Friday, June 20, 2008

Argh: In which a rant about FISA devolves into a strange sports metaphor and then ends ... simply ends

Two things I can't sit through without the word "bullshit" playing in my mind over and over for the duration are: a church service (any church service) and a House floor debate on C-SPAN.

After watching Nancy Pelosi this morning, I may be unable to eat for the rest of the day. My appetite has seceded from the Union. My entire digestive system is now calling itself The Free Alimentary Canal Zone of Occupied North America.

I wonder how my old crim law prof, Wayne LaFave, feels these days. LaFave is the country's leading expert on Fourth Amendment law, and his treatise on search & seizure is recognized as the leading work on the subject. I don't want to ascribe any particular political leanings to him -- because I, frankly, don't know for sure what his political opinions are -- but I have to imagine that it must be weird for him that the entire span of meaningful Fourth Amendment protection has fit within his entire professional career.

LaFave's writing was, it can be argued, instrumental in the development of search & seizure law as we knew it. One thing they don't teach the heck out of in high school civics and history classes is that the Bill of Rights didn't have a lot of practical value for ordinary citizens until relatively recently. Depending on which right you're talking about, none of the "rights" in the Constitution really existed until some point in the 20th Century. The Fourth Amendment was not applied to state governments until 1961 -- before that, it had no effect on most criminal prosecutions. The "reasonable expectation of privacy" test for search and seizure -- which has become at least somewhat familiar to most reasonably well-educated Americans -- didn't exist until 1967. Even the exclusionary rule -- without which, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures was essentially meaningless -- wasn't established until 1914.

After the Warren Court expanded search and seizure protections into something approaching practical reality, the Burger and Rehnquist Courts began taking a whittling knife to the Fourth Amendment. Exception after exception was adopted throughout the Reagan-Bush-Clinton years. The Bush Two administration has made tool upgrades to an axe, a chain saw, and an Acme®-brand Wile E. Coyote-style TNT demolition device. The Roberts Court seems likely to accelerate the process.

The NSA approached telecoms with its plan for comprehensive citizen surveillance six months prior to that Big Boom-Boom Day that's used to justify all subsequent legal erosions to our civil liberties. Everything from FISA to Daley's lust for CCTV cameras convinces me that "privacy rights" existed only as long as it was too technologically unfeasible or expensive to spy on everyone. Now that the technology is capable and cheap, all bets are off. Total exposure to government monitoring now seems inevitable. Why? Because they can.

For a brief time -- well shorter than the average span of a human life -- the Constitution rose slightly above mere "piece of paper" status. It is now, to borrow a phrase from the baseball stat nerds, "reverting to the mean." The Constitution is like a pitcher who had several lousy seasons in his early career, then broke out and won 20 games for a couple of seasons and a Cy Young Award, and then blew his arm out.

Yeah, that's right, I just implied that the Constitution is like Steve Stone. Which indicates to me that this rant has run its course. In closing, as Lenny Bruce would say, "Emmis."

ON A LIGHTER NOTE: But, hey, it's Crosstown Classic weekend! I predict the Sox will take two out of three at Wrigley, and sweep next weekend at The Cell. This could be good news for Friend of CBRAT, Mr. "Pat" Jacobson, who vowed a few weeks ago that he would give up his left nut in exchange for a Sox sweep of the whole kaboodle.

So, if you find yourself walking around in the Uptown/Andersonville Terrace area this weekend, and you hear a voice coming from a window somewhere -- yelling "Pat's left nut! Pat's left nut!" -- don't be alarmed. That will just be me.

UPDATE: PAT'S LEFT NUT LIVES: Well, we can put away the Burdizzo. Cubs win, 4-3. The Sox will not be sweeping the Crosstown Classic in 2008.

This update was brought to you by "Pat's Left Nuts on Clark," serving the Wrigleyville Community for nearly 30 snacktastic years.

7 comments:

des-ish said...

Uhhh... you do realize that your title "Argh (pirate grunt): In which a rant about (topic x) devolves into a strange sports metaphor and then ends ... simply ends" pretty much describes every audio tape/disc I've composed, except you forgot to include "insert random Guided By Voices/Joy Division/Peters Gabriel & Townshend/ plus rock band of people Des knows because he thinks he's doing them a favor until he sings over their instrumental track". By the way, did I mention that I just compleeted a new disc, soon to appear nowhere, neither in on the shelves of the flesh universe nor in the ether known as the Internet, but only in the homes of a select few?

e pluribus desmondum said...

Response to:

"The NSA approached telecoms with its plan for comprehensive citizen surveillance six months prior to that Big Boom-Boom Day that's used to justify all subsequent legal erosions to our civil liberties. Everything from FISA to Daley's lust for CCTV cameras convinces me that "privacy rights" existed only as long as it was too technologically unfeasible or expensive to spy on everyone. Now that the technology is capable and cheap, all bets are off. Total exposure to government monitoring now seems inevitable. Why? Because they can."

Allow me to drunkenly reiterate a point I maniacally made seve-real months ago when this was first discussed: The real problem isn't that the gummint will somehow magically gain omniscent powers. It's more that they'll have more tools available to them to fuck over some poor shmoe that they don't like or wanna make an example of to weakly prove that they are somehow doing their job, whatever that is.

Stronger Than Dirt Pete Moss said...

Another distinction is that my character voices are distinguishable from one another, and from my regular speaking voice -- even though I use the same font. I don't know how I do it. It's like magic.

Bonus Des-tape-related item: Check out this un-decaffeinated solo PG performance of "Lamb":

http://youtube.com/watch?v=cN1wAsQ3A7U

Stronger Than Dirt Pete Moss said...

they'll have more tools available to them to fuck over some poor shmoe that they don't like or wanna make an example of

Sure, it simply facilitates what they do naturally already. And all laws are enforced incompletely, and with some degree of arbitrariness, anyway, but comprehensive electronic surveillance puts a lot more toys in their toybox, and greasing the legal skids makes more room for caprice. Getting a warrant has always pretty much just been a procedural hoop to jump through -- judges rarely turn down requests for them -- but most legal scholars agree that the warrant requirement has provided some degree of cushion from the state. How much? That's subjective.

When ancient doctrines like habeas corpus are barely surviving by 5-4 votes, I think it's worth getting riled up about every step backwards that gets taken.

des-u-lon said...

Meanwhile, I viewed and enjoyed the "embedded" Peter Gabriel vidoe. Near that video is this Kate Bush interview. I am a huge fan of KAte Bush, but, as this interview shows, really dumb questions yield really dumb answers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JchZx5v2ON0

Why the rubber pants?

Stronger Than Dirt Pete Moss said...

Was that interview a deleted scene from Spinal Tap? Those rubber pants were in "Doubly."

Feral Mom said...

Pat's Left Nut on Clark left me wiping up tears. Thanks, STDPM! And how do I hook up a Desmondo mix, argh?