Friday, March 14, 2008

Iowa Should Be Last, Not First

For some reason, understood only by them, I suppose, the people of the state of Iowa feel that they are entitled to hold the first caucuses of the presidential race, even if it means holding them in the year before (which nearly happened). Why? I've heard it explained by one of the pundits (probably, though not certainly, Chuck Todd, Political Director of NBC News; I watch MSNBC a lot) that Iowans feel that they are well-informed on the issues. (That's not exactly what they say.) John McCain defended Iowa's First-in-the-Nation status among caucuses because to do otherwise would ruin Christmas. Well, I have to publicly question the idea that Iowans know what they're doing. And I base it on the fact that Iowans in the 5th Congressional District have been sending Steve King, R-Mars, to Congress since 2002, when everyone shit their pants and elected the nutcases to Congress.

The Honorable Representative Steve King is an imbecile, and possibly a deranged one at that. I will give the man credit for one thing. He can sure dig a deep hole in a short amount of time. (Maybe Eliot Spitzer is faster. Who knows?) But the things he has said recently have really made me question the politcal acumen of the people in his district. (And, because I am a New York Liberal, I have to automatically assume that the people in his district are no different than the people in the rest of the state of Iowa, so I blame the whole state of Iowa for his continued re-election to Congress.) Let's review some of the things he has said in just the past few weeks, courtesy of my friends at ThinkProgress. (ThinkProgress, where thinking is encouraged, unlike, and the Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage audiences.)

Working backwards, the House of Representatives passed a bill today "to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to establish a procedure for authorizing certain acquisitions of foreign intelligence, and for other purposes." Unfortunately for them, President Bush has already declared that those "other purposes" must include granting immunity to the telecom giants who "may have cooperated" in the illegal warrantless wiretapping program which, until recently, the Bush administration refused to acknowledge existed (even though sworn depositions revealed the mechanics of how the wiretaps were carried out, by the guy who did the hook-ups) or he will veto the bill. Somehow, he is under the belief that if they are not granted immunity, they won't cooperate in the future when the government asks them illegally to tap into someone's communications, because they'll be afraid of being sued by one of those evil trial lawyers (like John Edwards). This is patently absurd. Qwest refused to cooperate. (They did so on the advice of their lawyers, who apparently were better law students than the lawyers in the other telecom companies.) But the other telecoms were more than happy to cooperate. And they knew they were violating their customers' privacy rights. They only began to have doubts about participating in the program when the FBI fell behind in their phone bill payments! The Fourth Amendment
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
doesn't stop them, but a delinquent account does. Shows you where their priorities are. Sell your stock in them, they are un-American capitalists. Besides, if they are presented with a warrant, signed by a judge (not the Attorney General or one of his appointees), they are immune from being sued under the grounds that they would then have a legal obligation to cooperate. And if they believe that they were within their legal rights to cooperate with the FBI, despite the lack of valid warrants issued by a judge, secret or otherwise, then they should make their case in court, before a judge, and find out if their legal footing is as solid as they claim. I strongly suspect it isn't, and I even more strongly suspect that they know this, too. And that is why they are fighting so hard to make sure these lawsuits never see the inside of a courtroom.

Here's what Steve King had to say about immunity for the telecom companies that helped the Bush administration violate the law and the constitution, so they could do something they were legally and constitutionally prohibited from doing:

You know we’re here not really talking about the issues of rights. I haven’t found anyone yet that has had their rights trampled on. Their rights to reasonable search and seizure as the chairman announced from the beginning. As I look at whats going on here in policy, there’s a situation going on right now in New York in that area where you have contractors that answered the call in the crisis of 9/11 and they’re under lawsuits by the thousands. I think we’re in pretty much unanimous agreement that we shouldn’t indemnify them for answering the call to protect America.

I don’t understand the difference between why we would not want to identify an information company that answered the call to protect America. To me I think those are the closest two comparisons that we can get. We protect contractors when they went to that smoking hole in that war zone. Why wouldn’t we protect telecommunications companies when they stepped up in good faith and believed that they were legally operating under the law. This is — where is this first citizen that has had their privacy violated? I haven’t found anyone yet. None have been brought forward. I sat in hours of classified briefings no one even uttered the name of a person who has had their rights violated.

Let me begin by saying something about this "answering the call" nonsense. It's meaningless. It's nothing more than a jingoistic attempt to appeal to your patriotism. Samuel Johnson is said to have observed, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." Others, like Rep Ron Paul disagree. Nevertheless, it's a cheap way to win support when you can't justify it otherwise. We are supposed to be a nation of laws. If that's supposed to mean anything, it means we can't just abandon our principles just because it makes it little harder to "go after the bad guys" when you have to respect innocent people's privacy. The "call" that these telecoms "answered" was an obscene one. They were being asked to ignore the constitution and the right of privacy that, not just their own customers, but every American has because the Bush Administration claimed it couldn't go to court to get the warrants.

King claims that because no one has been able to produce the name of a single individual whose rights were violated, it must not have happened. This is because the government won't admit that they're doing it, and they have classified the program under which they're doing it, so no one outside the Justice Department is allowed to know what's really going on. It was designed this way so that no one could easily show that they had standing to sue. So it's a disingenuous argument. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. And the evidence isn't absent here, it is deliberately and illegally being withheld. The Bush Administration is doing everything in their power to keep anyone from having to testify under oath about what they are doing. And yet they insist that we should trust them. Blindly. Oh, and go shopping.

But it's not as if King had been sitting in the background since 2002 not opening his mouth. He actually went on a radio station and said that al Qaida would be dancing in the streets if Sen barack Obama were to be elected president. Yes. He actually said it. He not only said it, he defended his remarks on Fox News Channel. (No, I didn't actually see it myself. I would rather pour shampoo in my eyes than watch Fox News Channel. It would be healthier for them.) He also pulled the commonly-used stunt of using the word "Democrat" as a pejorative. But does he really believe all that nonsense about Sen Obama? And if he does, why do his constituents keep sending back to Congress, every two years since 2002?

It seems to me that if Steve King is the result of your judgment on who should be writing the laws of our country (The United States of America), then maybe you shouldn't have much of a say in who gets to run for president. You're not, you're not, you're, you're not good. You're not good. Let one of the other small states have first crack at the whole field of candidates from each party. Maybe when you come to your senses in the 5th District and vote Steve King out (replace him with an ear of corn for all I care), then we'll consider letting you move your way back up to the head of the pack. Not all at once. Have to make sure you don't send him to the Senate or something.

No comments: