The assassination attempt on Democratic Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, and the death of six other people, including a federal district court judge, was a heinous act. What was even more despicable was the fact that there were members of the mainstream press that wanted to assign blame not to a mentally ill gunman, but to others.
In 1964, at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco, Republican Presidential Candidate Barry Goldwater stated in his acceptance speech that “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no Vice” and that “Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” When it comes to defending freedom, liberty and supporting the causes that I believe in, I must confess that I am an extremist. However, one thing that I am not, nor will I ever be, is a fanatic. There is a big difference.
New Jersey has unusually strong — some say stupid — gun laws, and while it's debatable how much safer it makes us, in the case of one young man the way the law was applied is a disgrace to the legal system and the state.
Brian Aitken, a native New Jerseyan and Rutgers grad, moved to Colorado, where he purchased two handguns legally. When his marriage broke up, his ex-wife and son moved to Toms River. To be closer to his boy, Aitken sold his house and returned to the Garden State.
In January 2009, when he was visiting his parents' house, his mom became concerned about Aitken's mental state after he had been denied a visit with his son three times in two weeks. His mom, Sue, told Dennis Malloy of 101.5 FM radio she had been trained to call police in such cases. She hung up after dialing 911 without talking to anyone but the cops showed up anyway. She told them her concerns and the police called Brian en route to his Hoboken apartment and asked that he return to his parents' house. He did.
In 1920, the U.S. was facing an economic depression. It came in the aftermath of World War I and after the progressive administration of Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Republican Warren G. Harding replaced Wilson in the Oval Office.
To fight the depression, Harding and members of Congress supported a policy that would usher in the Roaring 1920s. The policy was to cut taxes by 50% and cut spending by the same amount. The policy brought about more revenues to the government and brought about 10 years of economic prosperity.
After September 11, 2001, there has been this argument put forth by political pundits, politicians, attorneys and others that claim that in order to win the War on Terror, the rethinking of civil liberties must be done. That Americans, in order to win, must give up some freedoms in order to obtain protections. Even some civil-libertarians such as Alan Dershowitz agree with this argument. I personally find it faulty.
Let’s say for argument’s sake that this is done. When the war is over, will our liberties be restored? The answer is “no.” When government obtains a power it rarely relinquishes it. Not without a fight. Therefore, when anyone says that Americans must surrender some liberties to get the protection of the government, I get very weary.
Ben Franklin had it right when he stated that those who give up essential liberty in order to obtain security deserve neither.
The forrth amendment to the U.S. Constitution states the following: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the person to be seized.”
Since 2001, with the passage of laws like the Patriot Act and with new and intrusive technologies like body scanners at airports making its way in to the light, one must wonder if the forth amendment is still applicable today. Sadly, there are many politicians, judges and political pundits (Progressives, “moderates,” liberals and conservatives) that are saying that it does not. These people, all of them, state because of the war on terror, because of safety and because of the need of government to generate revenue, all this trumps the Bill Of Rights. I find this to be very much wrong.
If the Constitution is the law of the land, then it must be treated as such. There can be no digression, no cutting of corners and no setting aside of the law for any purpose, noble or evil. Therefore, the choice is clear to me: follow the law or be ruled by fiat. I choose to follow the Constitution which is and always will be law.
I am a strong supporter of the Tea Party movement. I believe the movement is correct when it says that the federal deficit and the astronomical spending done by the government are both unsustainable. I agree with the movement when it calls for cutting government down to constitutional size. Where I part company with the Tea Party movement, is when the movement says that entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid should be left alone. Considering that these programs are facing financial difficulties and are unsustainable under their present forms, and the fact that these programs are 39% of the U.S. Budget, to not reform them and ignore the problems that these programs face would be wrong and dangerous to the fiscal health of this republic.
Cutting the deficit and cutting spending will require tough and painful choices. It will require the United States to make tough decisions to get back on the road to solvency. These decisions cannot be put off for another day or for another generation. To do that, would be nothing more than passing the buck and taking the easy way out. No man, woman and no politician likes to make tough choices, but if it is for the better, it must be done to ensure better futures.
Marjorie Cohn blogs at http://www.marjoriecohn.com. She is the immediate past president of the National Lawyers Guild and a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. She is the author of Rules of Disengagement, and the editor of The United States and Torture.
In their Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert effectively demonstrated how the media hypes fear. They brought out Kareem Abdul Jabbar to show that not all Muslims are terrorists. A couple of musical numbers dealt with the wars we are fighting. But neither Stewart nor Colbert mentioned Iraq or Afghanistan and how those wars are allowed to continue by the hyping of fear.
Like his predecessor, President Obama also hypes fear - by connecting his war in Afghanistan to keeping us safe, even though CIA director Leon Panetta recently admitted that only 50 to 100 al Qaeda fighters are there. Hoping to put the unpopular Iraq war behind him, Obama declared combat operations over, although 50,000 U.S. troops and some 100,000 mercenaries remain.
Tragically, both wars have largely disappeared from the national discourse. On October 22, Wikileaks released nearly 400,000 previously classified U.S. military documents about the Iraq war. They contain startling evidence of more than 1,300 incidents of torture, rape, abuse and murder by Iraqi security forces while the U.S. government looked the other way. During this time the Bush administration issued a “fragmentary order” called “Frago 242” not to investigate detainee abuse unless coalition troops were directly involved. U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of torture, rape, abuse and murder by Iraqi soldiers and police. Manfred Nowak, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, called on Obama to order a complete investigation of U.S. forces’ involvement in human rights abuses.