By sheer happenstances, a 21-year old Egyptian student and organizer contacted me to clarify my misconceptions. Exhausted from the day’s events, the Cairo resident shared a slice of time hoping to clarify media’s misunderstandings and convey the general feeling on Egypt’s streets.Read More
In a video sweeping the Internet, Aaron Weiss, an Iraq combat veteran and law enforcement officer, passionately addresses Dutchess County Legislature during discussions to repeal New York’s extreme gun-grabbing initiative, the NY SAFE Act. The video, recorded in March, is a stark, moving reminder of the difficult position legislators place both veterans and law enforcement oath keepers with extremist gun control measures.Read More
Jared Marcum, 14, appeared in court this week. The West Virginia resident and former eighth grader was arrested and suspended after refusing to remove his “fight for your right” National Rifle Association t-shirt. Charged with obstructing an officer, Marcum faces a $500 fine and a maximum of one year in prison.Read More
In a 5-4 decision regarding Salinas v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a potential defendant’s silence can be used against them during police interviews prior to arrest and reading of Miranda rights.Read More
The revolutionary concept of 3-D printed firearms has been building momentum for months now. Online observers, innovators, investors and the generally curious celebrated as the first completely 3-D printed handgun became a reality. Since the blueprint for “The Liberator” hit the web, the file was downloaded more than 100,000 times in a few days. Today, the government shut it down.Read More
Kiera Wilmot’s story raises a series of troubling questions. This could happen to any student. Classmates, the Principal and the student herself clarified this was no act of malevolence, but school administrators and law enforcement pursued charges to ensure “safety and security”. Have this nation’s schools become such mindless, bureaucratic prisons that all reason is forfeit?Read More
The genuinely curious can look no further than a well-written but misleading Huffington Post article titled, “Disarming Republican Anarchists” by contributor Bob Burnett. The right-wing is equally guilty of fear-mongering as the left, but this piece demonstrates why fruitful communication between both camps stagnates.
In the article, the author buttresses the left’s gun control argument with bad rhetoric and bizarre conspiracy theories about Republican inner-party politics. Burnett claims Washington cannot muster the will to restrict firearm ownership because the GOP is occupied by selfish, crazed insurrectionists. These “far right” lunatics are choking common sense gun control legislation.Read More
U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) offered an amendment to exempt all U.S. military personnel and veterans from a proposed ban on “assault weapons”. The committee briefly discussed the future of American gun ownership. Cornyn highlighted the contradiction and inequality of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013. The sponsors had deemed assault weapons too dangerous for civilian self-defensive purchase over safety and training concerns. But under the Feinstein Law, government employees and retired law enforcement are exempt from the assault weapons ban while hundreds of millions of Americans are not.Read More
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) concluded his nearly 13 hour-long filibuster on the eve of CIA Director John Brennan’s position approval. Soon after beginning his effort to delay the confirmation, Paul’s stand captured worldwide social media attention. Currently, #standwithRand remains the top trending hashtag on Twitter. The capital lockdown was not founded in partisan grandstanding over President Obama’s nominee choices, nor was he questioning overseas War on Terror tactics, despite claims from opposing politicians and mainstream media.
Paul’s intention was to highlight the administration’s eerie avoidance of questions regarding the legal authority to use drone strikes against citizens in the U.S.
Today, the White House press secretary replied to Senator Paul’s questions, “President Obama would not use drone strikes on American citizens on U.S. soil,” he said.
Eric Holder confirmed in his single-paragraph post-filibuster letter, “Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil?” the letter reads. “The answer to that is no.”
“I’m quite happy with the answer,” Paul said. “Through the advise and consent process, I’ve got an important answer.” He still has questions about the administration’s drone policy, but for now, “I’ve kind of won my battle.”
These responses satisfy Paul’s initial inquiries, but why was this filibuster even necessary?Read More
While arguing for the disarming of Colorado college students, Democratic lawmaker Joe Salazar claimed women should rely on rape whistles, not firearms for self-defense against sexual attackers or violent predators.
“It’s why we have call boxes, it’s why we have safe zones, it’s why we have [rape] whistles. Because you just don’t know who you’re gonna be shooting at. And you don’t know, if you feel like you’re gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around, or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop … pop a round at somebody,” Salazar said.Read More
DALLAS, February 13th, 2013– The manhunt for ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner ended yesterday when fire consumed his final hideout. The military-trained suspect had allegedly sought refuge in the harsh elements of Big Bear, California’s near snow-covered ski areas. Dorner was accused of targeting law enforcement and their families in a revenge-inspired killing spree. According to police, gunfire exchanges occurred after Dorner killed and injured deputies while evading capture. He reportedly barricaded himself inside a remote cabin and remained there as law enforcement surrounded his position. With the suspect inside, officials reportedly smashed windows and detonated tear gas or smoke canisters while urging Dorner to surrender.
Without reply, officials rammed the building with a special vehicle before hearing what they believed was a gunshot from inside. Flames systematically engulfed the structure, and though Dorner’s body has not been identified at this time, authorities confirmed no one escaped the blaze. Though the chase is over, analysis of the case will occupy investigative resources in the coming months.
As details are released, questions are emerging as to the origin of the cabin’s fire. The New York Times reported that the direct cause of the cabin fire was unknown while other outlets report “tear gas” and “smoke canisters” were deployed. Most outlets state simply that the “cabin caught on fire”, not that police officers intentionally set the cabin ablaze.
But as events were unfolding, journalist Max Blumenthal live tweeted a different narrative reportedly lifted from San Bernadino Sheriff Scanner Channel 7/8 via the 5-0 iPhone app.
The live feed Blumenthal catalogued appears to indicate officers had no intention of encouraging Dorner’s surrender. He wrote, “While media acceded to police demands not to provide direct details of stand-off w/Christopher Dorner, I used PD scanner transmissions to expose orders to burn his cabin hideout w/him inside. TL begins at bottom [sic].”
If the audio recording captured by Blumenthal is indeed from the incident, officers are overheard apparently discussing a pre-arranged arson attack. Per the audio, at around the one-minute mark, a male voice says:
All right, Steve (?), we’re gonna go, er, we’re gonna go forward with the plan, with, er, with the burn. We want it, er, like we talked about.
He then adds shortly afterwards:
Seven burners deployed and we have a fire.
A female voice responds:
Copy. Seven burners deployed and we have a fire.
At around 2min 20sec, a male voice says:
Guys, be ready on the No 4 side. We have fire in the front. He might come out the back.
At around 2min 50sec, a male voice requests a fire engine.
It was reported by USA Today that Dorner attempted to flee out of the back of the cabin, but was pushed back inside by authorities later demanding surrender. Authorities over the scanner confirm a shot fired from within the residence, followed by a sharp, unknown noise.
Another video surfaced allegedly featuring a recording of KCAL TV, an LA CBS affiliate, in which an unknown officer shouts angrily, “We’re going to burn him out,” and “Burn this mother***ker!” With the remarks airing live, the feed was silenced before the anchor explained apologetically that police officers were “understandably upset”.
An additional supposed recording from a police scanner was later pulled and posted via LiveLeak. The narrative includes numerous references to “burning him out” (29:30).
At this time, some have claimed references to “burning” Dorner out are police slang for tear gas canisters, not incendiary or smoke devices known to quickly start fires against wooden structures.
Because news helicopters acquiesced to zoom out requests despite confirmation from cabin owners that television, Internet or telephone communications were impossible, an aerial view is unavailable. It is reported by those listening that police scanners and media streams were jammed, but confirmation of this allegation is also unavailable at this time.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck accurately concluded, “This could have ended much better; it could have ended worse. I feel for the family of the deputy who lost his life.”
Undoubtedly, Americans join his sentiment. By his own words, Dorner was intent on inflicting as much damage and as many casualties as possible on law enforcement officers and their families without remorse. He was a murderer, and a continued danger to society while at-large.
Though an eerie rift between those viewing Dorner as a demented anti-hero and those supporting law enforcement’s actions has emerged, a larger issue looms; one concerning the decay of law enforcement-citizen relations Dorner warned of in his manifesto.
One rescinds their right to not be killed when actively murdering others, but if authorities intentionally “burned” Dorner out of his barricade with intent to kill and not capture, they have duty and obligation to honestly share their actions with the public. With the high publicity of this incident captivating the collective attention of Americans growing concerned about the shocking increases of police violence, this opportunity for transparency is extraordinary.
Not so long ago peace officers protected and served the citizens as guardians of justice, due process and order. The dangerous, desperate and unlawful actions of Los Angeles Police department while pursuing Dorner resulted in the attempted murder of three unarmed citizens. This horrifying “capture or kill” attitude is rarely exposed, leaving many to wonder how often such incidents occur. Police officers are not above the law they swore an oath to serve.
There were multiple agencies involved in the stand-off. The discrepancies the audio present may very well be justified, but at this time the public’s trust is broken. If the Los Angeles SWAT team and other affiliate law enforcement agencies involved in the Dorner manhunt fail to address this growing controversy, they miss a chance to repair their relationship with the public.
Without operational and post-situation clarity, Dorner’s complaints of systematic injustice and warped, vigilante desire to expose corruption achieved its purpose.
CORRECTION: Earlier version of this article cited “Los Angeles Police Department”. It has been altered to reflect “Los Angeles SWAT”. Read more:http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/citizen-warrior/2013/feb/13/chris-dorner-police-intentionally-set-fire-to-kill/#ixzz3QdUHGouq Follow us:@wtcommunities on Twitter
Christopher Dorner, the former police officer turned alleged murderer of three has shifted the nation’s attention to the historically corrupt Los Angeles Police Department. In his publicly released manifesto, he claims the LAPD destroyed his life, ruined his relationships and military career by siding with a white officer he reported for excessive force. An internal affairs investigation concluded the claim was false and he was released, but Dorner has set out to redeem himself and retaliate against the force and its bureaucratic protectors. He claims the conspirators participating in the police department’s rotten culture, institutionalized discrimination, are fair game for his violent, vengeful rampage.Read More
Despite the lofty words of policy architects, perpetual war for perpetual peace is not a worthy ambition. Military resources are not statics. And battles, soldiers, bombs and wars are not merely considerations of policy. American tax dollars and military families are not endlessly expendable in pursuit of slippery enemies and nation-building fantasies. Israelis caught in the maelstrom of potential total war are not “collateral damage”, nor are the millions of innocents in Iran.
If the American people agree, they should bend their ear to those advocating for policy change instead of repeating the same actions and expecting different results. We must accept the world for what it is, and adapt accordingly instead of continuing the folly of crafting the Arab landscape in our Western image. The world we all live in may very well depend upon it.Read More
Tiffany Madison broke this story for the Washington Times Communities. WASHINGTON, August 22, 2012 — Brandon J. Raub, a 26-year-old pro-liberty activist, former U.S. Marine, and Virginia resident, was arrested after authorities deemed his Facebook posts threatening. Citing an obscure statute allowing the involuntary detainment of a citizen for psychiatric evaluation, the FBI, Secret Service, and local authorities swarmed Raub’s property to question and then seize him.
Without a warrant or recitation of his Miranda rights, Raub was handcuffed and taken into custody. After a quick hearing, government officials confirmed that Raub’s Facebook posts necessitated his detention, refusing to acknowledge legal objections that the words were wrongly interpreted. The former Marine will undergo 30 days of evaluation at Salem VA Medical Center.
Since the incident, Raub has become an online hero as the arrest video and Facebook pages teeter on the verge of going viral. Citizens from all political persuasions, veterans, civil liberties advocates and the generally curious are discussing the political manifesto and detainment of Brandon Raub.
So what did he post? A Facebook note titled “The Truth” lists grievances against the American ruling establishment. Raub expresses his belief that the American principles of limited government and personal liberty are expiring and that corporations and international bankers run the state, not the people. Raub has directly called for the arrest of bankers and politicians who consistently defy their oath to the United States Constitution.
According to his supporters, Raub also believes the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were sold to the American people under false pretenses to benefit the powerful at the expense of military families, American treasure, and domestic security. Raub served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Marine Corps from 2005 to 2011.
Many of Raub’s statements are typical among the politically active, but while many fellow rebels support Raub’s statements, others stress that he did not stop with simple dissent. Reciting popular conspiracy theories from the U.S. government’s complicity in the 9/11 attacks to a scheme to consolidate the world’s power into the hands of the few, it is clear Raub was frustrated, angry and disappointed in his country’s trajectory.
Though his defenders claim he is a patriot meaning no harm, the former Marine directly encouraged a popular revolution against tyrannical and un-constitutional government, claiming he would “kickstart” resistance. No direct threats were posted, and posts of this darker nature were a mixture of statements authorities construed as incitements to violence and song lyrics from heavy rock music.
Undoubtedly, these expressions concerned federal authorities, but was detainment for “psychological evaluation” without respect for Raub’s rights to Due Process warranted? Raub has no history of mental illness and a reputation for organizing peaceful political demonstrations.
The consensus is divided. “After the recent shootings and the Virginia Tech massacre, can the authorities really ignore threats that seem immediate?” a contrarian posted on Facebook. “Their job is to protect us.”
Raub’s defenders disagreed, citing a larger concern that federal authorities are blatantly ignoring citizens’ rights. A former Marine who served with Raub has been most vocal in his defense.
“I served alongside Brandon both in Iraq and in Afghanistan. He was in my combat engineer platoon in Iraq in 2006 and in Afghanistan 2011. Brandon was the man who opened my eyes to the slow hemorrhaging of civil rights in America and the extreme and purposeful devaluation of the dollar.
“Whether you agree with his method or mode of expressing himself is erroneous. He has broken no laws and hurt no one. He needs to be released or charged with a crime. This is a very scary path to an extreme Big Brother state. Please sign the petition to free Brandon,” posted Matthew Turner on a Change.org petition.
The Oath Keepers, a non-partisan association of law enforcement, first responders and veterans, are outraged. They plan to rally in Raub’s defense, calling his detention a “Soviet style pre-crime detention”.
Classifying dissidents as mentally ill is a timeless art. In the Soviet Union, millions were condemned to “psikhushkas,” or psychiatric prisons, in order to isolate, discredit and destroy dissent and activism. Even in the land of the free, President Wilson sought to silence suffragette Alice Paul through legal declarations of insanity, though thankfully the doctor refused.
With the current political climate increasingly hostile to constitutionally protected activism, activists worry that without public outrage, pliable psychological professionals and unethical federal authorities could resurrect this trend.
While some are concerned with ending Raub’s detention unless charges are filed, the government’s justification and processing of Raub’s arrest concern the American Civil Liberties Union and legal professionals.
Officials insist the seizure was not an arrest because there are no criminal charges, but an ACLU investigator disagrees, “I have reviewed the video of Mr. Raub’s arrest. According to federal statute, when the police restrained the subject with handcuffs and stopped him from moving about under his own free will, at that point the subject was, in fact, under arrest. The fact that he was not read his Miranda Rights is another violation.”
A lawyer in Dallas is more concerned the incident is a harbinger of things to come after recent constitutional abuses by the federal government concerning due-process rights and domestic spying:
“In May, a U.S. Judge Forrest suspended the federal government’s new unconstitutional power to indefinitely detain United States citizens based on mere suspicion of being ‘terror-linked.’ Last week, Obama’s attorneys refused to define any terms, including what constituted as ‘linked’ to a ‘terrorist.’
“They also refused to testify they were not in contempt of court for denying due process for Americans even after the judge’s restriction. This is a reckless abandonment of the American system and a violation of every American principle.
“Arresting dissidents without calling it ‘arrest,’ which is in complete violation of Raub’s civil liberties, combined with the insistence that the federal government has a right to imprison anyone based on suspicion, should scare every American. We are losing this republic and fast.”
Unless the Obama administration abandons the NDAA, it is reasonable to assume that if Raub (or any other dissident) were deemed a “terrorist”, even before manifesting intent to act, federal authorities could skip the entire judicial process and imprison him at the pleasure of the President. Very few civilized nations allow unchecked power of this magnitude in the 21st century.
Further, the language of the NDAA is so vague that Raub’s entire family, friends or anyone who “substantially supported” him or “associated forces” could also be indefinitely detained without trial. According to Obama’s lawyers, it is possible.
For John Whitehead, Director of the Rutherford Institute, a Virginia-based civil liberties organization defending Raub, the larger concern is whether government officials are monitoring citizens’ private Facebook pages for dissent.
“For government officials to not only arrest Brandon Raub for doing nothing more than exercising his First Amendment rights but to actually force him to undergo psychological evaluations and detain him against his will goes against every constitutional principle this country was founded upon. This is a scary new chapter in this nation’s history.”
According to FBI Spokeswoman Dee Rybiski, federal agents did not monitor Raub’s Facebook page, but received “a few complaints about what were perceived as threatening posts”. Whitehead doubts the FBI’s honesty, stating the page in question was recently created and private.
Though the facts are unclear in this specific case, it is an unspoken understanding of the politically aware that the federal government monitors social media accounts of American citizens for political opinions.
Though the extent of snooping program remains classified, a Freedom of Information Act release revealed that General Dynamics was awarded the $11.3 million dollar tax-payer funded contract to stalk social media traffic. Keyword-generated status reports “capturing public reaction” and opinions that “reflect adversely” on the federal government were produced weekly for the Department of Homeland Security.
Senior officials insist the government can be trusted and that citizens are not tracked by their political views at this time, but Ginger McCall, director of the EPIC’s open government program points out, “The language in the documents makes it quite clear that they are looking for media reports that are critical of the agency and the U.S. government more broadly. This [monitoring] could have a substantial chilling effect on legitimate dissent and freedom of speech.”
Until Raub’s release, veteran activists and fellow Marines have organized demanding full disclosure from authorities as to the exact posts that triggered Raub’s detainment. They advocate that either charges be filed or he be released immediately. They also remind one another to act with caution. Said one Army veteran and Oath Keeper online:
“We understand more than federal agents and bureaucrats that protecting and serving is not always easy. Marines and soldiers expressing themselves should be careful to never give the impression we incite aggressive violence against the government.
“The United States government is watching everything you post online. What you say is not private. We may openly declare we will defend the American people against domestic terrorism, including violent government aggression, but we are the good guys. Act like it.”
Pending an announced release date, dozens of popular “Support Brandon Raub” Facebook pages have emerged as citizens and veterans monitor the situation. To express your thoughts on the arrest and detention of Brandon J. Raub, reach out to Senator Mark Warner, Senator Jim Webb, or Congressman Randy Forbes.
WASHINGTON,August 16, 2012 — Julian Assange, founder and guiding spirit of the whistle-blowing organization Wikileaks, has been granted asylum by Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, sparking a tense diplomatic stand-off between Ecuador and the West. Ecuador’s foreign minister Ricardo Patiño explained the government’s decision to media. “The Ecuador government, loyal to its tradition to protect those who seek refuge with us at our diplomatic missions, has decided to grant diplomatic asylum to Mr. Assange,” he said.
In response to Correa’s decision, the U.K. expressed “disappointment” before privately threatening to forcibly arrest Assange if he attempted to depart for Ecuador. The foreign minister promptly denounced threats to assault the Ecuadorian embassy. “Today we received a threat from the United Kingdom; a clear and written threat that they could storm our embassy in London if Ecuador refuses to hand in Julian Assange. We want to make it clear we are not a British colony and that the times of the colonies are over,” said Patiño.
This move is bold, but unsurprising. In 2011, State Department cables showed American ambassador Heather Hodges instigating unfounded rumors of high-level Ecuadorian corruption, angering Correa’s progressive administration. According to Correa, Hodges was approached with requests to validate her claims but refused, replying with “arrogance, an imperialistic attitude and insolence.”
After investigation, it was revealed that Hodges’ accusations were based on gossip from opposition groups. The U.S. ambassador was later expelled from Ecuador, joining other American diplomats removed from positions after the embarrassing leaks.
In an interview with Assange for the World Tomorrow series in May 2012, Correa expressed his support for the mission of exposing America’s dedication to secrecy and consistent incitement of political tensions.
“I lived in America for four years and have two academic degrees from universities. I love and admire the American people a great deal. The last thing I would be is anti-American, however I will always call a spade a spade and if there are international policies detrimental to Latin America I will denounce them.
“We believe, my dear Julian, that the only things that should be protected against information sharing and freedom of speech are those set in the international treaties, in the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights: the dignity and the reputation of people, and the safety of people and the State. The rest, the more people find out about it, the better,” he told Assange. “We have absolutely nothing to fear. Let them [Wikileaks] publish everything they have about the Ecuadorian government.”
Correa hopes the leaks will show the blatant corruption conducted with the American people’s resources without fear of retribution.
In an effort to silence Assange, the U.S. government has allegedly wielded its resources to censor Wikileaks’ social media footprint, suspend Assange’s bank accounts and finances, attack the website, and pressure corporations and foreign governments to deny the organization exposure. In response, the online community has donated in record numbers, created mirror websites, and held demonstrations in his defense.
Since 2009, pressure on the U.K. government to deliver Assange has increased. Though he has not been charged with a crime, he is wanted for questioning in Stockholm on unrelated charges filed after the first leak. It is customary for law enforcement to interrogate suspects in other nations, but Swedish officials have refused to visit the U.K., demanding physical extradition. Sources suspect this demand is a foil to capture Assange for the U.S. government.
Patiño clarified that Ecuador would allow Assange’s extradition to Sweden with guarantees that no eventual extradition to the United States would take place. Sweden refused to make such promises.
CIA analystsbelieve extradition to Sweden for questioning could result in international rendition,torture and indefinite detention without charge or trial. The government of Ecuador agrees. “It is not impossible that he would be treated in a cruel manner, condemned to life in prison, or even the death penalty,” Patiño said.
In spite of Ecuador’s desire to protect Assange from persecution, the U.K. vows to arrest Assange if he attempts to depart. “Under our law, with Mr. Assange having exhausted all options of appeal U.K. authorities are under binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden. We shall carry out that obligation. The Ecuadorian Government’s decision this afternoon does not change that. We remain committed to a negotiated solution that allows us to carry out our obligations under the Extradition Act,” British foreign office said.
Though revoking Ecuador’s diplomatic status and storming the building is unlikely at this time, the Ecuadorian embassy is underconstant media surveillance until the fate of Assange is negotiated. For now, Assange cannot exit the building, and Ecuadorian officials claim he will remain in the embassy indefinitely. Read more:http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/citizen-warrior/2012/aug/16/ecuador-grants-wikileaks-assange-asylum-ignites-di/#ixzz3Qda1lsDH Follow us:@wtcommunities on Twitter
DALLAS, August 6th, 2012 - After the Aurora, Colorado tragedy law-makers, gun control advocates and media pundits predictably called for tougher federal laws. This reactionary process is reliable: a horrific crime sparks circular blame and the disarmament agenda is exalted. Within days of the shooting, Rupert Murdoch was tweeting, Michael Moore appealed to emotion and Bill O’Reilly called for federal oversight of “heavy weapons”. The establishment cannot resist exploiting opportunities to promote an anti-firearm platform.
Despite media hysteria, however, the national mood shifted against new federal restrictions. According to Pew, 72% of Republicans, 55% of independents and 27% of Democrats feel protecting gun ownership trumps “controlling guns”.
As American gun ownership hits record highs awareness that “gun control laws” do not keep guns from criminals grows. Sensing this shift, most politicians sprinted from post-Aurora gun control discussions, knowing it was election season poison.
Without national debate or discussion, an extreme gun control amendment was quietly attached to the controversial Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (S. 3414) or CIPSA. What does gun control have to do with “cybersecurity”? Nothing, but politicians habitually subvert political processes by attaching unrelated measures to avoid alerting constituents.
This “assault weapon ban” would have criminalized popular semi-automatic ammunition magazines and feeding devices exceeding a mere 10 rounds. Hastily written and dangerously vague, the amendment also banned 184 popular firearm models, as well as any new guns with certain features. Millions of America’s 270 million guns used for protection, hunting and recreation would have become illegal to buy, sell and perhaps own.
It was unclear whether citizens would have been forced to surrender private property, which federal agency would enforce the ban or whether losses would be compensated. In response to this brazen rights infringement, citizens bombarded the Capitol Hill call center urging their senators to vote “no” on the Schumer amendment. Last week, CISPA and the attached amendment were defeated in the Senate.
Second Amendment organizations are relieved, but remain vigilant. Federal gun control initiatives are a legislative zombie; regardless how often they are killed, they keep coming back.
A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Part of the problem is that many in the American left-wing and gun-control advocates believe these bans are reasonable compromises, angering gun owners.
As reported by ThinkProgress.org, “In a floor speech supporting the new amendment, Chuck Schumer attempted to find common ground with gun rights advocates […] Schumer stressed the need to disprove the misconception that “The Chuck Schumers of the world want to take away your gun, even if it’s the hunting rifle your uncle Willy gave you when you were 14.”
Firearm owners scoff at the Senator’s condescension and characterization that this ban was “common ground”.
“Politicians don’t get it,” Patrick, a Texas police officer explained. “Multiple studies showed the 1994 assault weapons ban failed to reduce crime. Since then, thousands purchased semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines for peaceful use. I shoot recreationally twice per week with my high-capacity stock. If this passed, would $5,000 worth of equipment become illegal because of one madman? Our national crime is dropping, so this extremism is unwarranted.”
His strong opinions are echoed among gun owners in the law enforcement, military and veteran community, many of which are avid private firearm collectors.
“I’m growing tired of these elitists that I subsidize talking down to us like we’re children. As if, “you can’t all play nice, we’re taking away your toys”. If we applied that same principle to them, they would all be impeached,” says Chuck, an avid gun collector and Army veteran.
“I’m a responsible, tax-paying, law-abiding adult with rights and politicians exist to protect those rights. Americans are good people. They should be able to buy guns and magazines for sport, recreation, hunting or collection; for whatever they want.”
Schumer is not the only politician capitalizing on tragedy. To solve the daily slaughter in Chicago, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn called to “ban assault rifles” last week.
Currently, Chicago is a gun-control advocates dream: citizens with a felony or certain minor misdemeanors are prohibited from ownership. Democratic leaders in the state consistently praise “tough” laws and the need for even more. In the last six months, more Americans were killed in Chicago than in Kabul, Afghanistan; a war zone.
In contrast, after the Supreme Court struck down Chicago’s handgun ban, the city enjoyed the largest drop in murder since the 1982 law was enacted. Violent crime plummeted. Though DC Mayor Adrian Fenty warned that legalizing firearms would create devastating violence, gun robberies dropped 25% and assaults fell 37% after the ban was lifted.
To date, Washington DC has record gun ownership and more peaceful streets now that people can defend themselves against criminals.
WORDS HAVE MEANING
“What does any American need with an assault rifle?” Heidi Tate, a gun control proponent posted online. “There is no need for them except to kill massive amounts of people.” CNN’s Charles Garcia agreed, “Arguing that you need an assault rifle to protect your family is like saying you need a blowtorch to light a cigarette”
Americans like Heidi and pundits like Garcia frustrate gun owners most. At the core of the gun control debate is the fact that many Americans do not research terms they use or understand that data contradicts their opinion.
As scholar Thomas Sowell put it, “The real problem, both in discussions of mass shootings and in discussions of gun control, is that too many people are too committed to a vision to allow mere facts to interfere with their beliefs, and the sense of superiority that those beliefs give them.”
Rifles with heavy hardware attached can be aesthetically frightening, but they are no more lethal than millions of firearms that would remain legal after an “assault weapons ban”. They fire at the same bullet-per-trigger-pull rate and speed as the average semi-automatic and revolver, while many hunting rifles are more dangerous.
Of gun crimes, assault weapons are used. 20% in all violent crimes and in 1% of gun crimes. Estimates state that 1-7%of all homicides are committed with assault weapons while rifles of any type are involved in 3-4% of all homicides. One-third of murders are committed without a firearm.
A “high-capacity” magazine is essentially a metal box with a spring. Even if they were “illegal”, they are easy to make and nearly impossible to police. Should a ban on “high capacity” magazines or “assault rifles” proceed with any seriousness, a dangerous new black market would be created, further perpetuating more crime.
These measures are akin to outlawing certain duffel bag sizes because bombs are placed in them .20% of the time. Just like the Clinton administration’s failed “ban”, these measures would change nothing while giving the appearance of action at the expense of private property.
WHAT ABOUT EUROPE?
With 315 million citizens and 90 out of 100 with guns, America should be the most violent country in the world, but the top 10 nations for homicide do not include the US, where crime is currently at an historic low and dropping.
In the United States, firearms are used self-defensively 2.5 million times annually, or about 6,850 daily. Each year, guns protect citizens 80 times more against violence than they take a life. Many in the international community envy the US for their ability protect themselves.
Crime in Europe is out of control as thousands submit to thewhim of violent criminals acting without fear of resistance. Since enacting draconian gun laws, violent crime in England has skyrocketed while gun use among criminals has doubled. Britain has the highest crime in Europe, more so than the United States or South Africa. Scotland, a nation with strict gun control policies, is now the most violent country in the world.
In contrast, Switzerland has the highest firearm ownership rate per capita in Europe. All males age 20 to 42 are required to keep rifles or pistols at home. Their homicide rate is 1.2 per 100,000. To date, there has never been a schoolyard massacre in Switzerland.
If post-ban crime in the United States has dropped and international data supports that gun control perpetuates violence, why are American legislators discussing re-enacting ineffective laws? Shouldn’t societal evolution be our goal, not regression?
THE SECOND AMENDMENT
President Obama joined others in calls for “assault rifle” bans last week.
“I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals; that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities.We recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation, that hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage.”
Most gun owners do not agree that these popular firearms belong exclusively in the hands of soldiers or police officers. AK-47’s, or the Kalashnikov rifle,is the most popular gun in the world and law-abiding Americans own them more than criminals. If “assault rifles” are rarely associated with crimes and are less dangerous than firearms remaining legal, what is the purpose of allowing them only in the hands of public servants?
As modern philosopher Roderick Long wrote, “Forbidding private citizens to own [common] guns while allowing police and soldiers to carry them is a violation of moralequality– a reserving of weapons to the powerful while denying them to the powerless.”
For an administration determined to “equal the playing field” and “promote fairness”, is it a contradiction to advocate removing beloved, legally-acquired firearms from citizens while civil servants are allowed to own them?
Additionally, the Second Amendment does not safeguard sport or hunting. The intention of the Second Amendment was to provide the people with means to protect their rights against individual and organized aggressors both foreign and domestic. The Second Amendment is not a grant to the people, but a restriction on the federal government. To Americans familiar with history and the Constitution, suggestions otherwise are blasphemous.
Naturally, some say the Second Amendment is irrelevant today because Americans have evolved past the eternal threat of government oppression. They claim the Founders did not intend the Bill of Rights to protect individual firearm ownership because they didn’t know a centralized army would protect us or the “the widespread violence guns cause”.
Most classical liberals, students of history and scholars disagree, explaining that the Founding Fathers unquestionably believed in a universal right to bear arms. Considering their intellectual, political and philosophical influences, it is fair to assume they understood human nature, historical precedent and the duality of self-defense, i.e. an individual, free citizen must protect themselves against the evil will of the man, the mob and the state.
Otherwise, if all control boils fundamentally to force, how can one resist aggression without equal force? How can a truly “free” state exist if the individual citizen is enslaved to the forceful will of others? It cannot. This right to self-protection is a cornerstone principle essential to the American experiment and critical to maintaining life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
While Senator Dianne Feinstein stated to 60-minutes, “If I thought I could get the votes, I’d have taken them all”, Thomas Jefferson, primary author of the Declaration of Independence said, “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”
Though many Americans are lulled into illusions of safety and are generally unaware of human history, 56-million people have perished because of gun control in the last century alone. Should some future tyrant desire to use force against Americans, without the means of self-defense, what prevents Omaha, Nebraska from resembling Pol Pot’s Killing Fields?
If such oppression ever came home, would we experience the horrors the rest of world suffered because we relinquished our natural rights to self-defense? It is the responsibility of every American to maintain societal protections against the possibility of future tyranny, whether they enjoy the recreation of firearms or not.
As citizens of this great nation, we should take time to nurture the wounded and grieve the lost. When it is time to discuss policy, advocates on both sides should take ownership and organize locally. If the people decide reform is necessary, we should analyze with civility and patience the data, diverse opinions, our unique gun culture and the role firearms play in promoting safety.
We should decide if gun dealers are properly regulated and evaluate reporting methods for psychological professionals. Do gun show loopholes help criminals? Should states encourage responsible gun ownership with tax-breaks for concealed-carry permits? Are local and state laws disarming upstanding citizens? Would welcoming concealed-carry holders deter crime in local businesses?
Regardless of past debates or passionate rhetoric, Americans cannot ignore facts while power-grabbers play loose-and-fast with natural rights. We must realize the establishment is incapable of refraining from exploiting tragedy for an agenda. Challenging ourselves to evolve past partisan demagoguery will help us evaluate what is best for our communities, not what is best for distant federal legislators.
Crazy people will always get guns, but if further reducing our crime rate is the desired result, local communities and states have much to discuss. Let us begin listening to one another, communicating with our state legislators and innovating creative, progressive solutions to these problems logically and reasonably. In the meantime, federal bureaucrats have a $15 trillion dollar deficit to fix. Read more:http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/citizen-warrior/2012/aug/6/After-shootings-Americans-reject-gun-control/#ixzz3QdPgfNAJ Follow us:@wtcommunities on Twitter
WASHINGTON, May 18, 2012 — A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on Wednesday to prevent the Obama Administration from exercising the indefinite detention authority granted to it by the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. Section 1021 of the NDAA could have set a slippery precedent for indefinite detention of American citizens. Obama-appointed Judge Katherine Forrest of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York disagreed that the provision is merely a restatement of existing federal law, stating that the loose language did not “pass Constitutional muster” and could have a “chilling impact on First Amendment rights.”
This ruling was a milestone in the protection of 900 years of legal precedent, but the fight for due process raises frightening questions about the future of American liberty and the intentions of our representatives.
Section 1021 of the 1800-page, $662 billion spending bill effectively revoked due process and habeas corpus, which puts the burden of proof on the government to justify a person’s detention, for United States citizens merely accused of “substantially supporting” forces “associated” with al-Qaeda or the Taliban that “are engaged in hostilities” against the U.S. or its “coalition partners.” According to Forrest, the quoted terms are undefined, leaving interpretation to the discretion of the president.
As U.S. Rep. Justin Amash explained to his constituents via Facebook, “An American citizen living in Michigan makes a one-time donation to a non-violent humanitarian group. Years later, the group commits hostile acts against an ally of the U.S. Under the NDAA that just passed Congress, if the President determines the group was “associated” with terrorists, the President is authorized to detain the donor indefinitely, and without charge or trial.”
Under NDAA, no one is safe from indefinite detention, effectively undoing the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments and giving Americans good reason to fear their own government. We need not assume that our representatives intend that outcome, but weakening legal protections has allowed unscrupulous men to transform republics into totalitarian states. Because the bill’s authors took little care to define meaningful words, “Al Qaeda” or “Taliban” could be replaced with “terrorist,” which itself is quickly becoming a word with no clear definition.
Indefinite detention policies are considered human rights violations under international law. Understanding this, President Obama swore to veto the bill, and then broke that promise while Americans celebrated the New Year, violating his oath to uphold the United States Constitution and revoking hard-won legal rights.
His signature was accompanied by a reassuring statement that Obama would never use the power, because the provision “is inconsistent with our most important traditions and values as a Nation.” Though poetic, this has no legal force and future executives are not bound by his promises.
This violation of human rights motivated Pulitzer Prize-winning journalistChristopher Hedges, activist and author Naomi Wolf, Noam Chomsky, Icelandic parliamentarianBirgitta Jonsdottir, and others to file a lawsuit against Obama, other members of his administration, and leaders in the U.S. Congress as representatives of the United States of America.
The plaintiffs claimed the indefinite detention provision destroyed due process and freedom of speech. Judge Forrest agreed, writing, “An individual could run the risk of substantially supporting or directly supporting an associated force without even being aware that he or she was doing so.” She added that the law gave the government authority to move against individuals who engage in political speech with views that “may be extreme and unpopular as measured against views of an average individual. That, however, is precisely what the First Amendment protects.”
As Hedges noted this week, “If there is no rolling back of the NDAA law we cease to be a constitutional democracy.” He continued, “Foreign and domestic subjugation merges into the same brutal mechanism. … And it is always done in the name of national security.”
Grass roots organizations all over the country, primarily coached by Tenth Amendment Center, have introduced the “Liberty Preservation Act” or petitioned their elected representatives to introduce legislation blocking state collusion with unconstitutional federal kidnapping of citizens. Several states have nullified or are nullifying the detention provisions. Virginia was the first to nullify, and Arizona may be next. Should the NDAA not be struck down, this process will continue.
Who is responsible for this assault on liberty? Everyone who voted in favor, including Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), a victim of unlawful military detention himself, and Carl Levin (D-Mich.). According to the ACLU both used their influence to push passage of the NDAA with the indefinite detention provision intact via closed-door committee meetings, without even a single hearing.
They were joined by Senator Lindsey Graham, who bellowed in front of the Senate [regarding U.S. Citizens “accused” of supporting terrorism], “When they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them, ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.’” These Senators forget they swore an oath to protecting the Constitution and rights of American citizens. Let’s hope their constituents do not forget their absentmindedness come election season.
Even Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney admitted in a Presidential debate that he approves of indefinite detainment. Romney appears ill-informed, pulling the terrorism card to support a provision that does not hold evidence, charges or a trial as even necessary for the accused.
And what is a “terrorist”? Joe Biden called the Tea Party terrorists, the Occupy protest movement could be listed as domestic terrorist group (as it is in the UK), and this administration has declared veteransof Iraq and Afghanistan and Constitutionalists unhappy about power abuses risk groups for “terrorism.”
Last year, the FBI spread 25 fliers seemingly extracted from a dystopian novel through “threat areas,” including airport service providers, beauty/drug suppliers, construction sites, hobby shops, Internet cafes, martial arts studios, rental car offices and tattoo parlors encouraging Americans to spy on one another.
“Suspicious activity,” which includes dying one’s hair often, paying for a coffee with cash, photographing populated locations, being interested in Internet privacy, or requesting tattoos that conceal extremist symbols—are all behaviors that warrant reporting to the “authorities.”
Under a liberal interpretation of the NDAA, could these citizens arguably be hauled away forever based on simple accusation?
Add this to the administrations assertion of its right to assassinate U.S. citizens abroad considered allied with “terrorists,” warrantless searches, domestic spying without oversight, unprecedented suspension of probable cause, secret courts via the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and arbitrary justice at presidential leisure, and it appears we have allowed the events of September 11 to transform America into a potentially Orwellian state.
Government doesn’t “give” anyone rights. We are born with them. Elected officials can only protect them or take them away. Congress gave the president sweeping new powers, including the authority to detain American citizens indefinitely, without charge or trial. In the space of a decade, the United States has gone from a nation of laws to incipient dictatorship.
The United States has based its worldwide reputation on protecting freedom. We have taken up the banner of liberty and protected human rights around the world, both by example and with blood. Did our nation’s warriors sacrifice their lives so that politicians could undermine liberty? If the “War on Terror” cannot be won without destroying the Constitution, then have we not already lost?
When the rule of law is destroyed, we are ruled by the whims of men. Without due process, there is nothing protecting the innocent from mistakes made by bureaucrats. We are no longer free and we can’t call ourselves free, nor can we wage expensive, fruitless wars to bring others “freedom”.
This expansive, undefined and dangerous detention power is a power the Congress is unauthorized to grant. The Constitution guarantees the Rule of Law, and Congress can act only within its confines. The right to be faced with charges after an arrest is sacred.
In response to this act and the passage of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which again contains these provisions, an unlikely alliance of libertarian Republicans and liberal Democrats confronted their House colleagues today in support of an amendment supported by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and introduced by Reps. Adam Smith (D-Washington) and Justin Amash (R-Michigan).
This amendment would have banned indefinite detention of United States citizens. It gained significant traction after Judge Forrest’s ruling, but faced serious opposition from congressional leaders who believe that being accused of a crime equates to “waging war against America.” Despite Amash’s passionate closing statements, the amendment failed this morning, 182-238. Only nineteen conservative and libertarian Republicans joined 163 Democrats in voting “yes” to preserving due process and habeas corpus.
Members of the House Armed Services Committee employed extreme rhetoric to persuade Republicans to oppose the Smith-Amash Amendment:
“The terrible day may come when we get hit again. On that day, do you want to be the one vote that ended the interrogation of terrorists? Do you want to be the one vote who gave the enemy more constitutional rights than our soldiers have?”
Perhaps the American people should ask these leaders if they want to be remembered for casting their votes for the death of American freedom, for the destruction of the rule of law, thus undoing two centuries of the great American experiment.
For more on the NDAA and the Liberty Preservation Act, please visit the Tenth Amendment Center websit.
DALLAS, April 23, 2012 – Wading through the chaotic world of veteran’s affairs is no easy task, but a promising venture aims to revolutionize the online veteran support community. By merging passion with innovation,VeteranCentral.com, is set to achieve what no other entity has accomplished by empowering the soldier in transition with unprecedented tools. The site was founded by Jonathan Lunardi, a talented Internet entrepreneur, and Dr. Paul McDonald, an accomplished scientific consultant for the Department of Defense; it was inspired by the McDonald’s experience with drafting the Army Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Report. Studying the details of the military’s suicide epidemic allowed him to observe issues that were largely preventable.
“As I became involved in researching the trends for suicide rates and integration issues for veterans, it was clear that the primary factors preventing a successful civilian transition were access to employment opportunities, resources for assistance and positive social support,” says Dr. McDonald, “It became apparetheynt the support system was broken.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs is often a frustrating institution with the quality of care varying greatly from entity to entity. Exasperated by the experience, many veterans next seek help online, but the process of wading through a sea of deceptively similar organization names and jumbled niche websites is a daunting process.
As a Google search of “veteran resources” showcases, the sheer volume of disorganized information is staggering. Many give up.
“When I came back fromIraq, I didn’t want to ask anyone for anything. But eventually, I needed help,” says Paul, a former Airborne Ranger who served three tours in various combat zones, and endured panic attacks and debilitating flashbacks after his first year out of the Army. Paul’s first attempt to access information regarding Post Traumatic Stress nearly jaded him permanently.
“I went to some site and put in my information and my symptoms, and then it asked me for my credit card. They wanted to sell me a self-help kit. They wanted to profit off of my suffering. I gave up for six months after that until thoughts of suicide forced me into the VA, which was almost worse. Something like this can help people in ways I can’t even explain.”
Stories like Paul’s are all too common, as McDonald observed. It is estimated that a veteran ends their own life every 80 minutes. Although suicide is a complicated subject dependent on a myriad of factors, a competent support system gives those struggling a higher likelihood of finding ways to cope.
Veteran Central hopes to change this experience entirely by becoming the mortar between the bricks of veteran resources, particularly employment opportunities.
When Michael Barrett, a Navy veteran, joined the Veteran Central team, he was eager to jump in. After deployment, his transition was rough and he knew firsthand the issues facing veterans seeking post-deployment opportunities in the civilian world. “When I came home, I had this vision of returning to anAmericanawhere a job opportunity would be waiting for me. I was wrong and finding resources was half the problem.”
Barrett is far from alone. Unemployment for Gulf War II veterans aged 18 to 24 jumped from 2010’s 18.4% to 30.4% in October 2011. This is partially due to the complicated process facing those attempting to translate military achievement into civilian language, and partially because reliable, organized information from job postings to resume advice is scattered throughout the Net.
“We constantly hear that there is a lack of trusted resource centralization and the level of quality and direction can vary greatly from one state to another. We are here to help by simply providing a community-driven platform for Vets to recommend services and programs together from not just the web but soon on every mobile device a Vet could have. When we can provide content and resources that are inputted by hundreds of our volunteers and heavy hitting partnership network to every mobile device, then we will see real change happen,” says Jonathan Lunardi.
This centralized database, at its heart a social network rich in emotional support and understanding provided by shared experiences, will exist as it does in most sites: with organized internal and external links, but tailored to the unique needs of the veteran community.
“Veterans move around and though some don’t own computers, most have cell phones. Between mobile applications and geo-tagging technology, we will showcase available resources at the local, state, regional and national level for veterans based on their needs and wants as well as location,” Lunardi explains.
Mobile applications containing “geo-tagging” technology will intuitively lead users to relevant local, regional and national sources. Additionally, instead of an endless back-linking structure with pages leading to an elaborate network of additional pages, the user will experience a human touch when seeking access to information.
“When you visit our site, you’re welcomed via chat by a site greeter that is an employee or an intern, many of which are veterans. We will guide them to the services they need. We feel this is a unique approach which eliminates the confusion relevant, personalized guide, referrals to other sites, etc,” explains Lunardi.
This personalization, they hope, will build a human connection between the veteran and their support structure and enrich the user’s experience by treating the veteran’s time as valuable. Respecting users hesitant to reach out in the first place encourages them to continue seeking connections. This approach also builds trust; something the administrators understand is a paramount concern for the military community, especially to those accessing online resources for the first time.
“I didn’t have much of an email address inIraq. I deployed four times and then came home to a world run by the Internet. It was intimidating at first because I didn’t like the idea of some online company knowing everything about me and doing whatever they want with that information,” says Thomas, a former Marine that served in bothIraqandAfghanistan. “A place where we can access what we need without sacrificing our privacy is the only way to get veterans to jump on to the grid, which is where all of the information exists.”
Other communities have made grand attempts to build a centralized network, but received tepid responses due to lack of privacy. The most notable is Google’s foray into the veteran community, Google for Veterans and Families.
For critics, what appeared at first to be a unique network powered by Google’s infinite resources turned into an olive-colored marketing scheme to lure veterans into joining the Google mega-network in order to track, sell and mine their data. The last thing most veterans enduring symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress need is a paid advertisement for therapy appearing in their email window.
Veteran Central has stated they will avoid this route, not only to build a trustworthy community that puts people before profits, but because they understand the veteran mindset. “We will not sell personal data of our users. We will advertise and partner with relevant organizations, but we will not mine data for the purposes of making a profit. We may use information to create innovative tools to better align users with resources, but we will grow through advertisers, not through selling personal data. Any data that is stored is protected on the most secure network available,” says Lunardi.
Through the creation and growth of this advanced centralized network, unlimited networking and outreach opportunities are a dream-come-true for the charity community. What the government cannot manage, private citizens take on with compassion and patriotic duty.
These non-profit organizations and their citizen volunteers exist all over the country, they raise millions annually and organize hundreds of thousands of people in order to do everything from building homes and host career fairs to granting wishes for those that have served. Their resourcefulness and dedication have become indispensable resources to tens of thousands of veterans and their families, yet millions in transition don’t know they exist.
Veterans Affairs administrators are understandably prohibited from connecting needs-based charity organizations with veterans and without a centralized database within VA facilities, service organizations have few methods of meaningful outreach unless they’ve grown into a mega-charity.
Veteran Central is in a position to become this nucleus of information, potentially connecting these citizens with one another in unprecedented ways. A comprehensive database of charity profiles on the open Internet would help veterans find these organizations that exist to serve them. Uniform mission statements, contact information and a list of services based on location would make a tremendous difference.
In the pipeline is the potential creation of a database with enabled user reviews and rankings, as well. What Trip Advisor or Yelp did for travel or restaurants, Veteran Central could do for veteran service organizations. Once implemented, this database with user-generated, publicly-rated ranking systems would allow veterans to share experiences. Fostering a connection between veteran and the organization also prevents fraud and promotes transparency, accountability and much-needed trust.
In terms of government services, VA facilities are the primary service centers for veterans, but their websites are overwrought with detail and bureaucratic language most veterans find frustrating to translate. Many are unaware that hundreds of smaller satelitte VA offices exist and instead wait for hours at the main facilities. Often, once veterans finally locate a VA for their need, the experience is negative and they never return.
If veterans could submit reviews and grade each facility publicly, other veterans would know prior to visiting which facilities have a reputation for successful management. Just as a restaurant or a hotel or any other service with poor standards would no longer enjoy new customers, VA facilities with poor reputations may finally experience pressure to raise their standards. Additionally, those facilities that tirelessly strive to maintain high standards may finally be acknowledged.
On a larger scale, true reform for the VA is long overdue. If changes are to take place, the expectations for excellence must be removed from the hands of unaccountable legislators and bureaucrats and given to the public. Citizens must become aware of the egregious abuses and shameful neglect taking place in facilities across the nation. Currently, the scandals, negligence and lack of results are not a focus of public attention because the abuses are blips across a news screen, while veterans feel powerless to create change. If a worldwide database existed in which users could rate these facilities and share their tips and feedback for receiving proper care, effective reform could finally begin.
Veteran Central is utilizing the power of the Internet, social media, and technology to change the state of emergency that is veteran’s care. They seek to become a venue for change, to become the nucleus of online resources for the military and veteran community, and ultimately provide the venue to set a standard for how the Internet will serve 20 million American veterans in the 21st century.
As the human cost of a decade of war becomes apparent, veterans and concerned Americans must understand that government resources for veterans are woefully inadequate and disorganized, and in some cases embarrassingly corrupt, and are therefore incapableof providing for our nation’s veterans. In the coming years, citizens, non-profits and veterans must unite and work together if we are to avoid the mistakes of previous generations.
Veteran Central understands this and they deserve our support. At this point, we have had decades to perfect the system of veteran’s care and have failed. For the sake of this next generation of warriors, if organizations like Veteran Central don’t harness the power of the World Wide Web to tackle these shameful societal problems, who will?
DALLAS, April 11, 2012 – Thousands of special American citizens dedicate their energy to supporting and honoring military families, but a uniquely talented Ohio couple has placed an original spin on this institution. Fueled by profound patriotism, Trish and Scott Snyder founded Hero’s Rock, a non-profit dedicated to honoring America’s fallen warriors by crafting exquisite, custom-designed rockers for their children left behind. As the Hero’s Rocks website describes, “Losing a loved one is always hard. Losing someone who makes the ultimate sacrifice in service to us all is purely heart breaking. We want to do something for the innocent who suffer the most from the loss: the children. How do you tell a child you appreciate the sacrifice? Maybe a rocker, made with love, honoring their loved ones service will help give them comfort and show we care. They may not understand it’s meaning, but with time they will come to see that their hero was very special to us all.”
The foundation, established just last year, hopes their loving tributes will convey the nation’s gratitude for the sacrifices made by our military families, while providing a comforting heirloom for the children whom these sacrifices affect most.
Scott, a self-described “hippy” is a master carpenter while his wife Trish is a talented painter. Together, they have crafted several personalized rockers for the children of fallen heroes in their spare time. “At first, I thought people would think we’re weird, but we’ve received so much support,” says Scott.
This is partially because such heirlooms are rarely exchanged in the age of technology and plastic toys, and partially because the couple has no connection to the military. “At first, we set out to make them for children of other public servants, like police officers and firefighters until we heard the story of Christopher Thibodeau.”
Known as a loyal friend, exceptional soldier, and a perpetually kind, positive person, his loss was devastating for his family, the closely-knit Apache community and to the nation as a whole.
“These things just aren’t supposed to happen to people like Chris. When he was killed, we lost a true patriot; a man willing to put himself on the front line to protect God, country and family. He was the poster child of patriotism and sacrifice. He conquered every obstacle in his way. He was living his dream,” says CW2 Donny Rafford, a fellow aviator and close friend of the Thibodeau family.
Chris’ wife, LeeSandra Thibodeau, also a military veteran, gave birth to their son Liam in January of this year, 9 months after Chris’ passing. Moved by the tragic circumstances and bittersweet arrival of baby Liam, the local media shared the story. The Snyder’s were watching.
“Chris’ story flashed across our nightly news. We were so moved. We didn’t justwantto do something for his family, wehadto do something for his family,” says Scott Snyder.
Passionate, honorable patriotism ignited their drive and soon, Americans were donating and the Snyder’s were able to raise funds for the project relatively quickly. After several months of communication with Chris’ wife and parents, Apache One, a custom Apache helicopter rocker for baby Liam, was born. Inscribed on the rocker are military emblems paying homage to Chris Thibodeau’s service.
Once complete, Hero’s Rock personally delivered the rocker to the Thibodeau’s and were greeted with heartfelt hugs, tears and sincere gratitude from one family to another. During a time of unfathomable grief, the loved ones of Thibodeau were smiling again thanks to the kindness and generosity of this civilian couple willing to reach out to the military community.
“When they gave us the rocker, we were crying happy tears for once. It was so beautiful and would be something Chris would want for Liam. He’s up there in heaven, thinking: look at what my son has. They [Hero’s Rock] gave me that,” says LeeSandra. “They showed me compassion and kindness by building something so beautiful and original for my son. They put a picture of Chris on the rocker and there is an engraving; they just went above and beyond dedicating hours and hours to create this heartbreaking, but beautiful gift for a child they didn’t even know.”
Citizens in both the military and civilian communities are often wary and intimidated to communicate with one another. The military community is a relatively closed culture and for civilians, they are a world apart with a separate language, hierarchy and customs, which can be overwhelming as an outsider. Both groups feel as if they do not understand one another, which sadly stifles communication and similar acts of generosity on both sides.
LeeSandra acknowledges this, but highlighted that she felt comfortable working with the Snyder’s because they were respectful and humble when reaching out to her, “They didn’t ask permission, they did it. They weren’t pushy. They didn’t use me or Liam to promote their cause by taking pictures and blasting Chris’ story. They didn’t have an agenda. They let their gift speak for itself.”
It is not just the families receiving the special gift that are touched, but also the comrades of these fallen warriors. Losing a brother in combat is devastating, but when military lives are lost, most of the focus is on the family. These fellow warriors grieve deeply, too. For Thibodeau’s fellow soldiers, observing how the civilian community responded to their grief reaffirmed love of country and community.
CW2 Jared Clift, a twice deployed Apache aviator and close friend of Thibodeau shared his thoughts, “Knowing that people care about the people we’re losing means more than anything. We don’t want parades or attention, we want people to care about us; that is crucial. We do what we do for the American people.”
Rafford mirrored Clift’s sentiments, “They brought a smile to Leesandra’s face and a bit of joy to her heart, and made the gap between Chris and Liam, a father who will never meet his son, that much smaller. God bless them for all they have done for the Thibodeau family and their willingness to help the fighting force sustain.”
Both Clift and Rafford were deeply appreciative of the healing impact Hero’s Rock made on their friend’s grieving family and hope the organization will inspire civilians to utilize their special talents for other military families, not as civilians, but as Americans.
“The people of Hero’s Rock are heroes. To know there are people out there who stand in the shadows, but do everything they can to support our fighting forces, to give all that they are and ask nothing in return, is amazing. These are true patriots in their own right! We, as a fighting force could not possibly sustain without men and women like them on the homefront.”
The Thibodeau family has not been the only recipient of the Snyder’s talents. Dawn Kahoun was touched by the Hero’s Rock mission and donated to the program, which is also a contest. The Thibodeau family drew the winning name and RayLee, a 2/12 year old daughter of a Marine Corps Sergeant won. Sgt. Kyle Kahoun, a Machine Gun Instructor at Quantico, VA has been twice deployed and should he go again, the heirloom serves to remind little RayLee that her father’s service is appreciated.
Hero’s Rock also intends to honor the family of SPC Jordan Byrd. The 19 year-old Army medic was killed in action by sniper fire after running into intense small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar fire to save another soldier. For his heroism, Byrd was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and a clinical facility at Fort Campbell was dedicated in his name. Byrd’s wife Savannah delivered the couple’s first child three days before Byrd left for Afghanistan.
This last decade of perpetual war has strained communication, but as those controversial, divisive conflicts come to a close, Americans have a unique opportunity to heal together through exhibiting such kindness and generosity to one another. Such selflessness not only supports children that have lost a parent in war, but also demonstrates to the military community that people care, generating a ripple effect throughout the hearts and minds of those serving.
Veteran advocates and volunteers hope organizations like Hero’s Rock will inspire others to contribute to the patriotic partnership between the civilian and military communities that is crucial to the health of the country.
Hero’s Rock is currently designing, developing and raising funds for Ayden Byrd’s rocker. For more information on the program, to recommend a hero or donate, please visit their website.
Senator Schumer's petition to reunite Marine Corporal Leavey and Sgt. Rex, Citizen Warrior by Tiffany Madison for Communities @WashingtonTimes.com DALLAS, March 15, 2012 – Corporal Megan Leavey, a Marine dog-handler and combat veteran has been tireless in her efforts to adopt, “Sergeant Rex”, the military service dog that has followed her lead from Camp Pendleton, Calif., to Iraq. With recent support from Washington and the online community, Corporal Leavey may finally get her wish.
Since 2007, she has attempted to adopt Rex. At first her request was denied. Rex was still a valuable asset to the military. That changed when he was diagnosed with facial palsy, which prevents him from further service.
Currently, 10-year old Rex sits in an Air Force kennel at Lackland Air Force base awaiting his fate, which Leavey fears may be euthanasia.
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