Uncle Sam, Stop Spying On Me!

Currently raging in the news is the breach on the individual privacy. It has been leaked that the government has been tracking American phone calls and American conversations through phone (specifically Verizon) and internet services. A scandal has broken out where the government was allegedly tracking newspaper reporters’ phone calls. As one sees this pattern, one begins to see that our constitutional rights are being ignored- more namely, our right to privacy.

The fourth amendment- “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 persons or things to be seized.”

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What All This Spying Is Doing Essentially

Obviously, this amendment is bullshit to the the government. Tracking American phone calls…. that’s not a reasonable search… in fact those are  “unreasonable searches.” It’s not like all Verizon phone users are planning to destroy America. If they were, then yes, this tracking is reasonable and therefore constitutionally valid. But the fact its, that’s not the case. Same thing with the newspaper reporters. It’s not like they did anything illegal. So the reason for tracking their phone calls is “unreasonable” and therefore constitutionally invalid.

Now, before I go rambling on, let’s take the root of this. Why did all of this spying start in the first place? The answer is simple and infamous: the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Right at that moment, American government policy changed forever. Soon, airplane checks were more tight, the Department of Homeland Security was established, and agencies such as the CIA and the FBI were granted (unconstitutional) access to phone calls, private conversations, etc. All resulting from the fear of a terrorist attack happening again.

Now, seriously, America (or at least the government) has to stop being overdramatic. Yes, the 9/11 attacks were sad. Yes, they were horrible. But that doesn’t mean the American government can all of a sudden go crazy and take away all constitutional rights. It’s like a mother, after seeing her child being killed by a gangster, starting a full-scale program aimed at destroying all the gangs in the world, thinking she would be able to prevent anything like her child’s death from happening again.

Obviously, the mother won’t be able to truly destroy all the gangs in the world. Similarly, America can never eliminate terrorism and violence. Think about it: did all this spying and surveillance stop the Boston Marathon Bombings? No. The Newtown Tragedy? No. All the various other bombings/shootings that happened in America? No. Simply put, we have proof that this spying doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to be.

I also want to bring out Osama Bin Laden. Why did he initiate the 9/11 attacks in the first place? Because, he wanted to destroy American morale. To destroy the American spirit. He wanted America to suffer. He wanted America to not be  America anymore. Did he achieve these goals? So far, it seems so. How, you might ask?

Well, what does it mean to destroy America? Is it to actually explode the whole continent literally? If that was how Bin Laden thought of it, then he is one stupid guy to think just one terrorist attack would destroy a whole continent. So if this is not the case, then what is it? Well, what embodies America? What makes it different from other nations? The answer is that we have a constitution, we have rights that are actually recognized, and that those rights are actually respected. To destroy America, then, would mean to take away these rights.

Overall, this is perhaps what Bin Laden wanted. And it sure is coming true, given all this spying. That’s one right taken away- the right to privacy. In fact, other rights have been also been violated, too- the torture of terrorism supsects, the targeting of Muslim Americans, etc. Man, Bin Laden is sure cackling delightfully in his afterlife.

Of course, now the question is this: which is more important- constitutional rights or national security? Let’s compare the costs of these two, in general for America. Let’s say we lean to constitutional rights. There will perhaps be more terrorist attacks. But would you say terrorist attacks are that bad? For the individual, yes, but for America as a whole, I actually find it quite positive. I mean, look at the aftermath of 9/11. America saw a sense of patriotism that hadn’t been seen for a long time.

Now, what happens if we lean to national security? There will be more violations of constitutional rights. You might say what’s the big deal, but let me show you. Remember Hitler? During his rise to power, the legislature decreed that because of a national emergency of the various nations posing a threat to Germany, they would grant Hitler unprecedented power for four years, and he could overpower the constitution. Later, they extended that to four more years, then another four more years, but essentially it said that Hitler could do whatever he want for the rest of his time in office. In other words, Hitler could disavow all constitutional rights and do whatever he wanted. Now, we all know what happened: Hitler exploited this and Germany became the infamous Nazi Germany and the national emergency was all an excuse.

This is reminding me of America’s current situation. Because of a the 9/11 national emergency, the government could be granted unprecedented power over the constitution, such as spying on private conversations, torturing terrorist prisoners, etc. If we continue on this trend, it is possible that more rights will be disavowed, and perhaps even the whole constitution, all because of a national emergency. Politicians will exploit this so-called national emergency to encroach on more rights so they can have more power. America might even become an authoritarian state like Nazi Germany- in other words, sort of like a police state, in which all citizens are being watched and have to do what the government constrains them to do. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want America to be like Nazi Germany. To me, the costs of this is much more serious than the costs of a few terrorist attacks. Because America won’t be America anymore.

Overall, leaning to constitutional rights is perhaps the better decision. If we lean the other way, then Bin Laden has won.

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We’re Pointing A Gun At Our Democracy

(CNN) — Our democracy is endangered. Not by the Russians, North Korea, the Iran regime, or even terrorists. To quote Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Inside the beltway, the fingers point and the media tuts and struts in glee, and we, the American public, respond by becoming more rigid and divided ourselves. No more “truth springing from argument amongst friends,” as David Hume said. A recent nonpartisan Pew Research Poll finds our knee-jerk partisanship has increased dramatically.

This road we’re on will lead us step-by-step to an extreme: either an autocratic government that functions, or a dysfunctional anarchy. The petty squabbles, bilge in the name of party or principle, will dissolve our self-government.

Abraham Lincoln felt no foreign power could ever defeat the United States. He said, “From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never…No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.”

We’re pointing a pistol at our heads. A government of, by, and for the people requires that people talk to people, that we can agree to disagree but do so in civility. If we let the politicians and those who report dictate our discourse, then our course will be dictated.

Why am I alarmed? Because two “scandals” — the IRS tax-exempt inquiries and the Department of Justice’s tapping of reporters’ phones — have become lynch parties. And the congressional investigation of Benghazi may become a scandal in itself.

The IRS scandal has sparked bipartisan outrage that should require a bipartisan solution. The director who oversaw this was a Bush appointee who was confirmed by a Democratic Congress. Even Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein says he doubts very much that Obama was involved

We, the people, need to stay focused on facts, causes and solutions. Let’s begin with the findings of the Treasury’s inspector general who uncovered it: That it was bureaucratic mismanagement, but that there was no evidence of any political motivation or influence from outside the IRS.

And that, according to acting Commissioner Steven Miller, who just resigned, the problem started because the Supreme Court’s Citizens’ United decision created a surge of requests by political groups for tax-exempt status.

Democrats and Republicans agree there’s a problem. Maybe they should focus on solutions.

Let’s demand an end to partisan sideshows or media witch hunts: It turns out that the leaked White House Benghazi e-mails which allegedly show a coverup of a terrorist attack were themselves altered. Those e-mails are, in a word, bogus

Next up on the playbill: The Department of Justice secretly obtained dozens of reporters’ phone records because of a serious security leak. The double contradictory shell game we’re supposed to believe: Obama is not in charge and he has his finger in every pot.

This bamboozling of the American people obscures the main point: How do we safeguard American lives and respect our freedoms at the same time? Maybe working together — Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals — the Media Shield Law, a solution to the problem, can be passed.

Both the Democrats and Republicans have run roughshod over our separation of powers. Both parties have misused and abused their constitutional powers. Democrats blocked, again and again, President Bush’s nominees for federal judges. Today, Republicans aren’t just blocking Obama’s judicial nominees, they’re blocking the Senate from considering laws and blocking Cabinet appointees necessary for the federal government to run.

Why should we allow any political party or personality to render our government unable to govern?

On 9/11 terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and tried to attack the U.S. Capitol building in order to destroy our institutions, our economic strength, our military and our democratic Congress where “the people rule.”

But in our partisan self-righteousness, we’re destroying our foundations of government more effectively than al Qaeda ever could. Whether it’s the media or the politicians, the churning of partisan passion into anger, indeed hate, has an ulterior purpose: If Obama’s administration is constantly engaged in fighting for its existence, the governing comes to a halt, and his agenda will go nowhere.

Aiming for that and little if nothing else weakens and harms our democratic institutions, both Congress and the presidency. Remember, Obama was elected by a bigger margin than George W. Bush. He deserves to have his appointees, and he deserves to have votes on the issues, to have the government function, and to fight for the policies on which he was elected. By allowing problems to become scandals and scandals to become demagoguery, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.

If it keeps up, we will all be complicit in weakening our democracy.

California’s Church Scandal

I’m not Catholic, but I do know that the Catholic Church is looked upon as sacred and reverent to Catholics. Yet it is in this holy church that many scandals have occurred, and one big scandal just recently happened in Southern California- the Mahony scandal. The once-revered Cardinal Mahony is now facing opposition upon being realized that he tried to keep the abusive priests safe from the law. Not only that, what has enraged people is the fact that Mahony did not even consider to help the abused victims. Along with Mahony also fell Bishop Thomas Curry.

Read the article here (click link): LA Times- A Sudden Fall for Cardinal Mahony’s Former Right-hand Man

The LA Times article was a little bit of a revelation to me. Before, when I was a little younger, I used to think that the clergy who started these scandals were stupid and retarded in the fact that they tried to protect those abusive priests from the law. I thought they were stupidly trying to just protect the church’s reputation, when they should have known that to God, the reputation was already damaged. However, this article changed my opinion. I was now beginning to see that there is perhaps a moral reason why Mahony and other clergies involved did what they did. This is not just a Californian problem but a worldwide one.

Bishop Curry

Let’s see how all of this can have a moral reason. One quote from the article: In a 1990 letter, Curry wrote that he viewed a boy molested by Garcia as ‘the victim of a person who, as a result of his own illness, committed grave wrongs.‘ Basically, Curry was saying that the true victim was not the actual victim himself, but rather the abuser. Society does not tend to look at a deep level; we see what is literally and physically happening, thus we support the abused. However, if we take it into a religious level as with Curry, the greater sinner was the abuser. And in God’s eyes, sinners are the true victims of Satan, the ones who need help. Thus maybe the reason why Mahony and Curry and others both did not tend to the victims but rather to the abusers. In this case, I will have to partially agree with Curry. However, that does not mean he can neglect the victims.

There is also perhaps another moral reason. Check this quote out:

Of one priest, George Neville Rucker, accused in 1989 by a 31-year-old woman of decades-old abuse, he wrote: “It was of great concern to him that for something that was so casual to him at the time could be so devastating to her … he stays awake at night because of this. The trouble it caused him and his transfer was such a trauma for him that he has never been involved in anything since that time.”

What did I get from this quote? The reason why Curry and other clergy have kept abusive priests safe from the law is because they morally believe that it is the church that is a sinner’s haven. Again, let’s look from a religious point of view. God is like a father, who will always welcome back his son, no matter how sinful his son has been. In a sense, the house of God aka the church will always be open to even the vilest of sinners. In this case, it is the abusers. Why have them suffer in prison when they have learned from their mistakes? Let them come in peace with the Church and the Lord.

Again, this I have to partially agree. However, I believe that no matter the reasons or excuses that exists for this issue, whether legal or moral, the priests still have some fault. Mainly because they should have at least given the victims some care and attention. Anyway, whatever turns out for the priests or the victims or the offenders, let us all pray for them. May God be with us all. Amen.