Death By Bureaucracy
There's an excellent editorial in the LA Times that I want to highlight that I thought was rather disturbing. It showcases the problem with government when good intentions come in contact with bureaucrats. Until I had read this editorial, I had not heard of this department, the federal Refugee Resettlement Program. From the editorial:
IN HIS SECOND inaugural address, President Bush made a stirring commitment to oppressed people yearning to be free: "When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you."
For half a century, one of the best expressions of that bond has been the federal Refugee Resettlement Program. This State Department-administered program seeks to offer a safe harbor to those fearing persecution by tyrannical governments. But thousands of people whose lives are at risk for standing up for freedom will this year be denied help because of a Kafkaesque interpretation of who is deemed a terrorist.
The laws governing eligibility for refugee status have long denied it to anyone who commits a terrorist act or who provides "material support" to terrorists. These laws were strengthened after 9/11. The problem was created by recent legislation that expanded the definition of terrorists. There are real-life consequences from such myopic "reform."
The editorial then lists some tragic examples of people who have reached for a hand up, only to find a clenched fist pounding them back down. Here are a couple of examples:
In Liberia, a female head of a household was referred to the U.S. resettlement program by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as a person particularly vulnerable to attack. Rebels had come to her home, killed her father and beat and gang-raped her. The rebels held her hostage in her own home and forced her to wash their clothes. The woman escaped after several weeks and made her way to a refugee camp. The Department of Homeland Security has decided that because the rebels lived in her house and she washed their clothes, she had provided "material support" to the rebels; the case has been placed on hold.
A Sierra Leonean woman's house was attacked by rebels in 1992. A young family member was killed with machetes, another minor was subjected to burns and the woman and her daughter were raped. The rebels kept the family captive for days in their own home. Homeland Security has placed the case on hold for "material support" concerns because the family is deemed to have provided housing to the rebels. Under this interpretation, it does not matter whether the support provided was given willingly or under duress.
I recommend reading this entire editorial. It's a cold reminder of what happens when you rely on aid from governments--and not from your fellow man. All we need to do is look at how well the U.S. Government handled the Hurricane Katrina disaster to see how well even the most powerful governments manage relief efforts.
Bolten's Snow Job
It seems that there may be a shakeup of personnel at the White House. The incoming Chief of Staff, Joshua Bolten, is recommending that Treasury Secretary John Snow be replaced by someone from Wall Street as it would help reassure financial markets. They're looking at three prominent figures: Henry Paulson, chief executive of Goldman Sachs; John Mack, chief executive of Morgan Stanley, and Richard Parsons, chairman of Time Warner.
I figured this was a perfect opportunity to lampoon Mr. Snow. Besides, he may not be around much longer if Joshua Bolten gets his way. A special message to Mr. Bolten: While you're cleaning house, why don't you see if you can pink slip that smarmy bastard, Mark Everson
What's a Billion?
(A friend just emailed the following to me. We all need a good smack from reality every now and then to wake us from our slumber...)
The next time you hear a politician use the word "billion" in a casual manner, think about whether you want the "politicians" spending your tax money. A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but one advertising agency did a good job of putting that figure into some perspective in one of its releases.
a. A billion seconds ago it was 1959.
b. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.
c. A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
d. A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet.
e. A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate our government is spending it.
While this thought is still fresh in our brain, let's take a look at New Orleans. It's amazing what you can learn with some simple division. The Louisiana Senator, Mary Landrieu, is presently asking the Congress for $250 BILLION to rebuild New Orleans.
Interesting number, but what does it mean?
Well, if you are one of the 484,674 residents of New Orleans (every man, woman, child), you each get $515,810.00.
Or, if you have one of the 188,251 homes in New Orleans, your household gets $1,328,014.00.
Or, if you are a family of four, your family gets $2,063,242.00.
Washington, D.C... Are all your calculators broken?!?
I've been watching this new "circus" that has recently come to town. It's center ring attraction has been the issue of illegal immigration into the United States. As a self-professed libertarian, I've been struggling with this particular issue because it is so complicated. On the one hand, you have individual rights while on the other we've charged the federal government with our border security. The majority of us, I believe, think that some level of scrutiny needs to be applied to those who come and go at our borders while at the same time agree that all have a right to pursue their dreams.
In my daily reading, I ran across an article written by Marcel Votlucka that has some excellent points that I wanted to share. The title of this referenced article is "Illegal" Immigration Is a Phantom Problem and is exclusively carried by Strike the Root.com. Towards the end of his article, Marcel manages to capture the gist of my feelings on immigration and individual rights in the first quoted paragraph. In the subsequent paragraphs he warns us of the political motivations of those running the afore mentioned circus. Enjoy:
[If] individual rights mean anything, they include your right to go wherever you want in order to seek better opportunities. They include your right to buy or sell stuff with whoever will trade with you. They include your right to seek and earn work. They include your right to make free choices in the market. Indeed, we all make such choices, big or small, significant or trivial, every day. The market is made up of the aggregate whole of all these choices, all this bargaining and trading and exchange of ideas, products, services, and information. This is not a magical process; it's simply how society operates.
This is in spite of efforts by economically ignorant politicians and interest groups to set up barriers to commerce and free immigration. This is in spite of their efforts to control the market so they can make it work for their own ends. This is in spite of their efforts to protecting and enriching themselves by robbing others of their freedom. This is in spite of their efforts to lock out foreigners out of paranoia that American culture will somehow disappear. That whole "borders, language, culture" nonsense, for instance.
Attacks on immigration, legal or otherwise, are attacks on individual rights, not to mention attacks on the market and a free society. The only "aliens" we should be concerned about are those unsavory, ignorant, and politically-connected folks to whom freedom is an alien concept.
In short, "illegal aliens" arouse their ire because they represent a force the politicos cannot control--a force that undermines their own ill-gotten power and replaces it with the power of the truly democratic free market.
As a general rule, I'm in agreement with what Marcel says. However, I do want to add to his comments one I made to a post at Timothy Birdnow's BirdBlog. His post highlights possible motivations of the more nefarious actors who protest the immigration reform. Here is my comment:
I'm wondering how many of those protesting would be so energetic if we conceded to their demand to stay and work in the U.S.; but only on the condition that they were to receive absolutely no financial aid of any kind. That means no social security, no anchor baby status, no federal/state business grants--no help at all. In other words, we'll acknowledge their claim for the right to work; but we'll also acknowledge their responsibility to be independent in a foreign land. This is a tough position to take. I'm reminded of one of my first trips out of my home State. I was so worried about the car breaking down or my wife or I needing medical assistance. I made sure that I had all my ducks in a row before I left the security of my home State. I didn't want to find myself having to beg for mercy from strangers. It is not their responsibility to remedy my financial problems. Why do foreigners believe that by coming to this country they are entitled to leach off the system if things don't work out for them? More importantly, why is our system set up to allow this? Is our government meant to be a charity for the poor and downtrodden? By it's design, does our government enable those who should really return home after failing the means of staying? If that's the case, where exactly can be found the motivation to find gainful employment when one can just throw up his hands and say, "It's too hard!"
Like I said at the beginning of this post, it's a tough nut to crack! I think I'll go ponder it some more...
The Woodshed and DeWine
Dear Senator DeWine,
I've read a good portion of your proposed legislation (S2455) and wanted to drop you a quick reminder that you may want to consider. I know that what I'm about to say is a sore subject with you, as expressed by your comments on Fox News when interviewed by Jim Angle, but your bill is in direct violation with the language of the U.S. Constitution:
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.
~ Amendment IV, The Constitution of the United States of America
I know that you would rather not have a "debate about whether it's Constitutional or is not Constitutional," but I'm afraid that if we ignore the Constitution, we'll be forced to ignore you, too. You see, Mr. DeWine, that very same Constitution you would have us ignore also gives you your legislative powers. Without it, you're nothing.
A couple of points to note. The bill introduced by Senators Mr. DeWine, Mr. Graham, Mr. Hagel, and Ms. Snowe can be read here. It's short title is the Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006. Mike's comments on Fox News and my response to them can be read here. Reprinted below is the violative language of this bill:
a) IN GENERAL.-Notwithstanding any provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.), chapter 119 of title 18, United States Code, or any other provision of law related to the interception or collection of communications, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize a program of electronic surveillance without a court order for periods of up to 45 days if-
(1) the President determines that the surveillance is necessary to protect the United States, its citizens, or its interests, whether inside the United States or outside the United States;
(2) there is probable cause to believe that one party subject to the surveillance is an agent or member of a group or organization, affiliated with a group or organization, or working in support of a group or organization on the list established under section 3;
(3) the surveillance is initiated and conducted in a manner reasonably designed to acquire only communications to or from the United States where-
(A) at least one party to such communications is reasonably believed to be physically located outside the United States; or
(B) such communications appear to originate or terminate outside the United States;
(4) there is not a substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the substance of any communication where every party to such communication is physically located within the United States;
(5) a significant purpose of the surveillance is to obtain foreign intelligence information; and
(6) minimization procedures are in place with respect to the surveillance which meet the standards for minimization procedures under section 101(h) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801(h)).
As anyone can clearly see, this bill violates the prohibitions set forth by the Fourth Amendment of demanding a warrant in order for searches and seizures to be conducted by government. This bill essentially attempts to end-run the constitution by focusing attention on the parties of surveilled conversations who are not U.S. persons. But, if one reads the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, one will see that in every instance a surveillance order comes in contact with a U.S. person, they must get a warrant to continue. No amount of legislation can subvert the prohibitions set down by the Constitution and the Fourth Amendment. Only our complacency can accomplish that feat.
Contained in our Declaration of Independence is the following sentence: "...Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." I've been examining this one sentence for almost a week now. Within those 15 words are to be found volumes of information as well as theory and speculation as to what was meant when this sentence was originally constructed. I've read works from as far back as the Magna Carta to recent works on LewRockwell.com and other sites. I've been trying to get at the heart of what these words mean. However, this post is not going to go into great detail about that. I wanted to put this post up to see if anyone out there had any thoughts on this subject.
There are a number of questions that I'd like answered but the primary ones are:
Can we take back control of granted powers when we don't think we're being properly served by our government?
Can any one of us remove our consent to be governed?
Does Congress's power over the purse strings originate with each of us? If so, does each of us not have the right to take back control of our purses?
Is the right to demand redress of grievances essentially dead? If so, what other non-violent methods exists to hold government accountable for it's actions?
It is my opinion that government revolves around money. If you remove money from the equation, government loses much of it's force. Likewise, I believe that to control a runaway government, Congress must be allowed to tighten it's purse strings. Here's the question for you to consider: What method do you employ when Congress becomes destructive to the safety and happiness of the people it represents? Voting them out is not a viable answer, either. At one time this was an effective deterrent, but those days are long gone. So, I ask again: What method do we employ to get our servants in government to heed our demands for justice and accountability?
Below, I've included a few links to help flesh out this argument:
1. The two vital characteristics of the political system of the United States are, first, that the Government holds its powers by a charter granted to it by the people; second, that the powers of government are formed in two grand divisions -- one vested in a Government over the whole community, the other in a number of independent Governments over its component parts. Hitherto charters have been written grants of privileges by Governments to the people. Here they are written grants of power by the people to their Governments.
Supplement to the letter of November 27, 1830, to A. Stevenson (Madison, 1865, IV, pages 138-139)
2. The absolute bedrock of the people's continued freedom from tyranny and excesses of all types of authority is the power of the purse. James Madison summed up in a very few words the significance of this power in protecting the people's rights and liberties. In Federalist 58, he wrote: "This power over the purse, may in fact be regarded as the most compleat and effectual weapon with which any Constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure."
This essential tool -- control of the purse by the people's representatives in Congress -- lies at the very foundation of our nation's freedoms. It is the fulcrum of the people's leverage. As enshrined in the Constitution, it is one of the chief protectors of all our cherished freedoms. This control of the purse is one of the most effective bulwarks ever constructed to repel a despot, control a tyrant, or shackle the hands of an overreaching chief executive. Chip away at this fundamental barrier and one chips away at the very cornerstone of the people's liberties.
3. The roots of the tree of legislative control over the public purse run deep in the soil of the centuries. Englishmen for hundreds of years spilled their blood to wrest this power over the purse from tyrannical monarchs and vest it in the hands of the elected representatives of the people in Commons. This is the taproot of the tree of English liberty. I quote from a speech by William Ewart Gladstone, prime minister of England, at Hastings in 1891: The finance of the country is ultimately associated with the liberties of the country. It is a powerful leverage by which English liberty has been gradually acquired.
4. The placing of the "power over the purse" in the hands of the legislature -- and not in the hands of the executive or judicial branches -- was not a decision lightly made by the framers of the Constitution. James Madison wrote in the 58th Federalist that the "power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure." (35) The framers explicitly rejected the notion that such untrammeled discretion over the power of the purse should be granted to either the executive (36) or to the judiciary. (37)
5. Let's look at a few founding documents to see what's your take on them. On June 26, 1788, Virginia's elected delegates met to ratify the Constitution. In their ratification document, they said, "The People of Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will."
When New York delegates met on July 26, 1788 their ratification document read, "That the Powers of Government may be resumed by the People, whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness; that every Power, Jurisdiction and right which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the government thereof, remains to the People of the several States, or to their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same."
On May 29, 1790, the Rhode Island delegates made a similar claim in their ratification document. "That the powers of government may be resumed by the people, whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness: That the rights of the States respectively to nominate and appoint all State Officers, and every other power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by the said constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States or to the departments of government thereof, remain to the people of the several states, or their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same."
6. In theory there are two basic types of government; government by consent of the governed, and government by force and fraud. Locke's basic principle is not abstruse. It is the practical basis of all American government, and all other principles of government are derivatives of it. Locke's principle is sometimes called "the consent of the governed," consent is the united agreement of several interested in one subject-matter; sometimes it is called "the will of the people." 6 This is the standard by which all actions of government are judged; and violation or circumvention of this principle constitutes the very definition of tyranny. It is the absolute right of the people of a nation to determine the form of their government, to determine the principles under which it operates, to set its limits, and to place them into a constitution for all to see. This is the full meaning of governments "deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed" for the purpose of securing the fundamental inalienable rights of the people. The Federal government was designed by men who understood the basic principle that a government has no legitimate or moral authority to take the property of the people, through the exercise of taxing powers, for any purpose other than those for which the people themselves have voluntarily consented it should be taken. However imperfectly this principle is applied, it is still the basic theory of American political morality. Further, they understood that government, as the collective will of many individuals, had no moral right to do anything that an individual, acting on his own, had no moral right to do. "Nemo plus juris ad alienum transferre potest quam ipse haberet." One cannot transfer to another a larger right than he himself has. Any form of government, representative democracy, republic, monarchy, oligarchy, military dictatorship, etc., acting outside the consent of the governed has been called, since the time of Locke, a tyranny. This consent is expressed in the form of a constitutional grant of powers to the government to do for the people, that which they are incapable of doing as individuals, but only that which each individual has a right to do in the natural state. "Quod per me non possum, nec per alium." What I cannot do in person, I cannot do through the agency of another. On the federal level it is expressed as a specific grant of powers to the Federal government to do that which the states are "incompetent" to do on an individual basis.
Noah in the 90's
And the Lord spoke to Noah and said, 'In 6 months I'm going to make it rain until the whole earth is covered with water and all the evil people are destroyed. But I want to save a few good people, and two of every kind or living thing on the planet. I am commanding you; to build an ark." And in a flash of lightning, he delivered the specifications for an ark.
"Okay." said Noah, trembling with fear and fumbling with the blueprints.
"Six months, and it starts to rain," thundered the Lord. "You'd better have the Ark completed, or learn to swim for a very long time." Six months passed. The skies clouded up and rain began to rail. The Lord saw that Noah was sitting in his front yard weeping, and there was no ark. "Noah", shouted the Lord. 'Where is the Ark?
"Lord, please forgive me!" begged Noah. "I did my best. But there were big problems. First, I had to get a building permit for the ark construction project, and your plans didn't meet code, so I had to hire an engineer to redo the plans. Then I got into a big fight over whether or not the ark needed a fire sprinkler system. Then my neighbor objected, claiming that I was violating zoning by building the ark in my front yard, so I had to get a variance from the city planning commission. Then I had problems getting enough wood for the ark, because there was a ban on cutting trees to save the Spotted Owl. I had to convince the U.S. Fish and Wildlife that I need the wood to save the Owls. But they wouldn't let me catch any owls. So, no owls. The carpenters joined a union and went out on strike. I had to negotiate a settlement with the National Labor Relations board before anyone would pick up a saw or hammer. Now we have sixteen carpenters going on the boat, and still no owls."
"Then, I started gathering up animals, and got sued by an animal rights group. They objected to my taking only two of each kind. Just when I got the suit dismissed, EPA notified me that I couldn't complete the ark without filing an environmental impact statement on your proposed flood. They didn't take kindly to the idea that they had no jurisdiction over the conduct of a Supreme being. Then the Army Corp. of Engineers wanted a map of the proposed new flood plain. I sent them a globe. Right now, I'm still trying to resolve a complaint from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over how many Croatians I'm supposed to hire. The IRS has seized all assets, claiming I'm trying to avoid paying taxes by leaving the country. And I just got a notice from the state about owing them some kind of Use tax. I really don't think I can finish the ark for at least another five years." Noah wailed.
The sky began to clear. The sun began to shine. A rainbow arched across the sky. Noah looked up and smiled, "You mean you're not going to destroy the earth?" Noah asked hopefully.
'No," said the Lord sadly. "The government already has."
(Note: This humorous story was found here. I liked it so much I just had to share it.)
A Poem: The Preamble
I want to invite you to tune in today to Accent Radio Networks broadcast of Jerry Hughes's radio program, Conceived in Liberty (Saturdays at 4pm Pacific on Windows Media or ShoutCast). Today's show will be discussing American icons and symbols such as the Liberty Bell and the bald eagle. During his discussion, Jerry recited a poem that I thought was great. Wanting to post the poem here, I discovered a copy of it on the Schoolhouse Rocks website. I immediately smiled when the page loaded because of all the fond memories that came rushing back. The Schoolhouse Rocks series was a big part of my formative years. I hate to say it, but I watched a lot of cartoons after school and on Saturday mornings. Mixed in with those Saturday morning cartoons were the Schoolhouse Rock messages. Who can forget such classics as Conjunction Junction or I'm Just a Bill? Ah... Those were the good ol' days. Have a look around the Schoolhouse Rocks site, too.
(Click here to listen to a short clip)
Hey, do you know about the U.S.A.?
Do you know about the government?
Can you tell me about the Constitution?
Hey, learn about the U.S.A.
In 1787 I'm told
Our founding fathers did agree
To write a list of principles
For keepin' people free.
The U.S.A. was just startin' out.
A whole brand-new country.
And so our people spelled it out
The things that we should be.
And they put those principles down on
paper and called it the Constitution, and
it's been helping us run our country ever
since then. The first part of the Consti-
tution is called the preamble and tells
what those founding fathers set out to do.
| ||We the people|
In order to form a more perfect union,
Establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,
Provide for the common defense,
Promote the general welfare and
Secure the blessings of liberty
To ourselves and our posterity
Do ordain and establish this Constitution
for the United States of America.
In 1787 I'm told
Our founding fathers all sat down
And wrote a list of principles
That's known the world around.
The U.S.A. was just starting out
A whole brand-new country.
And so our people spelled it out
They wanted a land of liberty.
And the preamble goes like this:
We the people
In order to form a more perfect union,
Establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,
Provide for the common defense,
Promote the general welfare and
Secure the blessings of liberty
To ourselves and our posterity,
Do ordain and establish this Constitution
for the United States of America.
For the United States of America...
The Price of Inflation Adjusted For Time
Have you ever marveled at those old newspaper ads that pop up every now and then displaying the price of milk at ten cents per gallon or loaf of bread selling for 5 cents? It always seemed to me that "stuff" was so cheap back then. For fun, here is a site that carries copies of some old advertisements.
This morning, I was thinking about this again and thought to myself, "I wonder what my hourly wage would be equivalent to in 1913 dollars?" Well, I've got good news... and bad news. The good news is that it's actually pretty easy to figure out; the bad news is that the amount I came up with was pretty disgusting. After calculating the amount of money I would be earning for an hours worth of work, I now understand why prices "seemed" so low. They were reflective of what the market would bare for eggs, milk, and bread at that time.
While I'd like to share with you what I make so you can feel my pain, I'm not going to do that. I will use the average hourly wage for the State of Washington which I believe is around fourteen dollars per hour (unchecked amount--don't quote me on this figure). The website to do all this calculating is found here hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. It's a pretty simple calculator to operate. The top box allows you to plug in a dollar amount, the drop-down box below this allows you to select a base year, and the lowest drop-down box allows you to select a comparison year. When you hit the 'Calculate' button, it will display a dollar value that has been adjusted for inflation.
Let's run through it with our fourteen dollar an hour wage. We plug in '14.00' for our dollar amount, select '2006' for the base year, and then '1913' for the comparison year. After hitting the 'Calculate' button we see we're making a whopping 70 cents an hour! See, I told you it would put those ancient prices in perspective. If you're making 70 cents an hour, you're living on $28.00 a week, assuming a forty hour work week.
We've come so far to have moved so little. Amazing!
Congrats to the Supremes
I'm always quick to point out the shortcomings of our government, so I thought I had better point out this occasion where the NOI got one right. It wasn't a unanimous decision, but a "win" none the less.
As I understand the case, a dispute between a husband, Scott Randolph, and his wife, Janet Randolph, resulted in the police being summoned to their home. After they arrived, the woman consented to a search of their home. Mr. Randolph, however, said that he objected to the search. Janet Randolph then led officers to her husband's personal cocaine stash.
Justice David H. Souter wrote in the majority opinion that because there was no evidence of wrongdoing, Janet Randolph's invitation to enter did not trump her husband's refusal to let police conduct a search.
In a side opinion Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, "Assuming that both spouses are competent, neither one is a master possessing the power to override the other's constitutional right to deny entry to their castle."
More on this can be read here. The case is Georgia v. Randolph, 04-1067.
The Duties Of Congress
In yesterday's post, I expressed my frustration of having to fork over even more of my money to the federal government because they claim I owe it in taxes. I explained that most of my frustration stems from the fact that I know the Bush administration has repeatedly violated our laws and the Congress has done very little to correct this. To make matters worse, Bush even acknowledged this violation and said he would not stop because he felt, as Commander in Chief, he was somehow above the law. As I've pointed out in the past, www.epic.org has a great collection of papers discussing the President's illegal spying program. In addition, the American Bar Association has released a report (.pdf) that explains in detail the violations by this administration. It's gotten so bad that one is left with the impression this administration is saying to all of America, "We dare you to make us stop!"
Congress, being eternally spineless, couldn't even muster enough support to censure the President. Given the opportunity to at least express their dissatisfaction with the President's flagrant disregard for the rule of law, they wouldn't even vote for a symbolic hand-slapping. They're a bunch of cowards! So, what is the Congress suppose to do when it suspects that the President, or members of his administration has broken the law? I asked the same question. Poking around the World Wide Web, I happened upon a page hosted by the United States Senate website that had the text of our Constitution and a brief explanation of the individual sections. With a couple of keystrokes and some formatting, I copied the parts relevant to our discussion. Below, on the left is the original text; on the right is the explanation for that section. For the sake of clarity, I've emphasized those specific words and/or sentences.
Original Text of The Constitution of the United States
The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.
Representatives choose their presiding officer, the Speaker, from among the membership of the majority party. Other elected officers, such as the chaplain, clerk of the House, sergeant at arms, and doorkeeper, are not members of the House. Impeachment is the power to remove federal officers. The House initiates the process by voting to impeach, which then refers the matter to the Senate for a trial.
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
Once the House votes to impeach, the Senate conducts a trial to determine whether to convict or acquit. A two-thirds vote is necessary to remove the individual from office. The chief justice of the United States presides over the impeachment trial of a president.
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
Convicted persons can be barred from holding future office, and may be subject to criminal trial in the courts.
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
As Commander in Chief, the president controls the military forces. Presidents have also cited this power as extending to their control of national and foreign policy in war and peacetime. Congress may not restrain the president's power to pardon, except in impeachment cases.
The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Impeachment is the ultimate power of Congress to deter and to punish abuse of power by officers of the executive and judicial branches. Federal judges constitute the greater number of impeached and convicted officers. President Andrew Johnson won acquittal by a single vote, and President Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached. President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate.
The House of Representatives is empower to initiate impeachment proceedings by voting to send the matter to the Senate. The Senate then tries the impeachment much the same as a criminal court of law would be conducted. Also, if the President is on trial, the Chief Justice is required to preside over the proceedings. The Senate, on conclusion of it's trial, will either vote to convict or acquit the accused. If the person is found guilty, they are removed from office, possibly barred from holding public office in the future, and may be subject to criminal trial in the courts.
"But, what are impeachable offenses?" you ask. Let's look to a website that has answered this question for us: www.impeachbush.tv. They have a whole page that's dedicated to answering this one question. I'll reprint the most important parts here:
The basis for impeachment comes from the US Constitution. Article II, Sec. 4 states that:
"The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."
The crimes of Treason and Bribery are fairly straightforward. But what are "high Crimes and Misdemeanors"? The framers of the Constitution deliberately borrowed this phrase from English parliamentary law. It was first used in 1386 to impeach the King's Chancellor. Michael de le Pole, Earl of Suffolk. He broke a promise to parliament regarding improvements in the King's Estate and also failed to pay ransom money for the town of Ghent.
In the midst of Watergate, the Judiciary wrote a report on impeachment. They stated:
'Two points emerge from the 400 years of English parliamentary experience with the phrase "high Crimes and Misdemeanors." First the particular allegations of misconduct alleged damage to the state in such forms as misapplication of funds, abuse of official power, neglect of duty, encroachment on Parliament's prerogatives, corruption, and betrayal of trust. Second, the phrase "high Crimes and Misdemeanors" was confined to parliamentary impeachments; it had no roots in the ordinary criminal law, and the particular allegations of misconduct under that heading were not necessarily limited to common law or statutory derelictions or crimes.'
The subject of impeachment was debated by the Founding Fathers during the Constitutional conventions. The Federalist Papers give rationale for many parts of the Constitution and are often used to interpret the intent of the framers.
In Federalist No. 65, Alexander Hamilton described the subject of impeachment as:
"those offences which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself"
James Iredell at the North Carolina Constitutional convention, argued that the President:
"Must certainly be punishable for giving false information to the Senate. He is to regulate all intercourse with foreign powers, and it is his duty to impart to the Senate every material intelligence he receives. If it should appear that he has not given them full information, but has concealed important intelligence which he ought to have communicated, and by that means induced them to enter into measures injurious to their country, and which they would not have consented to had the true state of things been disclosed to them,"
The general message from interpreters of the Constitution is that impeachable offenses are not limited to specific violation of criminal statutes. The constitution was intentionally vague on this point to allow flexibility in prosecuting a president. Justice Joseph Story wrote in his Commentaries on the Constitution in 1833:
"Not but that crimes of a strictly legal character fall within the scope of the power; but that it has a more enlarged operation, and reaches, what are aptly termed political offenses, growing out of personal misconduct or gross neglect, or usurpation, or habitual disregard of the public interests, various in their character, and so indefinable in their actual involutions, that it is almost impossible to provide systematically for them by positive law."
We can see that the reason to commence impeachment proceedings does not necessarily need to be a matter of law breaking. It can involve issues of public trust and personal integrity, too. To put it simply, the power to impeach allowed Congress to toss out bad apples.
So, where are we? There is evidence of law breaking by this administration and we have a written duty that says Congress needs to rectify this situation. That duty, of course, being expressed in various sections of the Constitution of the United States. We now know that the House of Representatives needs to initiate the process of impeachment with a vote. This leads me to finding out who my State Representative is. That would be Rick Larson (website). I guess I'll have to call him and/or write him demanding that he do his duty as the people's Representative and uphold our Constitution and our laws, per sworn oath. In addition, I'll do the same for the rest of Washington State's Representatives:
Additionally, I'm planning to delve deeper into the subject of the "power of the purse" and how it relates to "consent." What happens if Americans are not allowed to withhold their consent from government? It destroys the very foundation on which our governmental system was built upon--Consent of the Governed. Without our consent, we are reduced to nothing more than a third-world dictatorship. Tyranny will grow and prosper like a cancer without the people's ability to cut off it's food supply. Consent, in the form of money, must be withheld, in order to keep this cancer in check, or else our system of government will cease to exist. Once this power is usurped from us, we'll find ourselves where the signers of The Declaration of Independence found themselves--with their backs against the wall. Tomorrow, I'm planning an in depth exploration of this topic. Stay tuned for more...
ACLU of Washington Seeks Files on Government Surveillance of Peace Groups
(originally lifted from http://propagandamatrix.com/articles/march2006/220306ACLU.htm)
ACLU March 22 2006
SEATTLE, WA -- In the wake of revelations of government surveillance of nonviolent protests, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington today filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on behalf of itself and 11 peace organizations across the state. The groups are seeking records of any surveillance of their activities by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Defense or the Seattle Joint Terrorism Task Force.
"The government should not spy on groups engaging in peaceful political protest," said ACLU of Washington Executive Director Kathleen Taylor. "The FBI should focus its efforts on actual threats and not target people because of their political views."
All the organizations in today’s filing have been involved in peaceful protest of government policies. Today’s action follows the recent disclosure of government files showing that the FBI and other federal agencies monitored nonviolent groups around the country, including peace groups in Washington during the 2003 Seafair Festival.
In addition to the ACLU of Washington, the groups include:
American Friends Service Committee
Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane
People for Peace, Justice, and Healing
Pierce County Truth in Recruiting
Seattle Peace Chorus
Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War
United for Peace in Pierce County
Vancouver for Peace
Yakima Valley Peace Advocates Network
Western Washington Fellowship of
Files created by federal agencies in 2003 and released under a previous FOIA request filed by the ACLU of Washington show communications between the FBI and other agencies about Ground Zero, the Seattle Peace Chorus, Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War, and other groups. The original FOIA request was filed on behalf of Glen Milner of Ground Zero, a Bangor-based nonviolent group that opposes the use of nuclear weapons. The files reveal government agents collected information about Ground Zero’s plans to ride small boats in Elliott Bay to protest the Navy fleet, scheduled to dock during the annual summer Seafair Festival. The government also gathered information about political meetings and e-mails sent to allies about the peace flotilla. The surveillance created permanent government records that could later be misinterpreted or misused.
The monitoring shows an inappropriate and wasteful government interest in groups that the ACLU says have no history of violence. For example, an e-mail in the previously released files noted that the Raging Grannies, a group of elderly peace advocates who sing at events, had attended a potluck held by Snohomish County Peace Action of Edmonds. It noted that the Snohomish group’s Web site had links "from everything between Aljazeera.net and the Ground Zero Center for Non-Violent Action."
"Our national security people should have better things to do than monitoring the Raging Grannies," said Aaron Caplan, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Washington. "Domestic spying feeds the false notion that political dissent is automatically dangerous and somehow linked to criminal acts or terrorism. Expressing disagreement with the government is a central part of American freedom. It is not evidence of crime."
The ACLU of Washington’s requests for public records are part of a national effort to uncover the extent of domestic surveillance of political groups under the "war on terror." Documents obtained thus far have shown that the FBI and local police infiltrated political, environmental, anti-war and faith-based groups across the country. In Pennsylvania, files revealed that the FBI investigated gatherings of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice solely because the organization opposed the war in Iraq. In Georgia, the FBI and local Homeland Security officials spied on vegans picketing against a meat store in DeKalb County. In Santa Cruz, California, college students protesting military recruiters on campus ended up as “credible threat” in the Pentagon’s TALON surveillance program database.
More information on the national ACLU initiative is available online at www.aclu.org/spyfiles
To see copies of the government files about Glen Milner and Ground Zero, visit www.aclu-wa.org
Paying My Jailer
Butler Shaffer wrote an excellent article for LewRockwell.com that I recommend you all read. If I were to summarize his article, I'd say it encapsulates the egregious failures of our government. But that's not why I point it out. You see, I'm in a bit of a moral dilemma. Mr. Shaffer points out, in the following paragraph, what I've known for quite some time:
Those who doubt this verdict on constitutional government need look no further than Washington, D.C. for confirmation. A president lies with impunity in order to rationalize his predetermined goal of attacking Iraq, a country that had neither harmed nor posed a threat to America. He has admitted violating a federal statute banning surveillance of American citizens, and expresses his intentions to abide by only those laws he regards as useful to his ends. He has violated international treaties, and his administration continues to defend the "right" to engage in torture or to hold people in prisons for months or even years without trial or other recourse to the courts. He rules by whims reflective of the interests of his masters, and justifies his actions in terms of the "inherent powers" of the presidency, authority that is nowhere spelled out in a constitution of supposedly "specifically-enumerated powers." At various times, Mr. Bush has expressed his preference for being a "dictator," comments that have generated almost no concern. In his allusions to being God's choice for the presidency, this man conflates Louis XIV's view "I am the state," and Hegel's proposition that "the State is god walking on the earth."
Can anyone here argue against the accusations Mr. Shaffer makes? I would say he has a very strong case. As a matter of fact, I have written a bit about this administration's spying program and, likewise, have reached the very same conclusions as Mr. Shaffer. His spying program is illegal and he needs to cease and desist. Anyone with half a brain can look at the overwhelming evidence that exists to know that we were lied into attacking Iraq. While I will wholeheartedly agree with anyone asserting Saddam Hussein was a bad man, I'll also refute their position that our government was justified in invading his country because we didn't like the way he ran his government. Our military is for the defense of this country, not offending others.
Here's my dilemma: I understand that taxes paid by me go to support the functions of government. They're a necessary evil that must be paid so that the machinery of government can function. But, what if you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the government you were helping to finance was not the same government you were led to believe existed? I've read many history books. I've read about the Constitutional Convention. I've read the history behind why that convention was called. I understand why we demanded separation of powers, checks and balances, of why the states demanded a Bill of Rights be amended to the new constitution, of the inherent mistrust of government, of why George Washington warned us that government is force. I could go on and on.
So, when my tax preparer informed me that, in addition to all the taxes that were siphoned off the top of every single paycheck I received last year, I still owed another $900.00 in taxes, I was a little upset. Let me set the record straight. I don't like paying taxes. But I will, because I understand that they are necessary for my government to function. But, I also want to buy as little government as I can get. Small is better, none would be best. So, imagine my frustration when I'm told that I still owe more. Especially when I know that this president thinks that our Constitution is "just a goddamned piece of paper!" How can I feel right about sending in even more money to a government that has run so far outside of it's constitutional boundaries? At this point, I'm about ready to put that money in escrow. They can have it when Congress grows a pare of balls and brings impeachment charges against the president and anyone else who's connected with his spying program and the rest of the accusations cited by Butler Shaffer. In addition, they can have my money when they give the We the People Foundation the time and answers it seeks--instead of ignoring them. What good is it to be a citizen in a constitutional republic where your government, created by you, treats you like one of it's subjects? The power of the purse means nothing in the face of violence committed by the state. We are most assuredly not a free people!
Enslaved To Federal Money
The use of drugs by students has once again popped up in the national news. The Bush administration has decided that it wants to push for more random drug testing for voluntary/after-school activities participants. If your child is involved in cheerleading or band or the chess club or whatever they will be subject to drug screening by federal mandate. It seems that the Bush administration has decided that if your participating in these programs, you're also a potential pothead. If you can figure out the connection between these two activities, let me know. I don't see it. If anything, I'd have guessed the opposite. Anyway, the Supreme Court has OK'd the random drug screening of participants for all voluntary/after-school programs.
(REUTERS) The Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that schools can randomly test student athletes who are not suspected of drug use, and in 2002 ruled that all students who participate in voluntary activities, like cheerleading, band or debate, could be subjected to random tests. This looks to me like a 'carrot and stick' tactic. If the children want to participate in voluntary/after-school programs, they'll have to agree to random drug screenings. I'm going to have to assume that the federal government's authority rides in on the back of federal money. I'm sure that this mandate is part of the No Child Left Behind Act. How else could the federal government tell the citizens of the several states how to live their lives. There has to be a nexus to federal money. I hate to say it, but if you're a recipient of federal funds, you're also subject to their will. Like it or not, by accepting federal money, you have become their slave. Much like the dust-up over military recruiters on college campuses, drug testing is also allowed because the schools have accepted federal funds. (In case you're wondering, even if you accept just 1 penny of federal money, you concede 100 percent to federal authority.)
Let's be clear. The federal government is not allowed to arbitrarily order schools who are not recipients of federal funds to perform random drug testing. Likewise, they cannot demand access for military recruiters. As a matter of fact, it would be a constitutional violation if they did. However, if a nexus can be shown between that institution and federal money, they just "bought" your servitude. What do you think? This must be why they say, "Money is the root of all evil." Especially, when it involves federal money. Do you know what is really insulting about all of this? There is no such thing as "federal money." Federal money originates from all of us, being taken by force in the form of taxation. Then, in the giving back in the form of aid or a grant, more force is applied because the recipients are forced to comply with federal mandates. It is nothing more than wealth redistribution, seasoned with a pinch of governmental force.
Can We Restore Our Lost Constitution?
Mark over at South Puget Sound Libertarian had an excellent post that I wanted to reproduce for you here. It got me thinking and in responding to his post, I wrote out a pretty substantial piece. I've included my response to his post below. But first, here is his post:
I've been reading 2 books by Randy Barnett simultaneously. Well, not really simultaneously but alternatively. One is "The Structure of Liberty"; the other is "Restoring the Lost Constitution". Though I have finished neither book, they are truly fascinating and heroic efforts at trying to explain how liberty needs a legal structure to protect it and how the Constitution, properly interpreted and construed, could be the framework for that structure. Both of these books display Barnett's erudition, thoughtfulness, clarity and finally, hope.
I will finish both books but I have already come to the tentative conclusion that Barnett's ideas are a form of intellectual fantasizing. I mean that I see no way that political reality will ever result in a society governed as the Constitution intended. Our Constitution is dead and will not be revived. And, perhaps, it should not be. As Butler Shaffer has written:
If our thinking was influenced more by an experientially-based awareness of consequences implicit in our actions, and less by logical deductions drawn from abstract principles, we might avoid many adversities that reason, alone, cannot contemplate. Those who drafted the American constitution were doubtless as well-read, well-motivated, and thoughtful men as one would expect to find in any political undertaking. Even with the grasping hands of such men as Alexander Hamilton helping to weave its structure, the Constitution was probably created with the best intentions for which minds, fashioned by the "age of reason," might hope: a rational means for limiting state power.
The framers' dreams of a political system grounded in the illusion of a "social contract," and ruled by reason and fail-safe mechanisms to restrain power, has morphed into the realpolitik of the modern state. When the state is given the power to interpret words that define its authority, institutional self-interest will ensure constructions that serve state purposes.
It is neither abstract principles nor reason to which we ought to refer in assessing the shortcomings of "constitutionalism" and "limited government," but to historic experience.
So, how do we create a stateless society? Must we just wait for the present state to crumble? Will it then thrash out in deadly fashion as it dies? Is that what it is doing now? Is there a peaceful way to put the state to sleep permanently or must we physically escape it?
To which I replied:
You've asked a lot of good questions that I find myself asking, too. Has this grand experiment run its course? I think it has. But let me preface that comment by saying that the experiment was tampered with, and therefore is flawed. Much like a science experiment where someone sneezes over the petri dish, this one has also been contaminated and really should be started over. I see no way to call this one a failure or a success because the environment in which it was to grow in has been corrupted.
At this point, I really do believe that our system of government is not a good fit for such a large number of member states. It is far too big to be accountable to individual citizens. The monstrosity we have now needs to be reduced in size and scope. If this experiment were to be reset, I think that it should be limited to include no less than ten member states; but no more than twenty. Our country is extremely large and geographically diverse. Being out on the West Coast, we often feel disconnected from the head of government. Additionally, with the great distances involved for us to go and personally complain, we often feel left out of the political process. However, if the head were in Nevada, Oregon, Montana, or even right here in Washington, I'd be more able to tell them in person how I felt about their actions, etc. I think many, many more of us would.
That brings up another point. If this great experiment were to be reset, the responsibilities of the federal and state governments would need to be set in stone. Obviously the clear language of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments were not sufficiently worded for politicians to understand. To paraphrase those two amendments for readers who don't have their copy of the Bill of Rights: (With regard to federal authority--) Unless it clearly says you can, you can't. Period! Hands off.
When it comes to federal authority, I liken it to the states having a child in common. This child, once it got old enough to walk on it's own, began to test its boundaries. In the beginning, the states were pretty good about putting their child in its place when it strayed too far. As time went on, though, the child grew into a bratty teenager who knew everything. At some point, their teenager figured out how to pick the states' pocketbooks, and has grown in size ever since. The states should have stopped the theft when it became obvious, but for whatever reason, they did not. May be their collective conscience didn't want to. (Of course, that little voice of conscience would be you and me.) I suspect that the states didn't want to, because the federal teenager made the states accomplices to the theft through aid and grant moneys. But, that's a topic for another day.
Do we need government? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Unless you live alone on an island, you will always need an arbiter for disputes: an unbiased third person for conflict resolution. Some things must be handled by a third to be considered fair. The correct question is how much authority should be vested in that third? In my opinion, the absolute minimum at most. If a resolution can be had without government interference, than that avenue should be taken. We should always operate from the assumed position that it is always none of government's business. In other words, unless they're invited into the conversation by either party, they need to butt out. Furthermore, all disputes need to be handled locally whenever possible. It should be the rare case that finds it's way to the purview of the federal government. The federal government's responsibilities need to be clear and concise. We've been doing this for over two hundred years. We should, I think, be able to word a constitution that clearly delineates federal responsibilities in such a way as to avoid questions of what was meant when the constitution was originally written. The original intent must always be clear.
As to how this experiment ends, I think we can let this one end in one of two different ways. The first would be for Americans to kill the experiment by removing its food supply (a.k.a. money). The other would be to let this monster in the petri dish become our Frankenstein. Eventually, town folk (probably represented by other countries) will chase it down and kill it when it becomes too bothersome. If the latter happens, the rule of "He who broke it, buys it" comes into play. Much like Iraq, we may find ourselves being "democratized" by the EU or some other joint venture (China, Russia, Iran, Korea...) conglomerate. Obviously, the better choice would be the first.
In closing, I think we all need to remember that we ultimately are responsible for the actions of our government much like parents are responsible for the actions of their children. With that responsibility comes the task of disciplining our government when it has been bad. Look, government is not a thing; it's an idea. We can no more kill government in the physical sense as we can hold it. If we all threw up our hands and said, "Screw it! It's just not working!" and went our separate ways, our government would cease to exist. It would be gone. Killing it would be just that easy. We could all just decide that we don't like it anymore and we want to quit it or change it. Then we would follow through on our decision and it would be done.
I believe the Founding Fathers realized that the creation of government was just that easy. They realized that each and every one of them was the most important person at the table, and that all of them were free to choose to participate. Likewise, they were free to disassociate if the terms weren't to their liking. A government is not some magical thing that must be carried around in a golden ark or some such nonsense. Governments are merely agreements between people on how to structure their societies. They consist of a set of rules that participants agree to live by. If everyone agrees to the rules, you have mutual consent that creates a body of the governed -- nothing more. If society's rules become too restrictive, then those governing rules will have to change or that society will wither and die. A quick look at human history can evidence this. Civilizations spring up, grow, and eventually die out. It's all part of society's lifecycle.
We need to heed the words of Thomas Jefferson when he wrote that, "Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes." This restraint, however, should not be used by the people to excuse abuses by their government. Once we realize that it's OK for us to change, rearrange, or dissolve our government, the better off we'll be. Of course, all of this is predicated on the belief that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." This is the foundation on which any society should be built. And the most important and fundamental purpose for creating any form of government is to secure these rights. All we need to do is act on our beliefs and change will happen. After all, our society is what we make of it -- nothing more.
TSA Scores One Hundred Percent (Failure Rate)
In case you missed this little news article, I'll highlight it for today's observation:
21 U.S. Airports Fail Bomb Detection Test
LAST UPDATE: 3/17/2006 8:14:31 AM
United Press International
Undercover checks by U.S. federal investigators showed all 21 airports tested failed to detect bomb-making materials passing through security.
The tests were requested by Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., who said the results were very disappointing, ABC News reported Friday.
The airports were not identified, as the information is classified.
Investigators sent through components of an improvised explosive device, the report by the Government Accountability Office, the watchdog arm of Congress, said.
In its defense, the Transportation Security Administration, the agency that handles airport security, issued a statement, stating, While random items commonly found under a kitchen sink could conceivably be concocted into an IED, there are so many things that could go wrong with this hypothetical scenario that we find it highly implausible.
That's a one hundred percent failure rate. They failed miserably! Can someone please remind me why we continue to pour money down this bottomless pit? It seems to me that as time goes on, this program's only redeeming characteristic is that it puts to work persons who either have a low or no level of competency. I certainly hope that this program is not what we were forced to trade our liberties for. If this "security" is what we got in the forced exchange, we're all in for a horrible surprise. Should we really be putting so much responsibility on the shoulders of those who cannot do their jobs? We're just asking to get hurt.
Government needs a reason and a warrant to spy on Americans
In a previous post, Hyperbole? You Decide, I reproduced for you a letter conversation that took place through my local newspaper about the President's illegal spying program. I wanted to follow that up with a copy of my letter that was printed in the last issue of the Journal. (An archived copy can be read here.)
Government needs a reason and a warrant to spy on Americans
A recent letter writer requested that the Journal supply names proving that Americans were surveilled by the Presidents eavesdropping program. How about your own name? Can you prove that you havent been bugged? Can you show the names of those under surveillance? No? Apparently neither can Congress. "The Bush administration refuses to say -- in public or in closed session of Congress -- how many Americans in the past four years have had their conversations recorded or their e-mails read by intelligence analysts without court authority." (Washington Post)
The letter also claimed that members of Congress were briefed and gave their official approval. That neither makes it right nor constitutional. Determination of this programs constitutionality rests with the Supreme Court, not the Congress.
I want to make two quick points on the legality of the Presidents program. The first has to do with the Fourth Amendment: "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."
In plain English, the Amendment says that in order to suspend an individual's rights, the case must be presented before an unbiased third party. If the cause is just (i.e. evidence of illegal activity), a warrant is issued. This is the supreme law of the land, regardless of circumstances.
The second point refers to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the letters statement that "warrants are only called for in criminal cases, not intelligence." This is just plain wrong. We can prove this by looking at 50USC36§1802(a)(1), which reads: "Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year if the Attorney General certifies in writing under oath that... (B) there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party."
The statute clearly states that without a warrant there shall be no surveillance of U.S. persons. It conforms perfectly with the Fourth Amendment.
Government's primary job is to protect all the rights of the people, not just those that are convenient. Your letter attempted to make the law fit around the actions of the Bush administration when, in fact, it is their actions that need to fit within the law... and they clearly dont.
If government needs to listen in on our phone calls or to read our mail, they had better have a good reason -- and a warrant -- for violating our rights.
Don Bangert, Granite Falls
(...it's close enough to what I originally wrote.)
Government's Eloquent Reasoning
I was flipping through the channels last night when I stumbled on LinkTV. They were showing "Waco: The Rules of Engagement." I had heard about this documentary and had been told that it was one that needed to be watched by every American for him to properly understand his government. A brief synopsis of this documentary: On February 28, 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) raided the Branch Davidian ranch at Mount Carmel, a rural area near Waco, Texas. The raid resulted in the deaths of four agents and five Davidians. The subsequent 51-day siege by the FBI ended on April 19 when the compound was completely consumed by fire killing seventy-six people, including Davidian leader David Koresh.
After being exposed to two hours and thirty minutes of government's brutality, I finally understand the following quote:
Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. ~ George Washington
If you get a chance, rent this video and watch it... And hope you never find yourself on the receiving end of government's eloquent reasoning.