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Gonzales Announces a List of Bad Ideas
2005.02.28 (Mon) 20:49
What do you get when you appoint an asshole who rubber stamps torture as your Attorney General? Shit like this, as reported on Yahoo News:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Monday he would move aggressively to prosecute obscenity cases, and he laid out a broader agenda much like that of his predecessor, John Ashcroft.
In his first lengthy address since becoming attorney general in early February, Gonzales said people who distribute obscene materials do not enjoy constitutional guarantees of free speech.
Hey, that's great. At the top of the Attorney General's menu of important actions to ensure justice in the United States, he lists cracking down on...porn. In fact, let's go a step further. After declaring that pornography isn't Constitutionally protected speech, why not make it so that people who publicly speak out against the Bush administration are arrested? Oh, right, we've already done that.
To be clear, Gonzales uses the term "obscenity" rather than "pornography" in most cases; but that line is so blurred, we're sure he'll have no trouble including even soft core porn in his moral crusade. As a matter of fact, we remember the Ashcroft Department of Justice saying just that. From an April 6, 2004 issue of the Baltimore Sun:
In [a Department of Justice] field office in Washington, 32 prosecutors, investigators and a handful of FBI agents are spending millions of dollars to bring anti-obscenity cases to courthouses across the country for the first time in 10 years. Nothing is off limits, they warn, even soft-core cable programs such as HBO's long-running Real Sex or the adult movies widely offered in guestrooms of major hotel chains.
Drew Oosterbaan, chief of the division in charge of obscenity prosecutions at the Justice Department, says officials are trying to send a message and halt an industry they see as growing increasingly "lawless."
"We want to do everything we can to deter this conduct" by producers and consumers, Oosterbaan said. "Nothing is off the table as far as content."
We're so happy that morally superior people like our friend Oosterbaan are looking out for us. In fact, maybe it would be best if all entertainment was proper Christian entertainment — wall-to-wall 700 Club, 24x7x365. That way, no one would be forced to watch anything even remotely sexual in nature. And while we're at it, we should get rid of those little shirts that show off women's midsections — we just can't concentrate when we see all that exposed flesh!
Let's take a step back. Is there a problem in this country regarding pornography? Yes. Put simply, the problem is that everyone keeps getting it in their email inbox at an alarming rate. We agree that if you don't want to see it, you shouldn't be forced to, but then again, we feel the same way about all spam. The other problem is that among the people getting pornographic emails are children, and that needs to stop. It's up to parents to make sure that their kids aren't actively seeking out porn (if that's the parents' decision), but when it's being delivered to them unsolicited with a subject line that says "Hi!" — then something needs to be done. If the government wants to go after pornography, they have here two big ticket items they can focus on, and they don't even require a definition of the word "obscene." Instead, Gonzales — like Ashcroft — would rather ignore the obvious problems with unsolicited porn and porn distributed to minors, and instead try to dictate what multimedia adults can and cannot indulge in within their own homes.
Let's see what else is on the Gonzales hit list, again from Yahoo News:
Ending Senate blocking of judicial nominees, a "broken process that must be fixed" before there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Saying that the president should have free rein for judicial nominations is patently absurd. At a basic level, our system of government was established with a set of checks and balances that prevent any one branch of government from gaining too much control. So, regardless of who is in the White House, we oppose the removal of any of these checks and balances. In addition, Bush clearly can't be trusted to nominate qualified candidates for any post, as evidenced by the fact that he has again nominated Justices Pryor and Brown for seats on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. In case you aren't familiar with this pair of Bush judicial nominees, check out this clipping from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State:
As noted in a 2003 report by AU, Pryor was an early defender of Alabama's "Ten Commandments" Judge Roy Moore, who spent many years fighting to keep a granite Commandments monument in the rotunda of the state Judicial Building. At a rally for Moore's crusade, Pryor declared that, "God has chosen, through his son Jesus Christ, this time, this place for all Christians - Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox - to save our country and save our courts."
Brown has also gone public with far-out views on long-established First Amendment precedent. In an Oct. 2003 letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Americans United detailed some of Brown's outlandish judicial philosophies. In a 1999 speech at Pepperdine University, Brown attacked the U.S. Supreme Court for relying too often "on a rather uninformative metaphor of the 'wall of separation' between church and state," and stated that the high court may have been wrong in 1940 to assert that the Bill of Rights is applicable to the states.
These are the people that Gonzales apparently would like to see on the bench, since his stated goal of ending Senate blocking of judicial nominees would clearly result in their appointment. How dare those activist Senators block these bible-thumping morons!
What else is Gonzales cooking up? Again from the Yahoo article:
Renewing provisions of the USA Patriot Act that are set to expire at the end of the year, saying the law has been an important tool in preventing terror attacks in the United States.
This isn't surprising as the White House has been jockeying to keep the Patriot Act intact without modification. Luckily, there are some lawmakers trying to limit the powers of the Patriot Act, but we don't know how successful they will be. One seemingly common sense example of proposed changes, being led by Senator Feingold of Wisconsin, is discussed in this Inter Press Service News Agency article:
Feingold's proposals address three of the most controversial sections of the legislation.
Section 213, sometimes referred to as the "delayed notice search provision" or the "sneak and peek provision," authorises the government in limited circumstances to conduct a search without immediately serving a search warrant on the owner or occupant of the premises.
Sections 215 and 505 give the government access to library, bookseller, medical, and other sensitive, personal information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and related foreign intelligence authority.
Section 217 was designed to permit law enforcement to assist computer owners who are subject to denial of service attacks or other episodes of hacking.
Feingold's proposal would narrow the circumstances in which a delayed warrant can be granted to the following: potential loss of life, flight from prosecution, destruction or tampering with evidence, or intimidation of potential witnesses.
"The 'catch-all provision' allowing a secret search when serving the warrant would seriously jeopardise an investigation or unduly delay a trial can too easily be turned into permission to do these searches whenever the government wants," Feingold said.
It would also require a public report on the number of times that section 213 is used, the number of times that extensions are granted, and the type of crimes being investigated.
"The current law allows the FBI broad, almost unfettered access to personal information about law-abiding Americans who have no connection to terrorism or spying," he said.
"The FBI could serve a subpoena on a library for all the borrowing records of its patrons or on a bookseller for the purchasing records of its customers simply by asserting that they want the records for a terrorism investigation. Since the passage of the Patriot Act, librarians and booksellers have become increasingly concerned by the potential for abuse of this law."
"The American people do not know how many or what kind of requests federal agents have made for library records under the Patriot Act. The Justice Department refuses to release that information to the public," he added.
The Feingold proposal would restore a pre-Patriot Act requirement that the FBI make a factual, individualised showing that the records sought pertain to a suspected terrorist or spy while leaving in place other Patriot Act expansions of this business records power.
Section 217, Feingold said, "was intended to target only a narrow class of people -- unauthorised cyberhackers. It was not intended to give the government the opportunity to engage in widespread surveillance of computer users without a warrant."
Frankly, we'd love to hear the arguments opposing these changes. We can imagine the vapid and vacuous whine that it will hamper law enforcement agents trying to track down terrorists, but based on the fact that Feingold's bills target changes aimed at protecting non-criminals, we aren't buying that line of bullshit. We're sure the Republicans will all line up and vote against these and other similar modifications, and we're equally sure that we won't hear a single decent reason why.
So, here are our reasons for backing Feingold's proposals. The Patriot Act is a perfect example of abusing the fear and patriotism generated by the 9-11 attacks to increase the powers of the government at the expense of the freedom of American citizens. Assuming that it won't be repealed outright, continued review of the Patriot Act to reign in the potential for exploitation is the only intelligent approach. The changes that Feingold proposes would serve to protect American citizens by inserting much needed checks into the Patriot Act without significantly hindering the ability of law enforcement to do their real jobs.
Simply extending this ripe-for-abuse legislation would, of course, be great for Gonzales and the White House, and would constitute a continued loss of freedom for the rest of us. In fact, under the terms of the Patriot Act, our web site could well be under surveillance right now due to our subversive ideas. Of course, any government folks who are here because they enjoy our site are absolutely welcome, but just in case, here's a shout out to any lurking government agents who are here on "official" business — piss off.
The Yahoo article also notes another stated item on the Gonzales hot list:
Amending the Constitution to give crime victims the right to participate in prosecutions and sentencings.
While on the surface this may seem like a decent idea, we'll just say that we're wary of it until we hear the details. There are many reasons why victims or victims' families are not directly involved in prosecuting and sentencing their attackers. One is that they may be too emotionally involved to make rational decisions. Another is that it is sometimes better for society to, for example, make a deal with one criminal in order to bring another one to justice. We certainly don't expect a victim or a victim's family to be able to make that judgment in all cases, which is exactly why we rely on the government to run prosecutions. Maybe Gonzales figures he can open up the Constitution for this measure, and slip in something to stop those gays from marrying before that hole closes up again....
We're sure that this list will grow, and we're sure that these items will seem downright warm and fuzzy compared to some of the things coming out of Gonzales' office in the future, but we wanted to make sure we got the word out. We all need to keep a close watch on this son of a bitch — as far as building his legacy of intolerance, he's only just begun.
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[ Filed under: % Bush Watch % Civil Liberties % Government & Politics ]
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