S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why bother with a constitution?

More Power to you, Mr. President? Actually, we the American people do not think so. We believe we still have the constitution. According to Matt Berman, who writes "The Daily Muck" (9/15/08) at TPM Muckraker,

A new AP-National Constitution Center poll shows that a majority of Americans are opposed to giving more power to the President, even at the expense of national security or the economy. The poll shows that two-thirds of Americans are opposed to shifting the balance of government towards the executive, evidence of wide-ranging skepticism of the advances in executive power during the Bush years. The poll also found more of a split when Americans were asked if Congress should be awarded greater power in times of economic or national security hardships. (AP)

I am a Constitution Voter Campaign -- At the ACLU Blog, , 9/15/08, Caroline Fredrickson on Salon Radio, on the Constitution Voter Campaign talks about how useful it would be to have the presidential candidates talk about Constitutional issues.

Our current president (OCP) started ignoring the Constitution by spying on Americans without a legal warrant some time ago. A great post illustrates an example. It cleverly and succinctly summarizes the new Barton Gellman material, with the five main points of the book's revelations. It came from ACLU Blog, and was written by Amanda Simon (9/15/08): "Ashcroft Defends Constitution in Spying Clusterfrack. Happy Opposite Day!"

Our current president (OCP) had massive help from the private sector in shredding our Constitution's privacy protection -- At the website, Dandelion Salad [by Tom Burghardt, of Global Research, September 11, 2008], comes the sordid story. To quote:

What do the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program and enterprising capitalist grifters have in common? Workarounds...and lots of them. The kind that aren't covered by any law.

Two highly-disturbing reports by CNET and the London Review of Books describe how government intelligence agencies and niche telecom providers have teamed-up to subvert our privacy rights-while providing security agencies with real-time cell phone tracking capabilities.

. . . And with a swarming multitude of new companies crawling out of the woodwork to "service" the "homeland security" market, why its a snap. Firms such as ThorpeGlen, VASTech, Kommlabs, and Aqsacom all sell what CNET's Chris Soghoian describes as "off-the-shelf data-mining solutions to government spies interested in analyzing mobile-phone calling records and real-time location information."

Called "passive-probing" data mining, these companies are carving-out lucrative niche markets. Only there's nothing "passive" about these intrusive operations undertaken in concert with a veritable army of state and corporate spooks.

. . . And there you have it. Niche telecom providers are the latest players in the West's burgeoning "terrorism industry," one that "keeps us safe" by destroying our privacy and our rights with hefty profits all around. Call it another seamless victory for the market's "invisible hand" that clenches as it morphs into the state's iron fist wrapped in American flags and blood-drenched corporate logos.

Congress has sometimes been complicit with OCP in the business of warrantless wiretapping, even when Democrats were in charge. To give them their due, however, they have held many hearings revealing some truth about the extent of damage to the principles of the Constitution's Bill of Rights. For example, hats off to Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) for recently holding this Judiciary subcommittee hearing: "Restoring the Rule of Law#." It was this desire to dial back the executive power overreach that was Bush's primary governing philosophy that led the senator to call together nearly a dozen experts Tuesday morning for the Judiciary subcommittee hearing. To quote:

Some Democrats -- frustrated at banging their heads against a wall much of these last eight years, as they've watched George W. Bush run roughshod over the Constitution and the rule of law -- are determined to return some semblance of order once the president leaves office next year.

The FBI became the agency charged with domestic intelligence gathering during the post-9/11 reorganization of the government's intelligence and homeland security programs. But like other organizations in the executive branch, they have become less and less interested in civil liberties over the years. The following story is an illustration of what Congress is trying to do about that. "Mueller Grilled Over Claims New FBI Powers Amounts to Racial Profiling, More Spying,*" by Robert Chlala for The Public Record on September 19, 2008. To quote:

. . . what the new framework Mueller described would actually do is allow agents to begin "assessments" and surveillance without first obtaining factual evidence. Additionally, the guidelines would permit agents to use race and ethnicity as a factor for triggering investigations.

Despite the concerns raised during the hearings and pressure from civil rights groups, Attorney General Michael Mukasey plans on signing the guidelines into law on Oct. 1.

These guidelines represent only some of a series of changes in law enforcement set in place the last year, increasing the power of federal, state and local authorities. Other new policies include the proposal to eliminate restrictions on local and state law enforcement intelligence gathering, the recruitment of over 15,000 new informants, and the creation of local-level "fusion centers" that gather and monitor masses of criminal and non-criminal information on individuals.

While the FBI guidelines have not been released to the general public, several members of Congress and key staffers from the Judiciary Committees of the House and Senate pressed and received limited access to the draft. Department of Justice briefings and a speech by Attorney General Michael Mukasey in August also shed light on the topic.

Evidently protest is not protected in the copy of the Constitution carried by OCP. The Secret Service, under the Treasury Department, is charged with the protection of the President and Vice President, as well as of the candidates currently running for those offices. They are very good at taking their marching orders from OCP, who ignores Constitutional rights under the guise of maintaining safety. This perfect example "Secret Service order police to block McCain protesters,*" was a post at The Raw Story by David Edwards and Muriel Kane on September 17. To quote:

. . . Leaders of the protest, which had been arranged and publicized by local unions and the Ohio Democratic Party, said that as many as several hundred people had been expected to attend, but police were not letting them through roadblocks surrounding the area.

ACLU Calls for Investigation into Civil Liberties Violations at RNC -- During the Republican National Convention there were mass arrests, police raids on private homes and the detention of several journalists. This comes from my ACLU newsletter, and is a reminder why I am so grateful for the ACLU's long battle to protect our rights under the Constitution. To quote:

"Attempts by law enforcement to squelch lawful political speech and stifle the press have no place in our democracy and are unacceptable," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "Political conventions should be a showcase for free expression, not a venue for bullying and intimidation."

The ACLU specifically called for an investigation into possible violations of the First and Fourth Amendments, including:

* The arrest of reporters trying to gather the news;
* The mass arrest of hundreds of peaceful protestors;
* The surveillance and subsequent raids on several activist groups and private homes; and
* The confiscation by law enforcement agents of constitutionally-protected private property.

The ACLU affiliate office in Minnesota has assembled legal counsel for many of the reporters and peaceful protesters arrested at the protests and has also filed a lawsuit in federal court calling for the release of boxes of literature that were confiscated during raids.

Why bother with the Constitution at all when Homeland Security, under the cover of Keeping Us Safe, can intrude into Sesame Street, of all things? I give up. "Homeland Security, Sesame Style*," by Jeff Dufour and Patrick Gavin -- 9/1808, at DC Examiner, explains. To quote:

In a move that will make Bush administration detractors bring back those duct tape jokes again, the Department of Homeland Security has partnered up with the famous children's show.

"We all want our children to feel safe in this world," said Meryl Chertoff, wife of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, at a ceremony held at the John Tyler Elementary School to announce the partnership. "And who better to do that than our Sesame Street friends, Grover and Rosita!"

. . . As you can imagine, the partnership is aimed at children, and seeks to encourage family preparedness plans in the case of emergencies.

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo*" and Jon#.

(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)

My "creativity and dreaming" post today is at Making Good Mondays.

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