Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduces extension of Patriot Act sunset

GovTrack: S. 1692: Text of Legislation, Introduced in Senate.

With the bill linked above, Patrick Leahy is attempting to move the end date of the USA Patriot Act from December 31st 2009 to December 31 2013. On October 8th the bill was read twice and submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Leahy is chair.

Specifically what S. 1692 will do is amend the USA Patriot Improvement and Re-authorization Act of 2005 by changing ‘2009’ to ‘2013’ in various sections of the law which reference the bill’s “sunset”, a fail-safe date placed into the law in order to make it more palatable to its detractors. The next step for Leahy’s bill is for it to leave the Judiciary Committee and enter debate on the floor of the senate.

If Leahy’s amendment goes through, the USA Patriot act and all that it allows will stay with this country for another four years. This law needs to run its course and end this December.

For eight years now we’ve lived in a shadow of fear brought on by first the destruction of the World Trade Center, the fall-out caused by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and — not the least — the fear-mongering actions of our representatives in congress, of which the Patriot Act is one.

The structure of the United States is such that we can either entertain personal and civil liberties, or we can give all of that up for the illusion of perfect safety. We can’t have both. The Patriot Act represents the latter. It’s time for the former. There is still time for us to contact our senators and representatives and let them know that we’re done with the Patriot Act and the fear it represents.

Mass. House approves “Pandemic” bill

Mass. House approves bill allowing quarantines – Boston.com.

The article written by an AP journalist and published by the Boston Globe doesn’t mention when the vote took place on this bill or what the bill is. That lack of information is unacceptable since this bill has been around some time. Below is a brief history of the bill passed today with links to appropriate texts published by the Massachusetts government.

The two bills that make up this discussion are Senate bill number 2028 — nee, Senate 18 — and House bill number 108. In looking at the history of the Senate bill, you can see that the number was changed to House 4271 after it left the Committee on Ways and Means and was voted on today.

The next step is for the disagreements in the Senate and House versions of the bills to be hammered out, voted on and then sent to the Governor for signing. At this point, my guess is that it will go through with very little debate as the Senate and House bills are very very similar.

If you don’t want this to pass, this is your last chance to do something about it. Call your local representative and tell them why you don’t want this bill to go through. Make your argument very clear, though, and stay away from the “it’s unconstitutional” thing. There is a clause in the Massachusetts Constitution in the article on property rights that reads thusly (emphasis mine):

Article X. Each individual of the society has a right to be protected by it in the enjoyment of his life, liberty and property, according to standing laws. He is obliged, consequently, to contribute his share to the expense of this protection; to give his personal service, or an equivalent, when necessary: but no part of the property of any individual can, with justice, be taken from him, or applied to public uses, without his own consent, or that of the representative body of the people. In fine, the people of this commonwealth are not controllable by any other laws than those to which their constitutional representative body have given their consent. And whenever the public exigencies require that the property of any individual should be appropriated to public uses, he shall receive a reasonable compensation therefor. [See Amendments, Arts. XXXIX, XLIII, XLVII, XLVIII, The Initiative, II, sec. 2, XLIX, L, LI and XCVII.]

As you can see, as long as Massachusetts citizens’ representatives give permission, the Constitution of this “Commonwealth” allows the removing of one’s property by the government. This bill is, in fact, constitutional according to the rules of the state. It may be unconstitutional at the federal level, but since it only affects state residents that’s a moot point.

You want my advice? Appeal to the more Libertarian nature of your representative and/or senator. Ask them whether they relish the idea of family members being forced to be vaccinated against their will. As them whether they trust future governors to understand exactly what a “statewide health emergency” entails. Is it the flu? An outbreak of the common cold? What about the vastly under-powered “Swine-flu”?

This bill only goes into effect as long as there’s a state of emergency. The logical question, then, is exactly what constitutes that state, and do we trust a single person — Governor — to declare it?

Follow up:

On further reading, the Massachusetts Constitution does allow for protections from search and seizure, however (Article XIV). That said, there is also a clause that allows for declarations of emergency (Article XX). There’s some fodder in there for an argument of unconstitutionality, I suppose, but I still say that the best arguments lie on other paths.

from “Progress Report for a Goodthinking UniSocAm”

I found this fragment buried in a government website a few weeks ago and wanted to share it. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to be public, as I haven’t seen it since. I don’t know the author or to whom it’s addressed, but it’s obviously fairly recent and seems to be part of a larger document or book. Please read it and spread it around. It’s important we don’t allow this kind of thinking to continue. In the meantime, I will see if I can find more.

– sd

There are five primary beliefs that must be imparted upon any citizenry in order to ensure the party’s long life. They are as follows:

  1. Participation in a republic is voluntary
  2. Responsibility for the republic rests solely on the shoulders of the elected
  3. Public is private
  4. Protection is control
  5. War is peace

During the early and middle stages of conversion to a single system of political and social thought, we must put all of our efforts into the five beliefs above. As the years go by and we find that the citizenry truly believes in the five points above, we can turn our efforts to other efforts (outlined in chapter 5 below).

At this point in time, we are very close to a complete adoption of the above beliefs by the majority of the voting public. The rest of this report will outline how we’ve accomplished what many people have said is impossible.

First is the task of getting the public to believe that participation in a republic is voluntary. We worked towards this goal first as it is the single weakness of our current government’s constitution. If enough people are convinced of a voluntary participation, then general human apathy will ensure that only a handful of the total population will turn out to vote. By limiting the numbers of voters, we can ensure a larger percentage of our own sympathizers, or sympathizers of issues that are not important to the running of a government. Recent history can give us many examples: religious freedom, abortion, homosexual marriage. None of those issues are truly important to the longevity of our current republic, but by ensuring that the only people participating are those who see them as issues, we have created a distracted and frustrated citizenry that is – in turn – less likely to vote in the next election.

How have we done this? The primary method is by not revealing to the public the weakness of the constitution. While our publicly funded education programs certainly outline the structure of the government, they do very little to educate students on the reasons for the structure or, indeed, the participation from the governed on which that structure depends. That added to a general human apathy, confusion around what the electoral college is, which election cycle is truly important (as an aside, we have been working very closely with the press on this one and have truly convinced citizens that the presidential election is more important than the congressional), and the convoluted unimportant issues mentioned above, we have come very close to bringing the voting pool down to a manageable and steady 30 percent of the populous.

Second on the list is to convince that the tasks of governing and oversight are the sole responsibilities of the elected and appointed officials. This is a key point. Imagine for a minute what might happen if each citizen took it upon himself to keep track of what government was doing. It would undermine our current progress and become very difficult to implement some of the future changes that are being planned. However, by the combination of human apathy mentioned above and a belief that governing is not a citizen’s responsibility, we can foster feelings of frustration and helplessness within the general public. These feelings lead to a continued trend of non-participation which leads to deeper feelings of alienation. When citizens feel alienated and disenfranchised, it makes it easier to suppress them with work, entertainment, the lottery, etc. (more on our work in those areas in chapter 2).

Third is that the public must believe that the behavior of government is private while their own private information is in fact public. The accomplishment of this step has taken many years and is only 60 percent complete at this point; however we anticipate great strides in this area with our current administration. The keys to this are jargon and volunteerism. Let me explain.

By wrapping governmental work within complicated language specific to certain areas of expertise such as law, science, economics, etc. the government can actually convince citizens that there’s nothing within the information for them. Additionally, our current administration’s pledge of openness will convince citizens to look at only what they are told to monitor – www.recovery.gov for instance – and keep them away from the inner workings that could actually tell a complete story. The press, of course, will request deeper access, but these few individuals are easy enough to control (more on this in chapter 3). With the citizenry volunteering to be left out of public processes, it’s very easy to convince them that those processes are actually private. From there, it’s even easier to convince people to volunteer personal information to the government: spending, travel, food preferences, closest friends’ names, political and religious views, etc. We can accomplish this in one of two ways.

The first is to simply say that we require such information to better understand their needs in order to properly govern. We could conceivably use the current US Census for such a purpose if necessary. The second method – which is also beneficial to our business interests and therefore preferred – is to allow the public to willingly send all kinds of information to their favorite companies. Once that’s gone on for a couple of years, we can institute oversight on the companies to ensure a protection of privacy. Of course, in doing so we gain access to unprecedented amounts of data.

In these ways we can ensure that the information our citizens think of as private becomes public, and at the same time generate a disinterest in government processes without passing any laws that could raise suspicious too early.

Fourth, we must convince the public that protection and control are the same activities with the same ends. Already there is evidence that people believe protection can only be gained by giving up control of their lives. This is a good first step. The next step is to demonstrate how without the government controlling their lives they would lose the protection that it offers. This demonstration has already begun, in fact, with the advent of the current financial crises and our work towards indicating blame.

People already believe that the sole reason for the banks’ collapse was lack of government oversight, and that it had nothing to with greed, mismanagement, and a healthy shove from the Fed. Now are nationalizing the problem banks, increasing oversight, and gaining control of those finances. The people – according to stock market movement – have reacted favorable. It’s apparent that society is beginning to equate control with protection.

Outside of the financial arena, we are using fear and paranoia in order to increase people’s desire for protection. This works especially well where many people are gathered together: airport, subway, train station. This, too, seems to be having a positive effect. We’re able to request identification at our leisure, subject anybody to an invasive and unwarranted search, as well as broadcast messages to everyone that encourage them to be suspicious of others’ behavior. All of this with little or no protest. We are very close to accomplishing our goals in this area much sooner than we expected.

The last important item to discuss is a concept popularized by George Orwell’s 1984. Surprisingly, the widespread popularity of this novel has not prepared people against many of the practices it attempts to vilify, among them the concept that war is peace.

We have been able to quite successfully convince citizens that only by violently protecting our interests in an area of the world can we assure a peaceful existence in our own country. Of course, this is not a new concept and precedent for such a philosophy can be found throughout documented history. Luckily, however, we have at our disposal governmental approvals of such behavior with the Monroe and Truman Doctrines. This ensures that even if a body of citizenry were to point out the fallacies of such a philosophy, we can simply respond that it is in the nature of our country and begin the process of proving them unpatriotic (chapter 6 for more on this).

Admittedly, we have had undreamed of success in this area over the past 20 years. There was some initial concern among some of our group based on how the constitution set forth the rules of declaring war. This was soon overcome, however, through a steady application of principals one through three and we eventually saw put in place a congress fitting our needs. That body put into law the War Powers Act in 1973 which gives the president the ability to preemptively invade another country. This relegated congress to the role of financiers, and while that could theoretically lead to problems, the successful disenfranchisement of citizens has ensure a steady stream of war-bound funds even to the point – if we may celebrate a bit – of bankrupting the country for generations to come. There is always a risk of relapse, however, so we must continue to devise a method of ensuring a steady stream of money (see chapter 4).

We hope you’ve found this overview of principles and application of same to be enlightening. Remember: through the steady, confident, daring, and unwavering application of the five principles outlined here, we will continue to march towards a future we can all be proud of.

Pledge of the American Citizen

[podcast]http://www.onegecko.com/audio/podcasts/onegecko-radio-2008-02-21.mp3[/podcast]

In today’s podcast, I take a look at the citizenship pledge that is given to immigrants who have passed the naturalization exam on their way to become citizens of the United States. In conjunction with that, though, I also present a pledge for people who are already citizens so that we can reaffirm our responsibilities and connection with our society, country, and government.

To read and sign it, grab the citizens pledge here and follow the instructions. If you want to sign it right away, email me your name and state, and I’ll get them up on the pledge within 24 hours.

The point of this pledge is for those of us who are natural-born citizens to re-affirm our connection and responsibilities with this country. I’ve noticed too many times over the years a lack of understanding among too many people of what our responsibilities actually are. I’ll be addressing those in later posts and ‘casts, but thought this would be a good place to start.

EDIT (22-Feb-2008): The email box was not responding properly, but is now fixed.

On the Preamble of the United States Constitution

To encapsulate one’s political views by attachment to a single party or platform is — in essence — to also limit one’s ability to address issues as they truly are. This is a truth, and one that is difficult for some people to understand. The Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, Green, or any other party is unable to address any issue we face in this country head-on because each member of that party is beholden to a prescribed set of ideals that all lead to the same solutions. One thing I’ve found in my life is that there is no one set of solutions that fix all problems.

To that end, I remain — with a Libertarian bent — an Independent. Proud to owe or show no affiliation to any particular platform, and free to approach each problem our country faces in as objective a manner as possible.

In order to remain objective, one must always have a foundation upon which to build an observation point. For my foundation, I’ve chosen the United States Constitution. Over the next few weeks, I will be examining it in this space.

There is far too much evidence out there that people don’t really understand what the document is, what it really means, and how it can be used to set us all free from the impending tyranny of fear that is rising up in this nation.

I begin with the Preamble:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

For such a short paragraph, there’s a lot being said. What is the purpose of government? What are the ideals of the country for which the government exists? Why does this country exist at all?

The purpose of the Constitution is to establish a foundation for a country that would “form a more perfect Union” than anyone had ever seen before. Specifically, however, there are five items addressed; five reasons the founders believed a government should exist:

  • Establish justice
  • Insure domestic tranquility
  • Provide for national (common) defense
  • Promote the welfare of the population
  • Secure the idea of liberty for all generations

In the eyes of the founders, then, government should do all of the above: nothing more, nothing less. If at any point anyone of us feels that even one of the above is missing from our lives, the government is not doing what the founders intended. This is the philosophy behind the entire document.

The key, however, to the preamble appears when you read it without the five purposes of government and the reason for the document. “We the People of the United States do ordain and establish this Constitution…”. Who establishes the Constitution? The citizens of the country for which the government is established. It’s a powerful realization.

The document is not presented by a government, then, but by the combined effort of a people from a shared region who are agreeing to unite in their common causes; who are working together to solve their problems: to establish justice, peace, defense, welfare and liberty for themselves and the future. This is the foundation upon which our country is built.

We are a United States. United for the betterment of all citizens under the Constitution. United in order to better provide for each other. United in order to better defend one another. United in order to form a more perfect union. It wasn’t intended by our founders, but we are at the point where each of us must be asking ourselves whether or not we are still working towards the five simple reasons for government. That’s how we know if we’re moving in the right direction.

So, rather than attach ourselves to a platform or party of supposed ideology, we should attach ourselves to the ultimate platform and actual ideology upon which all others are based: our Constitution. Each party, after all, is simply an attempt at approaching the creation of government in a different way. Choose however you wish, but never forget the five reasons you are choosing: justice, domestic1 peace, common defense, welfare of the citizens, and liberty.

1. Word added as a clarification. See comments thread for details.