Saturday, May 13, 2006

What Billmon Says

The most bitter man on the Internets hits another one out of the park:

In the end, the framers were more pragmatic: If the majority wants to abolish the 4th Amendment -- or the entire Bill or Rights, for that matter -- all it has to do is get two thirds of each house of Congress to pass a new amendment, get the president to sign it and three fourths of the states to ratify it. Or, it can get two thirds of the states to call a constitutional convention, and try its luck there. Win that battle, and the NSA can tap everbody's phones until the cows come home. But until then, the 4th Amendment stands, and it is most definitely not subject to majority rule.

Of course, this president and this Congress and this Supreme Court have already proven that constitutional rights -- natural or not -- mean very little in the face of money, power and expediency. And as long as the polls continue to show that a majority, or even an influential minority, of the voters is willing to put up with that state of affairs, the powers that be will go right on riding roughshod over the Constitution. As Shrub likes to say, he already had his accountability moment -- at a different set of polls.

So polls (both kinds) obviously matter. And those who favor the unlimited surveillance state can certainly try to cite public opinion as proof that the Cheney regime has the power to break the law. But they can never cite the polls -- accurate or not -- to prove that they have the right to break the law, and we should never forget that. (Emphasis added)

Vox Pollsteri

This is the fundamental distinction between popular rule and mob rule. One rests on respect for and protection of rights, while the other requires no more than fear of and submission to power.

However, and in disagreement with his immediately previous post, Leviathan, the only way to secure rights is through institutions, which in a modern industrial society means a strong governmental bureaucracy. People being willing to defend their little corner of regulatory turf is good fodder for satirical novels and a good way to defend the tedious but necessary "fine print" that makes the grand ideas of the Constitution a mundane reality for the ordinary schmoe. Someone who doesn't know jack about the legal implications of this or that interpretation of article whatever or amendment thus and such can cite rule book 123-XD4R56-2006.3.4.b.2 and make sure that this air filter is changed on time, by G-d.

As the child of a life-long civil servant who made life better for millions of people by meticulously reporting the true census numbers in a western state, and resisting state and federal demands to fake results, I can personally attest to the ways in which the Leviathan can be done in by the clouds of plankton.

Even more than the courts, the Dems need to regain control of the federal agencies.


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