Thursday, October 23, 2003

Dear Friend of Freedom: That's how the letter opens. Accurate enough (since that's what I consider myself), and just cheesy enough for a mailing from the ACLU. And that's what it was.
There is no higher calling, no greater reward, democracy can offer an individual than the opportunity to stand up for fundamental freedoms in trying times.
So join the ACLU, etc., etc. Nice wind up; now here's the pitch.
These are, indeed, trying times for civil liberties.
Two guesses what's coming next.
Attorney General John Ashcroft is waging a relentless campaign to undermine our freedom, shamelessly using the war on terror as cover for his assault
Surely you've read about it: how he burned the Reichstag last year, then seized "emergency" dictatorial powers. Perhaps you've seen the Muslims being loaded into the train cars. No one knows where they are taken. No one asks.
And Congress has been disappointingly complicit, with too few members on either side of the aisle resisting the Attorney General's pressure to make unprecedented, unnecessary, and unjustified incursions into our freedom.
You recall how Ashcroft stunningly arm-twisted the Senate into a 98-1 passage of the Patriot Act, right? Some of the Democratic lawmakers bullied into complicity are, in fact, so ashamed of it that they're running for the presidency.
Thousands of Americans who have done nothing more than attend a particular church service [one by this guy?] or peace rally [like this one?] have come under surveillance . . . College students and retirees have been interrogated by the Secret Service or FBI agents because of anonymous tips about their anti-Bush statements or the posters on their walls.
I suppose they're referring to the students questioned by the Secret Service because their anti-Bush statements included talking about hiring a sniper to kill the president. The Secret Service follows up all reports of threats. That's their policy, and the JFK assassination led to it. I think it's a wise policy. And this has happened to thousands? I'm sure thousands complain every day about being abused by the government. Check them out; they'll be mostly membersd of the tin-foil-hat club.
People have lost jobs or been denied credit because their names wound up on unchecked but widely circulated lists of suspected terrorists -- often by mistaken identity or misspellings.
Sorry, but lost jobs and denied credit aren't things we can hang on Ashcroft. Those are the actions of private companies. Nice try.
The ACLU's Keep America Safe and Free Campaign is working to . . . [r]epeal the anti-civil liberties provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act that pose a clear and present danger to the constitution. These include a provision that might allow the actions of that dissent from government policy, such as Greenpeace, to be treated as "domestic terrorism."
Yes, but not because of the dissent, but because of how it's done. Like with bombs. Greenpeace here is used as an example because people tend to think they're all warm, fuzzy people. Not necessarily so. The hard green left flirts with terror tactics, and some of the most violent groups have ties to mainstream "progressive" groups, like PETA.
. . . [and to s]top the government's unwarranted [but not literally "without a warrant," in the judicial sense] spying on political and religious activities and its investigations into our reading habits by forcing libraries and bookstores to report on the activities of their patrons.
The library canard lives. The Justice department, with a judge's permission, can subpoena your library records. Just like that other mortal threat to civil liberties, the grand jury.
[R]ecently passed legislation prohibited implementation of President Bush's proposed domestic spy program, Operation TIPS. The ACLU has been the most outspoken critic of this offensive effort to pursuade neighbors to spy on neighbors.
Actually, we have a program like that already where I live -- a neighborhood watch program. You know, you see the odd guy fondling himself at the bus stop where the schoolgirls are waiting for their bus, so you call the cops. Sing it with me: You say "domestic spying," I say "common sense"; let's call the whole thing off!

I can't go on. Look, I understand the ACLU's mission; and when you set yourself up as "the Defender of X," whatever X may be, you see threats to X everywhere. That's the nature of things. But it also has a darker side to it, the "firehouse" side. If your job is to man the firehouse, waiting for the fire, you can get a little restless. It's not that you wish for fires, or that you wish for people to get hurt, but you do want action. You might jump for the pump-wagon when the phone rings, for example, thinking it's the fire bell.

We've been over the Ashcroft routine before. My choice as AG? No. Raging enemy of the Constitution? Come off it. Janet Reno was more of a threat. The courts have had ample opportunity to smack the Justice department down. Instead the courts have upheld its actions -- and not just whack-job, ultra-right Reagan judges have upheld. Ironically, the defenders of freedom have been the ones who have had to resort to overheated rhetoric, exaggeration, and out-of-context citations to make the case that, sometime next week, we'll all be sitting around saying, "First, Ashcroft came for the Muslims . . ."

I'll keep my money for now. It's not that I don't want to support freedom, but the ACLU is gratuitously overplaying this. Likewise, I refuse to give money to groups that hyperventilate about how "reproductive rights" are teetering on the precipice and that the overturning of Roe will be followed quickly by theocracy, the Handmaid's Tale, and . . . er, something else I can't remember. Sure, I'm pro-choice, but I think the Roe decision was crap. (I'm an unabashed fan of the majority decision in Lawrence, leaning on the presumption of liberty rather than privacy.)

I think my money's better spent at the NRA, who stand up for the amendment that seems to have gone missing around the ACLU offices. If a single Constitutionally ordained freedom will be eradicated in my lifetime, believe me, it won't be speech, press, or religion. It'll be guns.

More: Enjoy beating up on Ashcroft? The beat up on him for some indisputable offenses.

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