Sunday, May 29, 2011

Surprising Pro-Liberty Votes. Maybe.

Twenty-three United States Senators voted against extending the non-eternal provisions of the contemptible and misleadingly named Patriot Act of 2001. The most vocal of the opponents had to have been Rand Paul, which is no surprise since Ron Paul has been the lone voice against the act from the beginning. The surprise—at least to the casual political observer—is that only four of the twenty-three dissenting votes were Republicans. Why would nineteen Democrats—you know, the ones who hate freedom and constantly try to control everyone's life from birth to death and beyond, according to conservative estimates—vote against something that allows spying on Americans who haven't committed any crime? Why vote against Big Brother when Big Brother is your goal?

The bigger surprise, at least to me, was that both Senators from Washington, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, were in that group of nineteen naysayers. The two Senators are both documentable "liberals," or in other words, not "conservatives," so it stands to reason, or so I assumed, that both would be on board with permitting the state to surveil, harass, and intimidate any person, anywhere, with no due process, on any grounds. Someone who stands by the selfgenerated right of the state to determine what kind of food you should eat, what types of light bulbs you should be permitted to have in your home, what type of business you should be able to operate, what kind of car you can drive and how far you should be able to drive it, how much of your money should go to the government, and which tools you should be allowed to defend yourself with, surely wouldn't mind a few wiretaps here and there. Just applying whatever logic got you to the conclusion that the state knows best would, or should, help you reach the conclusion that the Patriot Act and all of it's tenticular provisions are OK, and we can all trust the government to do the right thing and only watch terrorists. Something in the provisions must have rubbed these two the wrong way to make them vote against their own power.

I can only think of two reasons: civil rights and republicans. It could be that, even though both Senators voted for the original Patriot Act*, they have come to the realization that the act has been ineffectual in figthing terrorism, and the ramifications have been detrimental to society in general, and have been the greatest factor in creating an embryonic paranoid police state full of tasers and check points. It could be that they care somewhat about civil rights, even though they haven't seemed to see their way to caring about other things that libertarian-minded people care about. Yet. The other possibility is that House Republicans were the driving force behind getting the bill to the Senate (because Republicans care about freedom, and protecting Americans from terrorism, and also, they want to win the War on Terror, or course), and anything the Republicans want, the Democrats don't want. Petty partisanship, in short.

Either way, voting against this heinous incursion into our natural rights was a good thing. To paraphrase Pavlov, any behavior that is reinforced is likely to be repeated. It might be a good idea to contact Senators Cantwell and Murray—despite the odds against them actually reading an email—to let them know we appreciate their respect for civil rights, and hope to see more votes n the future against travesties of justice like the Patriot Act, and more votes for liberty.

*Did you know that USA PATRIOT Act is an acronym for
Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act? These government folks are clever.

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