Archive for April, 2012

04/30/2012

Death Penalty Should Be Abolished

While Connecticut’s recent repeal of the Death Penalty made it the 17th state to do so, Capital Punishment remains available in 33 others, where the issue should now be debated, so lawmakers could perhaps realize it does not deter crime, and its ongoing use only poses unnecessary risks for those wrongfully convicted.

The argument the Death Penalty deters homicide is pure myth. Before criminals go out and pull the trigger, they do not visit the local library to research which states impose the Death Penalty, versus those that do not. They are generally not that rational. Even those who are aware of the possible punishments are not deterred, because crimes are usually committed on impulse, by people who are simply not thinking straight at the moment. The recent killing of the black boy in Florida is a good example.

If reasoning and logic actually played a role in the criminal decision-making process, one would expect reductions in homicide in the 33 states that use Capital Punishment, and increases in the 17 where it has been abolished, but statistics show exactly the opposite. In the 10 states with the highest murder rates, all of them allow the Death Penalty, but in the 10 with the lowest rates, 6 have abolished Capital Punishment. There simply is no correlation between Capital Punishment and crime rates.

Eliminating the deterrence argument reduces the debate to the issue of retribution and the nagging question of whether the legal system is capable of error. Simply stated, it is. Many wrongful convictions have been made throughout time, and with the Death Penalty, once it is applied, it is too late discover or correct errors.

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Attempts were made to abolish the Death Penalty through the Supreme Court by asking them to declare it “cruel and unusual” per se. In Furman v Georgia (1972), the Court, in a 5-4 decision, (with the four Nixon appointees dissenting), ruled the Death Penalty unconstitutional, when applied in a discriminatory manner. A new conservative majority however came back in 1976 and declared Capital Punishment was not in and of itself unconstitutional.

Since then, the Court has gradually limited the Death Penalty to homicide. In Coker v Georgia (1977), death as a punishment for the rape of an adult woman was deemed disproportionate.

The only way Capital Punishment can now be completely abolished is if the remaining 33 states repeal it. In the current political climate, this would be a very challenging objective, since right-wing politicians have shown in recent years absolutely no inclination towards even debating the topic.

The only solution is to win over one person at a time. As enough rational people become convinced of the myth of deterrence, and realize the risk of wrongful execution can never be totally eliminated, change will come. The only answer is to expand upon the following list of states that do not use Capital Punishment, by adding states like Connecticut, and another year of abolishment:

1846 Michigan
1853 Wisconsin
1887 Maine
1911 Minnesota
1957 Alaska
1957 Hawaii
1964 Vermont
1965 Iowa
1965 West Virginia
1973 North Dakota (abolished initially in 1915)
1981 District Columbia
1984 Rhode Island (abolished initially in 1852)
1984 Massachusetts
2007 New Jersey
2007 New York (abolished initially in 1966)
2009 New Mexico (abolished initially in 1969)
2011 Illinois
2012 Connecticut

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04/27/2012

2nd Amendment: No Right to Bear Arms

Although the Supreme Court’s conservative five-member activist majority of Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts, and Kennedy ignored the “original intent” of the Second Amendment, as they drafted law from the bench in 2008, and gave individuals who had not enlisted in any state militia an individual right to bear arms, the Constitutional interpretation enunciated by dissenting justices Stevens, Souter, Breyer and Ginsburg, who said only state militia members have a right to bear arms, was the correct view.

In the American Revolution, a loosely-affiliated group of colonial states, operating under the Articles of Confederation (1777-87), provided arms to those serving in well-regulated militias. Art VI of the Articles stated in part: “…Every state shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed…and shall provide…a proper quantity of arms…”

When the Founders realized the Articles were too weak, and the nation needed a stronger central government, they adopted the U.S. Constitution, which created a federal system, and delegated to Congress the power to raise an Army. The new arrangement concerned some, as they feared a rouge President might use the Army for his own personal purposes, to overthrow their liberties.

The Second Amendment was adopted to preserve the rights of the states to maintain armed militias, so they could collectively resist a federal Army. This is why it provides: “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 “original intent” of the 2nd Amendment was to prevent the federal government from disarming state militias. In modern terms, the U.S. government in Washington cannot take guns away from those in state militias, such as the Wisconsin National Guard. If you belong to the Guard, you have a right to bear arms; if not, you have no right to them.

Subsequent Acts of Congress, such as the Militia Act of 1792, which ordered every 18 to 45 year old man to be “enrolled in the militia” and to “provide himself with a good musket or firelock…or with a good rifle” showed the Founders were connecting the right to bear arms with enlistment in a militia.

State Supreme Courts also found only those in the state militias had right to bear arms. In Andrews v State, 50 Tenn. 165 (1871), a Tennessee Court held the right to bear arms for common defense did not mean individual defense, but referred to the right to bear arms for the defense of the community.  In English v State, 35 Tex. 473 (1872), the Texas Court held the “arms” referred to in the Second Amendment are those of soldiers. In Dabbs v State, 39 Ark. 353 (1882), the Arkansas Court held a statute making it an offense to sell “any pistol,” except those “used in the Army or Navy of the U.S.” did not invade the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. In Pierce v State, 276 P. 393 (Ok App 1929), an Oklahoma Court held “arms” in the 2nd Amendment did not include pistols, but only weapons carried by the militia.

A few years ago, however, the conservative U.S. Supreme Court ignored the language of the 2nd Amendment, as well as case precedent, as they created an individual right to bear arms. See District of Columbia v Heller (2008). Heller was later applied to state and local governments, in another 5-4 case. See McDonald v Chicago (2010). (Sotomayer replaced Souter’s dissent).

The only saving grace in Heller was the part where the Court upheld the constitutionality of firearm regulations, and reaffirmed the right of states to engage in gun licensing. They said Second Amendment rights are not unlimited, as there is no right to carry any weapon, in any manner, for any purpose.

Gun regulations have been used for over 100 years. 126 years ago already, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Illinois Military Code that prohibited all bodies of men, except U.S. troops, and those in regular organized state militias, from drilling or parading with arms, unless they were licensed. See Presser v Illinois (1886). 115 years ago, in Robertson v Baldwin (1897), the Court held the right to bear arms was not absolute, and states had the authority to regulate concealed-carry. 73 years ago, the Court held the 2nd Amendment does not protect citizens who transport 12-gauge shotguns, because they are not reasonably-related to the preservation of a well-regulated militia. See U.S. v Miller (1939).

Today, while the need of urban governments to reduce crime by imposing complete handgun bans has been blocked, they can still keep felons and juveniles from possessing firearms; they can ban certain types of firearms, like machine guns and sawed-off shotguns; they can prohibit concealed carry; and they can ban guns on public property.

While gun control advocates are unable to ban and can only regulate, 10 to 20 thousand Americans die each year as a result of handguns. Most murders (63%) are caused by handguns, and 70% of the time the person shooting is a friend or relative of the victim. Foreign countries, such as Japan, Canada, and those in Europe, have only a small fraction of homicides caused by handguns.

Gun control is needed in central cities (where there is no hunting), and any regulation that makes access to handguns in urban areas more difficult, is a step in the right direction. Since the Supreme Court decided to write law, and outlawed the option of banning handguns, the only alternative now is to regulate gun use to death, with the hope that someday, a different Supreme Court, will finally apply the original intent of the Second Amendment.

04/26/2012

Romney is Threat to Public Broadcasting

In the era of Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who terminated public employee collective bargaining rights as soon as he took office, the public must now take seriously every aspect of political party platforms, (routinely ignored in the past), and must actually listen to passing campaign comments, since successful candidates now appear willing to carry them out.

ROMNEY’S PLEDGE: In this new era of extremism, be advised that at a Republican Debate held on Dec. 8, 2011, Gov. Romney promised to eliminate the Public Broadcasting Corporation. His pledge poses a serious threat to democracy, as it would terminate one of our only remaining sources of reliable information.

PBS VALUE: Some of us, who have never received a penny from tax dollars, view Public Broadcasting as the only thing of value ever appropriated by the federal government. While Washington continues to waste billions on military operations overseas, Public TV and Public Radio are continually forced to run bake sales (so to speak), to maintain their relatively modest operations.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO? We have to take seriously the right-wing agenda. If like me, you listen to Wisconsin Public Radio, and watch the News Hour, and the BBC, both on Public Broadcasting (PBS), what will you do, and where will you go for reliable information, if a Republican-controlled Congress teams up with Romney to defund the Public Broadcasting Corporation?

RADIO: First of all, radios would go silent, not only in my house and car, but in yours as well. No intelligent person would spend their time listening to right-wing rants from Rush Limbaugh, Don Imus, or other wing nuts on AM radio. Are there any moderates or left-wingers on radio? If they exist, I am sorry I missed them.

NETWORK NEWS: Where would people go on TV for the Evening News, without PBS? I have not tuned into the Nightly News on CBS, NBC, or ABC for over 30 years. Does anyone still watch entertainment news? I know Katie Couric exists, because I heard the empty-headed Sarah Palin complain about her, but I wouldn’t be able to say which network she works for.

When Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer founded the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour on PBS over 30 years ago, they did so because the corporate networks were broadcasting nothing but superficial entertainment, based almost entirely on film clips. “If it bleeds, it leads,” they would say. Never mind the absence of national or international importance. Burning buildings and action scenes always trumped talking intelligent heads. But we learned nothing from emotional scenes of people expressing anger or sadness. We just wanted plain old Walter Cronkite style talking heads to give us news and information. We wanted people like Ray Suarez, currently on PBS, who is as sharp as a tack.

SUNDAY MORNING: While NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday morning is a hard-hitting objective news report hosted by David Gregory, the ABC alternative anchored by George Stephanophoulos, appears more interested in the Sunday funnies, than serious international coverage of the sort Christiane Amanpour previously provided. I nevertheless watch, even though ABC has long been dominated by the conservative George Will.

FOX: If Romney thinks removing public broadcasting will cause us to turn to the Fox Propaganda Network (FPN), he needs his head examined. Any network with pinheads like Bill O’Reilly, right-wingers like Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, and certifiable nut jobs like Glen Beck, cannot be serious. The truth is Fox is a partisan network, where the news is not reported accurately. If PBS went away, it would be no alternative for intelligent viewers.

CNN: While CNN is a choice on election nights when political junkies scan back and forth looking for different stories, no one knows for sure if they will be reporting serious news, or fluffy stuff of the sort carried on the networks.  While Fareed Zakaria may host an excellent discussion, as soon as caustic characters like Lou Dobbs appear to just blabber about this or that, the station has to be changed.

AM-MSNBC: I cannot watch “Morning Joe” on MSNBC since it is hosted by Joe Scarborough, a former Republican Congressman, whose daily opinions go unchallenged by his co-host.

PM-MSNBC: While the evening lineup at MSNBC carries quality programming hosted by Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell, they are not news, but rather editorial.

C-SPAN occasionally provides live coverage of current events.

HBO: While Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann, and Bill Press would be excellent alternatives for opinion, most viewers never see them, as their shows are apparently on HBO or other premium stations, and not part of the already overpriced ordinary cable.

SOME CONSERVATIVES ARE OK: Responsible media conservatives are fine. The problem is there are not enough of them.  Pat Buchanan has usually been an interesting and respectful guest. The Friday analysis on PBS by conservative columnist David Brooks, pitted against Mark Shields, has always been worth watching. Paul Gigot and George Will also know how to disagree without becoming disagreeable.

President Obama said in a speech on May 19, 2011 legitimate democracy needs an informed citizenry. He was correct. Democracy is not worth much if the public has no reliable source of information. PBS radio and television do a fairly good job and we need more of this sort of broadcasting, not less.

Romney’s pledge to end the Public Broadcasting Corporation is a bad idea, and I am afraid that if the Republicans take over the Senate in 2012, and gain control of both houses, Romney as President would be obligated to his right-wing to carry out his campaign promise and the people will lose an important source of information.

04/24/2012

Court Justices Necessarily Make Law

When the Supreme Court issues decisions this summer on the constitutionality of the “individual mandate” under the Health Care Act, and the legality of the Arizona immigration statute, no matter which way they rule, they will be engaging in judicial activism, and they will be making law, and criticism will follow from the right, the left, or perhaps from both directions.

The Court has a challenging job for they do not review obvious legal questions. If the issue is: What is the minimum age to be President? The outcome would be easy, as the Constitution clearly states “Thirty-five.” But the Court never reviews simple questions like that; they instead take cases involving important issues, where there has been a substantial disagreement among the various appellate courts.

While the winners of these cases usually say the law was correctly applied, the losers accuse the Supreme Court of: 1) engaging in judicial activism; 2) ignoring the “original intent” of the Framers; 3) improperly making law; and 4) of not behaving like neutral and objective justices. The Republicans have used these types of arguments for more than 40 years, even though they have had more justices on the Supreme Court than Democrats since 1972.

When conservatives complain of “liberal activism,” they ignore the multitude of cases involving “conservative activism.” All decisions on legal issues require justices to take a stand, by either moving to the left, or to the right. Inaction is not an option. Even refusing to review a case, which amounts to an affirmation of a lower court ruling, can be viewed as liberal or conservative activism. People complaining about liberal activism, or conservative activism, ignore the reality the Supreme Court necessarily moves in one direction or the other.

Conservatives also complain about not following the “original intent” of the Constitution, as if there is only one way to interpret the document. Their Presidential candidates pledge to nominate only those who believe in the “original intent,” as if it could be known, or found easily in some textbook. The truth is there is no singular book to turn to for the answer, because language is imprecise, and the purpose, meaning, and intent of the Constitution is often vague and ambiguous. Law is not an exact science. This is why a judiciary was created, so we had a body whose job it was to construe and interpret the Constitution. No one can now check with the Founders, and even if they could, Jefferson and Adams, among others, had disagreements between themselves, over 200 years ago already, about the intent of the Constitution. Somebody today has to fill the void left by the Founders, and this is why we have a Supreme Court. They are “the deciders.” While everyone would love to know the “original intent,” the truth is it is subject to debate, and justices must apply their best guesses.

As to the allegation the Court engages in law-making, they are correct, but there is no alternative. A judicial decision necessarily becomes a part of our larger body of law. It has always been that way. When the Court turns areas of gray into black and white, they engage in a limited form of law-making. All judges, whether liberal or conservative, necessarily make law.

The final myth is Supreme Court justices should be, or can be, purely neutral and objective. The truth is justices are human beings whose subconscious subjective personal viewpoints necessarily cloud their judgments. The notion of a purely neutral and impartial objective judiciary is nothing more than a childish myth. Judges are human beings who cannot be perfectly impartial in the pure sense of the word.

We need to acknowledge all U.S. Supreme Court justices are partisans. All of them knew a Republican or Democratic Senator, who sponsored their nomination, and none of them got to the Court by accident, or based solely on merit. When the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the 2000 Presidential election recount in Florida, the outcome was relatively easy to predict, based on the politics of the justices. The Court had seven Republican-appointees, and only two Democratic nominees, and when the decision favored George W. Bush, it was really no surprise, since the justices were unable to set aside their personal political biases.

This summer we may expect an activist court to again make law, which will move the nation to the left, or to the right, since the justices are necessarily biased, and just as political as the rest of us.

04/20/2012

Term Limits Needed in House & Senate

A Constitutional Convention is needed to amend the U.S. Constitution so we can limit U.S. House members to no more than six terms of two years each, and U.S. Senators to no more than two terms of six years each. Because incumbency has become a way of life in Washington, and the amount of money in politics has made it nearly impossible to defeat sitting U.S. Senators or House members, the Constitution must be amended to limit terms.

The idea of limiting terms is a good one that dates back to some of our Founding Fathers, like Thomas Jefferson, who urged the imposition of limits on the number of years Senators could serve.

Although no express limits were included in the final draft of the U.S. Constitution, our first 31 Presidents adhered to a tradition started by George Washington, who left office after eight years as Commander-in-Chief. When Franklin Roosevelt violated tradition and stayed more than 12 years, the 22nd Amendment was ratified in 1951, constraining Presidents to two elected terms of four years each, or one elected 4-year term, if more than two years were already served from the term of the previous President.

Limiting the terms of U.S. House members and U.S. Senators would however prove to be much more difficult than what was done with Presidents. The problem is Constitutional Amendments typically start with a House bill that requires a two-thirds vote, and since the careers of those who wish to remain more than 12 years would be cut short by this Amendment, Representatives would have a direct conflict of interest, and the proponents of change would be unlikely to get enough votes to even get started.

The only alternative to the ordinary Amendment process is to convene a Constitutional Convention, pursuant to Art. V of the Constitution. If the legislatures in 34 states (two-thirds) vote in favor of convening a Constitutional Convention, representatives of all 50 states would be invited, and if an Amendment was introduced, the approval of 38 states (three-fourths) would be needed to make it a part of the Constitution.

Although most scholars agree an Amendment is needed, it will never start in Congress, and must instead begin with the introduction of an identical bill in 34 state legislative bodies, calling for a Constitutional Convention, strictly limited to one simply-worded Term Limit Amendment. The Amendment would then be submitted to all 50 states, and would become law when ratified by 38 states.

04/19/2012

Voting: Use Optical-Scanned Ballots

Having voted in eight cities, in four states, and once via absentee ballot from overseas, I have had the opportunity in my life to observe a number of ballot forms, requirements, and procedures, and it seems we as a nation should now be at the point where we can agree on standard polling hours, a single ballot form that is difficult to corrupt, as well as methods for counting (or recounting) that insure the highest level of accuracy and integrity.

Polling hours should be uniform. In one city, I went to the polls slightly before 8:00 a.m., but they had not yet opened. While polls open at different times in different places, I never understood why hours were not uniform, such as 7:00 a.m. through 8:30 p.m.

Ballots should always be on paper, so there is a subsequent record for recount purposes. Stated another way, even though the old-fashioned voting machines allowed clerks to tabulate results quickly, they generated no paper trail, and should be abolished.

The paper ballot combined with an optical scan for counting is the best method. It should be mandated everywhere. The paper ballot should be completed by placing scanner marks next to the candidate or referendum choices.

Votes should never be cast by punching holes, as was the case in Florida in the 2000 Presidential Election, where punch cards left hanging chads, and doubts about voter intent.

Following the 2000 election, the Help America Vote Act (2002) was passed. One of its purposes was to help local governments replace punch cards, and lever-based voting machines. The law was a step in the right direction.

Now, officials across the nation should be using optical scanning devices. Hopefully, 2012, a year filled with several very important contests, we be free of election irregularities.

04/18/2012

Recall: Impeachment by Another Name

Wisconsin will soon be conducting a Recall Election against Scott Walker, and a band of Republican State Senators, who like Mary Surratt, provided aid and comfort to the Governor, as they plotted and conspired to deny state workers of their collective bargaining rights.

If voters wonder why an Impeachment indictment was not presented in the State Assembly, and specific charges were not prosecuted at a trial in the State Senate, the answer is while a Recall is like an Impeachment, by an another name, there are differences.

Before the Progressives amended the Wisconsin Constitution to give the people a direct voice in the removal of elected officials, Impeachment was the only way to take out rouge public figures. The proponents of the Wisconsin Constitutional Amendment that created the recall in 1926 intended to give voters a direct method for replacing office holders. They wanted to bypass the impeachment process, which requires a majority vote in the State Assembly, and a two-thirds margin in the State Senate.

U.S. Senator Robert La Follette had advanced similar measures at the federal level. Until the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913, U.S. Senators were not chosen through a vote by the people, but were hand-picked by state representatives. La Follette transferred power to ordinary people by removing the smoked-filled rooms, and by shifting the process into the hands of the voters, through the ballot. Impeachment, like the indirect method of picking Senators, was also outside the reach of ordinary voters, that is, until the advent of the Recall.

Unlike Impeachment, which requires a Senate trial where evidence of bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors is presented, only two things must be done to win a Recall. The first is the extremely onerous requirement of obtaining the signatures of 25% of those who voted in the prior election, which in Walker’s case was over 500,000, and second is the heavy burden to reverse the previous vote of the electorate, a majority of whom supported Walker. People generally do not like being told they were wrong in the first place, even if they were.

While impeachments have historically been used against Presidents by political opponents, for political reasons, and have often resulted in political outcomes, the Recall is not burdened with the personal agendas or egos of individual Senators.

After the death of Whig President William Harrison, John Tyler, a Southern Democrat, entered the White House, and when he started vetoing nearly every measure the Whig Party presented, an Impeachment resolution was introduced in the House, before it was defeated 127 to 83, thanks to Democratic resistance.

Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, who became Republican Lincoln’s Vice-President in 1864 under a National Union ticket, became President when Abe was assassinated in 1865, and after he vetoed several Republican measures, the House voted to impeach him, before a Senate trial resulted in an acquittal, by just one vote.

Bill Clinton, who had a consensual and perfectly legal affair with a younger woman, was targeted in an impeachment charade egged on by the sinister Newt Gingrich, which ultimately failed in the Senate by a handful of votes. If the Recall method had been used, instead of impeachment, the people would have acquitted Bill in a landslide.

The Recall is not easier than Impeachment, as two large obstacles must be overcome before there can be a removal, it is more democratic, and it gives more direct power to the people.

04/17/2012

Mandate Candidate Tax Disclosures

Although the Federal Election Commission requires Presidential candidates to reveal assets and liabilities on Ethics Form 278, there is currently no law mandating the disclosure of tax returns, but there should be. Although it has been a tradition for over four decades for aspiring Presidents and incumbents to release several years of tax returns, Mitt Romney has surrendered only two. The Congress should impose a 7-year mandatory look-back period to correct this type of reluctance.

During the 2008 Republican primaries, Mitt Romney refused to disclose any tax returns whatsoever, and so far in the 2012 race, he yielded only his 2011 return, which showed 20.9 million in gross income, and his 2010 papers, that disclosed another 21 million in revenue. Voters are entitled to many more years from Romney, if he expects to be taken seriously in November.

President Barack and Michelle Obama released eight years of tax returns before the 2008 election. They grossed $240,000 in 2000, $275,000 in 2001, $260,000 in 2002, $238,000 in 2003, $207,000 in 2004, 1.6 million in 2005, $991,000 in 2006, 4.2 million in 2007, and 2.6 million in 2008. Since becoming Commander-in-Chief, he reported 5.6 million in 2009 (only $374,460 in Presidential pay), and 1.7 million in 2010, and his 2011 return. Sen. John McCain also made his tax returns public in 2008.

George W. and Laura Bush reported $936,000 in 2007, $765,000 in 2006, $738,000 in 2005, $784,000 in 2004, $822,000 in 2003, $856,000 in 2002, $811,000 in 2001, and $894,000 in 2000. Sen. Al Gore and Sen. John Kerry also showed us their numbers.

Bill and Hillary Clinton disclosed $417,000 in 1999, $509,000 in 1998, 1 million in 1996, $316,000 in 1995, $263,000 in 1994, $293,000 in 1993, and $290,000 in 1992, in addition to several other returns, all the way back to 1980. Bill’s 1996 challenger, Sen. Bob Dole, also surrendered to the media his tax returns.

George H. W. and Barbara Bush grossed $456,000 in 1989, $452,000 in 1990, and 1.3 million in 1991. His challenger, Gov. Michael Dukakis had no problem releasing his tax returns.

Ronald Reagan reported $345,000 in 1987, $320,000 in 1986, $394,000 in 1985, over $400,000 (illegible) in 1983, $741,000 in 1982, and $412,000 in 1981.

Jimmy Carter reported $270,000 (illegible) in 1979, $254,000 in 1978, and $350,000 in 1977. President Ford also showed the public his tax returns.

Richard Nixon reported $736,000 in 1969, $262,000 in 1970, $262,000 in 1971, and $282,000 in 1972.

04/16/2012

Guantanamo Bay Base: Give It Up

The U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, on the island of Cuba, has been operated illegally, against the wishes of the Cuban government for 114 years, and it should now be torn down, and the port should be returned to the Cuban people.

As far back as 1854, the U.S. has made frivolous claims to Cuba. When Franklin Pierce (1853-57) was President, future President James Buchanan, a member of his administration, issued the Ostend Manifesto, which claimed the U.S. had a right to seize the island by force, if Spain refused to sell it. Buchanan was afraid a slave rebellion would turn the island into a disorderly republic, like Haiti, but his real motive was to create another slave state.

After a revolt broke out in 1895 between the Cubans and colonial Spain, the Maine, an American ship, was blown up in Havana Harbor in 1898, and though there was no proof the explosion was caused by the Spanish, the U.S. invaded, and won the Spanish-American War.

When the Americans first occupied the island, they were greeted as liberators, but the mood soon changed, as the newly liberated people were forced, under the Platt Amendment (1901), to give the U.S. a right to intervene in their internal affairs. Although President Theodore Roosevelt granted independence, under the Cuban-American Treaty (1903), the catch was they had to give the U.S. a perpetual lease to Guantanamo Bay.

A generation later, President Franklin Roosevelt offered to annul the right to intervene, provided the Cubans signed the Treaty between the U.S. and Cuba (1934), which allowed the unwelcome U.S. military presence at Guantanamo to continue. Realizing they would never get a better deal from a conservative American President, the Cubans accepted a half a loaf from liberal FDR, instead of nothing at all.

The Cubans have since continued to protest the American military presence on the island. When Fidel Castro took over in 1959, he escalated the objection by shutting off the water to the American base, in an attempt to get the U.S. to go home, but the U.S. Navy started filtering seawater through a desalination plant in 1964. To this day, Cuba does not cash rental checks from the U.S.

The U.S. has no legitimate right to use the Guantanamo Bay Navy Base, as the lease was forced upon Cuba under what international law would refer to as an unequal treaty. Since President Obama promised to close Guantanamo, now would be the perfect time to give the port back.

04/13/2012

Close Persian Gulf Region Bases

How many military bases does the United States really need for national security purposes in the Persian Gulf and the surrounding region? The following, which excludes any lingering unclassified facilities in Iraq, is just a partial list of our presence in the area.

KUWAIT
Army: Camp Arifjan
Air Force: Ahmed Al-Jaber Air Base
Air Force & Army: Ali Al-Salem Air Base (since 1991)
Army: Camp Buehring (NW)
Army: Camp Virginia
Navy: Kuwait Naval Base

BAHRAIN
Navy: Manama Naval Base
Air Force: Sheikh Isa Air Base
Air Force: Bahrain International Airport

SAUDI ARABIA
Air Force: Eskan Village

QATAR
Air Force: al-Udeid Air Base
Camp al-Saliyah

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Navy: Fujairah Naval Base
Navy: Jebel Ali Seaport
Air Force: al-Dhafra Air Base

OMAN
Air Force: Masirah Air Base
Air Force: Thumrait Air Base
Seeb International Airport (dual use)

DJIBOUTI
Navy: Camp Le Monier

TURKEY
Air Force: Incirlik Air Base

ISRAEL
Army: Dimona Radar Facility
Navy: Port of Haifa (6th Fleet)

INDIAN OCEAN
Navy: Diego Garcia

AFGHANISTAN
Marines: Camp Dwyer
Marines: Camp Leatherneck
Marines: Camp Rhino
Marines: FOB Delhi
Marines: FOB Delaram
Marines: FOB Fiddler’s Green
Marines: FOB Geronimo
Marines: PB Jaker
Air Force: Bagram Airfield
Air Force: Shindand Airbase
Air Force: Kandahar International Airport

KYRGYZSTAN
Air Force: Manas Air Base

UZBEKISTAN
Termez Air Base Khanabad

KAZAKHSTAN
U.S. military presence

TAJIKISTAN
NATO presence