Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty(rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
With the end of 2013 fast approaching, I have begun to wonder what the New Year holds for the country. It looks like the Affordable Care Act is finally getting its website to function properly and the sign ups are now being counted in the millions. Wall Street is still booming with the Dow Jones over 16,000, but yet unemployment is still too high and Congress is still trying to push austerity for the middle class and the poor, while doing everything in its power to prevent corporations and the wealthy from paying their fair share of taxes. The Citizen’s United decision opened the money floodgates and needs to be curbed. The military budget was spared in the recent Budget Deal, but yet unemployment benefits for millions have not been extended.
The gun lobby continues to prevent reasonable gun control legislation and needless scores of innocents continue to be slaughtered. Instead of closing the gun show loophole or mandating reasonable and effective universal background checks, Congress did nothing. Although there has been some recent movement from the Obama Administration to push Congress to allow the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, the facility remains open after 12 years. With all of the bad news or non-action on many fronts, is it possible to have hope that 2014 will bring better news for all Americans?
I do have high hopes for the country in this New Year, but Congress and the rest of Washington will have to make some significant changes before the hopes can be realized. Ever since the Sandy Hook school shooting, the NRA has been pouring money into Washington in an attempt to stem the tide of public support for reasonable gun control legislation. It is obvious to me, that without a culture change in how Americans and government officials look at guns in this country, the mass shootings and needless killings that happened in 2013, will continue unabated.
Even though the killings are still rampant, one of my biggest hopes is that Congress will see past the NRA and corporate money and agree on universal background checks in 2014. I don’t have any evidence that my hope will come to fruition, but at some point, the killings will over take our Wild West mentality and people will come together to help relieve the problem. Maybe that will begin to happen in 2014.
Another of my hopes for 2014 is the closure of Guantanamo military prison. We have seen some movement on the part of Congress to agree with the Obama administration’s plans to close the facility. However, much has to be done and President Obama needs to use his bully pulpit to move the closure ahead, but President Obama’s actions to push for closure leave something to be desired.
“As a notable improvement, NDAA 2014 includes a provision that Obama called a “welcome step” toward fulfilling his longtime promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. The bill relaxes regulations that have held up the transfer of detainees out of the detention center.
The defense act also includes provisions aimed at intervening in the epidemic of sexual assault in the U.S. military. But, as the Washington Post noted, “it stops short of the broad reforms that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and other advocates have been calling for.”
While legislative movement on Gitmo’s closure is necessary, it is insufficient. As Amnesty International USA’s director Zeke Johnson commented, “[the president] should move forward with foreign transfers immediately and lobby Congress hard to end the ban on transfers to the U.S. mainland. Guantanamo must be closed by ensuring that each detainee is either fairly tried in U.S. federal court or released to a country that will respect his human rights.”
Meanwhile the troubling NDAA provision first signed into law in 2012, which permits the military to detain individuals indefinitely without trial, remains on the books for 2014. Efforts to quash or reform the provision (especially with regard to the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens) have failed and have been fiercely fought by the administration.” Salon
Hopefully, Congress will allow for detainees to be transferred or tried in a Federal court, as suggested by Amnesty International. We need to keep the Democrat’s feet to the fire.
My last hope for the New Year revolves around reforming the NSA. As we have seen and heard here and in the mass media, the NSA has turned the 4th Amendment into a mockery. The latest Federal court judge’s decision that the mass retention and collection of phone data is legal, is in conflict with another recent District Court decision and the Supreme Court may need to decide once and for all, just how far the NSA and other intelligence agencies can go.
It is amazing that in the judge’s decision, he stated that the 4th Amendment is not absolute. However, why is it that the 2nd Amendment seems to be absolute, but the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment must be subject to limitations? If the NSA is allowed to continue to collect all calls and all data, shouldn’t they at least have to pay a portion of my phone bill? It is my sincere hope that the NSA can be restrained in the New Year, but it may be a long fight.
I have listed just a few of my “hopes” for the New Year. I have some others, but I want to hear what your thoughts are for the New Year. What hopes do you have for 2014? Let us know what you are hoping for and why you are think it is important for the country. It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you favor, because most of these issues should be non-partisan. It is not a Democratic or a Republican problem when scores of people are being murdered and killed by people who have no reason to own guns or could have been prevented from acquiring the deadly weapons.
It isn’t a partisan issue when the NSA is collecting almost all of our phone calls. Just where does the Fourth Amendment begin and end? I look forward to reading your hopes and the reasons why they are important to you and to the country.
Happy New Year to all and let’s hope that Congress and the President can make progress on my Hopes and on your Hopes.