Friday, September 7, 2007

Doctor Newton's third Lawe of the Body politick

As Malcolm has argued here before, the most immutable rule in politics is that for every action there is a necessary and predictable reaction. It may not be instant, but it is inevitable.

This is evidenced yet again by the commendable action of U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in the New York U.S. District Court, and reported this morning by Dan Eggen on the front page of the Washington Post.

Anyone with half a smigeon of a liberal principle will long have been uneasy about the "catch-all" (if only...) nature of the Patriot Act. Anything that requires such a convolved acronym (The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act), is instantly suspect in Malcolm's book. The Act was a major knee-shudder reaction to 9-11, but was intended to have a life-expectancy of four years. Naturally, like all extensions of state power, it has lingered on, not greatly modified from its original totalitarian conception. In the 2005 review, the usual suspects slugged it out on either side, with the mule-headed hard-liners of the House winning out over the Senatorial defenders of liberty.

This is how the particular provision which Judge Marrero has red-lined works:
the FBI's issu[es] of tens of thousands of national security letters (NSLs) each year to telephone companies, Internet providers and other communications firms. The FBI says it typically orders that such letters be kept confidential to make sure that suspects do not learn they are being investigated, as well as to protect "sources and methods" used in terrorism and counterintelligence probes.
Notice the Stasi-like symmetry of that: tens of thousands of intrusive trawls every year, but the carriers, the ISPs, the telecoms companies, the postal services are put to silence to protect hypothetical "sources and methods". It is difficult to come up with a more outrageous example of state power trampling on the individual.

Anyone trying to make sense of our present world is aided and hampered in equal measure by the ever-present Orwellian truism. Most of Malcolm's blogs, in fact the pensées of all shades of opinion in the blogosphere, come down to restatements of original truths mouthed by the alter ego of Eric Blair. There ought to be some randomiser which spits out these declarations of the bleeding obvious. Strung together, of themselves they would spell out the depths of our servitude. So here goes:
  • Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
  • During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
  • In our age there is no such thing as 'keeping out of politics.' All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.
  • Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
  • If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.
So, cheers all round for Judge Marrero. The reaction against ever-intrusive state machinery continues with him and his like, our last line of defence against boot-boy politics.
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yourcousin said...

Well to be honest, I always felt that the last line against boot-boy politics was a well armed citizenry.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Nice to know you're alive and well, "OAC".

That, presumably, would be the "well-armed citizenry" who achieve an annual cull of themselves, their fellow citizens, armed or not:

Every year, more than 30,000 [US] people are shot to death in murders, suicides, and accidents. Another 65,000 suffer from gun injuries.
[Source: Harvard University Gazette.]

yourcousin said...

Yes, that well armed citizenry.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Sorry, "OAC": we're not going to agree on this one.

The casualty rate from gun-abuse is 34 times higher in the US than here in the UK.

I'm still reeling from the UK Mom, transported to Georgia or the Carolinas, who found herself black-listed on the school website because she allowed "alcohol in the house". Meanwhile, all her neighbours had handguns or worse.

Should I apologise for my spelling of "neighbours"?

yourcousin said...

You shouldn't apologize for spelling anymore than I'll apologize for having both alcohol and firearms in my home.

I don't expect you to agree with me(indeed our correspondence would be boring if you did).

I recognize that there is a correlation between access to guns and gun violence, its only logical. But I was raised with firearms. They are tools that can protect or inflict harm. I went out dove hunting last Sunday and had a great time. I'll be going elk hunting in Oct. and will also enjoy myself. I have no qualms in wholeheartedly endorsing the second amendment.

I endorse it because it allows me to own firearms without undue interference from the government. Though the right to bear arms or any other right does not inherently stem from the government. That is why I feel that the last line of tyranny must rest with citizens, not the government.

I will freely admit that gone are the times that a musket was the end all be all, when the government has tanks and cruise missiles and that if they want to come in, they'll come in whether I like it or not. But I refuse to submit my liberty to a judge's gavel anymore than I would surrender my liberty to my bosse's whim.

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