Monday, February 06, 2006

A few notes

I made the best spinach artichoke dip I've ever had and the Seahawks still lost the Super Bowl.

Sarah got a relatively new G4 iMac from her brother, who got a Mac from his dad, who bought a new Mac. I didn't get a Mac, so I ordered a microphone to record music on the computer. I'll learn GarageBand and make plunky loops with my mandolin.

I'm past the middle of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, a Napoleonic-era alternate history of English magic. The language and point of view are just about perfect. And it's really funny. And it's addictive! I have no clue how it's going to end.

Today I kept half an ear on the start of something very important: the first hearing on the President's secret warrantless domestic wiretap program. Attorney General Gonzales was in the Judiciary Committee arguing that the program is legal. The Bush Administration felt free not to follow the controlling law, FISA, because it was authorized broadly to combat al-Qaeda, or failing that, the President's commander-in-chief powers allow him to violate duly enacted legislation.

To my great relief, most of the Senators on the committee, including all the Democrats and even some Republicans (though not all of them), saw Bush's arguments as ridiculous and untenable. As especially Senator Leahy drove home, this one program, whose existence was leaked to the New York Times, is probably only the tip of an iceberg of broad expansions in domestic surveillance. For several years, the Bush Administration wiretapped people it had no business wiretapping, and it didn't tell anyone, and no one found out; did they abuse the power once they figured they wouldn't be caught?

A deeper issue: the Administration's second argument seems to imply that the President can break any law as long as he determines that it is necessary to do so to combat al-Qaeda. This means that de facto anything is legal as long as no one finds out about it; if Bush keeps it on the down low, he can order his branch of government to do whatever he wants. We shouldn't just be worried about how the President has actually used this power (which is bad enough); we need to be worried about a President who feels like he has a free hand to ignore the law. Access to that kind of power is anti-American. Broad executive power is taking us down an autocratic road, and we should all be disturbed by that.

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