Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: May 16, 2012


How do you know Obama’s gay marriage declaration was for political purposes only?

Disclaimer – this post isn’t about whether or not you support gay marriage.  I don’t care.  The post is to discuss the politics of the declaration by President Obama and to make a point.  If you want to rant about the pros or cons of gay marriage, go somewhere else.

That said, how do you know it was done explicitly for political purposes?

Timing for one.  The word was out that big donors who happened to be gay were withholding big bucks.  Declare. Problem solved.

Additionally – and this is no surprise – the bonus of declaring not only freed up that money (which apparently isn’t as easy to raise this time around) but it offered another distraction from the economy, the debt and the dismal Obama record.  Every day that the economy, debt and the rest of his record isn’t being discussed is a good day for Obama.

But here’s the real reason you know it was all for political gain and he plans to do absolutely nothing about it in reality:

Strange, too, that Obama declared gay marriage a civil right, but insisted it should be left to the states. His political allies are scratching their heads over that one — it’s a civil right or it’s not — but the media haven’t pursued that incoherent angle either.

That’s right, he declares it a “civil right” but then shunts it off to the states to “decide”.  Really? Obviously we can argue all day about whether or not it is a civil right, but that’s irrelevant to the point here.  He declared it a civil right.

And he also said that what we call ‘civil rights’ should be decided at the state level. 

“No civil rights for you!”

Uh, okay.

George Wallace and Orville  Faubus were within their rights as the heads of their states to deny blacks their “civil rights” if that’s what the people of their state wanted?

We all know the answer to that.

So this is how our resident “Constitutional Scholar” makes some political hay without any intention of actually doing anything to back up his declaration (even while offering an incoherent reason that should be the talk of the media … uh, yeah, that’ll happen).

Nada.

Zip.

Zero.

As worthless a gesture as Syria signing the UN’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.

But politically, it’s worth big dollars just when he needs big dollars.

Forward!

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Economic Statistics for 16 May 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

The Fed reports industrial production rose 1.1% in April, while capacity utilization increased to 79.2%.

A dip in mortgage rates is causing an increase in refinance applications. MBA reports applications rose 9.2%, with purchases down -2.4%, but refinance applications up 13%.

Housing starts rose 2.6% in April, erasing March’s decline of -2.6%, coming in at a 717,000 annual rate. Building permits were at a 715,000 annual rate.

~
Dale Franks
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Cell phone jamming: violation of civil rights or good law enforcement tactic?

I come down on the side of the former – a violation of my civil rights.  When does the government unilaterally get to decide  if I’m able to talk to someone (or communicate by other means, such as Twitter) on a device I’ve contracted with a private company and for which they provide service?  When it sees a compelling public safety risk. 

And what would define that public safety risk?    Well that’s kind of up in the air.  Take the expected riots in Chicago for the NATO summit.

Apparently that qualifies

According to the Daily Beast, a little known Bush era regulation gives law enforcement the ability to jam cell phones … you know like they did in Tehran when the people attempted to stand up to their government.  Or Syria?

Not only do the FBI and Secret Service have standing authority to jam signals, but they along with state and local authorities can also push for the shutdown of cell towers, thanks to a little-known legacy of the Bush administration: “Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) 303," which lays out the nation’s official “Emergency Wireless Protocols.”

The protocols were developed after the 2005 London bombings in a process that calls to mind an M.C. Escher work. First, the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC) formed a task force— composed of anonymous government officials and executives from Cingular, Microsoft, Motorola, Sprint, and Verizon—that issued a private report to President Bush. Another acronym-dragging committee, also meeting in secret, then approved the task force’s recommendations. Thus, according to NSTAC’s 2006–07 annual issue review, SOP 303 was born.

"In time of national emergency," the review says, SOP 303 gives “State Homeland Security Advisors, their designees, or representatives of the DHS Homeland Security Operations Center” the power to call for “the termination of private wireless network connections… within an entire metropolitan area.” The decision is subject to review by the National Coordinating Center, a government-industry group responsible for the actual mechanics of the shutdown. The NCC is supposed to “authenticate” the shutdown via “a series of questions.” But SOP 303 does not specify, at least not publicly, what would constitute a “national emergency,” or what questions the NCC then asks “to determine if the shutdown is a necessary action.”

“[T]he termination of private wireless network connections …”.  That should send a chill up your spine.  This is the realm of dictatorship. 

What if I have nothing to do with whatever the disturbance in the area might be?  What if I have an emergency?  What if I can’t get to a land line?  Who in the hell are these people to deny me access to a private service I pay for and they don’t?

And all for their convenience, because that’s the point.  Protesters use wireless services and social media like Twitter to organize.

Instead of Law Enforcement learning to monitor that and react sufficiently well to blunt its effect, they prefer to use the sledge hammer approach and shut down service to all in an area.

I have a contract with a provider.  That provider agrees to provide me uninterrupted service for payment.  I pay.  Government decides to void that contract at its own whim and possibly endanger my life and safety by doing so.

Oh, and here’s a little ground truth:

“It’s the nature of law enforcement to push the envelope,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a former New York City police instructor and professor of police practice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “It’s act first and litigate second.”

Understatement of the year.  For instance:

While it’s against the law for individuals or nongovernmental organizations to sell or use jammers, the devices are easily found online. The U.S. military was among the first to use communications shutdowns, and local government demand for the technology has been building for years, even as the legal rules for its use have remained ill-defined. Prison wardens want to snuff out the use of smuggled cellphones by inmates; school officials hope to disable students’ phones; the National Transportation Safety Board wants to disable all “portable electronic devices within reach of the driver” while cars are in motion.

I’m sure you can dream up many more rights abusing nanny state scenarios (yeah, jamming illegal prison cell phones actually seems legit) than those listed.  Imagine a state banning cell phone use in cars and installing jammers along all major highways.  Imagine a car wreck with injuries.  Imagine the law suits to follow.

For once the ACLU and I are on the same side:

The ACLU, Verizon, and a coalition of public-interest groups noted that cellphone blackouts would, with few exceptions, violate the Constitution and federal communication law, as well as threaten public safety by eliminating the means to share vital information or call 911.

But:

Now other efforts to cut through the legal haze have emerged. In response to the wireless shutdown in San Francisco last summer, California State Sen. Alex Padilla introduced what would be a first-of-its-kind bill stipulating that to cut off service a judge must sign off that the move is necessary to avert “significant dangers to public health, safety or welfare.” If approved, the bill, which has the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, could become the gold standard for state policy. San Francisco transit officials codified their own policy, which remains quite vague, after the public backlash to their shutdown. It calls for “strong evidence” of dangerous and unlawful activity, a belief that an interruption will “substantially reduce the likelihood of such an activity” and that the interruptions are “narrowly tailored.”

No.  That agrees to the premise that government should have that power and then tries to define it “narrowly”.  I don’t agree with the premise of government’s right to do this.  If they want to talk about an exceptional power in time of a declared National Emergency, I’m willing to listen.  But we all know how wide “narrowly” becomes when law enforcement is given an ability to use such a power.  They’ll use it for their convenience, screw your rights.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO