Leaning to the Left

Writing from a liberal persuasion

American Troops Leave Iraqi Cities…Please Remember

Posted by Beau Winiger on June 30, 2009

Today marks the first full day of American troops being absent in Iraq.  While there are still many troops and private contractors (they used to be called mercenaries, but that just sounds so barbaric), the majority of American troops have left the cities.  This is an important step in the draw down of American forces in Iraq, and a day that was celebrated by many Iraqis.  Such a momentous day in the history of the war should be used to remember what happened during this war.

In the first days, months, and years of the Iraq war there was a vocal opposition to the Iraq war.  There were many (and thankfully I count myself among them) who decried the impending war with Iraq, and were saddened by the invasion.  We saw this war as  being manufactured, a war that was embarked upon out of invention rather than necessity.  We asserted that the Bush administration’s claim that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction was false.  We claimed that the Bush administration was intent on pursuing a war with Iraq, and 9/11 simply provided the perfect excuse.  For these claims we were hounded as un-American and unpatriotic.  We were told that we hated our troops, and if we didn’t love America, then we should leave it.  Now, over 6 years later, we have seen our claims substantiated.  It has been released that George W. Bush himself stated that he wanted war with Iraq, it has been acknowledged by no less than Dick Cheney that there was never a tie between Iraq and al-Qaeda or 9/11, and it was quickly proven that there were no weapons of mass destruction.

Despite all this there are still those who would claim that the Iraq war was a good thing since it removed Saddam Hussein from power.  While I would agree that it is indeed better for the world and Iraq that Saddam Hussein is no longer in charge, this in no way should serve as basis for claims that the Iraq war was a good thing.  This idea of ends justifying means has seemingly been swallowed by many in the public and media, and it is saddening to see such a horrific precedent as unprovoked invasion pass by intact.

Many, many changes have come about in both the world and America since the invasion first took place.  America is a different country then it was back at the start of the invasion.  There have been so many stories taking place that have easily replaced the headlines about Iraq.  The saying that everyone has heard  “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana)  serves as a wake-up call to all Americans.  If we simply move on from this war, treat this day as nothing special, then we will soon find ourselves embroiled in another war with a different country.  For all the coverage that the Iraq war gets now, you would be forgiven for forgetting that we are involved in a war where many American troops have lost their lives, and tens of thousands of Iraqis have met similar fates.

So let us use this brief chance, before Iraq is once again pushed from the headlines by the recession or the death of Michael Jackson, to remember why some people detested the idea of this war from the beginning.  The Right often claims that the Left is too quick to trust the government, but they must remember that it was leftists, not those on the Right, that could not bring themselves to swallow the government’s Kool-Aid.  And the Left must remember that for all their claims of diplomacy, they too were very quick to jump on the bandwagon when it came to saber rattling.  Let the Iraq war stand as testimony to the dangers of xenophobia and blind faith.  And next time (and there will be a next time, there always is) please let us not be so quick to hurl false charges and insults at those that would dare to question war.  We are not anti-American, but rather only hope that America can remain the great country that it so often is.

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Why Obama is Taking the Right Path Towards Iran

Posted by Beau Winiger on June 18, 2009

The recent presidential elections in Iran have quickly become a divisive issue not only amongst Iranians but increasingly amongst Americans of different political parties.  Conservative politicians, most notably Sen. McCain, have begun to criticize President Obama for his stance towards the elections.  They claim that the president isn’t standing up for democracy, and that his silence is violating “an American principle” that stands up for free elections and the right of citizenry to select their leadership.  For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Sen. McCain is correct, and that is a principle that we follow at all times, although I am sure there are many countries that would have a hard time believing that (countries such as Iran).  Does that necessarily mean that the president’s relative silence regarding Iran is wrong?

Many human rights groups agree with the administration’s stance, and it is not hard to see how it would harm those that support Moussavi if they were to be seen as having the backing of the United States.  America is not the most popular country in Iran, or that part of the world for that matter, and if the U.S. were to take the side of the protester’s it would give Ahmadinejad an instant talking point.  The fact that some conservatives seem to be oblivious to this policy reveals a deep and troublesome misunderstanding of the way that the world works.  Conservatives often accuse liberals of living some fantasy world when it comes to foreign policy. but closer examination reveals that conservatives have some fantasies of their own.

Conservatives are making a dangerous judgment that people in other countries see America in the same manner that they do.  Conservatives see America as “a shining city on a hill”, a nation that has done much good throughout the world, and stands for freedom.  Those in other countries, such as Iran, see America as a colonial power that has made a practice of bullying other nations.  This is not to say one side is right, and the other is wrong.  As with so many things in life, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.  But the truth of the argument isn’t what is important.  Rather, the perception that other countries have is what is important when making decisions.

This inclination to assume that everyone views America through the same lens Americans do has been around for a long time, and it is not exclusive to conservatives .  President Kennedy made this same mistake at the Bay of Pigs.  This viewpoint is what led to the claim that Iraqi’s would greet us as liberators.  And it is this same mistaken viewpoint, with its resistance to be changed by historical events, that is now driving conservative calls for Obama to speak out.

Imagine that the election between Obama and McCain had been contested, and there were charges of rigging being thrown around (much like the Gore/Bush election).  Now imagine that Iran spoke out in favor of Obama.  Now imagine what the conservative response would have been.  There would be immediate criticism, appealing to citizens mistrust of Iranians.  This would be the same situation which we would have if Obama were to speak out.  And it in no way helps that one of the main conservative voices on this issue was also caught on tape singing “Bomb, Bomb Iran” during the presidential campaign  does little to help any feelings of mistrust by Iranians.

None of this article was meant to argue if one viewpoint is right.  Recognition that some people might have different views of America than Americans hold is seen as weakness by conservatives, and this attitude only serves to deepen fissures in the world.  Understanding that America has done things that others view to be wrong is not weakness, but rather understanding how the world really works.  Ignoring the views of other countries is dangerous, and in the case of Iran would further harm what are already very shaky relations.

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Be Very, Very Scared

Posted by Beau Winiger on June 9, 2009

In an article in today’s Washington Times Frank Gaffney says that by “applying the standard of identity politics and pandering to a special interest that earned Mr. Clinton that distinction, Barack Hussein Obama would have to be considered America’s first Muslim president”.  Most of the “evidence” for this claim is pulled from President Obama’s recent visit to the Middle East, namely his speech in Cairo.  The article does much to expose the true problem, the Right’s use of terms meant to strike fear into the hearts of Americans.

The first issue is the actual issue being discussed, is Obama really a Muslim?  First off, no.  He’s not.  It doesn’t matter how many times you say he might be, he’s still not.  Does he show respect to a religion that a lot of the world believes in?  Yes, guilty as charged with that heinous crime of showing respect to an ancient religion.  It is a rare thing to hear conservative complain that a politician is showing respect for religion, but perhaps those commentators only have Christianity in mind when they talk about religion.

Those same commentators throw the word Muslim around as if it were a slur, synonymous to terrorist, and are seemingly making the claim that it is perfectly acceptable to judge a religion’s worth by the bad things that it has done.  Islam is no more defined by terrorism than Christianity is defined by the Inquisition.  The fact that a small minority of a population has done evil things doesn’t give you the right to disregard their religion.

And that is the issue that seems to always be overlooked in these reports that Obama is a Muslim, or that Obama sympathizes with Muslims.  Why is no one questioning the use of Muslim as a slur?  I can say with great certainty that if someone were to refer to a politician as Christian, and then use that as an argument against their fitness for office, there would be an outcry.  Yet when the term is Muslim the only discussion seems to center around whether the claim is true.

This attempt by the right to weld the term Muslim to terrorist, and then Muslim to Arab, is nothing more than an appeal to the basest of human emotions.  When times are rough, as the are now, the population becomes fearful, and when a nation is fearful, they want something specific to be scared of, and they usually won’t ask many questions.  And the Right knows that, at this point politically, the only chance they have to turn Obama’s popularity is to make him a scary Muslim secular Arab socialist dictator.

We as a nation have to demand that policy debates no longer be turned into a scare-fest.  While it is true that there are some who respond to these fear tactics, they only respond when the idea is suggested.  Just because you disagree with the president does not give you free reign to state your grievance in terms specifically used to frighten people.  A strong America can only come about by a well-informed populace, and attempts to steer the discussion from facts to scary do little to inform the populace.  Honest discussions need to be had on many different topics, but “Is Obama a Muslim” is certainly not one of those.  I find it hard to believe the Right has America’s best interest at heart when appeals to fear above all else is a rallying cry.

It was fear that allowed the Orwellian Patriot Act to be passed, and now the Right is attempting the same trick in reverse.  If a citizen has already been told what an evil terrorist dictator the current president wants to become, does it really matter anymore what his actual policy decisions are?  If you should be scared, at all times, of the president, then it stands to reason that he will never do anything good.  Our Congress, and some in this nation, let us down when the Patriot Act was passed out of nothing more than blind fear.  That act alone should be more than enough to teach us the perils of allowing fear to rule in politics.

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Abortion, Dr. Tiller, and a Runaway Argument

Posted by Beau Winiger on June 2, 2009

Dr. George Tiller, a doctor who performed late-term abortions, was killed this past Sunday at his church by a gunman.  This lowers the number of doctors that will perform late-term abortions to two.  Yes, only two in the entire country.  Now perhaps this is partially a result of doctors objecting to abortions of this nature, but, when you combine this with the recently reported statistic that only 13% of counties in America have access to a clinic that provides abortions, it is hard to believe that the domestic terrorism being practiced by some on the anti-choice side of the argument has nothing to do with the increasing scarcity of abortion clinics.  Doctors are performing legal procedures, and there are some, most notably Bill O’Reilly, who compare these doctors to Stalin, Hitler and al-Qaeda, and then stand back and act surprised when people gun these doctors down.

Those that would work to stop abortion through the threat or actual use of force are perpetrators of domestic terrorism, and those that encourage them in words or action are encouraging terrorism.  If you do not wish for abortion to be legal then that is your right, but please refrain from referring to those that either practice, receive, or fight for a woman’s right to her own body as murderers.  For one, murders of doctors such as George Tiller show the real consequence of words.  Were those like Bill O’Reilly directly responsible for the murder?  No.  But if you wish to claim that words and messages on TV can have no consequence then please stop arguing against violent video games, violent movies, etc., and also please be willing to make the argument that advertising, where a message is repeated over and over, does not work.  The words of a man who compared Tiller to Hitler are not directly responsible, but neither are they completely free from consequence.

Also, abortions are legal, and it is in no way agreed upon that performing an abortion is a murder.  There are many philosophical arguments that can be made concerning this (and frankly there is not enough space to run them all down here), but one that I have always respected is the argument put forth by Judith Jarvis Thomson in her classic “A Defense of Abortion”.  In this essay she argues that it doesn’t even matter if we grant that a fetus is a human (which is especially applicable in the case of late-term abortions), for even this doesn’t necessarily grant the fetus rights to the woman’s body.  I will not summarize the entire argument, but suffice to say that the crux of her argument is that even if you had sex, with the knowledge that you might get pregnant, this does not mean that a fetus therefore can use your body for the next 9 months, in the same way that no person has a right to use your body, even if that person will die without the use of your body.  And that is what the case of abortion ultimately boils down to, and what the case of Roe v. Wade ultimately hinged upon, the right to privacy.  You as a person have the right to your own body, and it is not within the scope of the government to tell you what you can or cannot do to your own body, or whatever happens to be using your body to sustain its life. 

Even many on the anti-choice side of the argument subscribe to this opinion.  The big three caveats with those that oppose abortion are cases of incest, rape, or where the woman’s health is at stake.  Why allow abortion in these cases (especially rape and incest) if the fetus is a human with the right to use the mother?  If you oppose abortion because you believe the fetus is fully human with all of the rights of a human then there is no other choice than to oppose abortion in all cases.  Otherwise you are directly (albeit unknowingly) supporting the contention by those on the pro-choice side of the argument that the fetus is not in fact fully human, or at the very least that there is perhaps a difference in the rights of the fetus vs. the mother.

Abortion is a touchy subject, and one that has very little apathetic middle ground.  You might believe one way or the other about when abortions should be performed, but you still have an opinion.  When dealing with such an emotional issue it is even more important to restrain our arguments to facts, rational arguments, as opposed to slogans and words that are meant to inflame the hearts of those on either side.  When we begin to allow emotion to guide our arguments we lose the ability to hear what the other side is saying, and in some cases we lose all desire to listen to the other side, instead resorting to violence to answer the argument.

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What’s So Wrong About Media Bias

Posted by Beau Winiger on May 31, 2009

Media bias.  Mainstream media is a liberal mouthpiece, Fox News is better named Faux News, MSNBC is in love with Obama.  Who amongst us hasn’t read or heard these charges?  One need go no further than the comment section of an online article on the media to see accusations and slurs thrown rapidly back and forth.  And consistently the person responding to the charge of bias denies any such bias.  The question at hand is simple, why is bias such a dirty word?

Back in the days of the Founding Fathers and the start of this country bias was found in most all of the major newspapers.  The difference between now and then is that said newspapers did not pretend that they were bias free.  It was openly known which side of the political argument was favored.  So while newspaper reports were colored for one side or the other, readers of the paper were under no false assumptions as to just how Fair and Balanced the reporting might be.  Contrast that to present times, when most all of mainstream media works hard to protect the false idea that they are not biased in any manner, and the very idea that they might be biased is absurd.

One quick look at your news source reveals your political leanings to anyone who is interested in the news in the slightest.  Fox News=conservative, MSNBC=liberal, CNN=middle of the road (although some conservatives claim it is still a liberal mouthpiece, but I believe this to be more from nostalgia than any truth), Washington Post=liberal, Washington Times=conservative…and the list can go on and on.  A quick glance at the reporting and stories and (in the case of the 24-hour cable shows) the headline lineup reveals the media bias that are omnipresent in these outlets.  To pretend that they don’t exist is a simple case of lying to the public, presenting a product that does not truly exist. 

Now this doesn’t mean that these outlets don’t report the truth, it simply means that they are skewed in how they present that truth.  The argument that I wish to make is that the people that watch these networks, as well as the networks themselves, should stop pretending that there is no bias.  The real problem with bias in news reporting comes about when any bias is denied.  One need look no further than the Fox News slogan of “Fair and Balanced” to see an example of such denial.  No one with an honest appraisal of news media could conclude that Fox is indeed “balanced” in its news coverage, any more than MSNBC is balanced in its coverage.  So why then continue to pretend that there is absolutely no bias in the reporting? 

The beauty of acknowledged bias in the major news networks is that it will allow people to hear both sides of a political argument.  To see where conservatives are coming from tune into FNC for a bit, and then to see where liberals are coming from switch over to MSNBC.  This will allow you to utilize the strengths of both networks, while hopefully smoothing out the bias in both.  For good measure follow that up with a little bit of research from some of the political websites, and hopefully you will end up with a well-rounded idea of the current political issues.

Unfortunately this rarely happens.  People get their news from just one channel, and they believe that they are receiving the whole truth.  And who can blame them?  These networks advertise themselves as telling the whole balanced truth on issues; they report, and you decide.  If we as a people hope to be at all educated on the issues facing our nation we cannot rely on a select station, on either side of the political aisle, to give us the whole truth.  If you rely only on soundbites to get your news, then in reality you will have no idea what is going on in the world.  A prime and current example of this is the furor over the “racist” statements of Judge Sotomayor.  Listen to just the soundbite and she is a racist, actually read the whole speech and she isn’t.

Currently there is more easily accessible information present than at any other time in our nation’s history.  Take advantage of that fact.  Read and listen to news that you agree with, and then change the dial and listen to some that you do not agree with.  Realize that every news outlet is run by people, and people have their own biases.  If they claim they do not, if they claim they tell the whole story every single time, then they are lying.  It is time for our media to stop trying to claim they are balanced, and instead acknowledge that they shade one way or the other.

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Sotomayor and the Unfounded Objections of the Right

Posted by Beau Winiger on May 27, 2009

Yesterday President Obama announced his pick for the new Supreme Court justice, and as expected the Right has wasted no time in attacking the pick of Judge Sotomayor.  Charges brought against this justice by conservative pundits have ranged from activism to radicalism to liberalism to bullying to racism to being an affirmative action pick.  None of these charges should really be that surprising as almost all the charges were brought out before any pick was actually decided.  Even though most all of these charges were to be expected, it still is important to see if there is any merit to them.

First, the charge of being an “activist judge”, or a justice that will use their role to create policy.  Now I am not so sure that this charge carries any water, but for the sake of argument let us pretend that it does.  Why is that automatically a bad thing?  One need only look so far as the Supreme Court decision that decided that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional to see that sometimes the Supreme Court does create policy, and sometimes those policies that are created are not a bad thing.  So long as the justice works to uphold the constitution it shouldn’t automatically be called activism simply because one does not agree with the decision.

Another charge is that she is a radical, which goes along with charges that she is a liberal.  A quick examination of Sotomayor reveals that she is anything but a radical or a complete liberal.  For example, a White House talking point is the fact that “In cases where Sotomayor and at least one judge appointed by a Republican president were on the three-judge panel, Sotomayor and the Republican appointee(s) agreed on the outcome 95% of the time”.  Perhaps that does make her a radical liberal, but only by virtue of her radicalness being that she agrees with conservatives more than liberals.  Sotomayor was also a corporate lawyer at one point, and also ruled against plaintiffs seeking damages in the crash of TWA Flight 800 off the coast of New York, neither of which sound like the bonafides of a liberal radical.

Another charge is that she is a bully on the bench, she is too aggressive in other words.  Now maybe she is aggressive, maybe she does push hard to get her point across, but it is hard to believe that this charge has nothing to do with the fact that she is a woman.  These charges are never leveled against a male justice by the Right, even in the case of Justice Antonin “Go fuck yourself” Scalia.  It is only when a woman shows aggression and the desire to speak her mind that she is thought of as pushy, if it is a man then they are just being assertive.  When will we be able to get past this idea that woman should just sit idly by and only speak when spoken to?  The Right should either condemn any justice they see as pushy and bossy, or sit down and be quiet if they can only level those charges against women.

Judge Sotomayor has also been referred to as an affirmative action pick by the likes of Pat Buchanon, amongst others.  Let’s see, she was valedictorian of her high school, graduated summa cum laude from Princeton, was the editor of the Yale Law Review, and would bring more federal judicial experience to the Court than any other justice in the past 100 years.  Yep, I would definitely say that she is unqualified.  This charge is obviously so ridiculous it barely deserves a response, and yet the charge is out there and being repeated.  Chalk this one up to old white men getting upset that Obama would dare to pick a qualified Hispanic woman.

The last charge, and the stickiest, is the charge that she is racist.  This stems from a speech she gave in 2001 at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, in which she said “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”  Sounds pretty bad right?  I admit it does, until you take the time to actually read the speech she gave.  Sotomayor was referring to the problem of minority and female judge’s not being well represented in courts, which can cause rulings that come about that do not see the seriousness of the issues before a court.  Sotomayor went on to say, in the next sentence, “Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case.”  Sotomayor was essentially saying that women and minorities have a better hold on the challenges of being a woman and a minority than a white male.  This isn’t racism, it is just common sense.  Only someone completely ignorant of human nature would assume this to be untrue. 

The nomination of Sotomayor is not a crushing blow for conservatives, nor is it a victory for liberals.  Sotomayor was first nominated to a federal position by that great liberal leader President George H.W. Bush.  She has been twice confirmed by a Republican Congress.  She has not changed since those days.  These charges are nothing more than bluster from the Right that would object to anyone nominated by Obama, no matter the pick or qualifications.  It is time for the Right to stop playing politics and objecting to every single thing that Obama does without qualification.

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Where Should We Put the Prisoners…Perhaps a Prison

Posted by Beau Winiger on May 21, 2009

Where will they go? That is the current political question in the air when it comes to the detainees being held at Guantanamo. Unfortunately, there are many uncertain answers to that question, but there are two things that are definiteand seem to be agreed upon. President Obama neglected to actually answer that question when he decided that Gitmo would be closed, and near every member of Congress has said there is no way that any prisoners would be held at their prisons. Obviously these two items are interrelated, and if the latter can be resolved it will fix the former.

On the surface the problem of where to put the detainees seems to be pretty simple. They are prisoners, and when prisoners are found guilty of wrongdoing they are normally held in prisons. That is why there are prisons (and America has plenty of prisons). American precedent does exist for housing terrorists who are convicted of crimes. One need look no farther back in history than cases such as Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber, or the “Blind Sheik” to see that both our federal court system and Super Max prisons work perfectly fine when charged with the responsibility for trying terrorists and housing them after conviction. In addition, Super Max prisons house the most dangerous criminals in this country. People that killed for no reason. Say what you might about the legitimacy of the Gitmo detainees rational for wanting to attack this country (and I am not saying that they have reasons which are understandable), but I tend to find people that kill just because much scarier than people that at least try and find a reason for killing. Also, a prison such as Leavenworth in Kansas is actually set inside a military base. Where better to house terrorists than surrounded by military personnel?

So if we already know that prisons can hold terrorists easily, why is there still this objection to holding prisoners there? One line of argument used is that the American taxpayer should not be responsible for housing and caring for prisoners, or as Dick Cheney said in his speech today “it has even been suggested US taxpayer dollars will be used to support them”. Well, Mr. Cheney, who exactly is funding the detention facility located at Gitmo? Are those not taxpayer dollars that were used to pay Halliburton to build a new 1 billion dollar facility there? What exactly will change about tax payer money when they are housed in existing prisons in the US? Anything that is done by our government is funded by taxpayer dollars. Just because prisoners would be housed on American soil does not change that.

So now we know that line of argument doesn’t hold. What next? Another line of argument is that terrorists will simply be released back onto US soil. The only answer to this is pretty obvious. If they are released than they did not do anything wrong. This argument is akin to getting mad when someone is aquitted of murder and then released back onto the streets. If they were innocent, than they should be released. Send them back to their country and say we are sorry for illegally scooping you up and throwing you in jail for a few years. But perhaps their stay at Gitmo has hardened them to America (torture and unlawful imprisonment has a way of doing that), and they might not have done anything wrong to begin with but they will join our enemies now. The problem for conservatives when they argue this latter half is that they are admitting that we did some pretty bad things to detainees at Gitmo, and so far no conservative seems willing to admit that much. Once they do we can have a discussion on the matter, but until then we will just use their line of reasoning and assume that nothing at Gitmo would harden them towards America.

“But if we put them in prisons they will be able to network with other terrorists”. Well, unfortunately that is what happens in prisons. When bad people are around each other they tend to talk about bad things. This is not a unique characteristic that would only be fostered in prisons on American soil. The same could be said for prisoners at Gitmo. And since so many of the detainees at Gitmo have been released without charge (because they didn’t do anything wrong) the longer we keep innocent people locked up with bad people the more opportunity they will have to network with real terrorists, while at the same time being more open to anti-American terrorists because they are being held in a detention camp without cause. Anyone else see a really bad cycle here that is built upon the reasoning conservatives use for not putting terrorists in American prisons?

So we now have found out that American prisons can, and do, hold terrorists. We know that only innocent people will not be put in prison, and that has been happening for some time now. We know that terrorists network in any confinement, including Gitmo, and keeping innocent detainees locked in with real terrorists only strengthens that networking among people that would not be exposed to as strong of terrorist influence. And yet the argument persists that we should not house terrorists in American prisons. Conservatives would instead prefer to put these detainees in limbo, and just hope that everyone forgets that they are there. Human rights groups will not forget though, and neither will the American people. Bring the detainees up on charges, convict them if they are guilty, and then put them in prison. It is that simple. Let us as an American people do that, and then we can move on to trying to reclaim some of the morality that makes America great.

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Evolution and America

Posted by Beau Winiger on May 20, 2009

Recently a 47  million year old fossil was found that has been tentatively described as the missing link.  This, so far, seems to be the oldest fossil found to date that has characteristics that can link it to humans, specifically opposable thumbs and fingernails.  Truly an amazing discovery, but why does it belong in a blog dedicated to politics?  Well, it caused me to start thinking about evolution, and the telling way in which evolution has illuminated what I see to be a fundamental problem in American politics, namely the way in which religion plays such a large part in how we go about our educational life in America.

During the 2008 Republican presidential primary the candidates were asked how many of them did not believe in evolution.  Three hands went up for that question.  The year was 2008, Darwin wrote The Origin of the Species in 1859, and here were three men, running for the privilege of leading the most powerful nation in the world, who said the scientific equivalent of “I do not believe in gravity”.  The fact that this happened should be shocking enough in its own right.  But the true insight into American politics, and the large role that religion does continue to play in it, is seen in how those that professed a disbelief in evolution were not seen as ignorant and uneducated by one and all.  Rather they were seen by some as men of strong religious faith, men that should be looked up to.  The fact that in American politics religion is an untouchable subject, guarding a politician from all questions, and gilding them in some unquestionable moral goodness, shows just how slowly America has evolved from earlier times (please forgive the cheap wordplay, but I could not resist).

A February Gallop poll found that only 39% of Americans believe in evolution.  To repeat my earlier analogy, that is the scientific equivalent of saying only 39% of Americans believe in gravity.  And those that do not believe in evolution wear the badge proudly, believing it to be a sign of their commitment to God.  They believe that to believe in evolution is heresy, it is to say that God does not exist (even though evolution makes no mention, for or against, the possibility that God exists), and they therefore push strongly to have evolution either stricken from high school textbooks, or at the very least to include arguments for intelligent design (no more than Creationism dressed in fancy clothes) included alongside arguments for evolution in textbooks. 

This sort of argument, that an unscientific theory deserves equal time in a science room, is akin to saying that the theory that 2+2=5 deserves equal time in a math classroom.  And yet the argument still persists, and if one tries to raise a voice against teaching unscientific claims as valid scientific theorem then he or she is shouted down as being anti-religion.  What the anti-evolutionist fails to realize, or chooses to ignore, is that those that wish intelligent design to be banned from science rooms are not anti-religion, they are simply anti-bad science, and one would hope that this country would push for more science teachers that are pro-good science.

This is a nation that prides itself on its Judeo-Christian heritage, and although the founding fathers were, for the most part, not Judeo-Christian themselves (despite some revisionist part time historian claims to the contrary), it was indeed built by many believers in God.  The vast majority of Americans still do believe in God, and the point of this essay is not to say that a belief in God is a bad thing.  A belief in God does become bad though when it muddies one’s thinking, when it clouds what is accepted scientific truth.  There are some who will honestly dismiss this latest discovery of a 47 million year old fossil as nothing more than a challenge put out by God, a test to their faith.  I knew a fellow philosopher in college who was extremely bright, a person whose intelligence I held in high regard, and he believed that the Earth was 6,000 years old.  His thinking on most every subject we discussed was very well thought out and rational, yet his belief in God told him to disregard all scientific evidence and follow a theory with zero reputable scientific support

If I have offended anyone in this essay I am sorry.  It was not my intent.  A belief in God has been a force for great good in this world.  Without it I do not believe that Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been able to gather the strength to bring about change and peace in their countries.  God makes many things possible for many people, but it also has a tendency to invade into areas where it has nothing to contribute.  We, as a people, must decide that a belief in God does not justify all.  There are many areas in life where religion has much to contribute, but the scientific classroom is not one of them.

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Why Nancy Pelosi Needs To Resign

Posted by Beau Winiger on May 14, 2009

Nancy Pelosi, the leading Democrat in Congress, is quickly becoming not only an embarrassment to Democrats, but also a serious hindrance to a true discovery and prosecution of torture that went on during the Bush administration.  The latest development, Pelosi’s claim that the CIA lied to her about waterboarding, simply provides more fodder for Republicans who will claim that any torture investigation is simple politics.

One of the main fallback positions of Republicans has become that Democrats, including Pelosi, knew about and were complicit in the approval of torture techniques used against prisoners.  The threat presented by this stance is “if we go down, you go down”.  Now one would hope that such a presently vocal opponent of torture as Nancy Pelosi would be fine with that logic.  If she has nothing to hide, and if she is truly concerned with ridding this country of politicians who support torture, then her first and only response should be that everyone is open to investigation. 

Unfortunately, and predictably, her response has been just the opposite.  She first claimed that she never knew anything about waterboarding.  Then she claimed that she was never consulted about it, but might have been sort of told about it, but surely her opinion or approval was never asked (forgive me if that isn’t exactly what she said, but trying to pin down what Pelosi is talking about is harder than trying to grasp a snake greased in baby oil).  Then she said that after a top-ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee was informed of the practice that Democrat sent a letter of disapproval to the CIA, a letter that Pelosi could not even find the time to sign.  Finally, Pelosi is now claiming that the CIA lied to her about waterboarding.  It is a true sign of the trust I have in Pelosi that I actually believe the CIA over Pelosi.  Let me repeat that.  I believe the CIA is telling the truth as opposed to Pelosi telling the truth. 

The only way to truly prosecute the torture that went on during the Bush administration (and even conservatives have stopped trying to insist that it wasn’t torture) is to have a full and open investigation.  Every single high ranking member of Congress, the executive branch and any lawyers that wrote memos saying war crimes aren’t war crimes should be prosecuted.  Period.  Any person that is truly concerned with the fact that the United States tortured should be completely unconcerned with whether those that authorized it were Democrats or Republicans.  The only concern should be who authorized it, and how long are they going to jail for.  If this means that the vast majority of politicians need to be thrown out of office so be it.

Unfortunately, this will never happen.  By the very nature of how government works, it is almost certain that Pelosi knew quite a bit more about the torture programs than she is claiming know.  Any prosecution would almost certainly cost Pelosi, and many other high-ranking Democrats, their jobs.  As the Congress is currently Democrat controlled, and there is a President who is currently reluctant to prosecute (although, as we have seen with many things the President says, that could change in an instant), there is almost no chance that a prosecution would be started.  Whatever Pelosi and other Democrats might say to the contrary, their utmost concern is not this country or prosecuting torture, but first and foremost their own political skin.  This bickering about what Pelosi did or did not know only bogs down any chance of a true investigation, with real consequences, from ever taking place.  In this author’s opinion one of the best things that could happen for Democrats right now is if Nancy Pelosi submitted her immediate resignation.  With her continued leadership in Congress there is no chance of moving forward towards real resolution on the question of torture in this country.

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Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Today

Posted by Beau Winiger on May 12, 2009

We are at fighting two wars at this very moment.  This is no secret.  The members of our military are extremely brave, willing to make sacrifices for our country that most of us could never imagine.  This also is no secret.  Yet for many members of our military there is one secret that they are required to keep in order to remain in military service.  In 1993 the policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was brought into law as a supposed way of allowing homosexuals to serve in the military.  This shameful attempt at equality is still in place, despite President Obama’s stated opposition. 

Over 12,000 members of the military have been kicked out of duty since the law was put into place for their refusal to comply with the law, for their refusal to lie about who they are.  At a time when we need all the soldiers that this country can muster, veterans, willing to fight, are being removed from military service for something which has no bearing on their ability to fight alongside their fellow troops. 

Our military is being weakened on two fronts because of this law.  First, it requires gay members of the military to lie to their fellow troops, thus weakening the bond of trust that is paramount to a strong military.  It also removes skilled members of the military, including such highly needed service members as Arabic linguists, which weakens the ability of the military to effectively perform their duties.  Our stated reasons for being in both Iraq and Afghanistan are, in part, to bring democracy and equality to these countries.  How can we ask soldiers to fight for an equal society when we are not even willing to grant them equality at home?

Although President Obama has stated that he is against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, he has so far been unwilling to take his opposition to Congress.  Claims of patience ring hollow for our fighting men and women who are forced to into a position of lying about who they are as people on a daily basis for the right to fight for their country.  This law has been in place for 16 years now.  How much more patience is needed by our gay members of the military?  How much patience is acceptable when your rights as an American citizen are being trampled by the very country you have sworn to serve?

Today is a day that you, as a citizen that believes in equal rights, can make a difference.  I urge every reader of this article to take a few minutes out of their day and call the White House switchboard at 202-456-1111 and ask for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  This is part of a national effort put on by the organization Knights Out, a group of West Point graduates who are openly gay and wish for the repeal of this law, and is an action specifically brought on by the recent forced resignation of Lt. Dan Choi, an openly gay West Point graduate, an Iraq vet, and Arabic linguist, an infantry officer, who was recently told that his admission of being gay “negatively affects the good order and discipline” of his Army unit.  Such injustice should not be allowed to stand, and it is important for every citizen of this country to stand up against such intolerance.  More information can be found at http://knightsout.org/node/53

Stand up against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as a stand with the military, with those that serve us bravely in times of war and peace, as a stand against intolerance and injustice.  Whatever reason you might need to take a stand, please just take one.

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Why a National Day of Prayer

Posted by Beau Winiger on May 7, 2009

As this post deals with religion in America, I feel it is necessary to start with a disclaimer.  This post is not anti-religion.  I have no problem with people who pray, feel that religion plays an important part in their life, or wish that others would pray more.

Today is National Day of Prayer.  In 1952 it was passed into law that all Americans should pray for their nation on the first Thursday of May.  For the past 8 years, under the Bush presidency, this day was celebrated very publicly as an interfaith day of union to pray for our country.  President Obama has decided to not celebrate this day with any public ceremony, and because of this he is receiving a lot of heat about why he would choose to do so.  Pat Buchanan has said that “what [Obama has] done here is clearly disrespect the Christian community deliberately”. 

This nation was founded upon the idea of religious freedom.  That was the driving force for the Pilgrims to flee England and come to America.  It was important enough to be the first amendment listed in the Bill of Rights.  There is therefore no reason that this nation should expect their President to publicly support religion, no matter what his own faith might be.  President Obama’s decision to not publicly celebrate this day is an important step in removing religion from the day to day workings of the state.  But this decision was not enough, for the same administration has also asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation claiming that the day violates the First Amendment. 

Those that support the National Day of Prayer, specifically the National Day of Prayer Task Force, are failing to realize that this nation, while predominantly religious, is also made up of a large number of atheists and agnostics, according to a recent Gallup poll as many as 15% of Americans.  To require a government sponsored day that blatantly disregards these millions of people is unacceptable.  Those that support this day so strongly are discounting the inherent worth of these people and their right to live without being subject to a government that clearly favors the religious over those without belief.

When one takes a look at the Bible it looks as if even Jesus would be against a National Day of Prayer.  “But you, when you pray, enter into your room.  And shutting your door, pray to your Father in secret; and your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly” Matthew 6:6.  Hardly a ringing endorsement from the basis of Christian teaching.  A Christian that believes Jesus might be worth listening to is left with no other choice than to oppose a National Day of Prayer.  Disregarding the constitutional implications you are still left with a sense of going against the will of Jesus in having such a nationally recognized day.  Also, it would seem that most people that pray and love their country would probably pray for their country without being told to do so.  A government dictate that you should pray hardly seems the most sincere path to God’s ear.

In this author’s opinion, a person that pushes for public prayer is only concerned with showing everyone else how much he or she believes in God.  Religion is a deeply personal matter.  That is why arguments about it often end up so heated (and also why I felt the need for the disclaimer).  To move it into a governmental realm is to authorize the government with responsibility that it, by law and religious belief, has no business dealing in.  Religion is too often used in this country as a judgement tool for politics.  The religious right strongly supported President Bush simply because he often used his office as a bully pulpit to spread his own beliefs.  President Obama has chosen not to do so, and has therefore been demonized by that same religious base.  The same Christian religion that is often claimed to be the base of this country should be primarily concerned with a person’s actions, do they conduct themselves in a manner that God would approve of, and yet those that push for such constitutionally unsound ideas as the National Day of Prayer, by definition, believe that a person’s public professions of faith carry great importance.

Everyone should be free to profess their own faith, or lack thereof.  That is one of the many things that makes this country great.  If religious people in this country feel there is a need for a National Day of Prayer then let them place the burden of promotion squarely where it belongs, with the churches, mosques, and temples of this country.  But please, we did not, or I hope we did not, elect our president for him to be both a political and religious leader.

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Hate Speech, or an Articulation of the Conservative Ideals?

Posted by Beau Winiger on May 6, 2009

The social conservative movement is continuing its shuffle into being an obsolete movement.  Consider the case of Joe the Plumber.  Everyone remember him, the guy named Joe, real name Samuel Wurzelbacher, that is a plumber, but not really, that came to fame during the 2008 presidential election?  Well, he is back in the news for an interview he gave with Christianity Today on the subject of gay marriage.  In the interview Joe said that referring to homosexuals as queer isn’t a slander, because it by definition means “strange and unusual”, which in Mr. Wurzelbacher’s mind is a perfect description of homosexuals.  He then goes on to say that his gay friends “know that I wouldn’t have them anywhere near my children”.

Normally I would consider Mr. Wurzelbacher as someone who doesn’t really deserve mention.  After all, he is just a man who has tried to extend his 15 minutes of fame into a career, but he doesn’t have any credentials in the world of politics beyond being asked a question.  But Rush Limbaugh, who commands on audience of some 20 million listeners, and has become a sort of leader for the conservative movement as of late, recently called him someone who can “articulate conservatism”.  He referred to Mr. Wurzelbacher as such the day after his comments regarding homosexuals.  In other words, Mr. Limbaugh believes that someone who thinks homosexuals can’t be trusted around children is a perfect spokesman for conservatism.

Such a statement adds explicit support from a powerful conservative figure, and therefore legitimacy (at least amongst those who find Limbaugh legitimate) to Mr. Wurzelbacher’s statement.  And yet there is no outcry from any conservative leaders.  No conservative leader is willing to stand up to Rush and say they disagree.  Now I am not expecting a conservative leader to say that he agrees with homosexuality or gay marriage, but at the very least I would hope that one would object to such hate speech being typical of the conservative stance towards homosexuality.

How long will we as a people stand for this?  Aren’t we past the point where educated people refuse to give national platform to someone who believes that homosexuality is something to be feared, something that we need to protect our children against?  Whether or not the majority of conservatives agree with Mr. Wurzelbacher and Mr. Limbaugh is not the point.  Their silence on the subject, and Mr. Limbaugh’s continued large listenership, is implicit support of a position that is antiquated and hate-filled. 

The year is 2009, and yet it is still necessary to tell conservatives that homosexuals are normal people.  They are the exact same as straight people.  Their sexual orientation is not some looking glass into what type of person they are.  There are good, upstanding homosexuals as well as bad, immoral homosexuals, in the same manner that there are both types of heterosexuals.  They do not desire special treatment, or special recognition, they only desire to be treated the same as every other person in this country. 

The gay struggle for equality in America is the one of the most important human rights campaigns in America right now.  It is still accepted to refer to something or someone that is stupid or lame as gay.  It is accepted to publicly say that you wouldn’t let homosexuals around your children.  It is accepted to believe that homosexuals should not be allowed to adopt because they are unfit to be parents.  Homosexuality is a product of being born.  That is it.  It makes no more sense to discriminate against homosexuals than it does to discriminate against women, minorities, etc, and yet the hate and discrimination continues without a second thought, an ingrained piece of our culture, a person that everyone can join in and discriminate against.  Every single person in this country should be against discrimination, in any form, yet there are many unwilling to join in the fight for equal rights for homosexuals. 

Let me repeat, I do not expect conservatives to support gay marriage, at least not right now.  But I do not believe it is not asking too much for them to turn their backs on those in the conservative movement that feel that blatant discrimination and hate speech against homosexuals is acceptable.  Those that make such statements, and anyone who doesn’t believe those statements are a big deal, are un-American.  That is not a term lightly thrown around, but is there any other name for someone who doesn’t believe the Founding Fathers were correct in proclaiming that they wished America to be a place where all people were created with “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”?

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Live from Crazytown: GB vs. the Media

Posted by Beau Winiger on May 5, 2009

Today we will take a slight diversion from our normal reasoned political discussion and venture back into the world of insanity with everyone’s favorite talk show host, Glenn Beck.  So I now bring you, Live from Crazytown.

Lately GB has been ranting about the mainstream media and their liberal agenda to create a world ruled by elites, elites that forget about the little person.  If the media has its way there will be a bunch of well-educated, articulate, reasoned people sitting in some fancy building in Washington creating rules for the rest of us, and GB will be damned if he will let the Republican Party be drowned out that easily. 

GB’s main wardrum for this horrendous mainstream media support of the Progressive movement is the ridiculing of Tea Party protesters.  He says the media painted them as racists  

they painted them as stupid  , but GB knows the truth.  He knows that these good people are just normal citizens, trying their best to do what they think is right, and it wasn’t right for the media to make up these unfounded accusations.  But fear not, average citizens, GB will stand up to the mainstream media for you since you don’t have as loud a voice as GB, owing to the fact that you don’t host a very highly rated news program on the highest rated cable news network.

That is what I don’t get (okay, there is a lot about GB that I don’t get, but one thing at a time).  How is it possible to go on your nationally broadcast news show and yell about the mainstream media?  How do you host specials that purport to tell us, the viewer, what the media won’t?  The very fact that I am able to watch a basic cable TV show on the subject should mean that the mainstream media isn’t what GB seems to think it is.  This leads me to two possible conclusions concerning GB.  Either he is (a) unaware that he is in fact on a popular TV show, which by definition would make him part of the mainstream media, or (b) GB is a fake populist who is appealing to the fears amongst conservatives brought about by the fact that they are now out of power and drowning in a recession of their own making. 

Now neither of these options is too kind to old GB.  He is either a moron, or he is a manipulating prick that is playing upon people’s fears in order to enrich himself.  And while I am tempted (highly tempted) to choose option A, I have to believe it is option B.  Beck needs to realize that once you become a part of the mainstream media you can no longer yell about how bad the mainstream media is.  Well okay, you can still yell about it (because it might be true), but you tend to just be insulting yourself.  Hopefully for GB (who just signed a 3 book deal, by the way), this current wave of fear about the future will continue long enough for him to make a few more million, and then he can find some new foe to rail against/be a part of.

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Gay Marriage: Moving Towards Equality

Posted by Beau Winiger on April 30, 2009

Gay marriage is back in the headlines.  Between the recent legalization of gay marriage in Iowa, the controversy over Miss California’s statements regarding gay marriage, and legislation passed in New Hampshire to legalize gay marriage (contingent on the governor’s approval) the debate that will not die is back in the news.  This issue is one that has very little middle ground.  Either you are for it or against it, but very few people are apathetic on the subject.

As of this writing, there are four states that allow gay marriage (New Hampshire would become the fifth), and a handful of states that recognize some form of civil unions.  Proponents of same sex marriage claim that it is a matter of equal rights, while opponents use a number of arguments ranging from religious conviction to opposition to courts litigating values.  This author falls in the camp of believing that denial of gay marriage is a matter of denying equal rights to all citizens of this country.

In this author’s opinion it is not necessary to expound to greatly on the reasons for allowing gay marriage.  Denying gay citizens the same rights as straight Americans is simply a matter of rights.  If you believe that all citizens should be allowed the same rights then it is hard to see why gay marriage should not be legal.  Therefore the majority of this article will deal with opponents arguments.

The majority of opposition (though certainly not all) is based on religious conviction.  Those that use this argument believe that their religion opposes gay marriage, and for courts to legalize gay marriage is a denial of their religious rights.  Unfortunately for those in this camp this country is not a theocratic state.  Clergy members should have every right to refuse to marry same sex couples, but this does not immediately translate to denying marriage at a civil level to same sex couples.  No one should be attempting to force a clergy member to do something that violates their religious belief, but, as far as the government is concerned, only the civil marriage matters.  That is why a married couple needs to receive a marriage license in addition to the religious ceremony that they might wish to have performed.

Another main argument used by opponents is that the courts have no business litigating matters such as marriage.  They claim that the matter should be decided by the states, and any judicial decisions are usurping the rights of the citizens of that state to determine their own laws.  But one need only look at the case of interracial marriage, which was still illegal in many states until 1967, to see a powerful corollary.  In 1967 the Supreme Court, in the case of Loving v. Virginia, ruled that a ban on interracial marriage violated the constitution.  This ruling ended all bans on interracial marriage, even though many states had their own laws against it.  If opponents of gay marriage wish to remain consistent then they must also oppose the Supreme Court’s ruling.  After all, this ruling, passed down by judges that were not elected, overruled state rights to determine how they handle marriage.  Despite this I am not aware of anyone in the anti-gay marriage crowd that will publicly denounce the ruling ending interracial marriage.

One other main argument against gay marriage is that it attempts to rewrite “natural law” about what marriage is, namely between a man and a woman.  They claim that since marriage “has always been” between a man and a woman, it should remain that way.  Once again the example of interracial marriage provides a clear example of when it is okay to rewrite marriage.  In this country it was necessary to rewrite the laws on marriage to allow not only interracial marriage, but marriage between two black people as well.  If we buy into the argument that you shouldn’t rewrite marriage then there would never be any progress towards equality amongst all citizens. 

There are many other social arguments against gay marriage (harm to children, removing both a mother and father for children, harm to marriage, etc) but these arguments are not supported by anything more than a gut feeling.  Children raised by gay parents are not more likely to be gay, but only more likely to be accepting of gay people.  In other words these children are raised to be less prejudiced against other people, hardly a bad thing.  Also, gay parents are not removing children from homes that already have 2 straight parents.  In most cases they are adopting a child, a child that otherwise would not have any parents.  Even if you don’t believe that gay parents are as good as straight parents, it is hard to argue that no parents are better for children than gay parents.  Finally, the argument from harm to marriage is just ridiculous.  By legalizing gay marriage you are only working to strengthen marriage as an institution.  As the current divorce rate is testament to, it is hard enough for any couple to make marriage work for an entire lifetime.  When you compound that with the banning of gay marriage you are creating a situation where long term stable gay couples have to work twice as hard to survive.  There is also no documented rush of otherwise straight people suddenly becoming gay in states that have legalized gay marriage.  Just because it is now legal does not automatically make it “the cool thing to do”.  And anyone that was in a straight marriage and, upon gay marriage legalization, suddenly leaves their spouse to get married to a gay partner probably was not in a strong marriage to begin with.

In this author’s opinion, an opposition to gay marriage at the civil level is a clear cut example of prejudice, despite opponents claims to the contrary.  Gays in this country have been historically discriminated against, whether it be banning of gay marriage or arcane sodomy laws.  Just because all opponents may not recognize their own prejudice does not mean that such prejudice does not exist.  Gays in this country are, in almost all states, not allowed to marry because they are different from straight people.  But the tide is starting to turn, and in a few states courts or, in the case of Vermont and perhaps New Hampshire, legislators, are recognizing that denying gay couples the same rights afforded to straight couples is unconstitutional.  Hopefully one day the history books will look back upon this legalized discrimination against gay couples as just one more historical instance of prejudice, a legalized prejudice that was eventually overturned.

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Obama’s First 100 Days: A Lack of Constitutional Respect

Posted by Beau Winiger on April 29, 2009

Today is the 100th day of the Obama presidency.  What this means is that today is a meaningless day that liberals will use to say what a great job Obama has been doing, and conservatives will use it to say what a horrible job he has been doing.  So this author has decided, if you can’t beat them, join them.

It is true, in my opinion, that Obama has done a pretty decent job in his first 100 days in office, but there are some areas that his lack of progress from the Bush administration policies has been very alarming, namely in the area of rights abuse.  If the first 100 days is any sort of indication, than it looks like President Obama has decided that the Bush administration knew what it was talking about when it asserted the policy of “I’m in charge, and I will do what I want.”

One area where this has become apparent is in regards to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, which the current administration seems determined to make into a new Gitmo.  While the administration has decided to shut down Gitmo, they have decided that Bagram would make a fine new base of operations for a black hole site.  The administration wishes to be able to deny any prisoners there judicial review of the legality of their detention.  A prison in Afghanistan, an active war zone, is a little trickier than one located in Cuba, and it is understandable to deny judicial review to prisoners caught on the battlefield.  What is alarming is that the Obama team also wishes to be able to fly prisoners into Bagram from around the world, and then deny them judicial review.  This is the exact same problemthat we faced at Gitmo.  When you are able to ship in prisoners and then deny them rights because they are now in an active war zone you might as well have kept Gitmo open.  Even more worrisome is the fact that since Bagram is located in a war zone far away from America it will become even easier to restrict investigation into any human rights abuses going on there. 

The Obama administration has also moved to strike down a law here at home that requires a lawyer be present for a police to question a suspect who has retained a lawyer or asks for one.  While some might say, “Well just don’t answer anything until your lawyer gets there,” it is easy to imagine the potential for abuse of mentally challenged or uneducated suspects.  There is little conceivable downside to waiting for a lawyer, and too much potential for abuse for this to be considered a reasonable move by the Obama team.

The Obama DOJ has also supported the continuation of the “state secret” privilige invented by the Bush administration, and has added to that a “sovereign immunity” claim which says that citizens cannot sue the government for illegal activities unless the government chooses to disclose what they learned from the illegal activities.  So, even if it is known the government is acting illegally, there is nothing that can be done about it unless the government essentially decides it is okay with being sued.  This is a claim that even the Bush administration didn’t see fit to create, and truly worrisome for anyone concerned about keeping checks on the government’s ability to invade the private lives of its citizens.  Combined with the state secrets privilege the Obama administration is seeking the power to be able to do whatever it wants, and, so long as it is classified as secret, any actions will not be subject to judicial review.

President Obama is also seeking to destroy the Fourth Amendment by forcing cell phone carriers to turn over cell tower data without warrants, a move that legal scholars reject as being unconstitutional.  This would allow the government to seize private data, without cause, to track the location of anyone in the U.S. that it sees fit.  Such brazen disregard for the constitution, by a former constitutional law professor, is ludicrous.

The examples listed above point to an administration that is continuing the previous presidency’s complete disregard for constitutional protections that people in America believe they are protected by.  While there is much to celebrate in the first 100 days of the Obama presidency, unfortunately a respect for the constitution cannot, at this time, be counted to highly on the list.

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