Bill of Rights

Obama marks Constitution Day by referring to our constitutional rights as “privileges”

Today, September 17, is Constitution Day. Spearheaded by the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), Congress passed a resolution in 2004 as rider to an omnibus spending bill setting aside this particular day to celebrate the ratification of the Constitution, the document that provides the framework of the federal government and the rights protected under the Bill of Rights.

The Constitution has experienced somewhat of a resurgence in the last several years, perhaps because of the polarization of political opinions in the United States as well as attempts by presidents from both parties attempts consume more power for the executive branch. The revelations about the National Security Agency, efforts to censor speech, expand gun control laws are just the tip of the iceberg of attempts to trample the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

In his presidential proclamation marking Constitution Day, President Barack Obama offered some insight into how he views the Bill of Rights. “Our Constitution reflects the values we cherish as a people and the ideals we strive for as a society,” Obama said in the release. “It secures the privileges we enjoy as citizens, but also demands participation, responsibility, and service to our country and to one another.”

Given that this White House is known for its expansive view of executive power, the fact that President Obama views these fundamental liberties to be “privileges” isn’t too terribly surprising. After all, President Obama treats the legislative branch — which is supposed to be a co-equal branch of the federal government — as an afterthought as it arbitrarily changes statues and even refuses to enforce laws.

End the idol worship: Ideas over men

Statue of Freedom

In the final minutes of the 2005 film, V for Vendetta, Peter Creedy, the head of the dystopian government’s secret police, fires several rounds into the Guy Fawkes-masked protagonist, V, fearing for his life.

“Why won’t you die?!” he shouts as his revolver reaches an empty chamber. “Beneath this mask there is more than flesh,” V says. “Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy. And ideas are bulletproof.”

While he got the attention of the repressed people of England and encouraged them to stand up against a cronyist government and the surveillance state, V was a faceless symbol of an idea — an idea he hoped would live on after he died.

Edward Snowden got Americans’ attention last June after he, through journalist Glenn Greenwald, blew the whistle on National Security Agency’s vast surveillance apparatus. The disclosures continued throughout the last year and will, reportedly, end with a grand finale in the coming days when Greenwald releases a list of names the controversial intelligence agency has targeted for spying.

Just last week, Snowden, who is living a seclusion in Russia, gave an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, the whistleblower’s first with a U.S.-based television network, in which, when asked, he said that he thought himself to be a patriot.

“Being a patriot means knowing when to protect your country, knowing when to protect your Constitution, knowing when to protect your countrymen from the violations and encroachments from adversaries,” Snowden told Williams. “And those adversaries don’t have to be foreign countries, they can be bad policies.”

Stand with Rand for the Bill of Rights: Defend our liberties or watch them slip away

Rand Paul
(Photo credit: CSPAN)

The nomination of David Barron to the First Circuit Court of Appeals is not about transparency, but rather the right to due process guaranteed in the Constitution, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) explained this morning.

“I rise today to oppose the nomination of anyone who would argue that the President has the power to kill American citizens not involved in combat,” said Paul in a 31-minute speech on the Senate floor. “I rise today to say that there is no legal precedent for killing American citizens not directly involved in combat and that any nominee who rubber stamps and grants such power to a President is not worthy of being placed one step away from the Supreme Court.”

The Obama administration has indicated that it will make public the controversial memo written by Barron that gave President Barack Obama the legal justification for the assassination of American citizens accused of terrorist ties, including those who are not involved in combat. Paul, however, explained that the issue the Senate must face isn’t transparency, but the substance of the memo.

“It isn’t about seeing the Barron memos. It is about what they say. I believe the Barron memos disrespect the Bill of Rights,” Paul explained. “The nomination before us, though, is about killing American citizens NOT engaged in combat,” The nominee, David Barron, has written a defense of drone executions of American citizens NOT directly involved in combat.”

BOOK REVIEW: The United States of Paranoia

 A Conspiracy Theory

Conspiracy theories are only believed by people on the fringe of American politics? Not so says Reason’s Jesse Walker in his latest book: The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory. Walker argues quite the opposite in his opening chapter: “The Paranoid Style is American Politics”:

By the time this book is over, I should hope it will be clear that when I say virtually everyone is capable of paranoid thinking, I really do mean virtually everyone, including you, me, and the founding fathers. As the sixties scare about the radical Right demonstrates, it is even possible to be paranoid about paranoids. (p. 24)

For those who are hoping that this is another book in which the author’s goal is to prove or disprove any particular conspiracy theory, Walker makes is clear that this is not what this book is about (for the most part). He also makes a point to acknowledge that some conspiracies have been proven true (ex: Watergate among these, see Chapter 7 for more examples), “At the very moment you are reading this, someone somewhere is probably trying to bribe a politician. The world is filled with plots both petty and grand…” (p.21).  Instead telling the reader what to believe, Walker tells a history about what people have believed on this continent from colonial times to now and how these beliefs have shaped the political debate and very the culture itself.

Ted Cruz picks a winner in Paul-Christie spat

After harsh words were exchanged between Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Gov. Christie, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said in an interview that not much has changed since Rand Paul’s historical filibuster: he still stands with Rand.

“I disagree with Chris Christie when he said that the protections of the Bill of Rights and the privacy of the American people are esoteric and academic,” Sen. Cruz told National Review Online. “I am proud to stand with my friend Rand, I don’t think the protections of the Bill of Rights, I don’t think individual liberty is an esoteric concept.”

According to the Texas Republican, Gov. Chris Christie has been doing a good job in a state that was never historically too friendly to Republicans but that alone doesn’t mean Cruz and Christie agree on much else.

When asked if he would be on Christie’s side if he decided to run in 2016, Sen. Cruz declined to answer by claiming it’s “far too early to be speculating on 2016 presidential candidates.”

Health insurance is a right? Nice try.

In President Obama’s weekly address delivered on Saturday, he regurgitated the many tired talking points about how smoothly the implementation of Obamacare is going, despite all evidence to the contrary. But the kicker came at the end when he made the claim, free of any previous argument or support, that “health insurance isn’t a privilege – it is your right.”

What?

Liberals have long argued that health care is a right, but as they continue to nudge language and policy in the progressive long war, this may be the first time they’ve claimed that health insurance itself as a right. But how can it be? Health insurance is a commercial product.

In a free market we certainly have the right to acquire commercial products, but do we have a right to them on a fundamental level? Did we have the right to health insurance before it was created in the mid-20th Century? What if once we eventually are subject to a single-payer universal healthcare program, health insurance no longer exists? Will we still have the right to it?

Public debate over NSA spying has only just begun

If you thought last week’s vote on the amendment offered by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) to defund the NSA was the end of the fight to restore privacy rights, think again.

Just a couple years ago, it seemed that the PATRIOT Act and other constitutionally questionable legislation were destined to pass each time they came up for renewal. There were some minor victories along the way, but news of the NSA’s broad surveillance program, through which the agency collects third-party records (including phone records and Internet metadata), sparked a welcome backlash from Americans and many members of Congress.

The result was a strong push by civil libertarians from both parties to preserve the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees the right to privacy, but not hamper the intelligence community from doing their jobs. Instead of blanket surveillance, however, Amash’s amendment would have simply required that data collection “pertain to a person who is the subject of an investigation.”

The vote on the Amash amendment was much closer that many civil libertarians thought it would be. Just two years ago, the PATRIOT Act, through which the NSA has claimed the power to broadly surveil Americans, was renewed by a 275-144 vote.

NSA Scandal Not about Republican vs. Democrat — It’s about Liberty vs. the State

Liberty and the NSA

It’s been a week since Glenn Greenwald broke the story on the National Security Agency’s broad surveillance of calls made on the Verizon network. There have been a lot of arguments made for and against this program over the last week, and the battlelines have been clearly drawn.

First, let’s recap. This sort of surveillance has been around for at least seven years, perhaps even longer. The difference between what was going on with the NSA under the Bush Administration and what is currently going in the Obama Administration is that the former didn’t bother with court orders or warrants to conduct this sort of blanket surveillance.

So when the apologists for the program say it’s “legal,” like Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) did yesterday, they’re referring to the the statutory authority granted via Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, a controversial provision of the law that allows intelligence agencies to obtain a court order to collect this information from businesses. More on this in a moment.

Using this section of the law, the NSA obtained authority from a secret court, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), to force Verizon to turn over the phone records of millions of customers, even if they are not suspected of terrorist activity.

Gun Control Advocates Hate Us for Our Freedoms

gun control

Let’s face it — the fight for stricter gun control measure is an assault on civil liberties, just the same as laws that infringe on Americans’ right to privacy or free speech. That’s something the Left won’t admit to, but the intent is clear.

The talking point is that expanded background checks and reinstatement of the Assault Weapons Ban, policies for which the White House and many Senate Democrats are pushing, is consistent with “reasonable regulation” of gun rights. But these measures are a step toward the long-held policy views of gun control advocates, and they will lie and fear-monger until they get their way.

Just last week during a visit to Mexico, President Barack Obama said that many of the guns that are being used by the drug cartels wreaking havoc in the country come from the United States.

“[We] recognize that most of the guns used to commit violence here in Mexico come from the United States,” said President Obama. “I think many of you know that in America, our Constitution guarantees our individual right to bear arms, and as President I swore an oath to uphold that right and I always will.”

“But at the same time, as I’ve said in the United States, I will continue to do everything in my power to pass common-sense reforms that keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people,” he continued. “That can save lives here in Mexico and back home in the United States. It’s the right thing to do. So we’ll keep increasing the pressure on gun traffickers who bring illegal guns into Mexico.  We’ll keep putting these criminals where they belong — behind bars.”

The Best Defense Against Terrorism

Terrorism

The specter of terrorism, especially on the American homeland is very frightening. These fears are especially acute in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack such as the bombing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday.

More recently and prior to this latest attack, however; according to a recent Gallup poll, terrorism received 0% when asked about America’s greatest problem. Sen. Mitch McConnell said in response to the mathon bombing: “I think it’s safe to say that, for many, the complacency that prevailed prior to September 11th has returned. And so we are newly reminded that serious threats to our way of life remain.

Is Sen. McConnell right? Have Americans become complacent to these “serious threats”? Are Americans to blame for failing to be vigilant? Should we demand the federal government “do something” more to protect us?


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