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Newt: Judge Not

Hearing that Iowa last year recalled three judges for approving same sex marriage, the Newtster has apparently decided that the civil libertarian caucus goers will vote for Ron Paul anyway and he should swing for the fences with the evangelicals who are on the warpath about the courts.  His Waterloo.

The “historian” presidential candidate has determined that the Founding Fathers were wrong in establishing three co-equal branches of government, that U.S. Marshall’s  should be used to force federal judges to explain their rulings to Congress, and that President Gingrich would ignore Supreme Court decisions that he didn’t like. Shades of “It Can’t Happen Here.”

Like many conservatives, I am conflicted when it comes to civil liberties in an age of terrorism and technology.

-  The Patriot Act, passed shortly after 9/11, increased the government’s ability to conduct secret searches of property, conduct wiretaps, access third party data bases, and trace internet communications. Maybe an understandable response in a time of war (after all, Gingrich argues, Lincoln suspended the right to a trial during the Civil War), but uncomfortable in a free society.

- In September Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a drone-fired missile in Yemen, the first time since 9/11 that an American-born citizen was deliberately targeted and killed by American forces. OK by me as an act of war – assuming proper controls over identification and authorization.

- This very month Congress has passed and the president will sign a bill specifically authorizing indefinite detention of anyone (foreign or American; captured in the United States or abroad) who “substantially supports” groups such as Al Queda or “associated forces.” No duration; no guaranteed trial.

- Medical record systems are being rapidly expanded to improve quality and reduce cost.  Privacy controls are included, but …

- Massive data bases, public and private, contain detailed purchase and banking records, internet viewing histories, e-mail histories, and on and on. Cameras on every corner in some cities. Amazon knows enough about you to  recommend books; Apple can recommend music; Yelp can recommend restaurants. Good luck with privacy there.

So, who is going to protect a semblance of habeus corpus and the right to privacy if not the court system?  Citibank?  The CIA? Congress? President Gingrich? We all know that we’d be safe with him, but what about the next guy or gal?

I really don’t know the answers to the privacy and civil liberties questions, but I do rely on an independent judiciary to help the country stay on track. And, as alarmist as it may sound, I do know that folks like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao have sounded the same notes that Newt is using on the courts.

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This week’s video provides a bit of levity for those not particularly interested in Hanukkah, Quanza, or Muharram.  Merry Christmas!

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