to DNA sampling whether they end up being convicted of a crime or not — EFF argues that DNA collection is a major intrusion of privacy.

“Your DNA is the roadmap to an extraordinary amount of private information about you and your family,” said EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch. “It contains data on your current health, your potential for disease, and your family background. For government access to personal information this sensitive, the Fourth Amendment requires a warrant.”

EFF has filed briefs in other cases regarding the practice of collecting DNA from all arrestees, as 27 other States and the Federal government have laws similar to Maryland’s requiring that the DNA of anyone taken into police custody is logged.

“Let’s say you were picked up by police at a political protest and arrested, but then released and never convicted of a crime. Under these laws, your genetic material is held in a law enforcement database, often indefinitely,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. “This is an unconstitutional search and seizure.”

The Court, which has becoming increasingly sensitive to matters involving law enforcement and technology in recent years, will likely hear arguments in Maryland v. King later this month.

Company Makes Surveillance-Proof Technology Accessible To All

The wireless, always-on society that has become the norm in the 21st century offers boundless convenience in how we communicate, learn and store new information. The convenience of mobile technology also opens users up to privacy threats from government, criminals or any number of people with malicious intent. One company is working to help mobile technology users retain the convenience of instant communication while remaining confident that their privacy will not be breached.

The start-up tech firm Silent Circle introduced a surveillance-proof smartphone app in October that made making secure phone calls and text messages from a smartphone easy enough for the everyday user. The company also promised that the encryption software included no backdoors for snooping government agencies emboldened by Patriot Act-era wireless surveillance permissions.

The company offers a privacy service for both Android- and Apple-based smartphones, beginning at just $20 a month, that includes protection for calls, texts, email and video on the smartphone.

On the Silent Phone website, the company explains how the service works:

Each user will receive a special Private Encrypted 10-digit phone number individual to them. Silent Phone allows you to easily integrate existing contacts and favorite information on your device to provide complete functionality securely. We built Silent Phone and our network to be true Device-to-Device encrypted security –no one can listen in, no one can wiretap , no one but you and the subscriber on the other end has access –not us, not anyone. Everyone wants to know “How did you do it?” –how is it possible that Silent Phone can make clear crisp Video & Voice calls over 3G 4G or any other older network –100% encrypted with almost no latency? Our custom-built PBXs, servers, software and algorithms were built and designed by our All-Star team of “who’s who” in the world of VoIP, Encryption and Secure Software.

Because the encryption is peer to peer, not even Silent Circle holds a key to the information sent over the network. Users can also set messages to self-destruct after they are received. The company also recently expanded its capabilities so that users can securely send emails and documents securely without the fear of interception.

Chicago Is Becoming A City Of Victims

The anti-gun crowd skewered Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clark Jr. when he suggested that residents in his area should arm themselves to take personal protection into their own hands in light of ongoing law enforcement cutbacks. A little more than an hour south in notoriously violent Chicago, residents are dealing with a different message from law enforcement.

It has been noted that Chicago is a veritable gun-control utopia. The city is intolerant of gun stores, armed private citizens in public, assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and shooting ranges. Draconian gun-control provisions even make it a hassle to keep a firearm in a residence for home protection. Daily headlines also proffer that not only does Chicago epitomize gun control at its finest, but it is also a criminal cesspool.

When he was interviewed about the controversial public service announcement that urged residents in his area to learn how to properly use a firearm for self-defense, Clark said he was simply looking for creative ways to help residents cope with lagging first responder response times.

“People are responsible to play a role in their own safety, with the help of law enforcement,” Clarke said. “I’m here to do my part, but we have fewer and fewer resources. We’re not omnipresent, and we have to stop giving people that impression.”

“After sitting down and thinking about this, I’m thinking ‘Hey, I’ve got an untapped reserve over here, and it’s the public,”‘ Clarke said.

The lack of resources available to Chicago-area law enforcement is similar. Police officials in the city announced this week that officers will no longer respond on scene to reports of criminal property damage, vehicle thefts, burglaries or other crimes in which the suspect may no longer be at or near the scene. Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy says the move will free up about 44 officers per patrol shift to prevent shootings on the streets.

“I don’t mean to be flippant here, because I’ve been the victim of a burglary at least three or four times,” he told CBS Chicago. “I’d rather have the officer on street, where he can prevent the shooting.”

Unless the suspect is on the scene or the victim of a crime feels his life is in immediate danger from criminals, the caller will be directed to give officers details over the phone or at district law enforcement stations.

“You’re upset; you’re violated. It’s happened to me. So, you’ve got to weigh it, and I’m making tough decisions,” McCarthy said. “I’m making a tough decision, but I’d rather have that officer on the street, doing something to prevent the next shooting than — honestly — making somebody feel better, because they’re responding rather than talking to them over the phone.”

In Chicago, where 91.5 percent of shooters escaped charges in 2011, a “no snitch” code emboldens the criminal underground. The city’s criminals now know that cops are spread so thinly that they will no longer respond in person to certain criminal complaints from the largely unarmed law-abiding populace, no doubt a further confidence-booster for the ill-intentioned.

McCarthy claims the Chicago Police Department’s decision is a proactive move that will prevent future shootings. Clarke admits that law enforcement is unable to protect every citizen from criminal activity and urges responsible firearm ownership.

Whose city would you rather call home?

Killing Americans, Big Sis For President, A North Korean Attack Fantasy And The Coming Pot Tax: Tuesday Morning News Roundup 2-5-2013

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 Department of Justice’s white paper that outlines the Barack Obama Administration’s justification for ordering targeted drone strikes against American citizens has been leaked. Read it here.
  • North Korea has released a creepy video of a fantasy missile attack on an unnamed U.S. city. The video is set to the music of Michael Jackson’s peace anthem “We Are The World.” Did we mention it’s creepy?
  • If you thought you were in bad financial shape, consider this: The Zimbabwean government announced that it has just $217 in the bank. Of course, there’s a story (rather, a cautionary tale) behind that. Zimbabwe is a classic example of how fiat money can cause rampant hyperinflation.
  • As States lighten up on their pot laws, the Feds are looking at plans to put a hefty tax on recreational weed. There is also talk about legalizing industrial hemp.

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

Student Loan Debt Could Cripple Economy For Decades

The price of a college education has been climbing at a substantially higher rate than inflation for years; meanwhile, the value of a college degree has been falling. That’s why thousands of debt-laden college graduates are facing the worst economic bust to plague the United States since the housing bubble burst.

A recent report from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, entitled “Why Are Recent College Graduates Underemployed?”, refutes the oft-repeated theory that college educated Americans have the potential to earn substantially higher lifetime incomes than their uneducated peers. In fact, the report indicates that many college-educated Americans are woefully underemployed because “the growth of supply of college-educated labor is exceeding the growth in the demand for such labor in the labor market.”

From the report:

  • About 48 percent of employed U.S. college graduates are in jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests requires less than a four-year college education. Eleven percent of employed college graduates are in occupations requiring more than a high-school diploma but less than a bachelor’s, and 37 percent are in occupations requiring no more than a high-school diploma;
  • The proportion of overeducated workers in occupations appears to have grown substantially; in 1970, fewer than one percent of taxi drivers and two percent of firefighters had college degrees, while now more than 15 percent do in both jobs;
  • About five million college graduates are in jobs the BLS says require less than a high-school education;
  • Comparing average college and high-school earnings is highly misleading as a guide for vocational success, given high college-dropout rates and the fact that overproduction of college graduates lowers recent graduate earnings relative to those graduating earlier;
  • Not all colleges are equal: Typical graduates of elite private schools make more than graduates of flagship state universities, but those graduates do much better than those attending relatively non-selective institutions;
  •  Not all majors are equal: Engineering and economics graduates, for example, typically earn almost double what social work and education graduates receive by mid-career;
  • Past and projected future growth in college enrollments and the number of graduates exceeds the actual or projected growth in high-skilled jobs, explaining the development of the underemployment problem and its probable worsening in future years;
  • Rising college costs and perceived declines in economic benefits may well lead to declining enrollments and market share for traditional schools and the development of new methods of certifying occupation competence.

Meanwhile, over the past five years the average amount of student loan debt accrued by college students has risen by 30 percent to $23,829. More than half of student loan holders have currently deferred student loan payments, which is only a temporary solution for struggling degree holders.

Some economists expect the American economy to struggle for decades under massive student loan debts because student loans are almost impossible to discharge in bankruptcy and the government will collect by garnishing the paychecks and tax refunds of those who fail to pay. Furthermore, being underwater on student loans can harm a person’s credit score, making it more expensive for them to get loans for homes or vehicles.

As more and more Americans struggle to pay back student loans while underemployed, the economy as a whole will suffer, since the purchases of first homes and other durable goods are put off indefinitely.

The POTUS Election Cost $7 Billion, And Obama’s Still Campaigning

The Federal Election Commission announced recently that the 2013 Presidential campaign, the first since the Supreme Court ruling that granted corporations freedom of political speech, was the most expensive in history.

According to the FEC, a cursory review of the 11 million pages of campaign funding-related documents from the 2012 election revealed that candidates, parties and outside groups spent a combined $7 billion to sway voters in the months leading up to Election Day.

Estimates from the agency show that the candidates spent $3.2 billion, making up almost half of the total spending. The political parties spent $2 billion, and the remaining $2.1 billion was reportedly spent by privately funded political action committees. Despite the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that empowered super PACs in the 2012 election year, the FEC analysis shows that traditional PACs outspent super PACs, $1.2 billion to $950 million.

“It’s obviously only an estimate,” FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub told POLITICO. “It’s really hard to come up with ‘the number.’”

President Barack Obama, who has long decried corporate funding in political campaigns, was called out by ProPublica in an article last month for reversing on promises to avoid accepting money from special interests.

From the article:

When President Obama told supporters that he would morph his campaign into a new nonprofit that would accept unlimited corporate donations, the announcement set off a familiar round of griping from campaign finance reformers.

The creation this month of Organizing for Action, which will promote the president’s second-term agenda, appears to be the fourth reversal by Obama on major money-in-politics issues since 2008.

The President, who embraced PAC funding during the campaign for a second term, has used the Citizens United ruling that he criticized to his benefit in shifting his campaign apparatus to a nonprofit group called Organizing for Action. The organization will use donations to push the President’s second-term agenda with television commercials and events as if the Presidential campaign never ended for the Obama camp.

Iranian Space Program, Obama’s Shotgun And More Gun Hysteria: Monday Morning News Roundup 2-4-2013

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.

  • Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he’s willing to “sacrifice” himself for his Nation’s scientists and be shot into space.
  • The White House found a photo of President Barack Obama shooting skeet. It’s awkward.

obamaskeet_s640x407

  • The Army now has access to tiny drones which measure just 4 inches by 1 inch and can deliver full-motion video and still images. These are likely coming to a police station near you.
  • The madness continues: An Arizona high school student was suspended for having a picture of a gun on his computer.
  • Karl Rove and the Republican establishment want the Tea Party to disappear.

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

Majority Of Americans: Government Is A Threat

The biggest threat to American freedom, according to a majority of Americans, is not global terror or foreign tyrants, but the Nation’s Federal government.

A recent national survey of 1,502 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 53 percent of Americans think the Federal government poses the biggest threat to their personal rights and freedoms, 43 percent disagree and 4 percent don’t know.

Republicans were most likely to point out the government threat to freedom, with 76 percent in the group reporting feeling threatened by the state. Gun ownership also impacted whether or not the Federal government was viewed as a threat: 62 percent of gun-owning respondents felt threatened, while only 45 percent with no guns agreed.

The number of Democrats who felt threatened was still surprisingly high at 38 percent.

Overall, only 26 percent of those polled said they were confident that government would do the right thing all or most of the time; 73 percent said the government was likely to do the wrong thing in most cases.

Despite feeling threatened, only 19 percent of respondents said they were “angry” at government; a larger number (58 percent) said they were simply “frustrated.” Only 20 percent of those polled expressed feelings of content with the Federal government.

Pew also found that 68 percent of respondents don’t like Congress and just more than half blamed the legislative branch for America’s many problems.

Government Transparency And Toothless FOIA

The Freedom of Information Act was enacted in 1966 to ensure the American public access to important information about the actions of the Federal government and its agencies. FOIA provides that any person has the right to request Federal agency records as long as disclosure doesn’t threaten national security. It also mandates that agencies voluntarily release certain information. But government transparency activists claim that the government has increasingly thwarted attempts to access information via FOIA to cover up its abuses and failures.

President Barack Obama boldly proclaimed during his first term that his would be “the most transparent” Presidential Administration in history and, along with Attorney General Eric Holder, urged Federal agencies to handle FOIA requests with a “spirit of cooperation.”

Unfortunately, in the years since Obama took office FOIA has become a less-than-effective means of getting information pertaining to government affairs because of myriad homeland security and “executive privilege” exemptions used to block FOIA inquiries. This was demonstrated recently when the American Civil Liberties Union sought information about the Justice Department’s policy regarding warrantless GPS tracking. Justice complied with the request to provide interdepartmental memos related to the issue, but the document was so heavily redacted that only a little more than two full pages of the 57-page document were readable. The information on those pages was mostly inconsequential and already public record.

In 2009, Holder issued new guidelines to the heads of Federal agencies meant to streamline their FOIA process and make more information available. But a recent audit from the National Security Archive found that 62 of the 99 government agencies have done nothing to update FOIA regulations; 56 of them had not even updated the policies since the passage of the 2007 OPEN Government Act. The 2007 act required “that agencies reform their fee structures, institute request tracking numbers, publish specific data on their FOIA output, and cooperate with the new FOIA mediators at the Office of Government Information Services.”

Beyond not making a priority of enforcing openness, the Obama executive branch has also allowed agencies to repeatedly thwart FOIA requests using the deliberative process privilege, which allows for executive branch communications to be kept secret. Though unrelated to FOIA, similar methods were used to keep Congress at bay as lawmakers attempted to determine how culpable Holder and other Administration officials were in the deadly failures of the controversial Fast and Furious gun running scheme.

Last week, a group of open-government activists called on lawmakers to update FOIA, not only to rethink some of the 250 to 300 loopholes that emasculate the act but also to include 21st century reforms that could get information to the public in a timelier manner.

“Outdated agency regulations really mean there’s an opportunity here for a second-term Obama to standardize best practices and bring all the agencies up to his day-one openness pledge,” said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive.

Beyond Congressional initiatives to do away with some of the loopholes that allow agencies to thwart FOIA requests, the National Security Archive recommends the following steps be taken to increase government transparency:

  • Joining the FOIAonline portal, a government-wide, one stop shop for requesting, tracking, and proactively posting digital versions of FOIA’d documents. (Currently only six agencies have joined.)
  • Embracing direct communications with requesters to focus, narrow, and clarify requests rather than rejecting outright requests not perfectly constructed.
  • Ending the practice of using fees to discourage requests. All news media (online or print), students, teachers, new media, bloggers, tweeters, and online-only publications should be granted fee waivers. (Recouped FOIA fees pay for just one percent of all FOIA costs.)
  • Substantially reducing the use of discretionary withholdings, such as the b(5) “deliberative process” exemption. Congress mandated that documents under the Presidential Records Act -concerning decisions made at the highest level- cannot be withheld under the b(5) exemption after the president leaves office. At the very least, this standard should also apply to documents requested under FOIA.
  • Preventing requests from becoming lost in “consultation” and “referral” black holes where multiple (sometimes endless) reviews and re-reviews can cause extreme delays in releases or even lost requests. These black holes can be avoided by sending requests for consultation and/or referral as rarely as possible; informing requesters of the status of their requests (even if they are being processed by a different component or agency); and continuing to track the progress and ensure the completion of FOIA requests, even after they have been passed along to other parts of the government.
  • Proactively posting documents of likely interest to the public, such as the Department of the Interior’s response to the 2010 Deep Water Horizon Gulf oil spill, as required by the 1996 e-FOIA Amendments.

According to the Archive’s FOIA coordinator, Nate Jones, the Obama could still make good on his transparency promise.

“These forgotten regulations and FOIA backslides demonstrate that President Obama needs to install a Transparency Bulldog in the White House whose sole responsibility is to track, cajole, and force federal agencies into complying with the law of the Freedom of Information Act and ensure that the President’s commitments to openness are not ignored by the agencies he leads,” he said.

Obama, however, may be less willing to tackle the issue of FOIA reform today than he was on his first day in the Oval Office. A review by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) released in December showed that Federal agencies were being sued for information under the act more times during the first Obama term than were during the final four years of the George W. Bush Administration. The suits result when the agencies either take an unreasonable amount of time to produce information requested under FOIA or outright deny access.

In all, the FOIA lawsuits jumped by 28 percent, with the most drastic increases in suits being filed against the State Department (111 percent), Department of Agriculture (67 percent), Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Veterans Affairs (60 percent), as well as the Department of Justice (50 percent).

TRAC also noted that the suits were coming from a political diverse group of organizations: “Among the most active were attorneys associated with Judicial Watch, a conservative group and liberal groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and its local affiliates. Also very active were attorneys for Public Citizen Litigation Group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and attorney David Sobel.”

Transparency groups concede that Congress should intervene to make Obama’s transparency promise a reality.

Bombs, A Dangerous Baby And American Taxpayers Acting French: Friday Morning News Roundup 2-1-2013

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.

  • Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday issued a warning about Syria and Iran. Get ready for some fireworks in the Mideast.
  • In Russia, officials believe that Boyz II Men epitomize romance. Never has there been a better example of how communism can permanently damage culture.

 

 

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

Tennessee Lawmaker: Ending Affirmative Action Is Last Civil Rights Battle

Tennessee State Senator Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) has introduced legislation that would do away with diversity programs and minority preference in colleges and other areas in the Volunteer State.

Summerville’s bill, called the Civil Rights Initiative of 2013, is an attempt to do away with affirmative action programs that the Senator deems discriminatory to all residents and demeaning to minorities. Some key provisions in the bill would ban diversity officers on campus, abolish preference given by universities based on race and ethnicity, and prohibit the State from keeping race, gender or ethnicity statistics beyond what is required by Federal law.

“It’s a little demeaning I think to classify people in those categories. They might wonder ‘Am I here because I’m any good or am I here to fill a quota?’ So I think it’s time to let this go,” Summerville said.

While the bill has reportedly drawn a bevy of criticism from gay and lesbian groups in the State, its author argues that it would be appreciated by the leaders of America’s historic civil rights movement. Summerville told The Tennessean his bill was the “last battle of the civil rights movement.”

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hoped to live to see an America where his children would be judged ‘not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,’” Summerville said. “I think he’d be sad if he were among us today to see that this generation has failed in that hope.”

The State lawmaker has yet to find a sponsor for the bill, and policy wonks in Tennessee have given it little chance of surviving the legislative session.

Senator Rand Paul: Get Back To Founders’ Vision Of Foreign Policy

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has spent a great deal of time over the past two weeks criticizing the overly aggressive foreign policy that has been the modus operandi of the United States for several years.

On Thursday, Paul addressed the Senate to explain a bill he plans to offer that would thwart the Barack Obama Administration’s plans to bypass Congress and sell at least 20 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets and 200 M1A1 combat tanks to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated President Mohammed Morsi.

“I think it particularly unwise to send tanks and our most sophisticated fighter planes to Egypt at a time when many are saying the country may be unraveling,” Paul said on the Senate floor.

Paul said now is an especially dangerous time to provide the weaponry to Egypt in light of recent reports that the country’s fragile new political structure may be unraveling and become more extreme.

“I think this is particularly unwise since Egypt is currently governed by a religious zealot, a religious zealot who said recently that ‘Jews were bloodsuckers and descendants of apes and pigs,’” Paul continued. “This doesn’t sound like the kind of stable personality we would be sending our most sophisticated weapons to.”

Paul has been especially hard on the Republican Party recently, saying that many so-called conservatives show that their true loyalties lie with big government and the military-industrial complex as the GOP continue to pursue foreign policy initiatives based in aggression rather than defense.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily a conservative point of view,” Paul said in a recent interview. “That sort of over-the-top aggressive foreign policy doesn’t have to be really a conservative or Constitutional point of view but it scares some people away from our party.”

The Senator said Republicans should evolve to adapt a foreign policy stance that better represents the vision of the Nation’s Founders by emphasizing “strong national defense as a deterrent to war ” and said it was important that “we don’t appear to be the party that’s eager for war.”

Paul was recently named by Heritage Action For America, a partner of The Heritage Foundation, as the Nation’s fourth leading conservative lawmaker. He will speak before the organization next Wednesday to explain further what he believes lawmakers can do to reinstate Constitutionally responsible foreign policy.

Chicago Is Full Of Flying Bullets Because The Rest Of The Nation Has Gun Rights

Very restrictive gun-licensing laws, no gun stores, no tolerance of armed private citizens in public, no assault rifles, no high-capacity magazines, and no shooting ranges: Chicago is a gun hater’s utopia. It’s also the city where 44 homicides and 160 shootings were recorded in January alone. The Windy City is a portrait of the hypocrisy of gun control.

The New York Times published a piece on Tuesday outlining the massive crime problem currently gripping the city and leading to the shooting deaths of so many of its residents. The newspaper mostly blamed the proliferation of Chicago gun violence on the city’s restrictive gun laws being negated by the more gun friendly laws on the books for the State of Illinois.

From the article:

Lately, the police say they are discovering far more guns on the streets of Chicago than in the nation’s two more populous cities, Los Angeles and New York. They seized 7,400 guns here in crimes or unpermitted uses last year (compared with 3,285 in New York City), and have confiscated 574 guns just since Jan. 1 — 124 of them last week alone.

More than a quarter of the firearms seized on the streets here by the Chicago Police Department over the past five years were bought just outside city limits in Cook County suburbs, according to an analysis by the University of Chicago Crime Lab. Others came from stores around Illinois and from other states, like Indiana, less than an hour’s drive away…

The tone of the article appears to suggest that tightening gun laws in every city, county and State throughout the Nation would end the suffering in Chicago, but it never examines the idea that strict gun laws — which haven’t helped Chicago — likely won’t deter the criminal element in any other part of the country either.

Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Konkol recently published a piece in My Chicago that allows the reader to draw a more realistic conclusion about what lies beneath Chicago’s gun — or, rather, killing — problem.

From Konkol’s piece:

Last year, gunmen who shot and wounded someone got away without criminal charges 94 percent of the time, according to a DNAinfo.com Chicago analysis of police data.

That’s even worse than 2011, when 91.5 percent of shooters escaped charges, according to the data.

Chicago’s top cop said the “no-snitch” code of silence on the street is the biggest contributor in his department’s struggle to charge shooters.

Chicago is a city under siege, rampant with gang violence and full of criminals who abide by their own code of conduct in a battle over turf, drugs and money. The police are powerless to end the killing and Chicago’s political class has done its best to make owning a gun as inconvenient as possible. The result: Law-abiding citizens in the city must get a Chicago firearms permit, which requires firearms training, a background check and firearm owner’s identification card issued upon completing a background review for felonies and mental illness.

As the law currently stands, those steps allow for only the purchase or possession of the weapon. A recent review by the Chicago Tribune found that only about 1 out of every 234 people in Illinois (most of them cops) were authorized to carry a concealed firearm in the State. In Chicago the number of law abiding concealed carriers is far lower.

Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Dianne Feinstein and the Nation’s other anti-gun lawmakers should take gun-violence victim Gabriel Gifford’s advice from the Senate hearing on Wednesday: Be bold, be courageous. I suggest they sit down with the heads of America’s top gangs and ask them to politely hand over their guns. The political leaders could organize a beer summit in Chicago’s Englewood area; heck, they should bring the former community organizer along, too. It’s going to take some diplomacy, because somehow it seems doubtful that the gangs have been encouraging members to drop off firepower at local gun buybacks. While they’re at it, perhaps Biden, Pelosi and Barack Obama could convince gang leaders to turn over their crack, smack and coke as well. How the hell are those drugs making it into the City of Chicago, anyhow? They are, of course, illegal in all 50 States.

Maybe The New York Times knows.

Thursday Morning News Roundup 1-31-2013, It’s Getting Weird Out There

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 dollar is at a 14-month low performance low against the euro as the Federal Reserve announced yesterday that it would keep pumping the fiat.
  • Is there an active shooter in your workplace? The Department of Homeland Security has some advice: Run with scissors.
  • Another youngster has been kicked out of school for bringing a toy gun to school. This time a 6-year-old girl was expelled for the rest of the year for bringing a clear plastic toy gun to school.
  • Meanwhile, Bronx cops spent 10 hours interrogating a hardened 7-year-old over a $5 dispute with another child. Sadly, the photo below is real.cuff0131_image

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

Unsurprisingly, The Fed To Continue Money Pumping

At a Federal Open Market Committee on Wednesday, officials at the Federal Reserve said they would continue to pump money into the economy via an $85 billion bond-buying stimulus scheme, despite a stall in economic activity in recent months under the same policy.

Citing its statutory mandate, the Fed said that the continued stimulus is an effort to maintain price stability and encourage employment growth, the latter of which must improve substantially before the central bank will back off of its ongoing stimulus.

From an FOMC statement:

The Committee expects that, with appropriate policy accommodation, economic growth will proceed at a moderate pace and the unemployment rate will gradually decline toward levels the Committee judges consistent with its dual mandate.  Although strains in global financial markets have eased somewhat, the Committee continues to see downside risks to the economic outlook. The Committee also anticipates that inflation over the medium term likely will run at or below its 2 percent objective.

As unemployment rates are expected to remain around 7.8 percent for the month of January, Fed officials say that they will hold interest rates near zero until unemployment is down to 6.5 percent. Central bankers say the only way the policy will change is if inflation climbs above 2.5 percent in coming months.

The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet is estimated to have expanded in excess of $3 trillion in recent years. Recent meeting minutes of the FOMC show signs of disagreement between members of the committee over how much longer the central bank can continue quantitative easing without major and obvious economic consequence.

Some economic experts say that Americans can expect soaring food and fuel prices as early as 2014 if the Fed policy doesn’t produce dramatic economic growth this year.

Emotion, Lies And Propaganda From Anti-Gun Advocates On Capitol Hill

The politically charged American conversation about gun violence continued yesterday with the first Congressional hearing related to the matter since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. The conversation was complete with the same tired pleas to emotion and talking points that have been parroted from both sides of the debate, but the anti-gun lobby pulled all the stops.

Emotion

The image from the hearing that will undoubtedly be etched into the American psyche as it is played over and over by mainstream media will be that of the speech given before lawmakers by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the survivor of a mass shooting carried out in 2011 by a maniacal gunman in Arizona.

“This is an important conversation, for our children, for our communities, for Democrats and Republicans,” she said with exertion stemming from brain injuries caused by her attack. “Speaking is difficult but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.”

Lies And Half Truths

Another anti-gun highlight of the day involved remarks by infamously anti-gun Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) who flipped through what appeared to be a gun catalog making such absurd (or woefully ill-informed) claims as retail AR-15s are easily modified to fire up to 800 rounds per minute and two, three or four rounds at a time. She also lamented that these firearms are capable of “tremendous velocity and tremendous killing power,” which “I suspect tears young bodies apart.”

Propaganda

Following the hearings, a number of heavily slanted news reports hit the Internet.

One such example was this vilification of National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre from CNN:

Wayne LaPierre is not a large man. He does not move with the easy assurance of a skilled fighter. His head sits low on his neck, and he seems to turn from the shoulders.

His swept-back, graying hair and rimless glasses make him look like a Central Casting accountant who sleeps with a tie on. Yet, in Washington, LaPierre is a heavyweight of the first degree, a brawler who can make even brave politicians toss in the towel at the first sign of a scuffle.

As the debate about guns continues, there are still several factors related to past mass killings that are not receiving media attention or due diligence from lawmakers. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) pointed out the foolishness of a Senate hearing completely focused on categorically banning guns and magazines or implementing new license requirements without addressing issues of enforcement and mental health.

“I have a hard time telling my constituents in Texas that Congress is looking at passing a whole raft of new laws, when the laws that we currently have on the books are so woefully unenforced,” he said, criticizing the Justice Department.

The Senator went on to suggest that legislation incorporating mental health screenings with already existing gun laws could help Congress come to an agreement that offers comprise to individuals on both sides of the debate.

“Perhaps it’s time to consider our background checks laws to see if they need to be updated to screen out the growing number of people who are subjected to court-ordered outpatient mental health treatment,” he said. “…There are areas where Congress can come together right now, examine the nexus between gun crime, violence, and mental health care. I’m willing to listen to serious ideas, not just window dressing, to try to come up with solutions.”

As an aside, a recent Reason/Rupe poll demonstrated that 52 percent of Americans believe that politicians are joining the likes of Piers Morgan — who recently said he was “standing on the graves of dead Sandy Hook children” — in exploiting tragedy for political gain. Also, 51 percent of respondents to the same poll rejected the notion that American citizens should be barred from owning so-called assault weapons.

Texas Governor’s Novel Idea: Give Back Tax Money Under Budget Surplus

During a State of the State address this week, Texas Governor Rick Perry called for returning taxpayer money to the taxpayers of his State when the government is operating at a surplus.

“Today, I’m calling for a mechanism to be put in place so when we do bring in more than we need, we’ll have the option of returning tax money directly to the people who paid it,” the Governor said Tuesday. “Currently, that’s not something our constitution allows. We need to fix that.”

Perry, whose State is currently operating at a budget surplus, went on to say, “We’ve never bought into the notion that if you collect more, you need to spend more.”

As the Texas economy has improved in recent years, the State’s Governor has doubled down on calls for lawmakers to keep taxes low and government spending at a minimum. In 2011, Texas faced a budget shortfall of as much as $27 billion; but because of deep spending cuts and increased oil and gas revenues, the latest budget estimates for the State indicate a surplus estimated around $8.8 billion today.

Other States are looking to Texas to come up with plans to realize similar budgetary success. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal proposed recently that lawmakers in his State should be more Texas-like by doing away with State income taxes. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Oklahoma are trying to cut taxes to remain economically competitive with their neighbor to the south.

Wednesday Morning News Roundup 1-30-2013

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.

  • Debt levels of 200 percent of gross domestic product are on the horizon for the United States, despite all of the political grandstanding over the debt ceiling and the fiscal cliff.
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry has an idea: Give excess tax money back to the taxpayers.
  • Even though Federal spending has increased 39 percent over the past two decades, 70 percent of Americans say it hasn’t had any positive impact on quality of life.
  • President Ronald Reagan’s childhood home in Chicago could be destroyed to make way for a parking lot for Barack Obama’s Presidential library.
  • A sting operation in Milwaukee that was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives offers a troubling look at just how incompetent and irresponsible government law enforcement agencies can be. It resulted in a military-style machine gun landing on the streets and the agency having $35,000 in merchandise stolen from a store it set up as a front for the operation.
  • News networks are using tactics similar to those in the 1997 film “Wag the Dog” to continue to exploit the dead children of Sandy Hook Elementary as a means for drumming up support for more gun control.

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

Virtual Currencies Threaten Central Banks

If the shaky state of the current central banking systems throughout the world wasn’t already obvious, the fact that virtual currencies are worrying central bankers is further highlighting the weakness of most modern financial systems.

Bitcoin, a virtual currency issued by a decentralized network of computers, has more than doubled in value to $16.37. As the currency keeps gaining in popularity, government officials and economists throughout the world worry that the online currency could undermine the ability of central banks to manipulate the economy.

Bitcoin, unlike central banking systems, relies solely on supply and demand. The decentralized and unregulated currency exchange operates solely on the principles of the free market, unlike government banking schemes which rely on the force of the state to manipulate money supply.

In Europe, where the economy continues to falter, the central bank has rallied against Bitcoin.

Steve Hanke, a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, told Bloomberg: “I think the ECB obviously is concerned, and it’s not reputational. I think it’s a competitive threat. Maybe virtual currencies will be so convenient that they will pose a threat because of their ease of use.”

Bitcoin has also gained popularity in some unexpected parts of the world. It has been reported that some people in Iran have begun using the currency exchange because of economic troubles brought on by U.N. sanctions.

Government Expanding To Counter Phony Cyberthreat

As government officials continue to drum up fears about the possibility of a looming “cyber-Pearl Harbor,” the Pentagon is working on plans to expand its cyber security force from 900 personnel to 4,900 troops and civilians.

The Cyber Command Unit is under the command of Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the government’s foreign and domestic spy force, the National Security Agency. Because the Cyber Command Unit operates side by side with the NSA, serious threats to Americans’ privacy are expected to result from the massive expansion of force.

Though officials continuously say that the United States faces threats of cyber attacks that could potentially cripple infrastructure, the reality is that the Nation is actually one of the world’s biggest perpetrator of cyber attacks against other countries and groups.

Columbia professor Misha Glenny explained in The New York Times last summer:

The United States has long been a commendable leader in combating the spread of malicious computer code, known as malware, that pranksters, criminals, intelligence services and terrorist organizations have been using to further their own ends. But by introducing such pernicious viruses as Stuxnet and Flame, America has severely undermined its moral and political credibility.

Cyber security experts say that the government is actually more interested in gaining the ability to spy on Americans’ online activities and expand a lucrative new leg of the military-industrial complex. In reality, “cyberthreat” is simply the new Red scare, Latin American tyrant, weapon of mass destruction or terrorist.

Buy Guns On The Cheap At Gun Buybacks

The gun buybacks that are routinely held at police departments, churches and public venues throughout the Nation are laughable schemes designed to disarm law-abiding citizens, opportunists and the naïve. But, as demonstrated at a recent buyback event in Seattle, buybacks can also be beneficial to people with an appreciation for guns.

Fear about government plans to categorically ban certain classes of firearms is driving up prices on guns, accessories and ammunition throughout the Nation. Meanwhile, cities are hosting gun buybacks where a modest $100 is paid routinely for handguns, shotguns and rifles and $200 for so-called assault rifles.

Seattle gun enthusiasts, realizing that Americans willing to hand over their firearms for such little money often don’t know what they have, were also drawn to the gun buyback. There, gun collectors set up miniature gun shows with signs offering cash for collectible firearms, good hunting weapons and assault rifles.

Though the happenings upset some of the police officers working the gun buyback, there is nothing illegal about the private gun sales taking place at the event. In States that allow unfettered private party gun sales between law-abiding citizens, nothing can stop collectors from attending the buyback events in hopes of scoring good deals on quality firearms.

Below are some pictures from the Seattle event, via SLOG:

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Tuesday Morning News Roundup 1-29-2013

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.

  • President Barack Obama is expected to lay out his ideas for immigration reform in a speech in Las Vegas today. The plan will likely include a fast-track path to citizenship for immigrants already in the Nation.
  • A Philadelphia theater company says that it’s time to bring “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” back to the stage, but with a twist. This time, the slaves will be white and their masters black.

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

Obama, Imperialist By Fiat

Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. wrote “The Imperial Presidency” in 1973 to call to attention President Richard Nixon’s vast abuses of executive authority to circumvent Constitutional limitations of the office. Democrats have since described a number of Republican Presidents, including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush as being imperial Presidents. But as Barack Obama continues to push the limits of Presidential power, those who have traditionally rallied against the onset of Presidential imperialism are noticeably silent.

In an updated edition of his treatise against Presidential imperialism, Schlesinger writes:

The Imperial Presidency reached a twentieth-century climax with Nixon. The post-Watergate reaction cut back on some presidential excesses. None of Nixon’s successors, for example, used emergency powers against political opponents. The presidency of Jimmy Carter even led to concerns about the impotency of the office. “We have not an imperial presidency,” former president Gerald Ford said in 1980, “but an imperiled presidency.” But such lamentations were soon refuted when Ronald Reagan showed that a president with only a misty understanding of issues could still dominate the government and lead the country.

In a 2004 re-issue of “The Imperial Presidency”, Schlesinger added more recent abuses of Presidential power, including the vast expansion of power laid out in the Patriot Act and Bush’s unConstitutional wars.  Schlesinger died in 2007 before the onset of the Obama Administration. But even though Schlesinger was a lifelong Democrat, most historians would probably argue that the Obama Presidency fits into his definition of the imperial President.

Last Friday a U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. ruled unConstitutional the power grab Obama made just over a year ago when he made three appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and appointed a director to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau—all of which required “advice and consent” of the Senate per the Constitution—unilaterally. Obama justified the appointments by using the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which allows the President to “fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.” But when Obama made those appointments, the Senate was in session.

“Allowing the president to define the scope of his own appointment power would eviscerate the Constitution’s separation of powers,” Chief Judge David Sentelle wrote in the 46-page ruling.

The case will likely go to the Supreme Court.

Another example of President Obama’s imperialist tendencies occurred last year when he consulted the United Nations, and not Congress, in deciding to engage in what boiled down to a preemptive war in Libya.

The current President’s foreign and domestic policy procedures for combating terrorist threats (i.e. NDAA, remnants of the Patriot Act, drone strikes in countries where the U.S. isn’t at war and the killing of American citizens) fall almost in lockstep with the policies that earned Bush the title “Imperialist President.”

The President has vowed to push an ambitious second-term agenda—complete with draconian new gun control policies— with “a judicious use of executive power” if Congress fails to comply with his wishes.

“[W]hat I do see is that there are certain issues where a judicious use of executive power can move the argument forward or solve problems that are of immediate-enough import that we can’t afford not to do it,” Obama said in a recent interview.

And the President’s willingness to act unilaterally is evidenced by his use of signing statements and executive actions— like his 2012 order that barred the deportation of young illegal immigrants to the country. More recently, the President deemed the mass shooting incidents that have sparked the Nation’s current debate over gun control as being “of immediate-enough import” to issue 23 separate Presidential directives related to gun ownership.

It remains to be seen just how imperial the Presidency could become under an Obama unworried about the challenges of reelection. Many conservatives fear that every Federal agency is rife for abuse via executive fiat in the coming years, especially if Congress remains as ineffective as it was during Obama’s first term.