Category Archives: Security

Do We Really Want the President to Enforce ALL Federal Laws?

The Rule of Law, theoretically at least, is superior to the arbitrary Rule of Men. For most of human history, the law has been subject to the whim of a head of state be s/he a monarch, czar, dictator, emperor, etc. James Madison and the framers of the U.S. Constitution wisely determined that the document would be the “supreme law of the land” and everyone from the President to the peasant would be subject to the same law.

But what happens to the Rule of Law when the laws become too vague, too numerous, too unpredictable, and too unjust? According to a 2008 Louisiana State University study (referenced in this article), there were over 4,500 federal crimes on the books. This does not include the thousands more regulations that also carry criminal penalties.

So my question to conservatives and some libertarians who have been critical of President Obama’s executive order to allow individuals who were brought illegally across the border as children under the age of 16 to have temporary work permits is as follows: Do you believe that the president should enforce each and every one of the over 27,000 pages of federal code and prosecute everyone who can be accused of any of the 4,500 + crimes? Should the president send uniformed men with guns to raid the Gibson Guitar Corp, dairy farms who sell raw milk to the public, and medical marijuana dispensaries which operate pursuant to state law? If the argument is that the president is shirking his responsibility by picking and choosing the laws he will “faithfully execute,” the answer necessarily must be “yes.”

Obviously, the federal government even as large as it is could not possibly enforce every single federal law. Assuming for a moment the federal government could enforce every single federal law and regulation, as people who claim to value personal liberty above all else, is this something that would in any way be compatible with liberty?

I think not.

When the federal code is so full of laws and regulations, it’s the same as having no Rule of Law at all. The president necessarily must decide which laws to enforce and which to ignore or at the very least prioritize how he will execute the law. As immigration laws go, it seems to me that deporting individuals who were educated here, not criminals, and pay taxes should be a much lower priority to be deported or jailed than someone who as an adult illegally immigrated, stole someone’s identity, and committed a host of other crimes.

Beyond the sheer volume of laws and regulations, I do think there are instances when the president should NOT enforce the law if he, in good faith, believes the law violates the constitution and/or is unjust. Who among us today would argue that when the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was in force that a president who refused to enforce such a law was acting like a king because he was usurping the “will of the people”? I would also point out that when the Fugitive Slave Act was the law of the land, it wasn’t at all unconstitutional even though most sane Americans today, regardless of political affiliation and/or philosophy would say the law was immoral. If the constitution itself violates Natural Law (i.e. does not recognize the rights of life, liberty, and property for all human beings), then it too should be nullified in those instances.

Nullification presents problems of its own, however. I recognize that nullification of laws passed by congress presents a possible constitutional crisis. We certainly do not want an all-powerful executive branch that can ignore the congress and the courts, so what is the solution?

The solution, however politically difficult it would be, would be to repeal the vast majority of the federal criminal code and much of the remaining 27,000 pages of statutes. The most sensible place to begin would be with the federal criminal code. Most criminal law should be dealt with at the state level anyway. I haven’t checked recently but I’m pretty sure that rape, murder, burglary, assault/battery, and fraud are crimes in all 50 states and in all U.S. territories.

Additionally, even those who believe the war on (some) drugs is good public policy, most states would most likely (unfortunately) continue locking up non-violent drug offenders without Washington’s help. The country we love would not descend into chaos if criminal law was dealt with almost entirely by the states. If we cannot trust the states to handle protecting individuals inside their borders, what is the point of even having states?

If the federal criminal code only dealt with crimes such as counterfeiting, treason, enacting legitimate interstate commerce regulations (to keep the trade among the several states “regular,” not what the interstate commerce clause has become thanks to SCOTUS), and yes, immigration policy, the president could and should conceivably enforce all the federal laws that are neither unconstitutional nor immoral. The president would no longer have the discretion to enforce the laws he favors and not enforce the ones he does not.

Quote of the Day: Killing vs. Squealing Edition

Judge Andrew Napolitano wrote an excellent article in yesterday’s Washington Post entitled: Killing vs. Squealing. The judge laments that the Republicans in the congress aren’t so much concerned about the fact that President Obama is acting as a third-world warlord thug killing individuals he picks out from a deck of “baseball cards” in Yemen, Pakistan, and elsewhere (foreigners and Americans alike) but the fact that someone, somewhere in the government has leaked this information to the press and the American public. Sen. John McCain and others apparently believe the Obama administration has leaked these facts to the press to show how effectively he is killing the “terrorists” abroad to preempt any attacks from the Romney campaign that Obama is somehow weak on “national security.”

Just about every paragraph in the judge’s article is quotable (seriously, read the whole thing) but I believe he summed up just where the “loyal opposition” is with regard to the president’s arguably impeachable activities best here:

Which is ultimately more harmful to freedom: that the president on his own kills, maims and destroys, or that some people in our own government who have greater fidelity to the Constitution than loyalty to an out-of-control presidency – and who are protected by law when they reveal government crimes – tell us what the president is up to? What kind of politicians complain about truthful revelations of unconstitutional behavior by the government, but not about death and destruction, and, let’s face it, criminal abuse of power by the president? Only cynical, power-hungry politicians who have disdain for the Constitution they have sworn to uphold could do this with a straight face.

[…]

How base our culture has become when the hunt for truth-tellers is more compelling than the cessation of unlawful government killing.

Yeah, the funny thing is, just four years ago when Bush was president, our culture (i.e. the MSM, Hollywood, academia, the anti-war movement, etc.) was very concerned about government secrecy, civil liberties violations, torture, secret prisons, getting out of Iraq & Afghanistan, etc. but now that their guy is in the Whitehouse, these very valid concerns seemingly have fallen by the wayside. If people in the opposition party doesn’t call the president out on this, don’t think for a moment that the president’s allies will. Something tells me that in the event Romney wins in November, all of these concerns will suddenly be back in vogue but not until then.

Doublespeak Definition of the Day: Combatant

I touched on this on yesterday’s post but I think the Obama administration’s redefinition of the word “combatant” as it relates to his secret kill list deserves more exposure. The following comes from a New York Times article written by Jo Becker and Scott Shane entitled: Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will. (The part I’m quoting from appears on this page)

[emphasis mine]

Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good.[…]

[…]

This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the “single digits” — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.

Brilliant! If the statistics show that the drone attacks are killing too many civilians, redefine the term “combatant” and the number of civilians killed will show up in the single digits. George Orwell would be proud.

Related:
Are You or Someone You Know a Victim of the Drone Mentality?
Quote of the Day: Americans Cheer the Assassination of the Fifth Amendment Edition
Obama: Judge, Jury, and Executioner in Chief

The Birther Distraction Only Benefits Obama

There it is again. That damned conspiracy theory about Barack Obama being born not in Hawaii but Kenya. An honest question for you birthers out there: even assuming that everything you believe about the birthplace of Barack Obama is true, do you really think that even if you could prove it 100% that people who would otherwise support him/undecided would choose not to or would be declared ineligible to serve as president by some court, perhaps SCOTUS?

IMO the answers to those questions are no and probably not. If the voters are not concerned enough to vote him out (or even call for his impeachment) based on his other, much more damaging assaults on the Constitution, I seriously doubt these same people are going to be upset about Obama’s audacity to be born to an American mother outside the country. As far as violating his oath to defend the Constitution goes, this would be quite a minor assault.

So if the birther issue doesn’t benefit Obama’s opponents, who would it benefit? President Obama and the Democrat Party. The Obama campaign has already released an ad critical of Mitt Romney and his ties to Donald Trump (below).

This is precisely the kind of issue President Obama wants to be a part of this campaign. If the media and the people are talking about the birther question, they are not talking about his failed economic policies, his continued assaults on free market capitalism, ObamaCare, signing extensions to the Patriot Act, signing the NDAA, Fast and Furious, his drug war hypocrisy, his foreign policy befitting that of a warlord, his very Orwellian change in the definition of the term “civilian” to make his statistics for killings of innocent people in foreign lands not look so bad to the casual news consumer, and etc. In other words, Obama’s record as president!

I hear people complain that Obama wasn’t properly vetted in 2008 (and to a certain extent I agree). The media didn’t concentrate enough on the birth certificate, his time hanging out with Marxists in college, his unwillingness to release his college transcripts, his association with Jeremiah Wright. Some of these things are reasonable questions but are distractions to the issues of the greatest importance.

It may be true that we don’t know a whole lot about Obama’s biography or what made him the person he is relative to past presidents but we have had four years to evaluate his job performance as president. In the final analysis, isn’t that all that really matters?

Open Thread: If I Wanted America to Fail…

FreeMarketAmerica.org has released a great video (above) called “If I Wanted America to Fail.” It’s a pretty decent list of policies one would want to implement to cause America to fail but it’s far from complete.

Here are a few suggestions of my own:

If I wanted America to fail, I would want congress to abdicate its war powers and give those powers to the president so he could commit acts of war against any country he desires for any or no reason at all.

If I wanted America to fail, I would want these undeclared wars to be open-ended with no discernable war aim. This would lead to blowback and create more enemies for America.

If I wanted America to fail, I would have troops deployed around the world to make sure the world is “safe for democracy” but would topple regimes, even those elected by the people of these countries, if the president found the new leaders not to his liking. This would create even more enemies who would try to cause America to fail.

If I wanted America to fail, I would do away with due process – even for American citizens who the president considers “enemy combatants.” I would want the president to have the ability to detain these people indefinitely, ship them to a foreign country, and even give the president the authority to kill these people anywhere in the world they are found.

If I wanted America to fail, I would have the ATF sell arms to Mexican drug cartels so they could kill innocent people on both sides of the border. I would name this operation after a lame action movie franchise and pretend to know nothing about it when details were made public (It’s not like the media would have any interest in investigating this deadly policy because this is a Democrat administration).

Now it’s your turn. What are the policies being implemented now that you would want implemented if your goal was to make America fail?

Walking Dead Economics

My wife and kids got me hooked on a series some of you may have heard of called The Walking Dead (and like the rest of the Walking Dead fans out there, I have to wait until October for the next season to begin as the characters have been left in quite a precarious situation) For those who haven’t heard of this series, basically Atlanta, GA (and as far as we know, the rest of the world) has been taken over by zombies (called “walkers” by most people who inhabit this world). While the series does have many of the elements of the zombie genre, the story and the characters in the story are quite a bit more complex.The story isn’t so much about the walkers as it is about the characters who not only have to survive this zombie apocalypse, but also manage to survive the other survivors and live with very limited resources.

One thing that becomes very clear at the beginning of this series is that many of the societal rules quickly go out the window when under constant threat of flesh eating walkers. Paper money is of no practical use (other than to start a fire perhaps). Debit cards and credit cards are even less valuable as there is no way to access your worthless money.

One other thing I noticed is that gold isn’t even a commodity that is of much use in this world.

It so happens that I have been reading Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover as my wife and I are trying to apply his system to get our financial house in order (I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to get out of debt). In the book I ran across the following passage in which Ramsey explains why he does not believe gold is a good investment, even as a hedge against a total economic collapse:

It is important to remember that gold is not used when economies fail. History shows that when an economy completely collapses, the first thing that appears is a black-market barter system in which people trade items for other items or services. In a primitive culture, items of utility often become the medium of exchange, and the same is temporarily true in a failed economy. A skill, a pair of blue jeans, or a tank of gas becomes very valuable, but not gold coins or nuggets. Usually a new government rises from the ashes, and new paper money or coinage is established. Gold will, at best, play a minor role, and the gold investor will be left with the sick feeling that real estate, canned soup, or knowledge would have been a better hedge against a failing economy. – The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey (Thomas Nelson, 2003, 2007) p. 55.

I don’t know that I fully agree with Ramsey here though I’m by no means an expert on the history of gold or monetary policy. It seems to me that as a new civilization emerges from economic collapse, gold (and other commodities) would play a much greater role before people would accept any new fiat money. He seems to have a legitimate point, however; with regard to a collapsing or fully collapsed economy.

This is certainly the case in The Walking Dead. The resources most necessary to survive in this world are water, food, shelter, firearms, ammunition, medicine, fuel, spare parts, etc. Without these items, you aren’t going to survive for very long. Under these circumstances, who would trade a shotgun and ammunition for a bar of gold? I sure wouldn’t. I might trade a shotgun, assuming I already have enough firearms to hold the flesh eaters at bay, for some food and water. Better yet, I might offer to provide security for a few nights in exchange for food, water, and a temporary place to stay. This arrangement would continue as long as both parties agree.

In the course of the series, these are the kinds of arrangements that are worked out. Security is a major concern because, despite apparent efforts by the federal government to impose martial law, the government failed* and the law of the jungle is now in full effect. Many resources such as firearms, water, auto parts, food, fuel, etc. are scavenged from those who were either killed or simply abandoned their property (finders’ keepers).

Earlier in this season, the main characters find themselves at a dead end on the interstate as thousands of abandoned cars litter the road. Though on one hand this is very bad news, on the other, it’s an opportunity to scavenge whatever resources were left behind. At another point, a couple of the survivors make their way into an abandoned small town where they hit the jackpot in finding an abandoned pharmacy with a decent supply of prescription drugs. At the very end of this last season, the camera pans out to a prison near where the remaining surviving characters are camped out. What, if anything, can these refugees benefit from the prison? (I’m very interested to see where the story goes from here with the prison).

“What about silver bullets, do they have any value?” you ask. Silver bullets are needed to kill ware wolves, not walkers. Ware wolves? Seriously, ware wolves? Now that would be ridiculous.

*Or did it? Perhaps all the “important” people have been relocated to a secret and secure location while the citizens are left to fend for themselves.

Jon Stewart as a Voice of Sanity on Iran

The war drums for war with Iran on behalf of Israel are getting louder by the day. I wouldn’t have ever imagined that after experiencing the failure to find WMD in Iraq following the invasion along with the tremendous sacrifices of blood and treasure we would be having an almost identical conversation concerning Iran years later. I thought that as a country we learned the hard lessons about the folly of preemptive war.

Apparently, I was wrong.

The prospects of a nuclear Iran has been an issue I’ve been intending on writing about. What does it mean for the security of the world if Iran gets the bomb? Is war with Iran even avoidable given all the heated rhetoric on all sides?

Now enter a voice of reason: comedian Jon Stewart. One thing that Stewart points out in the first clip is that this is an election year, not only for the U.S. but also Israel and Iran! Could it be that the rhetoric is so over the top because politicians in all three countries want to talk tough to curry favor with voters?

In the second clip, Stewart plays even more rhetoric from the 2012 campaign. The leading G.O.P. candidates would have us believe that President Obama has said and done nothing whatsoever to help Israel stop Iran from getting the bomb. As Stewart demonstrates here, Obama’s rhetoric doesn’t differ that much from the G.O.P. field (sans Ron Paul, of course). President Obama’s rhetoric is much more hawkish than I am comfortable with to be sure.

While Stewart’s comic relief on this issue is very much needed, hopefully he gets his very serious message across.

SCOTUS: Police Placing GPS Tracking Device on a Vehicle Without Warrant Violates the Fourth Amendment [or Does it?]

How about some good news on the civil liberties front to kick off the week for a change? Robert Barnes writing for The Washington Post reports that SCOTUS ruled 9-0 in United States v. Jones stating that the police placing a GPS tracking device on a person’s vehicle and tracking said vehicle over days, weeks, or months without a warrant violates the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable searches.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that police must obtain a search warrant before using a GPS device to track criminal suspects. But the justices left for another day larger questions about how technology has altered a person’s expectation of privacy.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the government needed a valid warrant before attaching a GPS device to the Jeep used by D.C. drug kingpin Antoine Jones, who was convicted in part because police tracked his movements on public roads for 28 days.

“We hold that the government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a ‘search’ ” under the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, Scalia wrote.

[…]

Alito’s point was that it was the lengthy GPS surveillance of Jones itself that violated the Fourth Amendment and that “the use of longer term GPS monitoring in investigations of most offenses impinges on expectations of privacy.”

“For such offenses,” he wrote, “society’s expectation has been that law enforcement agents and others would not — and indeed, in the main, simply could not — secretly monitor and catalogue every single movement of an individual’s car for a very long period.”

The only disagreement among the Justices was whether or not the decision went far enough to protect individuals in a 21st century world based on a 18th century law (i.e. the Fourth Amendment).

Hey, even a blind squirrel can find a nut once in awhile and in even rarer cases, 9 Supreme Court Justices.

***Correction/Further Analysis***
If you followed the link to The Washington Post article, you might notice that the parts I quoted don’t match up exactly. This is because the article has since been edited with a more complete explanation of what United States v. Jones really means. It appears that I put entirely too much trust into what was being reported in the media here and elsewhere (and I still haven’t gotten around to reading the opinion for myself).

Doug Mataconis (who is a lawyer; I am not) was the first to point out that the coverage of this ruling isn’t quite as good from a civil liberties perspective as the media would have us believe:

I think all you can really say is that, under circumstances of this case, the Court found that the use of the tracking device without a warrant was impermissible. As the majority opinion notes, however, the Government attempted to raise in their arguments to the Supreme Court the theory that the search was supported by reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause to believe that Jones was the leader of a drug gang. Under such a theory, the use of the tracking device would have theoretically been justified even without a warrant.

You can read a more detailed analysis from Doug here Outside the Beltway.

Doug also pointed me to this article by Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy post entitled “What Jones Does Not Hold”

It seems that I wasn’t the only one mislead about the true impact of this ruling. Even Radley Balko at The Agitator had to make some corrections to his post regarding this case and made reference to the same post by Kerr as well as an even more discouraging analysis from Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSblog.

Romney Would Have Signed the NDAA; Trusts that President Obama “Would not abuse this Power”

In last night’s debate, Gov. Mitt Romney said something quite incredible when asked if he would have signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

Yes I would have [signed the NDAA] and I do believe it’s appropriate to have the capacity to detain people who are threats to this country who are members of Al Qaeda. Look you have every right in this country to protest and to express your views on a wide range of issues but you don’t have a right to join a group that is challenged America and has threatened killing Americans, has killed Americans and has declared war against America. That’s treason. And in this country we have a right to take those people and put them in jail.

And I recognize in a setting where there are enemy combatants and some of them on our own soil that could possibly be abused. There are a lot of things that I think this president does wrong – lots of them. But I don’t think he’s going to abuse this power and I know that if I were president I would not abuse this power. And I could also tell you in my view, you have to choose people who have sufficient character not to abuse the power of the presidency and to make sure that we do not violate the Constitutional principles.

But let me tell you, people who join Al Qaeda are not entitled to the rights of due process under our normal legal code. They are entitled instead to be treated as enemy combatants.

There are so many problems with Gov. Romney’s answer but let’s start with the issue of treason. The Constitution actually deals with the issue of treason (one of the few crimes mentioned in the document) in Article III, Section 3:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Where in this section does it say anything about jailing alleged traitors without due process? From my reading of this, the bar for proving treason is quite high but at a very minimum requires a trial (as opposed to the president’s declaration someone is a traitor or “enemy combatant”).

Perhaps the bigger issue is Romney’s throwing out any notion of the rule of law and replacing it with the rule of men. We are supposed to trust the president, even the very president who he says has done “lots of things” wrong. The onus is on us to make sure the “right” person is elected so that this power isn’t ever abused and does not violate Constitutional principles rather than constrain him with the rule of law (i.e. the Constitution).

I’ve got some bad news for you Gov. Romney. I don’t believe you have “sufficient character not to abuse the power of the presidency.” Your very acknowledgement that you would have signed the NDAA proves that you cannot be trusted to defend the Constitution as your oath would require.

Related:
National Defense Authorization Act Passes Complete With Indefinite Detention Provisions
The Late David Nolan’s Indefinite Detention of U.S. Citizens Fears One Step Closer to Being Realized

Rick Santorum is Not as Pro-Family as He Would Have Us Believe

If someone were to pose the question: “Among the candidates running for president, who would you say describes himself as the most ‘pro-family’?”

I suspect that most people would say Rick Santorum and for good reason. To Santorum, the decline of the traditional, nuclear family is the root cause for every problem facing America right now. Even (perhaps especially) individual rights take a back seat to his family values.

While I obviously disagree with this view, I don’t think there is any question that children have a better chance of becoming productive, successful adults when they grow up in a healthy and loving family environment than those who do not. Whether such an environment requires both a father and mother is subject to debate (and maybe a topic for another time).

With the premise that Rick Santorum is the great defender of the family in mind, a member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) asked the former senator a very good question as he was wading through the crowd shaking hands:

“As a champion of family values and keeping America strong, would you continue to destroy families by sending nonviolent drug offenders to prison?”

To which Santorum responds:

“Uh…wow…the federal government doesn’t do that.”

Jacob Sullum’s response is right on:

“That will come as a surprise to the nearly 100,000 drug offenders in federal prison, who account for almost half of all inmates. (Another 400,000 or so are in state prisons and local jails.) Does Santorum think only violent drug offenders go to federal prison? There is no such requirement.”

Perhaps Santorum should take a moment to visit someone from Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) and find out if tougher federal drug laws are destroying families.

This is a perfect opening for the Ron Paul campaign to point this out to his rival who is obviously clueless on this issue. Between Rick Santorum’s continued support for the war on (some) drugs and his eagerness to start up a war* with Iran we cannot afford, I think it’s time to question his pro-family bona fides.

Related: Reforming America’s Prison System: The Time Has Come

» Read more

GRANDMA GOT INDEFINITELY DETAINED (A VERY TSA CHRISTMAS)

Lyrics:

Grandma got indefinitely detained now
coming home to visit Christmas Eve
You could say she had a right to counsel
but some folks in the Congress disagree

she was flying home to our house
when she got checked by TSA
thought she might be Abdulmutallab
when they looked at her X-ray

Her hair had recently been colored
she paid cash for her Christmas gifts
two things apparently the Congress
says just might make you a terrorist

Grandma got indefinitely detained now
coming home to visit Christmas Eve
you could claim there’s no right to due process
but check the 5th amendment and you’ll see

they say they need to have these powers
to help protect this free country
but if it takes these steps to do so
what is it we are protecting?

Now she’s an enemy combatant
as if that makes any sense
the only thing that she’s combating
is her unpredictable incontinence

Grandma got indefinitely detained now
trying to come visit Christmas Eve
they took her rights in order to…protect rights..
the most genius plan ever in history

Grandma got indefinitely detained now
never made it home on Christmas day
she always wanted to live in Miami
at least now she’s 90 miles away

Quote of the Day: Isolationism Edition

Jacob Sullum @ Reason writes:

Reporters routinely describe Ron Paul’s foreign policy views as “isolationist” because he opposes the promiscuous use of military force. This is like calling him a recluse because he tries to avoid fistfights.

The implicit assumption that violence is the only way to interact with the world reflects the oddly circumscribed nature of foreign policy debates in mainstream American politics. It shows why Paul’s perspective is desperately needed in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Quote of the Day: Bill of Rights 220th Anniversary Edition

December 15, 2011 marks the 220th anniversary of the Bill of Rights – at least what is left of them. Anthony Gregory’s article at The Huffington Post runs through the list of violations of these precious rights from the Adams administration’s Alien and Sedition acts all the way to the present day violations of the Bush/Obama years via the war on terror. I encourage everyone to read the whole article and reflect on what these rights mean to you on this Bill of Rights Day. If you read nothing else from the article, at least read Gregory’s conclusion:

Clearly, we fall far short from having Bill of Rights that we adhere to and that was designed for our future posterity over 220 years ago. In the end, it is public opinion that most restrains political power — not words on paper, not judges, not politicians’ promises. A population that is not decidedly and passionately against violations of their liberties will see their rights stripped away. If we want to have a Bill of Rights Day worth celebrating, we must demand that officials at all levels respect our freedoms — and not let the government get away with abusing them.

Gregory is right: preserving the Bill of Rights ultimately rests with all of us.

Quote Of The Day

Julian Sanchez on security theater:

Security theater, then, isn’t only—or even primarily—about making us feel safer. It’s about making us feel we wouldn’t be safe without it. The more we submit to intrusive monitoring, the more convinced we become that the intrusions are an absolute necessity. To think otherwise is to face the demeaning possibility that we have been stripped, probed, and made to jump through hoops all this time for no good reason at all. The longer we pay the costs—in time, privacy, and dignity no less than tax dollars—the more convinced we become that we must be buying something worth the price.

If we don’t need pornoscanners, it makes each traveler bad about surrendering their dignity and freedom to go through pornoscanners. Therefore, we must need pornoscanners. QED.

National Defense Authorization Act Passes Complete With Indefinite Detention Provisions

Despite some valiant efforts of a handful of senators, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 passed by an astonishing 93-7 vote. Earlier today, Sen. Dianne Feinstein offered yet another amendment to the bill that would have limited the military’s jurisdiction to detain suspects captured outside the U.S.; the amendment failed by a narrower 55-45 margin.

In the first video below, Mark Kirk (R-IL) in his floor speech explains how Sections 1031 and 1032 violate the principles of the Bill of Rights by reading the applicable amendments. Sen. Kirk makes some geography based distinctions in determining whether U.S. citizens have due process rights (which I disagree with; geography should not matter) but otherwise does a great job of explaining to his fellow senators why keeping these sections in the bill is a terrible mistake.

Though he voted against the offending sections of the bill, Sen. Kirk ultimately voted with the majority in supporting the overall legislation.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on the other hand supported neither. Paul’s floor speech is equally compelling and perhaps even more chilling than that of Kirk’s. Could you find yourself an innocent victim of this bill? Do you have any missing fingers? Do you have more than a seven day supply of food? How many firearms do you own and if so what kind of ammunition do you use? Depending on your answers to these questions, it’s possible that you could find yourself detained, perhaps at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, indefinitely with very little legal recourse according to Sen. Paul.

Related Posts:

The Late David Nolan’s Indefinite Detention of U.S. Citizens Fears One Step Closer to Being Realized

Are You or Someone You Know a Victim of the Drone Mentality?

Nolan Exposes McCain’s Antipathy for Civil Liberties in Arizona Senate Debate

Quote of the Day: Americans Cheer the Assassination of the Fifth Amendment Edition

Obama: Judge, Jury, and Executioner in Chief

The Late David Nolan’s Indefinite Detention of U.S. Citizens Fears One Step Closer to Being Realized

Back in the 2010 mid-term election, Libertarian Party co-founder David Nolan ran as a Libertarian against Sen. John McCain for his seat in the U.S. Senate. Sadly, McCain easily won the election and Nolan died several weeks after the election and just two days before his 67th birthday.

During his debate with Sen. McCain, Nolan warned voters of what he called a “dangerous, evil, un-American” bill which McCain co-sponsored called S. 3081, the “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.” This bill would authorize indefinite detention of American citizens without trial. Nolan was so outraged by this bill he said that this was one reason he decided to run against Sen. McCain.

Sen. McCain brushed off Nolan’s comments saying that Nolan “may be a little bit biased.”

Fast forward just over a year later, Sen. McCain has sponsored another piece of legislation hidden in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 that is very similar. One of the more concerning aspects of the bill is Section 1031:

SEC. 1031. AFFIRMATION OF AUTHORITY OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES TO DETAIN COVERED PERSONS PURSUANT TO THE AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE.

(a) In General- Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war.

(b) Covered Persons- A covered person under this section is any person as follows:
(1) A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks.
(2) A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.
(c) Disposition Under Law of War- The disposition of a person under the law of war as described in subsection (a) may include the following:
(1) Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
(2) Trial under chapter 47A of title 10, United States Code (as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2009 (title XVIII of Public Law 111-84)).
(3) Transfer for trial by an alternative court or competent tribunal having lawful jurisdiction.
(4) Transfer to the custody or control of the person’s country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity.
(d) Construction- Nothing in this section is intended to limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
(e) Requirement for Briefings of Congress- The Secretary of Defense shall regularly brief Congress regarding the application of the authority described in this section, including the organizations, entities, and individuals considered to be `covered persons’ for purposes of subsection (b)(2).

The next section, Section 1032 adds some confusing language as to whether American citizens can truly be held indefinitely:

SEC. 1032. REQUIREMENT FOR MILITARY CUSTODY.

(a) Custody Pending Disposition Under Law of War-
(1) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in paragraph (4), the Armed Forces of the United States shall hold a person described in paragraph (2) who is captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) in military custody pending disposition under the law of war.
(2) COVERED PERSONS- The requirement in paragraph (1) shall apply to any person whose detention is authorized under section 1031 who is determined–
(A) to be a member of, or part of, al-Qaeda or an associated force that acts in coordination with or pursuant to the direction of al-Qaeda; and
(B) to have participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its coalition partners.
(3) DISPOSITION UNDER LAW OF WAR- For purposes of this subsection, the disposition of a person under the law of war has the meaning given in section 1031(c), except that no transfer otherwise described in paragraph (4) of that section shall be made unless consistent with the requirements of section 1033.
(4) WAIVER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY- The Secretary of Defense may, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, waive the requirement of paragraph (1) if the Secretary submits to Congress a certification in writing that such a waiver is in the national security interests of the United States.
(b) Applicability to United States Citizens and Lawful Resident Aliens-
(1) UNITED STATES CITIZENS- The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.
(2) LAWFUL RESIDENT ALIENS- The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to a lawful resident alien of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.

Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel of the ACLU points out that the language contained in Section 1032 only applies to Section 1032. To put it another way, according to Section 1031 U.S. citizens can be detained indefinitely and even sent to another country without the normal civil liberties protections guaranteed in the Fifth, Sixth, and possibly Eighth Amendments.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced Amendment No. 1107 to the bill that would have mitigated much of the civil liberties concerns found in 1031 but it was soundly defeated by a 61-37 vote. Only two Republicans, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Rand Paul of Kentucky voted in favor of the Udall amendment.

Now the vote for the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 is set for today, December 1, 2011. There isn’t much time left to stop this horribly unconstitutional bill from being passed.

This being said, President Obama has threatened to veto the bill if these sections are still in place when it hits his desk. I’m not quite sure how the president can say on one hand he can send drones to kill American citizens while on the other say he opposes indefinite detention of American citizens but a veto would be the correct response regardless.

President Obama might well veto this bill but I have no confidence that any of the Republican challengers would veto similar legislation in the future save Gary Johnson (who is sadly very much a long shot at this point), Ron Paul, or perhaps Jon Huntsman.

We can now see that David Nolan’s concerns he expressed in the 2010 debate were well founded after all.

Ron Paul CNN National Security Debate Highlights and Observations

For those of us who value our liberties, there were a plethora of things said in last night’s debate from candidates not named Ron Paul to be very distressed about. For starters, there was the debate about the USA PATRIOT Act and whether it should be renewed, strengthened, or abolished. Unsurprisingly, Paul explained how civil liberties have eroded due to the act and lamented how willing the other candidates were to surrender even more liberty in the name of security. Paul held up Timothy McVeigh as an example of a terrorist who was tried in the traditional criminal justice system and ultimately convicted. In response, Newt Gingrich said “Timothy McVeigh succeeded.” (How he would have stopped the OKC bombings is anyone’s guess but I can’t imagine it would have been inside the framework of the Bill of Rights.) Paul’s response was spot on.

Then Rick Santorum advocated the notion of racial, religious, and ethnic profiling. Paul once again brought up Timothy McVeigh as an example of someone who would not have fit Santorum’s profile and pointed out some of the “careless use of words” being used by the other candidates (i.e. “we are at war,” naming individuals “terrorists” without due process etc.) is further compromising our liberty.

Other topics included Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the foregone conclusion that the U.S. should intervene anywhere and everywhere there is a regime our government doesn’t like, the assumption that not a single penny should be cut from the “national defense” budget, and the drug war violence in Mexico (I really wish someone would have brought up Fast and Furious).

Overall, the debate was very unsettling but Ron Paul once again was the voice of reason and responded well to his challengers.

Are You or Someone You Know a Victim of the Drone Mentality?

Are you or someone you know a victim of what Glenn Greenwald calls “the drone mentality”?

[Emphasis original]

I was predictably deluged with responses justifying Obama’s drone attacks on the ground that they are necessary to kill The Terrorists. Reading the responses, I could clearly discern the mentality driving them: I have never heard of 99% of the people my government kills with drones, nor have I ever seen any evidence about them, but I am sure they are Terrorists. That is the drone mentality in both senses of the word; it’s that combination of pure ignorance and blind faith in government authorities that you will inevitably hear from anyone defending President Obama’s militarism.

If you are or have been a victim of this mentality don’t feel bad. I was once a victim of this mentality myself. I once believed that the government was completely incompetent domestically but somehow very efficient in its execution of the so-called war on terror.

The article continues [Emphasis original]

As it turns out, it isn’t only the President’s drone-cheering supporters who have no idea who is being killed by the program they support; neither does the CIA itself. […] Obama’s broad standards for when drone strikes are permitted, and noted that the “bulk” of the drone attacks — the bulk of them – “target groups of men believed to be militants associated with terrorist groups, but whose identities aren’t always known.” As Spencer Ackerman put it: “The CIA is now killing people without knowing who they are, on suspicion of association with terrorist groups”; moreover, the administration refuses to describe what it even means by being “associated” with a Terrorist group (indeed, it steadfastly refuses to tell citizens anything about the legal principles governing its covert drone wars).

Kill ‘em all, let [insert deity here] sort ‘em out…is this the policy for combating terrorism now? Is anyone else reading this disturbed by this?

[T]he internal dissent [inside the U.S. government] is grounded in the concern that these drone attacks undermine U.S. objectives by increasing anti-American sentiment in the region (there’s that primitive, inscrutable Muslim culture rearing its head again: they strangely seem to get very angry when foreign governments send sky robots over their countries and blow up their neighbors, teenagers and children)[…] Remember, though: we have to kill The Muslim Terrorists because they have no regard for human life.

Nah, that can’t be it. They hate us because of our freedom. Just ask John Bolton, Rick Santorum, and the rest of the Neocons who are chomping at the bit to start a war with Iran.

How is it that this drone mentality persists and what is the cure?

This is why it’s so imperative to do everything possible to shine a light on the victims of President Obama’s aggression in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere: ignoring the victims, rendering them invisible, is a crucial prerequisite to sustaining propaganda and maintaining support for this militarism (that’s the same reason John Brennan lied — yet again — by assuring Americans that there are no innocent victims of drone attacks). Many people want to hear nothing about these victims — like Tariq — because they don’t want to accept that the leader for whom they cheer and the drone attacks they support are regularly ending the lives of large numbers of innocent people, including children. They believe the fairy tale that the U.S. is only killing Terrorists and “militants” because they want to believe it…

For far too long, I believed this fairy tale myself. I couldn’t handle the truth but I eventually saw the error of my thinking. Government is just as blunt an instrument on foreign battlefields as it is in virtually every domestic aspect of our lives but even more destructive and deadly.

How about you, can you handle the truth?

The truth (according to sources cited in the article) that between 2,359 and 2,959 people (nearly 200 of whom were children) have been killed in 306 documented drone strikes, 85% of which were launched during the administration of the Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama?

If you are willing to confront the drone mentality head on, I would strongly encourage you to read the rest of Greenwald’s article.

The Challenge of Creating an Economically Sound, Simpler, and More Just Tax Code (Part 3 of 3)

Part 1
Part 2

The challenge of creating an economically sound, simpler, and more just tax code, be it the existing code, 9-9-9, a flat tax, or a sales tax will remain an impossibility if tax revenues is the only focus of any reform. The problem that dwarfs any notion of how tax policy is implemented is how the money is spent by the government.

As I write this, the national debt is approaching $15 trillion. That’s $47,810 per citizen or $132,927 per tax payer.

Even more staggering, the sum total unfunded liabilities for Social Security and Medicare is just over $116 trillion. The prescription drug part of Medicare is over $20 trillion by itself!

Other than the Federal Reserve creating money out of thin air, what tax policy can possibly begin to support this kind of spending? It seems stupid to even pose the question.

Yet the only answer the Obama administration seems to have to pay down the debt or turn the economy around is to raise taxes on the wealthy and continue the reckless spending. The Republicans for their part offer modest tax cuts and modest spending cuts that will have no noticeable impact on the debt.

It’s high time that we as citizens tell our public servants that the out of control spending has to stop. We must demand serious structural reforms to entitlement programs or phase them out over time.

We must also recognize the difference between military spending and true national defense spending. We can no longer afford to police the world. It’s time to tell Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, Japan, and others that they are now responsible for their own national defense and domestic security.

That’s just a start; there’s a great deal more spending that should be cut. But before any significant cuts can be made, we need to decide just how much government we want in our lives and what we are each willing to pay. For those who believe that individuals who make under a certain income level should be spared from paying any taxes at all (i.e. too small to tax) maybe it is you who should be out front in demanding a whole lot less government.

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