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.

Elected Angels

Whenever we see President Obama appear on TV and express his support for democracy and a prosperous nation, most of us would probably believe that he earnestly means the words that come out of his mouth, that he completely supports popular government.

When we watch old speeches of Josef Stalin promising his people freedom and prosperity, on the other hand, we immediately identify his statements as a farce, an empty attempt at fooling the populus into believing that he is not the hideous tyrant that he is.

Such is the conventional view that the sons and daughters of most Western nations are brought up on; children are taught from a young age that Presidents are good and dictators are bad. When we grow older, we often retain the tendency to be more skeptical of the leaders of more authoritarian nations, and are likely to afford a greater amount of trust to people like Clinton or Obama than to people like Mussolini or Milosevic.

However, does the democratic process of election unequivocally separate those who intend to rule with an iron fist from those who intend to rule by the people? I think not.

Take a look at the following articles; one’s on Putin, and one’s on Obama.

http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/World/Story/A1Story20120714-359072.html

http://news.antiwar.com/2012/07/13/obama-order-gives-power-to-seize-control-of-all-communications-systems/

In the red corner, we have Vladimir Putin, who has written into law a provision declaring NGOs like Human Rights Watch or the World Wildlife Fund as “enemy agents” (what kind of weapons do human rights advocates carry?), and re-criminalized the slander of state officials. Putin is generally deemed as reprehensible in the US; he’s had a history of using loopholes in the law to increase his power, seized control of media outlets to weaken the influence of opposing candidates, and held executive dominance over Russia even when Dmitri Medvedev, his faithful subordinate, held the office of President. Scary, isn’t he?

In the blue ring, we have Barack Obama, who has claimed that he has the authority to take control of the Internet, phone lines, or any other communications systems in the event of an “emergency”. Disliked by some but lauded by many, Obama’s had a history of attempting to write the laws by himself (he attempted to make ACTA into a law without putting it to a Congressional vote), signing laws that would give him the authority to arrest anyone at any time (and then trying to undermine the authority of judges who declare those laws unconstitutional), and launching drone strikes that end up killing civilians.

Is the President truly that much more moral than Putin?

Don’t make the assumption that I equate Obama with Putin; Obama has a greater degree of respect for human life and welfare, however, he has very little respect for the limits of his own power. He has pushed for draconian legislation that would, if not for the intervention of judiciaries (and sometimes Congress), give him power that would make the Founding Fathers vomit.

As such, we shouldn’t put any executive governmental figure –democratically elected or not– beyond strict scrutiny of his/her fundamental attitude towards government. The corrupt heads of the Russian political system, like the wrongdoers of the Bush and Obama administrations, are all people, and as human beings in power are capable of (and prone to) committing heinous crimes, we must never turn our backs upon people, lest we be consumed by an ever-expanding sphere of governmental authority.

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)

Superman-In-Chief

“He’ll use his superpowers to win in Iraq, then kung-fu chop the Taliban! Our image in the world he’ll mend, he’ll make the Jews and Arabs friends, he’s Barack Obama, he’s come to save the day!” -JibJab

Although clearly a work of satire, the song lyrics above are a reflection of what our society wants and expects of the President of the United States. Since Theodore Roosevelt took office in 1901, most of our Presidents have cheated Congress, defied the Courts, overused his veto power, and made a mountain of unrealistic promises to garner public faith in their ability to make America truly great. Lyndon B. Johnson promised healthcare for all in his Great Society program, FDR believed that tightening the government’s hold over the economy would get us out of the Great Depression (which is a well-publicized myth), and Obama promised to lower healthcare prices by eliminating competition and raising taxes. In short, every President pledges to defecate rainbows and turn the USA into heaven on Earth.

However, the problem with promises made by Presidents is not that they are unrealistic and often ludicrous, nor is it that the people believe that the President can single-handedly solve great moral or economic crises. The issue is that most people want the President to be able to do these kinds of things, and will cheer him on as he tears up the checks and balances of our republican system to attain that power. And as historical hindsight will tell you, any government big enough to give you anything you want is capable of taking away everything you have. Hitler and Stalin are the most obvious examples of governmental destruction of its own people, but an American flag pin is no safeguard from corruption. Just look at how humanely some of our most beloved Presidents have used their power: FDR interned 110,000 immigrants and loyal Japanese-descended citizens, Abraham Lincoln arrested tens of thousands of dissenters and “suspected” criminals. The 4th Amendment’s requirement of probable cause should have stopped both Lincoln and FDR right in their tracks (the courts did declare Lincoln’s arrests to be unconstitutional, but after he died), but they didn’t, because people trusted the President to make the best decisions for the nation and never suspected that the gun might be turned on them. Constitutional checks and balances are the only safeguard from tyranny; don’t assume you’re safe just because the government tends to kill Islamists and people from nations being invaded.

With that established, it becomes clear that more is less in terms of Presidential power. Most adults are capable of handling their own lives without a nanny state changing their diapers; it is the people who create vigorous economies and have the rightful authority to decide what substances go into their own bodies. The government’s only rightful authority is to prevent the people from materially and physically infringing upon others’  lives, liberties, and property, and the President, as an employee of the people, is bound to the duty of enforcing the law. I do not want some elected savior who is pre-ordained by some deity to save the nation, I want Presidents like Calvin Coolidge, William Howard Taft, and George Washington, who abided by the law and sought to achieve only what the Constitution allowed them to. This nation was built by people, not Chief Executives, and the people, not the government, are the key to its future success.

Screw the Constitution, I am the Decider

“The Constitution means whatever we want it to.”

This sums up, in 7 words, the “living Constitution” method of Constitution “interpretation” that many judges so dearly believe in. A few weeks ago, judges Stephen Reinhardt, Michael Hawkins, and N. Randy Smith took this to heart as they declared Proposition 8, the anti-gay-marriage law in California, to be a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

Let’s set a few things straight:

1) Law is not politics. This seems simple enough, but to both the casual observer and most judges, in fact, the distinction is somehow subtle. When considering whether or not a law conflicts with another law or Constitutional Amendment, the only thing to be considered is what the law says, not what it ought to say.

2) The job of a judge, in terms of judicial review, is to interpret the law, not rewrite it. It is a perversion of the rule of  law to declare/consider a law “unconstitutional” simply because you dislike its political implications.

3) The Constitution means what it says, just like any other law. A law means nothing if it is not interpreted based on the original intent of the Congress that ratified it. The opinion held among judges that it should be interpreted “to meet the needs of the current society” is not only a violation of the separation of powers (“the needs of current society” are subjective, this is basically rewriting the Constitution), but also undemocratic (since when are un-elected judges better determinants of our needs than our elected representatives?)

4) Politically, I disagree with Prop 8. I don’t think it should have passed in the California state legislature.

With that in mind…

Proposition 8 is Constitutional. The Congress that ratified the 14th Amendment would have never meant it to mean anything about gay marriage. Ever. Frankly, homosexual relationships back then were illegal. We may look at the 14th and say “Well, it says ‘equal protection for all’, literally”.

Let’s get one more thing straight: The meaning of any sentence, any word, is not vested in the meaning of the word. The literal connotations of words, sentences, or Constitutional Amendments change over time. Thomas Jefferson saw no conflict in saying that “All men are created equal” while owning slaves. Similarly, the words “equal protection under the law” didn’t have the same connotations back then as they do today. The 14th gave all citizens the rights vested in the Constitution, but not equal protection under every law. If they had actually meant “equal protection”, it would have given women the right to vote, but judging by the 52-year gap between the 14th and women’s suffrage, I don’t think they meant what we think when we say “equal protection”.

If you’re looking for a law that codifies equal protection, that would be the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, Prop 8 doesn’t conflict with that statute either. All it does is prevent any individual from marrying someone of the same sex, gay or straight. There’s no “unequal protection” involved.

However, why am I talking about this?

It’s not because I want to stop gay marriage or anything, it’s because I want to preserve the Constitution. If judges can rule that the Constitution means whatever they want it to, then soon enough, nothing in the Constitution will mean anything. That includes freedom of speech, the right to a fair trial, protection from torture, the whole kit-and-caboodle.

Judges do not dictate natural law. If you want to wage war on Prop. 8, do it in the ballots, that is the way it is properly done in a free and democratic society.