The recent political chatter about “Obamacare” before the Supreme Court of the United States got a great deal of media attention. President Obama added fuel to the fire when he declared, “Ultimately, I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
For someone who was a law professor those words were absurd. Even if a bill passed unanimously in the house and senate, it could still be overturned – if the law was in violation of the Constitution.
Cutting taxes on those whose dreams have already come true does not create good jobs. Growing a healthy economy creates good jobs, and you cannot have a healthy economy in which a vast majority are losing ground or are barely holding on, or are just worrying about next month.
Biologists and naturalists conduct experiments in resource scarcity and competition using yeast, paramecium, flour beetles and other little animals. Behaviors change, relationships change, levels of ferocity change. A series of recently published surveys show that one third or less of Americans trust their fellow citizens in everyday interactions. As social trust deteriorates, so does a willingness to work for a common good. I am hopeful that Americans will handle things better than the flour beetle, but we need to hold it together and keep our perspective.
Federal, state and city lawmakers have the power to reduce the region’s traffic congestion while also promoting mass transit. If the past is prologue, they will decline to use it.
Congress, for instance, has until the end of this month to extend a law allowing mass transit users (e.g., bus, subway, commuter rail) to use up to $245 in pre-tax dollars toward their monthly commute. The federal government already allows $245 in pre-tax dollars to be used by drivers each month for their parking expenses, a figure which will increase to $250 on Jan. 1, 2014. The monthly pre-tax limit for transit users will fall to $130 on New Year’s Day should Congress fail to act on this matter by year-end 2013, something which happened in late 2011. D.C.’s inaction left transit users at a competitive disadvantage to drivers in 2012.
Written by Robert McMillan Friday, 27 April 2012 00:00One very controversial portion of the Defense Authorization Bill signed by President Obama at the end of last December contained a provision to allow the federal government to detain, indefinitely, United States citizens who are suspected of terrorism. At the heart of the controversy is the U.S. Constitution.
The new law gives the military more authority to detain and interrogate both U.S. citizens and non-citizens. Under the new law, such detainees can be denied legal rights provided by the Constitution. Now, President Obama has stated, “I want to clarify that my administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.”
Just what is this all about? As you may recall, enemy combatants have been detained at Guantanamo (GITMO) for some time. President Obama’s efforts to close GITMO have not been successful with both sides of the aisle wanting to maintain the prison there, which holds people like the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
It is interesting to note that back in 2004, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the military can hold a U.S. citizen as an enemy combatant so long as the person being held has the right to procedurally challenge whether he or she is truly an “enemy combatant.”
In the 2004 Supreme Court case, Hamdi was a U.S. citizen of Saudi descent who was captured on a battlefield in Afghanistan. The ruling meant that he could be detained so long as he was given the opportunity to have due process applied to the question as to whether he was an enemy combatant.
What we have here is a balance between the security of our nation and individual rights under the U.S. Constitution. There are three areas of the Constitution where the Supreme Court ruled in the 2004 case – Hamdi v. Rumsfeld.
First, we have to take a look at the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. It states that, “In all criminal prosecutions the accused should enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial…”
Next, in the Fourteenth Amendment, it states that all citizens are entitled to “…due process of law…” From these points, it can well be argued that the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments should apply to all U.S. citizens whether they are or are not enemy combatants.
But, there is one other provision of the Constitution found in Article 1, Section 8. That part of our Constitution gives to the Congress the power to “…provide for the common defense…” The section goes on to say that the Congress has the power, “To declare War … and make Rules concerning Captives on Land and Water;”
With all of the above, we come back to the issue of security for our country in these times of terrorists – some homegrown Americans… and the due process of law for U.S. citizens. My view is that if a court holds that an American citizen is truly an enemy combatant, that individual should be detained for the best interests of the country. Our security is at the heart of these thoughts.