Sunday, May 28, 2006

Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush

Cross posted at the Liberty Zone and Just Citizens.

Gene Healy and Timothy Lynch of the Cato Institude examine the constitutional record of George W. Bush. The full text can be found here in .pdf format. Everyone who thinks Bush is upholding his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States needs to read this critical paper.

Because what Bush has done, according to Healy and Lynch, is to continuously seek to increase federal power and push the limits the Constitution places on governmental authority. After having examined the actions of the Bush administration for five years, Healy and Lynch conclude:

President Bush’s constitutional vision is, in short, sharply at odds with the text, history, and structure of our Constitution, which authorizes a government of limited powers.

The study shows that the President has consistently failed to protect the First Amendment right to free speech, free thought and free expression. He signed the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform travesty -- acknowledged it was unconstitutional, that it restricted free speech for individuals, but signed it anyway! This appalling limit on free speech the law makes it a felony for a nonprofit group like the National Rifle Association or the Sierra Club to broadcast an ad within 60 days of an election that criticizes an elected official by name.

Now do you understand why I call this act "The Incumbent Protection Act?" After all, if you can't criticize an incumbent candidate's paltry record on an issue right before an election without being prosecuted for it, you are giving an incumbent a huge edge in the election, especially given the American public's gnat-like attention span and willful apathy.

And we won't even go into those "free speech zones." I can understand the need to ensure the safety of our elected officials, but to put them purposefully out of the way -- behind busses, construction zones and far out of sight -- suggests more than just a desire to protect the President.

Bush and his administration have overstepped their boundaries and pushed the limits of executive power. Healy and Lynch claim Bush's view of executive power amounts to the view that, "in time of war, the president is the law, and no treaty, no statute, no coordinate branch of the U.S. government can stand in the president’s way when, by his lights, he is acting to preserve national security. That is apparent in a series of startling claims the administration has made in official documents and public papers, which include the following:"

• presidential power to ignore federal statutes governing treatment of enemy prisoners—as well as other federal laws that impinge on practices the president believes to be useful in fighting the war on terror;
• unilateral executive authority over questions of war and peace; and
• the power to designate American citizens “enemy combatants” and lock them up without charges for the duration of the war on terror—in other words, perhaps forever.

Apparently, those powers also include torture, imprisonment, eavesdropping, expanded arrest powers and unconstitutional and unreasonable search and seizure. All these police-state tactics are brought to you by the War on Terror and in the name of "national security."

There are other blatant constitutional violations listed in this paper, although Healy and Lynch do note a couple of bright spots in Bush's presidency:

Early on in the president’s first term, Attorney General John Ashcroft made clear that it was the Bush administration’s position that the Second Amendment guarantees a personal, individual right to bear arms. In two federal cases, the Bush administration argued in formal court papers that the "Second Amendment... protects the rights of individuals, including persons who are not members of any militia... to possess and bear their own firearms, subject to reasonable restrictions designed to prevent possession by unfit persons or... firearms that are particularly suited to criminal misuse." That was a significant, if symbolic, victory for those who believe that the Second Amendment means what it says, that “the right of the people” means an individual, personal right, just as it does in the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth Amendments. The president has also appointed a number of federal judges who appear to take constitutional limits seriously and may be expected to look skeptically at broad claims of legislative power. However, whether the same judges will look skeptically at broad claims of executive power remains very much in doubt.

All well and good. But frankly, without substantive action, this is all just talk. And Bush's blatant disrespect for the Bill of Rights, his promise to sign the "assault" weapons ban if its renewal was passed by Congress, support for taxpayer-funded trigger locks, support for bans on certain types of ammunition and age limits to gun ownership makes his former Attorney General's admission that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms sound pretty hollow.

Friday, May 26, 2006

You ever wonder why this nation is crumbling?

Here's one good reason: American Idol outvotes the president

A prematurely grey soul singer from Alabama who was once likened to a drunken dad at a wedding triumphed in the American Idol finale, which drew more votes than have ever been cast for a president in a US election.

That's right. Ever.

We have forgotten our roots. Our schools don't bother teaching our kids our history. They're too busy teaching them how to be sensitive to other people's feelings, instead of giving them the tools to become self-reliant, informed adults. They're too busy teaching to standardized tests demanded by politicians whose only goal is to gain power at the expense of those they represent.

The average American doesn't know who the Vice President is, and doesn't care. They don't understand the Constitution. They don't understand the fundamental principles on which this nation was built. They're too busy screeching for a new law every time things don't go their way. They're too busy being offended and demanding that the law protect their nonexistent right not to be. They're too busy relying on the government for everything from education to protecting their property to defining what is moral and what isn't, while patently ignoring the fact that those whom they elected, for the most part, wouldn't know morality if it bit them on the fourth point of contact.

Is it any wonder most Americans know more about a television cartoon than they do about the First Amendment? After all, government officials haven't a clue either.

We hear Americans bitch and moan about how dissatisfied they are with this Congress and with this administration. And yet, we have a 97 percent incumbency rate in this country! Every two years, the same uninformed, apathetic losers who vote the corrupt, the ignorant and the tyrannical into their offices in the first place and whine about the loss of our rights and the decline of our nation, go to the polls again and vote for the same people!

Is it time to just quit? I wonder.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Above the law?

I cross posted this at Just Citizens with a great followup blog from Brad and at Liberty Zone.

That's what our elected Representatives appear to believe themselves to be...

...Above the law.

As you may well have read here, Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana is the subject of a federal bribery investigation. The FBI raided Jefferson's Capitol Hill office a few nights ago and took documents pertaining to their investigation.

Jefferson was caught on tape accepting bribes. Hidden money was found in his freezer, and two staffers implicated him in wrongdoing. Nonetheless, instead of vocally condemning these alleged actions, Congressmen and women on both sides of the aisle are screaming that the FBI violated the Constitution by carrying out this raid!!!

That's right, readers. Worse yet... they're demanding the FBI return documents taken in the raid of Jefferson's office.

"The Justice Department must immediately return the papers it unconstitutionally seized," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement.

Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas -- while admitting that what Jefferson has allegedly done is reprehensible -- claimed on Fox News that... well... you know... Article 1, Section 5 and 6 of the Constitution "talks about privilege and some of the things it does place, you know, some privileges there. The procedure is important."

Article 1, Section 6 of the Constitution states, in part:

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

Hmmm. Would taking $100,000 in bribes as a public official be considered a felony? Just wondering.

Additionally, according to Judge Andrew Napolitano -- and I concur -- the paragraph was placed in there to prevent the President from interfering with a vote he didn't want to happen. It says NOTHING about members of Congress being above the law. Nothing.

Napolitano also added in a Fox News interview that the Constitution says that each House will be the judge of its own members, meaning it can sensor a member or kick a member out for violating ethics. "It does not say they're not subject to the criminal laws, and only the house to which they belong will address criminal activity. Congressman Jefferson is subject to the same laws we're all subject to."

Exactly. Members of Congress are rushing to the defense of their own, citing NOT laws, but historical precedent, as cause for their demand that the FBI return evidence they seized.

Is the procedure more important than the rule of law, Congressman Gohmert? Is historical procedure more important than justice? Than forcing a criminal to face the consequences of his actions? Apparently, Rep. Gohmert thinks so!

First, they tried screaming about the FBI's alleged violation of the "separation of powers" principle. Only one problem with that: when the Founders wanted to ensure a balance of power among the three branches of our government, they certainly NEVER intended to make members of Congress exempt from criminal prosecution.

Then, they tried to claim that the search, which followed an 89-page warrant to the letter, violated a provision in the Constitution that was meant to protect members of the legislative branch against strong-arming by the executive in order to influence a vote!

Neither excuse flies with this blog. Nor should it fly with any rational mind. Congress is not above the law. Article 1, Section 6 does not make them exempt - especially not if they allegedly committed a felony! Their insistence on rallying behind this obvious criminal leads me to believe there are personal interests at stake here.

Gotta send a shout out to Senator David Vitter, one of the few Louisiana politicians with any integrity, apparently.

Louisiana Senator David Vitter, in letter obtained by, rejected any defense of Bill Jefferson--or condemnation of the raids--by members of his own party. Addressing the note to leaders of the U.S. Senate GOP caucus, Bill Frist and Mitch McConnell, Vitter states, "I write to disagree in the strongest possible terms with the statements of some Congressional leaders which suggest that the court-approved search warrant which allowed the FBI to search a Congressional office is an abuse of power, something illegal or unconstitutional because of separation of powers. I urge you not to make such arguments or propose any policy that would bar or require notice for such court-approved search warrants in the future."

"In offering these views," Vitter continues, "I make no judgment whatsoever on the ongoing Jefferson investigation; that is for the justice system to sort out. And I agree with the practical, common sense rule that such searches of Congressional offices should be used sparingly and after very careful, apolitical review by both the prosecutors involved and an appropriate judge. But no location should be off limits and no one should be above the law."

The Louisiana Senator continued in the document to point out that the separation of powers arguments coming from Congress, in his view, had little basis in law.

There are plenty of issues in Vitter's voting record that give me heartburn. But he's dead on with this one! No one is above the law. No one.

And especially not someone who is elected and receives his salary from hard-working taxpayers.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Congressional corruption

Cross posted at Liberty Zone and Just Citizens.

Apparently, William Jefferson (D-La.)who is under investigation for bribery said Monday he would not resign, even though he was videotaped accepting $100,000 from an informant last year.

Democratic Rep. William Jefferson, who has not been charged, called an FBI search of his Capitol office “an outrageous intrusion,” telling reporters: “There are two sides to every story. There are certainly two sides to this story.”

At the risk of sounding sarcastic and acrimonious, I'd like to really hear what kind of absurd reason Jefferson can possibly come up with for being caught on tape accepting a bribe and stashing the cash in a freezer. Was it too hot in his taxpayer funded digs? Did the air conditioner not work? Was he afraid the money, which he was going to use to help small, starving children in Africa get food and medicine, would get sweaty or burst into flames?

And we must remember, it's not like this is a wild goose chase that involved shoddy detective work and resulted in retaliatory persecution of an innocent man! According to Wikipedia, Jefferson has been under investigation by the FBI for suspected corruption since March of 2005; since that time, he's been named in two guilty pleas of associates.

On August 3, 2005, FBI agents raided Jefferson's home in Northeast Washington and, as noted in an 83-page affidavit filed to support a subsequent raid on his Congressional office that they found $90,000 of the cash in the freezer, in $10,000 increments wrapped in aluminum foil and stuffed inside frozen-food containers!

This is the same guy who -- in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina -- allegedly used National Guard troops to check on his New Orleans property and rescue his junk from his barely flooded house, while other -- not so privileged New Orleans residents -- were busy trying to save their own LIVES!

On Sept. 2 — five days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast — Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who represents New Orleans and is a senior member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, was allowed through the military blockades set up around the city to reach the Superdome, where thousands of evacuees had been taken.

Military sources tells ABC News that Jefferson, an eight-term Democratic congressman, asked the National Guard that night to take him on a tour of the flooded portions of his congressional district. A five-ton military truck and a half dozen military police were dispatched.

Lt. Col. Pete Schneider of the Louisiana National Guard tells ABC News that during the tour, Jefferson asked that the truck take him to his home on Marengo Street, in the affluent uptown neighborhood in his congressional district. According to Schneider, this was not part of Jefferson's initial request.

Jefferson defended the expedition, saying he set out to see how residents were coping at the Superdome and in his neighborhood. He also insisted that he did not ask the National Guard to transport him.

Yeah, he set out to see how his constituents were doing and figured, "Hey! Since I'm here at my house, I might as well load my stuff onto the truck... since it's here and all..."

Now, whom do you think I'm going to believe - an obviously corrupt politician who was caught on tape taking a bribe, or members of the Louisiana National Guard who confirm he misused their resources for personal gain?

Additionally, according to a report released by another organization called CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)

...federal agents are investigating whether Rep. Jefferson illegally pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars of investors' money from business transactions. According to sources who spoke with The Washington Post, a high-tech company that was starting up in northern Virginia agreed to cooperate with the FBI and conversations with Rep. Jefferson were secretly recorded. Rep. Jefferson allegedly agreed to invest in the start-up company and use his congressional influence to bring in business.

But I digress...

The real shocker to me is that this obviously corrupt politician is claiming the search of his Congressional office to be "an outrageous intrusion into separation of powers between the executive branch and the congressional branch, and no one has seen this in all the time of the life of the Congress."

That's right. Notice he's not commenting on whether or not he accepted a bribe. He's not confirming or denying any wrongdoing on his part. But he's outraged that somehow the FBI's search of his Capitol Hill office violates the separation of powers between the executive and congressional branches!


The Founding Fathers of this nation imposed the political doctrine we know as "separation of powers" to keep any one branch of the government from getting too powerful and ruling with an iron fist, so to speak. Further, be aware that the phrase "separation of powers" never appears in the actual text of the Constitution. Don't believe me? Read it for yourself.

Yes, the concept is implied in the governmental structure created by the Founders -- three separate branches vested with certain powers, with the ability to check one another's power. Congress may make the law, but the President can veto it. The Court can judge the law to be unconstitutional, but Congress can sign a constitutional amendment. However, nowhere in the Constitution or in historical writings do I see a law enforcement investigation of an allegedly corrupt politician falling under the concept of "checks and balances" or "separation of powers," for that matter.

What's worse is that Jefferson's fellow politicians are lining up to protect one of their own!

House Speaker Dennis Hastert questioned whether the raid of the congressman’s office, believed the first in history, overstepped constitutional limitations on executive powers.

“Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years,” the Illinois Republican said in a statement.

Notice that partisanship doesn't play a role in Hastert's defense of his obviously corrupt colleague. His argument centers on the fact that the FBI has apparently never raided the office of a sitting Congressman before. Well, there's a good reason to ignore the wrongdoing -- apparently this has never been done before! Well, I'm sure there was a time when fingerprinting had never been used! I'm also sure there was a time DNA evidence wasn't even on our radar screens, and yet both techniques have been used time and time again to solve crimes in the present -- and even clear those innocents, who had previously been judged guilty!

So because there is no historical precedence for the FBI ever having searched a Capitol Hill office of a suspected corrupt politician, the evidence of wrongdoing should be ignored? Is that the way our elected representatives want justice to work in this nation?

There was no "intrusion" of the separation of powers. The principle doesn't imply that a law enforcement agency under one branch cannot investigate criminal wrongdoing by members of another branch! It ensures that ultimate power cannot be held by one person or governmental entity! And anyone who reads this nation's founding documents is aware of this fact!

Meanwhile, Jefferson's colleagues are lining up behind him, trying to save his sorry hide -- not by proclaiming his innocence, but by trotting out the excuse that there was no historical precedent for the search of Jefferson's office!

Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is hopping mad! Not at the Congressman's alleged corruption, but because the law enforcement authorities did their jobs!

"There is no excuse for the FBI for the first time in history searching a congressional office and apparently doing so in total [dis]regard of due process as it relates to the legislative branch," former Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., wrote Sunday night in an e-mail to several members and aides obtained by CongressDaily. Gingrich was particularly critical of what he described as the executive branch trampling constitutional lines of authority.

Disregard for due process? They had a warrant, Newt! They had attorneys oversee the search to ensure it was done properly! Obviously there was a judge somewhere that thought the thousands found in Jefferson's freezer warranted further searches!

Gingrich continued:

"The protection of the legislative branch from the executive branch's policing powers is a fundamental principle which goes all the way back to the English Civil War," he added, describing the incident as "the most blatant violation of the constitutional separation of powers in my lifetime."

Oh really, Newt? Please show us where in the Constitution it says that criminals, who just happen to be politicians, are exempt from criminal investigations by a law enforcement agency that just happens to be part of the executive branch! I'll give you a clue: IT'S NOWHERE IN THERE!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Begging the question

I'm going to sidestep the normal focus of this blog for a moment. Instead of posting a Constitutional issue, I'm going to ask a question that is of significance to U.S. veterans, then follow it up with important information.

After reading this article, I had to ask myself: What was this guy doing with the names, dates of birth, and social security numbers of 26.5 million veterans on his laptop?

I strongly advise vets to notify credit agencies of potential fraud. Here are some numbers. You’ll only need to call one, and the others will be notified as well.

Fraud Victim Assistance Department
Phone: 800-680-7289
Fax: 714-447-6034
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634-6790

Consumer Fraud Division
Phone: 800-525-6285 or: 404-885-8000
Fax: 770-375-2821
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Experian’s National Consumer Assistance
Phone: 888-397-3742
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Time for a civics lesson

Cross posted at JUST CITIZENS and Liberty Zone.

I got this from my friend CV, who grabbed it from Wonkette.

Can someone tell us what's missing here? This is a flash card from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office, by the way.

Is it any wonder that the vast majority of Americans have no clue what the Bill of Rights says or protects, when their own government agencies don't either?

Mexico to US: Defending Your Border is Illegal

In a real head scratching statement Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez said "If there is a real wave of rights abuses, if we see the National Guard starting to directly participate in detaining people ... we would immediately start filing lawsuits through our consulates,"

Did I read that right?  Is it the official position of the Government of Mexico that the United States of America would be committing human rights violations, would be breaking her own laws, if she tries and protect her southern border?

Where is the sanity in the world today?  How is it even possible that someone could take this seriously?  

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Warrant? Freedom? Yeah. Right

The FBI acknowledged late Monday that it is increasingly seeking reporters' phone records in leak investigations.

"It used to be very hard and complicated to do this, but it no longer is in the Bush administration," said a senior federal official.

The acknowledgement followed our blotter item that ABC News reporters had been warned by a federal source that the government knew who we were calling.

The official said our blotter item was wrong to suggest that ABC News phone calls were being "tracked."

"Think of it more as backtracking," said a senior federal official.

But FBI officials did not deny that phone records of ABC News, the New York Times and the Washington Post had been sought as part of a investigation of leaks at the CIA.

In a statement, the FBI press office said its leak investigations begin with the examination of government phone records.

"The FBI will take logical investigative steps to determine if a criminal act was committed by a government employee by the unauthorized release of classified information," the statement said.

Officials say that means that phone records of reporters will be sought if government records are not sufficient.

Officials say the FBI makes extensive use of a new provision of the Patriot Act which allows agents to seek information with what are called National Security Letters (NSL).

The NSLs are a version of an administrative subpoena and are not signed by a judge. Under the law, a phone company receiving a NSL for phone records must provide them and may not divulge to the customer that the records have been given to the government.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Interesting debate

On Saturday morning Brad and I got into an interesting telephone discussion about the nature of our nation and how the 9-11 attacks affected who and what we are today. While we both agree that the terrorist attacks had a profound effect on America, we disagree about the nature of those effects.

I contend that what we are seeing today is a fundamental shift in the actual psychological makeup of this nation.

This country was founded and based on the fundamental principles of human rights -- life, liberty and property. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights strive to limit government power and protect those fundamental rights from infringement by those whom we put in power. The nation's collective psychology stems from the principles on which the Founders created this nation. These fundamental freedoms are what we treasure. They are what we value -- as a nation; as a whole.

I believe that the September 11 attacks changed that collective psychology. We are now, more than ever, willing to trade away our freedoms for what we believe to be a little "security."

A recent ABC news / Washington Post poll found that 63 percent of Americans support the NSA phone tracking program.

A recent Rasmussen poll found that 64 percent of Americans believe the NSA should be allowed to intercept phonecalls between terrorism suspects living in other countries and people living in the US.

A TNS poll reveals that 54 percent of respondents think wiretapping telephone calls and e-mails without court approval is an acceptable way to investigate terrorism.

Americans are largely willing to accept abuses by the TSA and don't seem to have a problem with "no-fly" lists and airlines that are willing to give up passenger data to the TSA without so much as a thought to the privacy of their customers.

I don't think this is simply a reaction of fear to the worst terrorist attacks on our land. I think this is a fundamental shift in how we exist and how we view the very nature of our nation.

Brad says -- and rightfully so -- that history is cyclical... that we have been through similar reactionary measures in times of war. He's correct there as well. We've been through the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798 and the Espionage and Sedition Acts during World War I, as well as the Trading with the Enemy Act.

However, he believes the shift is not a fundamental shift in our nation's psychological makeup, but more the result of reactionary fear and decades of revisionist history in the nation's schools, which barely teach the truth about American history any longer.

Only time will tell which one of us is right.

What do you, the reader, think?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls

Cross posted at Liberty Zone.

It's certainly unsurprising. Nor does it bother me personally -- as in "Ooooh, I've got something to hide from the gooberment!" No. Nothing like that. It just amazes me that we have come so far on the path to a police state, and no one is blinking an eye.

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

But of course, it's all in the name of the War on Terror!

For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.

The three telecommunications companies are working under contract with the NSA, which launched the program in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the sources said. The program is aimed at identifying and tracking suspected terrorists, they said.

Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, the same one whom President Bush tapped to head the CIA, was in charge of the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005. Hmmmm. Given his limited understanding -- or willful ignorance of -- the Constitution, this shouldn't surprise anyone.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

On freedom of religion

Cross posted at JUST CITIZENS.

This story comes to you from South Carolina.

The owners of a Spartanburg apartment complex have asked residents to stop a Bible study held in a common area.

The owners of Heritage Court said the study violates the Fair Housing Act. The apartments are privately owned by One Management of Raleigh, N.C., but many residents have their rent subsidized by federal vouchers.

"It's not our rule. It's Fair Housing law, which says you cannot discriminate against religion," One Management Vice President Jenny Petri said. "It's unfortunate, but we are required to comply to Fair Housing laws. We hope that the residents can continue doing what they're doing within their own apartment."

But the owners may be misinterpreting the law, said William Dudley Gregorie, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's field office director for South Carolina.

The Bible studies are likely OK as long as permission was also given to any other religious group who wanted to use the area, Gregorie said. "In other words, if you let one, you have to let all," he said.

There is nothing in this world that ignites the passions of Americans more than religion. It seems every faith is feeling persecution, and those who have none, and feel they've been persecuted in the past, are striking back and forcing the pendulum to the other extreme.

The Bill of Rights -- and specifically the First Amendment -- protects the freedom of religion. That is to say -- it specifically says that the government cannot impose a certain religion on the populace, nor can it violate the rights of Americans to practice their faith. It seems pretty simple, right?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The government cannot force you to worship a certain way, and it cannot prevent you from worshipping in your own way.

Then, why is it that the apparent simplicity of these words has been twisted on numerous different ways?

Yes, the owners of the apartment complex in the above story own a private enterprise. It just so happens, however, that they accept tenants, who pay for their rent in taxpayer money - government vouchers - OUR money. If the owners barred residents from paying rent in government cash, they could demand whatever they wanted in the common areas of their own property. But since they choose to accept taxpayer dollars as part of their profits, what gives them the right to:

1 - prohibit residents from exercising their Christian faith?

2 - prohibit other residents from exercising other kinds of faiths, including Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Wicca, Buddhism and others?

It is, after all, property partially paid for and maintained with federal dollars.

The First Amendment seeks to ensure that no government ever attempts to impose a theocracy in this nation by forcing its citizens to worship a certain way, and it seeks to ensure that goverment, by the same token, cannot prohibit someone from worshipping a certain way.

Does that mean that a kid or a group of kids can't say a prayer in school? No. It means that a teacher or adiministrator cannot FORCE a kid or group of kids to say a prayer to Jesus, Allah, Yaweh, Hecate or any other deity in school.

Does this mean that a group of folks can't hold a prayer meeting in a public park? No. It means that no government has the authority to prohibit them from doing so, or to prohibit other faiths from doing so as well.

Freedom is freedom. It's the same for everyone. That's what the Founders strove to protect.

Open Letter

Dear Mr. President / Senator Hutchinson / Senator Cornyn

I pay close attention to current events happening in the United States, and I must shake my head in dismay at what I see. I see a Republican president, and a Republican controlled legislature giving lip service to so-called “national security” issues, then turning around and doing the exact opposite of what they are advocating.

As a strong supporter of the long-overdue war against terrorism, I can only watch in utter disbelief as the same people who advocate strong national security continue to allow the U.S. borders to remain unattended. Normally, I would argue that the Border Patrol is under-manned and under-funded, but that argument vanished in a puff of smoke when I read the news today.

The Border Patrol is providing Mexico with information as to the location of the Minutemen who are patrolling the Arizona border? Did I read this right? Are representatives of the U.S. Government aiding and abetting in the violation of our own borders?

If this is true, then I am sure an investigation into this matter will be conducted with the utmost expediency. Right? I, for one, will not be holding my breath. I, along with many other voters, have lost all faith in the federal government to fulfill its Constitutional duty to defend this nation against foreign invasion. I am not referring to solely the illegal immigration problem, but also the very high possibility that terrorists could infiltrate the U.S. and smuggle in devastating weaponry.

Some of us voters held our noses as we voted for Republican candidates as we hoped the border situation would improve. So far, we remain distinctly unimpressed. Unless this very important national security matter is addressed immediately, I can assure you that, on November 7th, I will not be voting for anyone in the Republican Party.

Perhaps being relegated once again to a minority party status will remind Republican politicians as to who exactly elected them and as to why they were elected into office.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Since When...?

This pretty much speaks for itself (via, North Carolina ABC affiliate)

(05/08/06 -- APEX) - Wake County school officials have suspended a boy for having sex during school hours.

Ryan Biggar, 16, and his 17-year-old girlfriend had permission to leave Middle Creek High School for an off-campus program. When their event was canceled for the day, they were caught having sex in the girl's home.
It violated school rules, and officials say those rules apply no matter where you are during school hours.

But the Biggar's family is filing a lawsuit against the school system, saying his suspension for the rest of the school year is unconstitutional. He says he had no notice that private, consensual, off-campus sexual activity could subject him to school suspension.

Some students told Eyewitness News that the rules are unclear.

"I think he shouldn't get suspended because he was at his house. What he does at his house should stay at his house," said senior Jajuan Blanton.

A mother disagrees.

"Restrictions say you're on school time, then you are on school time whether you're at lunch or not," said Mary Ann Buesing.

Wake County school spokesman Michael Evans says that having sex during school hours breaks the rules - - even in a private home.

"Whereever you are during school hours. It's a privilege to leave campus for lunch and you sign a form to that effect, as do your parents," Evans said. "So it was with full consent and knowledge that they participate under these rules and if they chose to break them then disciplinary action will come into play."

Court documents include a copy of the lunch permit application, which states that students exercising off-campus lunch privileges are subject to the rules of student conduct, as applicable to the regular school day. Biggar and one of his parents had signed the application.

Biggar is appealing his suspension. A hearing is set for May 15. It is unclear if his girlfriend was suspended, since she is not suing anyone and school records are not public.

Since when does a school have the authority to dictate what goes on in a private home. There is absolutely no excuse for this. No argument or justificiation, no matter how tenuous (and the school's position here is indeed tenuous) can justify this.

And I'm not even hearing this mother's argument about "school time." If, after the event was cancelled the students were still on school time then they should have still been under school supervision. That is, they should have been taken back to class for the rest of the day. The fact that the school did not do this means that the school has effectivly released them and they were not "on school time."

Of course the students may well have ducked out on their own, taking advantage of the fact that their teachers already had them listed as attending the school function that was cancelled and might not miss them. If that's the case then the school would be well within it's rights to punish them for truancy. However, if they were truant then that would mean that they were still outside of school custoday. Because they chose to leave the scope of school custody in violation of the rules does not change the fact that they were still outside of school custody.

And no matter what, the school's authority does not extend to the inside of someone's private residence ever!

If Mrs. Buesing wants to surrender her rights as a citizen and a mother to school administration, I guess that's her business. Hopefully the rest of the parents with kids in this school have more sense but I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, May 08, 2006

President Bush's new CIA Pick has no clue on Fourth Amendment

Cross posted on JUST CITIZENS.

I have serious issues with the possible nomination of Michael Hayden to the head post at the CIA. It's not because I fear the military having control over a civilian agency, which as Brad showed in his entry is a complete pranoid crock that has some uninformed Congressleeches wetting their panties.

My concern - as a member of the military and someone who has sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States - is the General's apparent disregard and ignorance of what the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution says.

For the record, the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

For the record, a recent dialogue between General Hayden and Knight Ridder's Jonathan Landay shows he's either ignorant about what the Fourth says, or just doesn't give a damn.

QUESTION: Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder. I'd like to stay on the same issue, and that had to do with the standard by which you use to target your wiretaps. I'm no lawyer, but my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American's right against unlawful searches and seizures. Do you use --

GEN. HAYDEN: No, actually -- the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: But the --

GEN. HAYDEN: That's what it says.

QUESTION: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.

GEN. HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: But does it not say probable --

GEN. HAYDEN: No. The amendment says --

QUESTION: The court standard, the legal standard --

GEN. HAYDEN: -- unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: The legal standard is probable cause, General. ... I'd like you to respond to this -- is that what you've actually done is crafted a detour around the FISA court by creating a new standard of "reasonably believe" in place [of] probable cause because the FISA court will not give you a warrant based on reasonable belief, you have to show probable cause. Could you respond to that, please?

GEN. HAYDEN: Sure. I didn't craft the authorization. I am responding to a lawful order. All right? The attorney general has averred to the lawfulness of the order. Just to be very clear -- and believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. And so what you've raised to me -- and I'm not a lawyer, and don't want to become one -- what you've raised to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is "reasonable." And we believe -- I am convinced that we are lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable.

A couple of things here:

1 - The "unreasonable search and seizure" is just ONE of the things the Fourth protects us against. It also protects us and our possessions against search warrants that are arbitrarily issued for no good reason. It specifically says that no warrant shall be issued but upon probable cause, and specifying what the police are searching for and where.

2 - The "reasonableness" principle applies to search and seizure itself, not to authorization from the court to perform the search and seizure in the first place. For that, you need a valid warrant that shall not be issued unless there is PROBABLE CAUSE. The Warrant was intended to be a protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

So, no, I do not believe for a minute that the General was responding to a "lawful" order. Did he know it? He certainly was quick to qualify his reply with the fact that he's not a lawyer, nor did he wish to become one. All I know is that his grasp on what the Fourth says seems to be tenuous at best.

Bush says he would like to close Guantanamo

Was it public outcry or was it a bout of conscience that prompted this decision?

BERLIN (Reuters) - President George W. Bush said he would like to close the U.S.-run prison at Guantanamo Bay -- a step urged by several U.S. allies -- but was awaiting a Supreme Court ruling on how suspects held there might be tried.

"Of course Guantanamo is a delicate issue for people. I would like to close the camp and put the prisoners on trial," Bush said in comments to German television to be broadcast on Sunday night. The interview was recorded last week.

Human-rights groups have accused the United States of mistreating Guantanamo detainees through cruel interrogation methods, a charge denied by the U.S. government.

They also criticize the indefinite detention of suspects captured since the military prison was opened in 2002 at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, as part of the Bush administration's war on terrorism.

Bush was asked by the German public television station ARD how the United States could restore its human-rights image following reports of prisoner abuse.

"Our top court must still rule on whether they should go before a civil or military court," he said.

"They will get their day in court. One can't say that of the people that they killed. They didn't give these people the opportunity for a fair trial."

The quotes were translated by Reuters from a German transcript.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of June on whether military tribunals of foreign terrorist suspects can proceed.

Bush's comments were a reiteration of long-standing U.S. policy, Frederick Jones, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said in Washington.

"The United States has no intention of permanently detaining individuals, that is not our goal. We want to see all these individuals brought to justice," he said, whether in their home countries or in the United States.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, however, has dismissed calls for the prison to be closed.

"Every once and a while someone pops up and gets some press for saying 'Oh let's close Guantanamo Bay.' Well, if someone has a better idea, I'd like to hear it," Rumsfeld said in a February speech to the Council on Foreign Relations.

The United States has 480 detainees at Guantanamo and has freed or handed over to their home governments a total of 272. The Pentagon has said it has no interest in holding anyone longer than necessary but that it has been unable to arrange for some to return to their home countries.

The Pentagon says the detainees come from 40 countries and the West Bank, with the largest number from Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Yemen.

In a report last week for the U.N. Committee against Torture, Amnesty International said torture and inhumane treatment were "widespread" in U.S.-run detention centers, including Guantanamo Bay.

The United States defended its treatment of foreign terrorism suspects in a hearing before the committee in Geneva on Friday, saying it backed a ban on torture.

City to consider taking land from Wal-Mart; Prime bay property could be seized by eminent domain

Interesting eminent domain twist...

The Hercules City Council will consider whether to use eminent domain to wrest a 17-acre property from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. after the nation's largest retailer rejected a city offer to buy the site with views of San Pablo Bay, city officials said Thursday.

The council asked that a "resolution of necessity'' be brought to it for discussion, City Manager Mike Sakamoto said. The matter has been put on the council's May 23 agenda. Efforts to reach council members about Thursday's announcement were unsuccessful.

Wal-Mart bought the property overlooking central Hercules in November after another developer received city approvals for a neighborhood shopping center.

In February, city planners recommended denying Wal-Mart's proposal for a big-box store on its property, saying the plan was not in keeping with what had been approved for the location, which commands a view of one of the Bay Area's most vaunted New Urbanist communities, with pedestrian-oriented streets and large open-space set-asides, as well as sweeping views of the bay.

The company withdrew its application before it went to the city Planning Commission. In response, the City Council voted to make an offer for the land for an undisclosed amount of money.

On March 31, however, Wal-Mart submitted a new application that it said substantially conforms to city requirements. The same day the company submitted its revised proposal, Councilwoman Charleen Raines was hardly welcoming, although she said she had not read it.

"What the council has said is that we want to buy the property,'' she said, describing the tussle with Wal-Mart as a "David and Goliath'' struggle. "At this point, we're concerned about moving ahead on this property. It's been hanging over us for a long time.''

Wal-Mart's new proposal, which is still hotly opposed by some residents, calls for a general retail and grocery store, as well as a pedestrian plaza, two outdoor dining areas and other small shops and general merchandise stores, including a pharmacy.

"We're disappointed that the city is really playing politics with the future of Hercules rather than looking at the big picture,'' company spokesman Kevin Loscotoff said.

"Many residents of the city who we've talked to are frustrated and anxious for this much-needed retail project to move forward.''

Friday, May 05, 2006

Judges challenge Internet wiretap rules

A U.S. appeals panel sharply challenged the Bush administration Friday over new rules making it easier for police and the FBI to wiretap Internet phone calls. A judge said the government’s courtroom arguments were “gobbledygook.”

The skepticism expressed so openly toward the administration’s case encouraged civil liberties and education groups that argued that the U.S. is improperly applying telephone-era rules to a new generation of Internet services.

“Your argument makes no sense,” U.S. Circuit Judge Harry T. Edwards told the lawyer for the Federal Communications Commission, Jacob Lewis. “When you go back to the office, have a big chuckle. I’m not missing this. This is ridiculous. Counsel!”

At another point in the hearing, Edwards told the FCC’s lawyer that his arguments were “gobbledygook” and “nonsense.”

The court’s decision was expected within several months.

In an unrelated case last year affecting digital television, two of the same three judges determined the FCC had significantly exceeded its authority and threw out new government rules requiring anti-piracy devices in new video devices. Lewis was also the losing lawyer in that case, and Edwards also was impassioned then in his criticisms of the FCC.

In the current case, Edwards appeared especially skeptical over the FCC’s decision to require that providers of Internet phone service and broadband services must ensure their equipment can accommodate police wiretaps under the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, known as CALEA.

The new rules go into effect in May 2007.

The 1994 law was originally aimed at ensuring court-ordered wiretaps could be placed on wireless phones.

The Justice Department, which has lobbied aggressively on the subject, warned in court papers that failure to expand the wiretap requirements to the fast-growing Internet phone industry “could effectively provide a surveillance safe haven for criminals and terrorists who make use of new communications services.”

Critics said the new FCC rules are too broad and inconsistent with the intent of Congress when it passed the 1994 surveillance law, which excluded categories of companies described as information services.

The FCC asserted that providers of high-speed Internet services should be covered under the 1994 law because their voice-transmission services can be considered separately from information services. “Congress intended to cover services (in the 1994 law) that were functionally equivalent” to traditional telephones, Lewis said during the hearing in U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia.

“There’s nothing to suggest that in the statute,” Edwards replied. “Stating that doesn’t make it so.”

The panel appeared more inclined to support the FCC’s argument that Internet-phone services — which allow users to dial and receive calls from traditional phone numbers — may be covered under the 1994 law and required to accommodate court-ordered wiretaps. The technology, popularized by Holmdel, N.J.-based Vonage Holdings Corp., is known as “voice over Internet protocol,” or VOIP.

“Voice-over is a very different thing,” U.S. Circuit Judge David B. Sentelle said. He said it offered “precisely the same” functions as traditional telephone lines.

Edwards told the lawyer for the civil liberties groups, Matthew Brill, that on his challenge that VOIP services aren’t covered under the surveillance law, “I didn’t think you have it.”
Education groups had challenged the FCC rules because they said the requirements would impose burdensome new costs on private university networks.

The third judge on the panel, Janice Rogers Brown, did not comment or ask any questions during the arguments.

FCC approves Net-wiretapping taxes

Cross posted at the Liberty Zone.

This makes me so angry, I literally want to beat someone to a pulp. The Federal Communications Commission (one of the biggest and most tyrannical wastes of time and money in the US) voted unanimously to levy wiretapping taxes on companies, municipalities and universities.

Yes, you read that correctly. WIRETAPPING TAXES.

Broadband providers and Internet phone companies will have to pick up the tab for the cost of building in mandatory wiretap access for police surveillance, federal regulators ruled Wednesday.

So not only will your Internet providers likely pass this atrocity on to you, the consumer, in the form of higher fees, but you will wind up paying the Feds more of your hard-earned money so they could monitor your Internet habits if you happen to stumble across!

"The first obligation is...the safety of the people," said FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat. "This commission supports efforts to protect the public safety and homeland security of the United States and its people."

And it's all being done in the name of the War on Terror! Don't you feel safer now?

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Failure of Imminent Domain

A small business owner in Seattle gets to keep her family business after it was seized under imminent domain.  The coffee house which is located across from the Space Needle, will be sold back to the Lee family for $650,000.  The city forced the Lee family to sell it to them for $580,000.  The city will make a tidy little $70,000 profit from the venture.  The reason for the forced sell was that the Seattle Monorail Project wanted to put a new line in the area, turning the Lee’s business into a park outside of the station.

State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, a nonvoting SMP board member, called the sale "a very positive move," and Chairwoman Beth Goldberg agreed.  The Lees' $70,000 loss represents part of a $14.4 million "profit" from 31 lots sold to date, which are fetching more than the $56.3 million it cost taxpayers to buy them.

The Lee’s figures they will end up losing $120,000; the $70,000, plus the cost of lawyers and real-estate experts over the past two years.

This is another example of how Imminent Domain is being illegally used to make money for cities.   Americans need to stand up, and find lawmakers that will fight for the people and not for their jobs.