Friday, April 23, 2010

Signposts 5 & 6 -- Teach the Children Well

It's a beautiful, rainy Spring day in Salt Lake City.  Not only that -- it's Friday, and I'm headed to California tomorrow!  Granted, I won't exactly be lounging at the beach or sipping a virgin strawberry daiquiri by the side of a pool.  But I'm in a relatively festive mood none-the-less.  =)

I'm actually going to be helping my sister with her 4-year-old, 23-month-old, and 4-week-old all next week.  My sister definitely has her hands full!  Even though she is a smart, creative, and well-educated woman with aspirations of her own, she is blessed to have a husband who provides for her and the family and so she has chosen to stay at home at this time in her life and raise her kids.

Though not everyone has that luxury, I think it's great when people with small children make the sacrifice to raise their children themselves.  And I can see that it definitely is a sacrifice!

On to a more somber but related topic, in today's article I will be looking at the next two "Signposts" in our Fourteen Signposts to Slavery series.  They both have to do with children and young people and public, government-run systems.

Looking back at some of the infamous totalitarian regimes of the 20th century (and even some that have survived through until today), we can observe that these governments sought for regimented, top-down, state-designed programs to influence the minds of the young people.

After all, every marketer knows that if you can hook someone on your product at an earlier age, they are easier to teach, more willing to buy into the marketing, and will have a much greater chance of remaining loyal to that product throughout their life.  This is true for governmental systems just as much as it is for soda, cigarettes, or pornography (all of which are incessantly peddled to the children and young people of the world).

These are just two "red flags" of fourteen that indicate a society might be descending into tyranny --

5. Use of compulsory education laws to forbid attendance at presently existing private schools.

I am not an educator and I don't have any children, so if the truth be told, I have not paid as much attention to the state of education in our nation as I would under different circumstances.  But I remember when George W. Bush came out with his "No Child Left Behind" legislation.  It certainly sounded like a good idea to many of us.  But I have to admit, these days it sounds totally Soviet to me.  Really -- all the children of America need to be kept together in one big herd?  

I know I would have hated that as a kid!  I was reading at the 3rd-grade level when I was in kindergarten.  And when I was in 3rd-grade, I had the athletic finesse of a klutzy kindergartner!  I was above average in most academic subjects, and LOVED it when our teachers separated us into groups based on our aptitude and gave us special projects.  Just as I got frustrated having to participate in reading groups with kids who could barely read, I avoided playing kick-ball with the sporty kids who could run me over in a few seconds flat!

My impression on "No Child Left Behind" has been solidified by friends in public education who bemoan the fact that they no longer have any control over the curriculum in their classroom and are limited in catering to the needs of the varying levels of student aptitude.

Now it seems that education in America has gone from state and locally-run, to a standardized-test-obsessed behemoth that offers the same curriculum, the same tests, the same almost everything to all of the diverse corners of our nation.

It seems to actually make the kids stupider.  And it gives an enormous amount of power to the publishers of  textbooks and makers of tests.  Who are these people who now have the minds of America's youth in the palms of their hands?

In regards to Signpost 5, Americans still have some rights concerning the education of their children.  I am not aware of any laws that prevent parents from enrolling their children in private schools (although the economic difficulties we are experiencing certainly have caused some to put their kids back in public schools in order to save money).

But besides the centralizing of power in Education, we have seen some disturbing signs that both state and federal government look upon homeschooling with less than admiration. 

In 2003, the federal government proposed HR 2732 -- the "Homeschool Non-Discrimination Act", which would have increased federal oversight and regulation of homeschooling.  It doesn't appear that this bill passed.  (1)

In 2008 a California court ruled that a homeschooling family in their state has no right to home school their children unless they are certified tutors. (2)

Recent news report depicting a homeschooling family in Massachusetts who don't actually teach their children anything, but let them stay up all night or watch TV all day if they want to.  The parents of this family, unrepresentative of the majority of homeschoolers in the the U.S., calmly state on camera that they believe it's best to let their children do whatever they want, if they want to learn something they will do it on their own. (3)

Whether it was designed to or not, this news piece clearly would have the effect of giving the public a bad opinion of homeschooling.

One homeschooling father had this to say about potential future government encroachment on the practice --

"Look for the first few leaks of damning stories about home schooling. They will start by demonizing the movement. Then they will move rapidly to tax it, and outlaw it in practice if not in law. Before the next election home schoolers will see a world on the horizon where school boards and local school administration have to certify their credentials. Homes will be subject to inspection and regulation by OSHA and the EPA." (4)

Since I hope to have kids someday, and there is no way I would consider putting my children in most public schools, this definitely concerns me.   

Whether or not it is of concern to you or me, Americans should have the right to have their children educated in the way they see fit without having the government constantly hassling them.

Signpost 5 -- Not yet

6. Compulsory non-military service. 

While we don't yet have laws requiring compulsory service to the state, President Obama and his Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, are both on the record for promoting a period of required non-military service of individuals between the ages of 18-25.

Take a look --

Here's a commercial that has been actually aired on television depicting Obama's proposed youth corps --

Is this a harmless program that will help young people contribute to the well-being of their nation?  After all, who wouldn't want their teenage children involved in serving their community and working towards a high ideal?

The problem is not teenagers involved with community service, but rather a government reaching its hands into an arena better served by the family or church.

A youth corps is a common feature of fascist and communist regimes. It is their tactic designed to mold the minds and opinions of the rising generation to cause them to conform to a state agenda.  From Hitler's Youth Brigade, the Young Pioneers of the Soviet Union, or the Communist Youth League of China, we would be following in the footsteps of some seriously questionable regimes if Obama gets his youth corps.

Signpost 6 -- In the works

Lastly, I want to point out that in the case of the Communist nations, not only did the state want control over the young people, but it wanted to do away with all competition.  The destruction of the family and the church are two of Communism's stated goals.  

In my mind, anything that weakens the autonomy of family and church and subjugates their influence to that of the state is potentially dangerous to a free society.  

What do you think?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Signpost 4 -- Every Breath You Take, Every Move You Make

Today is another Friday, and it's time to address yet another of the Fourteen Signposts to Slavery I outlined in a previous post.  So far, two of the three signposts we've examined are currently in effect here in the good old USA (Signposts 1 and 3).  Signpost 2 -- the abolition of the right to gun ownership -- is not in effect, and we should be vigilant to make sure that gun rights are never, ever rescinded.

Moving on . . .

Signpost 4 -- Requirements that private financial transactions be keyed to social security numbers or other government identification so that government records of these transactions can be kept and fed into a computer.

What would this enormous red flag of government intrusion potentially bring to the American people?  Well, if you know what everyone is spending their money on and where, there is an awful lot you can learn about a person.  If you not only have the ability to compile data on individuals' financial transactions but to also decide whether or not it's O.K. for them to engage in certain transactions, you've essentially enslaved the populace.

Today in the United States, all payments we make through credit cards, debit cards, or even by check are, in fact, connected to our social security numbers -- a social security number is almost always required to set up a bank account, apply for a credit card, or to apply for a loan of almost any type.  Using cash in our transactions is really the only way to avoid any given transaction being linked to our social security number.

Of course you and I can go down to our local coffee shop, grocery store, or gas station and make a purchase in cash.  But how many of us find it more convenient to whip out a debit or credit card, even for small transactions?  How many of us pay our bills or make purchases online?  Even if we use checks, each check is now scanned and saved electronically by our bank or credit union in most cases, and this information is stored in a database.  I have an ecommerce business, and like most online businesses, all the financial transactions are electronic.

Just last year, Senator Chris Dodd sought to sneak a provision into his Hope for Homeowners bill that would require online merchant companies such as PayPal, Amazon, Ebay, and others to compile information on their customers and all their transactions.  According to FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey, such a provision "reduces privacy across America's payment processing systems and treats every American small business or eBay power seller like a criminal on parole by requiring an unprecedented level of reporting to the federal government." (1)  In my research, it appears that this particular proposal didn't pass, but it was very difficult to tell (and I didn't want to spend all day trying to sort through the monumental opacity of government websites).

Further, President Bush's proposed 2009 Budget called for all credit card companies to report the transactions of all their merchants (businesses who receive payments for products and services by credit card) to the IRS, with the transactions tied to the Taxpayer Identification Number of the merchant.  This information would be collected, shared, and stored on a database all without any evidence that any of the merchants were in violation of any law. (2)  The 2009 Budget also called for greater "enforcement initiatives" to make sure small businesses and the self-employed are paying the right amount of taxes, and the sharing of "financial intelligence" through American and world intelligence bodies. (3)

Of course, it is claimed that such provisions would be used to prevent terrorists from engaging in money laundering. 

Here are a few more facts --

  • Electronic financial transactions are on the rise in America,
  • Any deposit or withdrawal over $3,000 must be reported to the government,
  • Any cash transaction over $10,000 must be reported to the government,
  • As we learned in Signpost 1, the financial transactions of Americans while abroad or through foreign bank accounts are now strictly regulated,
  • There have been instances where individuals have been ordered by the court to open a bank account, 
  • Many Americans are required by their employer to have a bank account for direct deposit of their paychecks,
  • Europe is on the fast-track to moving to a cashless society, with the VP of Visa in Europe making comments about how expensive cash is, and advocating the abandonment of paper money and checks in favor of debit and credit cards.   Of course, he would personally stand to benefit from such a shift! (4)
  • The amount of information on individual Americans, both financial and otherwise that is available to the government has exploded in recent years, and so has government control.  If you, I, or your Uncle Bob somehow end up on a bad list or dubbed as a domestic terrorist, we could be cut off from all electronic financial means instantly (that is, if we're not detained by Homeland Security and thrown into a jail without a concrete accusation and without the right to a trial)!

    Here's the landscape of financial transactions in our day -- the majority of all commerce of significance is now made electronically and is linked to our social security number, cash payments are going out of style, and large purchases in cash have to be reported to the government.
    This is all fine and good if you have a benevolent and trust-worthy power structure safeguarding this information with their life, and with no intent to exploit.
    In my opinion, however, those who defend the current system as necessary are either those who blindly trust the power structure, or who work for it.

    Just as we've seen 5-year-old children show up as terrorists on the "No Fly" list and American veterans who are alive and well but the VA has determined that they are officially deceased, we would be naive not to expect negative ramifications from Uncle Sam compiling and perusing our financial history.  It's bad enough how much financial information and power held by the big financial entities in our nation!

    Just ask Leann Weaver of Phoenix, AZ who defaulted on a credit card, and one day at the grocery store attempted to pay for some groceries with her debit card and was declined for insufficient funds.  Her credit card company found a way to garnish her wages, and did so even without her knowledge! (5)

    Not that I think that those who don't pay their bills are in the right, but I don't like where this could be headed.

    Signpost 4 -- Not quite, but way too close for comfort



      Friday, April 9, 2010

      Signpost 3 -- Enemy Combatants and Unprivileged Enemy Belligerents

      It's another Friday, and time to show what I could come up with on the next item in my "Fourteen Signposts to Slavery" series.  Here's a quick re-cap so far --

      Signpost 1 -- Restrictions on taking money out of the country and on the establishment or retention of a foreign bank account by an American citizen. -- CHECK

      Signpost 2 -- Abolition of private ownership of hand guns.  -- NOPE (though many publicly-opposed efforts have been made to restrict gun ownership)

      Now, on to today's item of interest --

      Signpost 3 --Detention of individuals without judicial process.

      Habeas corpus, or the right to petition against unlawful imprisonment, has been a part of American law since its very inception.  The Founding Fathers understood that unless individuals who were imprisoned had the ability to protest that their detention was wrongful, a government could potentially destroy the liberty of the people and enslave whomever it wanted.  Clearly, this was the exact type of thing the authors of the Constitution sought to avoid.

      "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."  
      (Article 1, Section 9, U.S. Constitution)

      Further, Amendment 5 of the Bill of Rights specifies that "No person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. . ."

      With these safeguards in place, a government would be more likely to remain in its proper place as a servant to the people, not vice versa.

      With the law on habeas corpus, a stipulation was made that during extenuating circumstances of rebellion and invasion, individuals taken prisoner might temporarily be stripped of this right if the government was too strapped to handle due process at that time.  

      Indeed, during the Civil War President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus for a period because of insurrection in Maryland and the mid-West.  Once the war was over, prisoners were dealt with and the privilege of habeas corpus was again extended to the citizenry at large.

      Habeas corpus was suspended for some Ku Klux Klan members in the 1870's in some part of South Carolina apparently due to their interference in Reconstruction efforts. It was also suspended in Hawaii from 1942-44 in the aftermath of WWII, though not without opposition from some Americans.

      Fast forward a few years and you'll find that President Clinton signed a law into effect, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, part of Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America", in which prisoners were given a 1-year statute of limitation in which to petition any wrongful imprisonment and federal judges were given limitations on granting relief to petitioners.  This new legislation was proposed after the Oklahoma City bombing, and was subsequently criticized as not only ineffective against preventing terrorism, but eroding rights granted in the Constitution.

      In fact, Congress had rejected some of the proposals that were eventually passed in 1996 as part of this Act when they had been put on the table by Reagan and Bush Sr. in earlier years.  Specifically, Congress had opposed laws enacting "guilt by association, association as grounds for exclusion or deportation, the ban on supporting lawful activities of groups labeled terrorist, the use of secret evidence, and the empowerment of the Secretary of State to designate groups as terrorist organizations, without judicial or congressional review." (1)

      After the Oklahoma City bombing, Congress was much more willing to comply.

      Skipping ahead to 2001, we have another tragic event blamed on terrorism that leads to an even greater restriction of the rights of individuals taken prisoner and presumed to be terrorists.  On September 18, 2001, Congress enacted the War Powers Resolution, which stated:

      "That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."

      Further, "using the authorization granted to him by Congress, on 13 November 2001, President Bush issued a Presidential Military Order: 'Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism' which allowed 'individuals ... to be detained, and, when tried, to be tried for violations of the laws of war and other applicable laws by military tribunals', where such individuals are a member of the organization known as al Qa'ida; or has conspired or committed acts of international terrorism, or have as their aim to cause, injury to or adverse effects on the United States, its citizens, national security, foreign policy, or economy. The order also specifies that the detainees are to be treated humanely.

      The length of time for which a detention of such individuals can continue before being tried by a military tribunal is not specified in the military order. The military order uses the term 'detainees' to describe the individuals detained under the military order. The U.S. administration chooses to describe the detainees held under the military order as 'illegal enemy combatants'." (2)

      After the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, the individuals it detained were held under this military order, going against the Geneva Convention's guidelines on the treatment of prisoners of war. 

      Thousands were rounded up and shipped off to Guantanamo Bay without recourse for an indefinite period, where some of them were subject to treatment that sounds pretty cruel and unusual to me!

      Further, under the USA PATRIOT Act, a non-citizen charged with an immigration violation became subject to mandatory detention and was "ineligible for release until he [was] removed, or until the Attorney General determines that he should no longer be certified as a terrorist." (3)

      Many left-wing politicians and citizens quickly became disgusted with the U.S. policies of detention and torture, while right-wingers claimed it was all necessary and for our good.

      President Obama to the Rescue?

      In 2008, Obama campaigned for president with the promise that he would close the Guantanamo Bay prison within his first year of office.  Once elected, he made efforts to do so and came across some road blocks.

      The most recent development with the closing of Gitmo is the proposition that prisoners be transferred to a prison Thomson, IL.  Obama himself admitted that some prisoners would probably still be detained indefinitely without trial.  Chris Anders of the ACLU argues that "There is a right way and a wrong way to close Guantanamo, and the current Thomson plan is the wrong way. Indefinite detention without charge or trial and military commission-related detention shouldn’t simply be moved from Guantanamo to Illinois.Opening Thomson without prohibiting the worst of Guantanamo policies from being transported there would be an enormous step backwards." (4)

      Lastly, to fill out the landscape of indefinite detention without trial in America or enacted by the American government, let’s turn out attention to the new McCain-Lieberman bill introduced this March.  Apparently designed to prevent any future underwear bombers from harrassing the American populace, this bill would allow the government to detain anyone suspected of terrorism without charge, without trial, and without any Miranda Rights.

      McCain defended the bill claiming that "deliberate mass attacks that intentionally target hundreds of innocent civilians are an act of war and should not be dealt with in the same manner as a robbery.  We must recognize the difference." (5)



      Here are my thoughts.  The only way our government could get away with trampling on the right to protest wrongful imprisonment and have due process of law if imprisoned, would be to package it in some attractive way.  Both Democrat and Republican leaders have participated (sure glad I voted for neither Obama nor McCain).

      The claim that these measures will protect America from terrorist attacks has proven a sufficient justification for many in government and amongst the populace. 

      I am not convinced that the risk of terrorist attacks outweighs the risk of growing governmental tyranny.

      Signpost 3 --Detention of individuals without judicial process.  CHECK

      What do you think?


      Friday, April 2, 2010

      Signpost 2 -- "From My Cold, Dead Hands"

      Today's post is a continuation of my commentary on each of the Fourteen Signposts to Slavery outlined in a previous article.
      Signpost 2 -- Abolition of private ownership of hand guns.

      We all know that Americans still enjoy the right to bear arms, so this is at least one signpost (thank goodness!) that is not currently in affect!

      In fact, millions of Americans would echo the sentiments of the late Charlton Heston, and would relinquish their right to own a gun only if pried "from [their] cold, dead hands."

      Others argue that gun ownership should be strictly controlled in order to prevent gun accidents, crimes, and murders.

      Personally, I kind of hate guns.  But I am an absolute supporter of the right to own a gun.  Why?  Because it is a guaranteed Constitutional right, and I support the right of Americans to do as they choose as long as it does not infringe upon the life and liberty of others.  Owning a gun does not equal mis-using it in crimes and murders.

      It would be ridiculous for me to think I could provide a detailed and comprehensive presentation of the pro's and con's of gun rights and gun control on this post today.  This is not a topic I have studied extensively in the past, and there are probably millions of people out there more qualified to write about this topic than I am.

      So instead of attempting to broach this topic myself, I would like to know my readers' opinions.

      What do you think about gun control and the right to bear arms?