16 March 2007

Nixon still presides...with little conscience, and apparently with fewer bounds

These last few days, there have been countless articles and opinion pieces about the abuses of the US government toward its very people, and specifically on the rampant abuses of The (infamous) Patriot Act...an Act that is, on paper at least, designed to protect innocent God-fearing, law-abiding Americans from their nefarious, religion-hating, anarchist enemies. Or something to that effect, anyway. The problem is that the enemy to many Americans may not be an outside force, but instead our government itself. Orwell's "1984" couldn't come up with some of these things, and that was a fairly frightening handbook of future days that are already here.

Some of the discoveries about The Patriot Act abuse includes:

  • demanding personal data on people without official authorization, including the blatant deception by investigators about an ongoing 'investigation' of individuals that was not in place (to get credit reports and the like);
  • all judicial and congressional oversight on newly appointed U.S. 'interim' attorneys was removed, (a handy thing to have if the DOJ and Administration is going to fire 'non loyal' attorneys);
  • egregious underreporting to Congress and other 'supervisory' panels about the number of national security letters (NSLs) being issued; and
  • requesting and then 'sequestering' (and still not destroying) personal information (from internet companies and banks, for example) through these letters...information that is not allowed to be obtained.

    That may be the tip of the iceberg, too, folks. As usual, hearings are underway.

    And all of this has been done, either by expressed consent, 'implied' consent (which is an 'all is forgiven, get out of jail' excuse if there ever lived one), and or by Dubya's signing statements (which apparently lets him apply, or more importantly ignore, whatever rules he wants to, when he wants to). These are the kind of loopholes that should make every thinking American wonder what the hell is really going on with our government. These are the actions that should make us all wonder what right...moral, political, financial, anything...we have to be interfering in the political affairs of other countries, when we clearly don't have a good handle of our own here. And these are just some of the abuses we know about...and this limited list should give us all long pause to reflect on what we have not learned yet, and be vigilant also to what can still be done.

    This entire investigation...and the one that has streaked out and gotten a lot of attention, the fight over the handling of the 8 U.S. Attorneys that were fired last year...is both the reason why so many Americans have withdrawn from political involvement and why that involvement is more important to have than ever. Regardless of the 'hows' and the 'whys' facing the Attorneygate scandal-to-be, those attorneys almost always serve at the will of The President anyway and that's understood when they undertake that position. But it's the hows and the whys the laws were changed to allow such sweeping changes in the first place...that, dear readers, is the bigger issue we must grapple with all too soon. In a short enough period (although admittedly not short enough for me), Bush & Co will be hopefully exiled back to Texas or to Halliburton's new headquarters in Dubai. The mockery and abuse they've made of so many of our institutions and laws, though, will be here long after Number 43 is out of office. We can argue about how badly Bush's leadership has been for decades after he's gone, but it's vitally more important that we, as citizens and regardless of political leaning, take up the mantle and start figuring out What's Next. Waiting until the 2008 elections may do us more harm than good.

    Every decision we refuse to make because we're overwhelmed or uninformed or disinterested is one more that can (and apparently, is to) be used against us. The Big Brother that Orwell taught us to both fear and recognize is all around us, every day, potentially viewing on every computer, listening in on every phone, tracking us on every purchase of beer and chips at the supermarket. It's bad enough under those conditions, as we all have, to some degree at least, surrendered some parts of our privacy in this technological age. But once that information has been given over, what next? From that point on, do we have any protections from the Corporate Big Brother, Governmental Big Brother, Banking Big Brother anymore?? Sadly, it's looking like that answer is becoming a no.

    We all like to think nothing 'we' could never personally be tracked down and/or perhaps persecuted for what we do and believe innocently, that 'we' will never get in trouble. If the fired attorneys were tossed for not 'playing ball' with Dubya (heaven forbid, someone trying to be relatively fair and ethical with the law! who knew?), all the power to them in defending themselves...it could just as easily be one of us in their place instead. There is, we reason, a major difference between real life versus the conspiracy theory movies that Hollywood jettisons out to us every summer. But, unfortunately, if you remove the emotional and political mudslinging of the characters involved and just focus on what laws have been enacted...by both political sides...since, say about 1980, it's enough to floor you. Personal liberties, the right to privacy, hell even the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, are eroding at an alarming rate. As much as I detest what Bush and the Neocons (read: not Republicans per se, some of my best friends are Republicans) have done to this country, I can't blame the erosion of my rights at his door entirely. The people who are at blame are all of us who have voted or paid taxes or worked at building a better country, only to never stand up and paid attention when its values were being ravaged. The fact that Dubya's administration is the kind of leadership that Nixon would have loved isn't really Bush's doing...it's ours. You only get what you ask for, after all.

    I'm starting to think this next election we don't need to elect a politician nor a war veteran for our President. And while an ambassador-type could only help us now, I'm also keenly aware that a lot of capitulations need to take place to other countries to 'make nice'...capitulations I'm sure the majority of us are not willing to really make from a public relations perspective. At some point, though, we as a country and superpower are going to have to admit we've really fucked up badly these past few years...it's not a matter of when, but instead a matter of how. And it will also be a matter of who, as in 'who' first. And I'm thinking it needs to start with my fellow citizens themselves...for chipping away at everything we hold dear about being American in the first place.

    And that's going to take a bold, well-spoken, and thoughtful Centrist to do the job. It also needs to be somebody well-versed and appreciative of our heritage and history and our 'unalienable rights'. So that means also we need a Constitutionist. A Centrist Constitutionist as President...now I am entering Utopia World. But if anyone out there finds someone that might just fill the void, let me know. It's time to come full circle against unchecked political rule once again. For all of our sakes.
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