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The Tally Ho

Thursday, December 08, 2005


This from JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer:
WASHINGTON - House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement Thursday to extend the USA Patriot Act, the government's premier anti-terrorism law, before it expires at the end of the month. But a Democratic senator threatened a filibuster to block the compromise.

"I will do everything I can, including a filibuster, to stop this Patriot Act conference report, which does not include adequate safeguards to protect our constitutional freedoms," said Sen. Russ Feingold (news, bio, voting record), D-Wis., who was the only senator to vote against the original version of the Patriot Act.

The House and Senate delegates to the Conference Committee have achieved a "compromise" on the Patriot Act which once again sells out our fundamental freedoms, our privacy, and our right to be presumed innocent and not surveiled constantly by the government. The most controversial parts of the Act will be authorized for another four years: provisions authorizing roving wiretaps and permitting secret warrants for books, records and other items from businesses, hospitals and organizations such as libraries. Most of the rest of the Act would become permanent. It is true that some sections of the are necessary and good and removed an unreasonable wall that prevented the sharing of information between various government bureucracies. But many provisions of this law are unecessarily intrusive, don't really make us any safer, and violate any sane reading of the Constitution.

Proponents argue that we need such government power to protect us against the threat of foreign and domestic terrorism, and that we should trust them to be circumspect about how these powers are used. But look at what our government has been doing: holding people for years without charges or evidence. Kidnapping people and sending them off to secret prisons or handing them over to Syrian or Egyptian secret police to be tortured. Putting people on trial as "terrorists" with only their political and religious beliefs as evidence.

For anyone who has actually lived on this planet and paid attention, the question of human nature has been difinitively answered, at least in practice: humans are vile and depraved, not inherently "good." If you give a group of people too much power, they will use it to dominate and harm others. There can be no "trust" when it comes to goverment. The only way governments can operate without oppression are transparency, checks and balances, and the rule of law. Nobody should be given a "free hand" to fight terrorists or to do anything else. Ever. The law exists to bind everyone down, to hobble them and prevent them from acting alone to dominate others.

When you compare the number of people killed by authoritarian regimes over the past century with those killed by terrorists, it becomes very clear which evil we need to fear more. I'll take my chances with the terrorists rather than trusting my "safety" to a totalitarian daddy state.

And yet, when the time of crisis came, the checks and balances were voted away in favor of "safety" by a vote of 99-1. Only one man chose liberty over security. Rumor has it he's running for President in 2008.

Consider this an early endorsement.


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