"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Trickle-Down Theory 

Fish rot from the head, and shit flows downhill.

We know that the federal government, giving effect to the rancid ideology of Der Böy Führer and his slavering minions, claim the right to suspend your constitional rights at their power-addled whim. We know that they consider any limitation on such power to be an outrage and, frankly, an annoyance:
Bush administration officials believe it is not possible, in a large-scale eavesdropping effort, to provide the kind of evidence the court requires to approve a warrant. Sources knowledgeable about the program said there is no way to secure a FISA warrant when the goal is to listen in on a vast array of communications in the hopes of finding something that sounds suspicious. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said the White House had tried but failed to find a way.

One government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the administration complained bitterly that the FISA process demanded too much: to name a target and give a reason to spy on it.

"For FISA, they had to put down a written justification for the wiretap," said the official. "They couldn't dream one up."

We know that their vomitous stench has gotten to be too much, even for Judge Michael Luttig, the most loyal functionary on the most compliant federal appeals court in the country (and, until today, someone widely thought to be in line for a SCOTUS nomination):
A federal appeals court yesterday refused to authorize the transfer of "enemy combatant" Jose Padilla to face new criminal charges, issuing a strongly worded opinion rebuking the Bush administration and its handling of the high-profile terrorism case.

The same court that had granted the administration wide latitude in holding Padilla without charges or a court appearance now is suggesting that the detention was a mistake. As a result, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit said prosecutors could not take custody of Padilla from the military and take him to Miami, where he now faces indictment on terrorism charges.

In issuing its denial, the court cited the government's changing rationale for Padilla's detention, questioning why it used one set of arguments before federal judges deciding whether it was legal for the military to hold Padilla and another set before the Miami grand jury.

We knew all that. But what we are just now beginning to learn is how the culture of fascism is drifting down from the federal level to the state and even municipal level. Consider, for instance, Ohio:
A bill that would tighten the state's anti-terrorism laws brought together in opposition a rare coalition of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans.

The legislation on its way to Gov. Bob Taft would for the first time in Ohio allow a police officer to arrest anyone in a public place who refuses to provide name, address and date of birth when asked, even if he or she has done nothing wrong.

Police would have to suspect the person has either committed a crime or is about to commit a crime or has witnessed a serious crime such as murder. Officers now can arrest someone if they suspect the person had committed a crime, but they can't force the person to identify himself.

Read that again. "Police would have to suspect" that the subject of their inquiry had committed a crime, or was about to do so or had witnessed a crime. (Note the error in the article - police may not now arrest someone if they merely "suspect" that the individual has committed a crime; they need "probable cause," which is a much higher standard than a mere suspicion and which, as it happens, is what the Constitution requires.)

Or, consider New York City, which has taken quite a hankering to the whole surveillance idea (thanks to Atrios):
Undercover New York City police officers have conducted covert surveillance in the last 16 months of people protesting the Iraq war, bicycle riders taking part in mass rallies and even mourners at a street vigil for a cyclist killed in an accident, a series of videotapes show.

In glimpses and in glaring detail, the videotape images reveal the robust presence of disguised officers or others working with them at seven public gatherings since August 2004.

The officers hoist protest signs. They hold flowers with mourners. They ride in bicycle events. At the vigil for the cyclist, an officer in biking gear wore a button that said, "I am a shameless agitator." She also carried a camera and videotaped the roughly 15 people present.

Beyond collecting information, some of the undercover officers or their associates are seen on the tape having influence on events. At a demonstration last year during the Republican National Convention, the sham arrest of a man secretly working with the police led to a bruising confrontation between officers in riot gear and bystanders.

Until Sept. 11, the secret monitoring of events where people expressed their opinions was among the most tightly limited of police powers.

Ah, yes - September 11 again. The day that changed everything. But you know what? It didn't, really. September 11 did not change the text of the Fourth Amendment. It did not mark the end of the principle of separation of powers. It did not lead to wholesale suspension of the rule of law. At least, not officially, it didn't. Facts on the ground can be difficult things, however, and here we have a serious disconnect between the theory and the reality.

Maybe you trust George Bush. Maybe you trust your governor, or your mayor, or your chief of police. I can't imagine why you would, but maybe you do. Here's the thing - none of these people are going to be in their present job forever. And when they're gone, the reality they're creating today will survive them. Maybe you trust President Bush - but do you trust President Hillary?

Personally, I'm more inclined to trust the authors of our Bill of Rights, imperfect as they were, to just about anyone else.

 

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