Grading the USA

by Alec Leone

The Preamble

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and, secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America." These words our own founding fathers used to head off the Constitution of the United States. It was meant, at first, as a guide for all future leaders as to how the government was to be run and what to strive toward. But are these values and guidelines upheld and followed today? Let us find out.
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Forming a More Perfect Union

From October 1st to October 16th, the US Government shut down. This was a result of Lawmakers neglecting to budget for fiscal 2014 before its start date on October 1st. As the new fiscal year approached, partisan differences reached new heights. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), the health reform legislation also known as Obamacare, was scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 1, 2013, the first day of fiscal 2014. Republicans in the House of Representatives, who strongly opposed the ACA, refused to pass a CR or other measure to fund the government unless it included provisions to defund or delay the implementation of the ACA. Democrats refused to roll back the health reform law, instead demanding a funding bill that included no such policy changes. With lawmakers at this impasse, the new fiscal year began with no funding in place for much of the federal government – and, thus, the government shut down. Programs and agencies that require annual appropriations to fund their operations closed their doors, with an exception made for those that “protect life or property.” Programs that closed or saw no funding during the shutdown included Head Start, WIC, cancer treatment at the National Institutes of Health, and tuition assistance for active duty military, among many others. At the same time, programs that were considered a matter of national security by Congress were allowed to remain open, including most of the Department of Defense as well as surveillance activities at the National Security Agency.
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Establishing Justice

Gonzales v. Oregon, 546 (U.S.) 243 (2006), was a decision by the United States Supreme Court which ruled that the United States Attorney General could not enforce the federal Controlled Substances Act against physicians who prescribed drugs, in compliance with Oregon state law, for the assisted suicide of the terminally ill. It was the first major case heard under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts. On November 9, 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued an Interpretive Rule that physician-assisted suicide was not a legitimate medical purpose, and that any physician administering federally controlled drugs for that purpose would be in violation of the Controlled Substances Act. The State of Oregon, joined by a physician, a pharmacist, and a group of terminally ill patients, all from Oregon, filed a challenge to the Attorney General's rule in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. The court ruled for Oregon and issued a permanent injunction against the enforcement of the Interpretive Rule. The ruling was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, 546 US 320 (2006), was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States involving a facial challenge to New Hampshire's parental notification abortion law. The First Circuit had ruled that the law was unconstitutional and an injunction against its enforcement was proper. The Supreme Court vacated this judgment and remanded the case, but avoided a substantive ruling on the challenged law or a reconsideration of prior Supreme Court abortion precedent. Instead, the Court only addressed the issue of remedy, holding that invalidating a statute in its entirety "is not always necessary or justified, for lower courts may be able to render narrower declaratory and injunctive relief." The opinion was delivered by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who had been significantly responsible for developing the Court's recent abortion jurisprudence. This decision was O'Connor's last opinion on the Court before her retirement on January 31, 2006.

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Ensuring Domestic Tranquility

Eastern Idaho law enforcement officials say they seized $800,000 worth of drugs as well as weapons following a 2-month investigation. Bonneville County Sheriff Paul Wilde says the seizure Thursday is one of the biggest so far this year. Police took into custody 34-year-old Alejandro Martinez-Zavala, 40-year-old Miguel Guiterrez-Munoz, and 36-year-old Ramon Meraz-Gallegos. They face charges of trafficking of methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine. The investigation by the Bonneville County Sheriff's Office, Idaho Falls Police Department, Idaho State Police, Bureau of Homeland Security, FBI and Immigration Customs Enforcement found the three selling large quantities of drugs in the community. In the raid on Thursday, police seized 17 pounds of meth, about 2.5 pounds of marijuana and 46 grams of cocaine. Police also seized an AK-47 an $8,300 in cash.

Members of the East Central Narcotics Task force made a large drug bust while executing a search warrant Thursday in Manchester. Police arrested 21-year-old Tyler Dube at his Cooper Street apartment after they found psychedelic mushrooms, ecstasy and marijuana. Police also found other drug paraphernalia, a scale and cash. In addition, officers recovered a stolen .38 caliber revolver. Police are still working on determining the location from where the gun was stolen. Dube was arrested on several charges, including operating a drug factory, possession of drugs with intent to sell and possession of drugs within 1,500 feet of a school. He is being held on a $200,000 bond.

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Providing for the Common Defense

AeroVironment’s Wasp AE represents the latest evolution in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The Wasp has been used by the U.S. military for small unit work ranging from reconnaissance and surveillance to tactical intelligence. Hand-launchable at just 2.8 pounds and 16 inches from wingtip to tip, the new model flies 20 percent longer than its predecessor. Able to land on either land or water, the Wasp is fit for both ground warfare and maritime operations. It can relay encrypted video, and voice, text and data, and a miniaturized Mantis i22 AE sensor package lets it capture both color and infrared imagery. The best part is that the Wasp is interoperable with other unmanned systems -- meaning it is capable of working as a team with other machines to attack the enemy. The coolest tag team is clearly its partnership with the Switchblade. Known popularly as “the kamikaze drone,” the Switchblade works sort of like a grenade and can be guided to a target and set to explode upon impact. Like the Wasp AE, Switchblade can be either autonomous or remotely controlled by an operator. This lethal platform can recognize objects and provide real-time GPS coordinates and video. At 5.5 pounds, it fits in a backpack and lets a soldier unleash munitions against even out of sight targets within minutes.

Two military research labs have been racing to revolutionize rifle accuracy and range by developing the first-ever guided bullets – a technology that could potentially give any hunter sniper skills, if made public.

In February tests, a 4-inch-long prototype from Sandia Labs demonstrated it can change direction in flight and hit a target more than a mile away, thanks to an optical sensor in its nose and fins for guidance. The sensor locates a laser trained on a distant target, while the bullet’s brains process the data and steer the fins. This will undoubtedly lead to the quicker finish of engagements and overall preservation of lives.

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Promoting the General Wellfare

In March of 2010, Obamacare, or the Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. This new policy introduced by President Obama was created to give Americans more rights and protections an expand access to affordable and quality health care to tens of millions of uninsured. The law requires all Americans have health insurance by 2014, or pay a per month fee for every month uninsured. Obamacare doesn't change the way insurance is obtained, you can still buy private insurance, get employer based insurance, or get insurance through a government program like Medicaid or Medicare. Obamacare does add a new way to purchase insurance however. Insurance can now be purchased through State Health Insurance Marketplaces where shoppers can receive cost assistance and get apples-to-apples comparisons of plans.

The largest emergency overnight shelter for the homeless in Los Angeles, housing up to 600 people per night, is struggling to survive because of cuts in federal funding and an increased number of poor in a downturned economy, said the shelter's president.In order to continue providing the existing services, Wilson has begun an online fundraising campaign in hopes of raising enough money to accommodate the overflow of homeless people coming every night seeking a place to sleep. Wilson said the shelter turns away up to 100 women and 40 men each night because of lack of funds. While a Los Angeles city and county program once paid for 600 beds (overnight accommodations), it now pays to shelter 436 (300 men and 136 women) people nightly. That doesn't stop Wilson from taking up to 600 people overnight.

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Securing the Blessings of Liberty

Today, people are given the right to a fair trial. They also have the right to do as they wish within the boundaries of their rights, as long as it does not infringe upon the rights of another person. An example of this would be that of the Civil War, the war about the freedom of slaves. The Civil War was a fight for the Liberty of the African American people who had been slaves at the time. The fight for Liberty succeeded, and therefore can be considered a successful example of securing Libetry
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Analysis & Grading

In looking back at this, the data that I have compiled on The United States, I must say, we did not do nearly as bad as I would have thought at following the goals and guidelines set forth by our founding fathers in the preamble. I mean sure, we haven't created the most perfect union, what with the constant butting of heads between our two parties, but we have great federal and state level court systems, as well as an amazing police departments and officers who ensure the domestic tranquility. Not to mention the fact that our military is the strongest in the world, more than providing for the common defense, and that affordable health care and insurance policies are easier than ever to obtain! So overall, if I were to give the USA some kind of a letter based grade, I think it would be right around an A-, for we have our flaws, but still do fairly well for ourselves.