Entries Tagged as 'History'

BANG!

In the Summer of ’62 the US military detonated a hydrogen bomb in outer space above the Pacific Ocean as part of a project code named: Starfish Prime.

There’s a good article on NPR you can read at:

A Very Scary Light Show: Exploding H-Bombs In Space on NPR


Tax Land Mines

There’s all this talk about how the Republican Party crafted a tax land mine when they put in place the Bush tax cuts with a ten year expiration — that they knew that the laws would force action by the Democratic party (you mean the Republican’s knew that after George W Bush there wouldn’t be another Republican in White House, nor would they be in control of either branch of the legislature?

Hmm… I don’t but it, but if it’s true that’s cause for major concern.

So the rational goes:

  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose not to renew the tax cuts; they are seen raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts for only those making less than a quarter million dollars; they are seen as raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts as they are now, the Republican’s get what they want, and they are seen taking no action to address the growing deficit.

I don’t know what alternate Republican reality these analysis came from, but I certainly don’t understand why the Democrats can’t take the reigns and turn this into a political hot potato for the Republicans.

Elections are about votes; and most American’s earn far less than a quarter million dollars per year, so they aren’t effected by renewing the tax cuts for only those who earn less than that (the current strategy favored by the Obama administration)… so leverage that, show how (once again) the Republican’s want to benefit those who are wealthy, and are only providing lip service as to trying to control the deficit (it is, after all, Republican policies of the Bush administration that created the deficit we have now — remember when Bush took office there was the so called budget “surplus”).

Regardless of your political affiliation, the only real way to take control of the deficit is spend less than you take in — it’s not a revolutionary concept, and in the end it’s likely we’re going to have to both increase taxes on at least some American’s, cut waste, and likely reduce spending.

FY2007
FY2007

FY2008
FY2008

FY2009
FY2009

Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell

It appears that the United States will reconsider the “Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell” policy that prevents gay and lesbians from openly serving in the military.

President Barrack Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen have both supported the change but caution against moving too quickly…

It seems though that law makers are in a hurry to repeal the 17 year old law rather than wait 6 more months for a report due from the Pentagon.

I personally see no reason we would discriminate on the basis of sex, creed, color, age, or sexual orientation in any facet of federal policy; but then again, the defense department has a history of “separate but equal” treatment of race (though World War II) and sex (doesn’t seem to be any changes in that one on the horizon) , creed (take a look at the Army Chaplain Corps if you have any questions about a clear Judeo-Christian bias), and age (take a look at the maximum age for enlistees) so why it seems fairly clear that talking-the-talk and walking-the-walk just isn’t a core value of the US military.

Be only what we want you to be!

Erin Go Bragh

The Anglicisation of the Gaelic phrase used to express allegiance to Ireland; most often translated as “Ireland forever”.

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

When American big business is behind something…

I’ve been around the block a few times, and I tend to pay attention.

One thing that’s almost an invariant in the world is that if American big business is behind legislation it’s because it serves their own interest and greed — not the public interest.

The only thing American big business cares about the public for is finding new ways to milk money from them and insure that the public pay more than their share of taxes.

With very few exceptions American business (and the ultra-rich American’s that run those businesses) are self-serving, and only looking out for their interests and profits.  They are motivated by greed.

So when the pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, large hospitals, and health care industry get behind a plan that doesn’t seem to improve anything for the American public it should be clear to everyone who they’re looking to improve things for.

The real problem in America is that special interest groups run the country; and almost all politicians who’ve been in office more than two terms (and most presidents) cater to their interests and don’t want to really change the status quo.

Those who are elected to serve the public interest actually serve no interests but their own!

– Caveat civis –

Due Process in Jeopardy

by Wendy McElroy, The Freeman

The Supreme Court takes liberty lightly

Last week the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Comstock et al. that Congress has the constitutional authority to empower federal district courts to civilly commit dangerous sex offenders who had completed their sentences. In effect, the courts can mandate indefinite confinement of such federal prisoners. The controversial power derives from Section 4248 of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.

Civil commitment generally refers to the involuntary confinement in a mental institution of a person deemed dangerous to themselves or to others. In 1949 the federal government assumed the power to detain federal prisoners in treatment facilities past their sentences if they were judged insane. The new decision expands this power in significant ways. Moreover, given the aggressiveness with which the law and public opinion focuses on sex offenders, use of the new civil commitment power is likely to become widespread.

The decision also invites state involvement in federal civil commitment. The ruling declares that “‘all reasonable efforts’ must be made to cause the State where tried person was tried, or the State where he is domiciled, to ‘assume responsibility for his custody, care, and treatment.’” Only if both states refuse will the federal government accept responsibility for the prisoner. Currently, 20 states have their own civil commitment programs that include sex offenders. Presumably, all states will now be expected to establish policy on this issue.

The respondents in the original motion were federal prisoners who challenged the constitutionality of being detained through civil commitment for years past their release date. The federal government argued the Walsh Act is authorized by both the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution, which are often paired together. The Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) gives Congress the power “To regulate Commerce … among the several States….” It has been broadly interpreted to include laws mandating the state sex registries also established by the Walsh Act. The Necessary and Proper Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 18), also known as the Elastic Clause, gives Congress the power “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.” The government argued that the Walsh Act is necessary to establish and maintain a federal penal system.

In an amicus brief filed on behalf of the prisoners, the Cato Institute countered these claims. Regarding the Commerce Clause: “Notably, the Government does not and cannot affirmatively argue that the Act is a legitimate exercise of Congress’ Commerce Clause power. Civil commitment involves neither commerce nor interstate activity. Mental illness demands physicians not merchants.” Regarding the Necessary and Proper Clause: “[L]egislation adopted under the Clause may be justified only by an enumerated power, not by an implied power. Congress may carry into execution the powers specifically delegated to it, and the Necessary and Proper Clause permits adoption of reasonable means to carry into execution the enumerated power. But there the power ends. Indeed, the Tenth Amendment was adopted to ensure that Congress did not rely upon the Clause to expand its powers….”

Lower courts agreed with Cato’s analysis.

In the original motion both the district court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that Congress had exceeded its constitutional powers. The unanimous appellate decision held that Congress lacked a general police power to protect the public at large from crime.(By contrast, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of civil commitment for a “sexually dangerous person.”)

The Supreme Court decision, however, endorsed the federal power by a vote of 7-2. Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissented. In the dissenting opinion, Thomas stated, “The fact that the federal government has the authority to imprison a person for the purpose of punishing him for a federal crime — sex-related or otherwise — does not provide the government with the additional power to exercise indefinite civil control over that person.”

Interestingly, the constitutional protections of due process contained in the Bill of Rights played no substantive part in the ruling. The decision stated, “We do not reach or decide any claim that the statute or its application denies equal protection of the laws, procedural or substantive due process, or any other rights guaranteed by the Constitution.”

Thus the most important issue for civil libertarians was not addressed: Does the continued imprisonment of a category of criminals who have served their sentence violate the due-process and equal-protection guarantees in the Constitution? The closest the Court came to addressing this issue was Justice Breyer’s statement, “[We] assume, but we do not decide, that other provisions of the Constitution — such as the Due Process Clause — do not prohibit civil commitment.” In short, the Court’s default position is that indefinite confinement of a prisoner past his sentence is constitutional and legally proper. Constitutional considerations such as the due-process protections of the Fourth and Fifth Amendment, the Eighth Amendment protection against “cruel and unusual punishment,” and the Equal Protection of the Fourteenth Amendment appear not to automatically apply to “dangerous’ sex offenders.”

A key concern about the ruling is mission drift — namely, that civil commitment will be applied to ever widening categories of people. Since alcoholics and drug addicts are currently subject to such involuntary commitment in several states, this is a reasonable concern. It is not reassuring that the government’s case in Comstock was presented by Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court. She is almost certain to be confirmed. Orin Kerr, who attended the proceedings, reported at the Volokh Conspiracy website, “Kagan made a much broader Article I power argument at oral argument than was made in the Government’s brief. Indeed, her argument struck me as sort of shockingly broad: She argued that the Constitution gives the federal government the general power ‘to run a responsible criminal justice system,’ and that anything Congress plausibly thought a part of running a ‘responsible criminal justice system’ was within the scope of federal power.”

This does not bode well for individual rights or due process.

NOTE:

I wrote this post a little over a week ago; yesterday the Supreme Court issued a ruling effecting Miranda Rights.  Apparently choosing to be silent, without actually stating that you choose to be so is no longer considered exercising your right to terminate a police interrogation.  The 5-4 decision puts those who Miranda was most intended to protect at the most risk for police abuse.

The bottom line, now a suspect must clearly state that they wish to remain silent and that the interrogation is over… if a suspect does not invoke their right, the police are free to keep interrogating their suspect as long as they so choose.

Tax Day

The tax man cometh… and probably won’t leave you with much.

Income tax — a horrible thing; and the Sixteenth Amendment should be repealed.

Why this country hasn’t moved to a more equitable and more easily administered tax system is beyond me — just another failing of our government.

Off Shore Drilling

For years the oil and gas companies have been telling us (the American public) how safe off shore drilling is, and they’ve been trying to convince us that they have contingencies for anything that might happen, and that there’s no substantial risk to our environment.

Well, take a look at the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the relatively tame Gulf of Mexico and the inability of the world’s largest oil company to stop (or even really slow) a huge oil leak and consider who ill prepared the oil companies would be to handle a spill anything like this is the Gulf of Alaska (or any place near the Artic) in the middle of the Winter — or what could happen in the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic seaboard during hurricane season.

Yes, I think it’s a travesty that the Federal Government didn’t have any contingency plans for oil spills of this magnitude — but don’t point a finger at the current administration; you’ll find that’s been years and years in the making (and least you forget, we just had an “oil and gas man” in the Whitehouse for eight years), but in the end, it is the industry itself that is ultimately responsible for the impact of their decisions to use such a small amount of their profits to insure the safety of their endeavors — and it is the companies that should be made to pay for the damages they’ve caused.

Damages to the coastal ecosystem of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are increasing hourly as BP does little to stem the disaster — except possibly try and contain the public relations damage.  While BP stock is down 40%, first quarter 2010 saw record profits — and in the end, I suspect BP will find a way to pass all the costs and loses onto consumers and reward their investors.  BP CEO Tony Hayward has already assured investors that the company has “considerable firepower” to cope wit the severe costs… but missing are statements to the world that they’ll commit the “firepower” it’ll take resolve this disaster.

Bottom line, perhaps rather than increasing the leases for off-shore drilling it’s time to pull back all the currently unused leases and start heavily fining the oil and gas industry for any and all violations.

NASA Satellites’ View of Gulf Oil Spill

Trust In Government Hits Near-Historic Low

A Pew Poll released yesterday shows “Americans’ trust in government and its institutions has plummeted to a near-historic low…”

Americans’ trust in government and its institutions has plummeted to a near-historic low, according to a sobering new survey by the Pew Research Center.

Only 22 percent of Americans surveyed by Pew say they can trust government in Washington “almost always or most of the time” — among the lowest measures in the half-century since pollsters have been asking the question.

And an increasing number — almost 1 of every 3 people — say they believe government is a major threat to their personal freedoms and want federal power reined in.

You can read the complete article on NPR.

Armistice Day

The eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of year 1918 AD marked the official end of German involvement in World War I with their signing of the Armistice in a railway carriage in Compiègne Forest, Picardie, France (near the town of Compiègne).

Dedicated as Remembrance Day by King George V (England) in 1919 and proclaimed Armistice Day by President Woodrow Wilson (US).  Today is now known through much of the Western World (particularly in the Common Wealth) as Remembrance Day; though the US has celebrated is as Veterans Day since 1954.

Red poppies are often used as a symbol to remember the blood shed; white poppies are often (offensively) used as a symbol to be vigilant for peace.

We should always remember the past, and learn from our fore fathers so that we might leave the world a better place for those who follow.