Thursday, December 17, 2009

December Infamy

December has given us more than one "day which will live in infamy."

Here's a random sampling:  After three years of unconstitutional incarceration, Japanese-American citizens are finally released from detention camps (1944); United States and Russia conduct nuclear test explosions on the same day (1970) spewing particles of radiation contaminants over three quarters of the earth; Rosa Parks arrested in Alabama for refusing to move to the back of the bus (1955); Jerry Lee Lewis marries his 13-year-old cousin while still married to Jane Mitcham (1957).

And in 1981, on Dec. 12, President Ronnie Reagan authorized the CIA to begin spying on Americans -- the start of the United States government assault on the Bill of Rights that reached its apex when Bush II buffaloed a compliant Congress into passing what's come to be known as the Patriot Act. (The name is an acronym, probably created by Mrs. Malaprop.)

Now add to the days of infamy Dec. 16, 2009.  With only 34 nays, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $636 billion defense spending bill -- (that's not the bad part) -- into which was tucked (here's the infamy):

 * Extension of the Patriot act.

*  1,080 so-called earmarks totaling $2.7 billion, most of it for companies or lobby groups that had contributed substantially to the campaigns of the representatives who inserted the earmarks into the bill.  Jim Moran (D-Va.) put in 45 earmarks to firms, mainly in the defense industry, in his home district that gave him a total of $201,000 in campaign contributions.  Jack Murtha (D-PA) put in earmarks to reward firms that gave him $199,050.  The earmark infamy was bipartisan.  C.W. "Bill" Young of Florida (R) took in $122,000 from beneficiaries of his earmarks.

The pork is business as usual in Washington   Ho-hum.  It's only taxpayer money.  We can't afford to pay for health care for every American.  But we can earmark billions  for graft.

And we continue to live under the thick black cloud of legislation that savages the Bill of Rights.  The Patriot Act -- its entire title is "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001" -- literally repealed great sections of the Bill of Rights without bothering to follow the constitutional process for repeal.

In a fell swoop, Congress:

 * Decimated the First Amendment with unconstitutional restrictions on free speech and the right to peaceably assemble.

*  Virtually repealed the Fourth Amendment requirements of probable cause and prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure.

* Canceled the Sixth Amendment's right to prompt and public trial.

* Wiped out the Eighth Amendment's protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

With a ho and a hum and a dum dum dum, these abominations against our citizenship have just been extended, rather than being permitted to expire en bloc, as they would and should have at the end of  December.

In the intensely emotional aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the legislation was handed to Congress late at night -- 402 pages of language cleverly designed to mask the real effect of the bill and play rather upon the emotions of the Congress for immediate passage.  It is probable that whoever came up with the acronymable title spent more time creating it than our legislators spent actually studying the text of the legislation.

It contains nearly 30 amendments to the United States Code or to legislation previously passed by the Congress following study and debate.  Each of these changes in our laws is constructed in language comparable to the following actual excerpt from the act:

Chapter 10 of title 18, United States Code, is amended—
(1) in section 175—
(A) in subsection (b)—
(i) by striking ‘‘does not include’’ and inserting
(ii) by inserting ‘‘other than’’ after ‘‘system for’’;
(iii) by inserting ‘‘bona fide research’’ after ‘‘protective’’;
(B) by redesignating subsection (b) as subsection (c);
(2) in subparagraph (E), by striking the period at the
end and inserting ‘‘; and’’; and
(3) by adding at the end the following:
‘‘(F) does not discriminate against victims because they
disagree with the way the State is prosecuting the criminal

In their emotional state so soon after the towers fell, most of those who voted for the act probably had to read no further than this paragraph on the very first page: "To deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes."

The devil indeed was in the details, in those "other purposes." And so we torture or hand over our prisoners to nefarious regimes to do the torturing for us; every American citizen lives under the specter of his government's probing into his most personal records and acts, and possibly suffering dire consequences for innocent transactions; for every one of us there is the awful possibility of being incarcerated without bail, without charge, without trial simply for being politically active.

Ho, hum and a dum dum dum.  Merry Christmas.

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