Friday, July 4, 2008

FISA, ACLU, and Sam Ervin

Before we begin, let us be aware that the initial legislation to create the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was passed (50 U.S.C. ch.36) in 1978 during the administration of Jimmy Carter. The purpose was to establish the legality of electronic surveillance of “foreign” entities, be they national or individual, to deter aggressive acts against the United States. Advanced communications in the last 29 years have brought some necessary changes to the initial act to accommodate progress in that field.

Gathering intelligence from threatening foreign sources is nothing new in government—ours, or others. In 1953, I was, after basic training, sent to a nine month school by the US Army to train for that exact purpose. Once graduated, I was assigned to a unit whose sole aim was gathering information on adversarial activity in plan and action. Without knowledge of an enemy’s intent, armies are blind. This is not equivalent to being a “double naught spy” but rather a matter of listening to five symbol endless code groups on a scratchy ANGRC-9 perched on the back of a truck in some wilderness location. Since we all realized that the intelligence we gathered was of vital importance to our mission in the theater we pursued it with vigor in spite of the drudgery involved. I mention 1953 as my first experience but the organization had a much longer distinguished history.

In the twenty-first century the sophistication of communication is in exponential advancement. My personal computer set up, although seriously outdated, is seven years old and serves my purposes adequately. I have added, updated, and used everything but duct tape to keep it current. The point being that this is not the milieu of Jimmy Carter in 1978. The systems have changed but not the intent of our adversaries. Although we see ourselves as warm, fuzzy and lovable, many others see us as the great Satan. They have demonstrated—see 9/11/01—that they are willing to inflict death and destruction on our country and its citizens. To maintain any vestige of an edge over those who would destroy us requires superior intelligence gathering.

Many companies, mainly telecoms, have been of great assistance in the process of sorting through and isolating malevolent intent on the part of foreigners wishing to disturb our tranquility. Current legislation before the congress would offer them no protection from the possibility of liability for their noble actions. What is proposed should be renamed “The Trial Lawyers Financial Security Act.” It would in fact place an unwarranted onus on those who supply vital information to keep abreast of the activities of entities abroad. The days of broad phalanxes of armies spread across a battlefield facing each other are over. Today’s enemy dresses like a civilian and has no allegiance to a national structure. He has the cover of being an individual tiny force with powerful resources to advance his agenda. One is reminded of the secretive brown recluse spider which hides in concealed places and bites any inquiring hand. The bite, although rarely fatal, is always debilitating and causes long lasting damage.

Here enters the unfortunately misnamed ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union.) We are in receipt of a recent email which encourages us to contact our representative in Washington to amend the Patriot Act with legislation which would punish the telecoms for their cooperation with the intelligence agencies. One often wonders which side they are on. In the body of the message they quote the late Senator from North Carolina, Sam Ervin; “Each time we give up a bit of information about ourselves to the government, we give up some of our freedom.” The quote originated in hearings before the Senate in 1975! Even though one might find a measure of agreement, it was offered three years before the original FISA legislation.

Given some of Sam Ervin’s attitudes on issues near and dear to the hearts of all in the ACLU, I find it interesting they should choose him as a spokesman. In 1964, Sam Ervin joined several other Democrat Senators to conduct an epic filibuster of the fledgling Civil Rights Act. His brother in the chamber, Robert (former Klansman) Byrd set a record by orating for 14 consecutive hours speaking against the bill. Ervin armed himself for the event by bringing several law books, a copy of the Constitution and the King James Bible. In spite of their “heroic” efforts, it passed into law to benefit millions of Americans of African descent.

His position on faith—an unknown quantity at the ACLU—could not be stated more clearly than it was in discussion of prayer in schools, "On the basis of these things," Ervin concluded, "I affirm with complete conviction that the universe and man are not the haphazard products of blind atoms wandering aimlessly about in chaos, but, on the contrary, are the creations of God, the Maker of the universe and man." With the ACLU’s constant agitation on issues of faith in direct opposition to the above quote we must agree that, “politics does make strange bedfellows.”

In using Ervin as a champion of their agenda, the ACLU simply confirms their constant inconsistency and hypocrisy. The sad fact is that in their constant attack on values that average Americans hold dear, their side of the legal costs is borne by the American taxpayer. They are indeed subsidized in the courts no matter how ridiculous the proposition which they espouse. Those who are the accused must then bear their own financial responsibilities to fight off every scurrilous attack. Speaking of courts, do you find it interesting that when a president appoints a liberal judge, “the court becomes balanced?” When a president appoints a conservative jurist he is accused of “packing the court.” Words do have meaning.

In conclusion, I am grateful to be reminded that I need to contact my senators. I shall express my heartfelt wish that they do everything in their power to see to it that this legislation is not passed. If you share my opinion I suggest you do the same.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

A First on the Fourth

Thanks to the time zone differential, it has been July 4th in Baghdad for hours and is approaching mid-afternoon. One thousand two hundred and fifteen of our troops in country gathered earlier in one of Saddam Hussein’s old palaces to “re-up.” That is, in the parlance of the guys who do the dirty work in foreign lands, another way to say they held the largest single re-enlistment ceremony in the history of the United States Military.

Along with repeating the oath, they listened to remarks made by Command Sergeant Major Hill (the highest ranking enlisted man in the theater) and the overall commander General Patraeus. In acknowledgement of their devotion to the mission, Patraeus said it was, “impossible to calculate the value of what you are giving to our country . . . For no bonus, no matter the size, can adequately compensate you for the contribution each of you makes as a custodian of our nation’s defenses.”

In a similar ceremony last year, General Patraeus, accompanied by Navy vet, John McCain, oversaw the re-enlistment of 588 who recognized their place in an uncompleted duty.

While we are busy inventorying hot dogs, buns, and potato salad for the day’s festivities here at home let’s take a moment for a prayer for these young men and women who fully recognize the importance of this day. God bless America.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Thursday, July 3, 2008

July 4th !!!!!!

Patriotism, cheapened by political attacks and misunderstood by definition, has almost become an epithet in current public usage. In reading the words of the founders of this nation, one is imbued not so much with the word, but rather, a persistent state of mind which prevailed in their assemblies two hundred thirty three years ago. Their Declaration is rife with references to the Author of Liberty for guiding their actions and from Whom they sought further direction in the furtherance of their cause.

We find in the final sentence a commitment easily seen by each signatory: “—And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.” These are words which these patriots well understood and accepted. They clearly realized the risks and the potential loss incumbent in their actions. To understand their sacrifice is to understand our country at the offset and treasure their commitment for our future.

God has favored me with the opportunity for familiarity with each individual state. I have lived in twenty and traveled to each of the others on business and personal pursuit. For this I give thanks to God for the opportunity to acquire an appreciation of each and every one. We are an exceptional people and live in an exceptional land. One doesn’t need to leave the neighborhood to appreciate this, but doing so underlines the thought with personal experiences and memories of each sovereign unit.

As a result, I have developed a deep and abiding love for our country and our people. I have come to enjoy their eccentricities and not scoff at their speech. I have learned to appreciate their landscapes even when deprived of mountain vistas and gorgeous coastal reaches. I can now anticipate tasting local dishes with relish, whether in a posh restaurant or at Mom’s diner. I enjoy that some friends I have made nationwide, and live in bib overalls daily, could “buy and sell” others who wear $1000 suits. I take comfort in the commonality of motherly protective attitudes where ever I go. I rejoice in the children in each locale whose shrieks and laughter are the same everywhere. One easily observes the dedication of those who serve the public for protection (health, fire, police, etc.) in a unanimous effort to preserve their fellow citizens. To me, these are they who are today’s patriots. These are the ones who make my heart swell with pride in the fellowship of citizenship.

Years ago (over forty) I lived as neighbor to a humble family on a farm in Northwest Missouri. As a manufacturer’s representative, I traveled eight Midwestern states and was required to dress well and drive a serviceable automobile. I also farmed a hundred ten acre patch with questionable success. One morning after I took delivery on a new Buick, a teenage member of the mentioned family approached me, commented favorably on the car and remarked that she wished her Dad had the abilities to drive and dress as well as I. I’m afraid I lost it. Her father, although he could not write, handled mathematics in his head as well as any man I ever knew. His dedication to his family was unflagging. He worked nights in town and farmed during the day to provide their every need. We traded hay and livestock without any documentation or contract. He was, in a nutshell, a man of incomparable integrity and high character. When I informed his daughter that he was a man I held in the highest esteem she had difficulty understanding my admiration. This man has always typified for me, basic goodness, character, and those attributes which represent a true American. My prayer is that she saw her father in a new found view.

We are a nation of men and women who individually possess great character much the same as my former neighbor. They have an absolute love of their “father” land and support its intentions and goals. They are also the ones who lie beneath the endless rows of grave markers at our national cemeteries. Often their unsophisticated expression of that love is to place the stars and stripes on graves, porches, poles, lapels, rear car windows, lamp posts, altars, desks, and anywhere else the politically correct crowd will allow. They do not well understand the motives of those who denigrate the display of our national emblem. My heartfelt desire is that they will never understand. To fail to appreciate the symbolism inherent in the flag is to fail to understand history and the devotion to protect the nation. It has nothing to do with cloth, colors and brass grommets. Through the thirteen stripes it acknowledges the history of our beginnings and through the fifty state stars it recognizes our current place. To many, it is synonymous with America.

Patriotism is not as complicated as some would lead us to believe. Those of us who genuinely love our country and unashamedly admit it are not in the minority. We can shamelessly shed a tear for those who have gone before to provide the liberty we so enjoy. We can easily understand the significance of handing a triangulated folded flag to a survivor of a veteran “on behalf of a grateful nation.” We are still allowed to get a lump in our throat as our national anthem declares “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Symbolism, yes, but symbolism in acknowledgement of the realities of our country’s foundation; one predicated on God given rights. Our Constitution simply enumerates those rights which are God given. That which God has provided should neither be abused nor withdrawn but continue to exemplify the greatest nation in the history of the world, the United States of America.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday Morning Rant 44

(A disclaimer: I have been a firearms owner and user for over sixty years. I have been a Life member of the National Rifle Association since 1986. I was trained in their use by my father, uncles and grandfather with refinements added by the United States Army.)

In a rare moment of lucidity last week, the United States Supreme Court struck down the onerous provision of the DC gun ban. The issue in the case was very clear. In the Constitution we find the second amendment which states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The court’s challenge was to determine the validity of the amendment as a guarantee of an “individual” and not a “collective” right. Their decision in favor of the individual right then guaranteed the freedom of each and every law abiding citizen to keep arms individually.

For the time being the allegation that arms are being kept only for service in the National Guard (militia) has been set aside in favor of “the people.” It underlines a gradual return to the originalist intent of the framers and paves the way for a continuing round of law suits against those communities who have legislated against their populace by depriving their citizens of the right to self defense and made them targets of the criminal class.

In the war on crime, this decision may be the equivalent of “the shot heard round the world.” Keep in mind that those who formed on the green at Lexington and faced the finest King George could muster, were ordinary citizens. While loosely organized as a militia, they represented a cross section of people of the town. Their leader, elected by the body, and his men showed remarkable courage in facing a formidable enemy. Later in the day, the British army faced a much larger force of colonials at the bridge just north of Concord. These farmers, millers and store keepers not only turned the redcoats, but, they relentlessly pursued them on the road back to Boston.

The individual citizen was then and is now the first line of defense for our nation in matters both foreign and domestic. Our young men and women have responded nobly to storm beaches and perform Herculean tasks over the two hundred thirty-three years since the encounter at Lexington. I have no problem entrusting them with the defense of their wives, husbands, children and property and themselves. I do have a problem with those who constantly excuse those who threaten our liberty loving people. Fortunately, a sufficient number of Supreme Court Justices agree.

Absolutely Useless Information

I came across an item this week and tried desperately to find something in it which would provide a morality tale or some other insight. I guess I shall just have to file it under, “I did not know that!”

Southpaw Presidents: "When the next President of the United States is inaugurated in January, either Barack Obama or John McCain will be asked to raise their right hand before swearing the oath of office. But that is the wrong hand for both men. They are left-handed, as were four of the last six presidents: Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. The current President Bush and Jimmy Carter are the only right-handers to have occupied the Oval Office since 1974, an era of lefty dominance that is to be extended by at least another four years. Nor is this November's battle between a left-handed Democratic and Republican nominee unusual in recent history. There were similar all-southpaw contests in 1992, when Mr. Clinton beat the first President Bush, and in 1996 when he won a second term against Bob Dole. Al Gore, who won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the election to Mr. Bush, is left-handed, as is John Edwards, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee four years ago. So too is Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York, who has flirted with a White House bid this time and is sometimes mentioned as a possible running-mate for either Mr. Obama or Mr. McCain."

The only question now is how many of the voting population will make this a deciding factor,

Another Man’s Parable

One of my favorite bloggers has started reading his Bible and is showing an increasing awareness of matters spiritual. Obviously, I applaud his efforts. I don’t believe it is appropriate for me to give attention to his pursuit since I treat his writing and that of his commenters as rather personal. He did receive a comment that I think I will share. At first I thought it was clumsy but then I re-read it and came to a different conclusion. At the least, it’s an interesting construction of thought.

“I like to think of Salvation and the role of the Law with the following parable that I came up with a few years ago. The Kingdom of God is like a plateau in Utah . It rises hundreds of feet into the air and on top of this plateau; the Children of God reside in relative safety and security. To keep His children safe, God has established a fence around the edge of the sheer cliff in order to create a barrier between the safety of the top and a nasty fall into absolute destruction. Understand that "The Fall" is not God's punishment. The fall is a result of human stupidity.

This fence is called The Law. It is the boundary God has established to show us what is right and what is wrong. The penalty for crossing this boundary is certain death.

Now the fence is a good thing. It keeps His people safe by showing them where the edge is. However, it has another side-effect in that it also draws His children's attention. They walk up to the fence, touch it, prod it and see how close they could get to it without paying the penalty. Sometimes people, in their foolishness, push too hard, and fall over the edge. This side-effect is not good.

His people also have a need. The desert is hot. It's dry, dusty wind courses over the plateau. The sun scorches everything in its view. His people, while safe, live in misery because of this need.

In His abundant grace and mercy, God provides for their need. In the center of the plateau, he provides a fountain. A beautiful, ornate fountain flowing with life-giving water to quench His people's thirst and to provide relief from the blazing sun. To wash away the dry desert dust and make them clean again. This fountain is Yeshua (Jesus).

The side-effect of this fountain was considerably better than the side-effect of the fence. As people notice the fountain, an amazing thing happens. They are drawn by its beauty and by the life-sustaining water it provides. One-by-one they leave the fence and wander into the middle of the plateau to the fountain. As more and more people discover the fountain, they begin to play in the waters. The sound of their frolicking attracts more and more people until nearly everyone is in the center of the fountain, playing and celebrating their deliverance.

My question now is this. Is the fence now no longer needed? Is it now irrelevant and should it be taken down? Personally, I say no. The "Fountain" didn't come to abolish the "Fence", but rather to provide for the needs of God's people. The Fence, while perhaps not as noticed or necessary as it once was, still serves a vital role. It still demarks the boundary between safety and destruction. "Youngsters in the Faith" still need to know where the edge is until they are mature enough to fully embrace the Fountain.

That said, the fence should no longer be our main focus. Our focus is on, and should be on, our Deliverer and His precious Deliverance. If we embrace the "Fountain", we are automatically within God's protection and plan for our lives.”

There you have it. It’s something to think about.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon