Patriot Act fails fast track in house…

But the bill will be back before too long, when it will be able to pass with a simple majority.

Ron Paul gives great arguments, from many key points, about why this particular piece of legislation is a waste of time and a threat to our American liberties:

If only we could give him a few more minutes to talk…

The rotten political center

In my short lifespan, I’ve heard a lot of talk and celebration for this concept of bipartisanship. With the possible exception of Fox News, most media outlets will applaud a so-called “moderate” politician for ignoring their platforms or the wishes of their constituents in the name of compromise.

So who are the idols of the “independent center?” We hear a lot of talk about people like McCain and Lieberman when it comes to this myth of bipartisan moderation – but check out this bill they are currently trying to sneak through Congress:

Whenever within the United States, its territories, and possessions, or outside the territorial limits of the United States, an individual is captured or otherwise comes into the custody or under the effective control of the United States who is suspected of engaging in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners through an act of terrorism, or by other means in violation of the laws of war, or of purposely and materially supporting such hostilities, and who may be an unprivileged enemy belligerent, the individual shall be placed in military custody for purposes of initial interrogation and determination of status in accordance with the provisions of this Act.


An individual, including a citizen of the United States, determined to be an unprivileged enemy belligerent under section 3(c)(2) in a manner which satisfies Article 5 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War may be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners in which the individual has engaged, or which the individual has purposely and materially supported, consistent with the law of war and any authorization for the use of military force provided by Congress pertaining to such hostilities.

We’ve come a long way in this country, when the center of our political debate is owned by people like these – people who don’t believe in the fundamental values of our nation or the rules of the constitution that they have sworn to uphold.

If this is the middle then, I am proud to be in the fringe element: left or right, wherever there are people who believe in freedom and justice, I will be there.

Terrorists Still Incredibly Unlikely to Hurt You

Despite all of the fear-mongering and the huge military & defense budgets we expand every year, terrorists pose a risk so small and insignificant that we may as well worry about the risk of lightning or asteroids.  Actually, spending some of this money on science might not be a bad thing, and our efforts against the weather will probably have more of an effect than our efforts to change people’s behavior and insulate ourselves perfectly from political violence.

FiveThirtyEight calculates the odds of being killed in an airborn terrorist attack at about 1 incident per 16,553,385 departures.

[T]he odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000.

People have a hard time judging risks in relative terms – and these leads people to obsess over seemingly horrible disasters that are incredibly unlikely to happen.  In the mundane world of reality and statistics, anyone concerned about security and mortality should be taking a look at our cars, roads, and medical system.  Its not a ‘maybe they’ll kill us more in the future’ situation there, its something that is guaranteed to kill a whole lot of Americans this year and every year following.

So forget the fact that our militarism kills innocent civilians, or ignore the fact that our massive spending does little to secure us, but at least accept the fact that there was really nothing to be afraid of in the first place.  Let’s redirect the violent efforts of our war on terror to more constructive purposes – and the progress we create will do more to keep us safe and respected around the world than anything our guns could accomplish now.

Keep an Eye on Pakistan…

The so-called “War on Terror” is hardly over now that Bush has left office – in fact, it is intensifying and spreading across the borders from its original locations.

In Iraq, all eyes are on the Iranian border, especially as Iranian forces appear to have seized a lucrative oil field near the often-disputed national boundaries.  Turkey has made a few moves and is posturing to influence the Kurdish north, but they’re also a bit more interested in maintaining amicable relations with the U.S.

In Afghanistan, the problems of terrorism and fundamentalism don’t stop where the border with Pakistan was drawn.  Tribal influences don’t always respect political or cartographic lines.

As such, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to hear that the U.S. military has been increasingly active in Pakistan, Yemen, and possibly even inside Iran as well (in relation to the protests against the latest elections).

Instead of spreading democracy and building stability, the military interventions have disrupted a delicate and vulnerable balance of powers across the Middle East.  Yet while the pre-existing order was somewhat stable, prior to meddling, it was a fragile situation that forced conflicting cultural ideologies into a single political unit.

As the war continues in search of some new order, it will increasingly ignore the arbitrary borders of the Middle East, and more nations will come to be involved.  Intended or not, the ultimate result of our actions abroad may lead to a new united Islamic super-state – a sort of regional power not unlike the European Union or the United States.