IVN.us http://ivn.us Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News Mon, 30 Mar 2015 19:05:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 1 Dead, 1 Wounded in Shooting Outside NSA Headquarters http://ivn.us/2015/03/30/1-dead-1-wounded-shooting-outside-nsa-headquarters/ http://ivn.us/2015/03/30/1-dead-1-wounded-shooting-outside-nsa-headquarters/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 18:43:13 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295660757 1 Dead, 1 Wounded in Shooting Outside NSA Headquarters

An anonymous official told the AP Monday that a car with at least two men in it tried to ram a checkpoint gate leading into the Fort Meade Army base outside Washington, D.C. According to the official, a gunfight broke out as the men were trying to get to the headquarters of the National Security Agency (NSA).

Alex GauthierIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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1 Dead, 1 Wounded in Shooting Outside NSA Headquarters

An anonymous official told the AP Monday that a car with at least two men in it tried to ram a checkpoint gate leading into the Fort Meade Army base outside Washington, D.C. According to the official, a gunfight broke out after the men tried to get to the headquarters of the National Security Agency (NSA), leaving one dead and one severely injured.

“The incident began shortly after 9:00 local time (14:00 GMT) when at least two people attempted to drive the vehicle into the National Security Agency section of the Fort Meade facility, according to a statement released by the Army base’s public affairs office,” the BBC reports.

“”We do not believe it is related to terrorism,” FBI Baltimore spokeswoman Amy Thoreson told the BBC. FBI investigators have been dispatched to the scene, where they are interviewing witnesses.

 

[…]

 

Helicopter footage showed two cars – one a police vehicle and the other a black vehicle with no insignia – in a junction that had been roped off near the security gates leading to the NSA.

 

The cars appeared to have collided and debris was strewn across the intersection. A white cloth appeared to cover something beside the black vehicle.” – BBC, March 30, 2015

Read the full report here.

 

Alex GauthierIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Mike Huckabee Says There Should be Term Limits for Supreme Court Justices http://ivn.us/2015/03/30/mike-huckabee-says-term-limits-supreme-court-justices/ http://ivn.us/2015/03/30/mike-huckabee-says-term-limits-supreme-court-justices/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 18:12:11 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295660750 Mike Huckabee Says There Should be Term Limits for Supreme Court Justices

The LA Times reported Saturday that potential 2016 presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee advocates term limits for Supreme Court justices. Huckabee said the Founding Fathers "never intended to create lifetime, irrevocable posts."

Shawn M. GriffithsIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Mike Huckabee Says There Should be Term Limits for Supreme Court Justices

The LA Times reported Saturday that potential 2016 presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R) advocates term limits for Supreme Court justices. Huckabee said the Founding Fathers “never intended to create lifetime, irrevocable posts.”

“”Nobody should be in an unelected position for life,” the former Arkansas governor said in an interview, expanding upon remarks he made during an hourlong speech at the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda.

“If the president who appoints them can only serve eight years, the person they appoint should never serve 40. That has never made sense to me; it defies that sense of public service,” he said.

Such a move would require a constitutional amendment. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, two other potential 2016 candidates for the Republican nomination, have also backed court term limits.” – LA Times, March 28, 2015.

Read the full article here.

Should Supreme Court justices have term limits?

Photo Credit: Brandon Bourdages / shutterstock.com

Shawn M. GriffithsIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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New Bipartisan Bill Aims to Dismantle PATRIOT Act and End Domestic Spying http://ivn.us/2015/03/30/new-bipartisan-bill-aims-dismantle-patriot-act-end-domestic-spying/ http://ivn.us/2015/03/30/new-bipartisan-bill-aims-dismantle-patriot-act-end-domestic-spying/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 16:43:14 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295660629 New Bipartisan Bill Aims to Dismantle PATRIOT Act and End Domestic Spying

Three provisions of the PATRIOT Act are set to expire on June 1: Section 215, the “Lone Wolf” provision, and the “Roving Wiretap” provision. While some lawmakers will insist on renewing these provisions, Americans generally oppose the surveillance programs justified in the law and Congress is divided between reform and renewal.

Hannah GloverIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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New Bipartisan Bill Aims to Dismantle PATRIOT Act and End Domestic Spying

Three provisions of the PATRIOT Act are set to expire on June 1: Section 215, the “Lone Wolf” provision, and the “Roving Wiretap” provision. While some lawmakers will insist on renewing these provisions, Americans generally oppose the surveillance programs justified in the law and Congress is divided between reform and renewal.

A new bill was recently introduced that would repeal both the PATRIOT Act and the 2008 FISA Amendments Act.

The Surveillance State Repeal Act was introduced on March 24 by U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). The bill proposes a comprehensive repeal of the PATRIOT Act and the termination of domestic NSA spying programs.

Pocan said in a press release that the Surveillance State Repeal Act “ends the NSA’s dragnet surveillance practices, while putting provisions in place to protect the privacy of American citizens through real and lasting change.”

In addition to removing several other programs in the PATRIOT Act and the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, Section 215 is specifically targeted as it justifies one of the more invasive programs utilized by the NSA. Section 215 allows the NSA to exhaustively collect and retain phone records for extensive periods of time. These records include the dates and times of calls and the identity of each party, but not the content of the conversations.

The other provisions set to expire include the “Lone Wolf” provision and the “Roving Wiretap” provision.

The “Lone Wolf” provision expands the definition of “an agent of foreign power” to include any non-U.S. citizen who “engages in international terrorism or activities in preparation therefore.” This extends beyond the previous requirement that an individual must be connected to a “foreign power or entity” to qualify as an agent of a foreign power.

The “Roving Wiretap” provision amends a part of Section 105 of FISA that describes the people that can assist in collecting information about a specified individual.

“If Section 215 (of the law which covers the collection) sunsets, we will not continue the bulk telephony metadata program,” said National Safety Council spokesperson Ned Price in a statement to Reuters.

However, he also acknowledges that “[a]llowing Section 215 to sunset would result in the loss… of a critical national security tool…” and that the administration has the ability to use a legal loophole to continue collecting these records, but they will not use it.

In order to prevent the looming “sunset” of 215 and the other expiring parts of the PATRIOT Act, Congress would need to pass legislation that would renew each provision. However, the Legislative Branch is fairly divided on the issue.

"(The Surveillance State Repeal Act) ends the NSA’s dragnet surveillance practices, while putting provisions in place to protect the privacy of American citizens..."U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.)
In November 2014, the USA FREEDOM Act was blocked from going to the floor by all but four Senate Republicans and one Democrat. The FREEDOM Act was a set of reforms for FISA, including an amendment that would have established a new process for using the powers allotted in Section 215.

There are still plenty of lawmakers who view the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act as vital to the nation’s security and therefore are reluctant to support any bill that would alter these laws in any way.

The FREEDOM Act received enough support to pass the House in May 2014 after being severely watered down. The Surveillance State Repeal Act would end controversial measures in the PATRIOT Act and FISA Amendments Act completely, which means that it is likely to get less support in Congress despite growing public support for such a bill.

A Gallup poll conducted in January 2015 asked participants to rate government surveillance of U.S. citizens on a scale ranging from “Very Satisfied” to “Very Dissatisfied.” Only 8 percent of participants reported that they were “Very Satisfied” with government surveillance, with 23 percent “Somewhat Satisfied.” The plurality of participants, 34 percent, reported feeling “Very Dissatisfied” with government surveillance.

The Surveillance State Repeal Act has 5 cosponsors and, according to the Library of Congress, is currently in committee. Whether or not the committee will actually take up the bill remains to be seen.

 Photo Credit: Carsten Reisinger

Hannah GloverIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Independent-Minded Leaders Focus on Fixing American Politics at National Conference http://ivn.us/2015/03/30/independent-minded-leaders-focus-fixing-american-politics-national-conference/ http://ivn.us/2015/03/30/independent-minded-leaders-focus-fixing-american-politics-national-conference/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:51:01 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295660691 Independent-Minded Leaders Focus on Fixing American Politics at National Conference

I was impressed to find such a far-reaching conglomerate of individuals at the National Conference of Independents in New York City, which took place during the weekend of March 13-15. Illinois, California, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Virginia, Oregon, Mississippi, Colorado, Kentucky, New York, Arizona, and the list could go on and on.

Greg DorseyIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Independent-Minded Leaders Focus on Fixing American Politics at National Conference

I was impressed to find such a far-reaching conglomerate of individuals at the National Conference of Independents in New York City, which took place during the weekend of March 13-15. Illinois, California, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Virginia, Oregon, Mississippi, Colorado, Kentucky, New York, Arizona, and the list could go on and on.

We all know that New York City is not cheap, let alone travelling from the other side of the country, but we were primed and ready for a fine weekend of events. The theme: “Partnerships for Independent Power.”

Friday evening kicked off the weekend with a cocktail reception hosted at the newly developed “Open Primaries” office in Lower Manhattan. It was a pleasure to meet Open Primaries President John Opdycke. I do believe his first words to me were, “What do Open Primaries mean to you?” — you could certainly sense his passion.

 

Learn More About Primary Elections

 

With enough people crammed into this small office space — enough to make the local fire chief cringe at the maxed out occupancy limit — we spiritedly, and with excitement, had many brief but meaningful discussions.

Saturday was the main event. Gwen Mandell and Nancy Ross from IndependentVoting.org opened the conference with an efficient but uplifting introduction to the day. It was a nice surprise to have a “video greeting” clip from Angus King, the independent senator from Maine, which he had recorded specifically for our event.

Next, IndependentVoting.org President Jackie Salit was introduced and she set the stage for the day’s discussions. Jackie then introduced the panel for the first major discussion, “Can Democracy Transform Social Crisis,” which included Joan Blades, Lenora Fulani, Tio Hardiman, and Paul Johnson.

After a midday break, we began the second half of the day with IndependentVoting.org’s own Cathy Stewart moderating a segment titled, “Organizing from the Bottom Up.” Jackie Salit then introduced the panel for the second major discussion, “Can We Make Political Reform Popular with the American People,” which included Michael Hardy, Paul Johnson, Harry Kresky, John Opdycke, Chad Peace, and Rob Richie. We adjourned the day around 5 p.m.

Sunday morning I had the honor of attending a small group brunch and discussion at a private residence in Upper Manhattan. It was nice to be in a small room with no more than twenty others passionately discussing and debating our personal points of view with regards to the weekend and how we, “the Independent Movement,” may come to influence state and federal political infrastructures as a whole.

No two of us thought exactly alike, but we spoke with passion, we listened with concern, and we left the apartment with new ideas and newfound friends, and I found that very refreshing.

Looking back, I offer three main takeaways from the weekend:

  1. Developing Open Primary systems for all levels of government was a theme spoken by people from all states and from all organizations. This is a cause and a fight that starts right now; New Jersey today, your state tomorrow.
  2. This truly is a state-by-state process; when crossing an imaginary line on the ground, rules and regulations change greatly, and each plan of attack will be unique.
  3. These will be battles won, or lost, within lawsuits and litigation; the more people that stand up and apply pressure to their state and federal representatives, the more pressure that will be felt by the judges and their gavels.

So, to summarize the weekend, there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of us — that is to say nonpartisan Americans — that have woken up, stood up, and activated. We are a conglomerate of unique players in unique places with unique ideas and unique points of view, and we are learning how to organize and we are learning how to communicate.

Nonpartisan America is here, nonpartisan America is now, and nonpartisan America will reshape the political landscape in America.

Photo Source: IndependentVoting.org

Greg DorseyIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Marco Rubio Faces Many Doubts as He Prepares to Announce 2016 Bid http://ivn.us/2015/03/30/marco-rubio-faces-many-doubts-as-he-prepares-to-announce-2016-bid/ http://ivn.us/2015/03/30/marco-rubio-faces-many-doubts-as-he-prepares-to-announce-2016-bid/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 13:17:30 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295660710 Marco Rubio Faces Many Doubts as He Prepares to Announce 2016 Bid

Reports over the weekend indicate that Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is expected to announce on April 13 that he will run for president in 2016. However, a number of obstacles will likely face the first-term senator.

Carl WicklanderIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Marco Rubio Faces Many Doubts as He Prepares to Announce 2016 Bid

Reports over the weekend indicate that Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is expected to announce on April 13 that he will run for president in 2016. However, a number of obstacles will likely face the first-term senator.

National Journal reports that although Rubio has low polling numbers, it is actually a familiar role for him:

“This time six years ago, Rubio was an afterthought in a US Senate race that appeared destined to belong to Gov. Charlie Crist and the GOP establishment. It didn’t take long for Rubio to turn the race upside down, using his family’s immigrant story and his exceptional oratory skills to become a favorite of the conservative base – in Florida and nationally.”

Rubio was not an unknown or obscure political figure in Florida. He served as a state legislator for nine years, two of which he served as speaker of the House.

Challenging Crist in the Senate primary could have proved a battle, but Crist’s early decision to support President Obama’s economic stimulus plan was unacceptable within his party. The outcry was such that Crist defected to the Democrats and Rubio, as the alternative to Crist, claimed the nomination.

In a field with many more candidates, however, this volte-face will be harder to turn.

By making immigration reform a priority in 2013, Rubio experienced a backlash from the Republican base that supported him in 2010. In the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll, which tends to measure conservative and grassroots support, Rubio fell from second place with 23 percent in 2013 to less than four percent in 2015.

The Real Clear Politics polling average in Florida has Rubio at only 13.7 percent — in his home state. He trails former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and is only slightly ahead of neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Despite deviations from conservative orthodoxy, John McCain and Mitt Romney were still able to win the presidential nomination. However, they faced few establishment rivals and adhered to a hawkish foreign policy. Rubio, who generally identifies as a conservative, could face a tougher road than those predecessors.

Although the GOP appears to remain hawkish, Rubio could find himself on the wrong side of issues as they concern Republican primary voters. As an early supporter of the 2011 intervention in Libya, Rubio would have to defend himself to conservative voters about why he was on the same side as possible Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Additionally, the GOP field is also likely to see other hawks such as Peter King and Lindsey Graham run. Alongside them could be governors Scott Walker and Chris Christie, who have also fashioned themselves on hawkish lines. Combined with fewer debates than in recent cycles, this could inhibit Rubio’s ability to stand out from the crowd and make his voice heard.

Rubio’s electability might also be overestimated. When he won in 2010 with 2.6 million votes, slightly less than 50 percent of the voting population turned out to participate in the election. It was the second-lowest voter turnout in Florida in 50 years.

Two years later, in 2012, when turnout was much higher, Republican Connie Mack finished with 3.4 million and was still more than 1 million votes shy of Sen. Bill Nelson. For a closer comparison, in the previous midterm Senate election in 2006, Nelson earned 2.8 million, about 200,000 more than Rubio in 2010.

The 2016 field is far from complete and while Marco Rubio is likely to have backers, he also faces many question marks.

Carl WicklanderIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Do Businesses Have a Private Right to Discriminate? http://ivn.us/2015/03/27/businesses-private-right-discriminate/ http://ivn.us/2015/03/27/businesses-private-right-discriminate/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 18:14:35 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295660658 Do Businesses Have a Private Right to Discriminate?

On Thursday, Republican Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act," giving business owners the legal protection to deny service to someone if providing the service conflicts with their religious beliefs. The law is now the subject of heated controversy nationwide.

Shawn M. GriffithsIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Do Businesses Have a Private Right to Discriminate?

On Thursday, Republican Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” giving business owners the legal protection to deny service to someone if providing the service conflicts with their religious beliefs. The law is now the subject of heated controversy nationwide.

Opponents of the bill call it legal discrimination targeted at the LGBT community, while supporters say it prevents the government from forcing people to violate their conscience.

“[I]n a secular society, though a person may have the right to practice his or her religion freely, they do not have the right to force those beliefs on others,” IVN Independent Author James Spurgeon writes. “Everyone is supposed to be treated equally under the law.”

Continue reading: “‘Religious Freedom Laws': The Jim Crow Laws of the 21st Century”

However, Governor Pence argues that the law is not about discrimination or forcing one’s beliefs on others. According to NPR, he said if he thought the law intentionally discriminated against any group in any way, he “would have vetoed it.”

“The legislation, approved by Indiana’s GOP-controlled House and Senate, prevents state and local governments from ‘substantially burdening’ a person’s exercise of religion unless a compelling governmental interest can be proved,” NPR reports.

Pence said in a statement:

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”

However, the real question that needs to be asked is, do businesses have a private right to discriminate?

It is a hard question to ask because advocates of “religious freedom” laws don’t want to phrase the issue in these terms. And while critics want to put emphasis on the word “discriminate,” they avoid discussing the rights of business owners.

It is also a question that does not have a simple answer.

This issue is not just about a wedding photographer who doesn’t want to take pictures at the wedding ceremony of a same-sex couple. It is not just about religious rights. It is about distinguishing the private rights of business owners from the compelling interest the state has to protect people from public discrimination.

It is not uncommon to see a sign in a restaurant that reads, “We reserve the right to deny service to anyone.” Opponents of Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” and similar laws are not raising objection to these signs, because there is a certain level of discrimination that society accepts.

If someone walks into a business or restaurant and does not have appropriate attire on based on the dress code of the business, many people will agree that the business has the right to refuse service in this instance. Yet, is this not a form of discrimination?

There are two questions we must ask:

1. How do we define discrimination?

2. How do we determine what is and isn’t an acceptable form of discrimination?

Businesses are being sued across the nation for refusing to cater to same-sex weddings, but is the belief that same-sex marriage is wrong alone a form of discrimination? Is the state compelled to force these businesses to provide their services or does the burden fall on the same-sex couple to simply take their business somewhere else?

Should this situation be treated the same as a business owner who puts a sign in his or her window that reads, “No gays allowed.”?

The problem is that the current debate over these “religious freedom” laws is treating these scenarios like they are the same because we are not having a substantive discussion on what is at the heart of this issue. How do we protect the private rights of businesses while protecting the public right not to be discriminated against?

It is a complicated issue and it needs to be treated like a complicated issue.

Shawn M. GriffithsIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid Announces Retirement http://ivn.us/2015/03/27/senate-minority-leader-harry-reid-announces-retirement/ http://ivn.us/2015/03/27/senate-minority-leader-harry-reid-announces-retirement/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:47:40 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295660649 Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid Announces Retirement

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid announced Friday that he will not seek re-election in 2016, leaving a gap in the Democratic leadership and an open seat in a battleground state. In a farewell video, Reid said the eye injury he sustained in January gave him pause to think about his life and his career, and this time of reflection had a major impact on his decision.

Jane SusskindIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid Announces Retirement

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid announced Friday that he will not seek re-election in 2016, leaving a gap in the Democratic leadership and an open seat in a battleground state. In a farewell video, Reid said the eye injury he sustained in January gave him pause to think about his life and his career, and this time of reflection had a major impact on his decision.

“I’ve had time to ponder and to think. We’ve got to be more concerned about the country, the Senate, the state of Nevada than us,” Reid said. “And as a result of that, I’m not going to run for re-election.”

“The announcement caps a career in Washington spanning more than three decades, starting in 1983 in the House,” Politico reports. “After winning a Senate seat in 1986, Reid tended heavily to home-state matters: a planned nuclear waste dump in Southern Nevada, and mining and logging policies that affected the vast rural northern part of his state, much of it under federal control and where Reid was widely disliked.”

“Reid, a soft-spoken, uninspiring public speaker but savvy backroom political operator, plotted his way up the rungs of Democratic leadership. In 2005 he became Senate Democratic leader, and two years later majority leader.

 

As leader, Reid developed a no-nonsense, hard-ball style that came to define his stewardship. He muscled through Senate passage of the Affordable Care Act on Christmas Eve in 2009 on a straight party-line vote, when his party controlled 60 seats, enough to overcome a GOP filibuster. In 2013, Reid took the unprecedented step of invoking the so-called “nuclear option,” a move that gutted filibuster rules for presidential nominations that critics said altered the deliberative nature of the body.” – Politico, March 27, 2015

Read the full article here.

Today, Senator Harry Reid announced that he will retire at the end of his term.With the IVN Etiquette in mind, what is your reaction?

Posted by Independent Voter on Friday, March 27, 2015

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‘Religious Freedom Laws': The Jim Crow Laws of the 21st Century http://ivn.us/2015/03/27/religious-freedom-laws-the-new-jim-crow-law/ http://ivn.us/2015/03/27/religious-freedom-laws-the-new-jim-crow-law/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:30:32 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295660508 ‘Religious Freedom Laws': The Jim Crow Laws of the 21st Century

Today, we see the ongoing fight between religion and our secular government on the issue of same-sex marriage. In the past two years, bans on same-sex marriage have been struck down from coast to coast in federal court on the same grounds as the Loving decision.

James SpurgeonIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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‘Religious Freedom Laws': The Jim Crow Laws of the 21st Century

There is an old axiom that history repeats itself. Some may dispute this claim, but it is hard to argue with what a person can witness happening right in front of them. One just has to pay attention and know history to know what the outcome of certain things will be.

After the Reconstruction period ended following the Civil War, southern states (the old Confederacy) began enacting Jim Crow laws. These laws mandated that all public facilities be segregated. They were also used in an attempt to keep African-Americans from voting and even to keep interracial marriage illegal.

School segregation was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The rest of the Jim Crow laws were overruled by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, bans on interracial marriage were not fully struck down until Loving v. Virginia (1967), when the Supreme Court ruled that they violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The same arguments that were used against interracial marriage are now being used against same-sex marriage, i.e. it’s against someone’s religious beliefs, it’s a sin in the Bible, etc.

Now, I’m not here to attack anyone’s religious beliefs as even I have my own. But we must remember that we are a secular country and that the U.S. Constitution is the law of our nation and not the Bible. No local, state, or federal law can violate the document, the individual rights that are enshrined within it, or its subsequent amendments.

This includes the Fourteenth Amendment.

Our Founding Fathers were mostly Christians, but we are not a Christian nation. That particular point was emphasized in the Treaty of Tripoli (1796), which states that the U.S. “is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

We were set up to be a secular nation. We have the right to peacefully worship and practice whatever religion we choose to without government interference, but that right does not extend beyond one’s self. We do not have the right to force others to believe the same way we do.

Britain still has an official religion (the Church of England) and France was under the Catholic Church at the time of our independence. Both religion and government intermingled in these and many other European countries. Our Founding Fathers designed our government to discourage this relationship.

Today, we see the ongoing fight between religion and our secular government on the issue of same-sex marriage. In the past two years, bans on same-sex marriage have been struck down from coast to coast in federal court on the same grounds as the Loving decision.

Now, the Supreme Court has taken up the case once again and this time could make an official ruling for the entire country.

However, though same-sex marriage could soon be legal nationwide, some state lawmakers are finding new ways to treat the LGBT community like second-class citizens.

Instead of being called something like Jim Crow laws, these laws are referred to as “religious freedom laws.” In much the same way that the old Jim Crow laws allowed businesses to legally refuse service to African-Americans, these new laws allow any business or institution the right to refuse service to anyone based on the operator’s religious beliefs.

The purpose of these laws is to “protect” people who work in the service industry from having to provide their services for same-sex weddings if it goes against their religious beliefs.

In February 2014, Republican Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona vetoed SB 1062, which critics argued would have legalized discrimination against the LGBT community. Brewer was pressured to reject the law by several business leaders who believed it would hurt the state’s economy.

More states are now taking up this exact same issue and some are poised to put these policies into law. Indiana Governor Mike Pence, for example, signed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” on Thursday after it cleared both chambers of the state Legislature.

Some of these laws are written so vaguely that they could extend well beyond just same-sex marriage. The “religious freedom laws” will eventually end up in the courts and will be subsequently overturned via the Fourteenth Amendment.

If someone is a Christian, can he or she refuse service to someone in the Jewish community based solely on a difference of religion? No.

The Bible states that women are inferior to men and that women should obey men. So do Christians have the right to refuse service to a woman if she is not accompanied by a man or has a different opinion than a man? No.

Why? Because in a secular society, though a person may have the right to practice his or her religion freely, they do not have the right to force those beliefs on others. Everyone is supposed to be treated equally under the law.

Again, people have the right to their religious views. No one can force an individual to accept same-sex marriage if it goes against their religious views.

However, that right still does not extend to discriminatory actions against the LGBT community. If a person runs a business that provides a service to weddings and doesn’t want to provide that service to a same-sex wedding, there are a couple of options:

  1. They can find a new job that will take them out of that situation; or
  2. They can grow up and act like a rational adult and do the job they are paid to do.

There are times when we blur the line between religious freedom and secular government. It is imperative that we remember why this line was put in place by our Founding Fathers, and why we’ve amended the Constitution to specify that all citizens are free and equal under the law.

Using religion to discriminate is still discrimination and is still wrong. And as history has proven before, it is also unconstitutional.

James SpurgeonIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Advocates Say Marijuana Bill Lays the Groundwork for Future Reform http://ivn.us/2015/03/27/advocates-say-marijuana-bill-lays-groundwork-future-reform/ http://ivn.us/2015/03/27/advocates-say-marijuana-bill-lays-groundwork-future-reform/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:20:09 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295660153 Advocates Say Marijuana Bill Lays the Groundwork for Future Reform

Three U.S. senators jointed forces in March on a bill that would legalize medical marijuana under federal law. The CARERS Act, proposed by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), would also change marijuana from a Schedule I substance to a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

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Advocates Say Marijuana Bill Lays the Groundwork for Future Reform

Three U.S. senators joined forces in March on a bill that would legalize medical marijuana under federal law.

The CARERS Act, proposed by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), would also change marijuana from a Schedule I substance to a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

Though some experts say the bill probably won’t pass, it could be successful in making a statement.

“The bipartisan senators that are coming to the bill are probably dubious of the bill’s passage, let alone to achieve even a lowly sub-committee hearing to review/debate the bill,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “But, they recognize that members of the House have been regularly introducing cannabis law reform bills, and that the Senate, too, should engage in legislation that reflects the changes in the country’s attitude rejecting cannabis prohibition.”

The bill could also lay the groundwork for future policy reform.

“I think the CARERS Act could pass the Senate Judiciary Committee if it came up for a vote,” said Bill Piper, director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs. “However, the Republican chair of the Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, says he opposes the bill. We’re going to try to put pressure on him to bring the bill up anyway.”

“Grassley has also said he supports more incremental reform — so this bill might make less ambitious reform possible,” Piper added.

The fact that the bill was proposed by Booker and Gillibrand, two Democrats, and Paul, a Republican, shows how the legalization movement transcends party lines, said Marijuana Policy Project Communications Manager Morgan Fox.

Marijuana policy reform has always been supported by conservative ideals like states’ rights, limited government, fiscal responsibility, and personal liberty,” Fox said. “The increasing bipartisan support simply means that lawmakers are less afraid to support reform now that a majority of Americans agree that it is time to end marijuana prohibition.”

The bill gathered more support after its proposal, with Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) coming on board to cosponsor it.

Partisan differences could still stymie legalization progress, however.

“Such a long and deep-seated public policy like the federal government’s cannabis prohibition, created with bipartisanship in the 1930s, must too end with bipartisanship,” St. Pierre said. The challenge for reform activists and policymakers is that there is about a 20 percent difference between a majority of Democrats supporting legalization — 55 percent of Democrats support legalization — and a majority of Republicans favoring the status quo of prohibition. [Only] 35 percent of Republicans support legalization.”

With Rand Paul preparing to announce a 2016 presidential bid, coming out in support of legalization could prove a shrewd way to reach certain demographics.

“Polls show a majority of Americans support legalization,” Piper said. “A super-majority supports legalizing medical marijuana. Legalization is especially popular among young people and independent voters. Any presidential candidate that embraces marijuana law reform is going to get more votes than they lose.”

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Utilities Wage War Against Solar Power http://ivn.us/2015/03/27/utilities-wage-war-solar-power/ http://ivn.us/2015/03/27/utilities-wage-war-solar-power/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:10:42 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295660231 Utilities Wage War Against Solar Power

Solar power has arrived. With the average price of solar cells down by 60 percent since 2010, the industry is responding to market demand. According to a study from researchers at Cambridge University, photovoltaics will soon out compete fossil fuel energy even if oil prices drop to $10 a barrel.

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Utilities Wage War Against Solar Power

Solar power has arrived. With the average price of solar cells down by 60 percent since 2010, the industry is responding to market demand. According to a study from researchers at Cambridge University, photovoltaics will soon out compete fossil fuel energy even if oil prices drop to $10 a barrel.

Needless to say, the major utility companies are not happy.

Utility companies, in their current form, are facing what is becoming a struggle for survival. Consumers and businesses are choosing solar power in growing numbers, choking off revenues for traditional electrical providers.

The threat is so great that an industry-sponsored study warns that solar energy could force a radical re-structuring of the energy industry.

Electrical providers have taken this news as a call to arms to wage war against solar power’s rapid growth. All over the nation, traditional electrical utilities have lobbied lawmakers to impose surcharges on homes and business that install solar panels, and to raise prices on solar customers.

Many times they fail.

These energy utilities have opened a second front in the solar power war by shifting their attention to public utility commissions where they are more successful. Their objective is to raise the price of solar panels beyond the range of customers.

They found success in Arizona and Wisconsin.

In Arizona, the utility commission imposed a $50 a month surcharge for net metering. Net metering is when solar power users get credit for feeding electricity back into the power grid. Arizona’s largest utility, the Salt River Project, approved the new fee over the objections of 500 people who attended the commission meeting on February 26.

Wisconsin utilities also approved a similar surcharge and New Mexico could be next. Utility industry lobbyists are all over the country attempting to make net metering illegal or more expensive. Laws have been introduced in nearly two dozen states. Most have failed.

Scott Peterson, director of the nonprofit Checks and Balances Project, says utilities “are fighting tooth and nail.”

Checks and Balances investigates lobbyists’ ties to regulatory agencies. Peterson has tracked the utility industry’s wars to influence public utility commissions. He says the utilities have focused on these commissions because they are usually made up of political appointees and “have enormous power and no one really watches them.”

Contrary to popular belief, pro-business conservatives have not been a friend to the utility industry. According to Bryan Miller, co-chairman of Sunrun, a California solar power provider:

“Conservatives support solar. They support it more than progressives do. It’s about competition in its most basic form. The idea that you should be forced to buy power from a state sponsored monopoly and not have an option is about the least conservative thing you can imagine.”

Utilities argue that the cost of maintaining wires, equipment, and power plants is the same while solar panels are cutting into their revenues. While the utility companies have no objection to people using solar power, they also argue that these customers still rely on that grid on cloudy days and at night and the cost of maintaining the grid must be shared.

David K. Owens, executive vice president of the Edison Electrical Institute, the trade association that represents investor-owned utilities, says someone has to pay.

“It’s not about profits; its about protecting customers,” he says. “There are unreasonable cost shifts that do occur. There is a grid that everyone relies on and you have to pay for that grid and pay for that infrastructure.”

Power companies are aware that solar cell technology is rapidly approaching the “two for one deal” in efficiency. The “two for one deal”  happens when light particles come into contact with electrons within a specialized material. Electrons become excited by the light. The resulting “excited state” splits the electrons into two. If this process can be controlled and incorporated into solar cells, it could double the potential amount of electrical current produced.

This process captures energy that would normally be wasted as heat and significantly enhances solar power as a source of green energy. Until now, however, scientists have not really understood what causes the process and this has limited their ability to integrate it into solar devices. But they are getting close.

The result could be what has become known as the utility death spiral. This is when utility companies raise the price of electricity because more people are using solar power and they must maintain the grid. The price hike causes more people to go to solar power and so on and so on, until the utility can no longer survive.

This model is already taking place in Europe. Power companies in Germany and Sweden are seeing billion dollar losses and are having to shut down unprofitable fossil fuel power plants because of the rise of renewable energy and laws that favor it. If scientists can’t solve the “two for one deal” problem, the utility industry, as we know it, could be finished.

Photo Credit: zstock / shutterstock.com

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