All posts by Sergio Monreal

Let It Burn

Flag burning is as American as apple pie—well, at least as free speech. NPR reports that an Illinois man was arrested after posting a photo of him burning an American flag. The man was later released and prosecutor decided not to press charges citing first amendment issues. No matter what your opinion on flag burning, it must be defended.

The First Amendment restricts the government from infringing on free speech. Furthermore, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of flag burning in Texas v. Johnson. Thus, all calls for banning of flag burning are unconstitutional. The argument should end there, but, many people become emotional when they see Ol’ Glory burning.

Arguments for banning flag burning are convincing, but emotional. Soldiers have come back in caskets—draped in the American flag. People have died defending that flag. People have been killed for simply being American.

When some see the American flag, they see oppression, racism, and imperialism. The quote in the Facebook picture of the flag burner said: “I would like to one day feel a sense of pride toward my nationality again. But too little progress has been made…I do not have pride in my country. I am overwhelmingly ashamed, and I will demonstrate my feelings accordingly. #ArrestMe.” America has never been perfect. Yet, the reason so many immigrants come to America is not for its perfection, but its freedom, its opportunity, its hope for a better life.

Let the flag-burners burn their flags; it’s their right. Free speech must be protected, even unpopular speech. Flag burning is childish and asinine, but what must not be allowed to go up in flames is the Constitution.  

Energy Policy for the Poor and Middle-Class

Lower oil prices help poor and middle-class families. In June 2014, oil traded at approximately $115 a barrel. Now, the price of a barrel is about $47.76. There were many reasons for the collapse in oil prices. For example, OPEC, a cartel of top oil producing countries, continued drilling for oil even though prices were dropping. But, equally important was the fracking boom. Fracking allowed for oil to flood the market lowering its price.

Drilling for more oil helps poor and middle-class families, and the U.S. must do more of it. Additionally, CNBC reports: “The US holds more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia, the first time it has surpassed those held by the world’s biggest exporting nations, according to a new study.”

Low oil prices and more oil reserves make U.S. families richer without them receiving an increase in their income. If families spend less on gas, they are able to save or spend more on other goods—making them richer.

Yet, with all its benefits, groups and presidential candidates want to stop fracking. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said: she would regulate it so thoroughly that “I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.” Banning fracking and other methods of extracting oil from the ground will increase the price of energy.

If fracking was banned, supply of natural gas would fall dramatically and prices for gas and electricity would increase. Natural gas makes up 33 percent of energy produced in the U.S making it a top energy source. In 2014, families spend about 20% of their income on energy. Oil prices have remained low even with tensions between oil-states Iran and Saudi Arabia. As the Daily Caller reports: “There remains a lot of excess supply on global markets right now, thanks to increased production from unconventional sources like fracking.” Not drilling means higher gas prices.

Newer renewable energy is unaffordable to poor and middle class families. The rich can absorb energy price increases, but the poor cannot. For example, the new Tesla models cost $70,000.and more. Middle class families usually make that in a year.

Forcing the poor to pay more for energy is unfair and regressive policy. U.S. energy policy should make citizens wealthier—not poorer. Any person or policy aimed at making energy more expensive is taking money from people who need it most.

Brownie Patrol

Political correctness doesn’t have brakes. Its restless claws reach for everyone, including elementary school kids. Last week, police were called to an elementary school in New Jersey. The alleged crime? A third grader said the word “brownie” in class at an end of the school year party. Various news sources report that the brownie remark was in reference to the baked good, not a person.  

After making a comment about the brownies in class, the student was promptly interviewed by police. The mother of the perpetrator, Stacy dos Santos, said that the experience was traumatic for her nine-year-old boy. The child was interviewed by police without anyone by his side. Police are not known for their empathy when interviewing suspects. Now, imagine a child trying to articulate their defense of the word “brownie” to an officer with a gun in his holster.

This situation is not unique. The superintendent of the school estimates there are approximately five calls a day to police in the “district of 1,875 students.”

Over-criminalization has been in the news recently, but this one takes the cake— brownie. Criminalizing a nine-year-old for referring to a dessert brownie is not just a new low but also an indirect effect of school administrators trying to manage freedom of speech. Banning free speech or certain words on college campuses led to this situation. Schools are no longer the place for intellectual discussion — or brownies.

It is not the job of the police, school administrators, or government to police words. “Brownie” is not a bad word, but if you ask the child-suspect, he might now say police and school are bad words. It is easy to see the phrase on cop cars “protect and serve” as ironic. Who was protected? Who was served? Political correctness hangs the most defenseless in society, children, out to dry.