Jan 13, 2006

It is About Liberty & Justice for All

The bottom line, for me, is that liberty is at stake. Liberty is special for it gives the individual the opportunity to self-fulfillment. The concept is rather simple: when I'm in charge, leave me alone; when I'm not, I need the government to protect me. In other words, I should be sovereign of myself and my privacy; I also want the government to work for me. But, I do not want to be protected under lock & key! As I see it, this is not an either-or situation; and it should not be made into a zero-sum game. Well, liberty is indeed at stake in our United States today, so we are concerned and alarmed by lifetime appointments to the federal bench when judges don't have this sensibility; much more so if they don't have the sense to understand this concept as Justice Thomas has repeatedly demonstrated.

I watched the entirety of the Alito hearings and I thought that the last two days of the testimonials--pro and con--were much more interesting. I'd advise that they should precede the show. Yes, that show where the nominee pretends to answer the questions from the minority party by using immense longitudes & platitudes, while the majority party presents him as a deity of impeccable character and of a mind that has the brilliance of a supernova. At least the panelists that followed Alito shed a lot more light, made excellent points, and posed questions for all of us to ponder. This should be the start for future hearings, because now the coaching is good so good as to restrict any occurrence of a response with any substance. We won't see again another Bork who would candidly say that Roe v. Wade is a bad law and he'll do whatever he can to overturn it!

The departing Justice O'Connor has said, "We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation's citizens." During times of crisis there's always been attempts from the executive to grab more power, and people often have acted impulsively in giving up their rights without thinking of the consequences. Will Alito vote to enforce the checks & balances provided by the Constitution? Or, like Justice Thomas [lone dissenter in the recent "Hamdi v. Rumsfeld" SCOTUS case], will he hold the view that the executive has the authority to label anybody as "enemy combatant" and hold him indefinitely without affording him any rights whatsoever? Will Justice Alito wink at the President when the latter [as in the McCain anti-torture bill] "understands" the law better [read: disregard it] than Congress's intent? How will SCOTUS [Supreme Court of the US] react to the imperial presidency having Alito as a member?

The war on terror should be taken very seriously. But, we can't substitute competency in gathering & analyzing intelligence, and having a sound foreign policy with turning a blind eye to the violations of our civil liberties. We shouldn't become like our enemies in order to fight them. We shouldn't exchange good & hard work for the empty promises of a corrupt & incompetent administration. We're often told that these are "difficult times" that we fight a "war on terror." Yet, this war on terror has no front and can last forever! Are we so willing to give up our unique and much-envied liberties to obtain some dubiously safer world ? Was Ben Franklin right when he said that those willing to give up their liberty to obtain safety deserve neither?

I have to ask, how would America have been different if we had more ScAlitos on the high court instead of the justices of the Warren Court? In my estimate, we would not recognize our country today for we'd still reside in a very dark age! SCOTUS under Chief Justice Earl Warren righted many injustices of the past--it dispensed justice that was long overdue. This is a philosophical view that I'm afraid the Thomases and the ScAlitos don't share: the tools we have at our disposal, what we call government or, (in other words, how we organize ourselves into a civil society), are there to improve the quality of our lives; to respect and protect the collective and the individual.

There are a few extremely important issues for which we must engage in a national dialogue. What kind of United States of America do we want? When we elect our representatives it is not just a democratic exercise, but it is also a measure of our responsibility. It demonstrates the level of our maturity and the ability to make decisions. Those elected by us act in our name, but not always in our interest. Law has a profound effect on people's lives. But law has to be interpreted, weighted and applied without prejudice. The 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments, for example, provide for the protection of the "average person" but they won't provide anything worthwhile if the "average person" does not care to preserve them; if the "average person" doesn't take action to ensure that his representatives in power share the same sensibilities regarding freedoms & rights.... that people's rights are not subverted by government or are beneath the rights of the big corporations.

Yes, it's about liberty and it's about the future of our country as a beacon of freedom, democracy, equal opportunity, tolerance, and modernity. Unfortunately at this point, instead of working to enhance & advance liberty we have to worry about safeguarding it first as it is violently attacked by elements from within. Many empires thought that by using the power of the sword to fend off the barbarians at the gate would be good enough of a strategy to survival. However, the most enduring power is that of the ideas; ideas that give life to a society of free people. If you've got something good, don't try to enforce it on others but rather enjoy it. If it's really good others will try to steal your ideas and imitate your practices! We should be having a national dialogue on how to move our country forward, but, sadly, we now have to fight to hold the line, not to allow them to turn the clock back.

In the practical sense, it seems that Alito will be confirmed and that the Dems don't have enough votes to block him. He'll go to the whole Senate from the Committee on a partisan vote, 10-8. The key, I think, is for the Dems to have fewer than 5 defections--I meant 4, as Joe Lieberman is a practicing Republican already. This would show that the Repubs won't have 60 votes and that the Dems can filibuster if necessary. Hopefully this time next year, there will be additional Dems in the Senate. No one knows exactly how the dynamics within the high court will change with the addition of Alito, but I wouldn't be surprised if Justice Kennedy becomes the new important swinger there. Thomas's appointment to SCOTUS made a couple justices there sit up and take notice, and they incrementally moved to counter-balance this nitwit ideologue of the extreme right.

Finally, there is lots of work to be done this year before the elections in November so don't lower your guard. There are several scandals to investigate, and several Repubs soon-to-be felons that we have to go after. Time to clean house.