Friday, May 7, 2010

The Terrorist Expatriation Act: Revoking Citizenship and the Constitution

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Sen. Scott Brown, and two equally spineless Representatives have introduced the Terrorist Expatriation Act (TEA), a piece of legislation so disturbing that it makes Arizona's outrageous immigration law seem trite. Under the TEA, the Secretary of State would have the power to involuntarily revoke the citizenship of U.S. citizens suspected of having ties to designated terrorist organizations.

From a practical perspective, the measure's supporters naively assume that there is an obvious distinction between terrorist groups and other organizations. Today, mainstream society celebrates Nelson Mandela as one of the greatest leaders ever, but before the fall of apartheid in South Africa, right-wing politicians often sought to cast Mandela as a terrorist largely because of his perceived sympathy for communism. That the term "terrorist" has no clear and objective meaning shows that the potential for arbitrary, capricious, and patently unjust enforcement of the TEA is alarmingly vast.

From a legal standpoint, this law would be unequivocally unconstitutional. Article I, section 9 of the Constitution forbids Congress from passing bills of attainder. A bill of attainder, as defined in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law, is "a legislative act that imposes any punishment on a named or implied individual or group without a trial" (see note 1).The constitutional ban on bills of attainder simply reinforces the unremarkable principle that a person cannot be punished for a crime without the benefit of a fair and adversarial trial. It doesn't take a legal scholar to see that the TEA, which seeks to severely punish citizens who are suspected of having supporting terrorist groups, qualifies as a bill of attainder and is facially unconstitutional. Finally, the TEA -- perhaps implicitly -- criminalizes support of terrorist groups, but the Constitution requires that any person accused of any federal crime be tried by a jury (Article III, section 2, as well as the Sixth Amendment).


The Tea Partiers and their cohorts in Congress hysterically accused supporters of health care reform of never having read the Constitution. It will be interesting to see if these self-styled "strict constructionists" will object to such a blatant and incontrovertible assault on civil liberties.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Vote Tim James: Common Sense Solutions (Like Blaming Minorities for Alabama's Problems)

Had to put this up as soon as I saw it. More will be added to this post after finals. However, start the comments!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Primary Apathy? Get Re-Energized. Midterms Are a B.F.D.

Last Saturday about twenty Hoosiers gathered under a sanctuary in the arboretum, listening to our “feel-good-America-mix” (yes, lots of Springsteen and Mellencamp) in terrible weather. While we were standing outside, eating pizza and trying to recruit new Democrats who needed a distraction as they passed by us on their way to the library, we saw a red car pull up on the side of the road. Out walked our rock star congressman, Baron Hill. All twenty of us clapped wildly as he came over and chatted with his squad of liberals at IU.

The one message that prevails every time we talk with Baron Hill is that he’s so grateful for college student enthusiasm. He mentions the struggle ahead, which we all know will be tough in the 9th district. Students for Baron Hill and IU Democrats have teamed up over the past few weeks, phone banking to get people out for Baron in the primary. Every phonebank, we find ourselves dealing with people who are disgruntled with the economy or the healthcare bill or any other “socialist” claim that you can imagine.

 Last week a woman yelled at me, “KELLY. I WANT A POLITICIAN WHO ISN’T FULL OF ****. I WANT SOMEONE WHO IS WORKING TO CREATE JOBS, WHO WILL MAKE AMERICA SAFE, WHO WILL TAKE CARE OF MY FAMILY. CAN BARON DO THAT?!” I spent 15 minutes on the phone with this woman, talking her off the about-to-vote-GOP-ledge. All that she needed was health care and a few pieces of legislation explained to her clearly. At the end of the call, she told me, “Kelly, tell Baron he has my vote. And I’m keeping him in my prayers.”

I may be a tad sappy, but it really motivated me and got me excited for midterms. The phone calls, the pamphlets, the GOTV efforts matter. On Saturday, after our group finished talking to Baron, we went down to the Curry Building for early voting. The one reoccurring thing that we heard from the poll workers, “Thank you. Young people just aren’t coming out this year.”

Two years ago, I was a freshman waiting in an hour long line to early vote for Hillary Clinton in the primary. I told my dad he couldn’t take me home for summer break until I voted, and I stood in line with countless other college students who were fired up about the election. While I realize that 2008 was an exceptionally exciting year, I can’t help but be a little disappointed in the apathy of college students with midterm elections.

There is NOTHING to be lazy about. In the 9th district, we’re about to face our most challenging congressional race yet: Baron Hill versus Todd Young. While Bloomington is a liberal oasis, the other parts of our district certainly are not. For the Senate we’re looking at Ellsworth versus Coats. Ellsworth, from southern Indiana, has little name recognition in the North. The challenges ahead are steep and with the eyes of the nation looking to Indiana and the 9th district as an indicator of the political pulse of the country, we need to rally.

I beg of you to gather the enthusiasm you had in 2008 and bring it to 2010. Make the phone calls. Knock the doors. Stand on the street corners. Pass out the information. Register the voters. We can hold our spot in the Senate. We can prove that Indiana is becoming more and more progressive. We absolutely, positively, are capable of winning these tight races.

2010 is a time to show that we are still strong with the youth influence in politics. Don’t get lazy. Midterms are a B.F.D!

College Democrats of Indiana Debate the College Republicans

Thanks to the very eloquent Chris Babcock of the IU College Democrats for representing CDIN! The debate airs tonight on Fox 59 at 10 p.m.

I Hate To Say This, But...

...The United States should be screening people who have extended stays in certain targeted countries. As unfortunate as that might sound, I think it might be necessary. Too many foiled terrorist attacks have been linked to oversees connections. We cannot allow idealogical uneasiness to get in the way of common sense.

At this point, we have little information about the Times Square SUV bombing attempt. The chief suspect, Faisal Shahzad, has been detained after trying to fly to Dubai out of JFK airport. The FBI is actively interrogating Shahzad to establish a possible linkage to the Pakistani Taliban. Shahzad, a naturalized US citizen, had recently returned from a 5-month visit to Pakistan.

Many of you might be worried about gradual tendencies toward a police state, which I think is a warranted concern. However, I do not think it is too much to ask people to file basic reports or undergo brief interviews after extended stays (over 1 month?) abroad in countries that harbor or work with our enemies. It might inconvenience certain travelers and cost the country a little extra in homeland security expenses, but it could help our intelligence efforts and keep us safer.

There is no easy way to stop terrorism, especially when attacks are planned and executed within our borders by our own citizens. Nevertheless, we should continue to employ smart policies like the following (mentioned previously on Lefty's) in the interest of national security.

(photo courtesy of the New York Times)

New Lefty's Podcast (for real this time)

Hey guys, I put up the podcast that Brendan, Henry, and I recorded on Thursday. It's slightly different from the past podcasts that we've put on YouTube (no images this time). That way we can release them faster. So, just play the video, and listen to our show while reading the rest of our blog. Or bring your computer to the bathroom and listen to us in the shower. Or preload the video and play it in your car. We don't really care what you do.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Duncan D. Hunter: You Embarrass Me

Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA) responded "yes" when asked at a Tea Party rally whether he would support deporting the natural-born children of illegal immigrants. I wasn't going to waste my time with this one, because Republicans say stupid shit all the time, but I couldn't let this clown get away scott-free.

You see, during the early years of my life, I lived in San Diego, California in the 45/52 Congressional District. At the time, Duncan L. Hunter represented the district. Currently, his son, Duncan D. Hunter, holds this seat. Even though my memories of San Diego are limited, the majority of my extended family lives in CA 52 and have to listen to this P.O.S. all the time.

I'll keep it brief. READ THE CONSTITUTION, you clown!

This is too easy. Observe:
1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
This, my dear Lefties, is the first section of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. It is based upon a principle of birthright citizenship called jus soli. If you are born within the physical borders of the United States, you are an American citizen. End of story.

It is one of the critical principles of citizenship in nations around the globe, complimenting or in place of jus sanguinis, right of blood, which allows people like John McCain, who were born in the Panama Canal Zone to American parents, to claim native citizenship and likewise, run for President. Funny how the birthers had their aims at the wrong guy.

Rep. Hunter's hatespew is a reflection of one of my biggest political pet peeves. People don't read the Constitution. When they do, they think of the Bill of Rights, which, I might point out, are AMENDMENTS to the Constitution.

Just try this:

Go out and ask your family and friends "what's the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the Constitution?" I bet you they'll say "Freedom of Speech" or "Right to Bear Arms" or "Bill of Rights" or something along those lines.

As much as we might need the Bill of Rights (some disagree), they are amendments to the Constitution, and are not the most important part. In fact, I'd be willing to argue that the 14th Amendment is probably more important than any of the first 10 amendments.

That's beside the point. The Preamble is what lays down the definitive Constitutional democracy. Article 1 is what defines us as a modern republic. Article 2 gives us the Executive Branch and all its powers and limitations. Article 3 gives us a judiciary and its wonderful balancing powers. Articles 4-6 make important declarations about the relationship between federal and state governments, the process of amending the Constitution, and making the Constitution the supreme law of the land. All of these are more important than the Bill of Rights. 

The Bill of Rights could theoretically apply to a non-representative government, or one that has no balance of powers, or one that is completely flawed and senseless. The original elements of the Constitution are what make it such a rich political document and such a profound historical document.

So, go, ask your family and friends. Test their Constitutional savvy and prove me wrong.