Barack Obama’s License to Kill

droneLet’s imagine for a moment that the Liberty Professor embarks on an extended study trip to an Islamic nation.  Since my area of expertise includes interreligious dialogue, it’s not an impossibility.  Perhaps a university in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or the peaceful regions of Afghanistan would give me a grant to spend a semester learning about the nation’s Islamic history and culture.  While visiting, it would not be unusual to make friends with some of the locals.  I might even become a regular at a busy coffee shop.

What if, unknown to me, members of a terrorist organization also frequent the shop?  If I visit the shop everyday, such terrorists might often be present at the same time that I am sipping tea.  Who knows?  I might even have regular conversations with them. After all, I’m an extrovert interested in learning about the culture and religious views of those who differ from me. I’ll talk to just about anybody who will talk to me … it’s an honest trait that I inherited from my mother!

Now let’s go one step further. What if my frequent visits and cordial relations with these people come to the attention of an informed, high-level official of the United States who believes that my coffee-shop acquaintances are actively promoting attacks against the United States? That official might wrongly come to the conclusion that I am an ally of these terrorists, even though I don’t even know they are terrorists. Then what happens?

Well, if the official believes it’s better to terminate me than to attempt my capture, Barack Obama and his Justice Department say that this is an acceptable action and that my rights–guaranteed under the United States Constitution–no longer apply. That’s right. This past Tuesday, a Justice Department “white paper” came to light laying out the administration’s case for killing an American overseas as long as the operation is “conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.”

In other words, if the government decides to go to war against an American citizen who is abroad, it can kill that citizen.

According to analysis by Jameel Jaffer at the American Civil Liberties Union, “this sweeping authority is said to exist even if the threat presented isn’t imminent in any ordinary sense of that word, even if the target has never been charged with a crime or informed of the allegations against him, and even if the target is not located anywhere near an actual battlefield.” If the government’s rights to do this are limited, those limitations are so vague in the paper as to be nearly non-existent. “Even more problematic,” says Jaffer of the ACLU, “the paper contends that the limits on the government’s claimed authority are not enforceable in any court.”  In other words, there is no appeal.

This should chill the blood of every American. It essentially means that if a US citizen overseas is deemed a threat, that citizen can be the target of lethal action by his own government without any warning and without due process of law. No judicial review is required, either before or after the killing. In fact, the government claims the right to carry out the entire affair in total secrecy. The preferred method of termination, of course, is a drone strike.

According to Fox News, “the US drone program has been ramped up dramatically” under Barack Obama’s leadership. “It has become one of the most important tools of the administration’s counterterrorism campaign.”  Those who believe that innocent lives can’t be extinguished by this policy should think again. In 2011, 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki (a US citizen) was killed in a drone strike two weeks after his father was killed in a previous attack.  His father was terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, who had renounced his citizenship. There is no evidence that his son ever did so, but there is strong evidence that he had not even seen his father for two years.

When confronted with questions about the matter a year later, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the boy “should have [had] a far more responsible father.”

What a frightening disregard for the life of a citizen by a spokesman for the highest office in the land! Our Constitution demands that the rights of American citizens cannot be so summarily dismissed. It is nothing short of approval for assassination. One might even imagine that a government official would wait to act against a citizen until that citizen went abroad. Knowing that the law had been construed to allow that citizen’s termination while overseas, and that there is no judicial oversight or appeal, what would prevent such a devious plan from being enacted?

When did we decide that a few powerful people in government should have such authority? Was it not for reasons such as this that the Constitution put constraints on government power? Those who think the US Constitution is out of date are dangerously mistaken. Questions like these demonstrate that it remains as vital and as relevant as it ever was.

I realize how improbable my fears may sound, but let’s be honest. When we allow such sweeping power to government, we cannot prevent the abuse of that power. This has always been the foundational insight for those of us who argue for tight limits on governmental power. You see, once power is taken by the government or given up by the people, it is normally very difficult to take it back. It usually takes a revolution.

It seems these days that our political landscape looks much like a badminton game. The Republicans get control for a while and so-called “conservatives” put in place the big-government policies they prefer, favoring those who assist them to remain in office. Then the birdie bounces into the other side of the court and the Democrats get control for awhile. Their radical “liberals” put in place the big-government policies of their preference, favoring those who keep them in office. Both sides squeeze the life out of the electorate, play voters against one another, and consolidate tremendous–frightening–amounts of power. The problem certainly didn’t start with Barack Obama, but he has used it (and abused it) to his full advantage and to the advantage of the federal government.

Section II.A of the white paper (page 5) specifically brings up the constitutional guarantee of due process for an offending citizen.  It is dismissed entirely:  “The Due Process Clause would not prohibit a lethal operation of the sort contemplated here.”

If you have tended to see this blog as an overreaction, or if you have not yet understood the destruction of our human liberties that is well underway in the United States of America, then read this white paper for yourself. If you are an American citizen, read it carefully. This is the US Justice Department explaining to a court and to the entire world why it can kill you, why it can do it secretly, and why it needs no oversight or court approval to do so. A few highly-placed government officials can reduce you, a person who pays their salaries, to ground meat.

This is the executive branch of our government at work “protecting us” by inventing the right to kill us without due process of trial and legal defense. As US district court Judge Colleen McMahon wrote, the federal government has created “a thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws.” Here is a judge who is awake to the danger falling upon us all.

Of course, some readers will scoff at my concerns. They will argue that I’m an alarmist. After all, the government insists that this move is designed to save American lives and defend the homeland. One must ask where this reasoning will take us next. If the threat is that bad, perhaps a day will soon come when strip searches in airports are not enough.

One must also ask why any level of government in the US needs increasing numbers of drones in our homeland skies. Who are they watching? What privacy is being taken away, and from whom? It is one thing to arrest a lawbreaker. It’s another thing entirely to participate in wholesale spying on citizens just because someone might be breaking the law.

Is a day coming soon when the feds will use attack machinery in our own cities? It appears that such plans are already being developed. As reported by CBS News, Black Hawk helicopters were deployed in Miami on January 25 as part of a military “training exercise.”  Such urban-assault exercises have been taking place in other large cities across the US recently, such as Houston and  St. Louis.

If we combine these preparations for “our safety” with the government’s insistence that it can kill us overseas for the nation’s survival, how long will it be before that same government decides it can kill us at home without due process–if it’s best for the country?

It’s probably a ridiculous question.

On the other hand … power, once it is seized by government, is rarely returned to the people voluntarily.

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Two Reasons to Vote for Barack Obama

Someone recently accused me of having a hidden agenda.  Nope.  You’ve got me confused with someone else.  I’m an extrovert.  I have to say what I really think or I’ll explode.  That’s the predominant reason I started this blog.  The other reason was that if I ever decided to run for public office, my agenda would be out there for everyone to see and understand.  Disagree with me if you wish, but at least give me credit for being honest.  I’d rather die in obscurity than as someone who has no integrity.

My agenda and my values are on the table for all to see.  I’m a constitutional conservative.  When it comes to government, what I want to conserve is not any particular political party.  What I want to conserve–what I want to be faithful to–is the Constitution.  Not only that:  I want to interpret that Constitution as our Founders did.  In other words, I understand its purpose to be to limit the power of the federal government in order to guarantee the liberties of we the people.

Ours is not a nation-state.  It is a nation of states.  And this idea is not out of date.  It’s more important than ever.  The presidency of Barack Obama proves it.

I say all of this as a preamble to the rest of this post.  Now that the final presidential debate is done, I’m trying to understand exactly why someone would vote for another term for Mr. Obama.  I can only think of two reasons, but of course, I’m not objective.  I see and understand all politicians not as they present themselves, but as they compare to what I understand to be the vision of the Constitution.  I’m not afraid to be critical of any of them, no matter what their party.

As I search my poor brain I have to confess that I can find only two reasons why someone would vote for Obama.  Others that have crossed my mind seem either to be hyperbolic or related to these two.

If you’re an Obama supporter, I heartily welcome your criticism and your comments.  Please feel free to offer them by replying to this blog post (below).  Perhaps I’m blind.  Maybe I’m too limited in my understanding.  I may never agree with you, but I will at least try to consider your criticism.  And let me be clear, please:  it is my assumption, unless I have evidence to the contrary, that all of my debate partners are sincere.  I don’t know how anyone can approach political dialogue unless we grant such an assumption.

If you’re voting for Barack Obama, I assume you believe him to be the best candidate.  It also seems to me that you must agree with one or both of the following positions.

1.  Perhaps you are voting for Obama because you believe that the United States is more of a problem for the world than a solution.  Note the way I have phrased that.  No country is perfect.  Every patriot should be a critical patriot.  In other words, we simply must be honest enough to search out and to identify the mistakes our country has made in the arenas of politics, military, and society.  There are things about the US that I find objectionable, and my issues run the gamut.  The question at hand, however, is whether we have brought more to the world that is positive than negative.  I believe we have.  From our Constitution, to our pluralistic religious society that respects people of all faiths and none, to the fact that Europe might not be free today if not for our efforts–I believe that, in spite of our moral failings, we have done more for the world that is good than bad.

If you disagree, then perhaps you are happy that Mr. Obama has dropped us down a rung or two with regard to our defense and our international standing.  Perhaps you want to be more like Europe.  If so, I remind you that Europe has had more money to spend on socialist-type programs because we’ve had them underneath our nuclear umbrella.  As Mr. Obama scales back that umbrella of protection, Europe will either be more vulnerable or they’ll be forced to spend more on defense.  Even worse, more nations in Europe may feel the necessity of obtaining nuclear warheads.  Object if you wish, but  you should at least realize that there are consequences to the fact that America is taking a back seat or playing “second fiddle” on the world stage.  There are others who are happy to assume the position we seem to be vacating.

2.  Or, if international issues aren’t your interest, perhaps you’ll vote for Mr. Obama because you believe that the way to make our nation stronger and more fair is to take money from some for the purpose of giving it to others.  I’m not talking about reasonable federal taxation.  I’m talking about the forced redistribution of wealth.  Remember Joe “the plumber” and his encounter with candidate Obama in 2008?  Obama said that when we spread the wealth around “it’s good for everybody.”

Redistribution of wealth is a good thing–but not the way government does it.  The really important question is how wealth is distributed.  I strongly opposed the practice of politicians picking and choosing the distribution of wealth.  It should be distributed through the free exercise of economic liberty.  In other words, by the free market in which you and I get to decide how it’s distributed, or spent.

Joe the plumber wanted to buy a company that made just over $250,000 per year.  Sounds like alot, huh?  What you need to understand is that the dollar amount mentioned by Joe was the company’s income, not his profit.  What do you think would happen to most (or all) of that money?  It would not go to Joe.  It would go to his employees, his suppliers, his insurer, and multiple other providers and services he desperately needs in order to make his company viable.

Let’s imagine that, to bring in an income of $250,000 a year ($20,833) a month, Joe needs five plumbers on his staff (a typical small company).  Let’s also imagine that he wants really good plumbers because he hopes to build a company that is solid and made for the long haul.  He hires the best workers because he doesn’t want people to be disappointed in his employees and the work they perform.  He pays them $20 an hour.  In a forty-hour week that’s $800 per week, per employee.  So his salary costs are now $4,000 per week–$280,000 per year.  Plus, if he wants to take good care of his employees and to give them reasonable health insurance, his costs are even higher.  Let’s say he finds a bargain and pools his employees into an insurance fund for just $400 a month each (a remarkable bargain if he can actually find it).  With five employees, now he will spend another $24,000 a year.

As a business owner myself, I can tell you that the proposed numbers above are very reasonable (in fact, they are probably low–but that will help me make my argument even better).  If Joe bought a business that takes in $250,000 a year and has only five employees besides himself, and if he wants to pay them reasonably and give them reasonable benefits, look at the facts:  the company will spend more on salary and benefits than it takes in.  The math I’ve proposed, which is reasonable, gives Joe a salary and benefit cost of $304,000.  That means he’s losing $54,000 a year before he even starts … and before he pays himself any salary at all.  He would do this in the hope of building something that would give him an income later, and for the long term.  He would be taking a tremendous risk.  He’d be building a business.  He would be helping not only himself, but others as well.

See my point?  We can argue all sorts of numbers, but if businesses don’t find it possible to succeed, why bother?  Every dollar that government takes from someone else costs something beyond the actual dollar amount in question.  It’s nuts to imagine that the only way to assist the poor is by taking from Joe and his employees in order to give to someone else. 

So, if you’re voting for Barack Obama, which of these reasons is most attractive?  Which inspires you?  Are there others?  I’m all ears, as they say.

For the sake of argument I’ll recap here a few of the reasons I’ve been hearing that just don’t seem to make much sense to me.  When I say “they don’t make sense,” it’s not because they are bad aspirations.  It’s because Barack Obama has had four years to show us what drives him and his agenda, and the reasons below aren’t being addressed in a way that should cause voter confidence.

1.  Some say they are going to vote for Obama because he’s helping Americans of African descent.  I suppose if this is your reason for voting Democrat, you might have a point if by “helping” you mean giving African Americans a sense of pride because the president shares their ethnic heritage.  If you mean economic help, then you need to vote for Mitt Romney.  At least he has a record of creating jobs as an experienced businessman.  As for Obama’s employment record for blacks in America, unemployment is over 14%.  Clearly, Obama’s policies aren’t creating jobs for the black community.  You can chant the silly mantra that the fault lies with the previous administration, but four years is enough time to begin to make a difference.  There is no light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to unemployment for African Americans, at least not yet.  Changes in policy can make a difference under a new administration that wants to inspire growth rather than tax it at a higher rate.

2.  Perhaps you plan to vote for Obama because of his stance toward immigration and the way he seems to support the Latino community in America.  Think again.  Obama has put the breaks on sending some people back to Mexico who are here illegally, but he hasn’t done anything of substance to advance the nation toward responsible, comprehensive immigration reform.  All he has done is to enact a few executive orders to win Latino votes.  If you or a loved one has been affected by such an order, you may wish to reward Obama with your vote.  But don’t accuse Americans of being anti-immigrant.  We’re not.  We are a nation of immigrants … but we’re also a nation of laws.  We will support generous immigration levels, but we want immigration programs to be operated fairly and within the bounds of the law.

Obama has reached out to the Mexican government, so perhaps you’re impressed by that.  But he has been duped by Felipe Calderon, the Mexican president who came to the US to lecture us about our immigration policy.  Our policy is more humane than his own.  Fixing the immigration problem on our southern border will require putting pressure on the corrupt Mexican government for reform.  Rather than doing that, the inempt Obama allowed Calderon to put America’s problems in the spotlight rather than the problem of extreme Mexican corruption.  Our immigration problem on the southern border starts in Mexico.  That’s also where the cure will start if any of our politicians get serious about it.

In terms of Hispanic support of Obama, the real concern should be about how many Mexicans have been murdered by drug lords armed by the failed Obama Justice Department policy known as “Fast and Furious.”  Thousands of weapons were unloaded on the unsuspecting people of Mexico at the expense of the US taxpayer.  If I were of Hispanic or Latino heritage, I’d be among those who are angry as heck.   I certainly would not give my vote to a president whose justice officials have used innocent Mexicans as political pawns to advance an ideology.

And as far as unemployment is concerned, among Latinos living in the US, the unemployment rate is still over 10%.  There’s another proof that the Obama administration isn’t doing much to help that segment of our population.

3.  Lots of folks say that they want to support Obama because he’s helping the poor.  I’m not sure how, other than the increase in government handouts.  There is a place for safety nets in our society, but Obama isn’t solving the problem that’s sapping our economic strength.  His policies are making the middle class poor and sending the poor into destitutionAs I pointed out in a post last week, grocery costs are rapidly increasing.  Simple things like coffee, peanut butter, and potatoes are rising quicker than the average inflation rate.  It is becoming more and more difficult to feed our familes, and for now there is no end in sight.  The government is creating more money–meaning that the money in circulation is worth less.  The laws of economics will force the value of the dollars in circulation to go down even further.  In our society that means the poor are going to be hurt even worse by the long-term effects of Obama’s policies.  Even Romney will find it hard to turn this trend around, but for heaven’s sake, why support a president who has demonstrated that handouts are the only way he knows to help the poor?

Obama knows how to “feed a person for a day,” but he has no clue how to “feed a person for a lifetime.”  As his bureaucrats increase the temporary government help to record numbers of Americans, our debt is rising too quickly to be counted easily.  The debt clock isn’t just ticking.  It’s spinning.  As government aid is increased and abused through fraud we can ignore the debt, but it won’t ignore us for much longer.  At some point our debt will be so high that our credit rating will be dropped again.  US credit is now three notches below the high rating it once held (it was downgraded again by a major credit agency last month).  You didn’t hear much about it in the pro-Obama press, did you?

Just like a person’s credit card that reaches its limit, the world will eventually refuse our dollars because they are going to be worthless.  At that point the poor will be hit harder than anyone else.  The potential for disaster is alarming.  To understand this you only have to look at the elderly eating from garbage cans in the hard-hit, debt-ridden nations of the European Union.  Do we really think that it can’t happen here?

In terms of true improvement to their lives, Obama has done nothing for those who are poor except to increase the depth of their poverty and to make it harder for the economy to lift the poor out of misery.  Granted, he has met some of their immediate needs, but he has done nothing to establish a long-term solution.  In fact, for the long haul, he and the Democrats in Congress have so damaged our economy that recovery may take a decade.

4.  Some people say they’ll vote for Obama because the Democrats truly care for the middle class.  He speaks a good game, but the same factors putting the poor into absolute destitution are chipping away at middle-class economic stability.  There is no economic recovery because the Obama regime is pro-tax, not pro-recovery.  Business owners don’t trust that the government has their backs.  They trust only that any corporation or business owner might be next for criticism and increased taxation.  Investment seldom occurs in an environment of uncertainty.  Obama and his minions have done nothing to sponsor an attitude of trust among the businesses that make our economy hum. 

I can go on all day, especially in light of the false manner in which Obama presented himself last night.  I’m no longer angry … instead, I find myself laughing outloud at the television when Obama begins his laundry list of ways he has strengthened America and its international image.  But mine is nervous laughter.  There is nothing funny about what’s happening to our country.

Vote for Obama if you want America weaker, less influential, and supposedly “put in her place.”  Vote for Obama if you think America’s immigration policies are better than those of Mexico.  Return him to the Oval Office if you believe we can spend on the government credit card without disastrous consequences.

For many, Obama is their man because “he’ll make sure I get mine.”  When it comes to the very real possibility of economic collapse in the US, there is no “mine” and there is no “yours.”  There is only ours and we don’t have forever to begin making the necessary corrections to save what belongs to us all.

Sleepless Economics

A man doesn’t reach the age of 51 without experiencing some sleepless nights.  Over the years I’ve had my share of them, of course, and for any number of reasons.  The reason that keeps me awake in recent months is one that I never before imagined.  This is because I never found myself fearing that our nation could face economic and societal collapse.  There was a time when I would have laughed at any such suggestion, but I’m no longer laughing.  This post is an explanation of why this is so.

I won’t pretend to have expertise in areas that I don’t understand.  But I do understand people, and I understand history.  I know that in my wallet right now I have a total of $32.00.  All that really means is that I have four pieces of paper known as “Federal Reserve Notes.”  One is marked “20,” another “10,” and two are marked “1.”  Each is clearly marked as “LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE” as demonstrated in the photo above.

Most citizens don’t reflect on what this means in practical terms.  There was a time when paper money could be redeemed for gold or silver.  This offered two points of satisfaction.  First, government was limited in its ability to print money.  It could print no more money than the total value of its holdings in precious elements.  Second, it offered a bit of confidence to those who used paper money.  Since it could be redeemed for something truly valuable, trust in printed paper remained solid.

Today the only solidity that backs the US dollar is the credit of our government.  That credit is increasingly declining.  There is talk of another credit-rating agency downgrading our national credit.  Yet our elected representatives on the federal level tell us we have to keep spending and going deeper into debt.

Paper money is only valuable as long as people are willing to recognize it as such.  In the days of gold and silver coinage, even if people lost faith in the government that minted the coins, there remained the inherent value of the precious metal used in the coins.  They could be traded as silver or as gold rather than as government-approved money.  We don’t have that luxury when it comes to pieces of paper in our wallets.

Besides the word of our government, what else is propping up our dollars these days?  Well, the faith of the people still gives it value.  That faith, however, is gradually slipping.  People who can afford it are buying gold.  Other precious metals are starting to rise in value for the same reason.  Even those who think the precious-metals bubble is bound to collapse have to admit that there’s a reason for the record-breaking increase in the value of gold.  Trust in the dollar is declining.

One other factor keeps the dollar strong.  It serves as the international currency for the oil trade.  It’s called the “petrodollar.”  As long as nations are buying and selling oil based on the dollar, the dollar is propped up as a necessary international monetary tool.  But what if those nations decide not to use the dollar because they no longer trust our credit?  Russia and China have already decided this very thing. 

What if this is a sign of things to come?  What if OPEC decides that the dollar can no longer be trusted?  Add to this possibility the political realities of the Muslim world and the growing need of Russia and China for oil, and one simply can’t dismiss the possibility that this could happen.

Even if our close allies in Canada continue to sell to us, and even if we convince our numbheaded politicians to increase drilling in the US, this would not prevent immediate economic difficulties for every portion of the country as transportation slowed (or halted) and grocery shelves became increasingly bare.  Without the ability to move goods and get personnel to and from work, our economy would come to a standstill.  Saddest of all is the fact that dead economies usually result in dead people.  That’s the basis for societal collapse.

Obviously, this is a personal expression of fear on my part.  But it’s not irrational fear because it’s based upon a very real possibility.  The leaders of our government, primarily as an effort to influence their voting constituencies, are spending money that we simply don’t have.  Oh, they are printing plenty of money–but when I say that “it’s money we don’t have,” it’s because that money is increasingly losing its value and its attraction.   That’s true here and abroad.  The evidence is clear about that.

It’s my sincere prayer that these fears of mine never come to pass.  Still, they keep me awake.  I can’t bring myself to write about the possible consequences to what I’ve already described if an economic collapse does come.  One thing that concerns me most is just how many solid, serious, mature people I know already expect that it’s too late to prevent what I’ve described, though we may debate the actual details about the trigger that will bring it about.

My first college degree years ago was in history, so I’ve always known that nations come and go.  Professors showed me that the US would no doubt one day face its own decline as the ebb and flow of history continued its advance.  What I didn’t consider was the possibility that I might actually be alive to see that decline.  I mourn the fact … and I worry that the decline has already begun.

This is not the stuff upon which to begin a good night’s sleep.  I might sleep a bit better if I believed these fears were keeping the President and the Members of Congress awake as well.  Based upon their continued irresponsible spending, I find that difficult to believe.