Blogcritics » Dave Nalle http://blogcritics.org The critical lens on today's culture & entertainment Sun, 28 Dec 2014 20:34:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 SOTU: Will Obama Take Responsibility for Drone War Outrage? http://blogcritics.org/sotu-will-obama-take-responsibility-for/ http://blogcritics.org/sotu-will-obama-take-responsibility-for/#comments Tue, 12 Feb 2013 12:26:52 +0000 Tonight President Obama wants to promote his legislative agenda in his State of the Union Address. He wants to talk about the union as he wishes it were instead of as it really is. But will Americans stand for more platitudes when we live in a union where our lives and our rights are under threat every day from a government whose draconian policies are increasingly outrageous?

The President certainly does not want to make it the focus of his speech, but when your White House spokesman has stated on your behalf that it is “legal, ethical and wise” to kill American citizens without due process on nothing more than suspicion of terrorism, some sort of explanation of that position by the President should be the first imperative of the State of the Union address. If President Obama does not have enough respect for the people or the rule of law to issue a repudiation and an apology, then at the very least a detailed explanation and defense of such an unamerican policy would seem essential.

This State of the Union Address should not be an opportunity for a failed president to promote more fiscally irresponsible policies. It ought to be a humbling moment in which he is called before Congress to be held to account for his actions, especially his attack on the rule of law and the liberty and safety of our citizens. If Congress had a spine to share between the lot of them this would be a trial, not a speech.

There is no justification for even listening to anything the President has to say until he explains why he believes that American citizens can be murdered for nothing more than the convenience of government bureaucrats,. Apparently with the army of lawyers and investigators in the Department of Homeland Security, it is too much of a challenge to assemble evidence, file charges and hold a hearing even when the lives of US citizens are at stake. Perhaps they are too busy shredding copies of the Bill of Rights to take the time to do their jobs properly.

There is no threat to the safety of the nation and its people which justifies a broad policy of sanctioning assassination. Beginning with President Ford in 1976 every president has issued an executive order banning the use of assassination. President Obama has not issued an order reversing this long tradition. Even if you accept the dubious claim that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that started the War on Terror is still valid, US military law specifically limits killing to situations of military necessity or to protect lives, and forbids the targeting of civilians. Further, under Article 1, Section 8.11 of the Constitution the authority to order an assassination or similar action is clearly reserved to Congress and not among the powers of the president. These restrictions apply to foreign citizens and should be observed even more strictly when US citizens are involved, as they should also be protected by the right of habeas corpus and the guarantees of the Bill of Rights.

The union is imperiled for many reasons and the tragedy of our age is that most of those threats now seem to originate in our own government and President Obama is the one of the chief authors of the policies which have put our nation in peril. He needs to be held accountable for the gross malfeasance of his administration and his own betrayal of his oath of office. The drone issue is just the latest of a long series of civil liberties abuses by this administration, but it must be addressed and repudiated or there should be serious talk of impeachment.

Tonight President Obama probably will not even speak the word “drone” hours after issuing the first authority for the assassination of a US citizen by drone within our borders. He will stick to fantasy plans and proposals and happy talk about his next union bailout or pet project to satisfy special interests.

I wish we had a Congress which demanded a dialog rather than passively accepting another empty speech. We’re past the point of politeness. I wish our representatives were like the British Parliament where members stand up and challenge their leaders. It would be refreshing and reassuring if one of our representatives – a Rand Paul or a Steve Stockmnan – were to stand up and look Obama in the eye and shout “shame” to demand an accounting for his abuses of power.

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Interview: Mark Willis, Candidate for Republican Party Chairman http://blogcritics.org/interview-mark-willis-candidate-for-republican/ http://blogcritics.org/interview-mark-willis-candidate-for-republican/#comments Tue, 15 Jan 2013 16:07:19 +0000 credit: republican liberty caucus of MaineIn a year when it should have made a strong showing, the Republican Party fielded embarrassing candidates, suffered a humiliating defeat in the presidential election and lost seats in the House and Senate.  After a debacle like this, someone ought to be held accountable.

In any sensible political party this would be seen as a failure in leadership and heads would roll at the top. This is especially true when the party’s top leaders went out of their way to alienate minority groups within the party and trample all over party rules at the national convention, unseating legitimately elected delegates, disenfranchising the Republican voters of several states and passing new rules which reduce the autonomy of state parties.

Despite all of the evidence that the party is rotten at the very top and the cries of rank and file party members for change and reform, sitting Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has been claiming that he has already received pledges from as many as 130 of the 168 national committee members to support him for a second term. Supporters of the status quo have been circulating intimidating emails trying to get all of the members to toe the line and support Priebus, but a small minority of committee members have been listening to grassroots party members who are crying out for Priebus to pay the price for his corruption and incompetence.

Out of that group, one leader has emerged who is willing to take Priebus and the party establishment on, Mark Willis. Willis is a first term committeeman from Maine, a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus and has a diverse background in military intelligence and tech industry. Willis also led a walkout protest by the Maine delegation at the Republican National Convention this summer and gained a lot of credibility among the grassroots as a result.

The campaign for party chairman isn’t like a regular political campaign. It’s very quick, wrapping up in about two weekes, and is all about winning over a small number of committee members and state party chairs, half of whom are picked by party insiders in their state and half of whom are elected by party members. Just getting nominated is the first hurdle, requiring 2 out of 3 votes from 3 different states. But once you get nominated all bets are off and allegiances and vote pledges can change very quickly all the way to a series of votes at the committee meeting on the 25th where deals are made in backrooms, hallways and restrooms until a new Chairman is selected.

I got a chance to talk to Mark Willis a few days ago and find out exactly why he wants to leap into this pit of vipers and what his plans are if he comes out winning on a longshot with a mandate to reform a party whose leaders seem willing to fiddle while the Grand Old Party burns up around them.

What brought you to the point where you wanted to take on this challenge, one which is at a level of involvement in party politics which very few people are even aware of?

Being elected to the national committee was the first step, but doing this was not my intention at the time. I just wanted to do what I could in the next four years to move the football of liberty down the field as far as I could. Then with the convention in Tampa and the way the rules were passed and the credentials report was pushed through, in both cases gavel up, gavel down, I ended up leading the walk-out and by walking out we did the right thing. We fought until we could fight no longer. We took it outside, took it to the street, took it to the press and told the story.

From that point on we had basically put sunshine on the problem. Justice Brandeis said that “Sunshine is the best disinfectant” so casting some sunshine on the problems in the RNC and the way Mr. Priebus presided over it showed me that there are bigger problems than we had suspected.

Going into this RNC election a lot of us were talking among ourselves and wondering who would challgenge Priebus, because someone’s got to do it. People were talking to me jokingly saying “Hey mark, if no one else is going to do it maybe you should do it.” And I said “Yeah right,” because there was no way I could win. He says he already has the numbers, at least he says he does, and emails from states kept coming through saying they were voting for Priebus.

Then people started throwing out names and J. C. Watts and Michael Steele were mentioned, and this website StepDownNow was put on line and it was brought to my attention that my name had been submitted along with Ron Paul, Jim DeMint, Steve Munisteri and some other folks and that I was one of the top vote getters. I said I didn’t know if this is something I’m ready to take on right now and let me talk to Violet and think for a day or two. Part of me said that this is the right thing to do and part of me said maybe I shouldn’t because there’s no way to win with the way the numbers are stacked up.

The question became whether it made sense to do this if no one else will stand up and run against him. Then I guess it was last Friday night at the supermarket and I saw an elderly couple in the parking lot and I saw the old man with a cane open the door for his wife as they got in the car. And I realized that when I was old like that I wanted to be able to say to my kids or grandkids that I did the right thing at the right time when I had the ability to do so. Even if you lose sometimes doing things like this is the right thing to do. When I go out of this world I want to go out knowing that I did what I could to promote the cause of liberty and make this coountry a better place.

So I talked to Violet and said that maybe I’ve bot nothing to lose why not go for it. Violet was very supportive. And I told Brian (Daugherty) and of course he was very supportive and he said you’ve got to do it, that there was no one else stepping up and there were people throughout the grassroots that he talks to all the time that said there’s no one else, Mark’s got to do it. I told Brian to go back to the people in the rank and file around the country he was talking to and tell them that I need two RNC members in each of three states to nominate me and if you can get those people then I’ll go ahead and do this. And the rest is history. It got posted out on Facebook and it’s taken off like wildfire.

The Liberty Movement has a lot of young and enthusiastic activists, but they may not have the backgroiund and maturity and experience to take on a job like this. You’re different in that you’re a bit older and better qualified. Could you give us some details on what makes you well prepared to do this job?

I bring a unique perspective to this position, not just because I’m a newly elected committeeman, but if you look back through my life over the last 20 years or so. In the 90s I was a counter intelligence agent serving in Haiti and Bosnia. I’ve been in some pretty interesting situations and gotten out of them in one piece. I’ve worked with all kinds of people at every level in the army, briefed generals and worked with soldiers at the ground level. After that I got my master’s degree in management information systems in Germany and really got into computer programming. Then I got out and got a job down at US Army INTSCOM at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, where I became the IT liaison between the INTSCOM personnel divisions and he NSA personnel divisions. So I was doing a lot of briefings to colonels and generals and a lot of data mining and data migration, putting square pegs into round holes making the two systems work together.

From a technology perspective I think it is very important to bring that kind of technological background and that kind of database and programming experience to the job. So from that perspective I think you can check off one important box which any Chairman ought to have very easily. Also we have my law background. I went to law school for four years at night while I was working and got my law degree from George Mason. I don’t practice and I like to joke that I’m protecting America from having another one mnore lawyer in the world. But I do have that knowledge base and it taught me how a lot of politicians think. And your whole thought process is completely different when you come out of law school. You look at problems and solve them differently after being through that ringer for 3 or 4 years. I even found that the experience of law school helped me actually solve problems in the tech field as well by looking at them differently. So in addition to the technology background I also have the legal background so that I can walk into a room and know how to look at a situation and get things done.

Beyond that, seven years ago we moved from Virginia to Maine and became small farmers and began rebuilding a 20 acre farm on a salmon river and that made me very aware of farm issues and running a business, and things like the Food Modernization Act of 2010 got us very politically active because of the heavy handed way the government dealt with farmers and the danger to liberty if the government really pushed some of its powers under that act. So that got us really involved politically.

We had always voted Republican and like many Republicans wished that Congress and the President would act more conservatively. So we got more involved with the Republican Party. I actually met Governor LePage standing in line to see Sarah Palin in 2008 at the Bangor airport and got to know him and he’s a great governor who backed us 100% when we went down to Tampa and he boycotted the convention in support of our efforts. All of this came together and we supported Ron Paul in 2008 and did what we could but it was pretty disorganized. Then things changed in 2012 with a strong organizational infrastructure where we won everything at the state convention including the two RNC seats and almost all of the delegate seats.

I think this background and going through the process and seeing what was done right and what was done wrong, makes me uniquely qualified to run a nationwide organization. I think that fundraising is a necessary evil. It is part of the job, but I think that both parties have made fundraising an absolute obsession to the point where they have lost track of the overall message and ideology of the party. They pay lipservice but when it comes down to walking the talk it’s all about fundraising and that’s all you hear. To his credit Mr. Priebus came in and balanced the checkbook when the RNC was in financial trouble and put them back on a sound footing, but that’s really his only claim to fame and all he has to campaign on. To me money is important and I’ll definitely put forth a plan to all the current donors and tell them that there’s no reason for them to leave if I win. I embrace all people in the party. We’re a big tent. But we have to get to the point where we acknowledge that fundraising is important, but it’s not everything. There are internal problems in the party which everybody knows are there and no amount of money can solve those problems.

Before Priebus the chairman was Michael Steele and they’re almost exact opposites. Priebus has been good at fundraising but Steele was very good in the public relations aspect of the job where Priebus was weak. But there’s a third aspect of the job and neither of them seems to have been very successful in the party management role of being Chairman. How do you think you could meet all three of those needs which the job demands? Could you do it yourself or put together a team to get all of those jobs done?

As a manager at that level it’s the team you can put together to get the job done, people you can trust an people to whom you can delegate responsibilities with the expectation that they can do the jobs you give them without micromanagement. You’d have to have regular meetings with your team to make sure nothing slips through the cracks and keep the pressure on to get tasks done. As General Patton said, “Pressure makes diamonds.” You have to instill a little bit of positive pressure on the people who are working for you that you are checking up to make sure everything is going well. The fundraising may be relying on a lot of current donors, but there are even more who have become dissatisfied and stopped giving. So I really want to focus on two things.

First, convincing current donors that there is nothing to be afraid of if I win.  This is a big party and I will treat everybody fairly. Going into 2016 for the presidential cycle. I want the party to be transparent and evenhanded and let the people pick the candidates. If they can be comfortable with that and letting party members pick the candidates in the caucuses and primaries and not the RNC then everything will be just fine. If donors see me coming along and think that it’s a problem for the RNC to give up the ability to pick candidates then I’d remind them that a candidate like Ronald Reagan who is picked by the rank and file is a better, stronger candidate than someone selected by the people at the top and that benefits everyone, especially going into a general election.

Second I want to get those people who have stopped donating staying away from the party and give them a reason to get excited again. If you’re a Republican and you’ve got ideas, you’re welcome and no one is going to be driven away or ostracized like some of our delegates in Tampa. The best thing Romney could have done in Tampa was to just let Ron Paul get nominated with his five states and make his speech. We all knew Ron Paul was not going to win the nomination at that point, but if he had been allowed to do that then Romney could have said that all of us were in it together no matter who we supported in the primary – Bachmann, Santorum, Paul, Gingrich – he could have embraced them all despite their differences and brought them all together on the same team. It would have made the party and the campaign stronger and brought people on board who instead felt left out and rejected. If that had happened it might have made a big difference in the general election and it would at the very least have made the partu stronger and united.

Now you have people like us in the party who want to make a better party but feel excluded. After all this the Republican Party should be grateful that we’re still around and trying to help. I think that if we take this approach it will help with fundraising and make a lot of people want to support the party and make them feel like they own the party again.

As far as relating to the media, I think you’re just honest and go out there with confidence and a smile on your face and tell them this is a great party and this is what we stand for. Michael Steele was great at conveying that and was very relaxed on camera and good at instilling confidence. I think when people get to know me and see me on camera and see I can go toe to toe with the liberal media that will speak for itself, so I’m not too worried about that.

As far as managing the party, you’ve got to be the kind of guy who isn’t afraid to let people go who aren’t doing their job and promote those who are. It can take some time, but in any organization there’s some dead weight, and you have to cut the fat to make the organization work better. What I want to do is go in and assemble a team and talk to them and tell them that the current top-down approach of selling policy to the grassroots is the exact opposite of what we should do, and we should be listening to the rank and file Republicans because they know what they want and are thirsting for leaders who speak the same language and will listen to them and hold the line on the issues which matter to them and do what they’re supposed to do when they get to Congress.

I believe that New Hampshire and Iowa should always be first in line and keep their first in the nation primary status, but beyond that I don’t think states should be penalized or lose delegates if they don’t have their primary or caucus within the RNC’s timeline. Give them a window to get their primaries done and let them decide when within that timeframe. We need to instill the managerial message that state parties are sovereign and we’re here to help facilitiate and provide them with support, running debates and settling disputes or solving problems, but generally letting them run their own business. Questions like whether states shoudl be proportional or winner take all or hold primaries or caucuses, should be left for the states to decide and the RNC should stay out.

There are groups out there like FairPrimary.org which are concerned with party groups like the RNC, NRSC or NRCC spending money and resources on primary elections, picking winners and losers from the top-down. The RNC has done a particularly bad job with this, blowing money on losing candidates who were not popular with the voters or who even turned on the party as was the case with Charlie Crist or who ended up not being very credible like Todd Akin. Would you consider ending the practice of picking winners and losers in primaries?

Why even have a primary then? Why say we’re a big tent and that everyone has an equal shot? Why encourage candidates to run and then tell them that they should drop out and stop costing us money so that a party-picked candidate can go ahead without a challenge. This fits with my idea of decentralization. If there’s a contested primary the RNC should just stay out. Let the state have their primary and don’t interfere.

Let’s say this campaign goes great and you become RNC Chair, you’re in an off-year now and you have plenty of time to prepare for the next election. What are the first three things you would do when you get into office?

The first thing that I would do is say that we need to repeal the rules that were passed in Tampa. I’d assemble a team and tell them that I don’t care what it takes, we have to repeal these rules. I might need to explain to them and educate them so they understand what happened with these rules which cut the grassroots out of the process and make it clear that at least rules 12, 16 and 40 need to be repealed and returned to the 2008 rules. These rule changes are not good for the party and they are not legitimate, because they were passed erroneously through a scripted vote. There should have at least been a show of hands, or even a superballot vote. In the voice vote, depending on where you stood on the floor it sounded like the nays had it, and that should have dictated some sort of counted vote.  Repealing them will restore integrity and confidence in the process.

Second I would visit every state and let them know that there’s a new policy at the top. It would take a large travel budget, but I want to sit down with the party leaders in each state and tell them that we’re transferring more autonomy and more responsibility to them and explain to them why it’s important for them to take initiative and rebuild their state party their way.

Third, I would insure that we build the most effective technology team we can, assembling experts from day one to coiunter the significant technology edge which the Democrats demonstrated in the last election. I’d want to assess what resoures we have and how we can use them effectively and figure out what the Democrats have that gave them an advantage and figure out how to match or exceed their capabilities.

If I can break in, a lot of the experts remarked on the new demographic tools the Democrats had in this last election, but those of us working in the states have an ongoing concern that the RNC hasn’t even been able to get Voter Vault to work properly and can’t keep their data up to date. The Republican Party is effectively a technological generation behind, so you’d almost be starting from scratch.

All of that goes into assembling a technology team. You have to step back and ask the questions first. One of the first questions would be where are we with Voter Vault and is it even effective. Can it be fixed or does it need to be replaced and if so, what? Then you have to evaluate new technoogies. Answering those questions takes time and we’d need to bring in people from industry who are willing to work with us and who have experience with data gathering and migration efforts. We tell them were we are and where we need to be and ask them how we get there.

The RNC’s role is to lead the GOP, hopefully acting on behalf of the membership. It seems like the biggest challenge the party faces is one of image, stemming from a hostile media and the popular fall-off in support of the party and a perception that the party is out of touch and out of date? What is the root of this problem and how can you address it?

That’s an interesting question. It depends who you talk to. Some say its the alienation of the grassroots. They expect our votes every November, but when someone actually comes up through the ranks and runs for office from the grassroots, as you said the party leaders pick the winners and losers in the primary and it’s usually not the grassroots candidate. That’s part of the problem, but there’s more to it. If you look at the preamble of the rules it says “We are the party of liberty and equality and favoritism for none” and I say that if that’s the case why don’t we start acting like it?

The one word that ties it all together is “hypocrisy” and that is something people talk about all over the country and people say look at what they say and then what they do in example after example in every state. They say look at how they treat us every single time. There’s no respect for the voters. The party promises one thing and delivers something very different. It’s like Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown and then pulling it away. We keep making promises that it will get better and then not delivering. People get frustrated and say why should we keep supporting this party. They ask why aren’t they electing better candidates? Why aren’t they following the platform? Why aren’t they implementing the ideas they claim they believe in when they get to Washington?

It all comes down to hypocrisy and you don’t want to be known for that as a party. That’s what we have to deal with coming out of 2012. We have to rebrand this party and convince people that there are people of integrity in the party and that it really can be a party of smaller government. We need to look at what we’re doing as a government and make hard decisions.

We have to admit we can’t keep fighting wars all over the world at our expense for the benefit of others. We need a Department of Defense, not a Department of War and at this point most Republicans are ready to accept that.

We need to draw some firm budget lines even in areas where it’s hard to do. We need to say “enough is enough” about the fiscal cliff. We need to tell the Democrats that we’re not going to keep raising the debt limit again and again and that we have to live within our means.

We need to show grassroots Republican voters that we deserve their confidence and that we are actively implementing a fiscally conservative policy. And we need to show it by not putting obstacles in the way of candidates in the primary who embrace that kind of change and honesty.

We have to rebrand the party. A recent poll showed that we are the most disliked party in the whole country. To me that’s because we’ve lost the trust of the people. So many people believe the party is beyond reform and they ask me why I’m even trying to change it when I might as well just give up. Well, I was elected for four years and I want to do as much as I can in those four years to get this party moving in a better direction and that’s what I intend to do.

As a followup question, one thing the party has really done very little on is candidate training and development. A lot of candidates are left hanging with little preparation for what they are taking on. In many cases state parties have fallen through on this as well and extra-party organizations are left doing the job and doing it pretty unevenly. Is that something the RNC could take on?

A very good point and I believe that’s another team we could develop at the RNC or help the states develop their own programs based on a strong candidate development plan which they could implement. That’s how I would approach it. Look at the party now. We’ve lost the presidency. We’ve lost the Senate. For a while it looked like there was a possibility of even losing the House. Lucky for us it didn’t happen. It’s a little too close for comfort right now.

We can’t afford to do less than our best or keep alienating potential supporters. Look at the harm Boehner has done by how he has treated the more conservative and libertarian members in the House. If you worked for Justin Amash or one of the other candidates Boehner kicked off their committees, how would you feel about the party which treated him that way? You work for months and donate money and work with the party and do all these things and you finally get your guy to Congress and election night you’re high fiving and then he gets to Congress and something like that happens. That’s the kind of thing which causes people to leave the party. We need to tell people like Speaker Boehner that he doesn’t have to do what we tell him to, but that we’re not happy and he’ll be held accountable if he does this kind of thing again.

From a position of leadership in the RNC you could set a different tone or character for how the party operates that others might follow.

That’s certainly better than passing a symbolic resolution against him. I’ve been in all sorts of different units in the army. Some are happy and vibrant and you’re glad to be in them and then sometimes you’re in one where everyone is filing inspector general reports and complaining right and left. It all stems from the top. The tone or the spirit of the leader – the colonel or the general – filters down and the other officers under him follow his lead and act the same way.

If I go in and I’m the new boss, people are going to like my management style. I’ll be open and honest with everybody and give everyone a chance who thinks they can help the party and get the job done. Inclusiveness. I will not exclude people from the party If I do get elected some people may be angry and stomp off, but I say stick around and get to know me. I’m not so bad, and even though I came out of the liberty movement, there’s a lot of us who are very principled people who can bring a new perspective and a new tone to the party and I’ll be able to go out on TV and in the media and say honestly that this is a new and revitalized party and tell them why and that we want to be inclusive and it’s okay to come back. I’ll tell them we’ve had our problems, but the new management is going to be positive and not heavy handed.

To wrap up, people probably want to know what they can do to help. What are the best things they can do for this effort?

If people read this and they’re inspired and they want to help, I’d say they should go out and respectfully explain to people in the party leadership why I deserve to be on the ballot. They can tell their RNC members they don’t even have to vote for Mark, but please support his right to run.

I need 2 votes from each of three states for a nomination. I have 2 from Maine and Nevada and one in a number of other states, so any help to get one more key vote in those states would make all the difference. A nomination doesn’t mean a hard commitment to support me, just that they want to give me a chance to be heard. The deadline is 5pm on Thursday the 24th. If 2 or 3 committee members from a state wanted to support me for nomination all they have to do is get a short form in to the legal council at the RNC and I’ll be ready to stand for nomination the next day on the 25th.

Where should people go if they want to find out more and give you some help?

I’m working with the group StepDownNow.com and there’s the Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mark-Willis-for-RNC-Chair/ and what we need most right now is for people to spread the word and talk to their RNC members.

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In Mass Shootings Does Government Provide the Trigger? http://blogcritics.org/in-mass-shootings-does-government-provide1/ http://blogcritics.org/in-mass-shootings-does-government-provide1/#comments Sun, 16 Dec 2012 02:56:24 +0000 In the aftermath of the tragic shootings in Connecticut everyone is playing the blame game. On the left they are blaming guns. On the right they are blaming the mental health system. Some people on both sides are blaming violent video games and movies. I think they are all missing the mark.

I blame our government. Not because they aren’t tracking mentally disturbed people, seizing guns and censoring TV and video games. I blame them for creating the conditions which trigger the mentally ill young men who carry out these shootings.

That young men in the 16-24 year old age range have a higher propensity towards adjustment disorders leading to true mental illness is nothing new. But there is a perception that members of this group are more prone to act out violently today than they did in the past. Assuming that this is true and acknowledging the facts that guns and violent entertainment have been around since long before this rise in violent outbursts, I think we have to look for another specific trigger.

When you put guards and metal detectors in your schools, when you invasively search airline passengers, when you begin to spy on your own citizens: you create an atmosphere of fear and the expectation of violence. The average citizen finds this heightened level of state security oppressive. Red light cameras, TSA checkpoints, random blood draws, internet data mining and new security laws like the warrantless indefinite detention of citizens in the NDAA all contribute to this environment. For someone who is troubled and prone to paranoia this creates a world which is directly threatening.

In addition, the ongoing economic crisis and the uncertainty it creates puts stress on everyone. And again, this is a problem which has its origins in government policy, a government which is not only increasingly intrusive, but also clearly irresponsible.

We all react to it stress differently, but logic suggests that in those already prone to irrational violent impulses the high level of stress we are subjected to and the threats posed by government can lead to the heightened paranoia which triggers violent action.

This isn’t just speculation. The writings, statements and behavior of these killers consistently express a fear of government as one of their overriding concerns. Even in the sane community this has been responsible for increased political radicalism, higher gun sales and an increase in harmless paranoid behavior like “Doomsday Prepping.” It’s about time we admit that the actions of government play a major role in encouraging this violence.

Ironically the reaction to these incidents is invariably to try to implement more security and take away more rights. They’ll want to seize guns, fortify schools and other public places, track the mentally ill,. monitor more of our communications and take away more of our rights. None of these will be very effective at solving the problem and all of them are likely to contribute to pushing more volatile people over the edge to violence.

Everyone is proposing solutions, but they are not listening to what the perpetrators of these crimes are telling us. Political agendas are driving us to the wrong answers when the real answer is pretty simple. We have created an environment which justifies the fears of the paranoid and drives them deeper down the rabbit hole. Put the blame on us for looking to government to solve social problems it can never really address effectively.

Heightened government security and economic uncertainty are the only variables which have changed. It’s time to put the blame where it belongs and stop implementing government solutions which actually make the problem worse. Before we make more changes and take away more civil liberties, we should think long and hard about whether it is better do do nothing than to do more harm.

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Mike Lee Passes Amendment to Protect Civil Liberties in NDAA http://blogcritics.org/mike-lee-passes-amendment-to-protect/ http://blogcritics.org/mike-lee-passes-amendment-to-protect/#comments Fri, 30 Nov 2012 01:57:14 +0000 On Thrusday an amendment authored by Senators Mike Lee (RLC-UT) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA) which alters the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) to protect citizens from arrest without a warrant and guarantees the right to a trial was passed 67-29 by the Senate. This came after an impassioned speech in support by Sen. Rand Paul (RLC-KY) on Wednesday in which he said:

“If you don’t have a right to trial by jury, you do not have due process. You do not have a Constitution. What are you fighting against and for if you throw the Constitution out? When zealots of the government arrest suspects or radicals without warrants, hold them without trial, deny them access to counsel or admission of bail, we have shorn the Bill of Rights of its sanctity.”

Paul had also threatened to put a filibuster hold on the NDAA bill if an attempt was made to pass it with the provisions allowing unconstitutional detention of citizens without a trial included. Since the passage of an earlier version of the NDAA more than a year ago, grassroots groups like the Republican Liberty Caucus have been calling and emailing members of the House and Senate relentlessly expressing opposition to the detention provisions in the bill and it appears that for once our legislative leaders actually listened to the people. Sadly about half of the Republicans in the Senate voted against the amendment.

While the Lee-Feinstein amendment is not as comprehensive as Rand Paul’s version which has had trouble passing the Senate, it does address the most fundamental civil liberties concerns with the NDAA. The substandive part of the Amendment reads:

“(b)(1) An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.

“(2) Paragraph (1) applies to an authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority enacted before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2013.

“(3) Paragraph (1) shall not be construed to authorize the detention of a citizen of the United States, a lawful permanent resident of the United States, or any other person who is apprehended in the United States.”

The final clause of (b)(1) has attracted some criticism, including from Representative Justin Amash (RLC-MI) who whote:

“The Feinstein amendment to the 2013 NDAA does NOT protect you from indefinite detention without charge or trial. In fact, it explicitly permits such detention so long as the detention is approved by an Act of Congress . . . such as the 2012 NDAA.”

Prior to the amendment the NDAA permitted detentions solely on presidential authority, but Amash and others are concerned that Congress could use the option provided in the amendment to reverse the protection at will, or that courts could interpret the NDAA itself as such an authorization.

However, a federal court did already grant an injunction against the detention provision in the NDAA and it is likely that if it were further tested in the courts it would be found unconstitutional. In addition, changes to the main text of the 2012 version of the NDAA which actually expand detention authority beyond earlier versions demanded that some response be made to protect civil liberties

While this is not a perfect victory, it remains a major win for civil libertarians who do not believe that the people should have to sacrifice their most sacred rights, nor should the nation abandon the rule of law, even in a times of crisis or war. If the Bill of Rights can be discarded just because we feel threatened, then we have already thrown away the very values for which we fight as a nation.

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Change is Coming to the GOP http://blogcritics.org/change-is-coming-to-the-gop/ http://blogcritics.org/change-is-coming-to-the-gop/#comments Sat, 10 Nov 2012 05:06:04 +0000 At a post-election event for members of the Republican Liberty Caucus, National Chairman Dave Nalle made the following remarks on the state of the Republican Party in the aftermath of the Romney defeat.

“If you nominate a candidate who has a position to please every constituency you run the risk that voters will decide that this is the same thing as having a position to alienate every constituency and respond by not turning out to vote. The party has lost its way because of lazy leaders who have ignored the sensible voters who make up the base of the party and have instead given too much influence to outside interest groups who bought their loyalty with the promise of easy votes.

“It is time for fundamental change at the top of the party. Leaders who basically rigged the nomination process to force Mitt Romney on the party gambled their legitimacy on his success. They put the entire party at risk with a candidate whose failure dragged down other candidates including promising newcomers and incumbents whose seats should have been secure. They lost us seats in the Senate where we could have won a majority and even weakened our position in the House. They must pay the full price for their poor decisions and be stripped of any position of leadership in the party.

“It is time for the Republican Party to return to the control of the grassroots and to a simple, ethical agenda of limiting the size and power of government and protecting the rights of individual citizens. The practice of giving special influence to outside groups whose first loyalty is to their own interests and issues must stop. Our allies should be drawn to us by our principles, not by our willingness to sell influence and trade favors.

“The party is aging and becoming isolated from the people. Republicans have forgotten how to be activists and stir up popular enthusiasm for our cause. We have lost touch with the younger generation and we have abandonned minority groups which ought to share our principles. In too many counties and too many states the Republican Party has become an exclusive private club rather than the inclusive political movement it was meant to be. This is the course of extinction for a political party. If we do not grow and embrace new members and new strategies we will continue to stagnate and age into irrelevance.

“The voters we need to attract to revitalize the party want less government on their backs and more liberty in their lives. They do not want to live in fear of external threats or internal security. They do not want to see the fruits of their labor seized by government or devalued by irresponsible policies. They do not want government in their businesses, their schools, their churches or their bedrooms. The Republican Party of the future should be young, entrepreneurial and inclusive. There is no hope for a party which is not strong enough to preserve its core principles while still embracing change.

“This is the vision of the Republican Liberty Caucus. It is a challenge to the Republican Party to become a better party, rededicated to its founding principles. This election must be a turning point for the party and if we do not pick up the banner of leadership and embrace the changes which must come, then the GOP will fade away lnto whiggish obscurity.”

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Russell Means Has Left Us to Fight on for Ourselves http://blogcritics.org/russell-means-has-left-us-to1/ http://blogcritics.org/russell-means-has-left-us-to1/#comments Mon, 22 Oct 2012 08:02:17 +0000 Early this morning, after a long struggle with cancer, Russell Means went to join his ancestors from his family’s ranch in Porcupine, South Dakota. Russell was an inspirational leader, not just for Native Americans but for those of all races and backgrounds who believe that life demands that we be free. As a writer, an activist and as an performer Russell touched many people and leaves behind a unique legacy in those he inspired to live free. His message that what government has done to his people would one day be the fate of all people if government was not checked was prophetic and must be remembered.

“Increment by increment…you have allowed your country to implement Indian law in the United States of America. American government since the inception of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1824 has been busy practicing and perfecting its policies on us and then exporting them to the world and bringing them home to roost ont he backs of the American people.”

Russell Means was born on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in 1939. His family moved to California where he graduated from San Leandro High School. He then attended Oakland City College and Arizona State. Russell became involved with the American Indian Movement after meeting co-founder Dennis Banks while working as the Director of Cleveland’s American Indian Center. During the early 1970s he led AIM to stage many protests, the most prominent of which was the 71 day occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973. He also took part in “The Longest Walk” march in 1978 to protest anti-Indian legislation including the forced sterilization of Indian women. This lead to the passage of a resolution in Congress declaring that Indians had the right “to believe, express and exercise their traditional religions, including but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rites.”

Russell went on to write inspirational books, record two collections of protest songs, speak all over the country and appear in a number of movies including Last of the Mohicans and Pocahontas. He was active in the Libertarian Party and served as South Dakota coordinator for the Republican Liberty Caucus. Russell became the face of the Indian rights movement in America and an advocate for liberty for all peoples of all nations. The Los Angeles Times described him as the most famous American Indian since Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.

His spirit will stalk the land like a giant so long as we remain strong in our belief in liberty and continue to take the fight he championed to the halls of power in every state and in the nation’s capital.

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Desktop Publishing Options on a Budget http://blogcritics.org/desktop-publishing-options-on-a-budget/ http://blogcritics.org/desktop-publishing-options-on-a-budget/#comments Sun, 14 Oct 2012 03:32:29 +0000 I run a little web business marketing original fonts and graphic arts resources. My customer base includes a lot of novices in the area of graphic design who aren’t well prepared to work with images and fonts effectively, even lacking basic software appropriate for desktop publishing and graphic design. Everyone seems to have Microsoft Word, but it just doesn’t do the job when it comes to even fairly simple integration of fonts and graphics in an attractive publication design.

Even fairly basic design projects require either an advanced image editor or some sort of desktop publishing software. The key break point at which a text-oriented program like Microsoft Word comes up short for anything but the most basic design projects, is in not facilitating the easy manipulation and positioning of images. For example, to use the many borders in our collections you need to be able to resize and reposition them and most importantly superimpose type on them. You just can’t do that practically in a program not designed to handle complex two-dimensional manipulation of text and images.

In the past this has been a real problem because high-end graphics and design programs have been prohibitively expensive, and there have been few reasonably priced alternatives. For OSX users this has changed with the advent of the App Store. The pricing practices that became common with the App Store for the iPhone and iPad have carried over to OSX, and this has brought down the price of many applications, even leading to creative pricing solutions from the highest end software publishers like Adobe.

For many users the learning curve is less steep and needs are easiest to meet with desktop publishing software, but with premiere packages like InDesign or QuarkXPress priced around $700 they are not a realistic purchase option for novice or casual users, so what do you do if you just want to design a cool newsletter or invitation or the occasional brochure or business card? Here are three options which may fit your needs and let you do just about anything you would want to in document design, and one of these options is bound to fit the needs of any user from the novice to the professional and at a very reasonable price.

Swift Publisher 3.0

BeLight Software’s latest version of Swift Publisher is a strong entry-level desktop publishing application which offers pretty much everything a novice user needs for typical projects like designing invitations or holiday cards or simple brochures, and even includes templates for many of these projects to help out beginners right out of the box. It includes most of the features you would find in a higher end design application like the ability to flow text from page to page, multiple layers, scaling images and some control over the spacing and formatting of text, though not as much as some users might want.

The interface is relatively simple and designed for ease of use, but it is also very much oriented towards beginning users and focused on using templates rather than doing custom designs. This is good for those with no experience, but for more experienced users it may prove somewhat frustrating. The learning curve is very easy for simple projects, but for more advanced uses it may seem cumbersome and the focus on templates may become very limiting. But if you just have a flyer or simple card to do Swift Publisher will start you off ahead of the game and allow someone with very little experience to produce a professional-looking product very quickly.

At just $19.99 the entry cost is very low, just where you want it to be for the casual user.

Creator Express

Creator Express has actually been around for a very long time as a competitor to high end programs like InDesign and QuarkXPress, but it never really found the same status in the marketplace. This latest version has been released through the App Store at a much more reasonable price and may find its market in that environment, as a lower-priced alternative for publishing professionals in small businesses.

Creator Express is less of a beginner application than some users may want, but offers high-end features, which many will find useful. The interface is fairly complex, but will be familiar to those who have used Adobe products. It is very similar to what you find in PhotoShop or InDesgn, though somewhat simpler than the latter. It is tool palette driven and oriented towards blank-canvas design, assuming that the user has some idea what they want to do and how to use the tools. It is a full-featured design package with strong tools for controlling shapes, colors, images and also text. It’s really very reminiscent of earlier versions of some Adobe products, particularly PageMaker which was the predecessor of InDesign. For someone like me it was a snap to use because it was just like stepping back a couple of years and working with programs with which I’ve been very familiar for a long time.

It also offers some very nice higher-end features like highly customizable shapes in which you can insert images, drawing tools, texture tools, sophisticated gradients and text manipulation tools, including adapting texts to paths with a tool which may be superior to the equivalent tool in Adobe Photoshop.

Creator Express is a great alternative for those with some experience who want to do higher-end design work, but it may be harder for novices to just pick up and use out of the box. AT $29.99 the price is outstanding for the quality and versatility of the product.

Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe’s approach to the problem of providing advanced software at a reasonable price is the innovative idea of the the Creative Cloud, which essentially lets you rent a very expensive program for a finite period of time, accessing key components through their server and never actually owning it as a complete piece of software resident on your computer. This is new technology and it may have shortcomings based on your internet speed and the capabilities of your computer, but cloud integration is being pushed very heavily by Apple and if you have a good DSL or Cable internet connection this may be a viable option for you.

It allows you to access high-end programs for a monthly fee, starting as low as $19.99 a month for a single program like InDesign or Photoshop and at a still reasonable $49.99 a month for the full Creative Suite with InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Acrobat and more. This program includes a free 30-day trial and lets you save a lot of money if you just have the occasional project to work on.

The pricing is carefully structured so that if you are likely to use the software for two years or more then you’ll be better off purchasing the full version rather than using cloud access. These are the best programs of their sort available, setting the industry standard, and the ability to access the latest versions for a short term at a low price is a major market innovation. Adobe’s main competitor in Desktop Publishing is QuarkXPress and though it is arguably superior to InDesign it is not available in any form other than as the full installed package for $849.

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Gambling Issue a Target of Disinformation in Texas http://blogcritics.org/gambling-issue-a-target-of-disinformation/ http://blogcritics.org/gambling-issue-a-target-of-disinformation/#comments Sat, 22 Sep 2012 14:15:40 +0000 It is dismaying that on certain issues Empower Texans, which used to be a leading force in the fight for individual liberty and fiscal responsibility in Texas, has begun to take positions which seem more characteristic of a anti-liberty socially conservative agenda. One recent example of this is their position on the issue of legalized gambling in Texas expressed in two recent articles, one by Empower Texans founder Michael Quinn Sullivan and one by Austin-area blogger Michele Samuelson. These articles are timed to lay the groundwork for an argument against legalized gambling as we go into a legislative session where the issue is sure to come up.

It is disturbing to see a previously trusted advocacy group like Empower Texans and two activists who I have personal respect for resort to arguments on this issue which are both contrary to a basic belief in individual choice and personal liberty and based on gross factual inaccuracies which seems to come straight out of the press releases of anti-gambling groups underwritten by gambling interests from other states.

As a matter of principle, if you believe that people should have the right to determine what they do with their own money then you ought to support their right to decide to spend that money on any form of entertainment, including gambling. On a more pragmatic level, if every state neighboring Texas has legal gambling and millions of Texans and their money travel to these states to gamble, and those states are clearly not questioning the economic benefits of gambling, why should the government of Texas deny those same benefits to our citizens and businesses?

But let’s look at some of the specific misinformation being promoted by these articles at Empower Texans. Both articles repeat some of the same false claims and misinformation.

One of these is that gambling advocates promote gambling primarily on the basis of enhanced tax revenues from taxing gambling. This is an easy argument to dispute so it’s always the one which gambling opponents focus on, but it is not really a significant part of the arsenal of arguments in favor of legalized gambling. Of course, anyone who has studied the industry realizes that whatever tax benefits come from taxing gambling are offset by the cost of government regulation of gambling, and the more the state regulates the less chance there is of profit and tax revenue. As shown by the Texas Lottery, once the state actually runs gambling the profits go to fund endless bureaucracy and to pay contractors like GTECH which gets the lion’s share of the lottery revenues.

However, the real economic benefits of gambling come from its secondary effects. Despite the claims of opponents repeated in this articles, Gambling creates jobs and the more intensive and highly developed the gambling environment the more jobs it generates. A study from the Federal Reserve in St. Louis shows that resort casinos are particularly effective in generating new employment and revenue for local communities. Casinos employ a lot of people, they build hotels which employ even more, and the gamblers they attract spend money on transportation and in other local businesses, plus the casino employees need housing, food and other services. All of these workers pay taxes and all of these businesses pay taxes, including taxes at an inflated rate from the hotels. This revenue mostly does not go to the state, but it does go into the local tax base and has an enormous impact. It’s enough to take a depressed area like Gulfport Mississippi (Federal Reserve report on economic growth in Gulfport-Biloxi) and turn it into a boomtown overnight. Galveston is another Gulfport waiting to happen.

Another flawed argument raised in the Samuelson article is that “it’s been proven that gambling expansion contributes to higher crime rates.” This is an old claim from gambling opponents based on the general assumption that sin begets more sin, which seems convincing to many people predisposed to believe it, but is not supported by facts. For example, the impact of two resort casinos near Norwich Connecticut has been studied for 20 years and the results were that local communities either matched or exceeded the nationwide trend of declining crime rates over that period, in some cases dramatically. While crime decreased by 19% nationwide the community of Preston saw a 33% decline in crime and North Stonington crime went down by 24%. Some studies have shows increases in the crime rate in some areas where gambling was introduced, but when the population of those areas was adjusted for the influx of tourists and gamblers those results proved to be false,. Contrary to popular assumption the primary force driving crime is not the “moral environment” but rather economic conditions. As shown by a study in Georgia, unemployment is a much larger factor in creating crime and legal gambling related jobs give those willing to work an alternative to crime and reduce crime rates.

One of the things which many of the independent studies on gambling seem to agree on is that the more privatized gambling is and the larger scale and less regulated it is, the more it benefits local and state economies. Very limited gambling initiatives like just allowing parimutuel wagering at racetracks or just allowing slot machines at limited locations are much less likely to be economically successful and more likely to be crushed by regulation and expensive overhead. The lesson from these studies seems to be that if you want gambling to succeed and produce real benefits you need to go into it in a very big way. It needs to become a self-sustaining industry with real potential to attract an influx of tourists on a large scale.

Ultimately, whether you believe the emotional arguments of opponents, or the propaganda of out of state gambling interests, or the data of the competing studies, or the stories of successes from other states, one fact remains very clear. With so many different opinions and so many conflicting interests, the rational response is to let the people of Texas decide. They are the ones who go to neighboring states to gamble now. They are the ones who will pay the costs and reap the benefits of legalized gambling if it comes to our state. They deserve a chance to vote on the issue and advocates on both sides deserve a chance to educate them and win their support. Obstructionist legislators bought off by special interests should step aside and let the issue be put on the ballot.

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Grassroots Republicans Call for Opposition to Party Rule Changes http://blogcritics.org/grassroots-republicans-call-for-opposition-to1/ http://blogcritics.org/grassroots-republicans-call-for-opposition-to1/#comments Fri, 14 Sep 2012 18:13:10 +0000 Many grassroots Republicans were outraged by events at the Republican National Convention in Tampa last month. They feel that control of the party has been seized by a small group of elite leaders who railroaded the convention and rewrote the rules to reduce the influence of the grassroots in the presidential nomination process and the management of the party. Led by the Republican Liberty Caucus they are proposing a resolution to challenge what they believe is a powergrab by the leadership against the party membership.

The national media gave very little coverage to events behind the scenes in Tampa, but there was a pattern of abuse of process, fraud and violation of party rules from the start of the committee meetings to the final gavel. It became very clear that control of the party had been taken away from the body of members and the delegates representing them at the convention and seized by a small cadre acting on behalf of the Romney campaign and powerful special interests. They sacrificed the best interests of the party and the rights of party members to take control of the convention and restructure the party rulesto reduce the influence of the grassroots and of state parties in the future.

Legally elected delegates were unseated, rules were violated or changed retroactively, delegates were literally held hostage and votes and motions on the floor of the convention were ignored. If you didn’t follow the story or wanted to know what was behind some of the protests you may have heard about, the best way to catch up on what went on is to read the archive of first-hand reports or view the outstanding video reports from Ben Swann on WXIX in Cincinnati.

The result of these events is that a convention which should have been designed to build unity behind the presidential nominee instead helped to unify grassroots Republicans against the small group of opportunists who seem to have taken over the party. The events at the convention finally made many average Republicans realize that what was going on was not an attempt to stop Ron Paul supporters from being disruptive, but a much larger powergrab directed against all of the traditional constituencies of the party except for a small group of insiders. Republicans are starting to realize that after Tampa it is no longer their party, but one controlled buy powerbrokers who plan to use the party and use us for their own ends.

The proposed response is that the base of the party reassert itself and demand a return to bottom-up organization where authority derives from the members through their county and state parties and is not imposed from above by the dictates of a small elite. The proposed first step in doing that is to assert clearly that party members do not accept what happened in Tampa, to condemn the methods used and to reject the rule changes which resulted.

Precinct Chairs nationwide are being asked to take a resolution to their county parties condemning the abuses at the convention and making very clear their rejection of the new rules and new structure of the party. A working group of Delegates and Precinct Chairs drafted the proposed resolution, and hope that it or something like it will be passed by as many County Executive Committees as possible, sent on and passed by State Republican Executive Committees and ultimately make its way to the Republican National Committee before it meets in January.

Here is the text of the proposed resolution. If you are active in your local Republican Party and are not happy with the results of the Tampa convention, take it to your Count Executive Committee or your Precinct Chair and urge them to pass it and act on it.

Whereas, the management of the Republican National Convention in Tampa displayed a blatant disregard for the rules under which the convention committees and convention’s general business session were supposed to be conducted;

Whereas, national party leaders and agents of the Romney campaign worked to disenfranchise legitimately elected delegates, silence dissent and disregard legitimate motions and the results of votes during the national convention;

Whereas, fraud and coercion were used to pass new rules which reduce the power and autonomy of state and local party organizations, allow future rule changes without proper oversight by the body of the party and impose a top-down structure of governance in place of the party’s traditional bottom-up structure;

Whereas, most of the factional problems at the convention could have been resolved through reasonable negotiation in ways which promoted unity and cooperation, but were instead dealt with by a heavy handed incompetence which has led to greater divisions, a weakening of the party and loss of support for the presidential nominee;

Whereas, responsibility for the mismanagement and abuse of process at the national convention ultimately rests with the national Chairman;

Whereas, it is to the benefit of the party to protect the rights and interests of party members and preserve the traditional and unique practices of the state parties;

Therefore be it resolved that:

We call for the immediate resignation of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus;

We reject the validity of all of the revisions to the party rules passed at the Tampa convention and consider the 2008 rules to remain in effect;

We assert the primacy of the state parties in determining policy for conducting party elections, nomination of candidates and apportionment of delegates within their states without the interference of the national committee or any campaign or outside entities.

We urge our State Republican Executive Committee, our State Chairman and our Republican National Committee representatives to act on this resolution and vote to return control of the party to the state parties and the body of party members.

If we allow our political parties to come under the control of special interests instead of grassroots members then the parties become instruments of oppression rather than vehicles for the will of the people.

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Federal Court Blocks Indefinite Military Detention in the NDAA http://blogcritics.org/federal-court-blocks-indefinite-military-detention/ http://blogcritics.org/federal-court-blocks-indefinite-military-detention/#comments Wed, 12 Sep 2012 19:05:05 +0000 Drawing on the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamdi vs. Rumsfeld, the U.S. District Court of the Southern Region of New York has granted a permanent injunction against the exercise of the indefinite military detention powers claimed by the United States government in section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act.

The 112-page decision goes into great detail on how the threat of indefinite detention without due process of law imposes a chilling effect on the free speech rights of critics of the government, as exemplified by the plaintiffs who include prominent government critics and radicals like Noam Chomsky.

During the Congressional debate over the passage of the NDAA many in Congress claimed that the bill did not contain provisions for the indefinite detention of civilians in violation of their Constitutional rights. The proponents of the bill went to some lengths to rearrange the text and obscure the presence of those provisions to give them grounds for denying their existence. As demonstrated in the video accompanying this article, some supporters of the bill like Rep. Allen West (R-FL) were insultingly dismissive of those who complained about the NDAA. The court’s ruling definitively refutes any contention that the NDAA does not include these provisions, confirming the opinions of many civil rights lawyers and explaining in detail how section 1021 of the NDAA could be used to deprive citizens of their liberty at the whim of the Executive Branch.

At the time the NDAA was being debated groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Republican Liberty Caucus went to great lengths to provide legislators with detailed and up to date information on the dangerous content of the bill and organized extensive write-in and call-in campaigns opposing its passage. These efforts were coordinated with the efforts of legislators like Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) who spoke up against the bill in Congress.

There is really no excuse for those legislators who voted for the NDAA. The flaws in the content were too well known and well publicized for them to plead ignorance. Voters are unlikely to find the self-serving arguments of the bill’s authors that terrorism is such a threat that we need to give up our basic civil liberties to be persuasive now that the court has issued this injunction.

Those who claimed the NDAA did not include this provision should read the detailed explantion of the content of the bil in this ruling and at the very least they should publicly apologize. It would not be unreasonable for some of the more outspoken advocates of the bill like Rep. West to resign. The ruling is absolutely unequivocal that the NDAA does give the President the power to suspend due process and allow the military to arrest civilians and hold them indefinitely without charges or trial.

If you have time to read the ruling, the summary of the arguments made by lawyers from the Justice Department is eye-opening. Their presentation of their position is so arrogant and they seem to be so callous in their disdain for the rights of citizens that they raise questions about their fitness and public servants and the failure of Attorney General Eric Holder to uphold his responsibility as the chief advocate for the people and their rights. He seems to have forgotten that he is the people’s lawyer and become nothing but a mouthpiece for the government.

The ruling concludes:

“Military detention based on allegations of “substantially supporting” or “directly supporting” the Taliban, al-Qaeda or associated forces, is not encompassed within the AUMF and is enjoined by this Order regarding § 1021(b) (2). No detention based upon § 1021(b) (2) can occur.”

In granting an injunction the court not only makes clear that the NDAA contains these powers, but also blocks their exercise, protecting the rights of citizens. It is a travesty that we should have to rely on the courts to protect us from such a clear violation of our rights. Our elected representatives ought to be looking out for our interests and should never have passed the NDAA in its current form. Far too many of them failed in this basic responsibility to their constituents.

For the time being we are free of this gross abuse of government power, but it is likely that Attorney General Holder will appeal the ruling and attempt to reclaim this power, and it’s probbly inevitable that the Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee of Senatorial malfeasance, John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI) will look for new ways to incorporate indefinite military detention powers in the NDAA when it comes up for review next year.

 

 

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