Tuesday, October 27, 2009
In fact, with our Bill of Rights - speech, religions, guns, warrants, juries, silence and libraries full of rights unenumerated - it is clear that it is our duty as citizens to be cranks.
If we are not cranks - if we do not chafe at the bridle and spurs of authority - then we are not free.
And if we are not free, then we are slaves.
Me? I'm a crank.
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Have you heard your conservative friends rail against what they see as the excessive (outrageous) levels of expenditures from this administration?
Have you suspected that the hordes of "Tea Party Protestors" might somehow have allowed their fervor to exceed their analysis of the intracacies of the federal budget?
I mean, if they are so upset at a bill that runs 1000-pages in length, surely they grow faint upon direct encounter with all of the pages it takes to print out the entire federal budget!
Never fear, that inner voice in your head, telling you those protestors have a degree of truth equivalent to a curve with an inverse relationship to the volume of the hubub they have caused - is absolutely true!
And thankfully, we have former Reagan advisor Bruce Bartlett to make the case for us:
Now, we all know that there is no better way to lie than with numbers, but as this is mere subtraction, there is no room for wool to be pulled over our eyes on this one.
And there it is: our faith has been confirmed. More than merely appearing to be more competent than the Bush administration, the Obama administration has proven that to be true after mere months in office.
Happy days - as the song says - are here again!
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Initially, I was elated with the announcement made by the Majority Leader of the Senate, when he said a public option will be included; and the fact that Medicaid has always been opt-out, convinces me that not a single one of those silly governors will even pursue asking their state legislatures to back out - and I would hope that Democratic candidates in every election between now and 2014 would make clear the folly of that behavior. Additionally, once we make it past that date, states will be locked into the national public option; how many Republicans can we run from office by pointing out that their very presence is a threat to the health of their citizens?
So that is the good news.
But I will not join in the cavalcade of those seeking to shower our elected representatives with praise for this eminently pitiable act. This option does not tie premiums to Medicare rates (which no one is forced to take, by the way. If a single nurse, doctor or hospital does not know how to make money on Medicare rated - then they can elect not to take Medicare patients. I would hope we would run from providers do incompetent, rather than plead to keep them.); but this refusal to tie public option rates to Medicare shows the hollowness of this victory. Furthermore, it is the very definition of a partial victory, as only those without healthcare will even be eligible to elect to walk away from their more predatory policies with private insurers; the rest of us will be forced by our employers into paying more of our hard, earned money to private insurers - all for the privilege of them doing . . . ?
Nothing. It is just the government guaranteeing profit for industry, which I used to think we only did for utilities, but has now expanding like a virus across our financial sector - and make no mistake: in our modern, looking-glass world, health insurance is a function of the financial sector of our economy. We should set our timepieces so that we might observe the onset of a similiar CDS/CDO meltdown of the health insurers; who knows - perhaps they will pull the life insurers down with them!
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At times, my meaning can be obscured by the volume, so:
I am sure my goal is not clear, so let me place it here: raise the level of the debate from over any specific legislation up to a call to act to save our Republic itself.
2009 appears like it will close with a legislative victory on health care and that auger well for more legislative victories to come, but we know these things to be true:
- 2010 is an election year;
- Republicans are addicted to running on a meme of, "Democrats are traitors".
What better way to launch into an election year with a call to restore our Republic? Why cannot Democrats wrap themselves in the Constitution and make the simple case that the USA PATRIOT Act needs to be repealed as it is un-Constitutional. Furthermore, why should not Democrats turn the tables and reveal the hypocrisy that underpins FISA itself: the notion that communication can be viewed by agents of our government - merely because it is electronic as opposed to paper - is insulting to our Constitution and completely unnecessary to our security.
Think about it: the original FISA legislation is predicated on the notion that one branch of our government is absolutely convinced that somebody is about to do something extraordinarily dangerous to the lives of Americans and the order of our society, so they need to surreptitiously surveil this somebody. The Constitution absolutely considers this case.
The Judiciary is also a branch of our government. If the left hand cannot convince the right hand that the stove is hot, then maybe the stove is not hot. Access to Judges or time to wait before Judges can rule is naught but a worse case scenario used to define an entire solution - but the original FISA approach ignores the very technology that can provide a simple solution. Imagine that: the complaint is that technology is "different now" and so the old rules "no longer apply" and that "the Constitution is not a suicide pact"; these are all memes trotted out to obscure people from one simple fact: the government has access to and use of the most sophisticated technology on the planet. In most cases, the use of this technology is limited to the Executive branch, which then allows them to snow technology-inept judges with scary stories.
Today - and for many years now - we have 911 lines staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week; it is more than plausible to see how we could construct a hotline to access judges at any time and at a moment's notice. With existing technology, we can set up an instantaneous online conference call, with video recording and audio recording as well. A shared workspace can be put up to allow the Judge to see just what the agent of the Executive in need of a warrant is seeing and this workspace - and the edits made to it by both the Judge and the Agent - can be recorded as well. Heck, if we need to ensure that an on-call attorney is there to represent the interests of the person (perhaps even anonymously) who owns the property to be searched, that can be accommodated with just one more line added to the bridge.
This is America; surely we have a surfeit of lawyers to fill these roles and all of them easily can be outfitted with proper technology - phones, computers, PDA - to enable them to complete their tasks.
You want a search, get a warrant. If you cannot convince an "unelected judge" of the necessity for your warrant, then your information is not as good as you think.
So, I hooked up with some cats who think that FISA is wack and as I happen to agree, I penned the below and offered it to them. In the expectation that this is the sole place it will ever be published, I present to you:
In the hope that we can tweak the President's adherence to his first, last and sole responsibility, I might introduce our ask like this:
Dear President Obama,
On a bright and cold day from earlier this year, 'round the world was heard a man to utter this oath:
"I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Was that man you? Our ask is not impudent. We ask because our Constitution was written to constrain executive power - not to expand it; it was written to ensure that the people retained as much of our Natural Rights as were granted to us by the very presence of Life itself - and to reserve to government solely those rights as needed to ensure - as our Constitution describes our work in forming "a more perfect union"; to:
". . . establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity[.]"
You sir, as someone who has spent many years teaching the meaning, the core concepts that guided the development of the document that defines our very Republic, know far better than most how central the idea of restrained and contained Executive authority is to our Republic; and as such you know full well the scope of the crime that was foisted upon our Republic by the passage of that Orwellian-named USA PATRIOT Act. No, with your history you need not citizens such as us to remind you of either the Tenth Amendment - and its closing clause - or even of the Ninth Amendment and its import to our Republic, along with every other word contained within our Constitution; words are the means to meaning and you have this knowledge already within you. With this knowledge and with your words across the long campaign season of 2007 and 2008 and with your actions as President of these United States - you know full well that the time to change our errant Path has come.
And with that, we ask of you the following:
- begin now, work on repealing the USA PATRIOT Act;
- task your legislative director with drafting language that will restore to us our Fourth Amendment protections and end the fallacy that presumes merely because communication is electronic, it has naught the power of these words -
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
- explain to the public, the scale of the insanity that has taken ahold of our body politic and of our agents we have put forth to serve our nation now, in this new, "national security" era; an insanity that has engendered the fear that merely because communication is electronic in form rather than on paper that somehow the government is then gifted with the authority to rifle through personal communications, with naught but unsubstantiated allegation in hand;
- and finally, we ask that you prepare to announce your proposed legislation - including a summary of the text and a full discussion of the supporting rationale - during your first State of the Union Address next year.
Mr. President, when you step before both Houses of Congress, on that last Tuesday in January, we need you to commit to us that you did not merely recite the oath of office, but that you understood the meaning of the words you uttered. Mr. President, we need you to convince us of your intentions and that you are indeed committed to the faithful execution of your duties as President of the United States of America. Mr. President, you should not leave that platform before our assembled Congress on that night until you have spoken exhaustively on how - from the moment you awake each day and through to until you return back asleep each night, across every single day of your Presidency - you have done, intend to and will do: ". . . to the best of [your] ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Show your commitment to us by showing your commitment to upholding the Constitution that defines us as a Republic. Demonstrate your understanding of the principle that you cannot "save us" by acts that destroy the very fabric that unites us as a people.
Thank you, Mr. President. We are praying for your success and for the continued success of our nation. We make these prayers not at the expense of others but in concert with them, for we seek shared success with all of the children of the world, for we know that these political constructs are but comforting fictions and the Truth is that we are all one human Family. Mr. President, we hope you do wish as we do wish, that God continues to shed his grace on this nation we call, America and upon all of the Peoples of the world.
You have much work to do.
Godspeed, Mr. President.
The Assembled Citizens of the United States of America