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Milton J. Madison - An American Refugee Now Living in China, Where Liberty is Ascending

Federalism, Free Markets and the Liberty To Let One's Mind Wander. I Am Very Worried About the Fate of Liberty in the USA, Where Government is Taking people's Lives ____________________________________________________________________________________________ "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Tolerance in the face of tyranny is no virtue." -Barry Goldwater-

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I Received A Response To My Google Post, That I just Cannot Leave On My Personal Email....

so I hope that the writer forgives me for reposting it here in addition to my comments on his musings. I have expunged all personal information so that there should be no reason to think that a connection can be made to the actual individual.

Remember that I my original post can be read here, and it was about the Attorney General's request for some limited information on Google searches. However, despite what appeared to me to be a debatable, poorly written, biased media story, albeit a reasonable issue to discuss, it inevitably became some anti-George Bush rant. These rants and nonsensical thought that have become embedded in psyche of liberals in particular and Democrats in general. I view this loss of sense to be a dangerous distraction from some of the deadly serious issues that face us as a nation and as individuals today and serve no one, Democrats nor Republicans.
Here's my rant from the left for today:

I agree that the newspapers are doing a terrible job, but as an old lefty, I would argue that liberal bias and Bush-hating has nothing to do with it.
Although we agree that the press is doing a poor job, some of the press biases are aimed directly at the sitting President of the United States. I think that some of the venom directed towards GWB gives the press some kind-of 'raison d'etre' but it is inexcusable to allow them to do it so sloppily. But lets see what he says about this.
First, the long sad decline of CBS News is just one example of the way in which most media outlets have become part of huge entertainment conglomerates where getting the news and getting it right are no longer as important as entertaining the public and turning a profit. I get most of my news from the newspapers and radio (or the online versions thereof), but when I do watch CNN or the old network news, I don't see as much left/right imbalance as I do screaming, posturing, white smiles, and large breasts.
So, what is wrong with large breasts? However, how is this different than news ever was? There have been profit making ventures for decades not the past 5 years so this does not excuse the bias. But lets us look at some of the academic work on the biases of the press, from UCLA here and Berkeley and UCLA here. It seems as if the biases run much deeper than just a desire to be popular. If that were the case, then as these pieces argue, one would expect that a well run business should lean more towards the centrist position that the US populace holds. What these academic papers suggest is that the press is further left than the population in general.
That, and a tendency to read something from the administration, contrast it, sometimes, with something from the Democrats, and make no effort to make sense of the story or who might be right or wrong in any given case.
This is exactly what is not happening. We do not have a situation were the press is reporting the news so much as they are presenting news that fits an agenda. The misrepresentations that occurred in the AP Google article that try to paint the administration in a poor light without even attempting to frame the issues surrounding access to pornography by children is a sorry excuse for real journalism.
Second, while the Internet and other new media may, in the long run, contribute to a more democratic and better-informed society, we have as yet figured out no way to sort the good from bad, and often the true from the false.

This argument is a strawman. There has never been a way to sort the good from the bad, since the good from the bad can be, in particular, a subjective issue. It is actually incumbent upon the consumers to demand accountability in reporting the news. The press relies upon trust and if the public loses trust in the press, then it loses its franchise. Blogs are actually helpful to this process by pointing out inconsistencies and downright biases in reporting and assists both the public and press in identifying and correcting inaccuracies and biases that are embedded in reporting.
(The Bush guys have figured out far better than anyone on the left that a well-orchestrated campaign of falsehoods, half-truths, and insinuation (see the Swift Boat episode
John Kerry, in my humble opinion, deserved everything that he got from the Swift Boats. He refused to release his records and they pounded away at that and he has still not done so completely to this day. His explanations as to why he wouldn't or didn't were simply awful. If he had nothing to hide, then why hide it. If he couldn't handle the heat then he shouldn't have been in the kitchen. And furthermore, its not as if there was not a concerted and overt program to try portray GWB's military in a bad light. There was. And Dan Rather and Mary Mapes for their efforts got their asses put into a sling. The effort by the left did not hold up to scrutiny whereas the stories against Kerry resonated with some people. He could have completely eliminated the issue but he chose not to. His loss and maybe he actually was trying to hide something like was asserted by the Swifties.
and the smearing of Max Cleland and John Murtha as prime examples)
I am not intimately familiar with the Cleland issue, but I believe that he lost his reelection bid on a wider variety of issues than just military ones, particularly since he represented a conservative state in the deep south. He was just not their man. But the left likes to point at some of the smears and then make the connection that these smears were the reasons why he lost. They may have been a contributing factor but it is a weak argument to try to say that they were the reasons why he lost. To liberals, arguing against their positions are smears but their arguments against conservatives are valid debating points.

And I am not really sure what the writer is trying to say about Murtha. It seems as if the press and pundits alike have given the guy a fairly wide berth to dock his agenda. Or maybe the left figures that when Murtha talks, his opinions are supposed to move mountains and the Republicans are supposed to crumble immediately upon hearing his words of wisdom.
, spread through commercials, blogs, bought-and-paid-for editorials, and non-news news shows like Bill O'Reilly's,
Bill O'Reilly is a pundit, is really an opinion journal and is not even designed or sold as news but a forum to discuss current events. If one confuses Bill O'Reilly with the AP or the New York Times, then they truly do not know or understand the difference between news and opinion. The left almost inevitably cites his show as an example of biased reporting but it cannot be since it is not a news show. In fact, I believe that the chief reason that Bill O'Reilly is frequently cited by the left is that it is practically the only example of right leaning mainstream media show that can be used to make the weak argument that there is a conservative slant to some press reporting. Overall, Bill O'Reilly should be held to the same accountability standard as the op-ed of the New York Times that also gets a wide berth for their factuality.
as can serve the desired effects even if the president officially distances himself from them. Another, even better example, is Pat Robertson. Sure, he should be allowed to rant about God giving Ariel Sharon a stroke, but he should be doing it to a handful of parishioners in a rural church in Tennessee, not on television to millions.
Same is true with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, then. I also think Al Gore too. I suppose that GWB distanced himself from the alleged smear campaigns as far away as Clinton did with the smear campaigns against special Whitewater prosecutor, Kenneth Starr. Kind of par for the political course, I'd say.
The marketplace, at least at this point, is not doing much at all to sort the good from the bad, the truthful from the false. I doubt you could ever establish standards that would satisfy everyone, on the left and the right, but at least perhaps we could entertain people to be skeptical (and just to ignore TV preachers). Right now, I suspect, we are so drowned in images and noise that most of us just tune it out.
Again, what are the standards if the press does not think that they have to report the news? The market does sort these things out but its not done instantaneously, the market mechanism takes time. I find it difficult to tune out agenda laden journalism since it continues to strike me every day. That is the illness of the agenda laden press. Its like getting higher and higher does of some chemical and it eventually effects the patient. I consider the presses behavior as an affront to our intelligence, both liberal and conservative. The press by being untruthful is at the same time being disingenuous, by pressing a limited point of view it is limiting its market and, as a result, is making itself dispensable. This will only give rise to increasing the demand for an alternate viewpoint or a source to collaborate or debunk assertions made in the press. Maybe this is why Fox and the Bill O'Reilly's of the world have become so popular.
On another tangent, I don't see why liberals and conservatives alike should not ALWAYS be skeptical about any so-called democratic government's requests to eavesdrop on its citizens without the appropriate checks and balances. In the Google case, it seems that most of the right things are happening: the Justice Department makes a request, the company contests it, and the courts sort it out. Poor media coverage aside, anyone who looks hard enough should be able to sort out the issues.

In the current illegal wiretapping scandal, however, the Bush administration is arguing that it should be able to spy on whomever it wants, whenever it wants, without even notifying the court set up under the FISA law, which is secret and, by some accounts, very compliant.
Boom. So here is the inevitable liberal screed. If the NSA listens in on the overseas [only] calls of people that are either al-Queda or calling al-Queda, then it becomes "spy on whomever it wants, whenever it wants, without even notifying the court set up under the FISA law."

This is the statement that has bothered me the most over the past few days, so I had a look at the constitution and some writings on the case law surrounding the 4th Amendment.

But first, I have to take offence at these kinds of thoughts. I would hope that our laws were not designed to protect those foreign blood-thirsty al-Queda terrorists and their desire to kill us and our children. Where liberals miss the whole point of listening into these conversations is that these terrorists want to attack Americans and kill them. They are not the anti-Bush crowd but the anti-all-of-us crowd. I view this conflict with these terrorists as a war and liberals do not. Liberals want it to be something that can be neatly taken care of by police and prosecuted in the justice system through our current system of law like common criminals are. I think that what our government is trying to do is not arrest and prosecute terrorists, as their process would imply, as criminals but to stop attacks before they happen. The government may not have the right to collect evidence using these methods that can be used in court but why should we stop our government from gathering intelligence that is designed to identify risks and to stop attacks before they happen. Remember, this is the international communication between those on US soil [the law does not distinguish between American citizens and those non-residents that are rightly and legally on our soil] and not domestic surveillance that the press so popularly likes to call it. We are targeting people that come from other lands to do physical harm to Americans and if we have the tools to identify the risks, targets, plots and methods, then it is incumbent upon us to use this information to eliminate these risks. Doing otherwise is just foolish.

The 4th Amendment restricts government in search and seizure particularly if this is going to be used in a court against the defendant. Originally designed due to the experience of the original Americans that due to rampant smuggling and non payment or taxes, or other duties by the British, the 4th Amendment reflected that experience. It was not originally intended as protection of the state against potentially treasonous activities.
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.
The court debate over the past 2 centuries has surrounded the concepts found in the 4th Amendment between the wording unreasonable searches and probable cause. AS we drift back and forth between the two, there has not be a definitive declaration of what constitutes reasonable and probable except in very specific cases. There is till much room to maneuver within this Amendment.
By 1992, it was no longer the case that the ''warrants-with- narrow-exceptions'' standard normally prevails over a ''reasonableness'' approach. 23 Exceptions to the warrant requirement have multiplied, tending to confine application of the requirement to cases that are exclusively ''criminal'' in nature. And even within that core area of ''criminal'' cases, some exceptions have been broadened. The most important category of exception is that of administrative searches justified by ''special needs beyond the normal need for law enforcement.'' Under this general rubric the Court has upheld warrantless searches by administrative authorities in public schools, government offices, and prisons, and has upheld drug testing of public and transportation employees. 24 In all of these instances the warrant and probable cause requirements are dispensed with in favor of a reasonableness standard that balances the government's regulatory interest against the individual's privacy interest; in all of these instances the government's interest has been found to outweigh the individual's.
A very involved discussion citing court case examples of the 4th Amendment can be found here.

But from my reading of the material available, I do not see where one can categorically conclude that what the NSA is doing is illegal. Either on its face or what is being alledged in some tightly wound liberal circles.

Also, the FISA law is a complicated and sometimes not useful in fighting terrorism as outlined by the former head of the NSA in a speech to the Washington Press Club, here. His speech and question and answer give a good outline of his thoughts as the head of the NSA before and right after 9/11. He knows a lot more about this stuff then much of the people talking about it today and is a worthwhile read. This is what he had to say about the FISA process...
First of all, I need to get a statement of fact out here, all right? NSA cannot -- under the FISA statute, NSA cannot put someone on coverage and go ahead and play for 72 hours while it gets a note saying it was okay. All right? The attorney general is the one who approves emergency FISA coverage, and the attorney general's standard for approving FISA coverage is a body of evidence equal to that which he would present to the court. So it's not like you can throw it on for 72 hours.

In the instances where this program applies, FISA does not give us the operational effect that the authorities that the president has given us give us. Look. I can't --and I understand it's going to be an incomplete answer, and I can't give you all the fine print as to why, but let me just kind of reverse the answer just a bit. If FISA worked just as well, why wouldn't I use FISA? To save typing? No. There is an operational impact here, and I have two paths in front of me, both of them lawful, one FISA, one the presidential -- the president's authorization. And we go down this path because our operational judgment is it is much more effective. So we do it for that reason. I think I've got -- I think I've covered all the ones you raised.


And my liberal friend's thoughts continue...
I won't make a secret of the fact that I believe George Bush and his administration have done nothing to earn our trust, but the larger issue is that we should never trust an individual or a single branch of government to safeguard our liberties by taking them away. (Ben Franklin had a great quote about how people who trade liberties for safety deserve neither.)
What liberties are being taken away? The right to chat up al-Queda? I think that the right to chat with al-Queda will need its own constitutional amendment.

Furthermore, we know from our liberal friends, that GWB has never done anything to earn their trust but which President has? In reality, GWB would have been vilified no matter what he had said or done by these people anyway. I always laugh when one tries to assert that they came into this administration with an open mind. That is just poppycock.
Terrorism, like child pornography, is a great, scary amorphous thing, but any administration at any time could come up with an equally scary threat (communism, totalitarianism, immigrants, etc., etc.) to justify limiting the freedoms that democracy is supposed to protect. I don't care whether Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, George Bush, or Condoleeza Rice is in the White House, we should always assume that anything done in secret (i.e., letting Enron and its ilk write our energy policy) is suspect.
Terrorism is amorphous like communism but with communism we also had an enemy to fight and one that we could expect to act rationally. But the containment of communism was also costly as evidenced by the Korean and Vietnam wars. But I argue that these wars were inevitable its a matter of choosing a time and a place to fight them. We will have costs and deaths and be attacked gain and lose ground and therefore, we have to be cognizant and aware of where our risks are.

And also, so now we turn the tables and argue that Enron writes energy policy. GWB and his minions are gathering information on everyone about everything but them have to ask Enron what to write on energy policy? Maybe this is just a transformed early anti-Bush leftist meme that argued that GWB was stupid. Since he has proven smarter than people thought and at least capable of beating Democrats in elections and legislation, they have to argue something new. But this energy policy argument is an issue that I actually have very strong feelings about. If an administration is trying to gather information and needs to know really what is going on in the energy industry or any other industry for that matter, business cannot be expected to divulge non-public information, trade secrets or investment plans if this information and plans are going to be made public. Industry should not be reasonably expected to do so and in fact, have a duty not to divulge certain important information to protect their shareholders. In fact, if this information is known to be released to the general public, it will be whitewashed and combed through for general public consumption. Then, what is the point of talking frankly with anyone? This isn't just a GWB issue but one that every President will need, weather Democrat or Republican.

I had another argument with a friend about this a while back. He said that Congress has the right to this information under their oversight obligations. Yes, they have oversight obligations but do they have the right to this information after the fact? They too have the opportunity to gather information on their own through hearings, by speaking to industry experts and holding closed door sessions themselves. This is actually how the system is designed to work. But opportunistic liberals look at this as another chance to take a shot at GWB.
Maybe we don't post every al Quaeda lead in the newspaper, but we should always trust that keeping the administration, the legislature, and the courts, however corrupt and flawed any of those institutions is at any time, fully involved in the processes of government is the best way to protect our freedoms.
Who says that they are corrupt and flawed? It has worked reasonably well for over two centuries. But I feel that Liberals and Democrats are really missing the boat, here. We are at war and we have duties not just to protect our freedoms but also out people. They, through their blind hatred are willing to trade or risk the lives of my loved ones and children for their utopian ideals, that as I have written above, are more hallucinogenic than utopian. I hope that they wake up and try to help to win this battle against the crazies of Islam. These people would like nothing better than to destroy us. So what good are all those freedoms under bombardment by these fanatics?

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