March 20, 2009

Our Privacy Wasn’t Taken. We Gave It Away.

Filed under: Other,Sci/Tech — PolitiCalypso @ 10:08 pm

For several years, the government and private businesses have been increasingly invasive of personal privacy, giving regular people fewer ways to avoid the eye of Big Brother without dropping off the grid entirely and living in a cabin a la the Unabomber and other hardcore Luddites. Things came to a head during the years of the Bush administration, which of course ran an illegal spying operation on the entire American public, conducted through the phone companies and Internet providers, most of which were all too happy to comply. The Democratic Congress later gave this repulsive program the official sanction of the law, effectively rewriting FISA to give the executive branch unparalleled authority to order such spying, and also giving immunity to the companies that broke the law. But at the time that massive domestic spying was being presented openly as anti-terrorism policy, polls revealed some astonishing—and utterly disgusting, in the opinion of this civil libertarian and First and Fourth Amendment near-absolutist—results. Substantial percentages of Americans actually thought that “the First Amendment went too far” and bore revision. A majority would rather have the government tell them they were secure from the terror threat (and such meaningless assurances are all that could ever be provided, of course, unless the government has developed time traveling technology and can see that no attacks occur in the future) than be assured by enforceable law that they could conduct private conversations with other people across any medium. This domestic spying policy was being debated when I was an undergraduate in college, and the college newspaper regularly ran op-eds by students—students!—apparently so terrified of the possibility that terrorists might decide to nuke the appropriately named Starkville, MS, that they said they were willing to let the government see their personal correspondences if it might prevent that. “I have nothing to hide from them, so they can see everything if they want to.” That was the phrase of the day, a statement that also contained a subtext of terrorism accusation towards those civil libertarians who opposed Big Brother.

Although technically among the very oldest members of Generation Y, I went to college mostly with members of Generation X, and that generation is much less libertarian than mine. I recognize that the era of irrational post-terrorism paranoia also influenced how many people thought. However, the seeds for this invasion of privacy were sown for years before, and they continue to be sown now. (Read more…)

August 3, 2006

The Purpose of the Constitution

Filed under: Politics — PolitiCalypso @ 8:05 pm

“Judicial Activism,” Strict Constructionism, and Dominionism

I’ve been reading a great deal lately about the “Dominionist” sect of the Religious Right. For the uninitiated, this term refers to those people who wish to occupy seats of power within the American government so that they can enforce Biblical law upon the United States. Establishing “the Lord’s Dominion,” if you will.

This group, of course, has been leading the charge on social “issues” geared to arouse emotions and get out votes from “family values” religious conservatives. They are the first to cry “activist judges!” when a verdict is issued in favor of pro-science education, abortion rights, gay rights, or whatever their wedge issue du jour might be.

However, regardless of anyone’s opinion on any of these issues is, there’s a point that must be made about them. These issues are about extending rights beyond those explicitly declared in the Constitution. Even the Dominionists don’t argue with it; their websites are peppered with references to “special rights” and such. They will argue, as current Attorney General Gonzales has argued, that the Constitution contains no right to privacy and that is part of why their draconian notions of spying are supposedly legal. They don’t hide that their agenda is about denying rights to people.

Interestingly, these are the same people, in many cases, who called themselves “strict constructionists” in the 1990s. Remember that term? The people, almost exclusively right-wing, who opposed any court verdict that established a legal right that was not explicitly granted in the Constitution–if it was what they viewed as a “liberal” right.

The Dominionist movement does not support an interpretation of the Constitution that extends the rights of the people. But what do they support?

They support a Constitutional interpretation that extends the rights of the government to interfere where it has no business.Consider Justice Scalia’s infamous opinion on the the Lawrence v. Texas sodomy case:

State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today’s decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding.

Reading past the legalese, one can conclude with confidence that Scalia supports the use of the government to legislate people’s private lives–to use it as a tool to support moral standards that have no impact on anyone beyond the persons in question and perhaps their immediate circle. Certainly not national security or even that nebulous concept called “the people’s interest.”

This is just one example of many. The Dominionist philosophy supports the establishment of a “Christian” theocratic government, operating through that which was established by the American Constitution, all the while spitting on it and perverting its original purpose.

What do you think the Founders intended for the Constitution and Bill of Rights to be? A document spelling out the rights of the American people, with absolutely nothing granted beyond what is explicitly written there? Or a document limiting the rights of the government with respect to passing laws that are unrelated or opposed to these aims:

“…[E]stablish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” (Emphasis added.)

Well, the writers of the Bill of Rights actually addressed that very point in a little thing called the Ninth Amendment. In case the “strict constructionists” have forgotten about this part of the original Constitution, here it is:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.


It point-blank says that the Constitution isn’t meant to limit the people’s rights to those that are spelled out, and that others not mentioned are retained.

Case closed.

July 1, 2006

To win the spin

Filed under: Politics — PolitiCalypso @ 3:28 pm

There’s been much talk in media and blogger circles about the Hamdan Supreme Court decision striking down unilateral executive power to detain captives in prison and try them at secret military tribunals (if at all). It’s a sad commentary on the state of the nation that much of the discussion centers on how it may relate to the 2006 elections.

The Republican Party intends to spin it as “liberal judicial activism” (apparently, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts–the four right-wing nutjobs–are the only judges that aren’t liberal) and paint the Democratic Party as soft on terrorism unless the Congress gives this power to the executive branch.

Typical right-wing neoconservative crap, of course. Demonize the courts and the opposition party. These people really are fascist at heart and want an all-powerful executive branch, a kowtowing weak-kneed Congress, and kangaroo courts.

They’re also awfully gutsy. I must give them credit for the apparent size of their gonads; to try to argue that a president with a 35% approval rating deserves unlimited power does take chutzpa.

Anyway, I’m rather ticked off at the blogging types and pundits who say that this is a no-win situation for the Democratic Party. Bull. There is a way to beat the spin.

Two points, as a matter of fact.

One, Timothy McVeigh had a trial.

Routinely, people who are caught in the act of committing murder are given trials.

Think about that. In America, someone is entitled to a trial even if he has blown up a government building and his guilt is all but certain. Someone is entitled to a trial even if there is videotape of him shooting someone’s head off. Someone is entitled to a trial even if he is caught sawing apart a human body by twenty witnesses.

An overwhelming majority of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay and the other prisons have no such hard evidence against them.

If murderous scum who are guilty without a doubt are given access to legal counsel and time in court, then give me one good reason why people held by American forces without proof of a crime shouldn’t get it.

The second point: Challenge a Bush Administration defender to explain, logically, without any accusations of being unpatriotic, why exactly the fight against terrorism will be compromised if detainees are tried in courts-martial or regular courts instead of secret tribunals. Demand a reasoned explanation with facts to back it up, not fear-mongering and name-calling.

I’d bet $1000 that they couldn’t do it.

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