Personal Liberty™ Ranked Among Top Libertarian Sites

Personal Liberty Digest™ was ranked in the top 10 among top Libertarian websites yesterday by Patrick McEwen’s Top Libertarian website.

Launched in February 2012 by McEwen, an aspiring Libertarian political writer and analyst, Top Libertarian ranks the top websites offering information about Libertarian issues based on unique visitor and page view Web traffic.

According to Top Libertarian’s analysis of the past three months’ Web traffic data provided by the Alexa Rankings, Personal Liberty Digest™ is in ninth place among top Libertarian sites. And we are in good company.

Here are the top 10 Libertarian sites for the past three months:

  1. Daily Paul: dailypaul.com
  2. Lew Rockwell: lewrockwell.com
  3. Reason Magazine: reason.com
  4. Ludwig von Mises Institute: mises.org
  5. Ron Paul 2012 Campaign: ronpaul2012.com
  6. Electronic Frontier Foundation: eff.org
  7. Ron Paul Forums: ronpaulforums.com
  8. AntiWar: antiwar.com
  9. Personal Liberty Digest™: personalliberty.com
  10. Marginal Revolution: marginalrevolution.com

For a complete list of top Libertarian websites, visit McEwen’s site here.

In the more than 42 years since Bob Livingston began publishing his printed newsletter with the information and wisdom that he collected through research, he has managed to build what could be likened to an empire of knowledge. What started off as a simple newsletter circulated to a few dozen Americans who realized mainstream disinformation was dumbing them down, changed with the tides of technology and expanded to the online realm. This has given Livingston and his staff the ability to more quickly sift through the lies and deceit spread by the elites who control the mainstream, and pass along what we learn to our readers on a daily basis.

Without readers, Personal Liberty Digest™ would have no function. On behalf of Livingston and the entire Personal Liberty™ staff, thank you for visiting our site and, most of all, for seeking information beyond what is provided you by the government, the manipulated media and the ruling elite. It is our sincere hope that the information you read here finds its way into your daily life, whether in political conversation, in making a healthy lifestyle choice, in protecting your wealth or in protecting your family from a disaster.

GOP: Repeal Obamacare By Voting

On Tuesday, House Republicans attacked President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law with full force throughout a series committee hearings and events at the Capitol preceding today’s vote to repeal the measure.

The GOP attacks on the healthcare law were likely intended to bolster public opposition to the law while creating an atmosphere causing Democrats to publicly defend it. Republicans want voters to rally against the law in upcoming Congressional races by selecting conservative candidates.

“If you give us more elected representatives to fix this problem, we will fix this problem in 2013,” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said in an interview with CNBC.

Even if the House votes today to repeal Obama’s health plan, the Democrat-controlled Senate would kill the effort. And even if the Senate surprised conservatives by upholding the measure, Obama would veto the repeal.

“The last thing the Congress should do is refight old political battles and take a massive step backward by repealing basic protections that provide security for the middle class,” the White House said in a familiar statement. “Right now, the Congress needs to work together to focus on the economy and creating jobs.”

Today’s vote is the most recent of more than 30 House GOP initiatives to strike down the healthcare law. It is the first vote on the matter since Chief Justice John Roberts appalled conservatives throughout the Nation by becoming the deciding vote that upheld the law’s Constitutionality in the eyes of the Supreme Court.

Cops Tracked Phones 1.3 Million Times In 2011

Ever wonder if you have a reasonable expectation of privacy with regard to information on your cellphone?

Well, according to data compiled by Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass.), at least 1.3 million law enforcement requests were made last year for data from cellphone companies. Usually, the police were looking for things like text messages, location data, call logs and “cell tower dumps” (wireless carriers provide police with all of the phone numbers that connected to a particular cell tower in a period of time).

“We cannot allow privacy protections to be swept aside with the sweeping nature of these information requests, especially for innocent consumers,” Markey said in a statement. “Law enforcement agencies are looking for a needle, but what are they doing with the haystack? We need to know how law enforcement differentiates between records of innocent people, and those that are subjects of investigation, as well as how it handles, administers, and disposes of this information.”

The carriers reported that these requests have increased dramatically in recent years. This is likely because the mobile devices have become increasingly equipped with technology that allows them to log location data.

“Whether they realize it or not, Americans are carrying tracking devices with them wherever they go. Today’s new information makes it clear that law enforcement has carte blanche to follow the trail they leave behind,” Christopher Calabrese, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

Central Banks And American Aristocracy

The United States was built on the idea that every man should have at his disposal the means to achieve financial success regardless of who he is or has been or from where he came.

American society, by its very nature, has historically rejected the idea of an elite aristocracy with the means to lead a less-well-off citizenry by its nose simply because one possesses more political, and economic by way of political affiliation, clout than the other.

But in the 236 years that Americans have existed as a distinctly different people, the citizens of the country that French political writer Alexis de Tocqueville first called “exceptional” in his 1835 work “Democracy in America” have lost a great deal of exceptionalism by placing their trust in the wrong hands.

Around 1790, long before de Tocqueville made his trip to the States to better understand why America worked, there was a political debate brewing that has continued in some form until this very day. Even casual students of American history recall learning of the formation of the Nation’s first central bank and the heated debate about its Constitutionality among proponent Alexander Hamilton — America’s first Secretary of the Treasury — and its opponents then-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Congressman James Madison of Virginia.

Hamilton argued that the establishment of the First Bank of the United States was absolutely necessary to stabilizing and improving the Nation’s credit. He also believed that the formation of the entity would improve the handling of America’s finances overall and handle the war debt that had been racked up by individual States that had printed their own currencies at times during the Revolution. Hamilton, a Federalist, believed that by allowing the Federal government to borrow from a largely private bank to assume the States’ war debts, power could be more easily centralized in the United States.

Jefferson, however, believed that the establishment of the central bank was unConstitutional, as it was a private entity — much like the modern Federal Reserve — and powers of coining and regulating money were specifically delegated to Congress in the founding document. He also believed that the establishment of a centrally controlled banking system endangered his vision of an agrarian republic, a society where producers or “cultivators of the earth” as Jefferson once said, steered the Nation’s economy.

In April 1791, President George Washington signed the bank bill into law. In 1792, Congress passed the Coinage Act and recognized the dollar as the national currency, despite the fact that the first American experiment with paper money — the continental — led to rampant inflation; this is the reason only coinage is recognized as real currency in the Constitution.

It didn’t take long for government and central bank meddling to disturb the natural flow of economics. The “Panic of 1792” occurred when the bank flooded the market with loans and banknotes before revising its policy and reversing course. The sudden halt in market liquidity caused a short-lived panic and froze markets.

The First Bank did have some redeeming qualities, however, despite the con of growing the size of the Federal government. The war debts were largely paid off, and its focus on commercial activities allowed the economy of the United States to grow and diversify. Also, though it did have a lasting economic impact, the men running the institution knew that a great deal of risk taking could lead to the collapse of the young Nation.

The complaints that many Americans had about the first central bank are very similar to what modern Americans critical of the Federal Reserve say about its functions. They charged that there was too much foreign influence in the bank because three-fourths of its stock was foreign-owned. They believed the institution was concealing profits and operating in a shady manner. They were also critical of the bank’s ability to lend money to the government at will. In 1811, the charter to the First Bank of the United States was allowed to expire, but Hamilton’s Federalist legacy lives on to this day.

A year after the initial central bank’s charter expired, the United States found itself at war with Britain once again. After printing money to fund the War of 1812, questions about inflation started to arise and Congress again began to consider the formation of a second central bank. Again, it is important to note, a central bank was created in an effort to pay off war debts. In 1816, the Second Bank of the United States came into existence, but this time with more money to throw around ($35 million compared to the First Bank’s $10 million) and poor leadership. In fact, only 18 months after it opened it was on the verge of insolvency. In 1819, a new president, Langdon Cheves, set out to fix the bank which had continually lent capital to speculators whose ability to repay the loans was questionable. His tightening of loans led to the “Panic of 1819,” which died down quickly since the central bank did not meddle any further. In a letter to U.S. Minister of France Albert Gallatin, Jefferson noted that the wealth wiped out in the Panic was only the wealth that the bank itself had created.

Jefferson writes:

At home things are not well. The flood of paper money, as you well know, had produced an exaggeration of nominal prices and at the same time a facility of obtaining money, which not only encouraged speculations on fictitious capital, but seduced those of real capital, even in private life, to contract debts too freely. Had things continued in the same course, these might have been manageable. But the operations of the U.S. bank for the demolition of the state banks, obliged these suddenly to call in more than half of their paper, crushed all fictitious and doubtful capital, and reduced the prices of property and produce suddenly to 1/3 of what they had been.

In essence, Jefferson described to Gallatin precisely how the central bank was harming his cherished agrarian society by slashing the means of producers and landowners to make profits.

Andrew Jackson took office as President of the United States in 1829 and made it no secret that part of his small-government platform would be the end of the central bank. On this very day in 1832, Jackson vetoed the Second Central Bank’s charter renewal. He later signed an executive order announcing that the Federal government would no longer use it and removed all Federal funds from the bank. This Presidential action of decentralizing economic power has never happened since and will likely never again.

In his veto message, Jackson sums up the reason for his actions in closing:

Experience should teach us wisdom. Most of the difficulties our Government now encounters and most of the dangers which impend over our Union have sprung from an abandonment of the legitimate objects of Government by our national legislation, and the adoption of such principles as are embodied in this act. Many of our rich men have not been content with equal protection and equal benefits, but have besought us to make them richer by act of Congress. By attempting to gratify their desires we have in the results of our legislation arrayed section against section, interest against interest, and man against man, in a fearful commotion which threatens to shake the foundations of our Union. It is time to pause in our career to review our principles, and if possible revive that devoted patriotism and spirit of compromise which distinguished the sages of the Revolution and the fathers of our Union. If we can not at once, in justice to interests vested under improvident legislation, make our Government what it ought to be, we can at least take a stand against all new grants of monopolies and exclusive privileges, against any prostitution of our Government to the advancement of the few at the expense of the many, and in favor of compromise and gradual reform in our code of laws and system of political economy.

I have now done my duty to my country. If sustained by my fellow citizens, I shall be grateful and happy; if not, I shall find in the motives which impel me ample grounds for contentment and peace. In the difficulties which surround us and the dangers which threaten our institutions there is cause for neither dismay nor alarm. For relief and deliverance let us firmly rely on that kind Providence which I am sure watches with peculiar care over the destinies of our Republic, and on the intelligence and wisdom of our countrymen. Through His abundant goodness and heir patriotic devotion our liberty and Union will be preserved.

This where de Tocqueville re-enters the story, as he was traveling throughout the United States right about the same time Jacksonian democracy was taking hold in its strongest form, doing research for what would later become “Democracy in America.”

Though he described Jackson as a “man of violent character and middling capacities” in one passage, he was witnessing firsthand the President’s masterful efforts to protect American democracy from the greed of men who would privilege themselves by disadvantaging others.

Unfortunately, despite Jackson’s efforts to do away with the bank before any more damage could be done to the American public, State banks had already issued reckless loans throughout the country. Without a central bank to bail them out, another of Jackson’s economic policies — “Specie Circular,” which allowed for the payment for Western lands in gold and silver coinage — threw them into the “Panic of 1837.” This happened, in part, because the new influx of coinage into banks revealed the lack of true value in paper money. The depression lasted for eight years.

Later in the century, the country would fall into Civil War, a time during which government dabbled in more inflationary finance, racking up huge debts and setting the stage for a central bank once again.

An economic panic in 1907 was the final stepping-stone wealthy elites needed to once again regain control of the financial sector. Just a few years later, in December 1913, the Federal Reserve Act became law and created the central bank from which Americans have yet to free themselves. The creators of the Federal Reserve Bank examined the history behind the collapse of its predecessors and created a monetary goliath that would be difficult to dismantle to give them economic control over the masses.

And they did a good job. It has taken 99 years for the central bank that controls nearly everyone’s life by means of economic meddling to become a mainstream topic of discussion; much of the credit for the newfound interest in the Fed comes from longtime critic Ron Paul. Later this month, Paul’s bill for a full Fed audit is headed to the House floor, and he has written numerous times about what is wrong with the modern central bank. Republican resistance has made a Paul nomination nearly impossible. Had he been given a chance at the Presidency, he may have turned out to be the first President since Jackson to stand up to the economic aristocrats behind the curtain of the central bank. That sort of leadership, it seems, we need now more than ever.

Doomsdays Loom For Euro, Dollar

The European Union is, and has been for some time, in the midst of economic calamity. Matters are only getting worse, and Americans should be worried.

British politician Nigel Farage pointed out last week while speaking to the European Parliament that through 19 economic crises summits, Eurozone leaders have yet to make progress in saving the sinking euro ship.

Farage likened the latest summit to The Rolling Stones’ famous tune “19th Nervous Breakdown.”

The British lawmaker contends that the European Union has proven insoluble and suggests that its separate member nations leave the Eurozone, go back to original currencies and “get back their democracy and identity.”

But that isn’t likely to happen.

At the latest — “19th Euro Breakdown” — summit last month, European leaders moved to halt the economic crises that have taken hold in Spain and Italy by agreeing to a radical bailout package. As a part of the package, Eurozone leaders have committed to European Central Bank-led oversight for banks, hence allowing a rescue fund — the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) — to recapitalize banks directly. Traditionally, the taxpayer-provided bailout funds would have been lent to governments.

The leaders of the 17 Eurozone countries are expected to meet today to clarify bailout details, but say it will be months before they finalize the plan.

Farage said in a recent interview that the plan essentially creates a European debt union controlled by the economically solvent Germany. He predicts that political disagreement about allowing one European country to gain too much control will hamper any European bailout efforts and posits European leaders’ efforts to “kick the can down the road” and prolong the European economic collapse will ultimately fail as financial markets force a collapse.

 

 

As the United States is facing its own economic difficulties, a Eurozone collapse would have definite negative financial implications stateside. Longstanding economic cooperation between the European Union and the United States has led to a healthy trade relationship that would likely collapse along with the euro. The result will be higher consumer prices on some goods for Americans.

Actions that may be taken to aid the Eurozone by the International Monetary Fund should also raise concerns with Americans. Because of the United States’ involvement in the IMF — contributing about 18 percent of the IMF’s funding via American taxpayers — any attempt by the fund to rescue a collapsing euro would come in part from Americans’ pockets despite the fact that the IMF has no direct accountability to the American populace.

Another problem the U.S. economy faces in the event of a euro collapse is the Federal Reserve’s willingness to engage in the same tactics that have failed Europe to attempt to stimulate the economy both at home and globally. The Fed already moved last month to continue “Operation Twist” — a program designed to lower long-term interest rates in an effort to promote borrowing — until the end of the year, and is prepared to further intervene in markets if the euro fails.

“We are hoping for the best … but we are prepared in case things get worse to protect the U.S. economy and the U.S. financial system,” Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told reporters last month.

Bernanke’s preparations include the prospect of another round of quantitative easing (money printing), which could lead to massive dollar devaluation if Fed policy fails.

U.S., Russia Still At Odds Over Syria

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wants United Nations member nations to put pressure on Russia and China to stop supporting Syrian leader Bashar Assad as a rebel uprising continues in his country.

Speaking to the leaders of about 60 Western and Arab countries collectively known as the “Friends of Syria” in Paris last Friday, Clinton criticized the two nations for using their veto power on the U.N. Security Council to block condemnations of Assad.

“I ask you to reach out to Russia and China and to not only urge, but demand that they get off the sidelines and begin to support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people,” Clinton said. “It is frankly not enough just to come to the Friends of the Syrian People, because I will tell you very frankly, I don’t think Russia and China believe they are paying any price at all — nothing at all — for standing up on behalf of the Assad regime.

“The only way that will change is if every nation represented here directly and urgently makes it clear that Russia and China will pay a price, because they are holding up progress — blockading it — that is no longer tolerable.”

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said he did not agree with Clinton’s statement.

“We categorically reject that such a question would even be posed regarding the current situation in Syria and Russia’s ‘backing’ of President Bashar Assad. This is not a question of supporting certain political figures or leaders. This is a question of managing a crisis situation in the country within a normal political framework,” Ryabkov said, according to RT.

The United States has spent more than $57 million to support humanitarian organizations in Syria, and there has been talk of U.S. intelligence operatives arming rebels in the country. Meanwhile, Russia has been accused by the United States of sending weapons and ammunition to the Assad regime.

Ron, Rand Paul: Get Government Away From Internet

Over the Independence Day holiday, some Internet freedom groups sought to remind Americans of the importance of protecting the World Wide Web from overreaching government regulation, a cause that Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul and his son Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have joined wholeheartedly but with a different angle.

The Pauls set forth a plan to keep the Internet in the hands of the private sector, which they posit will shape the online world in a way conducive to freedom, liberty and economic growth in A Technology Revolution: A Campaign For Liberty Manifesto.

While other Internet freedom advocates have focused their efforts against Internet control more on corporate control of the Web, the Paul manifesto decries the “collectivist vision that seeks to regulate ‘fairness’, ‘neutrality’, ‘privacy’ or ‘competition’ through coercive state actions, or that views the Internet and technology as a vast commons that must be freely available to all.”

They say in the statement that corporations should not be heavily scrutinized by the government in their efforts to collect vast sums of online data for advertising purposes, but that government should be barred from using the Internet for warrantless surveillance.

The manifesto says:

Technology revolutionaries succeed because of the decentralized nature of the Internet, which defies government control. As a consequence, decentralization has unlocked individual self-empowerment, entrepreneurialism, creativity, innovation and the creation of new markets in ways never before imagined in human history.

But, ironically, just as decentralization has unleashed the potential for free markets and individual freedom on a global scale, collectivist special interests and governments worldwide are now tirelessly pushing for more centralized control of the Internet and technology.

The manifesto warns that Americans will be tricked into allowing the government to take over new technologies with the use of subversive language and under the guise of protecting Americans from evil corporations.

“Internet collectivists are clever,” the manifesto says. “They are masters at hijacking the language of freedom and liberty to disingenuously push for more centralized control. ‘Openness’ means government control of privately owned infrastructure. ‘Net neutrality’ means government acting as arbiter and enforcer of what it deems to be ‘neutral’.”

According to Buzzfeed, some Republican strategists contend that Internet freedom from government control will be the younger Paul’s go-to issue, similar to his father’s crusade against the Federal Reserve.

ACLU App Fights Bad Cops

A quick search on YouTube using terms like “police misconduct,”  “illegal police stops,” “police unlawfully detain,” etc. proves one thing: Cellphone technology has changed the way police and the public interact and provides citizens valuable tools to protect liberties.

Many times, this new ability to record police has been unwelcome by officers, some of whom have confiscated devices and attempted to remove recordings of encounters with the citizenry. And Americans have been conditioned to feel that they should cede to the requests of authority figures without question.

New Jersey’s branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, however, wants to make it easier for Americans to know their rights in the event that they must interact with law enforcement while also being able to discreetly record the encounter. With the help of mobile phone technology, the civil rights advocacy organization has released a new app called Police Tape.



The Police Tape app, which is currently available for Android phones and will soon be released for iPhones, has three functions: a “Know Your Rights” button that gives users an overview of their legal rights after they indicate whether they are interacting with police on the street, in a car and in their home, as well as advising them what to do if they are certain they’ll be arrested; a discreet audio-recording function; and a discreet video-recording function. With the help of the app, users are able to record police interactions without the screen of their mobile device indicating they are doing so. The phone also then saves the information in a hidden location that makes it harder for police to find and delete if they confiscate the device.

“This app provides an essential tool for police accountability,” said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey.

Incidents sent to the ACLU via the app get reviewed and also saved to an external server.

The app developer, OpenWatch, which is offering the product to users free of charge, offers this on its website:

The surveillance state has arrived and it is here to stay. The benefit to society in terms of security and justice is too great for it to ever go away. There is a problem, however, and the problem is not the technology. The problem is the lopsided distribution of who is in control of that technology. Surveillance technology is currently only in the hands of those who are already in power, which means it cannot be used to combat the largest problem facing modern society: abuse of power.

So the question remains: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” – roughly, Who watches the watchers?

This is where OpenWatch comes in. The recent ubiquity of mobile telephones with media recording capabilities and the ability to run any software the users chooses gives the public a very powerful tool. Now, we are all equipped to become opportunistic journalists. Whenever any of us come in contact with power being used or abused, we can capture it and make it become part of the public record. If we seek truth and justice, we will be able to appeal to documentary evidence, not just our word against theirs. Ideally, this will mean less corruption, more open government and a more transparent society.

The New York ACLU released a similar app last month called “Stop and Frisk Watch” to encourage those in the city subjected to a random stop and frisk to record the encounter.

The increasing interest in citizens keeping tabs on law enforcement comes on the heels of a number of high-profile stories of police misconduct.

All Frogs Praise Allah

Egypt has recently been through a revolution. Earlier this month, the country swore in its first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi.

Now, Morsi and the country’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood have moved on to more important business: Egypt’s highest fatwa council has issued its first fatwa under new rule to ban Muslims from killing frogs. A fatwa is a juristic ruling concerning Islamic law.

Specifically, the fatwa reportedly orders that Muslims may not kill frogs to sell to Nations where they are eaten.

According to Jihad Watch, “the fatwa explains, according to Islam’s prophet Muhammad as recorded in a hadith, a frog’s ‘croaking is praise [to Allah].’ Accordingly, ‘a number of jurists [fuqaha] have relied on this [hadith] to forbid the eating of frogs, under the notion that ‘that which is banned from being killed, is forbidden from being eaten.’”

Animal-related fatwas in the past have ordered radical Islamists to kill Mickey Mouse and to kill all black dogs, among some animal rights decrees.

Congress Should Read Before Voting

Would you recommend to a friend a book you hadn’t read?

This is akin to what many members of Congress do every time they vote, albeit which much more dire circumstances than suggesting a poorly written novel to a friend. Members of Congress routinely create and then vote on bills that are hundreds of pages long and contain legislation pertaining to unrelated issues.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced last week that he thinks this is ridiculous. On Friday, he introduced a bill that would give legislators one full day to read for every 20 pages of legislation presented before a vote is held.

Paul blasted the Senate last week just before it approved a massive bill extending highway funding, Federal flood insurance and low student loan rates in a span of 600 pages.

“For goodness sakes, this is a 600-page bill. I got it this morning,” Paul said Friday.

The highway-flood-student loan bill came up for vote just a day before authorization for highway spending was set to expire and two days before the interest rate on loans was set to double. Paul said that is no excuse for passing a bill without reading its contents.

The Senator also introduced separate legislation (SB 3359), that would prohibit the inclusion of more than one subject in a single bill.

 

 

Perhaps Congress didn’t realize they should read the bills they vote on because it goes unmentioned in “Schoolhouse Rock.”

 

 

What If The Lights Stay Out?

Massive storms left nearly 2 million people in the United States without power, and some without basic emergency services, last weekend and early this week.

People scattered from Washington, D.C., through 10 States from Indiana to Delaware — including about 410,000 in West Virginia; 400,000 in Ohio; and 340,000 in Virginia — had no electricity by Monday evening after storms last Friday and Saturday devastated power infrastructure.

In Northern Virginia, a commercial power failure at Verizon, the company that operates the area’s 911 call systems, left residents unable to report emergencies over the weekend. While no deaths or serious injuries were reported, the incident highlights the importance of being prepared for a disaster that causes the power grid to fail.

Here are some basic things that everyone should have on hand for an emergency (from Bob Livingston’s How to Survive the Collapse of Civilization):

  • Weapons and plenty of ammunition (A handgun, 12-gauge shotgun, .22 rifle and larger caliber rifle  — .308 or 30-06 — would be excellent choices for whatever comes your way in defense or hunting needs.)
  • Good hunting knife and sharpening stone
  • Extra clothing, hats and boots
  • Fire starter kit
  • Candles, lanterns, matches, lighters
  • Extra fuel for your cook stove
  • Compass
  • Bear pepper spray (Even if you don’t live in bear territory this can be useful to help you deter looters or someone wishing to do harm.)
  • Rain gear
  • Tarpaulin
  • Fishing gear (rod, reel, stocked tackle box)
  • Chain saw and extra fuel
  • An axe and a hatchet or hand axe
  • File for sharpening axe and chain saw
  • Gas masks and extra filters
  • Vegetable seeds for planting a garden
  • Tools for tilling the ground and digging
  • A bicycle (It would give you alternate mode of transportation as long as the streets are safe to travel on.)

While many of the above preparations are for a long-term grid-down scenario and may seem excessive for a power outage, it is better to be prepared for the lights to stay off forever than to have to go about gathering these items after the fact.

It is also a good idea to have a store of clean water and non-perishable food on hand for the short term along with batteries, flashlights, medical kits and other “no-brainer” emergency supplies.

To brush up on your prepper skills, check out Personal Liberty’s “Survival and Self-sufficiency” section and Bob Livingston’s survival handbooks for practical survival advice.

Sun May Create Fourth Of July Fireworks For Some

As Americans throughout the Nation prepare to fire up their grills and load up on fireworks to celebrate Independence Day, the sun may be shooting off some fireworks of its own.

Sunspot AR1515 erupted on July 2 and produced an M5.6-class solar flare that was observed by NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory. According to Spaceweather.com, the M-class flare is a powerful event, eclipsed only by a more extreme X-class solar flare.

Earlier in the week, the solar activity disrupted radio communications over Europe and produced brilliant auroras near the Earth’s magnetic poles.

 

 

“On July 1st we enjoyed a beautiful display of aurora australis over the German Antarctic Research Station Neumayer III,” said researcher Stefan Christmann. “The air temperature was -30°C with 10 knots of wind. Even so, this was one of the most beautiful experiences so far.”

The latest eruptions from the sun could send beautiful light shows throughout the sky just as many Americans are preparing to ignite their first fireworks in celebration of their Nation’s founding. Check spaceweather.com and NOAA to see if you can expect auroral activity in your area.

Last year, unusually strong solar storms gave people residing in Southern areas of the United States the unique opportunity to enjoy the light shows in the sky.

Gun Safety Group Uses Firearm Roundup To Its Benefit

A National Rifle Association youth group used a gun buyback initiative in Chicago to raise money for a youth shooting camp.

On June 23, Chicago held a gun buyback called “Don’t Kill A Dream, Save A Life.” The Chicago Police Department program pays $100 for guns and $10 for BB guns, air guns or replica firearms turned in with no questions asked. The money is given in the form of a Visa debit card.

The gun rights group Guns Save Lives, based about three hours south of Chicago, saw the buyback as a perfect opportunity to get rid of non-operational and unsafe firearms while raising money for youth shooting programs, according to MSNBC.

The gun freedom advocates netted a reported $6,240 to fund gun-education initiatives, having turned in about 2,360 of the total 5,500 guns collected.

“This was rusty, non-firing junk that we turned in,” John Boch, president of Guns Save Lives, told Chicago Sun-Times. “We are redirecting funds from people who would work against the private ownership of firearms to help introduce the next generation to shooting safely and responsibly.”

Some Chicago officials, however, didn’t appreciate the gun rights group’s actions.

“We host the gun turn-in event on an annual basis to encourage residents to turn in their guns so we can take guns off the street and it’s unfortunate that this group is abusing a program intended to increase the safety of our communities,” Melissa Stratton, a police spokeswoman, told the newspaper.

Trouble Brewing In Iran, Stirred By Sanctions

As the United States and its European allies continue to impose sanctions on Iran, the Mideast country is becoming more defiant and combative.

European companies will no longer be involved in insuring Iranian oil. The latest measures come on top of previous sanctions levied by the United States and the West that have already hit Iran’s economy.

The United States imposed a new round of sanctions on Thursday, targeting financial institutions of any country that buys Iranian oil. Twenty economies are exempt from the sanctions for a period of 180 days.

As an EU oil embargo took effect on Sunday, Iranian leaders said the country was beginning a new round of war games that would involve firing missiles at models of foreign air bases.

The nation’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee also drafted a bill calling for Iran to attempt to stop oil tankers from shipping crude through the Strait of Hormuz — a key oil shipping route — to countries that support sanctions, a committee member reportedly said on Monday.

Iranian General Hossein Salami said last week: “Iran has complete control of all the enemy’s interests around the world and is on a path to reach equivalency with world powers.”

According to Salami, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have more than 1,000 ballistic missiles that are capable of reaching all U.S. bases in the region, all of Israel and some capitals in Europe. He added that the nation is also working with China and North Korea on intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Mainstream Media Reports Were Wrong: Surprise!

Last week, amid the media buzz about the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, CNN and FOX News managed to botch coverage of what may have been one of this year’s most explosive news stories.

As the Court issued its ruling, CNN and FOX News initially told thousands of viewers, reportedly including President Barack Obama, that the healthcare initiative had been struck down as unConstitutional. For a few minutes, the Twitterverse was alight with jubilee from conservatives throughout the country.

Then, the real story emerged. If you’re reading this, you likely already know what transpired.

 

 
The failure of the two aforementioned news networks to report the story correctly the first time perhaps offers a valuable lesson in the constantly growing importance of new media and citizen journalism in the United States.

Anyone who was depending on CNN for coverage of the Supreme Court decision spent about seven minutes believing that the healthcare reform law had been struck down. FOX News viewers were given the wrong information for only about two minutes.

But those people who have decided not to accept the mass media’s version of events as news breaks likely had the right information all along. Thanks to the power of the Internet, about 1 million people who were viewing live updates about the ruling via SCOTUS Blog had the correct information even before FOX News and CNN issued their erroneous reports.

That is indicative of how new media has given every individual the power to be his own best news source. But if you have yet to turn away from mainstream news channels to find your own version of current events, becoming your own news source can be a daunting task.

Here are some good places to start:

C-SPAN: On C-SPAN’s website you can watch live Congressional testimonies and votes. You also have access to hundreds of hours’ worth of archived video of happenings on Capitol Hill.

SCOTUS Blog: For matters regarding the Supreme Court, SCOTUS Blog offers minute-by-minute coverage and access to court documents.

Government websites (whitehouse.gov, justice.gov, defense.gov, etc.) are excellent places to read statements and remarks from government officials and press releases explaining government actions. Also, the official websites of U.S. lawmakers contain informative press releases.

Stop-And-Frisk Police Tactic Spreading

The New York City Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk police tactic is spreading.

In San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee is considering “edgy” police tactics to increase pat-downs of people suspected of carrying firearms and other weapons, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

“The mayor is very frustrated with the level of gun violence, especially in the southeastern part of our city,” Lee’s spokesman told the newspaper. “We can’t keep doing the same thing. We need to get better results and the mayor has clearly stated to the community that he is willing to try something edgy, something controversial. However, he’s not willing to infringe on anyone’s civil rights.”

Lee is reportedly planning to work with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to discuss tactics that are being used to get firearms off of the streets in that city.

In New York City stop and frisk policies led to close to 700,000 stops in 2011 alone. From January through March 2012, the number of stops rose to 203,500 from 183,326 during the same quarter of 2011, according to The New York Times.

Cellphone Companies Give Your Info To Cops, Not You

Mobile phone service providers log data about your locations and store it for years. In the event of a criminal investigation, they routinely release such data to police; it is also provided — with personal information removed — to companies for advertising purposes.

But, according to ProPublica, you can rarely gain access to your own location data.

The organization asked its staffers to request such information from their cellphone providers. Here’s what they discovered:

Verizon

On releasing location data to you: “Verizon Wireless will release a subscriber’s location information to law enforcement with that subscriber’s written consent. These requests must come to Verizon Wireless through law enforcement; so we would provide info on your account to law enforcement— with your consent— but not directly to you.”

On responding to requests from law enforcement: “Unless a customer consents to the release of information or law enforcement certifies that there is an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury, Verizon Wireless does not release information to law enforcement without appropriate legal process.” A spokesman said being more specific would “require us to share proprietary information.”

Sprint

On releasing location data to you: “We do not normally release this information to customers for privacy reasons because call detail records contain all calls made or received, including calls where numbers are ‘blocked.’ Because of an FCC rule requiring that we not disclose ‘blocked’ numbers, we only release this information to a customer when we receive a valid legal demand for it.”

On responding to requests from law enforcement: “If the government is seeking ‘basic subscriber information’ (defined in 18 USC sec. 2701, et seq) it can obtain that information by issuing a subpoena. If the government is seeking Sprint records relating to our customers that go beyond ‘basic subscriber information’ then the government must furnish Sprint with a court order based on specific and articulable facts. If the government is seeking customer’s content then it must obtain a warrant based on probable cause.”

AT&T

On releasing location data to you: “Giving customers location data for their wireless phones is not a service we provide.”

On responding to requests from law enforcement: “We do share data with law enforcement as part of a valid legal process – for example, a court order or a subpoena.”

T-Mobile

On releasing location data to you: “No comment.”

On responding to requests from law enforcement: “For law enforcement agencies, we release customer information only when compelled or permitted under existing laws. This includes, but is not limited to, circumstances under which there is a declaration from law enforcement of an exigent circumstance, as well as other valid legal process, such as subpoenas, search warrants, and court orders.”

The phone companies hand over cellphone location information to police and the FBI thousands of times each year when a court order is provided.

ProPublica’s observation comes as the government is increasingly looking to use mobile phone location data to bolster prosecutions after a Supreme Court ruling that said the government must obtain a warrant to affix a GPS device to track a vehicle’s every move.

A Sampling Of Obamacare Ruling Fallout

Americans have been hearing about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for years. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, declaring President Barack Obama’s healthcare law Constitutional, expect to hear much more in coming months.

Thursday morning, almost immediately after the Court handed down its decision, the Internet was abuzz on all fronts with news and commentary about what it means in a political context now and how it will change American healthcare in years to come.

Here is a sampling of some of the Web chatter surrounding the Supreme Court’s ruling:

Several news and commentary sites immediately pointed out that the Court’s precedent describing the individual mandate provision of the healthcare bill as a tax contradicted what the Obama Administration has claimed in the past.
 

 
Representative Darrel Issa (R-Calif.) joined in in pondering how the individual mandate turned into a tax, “In selling Obamacare, Congressional Democrats and President Obama assured the American people that it was not a tax. Today, the Supreme Court ruled it was, in fact, a tax. This tax was imposed on the American people amidst an extended recession and is one of the many reasons our economy remains stagnant under President Obama’s leadership.”

Not only has the Court ruled the individual mandate a tax, but it is being called one of the largest tax hikes in American history on the middle class.

Also, statements from American lawmakers, politicians and scholars decrying the decision were released en masse on Thursday.

Representative Justin Amash’s (R-Mich.) office released the following:

The Supreme Court missed an historic opportunity to rein in the federal government. For decades, Congress has stretched the Constitution to authorize whatever new mandate it invents. Instead of acting as an impartial referee, the Court has been complicit in allowing Congress and the President to expand their power at the expense of state governments and the people.

The Court’s decision green lights the continued expansion of the size and scope of the federal government. It also underscores the need to have congressmen who resist the impulse to aggrandize power in Washington. Now more than ever, Congress must commit itself to following the Constitution and limiting the federal government. We can begin to fulfill that commitment by repealing the President’s health care law in its entirety.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) warned through his office:

Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be “constitutional” does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional. While the court may have erroneously come to the conclusion that the law is allowable, it certainly does nothing to make this mandate or government takeover of our health care right.

Obamacare is wrong for Americans. It will destroy our health care system. This now means we fight every hour, every day until November to elect a new President and a new Senate to repeal Obamacare.

Republican Presidential Candidate Ron Paul said:

Today we should remember that virtually everything government does is a “mandate.”  The issue is not whether Congress can compel commerce by forcing you to buy insurance, or simply compel you to pay a tax if you don’t. The issue is that this compulsion implies the use of government force against those who refuse. The fundamental hallmark of a free society should be the rejection of force. In a free society, therefore, individuals could opt out of “Obamacare” without paying a government tribute.

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney also offered his opinion:

Let’s make clear that we understand what the court did and did not do. What the court did do today is say that Obamacare does not violate the Constitution. What they did not do is to say that Obamacare is good law or that it is good policy. Obamacare was bad policy yesterday. It’s bad policy today. Obamacare was a bad law yesterday. It is bad law today.

Georgetown University Law Professor Randy Barnett chided the Supreme Court in a brief statement:

Today’s decision validates our claim that a Congressional power to compel that all Americans engage in commerce was a constitutional bridge too far. By rewriting the law to make it a “tax,” the Court has now thrown ObamaCare into the political process where the People will decide whether this so-called “tax” will stand. And the People will also decide whether future Supreme Court nominees will pledge to enforce the Constitution’s restrictions on the power of Congress.

Those who support the healthcare initiative joined the President in describing the decision as “a victory for people all over the country.”

Holder Contempt Resolution Passes In House

During a House vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his refusal to full cooperate in an investigation regarding the fatally flawed Fast and Furious “gun-walking” operation, several Democratic lawmakers walked out.

Despite many Democrats’ unwillingness to participate, by a vote of 255-67 the House passed the resolution to hold Holder in Contempt of Congress.

The Congressional Black Caucus issued the following statement explaining why its members walked out:

We adamantly oppose this partisan attack and refuse to participate in any vote that would tarnish the image of Congress or of an attorney general who has done nothing but work tirelessly to protect the rights of the American people.  We must reflect upon why we are elected to this body and choose now to stand up for justice. We call upon all members of Congress to stand with us during a press conference on the Capitol Building steps during this appalling series of votes to discuss our nation’s most significant priority—creating jobs.  At this critically important time in our nation, we must work as colleagues rather than political enemies.

The White House also released a statement echoing similar sentiments.

Currently, heated debate about the veracity of this unprecedented contempt vote is under way on the House floor. Republican lawmakers are making appeals for the power to move further with legal actions that would allow them to obtain the Fast and Furious documents that have been requested.

Holder has released a statement regarding the vote:

Today’s vote is the regrettable culmination of what became a misguided – and politically motivated – investigation during an election year.  By advancing it over the past year and a half, Congressman Issa and others have focused on politics over public safety.  Instead of trying to correct the problems that led to a series of flawed law enforcement operations, and instead of helping us find ways to better protect the brave law enforcement officers, like Agent Brian Terry, who keep us safe – they have led us to this unnecessary and unwarranted outcome.

…When concerns about Operation Fast and Furious first came to light, I took action – and ordered an independent investigation into what happened.  We learned that the flawed tactics used in this operation began in the previous administration – but I made sure that they ended under this one.  I also made sure that agents and prosecutors around the country knew that such tactics must never be used again.  I put in place new policies, new safeguards, and new leadership to make certain of this – and took extraordinary steps to facilitate robust congressional oversight.  Let me be very clear – that was my response to Operation Fast and Furious.  Any suggestion to the contrary simply ignores the facts.

UPDATE:

The House also voted 258-95 to hold Holder in civil contempt, giving lawmakers the ability to seek counsel and appeal to a Federal court for a subpoena for the documents that have not yet been turned over to the House Oversight Committee.

Obama’s Healthcare Bill Survives Supreme Court

The Supreme Court issued a ruling on President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act upholding many of the laws central provisions Thursday morning.

One of the most important rulings by the Court regarding the Constitutionality of the healthcare overhaul was describing the individual insurance requirement as a tax, rather than a forced purchase.

In the Court’s opinion, the decision is explained as follows:

Under the mandate, if an individual does not maintain health insurance, the only consequence is that he must make an additional payment to the IRS when he pays his taxes. See §5000A(b). That, according to the Government, means the mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition—not owning health insurance—that triggers a tax—the required payment to the IRS. Under that theory, the mandate is not a legal command to buy insurance. Rather, it makes going without insurance just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income.

Because the mandate was found to be Constitutional, the Court did not decide what other parts of the statute were Constitutional, except for a provision that required States to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. The Court found that the Medicaid provision is Constitutional as long as States would lose only new funds for failure to comply with the new requirements.

The Affordable Care Act was declared Constitutional in a 5-4 decision. Liberal-leaning Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor were joined by Chief Justice John Roberts in support of the law. Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Ron Paul’s Victory

Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul’s mission to conduct a broad audit of the Federal Reserve moved a little closer to fruition on Wednesday.

The House oversight committee voted Wednesday to demand a broad audit of the Federal Reserve System by Congressional investigators in relation to a bill sponsored by Paul.

The bill was passed by a voice vote and will now advance to consideration in the full House.

“Clearly the Fed must be made too big to fail, and too big to fail requires a considerable amount of oversight,” said Representative Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the committee, according to The Washington Times.

Paul’s bill has garnered 257 co-sponsors from both parties and would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a full audit of the Federal Reserve’s operations, including its monetary policy deliberations.

Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) attempted to introduce an amendment that would prevent the GAO from auditing the Fed’s deliberations on monetary policy, but withdrew the attempt after Issa said it would “gut the bill.”

“This whole idea about ‘Well, we can’t touch the Fed’ is baloney,” said Representative Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio). “We have to be able to have control over the Fed because it’s controlling every aspect of our economy.”