Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Pros & Cons of the PATRIOT Act...
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Pros & Cons of the PATRIOT Act

Robert Downes - August 7th, 2003
Is the USA PATRIOT Act a serious threat to the Bill of Rights and the liberties of American citizens? Or, is it simply a well-regulated set of tools to allow federal agents to track down terrorists in a fast-moving age of cyber communications?
Those were the positions carved out by opposite sides at a forum held last Thursday at the Traverse Area District Library on “How Does the USA PATRIOT Act Impact You?“
The 347-page Act was rushed into law at the behest of the U.S. Department of Justice just 45 days after the 9/11 disaster and overwhelmingly approved by legislators who had little or no chance to read its convoluted language and obscure references. Since that time, it has been perceived as a grave threat by civil libertarians and librarians across the country.
Following are some viewpoints presented at the week‘s forum, which was packed to overflow capacity:

• *Michael Dettmer,* former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan and an associate attorney with Parsons, Ringsmuth PLC in Traverse City.
Dettmer gave an historical overview of governmental abuses of power. “Each of us have an inherent and very human ability to abuse the trust of power,“ he noted, adding that elected officials have erred throughout U.S. history in suspending constitutional rights in time of war.
Abuses of the past have included:
-- The Alien and Sedition Act of the 1790s, which made it illegal to criticize the government and made it possible to expel from the country any male over the age of 14 who was perceived as a threat to national security.
-- Abraham Lincoln‘s suspension of habeas corpus (due process of law) during the Civil War; an event which also featured military tribunals, unlawful restraint, and loyalty oaths.
-- The Palmer Raids of 1919-‘20, in which an estimated 70,000 suspected communists were terrorized by law enforcement. Some 250 aliens were deported to the Soviet Union without trial, never to be heard from again.
-- The detention of 120,000 Japanese Americans and the seizure of their property during WWII.
-- The Red Scare kangaroo court hearings of Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the 1950s.
-- FBI abuses during the ‘60s, and the lawless presidency of Richard Nixon in the ‘70s.
Dettmer recalled the words of Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, who once said that, “In a time of war, the Constitution is silent.“ He fears that the ongoing War on Terrorism threatens the Constitution in the same manner.

• *Beth Hazen,* FBI agent and counsel for the Detroit office.
Hazen said the primary value of the PATRIOT Act is in allowing agents to get up to speed with terrorists who are equipped with more advanced communications than in the past, such as the internet.
“People who commit crimes hide evidence of their crimes, and that evidence may be in bank accounts, computers, and private conversations,“ she said. “If I‘m going to do my job, I have to be able to access private areas, but the greater the intrusion, the greater cause I have to show.“
Hazen said FBI agents have to go through many hurdles before surveillance is approved. A common surveillance tool is the “pin register device,“ which can be put on a suspect‘s phone line to capture incoming and outgoing phone numbers, along with the duration of calls -- all without listening to the actual conversations. The device makes it possible to track kidnappers, for instance, or determine the possible associates of a terror cell.
Prior to the PATRIOT Act, FBI agents had to get separate authorization for a pin register or a wiretap for every phone used by suspects to commit crimes. Today, the Act makes it possible for agents to move faster on a case by authorizing surveillance on all phones used by suspects. Hazen noted that the crime of terrorism wasn‘t a problem when wiretap laws were originally enacted; the PATRIOT Act simply gets the FBI up to speed on advances in communication.

• *Anne Seurynck,* counsel for the Michigan Library Association.
“Generally, librarians feel that the PATRIOT Act is an intrusion on the privacy of their patrons,“ Seurynck said. She noted that under the Michigan Library Privacy Act, the records of readers can‘t be obtained without a court order which requires a hearing. Librarians fear that the less restrictive PATRIOT Act and the FBI will run roughshod over the right to privacy. “Our biggest fear is that we believe it could cause a chilling effect on what people read.“

• *Lloyd Meyer,* Assistant U.S. Attorney/Anti-Terrorism Coordinator, Grand Rapids.
Meyer said a number of myths surround the PATRIOT Act and that it is more difficult to obtain permission for surveillance than most people realize. He said that current records for the period from Oct. 2001 to Feb. 2003 show that the FBI has not yet used the Act to access anyone‘s library records. He knows of no prosecutor who has ever snooped on library records.
Furthermore, he noted that the Director of the FBI himself, or his deputy, has to authorize such surveillance, and not just the average agent in the field. He noted that the Act could never be used for the investigation of citizens exercising their right to free speech, such as criticizing the government.
In rare instances, however, such powers would be helpful, Meyer said. He noted that when the Unabomber published his Manifesto, FBI agents recognized the names of four obscure books in the text and scoured library records in the San Francisco area in an attempt to track the bomber down. “Does that seem reasonable? To catch a person who had been killing people with bombs for 12 years? I submit that it does,“ he said.
Meyer also said the FBI used surveillance to bust a violent militia group in West Michigan five years ago. The militia schemed to blow up a federal building in Battle Creek, assassinate Sen. Carl Levin and Gov. John Engler, and blow up the interchange of 131 and I-94. He noted that if CIA agents in Kabul, Afghanistan found records tracking a sleeper cell to Traverse City, the PATRIOT Act would prove useful in relaying the message to Michigan FBI agents to launch an investigation.
Meyer said the Act “tears down the walls“ between the FBI‘s criminal investigation and intelligence-gathering arms, and makes it possible to share more information with the CIA as well as local law enforcement.

• *Noel Saleh,* attorney for the ACLU of Michigan.
Saleh noted that the reason stringent wiretap laws were enacted in the first place was because the FBI went far out of bounds in its abuse of surveillance on ordinary citizens in the ‘60s and ‘70s. He added that he had no problem with the provisions of the Act which authorize pin registers and wiretaps -- the larger question is the government‘s attack on the Bill of Rights.
“The PATIOT Act is not the issue we‘re really talking about when we discuss our concerns about the growing intrusion of government in our lives,“ Saleh said. “The PATRIOT Act is just a symbol of that intrusion.“
Saleh noted that following 9/11, more than 1,200 American non-immigrants were arrested and detained for indefinite periods, often held without cause and denied counsel under miserable conditions. Under the Bush administration, the government can declare a terror suspect an “enemy combatant,“ without the right to an attorney, held incommunicado, with summary justice rendered by a military tribunal.
“These were constitutional rights violations,“ Saleh said. “These are the concerns we‘re worried about.“
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