Civil Liberties

Rituals of the Patriot Act Renewal

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Julian Sanchez has a story in The Nation this week about the Patriot Act renewal—the first time I can remember seeing a Cato writer in that journal since Ted Galen Carpenter published a kid lib piece there in 1985. Here's the lede:

We know the rules by now, the strange conventions and stilted Kabuki scripts that govern our cartoon facsimile of a national security debate. The Obama administration makes vague, reassuring noises about constraining executive power and protecting civil liberties, but then merrily adopts whatever appalling policy George W. Bush put in place. Conservatives hit the panic button on the right-wing noise machine anyway, keeping the delicate ecosystem in balance by creating the false impression that something has changed. We've watched the formula play out with Guantanamo Bay, torture prosecutions and the invocation of "state secrets." We appear to be on the verge of doing the same with national security surveillance.

Read the whole thing for the details.

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  1. Conservatives hit the panic button on the right-wing noise machine anyway, keeping the delicate ecosystem in balance by creating the false impression that something has changed.

    Of course–they have to keep up the facade of the Dems and the GOP being different in any significant way. And the media falls right into it.

  2. Sorry, I refuse to read it since he used the Kabuki cliche.

    1. When I saw the Kabuki reference, I thought I have to read this!

  3. If the right can convince people that Obama’s policies are dangerous, left wing bleeding heart appeasement measures, then they can make a play to move even further to the right. If Bush’s policies can be rebranded as liberal and weak, then they can move the debate farther to the right. We won’t be talking about whether to torture. We’ll be talking about where and when to torture.

    1. when: tomorrow @ 0830 hrs
      where: The Mall
      you’re the invited guest, thought you’d like to know

  4. Why the hating on Kabuki? Although I haven’t seen any Kabuki plays, the Wikipedia entry makes it sound interesting. Kabuki may well be Japan’s most popular non-schoolgirl-related art form.

    Please quit the Kabuki-bashing.

    1. I stopped reading at ecosystem, if that makes you happier.

      OT speaking of terrorist topics, I got a hit on the blog from the palestine telecommunications company searching for “ramalla sexy woman” (comes up at the bottom of page 2 on a Google search). Blogged about it, of course, during lunch.

      1. It’s a Julian Sanchez article, though… rarely a sentence without a tortured cliche. That being said, his writing style seems oddly suited to The Nation.

        1. My safeword for cliche torture is red.

        2. That’s ‘Ze Nation’. Get it right.

  5. We’ll be talking about where and when to torture.

    Why the future tense? Isn’t that kind of where the political discussion’s been at for years now?

  6. Both sides are terrified at the prospect of there being a big terror attack and them getting blamed for it. Suppose the nation got its wish. Then there was an anthrax attack or worse that killed a few hundred thousand people. There wouldn’t be a Democratic Party anymore after that. I would be done. That reality tends to sober politicians up. Further, it is easy to talk shit about how we need to live by some gold plated set of principles (even though we never have in any other war we have ever fought) when you are not responsibile for anything.

    I said all through 2006, 07, and 08 that the Democrats wouldn’t change a thing when they actually had responsibility. And I was right. Where I fault the Democrats is having such a dishonest debate about the issue. Rather than being honest about how hard some of these issues are and the stakes involved, they played to their derranged base claiming the dark night of facsism was falling on America, knowing all along they would be doing the same thing if they had the authority and responsibility.

    1. Of course they wouldn’t change a thing John! All that statist snooping and interloping permission of its citizenry, and they didn’t even have to come up with it! They let the Repubs do their dirty work for them. I truly believe that they feigned indignation and horror knowing that they, particularly after Obama was the nominee, would be able to utilize such a perfect statist policy for ends initially unintended.

    2. “” they played to their derranged base claiming the dark night of facsism was falling on America,””

      Sounds like the right talking about Obama.

      But you’re correct. Both teams want the power, any claim of reducing that power is just playing the public as fools. A part the public plays well.

  7. And John, the dark night of fascism continues to fall.

    1. If it is, it has to do with a lot more than the Patriot Act.

  8. If you want to use stylized and predicatable art forms as a metaphor for cliched political debate, why not cite Hollywood’s action movies and romantic comedies? ? Nothing predictable there – the audience is standing on the edge of its seat to find out whether the protagonist will be true to him or herself/defeat the villain/escape in the nick of time from an exploding building or underground bunker by fleeing through a tunnel in front of an expanding fireball/get back together with his or her true love after an initial misunderstanding or quarrel.

    1. Porn is the most predicable art form. With variing degrees of quality/genders/objects, it is a forgone conclusion the diaglouge will be appalling and someone’s getting laid.

      1. Also, somebody will eventually take it on the chin.

      2. By that standard, many mainstream Hollywood movies qualify as porn.

        1. or just plain old crap

        2. That reminds me to coordinate with blogger buddy for another round of our porn erotica picks. Should be soon.

      3. Yet, the market for Kabuki porn seems amazingly small based on a quick google search.

        1. Rule 34 does not account for volume, only existance.

  9. I agree John, and I am in support of strong national defense, like you.

    However, whenever the Patriot Act was proposed, it seemed expedient at the time but I thought a bit afterwards, “What about the next President? How will he/she use it for good or evil”

    I don’t remember which one of RC’z Iron Laws it is, but it went along the lines of “Any power used by you today can be used against you in the future.”

    1. I agree. First, not all of the Patriot Act is bad. There were a lot of rules about information sharing that didn’t do with anything except protecting bureaucratic turf.

      Second, if the Patriot Act doesn’t really work or if there is a better way, great let’s hear it. Perhaps if the Democrats had some actual ideas about how to protect the country while also better protecting people’s rights, we would be better off. Instead of actually trying to solve the problem, they just screamed and threw shit like angy monkeys for 8 years.

      1. Honestly, John, I am not sure what the ideal balance is between liberty and security. It is a precarious situation to be in and we are in it.

        I still think their shit throwing and anal bleating was largely for show when they realized they could capture they WH.

        1. Neither am I. It sucks. Frankly, when you have a bunch of suicidal lunatics running around in your society, it makes it a lot harder to be free. Everytime I have to take my shoes off at airport security, I don’t blame TSA, I blame Richard Reed. I would like to cut his fucking nuts off and feed them to him.

          1. You mean you don’t already have them in a jar on your nightstand?

          2. will anyone’s nuts do or do they have to be Reed’s?

          3. I blame the TSA.

            Let me give you another example, John. Recently there was a story about a six-year-old boy scout who got suspended from school because he brought his camping multi-tool with him.

            On another forum I participate in, someone wrote “It’s too bad a few lunatics ruined it for the rest of us”.

            I responded with “Which six-year-old lunatics ruined it for the rest of us? I blame the school officials for a complete lack of context and critical thinking!”

            Y’see, John, there are crazies in society. But taking away everyone elses freedom doesn’t make us safer from them, it just makes me angry at my government. And in the end, I fear my government more than I fear Richard Reed: an incompetent boob who couldn’t blow up a balloon.

          4. Let me put it to you another way, John, when I lose my 2nd amendment rights, I don’t get angry at the guy who blew is old lady away because of the meat loaf dispute, I blame my reactionary government.

  10. If it is, it has to do with a lot more than the Patriot Act.

    Well, yeah. It goes back to at least the New Deal, and possibly as early as the Progressive Era.

    1. It’s all been downhill since The Whiskey Rebellion.

      1. Who would rebel against whiskey?

  11. This really reveals not only the left’s hypocrisy on national defense but also their willingness to turn it into a political football for short term political gain.

    Before the election, when the Democrats held no responsibility for the consequences of the national security policies they advocated, they claimed that Bush’s policies where horrific overkill and utterly unneeded. Now that they are responsible, they suddenly discovered that the vast majority of Bush’s methods were in fact necessary.

    The Dem’s greatest political nightmare is that another serious attack will occur on their watch. It would be much worse had they dismantled any of Bush’s programs. Therefore, they will keep as much of Bush’s programs in place as possible. They will accept any civil liberties risk to prevent an attack while they are viewed as in charge.

    History has shown that we will compromise any morality to remain safe from attack. In WWI, unrestricted submarine warfare so outraged Americans that it was a major factor in our entry into the war. We signed treaties in the 1920’s outlawing it. Yet, 6 hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, we unleashed unrestricted submarine warfare on Japan. Ditto for things like sniping, area bombing and collective punishment.

    Warfare is ultimately about physics, not morality. You do what is physically required to physically neutralize your enemy. Warfare drags us along with it. The only way to prevent this evolution is to prevent the wars from occurring in the first place. The only way to prevent terrorism from dragging us into a security state is to shut it down quickly everywhere. The longer it remains seen as an effective form of warfare, the more it will degrade us.

    1. Warfare is about killing people.

      1. It is about taking territory. Frequently, killing people is required to do that.

        1. You can expand it to taking/defending resources by force.

          1. Yea, what I should have said to start with.

            1. The problem is that we consider war an act of politics, such as changing the government of a foreign land. Also we have forgotten the line between war and policing actions.

              Sure you might want to change a government because it has become an obstacle to aquiring resources, such as oil. But doing it because you want the people of a country to have a different leader or government, is very different. It becomes politics by force.

  12. The Dem’s greatest political nightmare is that another serious attack will occur on their watch.

    I disagree. It would be the ultimate vindication of how GWB was Lucifer Incarnate while in office, and now we are reaping what as sown because of his “cowboy diplomacy”. Not to mention a golden opportunity to increase even more statist policies eliminating even more civil liberties, including martial law.

    He would be GWB on steroids while shouting “It’s his fault, and I sucked up to the world to make ’em like us!”

    1. That is what they would say. But, only about 30% of the population, who would vote for a houseplant if it had a “D” next to it, would buy it.

      1. I’d vote for a houseplant.

        1. My polling numbers are trending up! I’ll be on the ballot in no time!

  13. The Dem’s greatest political nightmare is that another serious attack will occur on their watch.

    I dunno about them, but it sure as hell is one of mine. I’m terrified of the thought of an Islamic terrorist detonating a radiological device (think dirty conventional explosive, not nuke) on American soil. We will tear ourselves apart and commit genocide overseas, all at the same time.

  14. “Section 215” orders that can be used to compel third parties to turn over any “tangible thing” investigators believe may be relevant to a terrorism investigation

    How long until “tangible” gets dropped from the law?

  15. Liberty/security – false dichotomy. It is not the President’s job to “keep us safe”. His job is to carry his duties as prescribed by the Constitution. Let’s say terrorist uses internet social networks to plan attacks so the government decides to crack down on social networks. Is there any reason on earth to suppose they will not find other means to plan their misdeeds?

    It’s like whack-a-mole. No matter what measure the government takes – whether it’s the stupidity of checking for more shoe bombers at the airport or compelling us to use passports to get in and out of Canada – there are a million ways for a terrorist to get around it.

    All these things do is make life miserable for the rest of us. If the terrorists want to attack us, they will and there is little we can do to stop it.

    By insinuating themselves into every aspects of our lives the government accomplishes exactly nothing except to chip away continuously at everything that a free society is supposed to be about. Not every single aspect of the Patriot Act is a complete horror in terms of civil liberties – that’s the argument for it???

    Furthermore, since the reality is that we can’t actually protect lives by conducting the war on terror, but we can destroy everything that supposedly makes the US a free society (what a joke) just exactly what are we protecting?

    If the terrorists have it in for us, no amount oppressive, liberty killing legislation is going to stop them. With the exception of completely totalitarian societies, when has repression and infringement of rights ever had a dampening effect on terrorism?

    1. Liberty/security – false dichotomy.

      Agreed. If liberty and security truly are polar opposites, then the safest life would be as a slave under a totalitarian regime. Aside from the issue of what sort of life that would be, I question how truly safe a life it is. Historically totalitarian countries have not been safe places to live.

      1. The removal of choice to partisipate in dangerous activities would make you safer. So the removal of liberty can make you safer. That’s the course we as a nation are currently heading with the nanny state.

        The problem for us as a nation is we now revere security more than liberty. Liberty is dangerous, risky, and leaves you vulnerable. Liberty is for the brave who doesn’t fear risk, security is for the weak who fears risk.

    2. All these things do is make life miserable for the rest of us. If the terrorists want to attack us, they will and there is little we can do to stop it.

      So, you’re claiming that the only reason we haven’t seen a successful attack on American soil in the last 8 years is that the terrorist no longer want to attack us? I think that is silly.

      You are clearly engaging in a logical fallacy on the order of saying that, “there are million ways for criminals to hurt you so you shouldn’t bother using locks, having a gun or having private or public security.” That’s clearly stupid because real world criminals avoid hard targets when choosing what crimes to commit and locking them up prevents them from committing crimes.

      The same applies to terrorist. They have real world limitations that make it possible to prevent them from attacking. For example, the vanity of terrorist makes them unwilling to pull off suicide attacks unless they have a high probability of success. The explosive detection system in airports as a 5% failure rate. That means that if terrorist sent a hundred bombers to try and get on airplanes, they could expect that 5 would succeed. However, its almost impossible to recruit people who will risk a 95% of a lifetime in prison just so some other guy can have the glory of being a martyr. They also have the practical problem of recurring that many people without being penetrated by an intelligence service.

      The idea that we’re helpless against attack is simply a rationalizing to prevent people from having to make hard choices and assuming the risk and moral burden of those choices. After all, if it is impossible to stop something you can’t be criticized for failing to attempt to stop it.

      1. So I guess if we should give the TSA some OB/GYN tools we will be safer? Just in case they want to start using women to smuggle bomb parts onto a plane.

        The problem is where to draw the line. The authorities don’t really want one, but a free society should demand them.

        Freedom is not free, but it can’t be paid for by freedom, the cost is measured in vulnerablitiy.

      2. We had no major attacks by foreign terrorists for 8 years before 9/11, either, which seems to indicate that the Patriot Act and the TSA may not be necessary for freedom from terrorist attacks.

        It’s cute, though, to see the tiger-repelling rock salesman lecturing others about logical fallacies.

    3. False dichotomy indeed. The last time an organization killed that many people with just a couple of explosions, it wasn’t terrorists.

  16. Liberty/security – false dichotomy. It is not the President’s job to “keep us safe”. His job is to carry his duties as prescribed by the Constitution.

    Isn’t Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces part still in the Constitution?

    A few other items too, IIRC.

  17. We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Constitution views protecting Americans from an external attack is part of the core functions of the federal government.

  18. “and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”

    What do you do when common defense conflicts with the blessings of liberty?

    1. Providing for the common defense is supposed to secure our liberties, not conflict with it.

      1. I hear ya, but give an example when that’s been true. Almost always, war limits your liberties, at least temporarily.

        The concept of common defense was to defend us from those who are trying to take our liberties away. Best I can tell, the U.S. government is doing a much better job of that than any enemy has done.

  19. However, whenever the Patriot Act was proposed, it seemed expedient at the time but I thought a bit afterwards, “What about the next President? How will he/she use it for good or evil”

    I don’t remember which one of RC’z Iron Laws it is, but it went along the lines of “Any power used by you today can be used against you in the future.”

    Groovus, that would be Iron Law No. 6, recently revised as follows:

    6. Me today, you tomorrow.

    Strictly speaking, proper citation is to the “Iron Law.” These are not RC’z iron laws; they exist as brooding omnipresences, independent of this poor poster.

    1. So noted. I will properly cite in the future. I attributed them to you as are the compiler of the Iron Law.

      Which reminds me, I submitted an Iron Law for consideration.

  20. I suggest that they are easing the way into a total police state.
    Not much left to do but the declaration.

  21. Julian Sanchez has a story in The Nation!! Holy Toledo! That’s the kind of intellectual respectability Propaganda Jesse Walker longs for! Moev over Fox News!

  22. Fuck along now, Edward.

  23. So do the pro-AF/Pak/Iraq/ war folks here have any theory about why the US gives so much support to the Saudi regime that funds islamic fundamentalist brainwashing camps all throughout the mid east?

    1. I don’t understand why we attacked Iraq and not our real enemy, Saudi Arabia.

    2. What do you have against Islamic fundamentalist brainwashing camps?

  24. Which reminds me, I submitted an Iron Law for consideration.

    I vaguely recall. What was it?

    1. It is impossible to manipulate the unwilling.

      Very true if you think about it.

      1. I believe the saying is, “you can’t rape the willing”.

      2. That’s why you first have to make them willing.

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