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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 the ‘Ron Paul’ Category

Internet freedom at risk again

Posted by Free to Think on May 9, 2012

“CISPA is Big Brother writ large, putting the resources of private industry to work for the nefarious purpose of spying on the American people.”Rep. Ron Paul

Back in January I wrote a piece about SOPA and PIPA, the overreaching online piracy bills that threatened to censor free speech and invade our privacy in the name of fighting copyright infringement. Though I was celebrating the popular outcry that resulted in the bills being dropped by both houses of Congress, I warned that “SOPA and PIPA will likely return in some form.” As predicted, similar legislation has been introduced, and it didn’t take long.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, passed in the House of Representatives last week and now heads to the Senate. Its stated purpose is to thwart the trafficking of pirated and counterfeit goods online.

Intellectual property theft is a huge problem. But many Internet and communications experts say that this legislation will not only be ineffective against copyright infringers, but could be easily abused by those who gather our personal information.

If enacted, CISPA would allow the government and technology companies to share confidential information about Internet users. The Electronic Frontier Foundation says that the bill “leaves ample room for abuse,” and that it would “cut a loophole in all existing privacy laws.”

What has sparked privacy worries is the section of CISPA that says “notwithstanding any other provision of law,” companies may share information with any other entity, including the federal government. By including this phrase, it’s possible for CISPA to nullify existing federal and state laws that protect our private information. “Notwithstanding any other provision of law” is so broad a term that in 2003 the non-partisan Congressional Research Service warned against using the phrase in legislation because of “unforeseen consequences for both existing and future laws.”

If CISPA is enacted, “part of the problem is we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen,” says Lee Tien, an attorney at EFF, which sued AT&T over the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.

On April 26, twenty-two civil liberty organizations such as the ACLU signed a letter urging our legislators to vote against CISPA, stating, “We are gravely concerned that this bill will allow companies that hold very sensitive and personal information to liberally share it with the government, which could then use the information without meaningful oversight.”

Mozilla has also issued the following statement, “While we wholeheartedly support a more secure Internet, CISPA has a broad and alarming reach that goes far beyond Internet security. The bill infringes on our privacy, includes vague definitions of cybersecurity, and grants immunities to companies and government that are too broad around information misuse. We hope the Senate takes the time to fully and openly consider these issues with stakeholder input before moving forward with this legislation.”

Declan McCullagh, chief political correspondent for CBS subsidiary CNET, cautions that CISPA would allow any user’s personal information to be inspected by government agencies as long as companies agreed to share it. And already pledging their support is Facebook, Microsoft, Oracle, Symantec, Verizon, AT&T, Intel, and the trade association of T-Mobile, Sybase, Nokia, and Qualcomm.

Even without the privacy concerns, the effectiveness of this legislation is questionable.

“Imagine the resources required to parse through the millions of Google and Facebook offerings every day looking for pirates who, if found, can just toss up another site in no time,” points out the San Jose News in an editorial. “When political polar opposites like San Jose Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul are both arguing against a piece of legislation, you know it must have serious problems.”

Edward J. Black, president and CEO of the Computer & Communication Industry Association, writes that, “Ironically, it would do little to stop actual pirate websites, which could simply reappear hours later under a different name. New America Foundation predicts that this legislation would instigate a data “arms race” requiring increasingly invasive practices to monitor users’ web traffic.

Over 650,000 have signed an Avaaz.org petition against CISPA. Click here to add your voice.

 

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

The Power of the People

Posted by Free to Think on January 23, 2012

Typically my blog posts are full of doom and gloom, but this week I’m happy to comment on good news: the American public stood up for their rights and actually won.

The Senate’s Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) and the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) were introduced as a way to thwart intellectual property theft and sales of counterfeit products online. But opposition from Internet-based companies and their users argued that the bill would lead to over-regulation and censorship. An excellent short video describing how these laws could curtail freedom can be seen here.

On January 18th, 13 million of us took the time to tell Congress that we wanted to protect free speech rights on the Internet. In fact, so many voters bombarded their senators and congressmen with so many protest messages that it temporarily knocked out some representatives websites.  Petition drives abounded, such as the one by Google which attracted more than 7 million participants.

The power of the Internet has given us opportunities to rally together like we never have before. And finally, Americans seized the chance. On Friday the bills, which were being fast-tracked through Congress, were indefinitely shelved.

The bills had been backed by the entertainment industry and also initially by Congress. Only 5 senators opposed the bill the week it was introduced. Then the protests began. Within a week 35 senators publicly opposed PIPA.

Ron Paul denounced SOPA from its inception, the first Republican congressman to oppose it. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were silent on the issue until after the massive public protests. Rick Santorum remained the only Republican presidential candidate to defend some form of the bills during Thursday night’s Republican debate in South Carolina.

Last week, incensed Hollywood executives cancelled Obama fundraisers when the President also sided against the legislation.

Former Connecticut senator Chris Dodd is now Chairman of MPAA, the movie studio lobby that crafted these bills. He told the New York Times that passage of PIPA and SOPA had been “considered to be a slam-dunk.” The bills were backed by over 350 large, powerful corporations and organizations. Comparing the protests to the ‘Arab Spring’ uprising, Mr. Dodd said he was humbled to learn that “no Washington player can safely assume that a well-wired, heavily financed legislative program is safe from a sudden burst of Web-driven populism.”

I must admit that when I went to Wikipedia last Thursday only to find it blacked out in protest, it was quite a powerful statement. A sampling of some of the best website protests can be seen here.

“It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman and SOPA sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith.

Hurray, the people made their wishes known! Yes Mr. Chairman, we’d like the government to address the problem of piracy without claiming the right to completely choke off the traffic, free speech and revenue of entire web sites without ever having to try or convict its owners of any crime. Even without these expanded powers, sites have already been wrongfully shuttered by the government.

Copyright owners do need to be able to go after piracy sites, and they already have some mechanisms at their disposal. But these industries have concocted some truly absurd statistics purporting apocalyptic damages that require draconian measures, while in fact these businesses remain very healthy.

SOPA and PIPA will likely return in some form, as the bills were not killed, just postponed.

The SOPA/ PIPA protest was one of the biggest populist movements in America since the Vietnam War, engaging millions of Americans to rally against governmental policy that could substantially change the way we live. Yet there was relatively scant coverage of the movement in the major mass media. Last week, news organizations seemed to find the Italian cruise ship disaster, which killed 12 people on the other side of the globe, much more newsworthy. It should be noted that these media outlets are owned by the same corporations that sponsored these bills.

Americans have proven that the right to gather information and communicate on the web freely is very important to us. Now if only the public would get equally up in arms about the national debt and government detention laws!

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Posted in constitutional rights, Detrimental policies, Freedom of Speech, Intrusive government, Media bias, obama, Politics, Ron Paul | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Who can authorize a citizen to die?

Posted by Free to Think on January 10, 2012

How would you answer the following: “Under what circumstances, if any, would the Constitution permit the president to authorize the targeted killing of a United States citizen who has not been sentenced to death by a court?”

The New York Times submitted this question to each of the major presidential candidates.

The discussion here is not about imprisonment—we’re talking about death. Without due process. In other words, without the ability to defend oneself.

The question posed by The New York Times even specifically asked when “the Constitution would permit” the president to authorize the killing of an American citizen without trial.

Newt Gingrich answered, “Under wartime circumstances.” Well, since the U.S. is officially engaged in an indefinite War on Terror, that isn’t very limiting. “If such an individual is engaged on a battlefield it would be irresponsible not to kill him,” says John Huntsman. This wouldn’t restrict President Huntsman from killing someone anywhere in the United States, since the new National Defense Authorization Act deems the U.S. homeland part of the “battlefield” of the War on Terror.

Rick Perry says, “The Constitution clearly vests in the President…an absolute duty, to protect the nation when vital American security interests are at stake. The President would be so authorized…where a citizen has joined or is associated with a nation or group engaged in hostilities against the United States.”  Opines Mitt Romney, “Due process permits the use of deadly force against all enemy combatants, including citizens, who engage in acts of war against the United States on behalf of an enemy of the United States. U.S. citizens have no right to affiliate themselves with al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups plotting attacks against our country.”

This language is frighteningly vague. Vague terms are dangerous because they leave open-ended opportunities for misuse. What’s the definition of a “vital American security interest?” Is it possible that “a citizen associated with a nation or group engaged in hostilities against the United States” is a phrase that could be abused?

What specifically is an “act of war” that would deem assassination?

Can any of these terms be found in the Constitution, or is there any other language referring to the president’s authority to kill American citizens?

Ron Paul had the most clear and concise answer as to what kind of circumstance would permit the president to order the death of an American: “None.” In no way does the Constitution indicate that the president can ever authorize the targeted killing of a United States citizen who has not been sentenced to death by a court.

President Obama did not submit an answer.

Here are their answers in full.

Posted in constitutional rights, Freedom of Speech, Intrusive government, obama, Politics, Ron Paul | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The National Defense Authorization Act: Who’s laughing now?

Posted by Free to Think on January 2, 2012

Once again I must defer to Jon Stewart’s biting humor as he illustrates the outrageous absurdity of the pending national defense bill.  With tongue in cheek, Stewart states that he see why 7 of the senators were a bit leery to pass a bill that would nullify the fourth amendment and allow for the indefinite detainment of Americans without trial. But what about those other 93 senators who voted for the bill?

At least our level-headed President had threatened a veto. But wait a minute: it was the Obama administration that requested the indefinite detentions in the first place.

The only reason Obama has ever given for wanting to veto the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 was a fear that the measure might infringe on his own executive branch powers.

In another segment, Jon Stewart drolly illustrates the about-face Obama has done since he reached Executive Office. Stewart offers a clip of a 2007 speech by presidential candidate Obama, rebuking the Bush administration’s policy of detaining foreigners at Guantanamo without due cause. He juxtaposes it with President Obama’s 2011 desire for “infinite power” to detain anyone, including American citizens.

Unfortunately for the American public, adjustments made by a House-Senate conference committee have sufficiently addressed White House concerns that the bill could infringe on presidential powers. In his last official act of business in 2011, last weekend President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law.

Human Rights Watch said of our Noble Peace Prize-winning leader, “By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in U.S. law.”

Another political humorist, funnyman Andy Borowitz, satirically tells us that most voters “no longer believe that the 2008 Obama and the current Obama are the same person.”

Jon Stewart and Andy Borowitz make me laugh about the things I want to cry about. I wish I were witty enough to make this situation sound humorous. But to me there’s nothing funny going on here. What’s happening is terrifying.

“This should be the biggest news going on right now — literally legalizing martial law,” says Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul.

“The founders wanted to set a high bar for the government to overcome in order to deprive an individual of life or liberty,” said Paul this week. “When the bar is low enough to include political enemies, our descent into totalitarianism is virtually assured. The Patriot Act, as bad as its violations against the Fourth Amendment were, was just one step down the slippery slope. The recently passed National Defense Authorization Act continues that slip into tyranny, and in fact, accelerates it significantly.”

“The danger of the NDAA is its alarmingly vague,” Paul continued, “with undefined criteria for who can be indefinitely detained by the U.S. government without trial.”

As I will discuss in my next article, no other presidential candidate has a problem with this expansion of legislative and executive power.

As Jon Stewart advises us, we needn’t worry about losing our due process to defend ourselves all that much. “In the event that you find yourself suddenly and perhaps capaciously imprisoned under this bill” they can’t detained you forever, Stewart explains. Once the War on Terror is over “and terror surrenders, and is no longer available as a human emotion, you’ll be free to go.”

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Posted in constitutional rights, Detrimental policies, Freedom of Speech, Intrusive government, National Defense Authorization Act, Politics, Ron Paul | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 is Ron Paul, part 2

Posted by Free to Think on November 29, 2011

I read an AP article by Mike Glover entitled “Republican field crowded and likely to remain so” on Yahoo News this weekend. You may have seen it in another online news site, or in one of many newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle, the Denver Post or the Boston Herald, where it had been reprinted.

These days most media outlets rarely publish their own national news stories; it’s cheaper and easier to regurgitate Associated Press releases than to hire their own reporters to write original pieces. So in today’s “information age,” many of us rely on just a few powerful voices to interpret the news for us.

What did we learn from Mr. Glover’s article? There are a lot of Republican presidential hopefuls besides frontrunners Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain.

Mr. Glover devotes the first three paragraphs of his article to “second tier” candidate Rick Santorum. He then devotes two paragraphs apiece to Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry. Twelve paragraphs into the article, Glover speculates that “also-ran” candidates (his term) may not expect to win, but could use the publicity for book deals or just to help them retain political power.

It’s only then that Glover dedicates a single line to Rep. Ron Paul: “Rep. Ron Paul’s hard-core libertarian views energize a small but loyal base.”

This article is at best misleading, at worst blatantly and purposefully deceptive.

1)      In poll after poll of Republican voters, Paul has actually come in ahead of proclaimed “top tier” candidate Herman Cain, and on several occasions has come in second, just after Romney.

2)      Can the term ‘hard-core libertarian views’ fit the definition of objective news reporting?

So what are a few of Ron Paul’s views? A sampling:

Bring government spending to a responsible level

End our wars and bring our troops home

Audit the Federal Reserve

End corporate influence

Stop corporate bailouts

Enforce Constitutional restraints on big government

Promote personal liberty

As I’ve pointed out in an earlier post, this shunning of Rep. Ron Paul is nothing new. But it’s frightening. I sent an email to Mike Glover himself yesterday, politely asking him for an explanation as to why, given the poll results, he chose to cover the story as he did. Let’s see if I hear anything from him.

Posted in Media bias, Politics, Ron Paul | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Who is Ron Paul?

Posted by Free to Think on November 11, 2011

My dear Common Sense followers,

Five months ago I walked away from my blog, feeling disheartened and hopeless.

The more I researched, the more evidence I found that our country is shifting at an exponential pace from its foundations. Not only have checks, balances, inalienable rights, and constitutional, limited government become things of the past, but so have public concern and the objective, watchful eye of the free press. I began to feel that expressing a critical view was simply futile.

I admit I don’t have the time or heart to continue producing the in-depth posts I have in the past. At least not consistently enough to fill a blog. But I am still reading and learning. I hope that more and more people begin to understand some of the causes of the crises that our nation is now facing. Problems are coming to a head, and one can only hope there’s a positive side to that. When things are relatively good, it’s easy to be complacent about irresponsible government spending, trampling of personal rights and unconstitutional laws.

I’d like to do my part by using this venue to pass along some pieces worth thinking about. I’ll start with the wisdom of Jon Stewart.

To me, a very pressing and troubling issue  is the media’s determination to shun Republican candidate Ron Paul, the only person running for President who has something unique to say. While our Titanic of a nation sinks, every other politician is busy declaring how they’d rearrange the deck chairs, while Paul has spelled out exactly how he’d plug up the hole.

Last week Paul came in first in the Illinois straw poll. In fact, he won 52% of the vote, more than Romney, Cain, Perry, Gingrich, Bachman, Huntsman and Santorum combined. Wow, big news? Hardly. Paul’s notable victory was promptly buried by the mainstream press. Meanwhile there’s been a plethora of airtime about Herman Cain’s irrelevant personal debacles. The obvious and intentional snubbing of Ron Paul by the media was well summed up in a hilarious piece by Jon Stewart back in August.

In addition to the silence of the press on his grassroots campaign, Ron Paul’s airtime during the Republican debates have been glaringly inequitable. One blogger went to the trouble of doing the math for one of the debates and found that Paul was 8th in speaking opportunities, though at the time he was 3rd in the polls (were you aware that he was third in the polls?) Yet, as evidenced by the Illinois survey, Ron Paul’s popularity has continued to grow.

Whether or not you like Ron Paul’s message, a burning issue is why the press has gone from purveyors of the truth to outlets for their own personal agendas.

In a side note: it has been so long since I last wrote that I didn’t remember what my last post was about. It was interesting to see that it was an argument against sending American troops into Libya. I was disputing the position that the Libyan people needed us to intervene in their civil war to escape being crushed by government-backed forces.  As it turns out, the Libyan people were able to oust strongman Moammar Qaddafi in short order without the help of a U.S. ground war. This averted the deaths of American servicemen and likely saved our nation hundreds of millions of dollars. But perhaps most importantly, by limiting America’s role in another nation’s conflict there will be less potential for our enemies’ animosity: Qaddafi was killed by his own people, not by an”invading U.S. force.”

I apologize for disappearing.  I hope you’ll continue to be a loyal reader.

Posted in Debt, election, Freedom of Speech, Libya, Media bias, Politics, Ron Paul | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »