Archive for June, 2013

Liberty News – June 29, 2013

Standard Excellence logoThis Week in Liberty News, the weekly news journal is a collection of stories I have run across throughout the week that affect your liberty in Oklahoma, Texas, and the national scene.

Oklahoma

Congressman Markwayne Mullin co-sponsors the Save American Workers Act, an Obamacare related bill which would change the definition of full-time work from 30 hours back to a 40-hour work week.

Texas

Abortion ban a no-go

On Tuesday, Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis’ 13-hour filibuster to prevent voting on a Texas abortion bill was a success. Though she did not continue all the way until midnight, the deadline for voting on the bill, voting was not completed in time to pass. If it had passed, abortions would have been banned after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and facilities providing this service would also be required to meet higher standards than they do currently. Her filibuster was ended by Lt. Governor David Dewhurst for straying off-topic.

This issue garnered quite a bit of national attention, as revealed by how frequently the Twitter hashtag #StandWithWendy was used to discuss it:

Irving cavity search lawsuit lands $185,000 for victims

The Texas DPS reached a settlement this week with two women in Irving who were stopped by a State Trooper last July and given intrusive cavity searches when they were pulled over for throwing cigarette butts out the window. Trooper who stopped them said he smelled marijuana, and began questioning the driver and passenger, who said they were heading to Oklahoma for a road trip. He asked how much marijuana was in the car, and when they said there was none he searched the vehicle. When that search turned up nothing, he called for a female officer to perform a cavity search on the side of the road.

The officer asked questions like, “How much marijuana is in that car?” and, “When was the last time someone smoked marijuana in that car?” The driver said she did not smoke marijuana, and, “I feel like I’m being treated like a criminal right now.” The officer said they were both acting “a little weird.”

Ultimately the DPS settled the lawsuit that came from this incident, and the two women received $185,000 for their troubles.

Around the US

What’s the cost of winning the Stanley Cup? Apparently, lots and lots of hangovers. Over 25% of the working population of Chicago called in sick or showed up late on Tuesday, after the Blackhawks’ 3-2 victory to win the 2013 Stanley Cup final.

US Supreme Court strikes part of DOMA, but refrains from ruling on California Proposition 8 suit. This topic was also hot on Twitter, reaching over 9,000 tweets per minute at one point. Governor Fallin & Scott Pruitt respond. Governor Fallin stated she would not support changing the definition of marriage in Oklahoma. Attorney General Scott Pruitt noted the decisions affirm that States, and not the federal government, decide how to define marriage, which is my opinion as well.

For more Oklahoma, Texas, and national news and opinion that matters for Liberty, visit the Standard Excellence Facebook page, and my Twitter profile @FoaRyan.

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The State of the Union

Pastor Neill Spurgin

Oklahoma City Pastor Neill Spurgin, married in California prior to passage of Proposition 8, delivers remarks at a gay marriage rally.

The Supreme Court finally released their rulings related to same-sex marriage today, and what a relief it was! A relief, because my fear was that there would be yet another decision affecting the entire nation, bypassing our lawmaking process.

Briefly, part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down. Now any state-recognized married couple can receive the federal ‘benefits’ of being married. Then, to my surprise, the Proposition 8 case was dismissed entirely, being sent back to California for them to decide.

Some might say gay rights activists won today. Others might say judicial activism won, but I say, the States won.

Let the States decide

Both of these cases leave power in the hands of the states – where it should be. If you ask me about any controversial topic in politics, my answer is very likely going to be, “Let the states decide.” In fact, one of my favorite quotes (of myself) is, “Let the states decide. What was the question?” I honestly believe most of our country’s polarized political issues could be quelled, if not solved, by giving power back to the states to make their own decisions. (Though, that should actually be accomplished by state governments taking a stand for themselves, but alas, this topic deserves a post of its own.)

By striking part of DOMA, the federal government is now forced to accept the decision of thirteen states to recognize same-sex marriage. Now, I don’t personally recognize the union because of religious reasons, but I also don’t live in the Baptist Republic of North America. As far as I’m concerned, and have explained at large, it isn’t really that big of a deal to me whether or not my government considers a gay marriage legitimate. I have far more important things to worry about; good libertarian rants like bulldozing government roads, or legalizing prostitution. Okay, just kidding.

Audit the Federal Reserve Bank and I’ll call it a day.

Then the other decision, on Proposition 8, basically leaves California to itself. Chief Justice Roberts actually said, “We have no authority to decide this case.” Justice Antonin Scalia challenged whether the court had any jurisdiction to rule on DOMA as well.

Runner-up: free markets

Another sure winner today was the free market. Notice neither of these rulings involved mandating you buy broccoli in order to stay healthy and qualify for Obamacare? It’s not like that couldn’t have happened. We easily could have seen a wide-sweeping decision that required churches to

In a chat I had today with an insurance agent, I learned that Liberty Mutual has already been covering same-sex couples as though they were married. Imagine that, without any magistrate breathing down its throat, the free market took care of a social situation on its own.

So many people only know one option for social change: totalitarian control, yet here we see light in the darkness. In case you’ve never been exposed to this radical idea, let me explain it. Before the Emancipation Proclamation, not only was not every African-American a slave, there was half of an entire country that did not allow slavery to exist at all! This may come as a shock, but it’s true. Even before the Mason-Dixon line was established, dating back to days prior to statehood at all, the colonies did not all employ slavery. These political entities were not united yet, except in their ties to Great Britain. As they came together to form the United States, they did not all agree on many important issues.

How in the world did they manage to form a union with such drastic differences? Governments in various places differed greatly, but one commonality allowed them to work together; sovereignty. As a matter of fact, this idea permeates our Constitution, and is specifically explained in the Tenth Amendment.

Conclusion

Allow me to leave you with a closing thought from my favorite YouTube video-making, hyperbole-employing libertarian personality, Julie Borowski:

This is a valid point that some people are making: No one technically has to get government’s permission or fill out a government marriage license to get married. Any two people (or more whatever floats their boat, I guess) can have a wedding ceremony and call/declare themselves married. Of course, their marriage won’t be recognized by the government which means they can’t get government marriage “benefits” and “privileges”. The real debate is about *who* should be able to get the government marriage benefits: Straight couples only? Gay couples too? As I said in my earlier status, we need to better develop and articulate plans to detach (or get rid of) government benefits tied to legal marriage.

For more Oklahoma, Texas, and national news and opinion that matters for Liberty, visit the Standard Excellence Facebook page, and my Twitter profile @FoaRyan.

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This Week in Liberty News – June 22, 2013

Standard Excellence logoThis Week in Liberty News, the weekly news journal is a collection of stories I have run across throughout the week that affect your liberty in Oklahoma, Texas, and the national scene.

Oklahoma and Texas

Water battle makes it to the U.S. Supreme Court

Oklahoma wins a lawsuit in a unanimous Supreme Court decision to deny Texas its request to take water from the Red River. From the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday denied a Texas agency’s bid to go into Oklahoma to obtain water, dealing a major blow to a fast-growing region in North Texas plagued by drought.

The Tarrant Regional Water District, which supplies water to 1.7 million Texans, including residents of Fort Worth, had sought water from a part of the Red River’s watershed in Oklahoma. The Texas agency claimed it had a right to the water under the Red River Compact, a congressionally sanctioned agreement that allocates water rights among states where the river flows.

But Oklahoma has denied the Texas agency’s bid to cross the state border to take its allotment of the river’s water, citing Oklahoma law that effectively bars the supply of water to out-of-state applicants.

A unanimous court held that the Red River Compact doesn’t allow Texas to trump Oklahoma’s sovereign right to control its own water supplies.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt called the ruling a major victory for the state. “Texas does not have the right to come into Oklahoma and take our water,” he said. “This unanimous decision will affect all Western states governed by multistate water compacts, and will protect Oklahoma’s ability to control this vital resource for generations to come.”

Texas previously had offered to purchase this water. If the water is available for potential purchase, it cannot also be available for free.

Cherokee County vice-chair disagrees with state chair on philosophy of liberty

Cherokee County Republican vice-chair Qadoshyah Fish has a disagreement with the philosophy of newly elected state party chair Dave Weston, as pointed out on the Cherokee County Republican Party blog. During a recent town hall meeting, Weston stated “True freedom is doing what you ought to do. False freedom is doing what you want to do.” Fish argues liberty and freedom are “extremely basic, fundamental concepts,” and stated in an interview that “true liberty is to be able to do as one pleases, so long as they are not causing harm to another individual.”

Chairman Weston has begun a series of town hall meetings which will be held throughout the state of Oklahoma this year. A tentative date of Saturday, August 24 has been set for Oklahoma County’s meeting, to be held at Olivet Baptist Church.

Private Bradley Manning in midst of WikiLeaks trial

A trial against Oklahoma Army Private First Class Bradley Manning is now in recess until June 25, the Huffington Post reports the US Government’s case is focusing heavily on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. If Government prosecutors build enough of a case that Assange conspired with Manning in some way, this may imply they intend to file a conspiracy charge against the organization.

Around the US

Farm bill fails

Congressman Jim Bridenstien on C-SPAN

Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) was the only representative from Oklahoma to vote against the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, H.R. 1947.

The Food Stamp — I mean Farm Bill failed to pass the House Thursday, being defeated 234 votes to 195. First district Congressman Jim Bridenstine was the only Oklahoma representative to vote against the measure. The Texas delegation also showed strong Republican support, with 19 voting in favor (and two Democrats). Five Republicans and ten Democrats voted against it.

Arizona passes Medicaid expansion

Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer succeeded in passing a Medicaid expansion for her state, after having stated her opposition to Obamacare. Arizona State Senator Kelli Ward responded on Twitter saying, “Tyranny rears its head in Arizona.” Clearly, this is a divisive issue, and one which will determine the ability of the federal government to implement the Affordable Healthcare Act. Oklahoma, Texas, and Florida are among 14 states which have rejected the costly expansion.

Opponents point out how many Americans will be left without Medicaid insurance by refusing to cooperate with this provision of Obamacare, while proponents of the refusal hold that the costs of implementing it are too much. The Supreme Court has also confirmed the authority of states to control their own Medicaid programs.

For more Oklahoma and national news and opinion that matters for Liberty, visit the Standard Excellence Facebook page, and my Twitter profile @FoaRyan.

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This Week in Liberty News – June 8, 2013

Oklahoma State Capitol

State Capitol building of Oklahoma

This Week in Liberty News, the weekly news journal is a collection of stories I have run across throughout the week that affect your liberty in Oklahoma, Texas, and the national scene — back after a short multiple-tornado caused absence. This week there’s quite a bit to discuss on the national level, as has been the case ever since the Obama Administration-related scandals started to pile up. I literally lost count of how many there are one day this week.

 Oklahoma

Tulsa Mayoral Primary

Tulsa’s non-partisan mayoral primary will be held Tuesday, June 11. After a debate this week, a Fox23 News poll of 1,800 viewers showed Bill Christiansen had a strong, 14-point lead over runner-up Kathy Taylor, and could win the nomination should he increase that lead and win greater than 50% in Tuesday’s vote. If not, there will be a runoff. Current Mayor Dewey Barlett received the lowest percentage in the Fox23 poll, with only 25% support.

Tulsa World also has an interview with all three candidates, answering the question, “What is the first specific issue you would address in the new mayoral term and how?”

Public School Storm Shelters

In the wake of multiple EF-5 tornadoes in the state with the second-highest tornado fatality rate, much consideration is being put into how schools should handle storm shelters and severe weather procedures. Tulsa World again reports, “Only about 5 percent of Oklahoma’s 1,700 school buildings have a FEMA-funded tornado safe room.”

A neutral perspective:

“Safety drills should be re-examined, as what was once thought safe may no longer be safe,” said Victoria Calder, director of the Texas School Safety Center. The center is based at Texas State University-San Marcos. …”Basically we’ve moved away from saying always go into the hall, having seen the Joplin footage,” Calder….Texas developed standard safety guidelines for schools to implement, regardless of budget, she said.”

But a question remains of what sort of public funding should be allocated to build such structures? The undertaking will no doubt be another expense on Oklahoma’s already strained education budget. Some have proposed new bond issues to finance retrofitting existing schools with new storm-safe shelters, while others point to streamlining the state administrative structure to eliminate costly overhead.

Gun bill signed into law – HB 1622 was signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin this week, permitting private schools to develop a weapons policy to allow persons with a Handgun License to carry weapons on school premisses. It also allows a person to carry a weapon while at a meeting of an elected official, and will take effect November 1, 2013.

Around the US

Scandal after Scandal – It’s hard to keep up with how many scandals are plaguing the White House in one way or another these days. In addition to Benghazi, the IRS targeting conservative organizations, and the Department of Justice infiltrating the Associated Press, we have now learned the National Security Agency is actively spying on anyone using a Verizon cell phone.

On top of that, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act apparently gives the US Federal Government direct access to personal information of the users of online services including Google, YouTube, Hotmail, Skype, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL, Apple, Paltalk, and Twitter.

Twitter is establishing a history of leading the pack in protecting the privacy of its users, and is the of the aforementioned services declining to make it easier for the government to access their data, though it does comply with specific requests as necessary by the laws in place.Drones – Even the somewhat left-leaning Gizmodo (Gawker Media) technology and gadget website is addressing drones and how they should be regulated or legislated.

TUCSON, AZ – An effort to recall the famous (or infamous, depending on who you are) Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has failed. The petition drive requiring 335,000 signatures to hold the election fell short of its goal on the deadline on May 30.

Obamacare – South Carolina could become first state to nullify Obamacare. Nullification is a long-lost practice states used to believe in exercising when federal laws were considered unconstitutional, and thereby forbidden to be enforced in the states applying nullification measures.


For more Oklahoma and national news and opinion that matters for Liberty, visit the Standard Excellence Facebook page, and my Twitter profile @FoaRyan.

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Should Verizon be blamed for allowing their customers to be spied on?

Should Verizon be blamed for complying with the NSA, and allowing their customers to be spied on?

As has been widely reported today, and originally broken by the UK Guardian newspaper, the National Security Agency obtained a court order in April allowing them to collect the private telephone records of millions of US Verizon customers from April 25 to July 19, without a search warrant or even suspicion of criminal activity.

Note that this information was not released the NSA, who requested the private information, nor by Verizon, the company that actually released it. Nothing was revealed by the government, obviously because their activity is covert in nature, but why was nothing heard from Verizon? In fact, when pressed for comment, they had none. And why is that? Well, actually there’s a good reason. The Guardian reports:

The Guardian approached the National Security Agency, the White House and the Department of Justice for comment in advance of publication on Wednesday. All declined. The agencies were also offered the opportunity to raise specific security concerns regarding the publication of the court order.

The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI’s request for its customers’ records, or the court order itself.

“We decline comment,” said Ed McFadden, a Washington-based Verizon spokesman.

While a court order is pretty serious business, and there would be heavy consequences for violating it, the question still remains, should they refuse to comply? Should they have informed their customers they were being spied on anyway, and that the company had released their confidential information to the government?

If your answer is no, then my next question would be, is Verizon responsible for their own data?

If it were my company, regardless of the consequences, I’d refuse to release the info, and then I’d inform my customers what was done and why. Frankly, if I were a Verizon customer, I would have little trust in my cellular carrier at this point. I’d be cancelling my service and switching to another company. And if I find out that my carrier has done the same thing, most likely I will be switching as well. Then again, if all cellular providers turn out to be accomplices to the federal office of snooping on its own citizens, I’m not sure how prepared I am to begin construction on my own private tin can network.

Answering non-critics

Some already argue that no wrong has been done, because technically what Verizon did was okay by law, and in fact ordered by the force of the US court system. After all, they didn’t release recorded calls (as far as we know), only the metadata like call durations, phone numbers involved, and location information.

Mask concealing identity in a crowd

With the government collecting cellular metadata en masse, is anyone truly anonymous anymore?

Never mind that none of this was even possible fifty years ago, and only the most forward-thinking, power-hungry aristocrats were even thinking about obtaining such power. Why is it the government’s business who you call and when you call them? Are you under criminal investigation? Are you guilty until proven innocent?

Others say with as wide-sweeping of a release as this, the chances of anyone tracking what you personally did are slim to none, but I would answer by pointing to another instance where you are already being tracked with haunting precision. Google. Have you noticed a lot of online ads seem to know what you’ve searched for recently? I looked up a hotel in Washington, D.C. recently, and for the next couple of weeks, ads for that and other area hotels have been popping up on all kinds of websites.

Google corners both ends of the advertising world, a marketing dream come true. You use their search, and advertisers pay to show up in the results as sponsored links. Then, once you reach a webpage, Google serves the ads on the destination site (like the only ads I currently have on Standard Excellence). Not everyone uses Google ads, but they are one of the largest online advertisers, and have a large enough network to be very, very powerful.

The bottom line

By some standards Verizon hasn’t actually done anything wrong, and therefore should not be blamed. However, if you value privacy and if you value a government that doesn’t have the kind of power to know what you’re doing, when you’re doing it, how long you did it for, who you were with, and where you were when you did it, for no reason other than you wanted to call someone, this is a huge, huge problem.

The bottom line is, are YOU okay with it? Are the American people okay with it? I’m pretty sure most Verizon customers are not, and if you don’t want to live under a government run by these people, I suggest you call every one of your representatives, inform your friends, and demand that this sort of thing stop immediately. Then, we never elect anyone who defends such practices again.


For more Oklahoma and national news and opinion that matters for Liberty, visit the Standard Excellence Facebook page, and my Twitter profile @FoaRyan.

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