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Political-Party Platforms Don’t Matter, the Media Say, but ... PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Herb Strentz   
Tuesday, 27 July 2010 05:26

Two things you should know about the 2010 platform of the Iowa Republican Party:

(1) The document of some 12,000 words and almost 370 planks is a fascinating and provocative read. The work is a great candidate for any time capsule so people 100 or more years from now can see how their ancestors approached issues of public policy.

(2) The news media in general, and The Des Moines Register in particular, continue to ignore party platforms as irrelevant to the 2010 election.

The state convention of the Iowa GOP came and went with news coverage given to the nominations of Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds for governor and lieutenant governor. Little or no news coverage was given to the GOP platform.

There seldom is.

 
New Hope for Freedom: Fully Informed Juries PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Don Doig   
Tuesday, 13 July 2010 05:57

(Editor's note: A feature article on jury nullification -- "'A Law Unto Themselves': Jury Nullification and the Deck Stacked Against It" -- can be found here.)

With the resurgence of the ideals of free markets and individual liberty throughout the world, an English and American common-law tradition is being resurrected in the United States that has profound implications for emerging democracies. This idea, incorporated into the constitutions of nations, can provide a lasting barrier against the assumption of arbitrary power by government.

The founders of the United States were worried that the government might someday grow too powerful, and pass laws that would violate the rights of the very people the government was created to protect: ordinary, peaceful citizens. They knew there was one institution that might hold the government in check: the right to a trial by a jury of one's peers.

How can a jury protect people from arbitrary and unjust prosecution, or from bad laws? The legislature creates laws. Aren't citizens supposed to obey them, and lobby their legislators for any changes that need to be made?

Traditionally, U.S. citizens have had a more substantial and direct means by which to protect themselves from oppressive laws. The founders of the United States realized that the temptations of power were too great to leave it to the legislature, executive, and judicial branches of government to define citizens' rights. Ultimately, citizens acting in accordance with the dictates of individual conscience were to have final say. The people would have a veto power over bad laws.

 
Drones Over America: Tyranny at Home PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Wednesday, 07 July 2010 05:40

"A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home." - James Madison

The U.S. government has a history of commandeering military technology for use against Americans. We saw this happen with tear gas, Tasers, and sound cannons, all of which were first used on the battlefield before being deployed against civilians at home. Now the drones - pilotless, remote-controlled aircraft that have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan - are coming home to roost.

Drones, a $2-billion cornerstone of the Obama administration's war efforts, have increasingly found favor with both military and-law enforcement officials. "The more we have used them," stated Defense Secretary Robert Gates, "the more we have identified their potential in a broader and broader set of circumstances."

Now the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is facing mounting pressure from state governments and localities to issue flying rights for a range of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to carry out civilian and law-enforcement activities. As the Associated Press reports, "Tornado researchers want to send them into storms to gather data. Energy companies want to use them to monitor pipelines. State police hope to send them up to capture images of speeding cars' license plates. Local police envision using them to track fleeing suspects." Unfortunately, to a drone, everyone is a suspect because drone technology makes no distinction between the law-abiding individual and the suspect. Everyone gets monitored, photographed, tracked, and targeted.

 
What Price Freedom? PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Wednesday, 30 June 2010 14:49

Let me tell you about 56 men who risked everything -- their fortunes and their lives -- to take a stand for truth. These men laid everything on the line, pledged it all -- "our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor" -- because they believed in a radical idea: that all people are created to be free. They believed that freedom is a spiritual concept in that the rights we possess are, in their words, given to us by the Creator. Let me emphasize: At the heart of these rights is a radical freedom, the freedom to speak, to dissent, to protest, and to seek relief, if necessary, against an unjust government -- that is, one that won't listen to the people.

 
The Folly of Blindly Trusting the Government PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by James Bovard   
Tuesday, 15 June 2010 07:29

Democracy breeds gullibility. Lord Bryce observed in 1921, "State action became less distrusted the more the State itself was seen to be passing under popular control." The rise of democracy made it much easier for politicians to convince people that government posed no threat, because they automatically controlled its actions. The result is that the brakes on government power become weakest at the exact time that politicians are most dangerous.

Blind trust becomes a substitute for informed consent. But mass trust in government compounds the political damage brought about by pervasive ignorance.

The bias in favor of trusting government brings out democracy's worst tendencies. The normal defenses that people would have against alien authority are undermined by a chorus of politicians and government officials continually reminding people that government is themselves, and they cannot distrust the government without distrusting themselves.

 
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