Pat Roberts, Bedwetter

There's been a little fuss over Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and his comments at Gen. Michael Hayden's confirmation hearing.

I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and civil liberties. But you have no civil liberties if you are dead.

This would be one thing if Roberts was flustered and winging it to defend the nominee. But he's said the same thing multiple times this year. He said it on March 26 and February 3. Senators Jeff Sessions and John "I miss Harriet Miers" Cornyn have used the same line of, uh, argumentation, but Roberts alone thinks it's clever enough to keep repeating.

Leave aside the pillow-clenching fear of terrorism from a senator who represents Kansas. Is there anything the "rights don't matter if you're dead" card can't apply to? It's not hard to imagine another senator (or more probably Bill O'Reilly) arguing that we need to curtail free speech rights to nail sexual predators, because civil rights don't matter if you're tracked down and killed by a perverted MySpace user. And if a report comes out about terrorists wanting to use handguns to take over a train or plane, senators could justify a massive gun grab - hey, the Second Amendment doesn't matter if you're dead.

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  • ||

    When I was a kid I loved the phrase "Better dead than Red." I thought when the wall fell I would never get to say it again.

    But now, with the (red state) Republican party looking so much like the communist party in China, I can say it again with the same passion I did then.

    Better Dead then Red.

    It's getting harder and harder for me to understand why I should not consider Republican "red" an equal threat to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" to the former Soviet style of the same color.

  • ||

    "Is there anything the "rights don't matter if you're dead" card can't apply to?"

    Yes, drug dealers, child molesters, burglers, thieves and all other forms of ordinary criminals. It might, however, apply when organized groups of well funded and perhaps state sponsored fanatics are doing their best to kill as many Americans as possible. One question for you, is there anything the "if we do X, the terrorists have won can't apply to?"

  • ||

    We've come a long way from "Give me Liberty or Give me Death"

  • MP||

    It might, however, apply when organized groups of well funded and perhaps state sponsored fanatics are doing their best to kill as many Americans as possible.

    They appear to be doing a pretty shitty job.

  • ||

    Maybe, MP, it's that the administration is doing a better job at stopping them than they can take credit for publically.

    Just a thought...

  • ||

    I can see two obvious arguments the other way, John. First, some principles - like liberty - are literally more important than life; at the least, life is not worth having without them. And second, the degree of sacrifice one is willing to accept should be proportional to the threat, and the threat in this case is simply not worth more than notional sacrifices. One may certainly disagree on the latter point, but unlike the vast majority of Americans I actually grew up in countries where terrorism was a daily threat...

  • MP||

    Clean Hands,

    Assuming you are being serious, maybe you should peruse this.

    Money quote:

    "Even with the September 11 attacks included in the count, the number of Americans killed by international terrorism since the late 1960s (which is when the State Department began counting) is about the same as the number of Americans killed over the same period by lightning, accident-causing deer, or severe allergic reaction to peanuts."

  • ||

    Maybe, MP, it's that the administration is doing a better job at stopping them than they can take credit for publically.

    Or maybe there aren't as many suicide terrorists sleeper cells lurking around as they'd have you believe. Since everything is kept secret, we'll never know.

  • Timothy||

    We've come a long way from "Give me Liberty or Give me Death"

    These days it's more like: "Give me Liberty or don't. I don't really care."

  • ||

    I am through with the idea of "well, maybe they know more than they can share with us." That requires giving the government the benefit of the doubt. I was skeptical during the Iraq invasion, but gave the gov. the benefit of the doubt, thinking, "well, they wouldn't be doing this if they didn't have some specific knowledge of WMD they are after."

    Now it turns out that, no, they don't know more than they let on -- they know less. No more benefit of the doubt.

  • ||

    Thought I'd throw this down on a thread that's more or less dead:
    Have any of the Reason staff tried to get a spot on The Daily Show or The Colbert Report? I think it would do much more good for libertarian ideas to be showcased on either of those shows than on onese with calcified audiences like O'Reiley and Hannity and Lizardman. I can only imagine the hillarity that would ensue if Nick Gillespie argued with Stephen Colbert's character on the show.
    Anyways, just a suggestion to get the word on liberty outside of the red/blue dichotomy out to yougish people.

  • ||

    One question for you, is there anything the "if we do X, the terrorists have won can't apply to?"

    Not according to Red America.

  • ||

    The land of the safe and the home of the scared.

    Live safe or die trying

    Give me safety or give me freedom, but I really prefer safety

    Not exactly the type of stuff you would fight a revolution for.

  • ||

    David W.,

    It's not that he necessarily thinks it's clever enough to keep repeating as much as he thinks (maybe subconsciously) it's effective enough to repeat. That's a function of his audience, which he may know well enough (even at a gut level) to be right.

    Neither cleverness nor cogency are sufficient or even required to garner or retain agreement. Nazis references don't bolster an argument on the internet, but elsewhere they might boost Chewlies gum sales.

  • ||

    Seriously, why are so many people so fucking scared? Christ, a few thousand people get blown up in an event that will never be duplicated, and all of the sudden, we need to start wiretapping every citizen's phone, indefinitely incarcerating citizens based on flimsy evidence, and otherwise burning the remaining scraps of The Constitution?

    As I said on 9/11 when I found out about the planes hitting the WTC - "That's the price you pay for living in a free society". Too bad it seems I'm one of the few willing to pay the price of living in a free society.

    (For the record, I am not trying to belittle the loss of life or the great pain that the families of those who dies must feel. But it really pisses me off that instead of standing up straight and making sure the whole world sees just how hard it is to frighten us, we instead decide that it's better to be safe than sorry.)

  • ||

    Thanks, MP, for pointing out that article to me. Good reading, though I think that the authors are ignoring the economic impact of terrorism.

    While much of that impact is due to the hysteria promoted by the gov't, there is no doubting the economic impact represented by the conversion of a pair of 110-story office buildings into a smoking hole in the ground, never mind the direct business disruption that destruction represents.

    Windows on the World will never reopen, and dozens of other businesses housed in the WTC were crippled or destroyed by the simultaneous death of principals and/or destruction of property. These impacts do not, generally speaking accrue with normal "background" accidents and illnesses.

    Still, even with this significant oversight, the article provides serious food for thought.

  • ||

    "that's the price for living in a free society" I don't know if you're trying to be cold or just a dumbass but if that's what you thought on Sept 11 you have a cold heart or a twisted mind. And to add a "I'm not belittling anyone" attempted ass-covering at the end makes it all the worse. I don't think anyone is scared of the terrorists, or if they were I doubt the airlines would be flying as much. Some people just want to stop them before another attack and actually trust the government to do the right thing. Some days I don't know who is more paranoid, Reason commmenters or conspiracy nuts.

  • MP||

    Some people just want to stop them before another attack and actually trust the government to do the right thing.

    Some people have misplaced their trust.

  • ||

    you have no civil liberties if you are dead.

    ... and yet, the Revolutionary Army of the infant United States was willing to risk death for liberty. As ChicagoTom said, we've come a long way, baby.

  • muchsarcasm||

    "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin

  • ||

    "Even with the September 11 attacks included in the count, the number of Americans killed by international terrorism since the late 1960s (which is when the State Department began counting) is about the same as the number of Americans killed over the same period by lightning, accident-causing deer, or severe allergic reaction to peanuts."

    I'm sorry, but I have to call bullshit. Peanut allergies, lightning and deer are all things that are pretty predictable. It's pretty safe to say that neither Mr. Peanut, the god of lightning, or Bambi are actively planning to try to kill more people.

    Just because a statistically significant number of Americans haven't been killed YET does not mean that tomorrow suitcase nukes won't be let off in American cities. Not saying they will, or ever will be, but you just can't compare terrorism to allergies.

    With arguments like yours, MP, it's hard to win the battle for the Constitution.

  • ||

    "Even with the September 11 attacks included in the count, the number of Americans killed by international terrorism since the late 1960s (which is when the State Department began counting) is about the same as the number of Americans killed over the same period by lightning, accident-causing deer, or severe allergic reaction to peanuts."

    I'm sorry, but I have to call bullshit. Peanut allergies, lightning and deer are all things that are pretty predictable. It's pretty safe to say that neither Mr. Peanut, the god of lightning, or Bambi are actively planning to try to kill more people.

    Just because a statistically significant number of Americans haven't been killed YET does not mean that tomorrow suitcase nukes won't be let off in American cities. Not saying they will, or ever will be, but you just can't compare terrorism to allergies.

    With arguments like yours, MP, it's hard to win the battle for the Constitution.

  • Mike Laursen||

    "You have no civil liberties if you are dead." Even taking this statement at face value, there are scenarios where one's civil liberties should still be active (or could be denied) after one's death.

    For example, the right to be "secure in ... houses, papers, and effects" is very relevant to probate.

    More far-fetched examples: a person has set up a foundation to print dissenting political views after his death or a gun nut wants to be buried with his gun.

  • ||

    Hey! Can I use this argument when arguing with my NRA buddies? As in "I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but your right to own a gun doesn't mean much if you're dead."

  • ||

    I, for one, see no problem with denying zombies their civil liberties. The Constituion is just for us people who are alive.

    Re-kill em' all and let Zeus sort em' out. That's what I say.

  • MP||

    With arguments like yours, MP, it's hard to win the battle for the Constitution.

    Is that your reason for shredding it?

  • ||

    Oddly enough, I've begun to hear most of the words coming from Republicans in the past 6 months as "Well, Mister, you're living in MY house, and as long as you're under MY roof you'll live by MY rules. Got that?"

    It's a sad day when lawmakers resort to the rhetorical equivalent of "eat all your broccoli, people in China are starving."

  • ||

    Don't deny zombies their natural rights, mk. Just because they lack an individualistic mindset and have no concept of the future doesn't mean that it's okay to oppress them. Also, I find it interesting that zombies don't seem to be allowed any due process rights. You never see zombies on trial, you just see them getting gunned down. Like they were some sort of brain-eating automatons and not people.

    You hatred sickens me.

  • ||

    Some people have misplaced their trust.

    How can you say that MP??

    Stories like this should help regain your trust in the government security apparatus.

  • ||

    Mr. Peanut has been unable to attack more Americans since President Bush has had the guts to use tools like the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping and detentions without trial to make it hard for him and the Skippy Jihad to operate effectively in this country. We are waging a global war against all of our creamy and crunchy enemies and Iraq is the central front in that war. We are fighting the salty legumes over there so that we do not have to fight them here. It is important to remember that peanuts hate us for our freedom and will use any opportunity to kill us all. BTW, a large number of peanuts are known to have crossed the Mexican border with no documentation and none of them ever bother to learn English.

  • ||

    Pro L,
    I have it on good authority that there are "sleeper cells" of zombies right underneath our feet!

    "Well, Mister, you're living in MY house, and as long as you're under MY roof you'll live by MY rules. Got that?"

    Oh great, another night with Twisted Sister stuck in my head. Thanks Randolph.

  • ||

    "Is that your reason for shredding it?"

    I ain't shredding shit, asshole. I'm on the same side as you, I'm just not offering sophistic arguments to back up my case.

  • ||

    Roberts...Brownback...Intellegent Design...what's the goddamned deal with Kansas, anyway?!?

  • MP||

    I ain't shredding shit, asshole. I'm on the same side as you, I'm just not offering sophistic arguments to back up my case.

    Oooo...name calling. How mature.

    In any event, the article I linked to deals with risk factors. Unless you can estimate the legitimate risk factor of a suitcase nuke actually going off in the US, you're simply tossing out scare scenarios without backing them up with substantive analysis.

    I'm all for a security apparatus that makes some attempts to prevent certain types of attacks or defends certain targets. But I'm pragmatic enought to understand that there is no such thing as perfect security and that anyone questing for perfect security is simply on a path of stripping people of their freedoms. You have to draw the line somewhere and accept the fact that shit happens.

  • ||

    mark - cold heart and twisted mind? Check. My ass-covering was in no way an ass-covering, I was merely clarifying my position for people like you who think I am cold and twisted for believing that it is because of our free society that those sick bastards were able to hijack planes and fly them into buildings.

    I mean, you've got folks like our good poster John who seem all too willing to give the president the authority to idefinitely lock up american citizens and tap their phones just because some crazy jihadists might try to kill a bunch of americans somewhere. I suspect that you are also ok with that, since you urge us to "actually trust the government to do the right thing". Are you nuts? Since when does the government ever do the right thing? If they would have done their fucking jobs right the first time, by many accounts, they could have stopped the 9/11 attacks ahead of time. But instead, typical government bureaucracy seems to have fucked us there, too.

    So pardon me for being such a cold, twisted prick and not wanting to hand over my liberty to a bunch of idiots who probably don't care whether I live or die, except for the fact that they like my tax dollars.

  • ||

    There are sentences that should end cleanly and be left to stand alone in honor, before the soul-deadening word "but" can be allowed to besmirch and, finally, strangle them. "I am not a racist." is one, and "I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and civil liberties." is another.

    "But", after such declarations, is just another way of saying "Only kidding! I lied about that bit."

  • ||

    The people I know who were scared shitless by 9/11 were scared shitless before, whether it was by the crime rate or immigration or what have you.

  • ||

    Why does Senator Roberts hate American liberty?

  • ||

    with calcified audiences like O'Reiley and Hannity and Lizardman.

    Which one is Lizardman?

  • ||

    "You have no civil liberties if you are dead."

    Funny. The founders of this country were willing to die for those liberties. Does that make the congressman a traitor?

  • ||

    "You have no civil liberties if you are dead."

    Funny. The founders of this country were willing to die for those liberties. Does that make the congressman a traitor?

  • ||

    Should've put "hannity and lizardman" in quotes. Lizardman, of course, is the oddly reptilian Alan Colmes. Gawd I need to write clearer prose.

  • ||

    Obviously Americans feel that democracy, freedom, and liberty are worth dying for, otherwise why would be sending soldiers to fight and die for it in Iraq and Afghanistan? If you don't believe this, then you are saying that liberty is only worth preserving if no one (non-soldiers) gets killed. If American democracy is worth preserving than we should be willing to die for it, just as our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are. If your not willing to, how much liberty will you to give up?

  • ||

    I prefer the Atrioid term "Whiney-Assed Titty Baby," or WATB, to "bedwetter."

    Although they are quite good, and quite accurate.

    Anyone can lose their head in the immediate aftermath of an attack, but to calmly and cooly build a political stance around cowering a bunker indefinitely take a special kind of wimp.

  • ||

    Has it ever occurred to the Senator that freedom can actually enhance security? Off the top of my head, here are 4 ways that more freedom would make us safer:

    1) If law-abiding people had the right to carry the means of self-defense with them at all times, that would certainly do much to curtail terrorist plots that involve hijacking a vehicle or taking civilians hostage.

    2) If America didn't ban victimless crimes then opium traffickers in Afghanistan wouldn't have the resources to threaten our interests.

    3) If authorities had to justify their searches and wiretaps then they might allocate resources more intelligently, rather than wastefully drinking from fire hoses and combing through haystacks. Say what you will about the applicable laws, but public employees aren't exactly renowned for using resources wisely. The situation can only be made worse if they are allowed to act without any supervision.

    4) In general, a free and open society is more innovative than a closed society. Technological advances not only expand the capabilities of the authorities, they can also expand the capabilities of the citizens to assess situations and make better decisions concerning their safety.

    5) If peaceful immigrants had no reason to fear authorities (note: The immigration bureaucracy is so complex that even those who come here legally can find themselves breaking rules if they aren't careful) then it would be harder for dangerous people to blend in, and immigrants might be more eager to come forward with suspicions.

    I'm sure that some people might quibble with the details of one or more of these assertions (I personally find the 5th one to be the most speculative), and no doubt other people here could add to the list, but the general point is that security need not come at the price of freedom. When the executive branch demands unchecked power in the name of security, it should be the Senator's duty to seek solutions that advance both freedom and security.

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