Jun 17, 2007

Badges? We Don't Need No Stinking Budges! (or, how to shred the constitution)

It's only an amendment, and, at that, fourth in order...

Long time ago, someone* famous said once that those who are willing to sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither. Our country is what we make of it. Since I'm not running for any public office, I can commit a "sin" by saying that, for this horrific mess we're in, Bush & Co are not the only ones to blame! Bush was re-elected by an absent-minded electorate. A public that allowed to be deceived and manipulated by its government, and support a bad war of choice. The information about the war was available, but most Americans didn't bother to look. In a democratic country, it was amazing to see such a propaganda coup (with the complicity of the media), when 70% or more of the public bought the lies about the necessity of war in Iraq. Usually, not even authoritarian regimes can pull off such a feat.

We are who we are, because we have a particular form of government that allows for diversity and tolerance of competing points of view. It's good that we have access to all sorts of information, that we can have the option of making up our own minds.
We find it advantageous to have a cosmopolitan society--and, traditionally, such societies have produced more & better arts, science, literature, economies, and happier people! We should not forget this. In a utilitarian sense, this approach of cosmopolitanism makes for a nicer society where people are free to pursue their own dreams & aspirations; it's where persons can be individuals and try to fulfill their own potential.

But, in order to be an individual you have to have personal freedom... you know, that stuff in the Bill of Rights. In other words, we create a society that does not have a Big Brother! We are the products of our own mind and of our environment! If the environment allows a person more freedom to think, read, associate, make decisions, etc., without being constantly watched or in fear, then this condition produces a certain kind of person--a person who is not afraid to blaze new trails, not afraid to grapple with concepts and re-examine old ideas, and to participate in the affairs of the commonwealth as his civic duty.

In the hysteria of the days post 9-11, few were willing to think clearly, challenge
the claims of Bush & Co. Our own Congress ["own" in relatively terms since that Republican-controlled Congress was a do-nothing congress; the Dems helped too, don't get me wrong] swiftly passed the PATRIOT ACT, almost overnight, without debate and without our representatives reading it! I'm not kidding. They didn't read it. They still don't know what's in it, as we recently found out that it gave the President the authority to fire US Attorneys without the advisement & consent of the Senate!

When Congress established the FISA court and amended the provisions to make it easier or our government to spy on people, it still required the gov. to obtain a warrant up to 72 hours after it had started the surveillance. Out of thousands of requests, literally only a handful of them have been denied by the court, so it's almost automatic that the government can get such a warrant. It makes you wonder why BushCo didn't bother to get warrants... which is an illegal under our constitution! [Fourth Amendment]

Much like PBS and NPR, even if relatively few people watch what's on, it's extremely important to create a public record! Same with getting warrants, because we can go back and examine, investigate, and correct past wrongs. B
ut only if we know that a wrong was committed. Now, we find out that the FBI has broken the law more than a 1,000 time while spying on Americans! A couple days ago in an encouraging decision, a judge ordered the FBI to turn over thousands PATRIOT ACT abuse documents. Congress should keep the pressure on. Even if this obtuse president kicks and screams, Congress should investigate and use its subpoena power. Oh, no, I didn't forget the obligations we citizens have to keep an eye on our government... and, reward & punish them via the ballot box, and, in the court of public opinion.

In a related matter, some authorities want to curtail the abilities of terrorists by
limiting their access to common lab equipment, and (do you remember this?) those chemistry sets sold off the rack so youngsters can be introduced to science. In Texas, for example, you have to register a three-neck beakers, but you don't have to register your handgun! [more on this story]

In a few days, the nation will celebrate the 4th of July in pomp & circumstance, and with fire & brim in the sky and in oration... I hope we do more than fire up the barbie, bake in the sun, sit in traffic, hit the stores for sales, and trample on thousand of products festooned with the American flag....

*Ben Franklin