December 22, 2005

Obligatory Political Rant

Politically, I’m very left of center. But I'm not paranoid. I don't see conspiracies everywhere I turn. I don't think the moon landing was fake. I'm pretty sure the government has never had to scramble some elite alien fighting platoon of soldiers to put down an alien invasion. The lone gunman on the grassy knoll wasn’t, most likely, part of a complex plot to rid the nation of the Kennedy family. I just don’t believe there always have to be “evil forces” working to screw over everyone else. Possibly more surprising? I don't think there's anything inherently evil about the right. Instead, I think there's a small minority in the right (as there is with the left) who tarnish the image of the rest. Unfortunately, those are the folks who happen to have the hold on power right now.

On December 21st, President Bush stated:

In order to protect America, the United States Senate must reauthorize the Patriot Act. The terrorists still want to hit us again. There is an enemy that lurks, a dangerous group of people that want to do harm to the American people -- and we must have the tools necessary to protect the American people.

Late word this morning reveals that the Patriot Act has been temporarily extended. But what Bush forgot to mention was that, if it didn't pass, he'd probably go ahead and do whatever he thought necessary regardless of the legality of those actions. Why should we believe otherwise? The telephone or email communications of hundreds of Americans are being monitored without any legal basis. None of the legal avenues - principally FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - were followed, despite the fact that the act allows surveillance activities to be conducted and warrants to be issued retroactively. They can apply for them later. But they didn't. Senators - including those on the Senate Intelligence Committee - were not appropriately briefed and several of those who were recently admitted that such briefings inadequately described the government’s plans and left little room for any oversight of the government's conduct.

I'm in the IT industry. In my specific niche, we have some absolutely inscrutable guidelines. For anything to be successful, there must first be a defined process. Only after this process is defined and articulated can anything be successfully implemented - and be repeatedly implemented. Once this thing is implemented, it must be tested at regular intervals to make sure the process and the implementation are adequate, that they support whatever it is you expect this thing to do. That's what the American legal system is - a process. There are fundamental rules, canons, which must be followed to the letter in order for the system to work effectively. And this system must be tested again and again. There are exceptions to every rule but the things that circumvent these processes have no place, serve no purpose, and ultimately short circuit the whole thing. I'm confident that, in fifty years, we'll look back at the recent NSA surveillance and the Patriot Act and shake our heads at our naiveté. Of course, we should also look back, in the years to come, and applaud the government being so proactive this holiday season. The Open Skies Agreement is surely worth spending time and money on even with all the other important things going on.

The war on terrorism, as cliché laden as it has become, is important. I don't personally feel as though you can fight an idea but I do believe we need to do what we can to protect ourselves and our country from the threats of extremists. But in so doing, the civil rights granted us by our constitution - the very things we're trying to fight for (can you say paradox?) - are being trampled on and sacrificed. Fighting one type of extremism only to replace it with another accomplishes nothing.

Posted by Chris at December 22, 2005 07:29 PM

Taking our freedoms to protect our freedoms. Oxymoron? Oh wait, when it comes to Monkey boy its just moron.

Posted by: Angelia at December 22, 2005 07:36 AM

AMEN! Preach it Brother!! *grin* I'm so sick of the president... and those certain right wingers. What disgusts me even more? That our president seems to be getting away with doing whatever he so pleases. I hope all of this comes back to bite him in the ass...
Well spoken post, to which I raise my glass and say, "Hear! Hear!"

Posted by: Corinne at December 22, 2005 07:40 AM

Although many of us believe Bush went too far a long time ago, at least now some of his blind followers seem to be questioning his current actions.

Posted by: jen at December 22, 2005 08:11 AM

My favorite pundit speaks again. So well said, Chris.

My thought is this - God forbid another attack happen, because then it will become apparent that we handed over our civil liberties for nothing. Even if there isn't another attack, I am sure it's not worth it - not what we've given up, or better yet, had taken from us.

Posted by: samantha at December 22, 2005 08:12 AM

Couple of thoughts come to mind. The people who intend to do us harm (and, yes, those folks most certainly do exist) are not rational. Their tactics are extreme as is their mentality. There are no rules in their book and therefore, any rules we deem appropriate mean nothing.

Theirs is a special kind of crazy. And, for me, I don't think changing our perspective to recognize that means we are giving anything away. On the contrary, it is in order to protect.

I had two FBI agents at my door two days after 9/11 asking my husband to accompany them to our family offices so that they might look in our databases for information about the terrorists. It was there -- and we were shocked.

I'm all for the Patriot Act - and anything else that keeps FBI agents from needing to come wake me up at 9am.

Posted by: Pammer at December 22, 2005 09:14 AM

I have to agree with you on this one.

Posted by: linda at December 22, 2005 09:30 AM

I was fortunate in that I didn't have to live through the worst of the war in El Salvador but in the brief years that I did live through it, I learned something. It doesn't matter how much you prepare, you'll never be completely safe. Maybe it's because of that previous experience that I find the govt's attempts so futile sometimes. You can monitor emails, phone calls, institute curfews etc all you want, but unless you throw a giant dome over the whole damn country, there is no way to keep anyone 100% safe. Does that mean they should stop trying? No, but neither am I willing to give up all my rights simply for the illusion of safety.

Posted by: pea at December 22, 2005 09:33 AM

This presidency is as lame as the ham-fisted political intrigue in Star Wars. A crisis is used to turn a liberal democracy into a totalitarian dictatorship run by evil incarnate.

I am all for getting rid of terrorism, but at the expense of living in a non-free country? There have been too many things done "for our protection" that we call can agree are a little much. Some things make sense and are reasonable, like airport security or not letting big trucks park right next to large buildings full of people. Other things are not so clear.

If people have to die in another 911 then so be it. The people of this country and what should be the rest of the world, are free even to commit harm. You can't prevent this harm without violating freedom.

If you don't agree then read 1984, Fahrenheit 451 or Brave New World. But be careful, by reading these you might end up on a Government list thanks to the Patriot Act.

Posted by: chrishillman at December 22, 2005 09:57 AM

Talk to me in 20 years...and we'll compare conspiracy theories. ;)

Posted by: Marilyn at December 22, 2005 10:07 AM

I knew you were going to have to blog about this today!

You were talking about the need for defined processes in your niche of the IT industry. I'm a CPA who audits privately-held companies and non-profit organizations. One of the things we look for is a separation of duties among the different accounting cycles. For example, the person that writes the checks should not also be the person that performs the bank reconciliations. The reason for this is to help prevent fraud - it's much hard for a person to write unauthorized checks if someone else is reviewing the bank statement every month.

Along the same lines, there is a reason for our system of checks and balances within the government. If one branch of government gains too much power then the system won't work. The requirement to obtain warrants should not be considered a hindrance to national security, but an important ingredient of it. In bypassing this important "check" in the system, Bush has damaged this country in his attempt to save it from the terrorists.

Posted by: Beth in StL at December 22, 2005 10:12 AM

excellent post chris :)

Posted by: suze at December 22, 2005 10:17 AM

And here I was, so proud of them all to manage to stand up to that idiot.


Posted by: Autumn at December 22, 2005 10:22 AM

I couldn't agree more Chris... you say it all so perfectly! Great post!!

Posted by: Tammy at December 22, 2005 11:39 AM

Well I personally think it's much too early in the morning for that kind of talk :)I haven't even had coffee. But I am awake enough to see your point, I agree with it and its Catch-22esque quality. In the midst of all this holly jolliness it's refreshing to see that someone is still paying attention to the important stuff, because lord knows I'm not! :) Have a happy Thursday!

Posted by: Kate at December 22, 2005 11:58 AM

You're making my brain work too early this morning. ;)

Posted by: Heather at December 22, 2005 11:59 AM


Posted by: Heather at December 22, 2005 12:13 PM

Amen, brother. I so totally agree with you and the way you said it.

I think the majority of people, right and left, want the same exact things. I am not going to go put on a tin-foil cap now, but I do think it is extremely disturbing and dangerous to trample on one of our most precious rights as Americans in the name of "safety". Ironically, it's starting to look like the terrorists are winning. We aren't as free as we once were - they've made a huge impact on our way of life and our way of thinking. Sort of. Personally, I am feeling a little more terrorized by the constant message our dear leader gives us: people want to kill you.

The death of freedom won't happen in one swift action, but it will succeed one little bit at a time. And it will be done with our permission. The most diabolical people are the ones who make you think it's a good idea, and even that it's your idea, to hand over your personal liberty.

Posted by: Ms. Q at December 22, 2005 12:20 PM

Yeah, in reading the paper about Bush's psychopathic determination to extend the Patriot Act, I can't help remembering another time when it was "act now, ask questions later" being driven by unending paranoia. Senator McCarthy, anyone?

I'm just glad central PA is refusing Intelligent Design. :)

Posted by: Brooke at December 22, 2005 12:21 PM



Posted by: RockStar Mommy at December 22, 2005 12:24 PM

Sometimes I think the real war is against the American people. Divide and conquer - and we are divided. Our ideas are marginalized, scrutinized and picked over so much that unless we are totally "pure," meaning 100% behind one extreme ideology or another, well, then we are nutjobs and dingbats - or worse! We've given in to hysteria, and the sky is falling, and we're encouraged to believe it, anything, really, to keep us from actually looking at how we present our collective American face to the world that we fear so damned much. Eh. Maybe we're conquered already.

Posted by: bhd at December 22, 2005 01:50 PM

amen, my long lost younger identical twin brother who looks nothing like me.

but you are wrong about the moon.

Posted by: jodi at December 22, 2005 02:30 PM

A few years ago I would have totally made fun of anyone saying they didn't believe in the moon landing. Then I saw a very convincing TV show on it. I was turned. I don't believe it ever happened. The proof they showed was intense. Now this one guy at my office makes fun of me all the time. He "proof" that it DID happen? He saw the landing on TV when he was a kid. Nice "proof"...dork.

And I am very nervous about them being able to tap our phones, etc. Where will it end? It's a scary thought.

Happy Holidays.

Posted by: Isabel at December 22, 2005 03:03 PM

Its not the left or the right wingers we have to look out for, its the ones just out of our sight, the ones dead straight in the middle.

Posted by: LOTGK at December 22, 2005 03:35 PM

I feel for my american brethren. BUSh is so very close to dictator it isnt even funny. Im sure hitler once said "give us some room" bush?, well he just wants your freedom, which is worse?
Us canadians have our liberals running amok, undermining our culture and raping us blind. Sadly they'll be voted back in. Me thinks its time for a revolt

Posted by: shaners at December 22, 2005 07:04 PM

Very well said!!!

Posted by: catbird at December 22, 2005 07:46 PM

Wait a second. You're left of center but not a conspiracy theorist?! Is that possible?!

(Yes, that's sarcasm for anyone wondering.)

Posted by: DeAnn at December 23, 2005 01:14 AM

I couldn't agree with you more. Mr. Sweety and I talked about this and are a bit worried. Although we still would love to live in the US, I'm starting to question whether I want to live in the Bush US. (that's hard for me to even write, because our biggest dream is to move to the US).
Although he - Bush - is kinda making that desision for us with the proposal of stopping the DV lottery (,00050001.htm) . Because yeah, terrorists ofcourse all join a freakin' lottery to enter the US.

Posted by: Sweety at December 23, 2005 02:18 AM

But in so doing, the civil rights granted us by our constitution - the very things we're trying to fight for (can you say paradox?) - are being trampled on and sacrificed. Fighting one type of extremism only to replace it with another accomplishes nothing.

That's why I joined the ACLU this year (something I thought I would never do).

Posted by: Allan at December 23, 2005 03:08 AM

Here's what rubs me about all the dramatic furor over this: the people complaining most loudly will also be the ones saying that the President didn't do enough to stop the next attack, and they'll hold him personally responsible if it somehow directly affects them either because their favorite coffee shop was destroyed, their mode of transportation was interrupted, or God forbid, someone they loved got killed.

IMHO, given the choice of letting them root-around in my underwear drawer or wondering if the next killing could have been prevented, I say root away! Whatever illegal spots and streaks they find, I'll just have to pay my debt to society and 'clean' my record. :p'

I don't consider what they're doing to be UNREASONABLE, data is being reviewed for patterns with the ultimate goal being the safety and security of this country. Yeah, I do think people are overreacting; it's not like GW or Rummy are sitting there reading Hillary's e-mails or listening-in on Feinstein's phone calls.

Posted by: Jim at December 24, 2005 01:26 PM

After stumbling upon your web site and reading this, I am definitely adding you to my list of favorites. Thanks for the insight!

Posted by: Jamie at December 28, 2005 12:52 PM