Posts tagged with: united states

patriot-actWhy is the Patriot Act back in the news?

Last night three key provisions of the law were allowed to expire (at least temporarily) after Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked an extension of the program during a Sunday session of the Senate.

What is the Patriot Act?

The official title of the law is the USA Patriot Act of 2001, an acronym for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.” The 320-page law, signed a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and a series of bioterrorism incidents (i.e., anthrax attacks), was intended to “deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes.”

Beginning on December 31, 2005, many provisions of the act were set to expire unless Congress reauthorized them. Out of the sixteen sections, 13 were allowed to expire while three were reauthorized. After approval by Congress, President Bush signed an extension in 2006 and President Obama signed an extension in 2011. On June 1, 2015 the last three sections expired.

What were those last three sections that just expired?

The three sections that recently expired were:

Mikhail-Gorbachev-Ronald-ReaganEarlier this month I argued that the moral center and chief objective of American diplomacy should be the promotion of religious freedom. When a country protects religious liberty it must also, whether it intended to or not, recognize a host of other freedoms, such as the freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience, and freedom of speech. Once these liberties are in place, it becomes more difficult for a country’s government to maintain a single, totalizing ideology.

President Reagan seemed to intuitively understand how increasing religious freedom can shape a nation’s ideology and relationship to the rest of the world. In his new book new book Reagan: The Life, historian H.W. Brands reveals a private conservation between Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev at the 1988 Moscow summit in which the president encouraged the Soviet leader to embrace religious liberty:


The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has issued its 2015 annual report on religious liberty around the world. In their report, the USCIRF documents religious freedom abuses and violations in 33 countries and makes county-specific policy recommendations for U.S. policy. One country worthy of particular attentions is Afghanistan.

religiousfreedomreport2015For the past nine years USCIRF has designated Afghanistan as a country of particular concern, a country where the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are serious and are characterized by at least one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” standard. As the report notes,

Afghanistan’s legal system remains deeply flawed, as the constitution explicitly fails to protect the individual right to freedom of religion or belief, and it and other laws have been applied in ways that violate international human rights standards.

Notice that the country has been on the list since two years after the adoption of their new constitution—a constitution that the U.S. helped to create.

In 2004, after U.S. military and allied forces overthrew the Taliban, American diplomats helped draft a new Afghani constitution. Many people around the world were hoping the result would be similar to the constitution of Turkey—or at least be distinguishable from the constitution of Iran. Instead, what was created—with the help of the U.S. government—was an Islamic Republic, a state in which “no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam.”

While the White House issued a statement calling it an “important milestone in Afghanistan’s political development,” the USCIRF had the courage to admit what we were creating: Taliban-lite.

fireOf all the disheartening scenes of unrest coming out of Baltimore this week, few have been as dispiriting as the image of a church project that was set ablaze.

For the past eight years the Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore has been working on a project that would provide a community center and low-income housing in the form of 60 senior-citizen apartments. The construction was expected to be completed in December. And last night it all burned to the ground.

Those associated with the project have remained optimistic. Kevin Bell, senior vice president of The Woda Group, vowed to rebuild and said, “This does not make us go away.” And Rev. Donte Hickman, the pastor of the church, says, “This fire is going to spark a revival.”

We should pray the project will soon be back on track and that the community as a whole will heal quickly. But we should also be aware of the long term impact that riots have on a city.

In 2004, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) published two papers that examined the effect of the riots in the 1960s and early 1970s. From 1964 to 1971, as many as 700 riots erupted in cities across America. The large numbers of injuries, deaths, property damage that occurred in predominantly black neighborhoods caused considerable short-term damage on the communities. But the impact over the long run (from 1960 to 1980) was even more severe. According to the NBER,

U.S. Border Patrol in Texas

U.S. Border Patrol in Texas

Victor Davis Hanson, writing for National Review, takes up the immigration issues facing the West. His assessment is that the West suffers from a “schizophrenia” of a sort, where those of us in the West accept “one-way” immigration as a given.

Westerners accept that these one-way correspondences are true. Nonetheless, they are incapable of articulating the social, economic, and political causes for the imbalances, namely the singular customs and heritage that make the West attractive: free-market capitalism, property rights, consensual government, human rights, freedom of expression and religion, separation of church and state, and a secular tradition of rational inquiry. Much less are they able to remind immigrants from the non-West that they are taking the drastic step of forsaking their homelands, often rich in natural resources, because of endemic statism and corruption, the lack of the rule of law, religious intolerance, misogyny, tribalism, and racism — the stuff that does not lead to prosperous, safe, and happy lives.


EarthDayEarth Day has arrived once again, and all those nasty predictions about the environment made since the inaugural event in 1970 have yet to pass. In fact, many of the threats themselves have passed entirely. The population bomb never exploded, the Earth didn’t experience another Ice Age and we’ve managed to avoid a Malthusian dystopia. In fact, we’re doing quite well, thank you very much. Mother Earth is cleaner while, at the same time, the planet’s population living in poverty has been halved within the past two decades.

Try telling that to Home Box Office’s Real Time host Bill Maher, who calls arguments from climate-change skeptics “Zombie Lies.” The man who grants himself absolution for his own carbon footprint because he drives an electric vehicle, delivered an epic rant against Republicans, the Koch brothers and the oil industry this past week on his program’s “New Rules” segment. Republican politicians and aspirants, reasons Maher, are only skeptical regarding climate change because they’re bought-and-paid for by donations from the fossil-fuel industry.

Maher, of course, is free to believe (or, infamously, not to believe when it comes to matters requiring religious faith) anything he wishes, but a certain logical consistency is lacking. While he berates the oil and gas industries and Republican politicians, and smugly drives a rechargeable electric vehicle (apparently, one assumes, recharged from an energy source derived from fossil fuels), the clip linked above stops just prior to Maher announcing personal appearances in cities far away from Los Angeles, Calif. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, April 22, 2015

earth-day-1970What is Earth Day?

Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which events are held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement.

How did Earth Day get started?

Earth Day was started by Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. Nelson originally tried to bring political attention to environmental issues in 1962-63, when he convinced President Kennedy to venture out on a five-day, eleven-state conservation tour. But as Nelson later said, “For many reasons the tour did not succeed in putting the issue onto the national political agenda.”

Six years later, Nelson got the idea that became Earth Day after watching anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, called “teach-ins,” which had spread to college campuses all across the nation. Nelson used the anti-war protest as a model for a large-scale grassroots protest on environmental concerns.

What was the result of the original Earth Day efforts?