(04/04/2016)
OPINION AND COMMENT
By Bob Weaver

This day we revere the ideals, principles and wisdom of our founding fathers in such documents as our Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the steadfastness of the Constitution of the United States.

It has been said that America is a great nation by understanding that its power comes from the liberty of its people.

We are at a time in history when the balance of power has been tipped toward "protecting us" by removing our treasured civil liberties in the face of terrorism toward our country and our citizens.

George Orwell predicted we will live in a world where fear protects freedom, war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength.

We are moving toward that time.

Orwell said in times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act, so much so that when heard, people may refuse to believe it.

If America's personal freedoms, rights and privileges are lost in the war against terrorism, while the battle may seem brave, purposeful and necessary, that which remains could surely be unacceptable to the human spirit.

In my lifetime there have been assaults on civil liberties during the Nixon years and its' secret spying on millions of American citizens and the terror of a madman, Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his war against communism.

In the Nixon case, the terror was against American citizens who were not patriotic to the Vietnam War, and in McCarthy's fiasco, the terror was communism, seeking out "un-loyal" Americans.

The FBI under J. Edgar Hoover compiled lists and "information" about millions of citizens who protested the Vietnam War, and others who smiled crossway.

Now, the terror is from the radical Muslim World, a real and present danger, with the accompanying erosion of our civil rights and liberties.

Since the Bush administration and the current ruminations of presidential candidate Donald Trump, America now wants the world to abide by the Geneva Convention, when we do not. God help our soldiers in future wars.

Trump has tapped into a basic disgust of Washington policies and gridlock.

In cases there is an tiny steps executing policy against public dissent, creating fear about what the government might do to the non-compliant.

Certainly the gun rights lobby has wide support, but barely a whisper about the eroding of civil liberties.

The Bush administration was a strange political time, with Washington passing the Patriot Act, which sounds protective against terrorism by allowing the invasion of civilian rights without what was once considered due process.

Since then, those invasions have been expanded.

THE PATRIOT ACT:

1) SEARCH YOUR HOME AND NOT EVEN TELL YOU. The USA Patriot Act expands law enforcement's ability to conduct secret "sneak and peek" searches of your home. Investigators can enter your home or office, take pictures and seize items without informing you that a warrant was issued, for an indefinite period of time. (SECTION 213)

2) COLLECT INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT BOOKS YOU READ, WHAT YOU STUDY, YOUR PURCHASES AND YOUR MEDICAL HISTORY. The USA Patriot Act gives law enforcement broad access to any types of records - medical, financial, gun, library, educational, sales, etc. - without probable cause of a crime. It also prohibits the holders of this information, like librarians, from disclosing that they have produced such records, under threat of imprisonment. The court orders are issued by a secret intelligence court in Washington and judges have little power to deny applications. (SECTION 215)

3) SEIZE A WIDE VARIETY OF BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL RECORDS, and in certain instances access the membership lists of organizations that provide even very limited Internet services (message boards on your church website for instance) using "national security letters," or NSLs, which are issued at the sole discretion of the Justice Department. The Patriot Act expanded access to these NSLs, which also impose a blanket gag order on recipients and are not subject to judicial review. (SECTION 505)

4) READ PARTS OF YOUR E-MAILS AND MONITOR WHAT YOU LOOK AT ON-LINE. The Patriot Act lets the government get records that could show the subject lines of your e-mails and details about your Web surfing habits, all without probable cause. (SECTION 216)

The Rule of Law, to which we give great lip service, continues to diminish.

Consider the warrant-less search, enter without knocking, civilian spying, justified torture and the skewing of habeas corpus and due process (only to be used against the bad guys).

The fact that Facebook mines personal details from the accounts of of their billion users (it's in the fine print), seems of no concern to their customers.

Those details are being used to target Facebook users with commercial (or political) messages, but could easily be rolled in profiling the political and social beliefs of every citizen.

Regardless of what is going on in the world, our civil rights and liberties should remain the cornerstone of our democracy.

Americans are distracted by 21st century media, the noisy hubris of political campaigns, technology, entertainment, and a bizarre shifting of politics with bigotry and racism.

For Christians, many have forgot the teachings of Jesus, latching on to the "teachings" of Trump. Jesus Christ embraced the least of these my brethren.

The US Supreme Court 'Citizens United' decision gave protected free speech rights (anonymously) to multi-billionaire and multi-millionaire Americans to underwrite their special interest candidates, one of the most devastating decisions to come out of Washington in my lifetime.

The likelihood of candidates, federal or state, being elected without the support of big money, is rather slim, a slap at the basic principals of democratic government.

One of our epistles of political control is, "He who has the gold wins."

Most Americans don't seem to mind, content in standing with their political candidates of choice, with little recall of basic civics and history.

I still cling to the civics lesson of my school days, that the American Dream is based on the inclusion of those "not like us," race, creed, color and religion, that our nation would make room for the disenfranchised, a great melting post.

Those who rail loudly about "those not like us," where indeed among America's minority groups, many of which suffered greatly when they came to this great country.

Do we still have the Dream?


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