Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Military Persons

Have you served or are you serving in the military? If so, I'd appreciate an e-mail if you are interested in a project.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Safire on Wiretapping

I was watching Meet the Press this morning and William Safire, the longtime New York Times columnist who was a Nixon speechwriter was on. I've rarely agreed with anything Mr. Safire had to say, but he said something that I had to agree with. Even as I agreed with what he had to say, my cynical side had something else to say.

When the topic of the Bush wiretapping came up, staunch Republican Safire had this to say:

I have a thing about wiretapping.

I was writing a speech on welfare reform [for President Nixon], and the president looks at it and says, "OK, I'll go with it, but this is not going to get covered. Leak it as far an wide as you can beforehand. Maybe we'll get something in the paper." And so I go back to my office and I get a call from a reporter, and he wants to know about foreign affairs or something, and I said, "Hey, you want a leak? I'll tell you what the president will say tomorrow about welfare reform." And he took it down and wrote a little story about it. But the FBI was illegally tapping his phone at the time, and so they hear a White House speechwriter say, "Hey, you want a leak?" And so they tapped my phone, and for six months, every home phone call I got was tapped. I didn't like that. And when it finally broke--it did me a lot of good at the time, frankly, because then I was on the right side--but it told me how easy it was to just take somebody who is not really suspected of anything for any good reason and listen to every conversation in his home--you know, my wife talking to her doctor, my--everything.

So I have this thing about personal privacy. And I think what's happening now is that the--as a result of that scandal back in the '70s, we got this electronic eavesdropping act stopping it, or requiring the president to go before this court. Now, this court's a rubber-stamp court, let's face it. They give five noes and 20,000 yeses.

But the very fact that the FBI has to do a little paperwork beforehand slows them down and makes them think for a minute. It doesn't slow them down as much as the president [Bush] has made out to believe, because there's a wrinkle in it saying that if it's a real emergency and you have to get this information, then you can get it and get the approval within 72 hours afterwards. So there's always this struggle in a war between liberty and security. Doris [Kearns-Goodwin], you go into that in your book, and Lincoln did, indeed, suspend habeas corpus, but there it is in the Constitution, "It shall not be suspended except in invasion or a rebellion," so he had the right to. He didn't have the right, I think, to close the Brooklyn Eagle or see the arrest of the leading dissident, Vanlandingham, and he made some mistakes.

But just as FDR later made a mistake with the eight saboteurs and hanged them all, and just as we made a terrible mistake with the Japanese-Americans in World War II and have apologized for that. During wartime, we have this excess of security and afterwards we apologize. And that's why I offended a lot of my conservative and hard-line friends right after September 11th when they started putting these captured combatants in jail, and said the president can't seize dictatorial power. And a lot of my friends looked at me like I was going batty. But now we see this argument over excessive security, and I'm with the critics on that.

So, Mr. Safire sees the light on wiretapping and proclaims that there is "thing about personal privacy." I've always figuratively pulled my hair out when people shrug their shoulders in the face of a loss of privacy saying that they have "nothing to hide." Whatever.

The fact is, we all have things to hide. Not necessarily criminal "things," but how many people have things that they don't want to disclosed to the public? If you are taking an anti-depressant, do you want that disclosed? Or, if you are having marital problems and you (or your spouse) are unfaithful, do you want that disclosed? If you are using Viagra, or have genital Herpes, do you want that disclosed? When one's privacy has been violated, one understands how damaging that is. The human condition is one of weakness. The right of privacy allows citizens to maintain one's dignity and save oneself from embarrassment.

Mr. Safire's own experience has taught him first hand how the government's intrusion into the privacy of its citizens without probable cause to believe that criminal activity is taking place is a violation of one of the most sacred rights -- the right to keep personal secrets. Once the government starts to monitor the communication of all of its citizens it is a short step to the control of thought and the suppression of dissent. Mr. Safire understands that, because he and his family have been violated. I can't help but think that, because he's at odds with his fellow conservatives, if he hadn't been personally subjected to wiretapping, he too would be an advocate of Bush's [illegal] wiretapping.

To paraphrase the Gospels, blessed are those who have not been violated, but still understand the importance of civil liberties.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Damned Internets!

Actually, damned ISP. I was going to do some research for a new article last night, but I was unable to get my cable modem to work. Sorry, no new post today.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Thought of the Day

I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.

-- James Baldwin

Christmas Presents

My mother-in-law bought me a keg of beer for Christmas.

I'm not kidding.

It was my favorite gift of the year.

I don't particularly care for Christmas gifts. I presume that I'm in the minority, but I just don't enjoy opening gifts at all. I don't want Christmas gifts. Really, I don't. I'm pretty hard to buy for. I'm 40 and I have most everything I could possibly want. Even when I was relatively young, I didn't like opening gifts or the whole thing. It wouldn't hurt my feelings at all if we just did away with Christmas gifts all together. But, hey, a keg of beer? The idea of a keg of beer for Christmas, well let's just say that it is unique.

Every year, my mother-in-law gives me beer. Last year, it was a twelve pack of a variety of different beers. The year before, it was a two quart bottle of Heineken. This year, it was a keg of Heineken. A one-gallon keg. It can be tapped and you can drink it for up to 21 days after it is tapped. A gallon of beer is just less than 11 bottles. So for the next couple of weeks, if I want a glass of cold Heineken, I'll go out onto the deck and draw a glass from my Christmas present.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

What I'm Trying to do Here

As I mentioned in my welcoming post below, I am going to attempt to write about policy issues.

That's part of what I want to do.

I'd absolute love it if this blog became a place where policy ideas were debated and better ideas resulted. I don't pretend to know everything and I seriously doubt that I'll present the right answer or even a good answer to every topic about which I write. What I do hope to do is provide food for thought that spurs conversations about issues. I don't know if that will happen, but I'll try.

I have a finite amount of time that I can spend on this blog. I don't promise to churn out an opinion piece every single day -- I simply don't have that kind of time. I'm thinking that one or two pieces a week may be the tops of what I can do. Considering that the NY Times columnists write two columns a week, I would say that two reasonably decent columns a week by me would be tremendous output.

However, I hope to post every single day. What? Well, I like to read a lot of news stories and I hope to provide links to pertinent stories on a regular basis along with brief commentary. If the stories strike you as interesting, shameful, wonderful, outrageous, or whatever, leave a comment. The more, the merrier. So, that's what I'm going to do.

If you have blogs or news sources that you think might be interesting, let me know. I'll link to pages that catch my eye. I'd like to find Minnesota pages as I don't know as much about Minnesota issues as I'd like. If you have links to information about particular topics, let me know.

Anyway, that's where I'm at. I hope you will visit often. The more visitors I have, the more I will write.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

U.S. Constitution, Amendment I

These sixteen words are some of the most important words ever written in this country. The people who settled this country left England to escape religious persecution at the hands of the State. They wanted to be free to worship as they chose. Mindful of their past, the Framers of the Constitution wanted a government free from the entanglement of religions.

As a result, Americans are free to worship as they choose. The State cannot endorse a religion. If you go to church on Christmas, remember that in some parts of the world, people are not free to worship openly. In other countries, the State mandates the religion for the people. But, in the United States, you are free to be Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, agnostic, or atheist, to name a few. I believe in the secular state and the freedom of religion. As Jesus said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's. Give to God what is God's." Amen to that.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


Welcome to Founded on Dissent.

My name is SBG. I write another blog called Stick and Ball Guy (hence the moniker SBG), which concentrates primarily on Minnesota pro sports teams and other topics of a personal nature. Most likely, you already know that, because I've directed you here from that site.

I have started this site because I want to talk about political ideas. I want to express my ideas in a forum that allows people to discuss them. I was a founding blogger of Four Hoarsemen, but I have dropped out of that blog because of what I consider to be the insulting nature of the posting there. I don't intend to call people names or demonize those who do not believe what I believe. This is, after all, the United States of America, the great melting pot. The great democratic experiment. I believe in engaging those that do not believe the same as me. I believe in the strength of my ideas.

I believe that the Great Strength of this country is the collection of Civil Liberties afforded to the citizens and residents of this country. Among those Liberties are the Freedom of Speech, the Freedom of Religion, and the Freedom from Religion. These liberties are at odds with the aims of those who would control the government. That is the truly ingenious idea of the Bill of Rights. The government of the United States of America has institutionalized Rights that have given the people of this country protection from tyrannous governmental figures.

I am a liberal. I believe in liberal philosophies. Ronald Reagan demonized the word liberal and for 20 years people have run away from that term. I do not. I am a liberal in the classic sense. Let me give you a definition. From wikipedia:
Liberalism is an ideology, or current of political thought, which strives to maximize liberty. Liberalism seeks a society characterized by freedom of thought for individuals, limitations on the power of government and religion, the rule of law, the free exchange of ideas, a free market economy that supports private enterprise, and a system of government that is transparent, a liberal democracy with open and fair elections, where all citizens have by law equal rights and an equal opportunity.

Liberalism rejected many foundational assumptions which dominated most earlier theories of government, such as the divine right of kings, hereditary status, and established religion. Fundamental human rights that all liberals support include the right to life, liberty, and property.
The bedrock of liberal political thought, in my opinion, are the ideas that government is limited in its power and the civil liberties of people are protected. The liberal ideal is opposed to totalitarianism and seeks to protect against it. It encourages freedom of thought and fosters a healthy distrust of government.

In short, liberal thought seeks a government Of the People, By the People, and For the People.

In this blog, I intend to focus on policies of governance. There are a lot of people who write tremendous blogs focused on political tactics. The biggest of course is Daily Kos. I am a regular reader of that site and I post as mndemguy. Markos Mousalitas, the founder of Daily Kos, wrote recently that his blog is focused primarliy on tactics rather than policy, but recognized the need for policy discussions. I hope to provide a small piece of the policy discussions required to advance the cause.

I am not a political scientist, so in one sense, it could be argued that I have no educational background that qualifies me to discuss such topics knowledgeably. However, I am a lawyer, and thus I have at least studied Constitutional Law in Law School. Some might say that this doesn't qualify me, either. I'll remind those who feel that way that this site is free.

I am glad that you've stopped by. I am excited to write about the issues of the day, from the perspective of a liberal who believes in the ideals of liberty, equality, and justice for all. I hope to write one or two new articles a week. I'll also link to articles that I find to be pertinent. Stop by once a day or so to see if there is anything new.

I leave you with this exchange from two senators recently.

Sen. John Cornyn: "None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead."
Sen. Russ Feingold: "Give me liberty or give me death."
This is a country Founded on Dissent.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Dissent is Patriotic

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. ~ Theodore Roosevelt (1918)