Tag Archives: bill of rights

What will it take?

17 Dec

Wow, NDAA and SOPA in one week. 220 years to the day after the ratification of the bill of rights, the NDAA passed congress and is now on it’s way to the white house where Obama has said that he will NOT veto the bill. What’s the big deal? Indefinate detention of Americans SUSPECTED of being terrorists. Suspected, not “proven guilty in a court of law.” If the government doesn’t like you, all they have to do is say the “suspect” you of being a terrorist and you’re GONE!

It’s ok, I wasn’t using my basic human rights anyways.

Meanwhile, SOPA has been being rushed through congress, despite many of the legislators not understanding what it is they are passing. The bill would essentially break the internet. Copyright holders would be able to go to Internet Service Providers (whoever you get your internet from) and demand that they censor websites they don’t like. If the ISP doesn’t censor it, they can sue them. This would remove some websites from your computer’s address book, meaning not everyone’s address book was the same. (Thus, in layman’s terms, “breaking the internet”)

Claims could be filled against anyone who uses copyrighted content in any way. Think of it this way:

It is the equivalent of copyrighting letters in the alphabet and then suing people who use those letters in writing a sentence. Think of everything on the internet that references something else, be it to comment on it, or to redesign it to express another idea. All of that would be illegal if SOPA passed.

It looked like the bill might be postponed until 2012, which is what the major media outlets are reporting, but the people in favor of the bill have quietly agreed to meet on the 21st to push it through.

I see all this and I’m beyond outraged. I’m not even shocked or surprised. THIS is why I want to leave this country so badly. It’s stuff like this.

I went to go copy the URLs to these stories and post them on facebook so my friends could see what was going on right under their noses, but then I stopped. What’s the point? Nobody is going to do anything about it. Some of my like minded friends might chime in with their outrage, but it’s ultimately just a circle-jerk.

People don’t want to hear about it. It’s not immediately affecting them, so don’t bother. But what will it take?

You have no rights. You have no freedom. Your future and childrens’ futures are being stolen from you in plain view for all to see.

What will it take for people to do something? For them to stand up and fight back? Thousands already have. The Occupy Wall Street movement has been speaking out against this immoral system of disfranchisement and thievery for months, but everyone is trying their damnedest to sweep them under the rug, to paint them as fringe with no clear agenda.

What would it take for the rest of the population to wake up?

10% unemployment obviously isn’t enough. Would 20% do it? 40%? Do we need to reach the same levels as Spain and other countries currently facing financial collapse?

The bill of rights has effectively been repealed by post 9/11 legislation and yet we do nothing. What would it take? Would people need to be round up in camps? It has happened before, but there seems to be this notion that it can’t happen again. It won’t happen again. That happens somewhere else.

I’m reminded of Hartley’s famous line: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” While this may be true for a great many things, it is not true of political oppression. There is no comfortable distance seperating us from the horrors of the past. Surprisingly enough, MTV seems to understand this:

Sadly, history shows us that a people will not wake up to the danger of what is happening until it is too late.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Infringing on religious freedom of speech

6 Jul

Paying attention to religious news lately has made me aware of an unsettling notion some people have about free speech when it comes to religion. There seem to be some people in this country who believe that since America was founded by fundamentalist christians (according to them and not actual history), christianity is the default setting for government and thus it is only natural to have christian monuments and symbols on government property and christian language in laws. Ergo, any attempt to prevent them from putting their religious symbols and language on government property or into laws is a violation of their free speech and freedom of religion. I had a civics teacher in middle school who used to always say “My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins”, in essence, one person’s rights  ends when it starts to infringe on another person’s rights. For instance, it might be some Mormon fundamentalist’s religion to marry and rape multiple young girls, but his right to freedom of religion ends when he violates those  girls’ rights.

You have the right to practice your religion any time, any place you want, as long as you do not infringe on other people’s rights. You have the right to build houses of worship on private property and put up whatever signs you want on that property. You have a right to pray to yourself in school any time you want. You have the right to stand on public property and protest, holding religious signs. The government has no right to stop you from any of these activities, as long as you are not infringing on the rights of others. You do not, however, have the right to force your beliefs onto the government that is supposed to represent everyone equally. Erecting a cross on a public land, putting the 10 commandments in a public courthouse, or trying to brand the government with your faith is not one of your rights.

Should terrorists get fair trials?

9 Dec

In this short clip, FOX’s Judge Napolitano argues with Bill’O over whether the 9/11 conspirators should be given a fair trial in a NYC civilian court, or prosecuted in a military tribunal.

(I especially love the part where Bill’O admits he doesn’t care about the constitution)

From good ol’ Bill’O’s point of view, Bush declared a war on terror, therefore terrorists are enemy combatants, therefore the rights in the constitution do not apply.

If the government declares a war on terror, and that means “terrorists” are enemy combatants and thus subject to military tribunals, regardless of what the constitution demands, the extreme danger is that anyone the government declares a “terrorist” would be immediately stripped of all their rights. Bill’O has no problem doing this to some Arabs, but what if the government started prosecuting white supremacists and abortion clinic bombers in the same way? “Terrorism” does have a legal definition, and it applies to these groups as well.

Napolitano sees this, but Bill’O will have none of it. After all, Bill’O and his mindless followers are infallible, patriotic, god fearing Americans. They don’t need to be bothered by some document written hundreds of years ago.

But let me ask this: Suppose we adopted Bill’O’s view, that combatants in a war on an idea or condition (not a country) should be stripped of all rights, what would we have? What about the war on poverty? Are poor people enemy combatants? What about the war on hunger? Drugs? Crime? What about the war on Cancer?

This is where conservative readers will object: “Oh that’s ridiculous. This would only apply to terrorists! Don’t you hate terrorists?”

Yes, I hate terrorists, but if you disregard what separates us from them out of fear and hate, namely the rule of law and the constitution, then they have already one. You destroyed yourself without them firing a shot. Congratulations. No, as horrible as terrorists are, we must be better than them. We must abide by the constitution we claim to defend, even when it is most difficult and painful.

Why I will never vote Republican

16 May

I saw a bumper sticker earlier today that really pissed me off. It said “RIP USA 1776-2009”. Give me a break. Just because the democrats won an election does not mean that the United States died. This got me thinking about this post.

There are a few reasons why I’ll never vote republican. While I am a white middle class male, I seldom identify with them. I’m not afraid of other races, and I have this radical idea that women are people too. I’m also not anti-intellectual, which is the most dumbfounding movement I’ve ever heard of, but that’s another post.

But it would be horrible naive and wrong of me to say that all republicans were angry white skinheads. Many people are republican for non social reasons, be it economic philosophy or their philosophy on government, which brings me to the main point of this post.

One of the biggest reasons I’ll never vote republican is that my philosophy on government disagrees with them. While I’m definitely not a statist I do think bigger government tends to be better than smaller government. Let me explain:

People’s rights are better protected in a nation with a wide diversity of constituents than they are in a nation with less diversity. If the government’s base is sufficiently large enough to cover a wide swath of people, then it is much harder for one group to completely oppress another. In essence, a tyranny of the majority is much harder to achieve.

In smaller governments, the opposite is true. With less diversity in the voting populace, a single block can gain power and oppress the minority. This concept works on all levels.

Now, it depends on person to person, but I feel a lot of republicans would like to abolish the constitution and the bill of rights, and go back to the articles of confederacy. They’d love it if individual states had complete power over their citizens, and only banded together in time of war. I guess it’s the mentality of “I don’t want somebody in Washington telling us how to run our state, what we can and can’t do in our own back yards!”

(I think the great irony is how conservatives rail against big government meddling in people’s lives, while at the same time they try and use it to impose their narrow ideas of sexual morality on the rest of the populace)

The problem is that if we went back to “states have all the power” the diversity of the voting populace would be greatly scaled back in every state. For example, while there might be a large population of Jews in New York, there might not be in Alabama. Thus the Jews in Alabama would have less voting power than the numerically superior Jews in NY. The principle is the same  for a variety of different groups.

If left to their own devices, many states have, and will continue to discriminate against particular groups. Just look at all the federal legislation that had to be written up to protect minorities in other states. The National Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a prime example. There are majorities in certain states that have a history of oppressing minorities. Without the federal government keeping them fair, these groups would continue to infringe upon minority rights.

Without big government blacks wouldn’t be able to vote in many states, Atheists would be banned from holding public office in many states, and women wouldn’t have the right to vote in several  states. Basically, if you aren’t a WASP (white, anglo-saxon, protestant) male you’d be shit out of luck. It will be interesting to see if republican change their views in 2050 when white people will become the minority. I wonder if they’ll become hypocrites in an attempt to use big government to secure their rights.