Danger, Danger!

It seems that the battle for liberty will never end. Even our most basic liberties, such as the rights to a fair trial, free speech, free religion, and a free press, enshrined in the US Constitution by our forward-thinking founders who feared that later generations may try to impose the yoke of tyranny on our Republic, are constantly, ceaselessly under siege. Don’t be fooled; this attack on the people does not spring solely from the outside, from freedom-hating communists and Islamists, but also from within our own ranks.

At the present moment, it is clear that many of our elected officials were lying through their teeth when they “solemnly swore” to uphold the Constitution of the United States, among which pack of tyrants is our own President! Yes, if you’ll remember from a few scattered news stories back in December, Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the Year 2012, containing language authorizing the indefinite definition of American citizens without cause or trial. Sure, he claimed to have “serious reservations” about the aforementioned arrest powers, but those turned out to be false after he vigorously defended the law in court.

Back in June, I didn’t find it necessary to talk at length about NDAA or explain why our right not to be randomly seized for any reason whatsoever is absolutely sacred (it’s the difference between peace and Soviet Union-era forced labor camps), as New York District Court Judge Katharine Forrest ruled the disputed sections of the Act unconstitutional, but now, the Lil’ Stalin Act is back in play. You heard me right; Obama and his attack hounds lawyers have appealed Forrest’s decision, and for at least the next 10 days, before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals makes its own ruling on NDAA, the injunction prohibiting the enforcement of the law has been suspended.

Would this be a good time to panic? Probably not. The military’s right to indefinite detention of US citizens (and legal resident immigrants, for that matter) is so blatantly unconstitutional that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals will more than likely agree with the honorable Judge Forrest. Even if the appeals court’s ruling should fail; the “Freedom 7” journalists will bring NDAA to the Supreme Court, where it will be unlikely that Obama will win given the current Court’s disposition on the right to trial (it has ruled in favor of it 3 times since 2003).

There is obviously something to fear in the current state of our habeas corpus rights; most obviously the possibility (however small) that the case against NDAA will end in a loss for our republic and its Constitution, but also the danger that draconian laws in this vein will keep coming regardless of the courts’ desire to uphold our rights.

Consider that NDAA 2012 saw a near-unanimous approval in the Senate (92-8), a huge margin of victory in the House (283-136), and was met with relatively little concern by the people. This is disconcerting. We live in an age still populated with repressive dictators (i.e. Kim Jong-Un, Vladimir Putin), and yet the people of the United States are eager to forget that the “American Freedom” that we pride ourselves on is built not by good will, not by the smiles on campaigning politicians’ faces, but by laws which narrowly restrict the authority of government officials.

Without a vigorously enforced Constitution, we might as well end up under the thumb of Big Brother, constantly in fear of being executed, jailed, or simply removed from the public. This isn’t what we need to turn to, we still live in a democratically elected system, and we as citizens have the power to take action and stop the USA from turning into the USSA. Contact your Congressman/woman. Get informed about your rights. Don’t vote for politicians who want to take away our rights, and get the word out to others so that they will do the same. Remember, if it takes 100 keys to open a door, every key counts, so no individual standing up for his/her rights is “wasting time” or “unnecessary” for the movement to succeed.

Election 2012: Choosing the lesser of two evils

Political campaign ads have become all the more common on the Internet in light of the upcoming Presidential election this November. Up until now, I had paid little attention to them, as I consider Romney to be the more favorable candidate (he is less friendly to Big Government than Obama is), but now, for those interested in preserving liberty, the presidential and congressional elections must be carefully balanced in order to prevent some dastardly legislative plans that each party has in store.

Obamacare on the left, cyber-tyranny on the right

The Democrats’ “Affordable Care Act” is a ticking time bomb waiting to  make costs and prices skyrocket with its mandate that all Americans purchase health insurance, and since we can’t rely on the Supreme Court to actually uphold the Constitution, it will take a repeal by a Republican Congress to prevent the ACA from being implemented.

If Romney is elected this November, a slight majority of Republicans in both houses of Congress will probably be enough to send Obamacare packing, but if Obama wins the election, however, anything less than a 2/3 Republican majority in both houses of Congress will not be able to stop the ACA before it is implemented.

Unfortunately, such a significant majority of Republicans in Congress, with or without a President of the same party, is not particularly appealing. The Republican Party has been more supportive of the draconian stream of cyber-“security” legislation which threatens to give the government unprecedented access to our data and unreasonable authority to deliver felony sentences for minor copyright infractions, and with the right number of legislators, it could turn such dangerous measures into law.

To be fair, Republicans aren’t the only ones supporting measures that would essentially destroy our freedom on the Internet, and since SOPA and PIPA were never put to a vote, we can’t assume that the majority of Republicans in Congress inexorably supported them, but as the opponents of CISPA (a bill that, while less potent than SOPA, is nonetheless undesirable) in the House of Representatives were predominantly on the left side of the aisle, it would be safe to guess that the Democratic Party is more likely to guard the Internet than the GOP.

The dilemma

No matter how the elections turn out this November, both CISPA-esque measures and Obamacare could end up going through. No action, in any area of life, produces an inevitable result, and thus, it behooves us to balance the possible consequences of any electoral outcome.

It seems to me that a very thin Republican majority (perhaps 52-48) in both houses of Congress, as well as a Romney Presidency, will result in a likely repeal of Obamacare without a likely pass of CISPA, as it will allow both parties to counteract one another’s dangerous ambitions. The liberty that lies at the foundation of the US Constitution was produced by compromises that prevented groups of people from exercising their whim when it grew inimical to the public, and that is the way we must progress in the future in order to prevent the death of the freedoms we hold dear.

2012: Four cheers for liberty

The year 2012 isn’t even halfway over, and already, among all of the civilian-killing drone strikes abroad and bills in Congress intended to gang-rape the Constitution, there have been at least a few people who have decided to bite back, and in doing so, have made great strides in defending the freedom of the people. They have blocked free-speech-stifling cybersecurity measures, punched the teeth out of gluttonous public unions, and told the legislative and executive branches to sit down, shut up, and read the Constitution. They are:

The people of the Internet

Since November 16, 2011 when news of two putative cybersecurity bills called SOPA and PIPA, bills that would permit the government to take down entire websites for single instances of copyright law violations, leaked out, the Internet took action. Senator Ron Wyden (D – OR) vigorously campaigned against the bill both on-and-offline, the owners of prominent websites such as Google, Yahoo, and Wikipedia countered the support of companies like Netflix for the bill with anti-SOPA campaigns, and millions of Internet users all across America protested and called their Congressmen until both bills were taken off the discussion table.

It was heartening to see the American people joining together in defense of their freedom, and although the “cybersecurity” advocates in Congress will continue their onslaught against Internet freedom with bills like CISPA, the Internet will continue to fight against them.

The Supreme Court

In 2004, the FBI tracked a man named Antoine Jones for 4 weeks via a GPS device planted under his car under suspicion that he was committing narcotics violations. The government obtained no warrant for the search, in clear violation of the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement for such searches, and when Jones was arrested, he moved to suppress the evidence obtained under that search as pursuant to his Fourth Amendment rights.

Jones’s case went to the Supreme Court, and on January 23, 2012, the court unanimously ruled against the warrantless search of private vehicles. The government has, in past years, been trying to get its slippery hands around the 4th Amendment’s warrant requirement for searches, and with the US v. Jones ruling, combined with the earlier rulings of Bond v. United States (2000) and Kyllo v. United States (2001), it seems that this Supreme Court is very much in favor of protecting the 4th Amendment.

Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) and the people of Wisconsin

Public sector unions are a menace to the American people. They spend exorbitant amounts of money on increasing the wages of their members without having them work for it (public union members have a 31% advantage in wages over non-union members), and they campaign to elect politicians who will increase their funding, since they work for the government (they spend upwards of $165 million on campaign funding). All of that money comes from the taxpayer, and since these workers are receiving raises for free, the taxpayer receives no benefit whatsoever.

However, when Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin attempted to remedy this situation by pushing a bill to strip public unions of their power to collectively bargain for more money, he was met by fierce opposition. The unions themselves, predictably, would not let their free money be taken away from them without a fight, and many ordinary voters took their side as well.

An election to recall Walker was held, but the unions lost out on this one. Governor Walker is there to stay in Wisconsin, and with public unions stripped of much of their power, public education will surely increase in quality there, as teachers will now have to actually teach better in order to get wages (those teachers must be fuming in their indignation). This may very well have a ripple effect in other states, and I can only hope that these money-burning unions will grow weaker and weaker as other states will take the same measures that Walker did.


Judge Katherine Forrest

On December 31, 2011, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for the year 2012 (NDAA), which contained a provision authorizing the indefinite military detention of any person, American citizen or not, who is suspected of being a terrorist. If you’re familiar with what happens when governments are given more and more unrestrained power (Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin are great examples), then you were probably scared of what havoc the government could wreak with this law in place.

Fortunately, NDAA was given a satisfying kick in the crotch by District Judge Katherine Forrest, who declared the indefinite detention clauses of the act to be unconstitutional under the 4th and 5th Amendments. By filing an injunction against the act, Forrest has nullified it, and when the Obama administration claimed that it will apply the ruling only to the kinds of journalists who started the case (the same Obama administration that claimed to oppose indefinite detention), Judge Forrest announced that the ruling applies broadly, to all American citizens.

Is the NDAA case over? Certainly not. The Obama administration will certainly cling to the opportunity for draconian powers as long as it can, so expect the NDAA case to end up in the Supreme Court soon (which, I’m sure, will uphold Forrest’s ruling), but this ruling was a great first step and a stellar defense of the 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution.

The forecast for liberty

The fight for liberty will likely always be a rocky one, and it will certainly be rocky this year, as governments tend to favor maximizing their own power, but liberty will always have allies so long as people like Wyden, Forrest, Walker, and the Supreme Court are there to support it. The only thing better than a number of committed freedom-fighters in government, however, is an informed public that is equally willing to defend the rights of the people. Any citizen is instrumental to protecting the rights of all the people, and as the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, our rights will be immeasurably safer if we have 313 million people watching.

(sources on public unions from the CATO Institute. Link: http://www.cato.org/pubs/tbb/tbb_61.pdf)

Ignorance is bliss…until they send you to Gitmo

“First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.” -Martin Niemöller

I’m going to go ahead and assume that most American adults aren’t very involved in or informed about politics, given that more of them can identify the Kardashians and whatever the hell they’re up to (I wouldn’t know) than our own vice President, Joe Biden. Scary, huh? What if I told you that the public knows more about The Simpsons than our own rights? More Americans can identify them than our 5 First Amendment rights, so tell me: How can you protect your freedoms if you aren’t even aware of them? 

“Oh, but the government would never attack my Fir-”

Not true. Take the recent case of Tarek Mehanna, who was convicted of “conspiring to kill U.S soldiers in Iraq” just 12 days ago. What were the charges brought against him? Discussing the morality of suicide bombings online and with his local Islamic community, translating texts from Jihadi websites from Arabic to English (we all know that translation means endorsing), and researching the 9/11 attacks. The ACLU’s attempts to dismiss the case on the basis of Tarek’s First Amendment rights were met with a sound rejection by a District Court. Whether the case will be appealed in the Supreme Court has not been determined yet, but that’s beside the point. You probably didn’t know about this until just now, neither do majority of people, whether they follow the news or not. Hell, I didn’t know about this until 20 minutes ago, so why am I blogging about this? It’s not simply because it’s an attack on freedom (those have happened and will continue to happen all across history), nor is it because there is a chance that the courts won’t serve justice in the end. It’s because mainstream society doesn’t realize the danger our freedoms are continually in, nor does it particularly care.

You could argue that big-time news stations such as FOX or MSNBC don’t pay enough attention to civil liberty-related events such as Snyder v. Phelps, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, or the passing of the NDAA bill (well, there is some concern for NDAA going around, but it’ll have to be handled by the courts at this point), but that’s only because what the news shows reflects what the people want to see. And what do the people want to see? Apart from whatever crawls out of Hollywood, the issues with the most attention given to them are all about the budget, debt, and jobs. Those are critical issues, but why are people paying more attention to Hollywood when Congress is trying to turn the President into a dictator? Especially in a democratic country, it is part of our duty as well as part of our power to monitor and defend our freedoms, because who else will? Our system of checks and balances was created to counterbalance the ambitions of elected officials, but when we, as a people, let down our guard and trust the government, don’t expect officials to be Mahatama Gandhi when it comes to unchecked power. The government may say they are only fighting terrorism today, but when checks and balances are replaced by trust and complacency, and liberty is sacrificed to preserve safety, nobody will run to your defense when the FBI comes to your doorstep and takes you away for crimes you never committed.