Posted February 13, 2008on:
I am too depressed this morning to attempt any light hearted or serious posts on literature. Some may think it’s none of my business to be so worried about American affairs except that a great deal of my family is there (including my mother and closest aunts and cousins) and who is left in Jamaica is mostly anxious to get there, except my grandfather who has no interests in leaving his plot of land. This makes me obliged to at least have to visit there except that current and upcoming US legislation is making this an increasingly unattractive venture, where even being a green card holder does not mean much. (All that wonderful fingerprinting and general hustle.) This should make me anxious to become a citizen except that, well, that’s not coming to mean much either as far as benefits and protections go.
Treating the Constitution as a Doormat – Scott Horton
If things proceed on the course now set by the Bush Administration and its shortsighted collaborators, and the national surveillance state is achieved in short order, then future generations looking back and tracing the destruction of the grand design of our Constitution may settle on yesterday, February 12, 2008, as the date of the decisive breach. It hardly got a mention in the media, obsessed as it was with reports on the primary elections, the use of drugs in sporting events, and that unfailing topic, the weather. Yesterday the Senate voted down the resolution offered by Senator Dodd to block retroactive immunity for the telecoms and it voted for a measure which guts the Constitution’s ban on warrantless searches by extending blanket authority to the Executive to snoop on the nation’s citizens in a wide variety of circumstances, subject to no independent checks. On the key vote, the Republicans in the Senate continued to function in lock-step, as they have on almost all significant issues for the last seven years, while the Democrats fragmented. Their vote summed up everything that’s wrong with Washington politics today. Fear and hard campaign cash rule the roost, and the Constitution is regarded as a meaningless scrap of parchment, indeed, a nuisance.
The issue in focus was a retroactive grant of immunity to telecommunications giants which violated the rights of millions of Americans by facilitating warrantless surveillance by the Bush Administration. With the exception of Qwest, they were knowingly complicit in criminal acts. And in a touch worthy of a totalitarian state, Qwest quickly found its CEO under criminal investigation and prosecuted. In fact the White House’s own arguments smack of the mentality of totalitarianism. Here’s the leading argument that the White House offers up in favor of the legislation:
“Companies should not be held responsible for verifying the government’s determination that requested assistance was necessary and lawful — and such an impossible requirement would hurt our ability to keep the Nation safe.”
But as Dan Froomkin notes at the Washington Post, “Isn’t that the very definition of a police state: that companies should do whatever the government asks, even if they know it’s illegal?” Indeed it is.
Senator John McCain voted against the amendments to remove the retroactive immunity clause. Clinton was absent. According to the New York Times report, Obama did not vote either contrary to other media reports, he “did oppose immunity on a key earlier motion to end debate”.
I ordered some French books today and will look in to how I can get some French lessons. I think I’ve decided, now, that my life belongs in Canada.