My brother and I have been having an on-and-off-again discussion about whether the current president, Barack Obama, deserves re-election. I have come to the conclusion that he does not, while my brother holds that he is at least better than the opposition (Mitt Romney & Co.). I’ve been telling Josh (my brother) for some time now that I’d write him an email detailing the precise reasons for why I think Obama does not deserve a second term as president. The more I’ve thought about it, however, the more I realized that these reasons are not just based on my personal preference, but have a great deal to do with our basic rights as citizens. Therefore, I thought it important enough to include this information in an email to others, as well. I recognize not everyone is politically-minded, and it’s generally a sensitive subject. Until a few years back, I didn’t think much about politics, either. But as I believe the issues here discussed involve more than just a rivalry between Democrats & Republicans, please forgive me and forebear with me just a few paragraphs. After reading and thinking about it, you’re welcome to write me back and tell me how nuts I am.
A Little Background: In 2008, I was very much behind the Obama campaign. I contributed my first ever political donation to getting him elected. You only had to read my blog back then to get an idea of where I stood. The man was the sensible alternative to another four years of Bush-madness in the form of McCain. It seemed he was committed to restoring dignity to our nation, to peace, and he could speak it like no other. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was a man of color, and to elect him would be “historic.” I sang for joy when he won, and could barely believe it. Now, I can’t sing for him anymore. In fact, I’m convinced that, somehow, this great hope of a president has flaunted the dignity of his office by trampling upon our basic rights as citizens. Below, you’ll see in brief detail what I find to be the most egregious affronts to our liberty. Note: Most of these items have not been reported in depth by the general media outlets, so you may not have heard of them. This is not because they are not important; I’ll let you decide why our most trusted sources of news have decided to let these items go mostly unreported. I include videos and/or articles that do discuss them in more depth in case you’re interested in learning more than the little explanation I provide below.
The 4th Amendment to our Constitution reads: “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.”
When George W. Bush signed into law what is commonly called “The Patriot Act” in 2001, the stated purpose was to “Unite (and) Strengthen America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism” (Hence, PATRIOT). It was this law that famously allowed for wire-tapping of any American’s phone and/or email so long as the Government deemed them a viable threat to our national security. What has been less reported, however, is the power afforded the FBI in the way of search and seizure. Under the Patriot Act, federal agents may write their own search warrants and search your “person, house, papers, and effects” without reasonable cause, so long as the government deems it reasonable. More than that, the Patriot Act makes it illegal for you to tell anyone about it, under threat of prosecution.
2. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) + the 5th Amendment
The 5th Amendment to our Constitution reads: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury…; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law….”
Also in 2009, Obama proposed a law that would enable our government to arrest anyone it felt a viable threat to national security, and hold that person in “prolonged” or “indefinite” detention as long as it deemed necessary, without trial. Not only did Obama propose it, our legislative branch took this one lying down and passed it, just in time for Obama to sign the act into law this past New Year’s Eve. While you were out celebrating your new year in a free country with friends and family, our President was signing away your freedom. This law can employ the United States Military to enact this “justice” not only throughout the world on the soil of enemy combatants, but even on American soil. As Senator Lindsey Graham put it: “The homeland is a part of the battlefield and people can be held without trial whether an American citizen or not.” This odious law is now known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and has received very little coverage since its passage a few months back. Surely this law infringes upon our right not to be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…”
3. Strip Searches, Pat Downs, the Supreme Court, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Another piece of W. Bush’s legacy is the TSA. In the wake of 9/11, the US government over-reacted and created an agency that goes far overboard in the interest of keeping us safe. In so doing, this agency routinely violates the 4th Amendment and our right to privacy. Not to be outdone, President Obama hasstood behind the TSA
, which have under his watch enhanced their procedures to include patting down, groping, even virtual “strip searches,” no matter who you are or how likely you are to be a terrorist. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” These procedures have often been likened to sexual molestation; they are unnecessary, inappropriate, and unfitting of a nation that values liberty and freedom from an over-reaching government. Not only that, much ado has been made about the health risks from the radiation of the body-scanners the TSA now compels airports to install.
Here are a few videos reporting on the atrocious practices of the TSA (viewer discretion advised):
Perhaps even worse than his stance on the TSA, the President voiced his support
for a recent ruling by the Supreme Court, which affirms the rights of jails and prisons to strip search anyone
who comes within its walls for any crime
. You are now liable to be strip searched for something as simple as a traffic violation, jaywalking, walking your dog without a leash, or any other menial offense, all in the interest of keeping jails and prisons clean of contraband. This ruling by the Supreme Court came in response to a lawsuit brought against the government by Albert Florence, who had been jailed for seven days and strip-searched twice at two different jails, all for an outstanding traffic violation for which he had already paid
. Perhaps this isn’t all that surprising from our President, given that he never followed through
on his promise to close down the detention centers in Guantanamo Bay, where “enhanced interrogation” (some, like Senator McCain, say “torture”) is now, once again, routine procedure
for eliciting information from its inmates (review 5th amendment).
For more, here is a report
detailing the very strip search procedure we are all now threatened with.
4. H.R. 347, Criminalizing Protest + the 1st Amendment
The 1st Amendment to our Constitution reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
While most of the above matters have received very little mainstream coverage (save, perhaps, the TSA), the next two points have been given perhaps the least press of all. This is ironic, because both these matters threaten our right to free speech as laid out in the first amendment. When Obama signed HR 347 (sometimes called the “Trespass Bill”) a few weeks back, he made it a felony for a person to speak his or her mind and protest in any public space, so long as the Secret Service has deemed that space a “no speech zone.” That is, if the SS is in the area guarding an important official, and that official – or perhaps the SS itself – decides someone nearby protestor is “dangerous” to an elected official, that person can be arrested under felony charges. This means that if Obama or another federal official came your way and you wanted to protest for some reason or another, as is your first amendment right, you may find yourself behind bars. And considering the strip searches described in point #3, maybe you’d think twice about voicing your dissent. This is so troubling because it threatens the very first amendment to our Constitution. The Founding Fathers recognized the danger of prohibiting a person from speaking his or her mind, even if what that person has to say is unwelcome or annoying to anyone listening (including those in charge). And now our president is signing away that liberty…?
5. CISPA/SOPA/PIPA + the 4th Amendment
You may remember several weeks back when portions of the Internet went dark. Wikipedia.org only turned up a black screen. Other sites, like Google, Youtube, etc. showed up with black bars across their content. This was all part of a widespread protest against a couple bills that were slogging their ways through Congress. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) were designed, more or less, to keep Web sites from hosting copyrighted content without express permission from its owners. Sounds harmless, even a good idea, right? Maybe so, except that the punishable party in this crime would have been not be the person who uploaded the copyrighted material, but the site it was uploaded to. For example, think of Youtube, and all the content that is constantly being uploaded to that site. How would it manage to keep all of it’s account members from uploading copyrighted material all the time? And how could it possibly pay all the fines it would be awarded for the continuous breach of the law? Surely sites like Youtube and Wikipedia wouldn’t last a year. Well, sites like these and others, along with the common man, stepped up and did something about it, and eventually, both SOPA and PIPA were effectively killed on the Senate floor. A victory blow for liberty, right? Maybe, except that now another bill, very similar to SOPA and PIPA is creeping up like another weed in your garden. This one, called CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing Protection Act), has been quietly working its way through Congress with already a hundred sponsors, but hardly a peep from sites like Google and others. Maybe that’s because this bill does not threaten those sites’ existence, but rather, in some cases, even cooperates with them to dig up dirt on anyone the government thought was – or wanted to be – dirty. This would effectively open your email, facebook, twitter, browsing habits, etc. to government eyes if our leaders felt you were somehow a “cyber threat.” You may already feel a little awkward when you’re getting ads for Disneyworld in your Google sidebar when you just sent an email from your Gmail about how much you love Mickey. But does Obama need to know these intimate details?
6. Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Undeclared War
The United States Constitution reads in Article I, Section 8: “The Congress shall have Power … to declare War, grant letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules of capture on Land and Water….”
While the Constitution clearly designates the President the “Commander-in-Chief” of the armed forces of America, this does not grant him authority to use those forces in any way he pleases, any time he wants. In order to check the authority of the Commander-in-Chief, the Founders wisely included the above clause in the Constitution, which provides that in order to send our forces to war, there must be a declaration of war by the Congress. Members of Congress are the elected representatives of the American People, and in theory should abide by the wishes of their constituency. That is, if the American People feel it necessary to go to war, then Congress would make the declaration, and the President would carry out the order.
What we have seen in the last half a century, however, is a Presidency that ignores this important constitutional provision of a declaration, and which has not bothered to go to Congress for a declaration of war since Roosevelt in WWII. This means that the use of our military in Korea (1950-53), Vietnam (1964-73), Lebanon (1978-84), Iraqi Gulf War (1990-91), Bosnia (1992-2004), Yugoslavia (1999), Afganistan (2001-Pres.), “Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn” (2003-2011), Libya (2011), and many others have all been carried out without proper authorization of a Congressional declaration of war. In fact, in some of these instances, the only authority sought by the President of the time was that of the United Nations or NATO. This compromises not only the sovereignty of the United States, but disregards the interests of the American people, using our precious resources – be it our treasure or our blood – to engage in military conflicts that may not even serve our national interests or security. To be sure, these illegal wars have been perpetrated by nearly every president since Roosevelt, but what makes the Obama administration special is how brazen it has been with this “authority.” In the past, US presidents have tried to appease the Congress by seeking congressional resolutions that would at least demonstrate that the Executive and Legislative branches were of the same mind. When it came to Libya, however, our President authorized the use of force while he was out of the country in South America, without consent or even consultation of the Congress. He argued that the issue of Libya was too urgent to seek Congressional approval, and appealed to the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which allows for the President to utilize our military for up to 90 days without congressional approval in the event of a “national emergency created by an attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”
Clearly, no imminent threat to our national security was posed by the uproar in Libya, but that did not stop our President from employing billions of our tax dollars
in military expense in that beleaguered nation, only to bring about more chaos rather than less
. To add insult to injury, in the face of the present conflict in Syria, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently made remarks on the Senate floor that the President and the US military needed only “international permission” for military action in Syria. He went on to say that the military would then “inform” the Congress of it’s decision. To accept this course of action would mean that our President would be able to employ our men, women, and tax dollars in matters of war however he chose, whenever he chose, so long as he had the consent of other countries. This would mean that we, as citizens, would no longer possess authority over our own resources of blood and treasure, and that we would likely see the endless perpetuation of war, providing the continued incentive for all the costly assaults on our individual rights cited above.
For more information, click on the following links:
What Should We Do?
If you have been at all swayed by the above arguments that our President does not deserve a second term, you may be thinking to yourself, “Well, I sure as heck don’t want Mitt Romney!” It’s true, a close look into Romney’s policy proposals, as well as his past actions as businessman and politician, give little hope that he would do much of anything different than Obama regarding the issues discussed above. Romney has gone on record with his support of the NDAA & the Patriot Act, while offering a characteristically obscure position on the President’s actions in Libya. Given his uncertainty on most issues, it’s reasonable to assume that Romney would not do much different than his predecessor in his own term as President. Sadly, if you’ve paid much attention to the major media outlets of late, it would appear as if all you have is a choice between these two highly undesirable candidates, and in the face of such, Americans typically try to vote for the “lesser of two evils.” However, I believe the situation is not as desperate as that just yet. I have given you plenty to think about in this message. If you have been at all swayed by my arguments, I pray you pass this message along to others. If you’d like to discuss why you disagree with me, please write me back and let me know what’s on your mind. For now, I will hold off on explaining my own choice for President. If you’re interested, however, in why I think Ron Paul is far and away the best choice for President in 2012, then please write me back with any questions you may have. If you’re interested in doing your own research, I humbly suggest these final few links as starting points:
http://youtu.be/Ip6MjRVoXUs (A dramatic unofficial ad showing how Paul trumps all his opponents on several of the above issues.)
http://youtu.be/EfS1x5RnZZQ (On why your trusted media sources have no idea who the nominee will be.)
http://ronpaulflix.com (a site compiling a number of Paul interviews and other pertinent information.)