A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Events Run Faster Than Joe Claus

You are probably wondering I have not been all over the President's warrentless domestic eavesdropping scandal. Well, unfortunately, Mrs. Claus is not doing as well as we first thought. She is out of the hospital, but on oxygen, and we are in for a large round of medical examinations to determine what now is wrong, since she no longer has a gallbladder.

I do have my ideas about the scandal, however, and late is better than never:

The key issue here is not fact of spying for security. It is the lack of court warrants. There is a special secret court where warrants can be obtained for any sort of spying, up to 72 hours after the fact, without compromising security one whit.

This NSA business is the action of a King with a Star Chamber and a Privy Council, not a President who takes an oath to abide by the Constitution. As was holding people without charges and without trial. As is the claim that torture should now be OK because we have justified reasons for doing it.

They are all pieces of arbitrary authoritarian rule, not democratic and law abiding government. And no threat on this earth justifies them. Every authoritarian goverment of the last century made exactly the same claims that "security" justified their actions.

I have lived through the threat of atomic annihilation at the hands of the Soviet Union. There was no threat greater than that. Period. But no president of that era, not even Richard Nixon, claimed such royal perogatives that George W. Bush has consistently claimed.

There not a shred of evidence that all of this bending of the law by the President [to be generous] and the provisions of the current Patriot Act have made us one jot safer. Not one. Nor is the "after this therefore because of this" fallacy of "well we haven't had a terrorist attack since" anything that a man with mind would take seriously.

The proof the pudding is in the eating.

Not to mention the fact that this Administration has done virtually nothing but grab at more authoritarian power to spy, detain, and torture to ensure "homeland security". They aren't even willing to cooperate with their own party to stem the flow of who knows who across our borders!

I suppose that's because NSA can always listen to the phone conversations of those tens of thousands of unknown people once they get here. Or because the FBI can always seize their library records and gag their librarians.

I, at least, would be willing to examine special legal powers to fight terrorism on their merits. And there are plenty of Democrats in Congress willing to examine such special legal powers. But such willingness presupposes that the President is also willing to abide by the law. If that is not the case, if an Executive Order is equivalent to a Royal Decree, why bother for Congressional consent at all, except for window dressing?

If 'security of ongoing operations' is invoked to cover the deliberate breach of the law by the Administration then anyone in the know is confronted a fundamental conflict of duties essentially and inherently incompatible with Democracy and Liberty. I'm sure I don't have to spell this out.

The President and his Administration have already admitted that the actions are not in compliance with FISA. Condoleesa Rice said as much to Tim Russert. They are claiming unprecdented constitutional "war powers", which Rice, at least, declined to specify to Russert, to flatly ignore the Congressional statute.

This "war" is essentially endless. If you don't believe this try honestly to conceive of conditions under which we would be "completely safe from terrorism". I cannot do so, and I doubt that you can either.

So, any such claim by the President to set aside Congressional statute by fiat is a claim that the Presidency is permanently above the law. If you yourself can pick and choose which laws you follow then you are above the law.

This is exactly "Royal Perogative" as any English Monarch would have claimed it up to the time of Charles I, and as any French Monarch would have understood it. This is exactly what is incompatible with Liberty under Law.

We have no business regranting any such powers as are in the rapidly expiring Patriot Act to a regime that has so consistently attempted to bend the law, flout the law, and has created a climate where its members and its minions routinely break the law.