Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Contemplating the 5-0

Fifty years and about three hours ago your intrepid reporter entered this realm (I've always been an early riser).

Around 5 a.m. at the St. Therese Hospital in Beaumont, Texas; seven pounds five ounces; a thick shock of wavy black hair, delivered by Dr. Lamar Bevill (I would meet him twenty years later at Lamar University as an undergraduate; he was serving the campus as the medical center's physician).

Herewith an executive summary of my life by decades in approximate:

-- In the summer of '69 I was a Tenderfoot at summer camp in the Boy Scouts of America. It was my first time away from home overnight (beyond the kiddie sleepovers, of course).

-- 1978, age 20: Completing my third year in the college of business at Pecker Tech. Had just moved into Morris Hall and pledged Delta Sigma Pi.

-- 1988, age 30: Two years newlywed as well as advertising director for the Plainview Daily Herald, had a nice party with all of the requisite black and death-themed motifs at one of the finest lounges in town, Reflections at the Conestoga Inn.

-- 1998, age 40: Had just returned from a week-long Alaskan cruise and was fired from my position as financial services manager for Gillman Mitsubishi in Houston (the old Bellaire location that's now a large green field). My old boss -- he was fired shortly thereafter -- was unaware it was my birthday, so I'm guessing he might've waited a day had he known. Anybody who's ever been canned after coming back from vacation knows that they're about to get it anyway.

-- 1998, age 40: Was set to begin at the spanking-new Lexus of Clear Lake as financial services manager, my last job in the car business and in fact my last job ever working for someone besides myself.

-- And here we are today. All I really want for my birthday, in case you were wondering what to get me, is better health and much better government. The United States Senate is poised, unfortunately, to deliver some bad news about the Fourth Amendment.

I'm not going to lie and tell you that the FISA bill (containing retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies for warrantless wiretapping on Americans) isn't going to pass today. I can't see the Senate Democrats mustering more than twenty votes to block it, to strip immunity, or to pass any amendments.

But that doesn't mean that you won't feel better about it if you call your senators between now and when the vote goes down. You can use this tool to clear your conscience.

As Glenn Greenwald notes:

What all of this is really about — the reason why political elites like Nancy Soderberg are so eager to defend it — is because they really do believe that lawbreaking isn’t wrong, that it doesn’t deserve punishment, when engaged in by them rather than by commoners. People who defend telecom immunity or who say that it’s not a big deal are, by logical necessity, adopting this view: “Our highest political officials and largest corporations shouldn’t face consequences when they break our laws as long as they claim it was for our own good.” That’s the destructive premise that lies at the heart of this deeply corrupt measure, the reason it matters so much. Just like the pardon of Nixon, the protection of Iran-contra criminals, and the commutation of Lewis Libby’s sentence, this bill is yet another step in cementing a two-tiered system of justice in America where our highest political officials and connected elite can break our laws with impunity. ...

Our Congress, with the political and media elite cheering, is about to violate every one of these principles. They are taking away from the judiciary the power to adjudicate allegations of lawbreaking. They are creating a two-tiered system of justice in which our most powerful corporations can break the law with impunity and government officials remain immune from consequences. And they are, in unity, spewing rank propaganda to the commoners — who continue to be subjected to the harsh punishment for violations of the law and one of the world’s most merciless justice systems — in order to convince them that granting license to our political and corporate elites to break the law is necessary for their own Good and for their Safety.

I'm going to give Barack Obama holy hell about it here, but it's a mistake to blame Obama mostly for it without placing equal blame on the other 99 senators (and the House, for that matter).

Take a moment to go on the record. You'll feel better.

Update: Greenwald, at Salon, reports that the vote will be not today but tomorrow ...

The votes in the Senate on various amendments to the FISA "compromise" bill and to the underlying bill itself were originally scheduled for today, but have been postponed until tomorrow (Wednesday, July 9) to enable Senators to attend the funeral of Jesse Helms.

That is without a doubt the best thing that nasty evil bastard ever did.

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