Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Attack on the Bill of Rights

I'm participating in a local group of peace activists which is working for the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. One tactic we're using is to get our local units of government to pass resolutions calling on the US House of Representatives to commence impeachment proceedings. Both the Dane County Board and the Madison City Council had such resolutions introduced. The county has already adopted its resolution, 20-3; the city's turn is coming up in early September.

In order to maximize our effectiveness, we wanted to testify before these bodies just enuf to make all of our major points, but no more than that — so we didn't start to turn people off with repetition. Nobody likes long meetings at the best of times.

I signed up to be the clean-up hitter. The plan was that I'd testify at the end of the line and use my time to refute the arguments of those who opposed impeachment (finally putting my high-school debate experience to good use). But, if there weren't any opponents, I had another pro-impeachment speech prepared, just in case.

As it turned out before the County Board, there were indeed some ardent admirers of Dear Leader who wondered how we could possibly be so disrespectful of one of the greatest presidents in US history, so I got to ad-lib my response and didn't get a chance to give my prepared remarks. But here's what I would have said ...

The Attack on the Bill of Rights
How Does This Affect YOUR Constituents?

About the only serious objection raised to the impeachment resolution is that it's not county business, and therefore you shouldn't be spending your time on it.

I contend, on the contrary, that it is county business -- and your business in particular -- because of the adverse effect it has on the citizens of Dane County, including your constituents.

I'll let other people deal with the most tangible effect, the drain on our money supply that means there's never enuf for roads, clean water, schools, and so on, but always enuf for another troop surge or load of bombs.

Instead, I'll focus on citizens' rights, the rights supposedly guaranteed by the same US Constitution that you took an oath to support.

• The 4th Amendment guarantees us the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure, and requires warrants to be based on probable cause. 7 years ago, your constituents all had this right. Today none of them do. Nor, for that matter, do you. Agents of the federal government can not only wiretap your phone, they can find out what books you check out from the library, what videos you rent, and what sites you visit on the internet. They can enter your home when you're not there and poke around to their heart's content. And they never have to tell you they're doing it, because they're allowed to operate in secrecy.

• The 5th Amendment guarantees us the right to due process of law before we can be deprived of life, liberty, or property. 7 years ago, your constituents all had this right. Today none of them do. Nor, for that matter, do you. You can be jailed at any time on the say-so of the president, who operates on the basis of god-only-knows what kind of information -- but clearly not excluding the kind that he used to invade Iraq.

• The 6th Amendment guarantees us the right to a speedy and public trial and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusations against us. In the absence of such accusations, we can use the ancient right of habeas corpus to demand our release. 7 years ago, your constituents all had this right. Today none of them do. Nor, for that matter, do you. You can be imprisoned indefinitely without trial -- without the government even having to inform your family of where you are -- strictly on the say-so of some informer.

• The 8th Amendment guarantees us the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, also known as torture. 7 years ago, your constituents all had this right. Today none of them do. Nor, for that matter, do you. You can be subjected to everything from excruciating pain to mindless boredom at the hands of US government employees, our so-called "public servants". To the extent that they ever experience a twinge of conscience, they can ship you off to the professionals in Egypt, who are guaranteed not to be nearly so soft-hearted.

If you knew that a crime ring was operating in Dane County, and that it had so far stolen $100 from every man, woman, and child in your district, wouldn't you be up in arms about it? Wouldn't you think that their actions deserved your attention?

Well, a crime ring is operating in Dane County, and what it's stolen so far is far more important than a hundred bux a head — but nowhere near as important as what they'll do if you keep letting them get away with it.

Act now to protect your constituents and the Constitution that you swore to support. Nobody's expecting you to have all the answers. All we ask is that you do what you can.


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