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It’s Not Just The Telco Immunity

I realize that most people don’t have my commitment to the Constitution, and that they probably think I go overboard when I perceive threats to it. I understand that most people have spent their lives in the US, or, perhaps, have traveled to Europe, but have never really lived in a country where the rules are decidedly different.

I have spent too much time in places like Spain under Franco, Greece under the colonels, most of Asia, here and there in the Middle East. I have “interviewed” people who have made it to the West from the Eastern Bloc countries. I know what life is like without the protections of the Constitution. Accept in your soul: you really wouldn’t like it.

You have probably seen the quote from Benjamin Franklin:

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

This was written before the Revolution, and was not an idle thought, as both Liberty and Safety were at risk in the coming endeavor.

The better statement of my feelings was made by one of the three great ladies of Texas, at the House Watergate hearings:

My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total; and I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.

Barbara Charline Jordan

If you have never heard Barbara Jordan speak, follow the link as they have both video and audio files. Someone should sit Nancy Pelosi down and make her watch, as this speech is as timely today, as it was when given.

While much has been said about giving immunity to the telephone companies, that isn’t the worst thing about the bill they want to pass.  The part they don’t want to talk about is taking away our rights under the Fourth Amendment that require the government to obtain a warrant before they invade our privacy.  Even without the immunity provision, the law is unconstitutional.

People need to remember that this program started in the Spring of 2001, so it was not a reaction to the War on Terror™, and it obviously wasn’t useful in preventing a terrorist attack. Nothing they gather in this unconstitutional manner can be used in court, so the purpose is obviously not to gather evidence.

With all of the normal reasons eliminated, you must inspect the abnormal – blackmail and control.  There doesn’t seem to be a legitimate purpose, so there must be an illigitimate purpose.  Anyone who votes for this bill is not acting in your best interests.


1 cookie jill { 06.24.08 at 12:14 am }

Barbara Jordan. She inspired. She was a leader.

2 Bryan { 06.24.08 at 12:28 am }

She should have been President, and then we wouldn’t have had these problems.

3 Steve Bates { 06.24.08 at 1:04 am }

I am proud to say that Barbara Jordan was once my Representative. Those were the good days…

4 Kryten42 { 06.24.08 at 1:07 am }

Sadly, she probably would have ended as JFK did.

You are right Bryan, and even as an outsider, I believe the US Constitution is supremely important for so many reasons. That’s one thing I would never joke about, and what’s happening makes me angry also.

I wish I knew the answer, truly.

5 Jim Bales { 06.24.08 at 4:50 am }

Bryan writes:
I realize that most people don’t have my commitment to the Constitution,

They should at least match your commitment today, if not your level of commitment when you took an oath to support and defend the Constitution.

and that they probably think I go overboard when I perceive threats to it.

If they do, they are wrong, for you don’t.

This administration’s attack on our Constitution is the gravest threat the nation has faced since the Civil War, and it is far more insidious than that massive, armed uprising against the lawful government of our nation. The threat is grave, and it calls for the strongest possible non-violent response.

There doesn’t seem to be a legitimate purpose, so there must be an illegitimate purpose.

I would also note that there those who worked on the language of the bill and those who are only voting on the bill. The first group is trying to subvert the Constitution.

The second group may have, among its members, a wider range of motives for voting for the bill. I suspect that sloth and indifference play a role for some of them. I suspect that a desire to conform and not rock the boat plays a role for some of them. I suspect that a desire to please particular donors, particular constituents, or the party leadership plays a role for some of them.

To some extent, some of those in the second group are susceptible to public pressure. While the odds of our succeeding are long, it behooves us to apply the pressure however we can. Emails, phone, Fax, all are useful tools. But we have to speak out to those in the Senate who we might sway.

We need to urge the Senators to not just vote against the bill, but to support and take part in a filibuster to stop the bill, if need be. We need to urge them to amend the bill to strip the egregious provisions (or at least as many as they can), to amend it enough force the bill through additional deliberation (i.e., to stall), and/or to amend the bill to the point we would expect Mr. Bush to veto it.

As I said, this is a long shot. But the Constitution of the United States of America deserves our support, especially at this time that so many of our elected leaders are abandoning it.

6 Fallenmonk { 06.24.08 at 6:38 am }

From what I have been reading the only chance we have to stop this subversion of the Constitution is to get the telecom immunity part removed. This is at the heart of the whole effort to take away our 4th amendment rights. Without this the bill will be sent back to committee and with the time left in the legislative year it will die in this Congress. If nothing else Bush will veto any bill without immunity for the telecoms because this is immunity for him as well. Jim Bales is correct that if the bill can be made unpalatable enough to force a veto then it won’t get any action in this Congress.
Lastly, I am not so sure that Jim’s call for nonviolent action is actually strong enough when it comes to protecting the Constitution from attack. There are times when it is time put aside peaceful resistance and this may be just one of them.

7 Kryten42 { 06.24.08 at 6:50 am }

Well well! Perhaps I just heard the first words of the Revolution!

…because THAT is what it will take.

8 Jim Bales { 06.24.08 at 6:59 am }

Fallenmonk posts:
I am not so sure that Jim’s call for nonviolent action is actually strong enough when it comes to protecting the Constitution from attack.

I inserted “non-violent” because:
1) I believe that our aim — preserving the Constitution — is better achieved through the political process at this juncture. I believe that the combination of pressuring our elected leaders and rallying public support is much more likely to succeed than any violent alternative.

2) I wanted to note that while, as Jefferson, et al. stated:
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.,

they also warned us that:
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

It is conceivable that the danger is still transient, and that public activism will turn the tide of authoritarianism that in rising in our government. While there is an appreciable chance of correcting this usurpation through the political process, the founders of our nation told the world that we should suffer the evil in the interim.

Of course, the founding fathers went on to say:
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

The question before us is this:
Will the existing Guards for the security of our rights be sufficient?”

It is our obligation to exert every effort to make them so. If we try our best and fail, then the next step is laid out for us.

9 Badtux { 06.24.08 at 10:15 am }

And I might add, non-violent has the best chance of a good outcome. I have not seen any violent revolution in history which has a good outcome (do not talk about the U.S. Revolution as a violent revolution, it was a war of secession by the established governments of the American colonies against the English crown, fought by organized armies in the field, not a revolution). Violent revolutions invariably bring to power the most violent, the most venal, through a sort of Darwinian process of elimination of the less venal. Just think about the French Revolution and Rasputin. The Russian Revolution and Stalin. The Cambodian Revolution and Pol Pot. On the other hand, there are any number of non-violent dismissals of established governments which have had at least acceptable outcomes, whether we’re talking about the fall of the Eastern Bloc governments during the late 1980’s, or the protests that brought down Milosevic in Serbia, or whatever.

But the thing is, non-violence requires courage. And I haven’t seen a whole lot of that from Americans lately, who are too fat, too lazy, too bought to care about anything other than where they’re going to get their next fix of black gold from…

In the end, we get the government we deserve. Alas.

10 Fallenmonk { 06.24.08 at 8:45 pm }

Excellent rebuttal Jim and I was not, in any fashion extolling the virtues of violent revolution. I was just commenting that resolving to satisfy our need with non-violent action was not in the spirit of our founders. A concept with which you are obviously aware. My greatest desire is to resolve the challenges facing us within the rule of law but I will not rule out my right to take any means necessary to throw off the usurpers.
Thanks for the excellent riposte.

11 Jim Bales { 06.24.08 at 9:02 pm }


No offense taken, and I took your comment (I believe) in the spirit it was given — a recognition that the founders understood that violence may be, at times, the only recourse left.

Now, the most urgent questions for all reading this are:

Have you contacted your Senator about the FISA Bill?

Have you contacted Sen. Majority Leader Reid?

Have you contacted Sen. Obama?

These are the actions required of us here and now, as well as calling the citizenry to join their voices with ours.

12 Bryan { 06.24.08 at 9:39 pm }

I’ve contacted both of my Senators and sent thank yous to Leahy, Dodd, and Feingold for opposing this garbage.

A front-pager at Shakespeare’s Sister who lives in Illinois has the response that he received from Senator Obama. It is not good.

Russ Feingold is the only Senator who has opposed every one of these power grabs from the USA PATRIOT Act forward.

The last time FISA came up, both McCain and Obama managed to be missing.

I’m not sure you can do much with this bill, as some bills are immune to anything except a vote. I know it works that way with some appropriation bills after they come out of a House/Senate conference committee, and that may be the Senate rule for all bills coming from a conference report. I’ll have to see if I can find out.

13 Michael { 06.25.08 at 12:46 am }

Non-violence is important. What can be won through violence can only be held through violence, and if we want a peaceful world we must practice peace.

14 Michael { 06.25.08 at 12:51 am }

As for the FISA bill, I’m hearing it’s going to be postponed.