Archive for July, 2006

Right to Vote Makes a Democracy

31 July 2006

A democracy is formed when everyone has a say. Although the US is actually a republic (we choose the people who make the decisions; we don’t make the decisions ourselves), we like to pretend that all a democracy requires is people electing leaders, and that that makes us a democracy, so we can sing songs about it and talk about how free and democratic we are. This is very much besides the point, however, the point being that if we’re democratic or a republic or anything, we have to let anyone vote.

Obviously, we do not let everyone vote. You have to have attained the enlightened age of eighteen before you can help decide how your tax dollars are spent, and many states do not let felons participate in their government. These people have been deemed unfit to vote, and thus they are prevented from voting.

The state of Colorado recently added to this voting prevention, prohibiting 6,000 people from voting this year because they are on parole.

The right to vote should not be questioned in a “democratic” country. The right to vote makes it a republic. The lack of voting rights, as recent elections have suggested, serves only to make it Republican.

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The Government Idiocy Reporting Quota

30 July 2006

A recent article by the ACLU reports that federal air marshals in Las Vegas have a quota regarding reports identifying individuals as “suspicious.” Every month, it seems, each air marshal must file at least one “Surveillance Detection Report,” which can lead one to be listed on a national or even international watchlist. This system affects an air marshal’s assignment and salary.

Basically, people can be put on a watchlist by an air marshal because the air marshal wants a pay raise. One tourist had an SDR filed on him/her for taking a picture of the skyline in Las Vegas as his/her plane took off. One memo circulated shortly after the quota system began said that, although air marshals may not see anything for a month at a time, “if you are looking for it, you’ll see something.”

Perhaps firefighters should have to fight a certain number of fires each week? If no one set their house on fire for a while, the firefighter could always do it for them. Maybe every American should have to report their car stolen at least once in their life? It would keep prisons in business. The best option would be if every air marshal reported at least one such governmental display of idiocy in their careers.

The original article can be found at The Denver Channel.com.

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Fair Trial for Everyone?

29 July 2006

The US has continued to hold a number of prisoners without charges in secret prisons and Guantanamo Bay even though the UN Committee on Human Rights has called for all secret detention facilities to be closed and for all prisoners to be allowed the protection of the law.

The Bush administration recently decided that all prisoners had to be treated according to Geneva Conventions minimums, after a Supreme Court ruling that said that all prisoners were protected under them. Many remain, without charges, held against their will. The US has maintained that the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights did not extend to matters relating to terrorism. The war on terror gives the US the right to declare anyone a “terrorist” and treat them however they want, in order to better keep us free.

The Merriam-Webster definition of “kidnap” is “to seize and detain or carry away by unlawful force or fraud and often with a demand for ransom.” The US has certainly seized and detained these prisoners. If the US constitution provides for fair trial (like it does), and they have been denied this right, then it is unlawful. The media has (justifiably) expressed outrage over the kidnapping of Westerners as horrible acts that cannot be allowed, but what of the detentions and abuse of people not given the chance to defend themselves in court? We cannot be a symbol of freedom and equality if everyone is not treated equally and fairly.

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Redraw State Lines

28 July 2006

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that district lines could be redrawn whenever, not just after the census that occurs once a decade. District lines determine which group of people are voting for which number representative. When the lines are redrawn, it’s usually by the party in power at the time (actually, it’s always by the party in power at that time), and they have a tendency to draw the lines in their favor, which is less than cool for minorities, which in Texas happens to be the Hispanic population. The plan currently favored by Republicans would split Austin, Texas’ most liberal city, into three different solidly Republican districts, dispersing the city’s liberal voters into those districts, which would make it unlikely that Austin will bother the state Republican party until the next time the lines are redrawn. Their map has a number of peculiar shapes on it, and can be found with the New York Times article on the issue.

If district lines can be redrawn, why not state lines? We could make New York City part of Kansas and other liberal areas parts of Georgia and Alabama. The voters could be replaced by extra Republican regions from Wyoming and Oklahoma, keeping at least 30 of its electoral votes and go Republican for the first time since any smart people lived there. Or, following the technique used for the 28th district in Texas, we could make all the liberals part of California, and each and every other state could go Republican, because California’s electoral power could never grow by enough to offset the 2 votes that every state gets from the senators for no good reason.

The electoral voting system has a flaw, and we should not hesitate to exploit it.

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Land of the Free, but Not for You

27 July 2006

A recent Homeland Security Department plan suggests that all legal permanent residents who immigrated here be subject to fingerprinting. They would be subjected to fingerprinting every time they wanted to come across the border again, too, so that green cards could only be used by the right person. The same practice would apply to some Canadians entering on work visas.

Back in the day, when we let more people in, people at Ellis Island had to have twenty bucks or they’d be turned back (people on slave ships were let in no matter how little money they had). They were also checked for diseases, because everyone already in America was so healthy the government didn’t want to let any foreigners contaminate them.

Now, people are being fingerprinted because their mothers were in the wrong country when they gave birth to them. They’re not healthy Americans with a healthy, American outlook, they’re scary people from somewhere else.

As many have pointed out, it is unlikely that a single member of the Department of Homeland Security is a real American. Each and every one of them is a descendent of some man or woman who came here a number of years ago and who got together with a number of their un-American friends, pushed the real Americans out west, and called themselves citizens of the United States of America.

Now, these new Americans’ descendents are fingerprinting what we have termed “immigrants” because their ancestors didn’t enter the US before their birth. America may be the land of the free for some immigrants, but not for others, and not for real Americans.

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If You Ban Gay Marriage, Ban Divorce

26 July 2006

The Washington State Supreme Court recently decided to uphold a 1998 law that banned gay marriage, overruling two lower courts that said it violated the state’s Equal Rights Amendment. Justice James Johnson wrote that the legislature had “a compelling governmental interest in preserving the institution of marriage, as well as the healthy families and children it promotes. This conclusion may not be changed by mere passage of time or currents of public favor and surely not changed by courts.”

Absolutely, healthy children are good.

Obvious issues concerning equal rights aside for the moment, why not take this “healthy families, healthy children idea” further. We have a responsibility to the next generation.

First, ban divorce. It tears families apart and leaves children to be switched back and forth between parents. It’s not Christian, and it’s not healthy.

Bring inmates home. Who cares if they’re violent criminals. Kids should not be brought up with a single parent. (Note, many states really do have irrational sentencing procedures, especially in relation to drugs, such as Michigan and New York, which often result in inmates being housed six hours by car away from their carless family. It really is bad, and it needs to be fixed.)

Bring soldiers home before they die. Growing up knowing your mom or dad died in a war fought for reasons the president appears unsure of is bad for kids, and does not encourage patriotism. Wars should be ended and soldiers brought home to help raise their kids. (Note, wars really are bad, and the president really does like to change his mind a lot about why we’re in Iraq.)

These are measures that need to be taken immediately, because kids grow up fast. We don’t want kids growing up with parents in Afghanistan or prison, or with divorced parents, or, worse still, parents with the same kind of gametes.

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Protect Rights, Not Powers

24 July 2006

In the past, US citizens feared infringements on rights. That is, theoretically, why there is a United States of America in the first place: the British went overboard with their power and the colonists fought back, created a constitution, and wrote the Bill of Rights to stop anything like that from ever happening again.

Never before has there been concern over an infringement of powers.

But that was one of the president’s concerns last week when he agreed to allow limited review of the eavesdropping program being conducted by the NSA. Apparently, although the program is a clear violation of the fourth amednment and is defined by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as a felony, the president has what have been referred to as “inherent powers,” and FISA is in violation of his powers.

Yeah. Preventing the violation of our rights will be in violation of his powers.

If there was truly a separation of powers, the right of the Judicial branch to review the program would not be questioned. It would be demanded. Perhaps more importantly, the Executive branch would be without the “inherent power” to override legislation from the Legislative branch, such as FISA.

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