Friday, June 16, 2006

Alito, Court Trash Fourth Amendment

Newly appointed Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito cast the decisive vote in greatly expanding the search and seizure powers of the police while crippling the Fourth Amendment in the process. (San Francisco Chronicle: Police intrusion for evidence allowed
Knock, announce not always needed, high court rules

The Supreme Court claims that police intrusions onto private property are already protected by other means, citing "the increasing professionalism of police forces" as one such measure. Forgive me if I don't trust the professionalism of the police force to be a deterrent in violating search and seizure protections built into the US Constitution. Professional or not, the police will take and use as much authority as they are granted and will continue to attempt to extend that authority. There is a very good reason that law enforcement and the courts are not in the same branch of government. Unfortunately, the current Supreme Court is failing to provide the proper checks and balances against unlawful procedures by the police.

With today's ruling, any evidence seized during an unlawful search would still be admissible. It would no longer be considered tainted, thus eliminating any real need to avoid an unlawful search in the first place. With this ruling, the 4th Amendment suddenly becomes unenforceable.

Since the early 1970s there has been a constant erosion into the constitutional protections granted the citizens of the US. This ruling by the court is only the latest in a series of moves that transcend every administration since Nixon. Certainly aspects of the Patriot Act and the "security-mania" environment post-9/11 have fueled the move, but the truth is this erosion is not unique to either Republican or Democrat administrations nor is it something new. Both are equally guilty in eroding our rights. (Remember, it was Bill Clinton that issued executive orders authorizing the search of Section 8 housing without warrants on the grounds that they were funded by the government.)

If anyone wonders why the first and second amendments exist, this is precisely the reason. So where is the outrage from the press? Freedom of the Press exists to expose this type of abuse, to make the public aware of what's happening, and to stimulate the reactions necessary to counter it. The press should be all over this one, but somehow I doubt there will be much of a stir. Personally, I'm steaming. I very much fear that we are spiraling into a police state, and worse yet I fear that we're doing it with the consent of the people. Freedoms lost are never regained, and right now we're losing rights by the bushel.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

UN's Brown Whines About US Support

UN deputy Mark Malloch Brown openly criticised US support for the UN in a widely publicised speech yesterday. Brown complained that the US is undermining the UN and using it as a political tool without defending the UN against criticisms at home. According to Brown, "The prevailing practice of seeking to use the UN almost by stealth as a diplomatic tool while failing to stand up for it against its domestic critics is simply not sustainable. You will lose the UN one way or another." (Telegraph: US failing to aid the UN, says Annan's deputy.)

Lose the UN? Could we ever get so lucky? Like the League of Nations before it, the UN's best course of action would be to fade into the distant memory of a failed history. Idealistic at best, the UN is an exercise in incompetence and a recipe for corruption. It is not the US that is failing to aid the UN, it is the UN that is failing itself.

The United States currently spends over $3 Billion on the UN; more than any other nation on the planet. The US also provides more troops for UN missions than any other nation on the planet. When it comes to supporting the UN, The US and the American taxpayer do far more than any other nation and bear a far higher burden than any other taxpayer. What Mr. Brown seems to fail to understand is that without the United States there is no UN. Just as the League of Nations folded without US support, so too will the UN.

It's high time we drove that point home. It's time we stopped using American troops as the UN's military force. Let the rest of the world take up that burden for a change. It's time we stopped wasting $3 Billion dollars per year on a grand debating society. That money is far better spent at home. It's time we reclaimed some prime real estate in Manhattan. Let some other nation host this collective body of leeches who's sole purpose seems to be to prolong any given crisis. It's time for the UN to fade into distant memory.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Chavez' Luster Wearing Off

Peruvians voiced a resounding "NO" to Hugo Chavez in this week's election of Alan Garcia as President of Peru. In the weeks leading up to the election, pro-Chavez candidate Ollanta Humala had a commanding lead. That is, he lead before Chavez stepped in, attempting to assert his own stamp on Peru's elections. The move backfired, giving pro-American candidate Garcia the victory. (VCrisis: The impact of Alan Garcia's victory on the Latin American political scenario.)

Peru is not the only place where Chavez is starting to feel the heat. Attempts to influence elections in Mexico are being met with the same resistance as was seen in Peru. Given the choice between allying themselves with the US or with Venezuela, it's unlikely Mexicans will choose the latter.

Even Chavez' luster in Bolivia is beginning to wear thin. His attitude toward recently elected Evo Morales is being viewed by Bolivians as patronizing and, in many cases, downright insulting. Morales is starting to chafe at being perceived as a Chavez puppet while the Bolivian people are growing increasingly angry at Chavez' public antics that are seen to demean Morales.

Further south, Brazil and Chile want little to do with Chavez. The election of Garcia in Peru effectively presents a united anti-Chavez front controlling most of South America. Even Kirchner in Argentina is wavering in support of Chavez, accepting money from the Venezuelan government but offering very little in return.

Chavez may well find himself isolated. What was once seen as a tidal wave of anti-American sentiment south of the border has now rebounded into a very loud anti-Chavez chorus. Perhaps now Latin America will see that it is the support of the US, not socialist Venezuela, that can bolster their economy, improve their infrastructure, provide jobs, and educate their children.