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August 12, 2005

What we’ve become
Posted by Patrick at 11:41 AM * 104 comments

From the New York Times:

Foreign citizens who change planes at airports in the United States can legally be seized, detained without charges, deprived of access to a lawyer or the courts, and even denied basic necessities like food, lawyers for the government said in Brooklyn federal court yesterday.

As Jo Walton remarked to me in Glasgow last weekend, explaining her reluctance to visit the US any more, “Being a middle-aged white woman is kind of like having civil rights, but not really an adequate substitute.”

Comments on What we've become:
#1 ::: Dru ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 12:39 PM:


I'm a week into a bout of insomnia, but doesn't the Constitution apply to all people, not just U.S. citizens on American soil?

Where does it stop? How long until you can be revoked of your citizenship so that domestic forces can send you off to be tortured, never mind that they actually have any evidence.

Then again speedy trial doesn't seem to be happening even for citizens these days, so one does wonder what is left of the Constitution.

The whole secret courts/evidence fiasco is part of why we fought for independence.

I'd make more sense, but the wakeful fairy has stolen most of my coherence.

#2 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 12:51 PM:

The Constitution emphatically does not provide the protections of "the people" to people who are not US citizens, at least according to the current state of case law, in decisions going back many years. What distinguishes the current administration from previous administrations is the gleeful embrace and extension of this interpretation of the lack of limits on US governmental behavior.

#3 ::: Richard Campbell ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 12:51 PM:

"doesn't the Constitution apply to all people"


Whether it should or not can be debated, but as interpreted it does not.

#4 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 12:59 PM:

It's only a few short steps to being able to detain citizens in the same way. Steps I'm sure Bush has planned out already.

#5 ::: Kai Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 01:03 PM:

The government lawyer is making the argument, but I have trouble imagining a New York judge allowing it.

#6 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 01:10 PM:

Dru: It applies to anyone under US jurisdiction. The key here seems to be that the government is arguing that due to the weird legal status of airports, they're not under US jurisdiction.

#7 ::: Dru ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 01:17 PM:


Err, wait. The actions are being performed by members of the US gov't (who I would assume are US citizens). So as long as we otherwise ruin other people's lives off US soil we can do anything with impunity, forget basic human rights? Ignore the UN human rights declaration?

Kevin and Richard:

Thanks for the clarification. Like I said, Muddied thinking while not sleeping. Things like this still manage to sink through the layers of haze and spark my slow-burning rage.

#8 ::: Richard Campbell ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 01:22 PM:

Andrew, not all of the Constitutional rights apply to noncitizens, even those in the US legally and indeed even those who are about to become citizens.

Among other things, "The government may bar noncitizens from entering the United States because of what they've said or are likely to say, even if the speech would have been constitutionally protected if said by a citizen."

#9 ::: Richard Campbell ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 01:24 PM:

Dru, re: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

"Since the Declaration is not legally binding technically, there are no signatories to the Declaration"

#10 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 01:32 PM:

Get a grip. The question isn't whether it's Constitutional to detain people indefinitely, deny them access to counsel or courts, deny them food, and ship them to foreign countries to be tortured. The question is whether it's fucking right.

It's like watching a bunch of Roundheads debate whether Scripture demands that this particular prisoner be drawn-and-quartered or merely broken on the wheel. We have gone completely insane.

#11 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 01:40 PM:

I don't think anyone's arguing that if it's Constitutional, it's therefore right. I think what people are saying is, "That's horrible and wrong! Surely the Constitution must prohibit it. Huh? It doesn't? Are you sure? Wait, that can't be right..."

At least, that was pretty much my own thought process.

#12 ::: Richard Campbell ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 01:42 PM:

Patrick, the question asked by Dru was specifically Constitutionality, not righteousness, in "doesn't the Constitution apply to all people, not just U.S. citizens on American soil?"

#13 ::: Richard Campbell ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 01:47 PM:

And Lexica, that was my thought process.

The Constitution has, over the years, permitted some pretty abhorrent things:

* Slavery
* Racial Segregation
* Racial and gender discrimination

[pick one from the next two lists]
* Mass murder of innocent lives
* Sodomy

* Control of individuals reproductive freedom
* Invasion of personal bedroom privacy

And so forth.

To Patrick's point - no, this isn't fucking right.

#14 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 01:57 PM:

"We have gone completely insane."

Yes. I would add evil. I don't know what to do about it anymore.

#15 ::: elizabeth bear ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 02:11 PM:

I don't think there can be any debate of whether it's right. Of course it's not goddamned right.


#16 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 02:15 PM:

"I don't know what to do about it anymore."

Keep your eyes and your mouth open.

#17 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 02:15 PM:

Patrick, the problem is, if there is not a law or a constitutional provision that can be interpreted as covering/banning the behavior in Q, the fact that it isn't right, will not get you very far in a court of law, which we in the US have come to rely on to protect ourselves.

Just the way it is.

#18 ::: Dru ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 02:25 PM:

Patrick et all:

Sorry I wasn't clear previously. This is so amazingly far from what I consider right and humane that I cannot find words for it.

What Lexica said.

Honestly, I cannot fathom how these people sleep at night. At a certain point I wonder about their sanity.

Being able to hold the idea of freedom and at the same time back torture as an allowable and advisable behavior of any sort? Blows my mind.

Did these people just have a group psychotic break that allowed them to think this was right or good or sane? Or are they just so amazingly drunk on their apparent power that they just don't care?

#19 ::: Naomi Novik ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 02:27 PM:

“Being a middle-aged white woman is kind of like having civil rights, but not really an adequate substitute.”

Yes. Exactly, and I'll add being a US citizen to that list. It's an illusion of safety. The government is largely getting away with this kind of behavior because it is going after the Usual Suspects ™ -- people like Maher Arar, who even if he isn't a terrorist is guilty of looking like one -- and thus comforting the general population with the belief that the only people who are suffering the effects are the ones who "deserve" it. Right now the only safety most of us have, going through an airport or about our daily lives, is that the odds are dramatically in our favor, because the current administration has shown over and over that it has neither restraint nor shame. Yes, I'm sure it is arguably legal and Constitutional, just like that charming memo on torture that went around a while back. A government that actually needs to *make* that legal argument is one that has lost sight of what the Constitution is all about.

#20 ::: M@ ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 02:29 PM:

I'm not worried about travelling to the USA, and I was thinking of travelling to New York on my next vacation. However, I begin to feel like going elsewhere just out of spite. I'm sure I'm not the only one. It's unfortuante that this kind of thing will lessen trade and tourism with the USA -- something that you guys are hurting for already.

In Canada, the Supreme Court ruled that citizenship was not a legal basis for discrimination (just as race, sex, and religion are not). This was only in 1995, and our modern constitution has only existed since 1982. I'm not sure of the process but is it possible that such a ruling will one day be made in the USA? Or is the issue more or less closed?

#21 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 02:36 PM:

I just read the article about meth myths. Big surprise. I lost friends from meth aka speed nearly forty years ago. A few people will fuck up with anything. What we need is realistic education and an end to prohibition. But then, all those drug warriors would have to find real jobs. From the discussion above, that's not the way the country is heading, alas.

If anyone were serious about combating meth, they'd reprint thousands of copies of the old Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers poster of Fat Freddy trying to say "Speed Kills" and distribute it as widely as possible.

#22 ::: JessieSS ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 02:37 PM:

My understanding's that the US has a terrible history of using citizenship to determine rights or the lack thereof. Hell, we're still arguing about what rights Puerto Ricans have, and they are US citizens. Immigration controls are used in cases where terrorism can't be proven, for instance: round 'em up on terrorism charges, fail to assemble sufficient evidence, deport them because in the mean time you've found that they're out of status.

#23 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 02:37 PM:

I think we owe some apologies to various totalitarian dictatorships that we've said nasty things about over the years.

#24 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 03:07 PM:

This actually makes me want to go and get every kind of combat training it's legal for a non-military citizen to have.

Actually it makes me want to get more than that, but I won't. SOMEONE has to believe in the rule of law.

And yes, I know that what they're saying might be technically legal. But the rule of law has to not only be established, but be meaningful. If the law says that, then the law is a ass, a idiot.

Speaking of which, that judge sure didn't sound like the sharpest knife in the judicial drawer, either.

#25 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 03:27 PM:

Sorry, I shouldn't have spluttered at perfectly reasonable people in this conversation.

It's just that it's very American to focus on constitutionality as a talisman against wrong. As Richard Campbell points out, the ever-so-wonderful American Constitution not only permitted slavery, it enshrined it.

#26 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 03:34 PM:

As to U.S. citizenship being helpful, the government has long taken the position that most of your Constitutional citizenship rights exist only when you are legally on U.S. soil. If you try to re-enter the US through Customs and raise any eyebrows, you will abruptly discover that most of your rights do not exist while in the fictitious "not inside US borders" part of international airports. This, it appears, was the location of Mr. Arar when seized, so it's not clear that having U.S. citizenship would have helped him any.

Also, let's recall that being a native-born U.S. citizen on U.S. soil has not helped Jose Padilla much.

For those who've forgotten, Mr. Padilla was arrested in Chicago after returning from Pakistan, declared an enemy combatant, was not even allowed to see a lawyer for well over a year, and 3 years later is still being held with no charges yet filed against him. (It appears from some information the government later put out that the "dirty bomb" stories were bogus; the government might actually have evidence to charge him with something if they felt like placing charges, but they'd rather not bother.) But hey, we didn't deport him to Syria or Uzbekistan to torture him, so he's getting off easy, right?

#27 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 03:57 PM:

PNH: As Richard Campbell points out, the ever-so-wonderful American Constitution not only permitted slavery, it enshrined it.

And we all know how that turned out. 50 years of a bad compromise, 20 years of civic strife, a nice bloody war and social divisions that we're still struggling with 140 years later. The lesson learned is that there's no room for compromise on explicitly codifying human rights.

I'd advocate for an amendment explicitly extending certain rights to all people who happen to be on US soil or any area under US administration (worded so as to include places like Guantanamo). Unfortuanately, I don't think it would pass and opening that pandora's box might just produce an red-blooded, red-state amendment structurally enshrining xenophobia and hate.

After all, we couldn't even get the ERA passed and today's political climate is even more hateful than it was back then.

#28 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 03:58 PM:

This is garbage, and horrible. I'd like to note that the Constitution is a minimum set of rights, but it is long established that there are rights not explicit in that document but inherent in persons all the same.

That aside, before we start bashing Roundheads, I'd like to voice my opinions on the practice of beheading Kings.

#29 ::: JessieSS ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 04:04 PM:

I don't think it's a bad idea to try to hang onto some of the ideals of the Constitution, though. Recall that Lincoln, although obsessively concerned with the rule of law and therefore reluctant to restrict the legal rights of slaveholders, nevertheless relied on the principles of the Constitution to demonstrate the wrongness of slavery. And, ultimately, to end it.

I wouldn't argue (as Lincoln pretty much did) that the technical legality of abusing non-citizens overrides the other principles of the Constitution; but I don't think it's time to give up on using those principles in a philosophical or legal dispute. It reminds me a little too much of giving up on the flag because it's been coopted.

#30 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 04:28 PM:

So a US Government lawyer is saying that they could arrest me and not give me access to food.

Because of my medical condition, diabetes, that's getting pretty close to killing me. And there was that case, not so long ago, in New York, where a diabetic was killed by neglect, while in the custody of the State of New York.

I haven't heard of any New York judges objecting to that.

I don't have the money to go to the USA, so it's a trifle academic, but wanting to go to the USA is starting to look crazy.

#31 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 04:41 PM:

The frenzy with which the government is tearing everything down reminds me of a scene in A Man for all Seasons: Thomas More is having a talk with his fanatic of a son-in-law and asks him if he would tear down all laws to get at the Devil. The young man lets out a resounding yes. It's been a long time since I saw the movie, but More's reply is something like this:

"And when you've backed the Devil into a corner and He turns on you, what will you have left to defend yourself?"

#32 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 04:55 PM:

It's just that it's very American to focus on constitutionality as a talisman against wrong. As Richard Campbell points out, the ever-so-wonderful American Constitution not only permitted slavery, it enshrined it.

My comment might not indicate it, but I was appalled when I discovered the degree to which it has been ruled that the Constitution doesn't protect non-citizens. If memory serves, the specific context was DEA raids within Mexico--basically, the Supreme Court ruled that since the targets of drug raids weren't citizens, they had no 4th, 5th, or 6th Amendment rights at all (and probably no 7th or 8th either).

#33 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 05:17 PM:

If you must visit the US, and I'm not recommending that you do visit the US, enter through a preclearance airport in Canada.

AFAIK, the fact that the US immigration & customs folks are in Canada means that they can only detain you for something which is a crime in Canada. They can, of course, refuse you entry...but you have a better chance of at least avoiding worse.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers notes this and references the Canadian 1999 Preclearance Act, which will remain in force until Halliburton realizes that there's oil in Canada.

"Generally speaking, if a US official suspects that a traveller has committed an offence under US legislation, the traveller can be detained if crossing a land border and subjected to US law. However, if the same suspicions arise at a Canadian airport, the US official (the PCO) has to turn the traveller over to a Canadian official, and the Canadian official may lay charges if it is determined that there is sufficient grounds to lay a charge in Canada under Canadian law. The matter would be adjudicated before Canadian courts."

#34 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 05:26 PM:

Hey, guys, you want an upside? If the Florida tourism industry tanks, Jeb! won't be such a viable candidate in 2012. (/snark)

Yes, it's crying in a charnel house, but sometimes bad humor is all one has left.

#35 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 06:20 PM:

Speaking of Florida, yesterday's WashPost quotes Katherine Harris thus:

"It was a historic day, because one woman launched a United States Senate campaign, and another woman successfully piloted the shuttle launch back to Earth."

-- Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.), formally announcing her Senate bid Tuesday on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes"

#36 ::: Terry.karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 06:42 PM:

The sad thing is Dred Scott v Sanford said the run of the Constitution was wider than the borders of the US (I think that diecision was horrid, but legally right, mostly).

The Insular Cases, and more recent caselaw, tattered that, which is, as Patrick put it, fucking wrong with which sentiment I cannot, in any way, disagree.

Xopher: come to California, I'll teach you to play paintball.


#37 ::: aboulic ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 07:00 PM:

Dru Wrote: The whole secret courts/evidence fiasco is part of why we fought for independence.

I hope i'm not parading my ignorance here, but could someone explain this to me? I've never heard of secret courts ever being part of the british judicial process. (although there may have been Government inquiries which might have been headed by a judge, but are not actually part of the judicial process.)

#38 ::: tom p ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 07:34 PM:

“Being a middle-aged white woman is kind of like having civil rights, but not really an adequate substitute.”

One of my best friends was on a business trip in America last week. He's recently got a new passport, which corrected an error that appeared on his previous one - his name was spelled wrong (which is a bit worrying in itself). The upshot of this is that, instead of having a name that was just a bit weird, he now has a name that's clearly identifiable as being from... you know, somewhere over there. (Turkish, as it happens.) Now, my friend's a fair mix of ethnicities, and could appear to be Palestinian, Israeli, Afghani, Italian, Latin American, or even what he actually is - a nice middle-class English boy.

In the past few years, he's travelled all over the world - Latin America, South East Asia, and right through the Middle East - without having a problem under his previous passport. But last week, flying between six different cities in America, he got chosen for a "random search" at every single airport. And at each one, the exact same thing happened: they also pulled out the next white woman in line to be searched as well. It got to the stage where he started apologising in advance to any white women standing behind him in the queue.

The only time this didn't happen to him was when he was flying to... um, Canada.

#39 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 07:36 PM:

Dave Bell --

As this argument was reported on CBC, the US Government's lawyer argued that the only right a non-citizen might have was 'freedom from gross physical assault'.

The commentator noted that this is the same definition of gross physical assault which the folks help by the CIA are free of -- behaviour which causes organ failure or permanent loss of senses or limb function, if that can be shown to be the clear intent of the persons committing the violence.

#40 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 09:39 PM:

(pardon my sputter)

You know, it's not so much that I am afraid to come to the US now.

I'm in even better shape than Jo Walton is in that regard, as the ONLY country they can send me back to is Canada. (Though I imagine that being unexpectedly and forcibly shipped to Heathrow and having to get back home from there would disrupt hell out of Jo's life and that of her family in the short-term, Syria it isn't, not by a long shot.)

What I am is furious. Bitterly, coldly, chronically furious.

Maher Arar had Constitutional Rights, all right. He was -- he ought to have been -- protected by the CANADIAN Constitution.

He is a Canadian citizen, domiciled in Canada.

Any crime he might have committed (and neither Canada nor Syria considers at this time that he has committed any crime) would have taken place inside our borders and fallen within our jurisdiction. He has a right to our protection, and we have a right to extend it to him.

We had a right to know what the hell was going on, and to have him sent back to us.

At least, this was the impression we were under.

Silly us, we thought we were allowed to accept and shelter immigrants and refugees.

And by and large, we've been letting the US Government slide on this. If we'd had any guts at all we'd have severed diplomatic relations, recalled our ambassador and embassy staff, and told Bush et al to go to hell, because this is just that great an affront.

At least we went and got him. It's not enough, but it's something.

I feel as if I owe him, Jo, and everyone else who has ever come to Canada and chosen to stay here and take Canadian Citizenship, an apology for not having mentioned the 'well, as long as Daddy says we may' clause.

#41 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 10:25 PM:

Marna --

That would crash the global economy.

That might be the right thing to do, but I can see how that would be a hard undertaking, given the (at least!) thousands and thousands of people such a crash would, in effect, kill.

I'm much more concerned that whomever in CSIS or the RCMP thought it was a good idea to have Arar tortured winds up facing criminal charges, publically tried, than that the government of Canada undertake to start a war with the United States, which is about what taking that level of offense would accomplish.

#42 ::: Deborah Roggie ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 10:40 PM:

MORE: What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

MORE: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you--where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast--man's laws, not God's--and if you cut them down--and you're just the man to do it--d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.


#43 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 11:08 PM:

More thoughts...

What I greatly fear is that years from now we will eventually learn that the sole reason for the arrest of Maher Arar, Jose Padilla, and many others held at Guantanamo and elsewhere - without any charges ever being laid against them - is that we tortured Al Qaida members or suspects held in Pakistan or Afghanistan non-stop until they named somebody, anybody.

Any student of history knows how well that approach works; from the witch hunts of the Inquisition to Stalin's terror, once accusations made under torture are acceptable as evidence, some of the victims will name innocent people to make the torture stop. Then some of those end up under torture and are willing to do the same thing... and the net grows wider.

I fear this is the only explanation why the government can first insist that certain people are so dangerous they must be held without charges and without being allowed to defend themselves, and can then turn around and let the same people go free when told it must file charges and present evidence in order to hold them longer. I don't buy the "information too precious" argument, not with a government that routinely releases genuinely critical intelligence info to score points with journalists. The only answer I can see is that our government is too ashamed to detail the source of its claims.

#44 ::: M@ ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 11:19 PM:

Marna -- I didn't want to make this a Canada vs. USA thing, which is why I didn't make the points you did. And also because I couldn't have put them so succinctly or intelligently.

What upsets me about the whole case is that the US Constitution is apparently only for certain people. When I was in Philadelphia less than a year ago, I marvelled at the American experiment -- the world still has much to learn from the wisdom and idealism of the guys who founded the country. You think they weren't scared? You think they knew how successful they would be with this constitution crap?

No one knew what would happen. And it worked. And every modern democracy has the American model to look to for their success. And now, because people are unsettled and scared, they're betraying their own country's ideals to protect their own sense of security.

Why would these people throw all that -- everything that the USA is about, everything that the rest of us look to for an understanding of what a modern civil society is supposed to be -- why would they throw all that away?

I don't know what anyone can do about all this. I wish I did.

#45 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2005, 11:24 PM:

BSD said:
That aside, before we start bashing Roundheads, I'd like to voice my opinions on the practice of beheading Kings.

Personally, I'd like to go farther back in history and have the king sacrificed every seven years. Of course he'd get to perform the Hiero-gamous, the sacred marriage every year. Maybe we'd even sacrifice him sooner if the crop failed or we lost the war.

Can you tell I've seen "The Wicker Man" a few too many times?

#46 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 12:09 AM:

And if I find out that the shrub and his owners are in favor of kidnapping, holding incommunicado and without charges, invasion on false premises, torture, and a whole lot of other things that appear to be forbidden by the Constitution, but they weasel-word into legality - then I'd say to the World Court, sure, you can have them for trial: we don't need or want these guys. And lose the key while you're at it, please.

Or, as one of my friends puts it, Bush and buddies are CEOs: they get credit, but the blame is always for someone else. They've gotten away with this for years, and think it's how it's supposed to work.

It makes me want to join some radical group, just from being mad at them.

#47 ::: Mina W ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 12:10 AM:

re constitutional protections - they're slenderer even than we thought. Janice Rogers Brown [recent judicial appointment the Bush administration pushed through] is on record as saying that she doesn't believe that the Bill of Rights applies to the states, only the federal government.

#48 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 01:34 AM:

One can, of course, assume a certain amount of bias exists in this particular place, just as in any place, but [Insert blasphemous exclamation of astonishment] this isn't a new evil.

"Here is nothing new nor aught unproven," say the Trumpets,
"Many feet have worn it and the road is old indeed.
"It is the King -- the King we schooled aforetime!"
(Trumpets in the marshes -- in the eyot at Runnymede!)

#49 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 02:47 AM:

Graydon -- Ambassadors have been recalled before and the global economy has survived.

Of course, this little lot weren't in charge. It's not like it would occur to them to, I dunno, apologise...

RCMP and CSIS ... oh yes. Long past time for heads to roll, there. Many heads.

As to whether it's the right thing to do ... the more concessions we make to stave it off, the more unspeakable things happen. And we go along with altogether too many of them.

I used to think it needn't come to it, and now I'm very much afraid I think it has.

This, the no-fly-list BS, the attempt to get airlines to provide passenger lists for internal Canadian flights, oh, yes, and now we get a lakeful of polluted water. The standing joke that Canadian waters and airspace have become. And I'll stop, because these nice people don't deserve to have to hear me rant.

We need other trading partners. Lots of them. Now.
We all do; Europe, Canada, all of us. Each other, Asia...

The UK and Canada have both had their shots at trying to be moderating influences. It's not working anymore, and we need to get to where we're not making these obscene concessions.

You have NO IDEA how much I do not like saying this.

Really not.

M: Nor I. But it IS.

#50 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 02:55 AM:

Some of you have doubtless heard me say this way too often, but it's probably time to beat the dead meme:

America was founded on the principles of the Enlightenment, and has spent the time since in panicked flight from them.

#51 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 03:03 AM:

And in other news, didn't Able Danger usedta be Race Bannon's sidekick?

#52 ::: Nicola ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 03:13 AM:

I believe Charles Stross says it best here

This isn't about Canada vs USA. it is about ordinarly law abiding citizens of other friendly nations "foreigners" feeling safe to travel into or through the USA.

There are places I don't go to because I cannot be sure about my personal safety. For example in some parts of the Arab world codiene is an illegal drug. Well I have to take some strong painkillers occasionally so I'm not going somewhere where I may end up accused of drug trafficking for taking what I would consider a normal painkiller - let alone a strong one!

But what of the USA? On the face of it, the situation appears even worse. Simply by reason of changing planes there, local authorities can do almost whatever they like to me, except I suppose kill or cripple me, including letting another nation torture me (I suppose they don't actually get blood on thier own hands because they aren't as experienced at it themselves?).

This is not the sort of behaviour - or thinking, I expect from a civilised country!

I have much more to say - but it would turn into a rant.

let me leave you with this . . .

What are the outraged American Citizens doing about this? Have any of you written to the relevant political entities demanding an accounting for this outrageous statement? What have you actually done to get this changed?

A British Citizen - Not planning on travelling anywhere near America until this one gets sorted out!

#53 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 04:03 AM:

A good long time ago (25 years at least) a USGOV agency for international tourism (which may or may not still exist) ran a series of TV ads (in the US) with foreign travelers telling the folks back home about the cool spontaneous thing that had happened to them in the US. One man had admired a stranger's tie in a restaurant, the guy offered to swap, and by the time the evening was over nobody went home with his own tie. That sort of thing.

Now, this wasn't just "don't wonderful things happen in this exceptional country?" The visitors were never portrayed as yokels, and most importantly, they were encouraging people to make stuff like this happen. The tag line was (approximately) "A foreign visitor's most valuable memory might be because of you."

If the National Will, on one of its many unfathomable impulses, commanded the revival of this campaign, they'd probably keep the line. All National Wills are stone deaf to irony.

#54 ::: bad Jim ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 04:06 AM:

My impression is that one should avoid international flights stopping in the United States, not so much because you might be deported to a third country, but because you may have to deplane and go through U.S. immigration, even though you're just passing through.

A friend and I flew from LA to Paris on Air Tahiti Nui a couple of years ago, and a French passenger we met was rather incensed about this practice. I'm not certain that this is still going on, but it may be.

#55 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 05:59 AM:

bad Jim: It's still going on. Two days ago I flew from Sydney to Vancouver with a two-hour (or shorter) stopover in Honolulu. Most of the two hours was spent going through US customs and immigration, a passage which included having both index fingerprints and a mug shot taken electronically.

Interestingly enough, even the really quite pleasant women who steered us through the process didn't seem to have the word "please" in their vocabulary, or any conventionally polite inflections. By contrast, although the immigration officer I encountered in Vancouver asked a lot more questions than I've ever met with before (and although a not-White friend who arrived from Swaziland a little later was held up for about an hour answering lots more questions), both of us experienced the questioning as reasonably polite, even with an edge of genuine personal interest in the answers. The young man ahead of me in the queue seemed to engage in an animated conversation about the friend he was visiting, apparently unaware he was being grilled. I would love to hear if anyone has had such an experience at US immigration in the last 4 years, or indeed the last 20!)

#56 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 07:38 AM:

Marna --

That depends a whole lot on three things.

Firstly, is the US reaction going to be rage, or shame? (Rage makes things a lot worse.)

Does US public opinion actually matter in forming their government? (Not since 2000; the 2006 elections will result in not less than 60, and probably more like 65, republican senators, as the voting fraud becomes more extensive. That gets rid of the last trace of restraint on what laws can be passed and what judges appointed.)

Can a Canadian government which does such a thing survive the backlash based on the (very bad) economic results within Canada? (Almost certainly not; Martin's got a minority, and Harper's Conservatives are corporate bootlickers with the ethics and morals of willing slaves. They'd "apologize" right into a surrender of all sovereignty.)

Canada's strategic position is terrible, because Anglo NorAm has an effectively integrated economy but Canada's is a tenth the size of the US's and not collapsing into wealth concentration. (We don't have enough banking regulation, but we have just barely sufficient amounts to make that process at least rather much slower.) That makes us a target in many ways (already getting major amounts of cash as semi-legal political contributions from the theocrats going to Conservative politicians), and since we aren't openly a nuclear power we don't have the conceptual clout to get listened to by the criminal gang in charge of the US. Since no member of the gang's word is good, it wouldn't actually help. You can deal with a bloody-handed tyrant whose word is good; one whose word is not good and whose memory is worse can't be dealt with at all.

The US is going to be an autocratic theocracy for ... awhile, or there's going to be a civil war, probably with some domestic use of nukes. Either cases gives real odds of having lots of folks come over the border, and we'd have to find places to put them and work for them to do.

And the water is rising and this is going to be a bad, bad hurricane year. There's a clock on all politics for ideological goals, as major crop failures become more and more likely and the cities maybe start to go under.

#57 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 08:30 AM:

Mike Ford: David says to tell you that he's been saying a similar thing about America and the Enlightenment long before he ever met you. Great minds, etc.


#58 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 09:33 AM:


IMDB sez that there will be a remake of "The Wicker Man" in 2006 directed by Niel LaBute and starring Nicholas Cage.

I find the "King is fertile" political theory oddly compelling - just compare the economic cycles with the occupants of the White House....

#59 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 11:06 AM:

I have a hard time reading these threads, and I should probably skip this one, too, but I'm going to end up saying something on one of these threads sooner or later, and it might as well be now.

The reason I find these sorts of threads well-nigh unreadable is that there's a certain tone of apocalyptic defeatism running through many of the comments that I just can't agree with. Don't get me wrong-- the Bush administration's power grabs are appalling, and the arguments put forth to sustain them are odious. I don't think it's a stretch to say that this will turn out to be the great moral crisis of this generation for the United States.

What I have trouble with, though, is the idea that the current situation is somehow uniquely appalling, that the current round of arguments are something new under the sun, heralding the final collapse of everything good that America has ever stood for. Even in my blacker moods, I just can't buy that.

What we're talking about here is a set of arguments put forth in court by lawyers for the government. But lawyers have been putting forth odious arguments in court for hundreds of years. They've even gotten the courts to agree with them on numerous occasions-- somebody argued for the winning sides in Dred Scottt, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Korematsu, after all. Those are all cases in which the end result was something we now find appalling, and none of them brought the Republic down.

Are the powers the Bush administration is trying to claim on the same level of badness as the powers claimed in those cases? Absolutely. But I'd still put the current constitutional crisis a notch lower than any of those, simply because they haven't actually gotten the courts to agree with many of their claims yet. We're still at the level of appalling legal briefs, and not yet to the level of appalling Supreme Court opinions.

And even if we get to that level, I just don't see the current situation as qualitatively worse than any of those previous crises. Fifty years from now, people on the future equivalent of blog comment threads may well be adding Padilla to the list of black marks on American judicial history, but we survived those crises, and we can survive this crisis.

The only way this can actually bring the country down is if good people give in to despair, and the idea that the game is now over, and the only thing to do is hole up in Saskatchewan with a big stack of ammunition and wait for the storm troopers. That's what I see in these threads (though, granted, a lot of it is from people outside the US), and I find it infinitely more depressing than the fact that some government lawyers made some unpleasant arguments in court papers.

#60 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 11:59 AM:

It's more than just an "unpleasant argument", though. It's a morally repugnant one, and ought to be legally indefensible as well.

I can make an argument for or against providing sustinence to a detainee in a bull session, over drinks, on a hike, etc. This is not at all the same thing as a lawyer, a government lawyer, making a formal case in a courtroom. Such a lawyer is arguing on behalf of the administration, and that argument is the embodiment of how that administration has decided it should proceed.

The Bush administration has already made the decision that, given the slightest shrouds of legal window dressing, they will do these things. They will detain people, civilians in American airports, on any or no pretext. They will withhold food from these people. They will torture them. And they won't let them go except when and where and how they choose.

This is some kind of martial law that omits the "law" part. And this is the government that the US now has. Even if the courts reject this lawyer's argument in toto, this is still the kind of government the Bushites wish to be, and, it seems, the kind of government many Americans think they want.

#61 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 12:01 PM:

Chad, a big difference between now & the previous times the USA has fallen into these fugue states: we are much more connected to the rest of the world and we are not going to be left alone.

I think you are right, though. The US Federal government, by design weak and easy to deadlock, has an awful tendency to freeze up when faced with a really major problem, until it can no longer be avoided. I think this accounts for the Civil War, the Golden Age tolerance of the abuses of industrial capitalism, the 1920s tolerance of widespread fraud, and the tolerance of the system of segregation in the South. These have all ended with vast, sometimes violent internal spasms: the Civil War, the conflicts over the union movement, the Great Depression, the civil rights movement, and so on. It seems to me that the nomination of John Roberts can be understood in this light: he is a brilliant jurist who espouses this "hands off" philosophy. It could be worse, I suppose; it could be James Dobson. Me, I wonder how to cure the systemic problem, or if a cure is even possible.

#62 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 01:33 PM:

Chad, I'm going to weigh in on roughly the same side.

I've noticed that tendency toward despair, too, and while I think it serves some functions--it moves some people to take action, and it's a fairly efficient way of getting attention and intensity (which I count as pleasures in themselves), it's got some major drawbacks.

When disaster doesn't come (and mostly it doesn't), you look like the little boy who cried wolf. I also suspect it contributes to depression.

What's missing from the posts about the slide into theocracy/plutocracy is that there never seems to be an inventory of the forces pushing the other way. The US has a tradition of and institutions for defending individual rights, not to mention a number of energetic and sometimes bad-tempered people who have made doing so their life work, and a government which hasn't yet completely descended into thuggery--those people and institutions still have a chance to act without a risk of martyrdom.

We have bad examples which weren't available as recently as 70 years ago.

I agree that the situation is serious--we seem to have all too many people who are committed to government by whim (both those in the government, and those poor fools who identity with such a government), but I don't think it's hopeless.

#63 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 01:36 PM:

Nicola, we've been fighting this in various forms for years--decades, really, if you count the opposition to Nixon and Reagan. It's a really hard thing to kill.

Graydon, things are not quite as bad here as you think; though it is hard to believe, the current US electoral system, with all its flaws, is a vast improvement over 1950. But, like you say, the game timer is running.

#64 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 01:56 PM:

Randolph --

In 1950, no one who wasn't white could vote, and many Southern states had completely corrupt vote counting in order to arrange this.

In 2005, no one who isn't Republican can vote and have the vote counted in a sufficiently large number of states to guarantee the Republicans control of the House and Senate.

I would argue that the situation in 2005 is much worse, because instead of being structurally racist it's structurally single-party at both the state and federal levels. No possibility of effective dissent from actively insane policies can go on for a long time in those circumstances, whereas effective dissent from the racist policies was possible, just.

Nancy --

The forces of plutocracy have won; it's completely obvious that American federal legislation is available to the highest bidder and that this has been substantially institutionalized.

The forces of autocracy and theocracy haven't won yet, but they have more money and (right now) all the armed force and effectively all the televisions. They also appear to lack any burden of scruples. The usual counterweight to that would be the ballot box, but that avenue has been substantially foreclosed and it's getting more foreclosed, not less.

The US has never had its currency overvalued by thirty or forty percent before, either. Historical parallel has its limits as a mechanism for argument, and I think the present situation may involve one of those cases where, no, really, something substantially like this hasn't happened before.

#65 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 03:22 PM:

Graydon, why do you think access to the ballot box is getting more foreclosed? I'm asking because I'm curious about your line of thought, not because I have a strong opinion on the subject.

I'm not denying that things are bad and quite possibly getting worse. What concerns me is the number of people who talk as though the situation is irretrievable.

#66 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 04:22 PM:

It's more than just an "unpleasant argument", though. It's a morally repugnant one, and ought to be legally indefensible as well.

And Dred Scott and Korematsu weren't based on morally repugnant arguments?

That's my whole point: people have made morally repugnant arguments in court before, and even gotten the courts to back them up, and we survived it as a nation. And, hell, we've even had at least one case where the courts didn't support a morally repugnant action, and Andrew Jackson went ahead and did it anyway.

The only thing uniquely bad about the current situation is that we're stuck living through it.

Chad, a big difference between now & the previous times the USA has fallen into these fugue states: we are much more connected to the rest of the world and we are not going to be left alone.

I don't disagree, but I'm not sure what direction you think this shifts things in.

#67 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 05:19 PM:

I recently came across one of those Rambo-like pro-American fictions, based on the premise that the US could deploy overwhelming military force against the bad guys, who are somehow able to escape the control of any local government, operating in some lawless enclave,

Now the US Government seems to be arguing that airports are not quite part of the USA.

Consider the fictional oppotunities for a foreign power to drop a battalion of paratroops into JFK or Logan, to rescue their nationals from the attentions of the lawless thugs who have taken control. The French seem to do this quite often. [Googles on "French Foreign Legion" and is offered "great purchase deals"].

It'd likely be the 2 REP who got the job.

The French have a nuclear carrier that could be deployed to the North Atlantic, plus their own nuclear deterrent. And I don't think there's much in a position to defend New York.

And there's plenty of nasty things a xenophobic French writer can say about the Americans. Maybe he'd hit the airport burger bars with an air strike, the cluster bombs releasing a flood of blazing cooking fat and freedom fries.

#68 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 05:26 PM:

Also agree with Chad on the severe inadvisability of despair.

Something that really should be emphasized. Right now the 2006 prospects don't look all that bad. I'm not saying that 2006 is going to look like 1994 in reverse, but it's a definite possibility. The GOP MAY be on the verge of a major crackup.

#69 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 05:36 PM:

Nancy --

Effectively all the electronic vote counting machinery companies have been substantially funded by a Dominionist billionaire who got rich in the Saving and Loan collapse. All of those systems are designed to make it easy to produce fraudulent results. (And given that, frex, Diebold's ATMs are not at all easy to hack, one has to include that this is design, not cluelessness.)

The degree to which the Ohio voting fraud in 2004 has been a success, and the degree to which the people who have perpetrated it have acted with impunity, are going to result in a lot more use of the ability in state races. It's pretty clear that no one with any actual power will question the results.

It's also pretty clear that George W. Bush will get to name at least two Supreme Court justices. This is likely to close off the last major avenue of recourse concerning voting fraud.

#70 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 05:56 PM:

Graydon, that answer about the voting machines was pretty much what I was expecting, but with more detail. I believe that the crucial thing is to fight electoral fraud by getting paper trails (and guarding the paper), not through court challenges. Does anyone have recommendations for good ways to apply pressure to clean up the voting process?

#71 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 06:08 PM:

Terry Karney brought up the Insular Cases. They're what the Supreme Court ruled during the US's previous empire -- you know, the one that brought you the ukelele and the cheap five-cent cigar -- and they're quite appalling. But they're not new -- most of them are over a century old -- and unless the US suddenly refines its understanding of stare decisis, they're not going away any time soon.

Read 'em. Half my family got to live under them for fifty years. Now they're being used more generally. They're like an Easter Egg in a videogame! But not.

#72 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 06:21 PM:

Gosh, this takes me back. Back to early January last year (and January this year, when it sank in that I wouldn't be going to the US again for the foreseeable future).

#73 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 07:11 PM:


Don't get me wrong, I know quite well that we're probably screwed.

The only thing that's changed is, it's become increasingly obvious that we're screwed either way. So, screwed and complicit, or just screwed?

In the best of all possible worlds, when the Empire falls quite a lot of it will be landing on us.

Wait, buy time, walk on eggshells, make alliances, wait for the Conservatives to finish imploding, pray ...

I agree, Martin's gotten away with all the pushing he can for one year. Now we just have to keep the Alliance out and keep the pressure on the Liberals to push as far as possible EVERY year, and to further reduce our dependence on the US every year, and wait.

Note how I say 'just', as if it were comparatively easy.

As for floods of refugees: I've been hearing this since 2000. Everybody says they're leaving, but nobody does.

Chad: I'm not without hope, but there's not a lot of percentage in it for me to have any particular FAITH. Even if the Democrats win in '08, they're not going to be focussing gobs of time, money and political capital on issues which only affect the rest of us.

#74 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 09:42 PM:

Marna --

Floods of refugees aren't expected from this quarter unless and until there's an actual civil war or widespread pogroms or massive economic collapse.

Moving to another country is hard and expensive. Moving to another country and figuring that you'll never go back is harder still, and things don't seem that bad yet.

The rest of the political program, yeah, that, and mass produce nuke power plants so we can keep the lights on and still breathe.

#75 ::: Tina B ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2005, 11:43 PM:

Actually, being a middle aged or old white woman does nothing except make you the token "we aren't profiling" victim. I was searched 3 or 4 times on a trip to Portland. Old fat white lady, check -- frail man in a suit on oxygen, check -- blonde young man, check -- Newt Gingrich, check! Makes me almost think that profiling is the way to go. I mean, how many fat old white ladies have hijacked a plane recently -- like in the last 40 years?

#76 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2005, 12:42 AM:

To recap, I wrote in reponse to Chad, "a big difference between now & the previous times the USA has fallen into these fugue states: we are much more connected to the rest of the world and we are not going to be left alone" and Chad responded, "I don't disagree, but I'm not sure what direction you think this shifts things in."

It's not clear to me; I hope that international outrage will have some restraining effects, and I fear that skillfull diplomats will place us at an international disadvantage. Do you have any feeling for this? I think it's important and interesting.

#77 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2005, 02:19 AM:

how many fat old white ladies have hijacked a plane recently -- like in the last 40 years?

The device that blew up the PanAm flight over Lockerbie was in the luggage of the girlfriend of a Muslim terrorist. She apparently hadn't a clue that her final value to him was be the conveyor of mass atrocity.

#78 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2005, 02:59 AM:

Graydon: Either that or a whole lot more hydro, but I'm biased -- my old man was a dam-builder. His position on nuclear can be summarized as 'okay, but not with those bozos in charge.'

And wind, while we have TIME to get it going. We live in one of the few places where it's actually NOT unrealistic.

Meanwhile, a kilowatt hour needs to get a whole lot more expensive than it is. We may have to subsidise low-income users, but that's a hell of a lot better than subsidising all users.

Randolph: the problem with international outrage is this -- as Graydon and I have been discussing, scattered outrage will mostly gets us shat on. There are just so MANY ways that the US can make a single foreign country pay for not sucking up.

We're in shit for same sex marriage at the moment. We're in shit for decriminalization. We're perpetual shit over taking in over 300 000 people a year, and we're still not off the hook for having stayed the hell out or Iraq.

As Graydon points out, and I agree, we've only got but so much political manouevering room per administration, and the Liberals will only absorb a certain amount of financial penalty, because it hits 'em right in the electables.

And that's the overt story. Covert crap -- it's not a huge secret up here that US money both governmental and private gets into our political system ... see me over here clinging to our paper ballot system for dear life? And scrutineering every blasted election?

United international outrage: ah, you, um, hadn't noticed a certain amount of -- shall we call it fuss?

The only kind of united international outrage that's going to make a real difference is the kind of level of economic and political sanctions that means we get to find out just how many countries your government thinks it can take on at once.

Which leads us back to the uncomfortable position of my country, a spot which has been found a convenient spot for fighting the US from for centuries.

You know how much your government does not care what its own citizens think? Multiply that by -- well, by quite a lot -- and you will begin to get a sense of exactly how much of a flying fuck it does not give for the international community.

#79 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2005, 03:18 AM:

Mina said
re constitutional protections - they're slenderer even than we thought. Janice Rogers Brown [recent judicial appointment the Bush administration pushed through] is on record as saying that she doesn't believe that the Bill of Rights applies to the states, only the federal government.

So is Justice Thomas.

#80 ::: Richard Campbell ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2005, 08:57 AM:

"Graydon, why do you think access to the ballot box is getting more foreclosed?"

See also:

"[Georgia's new voter id bill] eliminates 12 of the 17 forms of ID currently allowed, including Social Security cards, birth certificates and utility bills. Critics call it the most restrictive in the nation and fear it will unfairly impact the elderly, the poor and minorities."

#81 ::: Tina B ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2005, 11:51 AM:

So, Paula, you think that fat old white ladies date Arab firebrands? All of them? A large percentage? What?

#82 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2005, 12:36 PM:

Tina B --

The point is that effective security does not make assumptions.

Trad warfare treats as a given that you know who the enemy is, and -- at least in strategic terms -- where they are and what they want.

Assymetric warfare, that child of the military dominance and the industrialization of dominated regions, takes all that away. You don't know who they are, what they want, or what they are going to do. (The fat old white lady might be the bomb. I can think of four ways to do that off the top of my head, and I have never researched the question.)

Marna --

Very much agree on the electricity cost.

We're out of sensible places to put hydro, things are getting a lot drier very soon, and the ecological cost is pretty big. Various small municipal sites and householder microhydro make sense, but the large scale stuff has too many planning nightmares attached to make sense.

Wind, yes, but the total density of wind power that we can get away with is low, unless we want to start adding more chaotic inputs to the weather.

Things like heat tower power extraction in office buildings, too; it's worth doing, but fundamentally, we've got to turn off all the coal, oil, and natural gas generation, which means nukes. (Relatively little ones, for my preference. Gas cycle nukes are small enough to fit into hospitals and neighbourhoods, which also supports less reliance on the distribution system.)

As for the bozos -- the French have got this one pretty close to nailed. Buy the tech we don't already have (which isn't much), and emulate the organization and training systems, and be very loud about why that means a locally accountable public system.

We're also permanently in shit for having effective banking regulations and not being a wealth concentrating economy. I'm starting to get cautiously optimistic about that one, especially since the chartered banks are getting badly burned by their attempts to exploit US market opportunities.

#83 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2005, 12:39 PM:

Richard Campbell cites: "[Georgia's new voter id bill] eliminates 12 of the 17 forms of ID currently allowed, including Social Security cards, birth certificates and utility bills. Critics call it the most restrictive in the nation and fear it will unfairly impact the elderly, the poor and minorities."

I heard on the radio last week that the state of Washington was considering opting out of Real ID because of the expense. At least one state official said that Washingtonians who want to fly should just go and get passports.

Real ID = Internal passports.

To me anyway, Internal passports = Soviet Russia.

For me, the scary part is that I'll have no choice but to comply wiith this scheme, since my work, family and friendships all rely to a certain extent on domestic air travel.

That said, I hope WA does opt out of Real ID - I don't want an RFID chip in my pocket that any business or police agency can use to track my comings and goings. (Note - this is not paranoia, many bars and clubs scan the mag stripes on patron's driver's licences and then use all of the information there, not just DOB which is what they ostensibly need.)

#84 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2005, 01:08 PM:

Larry, if I were you I'd get a passport anyway. While they're still gettable and last for ten years before renewal. Hint: think of it not as an internal passport but as an external one, part of that worst-possible-case contingency planning.

(I'm going to get my UK one renewed this September or October -- whenever I'm not travelling for a month -- one step ahead of them switching to issuing biometric ones, which is officially due to start in January.)

#85 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2005, 01:19 PM:

Charlie - Already got one with nine years left on it, just don't like the idea of having to carry it when I go to the grocery store, that's all.

#86 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2005, 02:14 PM:

So, Paula, you think that fat old white ladies date Arab firebrands? All of them? A large percentage? What?

You asked how many fat old white ladies had hijacked a plane, and were provided with an example. Why are you now complaining that somebody answered your challenge?

Terrorists aren't complete idiots, and are capable of figuring out that if dark guys with long beards get stopped at planes, you send the bomb with somebody who isn't a dark guy with a long beard. Drug traffickers implemented this a long time ago--you've probably seen more than one news story about a cute, gullible young thing stuck in a Thai or European jail for bringing a package somewhere for her boyfriend--so why assume Al-Qaeda can't figure it out too?

Constitutionally--as I said over on Whatever, the government didn't merely refuse Mr. Arar entry, or detain him at the airport long enough to confirm his papers, or ship him back to Canada. And their response? We have classified evidence (you'll have to take our word for it, sorry) and so Mr. Arar should not even be allowed to ask a court to decide the merits of his case.

#87 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2005, 01:30 AM:

Teddy Kennedy, who's spent most of his life in federal service (he even spent two years in the US military), the past more than 40 years in the US Senate, and whose three elder brothers all died tragic deaths in federal service, got searched and delayed I think at a US airport on domestic air travel... even US Senators with decades of tenure who are white males, have been stopped and given the Suspicious Character treatment.

#88 ::: Dru ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2005, 11:15 AM:


My error definitely. I was referring to the Star Chamber (abolished in 1642), which I find eerily similar to circumstances now.

on despair:

It is not hard to despair when you see your attempts to supply sanity to an insane world come to nothing. All I can do at this point is educate people on how thoroughly out of whack the voting situation is. Attempt to educate and inform them on the false arguments being presented to "make them safer".

How many times can Diebold be proven to be insecure before the various board bow down and admit to the flaws and remove them from circulation?

How many election boards have to decertify these machines before they are actually removed from use? (How many de-certified systems were used last fall?)

People get... frustrated. When we see damning evidence being provided and nothing being done.
How do you speak up when effectively your voice has been stolen?

Iterate and educate. Your knees get torn and bruised after the first few times falling down. I don't have a solution. How do you fight the good fight without coming across to apathetic public as a paranoid freak? I'm all ears to any helpful suggestions.

#89 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2005, 12:14 PM:

Gee, Tina, I don't think of you as fat. (The wife would say hello, if I were to interrupt her work.) And keep in mind that it only takes one exception to blow up a plane.

#90 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2005, 12:39 PM:

even US Senators with decades of tenure who are white males

... and are resolute opponents of the administration.

#91 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2005, 12:45 PM:

'Actually, being a middle aged or old white woman does nothing except make you the token "we aren't profiling" victim.'

There's a middle-aged white woman I commute with who gets pulled regularly for searches. Her husband doesn't, even when they're travelling together. She does a lot of overseas business travel, which may be the trigger in her case.

#92 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2005, 02:50 PM:

Maybe Oaf is Savonarola reincarnated...


When in the course of human events it becomes necessary....

#93 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2005, 04:13 PM:

I have a clear memory from AP American History, which I am increasingly doubting, of a landmark case on noncitizens having rights.

John Marshall case, early 1800's, involving a foreigner and, possibly, a business transaction.

Does anyone else remember this? I can't find it on the web, and I'm starting to worry.

#95 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2005, 08:44 AM:

Wikipedia has a list of landmark Supreme Court decisions, by decade: which includes ex Parte Bollman, which covered habeas corpus and the definition of treason, and Barron v. Baltimore, which stated that the Bill of Rights bound the federal government, but not state governments--later decisions from the early 20th century seem to have gone against Barron v. Baltimore.

(This list also includes cases such as Nix v. Hedden, which fixed the tomato's status in law as a vegetable, rather than a fruit--botanically speaking, tomatoes, like squash, beans, cucumbers, and corn, are fruit and not vegetables--this was a tariff case, so it's not as frivolous as it sounds at first description. There's one about misleading packaging called United States v. Ninety-five Barrels (More or Less) of Alleged Apple Cider Vinegar. Sorry, those two have nothing at all to do with the Bill of Rights, but they caught my eye.)

Here's another list of Wikipedia articles on Supreme Court cases, with some overlap from the first one: and this list is called Constitutional Case Law (broken down by category, including by amendment)
Landmark cases is not strictly US alone, but seems to include some British decisions.

There is also, which gives complete texts for many important decisions.

The Insular cases, from just before and just after the turn of the 20th century, cover the extension of the Constitution and Bill of Rights into places controlled by the US--they were the result of our imperialist adventures in Hawaii, as well as those associated with the Spanish-American War.

#96 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2005, 10:02 AM:

There's also a famous SCOTUS case from 1916 known as US v Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola (which, like the Alleged Cider, is over content and labeling).

Perhaps we should ask nominees to the high court their views on the prosecution of wooden containers for potable liquid. It probably wouldn't tell us much about the candidates, but watching the pundits scramble might be entertaining.

#97 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2005, 10:32 AM:

Sandy --

The problem with non-citizens having no standing in American courts -- which is what 'no rights' comes down to -- is that this applies to commercial transactions, too, and I believe that's what you're going to not find in the historical precedents. Non-citizens aren't covered by the US Bill of Rights or Constitution, but they do have standing in civil court, so contracts are binding between a US citizen and a non-citizen.

This is one of the reasons Arar is persuing a civil suit; he has the standing to bring that.

Since the US government line is that he does not, in fact, have standing, the US government is effectively arguing that contracts between US citizens and non-citizens are not enforceable in US courts.

If this position gets through the US supreme court, the reprecusions for the global financial system could well get rather ugly rather quickly.

#98 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2005, 11:55 AM:

There's also a famous SCOTUS case from 1916 known as US v Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola

There are loads of cases like this from the heyday of the War On Other People's Drugs, when the government figured out you could get at accused drug dealers (and users) through civil forfeiture of their property. I recall writing a law-school paper which involved slogging through cases with names like United States v. A 1957 Ford Fairline or United States v. One Million, Five Hundred Thousand Dollars in United States Currency.

Since the US government line is that he does not, in fact, have standing

It's worse than that. They're arguing that his case should be dismissed because they have secret evidence--which they will not show the court--showing Mr. Arar has connections to terrorists.

#99 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2005, 12:10 PM:

Wikipedia doesn't have the case in question listed. I looked briefly yesterday, and in more detail today, and I'm starting to obsess.

#100 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2005, 12:14 PM:

Since the US government line is that he does not, in fact, have standing

It's worse than that. They're arguing that his case should be dismissed because they have secret evidence--which they will not show the court--showing Mr. Arar has connections to terrorists.

Or "we can tell you, but then we'd have to kill you"? I keep hoping one judge will stand up and say secret evidence is not evidence if the court can't see it either. But then I think the Constitution should apply to aliens also, at least if they have visas or green cards. (As long as they remember they're guests and leave their civil wars behind.)

#101 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2005, 12:35 PM:

Findlaw's collection only seems to go back to 1893:
but they recommend one free site which has selected pre-1893 decisions:
Cornell University Law School

and a couple of subscription or fee sites:

The Supreme Court's own website has a page with links to information on decisions

including one .pdf file listing sources for copies of decisions, including quite a few on-line sources, such as those above, and LexisNexis

and another .pdf which gives a list of early decisions, with dates, from 1791-1882 (including several cases like US vs. Schooner Peggy)

This last one might be useful for googling purposes. Happy hunting.

#102 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2005, 12:49 PM:

Geoffrey R. Stone had a great editorial in the Monday 15 August 2005 New York Times entitled "What You Can't Say Will Hurt You."

He warns Great Britain not to forget America's lessons learned about Free Speech, in the context of Blair suggesting the deportation of foreign nations who commit the novel "offense of condoning or glorifying terrorism."

I could not hep but wonder what this strange measure would have done to, say, Joseph Conrad (The Secret Agent), Ian Fleming, or a big chunk of the Science Fiction corpus.

I have an amusing personal anecdote about "standing" in U.S. courts, but I've gone on long enough, for now.

#103 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2005, 02:45 AM:

I think one of the big results of the USA being in its fugue state at this time is that other regional federations (or is that empires?) are going to emerge and steal its lunch. We've been thinking we're the last and only hyperpower and I suspect we're actually only the first.'s difficult to say. The USA, at the Federal level, has trouble relating to other nations as equals. The concept is sinking in, and the "Amurica Furst" types are having a whole lot of trouble with it.

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