Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mid East Meltdown- The end or merely the end of the beginning?

 Now that I've got your attention with my dramatic title, no, I am not necessarily talking about the end of the world, (though perhaps such concerns are appropriate) as much as an end of an "era" in the Middle East of "business as usual."   From claims that the Bush Administration's actions supporting the creation of Democracy in Iraq have heralded in a new era of freedom in the region to warnings current events are harbingers of fulfilled prophecy straight out of the books of 'Daniel' and 'Revelation' in the Holy Bible, the tumultuous events that have erupted in Egypt this past week have gotten everyone's attention for a myriad of reasons. (In the least the tempest in this mineral-rich part of the world seemed to have once again remindeed us of the volatility of this ancient region some say was the cradle of civilization).  Indeed, the events in Egypt have everyone, from neighboring autocratic governments to the Obama Administration to Israel, the region's longest and only stable democracy, worried about what could happen next.  

  On everyone's minds is the 64,000 dollar question, are the widespread protests in Cairo which came after unrest in nearby Tunisia simply the means to a peaceful (relatively) revolution that will give way to a more responsive (and Democratic) government or will they usher in an even more oppressive government that will prove a safe-haven for terrorist activity of the like's of Al Quaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah? (whose terrorist agenda includes the destruction of Israel).  Indeed, with rogue states like Iran salivating at the thought of extending its support for terrorism to yet one more country in the world, one doesn't have to be imaginative to think of the potentially devastating consequences to freedom and Western interests such an outcome could pose.

 For its part, the Obama Administration has been semi-supportive of the protestors and constrained itself to calling for a 'peaceful' resolution and urging the Mubarak Administration to restore internet and phone service to its citizens.  However, such pronouncements to us seem a tad premature, and, unless based on intelligence unavailable to the general public, (which they very well may be), a bit naive to the potential dangers of a wider regional conflagration or how, regardless of the protestors good intentions, such events can be manipulated by jihadists intent on harming the West and imposing wide spread "Sharia" law instead of democratic reforms.  (Interestingly it also exposes the hipocrisy of the Obama Administration's recent revelation of its own desire for an internet "kill switch" in case of "national emergency," but that's another matter better to be addressed on another day in a separate post).

 As if the potential seizure and/or possible closure of the Suez Canal by rogue actors or the unrest generally isn't bad enough news, such unrest, if spread to neighboring countries, could easily completely disrupt the flow of commerce (and oil) that could prove devastating for the world's recovering economies, (especially the United States), which depend on a stable, inexpensive supply of oil to fuel it's own economic recovery and drive-- puns not intended!-- the interstate transport system which everything from grocery stores to international trade depends on.

 Some were already predicting five dollar a gallon gasoline before this crisis; one can only shudder to fathom the consequences of a wider conflagration on the fragile American economic recovery. 

 Regardless of whether such doomsday predictions will come true in this case, the events currently unfolding have provided new vigor to calls to develop America's own energy resources.  Indeed, some experts have estimated that with the oil reserves available offshore and in Alaska and America's vast natural gas reserves we have enough energy to meet our needs for 200 years, (plenty of time for new forms of energy to be developed), if only we have the will to develop them.

Let's hope it's not too late.   jp

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Filibuster Reform in the Senate- A good idea?

Amidst the vast changes begun to be enacted in Washington D.C. as a result of the Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives in the historic midterm elections, (earmark reform and the largely symbolic "repeal" of Obamacare comes to mind), was one more obscure in the upper chamber  that seemingly takes a degree in 'History of U.S. Senate Rules' to understand. 

We are talking of course about reform of the "Filibuster," that staid practice of old popularized by the Frank Capra political charmer and one of my favorite movies of all time, "Mr. Smith goes to Washington."  You know, that practice where one Senator, any Senator, can, at least in theory, take the floor of the U.S. Senate and talk 'til the cows come home,' (something perhaps taken too literally by uber liberal 'Independent' Senator Bernie Sanders from the State of Vermont recently, for more info click here).

The question is, should the filibuster be ended, or at least significantly reformed, under the premise that it unduly restricts the ability of the Senate to complete its work and gives the minority party too much power to play politics with a virtually unlimited ability to obstruct important legislation for often purely political reasons?

NOTE:  Although new readers to this blog may due to a perceived frequent agreement with the "Republican" point of view wrongly infer we are a "Republican" organization-- regardless of the fact  our perspective on political and societal issues may at times coincide with views of the Republican party-- we are not officially affiliated with the Republican party or, for that matter, any other partisan group or party.  Rather, we are governed by our own independent judgment and the official and non-partisan mission of the ACLP to foster debate and discourse among individuals and American institutions on issues of vast import to the body politic as a whole.  Indeed, we do not believe that such issues as the impact on privacy and freedom of speech that the new internet protocol ipv6 may pose, the U.S. Constitution, or Dr. Martin Luther King's dream for racial equality are "Republican" or "Democratic" issues, (all recent topics for discussion posted on this blog).  Thus, if you are a person slavishly devoted to just the "Republican" or "Democratic" parties, or for that matter, any other particular platform or ideology instead of a discussion of "ideas," you are likely to find yourself frequently disappointed by many of this organization's blog posts.  Today's is no exception. 

Following that little disclaimer then, it may come as no surprise, (or may, depending on your level of obtuse partisanship), that we find the current push by Senate Democrats to reform use of the filibuster under Senate Rules to be reasonable and in the best interest of the country, especially as it pertains to ending the use of "secret holds," the practice where a single Senator can anonymously prevent legislation-- or in some cases votes on nominees of the executive branch to federal agencies or vacancies in the courts-- from coming to the floor for a vote.  In conjunction with the now-common practice of holding up legislation with a mere "threat" of a Filibuster without ever having to take to the Senate floor to actually carry it out, such tactics can be used by the party out of power to delay, often permanently, action on nominees or legislation they find objectionable. 

Such practices have, in recent years, been increasingly abused for partisan purposes by politicians on both sides of the political aisle, (the Democrats blocking virtually any Amendments by Republicans to the "health reform" bill more popularly known as "Obamacare" comes to mind), but it is not a practice by any means of Democrats alone; Indeed, Republicans during the current, as well as the Clinton Adminstration have also utilized such practices.

Be that as it may, there can be no doubt that use of the filibuster and such tactics as mentioned above for partisan and obstructionist purposes have little place in our modern Democratic Republic. 

Indeed, instead of a tool meant to guarantee full discussion and debate on matters of important public interest before action is taken that may have long term unintended consequences, (rather than delivering the sound bites and political zingers we have become all too accustomed to and which the current rules encourage), the current incarnation of the filibuster little resembles the one that Jimmy Stewart's character would have recognized and has come to be wielded instead as a tool to shut down debate of issues.  This, in a Democratic Republic founded on principles of the First Amendment, should not be so.  

In this regard our leftist-leaning Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders had it right.  In line with the more traditional and historical use of the filibuster he at least had enough respect for its proper use to actually take to the floor of the Senate for an astonishing-- at least in the modern age-- almost 9 hours before exhaustion forced him to step down (or more precisely, away) from the podium.  

In our view, this is as it should be.

In this light, we believe it shortsighted for the Republicans (or any Democrats for that matter) not to support a return to a more traditional use of the filibuster and related rules; indeed, while today it may be the Democrats who, for admittedly partisan gain at this point in time want to reform said rules, that should not preclude consideration of this issue on the merits.  (Indeed, even from a "Republican" point of view it is our humble opinion that opposing such reform makes little sense, as we shall shortly show).

We therefore urge both parties, (and especially the Republicans who are more apt to object at this point) to support reasonable Filibuster Reform and put the good of the nation ahead of short term political advantage. 

Now in fairness, Republicans do have some concerns.  They were boiled down to chiefly four last week by Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), in justifying opposing filibuster reform.  According to a Huffington Post article, and in Senator Alexander's words, (his words in quotes), we note the following objections of Mr. Alexander to this seemingly common-sense change in Senate Rules:

1) They "dimish the rights of the minority," 2) "diluting the right to debate and vote on amendments deprives the nation of a valuable forum for achieving consensus on difficult issues," 3) the "brazen power grab by Democrats this year will surely guarantee a similar action by Republicans in two years if Republicans gain control of the Senate as many believe is likely to happen" and 4) any legislation pushed through the Senate under the new rules would "undoubtedly die in the Republican-controlled House during the next two years." See here.

This however seems to miss the forest for the trees and deny the truth-seeking dictum to disregard the source in determining the validity or non-validity of an idea.  And, at least from our perspective, the idea of some form of filibuster reform is sound.

As to the first, well, yes, to an extent any cutting back of the use of the filibuster diminishes the power of the minority.  But in light of the fact that Republicans have complained bitterly about alleged abuse by the Democrats of this power in recent years-- The recent health care "debate, "where Democrats would not allow Republicans to offer significant amendments to the legislation before forcing it through on a party-line vote, comes to mind-- why wouldn't they want to pare it back to at least its more traditional "Mr. Smith" form?  This to us seems distinctly in the national interest.

Number two is not necessarily true, especially if new filibuster rules enacted preserves the right by Senators to engage in the afore-mentioned and more traditional "talking filibuster".  It actually might foster the opposite effect of forcing Senators to actually work together more to reach consensus on difficult issues if they knew they couldn't simply hold up legislation endlessly and would have to hold the floor of the Senate instead of merely threaten a filibuster on divisive issues they cared deeply about.

Three, if, Republicans truly believe they will win a majority in the Senate in 2012, as the numbers do indeed suggest, changing the rules now will in fact make it more difficult for Democrats to block Republican reforms in two years, (when Democrats will then be in the minority).  In any event, pure partisanship seems a particularly poor basis on which to make public policy in this country. 

As for the fourth concern of Senator Alexander, again, this appears to us to be a classic case of missing the forest for the trees.  Aside from the fact that we are not aware that the House has authority to vote on alterations to Senate Rules, even if true, the Senate voting to do the right thing shouldn't be held up merely on the basis that the House might not like it.   Let the Senate pass what they deem fit, and let the House respond in due course and/or the differences be ironed out in conference.  This is what our Democratic process is for.  

In closing, it is worth mentioning that we at the ACLP believe that, in this greatest nation on earth where the First Amendment was born, the solution to bad legislation is more debate, not less, and that the Senate, as the nation's highest law making body, should be ashamed of its desire to hide behind an expanded, modern "filibuster" just to avoid having to publicly take stands on issues.   Indeed, isn't this what true reform a la the phenomenem of the Tea Party movement which has just swept the Republicans back into the majority in the U.S. House is in large part about, more transparency?

In our view, this common sense reversion back to the traditional use of the filibuster, along with elimination/revision of the "cloture" rule, (i.e."secret holds"), ought to rather be at the top of the list of reforms enacted by new members of the Senate, (indeed, such an idea has broad bi-partisan support, see here.

Doing so is particularly in the national interest.  jp

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Death of a dream?- Part Two

As has been previously mentioned, (See Post "The American Constitution- Propaganda?") the fact that our constitution provides within itself the means for amendment to allow change to fulfill its promise of liberty and equality to match the changing values and needs of society throughout our nation's history, rather than indicate weakness or any inherent malevolence, indicates its inherent goodness and strength. Indeed, while not perfect, the Founder Fathers set out to intentionally fashion a constitutional system which would create a stable and limited government which would most likely over time promote and preserve the maximum freedom and independence of all citizens, (a goal which by any measure has spectacularly been achieved, including by African Americans).

Certainly Abraham Lincoln, our Nation's beloved 16th President responsible for saving the union and the first national candidate of the newly formed Republican Party, clearly formed an unfavorable perspective on the institution of chattel slavery and the racist beliefs which upheld and enabled it; (while it is true as a Senator representing the state and all his constituents he didn't initially didn't wish to upset the applecart and thus was unwilling to make a bold call to abolish slavery, eventually he undoubtedly became one of its staunchest critics and the author of the Emancipation Proclamation).  

Accordingly, and in light of these facts, Abraham Lincoln, as the vast majority of our great nation's Founders, utterly fails as an example of the left for our nation's "racist" history, (unless, of course, one wishes to deride such stances as mere "politics" and engage a favorite tactic of the left to, when people come to greater understanding and change their political opinions on matters of substantial import, instead of being praised for their courage are attacked as insincere hypocrits.  Of course, Abraham Lincoln was not, strictly speaking, a "Founding Father".  Accordingly, and for the views of the Founders, or at least many of them, click here ).

And this is irregardless of the fact that some, or even many of the Founding Fathers, (particularly from more Southern states), may have owned slaves themselves. As any astute observer of political history knows, politics is the art of incremental change towards pre-determined goals, and racially-based chattel slavery at the time of its introduction into the Americas was a British and legally-sanctioned if unfortunate practice of the times, (would that the energy and invective with which modern day reparations activists and those who support the continuance of race-based policies that divide our nation into competing ethnic groups applied themselves equally zealously to eradicating the modern-day and anti-Christian inspired enslavement of fellow blacks by Muslim "conquerers" in modern-day Africa).

Indeed, to simply say the Founders were "racist hypocrits," as many on the progressive left routinely do, not only seriously distorts American history, but violently opposes the truth for partisan and ideologically purposes, (indeed, the political left in our country never misses a chance to blame whatever ills it can in the world on our "imperialistic," "war-mongering," racist and "fascist" state). Such partisans, who I am convinced misunderstand the meaning of the terms they cast around like so much toilet paper on hallow's eve, clearly miss the unanimous testimony of history herself that the rise of dictators and tyrants rarely comes from political pragmatists but almost always from "purists" who insist that theirs is the only possible "correct" perspective of current events as they impose their "purist" solutions by any means they perceive necessary in order to justify the ends they seek. 

A better picture may perhaps be had by taking the example of just one Founder, the predominant writer of our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, who, in his personal writings scornfully and specifically denounced the British for introducing the practice of slavery to the Americas and being unwilling to consider its abolishment regardless of repeated petition by the colonies, click here and scroll down to "The Virginians"

But to demand at our Nation's founding that such issues be immediately resolved would have been to plunge our colonies, divided as they were between North and South and different economic interests, into intractable division that would have very likely doomed our united Declaration of Independence and the subsequent U.S. Constitution, (to say nothing of the Revolutionary war effort, indeed, it is doubtful it could have succeeded if undertaken while a national debate re: slavery were then convulsing the colonies).

On the other hand, while certainly a mark on our nation's history, there can be no doubt that the advance of equal rights and liberty for all our citizens, regardless of ancestry, is a testament to the enduring ideals of our Republic and the constitutional framework established by our Founders, (a fact even Dr. King would presumably wholeheartedly concede). Which brings us full circle to the point of my writing.

What, do you suppose, would Dr. King think of the modern-day push to reinstitute, through increasingly coercive institutional or governmental policy, a modern-day system of "officially-sanctioned" prejudice which merely substitutes one disadvantaged group for another? (We are talking here of course about all institutional and governmentally imposed race-centric "programs," i.e. preferences, quotas, or "affirmative action" efforts, which, while undoubtedly well-intentioned, seek to simply impose by rule, system or fiat any or all of the above-mentioned coercive remedies which fail to actually correct and in fact may actually aggravate and increase the prejudiced attitudes and racist beliefs which they proport to redress, more on this later).  

Now I realize I risk being accused of the racially charged "r" word by even broaching this subject.  Indeed, one can hardly have a reasoned discussion about such matters today without being accused, if white, of being "racist," (so much for the "civil" discourse called for by our nation's first black President), or worse, if one happens to have an increased level of melanin in their skin, of being an "uncle Tom," (just ask Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who grew up without running water to become one of the highest jurists in the land serving on the Supreme Court. Indeed, for a perfect example of the "tolerance" and civil discourse of the political left, I cite USA Today columnist and radio talk show host Julianne Malveaux on PBS's show "To the Contrary," who in 1994 said, "You know, I hope his wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter and he dies early like many black men do, of heart disease."). What's that you say, not exactly the kind of "civil" discourse that cheers your heart and gives you warm fuzzies inside??  Must be a conspiracy by those darn right wingers! 

Nevertheless, as famed (and black) abolishionist Frederick Douglas said 140 years ago:

“[I]n regard to the colored people, there is always more that is benevolent, I perceive, than just, manifested towards us. What I ask for the negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us… . I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! … And if the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! … [Y]our interference is doing him positive injury.” What the Black Man Wants: An Address Delivered in Boston, Massachusetts, on 26 January 1865, reprinted in 4 The Frederick Douglass Papers 59, 68 (J. Blassingame & J. McKivigan eds. 1991) (emphasis in original).

Sound familiar? It should. At the risk of sending my liberal reader friends into convulsive fits, I remind them this quote was cited by Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas in his dissent to the Grutter v. Bollinger Supreme Court Decision ( ).

Needless to say, we wholeheartedly agree with Mssrs. Douglas and Thomas.  While more could certainly be said on this important matter of public policy, (and undoubtedly will in coming days), at least to our perspective, it seems equally clear that in addition to such programs as affirmative action actually harming African Americans ability to compete and get ahead in our society, it is elementary one cannot cure racism by heaping on more racism, (regardless against whom it is targeted, oops, I'm not supposed to use "uncivil" gun language, I meant to say, "aimed," er, I mean, oh well, you know what I mean! More on this politically correct nonsense in future posts).
Such an approach as pushed by those on the left, (the most vocal of which more often than not are surprisingly not of African American heritage as one might suspect but rather very rich, white, elitists), rather than bring about racial reconciliation and "equality," can in practice only postpone the day when Dr. King's dream of a color-blind society "where little black boys and girls can play peacefully with little white girls and boys" will be the accepted norm and not the exception to the rule.  Judging from the rate of interace marriage and the  superior coherence and rationality of the approach taken by Justice Thomas in his dissenting opinion above it is surely inevitable.

And about time!  Only a truly race-neutral approach where no one ethnic group is given an advantage over another under the guise of redressing "past" sins can truly keep Dr. King's dream "where a man is judged based not on the color of his skin but on the content of his character" from dying and insure his hopes of racial equality don't become a nightmare of perpetual racism and cultural division based on whatever "flavor of the month" group in our American melting pot at any given moment in time may be economically and socially discriminated against.

Let us do all we can to insure the realization of his dream. jp

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Death of a Dream?- Npr's Injection of Race into the Debate

In what can only be considered a blatant attempt to exploit the tragic Tucson shootings in order to score political points against illegal immigration opponents in the aftermath of this national tragedy, NPR injected the subject of race into the national debate on their program  "All things Considered" Jan 12, 2011 via a guest editorial by Daisy Hernandez.   Lest there should be no doubt, let's quote Ms. Hernandez herself.  

"I wasn't the only person on Saturday who rushed to her Android when news came of the Tucson shooting. I wasn't looking however to read about what had happened... What I wanted to know was the killer's surname...  I admit sadly that it was only after I saw the shooter's gringo surname that I was able to go on and read the rest of the news about those who lost their lives on Saturday..."

After explaining her (unfounded) belief that if the lunatic opening fire on innocent people-- due from all accounts to his likely diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia-- had had a hispanic "surname," those on the right would be equally exploiting the tragedy for purposes of urging a "crackdown" on illegal immigration, she concluded:

"...the only reason the nation is taking a few days to reflect on the animosity in politics today is precisely that the shooter was not Latino."

For starters, it is unfortunate Ms. Hernandez, like the majority of the political left in our Republic today, apparently views America as overtly a 'racist' country, (even as she insensitively uses her own racial slur of "gringo" to describe those of Caucasian heritage); indeed, for Ms. Hernandez and the many on the philosophical left which she represents, not only are non-Caucasians the only class that, by definition, can't be racially slurred or be racially discriminated against, but in their race-obsessed view of America every political debate or incident of mention in American life must be at its root related to race.  Indeed, all of American life, in such a view, revolves around racial matters.  We would like to believe that such views are limited to marginal journalists and progressive left activists in our open, free society; sadly we would be mistaken.

Openly promoting this view of America, U.S. Congresswoman Barbera Lee (D-CA, 9th District) recently indicated her belief that race was one, if not the, fundamental issue defining our society in urging on C-Span, "we must make race a part of our political considerations" (C-Span 1, Jan 6, 2011).
We couldn't disagree more.  In our view, it is indeed unfortunate and ironic that Ms. Hernandez should express even worse racially-based sentiments almost immediately preceding the Martin Luther King national holiday, the day set aside for our nation to memorialize the life of a man who fought racial classification and prejudice on every level via peaceful, non-violent means.  Indeed, coming right before a national holiday named after Dr. King, who in practice and quite literally gave his life for the cause of racial healing and equality, we find the timing of Ms. Hernadez' comments especially insensitive.

And while we have no basis to presume that Ms. Hernandez could have known of President Obama's then-imminent intention to call for "civility" in his Tucson Memorial speech-- though she certainly could not, as a journalist, have been unaware of the extremely insensitive and at times inflammatory rhetoric used in our Republic re: matters of race and other "hot potato" political issues in our modern times-- we find it even more unfortunate and ironic that her comments came at a time that should have more properly been dedicated to national healing and unity (as the President openly requested at the Tucson Memorial Wednesday for the victims of Jared Lee Loughner's Jan 8th shooting spree outside a Safeway grocery store that killed or injured 19 people).

Indeed, and at least in our view, this transparent attempt to exploit this national tragedy for political purposes seems a particularly despicable and irresponsible act which can only inflame racial sensitivities and animus in this country at a time we can least afford it.

On substance, Ms. Hernadez' claim to be able to guess the "what if" actions of conservatives and those opposed to illegal immigration is no more accurate (or fair) then, in the words of President Obama, trying to "guess the motives behind this senseless act" of the Jan 8 shootings. (As an aside, if Ms. Hernandez does possess the ability to know the "alternate future" by looking in her political crystal ball, we suggest she pursue a career as a psychic or perhaps bookie rather than the semi-journalist/ activist vocational route she seems to be intent pursuing.  She would probably be much better compensated!)

However, Ms. Hernandez' comments do provide occasion for a much-needed national discussion on the penchant by certain segments of our body politic to inject race into every issue of national import.   More broadly, and rather than the political pot shots Ms. Hernandez seems happy to make regardless of their effect on the unity of our great nation, it is distinctly in the public interest to engage in a discussion of how far our country has come in the struggle for a society where, to quote Dr. King, "a man is judged not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character," and to examine the competing perspectives of just what "racial justice and equality" really is (and/or should be) in modern 21st century America.  Indeed, we can think of no better way to honor Martin Luther King.

Before we begin our discussion however of what "racial equality" is, or, perhaps more descriptively, a non-racially-based society "looks like," (i.e., where race is not the predominant factor to every hiring, economic, or social determination in American life), it is important to note what it is not, and our limitations in that regard.   (Indeed, if we are ever to get to that point of a truly color blind society it is critical we do so).   

First of all, it is not a society free from any objectionable, biased, or even bigoted and prejudiced beliefs, (no matter how repugnant such beliefs may be), nor, upon considering the ramifications of such a society, would we want it so.    

Indeed, in an open and free society where individuals are free to choose and believe as they wish there will always be those with differing, erroneous, or even bigoted and prejudiced views, and such must be the case if we are to continue living in a free society where the individual's right to think and conduct their affairs as seems best to them is protected.  

Nor would we want it otherwise if we could, like the Soviet Gulag or Naziesq "reeducation" camps of old, "stamp out" the views of the prejudiced by using technology to "read" their minds, (such a crazy idea, no device could ever do that! Really? Read here and here ).   
   This is so because, no matter how rife with prejudice or "offensive" views such a system of democratic self-governance may be, ours is a Constitutional Republic with a First Amendment that protects the expression of minority and even "wrong" views no matter how personally distasteful or objectionable they are.  Oh the genius of our Founders who established a system that rather chooses choosing public approbation for noxious opinions and open debate of ideas in the search for truth to rote acceptance of any particular view sanctioned by the government, (no matter how desirable or correct such governmentally-sanctioned or "approved" views may be or the reasons behind government regulation of free speech.  Indeed, there is a name for a system in which the government only allows views it deems "approved" or "inoffensive" to be held and shared by individuals in society, let's spell it together children, it's called d-i-c-t-a-t-o-r-s-h-i-p).  LOL  Ok, excuse my momentary lapse into sarcastic ridicule that was meant for any progressive liberals among us ;)  . 

 Not only is such an open system of idea exchange superior on many levels, (as it allows full consideration of all relevant factors and viewpoints in pursuit of the truth, indeed, as the Supreme Court has noted, even a lie, once exposed to public dispute, plays a critical role as, when examined in light of other opinions more conforming to the truth only all the more starkly appears for the absurd lie that it is), but such an open exchange of ideas is actually much more effective in eradicating prejudice in society.  

Indeed, as the Founders intended it most effectively allows exposure to public shame and accountability those in society who are truly prejudiced as opposed to the much less effective modern equivelent of tar and feathering Ms. Hernadez apparently prefers and in this way allows effective repudiation of such views by the majority.  

Moreover, such principles go back to the very foundations of our Nation's founding, as exemplified in the Constitutions of various New England states and the very reason for our founding as Independent colonies, (i.e., a desire to escape the imposed intolerance of one state sanctioned version of the Christian religion with little tolerance for conscience and differing opinion on the interpretation of sacred text).

Additionally, let us not forget that history is full of examples, particularly in the fields of science and religion, of once derided and non-sanctioned "minority" viewpoints becoming, (in a mere generation or two in some cases), the predominantly accepted view, (Galileo's battle with the Catholic church over the orbit of the planets comes to mind in this regard).   

In sum, racial equality in a free society can never mean the complete stamping out of the beliefs of others, no matter how bigoted or repugnant.  (Indeed, we don't live in a society obsessed with "mind" or "thought" control, nor, as mentioned above, would we want to, as we would cease then to be a truly free society).  So then, mere change of public opinion through "educational" or coercive means can not be what racial equality is.   

Nor can equality of outcome, or financial equality, where everyone has equal means regardless of their abilities or hard work (or absence thereof) be the definiation of "racial equality."   To the contrary, that is the almost quintessential definition of the economic system known as Socialism, (or, in its more dictatorial and virulent form of political expression, Communism).  

Nor is it free enterprise, technically only an "economic" system that, as China has shown us, is not always necessarily yoked with Democratic government but can stand on its own inside a Communist or dictatorial form of government, (though its suitability over the long term to such a system, as opposed to an equally open and free form of government, is doubtful).  

Rather, "racial equality" is exactly what it sounds like; rather than any particular political or economic guarantee or system racial equality is best defined as that application of law in a prevailing governmental system where no race is given advantage or favorable treatment over any other race or ethnic group.  Unfortunately,  in our nation's continuing struggle to achieve that vision of which Dr. King spoke in his famous "Dream" speech, we have not yet reached the goal, (although great strides have been made). 

However, to that end, and in line with our desire to contribute positively to the discussion on this critical societal goal, it might be helpful to consider the perspectives of some of those involved in the struggle for racial equality in our nation's history and contrast that with the perspective of those such as Ms. Hernadez in our more modern age.  Indeed, as is usually the case, to properly understand the present one must properly understand the past.

Next time we shall more carefully examine it vis a vis the Founder's of our Nation's beliefs and the impact of Ms. Hernandez' and those who share her belief's on the realization of Dr. King's dream in light of current law.  jp

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The President's Tucson speech: Political Pep Rally or Call to Civility?

President Obama's speech last Wednesday at the University of Arizona at Tucson, which spoke poignantly of the victims and the need for national “healing,” was, by all accounts from both ends of the political spectrum, a smashing “political” success. While the President insisted “it is impossible to know what caused” the killing spree of Jared Lee Loughner and indicated that heated political rhetoric had not, in his words, “caused this tragedy,” he also simultaneously (and somewhat contradictorily?) called for more “civility” in public discourse and to resist "turning on one another."

Moreover, although still unclear to whom exactly the President was speaking-- with many on the political left seeming to think he was talking exclusively to conservatives who had just endured an extended pillorying in the national media for ostensibly causing such unspeakable acts of violence with “hate filled” and “extremist rhetoric” over the airwaves, see here-- the President, to his credit, called the nation to eschew denigrating political opponents because they “might not see things the way we do.”

Nevertheless, the “memorial” for the Tucson shooting victims, purportedly meant as a solemn, respectful affair, was reminiscent of the Paul Wellstone memorial in 2002, when democrats and leftist political operatives used the opportunity as a “get out the vote” event to rally the “sympathy vote” for Democratic replacement candidate Former Vice President Walter Mondale against Republican Norm Coleman in the then-imminent 2002 mid-terms, (history does indeed, repeat itself!)

Indeed, the Tucson event had an almost celebratory attitude, replete with loud cheers, whistles, and shouts of acclamation that seemed more like a campaign rally to kick off Obama's 2012 re-election bid than a genuine memorial for the victims, (in spite of the President's moving memorial “rhetoric,” and before you libs get all up in arms about the term which, I admit, has been rather sloppily bandied about of late, but that's what it was in purely technical terms, as is all political speech, look up Webster's definition here, and/or read the classic “Art of Rhetoric” by Aristotle).

Little wonder then that the raucous attitude of the student-majority crowd seemed strangely out of place and offensive to many others watching, including this organization's founder and CEO.

Coming on the heels of national mid-term elections in which the President's party incurred historic losses in the House of Representative and in which, among other things, the President stated, “If they bring a knife, we'll bring a gun,” to many on the political right the speech in Tucson rang hollow and perhaps like mere political posturing akin to putting into action his just resigned Chief of Staff Rham Emmanuel's maxim to “never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Indeed, following the first two years of the Obama Administration which witnessed an incredible self-aggrandizing expansion of Federal power, many of us on the political right are understandably skeptical of the sincerity of Obama's sudden penchant for “civility” and compromise, trusting ourselves rather to our 40th President, Ronald Reagan's rule of thumb, “trust but verify.” Nor can we compromise on principles of importance to this nation of limited government, a strong national defense, and policies that encourage economic growth.

Accordingly, many of us are waiting to see if Obama will truly listen to the voice of the American people spoken so loud and clear in the Mid-term elections which repudiated his progressive agenda at the expense of these values, or will continue on the course he has begun of increasing government nationalization of industry, consolidation of control over free speech and the internet, and higher government taxation and expenditures at a time when we can ill afford it with deficits as far as the eye can see.

We are waiting, Mr. President. jp

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Free Speech and Internet Privacy Armageddon- ipv6

Ok, this is my third (and final?) post in the present series re: erosion of internet privacy, (and the necessarily-related and coterminous threat to constitutionally guaranteed Free Speech that it represents).  Coming on the heels of the Tucson Az. shooting spree by a mentally disturbed gunman who killed six and critically injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), (among others, see Jan. 10, 2011 post on subject), the timing of this post, while not planned, is especially apt in light of recent and subsequent calls by various public officials to "clamp down" on alleged "hate-filled," "divisive" and "extremist" rhetoric from the political right which they assert was, if not a causal factor to this act of unspeakable violence, at least a significant contributing factor, (in spite of no evidence whatsoever to back up such assertions, and indeed, much evidence to the contrary, see Jan. 13, 2011 "Dubya Dupnik" posting on this blog by yours truly :). 

Here, however, we are dealing with the potential constitutionally "chilling" effect on free speech that new internet standards rolling out may pose by way of the new technology's ability to conclusively and individually identify every internet-capable device and hence to track and monitor every publicly spoken, (and perhaps not so publicly spoken) utterance made by anyone through the internet, (no matter how lawful, innocuous, or private the nature of such communications).

A lot of the background and "philosophical" underpinning, if you will, that undergirds the right to free speech (and is equally the basis for our entire democratic and free enterprise system by the way) I will not readdress, as it has already been addressed in prior posts and seems to me so basic so as to not require repetition.

Rather, we will now get down to a very real, specific example of how "advances" in the most fundamental technology undergirding how the internet works can be used to track and potentially stifle the Free Speech rights of those with opinions that may dissent from the government or the "majority view" at any given time.  Of course, it goes without saying that the freedom to criticize one's own government without fear of reprisal is the hallmark of a free society, (indeed, so important was a free press considered to our Republic by our Founders that it was specifically referred to at the Philadelphia Consitutional convention even before becoming part of our federal Bill of Rights, see here and often referred to as the "Fourth Branch" of the federal government).

It is important to note before getting into all the details that our concerns are not necessarily with specific reference to the Obama Administration, (although obviously, the recent policy and regulatory changes do concern us, see previous posts); Rather, our focus is on the threat to free speech that these changes in fundamental internet technology pose not just under the present administration but future ones vis a vis how such technology and accompanying or new "security" laws and/or regulations may be interpreted and enforced by courts and future Administrations alike and the resulting danger to our democracy and body politic that could result;

Indeed, if there is anything that history teaches us it is that threats to our freedoms often come from well-meaning laws and government regulations that are not always apparent at the time they are instituted, (essentially the immutable law of unintended consequences).  In that regard we are mindful of the admonition of Benjamin Franklin that "those who trade liberty for security end up with neither" (paraphrased).

So with that in mind, just what is "ipv6" and how could it pose such a threat?  That requires a bit of background and a short primer on computer and "internet protocol" technology and nomenclature.

First, the "ip" part of "ipv6" is short for "internet protocol."  What is this?  Simply put, it is the fundamental way that computer networks and devices identify and "communicate" with each other when you transmit information, (i.e. "surf"), over the internet.  Basically it is the "address" by which other computers know where to send information, (much the way the mailman knows where to send everyone's mail by their home address but in a digitized, electronic format your computer, router or smart phone can interpret, (for more detailed info click here ).

The "version six" in ipv6 represents the development level of the technology the same way that most popular software is designated to identify the version that it is, (say for instance regarding a popular browser, Firefox 3.0 v. 2.0).  Ipv6 replaces version ipv4 which has been in use since the 1980's as the global standard but for which modification was necessary to accomodate growth in internet usage worldwide, (there is an intermediate internet protocol version "5" which was for the most part considered experimental and never widely implemented, and an envisioned version "8" still in the infant stages of development).

Basically, due to the explosion of technology and internet capable devices in use among the world's six billion or so inhabitants, the number of available "addresses" for such devices should be depleted early this year. (While not relevant to our discussion this is partly due to the rise and increased financial clout of the middle class in formerly under-developed countries like India and China, and also the inherent limitations in ipv4's shorter data strings which "only" allow for a maximum of  4.3 billion ip addresses, compared to ipv6 which allows  for a mind boggling minimum of at least a trillion times more, click here for a more detailed explanation

In large part due to the anticipated exhaustion of available "ip addresses" under upv4, the use of "Network Address Translation," a process whereby many different internet capable devices can access the internet under one, main ip address, has become widely implemented with both drawbacks and, depending on the context and who you ask, advantages, (see   ).  

The part relevant to our discussion here is that, regardless of the "internet protocol" version used, every time you get on the internet via computer, ipad, smart phone or any other device, one of these "internet protocol" addresses is assigned to your connection, (either one that is "static" (fixed) or randomly assigned from a "pool" of addresses utilized by your ISP, an addressing paradigm called "dynamic" addressing, for more info on this click here   ).

However, by the very nature of internet protocol technology, your "ip" address can and does reveal much data about your "connection" that could be "personally identifiable," (such as your or your internet provider's general location, browser, referrer and system info). Which brings us to the penultimate difference (and potential threat to free speech) that the newer "internet protocol" version 6 which is gradually being implemented on an internet-wide scale poses, (slated for implementation as of the first of this year, but due to the immensity of hardware updates that will be required in the networks of countless businesses, educational institutions and government agencies ipv6 will take some time to fully implement).

As alluded to above, due mainly to the numerically limited number of addresses inherent in its technology, under the older "ipv4" system predominantly in use at present, common internet access or "gateway" points such as Internet Service Providers (ISP's) or network routers allow all the computers (or devices) accessing the internet through that ISP or network router to "share" the same ip address for communicating over the internet using Network Address Translation, (i.e. N.A.T., see above).  Because under ipv4 the use (and data) of each particular device or computer on a network cannot be separated individually from the other computers or devices in use on the network, all the individual devices (and device users) are afforded a certain level of anonymity by essentially "hiding in open view" among the other devices accessing the internet on that network.

Therefore, anyone wishing to follow or "snoop" on your activities in cyberspace, (such as posting on this blog :)  could not be sure of your identity by simply "following" your internet activities from your desktop, to ipad, to smartphone, (you could, after all, simply be one person of many on a given network or using your internet service provider's "dynamic" ip assigned you from their "pool" at the time you signed on).

Under ipv6, however, every single internet capable device you own will be assigned its own unique ip address.  Moreover, every internet capable device has, due to its own individual M.A.C. (Machine Access Control) number hard coded into it, the capability to be conclusively identified with a digital "fingerprint" in very much the same way that a human fingerprint can be used to identify individuals.   

In short, and quite simply, through combining identification of your devices's "MAC" address with your ip address and internet history, your internet service provider, (and, in the case of using wireless, virtually anyone with knowhow), could potentially both monitor and individually identify your every move and content of your "transmissions" in cyberspace in a way so as to personally identify you, virtually eliminating anonymity from internet speech and causing the strong potential for an according "chilling" of the speech rights of individuals not willing to risk exercising their First Amendment rights to speak out freely if it means their identity could be positively identified.

One does not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out the implications of this vis a vis the recent decision of the Federal Communications Commission to, for the first time ever, regulate the internet in much the same way they do telephone companies of old, (for examples of how the government has previously exercised its "regulatory" authority over phone companies, including monitoring phone calls of individual citizens through phone companies without any court order or oversight, see the following links , ).

Accordingly, while previously your surfing habits and the content that you email, tweet, im, post on a blog, etc. was between only you and your ISP, for the first time ever the new internet protocol standards now allow such information, at least theoretically, to potentially be accessed by government actors without court orders or probable cause of any crime committed and to track and identify the beliefs, purchases, and internet habits of anyone they choose.

One doesn't need to be imaginative to think of the effect this could have on journalists charged with bringing us the facts we need to be informed citizens, (a task so important the Founders often referred to a free press as "the fourth branch of government,"), whistleblowers of government corruption, crime, or just the ability of the average every-day-Joe to express his disapproval of government policies without fear of retributions or recriminations (from the government or otherwise.  Indeed, during a time in which "conservative political rhetoric" has at least been partly blamed by some on the political left who think Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was "targeted" by the gunman in the Tucson attacks due to her political positions and vote on such things as the Obama Administration's health care "reform" bill, we don't think it's a stretch to posit that a plausible fear from, and perhaps even probability of, recriminations for political expression, whether from extreme partisans who disagree with you-- witness the hacking of Sarah Palin's email by the son of a Democratic leader-- mentally disturbed individuals or more "official" sources such as government agents, could not occur.  (Nor, as must necessarily be obvious to those who suscribe to the political left's initial theories regarding the motives behind the attack on Congresswomen Giffords, is it a stretch that this could pose an actual threat to persons who express "unpopular" or disfavored opinions).  As such there are extremely important public policy reasons to favor anonymity in internet speech.  

Indeed, and of most salient concern to us here at the A.C.L.P., for the first time in the history of the web your beliefs and internet history can now and with precision be attributed to you individually along with personally identifying information such as your real name, actual address, employment, and ultimately whatever other information of yours the government wishes to "harvest," (much in the way marketers are already doing, see  ).

Now before you go getting totally freaked out, as is usually the case there is often a beneficial (i.e. "innocent") justification for the change or "advancement" of the technology proffered as necessary, (albeit sometimes with unintended consequences, as above noted), and it is no different here.

Such information "harvested" by the government could undoubtedly be potentially beneficial and have legitimate governmental uses, (such as preventing acts of terrorism).   

However, our concern is that such information, (including any or all of the above-mentioned "personally identifying" information), could also be saved and/or added to information in any number of other government databases such as social security, drivers license bureaus, and the like and used to track the beliefs and expressions of political opinion of literally millions of people to be exploited in unintended and potentially unlawful (or even dictatorial) ways that could jeopardize citizens' right to Free Speech. Indeed, such information could potentially be utilized in ways that would make the oppression under the totalitarian government in George Orwell's classic and famous novel "1984" look tame by comparison.  

And let's be frank.   It is not as if there is no precedent for such things occurring.  

In addition to the scandal during the Bush Administration over certain journalists inexplicably being added to the U.S. governments "no fly" terrorist watch list ( LINK) or phone companies at the governments behest "monitoring" international calls of American citizens without probable cause or court oversight, (see ), one need only look at China to see the potential dangers in using such capabilities to oppress its citizens see link ,   (If you still don't see the danger just ask student protestors or democratic activists whose internet activity was "monitored" before being arrested in order to stop "subversive" demonstrations or activities that could undermine the totalitarian regime).  

Now granted, China is a communist country which routinely tracks and monitors the internet activities of all its citizens and we are a democracy with a First Amendment, but again, history has shown us that whenever government has the ability to expand its power unchecked without restraint it usually ends up doing so to the detriment of its citizens, (and as a result could, at least theoretically, be replicated here or in any modern, industrialized country, see examples above).  

Please understand, we are not saying that this definitely will happen, or even that developers won't fully and properly address whether and to what extent the new ipv6 standards as implemented will in the end actually allow such invasions of privacy, (see developer's debate at                                                      ); but to the extent that international organizations like the United Nations seem unable (or unwilling) to eschew the approval of dictatorial regimes like North Korea or China, (that bastion of open society and freedom of speech), we are concerned, (for what China has to do with the matter at hand see China's publically announced position on this matter at                                                          ).

At this juncture and in the spirit of full disclosure it should be said that full understanding and analysis of all the technological details underlying implementation of ipv6 is beyond both the mission and technological knowledge of the ACLP.   Such matters we gladly leave to others more learned.

And we certainly realize there will be those who, for their own purposes or interests or just because we DO live in a free country which guarantees them the right to see things differently, may disagree with our concerns or conclusions of potential abuse. (Though, as pointed out above, for those who remain unconvinced of the danger or capability of government to individually identify and track the internet activities and political/ free speech of its citizens China is certainly a perfect case study; just ask any of the Tianamen Square protestors, outlawed home bible study leaders or those who have dared to dissent from the official "party line" of the government who used the Chinese "internet" before being subsequently brutally beaten and jailed for merely exercising First Amendment rights which many of us take for granted.).

For our part, all we can do, using this wonderful technological medium which we in the modern age are privy to and the information it provides to those so inclined, is try to effectively publicize the concerns of those more knowledgeable than ourselves in the hopes to stimulate public discussion and debate on such important issues.

So indeed, while all the technical details may be a bit beyond our purview and mission, the wider potential ramifications to society and the freedoms we in the "Western" world enjoy IS within the mission of the ACLP.  Indeed, based on the previously expressed concerns by developers themselves over the privacy implications of ipv6, we remain dedicated to shine a light on such concerns as are raised here so our leaders and those responsible for implementing the new standard will take action to insure that our sancrosanct rights to Free Speech will be protected in the rollout of this new internet technology, (or, for that matter, any other technology that threatens the First Amendment).

In that light, it is our earnest hope that by spurring the ensuing debate and discourse in our body politic which we hope to promote with our small contribution it will lead to our elected leaders and/or those with more technologically savvy and the knowhow and influence to make a difference intervening before it's too late and the cause of liberty suffers to the derogation of our democratic Republic.

Indeed, the serious potential harm to the liberty of our citizens to remain free to express their opinions without fear of reprisal or recriminations, even in spite of all the technological "advancements" and benefits to our modern world that ipv6 promises, would, in our view, be a particularly poor trade, (which is why we have addressed it here).

With your help we can hopefully avert any such problems and render all our concerns moot.  In fact, nothing would make us happier here at the A.C.L.P. than to be assured that the free speech rights of all Americans, regardless of political pursuasion, continue to be fully protected in their expression and that potential collateral encroachment of new technologies such as ipv6 upon our basic liberties would be restricted in this era of ever-expanding governmental power.

It is for that that we strive, and ask all to join us in this worthy cause.  Indeed, with the ever-increasing march of technology and the conflict that sometimes poses to the cause of freedom the future of our sancrosanct liberty to freely speak and criticize our government may just be at stake.   jp

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dubya Dupnik- Keystone cop or intentional smokescreen to defer attention from own malfeasance and/or incompetence?

In the aftermath of the tragic shooting rampage last Saturday in Tucson, Az. by disturbed gunman Jared Lee Loughner and the subsequent and public "impromptu" comments of the Tucson (Pima County) Sheriff Clarence Dupnik blaming conservative media and a "poisonous" political environment allegedly spurred on by the "divisive rhetoric" of the Tea Party movement and conservative figures like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, see here, questions are now coming to light about what the Tucson Sheriff knew about the shooter prior to this tragedy and whether it could have been prevented.  In particular, many are now asking of Sheriff Dupnik what he knew and when he knew it and questioning his possible motives for his startlingly public and partisan statements following the shootings.   But first, a little context.

Democrat Sheriff Dupnik has been in office for more three decades, his influence waning in local politics due to an increasingly conservative electorate wearying of picking up the tab for the continual and negative repercussions to Pima County's educational, health and public safety systems that rampant illegal immigration has imposed on the taxpayers of this overwhelmingly Republican state.  (Indeed, as shooting victim Congresswoman Giffords had recently bemoaned, she was the lone remaining Democrat in the state's Congressional delegation). Indeed, Sheriff Dupnik has increasingly fought not to be overshadowed by his more media saavy counterpart to the North, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Airipo, and faced a Republican challenger in the 2008 elections.

At the "Congress on the Corner" event at which Congresswoman Giffords was to speak to constituents, (which, btw, had been widely advertised far in advance), there were no sheriff's deputies or personnel whatsoever, in spite of the Safeway grocery complex where the event took place being in the Sheriff's jurisdiction.

However, almost immediately after the shooting, when it was clear Sheriff Dupnik's conduct and that of his office would come under scrutiny, (and before there could hardly have been a thorough investigation to determine the facts), Sheriff Dupnik announced there was a potential "second suspect" --for which more information would be forthcoming and of whom it was implied may have assisted Mr. Loughner in carrying out this heinous crime-- based on, well what exactly?  One alleged and random picture from a grocery store camera.  (This mind you when they already had the undisputed shooter Mr. Loughner in custody).  Of course, subsequently we heard nothing more about said "second suspect." 

Instead, when it became clear that Mr. Loughner was a mentally disturbed individual who had acted alone, Sheriff Dupnik curiously and suddenly shifted his focus and decided to go public with his "earnest concerns" about the "dangerous" political speech supposedly emmanating from the center-right, see here.

One doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to tell, even from this limited narrative, that Sheriff Dupnik clearly had reason to deflect attention from his department's failing to provide adequate security for this political event in the first place and was plausibly trying to distract attention from his own failings by mentioning the "second suspect" theory and, when that didn't work, following it up with sensational claims about the "vitriolic" rhetoric of the political right that would instantly shore up his support among Democrats, (if not succeed in deflecting criticism of him and his department among the electorate generally).

In light of the revelation that Sheriff's deputies were well aware of the bizarre and threatening behavior of Mr. Loughner in the days and months prior to his shooting spree last Saturday that took the lives of six and injured 13 others, (as they had been called re: his conduct multiple times and Loughner had been in various scrapes with the law), Sheriff Dupnik clearly had reason to be concerned. 

Indeed, many are now questioning (and rightly so) whether, rather than being motivated by any public interest to change the "political climate"-- and certainly not to help "solve" the crime as such statements were superfluous in light of already having Mr. Loughner in custody-- Sheriff Dubnik's public comments were instead offered with this specific purpose of attempting to distract from the increasing realization that the Pima county Sheriff's Department may have negligently dropped the ball in failing to institute legal proceedings that could have forced Mr. Loughner to get badly needed mental health treatment (as is done all the time under established Arizona law). 

In any case, Sheriff Dupnik's sharing his "political opinions" was extremely unprofessional and had nothing to do with the criminal investigation nor his official duties, click here (Indeed, by providing legal cover to potential claims of public "bias" by Mr. Loughner's legal defense team, Sheriff Dupnik may in fact have prejudiced the legal case against Mr. Loughner.) 

As it can not reasonably be said that with over 50 years of experience in law enforcement Sheriff Dupnik took these actions "accidentally" without knowledge of the consequences, we are accordingly forced to address the elephant in the room alluded to above, namely:

Could the reason for the unfounded and impromptu attacks of Sheriff Dupnik on conservatives for this unspeakable act of violence really be just a smokescreen to distract from his and his department's own failings and culpability in this tragedy? 

We find this explanation compelling in light of the following facts:

1.  There is absolutely no evidence that Mr. Loughner was, in fact, motivated by conservative/ "right wing" political ideas or even listened to so called "conservative media" (e.g., Fox News, talk radio, etc), or, for that matter, was even a close follower of politics at all. 

    To the contrary, friends of Mr. Loughner's expressly stated in public interviews that he didn't watch cable t.v. or even listen to talk radio, (the alleged chief purveyer of the afore-mentioned "vitriolic and dangerous" political rhetoric of which Sheriff Dupnik spoke and which would become a repeated mantra of the blamestream media in the ensuing days).  To the contrary, Mr. Loughner, judging from his published you tube profile, see screen shot here, turned out to be a fan of the Communist Manifesto and "Mein Kampf," (hardly reading staples of the political right in this country except perhaps among truly extremist groups which have no connection to figures such as Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin, the constant scapegoats of the left).

   Mr. Loughner was also a registered Independent who didn't even vote in the last elections.  How it possibly makes sense under this set of facts to label him as influenced by allegedly "vitriolic" conservative political rhetoric instead of suffering from mere insanity defies rational explanation.  (Indeed, in light of his known political affiliation, doing so makes no more sense than blaming Mr. Loughner's deadly outburst of public violence on Independents, an equally preposterous position).  

    Such reasoning to us seems akin to saying, (hypothetically of course), that because families on food stamps tend to have heads of home with less stable employment histories than comparable families not on foodstamps, public assistance causes laziness or a poor work ethic, (a conclusion we are sure those on the left would vociferously disagree with!), or that because most murderers have smoked marijuana, pot creates killers, or that Loughner's penchant for heavy metal music and skull worship made him murderous, (hmmm, now there's a thought!)   Nuff said.

2.  The Sheriff was extremely familiar with the accused and his family as evidenced by his pointing out in his impromptu "press conference" shortly after the shootings such things as his knowledge of the "proper" pronounciation of the accused's last name, see here, as well as the gunman's propensity to violence and mental illness, see here.

    Moreover, Sheriff Dupnik explicitly admitted he was familiar with both Loughner and the potential danger the gunman posed, professing in public statements mere hours after the shootings that "there have been law enforcement contacts with the individual where he made threats to kill," and that the shooter had “a mental issue."

   Notwithstanding it would have been extremely difficult to claim the contrary, (as Sheriff's deputies had visited and/or been called out to the Loughner residence, where the gunman lived with his family, on numerous occasions), and in themselves without a fuller understanding of their context such calls prove nothing, in light of the open admissions of the Sheriff's familiarity with Mr. Loughner it his clear that he and his department were undoubtedly aware of Loughner's mental state and risk to the public, especially in light of the gunman's documented propensity for violent threats, see 
here , here, and here).

      As such, and in light of his duty to protect members of the public and the comparatively lax threshold required to force people to receive needed mental health treatment in Arizona, the failure of the Sheriff to ever refer Mr. Loughner for such proceedings, (for which no crime is required to have been committed), seems exceptionally negligent and a dereliction of duty.

3.  The accused was not a member or affiliated with any Tea Party group or conservative organizationIn fact, as best we know, he has never been a member of any conservative or even "controversial" party, group or organization, (but was rather an Independent, as shown above).
Such inferences, which were disgustingly exploited and popularized by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and the political left for partisan political purposes literally within hours of the shootings in order to promote their oft-repeated and pre-ordained agenda of discrediting the Tea Party and center-right political figures like former Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin and Congresswoman Michelle Bachman, (D-MN), are flatly untrue and lack substantiation with any facts whatsoever. A Report by Fox News referring to an allegedly "secret" memo from Homeland Security that Mr. Loughner was a member of the oft-mentioned and allegedly extremist group 'American Renaissance' was vociferously disputed, see here, and subsequently retracted by Fox, see here.

4.  Mr. Loughner, in the days leading up to the shootings, is reported to have been making death threats against various local news bloggers and students and professors of Pima Community College, see here (which had been so concerned with Mr. Loughner's behavior previously that it had kicked him out and sent a letter to his parents expressing their concerns and informing them he could not return unless he received psychiatric help).  Additionally, so concerned were some of those threatened that they reported Mr. Loughner to the Sheriff's department only to receive assurances from deputies that he was being well "managed" by the mental health system.  (Obviously, we now know this wasn't true).  

5.  It is now known that Amy Loughner, (shooter Jared Loughner's mother), works in local government as a county manager for Tucson's Parks Department.  Which leads us to wonder out loud, is it possible this is the reason why her son, in spite of his many scrapes with the law and three arrests, has never had any convictions or mental health "civil committment" proceedings instituted? Not that we don't think it's any less tragic, or even pleasant to have to ask-- and certainly no one wishes to unnecessarily impose upon the family directly involved in this tragedy, Lord knows they have a lot on their plate as it is-- but it does raise an important question vis a vis a possible "cover up" by authorities for "political" reasons and is imperative to be fully vetted in order to aid in preventing future tragedies like this from ever recurring again, (and, as the Truth and Justice commission in S. Africa was fond of pointing out, there can be no justice, no reconciliation in the community, until all the truth is told).

 In that light then, the very pertinent question here is, "Was any special treatment given to Mr. Loughner and/or was he ever not fully prosecuted because of his mother's position working in local government?"

 Indeed, the answer to such questions are critical as they go to the very heart of citizens' ability to have faith in the fair and non-corrupt functioning of their government without cronyism or partiality of any kind, and we hope become, in addition to the Sheriff, subjects that are included in a probe by the Arizona Bureau of Investigation to insure we get to the bottom of this terrible tragedy and understand all the reasons for its occurring so we can more effectively prevent such things from happening again.

 It also tangentially raises other questions, namely:  Is there is any kind of political or financial connection between the Loughner family and Sheriff Dupnik that could explain the inaction of the Sheriff's department in the face of such obvious disfunction and/or illness in the Loughner home and/or Sheriff Dupnik's strange post-rampage comments seeking a scapegoat in the right?  The questions abound. 

6.  Finally, in what is perhaps most compelling, is simply the above-illustrated strange behavior of Sheriff Dupnik.  Again, why a Sheriff with over 40 years of law enforcement experience and a lone suspect in custody for the crime-- who certainly knows enough not to risk prosecution of a criminal case by revealing information publicly that could be alleged to "taint" the jury to try Mr. Loughner-- would ever go on the record with such legally pointless but politically incendiary claims as Sheriff Dupnik made in his "press" conferences utterly defies rational explanation.  Unless, that is, he did so to distract from his own moral (and perhaps legal) culpability for his dismal failure to faithfully execute his job and take action in forwarding Mr. Loughner's case through the appropriate channels in order to force him to receive some (obviously) badly needed mental health treatment prior to this tragedy occurring.

Hopefully such questions will be answered in due course; the victims of this tragedy, indeed, the entire nation, deserves no less. jp

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The American Constitution- Propaganda?

As I listened to the historical reading of the Constitution at the opening of the 112th United States Congress last Thursday, I couldn't help but think of the stifling conditions of the summer heat that must have been present in 1776 as the founding fathers struggled to come to agreement on our Declaration of Independence, a document that would ultimately lead to adoption of our Constitution and would create a truly republican form of representative government that in the history of the world had never been successfully instituted in any lasting form.  I also found myself asking what the framers of our Constitution would have been thinking as this foundational law of our democratic Republic was read on the House floor for the first time in American history.

I highly doubt they could ever have conceived it would be such a controversial event; in fact, I find myself continually amazed as to why it has taken so long for Congress to return to our constitutional origins, (perhaps a sign of the times and its penchant for downplaying the Constitution's importance to the modern age and the continual drift away from the intentions of our Founding Father's).

I also can't imagine that they wouldn't also have expressed some bewilderment at why it would have even been necessary. I mean, why would informed citizens ever elect someone who is ignorant of our governing document's contents, let alone who expresses utter disdain for its reverence and views it as something of an obstacle rather than the revered and proper foundation for our government that it is?

But that's exactly what they would have observed before its open reading in Congress last week. Representatives like Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) protested the reading and referred to constitutional amendments with contemptuous words like “deletions” meant to bring into question our Constitution's continued relevance and authority.

Even worse, in a moment of incredibly irony that could only occur in the insular city that is Washington, D.C., the outgoing chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), publicly decried what he termed its "ritualistic reading" by claiming that "They [the Republicans] are reading it like a sacred text," and referring to the practice as "propaganda" and "total nonsense."

For representatives like Inslee and Nadler, it appears that the “imperfections” in the foundational document of our lasting and democratic republic render it unworthy of being openly read on the House floor.  (One shudders to wonder if they would hold in equal contempt other foundational documents of our civilization such as the Holy Bible upon which they swore under oath to uphold the very Constitution they now deride when they assumed office, or whether even quotes from Shakespeare or other authors influential in Western culture and penned by "dead white men" would pass muster in their eyes).   

Indeed, to such political partisans, rather than seeing the necessity for the Constitution's being amended from time to time in our great Nation's history to address matters such as slavery and the right of women to vote proving its genius and ability to be both relevant and live up to its founding ideals in the face of societal change in our Republic's history, such amendments are seen as “flaws” that somehow justify downplaying the Constitution's role in our modern and "enlightened" times.

This, to us, seems to miss the forest for the trees.

Eleven years after our Declaration of Independence from Britain due to the oppressive practices of King George III, and in his typical wisdom, Ben Franklin stated upon adoption of our Constitution, "I confess that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them. For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.”

Moreover, it is perhaps instructive to note that when compared to the instability of other countries' governments and the bloody revolutions that historically have accompanied their "amendment" process-- if they even have one-- and/or change in various European Constitutions over the last two hundred years, (The French and Russian “revolutions” come to mind), it becomes obvious that the process laid out in ours is much preferable, (at least if you're judging from body counts). 

This, plus the fact that the very first thing our founders did was to amend the Constitution to include our Bill of Rights, argues strongly for the fact that rather than indicate “fundamental weakness or inequity” in our Constitutional framework, it rather belies its enduring strength and value.

Perhaps the founders could only partly understand the full ramifications of the important compromises and conflicting policy interests that at that time were present and in some ways necessary for our founding document's birth when the revolutionary thought that coursed through this document was fresh in their hearts and minds. 

Indeed, while the Founder's, as all of us, were undoubtedly to some extent limited by the context of the social mores in which they were raised and could not see to just what extent this great document would liberate thousands of future generations, (both here and around the world who have clamored for a chance to come to our shores to partake of this grand experiment called “freedom”), they understood what those that think reading it is a waste of time do not: That although times may march forward in ways that may make it appear in retrospect and to our modern sensibilities “flawed,” the very fact of its ability to be peacably amended to expand liberties clarion call to the ages represents certain moral absolutes, immovable ideals, and the “inalienable rights endowed by our Creator” that make most of the world's governments throughout history look primitive in comparison.

Further, most politicians have lost sight of the fact that the purpose of the Constitution's creation was not so much to slap-happily “meet all our desires and needs,” but to set up a framework by which we could prove worthy to responsibly govern ourselves in the pursuit of our and our nation's long term betterment and establish a liberty that would endure, both now and for generations of posterity to come.  Indeed, the comment of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin upon conclusion of the Philadelphia convention are telling: When asked coming out of the convention what exactly it was the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had wrought, whether Monarchy or a Democracy, Franklin astutely replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Moreover, as another of our Founding Father's, Patrick Henry wisely noted, "The constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government."

So although the founding fathers may have shook their heads in wonder at the necessity of reading the constitution from the floor of Congress in the modern age, I cannot believe that they would not be pleased that our elected leaders, and indeed, all in our Republic, might affirm its relevance and the need for our Constitution's continued existence and the grand freedoms it guarantees to all its citizens, both now and in future generations. In short, the hope that we the people, and in turn all our elected leaders, would not lose sight of our Constitution's enduring promise that, in the words of 31st American President Abraham Lincoln, “government of the people, by the people, and for the people, would not perish from the earth.”

And that, my friends, is a thought worth celebrating as, through our elected Representatives to Congress, we affirm the continued validity and importance of our Constitution in our modern age with its enthusiastic and public reading.  

Propaganda?  Not on your life!  LA with jp