Or, Liberal Activisim Is the One Activism Permitted by the Constitution

A federal court judge has recently reaffirmed that warrantless searches are illegal, among other things, on the grounds that they violate the quite clear wording of the 14th Amendment which states “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.”

The President and, as usual, the self styled “Conservatives” who apparently want him to have the sole determination of whether liberty or individual rights may continue to exist have mounted two attacks on the decision. The first is to trumpet the “terrorism threat” that has been used to justify almost every assault on the Constitution since 9/11. It boils down to there are supposedly no other ways to effectively prevent terrorism, so we apparently must destroy the Constitution in order to “save” it. While it didn’t seem necessary to go that far when we were battling genuinely terrifying world powers like Germany, Japan or the Soviet Union, for some reason, the Conservatives insist it is suddenly the sole hope against an opponents who is hiding out in a cave.

The second attack advanced by Conservatives against the Constitution is a more insidious one, one that started in 1954 when the federal courts decreed that blacks and minorities may not be segregated after all. It is that assertion that “Liberal activist” judges have been exceeding their authority. This theory has been gaining strength since the Roe v. Wade ruling indicating that privacy is a protected right as well. Unfortunately, the mantra has been repeated so often, some people, for the most part those who have never bothered to read the Constitution, seem to actually believe it.

Naturally, the judge who upheld the Constitution against the Presidents domestic spying programs is loudly portrayed by Conservatives as being just another such “activist."

Activisim it may be, but certain activism is fully permitted by the Constitution itself. For instance, it is one thing for a judge to interpret ambiguous clauses in the Constitution as allowing greater articulation of individual rights including those not previously mentioned, such as the right of “privacy.” Since the Constitution expressly states in Amendment IX though that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” how can it be argued otherwise? In other words, “activisim,” to use the term Conservatives disparage, is fully permissible where individual rights are concerned.

It is quite a different thing for the President to deliberately ignore plain and unignorable language in the Constitution like the overt prohibition against warrantless searches. He seems to have forgotten he sworn an oath of office which states in elegant simplicity “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Note that it is the Constitution and the Constitution alone singled out in that oath for protection. Similar language is included in the oaths for many other offices including for Congress and officers in the military.

To violate that oath of office is probably one of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” enshrined in the Constitution by our forefathers as a reason to impeach the President. If the President persists in forgetting his duties, perhaps he ought to be reminded.


"WHEN 9/11 IS 24/7"

Or, Suppose the Middle East was our Far West

For the last 50 years, relatively few Americans have ever experienced anything like 9/11 first hand. A few million or so were close enough to ground zero in New York to smell and hear it as it happened. A few thousand in Oklahoma City lived sufficiently near to the Federal Building to have their windows blown out when Timothy McVey decided to show how Americans can be good at terrorism too. A few hundred were in the Colorado and Oregon high schools when kids went on random shooting sprees. A few dozen have been unfortunate enough to witness bombings of abortion clinics or hear the supersonic crack of a serial sniper’s bullet. Terrifying terrorism events each and every one, but in this country, they are noteworthy for their rarity here in both time and distance.

Granted, they were life disrupting events as well as life ending for some. They scared and scarred TV spectators far and near as well as the unwilling participants. At the same time, for the most part, other than the lost loved ones and the traumatic stress syndrome, “everything” was not changed. For the most part, the change was only a few days or weeks or months in duration except for comparatively minor aspects of daily life like taking off shoes when going to the airport. The anguish no doubt is still there undiminished for many, but not all, not even for all those present at the scene when it happened. Frankly, an observer from another planet would be hard pressed to see much physical difference in the daily conduct of life on our West Coast before and after those events. People still go to malls, stand in line at movies, attend concerts, open their front doors to total strangers and do not have bomb shelters or buried supplies.

If you count in the ghettos of LA and other big cities where gangs and drive-by shootings are more frequent, there is some permanent change in how locals wake up each morning. In those more permanently risky places, many do wonder whether they will be lucky enough to survive the day. Nevertheless, most folks don’t live in ghettos. The blood and bandages, the debris and dead children is far, far away.

Suppose we weren’t so lucky. We’ve all seen the destruction in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel. It’s all over the TV. Even if you don’t watch the news, it’s on the covers of newspapers and magazines in plain sight at every newsstand. We’ve even seen it, or what looks like it, on the big screen. Hollywood is pretty good at picturing the trauma. BUT, have any of us who were born here and never went where the bullets and bombs were flying ourselves ever really thought about it except in the abstract?

Now is the time. They may have been unspeakable act, but we do need to speak about them. Here is a mental exercise for you. Think about the unthinkable in concrete terms, real concrete. Imagine what is happening “over there” occupying the very concrete laid down in your own US postoffice zip code. Forget for the moment what Hollywood star is sleeping with whom. Picture what is happening in the Middle East happening to you and yours where you can see it outside your front door.

For instance, imagine if you were afraid to go to the ironically titled Safeway for food because someone may detonate a bomb next to you in the checkout line. Imagine your nearest Target in the target sights of a military jet. Still want to shop there? Do you want to play “Russian Roulette” every time you step through revolving doors at the store?

Imagine armed guards frisking you at the doorways of Albertsons supermarket which would now be windowless, boarded up and have huge concrete barriers out front so that no truck bomber can crash through the glass entries. Even if you are able to shop without interference, there might not be any food because of blockades or bombed out roads and airports or fearful farmers not working the fields or hoarding by suppliers. Imagine the mighty Fred Meyer grocery chain with endless rows upon row of empty shelves. Imagine the blemished or even rotting apples, the moldy rutabaga, never making it to the dumpster. Imagine harvesting the dandelion leaves from your lawn because you need them in your salad. Imagine a growling of the stomach that seldom stops. If there is edible food on the shelves, black market war profiteers could make it so expensive you couldn’t afford it.

Imagine your dollars being worth little anyway. Imagine sorting through your possessions to see what you can barter or sell to put food on the table. Imagine what you would be willing to do to put food on the table. Sorry, the Bank of American ATMs don’t work anymore. Snipers might have the box in their cross hairs.

You can’t even go to church on the weekend to pray it will all stop. The bell tower on that cute little church is an obvious aiming point by others who don’t like your particular choice of religion. Bingo. Or, once you get to church, you may discover your priest or pastor was killed. Hey, once zealots start believing they have the only true religion and are the only ones worthy of being saved, it becomes much easier to contemplate eliminating the “menace” of other sects by eliminating their practitioners.

Or, worse yet in many ways, you might hear your own preacher in his finery preaching about how the [Catholics][Lutherans][Mormons][insert whatever congregation is down the lane] are plotting against you and how they are going to Hell anyway. Praise your version of the Lord and pass the ammunition with the collection plate so to speak. Sort of “Do unto others before they do unto you.” Besides, there’s always the excuse available that “They started it first.”

Some in the Middle East are interpreting the Koran wording to allow bombing of others. And, a distressing percentage of them seem to be trained “ordained” religious leaders. What’s that? You believe only the leaders of Muslim religion variants ever say such horrific things or encourage or justify killings? You don’t think “our” Christian churches would ever be a party to such “un-Christian” behavior as killing “heretics”? Hmm, read some history books and wonder if Joan of Arc or Oliver Cromwell or Richard the Lion Hearted, Christians all remember, would agree. Heck, we have well known and apparently admired TV evangelists who, this very year, advocated assassinations. Bet they were standing near a copy of the 10 Commandments when they said it and probably clutching a Bible too.

If attending church is dangerous, then what about a Regal movie theater for escape? The Rotary Club luncheon perhaps? The Astoria public library to quietly read a magazine? Hanging out on the beach? Forget it. Crowds equal opportunity for the guy (or girl) to punctuate a religious or political statement. You are forced to wonder, for example, if the “beer belly” brooding over there at the end of the bar in the local McMenamin’s is really just fat or has a row of dynamite strapped around the waist?

Should you send your children to school? Schools are targeted and so are the principals and teachers for what they teach or even daring to teach period. Certainly no Friday night football. No basketball tournament. Well what about home schooling you say? Okay. What books? Do you have them already? Don’t expect UPS to deliver new ones. And, what lessons? Can you teach your kids fractions, let alone calculus?

It’s not much fun staying at home either. No heat in the Winter. Worse, no air conditioning in the Summer and even Astoria on the coast hit 103 degrees this year. We’re fortunate in the Northwest. It seldom gets above 110 even East of the Cascades. At the same time, no electricity also means no power from Pacific Power for the refrigerator to store food, assuming you have any. Of course, no gas from Northwest Natural Gas means little is available to cook it anyway. Does that Coleman Camper in the attic still work? You better hope so. This can be going on not for hours or days, but months and years.

There’s probably no water to cook with, at least not clean water, water you can count on without thinking as we do now. That faithful faucet can become now merely an ornament on the sink. Maybe you will still be drinking “mineral water,” but you probably won’t like the minerals in it, let alone the nasty bugs that are no longer filtered out at the water treatment plant. Those and the pipelines and conduits supplying the water become targets of opportunity.

Maybe you have a well or a nearby stream. Great, assuming no one else covets it. Your great grandparents used to dig wells and divert streams. Can you? Of course, that still does not solve the issue of what is in the water? Can you test it in any way except with your own lower gastrointestinal tract? Yeah, boiling is a good idea as you recall from your Boy Scout Handbook, but you are probably reduced to doing so at a wood fire since the gas and electricity no longer function. Keep in mind, you have to depend on others to keep those utilities working. And, they have the same problems you do.

By the way, got an ax or saw and a means to sharpen them if no gas or electricity? That wood doesn’t cut itself? It’s long, hard work even if you do have cutting tools. There is one bright spot. You would have more free time to do since you no longer go out.

The toilet is probably not working, not with either the sewer lines being blown up or the sewage treatment plant itself. Hard to repair. Easy to destroy.

So, get used to the stink. And, not just how your own body or the communal outhouse or slit trench smells. Wait till you learn what the smell of dead bodies is like after they spend a few weeks crushed under a collapsed building. It’s something your nostrils will never forget.

Well, there’s always watching “Desperate housewives” on the telly, right? Wrong. There’s desperate housewives aplenty, but not on TV. No KMUN or OPB radio either. Towers get targeted. And, what news arrives tends to be propaganda for somebody. Maybe there are some shortwave broadcasts available to those who bought hand cranked radios before it all went to hell. Another bright spot. At least your arms will have something to do even if you don’t.

Probably there’s no mail. The postman’s motto of neither “rain nor shine nor gloom of night” deterring their rounds doesn’t seem to contemplate IUDs, improvised explosive devises, nor snipers nor suspicious homeowners. Newspapers? Maybe. If someone still has a working mimeograph machine, that is.

News will be forced to travel at the speed of rumors and will be about as accurate. There are few, if any, reporters showing up in your neighborhood anyway. Reporters these days don’t seem care as much for combat zones as they used to back in Walter Cronkite’s days. Maybe it’s because they end up dead more often.

No telephones. Sure your land line always worked even if the power went out. But, they don’t work if the lines are down or the central station demolished and the repairmen shot. Back to tin cans on a string perhaps? Or, smoke signals? Maybe not even that. With all bombing and fires, smoke signals might be hard to notice among all the other smoke and dust. They only thing you actually can rely on in the way of news is what you see with your own two eyes.

No internet certainly. No video games. I-pods? Maybe. At least as long as they use alkaline batteries and they remain good. A game of catch for the kids then as long as you are stuck at home? Okay, but are there land mines in the field?

It’s no longer “Home Sweet Home” anymore, is it? Come to think of it, do you still have a home anymore? Your cute little ranch or Victorian might end up demolished to clear for a “field of fire” or just be unlucky enough to be in a “free fire” zone? Perhaps your home ends up used for mortar practice. Now that sales ad about a great price for a “fixer upper” is actually accurate.

Of course, it’s not always the bad guys with bad intentions who wipe out your homeowner tax deduction. Did the person doing the targeting of something else twitch at the wrong moment? Did he do his math right in calculating the ballistics and fire a “short round?” Nothing is more unfriendly than so-called “friendly fire” accidents. Maybe your house is mistaken for harboring a suspected terrorist. Maybe the house next door is suspected of harboring a terrorist. The blast radius of bombs is pretty substantial. Either way, do you end up living in a tent in the Winter as a refugee to escape the bombing? Once you thought all you had to fear was being bitten by a mosquito with the West Nile Virus. What a fond memory.

No matter where you live, you need money to live. But, it’s downright dangerous to go to work. That crate marked Coors laying at the side of the road? Is it empty cardboard or hiding C-4 explosives? The used tire dumped by the stop sign? Empty or not? That freshly turned dirt in the pot hole in the pavement? Make you nervous?

There’s little fuel to fill the car tank anyway. And, if you drive, you can get shot even by the soldiers in the sandbagged bunkers placed at intersections to “protect” you. Perhaps you don’t notice the nervous troopers signaling you to stop or don’t do it fast enough. A steel jacketed slug through the windshield works pretty well at accomplishing that. Oops. Maybe they didn’t know you’re a patriot.

You’re not safe even if you make it to downtown Tigard or Baker or Cannon Beach (another nicely ironic name by the way). If you are a judge or a lawyer or a policeman or a fireman, your very occupation could target you for elimination, let alone if you are a politician or even an ordinary supporter of a particular party someone doesn’t like.

Being a simple business owner doesn’t make you immune. Perhaps you help or hurt someone by your mere existence. Even if you were not singled out, there is always the possibility of a spreading fire from the deliberate bombing or a “short round” artillery shell near by which wipes you out. Accidents happen even in war zones. It probably is a moot point anyway. Do you have any workers left or any inventory or anyone with any money to spend on it if you happen to finish production of something?

Being a simple laborer instead of a rich boss does not make you immune from danger going to work. Do you have the right skin coloration? The right clothing? Wearing jeans or shorts and walking down Broadway might get you murdered by someone who doesn’t think his particular God wants you wearing them.

Even if you are dressed innocuously, do you have the right Bible? The right ID in your pocket? Maybe you better carry more than one version and hope you remember the right pocket when you are asked to produce it.

You could still end up seized at random, thrown on a bus, have your hands tied behind your back and get a bullet in the head or tortured first. Worse yet, you could end up on camera for your family to watch in horror as you are slaughtered like a cow.

Staying home 24/7 doesn’t necessarily protect you. A knock on the door could be a signal you are about to be executed. The fact that those outside the door are wearing police uniforms is no assurance. Anyone can buy or steel them.

It doesn’t have to be a terrorist hit squad. The uniforms might be government issued to employees on the government payroll. It could be the government itself doing the seizing, the torturing, the jailing, the execution, all on mere suspicion or an injudicious comment against the Prez or the mere falsely reported slander of the Prez by a jealous neighbor.

You might be able to barricade or arm yourself to defend against individual attackers for a while at least. But, once the bombs or rockets start falling, you might as well be at a crap table shooting dice. These instruments of massive destruction they are using these days aren’t very smart for the most part. And, even if they were, the guys steering them might not be smart enough to know where they should be steered. Besides, a little terror among the populace might be deemed a “good” thing by those in charge of directing the high explosives.

You think things were bad in New Orleans because of Katrina? Imagine if there was not even “heckofa job Brownie” at FEMA. Imagine aid workers, rescuers and firemen fearful to enter. Helicopters to rescue you? Targets!

In other words, you might not be able to get to the hospital if you are hurt by a bomb or a rocket. You might not make it even if you’re merely sick on an ordinary day without actual bombing. Highway 101 or a key bridge is likely to have been bombed long before even if the hospital itself wasn’t. As recent news reports reveal, there is reason to fear the ambulance marked with the huge red cross on top delivering you may be strafed as many have in Lebanon. Think not? Ask the Israelis about their public warning they would do exactly that. Ask the second Sunni or Shiite suicide bomber who is waiting after the first one exploded for the medical help to arrive on the scene.

Once you get make it to Providence Memorial or whatever is closest, you may find there are no medical supplies or not enough beds because of the large volume of the killing and death. Kidney dialysis or transplant or MRI or other fancy stuff? Good luck in getting an aspirin.

Imagine tanks and uniformed troops everywhere. Imagine too lots of “civilians,” or at least men not in uniform, brandishing automatic weapons too. Imagine them being pretty careless about firing off those weapons. And, any bullet that goes up has to come down somewhere. Hope you are not standing in the air space where they do. Imagine some bad guys over whom you have no control deciding that they wanted to use your neighborhood for a missile launch site. Imagine what happens when they do. The missile trail points back to your neighborhood and guys on the other side with even bigger missiles might hold you responsible.

Imagine those same tanks and troops, but now imagine they are not your friends and neighbors. Imagine they are, say, a Chinese army occupying the state and our own troops were disbanded or in hiding. Imagine that those foreign troops can break down your door with impunity and point their rifle barrels at your and your sons while they search your house. Be careful what you do and when you do it since locks no longer mean anything.

Maybe you were glad when they first arrived. Probably not unless you also wanted the current rulers removed from office and brought to trial. But, either way, imagine they have been there for months or years. Still want them around? What would you do in such circumstances? How can you possibly make conclusions without going through the thought process?

Why bring up such unpleasant thoughts? It “can’t” happen here after all. After all, we have those super spooks at the CIA and the NSA and their expensive high tech toys to ferret out all the bad guys before they ever get here. Right? After all, we have the ever vigilant and no doubt super competent Homeland Security to find all the bombs hidden in the shoes. After all, we are building a 42 foot wall along, gosh, several hundred miles of our many thousand mile long border and the Border Patrol or the Minute Men won’t let any bad guys in. Surely the wily skills of our wise wizards and ambassadors will make friends rather than enemies.

And, it’s not as if we would ever have lunatic fringe groups already here ready to start revolutions for their own purposes. Black Panthers. White Supremists. Squeaky Fromme. Americans would never kill fellow Americans or indulge in ethnic cleansing like those other uncivilized countries, would they?. The Civil War, lynchings, clinic bombings and the near eradication of Native Americans were just anomalies. Right? And, just because NeoCons have called dissents “traitors” and wished them dead merely for disagreeing with the Republicans Administration does not mean they really would like to kill or jail them if the opportunity presented itself and they thought they could get away with it. Right? Right?

Okay. Unlikely for the immediate moment, but still worth contemplating. While our Far West is not the Middle East, we cannot be sanguine that our good fortune will continue forever. Do we need to be reminded by history that every single smug civilization that ever existed, imagined it was incapable of being destroyed? Ask the members of the Third Reich that was supposed to last a 1000 years. Ask even the Romans? They too thought their Gods or military might would protect them in perpetuity. It can happen here if we do not consider all the possibilities and be prepared.

More importantly and of immediate relevance, we should remember all those in charge of our country at the time of 9/11 who repeatedly alleged that driving planes into buildings was utterly impossible to foresee and could not have been contemplated? Perhaps if they had periodically indulged in a similar thought process to that set forth above, they might have seen some possibilities and taken steps to prevent them. Is that lack of foresight happening again in our present policies concerning the Middle East?

In any event, you cannot know a problem unless you give it some serious thought and put yourself in the shoes of others. How can you possibly understand how others will react if you cannot understand what they are going through? We might read in the paper about how we are supposedly “at war,” but we are certainly not acting like it today and since we are not experiencing it first hand, we need to devote at least some time to imagining what could happen in some detail.

We need to do so before accepting at face value any facile solutions offered by any slack jawed politicians or pundits which can be summed up in a ten second “sound bite.” We need to do so early on because we ultimately are responsible for what our elected leaders and the allies they choose are doing or create, even if it was unintended or unwanted. There are consequences. Evidence suggests 9/11 may have been a consequence of some of our policies. Perhaps we would not have changed the policies, but why weren’t we recognizing and discussing what could happen?

Whether 9/11 was a consequence or not and whether you see yourself as God fearing or Jesus loving, we must go through such thought puzzles because we need to do some cost/benefit analysis of possible consequences to others, if not ourselves.

Some of you after doing so might conclude our part in the Middle East is wrong. Others might go through the same analysis and conclude we need to fight them over there so we won’t have to fight them here. That’s fair. That’s what democracy is about. The point is though that informed decisions cannot be made without careful consideration, especially about something that is as alien to our present personal experience as what is going on in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and Somalia. Someone who is forced to live where 9/11 is 24/7 cannot be predicted or even intelligently debated unless we try to understand the atmosphere that such daily fear, frustration and derivation breeds.

So, start thinking. Then, express your opinion to those who have power and put new ones in charge if they do not seem to listen or show they have done similar thought processes themselves.