The Civil Libertarian

A conversation about dissent

This morning, I hopped on and read the Daily News like I do everyday. (Yes, I know that it’s a betrayal of my status as an ink-stained wretch, but if I’m not in my office first, getting the Daily News just isn’t going to happen!)

After seeing that the world hadn’t blown up overnight, I read the opinion section of the DN, which is where I’m reminded every day that although Philadelphia has some pretty sophisticated people, it’s also got some ignorant assed mothers within its city limits (and within the whole tri-state area) and all of them have computers.

I decided to do something that I never usually do: I read Christine Flowers column this morning.

Now for those of you who don’t live in Philly, that name means nothing to you. But for those of us who read the Philadelphia Daily News on the regular, she’s one of the DN’s conservative voices, and while she’s not anywhere near Ann Coulter in terms of making no sense at all (which makes her at least readable at times), she’s been known to make me want to ask her “Are you living on the same planet I am?” every once in awhile.

Friday’s column was entitled: My Big, Fat, Patriotic Promise and it focused on one of my favorite subjects: dissent. Flowers has promised to use her Constitutionally-protected right to dissent every chance she gets when it comes to President Obama, saying that she won’t be bullied into supporting the president when she doesn’t agree with him by his supporters.

I agree totally with that. I’ve already outlined some of the stuff that I don’t agree with President Obama on. I’m still pissed off about the FISA vote. I’m wondering why in the heck Hillary Clinton’s in his cabinet because if I were him I wouldn’t trust her as far as I could throw her. I’m wondering why he didn’t throw up on William Kristol’s shoes when he had his dinner with conservative columnists a few weeks back.

I’m glad that I live in a country where I can say stuff like that. To me, the right to criticize our government is one of the most important rights we have in this country. I use it as often as possible.

But what I feel like saying to Ms. Flowers, Rush “I hope he fails” Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and all the rest of the right wing is that there is a certain level of hypocrisy that I see in this demand for your right to dissent. Or did you sleep through the last eight years?

I seem to recall a certain “my country right or wrong” attitude on the part of the right when it came to President Bush and some of the decisions he made, especially after Sept. 11.

Don’t think that the USA PATRIOT act is a good idea because it’s filled with things that even Richard Nixon didn’t try? Shut Up, your being unpatriotic. You want the terrorists to win.

Don’t think that the War In Iraq is the right war to fight because the people who actually pulled off the Sept. 11 attacks were based in Afghanistan and that’s where we should keep our focus? You don’t support the troops! You’re unpatriotic. You hate America. (Wanna know how dumb you sound when you say this to an Army brat? Very.)

You don’t dig the fact that the United States is spying on its own citizens illegally in the name of fighting terrorism? Our government has the right to do this. They’re trying to keep us safe. Shut up you Commie!

See what I mean?

Dissent is patriotic…but it’s gotta go both ways. I’m sorry that it required your losing the reigns of power for you to get that, but it is what it is. Maybe if you spent some time reading the Constitution, you know that document that your boy George and his VP Dick “Darth Vader” Cheney spent eight years wiping their asses with, you would have known that and stopped throwing around the word “unpatriotic” like most folks say “pass the salt.”

Flowers also asked that the government not impose its views on her. All that I have to say is that for the last eight years, we had a dude in office that you supported who damn near turned this country into a theocracy.

(Which is another thing I’m not feeling Obama on. Can we lose the whole “faith based” initiative thing especially since all it is is a way for religious groups who want to discriminate against gay people to get federal money to espouse their views? I don’t want my tax money to go to folks like the Salvation Army, who reserves the right not to hire people because they’re gay or lesbian or the Mormon church, who spearheaded the whole Proposition 8 thing.)

Again, I go back to the whole “read the Constitution” thing. All that might happen is that President Obama turns us back into a secular government, which means that if I go to my local CVS and ask for some birth control, the person ringing me up at the counter can’t refuse to sell it to me because she believes that I should only be allowed to get my freak on if there’s a wedding band on my finger.

But, Obama supporters, I say this to you: look at how you were treated the last eight years and do the opposite. Let those who wish to dissent have their say. They’ll make you mad. They may make you laugh. But let ’em have their say. It’s the American way.

The next four years are going to be really interesting.

If you want to read Flowers’ column, here is the link.

Speakin’ of FISA…

Here’s something that I heard on “Countdown With Keith Olberman” last night.

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Like I said, I’m still a little pissed off with President Obama over this one. Spying on reporters? Not cool. Not at all fuckin’ cool!

The return of civil liberties

I had to work on a project for my day job today that kinda made me happy.

That project: I had to find an expert that could talk about how the executive order that President Barack Obama signed requiring that the Guantanamo Bay detention camp be closed within a year would impact the war on terrorism and what that means for our relationships with other countries.

Considering that Guantanamo Bay is second only to Abu Ghraib in terms of places that scream “We’ve got Torture and Shit!”, and it was a roach motel where people get locked up, but they don’t come back out, I was quite glad to see that the new Head Dude made good on that particular promise.

Now you’re probably going to hear a lot of folks say that a year is too long and that these guys should be released, and now. But there are a couple of things that make the year time limit make sense, at least according to the folks that I interviewed.

One, some of these folks no longer have homes to go to, according to Peter Spiro, a law professor at Temple University. The logic on the part of their countries of origin is that if you believe they’re that dangerous, why should we take them back?

Somehow, that makes sense to me. If Timothy McVeigh had been put in Guantanamo Bay, I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have wanted him to come back here. He gave up his right to the creature comforts of America when he parked that Ryder truck filled with fertilizer in front of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Two, since there’s a crisis of confidence with some of the evidence collected against these guys, doing a full-scale federal court thing may not yield convictions…and some of these guys do need to be in a lockup somewhere, Spiro says.

So…here are some of the options that Spiro says we have:

*Start from scratch: Since the military tribunal system has been thoroughly discredited, something must be created that isn’t quite the federal court system, but gives the accused more rights than the tribunals did.

*Try those detainees for whom the evidence collected passes the smell test in Federal Court. Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University said on last night’s edition of “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” that he likes this approach. He doesn’t believe that a new court is needed.

*We could transfer the detainees back to Baghram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, but that would be a bad idea, Spiro says. That’s because the International Community is already staring at this Air Force base and is ready to pronounce it “Guantanamo: The Sequel!” It wouldn’t make sense to open up another place where folks can be tortured when you’ve just closed a place where folks were tortured.

*Do something similar to involuntary committment for high-value detainees for whom the evidence to convict wouldn’t stand up in federal court. Again, if you’re releasing folks because they weren’t given due process or habeus corpus, this also wouldn’t be a good look because it implies force.

So what is Obama going to do? It’ll be interesting to watch.

But considering the fact that I’m still pissed off with him about agreeing to the Bush Administration’s amendments to the FISA Act, Obama has a really short leash with me on civil liberties issues.

However, I’ll give him props for at least making a start.