So. This article is pretty rich with inaccuracies. As you might imagine from a woman whose only marketable skill is taping her boobs into a dress. Nevertheless:

  • Deists. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
  • Not all the Founding Fathers were Deists. Or Christians. And by the way? Deists and Christians typically stand on the opposite sides of the room at parties…
  • The Constitution itself lists no rights whatsoever. The Bill of Rights does that.
  • Not only does the Constitution not do anything so presumptuous as “grant” rights, but in reality, it only requires of the government certain duties.
  • The last clause of the Constitution says that anything not addressed there is considered to be up to the people. If it’s not in the Constitution, that means you absolutely have that right.
  • Nobody but your Creator gave you any rights. It’s right there in the fucking Declaration of Independence, the document upon which the Constitution was based.
  • The last clause of the Constitution basically says, “Anything not addressed here is for the people and their states to decide.” If it’s not in the Constitution, that actually means that yes you do have that right.

But according to Haglund, government could not acknowledge a basic human right to health care because only God could grant those rights.“Well, no. This country was founded on a document called the Constitution,” she said. “And it also believed — a lot of our founders were deists, you know, some of them were Christians — and they believed that man was born with rights from God, that government doesn’t create rights.”“Because if they create rights, they can also take them away,” Haglund added.

Source: Ex-Miss America: ‘Our founders were deists’ and God didn’t create a ‘human’ right to health care

Google has released its latest Transparency Report for 2012 and the big story in most of the media is that 88% of the time, Google complies with government subpoenas. We’re all supposed to suck in our collective breath that Google would be so cavalier with our personal data:

In its latest “Transparency Report,” Google revealed that it received 21,389 requests for information about 33,634 users in the second half of 2012, with 8,438 of those requests coming from the U.S. government. Google handed over the data 88 percent of the time, based mostly on just a subpoena, which does not require the approval of a judge.

Wait. Aren’t we burying the lede, here? Let’s have a look at the actual numbers. Here is the chart for requests by country, and once again we see that the United States is peerless in its requests for private data. Only India comes within one quarter of that number, and with only 66% of requests honored, it really makes you wonder what they’re requesting:

Requests by country, sorted by request number. No one touches us. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

This follows the same pattern we’ve seen from our government in the past. As I noted then, the trouble with all these numbers is that the represent a company’s interpretation of law and of privacy. But considering that Google complied with 88% of the US requests, as opposed to 66% of India’s and 0% of Turkey’s requests, it seems very clear that there is some judgement happening at Google. They don’t appear to simply be turning over private data without discretion, in fact, the 88% compliance number strikes me as proof that the orders coming from the United States were filed in compliance with the law.

One can argue that the law is flawed. I certainly would. But that is not Google’s issue, nor really is there any other company providing its users with such – well, transparent – information about their compliance with subpoenas. The real question is: why are so many requests coming from a nominally free society?

The short answer is yes, they do track your phone if you become somehow involved in an investigation. And without a warrant, that’s supposed to be unconstitutional. A new court victory for the Electronic Freedom Foundation is getting us one step closer to our legal system honoring our Constitution where technology is concerned:

FOIA Victory Will Shed More Light on Warrantless Tracking of Cell Phones | Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday (pdf) that the government must turn over information from criminal prosecutions in which federal law enforcement agencies obtained cell-site location information without a warrant. The suit, filed as part of EFF’s FLAG Project and in conjunction with the ACLU, sought the release of the case numbers and case names in which the government had tracked the location of a person’s cell phone without obtaining a warrant.

What feels good and what is morally or legally defensible are often not quite the same things. For example, it is difficult to find any reason to have sympathy for Qadaffi in Libya and more than ample reason to be inspired by the struggle for democracy across the Middle East. So, seeing the European powers and America rush into Libya with guns blazing, playing calvalry to the beleaguered resistance has a certain movie hero appeal.

But here’s the thing: its grossly illegal for the President of the United States to do what Barack Obama has chosen to do in aiding Europe as he himself has previously acknowledged. Yet in the Survey USA poll released today, nowhere in the opinion questions is even the hint that what has transpired was at all illegal:

SurveyUSA News Poll #18057.

I’m sure that intervening in Libya is the right thing to do, both for moral and political reasons, as one commenter on Talking Points Memo recently pointed out. But in doing so, the President is violating the law. And nobody seems interested in that. Guess it must just be different with a Democratic president?

In the American Colonies, before the Revolution, taxation was done at the whim of a Parliament in which American tax payers had no representation whatsoever. But far worse for many Americans caught a-foul of the law, settling disputes and penalties with the British legal system often meant showing up in court in Merry Old England herself. Such a voyage in those days meant months and years away from the very properties these Americans we trying to maintain, to say nothing of the lost income and extra expense of the voyage, lodging in England and the like. It was precisely these types of extreme hardships – much more so than the taxation itself – that prompted a few well-educated and wealthy Americans to start plotting the Revolution.

The American Revolution can therefore be thought of in a certain context as a radical renegotiation of the relationship between the ruler and the ruled. Not simply a reinvention of government, but forging of a new principle of power sharing, supported by thousands of legal pleadings in British courts, up to and including the final and most famous Declaration of Independence.

But I don’t recall having reached any such deal with cameras or computers.[1. Title of this post provided by a lyric from Yes: Machine Messiah]

More and more municipal governments, including most recently Rochester, have been employing red light cameras and other automated means of handling law enforcement issues. This is raising many legal and ethical concerns among many quarters, as Doug Emblidge points to in his above-linked blog post. My concern may seem oblique, but it seems to me that implicit in the negotiation of law is the fact that law exists as a guidepost towards justice, not an iron-clad set of parameters from within which a computer program is expected to perform.

This is not an abstract concept for philosophy classes, nor is it a plot for some 1970’s “computers take over the world” scenario movie. No set of circumstances which deviates from the law yields any other outcome for a computer than a violation of that law, and even if the issue can be resolved in a court, we once again require that potentially innocent people take time out of their lives to prove thier innocence – or potentially fail to – at the behest of a set of arbitrary laws.

Cops do not issue tickets for every violation they see. They don’t even issue tickets for every person they pull over. Computers contain no subroutines for compassion or clemency.

I’ve been blogging for at least five years, now. I’ve been doing so right along with a lot of my other Lefty buddies, commenting on and applauding a lot of the same news sources, such as Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and what has become the entire MSNBC lineup. And right along with Bill Mahar, too. I thought I understood what they were saying when we all complained about George Bush, but in recent months, I’ve begun to doubt that.

In recent months, since the Obama Administration took the White House, Progressive talking heads have been consistently pushing on a number of issues. Gays in the military, Guantanamo, the stimulus package and many others. And the common refrain has been some variation of, “with the stroke of a pen, President Obama could end all this…”

Perhaps I’ve lost my mind, but I could have sworn that one of the things we didn’t like about George Bush was… his use of executive orders and signing statements to bypass the will of the Congress? Did I totally misread that? Because now that we have our man in the White House, we want him to employ precisely the same tactics that I recall people decrying as circumventing the U.S. Constitution. And beyond that apparent contradiction, there are a number of problems with executive overrides of this type which are also worth mentioning.

The first should be obvious: if we can turn over all of Bush’s executive hanky-panky this easily, so too can the next president “correct” the Obama Administration. I may be confused about what we Lefties were talking about a few years ago, but I remember my U.S. History and Government class, and this is definitely not what the Founders had in mind. We are not meant to be a cult of personality like Saddam’s Iraq or Kim’s North Korea. Our laws are not meant to be subject to the whims of the most powerful ape in the room. We may like things fast in our modern world, but some things are better left up to the stodgy, old, slow and yes, painfully prejudiced and ignorant Congress.

Secondly, if the president does not get the work done through Congress, Congress can always pass a law that circumnavigates his circumnavigation. Potentially, they can do so in a way that overrides the veto. Remember how Congress’ slowness was a bad thing? Well, with a stroke of a pen, you’ll be counting on it.

Third, in some cases, it’s really not that simple anyway. The president is sitting on a prison in Guantanamo filled with people who have been wrongly imprisoned. People whose basic human rights have been violated, which is a crime which our Constitution is particularly well-suited to prosecute… harshly. In fact, history buffs will know that the entire point of the Constitution is precisely that.

The president cannot simply wave his pen and declare “Do-over!” He cannot free Gitmo detainees without complications. And he certainly cannot do that by, once again, short-circuiting the legal process. The only legally justifiable means of releasing the Guantanamo detainees is by putting them on trial, but since most of the evidence against even those guilty of actual crimes against the United States was obtained via torture and is therefore not admissible, that means both the guilty and the innocent would be set completely free.

The CIA is another sticky wicket. The good and bad news about stable democracies is that the institutions of government – from the Department of Agriculture to the military to the CIA – maintain contiguous operation beyond presidential terms. The Department of the Interior does not suddenly loose all it’s staff and get repopulated every time a new president takes the oath, though it came close in the Bush Administration. It is this contiguous institutionalization of government that provides the democratic stability we enjoy as Americans, not the voting part. There is even an argument to be made that this bureaucratic stability is what eventually ground the Bush Administration down in the end: whistleblowers throughout the government leaked the documents and instigated the investigations that mired the Bushies down for the past three or four years.

But in the case of the CIA, that also means there are bodies buried deep in the vaults of that secret agency that no president has probably ever known about. And even if presidents do, we the public don’t. Again, untangling this web, especially where torture has been used, is not as simple as people seem to think it is. And as we’ve learned from the Bush Administration, the leadership can only push agencies just so far before they earn the ire of career bureaucrats who will outlast them. I’m quite certain that, as a Constitutional law professor, President Barack Obama is quite well aware of the problem torture presents. I’m quite certain that he’s interested in removing the stain of torture from our government – not out of ideological zeal, but out of fidelity to the Constitution he spent his life studying. But this, like much of the damage done by the Bush Administration, is going to take time to put right.

Of course, I understand that we need people to push issues. Just because a president with a D next to his name gets elected does not mean that the things we need done will get done. There has to be pressure on politicians if anything is to be accomplished, especially presidents; there needs to be a loyal opposition, a position for which the Republicans are ill-equipped these days. But we need to be cautious that, in pushing for small changes, we don’t arrive at unforeseen and lamentable large changes. Pressure is one thing, but irresponsibility is quite another.

And lord knows, it’s complicated:

“If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations,” Palin told host Chris Plante, “then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.”

Well, gosh darnit.  There ya go, ho, ya done it again.  The media discussing you is an example of them exercising their right to free speech, not limiting your own.  Now, candidates for president suggesting the media should not contradict them, that’s a threat to free speech.

But then, she is a Republican.  I think our last Republican President got used to the idea that “Freedom of Speech” had nothing to do with whether or not the president is supposed to listen to the public’s opinion.  Let’s not let another president so benighted occupy the White House.