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We, The People…

A little Schoolhouse Rock, and the Preamble to the US Constitution.  Enjoy.

Through a recent op-ed in the Daytona Beach News-Journal (H/T to reader WB for the link), I was reminded of the stark contrast between legislators and justices of a bygone era and those today.  To wit:

“We are currently in the throes of another national seizure of paranoia, resembling the hysteria which surrounded the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Palmer Raids, and the McCarthy era,” the judge wrote. “Those who register dissent or who petition their governments for redress are subjected to scrutiny by grand juries, by the FBI, or even by the military. Their associates are interrogated. Their homes are bugged and their telephones are wiretapped. They are befriended by secret government informers. Their patriotism and loyalty are questioned. . . . More than our privacy is implicated. Also at stake is the reach of the Government’s power to intimidate its critics.”

The words could have been lifted out of a court opinion written yesterday. But that’s assuming the federal bench hadn’t been stacked with judges who, like the Supreme Court’s latest two arrivals, play lapdogs to executive power. The words above were actually written by Justice William O. Douglas in a once-landmark 1972 case involving secret domestic wiretapping. The spying had been ordered by the unsurprising Richard Nixon. The court ruled 8-0 that Fourth Amendment freedoms against unreasonable searches and seizures “cannot properly be guaranteed if domestic surveillances may be conducted solely within the discretion of the executive branch.” Half the court’s judges were Nixon appointees, including Chief Justice Warren Burger and Justice Lewis Powell, the author of the decision and a member of the court for only six months. Nixon, still riding 62 percent approval at the time, couldn’t muster a single vote out of his court.

Just before Nixon nominated him, Powell had written a newspaper article defending secret wiretapping and suggesting that the difference between wiretapping of foreign and domestic sources was “largely meaningless.” But those were days when you couldn’t quite predict Supreme Court outcomes by the rank partisanship of its members, when constitutional principle could still trump the ideological abuses of a presidency looking for a blank check. Times have indeed changed. Lewis had meant it, when questioned during his confirmation hearings about that wiretapping article, that he was keeping an open mind — unlike John Roberts, the current chief justice, who gave senators a lesson in the importance of precedent during his hearings only to spend his first two years on the court playing IED to a slew of precedents….

The author goes on to discuss the servility of Congress toward the unilateral executive demands on retroactive immunity and unlimited extralegal action, all issues we have discussed ad nauseum in the last few weeks. It is enough to make a person committed to the rule of law and the Constitution weep — or scream.  But instead, I am going to take the old saying to heart, don’t get mad — get even.

“We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…”  What they do not want us to remember is that we hold the power:  to vote them out, to assemble, to speak up, to demand change…and to demand better for ourselves and our posterity.  We, the people.   And so, we must.

Step one:  Make calls, send faxes, what have you — but be certain that your Senators know that you expect a “no” vote on cloture for Southwick.  Debate is ongoing on the floor of the Senate right now (C-Span2 has coverage).  Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska has been trying to cut a deal with some of the Gang of Fourteen, and that there has been a sort of hands’ off posture from Dem leadership, according to Roll Call.  (And, yes, I have already been on the phone — again — with Sens. Byrd and Rockefeller’s staffers.)  It is time for excellence — and not capitulation.

Step two:  Call all the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, every Senator and especially those Senators who are running for President — and tell them NO retroactive immunity in the FISA billPeriod.  (You can find direct dial numbers for every Senator here.)

Step three:  That’s what we are going to decide today.  A letter to the editor in your local paper on standing up for the Constitution and against retroactive immunity for telecoms who broke the FISA laws?  As much participation as possible in the planned demonstrations on October 27th against the occupation in Iraq?  Appointments with elected representatives and/or staffers in local offices to discuss the issues of the day?   A new action to grab some attention on an issue that deserves it?  I open the floor to some ideas, because I know there is a good one out there waiting to be voiced.

President Bush’s consistent race to the dregs, his sneering disregard for the rule of law and for the majority of Americans as he caters to the tiny fraction of adoring sycophants and weasels — it is enough to wear anyone down with despair and disgust.  I hear a lot of frustration and anger, both in the comments and in my e-mail these days — and believe me, I not only hear it, but I live it some days right along with you. 

The one thing we cannot do is to stop fighting for what is right, what is just…for a more perfect union.  The Founders of this nation of ours knew that tyrants and greedy SOBs were always going to exist, but they counted on us — the American public — to stand with one voice and say “enough!” when the tipping point had occurred and the wrongs became so excessive that they demanded being pulled back from the brink.  We are at that point and beyond.  We must decide:  will we have the courage of our convictions, or slink off with our tails between our legs and foist this battle onto future generations?

I stand for liberty.  And I intend to keep on fighting for a more perfect union.  What say you?

Senate Judiciary Committee Contact Information:

You can reach them toll free as well thanks to these numbers that katymine found:

1 (800) 828 – 0498
1 (800) 614 – 2803
1 (866) 340 – 9281
1 (866) 338 – 1015
1 (877) 851 – 6437

Also, the Senate Judiciary Committee membership and contact information is as follows:

Arlen Specter – Pennsylvania – (202) 224-4254      Fax (202) 228-1229
Joe Biden — Deleware — (202) 224-5042      Fax: 202-224-0139
Orrin G. Hatch – Utah – (202) 224-5251      Fax (202) 224-6331
Patrick J. Leahy (Chairman) – Vermont – (202) 224-4242      Fax (202) 224-3479
Charles E. Grassley – Iowa – (202) 224-3744      Fax (515) 288-5097
Edward M. Kennedy – Massachusetts – (202) 224-4543      Fax (202) 224-2417
Jon Kyl – Arizona – (202) 224-4521      Fax (202) 224-2207
Herbert Kohl – Wisconsin – (202) 224-5653      Fax (202) 224-9787
Jeff Sessions – Alabama – (202) 224-4124      Fax (202) 224-3149
Dianne Feinstein – California – (202) 224-3841      Fax (202) 228-3954
Lindsey Graham – South Carolina – (202) 224-5972      Fax (864) 250-4322
Russell D. Feingold – Wisconsin – (202) 224-5323      Fax (202) 224-2725
John Cornyn – Texas – (202) 224-2934      Fax (972) 239-2110
Charles E. Schumer – New York – (202) 224-6542      Fax (202) 228-3027
Sam Brownback – Kansas – (202) 224-6521      Fax (202) 228-1265
Richard J. Durbin – Illinois – (202) 224-2152      Fax (202) 228-0400
Tom Coburn – Oklahoma – (202) 224-5754      Fax (202) 224-6008
Benjamin Cardin — (202) 224-4524      Fax (202) 224-1651
Sheldon Whitehouse — (202) 224-2921      FAX  (202) 228-6362

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com