Posts Tagged ‘freedom’

Follow-Up on the PATRIOT Act.

9. February 2011

Well, you all did it, congratulations! The PATRIOT Act failed to receive the necessary two-thirds of votes necessary to pass it on the suspension calendar, so the three provisions that were set to expire will now do so, it seems. They were eight votes short of the two-thirds majority and the eight votes that were being counted upon by the GOP leadership that did not vote for the Act were all tea party freshmen. To them, I extend my greatest thanks.

I know my Representative voted for the legislation again, but if you don’t know how yours voted, you can go here and see. Democrats are italicized, Republicans are not, North Texan representatives are all in the Yea box.

As this was assumed by all–including me, to be honest–to be a sure thing to vote to extend the sunset provision, I believe that this has been an important step in refocusing our nation’s security practices back into the realm of constitutionality and sanity. When we find that the government’s capacity to “keep its citizens safe” (although that is fully an impossibility, but I will address this fact in a separate post) is not diminished after the hopeful retirement of the PATRIOT Act, I hope that we as a nation will see how silly and counterproductive that legislation was.

What good is living “safely” if you are not free to live securely in your person, without fear of arbitrary and unannounced government intrusion therein?

CPAC: Day Two

20. February 2010

Today was my “slow day” at CPAC. There were fewer speakers that I wanted to see today, but the one panel discussion I desperately wanted to catch was about the relationship between liberty and security. The panelists were Rep. Dan Lungren, Robert Ash, Jim Gilmore, Bob Barr and Viet Dinh. The range of opinions represented was quite broad; from a Republican developer of the USA PATRIOT Act to, well, Bob Barr.

As of late, I’ve been having trouble reconciling my foreign policy views with all of my other views. Specifically, though I believe ultimately in freedom and liberty for all, I also tend to be more of a traditional Republican regarding war, national defense and terrorism. I had hoped that someone on this panel would present some strong arguments. Unfortunately, each “side” presented good arguments in support of its conclusion.

My problem is that I find the hands-off, anti-war position adopted by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) unrealistic and rather naïve, though I understand that he’s one to stand in the face of armageddon and stick by his principles. I also find the USA PATRIOT Act, “it’s a matter of national security” secrecy of the pro-war Republicans as seen in the last administration can, in the wrong hands, be tyrannical. It is exactly this that I fear and wish to avoid with a smaller government.

Last night, at his Campaign for Liberty address, Rep. Paul expressed his opinion that Osama bin Laden wants the United States to send more troops because he can use that as a recruiting tool. Whatever the truth value of this claim may be, I find it hard to believe that very many young men would be willing to strap bombs on their backs and try to kill people just because of the presence of American soldiers in their country. I believe that the reasons that would do that have more to do with a misinterpretation (or, perhaps a selective interpretation) of their religious text.

In contrast, though I am not a terrorist, I don’t want the government listening in on my telephone calls without having secured a warrant. In the panel discussion today, Mr. Gilmore said that he believed that subjecting warrantless wiretapping to judicial review was a valid move. I find that I must agree. I would consider that to be an invasion of my privacy, and if abortion is upheld in the court by means of an argument in favor of privacy, surely a phone conversation between two citizens can be also. Regardless, if one is suspected of plotting against this nation and its residents, it should be relatively easy to obtain a warrant.

I suppose that strictly hypothetically, my foreign policy views are just as libertarian as the rest of my views. In a perfect world, no one would want to kill me because I’m an American. They would realize how unproductive that is. However, realistically, I am more conservative than libertarian. Specifically regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, I would like to wipe out Al Qaeda and get the hell out of there. Let’s complete our mission and get the American forces out. Leave NATO peacekeeping forces in there to help ensure stability, but even then only a minimal number should be present. And after that, let’s see if we can stick to a relatively warless future. Let’s simply carry the bigger stick (with an emphasis on defensive weaponry) so that we don’t have to use it.

As Bob Barr said today at the panel discussion, “In order to protect, preserve and defend, we must limit the government.” The USA PATRIOT Act and all other similar pieces of legislation do not limit the government, they expand it and expand its powers. If we simply bring the government into uniformity with the Constitution, we’ll all have a lot less to worry about.

If you want to look at my pictures from the panel discussion and other events at CPAC today, you can go to my Flickr page.

On the Rights of Students.

5. January 2010

Though almost all of the minorities have achieved some semblance of equality with the old white male majority, there is one group that has been neglected over time: students.

As time has passed, though others have seen their rights validated by the courts and society, K-12 students have seen their rights slowly diminish. Though at one time–granted, it was long ago–students could go hunting during recess, an act as innocent as an elementary schooler bringing a plastic spork to school is now punishable by suspension or expulsion.

Though zero-tolerance laws are surely passed in the name of student safety and not overbearing administration, these policies are often absurd and the results of the policies are reflections of that. In a more alarming vein, these policies often miss the very weapons they were created to find. For instance, an honor roll, football-playing student was suspended because he had accidentally left his hunting rifle in the cab of his truck from the weekend before. However, Ag students and those who believe themselves to be “gangsters” carry switchblades in their pockets in plain sight of the administrators and are allowed to pass unfettered.

Lack of common sense is a common thread in school administration, and is not limited to outdated weapons policies. Countless cases of censorship of students have gone unchallenged where the censorship is both absurd and unnecessary. In my high school, fictional stories of dragons in a newspaper have been disallowed publication with no reason given as to why.

The issue, however, is not idiots running schools. Far larger idiots have run far larger institutions with limited success. The issue is that students’ rights are being infringed upon and that the Supreme Court has ruled most, if not all of these actions legal. Though these citizens are minorities, both in numbers and in age, they ought to be protected under the law as their parents undoubtedly are.

The reason that the idiots running the larger institutions are successful is that they allow some limited form of autonomy to their subordinates.  Students and teachers are fully bound to the rules and regulations of the administration, whether or not they agree with the policies. As a result, pointless directives are issued and followed because there is no intelligent resistance against which they must be justified.

What are the reasons provided in defense of curtailed student rights? Student safety? How many school shootings have taken place in the history of this country? Now compare that number to the number of shootings that have taken place outside of a school. The second number far outmatches the first. Censorship is allowed because student publications might embarrass the school district. This is simply illogical. What are school districts but administrators and teachers far outnubered by the number of students they are supposed to educate? If a student publication embarrasses anyone, it will be the students involved in the publication. As schools are not supposed to have religious or political preferences, they are incapable of holding opinions (that, and the fact that schools are nothing but buildings and heterogeneous individuals who could not agree on one single issue).

I understand that parents do not want their children to be harmed at school. I understand that schools do not want to be sued if a child gets hurt or killed on school premises. But if they do not want to be sued, they ought to focus on getting students in school, educating them and getting them off the premises rather than suspending students who bring sporks to school.