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Freedom Bought Dearly, Sold Cheaply

Friday, Jun. 30, 2006 1:44 AM

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Not unexpectedly, Rep. Michael Oxley's (R - Ohio) resolution to bring the media to heel on its perceived journalistic excesses passed with a vote of 227 to 183.

And a special boot to the head for Rep. David Dreier (R - California), who asserted that the public would rather be safe from terrorists than be "all-knowing" about anti-terror efforts.

I'm not looking for a Geraldo-style map in the sand, Congressman. I'm looking for my president, my government, and my country to uphold standards of ethical conduct, moral and legal obligations, and not take the easy road to tyrrany. Security is well served by openness; nothing scares a thief away like a brightly-colored sticker proclaiming a monitored alarm system. Similarly, openness about how we are monitoring mainstream financial transactions would, by necessity, force terrorists to use less convenient and efficient methods, inhibiting their cash flow and ability to operate.

It does not need to be secret.

It does need to be done in a manner wholly consistent with the law. The earlier disclosure of the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program has clearly established that not only is the president repeatedly and egregiously breaking the law, it has shown that Congress' oversight has been, at best, weak. Drafting legislation to make the president's illegal actions legal is idiotic, and shows that an open discussion about national security is both necessary and in the public interest.

Thus, muzzling the press in the name of national security is not the single step that begins a long journey, but more properly placed towards a finish line we shouldn't even be racing towards.

And just why are Republicans dragging their heels on renewal of the Voting Rights Act?

Apparently, GOP members from the South feel their states would be subject to more intensive scrutiny, given the legacy of discrimination in the 1960's.

Except that the Act has been renewed four times already. What hasn't changed that the discrimination of four decades ago could still be such a liability?

It seems that, upon the failure of the Three Little Pigs' wooden house, the government is recommending they build its replacement out of straw.

FEMA has recommended that the reconstruction of New Orleans be made at levels below the flood line.

The reasoning is, of course, that Katrina and Rita are exceptions to the normal expectations for the 100-year flood model, so there's really no need to build to those standards, because it's so unlikely that it would happen again.

"I don't think that's enough of a sample to make a real argument that you can expect two powerful storms like that again real soon," said FEMA Spokesperson Ross Fredenburg.

And when it does happen, will we be asking ourselves why, exactly, we didn't learn from the first time?

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