Friday, February 15, 2008

February 15, 2008

The President is messing about with my country again. I wish he'd stop.

The President wants the authority to spy on us--tap our phones, stick mikes in our living rooms, open our mail without having to get permission from a court first. The U.S. has a special secret court to handle such requests, but the President doesn't want the bother of dealing with it--a waste of time, he said. But spying on people without having to show a court why you should is not the America that I grew up with.

The President proposes to try some of the Guantanamo prisoners without letting their lawyers know what the charges are against the prisoners or what evidence the government has against them. That is not the America that I grew up in either.

The President says the United States doesn't interrogate using torture. But the CIA has used waterboarding--where they flood you to make you think you're drowning--and a lot of people, including one of the relatively few Americans who have been tortured, John McCain, thinks it is. An America that uses torture isn't the country I grew up in either.

And then there's the President's habit, after signing a bill into law, of telling us which parts of the new law he'll obey, and which parts he won't. The men who wrote the Constitution certainly never imagined an imperial president with powers like that. And that's not part of the country I grew up with either.

This is not new. In wartime, presidents usually want to give the government more power and make the citizens less free. Safety, they say, is the most important thing. Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. Presidents never ask the citizens to vote on the issue, of course, and I've always wondered how much freedom Americans would voluntarily give up to be more safe in time of war.

It's a tough question, but not for this president, who would, I think, be perfectly happy reminding us every day of the phrase so popular in the unfree world of George Orwell's novel "1984." The phrase? "Big brother is watching you." W would be happy to help.

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