Mudcat Café message #1311532 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #62901   Message #1311532
Posted By: Amos
30-Oct-04 - 02:14 PM
Thread Name: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration
Subject: RE: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration

What is the title of this thread?


Four Years of Lost Liberties
posted by Dan Gillmor 08:02 AM
(This is also my column today in the San Jose Mercury News.)

If you believe that political and social liberty go hand in hand
with economic freedom -- and that they form an underpinning of a
vibrant free market -- you should be worried about another four
years like the four we've just had.

Let's grant that George W. Bush plainly believes in a free
market, largely unconstrained by government intervention. But he
has made it clear that he doesn't have the same devotion to
other kinds of liberty.

He and his allies have used terrorism to launch a massive
assault on civil liberties. They are not just indifferent to
liberty, they are actively hostile to it.

Bush's first term has been a catalog of encroachments. He has
expanded surveillance -- electronic and otherwise -- without
adequate safeguards. He has had a mania for secrecy, shielding
more and more government information from public view. This
amounts to telling Americans they have no right in many cases to
know how our money is being used or what government is doing in
our names.

This president has curbed dissent through intimidation. His
attorney general practically labeled as traitors people who
questioned the outrageously named ``Patriot Act,'' for
example. More recently, the Bush forces have excluded anyone who
is not a declared supporter from being even in the vicinity of
campaign events, and have even fenced off protesters in
Orwellian ``free speech zones'' far from the scenes.

The Bush years have emboldened rights and privacy invaders
everywhere. A national ID card is making a back-door entrance
via a scheme by the state agencies that issue driver's licenses,
for example.

He has given corporate interests carte blanche to buy, sell,
massage and trade our most personal information -- mocking his
vows in the 2000 campaign to be a president who would protect

The federal government now encourages (and buys) all kinds of
data collection and ways to manipulate it, and offers barely a
hint of safeguards. Do you imagine for even a second that the
radio-chip ID implants being sold to track patients inside
hospitals won't be used for much broader kinds of surveillance
someday? Ditto the radio tags the government says it wants to
put into our passports (and soon, no doubt, our driver's
licenses). Surveillance is big business now.

Insidiously, the Bush administration has turned the corporate
data mongers into partners in the dawning surveillance
state. Evading even the most trivial safeguards, including
federal laws protecting privacy, it buys or uses data collected
by private companies that are under no such restrictions.

An intrusive airline passenger screening system, relying on
commercial data and other information, was officially scrapped
after protests. But as the Washington Post reported earlier this
month, one of the former government officials behind that
project has launched a private company that will collect and
provide data for the project's new incarnation -- and
established the company offshore in Bermuda, ``outside the reach
of U.S. regulators.''

The most frightening assault on liberty has had nothing to do
with the Patriot Act, surveillance or privacy. Bush has
systematically ignored the law when it suited his purpose,
treating the Constitution as a suggestion box, not the bedrock
of liberty. He asserted the right to declare American citizens
as enemy combatants here at home and to jail them indefinitely,
with no right even to see a lawyer.

The Supreme Court, thankfully, rejected Bush's dictatorial views
in two pivotal decisions earlier this year. But presidents
nominate justices, and this one means to nominate the kind who
will let the government do pretty much what it pleases.

Early last week, William Rehnquist, chief justice of the
U.S. Supreme Court, had surgery for thyroid cancer. His
condition reminded people that whoever is president during the
next four years will probably nominate three or four justices to
the highest court.

A court with two, three or four judges of Bush's preference
would not be friendly, on balance, to our rights as
individuals. The president has made clear his intention to
appoint judges who would overturn abortion rights. That, too, is
a question of liberty.

Is John Kerry any better? He voted for the ``Patriot'' law,
after all.

But while Bush vows to expand that law's reach over our lives,
Kerry has said he would work to repeal some of the more odious
provisions, such as the one that lets government agents rifle
through our lives -- including what library books we read --
with few safeguards.

I believe that a free economy rests in large part on people's
willingness to feel free -- to take chances, to be different
from others. The surveillance state is a conformist state, where
a fog of fear deadens initiative and the willingness to take

No sane person wants to make law enforcement impotent. But risk
is part of a free culture, and the more we clamp down on things
that have any element of risk the more we clamp down on freedom

Robert J. Berger - Internet Bandwidth Development, LLC.
Voice: 408-882-4755 eFax: +1-408-490-2868