Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Civil Liberties...

From Secrecy News...


The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that was supposed to provide independent oversight of U.S. counterterrorism policies remains dormant and out of service because its members have still not been named and confirmed.

In a report that was newly updated this month, the Congressional Research Service traced the origins of the Board from a recommendation by the 9/11 Commission through its initial establishment as a White House agency to its reconstitution as an independent agency chartered by statute in 2007.

The Board was assigned two overriding missions: It was supposed to "analyze and review actions the executive branch takes to protect the Nation from terrorism, ensuring that the need for such actions is balanced with the need to protect privacy and civil liberties"; and to "ensure that liberty concerns are appropriately considered in the development and implementation of laws, regulations, and policies related to efforts to protect the Nation against terrorism."

So had the Board been functional, it might have been a valuable participant in current deliberations over military detention authority, for example. It might also have conducted investigative oversight into any number of other counterterrorism policies, as mandated by law. But for all practical purposes, there is no Board.

Last January, President Obama named Elizabeth C. Cook and James X. Dempsey to serve on the Board. The Senate has not acted on their nomination. Even if they had been confirmed, however, they would not have constituted a quorum. Thus, the Board's activation is still dependent on presidential nomination of additional Board members. See "Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board: New Independent Agency Status," November 14, 2011.
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The Secrecy News Blog is at:


Monday, November 21, 2011

You Think? You Believe?

Believing doesn't always mean thinking


Keith Taylor

Here we go again. A small group of veterans erected a cross at Camp Pendleton to commemorate Major Zembiec, Major Mendoza, Lance Corporal Austin, and Lance Corporal Zurheide. All were once stationed at the huge base, and all were killed in action.

And once again we see protesters. And the argument is underway. The question they will be asked is do they have a moral right to protest a sacred symbol erected to commemorate fallen heroes.

The first to raise a voice in protest was Jason Torpey, himself a veteran. Jason is a graduate of West Point. He served in both Kuwait and Iraq, and he is an atheist. Jason knows what it is for any nonbeliever to serve in an institution as resolutely religious are our Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.

Jason is now president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, an outfit started by an old friend of mine, Kathleen Johnson, now a retired Army sergeant.

Jason was quoted by the North County Times as saying, "No cross or statue of Jesus represents military service. Military service is being exploited to secure unconstitutional Christian privilege. His arguments were echoed by Debbie Allen, head of the San Diego Coalition of Reason, a partnership of fifteen local secular organizations. "We must be faithful to the first amendment to the US Constitution . . . after all, all soldiers take an oath to defend it."

I'm with these folks, both sentimentially and as a member of both their groups. I am a Navy Veteran who served his country in uniform for nearly twenty-three years. Of course, I mourn the loss of all my fallen veterans. Although I'm no longer religious I can understand the comfort those who are get from symbols of their own religion.

But does it hurt that somone wants to use a symbol of religion to honor their buddies? With so many crosses, all around the county. What does one more matter. A single cross can't hurt much. Neither could the posting of the Ten Commandments in public school. Neither could opening a school session with a prayer invoked over the loud speaker. Our money spends quite as well with our national motto emblazoned with "In God We Trust."

The constitutions of Arkansas, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee forbid any non believer from holding office of any sort, but I don't live in any of those states. So why should I worry about it?

All these things are defended by "oh what does it hurt?" And they don't, not if they are taken separately.

But taken as a whole, we hear the incorrect and dangerous words "we are a Christian nation." Many Supreme Court Decisions have determined that to be untrue. The Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, signed by President John Adams and approved by the Congress affirmed it.

It is dangerous because nations basing laws, treaties, and wars on religion rather than on facts lead almost always has led to irrational acts, acts which cannot be challenged by facts or any sort of rational thinking. A glance at history shows us crusades, inquisitions, book burning, and countless wars done in the name of one god or another.

And it continues to this day. Despite the outrageous claims of many, those guys who flew airplanes into buildings were not atheists.

Neither was the man who ordered the retaliation against the act of 9/11 who once claimed his told him to bomb Baghdad.

Some religious based laws would forbid acts which would save women's lives in order to keep a fetus alive.

When religion holds sway we see laws, treaties, foreign policy decisions all made on religion. Take embryonic stem cells. The religious belief that a soul was put in each stem cell stymied support for this research on them for years. This despite the fact that only research could discover treatment, perhaps cures, for our some of our most dreaded diseases.

Or how about the actions of a recent administration that aid to some countries would be denied if they even thought of abortion, even to save a woman's life.

The solution to our many problems isn't simple, but our attempt to find it should not be acceptance of dogma. .


// Keith Taylor is a retired Navy officer living in Chula Vista. He can be reached at krtaylorxyz@aol.com //

Sunday, November 06, 2011

I Am Voting For...

I am not happy. It's raining in Sunny San Diego. Thank heavens it's gonna quit that and be sunny tomorrow.

I'm fascinated with politics. Definitely gonna vote for Jon Huntsman. Don't care if he is a Repub and I'm a registered Dem. A good man is hard to find...for the office of President of the USA, but I do believe Huntsman is far and away the best we have. In case someone doesn't know, he's been Gov of Utah twice and did a great job...and he's been a diplomat sent off to China and did a great job there as well. He's married and has 7 kids. Three of them are campaigning for "their Dad". A very decent and honorable man is Jon Huntsman.

Problem is, he's a rather quiet guy. Not someone like Cain, for sure. Or any of the others. He went campaigning in New Hampshire. Went all over the State, but did not do any fund-raising. Never asked for money. No matter. Some of the folks contributed. He ended up with $1000.00 anyway. Reason he didn't ask for money? He's a millionaire, so pays his way with his own money. I don't believe he has more than one campaign ad out...and he just tells who he is, what he's done, what he believes and that's it.

And, like Romney, he is a Morman. I don't see that as a problem for either of the men.

So I'm determined to have my say and vote for the man.