Tuesday, April 08, 2008

To be a conservative

By Capt. Fogg

I don't want to speculate about how many of our publicly educated young people know who John Wilkes Booth was, but I'll bet that far fewer recognize the Englishman, John Wilkes and know about the part he played, by proxy, in shaping the fourth amendment to our Constitution. Because Wilkes ran afoul of the Crown by openly criticizing a treaty signed by George III, a general warrant for his arrest led to his apprehension along with the publishers of the paper that printed his argument. Wilkes had popular support in England and in the colonies and the notion that the King could authorize upon his own authority and without challenge from Parliament or the independent judiciary, a general search or fishing expedition to seek anything they could use to squelch protest, made him a bit of a hero and martyr.

We are no longer a group of colonies. We are no longer the nation that grew out of those colonies and we have another George who insists on the right to unrestricted, unsupervised and secret investigations without court oversight or any scrutiny at all. We are no longer a nation that objects. We are no longer a nation that values individual liberty to the point where we can accept the slight risk of crime rather than the security of a police state.

We've had so many examples of warrantless wiretapping and other acts of indignity without probable cause that anyone who doesn't know, isn't someone who cares, but documents appearing in the Washington Post show how the FBI can and has been indulging in espionage of "suspects" without having to explain who they are or why they are or what they are suspected of by what evidence to any court. Only the Federal government knows for sure; a Federal government that loves secrets and fights to keep them.

That they can use whatever they find for whatever purpose they wish seems to be evident in the case of Eliot Spitzer and the use of his ATM records to show that he cheated on his wife. I'm sure nobody believes that information was obtained for such purposes and we're just too delighted by the circus to care. If we don't send to know for whom the wires are tapped, the e-mails read, the bank records examined, the mail box inspected, the credit card receipts tallied, it none the less tolls for us.

If we're good subjects, the King will be good to us and protect us. He may or may not tell us what he's protecting us from or how or why, but we can trust George or pay the cost of being adjudged, like John Wilkes, a Liberal, a traitor, an enemy of the state.

Which side are you on, Mr. conservative?

Cross posted from Human Voices

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Blogger rockync said...

As usual, people will back anything as long as they are not directly affected. Waterboarding? Who cares, it's not me. Wiretapping? Hey, I'm a good American, they won't listen in on me.
Until it's in their own back yard, most people are simply too apathetic to get involved. When it finally comes home to roost, it will be too late.

11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Great post Fogg. It's astounding that most people don't understand these protections were enacted out of previous abuses and if you allow the protections to be abolished, the abuses will surely begin again.

1:40:00 PM  
Blogger Swampcracker said...

I will take the contrarians position here, not because I disagree, but because we ceased to be vigilant in safeguarding our Constitutional protections and, thus, no longer deserving of our precious civil liberties. We have given our government the right to invent outrages faster than we can protest against them. What protest? Have you noticed any moral outrage lately?

Consider the scores of people dying daily in Iraq and the “second” false premise used by our government to justify the carnage. Not the WMD argument discredited years ago, but the “pied piper” argument currently in vogue, the one that states: “We are fighting terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.”

There is no more cowardly, deceitful, and morally degenerate argument than this one. Our government decides to export a war on terrorism and reap havoc upon an innocent people. Shall we empty our prisons of murderers and serial killers and export them to Paraguay? Shall we ship toxic waste to Waziristan? Or feed the dead vermin of Washington to the world’s hungry?

The “pied piper” argument is the vestigial remnant of a failed argument: Because WMDs were never found and links between al Qaeda and Saddam were never proved, our government invents one more rationale to pursue an immoral war, the most dastardly argument of them all.

Meanwhile we wring our hands with typical self-indulgence over our own loss of civil liberties and miss the point: The scores of tortured and dead Iraqis that pile up daily, the hundreds weekly, and the hundreds of thousands since this misadventure began. We share a collective guilt but, first, we must stop the carnage. If we have the courage to focus our moral outrage where it belongs, then someday, perhaps, we will have earned back the right to reclaim our civil liberties.

4:05:00 PM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

How can I disagree? The lack of outrage isn't really new. The apathy isn't new. We use our own dead to glorify the use we made of them while they were alive, but we little note or long remember the people we kill for their political beliefs or for their possessions.

Are there monuments to the 2 million we killed in Southeast Asia to keep them from rejecting the legacy of colonialism?

But the loss of our liberty can be seen as the loss of control and the example of this latest war shows that we have little control over what our government decides to do. That's partly because, as apes, we admire pig-headed and piggish leaders and we admire ape-like aggression so much that we will buy into the most absurd and obviously false excuses for it, but it's also because we have allowed a government that can and does take pride in ignoring any nearly unanimous public sentiment.

Their ability to thwart opposition, to punish, smear and dismiss contrary fact and argument is also the ability to prevent the kind of democracy that might at times be able to restrain them; the kind of liberal democracy that was created to restrain George III but no longer restrains George Bush.

If we let our power as citizens wane, we let any possibility of our responsibility wane. Yes, they do not do this to us without our cooperation and they have enormous powers of making us, like the mice of Hamlin, follow their program, but our political power; our power to resist the ambition of the leaders, depends on the retention of our civil rights.

I'm not ignoring the right of Iraqis, or any victims of our metastatic patriotism to survive, but I can't argue for them without arguing for us.

9:03:00 AM  
Blogger QueersOnTheRise said...

I know what you mean about the Pied Piper argument, Ecophotos. One thing I think I recall correctly (although the last 7 years have been a blur), is that the Pied Piper Argument was used pretty much simulataneously with the WMD argument (and all the other "fantastic" arguments). I may be wrong on that, and I do NOT bring it up to in any way defend it -- I'm more just curious.

9:45:00 AM  
Blogger Swampcracker said...

Dear friends of this blog (especially you Fogg and you Libby). So why would one agree and take a contrary position at the same time? Because I have a theory: People are creatures of comfort and complacency and habit and will not undergo voluntary change unless they are experiencing excruciating pain. While comfort equates with stasis, pain correlates with behavior modification. (Waterboarding, anyone?)

So my point is: Maybe American citizens, and voters especially, NEED TO EXPERIENCE PAIN in order to realize what dumbed-down ridiculous assholes they have been for putting up with this crap in this first place. Pain does more to discredit Bush and Cheney than mere argument and logic. So let them feel pain (and eat cake)!

Is this cynical and snarky enough for you? Maybe I am just in a bad mood lately.

1:11:00 PM  
Blogger QueersOnTheRise said...

"So why would one agree and take a contrary position at the same time?"

Ecophotos - I'm probably just being paranoid, but was that comment meant for me? I do agree with you, and I am not trying to contradict you. My "temporal" question of when exatly the Bush administrations came up with all of its reasons for invading Iraq was, as I said, a curiosity one, because when I myself argue with the tiny handful of people I know who still support the war, I hear the "Pied Piper" argument a lot. If you know for a fact that it was NOT used by the Bushies until AFTER it was proven there were no WMD's, then I can argue more effectively with them. And while I know in my heart I am right, the conservatives will jump all over even the most insiginificant detail to try to "defeat" me.

1:44:00 PM  
Blogger Swampcracker said...

Tricky Dick, please accept my apologies. In fact, I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Force of habit perhaps, I know the writers here better than the commentators. Again no slight intended.

According to my faulty memory (too much life in the brewpub), I believe the Pied Piper construct came right after the WMD argument proved to be false, but I can't offer a footnote as proof. Should it matter? All these constructs to justify the war were phony-baloney regardless of timing.

With respect to the neo-cons, fear them not. They are soon to be history, shamed, humiliated and forever discredited. Let them rant; that is all they have left.

1:56:00 PM  
Blogger Swampcracker said...

Rockync, not to slight you either, I have always welcomed your comments here and in other forums. We seem to parallel each other's movements in Cyberspace. Par Ex., I have read your comments at Robert's site, always honest, articulate, and never offensive. Hope to see you around the pike.

(There, there, I see I am in a better mood after all)

2:58:00 PM  
Blogger rockync said...

Swampcracker, I keep up with your commentary also and am always impressed with your thoughtfulness and knowledge. It does seem like you and I travel in some of the same circles. I guess it would be fair to say "it's a small blogger-world!" LOL

6:56:00 PM  

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