The sun never sets on the Republican empire
April 9, 2003 7:30 PM   Subscribe

PATRIOT forever. Toppling one regime to build another, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and a Republican coalition are pushing legislation to make the PATRIOT Act permanent. It's daylight forever.
posted by four panels (46 comments total)
This is quite bad.
posted by swerdloff at 7:31 PM on April 9, 2003

This is what comes from being distracted. Wonder what else Congress has been up to these past three weeks.
posted by LouReedsSon at 7:35 PM on April 9, 2003

Welcome to the new America, people. Hope you didn't like those Constitutional freedoms too much.

"We can't worry about civil liberties when the American way of life is at stake!"
posted by Dipsomaniac at 7:45 PM on April 9, 2003

"The whole point of a sunset provision is to create a deadline by which Congress can assess how well the provision is working before renewing it or making it permanent. The Act has only been in effect for 18 months at this point -- 18 months, I might add, in which the Administration's general stance about its enforcement efforts has been rather secretive. How could anyone actually think that a year and a half under this Administration is long enough to make a judgment about the advisability of permanent and significant changes to the powers of law enforcement?"
posted by homunculus at 7:58 PM on April 9, 2003

Why we may never regain the liberties that we've lost

So much for "the land of the free and the home of the brave."
posted by homunculus at 8:04 PM on April 9, 2003

There are always small beams of light peeking through the supersstructure of the wall They are building: NYPD Stop Collecting Data on Protesters' Politics.
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:13 PM on April 9, 2003

I wanted to go into science and technology... learn programming and work with computers... maybe that's where all of the last intelligent people have gone. But after seeing all of the bullshit the Bush administration has been pulling, I'm going to law school. This is not the America I grew up in. Our freedoms have severely been taken for granted, and I'm afraid things will have to get a lot worse before they can get better. The only time people seem to care about their freedoms are when they are fighting for them. Here's to starting the fight.
posted by banished at 8:13 PM on April 9, 2003

I'm not sure if that's the sky falling or not, but I'm leaning towards a cautious yes on the issue.

Are you folks actually getting the government you deserve, and if so, who coulda known that Americans were so darn eeee-vil?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:22 PM on April 9, 2003

Also, welcome to thread #25000. Impressive, sorta.


posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:31 PM on April 9, 2003

Good for you, banished. Get down on it. Consider applying here, btw.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:48 PM on April 9, 2003

I see banished's point, and yet, it is a surfeit of lawyers which got us into this mess.

Please consider another way of helping? I am convinced that law schools put something in the water.
posted by padraigin at 8:51 PM on April 9, 2003

" ... officials said today ... a senior department official said on condition of anonymity ... Another senior official who also demanded anonymity said ..." No one in this story wants to go on the record, and the gist of the story is that the GOPers "may seek to move on the proposal ..." What is this, frickin' Page Six?

Nonetheless, add a new term to your Clone of the Attacks lexicon: the Kyl-Schumer "Moussaoui fix," which has been in the works for nearly a year — PATRIOT light, with congressional oversight, in that secret cone of silence they have in the Capitol building, of secret warrants on "lone wolf terrorists."
posted by hairyeyeball at 9:05 PM on April 9, 2003

Just as long as they leave Guitar Wolf alone...
posted by foot at 9:11 PM on April 9, 2003

I'm not sure if that's the sky falling or not, but I'm leaning towards a cautious yes on the issue.

I'm still leaning towards no, not yet, but the thunder is getting louder.
posted by homunculus at 9:21 PM on April 9, 2003

This is why you can not trust the government when they tell you the law is just temporary. I once read a good paper on the history of the many "sunset provisions" that ended up becoming permanent law in the end. I was trying to find the paper but I can not, oh well.

A bad law is a bad law claiming it will be temporary does not somehow make it good, in fact it should make you more suspicious of the law being proposed.

I can not think of many points in history when the US government has said "You know we have to much power, lets give it back".
posted by GreenDragon at 9:29 PM on April 9, 2003

I'm thinking of starting a "throw the bums out" campaign when election season starts. If congress is going to be ducking their responsibilities like this then those in office need to be voted out. Basically, no one who voted for the "Patriot" act should be re-elected. I'm going to by writing the state legislation and asking them to add options to the ballot do just this, sort of like the single party vote options.
posted by wobh at 9:31 PM on April 9, 2003

I can not think of many points in history when the US government has said "You know we have to much power, lets give it back".

The Republicans say it all the time, they just don't mean it, and the Democrats just go along with them.

At this rate, if the Libertarians ever go through with their Free State Project, I might just move there.
posted by homunculus at 10:02 PM on April 9, 2003

Thread 25,000! w00t!
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:08 PM on April 9, 2003

The Republicans say it all the time, they just don't mean it

I take this back, that was too broad and rude. There are plenty of Republicans who absolutely mean it, it's just that there are a bunch of meglomaniacs in the government right now who don't.
posted by homunculus at 10:17 PM on April 9, 2003

Fortress America
posted by homunculus at 10:19 PM on April 9, 2003

"The Republicans say it all the time, they just don't mean it"

If I might correct this, I think the Republicans are usually advocating less government restricting businesses, which almost exclusively translates into advantages for big business. Where civil liberties are concerned (or should I say "family values?") I'm pretty sure the business types are all for big government. Look at Reagan's War on Drugs, for example, or, even more telling, his administration's horribly failed War on Porn.

At this point, I've little trouble saying that the Republican party has quietly declared its War on Me. Here are a few lines from Derrick Jansen's book, "The Culture of Make Believe":

"'Nobody talks about this,' he said, 'but they're branches from the same tree, different forms of the same cultural imperative...'
"'Which is?' [...]
"'To turn everyone and everything into objects. [...] The methodology used by each is different. Corporations are carriers of ruin, turning everything they touch to money. They are culturally sanctified, supported, and protected in their role of turning the living - forest, oceans, mountains, rivers, human lives - into the dead: money. And because they are culturally sanctified they get to act aboveground.'
"'And hate groups?'
"'Beneath, hidden hated. But serving that same function of objectifying. Their entire self-definition is based on this objectification. [...] Of course, that's true for corporations as well, in a different way. [...] [I]f I hate a person because she's black, or an Indian, or a Jew, or a woman, or a homosexual, I'm not even giving her the honor of hating her in particular. I'm hating a stereotype that I'm projecting onto her."

The PATRIOT act is a legal extension of this hatred: Everyone, particularly some racially profiled international communities, stop being individuals so much as they are potential terrorists. It is a legal extension of a very long trend. Lest we forget that hatred can be institutionalized, we can look at our whole slew of post-14th Amendment anti-black laws. And it carries on into the present day, with extra-legal police profiling and completely legal "muslim registrations."

To identify oneself as a patriotic American first and a thinking individual second is to sacrifice one's individuality to the stereotype of the patriotic American. The same happens with any institution we count ourselves a member of, though some ask us to give up more than others. To say that I am a "bad American" because I wear a certain t-shirt and refuse to wave a flag is an attempt to punish me socially for not subscribing to the myth. If I were brown, I'm sure the consequences would be far worse. These are the mechanics of the War on Me: it is a system of innumerable small attacks on my individuality, involving demographics, TV shows, "the need for a steady job," retirement plans, the 40-hour work week, Social Security, political parties, restrictive laws, and rhetoric, rhetoric, rhetoric. It's the best I can do to keep up the home front...
posted by kaibutsu at 11:04 PM on April 9, 2003

I'd just like to say, on the record, that I love my country and everything it does!

sheesh, at least now I'll have one *good* thing in my file...

I just praise Jesus, and America, and George W. Bush every day!

now I've got two...
posted by Sr_Cluba at 11:07 PM on April 9, 2003

The words are Tommy Jefferson's, with kibitzing from me. I was originally just going to spout a simple quote from TJ, but it's important to see the context of his words, and how he arrived at them.

"Societies exist under three forms, sufficiently distinguishable: (1) without government, as among our Indians..."

I feel compelled to point out TJ was wrong here. The Native Americans had and have a government system. Most tribes have both a chief and a shaman, with most of the other tribal leaders growing naturally within their community by way of maturity: elders. Their way may not be perfect but we could learn more from native american history than makes its way to the white man's textbooks. Leaders in Native American tribes proved their worth by actions - not by politics.

"(2) under governments, wherein the will of everyone has a just influence, as is the case in England, in a slight degree, and in our states, in a great one; (3) under governments of force, as is the case in all other monarchies, and in most of the other republics."

TJ was a keen observer of humanity and how it governs itself. His experiences in this area were quite broad and intricate. So when he says what I put in bold below, he is not just crying for violence. He has a method to his ingenuity.

"To have an idea of the curse of existence under these last, they must be seen. It is a government of wolves over sheep. It is a problem, not clear in my mind, that the first condition is not the best. But I believe it to be inconsistent with any great degree of population. The second state has a great deal of good in it. The mass of mankind under that enjoys a precious degree of liberty and happiness. It has its evils, too, the principal of which is the turbulence to which it is subject. But weigh this against the oppressions of monarchy, and it becomes nothing. Malo periculosam libertatem quam quietam servitutem. Even this evil is productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government and nourishes a general attention to the public affairs.

"I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government."

TJ loved his country. He loved the people with whom he shared his new home. He disagreed with many, but TJ thrived in the art of debate, and knew the strength of debate and philosophical conflict was that such challenges compelled one to exercise their mind and explore the parameters of one's own convictions. He did not speak of rebellion frivolously. He felt strongly it was a natural and inevitable part of humanity's societal evolution. The only constant in the universe is change, and TJ believed rebellions allowed communities to adapt and change to new events both within humanity and with the universe at large.

And so do I.

The present actions of the congress, with the Patriot Act and other things, are reactionary to recent developments. These are reactions of fear. This new world order involves terrorism in a more blatant way than before, but make no mistake we had been experiencing terrorist attacks of varioius forms before Nine Eleven and before the Gulf War. What today we call terrorism, TJ may have seen as a perverted variant on rebellion. To the ruling power of 18th century France, the French Revolution that led to King Louis XVI's execution was from King Louis' perspective an act of terrorism and treason to his regime. It's all a matter of perspective.

But make no mistake, terrorism works in today's world because of fear. So long as people remain passive, like sheep, as has been the case in parts of Iraq for three decades, the violent power of a society will prevail. There comes a time when someone must step in and rectify the situation. All men are created equal, and given inalienable rights of life and liberty. This is not just an American thing. Every Iraqi was born with those rights. Not exercising them, not being willing to see one's own blood pour in order to protect and secure those rights, is what leads to allowing corruption to spread and allowing bad men to do bad things to good people.

Rebellion occurs when justice cannot be resolved any other way. When that time comes, America as we know it will cease to exist. When there is immutable proof that votes are no longer counted equally, then is when a change will come. Some argue that time has already come, with the last presidential election. If that's the case, you and I are but sheep, in allowing GWBush to parade about as our leader when he didn't rightfully attain that moniker.

However, the argument is still there. Some believe GWBush won fair and square and some don't. And some go along with how things are whether they believe it in their hearts, because they believe it is better to live on one's feet than to die on one's knees... or is that the other way around?

Maybe we should ask some sheep.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:48 PM on April 9, 2003

Oh yeah. I forgot to add the link. The above TJ words come from a letter he wrote to James Madison, who was a fellow longhaired hippie of the 1770s.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:50 PM on April 9, 2003

Much has been said about the erosion of privacy in the UK, but it has to be said that it's taken place, comparatively, in daylight. Some amount of honest debate occurred, and efforts were made to secure a citizen's right to information, including the right to know what they know about you. Maybe that's not enough -- but because the "patriot" act was crafted in secrecy (long before the Tragic Events) and sneaked in when we were shocked, it's one hell of a lot more than we in the US have got. Rights of the citizen: none.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:18 AM on April 10, 2003

I can not think of many points in history when the US government has said "You know we have to much power, lets give it back".

I cannot think of any point in history when any government has said that. Oh, well, maybe at inflection points during political revolutions, like the collapse of Communism in the USSR and Eastern Bloc, or 'the night feudalism died' during the French Revolution.

Government is like any other organization, it continuously seeks to increase its power, scope, revenues, and markets.

BTW, can anyone point to any actual harm caused by the Patriot Act? Not FUD, but actual injuries or injustices. This isn't a rhetorical question or a troll, I'd really like to know. No, Hawash isn't an example.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 12:22 AM on April 10, 2003

Hm. On giving it a little more thought, there have been times when governments have voluntarily reduced the scope of their power. A recent example: in the 1980's and early 1990's, many US states required a 'certificate of need' for a hospital to buy a CAT scanner: the hospital had to prove to a state agency that it really needed to have a scanner. The aim was to restrain medical expenses by restricting CAT scanners to only a few hospitals in an area.

The result was something else entirely: hospitals that were not allowed to have a CAT scanner were forced to transport patients by ambulance to hospitals that did have one (and then back again). This put unstable patients at unnecessary risk, and probably actually increased the overall expense of medical care. These certificate of need programs have since been repealed in my state (and in most states, I think).

Another example, from Christopher Hills' Century of Revolution on Seventeenth Century England:
It is difficult for us to picture for ourselves the life of a man living in a house built with monopoly bricks, with windows of monopoly glass; heated with monopoly coal, burning in a grate made of monopoly iron. His walls were lined with monopoly tapestries. He slept on monopoly feathers, did his hair with monopoly brushes. He washed his face with monopoly soap, his clothes in monopoly starch. He dressed in monopoly lace, monopoly linen, monopoly belts, and monopoly gold thread. His hat was monopoly beaver, with a monopoly band. His clothes were held up with monopoly belts, monopoly buttons, and monopoly pins. They were dyed with monopoly dyes. He ate monopoly butter, monopoly currants, monopoly red herrings, monopoly salmon, and monopoly lobsters. His food was seasoned with monopoly salt, monopoly pepper, and monopoly vinegar. Out of monopoly glasses he drank monopoly wines and monopoly spirits; our of pewter mugs made from monopoly tin he drank monopoly beer made from monopoly hops, kept in monopoly barrels or monopoly bottles, sold in monopoly-licensed ale-houses. He smoked monopoly tobacco in monopoly pipes, played with monopoly dice or monopoly cards, or on monopoly lute strings. He wrote with monopoly pens, on monopoly paper; read (possibly through monopoly reading glasses by the light of monopoly candles) monopoly printed books, including monopoly Bibles, printed on paper made from monopoly collected rags, bound in sheepskin dressed with monopoly alum. He exercised himself with monopoly golf balls and in monopoly licensed bowling alleys. Mice were caught in monopoly mousetraps...
All these were coercive monopolies, granted and enforced by the government. Most were dismantled during the next century, under the influence of classical liberal economic thinking.

So, it is possible for government to give up powers. Nonetheless, it's unusual, and I still believe that the natural tendency of government everywhere is always to increase the scope of its powers.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 2:09 AM on April 10, 2003

Revolution time.
posted by LouReedsSon at 4:56 AM on April 10, 2003

The main arguements I get from my hard-core conservative friends is that:

"As long as you are doing nothing wrong then you don't have anything to worry about!"

so I wonder why this good enough for the goose but not for the gander of our government. Why is it that the sitting President has barred his admin, Clinton's admin, and his fathers admin from the FOIA applications.

"As long as they are doing nothing wrong then they don't have anything to worry about!"
posted by Wong Fei-hung at 5:45 AM on April 10, 2003

Banished, I completely sympathize with the frustration and dislike of the direction the us (world?) is heading. As an already-graduated engineering-type, it's one of the things that has led me to pursue a program in Technology & Policy this fall. I'll probably end up in the sustainability track, but there's a lot of smart people in the telecommunications and energy tracks who will hopefully make waves when they get out.
posted by whatzit at 6:46 AM on April 10, 2003

I dunno, Slithy... Your first example is more like the government realizing a mistake in regulation, and the second is a bit stickier. It seems to me that the huge mega-monopolies were dismantled because our politicos had no real choice if they wanted to stay in office. I can look up some facts on this later, but it wasn't so much as a cedeing of power as preventing a revolution. Not many people realize that St. Louis was socialist for two weeks following a city-wide worker's rebellion around 1910, and Seattle for close to a month in the same period. The government had grown so corrupt that it was beginning to be in real trouble, and had to do something to restore equillibrium/ illusion.

Who was it that said that "rights are not granted, but taken"?
posted by kaibutsu at 6:49 AM on April 10, 2003

My understanding of the legislative process is far (far) from perfect, but can someone explain to me how a law can ever be truly permanent, as in "we can never, ever change this"? I mean, can't all laws, with enough votes or electoral somethings-or-other, potentially be changed down the road? Hell, the Constitution can be amended, and those amendments repealed.

Not to say, of course, that the PA does not scare the crap out of me. It does, like the beginning of Jaws, when you know it's down there in the darkness, and that woman is doomed.
posted by gottabefunky at 7:24 AM on April 10, 2003

Great point Wong Fei-hung!

The hypocrisy once again rears it's head. Why the need for secrecy of Raygun documents and other historical government records? Ashamed of something? Like, say, Iran Contra?
posted by nofundy at 7:33 AM on April 10, 2003

I remember, just before this stupid law was passed, that someone surveyed the legislators voting on it and asked them if they'd read the PATRIOT bill all the way through. The numbers were staggeringly low. At least dubious legislation in Britain tends to get chewed over in committee, sentence by sentence -- particularly by the House of Lords, which is made up of people with lots of time on their hands and plenty of experience of this thing.

But members of Congress tend to be of pretty low calibre, especially in the House of Representatives (gerrymandering and the tyranny of incumbency are much to blame) and so shitty laws get off the ground.
posted by riviera at 9:00 AM on April 10, 2003

when the patriot act first passed, i decided to do an 'experiment' of sorts. i took the ap news article, stripped the headers and passed it around my friends, telling them that i wrote a new satire.

they thought it was very funny but too farfetched to be effective.

i've since stopped writing satire.
posted by fuq at 9:18 AM on April 10, 2003

Sorry for the OT:

Congratulations Matt on #25000!

posted by riffola at 11:05 AM on April 10, 2003

as the executive branch mutates and grows with ridiculous and superfluous new powers, I find myself longing for some smaller government conservatives in the white house. holla back, buckley! also, where's hama7 to tell us that we can trust the government not to abuse this?
posted by mcsweetie at 11:21 AM on April 10, 2003

"You know we have to much power, lets give it back".

Courts of law do this on a semi-regular basis, either by limiting the reach of other branches or by limiting themselves in jurisdictional disputes. Presidential orders sometimes deny the executive branch previously held powers. I'm trying to think of something Congress regularly does along these lines, but nothing comes to mind.
posted by joaquim at 11:29 AM on April 10, 2003

I wanted to go into science and technology... learn programming and work with computers... maybe that's where all of the last intelligent people have gone. But after seeing all of the bullshit the Bush administration has been pulling, I'm going to law school. This is not the America I grew up in.

Same here -- I'm still a business major, too close to graduation to stop it -- but I'm starting a libertarian political group on campus.
posted by SpecialK at 11:39 AM on April 10, 2003

they thought it was very funny but too farfetched to be effective.i've since stopped writing satire.

fuq, you didn't get the memo... Tom Lehrer declared satire dead when Henry Kissinger got the nobel peace prize.
posted by weston at 11:40 AM on April 10, 2003


My understanding of the legislative process is far (far) from perfect, but can someone explain to me how a law can ever be truly permanent, as in "we can never, ever change this"? I mean, can't all laws, with enough votes or electoral somethings-or-other, potentially be changed down the road? Hell, the Constitution can be amended, and those amendments repealed.

True in theory, but it is far, far harder to get a stupid law taken off the books than it is to put one there in the first place. Look at all of the idiotic 19th century laws that still exist in the U.S.
posted by mark13 at 5:35 PM on April 10, 2003

banished, if you are interested in free beer, go to the law school. However, if you are interested in free speech stick with computer science.
posted by MzB at 9:39 PM on April 10, 2003

Thread 25000. Hello everyone.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:12 AM on May 6, 2003

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