Thursday, May 26, 2011

Keeping Us Fearful

 **Update 3- May 27, 2011- Obama officially signed and extended the PATRIOT Act early this morning.  It is now apparent to all that the Obama and Bush foreign policy are one. 

 **Update 2- May 26, 2011- Today it was announced that both the house and senate passed the three provision PATRIOT Act extension.  All that stands in the way of the zero accountability 4 year extension is Obama's signature.  While Obama campaigned vehemently against the PATRIOT Act, he now stands behind it and is likely to sign it in the early morning on May 27, 2011.

The Associated Press credited Rand Paul and his vocal dissent of the extension with prolonging the Act's passage to the deadline (Source). 

 **Update 1- May 26, 2011- I want to apologize for failing to mention the three provisions set to expire at midnight tonight.  These three provisions are among the most flagrant in the misnamed PATRIOT Act.

First, roving wiretaps that allow broad electronic surveillance from the FBI on any phone line or communications device. Second, the ability to access business, medical or virtually all other records of any suspect, regardless of the relationship to terrorism.  Because of the clause "regardless of the relationship to terrorism," anyone's records can be accessed for any reason.  Three, the “lone wolf” provision to allow surveillance of people with no ties to a terrorist group.  This last provision essentially gives laws unrestricted power in terms of surveillance (Source).

This will be a relatively short post.  A brief article from titled "Why There's No Need to Renew the PATRIOT Act" lit the fire that's burning inside me tonight.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is quoted saying,
 "We cannot let this Patriot Act expire. I have a personal responsibility to try to get this bill done as soon as possible...The time has come for me to take some action."
Another statement from the Hill echos Reid pleading,
"The expiration of the law before the passage of an extension would create an upheaval in the law enforcement community, which relies on its authority to track suspected terrorists."
 Have you noticed how dramatic politicians are?   Whenever the powers that be don't wish to procure an honest debate about something, they hype the consequences of not passing the measure immediately. 

We needed TARP or the economy would fail. Raise the debt ceiling now, or the consequences will be catastrophic.  Now, the intelligence community will be greatly impeded if we do not immediately pass the PATRIOT Act for the next 4 years. 

Remember, ten years ago the PATRIOT Act was a controversial and "temporary" piece of legislation constructed in the wake of 9/11?  Its astounding how casually it can be renewed today.  Reid is speaking of the PATRIOT Act as though its business as usual, just one more item on the docket.  

Its disheartening how in 10 short years the 4th Amendment can be eroded so effortlessly.  Its simple, its called the PATRIOT Act, and they say we need it or else...(fill in the blank). 

Does anyone else feel a pair of hands sliding the wool down over your eyes?  Can I make a suggestion?  Don't relinquish one more damn freedom because you've been frightened into it.  Fear is a powerful motivator, and our government plays on our fears far too often.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Little Piece of Humanity

 **Update 2-The death toll in Missouri has now risen to 122 people, a number that is sure to rise.  Over 1,500 people are still unaccounted for.  In the 2011 tornado season, 480 people have already died.  Firefighters and volunteers continue to sift through the rubble in hopes of rescuing anyone who may still be alive (Source).  

 **Update 1-The Missouri Governor released an updated number for those killed in the devastating tornado that swept across Southwestern Missouri.  A record setting 117 people lost their lives in the massive E5 tornado.  The tornado was half a mile wide and carried 200+ mile per hour winds.

Deviation.  Deviation is what I'm doing today.  Its been over three weeks since my last blog and nothing in the headlines has inspired me to write.  Although there have been numerous interesting stories ranging from the president's lack of congressional consultation on Libya to the proposal for pre 1967 Israeli borders.  Furthermore, with the 2012 election just over a year off,  there have been numerous updates concerning potential Republican presidential candidates.

However, going through the motions of the last few weeks, none of that seemed interesting.  None of it seemed ground breaking.  Nothing struck or inspired me as something that needed to be dissected and broadcast.  News just felt like white noise and hub bub for things that simply didn't seem to matter.

Don't misunderstand me. Economics, politics, and peace treaties are certainly worth writing about.  My attitude spoke more of my outlook/mood than anything else.  Then some news filled my twitter feed that twisted my stomach a little.

At least 89 people dead with many more injured, 2,000 buildings damaged, and highways/roads were closed due to tornado damage.  According to the Associated Press, more than 68 tornadoes were reported across the Midwest on May 22, 2011 (source).  However, by far, the worst of the damage occurred in Southwestern Missouri.  A tornado half a mile wide and traveling 6 miles plowed directly through Joplin Missouri. 

Joplin, a town of 50,000 people saw a third of the city damaged or destroyed.  Buildings in the path of the tornado included a Home Depot hardware store and the local Hospital.  The Hospital was housing approximately 2,000 patients at the time.

Being a big picture libertarian, I often focus on national politics and maneuver around the more emotive stories.  So, you may be wondering why I bring up the tornado story when there are tragedies befalling people every single day. 

Especially for big picture realists like myself, it is important to take a little extra time with the stories that move you.  You know, the stories that remind you that you are human.  The stories that evoke empathy and grief.  For me, embracing the feelings evoked in even tragic events is an important part of balance.

If I could impart one thing to my friends whom also enjoy political op-eds, cling to to that which brings out your humanity.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The War On...

 Beginning this blog I wanted to discuss the war on drugs and the digressive viewpoint concerning their legalization.  However, as I began writing, it seemed prudent to broaden the discussion out and discuss the "presidential wars" first.  I will save the "War on Drugs" for another time. 

Can you count how many times you've heard "The War on..." throughout your lifetime?  Regardless of what generation you come from, you've likely heard those words often.  The War on poverty, drugs, tyranny, and terrorism.  One fact is certain, our leadership is not shy about declaring war. 

You see, declaring a war on something initiates multiple things. First and foremost, the word "war" immediately elevates the circumstance to a crisis level.  Presidents will declare a war on something because the term "war" suggests a situation is pressing or urgent.  It is a situation that demands every one's immediate attention.  Often these wars become a distraction for the media, for you, and for me. 

Second, because the situation is a "Crisis" requiring immediate action, all funds necessary for carrying out the "war" must be allocated.  "Emergency" circumstances alleviate the pressure for balanced spending.  Therefore, presidents have been able to spend on these wars without concern for the sources of these funds.  Presidents declaring war on something applies a high level of political pressure on congress to fund the war as being "essential." 

Third, declaring war quickly erodes liberties and enhances executive power.  As someone who has worked closely with law enforcement, I know that red tape is frustrating.  Imagine being as powerful as the President of the United States is, and you are bound by the Constitution.  As the president, Article II of the constitution has some formidable restrictions for you. 

Declaring war on something seems to make a great many of those restrictions go away.  Also, people are willing to give up numerous freedoms during war time.  Many of you have probably noticed that war has been perpetual since World War II.  When the United States has not been engaged in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Libya or the multitudes of other countries U.S. forces are now in, we've always had domestic wars raging. 

Of course the War on Terror is the most recent and one of the most obvious forms of unending expansion in executive power.  Prohibition and the war on drugs began decades earlier and has cost countless lives, dollars, and of course time.  Important issues like border control, fiscal balance, and preservation of liberty for future generations have all been brushed aside. 

We are allowing ourselves to be distracted by the next "War on...(fill in the blank)", while our country is in deep need of major reforms/repairs.  The presidents I respect the most are the ones reluctant to use the words crisis or war. 

Is Libya really a crisis for the U.S.?  Alcohol was once a "crisis" in the states., is marijuana?  Can the government adequately fight a war on poverty?  Is Afghanistan more a national defense interest than the violence erupting along the Mexican border? 

My thoughts are, be cautious when you hear a politician declare war on something.  Because of constituents, there are many pertinent issues that politicians are unwilling to face.  Don't become too distracted by "their" wars.  For the politician, fighting wars are much easier and have far fewer political repercussions than attempting to manage things like entitlement reform.  However, the costs of these wars to us are staggering.  Costing more than dollars, these wars also cost us liberty. 

As always, I would love to hear from you.  Feel free to comment and thanks for reading!