Too good not to share

Too good not to share

Got this from a friend on Facebook. Happy MLK Day + Inauguration Day, and a day to reflect on how far we’ve come, yet how far we still need to go.

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Obama and Civil Liberties

Obama in Toledo

President Obama speaks to a crowd gathered at Scott High School in Toledo on Labor Day. Photo/The Toledo Blade.

President Obama was in town today to deliver a stump speech at a Toledo high school. I found out about it this morning on Twitter. I find out a lot of things on Twitter.

Most of me wanted to go hear the president speak, but after doing some searching I discovered there had been 3,000 tickets available for his talk and they were all taken. I wanted to take the kids, show them the motorcade, talk to them about doing our civic duty by voting and encouraging our political leaders to do what’s best for the people of this country. But they didn’t want to go. They didn’t want to drive downtown, and I didn’t want to push them into it. I figured he’d be back again before November. That’s one of the side-effects of living in a battleground state during a national election.

So, I turned back to Twitter, hoping to get some photos or personal stories from the scene downtown. I found a few posts—fewer than I thought I’d find. And then I came across a post that really caught my eye.TwitterCivil Liberties and Obama: a topic I’ve been curious about since he inserted language in the 2012 defense bill giving him executive power to interrogate and hold any person suspected of terrorism, even U.S. citizens, without due process.

I also like John Cusack. What could he have to say about this topic?

I clicked the link and was taken to a blog written by Jonathan Turley, a legal scholar who teaches at George Washington University and is really into constitutional law. He’s also really good friends with John Cusack.

The blog post was a Q&A, with Cusack asking Turley his thoughts about Obama’s poor record on preserving Americans’ civil liberties and how easily he has gotten away with their erosion.  I’ll highlight some interesting points.

TURLEY: … President Obama has not only maintained the position of George W. Bush in the area of national securities and in civil liberties, he’s actually expanded on those positions. He is actually worse than George Bush in some areas.

CUSACK: Can you speak to which ones?

TURLEY: Well, a good example of it is that President Bush ordered the killing of an American citizen when he approved a drone strike on a car in Yemen that he knew contained an American citizen as a passenger. Many of us at the time said, “You just effectively ordered the death of an American citizen in order to kill someone else, and where exactly do you have that authority?” But they made an argument that because the citizen wasn’t the primary target, he was just collateral damage. And there are many that believe that that is a plausible argument.

CUSACK: By the way, we’re forgetting to kill even a foreign citizen is against the law. I hate to be so quaint…

TURLEY: Well, President Obama outdid President Bush. He ordered the killing of two US citizens as the primary targets and has then gone forward and put out a policy that allows him to kill any American citizen when he unilaterally determines them to be a terrorist threat. Where President Bush had a citizen killed as collateral damage, President Obama has actually a formal policy allowing him to kill any US citizen.

I hate to think of Obama as outdoing former President Bush, but Turley makes the point that Obama bends the law for convenience’s sake, and Attorney General goes along with it. And, Turley, adds, just because Obama was a constitutional lawyer does not mean that Obama upholds the constitution.

TURLEY: Well, there’s a misconception about Barack Obama as a former constitutional law professor. First of all, there are plenty of professors who are “legal relativists.” They tend to view legal principles as relative to whatever they’re trying to achieve. I would certainly put President Obama in the relativist category. Ironically, he shares that distinction with George W. Bush. They both tended to view the law as a means to a particular end — as opposed to the end itself. That’s the fundamental distinction among law professors. Law professors like Obama tend to view the law as one means to an end, and others, like myself, tend to view it as the end itself.

And, Turley goes on to say that while Obama has tampered with our constitutional rights since being in office, it ultimately is up to the voters to hold him accountable. However, in our two-party, red-state/blue-state system, there are not a lot of options.

The Republican and Democratic parties have accomplished an amazing feat with the red state/blue state paradigm. They’ve convinced everyone that regardless of how bad they are, the other guy is worse. So even with 11 percent of the public supporting Congress most incumbents will be returned to Congress. They have so structured and defined the question that people no longer look at the actual principles and instead vote on this false dichotomy.

Now, belief in human rights law and civil liberties leads one to the uncomfortable conclusion that President Obama has violated his oath to uphold the Constitution. But that’s not the primary question for voters. It is less about him than it is them. They have an obligation to cast their vote in a principled fashion. It is, in my opinion, no excuse to vote for someone who has violated core constitutional rights and civil liberties simply because you believe the other side is no better. You cannot pretend that your vote does not constitute at least a tacit approval of the policies of the candidate.

Yes, Houston, we have a problem.

Read the entire Q&A on Turley’s blog here.

NDAA 2012: ‘Military detention authority on steroids’

I guess I was lucky that I was pulled off a plane by armed men, frisked, hands and feet splayed on the side of a police car and taken to a police building where I was held, strip searched and interrogated for four hours without really knowing why I was there. I was lucky in that it was before a bill like the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 was passed.

If I was held under the NDAA’s proposed guidelines, I could have been shipped off to Guantánamo and held indefinitely without trial.

A Michigan Democrat, Sen. Carl Levin, wrote the language that would allow the military to hold anyone — U.S. citizens and non —  suspected of terrorism for as long as it wants without the constitutional promise of a trial. Not only does the NDAA violate the constitution, but it would be another step toward a xenophobic police state where suspicious behavior is just as good as hard evidence.

It’s scary to think that in my case, I could be suspected of terrorism just for sitting next to two Indian men who needed to use the bathroom on an airplane and remained indisposed a little too long. That means anyone who “looks” threatening or “acts” threatening, to which there are no clear guidelines, could be shipped off to a military prison with a reputation for torturing its prisoners and stripped of their civil liberties, including due process . No, it’s not just scary, it’s unjust and corrupt.

The ACLU had this to say about the bill:

“This bill puts military detention authority on steroids and makes it permanent. If it becomes law, American citizens and others are at real risk of being locked away by the military without charge or trial.”

and

“Based on suspicion alone, no place and no person are off-limits to military detention without charge or trial.”

President Obama has threatened to veto it, saying:

“Any bill that challenges or constrains the President’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the Nation would prompt the President’s senior advisers to recommend a veto.”

Retired four-star Marine generals wrote an op-ed in the New York Times saying:

“…some in Congress are all too willing to undermine our ideals in the name of fighting terrorism.”

Let’s hope for all our sakes that Obama vetoes the bill—even if he’s doing it for the wrong reasons.

Read more:

On Health Care, Sarah Palin and Socialism

A New York Times article quoted former Alaska Gov. and GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin as saying that Obama’s health-care reform plan is “downright evil.”Palin

There she goes again with her caterwauling about the misdirection and malevolence of policy that would actually help people rather than march them toward a meeting with Satan. This particular mouthful of ignorance she uttered refers to a purported “death panel” American citizens would confront when they became unproductive members of society. This so-called death panel of “bureaucrats” would make a decision on that person’s need for medical coverage.

Now, I’m a firm believer that health care is a basic human right, along the lines of food and shelter.

When people go hungry, we have a call-to-action to send food aid or donate to the local food bank or the government provides food stamps and other aid.

When people go homeless, there are shelters set up or the government comes to their aid, providing financial assistance like Section 8 housing.

But when someone needs medical care and does not have insurance, their only option is going to an emergency room or a rare free clinic, and often it is the last resort. In a country with the best medical facilities and training arguably in the world, why have we, as a society, neglected to provide adequate access to quality health care?

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who also has run for president, has been a vocal proponent of universal health care—that is health care that would be available to everyone,  like the systems in Canada, England, Australia, and most other developed nations. Here’s what Kucinich says:

“The underlying problem is that we treat health care like a market commodity instead of a social service. Health care is targeted not to medical need, but to the ability to pay. Markets are good for many things, but they are not a good way to distribute health care.”

There has been a lot of talk in the media about socialized medicine and that Obama is turning this country into a socialist nation. This is far from true, but even if it were true, would it be so bad? Socialism has gotten a bad rap from proponents of capitalism because it takes direct market competition out of the picture. In some cases, competition in the market is good. But for health care, something that is so basic and necessary for a healthy and productive populace, the market competition has only pushed it out of reach for a growing majority of Americans.

The state of the union cannot continue. It is not sustainable. If Obama’s plan—which I would criticize as not going far enough to control costs and predatory insurance companies—gets shot down because of the crazy spewings of the like of Sarah Palin and her lunatic cohorts like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter, this country is going to be looking down the twin-barrel shotgun with no safety net to catch it after they pull the trigger.

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