July 2013 Archives

Rally to Restore The Fourth

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I've been dismayed by the almost complete destruction of the Fourth Amendment over my lifetime. If you're not completely up on The Constitution, the full text of it reads:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

In modern words, what it's trying to say is, "The government can't get at your information, take your stuff, or arrest you without a warrant; and those warrants must be issued based upon high probability that you committed a crime, as sworn by a witness; and that warrant has to explicitly describe what is to be searched or who is to be arrested."

While Democrats liked to complain about George W. Bush and The USA PATRIOT Act's trampling of the Fourth Amendment, in truth, it was a bipartisan exercise, over many years. Most of the court precedents that eroded the Fourth Amendment happened back in the '80s and '90s as part of the War On Drugs. The USA PATRIOT Act mostly didn't invent sweeping new powers - it simply gave the government the sweeping power to ignore the Constitution for (potential) terrorist acts, the same way it has been for (potential) drug violations. Those powers in turn were mostly signed into law by Bill Clinton.

Speaking as a non-partisan - or, well, a partisan who doesn't have a side in this argument - I've been deeply frustrated for years by the team-based nature of politics in this country. For many people, politics seem not to be about principle, but about "my team versus their team". As an ardent San Francisco Giants fan, I have to admit that hating the Dodgers is a lot of fun. I suspect I hate the Dodgers the way Democrats hate George W. Bush, or Republicans hate Barrack Obama. Thankfully, though, the main consequence of my hatred is that it leads me to chant "BEAT LA" during baseball games.

My Democrat friends roundly (and rightly!) denounced George W. Bush's trampling of the Fourth Amendment during the 2008 election cycle. When it became clear that Obama was going to win, I pled with them, explicitly, not to fall into "my guy vs. their guy" mentality after, and to hold Mr. Obama accountable on respecting our rights. Just because Your Guy is in the White House doesn't mean these issues are going to stop being important. Unfortunately, most of them have (thus far) fallen into "BEAT GOP" mentality and have not done so. I don't mean in any way to exempt my Republican friends from this criticism, either - many of the same people who felt that Mr. Bush deserved a new fifth bust on Mt. Rushmore now feel that Mr. Obama is but two steps from appointing himself dictator-for-life simply because he's continuing policies his predecessor began.

That's why, I'm planning on spending Independence Day up in San Francisco at my first political rally, ever. The Rally to Restore The Fourth is a non-partisan movement to call on the government to (at least) stop spying on the people. Maybe I'm being overly-optimistic, but my hope is that now George W. Bush's domestic spying program, which was continued by Barack Obama, has become public, maybe now we can get past the "my team versus your team" mentality and come together and all be outraged, together, at what the government is doing. Democrats can be angry Bush started it; Republicans can be angry Obama extended is, and maybe - just maybe - We The People can actually start reclaiming our right to be secure in our persons, houses, papers and effects.

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