This Week In Review (06/25/2012)
• President Barack Obama signs executive order to end deportation of young illegal immigrants. Obama announced that his administration would no longer deport illegal immigrants under 30 who were brought into the country before age 16. These young people will be eligible for citizenship if they pose no criminal or security threat, attended and graduated high school, and either attended college or served in the military. This seems fair enough. Children should not be punished for the crimes of their parents, and as long as they’re trying to be productive members of society, they should be allowed to remain here and become citizens. But here’s the problem with this decision: Obama had no authority to make it. Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives the power “to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization” to Congress, not the president. By changing immigration law through executive order, Obama is overstepping his constitutional boundaries as president. As the good Judge Andrew Napolitano warned in his recent op-ed on the matter, “If the president can rewrite federal laws that he doesn't like, there is no limit to his power. Then, he will not be a president. He will be a king.”
• Massachusetts town imposes $20 fine for swearing in public. You won’t be able to say any of George Carlin’s “Seven Words” in Middleborough, Mass. anytime soon. That’s because residents voted 183-50 during a town meeting to ban public profanity, with violators facing fines of $20. Now before anyone starts branding their torches and pitchforks over this blatant free speech violation, it should be noted that this ban won’t apply to casual utterances of profanity. As the Associated Press points out: “Officials insist the proposal was not intended to censor casual or private conversations, but instead to crack down on loud, profanity-laden language used by teens and other young people in the downtown area and public parks.” Many business owners said they supported the ban because this behavior tends to detract customers. Now while I find this understandable, I don’t think this justifies a city-wide “War On Profanity.” If people are truly causing a profanity-laden disturbance in front of a business, the business owner has the right to tell them to cease, desist, and leave, and if they persist, they can call the police and charge them with disturbing the peace. There is no reason to ban speech because someone finds it offensive. In fact, freedom of speech was intended to protect unpopular and offensive speech.
• Priest busted for sex abuse ten years ago now working for the TSA at Philly airport. Thomas Harkins was a priest at several New Jersey churches until 2002 when he was charged with sexually-abusing two girls, with a third one having recently come forward. A kiddy-piddling priest isn’t news—though one that molests little girls rather than little boys is! But what is news is that the former priest now works as a TSA supervisor at Philadelphia International Airport. How did a child-molesting priest manage to receive such a high position? According to New York Daily News, “Because the sexual abuse cases were so old, and the lawsuits were settled with the accusers, criminal charges were never filed against Harkins, which is why nothing registered when the TSA ran a background check.” But many people have voiced their concern over this, including Karen Polesir of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). As she told a CBS Philly news crew, “They should know who they are hiring. As the public, we are screened to our underwear getting on a plane, and yet they hire a man like that.” And this highlights the main problem with the TSA and its draconian security measures: when you give people such power over ordinary citizens, you ultimately attract questionable individuals who want to abuse that power for their own gratification. This is why the TSA has received over 500 complaints from women claiming to have been unfairly targeted by TSA agents for full-body scans and invasive pat downs. When you give people the power to conduct what amounts to virtual strip searches and genital fondling, you wind up with perverts seeking to have their own personal peep show or cop a feel. Speaking of which…
• Florida woman accused of groping TSA agent. 59-year-old Carol Jean Price was going through security in a Florida airport, waiting to board a flight to her brother’s funeral, when she was selected for a full-body pat down. She claimed that the TSA agent groped her breasts and crotch while performing the procedure. Being a former agent herself, Price would have known if the agent had touched her in a way that went against normal procedure. She demanded to see a supervisor, to whom she demonstrated how she was handled by grabbing the agent in the areas she claimed she was groped. Not only did this cause her to miss her flight, but she now faces misdemeanor battery charges. And herein lies the problem with not only the TSA, but any other aspect of government: it exists of individuals who have been endowed with privileges ordinary citizens do not have. Government apologists claim that government is only people like you and me, but it’s not. These people have the sole privilege of utilizing force and coercion, and as such, can get away with doing things we cannot. As this incident shows, if we were to touch another person the same way a TSA agent would, we would be charged with sexual assault, yet agents touch people like that all the time as part of their everyday job. You could argue that these measures are only to protect us against potential terrorist attacks, but as has been pointed out numerous times, these measures do nothing to make us safer and everything to make us less free.
• House Republican proposes ban on use of armed drones in the US. As The Hill blog reports, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) introduced the “No Armed Drones Act, or NADA, [which] would amend the FAA Modernization and Reform Act to prohibit the use of unmanned aircraft systems as weapons in U.S. airspace, and would prevent the secretary of Transportation from authorizing anyone to use these drones to ‘deliver a weapon against a person or property.’ It would also prevent the manufacture, sale or distribution of armed drones for use in the United States.” So first we had Rand Paul introduce legislation requiring a warrant to use unmanned drones in civilian airspace, and now we have Burgess introduce legislation to ban drones altogether. Nice to know that some members of the Republican Party actually support right to privacy. For despite their preaching about limited government, Republicans have been more than willing to expand the size of government when it suits them, especially when it comes to fighting the decade-long “War on Terror.” So kudos to Paul and Burgess for refusing to trade liberty for security as most Republicans have done. We need more like them who are willing to practice the very conservative limited-government principles they preach.
• Marijuana legalization bill vetoed by NH Governor. Reuters reports: “the New Hampshire bill passed by a more than 2 to 1 margin in the state House of Representatives this year, but only narrowly passed the Senate, making prospects for a veto override unlikely.” Had the bill become law, it would have made New Hampshire the twentieth state in the nation and the fifth state in New England to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. Unfortunately, Governor John Lynch vetoed the bill. Sounds like a Republican governor obstructing a Democrat congress, right? Actually, Governor Lynch is a Democrat and the congress which passed the bill is mostly Republican. Moreover, New Hampshire has been known for its libertarian legislation, with no state income or sales tax, no motorcycle helmet laws, and lax gun laws. Just goes to show you that not all Republicans support the drug war and not all Democrats support drug legalization—and in the end, neither party truly reflects the best interests of the people they’re supposed to represent.
• 63% of Republicans still believe Iraq had WMDs. So let’s ignore the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were discovered after invading Iraq: the very Iraqi defector who leaked info about WMDs to the Bush administration admitted earlier this year that he had lied about the whole thing. In other words, he was admitting what most sensible people had already assumed: that the Iraq War—which cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of lives—was built on nothing but lies. Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, nor did he have any ties to 9/11; and yet Republicans still insist that he did, despite all evidence to the contrary. Mark Twain said it best: "It's easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled."
• Jurors refuse to convict man on drug charges. ABC News reports: "Israel Rangel was charged with possession of less than a gram of cocaine. Cops said he had half as much coke as there is Sweet'N Low in a single packet." During the jury selection for the case, jurors were asked if they would convict Rangel if it was proven that he had committed the offense. Out of 160 jurors, 50 said they would not convict. This answer came as a shock to many, but for others like defense attorney Tony Dupont, it was only common sense: "They said they weren't going to make somebody a felon and ruin their lives over less than a gram of cocaine.” Thankfully, Rangel was found not guilty. If here were found guilty, according to Texas law, he would have faced 180 days to 2 years in jail or a fine of up to $10,000—all for owning what amounts to a sugar packet of coke! Even if he was guilty, there is no reason he should have faced such a hefty punishment for something that ultimately harms no one but himself. Yes, drug abuse is a problem, but the solution should not be to throw people in jail. The solution should be to educate people and treat those who are suffering from addiction. We need to treat drug addicts like patients, not criminals.
• Men outnumber women among American rape victims. Feminists have always complained that America promotes a rape culture that encourages rape against women, despite the fact that reported rape is the lowest it’s ever been within the past 20 years. To their credit, rape culture does exist, but it exists not against women, but against men in prison. As Christopher Glazek of N+1 Magazine explains: “the Justice Department finally released an estimate of the prevalence of sexual abuse in penitentiaries. The reliance on filed complaints appeared to understate the problem. For 2008, for example, the government had previously tallied 935 confirmed instances of sexual abuse. After asking around, and performing some calculations, the Justice Department came up with a new number: 216,000. That’s 216,000 victims, not instances. These victims are often assaulted multiple times over the course of the year. The Justice Department now seems to be saying that prison rape accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the US in 2008, likely making the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women.” So when you add prison rape to the numbers, you find that men are statistically raped more often than women. Yet rape is primarily viewed as a women’s issue. Rape against men is rarely taken as seriously. Since men are considered the stronger sex, male rape victims are often reluctant to admit being raped, considering it a failure of their manhood. Things are worse in prison where prison guards rarely intervene to stop rape when it occurs and prison officials sweep instances under the rug, often advising victims not to make official complaints, claiming that they won’t be taken seriously if they do. Even when official complaints are made, very few result in criminal charges. Rape victims who do complain tend to be targeted for rape by other prisoners. This trauma drives some victims to suicide. Prison rape is not a joke to the victim involved; yet in our society, it’s treated as a joke. (“Don’t drop the soap!”) Rape is never funny. It is a serious offense, whether the victim is a man or a woman, and we as a society need to start treating it as such.