NEW CASTLE —
Every civics student knows what a filibuster is.
That’s when one or more members of the Senate take the floor and talk endlessly in an effort to block a vote or some other action they deem undesirable.
The filibuster has a long and storied history. It was made famous in the Jimmy Stewart film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” It also was smeared by Southern senators in the 1950s and 1960s who used it to block civil rights legislation.
But for decades now, the filibuster has been more symbolic than meaningful. Changes in Senate rules weakened the power of the filibuster and also allowed a minority of senators to block votes without hours of talking. The true filibuster faded into legend.
Until this week.
A small group of senators, led by Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky, took to the Senate floor to block a vote on the nomination of John Brennan as CIA chief. As filibusters go, it was an abbreviated one that began after noon Wednesday and went into the night.
But Brennan isn’t the real target of the filibuster. Instead, Paul and others are raising questions over government policy regarding the use of weaponized drones, and whether there is any intent to employ them against American citizens on U.S. soil.
In response to the filibuster, the Obama administration declared it had no intention of using a drone “to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil.” But the definition of “combat” creates legal wiggle room.
For certain folks, the use of drones represents a major expansion of federal military power, in that these devices have the capacity to identify specific targets and then attack. Drones have been credited with killing scores of al-Qaida officials, but mistakes have been made as well.
The morality of certain weapons in time of war is fuel for ongoing debate. But we get the sense Paul and others are worried about domestic targets deemed to be enemies of the U.S. Amid all the debate over gun control these days, you may have noticed that a key concern of gun rights activists is the ability to defend themselves against an oppressive government.
However, an assault rifle is no match for a drone.
Interestingly some Republican senators, including John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are among the loudest critics of Paul’s filibuster, dismissing the concerns as pointless.
The way we see it, if some credible threat emerged, we presume the government would employ drones on U.S. soil. We note that at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Air Force jets were prepared to shoot down commercial jetliners if it became necessary.
From a practical standpoint, drones are no different. And any statement from any administration on the subject won’t change that.
NEW CASTLE —
Every civics student knows what a filibuster is.
Our Opinion: Lousy voter turnout is a missed opportunity
Tuesday’s primary in Lawrence County had its share of winners and losers. But — based on the numbers — the biggest winner has to be voter apathy. Countywide, voter turnout in the primary was a whopping 17.1 percent. In case you missed it, our use of the term “whopping” is sarcasm.
Our Opinion: Pennsylvania’s primary system is controlled by parties
Should Pennsylvania’s primaries be open to independent voters? That’s an interesting question and one we have explored in the past on this page.
Our Opinion: State audit says city school district failed to collect from non-residents
Audit information about non-resident students who didn’t pay tuition at New Castle raises more questions than it answers. At least so far. We expect more details when the Pennsylvania auditor general’s office completes its report and the New Castle school district provides its response.
Our Opinion: Make the most of your power to vote by casting ballot tomorrow
So what kind of turnout will there be for tomorrow’s primary? Recent history suggests somewhere between low and lousy. This year’s elections are devoted to local races, and there are few major ones being contested in the primary.
Our Opinion: Privatization of county jail is worthy of examination
Generally speaking, we support government efforts to seek more efficient ways to provide essential services. So we have no problem with the decision by the Lawrence County commissioners to solicit proposals for the private operation of the county jail.
Our Opinion: We endorse candidates for New Castle board
The New Castle school district is often a study in contrasts. There are complaints about the district on everything from taxes to nepotism, from test scores to ethical slights. Yet at the same time, plenty of students within the district excel. It’s a tribute to the hard work of those students, their families and the educators who support them.
Our Opinion: You should be frightened, outraged by IRS abuse of power
When people talk about government posing a threat to citizens, a common topic these days is unmanned drones. But a more credible threat may be the Internal Revenue Service. This agency, responsible for collecting taxes and enforcing related rules, has the ability to make life miserable for the average individual.
Our Opinion: Our endorsements for City Council race
The city of New Castle needs help. Financially distressed and operating under Pennsylvania’s Act 47, New Castle must find ways to reverse its population loss and fiscal challenges.
Our Opinion: Court frowns on gerrymandering, but only slightly
Pennsylvania legislators have received the green light to put their own political interests ahead of yours. That’s a key point in the latest Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on legislative apportionment in the commonwealth.
Our Opinion: Study says distracted driving deaths are under reported
Suppose you operated a piece of heavy machinery at your job. And suppose it’s machinery that moves quickly with little effort. What would happen if you decided to take one hand off that equipment — while it was still in motion — and instead focused your attention on a telephone call?
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