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Some words about Veterans day from one of my sons

November 14, 2014 7 comments

veteransdayOn Veterans Day I attended the short assembly held at OM Tiffany, where my two youngest boys attend elementary school. I was proud to stand up alongside a few dozen other veterans. During the ceremony a series of short essays written by students were read to the crowd My middle child Lawson asked if I would post his words about Veterans Day on my blog. Here is his short essay (he’s in fourth grade) about Veterans Day:

We thank veterans for our freedom. Freedom is very important because if we didn’t have freedom wouldn’t be free. I also thank veterans and everyone else that keeps us safe. Thank-you Dad.

Thank-you Lawson!

Categories: Rights Tags:

Remy has some ideas for the TSA

August 11, 2014 Comments off

Last month the TSA announced a contest offering prizes to those with the best ideas to speed up the TSA checkpoints in airports. The deadline for the contest is August 15, so if you have ideas to submit there is only a few days left! The total of all prizes awarded will be $15,000, with $5,000 of that being the grand prize.

There are so many ideas that come to mind about speeding up the process that its hard to focus on a few. So I’ll just let comedian Remy take a stab at some good starter ideas:

Some other thoughts I have about making the line go faster:

  • Don’t make people take their shoes off. This can also be seen as a change being done for the public good since a lot of people suffer bromhidrosis in the foot area (any Zappa fans out there).
  • Placing all electronic devices through the x-ray machine is just a waste of time. Now with the new requirements to power the devices on it becomes even more of a time killer. Its time for the TSA to realize in the modern world there are a lot of electronic devices. Just because someone has an Iphone or laptop it doesn’t mean they are a potential terrorist.
  • Most importantly! Maybe if someone at the TSA would do even a cursory reading of the Bill of Rights they would realize the whole way security lines are done is unconstitutional and an invasion of personal rights. But I won’t hold my breath on that one…

I doubt the TSA will listen to any of the ideas presented by Remy or myself. Somehow I feel they are looking to get some PR showing they are trying to speed up lines; and really don’t care about speeding the lines up….

Here are a few more selections of Remy taking on the TSA:

This first one gives a general overview of the TSA in a happy musical way.

Yes, its August. But I think its ok to play a couple of Christmas songs. The first song has grandma being detained by the TSA. The second song has TSA dealing with Santa Clause. Good holiday songs.

 

 

This last number put another view on why TSA lines are bad:

Categories: Rights Tags: ,

Representative Noem votes to cut funding for backdoor NSA spying

June 21, 2014 2 comments
Edward Snowden Quote on NSA Spying

Edward Snowden Quote on NSA Spying

Last summer South Dakota’s lone representative in the US House of Representatives, Kristi Noem, voted no to the Amash amendment. That amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act would have basically prevented the NSA from collecting data on American citizens that were not part of an actual investigation. To me that vote was the final sign that Noem doesn’t care about civil liberties and she has to go. Sadly Noem has no real competition in her bid for re-election this year. The good news however is that she appears to have learned from her mistake last year.

On Thursday night the House voted on amendments to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2015 (HR 4870). Included in those amendments was one offered by Representative Massie (R-KY) that is aimed at preventing the NSA from continuing its backdoor spying. I’ve included the text from this amendment (935) at the end of this post for any who wishes to read it. But here is what the amendment basically does:

  • Prevents the NSA from using its funding to conduct warrantless searches.
  • Prevents the NSA from using its funding to have private companies and organization create backdoors in security products that use encryption.

These measures are not as good as the Amash amendment from last year, but it is definite step forward in restoring civil liberties. Unfortunately threats of budgetary defunding appears to be the only tool Congress has to reign in federal agencies such as the NSA.

The amendment passed the House floor roll call vote 293-123 in an bi-partisan fashion. Yet it is worth noting that the majority of the Aye votes actually came from Democrats, in a Republican controlled chamber. Outgoing Majority Leader Eric Cantor and incoming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy both voted no for this amendment. South Dakota’s Representative Kristi Noem actually broke from leadership and voted Aye this amendment. She should be congratulated for actually standing up for civil liberties against the wishes of leadership within her party. Perhaps the Aye vote from incoming Majority Whip Steve Scalise gave her the courage to do so. Or maybe Noem finally understands that civil liberties are important to her constituents. Either way it is great to see her vote this way.

At this point it is still going to be a tough road ahead for this amendment to actually becoming law. The Obama administration is likely to pressure the Senate into removing this amendment from the appropriations bills (he threatened to veto the bill with Amash’s amendment last year). Right now the only hope is that the coalition between Senators Wyden, Udall, and Paul is able to pressure Reid into keeping this amendment as a part of the defense appropriations bill. It is too soon to tell if the three Senators have enough support in the Senate to actually protect civil liberties.

It really does feel good to do a post where I don’t have to attack Noem for voting against civil liberties. Hopefully she will make this a trend!

Here is the text of HR 4870 Amendment 935:

At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following new section:

Sec. __. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), none of the funds made available by this Act may be used by an officer or employee of the United States to query a collection of foreign intelligence information acquired under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1881a) using a United States person identifier.

(b) Subsection (a) shall not apply to queries for foreign intelligence information authorized under section 105, 304, 703, 704, or 705 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1805; 1842; 1881b; 1881c; 1881d), or title 18, United States Code, regardless of under what Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authority it was collected.

(c) Except as provided for in subsection (d), none of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the National Security Agency or the Central Intelligence Agency to mandate or request that a person (as defined in section 1801(m) of title 50, United States Code) alter its product or service to permit the electronic surveillance (as defined in section 1801(f) of title 50, United States Code) of any user of said product or service for said agencies.

(d) Subsection (c) shall not apply with respect to mandates or requests authorized under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (47 U.S.C. 1001 et seq.).

Same-sex couples are rightfully suing SD over right to marry

May 23, 2014 4 comments

Gay-Love-Equal-LoveYesterday was a historic day in South Dakota. According to the Argus Leader there were six same-sex couples that filed a lawsuit against the state of South Dakota over its ban on same-sex marriage.

Nancy and Jennie Rosenbrahn and five other South Dakota couples filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court just before 5 p.m. Thursday that seeks recognition of same-sex marriage in South Dakota, their lawyer Joshua Newville said.

The five other couples involved in the lawsuit include: Jeremy Coller and Clay Schweitzer, Lynn and Monica Serling-Swank, Krystal Cosby and Kaitlynn Hoerner, Barbara and Ashley Wright, and Greg Kniffen and Mark Church.

Aside from Cosby and Hoerner, each couple involved in the lawsuit has been legally married outside of South Dakota.

This is the proper move for these same-sex activists. It is also the only logical outcome that can come from allowing government to control marriage.

An important concept in America the right for all citizens to be treated equally under the law. Political activists from all perspectives use this concept to advocate for their beliefs. As a libertarian I believe this means that any law created must apply to all citizens equally and special ‘classes’ of people would be unconstitutional. A more authoritarian person would believe this concept means the government has to use its power to create equal outcomes for all citizens. Ironically both viewpoints should theoretically see same-sex marriage in a similar manner: reserving the right to marry to one subset of the citizenry creates a special class and is therefore unconstitutional.

Many people, such as myself, believe marriage is a commitment between two people and see it as a deeply spiritual/religious experience. But spirituality and religion are not the domain of government. By allowing the government to become involved in marriage the country has decided marriage is a legal status, and not a religious experience/commitment. Anyone that sees marriage as a religious endeavor should be appalled that government has become involved. I would also say that for the marriage-equality movement. A year ago I posted that I wish the marriage-equality movement would take a more libertarian approach:

Having said that I wish the pro-marriage-equality movement would take a more libertarian approach: get government out of the marriage business! There is no reason within the limits of the Constitution for the government to regulate the personal relationships of citizens. Currently the marriage-equality movement is ASKING the government for the privilege to marry! Let me restate that “the marriage-equality movement is ASKING the government for the privilege to marry.” This is not how rights are supposed to work in the United States of America.

I still feel those words to be true. Had the marriage-equality activists chose to get government out of marriage I think marriage as a religious institution would have been all the better for it.

But, that is unrealistic and unlikely to ever happen. At the heart of the matter is the legal benefits that come with marriage. The legal benefits become apparent last summer when the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was found to be a violation of the US Constitution. At that time I noted that DOMA was passed, in part, to prevent people who were in a same-sex marriage or civil union from receiving federal benefits. Now those same-sex couples that are legally married by the State will be allowed access to the same federal benefits and welfare programs that other married citizens enjoy. That is the only part of the expansion of marriage I truly dislike: it will lead to an expansion of federal benefits and entitlements to more people. Yet as distasteful as I find the current entitlement policies in DC, I find it even more distasteful to outright arbitrarily classify citizens based upon the religious beliefs of some Americans. Perhaps this expansion of the entitlement state will now force social conservatives to get the government out of the business of marriage. I doubt it, but I can always hold out a little bit of hope.

For now I will watch the case with interest. I have no doubt SD Attorney General Marty Jackley will defend the case. Yet I cannot see any constitutional grounds for a Judge to side with Jackley. Instead I believe SD will make headlines when this lawsuit is done by being yet another state to rightfully overturn unconstitutional laws that create arbitrary classes of citizens.

PS. Not that it matters. But personally I don’t care one way or the other about same-sex couples getting married. What other people choose to do with their lives is no business of mine.

Categories: Rights, South Dakota Tags:

The SCOTUS McCutcheon decision was correct

April 8, 2014 1 comment

win7_mute (1)Today I finally had some time to actually read the MCCUTCHEON ET AL. v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION brief. I’ve waiting to actually post anything about the SCOTUS ruling until I’ve actually read it. From a civil liberty perspective SCOTUS got this decision right. That doesn’t mean anyone has to like special interest money in politics. It just means that anyone fighting against that special interest money should do so in a way that respect the liberties of everyone; including those they stand opposed to.

I have always found it odd that anyone that respects freedom of speech, freedom of association, or civil liberties would support a law that prevents people from backing as many candidates as they wish. Life is a not a video game. There isn’t a “free speech meter” that gets used up after showing support for an arbitrary amount of candidates. Trying to limit the amount of candidates a person can contribute to was nothing short of trying to remove money out of politics. This is not allowed. Here is the opening paragraph from the briefing, which basically shows why the McMutcheon ruling is correct:

The right to participate in democracy through political contributions is protected by the First Amendment, but that right is not absolute.Congress may regulate campaign contributions to protect against corruption or the appearance of corruption. See, e.g., Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1, 26–27. It may not, however, regulate contributions simply to reduce the amount of money in politics, or to restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others. See, e.g., Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, 564 U. S. ___, ___.

There are no corruption concerns that come up with contributing to multiple candidates. People may not like that it happens, but that doesn’t make it wrong. The key part is “or to restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others”. In other words the rights of each individual are equal; Congress cannot pass a law that removes some free speech rights from one citizen and give it to another. That is basically what limiting the amount of candidates someone can contribute to had done. By reducing the ability of McCutcheon to exercise his free speech as he wished, it actually provided a greater voice for others that were contributing to other candidates. That is a form of progressivism I find most disturbing: rights redistribution.

There are ways to fight against the big money of special interest groups without actually trying to trample the rights of others. But almost all of the ways I can think of require voters that actually care about where money comes from and where it is going. There are many websites and non-mainstream media sources available that actually provide this information to the public. If people truly want to fight against special interest money in politics there is information available to fight against it.

One last point to remember is that special interest groups exist for almost any topic that can be thought of. Restricting the speech of sources that are ‘undesired’ will also restrict the speech of sources that are desired. This point was quite well made by Chief Justice Roberts when he wrote:

Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects. If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests, and Nazi parades—despite the profound offense such spectacles cause—it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition.

It is time for those pushing to overturn Citizens United (and now McCutcheon) to give up that anti-liberty approach and find ways to fight special interest money without trampling the First Amendment.

SB 67 dropped by sponsor and SB 66 killed in Committee

January 30, 2014 1 comment

Updated – Apparently my last paragraph dropped off after I posted this. It has been added back on.

Yesterday I posted about SB 66 and SB 67, which are two controversial bills introduced in the South Dakota legislature. Both measure are now dead. I’m not surprised. I don’t think anyone actually expected either measure to be passed.

SB 67 would have protected private businesses from lawsuits if they refused to provide certain services based upon religious objections. The bills sponsor Rep Otten withdrew the bill after being provided legal advice that the bill was redundant. Current law already protects religious reasons for denying service. That is true, but I think this new law would have helped to prevent activists from burdening small business owners with burdensome lawsuits. As I said before, I think it is silly for these businesses to refuse service (especially in the case of gay couples); but religious freedom, freedom of association, and property rights should protect such decisions, no matter how silly anyone finds these decisions.

SB 66 died in Committee by sending it to the nonexistent 41st legislative day. This was actually a pretty interesting debate to listen to. Both sides were pretty respectful of each others view and kept the discussion civil. Like SB 66, this bill also is redundant. Current law already protects clergy members from being forced to marry couples they object to. Yet, as many have said on both sides of the debate, legalized gay marriage is coming to South Dakota. The proposed bill would have protected clergy members when that was made to happen via a court decision or initiated ballot measure.

So what should those trying to protect clergy members in performing marriages do? Actually they should take a libertarian approach and work to get government OUT of the marriage business. That is exactly what I said when the Supreme Court overturned DOMA last summer (and rightfully so). Anyone that believes the government is getting too involved in religion should advocate getting the government out of this very personal portion of people’s lives. Marriage should be about a bond and commitment between two people and whatever higher power they believe in. Involving the government in marriage opens it up to being controlled by public policy.

As to the religious freedom, freedom of association, and property rights issues that were involved in these bills. I think different legislation should be tried in 2015 that isn’t so tailored towards one subject. I supported these bills because they involved these issues, but thought they were too tailored towards a single topic. In the future a bill needs to be drafted that protects a broader range of religious freedom, freedom of association, and property rights when activists try to make examples of small business owners and clergy members.

A victory against NSA overreach of power

December 17, 2013 Comments off

PrismYesterday Judge Leon (DC District Court) handed down a monumentally important ruling about NSA power. The full finding was posted online by the 10th Amendment Center. Judge Leon found Fourth Amendment violations stemming from the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone metadata.  The judge found the whole NSA phone program to likely be unconstitutional.

One part of the finding is where the Judge points out the duality of the Governments claim in this case (emphasis in this passage are from the original text):

Put simply, the Government wants it both ways. Virtually all of the Government’s briefs and arguments to this Court explain how the Government has acted in good faith to create a comprehensive metadata database that serves a potentially valuable tool in combating terrorism – in which case, the NSA must have collected metadata from Verizon Wireless, the single largest wireless carrier in the United States, as wells as AT&T and Sprint, the second and third-largest carriers.

Yet in one footnote, the Government asks me to find that plaintiffs lack standing based on the theoretical possibility that the NSA has collected a universe of metadata so incomplete that the program could not possibly serve its putative function. Candor of this type defies common sense and does not exactly inspire confidence.

That is one of the best statements I’ve seen against the NSA bulk collection program. And this is from a Federal Judge!

I also like how this judge invoked Orwell later in the document when talking about Fourth Amendment specifics:

Third, the almost-Orwellian technology that enables the Government to store and analyze the phone metadata of every telephone user in the United States is unlike anything that could have been conceived in 1979.

Aside from the great Orwell shout-out, I think the Judge is making an important statement in this sentence. Too often government agencies twist existing law so they can apply new regulations and power in ways that could not have existed at the time that law passed. If the NSA truly believed they needed to bulk collect metadata from all cell phones in the US they should have come to Congress and sought such power out. Instead they decided to interpret an old law in a way they favored. If not for Snowden being a whistle-blower it is unlikely the average American citizen would even know this bulk collection of people’s private data was being collected. I applaud the Judge for finding that the NSA used an old law in a way that really doesn’t fit the modern world. If only more Judges would do that when dealing with federal agencies.

So what was the judge’s decision? Here is an excerpt from the Judge’s conclusion:

But in the meantime, for all the above reasons, I will grant Larry Kalyman’s and Charles Strange’s requests for an injunction and enter and order that (1) bars the Government from collecting, as part of the NSA’s Bulk Telephony Metadata Program, any telephony metadata associated with their personal Verizon accounts and (2) requires the Government to destroy any such metadata in its possession that was collected through the bulk collection program.

That is great news! An injunction against the NSA program and a requirement for the Government to destroy data already collected in this NSA program. That is a great victory!

But wait! The judge is handing down a great decision, but he also realizes this case will proceed up to the next court:

However, in light of the significant national security interests at stake in this case and the novelty of the constitutional issues, I will stay my order pending appeal. In doing so, I hereby give the Government fair notice that should my ruling be upheld, this order will go into effect forthwith.  Accordingly, I fully expect that during the appellate process, which will consume at least the next six months, the Government will take whatever steps necessary to prepare itself to comply with this order when, and if, it is upheld. Suffice it to say, requesting further time to comply with this order months from now will not be well received and could result in collateral sanctions.

So the Judge put a stay on his order, pending the appeal process. That is understandable, I don’t think anyone expected the NSA to be torn down by one Judge. However it is worth noting that the Judge did say the NSA must begin planning on disbanding the program  in the event his ruling is upheld by the higher courts. He also seemed pretty short-tempered about the thought that the Government might not act swiftly enough if that were to happen.

I expect the appeal process to be somewhat of a roller-coaster. The next step for this case will be the DC Circuit Court. That is the very same circuit court that Senator Reid went nuclear on in the Senate so President Obama could have more favorable decisions to his overreaches of power. It is therefore quite likely Judge Leon’s decision will be overruled in the DC District Court. Then it will fall upon the Supreme Court to make a final determination. That is the court I fear the most in this decision. It has been so wishy-washy on cases in the last twenty years that it is almost impossible to predict what they will decide.

Categories: Federal Power, Rights Tags: , ,
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