PATRIOT Act

Republicans are killing me

As we role merrily right along into November, I, along with the rest of the libertarian crowd, am watching the Republican Party blissfully make the same tired mistakes yet again. Watching what appears to be unsynchronized cat herding under penalty of broken knee caps can be entertaining, but at this point, I’m really close to pulling out a speech worthy of a spot in Pulp Fiction on Samuel Jackson’s cue cards.

On saying “we have to remove Obama” out of fear and we can only support whoever the eventual GOP Nominee is: I’ve already written about this subject in The Strategy of Hating One. In the current cycle, it’s President Obama, but the previous installment was Bill Clinton and little blue dress. You can point to a general belief that the President is a Marxist or Socialist without too much opposition. You can make the point that the closest description of our country is Fascism. But I have to challenge you to point out the differences between the last Republican President or the alternative of McCain, and this Democrat President. We have stayed in Iraq until they are kicking us out, we have escalated Afghanistan, Libya, kept Gitmo open. Leaving the main differences that the increase in spending has been larger than say a McCain might have done, and Obamacare has been pushed through. And frankly, Obamacare could very well be named McCain-Care given the same congressional make-up.

The Real Tragedies of 9/11

As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches this Sunday, I cannot help but feel it will be a commemoration of not one, not two, but at least three different tragedies that have befallen the American people. The first is the obvious tragedy of the attacks themselves, which took thousands of lives in an act of barbarism and insanity. The second tragedy is what happened to the American consciousness afterwards. And the third is what our children understand about it.

I read earlier this week about a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The results were disquieting, to say the least. Some of the highlights:

  • 71% of Americans favor surveillance cameras in public
  • 47% support the government reading emails outside the US without a warrant
  • 30% support the government monitoring emails within the country
  • 58% support random searches involving full-body scans or patdowns at airports
  • 35% support racial or ethnic profiling at airports
  • 55% support the government snooping into financial transactions without a warrant
  • 47% support a national ID card to show to authorities on demand (a “Show-Me” Card, if you ever watched Fringe)
  • 64% believe it is “Sometimes necessary to sacrifice some rights and freedoms” in order to fight the war on terror
  • 53% think you can’t be too careful dealing with people (which is a slight improvement from 2002, I suppose, which was 58%, but…)
  • 54% would, between counterterrorism and civil liberties, come down on the side of civil liberties

Like I said, disquieting. All but the last should be far lower; the last should be far higher. Only 54% would go for civil liberties? That means 46% would put counterterrorism operations above what it actually means to be an American?

Should libertarians join the NRA?

Someone recently sent an email asking for a post on whether folks should join the NRA.  Jason, probably knowing how much of a gun guy I am, asked me if I was interested in expressing my thoughts.  Being the shy, unassuming person who never shares his opinions with a living soul…oh wait, that’s not me at all.  Of course I jumped at it.

The National Rifle Association is a group I’ve been pretty critical of for some time.  Their compromises gave us background checks for firearm purchases, among other things.  Over the years, they have tried to compromise rather than digging in their heals for our Second Amendment rights, so there’s plenty to be critical of.  However, that was the past.  What about the now?

To me, all the questions about the NRA can be summed up with their argument against Senator Rand Paul’s proposed amendment that would restrict law enforcement’s ability to look at firearm purchase records.  While the NRA was correct that district attorney’s could get grand juries to subpena the records in question, what was missed is that the grand jury is a form of judicial oversight.

Instead, the NRA pretend that law enforcement being able to demand access to records is preferable to a panel of American citizens deciding if there is probably cause to access those records.  Anyone purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer has to fill out this paperwork, and the NRA’s position turns this paperwork into a de facto form of registration.

Way to go NRA.  No suggestions on how to tweak it to make it more acceptable, just cover for allegedly pro-gun members of Congress to vote against the amendment in question without being labeled as anti-gun.

Why Rand Paul’s Recent “Loss” Was an Epic Win

During Rand Paul’s campaign to become Senator from Kentucky, he held a few positions that gave some of his father’s supporters pause. Specifically, his disagreement with Ron over the issue of criminal trials versus military tribunals was a point of contention making it difficult for some to back his candidacy without trepidation. Rand thought we should keep the tribunals while Ron was vehemently opposed to any trial that didn’t give the accused the best protection of his rights.

After this past week, It probably isn’t far fetched to say that any trepidation one may have had about Rand Paul’s commitment to the principles of freedom has vanished.

Paul managed to single-handedly take control of the Senate chambers in a heroic attempt to move the Senate to consider and debate the Patriot Act - something shockingly absent since it’s first passage. In fact, in 2001, when the Patriot Act was first introduced, a single Senator read the bill before casting a vote. The vote cast was a resounding “NO” by Russ Feingold, coincidentally, the only vote recorded in opposition to the bill.

Rand’s efforts were unsuccessful if you deem passage of the Act’s extension the sole measure of success. However, Rand did far more than capture the imagination and attention of the country for a suspenseful 36 hours, 7 of which were spent on the Senate floor.

Was it all worth it?

As every last soul has surely heard by now, Osama bin Laden is dead.  Finally located and taken out by American special forces, the death of bin Laden marks a significant moment for America.  The occasion was marked by numerous celebrations and expressions of profound relief and satisfaction, coupled with a harsh brushing of the wounds left by 9/11.  Whether it helps Obama’s political fortunes is yet to be seen, but it surely has raised Americans’ spirits.

But one question still remains in the minds of many - were the sacrifices we have made up to this point worth it?  Over the past nine years Americans have had their privacy invaded, their values called into question, and their coffers tapped to fund two wars expensive in both treasure and blood.  We’ve certainly engaged in some ugly practices in our anger over what bin Laden did to us on that fall day in 2001.  Your average citizen may never know the true extent of the things done in the name of fighting terrorism.

It’s clear to me then that we have paid an immense price for this victory, one that is hard to justify in retrospect.  It’s hard to look at the way our lives have profoundly changed and not say that, despite the fact that his life ended at the point of an American rifle, Osama bin Laden will go down as a victor.  His actions have altered the American landscape permanently and have led us to do things that we ought be ashamed of.

USA Using Patriot Act Against Its Own Citizens

See Video

In August of 2007, several Ron Paul supporters attended a straw poll in Tuscaloosa, AL.  One of the supporters carried a home-made sign that said, “Got Habeas Corpus?”.  An older gentleman there questioned me about the sign, wanting to know why she was carrying it.  As I began to explain the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act, he became increasingly angry and beligerant, claiming that those acts were only to be used for military combatants, and that we believed in “aiding and abetting the enemy” if we didn’t agree with those acts.  He refused to even listen to the fact that the acts were not limited as he believed and that US citizens were just as vulnerable.

Well, I hate to say, “I told you so”, but if he was here, I’d say, “I told you so.”

Problems of the Republican Party

The current Grand Old Party is in despair and acknowledging some need for change. Since the end of the Reagan Administration it has slowly become the “Grumpy Old-White-Man’s Party” with little appeal to individuals outside of its traditional coalition, and even within that coalition there is little enthusiasm. So, most acknowledge there are problems; But what are they? How can they be fixed? These are the questions party insiders and loyalists are already attempting to answer.

What are the Problems?

While the mistakes made by George Bush’s Republican Party are so numerous one could probably never compile a completely conclusive book on the matter, most can be traced to fundamental root causes that desperately need to be identified and purged- below are a few of the broad policy mistakes committed by the Party.

Georgia: Chambliss v. Martin

Over the past 48 hours, I’ve been wrestling with myself over which way to go in the runoff for the Georgia Senate race. In case you don’t know. The Libertarian Party candidate, Allen Buckley, was the difference in the race. He may make an endorsement in the race, but it’s unclear which way he’ll go.

Essentially, this is a runoff between two big government candidates. One has consistently lied about his record while claiming to be a small government conservative. The other is a progressive who has a decent stance on civil liberties issues.

Today in Liberty: Remembering D-Day, 4 million uninsured Americans will pay Obamacare tax

“Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.”Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, June 6, 1944

— Remembering D-Day: Seventy years ago today, Allied forces led by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower stormed the beaches of Normandy, beginning Operation Overlord, a two-plus month campaign to drive the Nazis out of France. As many as 5,000 Allied soldiers were killed on D-Day, including 2,000 Americans. You can check out more D-Day photos herehere, and here. And if you’re a history buff, you may want to watch The World Wars. It’s the cliff notes version and leaves a lot out, but it’s worth seeing.

NSA exploiting loophole to search for Americans’ communications

When President Barack Obama stood before the media to defend NSA’s surveillance programs in June, his words reassured Americans that federal agents were not listening to their calls and that the content of their emails was not being read. He stated that the only thing that the agency was actually doing was to look at the duration of calls and specific phone numbers.

By suggesting that the NSA was not capable of examining the contents of emails and calls, President Obama misled the population, or at least that’s what a letter written by the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has confirmed.

According to the letter sent to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the NSA used legal authority to obtain data and search for Americans’ details within the agency’s database. According to Clapper, the queries into details pertaining to US persons that were used to obtain further information on non-US persons were carried out lawfully. All procedures were reportedly consistent with what FISA court had already approved.

According to Clapper’s letter, looking for specific data on foreigners by performing searches that made contents of emails and phone records of US persons accessible is also consistent with the fourth amendment.

Section 702 of the FISA Amendment Act covers most of the bulk collection of records carried out by the NSA. According to Clapper’s interpretation of the Section 702, agents can collect data pertaining to phone or email of US persons without an individual warrant. This procedure takes place when agents have reasons to belief foreign persons are holding the communications as well.


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