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Sheep, Wolves and Liberty.

As we were thinking about what to post today, we visited a site that has been discussing the meaning and practical application of the word “liberty.”

As we were reading the discussion, we remembered the famous and oft quoted statement by Benjamin Franklin of:

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither safety nor liberty.

You will hear that statement a great deal from libertarians and some conservatives. Many people believe “liberties” can never be infringed upon by the government and that is the way the Founding Fathers intended it to be.

We are not so sure.

In the Franklin quote, people focus on the word “liberty” while ignoring the word “essential.” There are boundaries to liberty in any society. Most notably, you cannot harm someone and then claim you were simply exercising your “liberty.” The most well known example of this is “you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater.” Actually you can do just that, but if someone gets hurt, you cannot claim you were exercising your rights and liberties. You rightfully be held accountable for the injuries and damages suffered by others because of your actions.

“Liberty,” like “rights” are not absolute. In the United States we draw the line on liberties and rights when someone else is injured. It is part of the American fabric and Society.

This fact was noted by George Washington in The Letter of Transmittal of the U.S. Constitution:

It is obviously impractical in the federal government of these states, to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interest and safety of all: Individuals entering into society, must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest. The magnitude of the sacrifice must depend as well on situation and circumstances, as on the object to be obtained. It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered, and those which may be reserved; and on the present occasion this difficulty was encreased by a difference among the several states as to their situation, extent, habits, and particular interests. (emphasis ours)

Almost eighty years later, the country was still talking about “liberty” in the sense the Southern States saw their rights as being infringed upon by the movement to restrict what they saw as a liberty – the liberty to own slaves.

In fact, the slavery issue was what started the discussion on another site when the writer cited and article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune written by University of St. Thomas Law Professor Robert Delahunty in which Delahunty argues:
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Share the Hoecakes

Coming Soon To A Country Near You – CCTV Recognition Of Car Tags To Buy Gasoline.

Our friends across the pond in England have come up with a new way to catch evil criminals – also known as those trying to earn a living.

The plans involves combining closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras and “automated license plate recognition” software.

England has long been a leader in advocating the use of CCTV cameras in the public arena. The cameras are everywhere. Whether it be street corners, subways, highways, or sidewalks, one cannot go anywhere without being watched and or recorded by the police on a camera. Initially, the idea was to protect citizens. The idea for cameras was sold on the belief that emergency help could respond faster to an accident, or that police could respond faster to a crime. There is also the idea that if a crime is committed, the police have a way of seeing who committed the crime.

Whether the system works for crime is somewhat subjective due to the way the British keep track of crime. Believe it or not, they have two statistical systems for measuring the rate of crime. The first is using police statistics. One would think this would be rather straight forward but it isn’t as police seem to have a vested interest in keeping the stats low. Consequently, despite having over 5,000 arrests during the riots of 2011, those incidents were not added to the official stats for crime. To develop a more “realistic” statistical view of crime, the British survey people to see if they have been a victim of crime, how much crime they have seen, whether they expect to become a victim of crime, etc.

The survey interviews approximately 50,000 people, which is about 0.1% of England’s population of over 51,000,000.

The effect of cameras in the prevention of crime or that aiding in capturing criminals has not been proven.

What has been proven is using the cameras for traffic offenses.

Speed cameras on highways, red light cameras, cameras that look for special permits on cars, etc. have been a money maker for the government.

Now comes the idea of tying CCTV’s and automated license plate recognition software together.

If you are unfamiliar with automated license plate recognition, below is a good video of how the software works and how police can use it.


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“Christians Have No Right To Wear Cross At Work, Says Government.” Could Never Happen In the US, Right?

From the “there is no war against Christians” file comes this frontal assault against Christians.

Christians do not have a right to wear a cross or crucifix openly at work, the Government is to argue in a landmark court case.

In a highly significant move, ministers will fight a case at the European Court of Human Rights in which two British women will seek to establish their right to display the cross.

It is the first time that the Government has been forced to state whether it backs the right of Christians to wear the symbol at work.

To be clear, the “government” in question is the English government – the same government who used to stand on “God, Queen and Country.”

(It is also the same country that demanded a coffee cafe stop displaying Bible verses on a television within the cafe.)

The case surrounds two women – one who worked for British Airways and the other for a hospital – who were told they could not wear crosses. When the women refused to agree to the regulations, they were fired (“sacked” as our English counterparts would say.) The women appealed the firings but the appeals were dismissed. The women then appealed to the European Union Court where the British government is set to argue that as wearing a cross is not mandated by the Christian faith, there is no inherent right to wear a cross.

That might be a good point except the Brits have demanded accommodations for the wearing of burqas, which is not required by the Muslim faith.

The women, on the other hand, will be arguing the ban on wearing a cross violates Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights:
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Group Plans to Rip Bible Apart. No Word from White House on How This is a Bad Idea.

A group know as the Backyard Skeptics plans on ripping pages out of a Bible at Hunting Beach Pier today.

“We’re not there to burn the Bible or desecrate,” Bruce Gleason, director of Backyard Skeptics, said. “There are plenty verses in the Bible that if you did any of those things today, you’d be thrown in jail immediately.”

The dictionary defines “desecrate” as “to treat a sacred place or sacred object shamefully or with great disrespect.” We have a hard time thinking that ripping pages out of the Bible is not “desecration,” but that is not the purpose of this post.

The purpose of this post is to highlight the differences between the coverage of this event and the coverage of Pastor Terry Jones’ desecration of the Koran.

Jones’ act was treated several ways. There were those who felt while Jones had the legal right to burn a Koran under the First Amendment, he should not. We agree with them. The difference between those that held that opinion is that many on the right felt and continue to feel destroying, damaging and desecrating a book of faith is simply not what this country is about. We may disagree with others and even other religions, but we want to be respectful to other people and their faiths (or lack of faith.)

The White House came to the same conclusion of burning the Koran was wrong, but for a slightly different reason:
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Rights, Rats, and Red Lights

The Florida Today newspaper recently published several stories (here and here) on protests that were held by people concerning “red light cameras” in Brevard County, Florida. According to the newspaper,

Across Florida, similar protests are planned in Orlando, Tallahassee, Tampa, New Port Richey, Naples and Spring Hill, according to the 1787 Radio Network.

For those of you who do not know, so called “red light cameras” are cameras that are mounted on or near the traffic lights at intersections. When a car runs a red light or makes an illegal turn, the camera takes a picture of the license plate of the car and in some cases, the driver as well. The theory is that such camera will keep people from running red lights and therefore increase the safety of the intersection.

When my little town examined putting up red light cameras, I researched the issue and found that the issue is not clear cut. The effectiveness of red light cameras depend on the amount of traffic and amount of accidents at the intersection. At high risk and high traffic intersections, red light cameras were found to be effective on a limited basis lowering fatalities up to 33%. At the same time, accidents in those intersections increased most likely due to people slamming on the brakes when the light turned yellow. In low / medium volume and low / medium intersections, the cameras had little or no effect. When the length of the yellow light was increased, accidents in all types of intersections decreased. In high risk intersections, lengthening yellow light times, resulted in accidents and deaths decreasing by 30%.

Clearly the evidence on red light cameras shows mixed reviews at best.

But this is not an article on red light cameras.

This is an article on the response to the protests.
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Not So Private Privacy

Cnet reports on a new bill being proposed by two men who ran for president and lost – John Kerry and John McCain. In essence, the bill is designed to protect Americans from loss of private information when using the internet, as well as when speaking on the phone, traveling, etc. The Commercial Privacy Rights Act of 2011, is being touted by McCain and Kerry as “establish(ing) a framework to protect the personal information of all Americans.”

Generally speaking, the bill has received praise from people concerned with internet privacy. Eweek.com writes:

The “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” proposed by U.S. Senators John Kerry and John McCain is a sensible way to give Web users more control over how their personal information is used without imposing an impractical technical standard.

The Washington Post chimes in with:

The bill got a generally good reception from industry. “We appreciate that this legislation . . . allows for flexibility to adapt to changes in technology,” said a joint statement by Intel, Cisco, eBay and Hewlett-Packard. “The bill also strikes the appropriate balance by providing businesses with the opportunity to enter into a robust self-regulatory program.”

There is one major problem, however:
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