Common Sense & An Open Mind

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    "You must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, and neither believe nor reject anything, because any other persons, or description of persons, have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable, not for the rightness, but uprightness of the decision." T. Jefferson

Archive for December, 2011

We Need $1.2 Trillion More

Posted by Free to Think on December 29, 2011

Treasury officials said Tuesday that the White House plans to request another $1.2 trillion in borrowing authority on Friday.

In August, Congress and the Obama administration raised the borrowing limit by $2.1 trillion. Three days after the agreement was signed into law, long-term U.S. debt was downgraded by credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s, an ominous warning about the level of our debt. Yet just four months later, the federal government has nearly reached its borrowing limit once again and wants more.

In November, a bipartisan panel failed to meet a deadline in which they were to agree on $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. This came as little surprise: neither party wants to budge on feeding their own special interests.

“I would love nothing more than to see Congress act so aggressively that I can’t campaign against them as a do-nothing Congress,” Obama told reporters back in October. People “don’t get a sense that folks in this town are looking out for their interests.”

Quite true, Mr. President. According to a Pew Poll, only 22 percent of Americans surveyed say they trust government in Washington “almost always or most of the time,” among the lowest measure in the half-century since pollsters have been asking the question.

However, “Do-nothing Congress” a phrase appropriated from Harry Truman, seems to be a misnomer here. Congress is doing plenty, just way too much of the wrong things. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives have passed 326 bills, and the Democratic-controlled Senate has passed 368 measures. In 2011 alone. And this is low by recent standards.

One must wonder how congressmen have time to closely read and analyze all this legislation, considering many bills are often hundreds of pages long. Apparently this left them little time to trim the budget. Though the Fed continues to print more money, Congress only narrowly avoided a government shutdown and a default on the national debt this year.

In April, Congress did manage to pass a measure cutting a meager $38.5 billion in federal spending. Even this measure was misleading however, as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analysis revealed that only a small fraction of the cuts would take effect in the current fiscal year.

“Total nonsense,” House Speaker John Boehner said in response to criticism. “A cut is a cut.”

Isn’t there any leader out there willing to discuss meaningful,l specific, across-the-board spending cuts? Only one presidential candidate fits that bill: Ron Paul. He proposes, among other things, to impose a spending freeze on most federal departments, eliminate other departments altogether, cut the federal workforce by 10 percent, and end all foreign wars.

According to the same Pew Poll mentioned above, an increasing number, almost 1 of every 3 Americans say they believe government is a major threat to their personal freedoms and want federal power reined in.

“The public,” Pew Center Director Andrew Kohut tells NPR, “wants a less activist government.”

Now if we could only find representatives who feel the same.

Posted in Debt, Detrimental policies, election, Intrusive government, obama, Politics, Ron Paul | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Who’s threatening whom?

Posted by Free to Think on December 14, 2011

Each star represents a United States military base. “But just so we’re all clear,” says Judge Andrew Napolitano, “Iran is threatening us; we’re not threatening them.”

No matter which political party has occupied the White House, there hasn’t been a substantial change in the number of our foreign military posts in decades. Only one 2008 presidential candidate promised to close most of our bases and bring our military home. Only one promises to do so in the 2012 election. It’s the same candidate in both elections: Ron Paul.

Ron Paul contends that not only does our military presence overseas make us less safe by creating enemies, but that it’s making us broke. To support 900 bases around the world in 130 countries, last year the United States spent almost $700 billion, 20% of our federal budget.

Why are we in Korea?” Paul asks during this campaign. “We’ve been there since I’ve been in high school. Why are we in Japan? We’ve been there since World War II. Why are we in Germany, subsidizing their welfare state by paying for their defense? And why are we in five wars in the Middle East? We are less safe because of this. We’re going broke. And it undermines our national security. So why stay any of those places?”

Posted in Detrimental policies, iran, middle east, military, military bases | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The War on Terror Becomes a War on the Constitution

Posted by Free to Think on December 9, 2011

Last week Congress voted to strip us of our most basic human rights as American citizens.

That isn’t hysteria or hype, it’s fact.

Last week Bill S 1867, otherwise known as the National Defense Authorization Act, was passed in the Senate 93-7. It had already been passed in the House 322-96 with bipartisan support.

This new law gives our government the ability to arrest U.S. citizens and put them in jail indefinitely without charge, and without an opportunity for the detained to defend themselves. It denies us of our right to be considered innocent until proven guilty, our right to a fair and speedy trial, and our right to due process under the law.

Buried on page 426 of the 926 page legislation, a provision gives the federal government the unprecedented authority to turn over suspected “terrorists” to the military, be they foreigners or U.S. citizens on American soil. These suspects become prisoners of war, and thus can be held without trial until Congress declares an end to the war on terror.

Wouldn’t you assume that the major news media would be all over this story?

Wouldn’t you expect Americans to be picketing in the streets in fury? Wouldn’t you imagine rallies taking over Washington in opposition of the legislation?

You may have seen a story or two about the bill. But the AP article, which was published in most major newspapers the day before the November 30 Senate vote, describes the bill without even mentioning the provision about detaining U.S. citizens without burden of proof or opportunity for trial.
The day following the Senate approval, the Associated Press began their article thus: “The White House on Friday accused the Democratic-controlled Senate of political micromanagement at the expense of national security after it approved legislation requiring military custody of suspected terrorists.” Ho hum. The discussion of constitutional rights doesn’t begin until paragraph 12.

The headline of the CBS News story, “Senate OKs $662B defense bill despite veto threat” may not have caught your attention. The CBS article drones on about the cost of the bill and whether the law would constrain the president’s authority when suspects are rounded up. You’d have had to get to paragraph 9 to find the mention that, “The legislation also would deny suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens seized within the nation’s borders, the right to trial and subject them to indefinite detention. The series of detention provisions challenges citizens’ constitutional rights, tests the boundaries of executive and legislative branch authority…Civil rights groups fiercely oppose the bill.”

The CNN headline that followed the Senate vote reads, “Senate passes defense bill with detainee policy compromise.” The article doesn’t elaborate on what each side originally proposed, but does describes the “compromise” as requiring that “any suspected al Qaeda terrorists, even those captured inside the U.S., to be held potentially indefinitely by the military.” The article also fails to point out that, unlike with civil arrests, the military doesn’t need to provide evidence to a court of law, nor would defendants have an opportunity to appeal their detainment.
I could find no mention of the bill at all on the NPR website.

Since most Americans get their news from one of the sources above, chances are they have not been made aware of the implications of this new law.

Why is the only outcry from blogs? Where is outrage on the opinion pages of the major newspapers? Discussion by the talking heads on TV? One of the few editorials I could find was from the Star Ledger of Newark, NJ.

“We’re fighting a war,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, an Air Force Reserves military lawyer and key author of the nation’s detainee treatment law. “America is part of the battlefield. We firmly believe the war is coming back home… if you make it to America, all of a sudden you get Miranda rights and you go to federal court. That’s an absurd result; never been known in war before.”

So now our nation has been deemed a “battleground” and we are in effect under martial law. How does this law distinguish us from Manuel Noriega’s Panama? Or the military rule in Argentina, when thousands of “subversives” disappeared without formal arrest or charge?

Without the burden of proof, without even needing to provide grounds for arrest, someone like me could simply disappear tomorrow for writing literature that’s a “menace to the government.” There’s nothing to keep the government from rounding up last week’s Occupy Portland protesters, who spoke out about this defense bill. After all, their opposition could be seen as abetting terrorists. Of course, the longest they can be detained is until “Congress declares an end to the war on terror.” But as long as there’s at least one crazy person in the world who can be deemed a terrorist, can there ever be a conclusion to this ‘war?’

Graham and John McCain say the Administration should not object to the requirements of their bill, because they put in a national security waiver, allowing the Secretary of Defense to determine if certain situations necessitate a criminal/civil path, not a military one. Phew, that should certainly put us all at ease.

Yes, the war on terror has come home. We no longer have to worry about Muslim extremists terrorizing us, or taking away our freedoms or our way of life. We’re doing it to ourselves.

Posted in constitutional rights, Detrimental policies, Freedom of Speech, Intrusive government, Politics | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »