Daily Archives: April 18, 2012

Shredding the Constitution

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By Janet Levy

The U.S. Constitution, which has guided American society for over two centuries, inspiring nations worldwide and serving as a model for governance, is under serious threat today.  Ironically, that threat comes from the very individuals charged with protecting the Constitution — federal, state, and local government officials.

All these public officials take an oath to support the Constitution and to refrain from actions or laws that interfere with individual rights and liberties specified in the Constitution.  Yet President Obama and officials all along the way down to local police chiefs are today actively engaged in the daily shredding of the U.S. Constitution.

The Obama administration has expanded its executive branch powers under a comprehensive czar system and myriad executive orders.  Meanwhile, Congress quietly passes questionable legislation with the potential to limit personal freedoms — and U.S. agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), engage in activities that raise serious concerns about constitutional violations.  Even local law enforcement officials have become increasingly intrusive and hostile to civil liberties.

Several dramatic examples illustrate this growing problem and highlight the need for increased vigilance and public scrutiny if we are to remain a constitutional republic with our individual rights intact.

Obama Administration

Obama has established a precedent of not working with legislators from both parties to pass congressional bills, instead resorting to changing laws and policies through executive fiat.  With over 40 czars controlling various functions, he has structured a second tier of unaccountable government officials that operate behind the scenes away from the glare of public scrutiny.  This shadow government undermines Congress, the people’s representatives, and the Cabinet secretaries who undergo a Senate vetting process.  It subverts the foundational principle of government by representation for government by proxy.

A dramatic example is the Council of Governors, established in January 2010 when Obama signed Executive Order 13528.  The stated intent was to solidify the relationship between the federal and state governments and protect the nation.  State governors representing ten FEMA regions in the United States were appointed and serve at the pleasure of the president to “represent the Nation as a whole.”  Their duties include “reviewing matters related to the National Guard of the various states, homeland defense, synchronization and integration of State and Federal military activities in the United States[.]”

Also on board are the secretaries of defense and homeland security, the U.S. Northern Command commander, the commandant of the Coast Guard, the chief of the National Guard, and other federal officials.  The secretary of defense designates an executive director.

One small problem: the Council in effect ignores the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, a law that bars the military from exercising domestic police powers.  The Council’s existence also erodes the power of the states and their ability to control their militias.

Meanwhile, on Friday afternoon, March 16, with little fanfare, Obama issued another executive order, the National Defense Resources Preparedness Order.  In this one, he granted himself absolute power over all American resources during times of peace and national emergency, including food, water, livestock, plants, energy, health resources, transportation, and construction material — all without the consent of Congress and the American people.  Although this represented an amendment to an existing order, the new phrase, “under both emergency and non-emergency conditions,” fueled speculation that the new order could allow peacetime martial law.

As for who has the authority to declare war, the Obama administration apparently believes that it has no need to consult Congress, although the power to declare war is clearly enumerated to Congress in the U.S. Constitution.  In March, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta denied any need for Congressional involvement and explained that the administration would instead seek permission from NATO and the U.N. for an “international legal basis” to commit U.S. troops abroad.  This, despite the fact that our country’s founders clearly specified that only Congress shall declare war so that the People could be closely involved in a decision that could gravely impact their lives.

Congress

Congress, meanwhile, in February passed the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011.  Signed into law by President Obama in March, the act empowers the Secret Service to designate areas in which free speech, association, and redress of government grievances are prohibited, even temporarily for specific events or if individuals are attending who are protected by Secret Service.  Under the Act, anyone who congregates in a restricted area may be prosecuted and, if found guilty, imprisoned for up to ten years.  In other words, Secret Service agents may decide where to create “no free speech zones” in which protests may be banned and protestors subject to arrest.  This constitutes blatant government suppression of speech.

Also in February, Congress passed a $63-billion FAA appropriations bill, H.R. 658, that could result in up to 30,000 unmanned aerial vehicles surveilling the United States by the end of the decade.  The bill authorizes the government to fly across the country conducting warrantless aerial searches but fails to address serious privacy issues raised by the drones.  These unmanned aircraft have sensitive surveillance technology to see, hear and record, including GPS, high-power zooming, infrared, ultraviolet, and see-through capabilities.

Federal Departments

Also involved with drones is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), currently building its drone fleet for deployment along U.S. borders, allegedly to curtail the flow of human trafficking, weapons, and contraband.  This stated use for DHS drones seems suspect in light of a recent DHS order for an unprecedented 450 million rounds of hollow-point ammunition.  As has been demonstrated in Afghanistan and Pakistan, drones are capable of being weaponized and also hacked and captured by opposition forces.  All of this deserves heightened concern in light of the ill-fated Fast and Furious operation, in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the supervision of the Holder Justice Department, put weapons into the hands of Mexico’s narco-terrorists and then lost track of the firearms.  The guns were linked to crimes, including the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

Further, recent policies belie the stated purpose for employing drones.  The Justice Department is suing Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and Utah for upholding immigration laws that are mirror-images of federal illegal immigration statutes, and the DHS is blocking deportation of illegal immigrants.  Meanwhile, Obama signed an executive order to stop the automatic deportation of illegal aliens.

Local Government

On the local government level, the New York police department is testing gun detection technology with a scanner placed on police vehicles to reveal concealed weapons.  This could constitute a violation of Second Amendment rights to bear arms as well as a challenge to the 4th Amendment, which prohibits illegal search and seizure.  Broad use of this new technology represents a trespass on personal property for information-gathering when a reasonable expectation of privacy exists and law enforcement lacks a judicially sanctioned warrant, which would check police power.

Police have also stepped up their attacks against the First Amendment right to religious expression.  In May 2010, when junior high school students from an Arizona Christian academy visited the U.S. Supreme Court on a field trip and stopped to pray outside the building, a police officer abruptly interrupted their prayers and ordered the group to stop.  The students were told they were violating the law.  Later, a public information officer for the court stated that no policy prohibits prayer.

In Dearborn, Michigan, in June, 2010, a pastor and two lay Christians were arrested outside an Arab festival, under the pretense that they were blocking a tent entrance, creating a public danger, and “screaming into a crowd.”  Video footage of the event clearly showed that this was untrue.  Last year, an assistant evangelical pastor from a Southern California church and two church members were arrested by the California Highway Patrol for reading the Bible outside a DMV office to those waiting in line almost an hour before opening time.  Although the Christians were 50 feet away from the entrance, they were cited for “impeding an open business.”

On an individual basis, any of the above orders, laws, and actions might seem innocuous and make concerns over government usurpation and abuse of power seem exaggerated and unsubstantiated.  However, taken collectively, they represent an alarming trend of a small and steady overthrow of our constitutional guarantees and liberties by elected representatives and unelected government officials.

At a time when the president is using the EPA to limit access to vital energy resources and to impinge on private property rights and has instituted an unpopular, unprecedented mandate to purchase government health care under threat of legal action, the fight for constitutional restraint couldn’t be more critical.  If Americans can be ordered to purchase health care and prohibited from the free and clear use of their private property, where does it end?  Are our rights, guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, safe?

The Constitution’s unprecedented fundamentals — separation of powers among the three branches of government with its enumerated powers and checks and balances, the principle of limited government and the concept of a government that exists solely to represent the interests of the governed — were exquisitely designed to protect the natural liberties of the people and prevent government tyranny.  The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, guarantees specific personal freedoms, limits the government’s power in judicial proceedings, and reserves all unspecified power for the states.  The time to reaffirm and reinvigorate these constitutional principles, to limit government power, and to preserve individual liberties is now.

Read more: American Thinker

The Obama Oil Embargo

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David Kreutzer, Ph.D.
April 18, 2012 at 6:46 am

From canceling oil leases in his second week in office to denying the XL Pipeline this year President Obama and his administration have offered up a non-stop assault on affordable energy.  Now that high gasoline prices have come home to roost, the president is flailing around for an energy policy.

His recent attempts at energy policy include:

  • Nobody can do anything about high gasoline prices.
  • Maybe I should release crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
  • There is a lot of drilling that I haven’t been able to stop.  Don’t I get credit for that?

The latest attempt is to blame everything on speculators.  And why not?  Previous polling shows that 80 percent of Americans believe petroleum price spikes are caused by speculation, which means no more than 20 percent believe it is caused by the fundamentals of supply and demand.

There are several flaws in “the speculators did it” theory.  The first is why do they only do it occasionally?  That is, why don’t speculators want to make unconscionable profits all the time?

Second, why do the index funds and all the other bad guys only speculate in oil?  Where are the profiteering speculators in natural gas, whose current price is about half of what it averaged over the last decade?

Third, there are sophisticated traders on both sides of the petroleum markets.  For every speculator who makes money on a trade, somebody else will lose money.  Blaming speculators on continued price increases requires an endless string of chumps to take the other side of the speculators’ deals.  If anybody should be the chumps, it should be the newbies from the insurance industry and hedge funds, but they are at the top of the most-wanted list.

Finally, for speculation to drive up prices, the speculators must either cause oil production to slow down (which they haven’t) or to pull oil off the market.  If the flow of petroleum and its products remains unchanged, the price at the pump will not change.  If petroleum is pulled off the market, which can happen even though there are limits to what can be stored, it will eventually come back on the market.  And the question becomes, “When the oil comes back on the market, is the price higher or lower than when it was pulled off the market?”  The price will only be higher if the amount supplied at that time is lower or the demand is higher.  In either of those cases, speculators have helped moderate price fluctuations and will be rewarded with profits.  If the price is lower, then the speculators did a bad thing and will be punished by losing money.

The real problem is that combating high gasoline prices requires a greater supply, and this administration’s policies have pushed the other way.  It seems the administration does not really want lower gasoline prices.  Steven Chu, Obama’s non-car-owning Secretary of Energy, famously said we need to get our gasoline prices up to the $8-$10/gallon level they are in Europe.

imageUnfortunately for the president, the voters want more gasoline and lower prices.  So, in the time-honored Washington tradition, he creates a boogeyman and blames his energy failures on speculators.

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The NDAA, The TSA, 30,000 Drones in the Sky by 2020? Is This Still the Land of the Free?

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Posted on April 18, 2012
by Nick Sorrentino

From the Jack Hunter comes this piece. Apparently there are some conservatives on the Hill who are seeking the repeal (or to at least amend) the National Defense Authorization Act which gives the president the authority (though in the Constitution there is none) to detain American citizens indefinitely and without due process. Good on ya House GOP. Though I don’t see leadership endorsing the effort.

To date the push has been led by Republican Congressman Justin Amash, a real shining light of liberty and hopefully a rising star in the House too.  He seeks to raise the profile of the NDAA, and to the degree that we can we seek to help him.

The NDAA is un-American. It is a blot on our country. Never should such power be given to the president. Never.

It is of such concern that recently in Worcester Massachusetts a group of Occupiers and a group of TEA Partiers got together for an afternoon to protest this horrible law. That’s something!

Sadly however the surveillance state continues to grow.

We now live in a society where the TSA can and does accost us every time we get on a flight. We must now take off our shoes, belts, toss out our shampoo, potentially get felt up, and be subject to doses of radiation just to get on a plane.

We have robot cameras on highways issuing speeding tickets. One camera in Washington DC across from the German embassy has issued “tens of thousands.” I heard this morning that someone actually hired a guy to stand with a sign beside the road warning drivers of the camera.

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The Department of Homeland Security is a beast that continues to rage out of control. It, along with other law “enforcement” agencies will soon deploy drones in American airspace. By 2020 the FAA anticipates that there will be 30,000 drones patrolling the skies.  How can a country which calls itself the “Land of the Free” allow this to happen? We will be watched everywhere we go. And why? Because we must thwart terrorism!

I’m sorry but I am WAY more concerned about 30,000 drones peering into the lives of everyday Americans than I am about acts of terrorism. I feel like if we have 30,000 drones flying around watching us then the terrorists it can be said have won. We have abandoned our western liberal ways for an almost subhuman existence in may respects. It certainly is not the life of a “citizen.” Citizens are free people.

We are heading down a very dangerous road here. If Americans don’t really start to buck the surveillance state now, they will never throw it off. But alas, we are all too busy, with jobs, and children, and bills, to notice that the sun is increasingly being blocked out by the government eye in the sky.

The cherry on the surveillance sundae is that as our liberties slip away, one at a time, there are people making big bucks off of every slip.

Looks like Orwell was only off by a few decades.

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Rosneft Estimates 90 Bboe in Exxon-Rosneft Projects

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by  Dow Jones Newswires
Angel Gonzalez
Wednesday, April 18, 2012

NEW YORK – Russian energy Czar Igor Sechin said Wednesday that U.S.-Russia economic relations still don’t reflect their full potential, but that opportunities to tap Russia’s massive oil reserves will provide opportunities for that to change.

At an event in New York describing details of Exxon Mobil Corp.‘s deal with OAO Rosneft, Sechin, who is Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, said that “the time has come in Russia-U.S. relations for a step-up in the level of practical and real projects.”

The partnership between Exxon and Rosneft could give the companies access to about 90 billion barrels of oil equivalent in estimated resources from the Arctic Ocean and the Black Sea, Rosneft said Wednesday.

In a video presented to analysts in New York, Rosneft said that the partnership would drill its first wells at the Kara Sea in the Arctic Ocean as early as 2014-2015, with a final investment decision on full-scale development expected by 2016-2017. Sechin said that Kara Sea production is estimated to begin around 2027.

The Exxon-Rosneft deal comes in the wake of the Russian government’s efforts to step up the development of new oil production regions, especially in the Arctic. Sechin said that about 5% of oil output to come from new regions by 2020, and up to 40% by 2030.

“We recognize that the implementation of such projects will require strong and consistent support of the state,” which aims to ensure transparent terms of access to the new fields, Sechin said.

Sechin said that under new rules, tax rates were defined for different types of operational conditions. Exxon-Rosneft projects in the Kara Sea will have a royalty of 5%. Royalty levels for deepwater projects in the Black Sea will be 10%, Sechin said.

Long-term investment in offshore development is estimated to exceed $500 billion, Sechin added, creating more than 300,000 jobs.

Overall, the large scale investments needed to tap Russia’s massive oil and gas wealth provides an “enormous potential for U.S.-Russia cooperation, which ought to help us to overcome our over-politicized relationship,” he said.

Such large projects “will be welcomed and will find strong support of the Russian government,” Sechin said.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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The TSA’s mission creep is making the US a police state

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A TSA 'viper' (VIPR) team patrolling mass transit

The out-of-control Transportation Security Administration is past patdowns at airports – now it’s checkpoints and roadblocks

Jennifer Abel
guardian.co.uk,
Wednesday 18 April 2012 15.42 BST

Ever since 2010, when the Transportation Security Administration started requiring that travelers in American airports submit to sexually intrusive gropings based on the apparent anti-terrorism principle that “If we can’t feel your nipples, they must be a bomb”, the agency’s craven apologists have shouted down all constitutional or human rights objections with the mantra “If you don’t like it, don’t fly!”

This callous disregard for travelers’ rights merely paraphrases the words of Homeland Security director Janet Napolitano, who shares, with the president, ultimate responsibility for all TSA travesties since 2009. In November 2010, with the groping policy only a few weeks old, Napolitano dismissed complaints by saying “people [who] want to travel by some other means” have that right. (In other words: if you don’t like it, don’t fly.)

But now TSA is invading travel by other means, too. No surprise, really: as soon as she established groping in airports, Napolitano expressed her desire to expand TSA jurisdiction over all forms of mass transit. In the past year, TSA’s snakelike VIPR (Visual Intermodal Prevention and Response) teams have been slithering into more and more bus and train stations – and even running checkpoints on highways – never in response to actual threats, but apparently more in an attempt to live up to the inspirational motto displayed at the TSA’s air marshal training center since the agency’s inception: “Dominate. Intimidate. Control.”

Anyone who rode the bus in Houston, Texas during the 2-10pm shift last Friday faced random bag checks and sweeps by both drug-sniffing dogs and bomb-sniffing dogs (the latter being only canines necessary if “preventing terrorism” were the actual intent of these raids), all courtesy of a joint effort between TSA VIPR nests and three different local and county-level police departments. The new Napolitano doctrine, then: “Show us your papers, show us everything you’ve got, justify yourself or you’re not allowed to go about your everyday business.”

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee praised these violations of her constituents’ rights with an explanation asinine even by congressional standards:

“We’re looking to make sure that the lady I saw walking with a cane … knows that Metro cares as much about her as we do about building the light rail.”

See, if you don’t support the random harassment of ordinary people riding the bus to work, you’re a callous bastard who doesn’t care about little old ladies.

No specific threats or reasons were cited for the raids, as the government no longer even pretends to need any. Vipers bite you just because they can. TSA spokesman Jim Fotenos confirmed this a few days before the Houston raids, when VIPR teams and local police did the same thing to travelers catching trains out of the Amtrak station in Alton, Illinois. Fotenos confirmed that “It was not in response to a specific threat,” and bragged that VIPR teams conduct “thousands” of these operations each year.

Still, apologists can pretend that’s all good, pretend constitutional and human rights somehow don’t apply to mass transit, and twist their minds into the Mobius pretzel shapes necessary to find random searches of everyday travelers compatible with any notion that America is a free country. “Don’t like the new rules for mass transit? Then drive.”

Except even that doesn’t work anymore. Earlier this month, the VIPRs came out again in Virginia and infested the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, also known as the stretch of Interstate 64 connecting the cities of Hampton and Norfolk. Spokesmen admitted again that the exercise was a “routine sweep”, not a response to any specific threat. Official news outlets admitted the checkpoint caused a delay (further exacerbated by a couple of accidents), but didn’t say for how long. Local commenters at the Travel Underground forums reported delays of 90 minutes.

I grew up in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. When I was a kid, my dad crossed the bridge-tunnel every day while commuting to work. When I was in university, I did the same thing. The old conventional wisdom said “Get to the airport at least two hours early, so TSA has time to violate your constitutional rights before boarding.” What’s the new conventional wisdom – “Leave for any destination at least 90 minutes early, so TSA can violate your rights en route”?

Airports, bus terminals, train stations, highways – what’s left? If you don’t like it, walk. And remember to be respectfully submissive to any TSA agents or police you encounter in your travels, especially now that the US supreme court has ruled mass strip-searches are acceptable for anyone arrested for even the most minor offence in America. If you’re rude to any TSA agent or cops, you risk being arrested on some vague catch-all charge like “disorderly conduct”. Even if the charges are later dropped, you’ll still undergo the ritual humiliation of having to strip, squat, spread ‘em and show your various orifices to be empty.

Can I call America a police state now, without being accused of hyperbole?

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Euro currency could collapse and trigger another Great Depression, IMF warns for the first time

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End of the Euro?: The IMF warns that one country leaving the single currency could force its entire collapse

By Hugo Duncan
PUBLISHED: 12:45 EST, 17 April 2012
UPDATED: 04:28 EST, 18 April 2012

The eurozone could break up and trigger a global economic slump to rival the Great Depression, the IMF warned last night.

In its World Economic Outlook report, the International Monetary Fund said the collapse of the crisis-torn single currency could not be ruled out.

It was the first time the Washington-based institution has accepted the prospect of the eurozone splitting up and follows fears over the health of the Spanish economy.

The IMF predicted a return to recession in the eurozone this year but upgraded its growth forecasts for Britain.

However, it warned that the world remains at risk of collapsing into a slump that would rival the Great Depression – with ‘acute risks in Europe’ the major threat.

‘Things have quietened down but there is a very uneasy calm,’ said IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard. ‘I have a feeling that at any moment things could get very bad again.’

Speaking at the launch of the half-yearly report in Washington, Mr Blanchard said there was ‘no plan’ in place to deal with a country leaving the euro.

However Greece is widely expected to default on its crippling debts and quit the doomed single currency.

‘If such an event occurs, it is possible that other euro area economies would come under severe pressure as well, with a full-blown panic in financial markets,’ the IMF report said.

‘Under these circumstances, a break-up of the euro area could not be ruled out. This could cause major political shocks that could aggravate economic stress to levels well above those after the Lehman collapse.’

U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers imploded in September 2008 – plunging the world economy into the worst recession since the 1930s. The IMF said that although ‘the outlook for the global economy is slowly improving again’ it is ‘still very fragile’.

It warned of the ‘possibility that several adverse shocks could interact to produce a major slump reminiscent of the 1930s’.

The IMF forecast growth of 0.8 per cent in Britain this year – more than the 0.6 per cent it predicted in January, but less than last September’s target of 1.6 per cent. Its 2013 forecast was unchanged at  2 per cent.

Asked about the IMF’s comments on the eurozone, a Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The eurozone still needs to get its house in order. Those issues still exist and no doubt will be a focus of discussions at the coming meeting of the IMF towards the end of the week, which the Chancellor will be attending.’

The IMF said Britain will outperform Germany and France this year – their economies are expected to grow by just 0.6 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively.

The Italian and Spanish economies are forecast to decline by 1.9 per cent and 1.8 per cent, while a slump of 4.7 per cent is expected in Greece following a 6.9 per cent drop in 2011.

But the report warned that output in the eurozone could fall by 3.5 per cent over the next two years if the debt crisis escalates.

This would knock 2 per cent off the world economy, said the IMF, while a 50 per cent rise in the oil price would lower output by a further 1.25 per cent.

In the absence of such ‘shocks’ the global economy is expected to grow by 3.5 per cent this year, down from 3.9 per cent in 2011, with the U.S., Canada and Japan leading the way in the developed world.

‘Because of the problems in Europe, activity will continue to disappoint in the advanced economies as a group, expanding by only about 1.5 per cent in 2012 and by 2 per cent in 2013,’ said the report.

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