Indiana law has unintended consequence

Indiana RFRA
I rarely discuss religious topics, however there are times when it must be done. The Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, recently signed a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” into law in the Hoosier State. Some people say the law will open the door to discrimination, such as allowing a baker or florist from providing service to a gay couple seeking a cake or flowers for their wedding, or allowing a pharmacist to refuse to fill a prescription for birth control. Supporters of the new law, including Pence, disagree. Pence said, “this law is not about discrimination. If it was, I would have vetoed it.”

However, he has not explained how the bill does not allow discrimination, or even how the bill does allow one to exercise their religious freedom. On ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” Pence was asked six times whether under the law it would be legal for a merchant to refuse to serve gay customers, he refused to directly answer the question. Pence said, “This is not about discrimination, this is about empowering people to confront government overreach.” He did say that he will look into a bill to clarify the law’s intent, if the Legislature sends him such a bill.

If the intent needs to be clarified, does that mean the current language is vague? Absolutely! In order to have some understanding of the debate, I read the law. The first 7 sections of the new law are definitions and explanations of terms. The key elements are sections 5, 8, 9 and 11. Exercise of religion is defined as “any exercise of religion,whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” The law then says “a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” Except that “[a] governmental entity may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion… [if the burden] is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” If a person’s “exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened” they may seek relief from the courts. However, the law concludes by stating “is not intended to, and shall not be construed or interpreted to, create a claim or private cause of action against any private employer by any applicant, employee, or former employee.”

So on the one hand, you have a law stating that exercise of religion can mean pretty much anything; and that it can’t be substantially burdened. On the other hand, the law says that exercise of religion can be substantially burdened if the burden serves a compelling government interest (i.e. for the greater good) and is the least restrictive means of furthering said interest. Additionally, I see nothing in this law that states “a person may not substantially burden another person’s exercise of religion.” Which, to me seems to counter the claims that the bill allows a baker to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex couple. However, laws are often construed after passage to mean any number of things that were not intended.

One thing that was definitely not intended by adoption of this law, was the backlash from various entities. The Indianapolis Star reports, the CEO of Angie’s List “announced that his company will abandon a deal with the state and city to expand the company’s headquarters in Indianapolis.” And the AP reports, “The Indianapolis-based NCAA has expressed concerns about the law and has suggested it could move future events elsewhere.”

Whether or not the new law in Indiana allows discrimination in the name of religion, it has shown that there are people willing to discriminate against the discriminators.

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Why Washington Won’t Do Anything About Income Inequality

We spend a lot of time looking at the section of national income that goes to the top 1%. That’s interesting, but the fact that the 1% pays a much larger share of tax is a lot more significant. Washington, DC doesn’t want to attack “Too big to fail” banks because their taxes pay bureaucrats’ salaries…

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A pardon for Edward Snowden

snowden-pardonFor the second consecutive year, Edward Snowden appeared at South by South West in Austin, Texas, and once again, he was not able to attend in person. Snowden, again, appeared via internet stream, this time to a select group of people from the technology and policy world. The Verge reports, “Sunday Yokubaitis, president of online privacy company Golden Frog, described as a ‘call to arms’ for tech companies to foil spying with better privacy tools.” Adding that “Snowden said that as policy reform lagged, companies should adopt more secure technology that could block surveillance altogether or make it too difficult to pursue en masse. A big focus was end-to-end encryption, which would mean no one (including companies) could see the contents of communications except the sender and recipient.”

One topic not discussed was in regards to the former NSA contractor: the possibility of a fair trial. In early March, one of Snowden’s lawyers said, “[Edward] Snowden is ready to return to the [United] States, but on the condition that he is given a guarantee of a legal and impartial trial.” Jesselyn Radack, who also works on Snowden’s legal team, says a trial under the Espionage Act—the World War I-era law that Snowden is alleged to have violated—“would not be considered fair.” Radack reportedly said, “Snowden would be amenable to coming back to the United States for the kind of plea bargain that Gen. [David] Petraeus received.”

Patreus plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified material and will serve no jail time for his actions. Unlike Snowden, who gave classified documents about mass surveillance to members of the media; Petraeus gave classified info to his biographer and girlfriend, Paula Broadwell. Patreus then lied to the FBI about having given Broadwell access to the documents.

By contrast, Edward Snowden never lied about his actions, and even explained why he did it. We don’t yet know if Edward Snowden will ever be allowed to return to the United States, or if he will ever appear in a court. However, he should not have to appear in court, because he should be granted a full pardon.

I know that will not happen as long as Barack Obama is in the White House, because it was Obama’s Administration that sought espionage charges in the first place. Nor do I expect a Republican Presidentt to issue such a pardon either. Even the supposed libertarian Rand Paul has said that Snowden should spend “a few years in prison.”

It is clear that neither major party will do what is right, and will only serve to protect their own interests. Is it any wonder that both parties now have an approval rating below 40%?

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Survey: Americans say big government isn’t necessary?

gov is probA new survey from Gallup proclaims “Americans Name Government as No. 1 U.S. Problem.” This headline alone brought a smile to my face, until I clicked on the article and read the results, and began to think about what the results meant.

Many conservatives like to quote Ronald Reagan who, during his first inaugural address, said, “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

These are the same people who then look for government solutions to what they perceive as problems: immigration, drugs, same-sex marriage, terrorism, and a myriad of other issues whereby they want government to find a solution.

On the flip-side, you have many liberals/progressives who think that government is not doing enough to solve a myriad of what they perceive as problems: campaign financing, unfair taxation, guns, drugs, terrorism, and a myriad of other issues whereby they want government to find a solution.

So, right off the bat you have two seemingly opposing sides who want government to find solutions to their perceived problems.

And both sides – which are really different feathers on the same bird – agreeing on some of the problems.

The difference between them is they disagree on the solutions, which may explain why only 31% of respondents stated they were “satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time,” whereas 67% were dissatisfied.

But what about the survey title? Good question. see more…

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The “S” word: reclaiming personal liberty

Secession-of-American-States-e1341742728488During the 2015 NH Liberty Forum, the NH Liberty Party held its third annual convention.

The NH Liberty Party is an avowed pro-secessionist party with a 5 plank platform that can not be changed “except by 100% of voting members at the annual convention.” Of course, secession is only 1 plank in the platform, with the party also taking a staunch libertarian position on Self-determination, Non-aggression, Crime, and Voluntary Interaction.

The reason for these libertarian planks, according to Ian Freeman, party co-founder and co-chair, is to exclude the bigots and xenophobes who may wish to seceded to then implement their bigotry.

Many people who advocate for secession will not use the word, seeing it as a third rail, of sorts. see more…

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Salvation Army’s black and blue dress needed more truth

The Salvation Army launched a campaign today on the back of the blue/black and gold/white dress. My feeds asplode.

This chick is still like totally a 9.

In response — and not to diminish the rights of women, but rather to elevate the rights of everyone — we present the Hammer of Truth edit:

some people don't see it at all

Less words, more truth.

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Regulate everything like tomatoes: a guide to ending the drug war

Regulate everything like tomatoesIn late February, the Colorado Department of Revenue Marijuana Enforcement Division released a reports stating, “On December 31, 2014, Colorado concluded a full twelve months of lawful retail marijuana sales to adults over 21 years of age. The State experienced many firsts, such as the implementation of the first-in-the-world comprehensive regulatory model overseeing cultivation, products manufacturing, and sale of marijuana for non-medical retail use.” see more…

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GOP digs in heels on DHS and immigration funding

GOP amnestyMany Republican lawmakers are digging in their heels in the fight to defund implementation of what they see as an executive overreach by President Obama. They’re so entrenched in their position that they’re acting as though they’ll allow the Department of Homeland Security budget to not be adopted. Which in reality wouldn’t have much impact on DHS activities, as approximately 200,000 of the 230,000 DHS employees are considered essential. The Chicago Tribune reports, “Most training, hiring, research and purchasing would be suspended. Border security, disaster relief and cybersecurity programs would continue uninterrupted.” In other words, nothing will really change, except that “essential” DHS employees will work without a paycheck until a budget is adopted. see more…

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Costly FAA drone regulations exclude media usage

2015-02-15-103736_1366x768_scrotAfter nearly four years of delay, the FAA is poised to release regulations for the commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS/drone). A document, that could be a draft of the proposed regulations, was spotted on a federal website on Friday by a drone user and downloaded before being removed from the website, according to the Wall Street Journalhost. Forbes reports, “The document is dated February 2015 and is captioned ‘Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Regulatory Evaluation, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems’ authored by George Thurston of the Office of Aviation Policy and Plans, Economic Analysis Division. But, it’s possible this is a leaked early draft that has since been revised or is otherwise incomplete or inaccurate.” see more…

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No direct link between cannabis use and traffic accidents

Reading on freeway signs with small fonts: unsafe as fuckLast Summer, data came out of Colorado reporting that traffic fatalities were near-historic lows. Now, new studies by the NHTSA (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration) have scientifically proven what some have already known: there doesn’t seem to be a link between cannabis use and car accidents.

The Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk Study which looked at 9,000 participants over a 20 month period found that “about 8 percent of drivers during weekend nighttime hours were found to have alcohol in their system, and just over 1 percent were found with 0.08 percent or higher breath alcohol content – the legal limit in every state. This is down by about 30 percent from the previous survey in 2007 and down 80 percent from the first survey in 1973.”

The study confirmed that alcohol use by drivers was clearly associated with elevated risk of crash involvement. A driver with a breath alcohol content (BrAC) above 0.08 was 4 times as likely to have an accident compared to a driver with a lower or no BrAC, and “[d]rivers with alcohol levels at .15 BrAC had 12 times the risk.” see more…

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Not everyone is “lovin” the newest McDonald’s ad campaign

For many years, McDonald’s has used the slogan “I’m lovin’ it.” Now they’re running an ad campaign titled “Choose Lovin” in which they will randomly select customers to “pay with lovin.” The idea is supposed to be a light-hearted gimmick to get people to do something that spreads joy or love, this could be as simple as dancing, calling a family member, or saying something a person loves about himself. see more…

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Lessons learned from the Barrett Brown case

The prosecution of Barrett Brown, which seemed to go under the radar of the mainstream media, is one of the most important cases of my lifetime, and has taught us several important things.

There is no Freedom of the Press:
Barrett Brown is an investigative journalist and had been a contributor to Vanity Fair and The Guardian. He also founded Project PM, a project to crowdsource review of documents for investigative journalism.

EFF reports, “Brown’s legal trouble began in 2011, when hackers obtained a voluminous set of emails from government contractor HBGary and placed them on the Internet. He turned to crowdsourcing to review records and emails taken from another government contractor, Stratfor, after hackers broke into their servers later in 2011. Those records included millions of emails discussing opportunities for rendition and assassination, and detailing attempts to subvert journalists, political groups and even foreign leaders. They also included tens of thousands of credit card numbers and their verification codes.” see more…

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What Reason and Vox are missing about Holder’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Reforms

The Drug War is complicated stuff, and Civil Asset Forfeiture (CAF) is one of the more convoluted bits of it.

It is therefore understandable that some journalists, at Reason and Vox specifically, are missing the forest for some admittedly distracting trees.

CAF is a license for theft by government. All levels of government want to take advantage.

The federal government does a lot of it, and individual states do a lot of it.

Up until last Friday, the federal government made it even easier for local police forces to do it — encouraging them to make all sorts of unnecessary stops and seizures, even if their state laws were against CAF or limited its use.

So even if a state wanted to shut down CAF in their jurisdiction, the police could ignore their legislators and continue regardless. This program, known as “Equitable Sharing” was limited by Eric Holder last Friday. It doesn’t end CAF of course, but it does allow state reform to go forward, which is a big fricking deal, and it has made the worst abuses less likely.

I think cautious excitement about the progress made is the right response, as I make clear in my video on the topic: see more…

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Holder prohibits most state and local use of DOJ’s asset forfeiture program

Eric Holder made headlines this week when he announced a new policy prohibiting state and local governments from using federal civil asset forfeiture laws for most cases.

The Washington Post reported, “Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.”

The DOJ’s Equitable Sharing program has allowed thousands of local and state police agencies to have seized nearly $3 billion in cash and property since 2008.

Using Equitable Sharing, a state or local police department or drug task force would seize property and then have that property adopted by a federal agency.

The agency making the seizure would then be allowed to keep up to 80 percent of the value of the items confiscated. see more…

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HoT Shop: Now open for business

We’ve finally entered the e-commerce club and are offering branded products through the HoT website. You can check it out from the menu above.

Right now, we one item for sale: our sticker/decal in nine amazing colors. Even better, it’s 30% off until the end of January.


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The Congressional “good standard” bar should be raised

bar-too-lowNot many elected officials explain to their constituents the reasons they vote a certain way on a given bill. Even fewer are those who will explain their vote on every bill! Justin Amash seems to be doing just that, posting on his facebook profile an explanation for his votes.

Most recently, he explained his reasons for voting “present” on a bill to authorize construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline: “I voted present on H R 3, Northern Route Approval Act. The Keystone XL pipeline is a private project owned by TransCanada Corporation. This bill improperly exempts TransCanada Corporation—and no other company—from laws that require pipeline owners and operators to obtain certain government permits and approvals.
I support construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and holding it up for over four years (with no end in sight) for political reasons is wrong. see more…

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The economics of xenophobia

GDP increaseI recently read a pair of articles that on the surface are only tangentially connected. However after a little deep thought, I realized the authors are looking at the same problem from both a micro and macro level. The articles were “‘Buy Local’ is really bad economics” and “The economic case for open borders.” Again, after some thought I came up with the hypothesis: people who are xenophobic have a flawed understanding of economics. see more…

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Why We Need to Stop Making Murderers Famous…

Everyone has a pet explanation for the mass shootings that keep happening. Some say video games, progressives say gun control. I think it’s all much simpler than that. We need to stop turning killers into celebrities…

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STUDY: MTV has done more for the US teen birthrate than decades of policy… “almost one-third of the dramatic total decrease in teen pregnancy can be linked not to state and local public health efforts, not to the work of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy, but to a television program created for profit”

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2014: The year police abuse went mainstream

POlice-abuse-too-many-cops-too-little-justiceIt’s time again to look at a year gone by, though unlike years past where I attempt to summarize the year, I will instead look at what I consider to be the story of the year. It’s not easy picking a top story for the entire year, in fact the top story of 2014 isn’t just 1 story, it’s an entire genre of news stories: Police Abuse. see more…

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HoT PSA: If your child does steal your gun, it is a felony…

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Libertarian VG Review: The Assassination Of Quality

Allow me to start by saying I have not only played video games since their home inspection via consoles, but I have professionally tested multiple titles for EA, Sony and Sega.

In the 1990’s the advancements of home PCs and CD burners brought us the ability to do what we have done with HBO, and Cinemax for decades with VCR’s. Youths figured out how to copy their games onto write-able CD’s. In doing so the long held right of returning an unwanted product was put under the micro scope.

To “protect” their investment capitalists in video game development and distribution had a brilliant idea — one electronics hardware/media manufacturers the world over would use to this day.

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A big year for cannabis

marihuanaThere have been major stories regarding cannabis over the last 15 months. On August 29, 2013, the Department of Justice announced, “Based on assurances that those states [that have legalized cannabis] will impose an appropriately strict regulatory system, the Department has informed the governors of both states that it is deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time.” Further, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole sent a memo to all United States Attorneys explaining the DOJ’s stance. see more…

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