(Anchorage designer, Clark Yerrington, one of the people deeply involved in the Mt. View renaissance, wanted to say more about U.S. House AK-AL Democratic Party candidate Diane Benson's statement, made late last week in the wake of the FISA fiasco in the U.S. Congress and Senate. Welcome to Progressive Alaska, Clark!)
Diane Benson’s statement on the FISA vote is still causing me to marvel. It’s amazing to me that taking such clear and courageous position hasn’t seemed to galvanize support for her campaign. Forget about discussing this as a partisan political issue. The gutting of Fourth Amendment protections potentially affects every single one of us. Here’s her statement, from The Alaska Report July 11:
This week the Senate voted to pass President Bush’s FISA bill amendment. A bill that will grant retroactive immunity to telecommunication corporations that violated the constitutional rights of an untold number of American citizens. This is not acceptable.
The first and most fundamental responsibility of every member of Congress is to uphold the rights enumerated by the United States Constitution. And July 9th 2008 will forever go down as the day when Congress failed to uphold their duty. The Constitution is not a list of suggestions. It is a list of rights that no President and no Congress have the right to take away.
The simple truth is that no one benefits when our civil liberties are compromised. When the civil liberties of Americans disappear no one is safe regardless of race, gender, or political affiliation. Furthermore, laws like this FISA bill set a dangerous precedent for the future. We should never compromise our inalienable rights. First the Patriot Act, then the suspension of Habeas Corpus, and now the FISA amendment; which constitutional right will go next?
It’s time for our representatives to vote for what's right for America rather than what's right for their political careers. It’s not good enough to simply send someone to Congress because of the ‘D’ or ‘R’ next to their name. When voting, Americans must ask themselves one very simple question. ‘Who will fight for my rights?’”
PA proprietor Phil Munger tells me that Begich and Berkowitz also released statements calling the vote dismal and destructive – saying Berkowitz’s is difficult to find on his site. (Sure enough, I couldn’t find it.) I couldn’t find Begich’s statement, either. (Let’s just say I’m not good at finding anything.)
So we have at least three candidates (Democrats, all) speaking out against this. My question for the others is: Seeing as you seem to have no objection to these changes to the Fourth Amendment, which of the other nine in the Bill of Rights seem the most vulnerable, or less relevant today (“quaint”, like the Geneva Conventions)? Which ones will you consider less precious and be more likely to bargain away? Most reactionaries out there would immediately say that liberals just want to take away their guns – a wedge issue that has been expertly deployed by Republicans for decades. All I can say about that is I doubt it. There’s a legitimate debate about interpretation of the Second Amendment and the framers’ intentions – but the idea that liberals have some secret agenda to get rid of guns is just fancy, merely tactical for the GOP.
The only other Alaska politician I heard in recent years speaking as eloquently on similar concerns was Tony Knowles, at a 2004 fundraiser when he was running against Lisa Murkowski. He spent about a third of his informal speech talking very specifically about the Patriot Act and how much of a mistake it is to compromise our traditional privacy rights.
Alaskans would be getting out the torches and pitchforks if they knew what was really at stake here. We’d have Libertarians marching shoulder to shoulder with Republicans and Democrats, on the way to confront Young, Stevens and Murkowski about their continuing duplicity with this murderous and thieving administration! A commenter at Huffington Post said what we’re seeing here is a transformation from a representative government to some completely different form of government.
Most of the attention paid to the so-called compromise on FISA is obfuscating the essential issue, which is, as Benson said, “(the Constitution) is a list of rights that no President and no Congress have the right to take away.” It’s said that Obama’s capitulation is in recognition of a political reality – the McCain campaign will eat his lunch on national security issues if he appears to err on the side of not cracking down on terrorism suspects. But that is a debate we shouldn’t even be having. By sacrificing core principles and rights that have protected all of us for 200+ years, we’re at least overreacting. When is the cure worse than the disease? Where is the evidence that the FISA law as it has existed since 1979 has been ineffective? Since we have now given retroactive immunity to the telecoms, how will we ever find out what happened – if the Bush 43 administration broke the law, if they spied on Democrats in addition to terrorists?
We deserve to know. Obama’s vote was not particularly astute as political calculus, because the revisions to FISA that passed with his support will prevent us from knowing the answers.
Regardless of how Diane Benson fares in the primary, I will never forget her defense of our basic freedoms. And given any kind of choice in the future, I will take anyone who promises to work as hard as they can to restore our democracy to its former state.
-- Clark Yerrington
image of Diane Benson and Mark Begich at a bowl-a-thon benefit for Military families