Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Screaming of the Meemies

The Screaming of the Meemies
© 2006 Ross Williams

People just can't get over this. Oooo, our constitutional rights are being imperiled as never before!

Yes, our government lines you up like brainless sheep at the airport to shoelessly magnetometerize you, and x-ray and rifle your belongings without a warrant on the premise that because you want to fly from Tulsa to Phoenix you are a terrorist. But that is acceptable to the vast majority of Americans.

Our government stops hundreds of drivers at a time to sniff breath and check straps without a warrant on the premise that by virtue of driving from home to the store you are a drunk intent on killing someone else, or a brainless dweeb[1] intent on injuring yourself in your inevitable, microscopically unlikely accident. But that is also acceptable to the vast majority of Americans.

Our government wants to eradicate the scourge of illegal drugs so badly that they have started to track anyone who has enough sniffles that they want to use the only effective over-the-counter decongestant – which is no longer over-the-counter. It is behind the counter, with the prescription medications. The premise behind this is that because you want to buy pseudoephedrine you are making methamphetamine out of it. Of the ten or a dozen necessary ingredients in the recipe for meth, there's only two that have a non-industrial use – one is an agricultural fertilizer, and one is an OTC decongestant. The rest are raw chemicals that are fairly difficult to obtain, can only be gotten from theft or purchase from a very limited number of suppliers[2], and controlling and tracking the distribution of these raw chemicals would be trivially easy. So therefore, the government tracks the only consumer-use product in the recipe, which requires hundreds of thousands of individual retailers to keep record of the tens of millions of Americans who purchase the bubble-packed 24-pill box of Sudafed®.[3] And even this seems to be acceptable to the vast majority of Americans.

What isn't acceptable to the wet-panty crowd is that this same government will listen in on phone calls a few hundred Americans make to known terrorists. How evil and unconstitutional can you get???

But wait! There's more!!

We now get word that the Customs folks will – I can barely type the words, the computer screen is just too squiggly from the tears welling up in my eyes – <snfff!> ... US Customs agents will open your mail if you get letters or packages from parts of the world known to be strongholds of terrorist activity.[4] If you get a letter from the hill country of the Philippines, or a package from the mountains of "tribe-controlled Pakistan", a parcel from the Syrian border-area of Iraq, or a carton from Paris France, you'll get a note from a Customs agent saying that your mail was inspected by US Customs and resealed.

Secret? no. They'll tell you about it. They'll attach a label to your mail: "Opened, inspected and resealed by US Customs", or words to that effect. They're looking for bombs and anthrax spores. Remember anthrax? Our paranoiac X-Files fans still have their cache of cipro in a hermetically sealed medicine chest in the infinitesimal event that they are the one American to be targeted for an anthrax letter.

US Customs may even possibly be looking for messages such as "the infidel raven flies at midnight", or "Ali Baba's forty thieves are in Omar's tent", or even "the Sheik of Araby is waiting by the caravan under the new moon".

But this intrusion is being viewed as inappropriate, "just another example" of how the Bush Administration has declared open warfare on American Civil Rights.

Wah, wah, wah.

The same people declaring that the Bush Administration hasn't done enough to inspect items coming into this country through our seaports are complaining because they have been inspecting incoming mail.

People have their checked luggage warrantlessly rifled by TSA weenies when flying from Tulsa to Phoenix and do not complain about the broken lock, the leaking shampoo in the still-open toiletries case, the wadded papers and the rumpled and torn clothing jammed haphazardly back because they consider the whole thing "necessary". I've actually heard people thank the vandals for slapping a sticker on their suitcase, "Your belongings courteously rifled, pillaged and ransacked by trained barbary apes of the TSA". These same people who have the sheep-like temerity to look and act relieved that their belongings were groped by government-employed high school graduates somewhere between Tulsa and Phoenix are now outraged that a package or letter addressed to them from Kandahar or Fallujah has been opened by US Customs.

I've been desperately trying to divine some correlation between what the perpetually diaper-rashed find acceptable in the way of current civil rights violations and what they find unacceptable. Here they are:

Being warrantlessly stopped on the road, and warrantlessly sniffed for beer and seatbelts: acceptable.

Being warrantlessly tracked and traced for purchasing over-the-counter decongestants: acceptable.

Being warrantlessly inspected before entering a courthouse, school or federal building: acceptable.

Being warrantlessly inspected and groped and sometimes stripped before boarding a flight: acceptable.

Having carry-on luggage warrantlessly x-rayed and sometimes opened and rifled: acceptable.

Having checked luggage warrantlessly x-rayed and sometimes opened and rifled: acceptable.

Having phone calls to or from known terrorists warrantlessly listened to: UNacceptable.

Having mail from terror-besotted parts of the world opened: UNacceptable.

What I've come up with, after I put these all together, is that the acceptable violations of our 4th Amendment "secure in our persons" rights differ from the unacceptable violations in that the acceptable violations deal, in one way or another, with the person as a person, while the unacceptable violations deal with the person as an impersonal number or abstract commodity.

Millions of Americans will line up, happily, to be physically searched, their bodies or their possessions, in any number of ways – on the roadways, at the doors to courthouses, at drugstores, at the airport. But they will whine and whimper and call foul when something that is not directly attached to them – their mail or their phone call – is inspected.

We live in an increasingly impersonal world; we are known by dozens or hundreds of account numbers, ID numbers, drivers license numbers, telephone numbers, addresses... when someone finally takes enough interest in us as a person to personally search and grope us or our belongings, we seem to welcome the contact. The anti-constitutional inspections we object to are the ones which continue to depersonalize us.

"The government thinks enough of me to violate my rights in person, oh how touching...".

"Well, I never! If they can't open my mail in front of me, they can't open my mail at all!"

Have we become that pathetic? Are we that desperate for interpersonal contact that we'll accept violations of our rights – and rationalize them endlessly – in order to get it?

Are there that many of us who need so badly to get laid?

[1] hey, the government isn't always wrong
[2] ditto the fertilizer, by the way
[3] The most costly and difficult means of accomplishing any given task is the one the government chooses... why is this not surprising?
[4] http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/01/09/terrorism.mail.reut/index.html

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Watching the Man Behind the Curtain

Watching the Man Behind the Curtain
© 2006 Ross Williams

This is what I’ve been talking about. The nature of the world we are in.

No one can blithely bounce around his life acting as if the law of gravity works laterally. That is a recipe for broken bones; you would be begging to be included as a statistic for Accidents in the Home. You must accept that gravity works the way it works. Period. End of discussion. Gravity: It’s not just a good idea – It’s The Law!

Does accepting the law of gravity mean that you need to understand the math behind it? How many people can actually quote the formula for gravitational attraction? Is “gravitational attraction” even what it’s called? I used to know, a million years ago in high school physics class, mostly because the formulas were written on my hand. But I’ve long since forgotten.

I know what’s relevant to know: if I drop something, it will fall – and probably where it will do the most damage. I don’t need to calculate how fast it will fall in order to know that it will fall. I operate in the world-as-it-is, not as I would like it to be. The world as I would like it to be is also called Fantasy Land.

I would like the hammer that I distractedly place on the edge of the workbench to have its center of gravity over the table that I didn’t quite reach, but it won’t be. Consequently, the hammer will fall. If my foot is anywhere near the path of its trajectory, then a physicist, with benign, indulgent smile, will calmly do the math to show me that it was inevitable that my foot would be at the terminus of the hammer’s arc. If any of my wife’s raw stained glass or finished projects were between the end points of the hammer’s trajectory, the physicist will be able to show me, down to several decimal places, the certainty that the hammer would, prior to breaking my toe, shatter several hundred dollars worth of stained glass.

That’s the way the world works... with physics.

The way the world works with political science is far less formulaic. But to those of us who understand it, and who understand the ramifications of not operating in the world-as-it-is, those who refuse the fantasy of the group-hug World We Prefer, certain news items leap off the page and scream at us, reaffirming what we already know.

The physicist sees the mathematical beauty of an asteroid tumbling in space, quivering ever so slightly as it shifts from the gravitational pool of Jupiter into the gravitational pool of the sun. The rest of us yawn. The physicist weeps in awe at the precision of the Japanese space probe which landed on the asteroid to scoop up a hunk and bring it back to earth. The rest of us wave a dismissive hand, “Ah, get a grip; they’ve done more than that on Star Trek.”

But Star Trek is television fantasy while the Japanese space probe is real life. The millions who quote Star Trek are indulging a fantasy.

…and Ward Churchill, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, countless collegiate know-it-alls with as many as two semesters of polisci under their belts, limitless Vietnam protesting retreads with middle age hanging over their belts, and endless Hollywood actors playing historians and social scientists on the stage of a Congressional or journalistic audience are indulging the fantasy of the World They Prefer in place of the reality of the world-as-it-is.

The rest of humanity reads an article such as this[1] and shrugs. I don’t. In this article I see the very things I’ve been blabbering about for years now. In the grand sweep of history, I see this as a minor Magna Carta, a lesser Rosetta Stone. It is a peephole into the workings of the political, cultural Reality that exists outside our borders and which exerts force and pressure both in response to as well as independent of any force and pressure we exert upon it. …as well as independent of

The words chosen by al-Zawahiri to state his message of bilious enmity are a medieval glory hole into the rancid thought process and warped worldview of the pan-islamist. And in the same way that one cannot comprehend the physics necessary to calculate the falling trajectory of the misplaced hammer without having a full, complete and perfect understanding of the arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry, calculus and undoubtedly other disciplines of mathematics that my college coursework for computers, history and sociology did not require, one cannot comprehend the realities and ramifications of this moment in time without having at least a semi- full, complete and perfect understanding of the forces in current geo-political opposition.

Ignorant masses looking upon the War Against Terror stare in disgusted shock, and maybe a bit of horrified awe, at Iraq, the US-led invasion and subsequent occupation thereof, they listen in rapt obeisance to emotion-laden claims and declare with the fine precision of desire: “These people are just like us! We have no right to commit another Crusade upon them! They simply want to live in peace!”

Stop right there. In the calculus of geo-politics, there’s already an error in basic arithmetic. These people are not “just like us”. To claim they are is, in effect, to claim that 2+2=5. There are basic differences between the cultures in question that cannot be equivocated with such vapid declarations. The people struggling against the West are sufficiently unlike us that it makes those who claim they are wrong from the outset, and all the conclusions and analysis they offer become manifestly invalid, even if their screed is peppered with undeniable fact.

We in the West don’t even speak the same cultural language as the rest of the world; the very terms we use are defined vastly differently by everyone else. It would be as if we asked someone to take a seat, and he removed all the chairs from the planet.

We in the West have attained the cultural level of Nation-State. We have, in effect, evolved to the point of being able to dismiss minor ethnic or religious differences as inconsequential; we have learned there is a greater value in the combinations of such trivial differences that aren’t apparent to those living under the prior worldview. The West achieved nation-state in the 17th and 18th centuries out of the primeval ooze of city-state. Because nation-state allows forces to combine across ethnic and religious divisions for a greater potential achievement, the West was able to acquire control over much of the rest of the world – which still operated on the city-state model.

You may recall the theme of “western colonialism” from your history classes to which you probably didn’t pay too much attention.

Western colonialism resulted in the imposition of nation-state definitions upon the rest of the world. Imagine the whole world barging into your house and declaring that half of your living room, one third of the dining room and a kitchen counter next to the refrigerator were now called “Dedwith”. The rooms in your house are erased, even though the walls are perfectly plain for you to see. Your house is divided up into meaningless regions called “Dedwith”, “Eanfro” and “Ininati”.

That’s what Europe – and mostly France and Britain – did to the rest of the world when it created “India”, “Pakistan”, “Iraq”, “Botswana”, “Afghanistan”[2], “Nigeria”, “Ethiopia” and even “Yugoslavia”. It is frequently reported that the boundary between “Jordan” and “Saudi Arabia”, when being invented in the British Foreign Office by Winston Churchill, has that crooked dogleg in it because someone bumped Winston’s arm while he was drawing lines on the map. The national boundaries to three-fourths of the world’s population are largely meaningless; they were created only because they were convenient to the West. We assigned them and installed leaders to rule those “nations”, or allowed leaders to install themselves, irrespective of the local realities.

If the European post-colonials had understood what they were doing, there’d be far less third world conflict today; there would be a Kurdistan, "Afghanistan" would be a dozen different “nations”, Woodrow Wilson’s “Yugoslavia” would be another dozen, and the entire continent of Africa would be a thousand.

The current leaders of the “nations” of “Pakistan” and “Somalia”, such as they each may be, are no more nation-statists than the people they lead. They have simply figured out, as politicians have since Day One, how to use the local political landscape for their own individual self-interest. The modern landscape is built on the nation-state model. The leaders of third-world nations are every bit as city-statist as any kings of Hellenic Greece, medieval Europe or Shogun Japan, but if it gets them and keeps them in power, they’ll use the nation-state terms. “President” of “Dedwith”, King of Babylon – what’s in a name? A city-state by any other name would smell as sweet to the leader of it.

So what is “city-state”? It is the political power-holding mechanism that is built on the foundation of tribe. City-state owes allegiance to, in rough order, family, clan, tribe and race. Also, and just to make things interesting, many city-state tribalists throw in religion, and denominations of religion, and sects of the denomination. Thus a Wahabi-sect Sunni Muslim of the bin Laden family of the X clan of the Arab people of the Semite race has a historic and unquenchable feud with someone of the non-Wahabi Sunni Muslims of the Saud family of the Y clan of the Arab people of the Semite race.

And this feud is eternal … unless an outsider gets in the way.

An outsider such as … an American with a sample case of modern cosmetics that will make any woman beam with gracious beauty and bring out her undeniable, exotic charm. The American who tries to sell cosmetics to the burqad female Arab of any family-clan-tribe, Muslim of any sect-denomination has just succeeded in doing what the manipulative colonial war machines of three centuries of European busy-bodying could not do: unify the disparate internecine squabblers under a common purpose.

That purpose is to resist “cultural warfare”.

“Cultural warfare” is a concept largely strange and bizarre to modern, western ears. When someone shows up on our shores with a new gizmo or gimmick, there’ll be millions willing to give it a shot. Only a handful of the most parochial rednecks grouse about outsiders trying to “change our way of life”; to the rest of us? “let me try one of them taco things”… “Sudoku, eh? Howzit work?”…

Westerners don’t usually care all that much if someone is “different”, or has odd practices or beliefs. It is not often effrontery to our Way of Life® to encounter someone with a red Mohawk, trousers around his knees, and face pierced in dozens of ways. Typically, such a person would be the source of mirth and endless anecdotes at the office. “You’ll never believe what I ran across the other day…”

To a westerner, “different” is the next fad upon which he can, if enterprising enough, make his first million. To a tribalist, “different” is an affront, and to many an act of war.

To an any-family-clan-Arab, any-sect-denomination-Muslim who was raised in the worldview of city-state tribal allegiance, the presence of “different” – which is to say, the West – is cultural warfare. Because this is now a global economy, with a global community, “different” is global. Our mere presence is effrontery to the tribal, fundamentalist muslims. The fact that we exist, being “different” as we are, means that they have a duty to their family-clan-tribe-race, sect-denomination-religion to eliminate us.

The one thing that pan-islamists can agree on is that we must die. Or become like them.

If we became “like them”, then to some of them, we’d be the wrong kind of “them” – one of the largest feuds in world history is between Sunni and Shi’a muslim. If we became “like them” as Sunni muslim, then the Shi’a would be after our heads, and if we became “like them” to the tune of being Shiite, the Sunni would imprison and torture us. It is, for all practical purposes, a lose-lose situation for us. And this is the reason that tribalism is obsolete, a veritable cultural dinosaur. It is lose-lose for them as well. When there are none of us for the pan-islamist to jihad against, they always have their own tribal squabbles to fall back on.

What is a “pan-islamist”? It is one of these people. Someone brought up under the sect-denomination-religion worldview. His duty is to eliminate opposing religions first, then opposing denominations, then opposing sects. Anyone marginally familiar with world history knows that this is how christianity operated until Europeans discovered nationalism and figured out that differences in religious ritual really weren’t all that important, even if they were still galling.

Anyone marginally familiar with world history knows that a large share of Middle-Eastern muslims are today just like Europeans were a thousand years ago.

But what of those people who are not fundamentalist muslim? There is still family-clan-tribe-race to get indignant about. It doesn’t matter. To people brought up under the city-state worldview, anyone who is “different” is an enemy. Politics being what it is, and dominated just as much by RealPolitik under medieval paradigms as modern, temporary alliances are sometimes forged with “differents” in attempt to play both ends against the middle. This cannot safely be viewed as anything other than what it is: their own self-interest at everyone else’s expense.[3]

The difference between the West playing the RealPolitik ends against the middle and the city-statists doing the same is that the West might actually keep you as a friend and ally afterwards. It’s the difference between hiring a hooker on the street corner and getting a hook-up at a bar. In both cases, you’ll get laid, but the hook-up chick might actually get a call the next day. The hooker is gone and forgotten.

It’s valid to claim that neither is particularly enlightened, that there is still a huge amount of religious and ethnic intolerance to be found in the West. Very, very true. Nation-state nationalism is merely the next evolutionary step beyond city-state tribalism, and is not the ultimate destination of species-wide inclusion and brotherhood across all differences. Our goal is to become “earthlings”. But until that is all we are, nationalism is the highest rung on the cultural evolutionary ladder that the human race has yet achieved. People using terms such as “italian-American” or “african-American” are backsliders attempting to balkanize the nation, to re-tribalize.

We are Americans.

They are not yet “Iraqis”, or “Saudis” or “Pakistanis”. They may as well be “Dedwithians”. They only use these terms because they must; the world around them is defined in these terms. They are Sunni Arabs who have been given an Iraq-shaped sandbox in which to play with a bunch of Shi’a Arabs they hate, and who hate them back, and – darn the luck – there’s also a group of Kurds who live in the same sandbox, and everyone hates the Kurds.

Many city-state tribalists – like nearly all those in Africa and those who still reside in Europe – are perfectly content to do their tribal squabbling just amongst themselves. They are the kindergarten class who has crayon fights when the teacher steps out of the room, and who neatly folds their hands on top of their laps and stares blandly at the ceiling when the teacher returns, la-di-da-di-da it wasn’t us we don’t know how the crayons got thrown all over. Balkan wars are only dangerous because others want to play too – Germany.

But the Middle East has a many-millennium habit of exporting their tribal conflicts. Persia wanted control of the Mediterranean so badly they threw 200,000 reed-armored soldiers into the pass at Thermopylae. The Arabs delivered Islam to lands far and wide on the point of a sword in the first century after Mohammed’s death. … including to the central-Asian Turks. … who, a few centuries later decided to repay the kindness by conquering greater Arabia, and gosh, why not Byzantium and as much more of Europe as they could manage as well?

Theirs is an infantile worldview, and it becomes, almost literally, an infantile game of King of the Hill to see who will rule the Iraq-shaped sandbox. King of the Hill with automatic weapons and high explosives. And any non-republican ruler of said sandbox will undoubtedly – as Hussein did – rule the “nation” for the betterment of his sect-denomination and the bestment of his family-clan-tribe.

The only hope for escaping this self-limiting political trap is to introduce proportional representation in their government – a republic – which will incorporate all their factions, give them the practice of working together instead of separately, … and cross all available fingers.

I spoke too soon; there is a second option. The second option is to leave them the hell alone, allow them to culturally evolve at their own pace, and do what their cultural sensibilities demand they do until they achieve a nation-state mentality. The only problem with this second option is that their city-state tribalism demands that they view as enemies anyone who is “different” – which in this case is the West. Their city-state infantilism demands the elimination of those who are “different” – which means that they will periodically lash out like infants. But because these infants have automatic weapons and explosives, when they lash out buildings get knocked down, buses get blown up, and people minding their own business wind up scattered over a city block.

And when they lash out, it is not “Iraqis” or “Jordanians” or “Yemenis” which lash out. Those are our terms for them, terms which have no real meaning to them. Just as “Dedwith” has no real meaning to you. They are – when they think of themselves in relation to us – muslims and Arabs. We are – when they think of us at any time – not-muslims and not-Arabs. Which is to say: infidels and enemies. Further, they do not distinguish between any of us. French, American, Canuckian … all the same to them. American soldier, American war protester, American jingoist … no difference. Israel … to them, the 51st state of the union.

It is, to their way of thinking, all of them against us. It is all of them against us because they are stuck in the tribalist mindset. We are not; we are stuck in the nationalist mindset. We separate them by “nation” that they do not fully recognize. When we differentiate between them by national identity we are failing to acknowledge the reality of their world. If we wish to operate in their world, or have any sort of interaction with tribalist city-staters, we are already at a disadvantage.

And this disadvantage manifests itself through the rote, hyper-discerning response to their aggression against us. It is as if we were having a War Against Cockroaches and we decided that the cockroaches which live under the fridge in the “nation” of “Dedwith” are to be killed, but the cockroaches which live under the stove in the “nation” of “Ininati” are to be left alone. They are the same cockroaches; it doesn’t matter which appliance they hide beneath.

They are the same terrorists; it doesn’t matter which “nation” they come from. Their “nationality” was a Western creation in the first place.

Nationalists do not speak the same cultural language as tribalists. Hence, Westerners do not speak the same cultural language as Middle-Easterners. Yet everyone uses the same words.

Read again the words of al-Zawahiri. You’ll recognize every single word he uses, but now that you’ve had a basic cultural primer, the ground-level arithmetic of social physics, you’ll be able to better understand what he means when he uses them.

Even though I send my condolences to my Islamic nation for the tragedy of the earthquake in Pakistan, today I congratulate everyone for the victory in Iraq. You remember, my dear Muslim brethren, what I told you more than a year ago, that the U.S. troops will pull out of Iraq. It was only a matter of time.

Here they are now and in the blessing of God begging to pull out, seeking negotiations with the mujahedeen. And here is Bush who was forced to announce at the end of last November that he will be pulling his troops out of Iraq.

He uses the pretext that the Iraqi forces reached a high level of preparedness. But he doesn't have a timetable for the pullout.

If all of his troops -- air force, army -- are begging for a way to get out of Iraq, will the liars, traitors and infidels succeed in what the world superpower failed to achieve in Iraq?

You have set the timetable for the withdrawal a long time ago and Bush, you have to admit that you were defeated in Iraq, you are being defeated in Afghanistan, and you will be defeated in Palestine, God willing.
“Islamic nation” … “Muslim brethren” … all of them against us.

“They are … begging to pull out” … “They are … seeking negotiations with the mujahedeen” … no differentiation among us.

“You will be defeated in Palestine” … Israel is the 51st state.

How can people who see the world as a continuing succession of black-white dichotomies be “the same as us” when our way of thinking demands that we parse and differentiate and equivocate into nothing the cultural differences pan-islamists find insurmountable?

How can pan-islamists “want to live in peace” when their very mindset opposes the mere existence of those who are different?

The Middle East will escape the obsolescence of tribalist nonsense[4]. But until it does, it will lash out like the deadly infantile mentality it is, and take as many of us along with it as they can take. Nationalism will eventually sweep the planet. If the human race is lucky, nationalism will be replaced in time with the group hug World We Prefer social ecumenicalism so many desire, but only if the Western nationalists defeat the Middle-Eastern tribalists. If they win, there’s a good chance that the world will backslide into re-tribalized clan-sects. Post-apocalyptic Hollywood as modern Nostradamus.

In the mean time, your survival – your personal survival – depends upon us nationalists being aware of, and having the ability to respond to, tribalist nonsense in a realistic manner. The war is not with al Qaida; the war is with pan-islamist terrorism. The war is not in Afghanistan; the war is in every place where pan-islamism is held and taught. The war is not against ultra-religious muslims, it is against anyone who pushes anti-western extremism irrespective of their relative fundamentalism.

The alternative is to let them culturally evolve on their own, however many centuries that may take them – they’re already 300 years behind us. This will mean that the war will be frequently against us with no differentiation between those who sympathize with them and those who do not[5]; the war will be taking place in our lands more frequently than theirs; and while we will probably survive as a nation – although you can ask Byzantium how well they liked their own odds when the same thing happened to them – many individuals in our nation, apart from soldiers who volunteer, will certainly not.

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/01/06/alqaeda.video/index.html
[2] Particularly Afghanistan
[3] …and Iran has no greater love for the catholic-marxist Chavez of Venezuela than for the protestant-capitalist Bush of America. Chavez is simply useful to Iran at this point.
[4] As will central Asia, the Balkans and the continent of Africa.
[5] Michael Moore is just as valid a target as I am – and significantly larger, I might add.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Sound of the Second Shoe Falling

The Sound of the Second Shoe Falling
© 2006 Ross Williams

So let me see if I have this right ... Democrats and our brainless knee-jerks are fit to be tied because Bush authorized the NSA – one of many groups of intelligence [sic] people purportedly working for America's security – to spy on foreign terrorists by means of tapping the American phones they call, or which call them. Democrats claim "we never knew about it"; Democrats claim "it's against the law"; Democrats claim "it's a violation of Constitutional Rights".

Yet this morning there's an article[1] in the Chicago Tribune, culled from the Washington Post, which quotes a key Democrat, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Dear ol' Nance doesn't seem too interested in Constitutional issues, and only marginally interested in legal propriety – but not from the angle commonly seen today.

This key Democrat was informed on or about Oct 1 2001 that the NSA was conducting phone tappings of international calls to and from known terrorists. This key Democrat, who is now among the cackle chorus of Democrats wetting their panties over NSA wiretaps, did not rejoin the NSA over the constitutional rights of the foreign terrorists or their American-resident pals. This key Democrat did not rebuff the NSA because such warrantless spying on foreign agents in the US requires the Attorney General to approve the action – as has been repeatedly described by the countless non-expert panty-wetters the nation over.

No, this key Democrat's only concern was ... well, let me use her words as found in the Chicago Tribune, which pulled them from the wire out of the Washington Post: "'I am concerned whether and to what extent the National Security Agency has received specific presidential authorization for the operations you are conducting,' Pelosi wrote on Oct. 11, 2001."

In other words, her only concern was that Bush authorized it. Which he did. And now she – and a host of others – is being fitted for another round of hissies, because Bush isn't the one authorized to authorize it.

I've got nothing against Democrats; really I don't. They have valuable notions and ideas and plans. Just – and this is the thing – not to the exclusion of Republicans and their notions and ideas and plans. And the same criticism goes the other way, too. The advice I would have for both is that just because you have a good idea about something does not mean that someone else with a different idea about that same thing has a bad idea. Good ideas can be contradictory: it would be a good idea to go to Hawaii for your summer vacation, and it would also be a good idea to stay home and canoodle with the spouse for the same vacation, ... yet you can't do both, hence they are contradictory.

If Democrats are ever going to be taken seriously in the general subject-area of national defense they cannot be doing the things they've been doing the last several years. They are simply not credible and their criticisms are tissue-thin... if even that substantial.

A War Against Terrorism which fails to address more than a rote, hyper-discerning fragment of anti-American terrorism is foolish and unwinnable. But that's what Democrats are lining themselves up to support.

Security leaks which name a CIA spy because the spy's diplomat husband wasn't singing from the administration's hymnal and as a means to embarrass the husband is not materially different from security leaks which identify counter-terrorism activities our government is using and as a means to embarrass the administration. The Democrats demanding heads to roll over Valerie Plame being identified to the NY Times by someone in the White House need to demand more rolling heads over the NY Times reporting on secret NSA activities[2].

For Democrats to have access to both classified information and public information, and sign on in virtual unanimity to the war in Iraq, and then to turn around and call the public information a bunch of "lies" once the unknowledgeable masses start complaining[3], they have left themselves no latitude in the honesty department for years to come. They don't have the option, now, for instance, to claim that they "never knew" about the warrantless wiretaps the NSA was conducting. That would make them, well, liars. "Pelosi lied, people died" has a ring to it ... in the event of a post 9-11 terrorist attack that kills Americans. There’ve been a few already, by the way.

You can't legitimately criticize the legality of national security actions more than 4 years after you learn about them if you didn't question the legality at the start. Congresscritters have a legislative staff capable of researching statutory authorities and restrictions; Pelosi and her party cohort cannot credibly claim that it took them four full years to figure out that a presidential authorization is incomplete under the law. Doesn't wash. They were told the NSA was listening to phone calls on October 1st; Pelosi asked if the President had authorized it on October 11th. That's ten days to send a staffer – usually a schmuck with a law degree who knows his way around law books – to the law library to do the research. Way more than enough time.

Democrats further have no quibble about any constitutional rights being violated. They especially have no quibble about constitutional rights being violated. First, there's the sniff test: in a war, you don't strenuously worry about being nice and polite to the enemy. "We don't want you waging war against us, really, but rest assured we'll only fight you by using our indoor voices and coloring inside the lines..." The threat of random rule-breaking response keeps the enemy on their toes. If the enemy knows we won't ever tap their wires without asking permission, then they're free to use our phone system against us; if they know we won't ever use torture, they know if captured they're going to be treated better by American guards than they were by their governments. The whiff of possibility is important to cultivate.

And second, there's no shortage of Democrats legislating away the constitutional rights of normal everyday Americans who do not place international calls to known terrorists. Millions of Americans who simply want to go to work every day, have a drink with dinner, fly home for Christmas, and buy decongestants when they get the sniffles have to sign away their rights every time they go out in public.

Democrats force them to do that – every day. Don't snicker, Republicans; you support most of these rights-denying laws yourselves, and then some.

When you drive down the road, you are subject to "implied consent" – which is found nowhere in the Constitution – that skirts the 4th Amendment. If you're coming home from dinner after having a drink, you can be compelled to provide evidence against yourself in violation of the 5th Amendment after the 4th Amendment-violating search.[4]

Fly to visit your folks at the holidays, or to Florida for spring break, or to Vegas for a weekend getaway, and you must endure a 4th Amendment violation at each end. The 4th Amendment is fairly explicit: each citizen must be "secure in their persons" against "unreasonable searches and seizures" unless the government – which includes the TSA – follows certain rules. Among those rules is that the government needs a warrant, signed by a judge, identifying by name the person to be searched and items to be seized, and the probable cause which makes such search and seizure "reasonable".

In other words, if it is "reasonable" to suspect that my 79 year old mother and her nail file is a terrorist threat worthy of a shoeless searching by civil servants who took a 3-hour course, then the rule of law requires the warrant. So get one. If it’s truly reasonable, any judge would sign it. Use the FISA judges; apparently they are underworked now that Bush has been going around them.

Or is it not “reasonable” to consider my 79 year-old mother a terrorist threat? Then the TSA can’t subject her to a warrantless and shoeless search.

...unless "reasonable" is separable from "probable cause" and thus justifying warrantless searches at the airport and at police roadblocks[5] under the heading of "implied consent’. In which case, it seems little more than a matter of partisan hypocrisy that this political stink bomb is playing out in the media. If you make phone calls to, or take phone calls from, known terrorists, it is certainly "reasonable" to suspect that something more than World Cup Soccer will be discussed, and the government has at least as much business inferring your implied consent to being searched as they do from my 79 year old mother at the airport who is visiting my older brother in Florida.

That would seem to be what it boils down to: the judicial definition of "reasonable". Courts the nation over have been defining it "reasonable" to stop everyone driving down the road and warrantlessly search for "sobriety" – and now for seatbelt usage.[6] Courts the nation over have been defining as "reasonable" the warrantless searching of every future airline passenger – hundreds of millions of them annually – because 19 passengers, over 4 years ago, hijacked 4 planes and knocked down several tall buildings and killed thousands of Americans.

The need for warrantlessly searching everyone is rationalized as follows: the cost of one failure is disproportionately high.

Is it any less reasonable to be suspicious of the phone calls made by or to the associates of those 19 hijackers? Is the cost of once failing to know a terrorist’s plans as discussed over the phone not sufficiently high? Ask the families of a few thousand bond traders and corporate lawyers and firemen and passengers who died on impact.

If we can warrantlessly search hundreds of millions of Americans annually at our airports looking for "the notorious nineteen", and nearly all of those hundreds of millions line up like brainless sheep readily submitting to their anti-constitutional fleecing, then why is it such an issue to warrantlessly bug the phones of the dozens, maybe hundreds, of American people who talk on the phones with "the notorious nineteen"?

If we can warrantlessly search hundreds of millions, can we not warrantlessly search hundreds? Or must we, as in the airports and courthouses and roadways, tap everyone’s phones in order to qualify for “implied consent”?

Exactly whose rights are the Democrats worried about? And can’t they be honest while wringing their hands?

[1] http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-601040248jan04,1,544920.story?coll=chi-news-hed
[2] Extra credit: name the common denominator in these security leaks. Extra credit essay question: Is it a coincidence? why or why not?
[3] what of the classified information? Is that a lie, too? If so, spill it. We have a Right to Know® after all, and it sure seems to be open season on divulging classified information in the media
[4] And the evidence is, at best, highly faulty. A "breathalyzer" does not measure the amount of alcohol anywhere; it measures the amount of an enzyme in your breath. This enzyme is the end-product of the natural metabolization of alcohol. This enzyme is also the end product of the digestion of bread – particularly white bread and pasta. Bread and alcohol are made from the same ingredients: grain and yeast. Studies have shown that people ingesting no alcohol but having eaten modest amounts of bread will often "fail" breathalyzer tests. Go to an Italian restaurant for spaghetti, have a glass of wine and a hunk of bread, or no wine at all and a half a loaf of bread, and get stuck in a 4thAm-violating roadblock, ... better hire a lawyer.
[5] and at schools, and at court houses, and at hundreds of other places
[6] "Hi there, we're just checking to make sure you aren't going to hurt yourself in the 0.00016% chance you'll be in an accident on your way home. So ... I see you aren’t wearing your seatbelt. Here's a ticket for $75. You may pay me in cash now, or forfeit your drivers license and pay a judge in two weeks."