Category Archives: News

The Mass Appeal of the Trayvon Martin Story: It is not just about race

Basic synopsis: a neighborhood watch captain follows a “suspicious” black teenager. Some sort of confrontation ensues, and the teen is shot dead in “self-defense”. A few weeks go by, and suddenly the story breaks out in the media and spreads across the nation. Why?

First, some more background.

Timeline of events:

Evidence against George Zimmerman, the captain, includes a 911 call in which he appears to stereotype black teenagers and ignore police instructions by following Trayvon Martin. Witnesses also claim to have heard a younger voice scream, and Trayvon’s girlfriend, who was on the phone with him at the time, said he has trying to get away.

Evidence for Zimmerman includes injuries he sustained during the confrontation, his testimony that he was attacked, and witnesses who say that Martin was on top of him during the fight.

There is so much we do not know. We do not seem to have much evidence other than Zimmerman’s testimony to determine whether Zimmerman initiated the conversation or the fight. We have very little about the moments between when Martin appeared to be on top of Zimmerman to when the fatal shot was fired. Zimmerman could be telling the truth. Maybe he was a bit overzealous and ending up angering Martin, who then attacked him. Maybe Zimmerman is simply guilty of a mistake: he thought his life was in danger when it was not. Or maybe this case really is what it first appeared to be: a vigilante killing an innocent child. What we do know is that a life was cut short, and people want to know why.

This case has gripped the nation, and there are three reasons for the public uproar.

First, emotion and compassion. Any time a child or teen dies, anguish for the family pours out from all who hear about it. It is human nature to imagine oneself in the same situation as those who are hurting. We feel the pain, and this pain soon turns to calls for action. Some of these demands have been reasonable: have a trial, hear the facts, make a decision. Some have turned ugly, with threats of violence and expressions of hate. Emotion is a powerful thing.

Some people are not as emotional, however. Even for these, the Trayvon Martin case has a tremendous impact. Personally, I am concerned with justice. I want to know what is right, and when something appears to be fundamentally wrong, I want justice done. Cases that are only emotional in scope have little substance to interest people focused on justice. However, this case seemed at least initially to be an example of a man committing a crime and getting away with it. Critics focused on Zimmerman, the actions of the police, and the Florida ‘Stand Your Ground” law.

Third, special interests soon weighed in. Civil rights groups mean well, but they do use stories for their own agendas. Jesse Jackson condemned the actions of Zimmerman and made Trayvon Martin an example of all racism in this nation. This case does have a racial element, but groups changed Trayvon’s death from an individual injustice to an indictment of our entire society. The media loves controversies, and so the story spread more widely than ever.

Emotion, love for justice, and special interests have fueled this media spectacle. Time will tell what justice means in this case, and if justice will be done. By the time this case is done, emotion and special interests will fill the public dialogue. I hope we have not lost sight of the facts of this case, and the pain felt by Martin’s family and by Zimmerman and those who know him.

1 Comment

Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Justice, Media, News


Tags: , , ,

News: Brazilian City Government Tracks Schoolchildren with Microchips

Of course, it is all for a good cause: making sure they don’t skip school. School uniforms are embedded with microchips to notify parents when children do not attend school. The privacy problems associated with this program are mind-boggling. The government can track the students anywhere they go while in uniform. This type of intimate knowledge of children’s lives sets a dangerous precedent. A government that tracks people initially tracks them “for their own good.” Even then, the system is rife with the potential for abuse. How long before the program is expanded to prevent citizens from crossing a border, or going anywhere the government does not want them to go? I hope our schools do not get any bright ideas from the Brazilian program.

1 Comment

Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Government, liberty, News


Tags: , , , ,

Santorum: Assassinating Scientists is a “Wonderful Thing”

Rick Santorum claims to be pro-life. I am extremely pleased that he puts value on the life of the unborn. However, apparently his respect for life does not extend past US borders. In this remarkable video, Santorum hopes we are behind the assassinations of Iranian scientists, says their deaths are wonderful, and says we have even assassinated US citizens. So there is no right to life or right to trial for non-combatant Iranian scientists in a so far peaceful nuclear program in a country we are not yet fighting. This is one reason I cannot support “prolife” politicians. They fail to see that human value knows no borders. Iranian scientists are created in the image of God. They are under the sovereignty of the Iranian government. They are innocent of any crime against the US or anyone else, for that matter. Whether under natural rights, Christian principles, or simply good foreign policy, this is irresponsible rhetoric.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Government, Justice, libertarianism, liberty, News


Tags: , , , , ,

Ranking Presidential Candidates: Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum is currently enjoying a huge surge in popularity. Due mainly to continued reluctance among many to vote for Romney, many are turning to Santorum.

How does he fare under my system for analyzing political positions?

(Disclaimer: I am a libertarian, and an extremely idealistic one. Don’t be surprised if my posititions and rating systems seem to support libertarian positions and candidates.)

In the area of foreign policy, I am looking at issues like a constitutional understanding of war. We cannot have a President who is willing to go to war without congressional approval and without formally declaring war. We also need presidents who understand that the United States should mind its own business overseas unless our citizens are attacked. A foreign policy that emphasizes peace and trade with all and entangling alliances with none is an essential part of a good candidate’s political platform. 

This is going to be rough. Santorum supports continued foreign aid, a ratcheting up of the war machine against Iran, continued presence in Afghanistan, huge military budgets, and a general continuation of all the failed policies that have stirred up terrorism. Not only are these policies dangerous, they are unconstitutional. and against the vision of the Founding Fathers. In this category, on a scale of 0 to 5, I give Santorum a 0. He will continue the assault on human life and national sovereignty across the globe.

The second area is that of economic freedom. A good president would realize that our tax system, regulatory system, and welfare system only serve to distort market forces and hurt our nation’s prosperity and freedom. We need to systematically dismantle these programs, and free businesses to react to market forces. The government should only get involved in cases of fraud or contract enforcement.

Santorum fares better here. He proposes stopping funding to ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank, so on the regulatory issues he has at least made some big promises. He proposes cutting 5 trillion in five years. While I am extremely pessimistic about this, I believe that he has at least made some big promises, and if he actually kept them, he would be a better president here than our last few. However, he still accepts the premises of legalized plunder, welfare, and regulation, and just favors shrinking them. I will give him a generous 3.

The third area is trade and immigration. Our president should realize that free trade is vital to our economy and that economic freedom will give our businesses a competitive advantage. In the area of immigration, the president should realize that our current system of allowing illegal immigration and giving welfare to immigrants is unworkable. We should first dismantle welfare and then open up legal immigration and allow market forces to manage the labor market.

Santorum frequently refers to himself as the son of an immigrant. Not surprisingly, he has a lot of good things to say about legal immigration. On the positive side, he favors streamlining the system and opening a guestworker program. However, he supports stronger border control before solving the actual problems that cause illegal immigration. Massive welfare reform (elimination) and an opening up of the border to allow the labor market to work would solve this problem. I will give him a 2 for limited support of legal immigration, and the consistency to want to enforce a law he supports.

Fourth, a president needs to defend civil liberties. No torture or holding “enemy combatants” without trial or without formal charges. A candidate should not support the Patriot Act, which vastly increases the surveillance power and authority of the federal government. Essentially, a good candidate must support ethical treatment of citizens and enemies.

On the good side, Santorum opposed the National Defense Authorization Act. He still supported the Patriot Act, Guantanamo, and torture, but at least he draws the line somewhere. He supports indefinite detention and torture of “enemy combatants,” and spying on Americans. However, he at least does not support indefinite detention of Americans. This would be an improvement on the current president. Also, I don’t think he’ll change his position like the current president. I’ll give him a 1.

Finally, a candidate must take a principled stand on social issues. He must oppose the murder of millions of unborn human beings, while recognizing that ideally abortion would be controlled by local governments, as with almost all murders. Marriage is another important issue. While it would be preferable if a candidate understood marriage as between a man and a woman, it is just as important for candidates to realize that the government is not the solution to our societal marriage problems. Government should get out of the marriage licensing business and allow churches to recognize marriages.

While I happen to agree with him on social issues, I don’t agree with how he proposes to solve them. He is pro-life, but he wants federal regulation of abortion. Life is a tremendous issue, but liberty is as well. I don’t think he could actually achieve a savings in the number killed, but he could achieve a limitation of liberty. He also opposes gay marriage. I believe we should have government get out of the issue all together. Because life is such an important issue, and he wants to defend it, I will give him a 2. At least he will try to stop federal funding of abortion. He wants to overturn Roe, but I do not believe he has a plan to do so.

In summary, Santorum gets an 8. That seems extremely harsh. However, Santorum still believes the 3 big lies: that the American military can police the world without causing blowback, that redistribution of wealth is not stealing, and that the government can help solve our social and cultural problems. His strongest area is the economy, where he favors decreased regulation and spending cuts. His worst area is foreign policy, where he would almost certainly start a war and send America’s young men and women off to fight and die in another area of the globe.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 15, 2012 in Government, liberty, News


Tags: , , ,

NDAA stirs up controversy

The National Defense Authorization Act has ignited a firestorm of criticism concerning provisions some believe would allow for indefinite detention of US citizens. This piece of legislation is passed annually to provide funds for the Department of Defense. The current version of the Act was introduced in the Senate in November. New provisions in the legislation made passing this bill far from routine. Sections 1031 and 1032 attracted attention from human rights advocates like the ACLU. Section 1031 gives the government authority to detain suspected terrorists and their supporters indefinitely. The language of the bill has led some to claim that this provision could be used to detain US citizens without a trial. Section 1032 further maintains that those detained under section 1031 will be held in military custody. This requirement for mandatory detention contains an exception for US citizens. The legislation passed in the Senate and the House and on December 21, was presented to the President. While the National Defense authorization quietly passed through Washington, controversy on the internet was brewing.

The controversy quickly centered on the possibility of indefinite detention of US citizens. Beginning in November, the ACLU warned that the bill was a threat to civil liberties. Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel with the ACLU, explained the danger posed by the legislation. “The bill is an historic threat to American citizens and others because it expands and makes permanent the authority of the president to order the military to imprison without charge or trial American citizens.” The ACLU and other critics point to a statement by Sen. Lindsey Graham, who co-sponsored the legislation. “[Section] 1031, the statement of authority to detain, does apply to American citizens and it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland.”

The criticism voiced by civil libertarians was echoed by several members of congress. Several dozen legislators wrote a letter expressing concern about the provisions in the NDAA. “We are deeply concerned that this provision could undermine the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth amendment rights of U.S. citizens who might be subjects of detention or prosecution by the military.” Sen. Rand Paul (R. –Ky) has been especially vocal in his opposition to the legislation’s provisions. In an editorial published by the National Review, he expressed two further concerns. In addition to constitutional issues, Rand Paul identified the possibilities of false accusations and abuse of power. “The argument in Congress this week was about whether we should expand the possibility of indefinite detention to include U.S. citizens accused of association with terrorism. This could conceivably apply to non-combatants. This could also conceivably include U.S. citizens falsely accused of association with terrorism. If you allow the government the unlimited power to detain citizens without a jury trial, you are exposing yourself to the whim of those in power. That is a dangerous game.”

Supporters of the provisions contend that the provisions are not a threat, and that they are necessary to protect Americans. Charles Stimson of the Heritage Foundation points out that these provisions simply reinforce powers the President already has. “These provisions track existing policy and practice and are a codification thereof. Despite claims to the contrary, if enacted, these provisions are not an expansion of the war effort but merely a codification of existing practice.” In fact, Stimson does not endorse the legislation, saying the bill may restrict the government’s ability to detain terrorists. “But most of the proposed legislation potentially encroaches on the commander in chief’s executive power under the U.S. Constitution, denies the President needed flexibility, or exists solely because of distrust of this Administration’s wartime detention decisions.” Lindsey Graham, a prominent proponent of the legislation, claims that the provisions are not unfair, and could help with intelligence gathering. “It is not unfair to make an American citizen account for the fact that they decided to help Al Qaeda to kill us all and hold them as long as it takes to find intelligence about what may be coming next.” What he said next only added fuel to the fire blazing about the legislation and civil liberties. “And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them, ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.’”

President Obama now appears to be ready to sign the bill. Despite initial concerns that the provisions for military detention would restrict the ability of federal agencies to detain terrorists, the White House indicated the President would not veto the legislation.

Although the passage of the legislation on the Bill of Rights day seemed ironic to some, the controversy has stimulated discussion about terrorism and the civil liberties in the Bill of Rights.

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Government, Justice, liberty, News


Tags: , ,

The Heritage Foundation and the NDAA

I wrote earlier about the National Defense Authorization Act. This dangerous legislation would give increased power to the President to detain suspected terrorists or their supporters without a trial, whether citizens or not. I have noticed that honest liberals who care about civil liberties and the libertarians are going crazy about this, and rightly so. But I have not heard a peep from the right.

I went to the Heritage Foundation to find what they thought about it. I may have missed something, but the most recent articles I could find were from mid-October. The titles of the two pieces were promising: “Common-Sense Principles for Detainee Policy” and “Proposed Detainee Legislation May Overstep Constitutional Authority” Yes! The Heritage Foundation still stands for the constitution! But then I read what the articles actually said. The first article includes this: “As the House and Senate debate the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, The Heritage Foundation’s Charles Stimson notes that some of the provisions up for debate infringe upon the President’s constitutional powers.” What? The provisions may infringe on the President’s powers?

Two things about this. One, this is exactly what the Administration originally said about this. They complained that the President should answer to no one when detaining people without trial. It is strange to see the President and the Heritage Foundation in agreement on this issue. Second, this is absurd. The bill expands the President’s codified power in an almost unprecedented way. The rights of the alleged terrorists and supporters under the constitution are being infringed upon, not some presidential power hidden or implied in any part of the Constitution.

This is a betrayal of the constitution, individual rights, and the people of the United States. Two years ago, I would have been shocked to hear that the Heritage Foundation would support unfettered government power to detain people, including citizens. Now, from a libertarian perspective, I am not surprised to see the “right” and the “left” conspiring to give more power to the government and implement policies befitting of a totalitarian state in the name of safety.

Normally the “right” distrusts the Obama administrations use of power. However, when it comes to national defense, they often trust anyone who is claiming to protect the homeland. Hence, the second article says this: “But most of the proposed legislation potentially encroaches on the commander in chief’s executive power under the U.S. Constitution, denies the President needed flexibility, or exists solely because of distrust of this Administration’s wartime detention decisions.” This is so ironic. The Heritage Foundation ridiculing distrust of President Obama? The American people have every reason to doubt this Administration’s wartime detention decisions. He ran on ending Guantanamo and then reversed course and quietly supports it in almost the same way as his predecessor, continuing to question habeas corpus and basic human rights. Now he has lent his support to a bill that would allow indefinite detention of US citizens without a trial. This President does not need greater flexibility. All those who wield tremendous power need to be restrained. The Constitution attempted to do so, with very limited success.

The American people need to wake up. The “left” and the “right” are saying very little as our freedoms are being taken away. As Benjamin Franklin said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Government, Justice, libertarianism, liberty, Media, News


Tags: , , , ,

Mitt vs. Mitt


2 things about this video:

First, this may be the greatest thing I have ever seen from the Democratic National Committee. I am pleased to see an ad that actually exposes factual inconsistencies in a candidate’s message and history.

Second, to those who think pointing out the flaws in a Republican candidate is somehow tearing down a friend or ally, consider this: to hide the fact that a candidate for president does not seem to be acting with integrity or consistency is to betray the truth. If a candidate is dangerous to our country, it does not matter whether there is a D or an R in front of his name. I think the R’s are not anywhere near as pro-liberty as they want people to believe.

Now to the video exposing how Mitt Romney has changed his views. I’ll leave it up to you to decide why he would choose to change all his positions at a time when the Republicans are moving “right” (whatever that means.)

1 Comment

Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Government, Media, News


Tags: , , , ,