jeudi, février 02, 2006

The President is a Big Dummy (argumentum ad hominem)

Two troubling statements lately, no?

First, I was troubled by the President’s statement during his SOTUA, that “If there are people inside our country who are talking with al Qaeda, we want to know about it, because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again.”

Second, there is the “man on the street” comment that is oft-cited these days and goes a little something like this (hit it!): “if the government wants to listen in while I talk to my Aunt Millie, that’s fine with me.” It’s a nice play on Secretary Rumsfeld’s statement on “Meet the Press.”

May I decode both messages?

Thank you.

The first message says:

People inside our country are talking to al Qaeda.
The government only listens when those folks talk to al Qaeda.
If they don’t listen, then we will be “hit” again (argumentum ad baculum – Bush’s favorite device of all).
Listening in is essential to our protection.
The only thing we can do to avoid being hit again is listen in.
We were hit last time because we weren’t listening in (post hoc ergo propter hoc)
Last: you there, listening to my speech. Yes, you. You are dumb.

The second message says:

I have nothing to hide, so I don’t care if my rights are undermined.
Stated differently, a premise I refuse to endorse, only people with something to hide care about invasions of privacy. Nice.

I love how, in a speech about war, the President totally chickens out.

An overwhelming majority of Americans don’t have an issue with the government eavesdropping on calls from potential terrorists to terrorist organizations. Only an unreasonable person would be against such a thing. In this instance, by the way, “unreasonable person” = Democrats.

Many of them, your humble author included, still feel that the government ought to be troubled to obtain approval for that listening-in. Even if the approval is obtained after the eavesdropping is done. Your boy George can’t be bothered to get approvals either before or after the tap. Why? The rules don’t apply to him.

Additionally, when no approval is sought, there is no protection to make sure that the government isn’t intercepting other calls. Bushie says they’re listening when calls are placed from here to al Qaeda, but what’s to say they’re not listening to calls completely unrelated to the war on terror? And if they aren’t, then why not get the approvals for all your taps? I hear it’s simple, fast and hassle-free. To use Bush’s argumentation devices against him, let me practice syllogisms W-style:

All appropriate wiretap requests are approved by FISA.
The government routinely seeks FISA approval for its reasonable requests.
Therefore, the failure to seek FISA approval is an admission that the request is not appropriate.
Inappropriate wiretaps are taken place.

I just proved it up, ain't I?

Bush conveniently failed to address why his administration won’t go to FISA for the necessary approvals, and he conveniently glosses over how the failure to do so leaves us no recourse in the event of abuse. In fact, there’s no way to detect abuse.

And to my brothers and sisters who are so quick to defend this usurpation on the grounds that “it’s okay to listen in because I have nothing to hide” should recognize that their viewpoint puts us all on a slippery slope toward a state where Presidents routinely abuse their powers. Set against the current concern of an executive run amok, even the most upright among us should not be so quick to push aside the bill of rights. First privacy, then speech, then religion, then guns.

We have an obligation to ourselves to not just pick the expedient course. Let’s fight the so called war on terror without always taking the easy route, you know, the one that leaves our constitutional rights aflame.

If we love this country and what is stands for, we must also defend our beliefs and traditions against abuse and attempts to undermine those beliefs and traditions – no matter from whence they come (the White House), and no matter why (quote time of war unquote).