Court declares parts of Patriot Act unconstitutional

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21 Responses to “Court declares parts of Patriot Act unconstitutional”

  1. bobkat says:

    YESSSSSSSS!

    It’s things like this that make me proud to live in Oregon. I can’t wait for the day the whole goddam “Patriot” act is repealed. Until then, we’ll have to celebrate li’l chunks of it crumbling away…

  2. decius says:

    Pyros: I’m not trying to submit suggestions here for consideration. I’m simply saying that talk about repealing the entire patriot act is not helpful to civil liberties. Thats true, regardless of whether or not you think I’m arrogant.

    I do understand that the Constitution can be ammended. There’s nothing that I’ve written that would suggest otherwise. It is much too arduous, however. If you beleive that the hallowed Constitution allows an adequate expression of popular will, fine. I really don’t understand this statement: “dominance of supermajoritarian concensus over the power wielded by simple electoral majorities.” Please explain what you mean by that.

    What it means is that if you want to pass a law you need support from just over half the house, half the senate (generally), and the President. If you want to amend the constitution you need a wider base of support. There are several approaches but they all involve supermajorities; 2/3rds majorities.

    The Constitution defines what this country is, and you need a consensus of most of the people who live here if you want to change it. You cannot redefine America on the basis of a mere 51% electoral victory. If thats “too arduous” for you, tough. You’ve no right to impose fundamental changes to our system of government without reaching that kind of consensus.

  3. iburl says:

    This is a great decision, but I’m afraid that the asshat [REDACTED] will just [REDACTED] the decision and continue to [REDACTED] anyway.

  4. decius says:

    Pyros:
    This ‘ll be my last post because this thread has wrapped off the main page and I’m going out of town this weekend.

    With regard to freedom vs. security, the issue is, frankly, that the state can be as much a threat to my security as a criminal. If innocent people are killed by the government, or arrested and imprisoned, it makes little difference versus their being killed by a criminal or kidnapped. A state with too much leeway and too little oversight is inevitably indistinguishable from a criminal organization in terms of its impact on people’s lives.

    The balance between “freedom and security” really means is that you have to give the state enough leeway to deal with the threats you face without also giving them enough leeway to become a threat themselves. One of the challenges that make this difficult is the fact that people have a tendency to pick a side of this debate and assume that the threat the other side is concerned with is either hypothetical or overblown. In this case I don’t think that is true of either side.

    You specifically state that you aren’t convinced there is a real threat. I’m not sure where you were when 9/11, Madrid, and London occured. In fact there were more attacks against England recently. Clearly there is a threat. Fortunately our actions have diminished this threat from the position it was in 6 years ago, but it is real.

    As for Ahmadinejad’s speech at Columbia, it didn’t really seem to say much that he hasn’t otherwise been saying. Whats with the holocaust denial really? His brand of antisemitism is easily as abhorrent and insane as the minority in Israel who actually hate arabs. Were the prime minister of Isreal as openly bigotted he would likely be as widely protested here in America.

    In regard to Europe, what specifically are you talking about? European societies tend to work fewer hours and have more government social programs. There are pluses and minuses to this. They have better life expectancies on average. The middle class in America might have a better life expectancy than those in Europe. That’d be the arguement. I’m not sure though. I haven’t found those kinds of statistics. On the minus side I was in France last year when students were protesting because the government did not guarantee them a job. They seemed silly and coddled to me. They would have more freedom in their lives if were more confident in their ability to fend for themselves in a competitive market.

  5. Pyros says:

    Decius,

    First, I have no idea whether you are arrogant or not. How could I possibly know such a thing? I wrote simply that your words had an arrogant ring. They also had the ring of a certain amount of erudition, so I was interested in what you might have to say about the patriot act since, admitedly, I don’t know that much about it. As I alluded, I don’t really follow politics as I view this activity to be virtually futile.

    Anyway, you write, “The reason we can’t find a good balance between freedom and security in the post 9/11 world is that everyone on both sides is too busy bickering and looking to score partisan points to actually think about the real problem. And that is a shame.”

    I would wonder whether freedom vs. security is the proper dichotomy. To some degree freedom IS security. That is to say, when people are secure in their homes and in their persons, when they can freely assemble, when their will can be expressed their elected representatives, when their voice is heard and heeded they are able to ensure their own security. When you limit a persons freedom, you compromise their security by definition. I personally believe that the whole “war on terror” is a giant scam meant to ensure continued funding for the defense industrial complex and to keep the usual gang of power brokers in power. So even if we were to accept your dichotomy, that given a real threat we might need to trade some freedom for security, no one has yet convinced me that there is a real threat.

    Now that we have seen Ahmadinejad speak at Columbia and we know that he isn’t some crazed, foaming at the mouth lunatic but instead a rather composed articulate statesman, the West is running out of a constant and fresh supply of villains with which to use to keep the fear mongering going. Of course the real crisis came after the fall of the USSR. For years Americans were lied to and propagandized to about the threat that the Red Army represented.

    Europe has greater pluralistic than America right now. There are acutual physical, measureable consequences to this: they grow taller, live longer, are happier, lower infant mortality, less sick, etc. americans ignore this largely and are at loss to explain it, but the differences are often quite dramatic. In understanding do not believe that it is any conincidence that many European countires also have modern constitutions where they have one at all. Americans, unfortunately, tragically cannot see past their glorious and hallowed constitution. Anyone who ever dare point out its contradictions and fallacies is automatically and swiftly denounced as a fool of the highest order.

    And just to clarify–I’m not advocating that laws be re-written to allow the structure of government to change with the breeze. But necessary change is virtually impossible. Even if the venerable, glorious and hallowed Constitution could be changed by a simple house and senate majority it wouldn’t matter becaue most people revere the Constitution. And no, the ironic and paradoxical nature of this reality is not lost on me: the majority support something which is fundamentally undemocratic.

    To address the comments made by phasor3000:

    Yes, the Senate is a profoundly undemocratic body. When Wyoming, a state with a population well under one million has as much representation as a state with almost forty million, what other conclusion can you draw? Our Senate is analagous to the House of Lords in England, but unlike the House of Lords which has had most of its power stripped, the U.S. sentate is arguably more powerful than the House (where Americans do enjoy some representation). The Supreme Court with even fewer people is less democratic and more powerful still! The jurists therein spend their days pouring over the sheep entrais that our hallowed Constitution is. KInd of pathetic if you ask me.

    You write additionally: [quoting me] The bottom line is this: people want to be free, and people deserve to be free.

    Without defining what sort of freedom you mean, this sentence doesn’t tell us anything, unless you mean absolute freedom, e.g. you can shoot my dog and burn my house down, and I can steal your books and eat your parrot. People in prison for murder want to be free — do they get to be free, too?

    I shouldn’t be required to define what I mean. The point I’m making is that we need a better framework to build a consensus as to what we all might mean. If our government is spying on us and conducting wars in name that we don’t want, and we are powerless to stop them, then we are not a free people. Someone might be free, but it is not us. TO suggest that freedom has anything to do with me shooting you or your dog is just silly.

    Too often people equate greater freedom with lawlessness. It is an incorrect way to think. If anything the reverse is true. The more free people are in general the happier they are, the more law abiding they are, the more peaceful they are. Freedom is not something to be feared.

    In conclusion, I exhort the American people to throw off their shackles, mind forged as they may be, and demand represenation, demand the government you deserve.

  6. ill lich says:

    Perhaps your title should read:

    Court declares parts of Patriot Act UNPATRIOTIC.

  7. Pyros says:

    Thorzad writes: “That, or they understood that the will of the majority (“popular power” as you put it…otherwise known as “mob rule”) is often exactly the wrong thing to do (re: history of civil rights, women’s suffrage, etc.)”

    It is not clear, exactly, what you mean here. Are you suggesting that women’s suffrage and civil rights were not supported by the majority? I don’t have any evidence either way, but it is hard to imagine that people in general would have been against an expansion of their own rights.

    In any case, your views are difficult for me to reconcile. Democracy is, by definition, an expression of the will of the people. More expression = more democracy. You may believe that power is safer concentrated in the hands of the patrician elite (folks like George Bush, Hillary Clinton, Clarence Thomas, etc.), but I would prefer it be more evently distributed in the hands of the people. The hallowed Constitution stands in the way of this.

    Your argument is that it is better to have the balance of power such that a minority can apply a brake to popular will when it gets out of hand. What you ignore is that the people seem to have no effective brake of their own when the will of the ruling elites get out of hand. The Iraq war is a supreme example of this. The overwhelming majority of Americans want to get the hell out of Iraq. We are ignored by our elected representatives.

    DCULBERSON Writes: “Well, see, when white Europeans call for equality and justice, it’s apparently racist.

    I also find it amusing that Pyros refers to the Constitution as “immovable” when this decision regarded a conflict with the fourth amendment. Immovable? Really?”

    I must consider the first comment a gross and deliberate distorition. It’s hardly worth defending, therefore, but I will anyway. The message is that the hallowed Constitution was the product of an exclusive sex, an exclusive race, and an exclusive socio-econimic class. I never used the word “racist” although since 100 years of slavery was apparently not in conflict with the hallowed Constitution, one could make an arguemnt that the it was in fact a racist document. Funny anyway that power’s profine today should so closely resemble that group of men who penned the halllowed Constitution. Funny too how enduring and uninterrupted this has been for the duration.

    Your second point only goes to buttress my argument. I’m glad that the Gods of fortune have smiled upon our few, tattered civil liberties, but it shouldn’t have been up to one single judge to decide. That’s far too arbitrary and volatile. If, by chance, the jurist had been in Texas, Alabama, or Mississippi the resulte could have been far different.

    Obviously reasonable people disagree over how the hallowed Constitution should be interpreted. But any method used has severe limitations since it is impossible to devine meaning where none existed in the first place. So scholars of the hallowed Constitution are reduced to imagining what the framers would have thought if…DO you kind of get why this is problematic? Interpreting the hallowed Constitution is the modern day equivalent of reading sheep entrails. It can mean whatever the fuck you want it to mean.

    But we’ve all been programmed in a rather jingoistic sort of way to think uncritically and automatically about the hallowed Constitution. I do hereby call on the American people to demand true liberty and freedom. Study your oppressors and their methods. Write your own document and demand that it be adopted. Form your own country if need be.

    Kyle Armburster, I appreciate your comments, but you need to learn to argue properly. You can’t start off with gross, deliberate distoritions. The hallowed Constitution does offer some protections, and that is good. The difficult man (me) will demand to know why it doesn’t offer more. The difficult man will demand to know how people might become more free. I am not satisfied with the level of freedom that I have. I have a problem with wars being faught on false pretexts. I have a problem with our elected officials ignoring popular will. I have a problem with more Americans being in prison than in any othe country. I believe that if the people could express their will they would do what was in their best interest. I do not believe that the hallowed Constitution allows an adequate expression of popular will. Suppose for a moment that I’m correct. Suppose for a moment that most people agreed with me. This would not be enough to change the hallowed Constitution! That’s because the white, patrician, male framers designed it that way. That was a very bad error.

    Changing the hallowded Constitution in any meaningful way is basically tantamount to a dissolution of the Republic. Instead of a dynamic, living document we have something that is frozen. As a result, our Republic is largely frozen.

    I used to follow politics, and I used to get angry over all of the abuses of people like George Bush, Nancy Pelosi, etc. One day I realized that it was utterly useless. There was hardly ever a point in caring. Our present leaders and our present politics are merely a symptom of a much deeper problem. That problem has to do with the suppression of the expression of popular power. If this is ever changed you will see a dramatic improvement in governance and power because we will have it, and not a small band of elites.

  8. decius says:

    Sigh… On the right wing blogs we have people who think the 4th amendment needs to be compromised in the name of security and are certain that this judge decided the way she did merely because she is a Clinton appointee (Cause what a great friend of civil liberties HE was!).

    Here on the left its not much better. We’ve got people who want to repeal the entire patriot act, thus providing living proof that right wing hyperbole about the left isn’t hyperbole (obviously many of the left ALSO haven’t read the ACLU’s analysis of the patriot act, or didn’t understand it), along with people advancing the misinformed opinion that if any word in an extremely complicated bill is unconstitutional the entire thing was be done away with (why would you want things to work that way?!), and someone who clearly doesn’t understand that the Constitution can be amended and merely represents the dominance of supermajoritarian concensus over the power wielded by simple electoral majorities.

    The reason we can’t find a good balance between freedom and security in the post 9/11 world is that everyone on both sides is too busy bickering and looking to score partisan points to actually think about the real problem. And that is a shame.

  9. DragonPhyre says:

    We need to remove the government for about 50 years. Then, all the people depending on the government for help will realize that they are boned without it.

  10. dculberson says:

    Well, see, when white Europeans call for equality and justice, it’s apparently racist.

    I also find it amusing that Pyros refers to the Constitution as “immovable” when this decision regarded a conflict with the fourth amendment. Immovable? Really?

  11. jphilby says:

    Unless he gets [REDACTED] in the [REDACTED] until he begs for mercy.

  12. Xeni Jardin says:

    You guys are like Mad Libs but with more FUD!

  13. phasor3000 says:

    Changing the hallowded [sic] Constitution in any meaningful way is basically tantamount to a dissolution of the Republic.

    Ending slavery and granting the right to vote to women weren’t meaningful changes?

    If you think that anything short of changing the entire system of government isn’t meaningful change, then yes, you probably need to buy an island somewhere, or find a country more to your liking. btw, are there any countries whose form of government you find acceptable?

    And Pyros, maybe this is just me, but posts as long as yours tend to make my eyes glaze over.

  14. Pyros says:

    Your words have the ring of arrogance, Decius. I’m guessing you imagine yourself smarter than the rest of us. Perhaps you are. Still no excuse for arrogance. If there is something you have to say that will illuminate the discussion, do so. It is not necessary to portray the rest of us as idiots. If you’re input is valuable, you don’t want to create predjudice right off the bat by being haughty.

    I do understand that the Constitution can be ammended. There’s nothing that I’ve written that would suggest otherwise. It is much too arduous, however. If you beleive that the hallowed Constitution allows an adequate expression of popular will, fine. I really don’t understand this statement: “dominance of supermajoritarian concensus over the power wielded by simple electoral majorities.” Please explain what you mean by that.

  15. Thorzdad says:

    We blindly revere the constitution without ever considering that the hallowed “framers” were really quite afraid of popular power.

    That, or they understood that the will of the majority (“popular power” as you put it…otherwise known as “mob rule”) is often exactly the wrong thing to do (re: history of civil rights, women’s suffrage, etc.)
    The Constitution as restrictive shackles? Sounds like the ranting of a libertarian who assumes he will be in the elite class that others will follow.

  16. Foolster41 says:

    Wait a minute, isn’t just about the entire patriot act conflicting with the 4th enchantment? (Basically besides the part that says people should discriminate, I only browsed the text.)

  17. Pyros says:

    Gee Whiz, if by some arbitrary whim the judge had decided that they were constitutional, then I guess they would be constitutional then, right? We blindly revere the constitution without ever considering that the hallowed “framers” were really quite afraid of popular power. Essentially, the Constitution represents an immovable body of law that supersedes human will. The basic idea is actually quite undemocratic. The popular will of millions is no match for this fucking piece of paper written over 230 years ago exclusively by white, european, patrician men. That’s why matters of grave importance get to be decided by the likes of one obscure Oregon jurist. My fellow Americans, I ask you when you will throw off your shackles?

  18. Pyros says:

    Those were meaningful changes, indeed. Ending slavery was almost tantamount to a dissolution of the republic. I’m not suggesting that as things currently stand NO change is permitted. It comes slowly and painfully after great struggle.

    Moreover, my argument stands when it comes to the basic structure of hallowed Constitution. For example, it would be virtually impossible to imagine that we do away with the Senate even though it is a demonstrably undemocratic body. If we all agreed that it should be abolished, it still wouldn’t happen.

    But this, it seems, you agree with, when you write, “If you think that anything short of changing the entire system of government isn’t meaningful change, then yes, you probably need to buy an island somewhere, or find a country more to your liking.” Obviously you understand that the hallowed Constitution makes deep, structural changes impossible. Suppose for a moment that deep structural changes WERE needed? Since most people acknowledge on some level the impossibility of this, they simply ignore the necessary changes. That starting with the wrong set of assumptions in my view.

    The bottom line is this: people want to be free, and people deserve to be free. Without adequate representation people will not be truly free. Our hallowed Constitution does not permitt and adequate level of representation, therefore people are not as free as they could be.

    As far as your question goes, I don’t reall care how other governments run their affairs. I’m interested in improving our government. And just so you know, I do not pretend to be a reasonable man. Allow me to quote from Shaw: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

    As far as my posts being too long, you are certainly free not to read or respond to them. It would have probably taken the average reader less time to read through one of them than it would have taken to listen to a popular song on the radio yet I rarely hear that songs are generally too long. Exercise your brain even if it hurts in the beginning.

  19. phasor3000 says:

    Pyros:

    For example, it would be virtually impossible to imagine that we do away with the Senate even though it is a demonstrably undemocratic body. If we all agreed that it should be abolished, it still wouldn’t happen.

    Are you saying that the very definition of the US Senate is undemocratic, and if so, please elaborate. If you’re saying that the way it’s curently run, and/or the members are acting undemocratically, there’s a solution: vote them out.

    Obviously you understand that the hallowed Constitution makes deep, structural changes impossible. Suppose for a moment that deep structural changes WERE needed?

    For example?

    The bottom line is this: people want to be free, and people deserve to be free.

    Without defining what sort of freedom you mean, this sentence doesn’t tell us anything, unless you mean absolute freedom, e.g. you can shoot my dog and burn my house down, and I can steal your books and eat your parrot. People in prison for murder want to be free — do they get to be free, too?

    Without adequate representation people will not be truly free. Our hallowed Constitution does not permitt and adequate level of representation, therefore people are not as free as they could be.

    You’re throwing grandiose generalities around without being specific about what the problems are and how you think they should be fixed. Are you just saying that our current elected officials suck (I certainly agree), or that representative democracy itself is fundmentally flawed? How?

    btw, I wouldn’t complain about the length of your posts if I actually knew what your complaints and proposed solutions were after I finished reading. For example, I think that one specific change could be made, within the framework of the Constitution, that would improve the government a lot: term limits. What’s your wish list?

  20. Kyle Armbruster says:

    1) A document that seeks to protect basic human rights can be considered “shackles?”

    2) The ideas in the Constitution are bad because the framers were white Europeans?

    3) What “popular will” is being overrun by idiocy like the PATRIOT ACT? Did the people ask for the government, with no oversight, to peer into our private lives anytime they want? I don’t remember us asking for that.

    4) Do you have any idea how the US judicial system works? Because, um. It doesn’t seem that you do.

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