Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Man of the Hour

A lot of the indignation directed against Rand Paul for undermining the Patriot Act is because he shifted the Republican narrative on Foreign Policy away from ISIS, which GOP candidates had been busy laying at Obama's feet the past few weeks, calling in old faces like Paul Bremer to ridiculously claim that under the Bush administration they had such militant groups in check.  The Republicans would like us to believe that the Patriot Act was a big part of this success, thanks to PRISM and other government surveillance networks that could pry into virtually every aspect of our on-line profiles.

Rand has called the Patriot Act into question.  It wasn't pretty.  He used procedural methods to stall the renewal past its deadline, thereby allowing several provisions to expire, notably Section 215, which gives the government virtually unlimited surveillance powers.  This outraged the Republican old guard, who apparently thought Rand was just interested in making a political statement.   Turns out Rand did his homework and knew exactly what he was he doing, much to the dismay of Mitch McConnell, who is trying mightily to show he has control of the Senate Republicans.  Now, the Senate is forced to consider the House version of the Patriot Act provisions, which limits some of these surveillance powers.

Many persons still think Rand is all show and no substance, but he has been citing the nasty provisions in the Patriot Act for quite sometime.  There are others who have lashed out as well, notably Bernie Sanders, who has made it an issue on the campaign trail, but Rand took it a step further in finding a way to slow down its seemingly automatic renewal every four years.

We have been led to believe that the Patriot Act is integral to "obstructing terrorism," as it allows the government to trace the complex terror networks that use the Internet to organize and fund their insidious acts.  It's not like the government could do this without the Patriot Act, but the act gives it legal cover.  

Democrats have long been split on the Patriot Act, but the Republicans have until now been unified in their unquestioning support.  Rand has exposed a fissure in their ranks at a time Republicans desperately want to convey the image of a united front.  Rand came into office in 2010.  He was against its renewal in 2011, but was unable to mount much of a challenge.  This time around he was fully prepared.

We are finally having the long overdue debate that should have been the case four years ago, when it first came up for renewal under the Obama administration.  The President often talked of reforms, but few have been forthcoming.  He claims to have exercised benevolent executive judgement in regard to the most intrusive aspects of the Act, but in 2011, stamped its renewal without any real questions asked.  This is what apparently prompted Eric Snowden to go rogue.  In his mind, we had become far too complacent in regard to government eavesdropping.

Of course we know that the Internet is not a safe place, and our personal information is being bought and sold by on-line providers as we speak, but we would still like to think that it is not being stored somewhere to be used against us if some matter comes up where our allegiance is called into question.  This takes us back to the days of J. Edgar Hoover and all the files he kept on what he believed to be every subversive and radical group in the country.

Many Congresspersons, Republican and Democrat alike, still believe we need this kind of surveillance to keep America safe.  Yet, they will claim on the campaign trail that they value American freedom above all else, except God of course.  For Rand, this is blatantly hypocritical, as you can't have a free society, if the government can collect whatever information it wants on individuals for whatever reason it sees fit.

It is nice to see Rand Paul openly challenge not only his own party, but Congress and the President as well.  Finally, we have a real issue in this presidential campaign.  It is funny to hear guys like Bobby Jindal castigating Rand Paul, when he  has nothing to lose in this regard.  It is someone like Lindsey Graham, who finds his brazen image under attack as he has been a long supporter of the Patriot Act, back to its original ratification in 2001.  Hillary likewise has a lot to lose, as she was there as well when the Patriot Act was signed into law, offering little protest.  When you hear Jindal speak, it just shows how the Patriot Act has become part of political groupspeak, accepting it without reservations, just because it is believed the Patriot Act keeps us safe.  Orwell would roll over in his grave.

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