Ad Finem Fidelis .net

Yeah, at some point I'm going to have to come up with a spiffy theme and a template file and such.

But for now this is going to be early-Web ugly. Sorry


Health of the Republic Bar

This is something I'm adding to my blog (The Mongrel Dogs Who Teach). It's a lot like the old Doomsday Clock published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and -- just like theirs -- it's set essentially arbitrarily, according to my mood. It reflects my estimate of how much the current United States of America lives up to its own ideals.
You're free to disagree with me as to what the number should be, or indeed what those ideals are, or what events inidicate motion of the bar. Just don't expect me to do anything about your disagreement -- get your own darn progress bar!
Date New Setting Explanation
2008 0711
The Congress of the United States passes a "fix" to FISA that expands domesitc wiretapping; reduces the threshhold for electronic surveillance; and grants retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that aided the Bush Administration's illegal wiretapping operations.
2007 1201
Military prosecutors seek a blanket order preventing defense counsel from discussing the identity of prosecution witness with anyone ... including the defendants!
2007 0717

The President makes a vast, unprecedented play for unchecked power: He claims that he can order the Justice Department to ignore writs of contempt of Congress, as detailed in this Washington Post article.

The Health of the Republic bar hasn't moved in several months not because Washington has been asleep but because for every boneheaded jackass decree by this Administration, there has been at least signs of a reinvigorated Congress. But this latest affront is so significant it drags the bar immediately. If Congress does not forcefully and immediately respond -- preferably by citing the President for his clear contempt of Congress -- then we will watch the health of the American experiment sink even lower.

More of my thoughts on this can be found on The Mongrel Dogs Who Teach.

2007 0318

Three converging stories at the Department of Justice:

  • Politically-motivated sacking of 8 US prosecutors for refusal to subvert election law
  • Denial of clearances to DOJ investigators into whether the warrantless wiretapping program violates federal law
  • Abuse of National Security Letters by the FBI

The drop is a surprisingly low 4% because (a) the clearance issue is oldish and (b) these three stories have had considerable traction due to careful use of the subpoena power by Congress -- an unexpected sign that the rule of law might be rebounding somewhat after the unhealthy six years we've been through.

2007 0130
The President issued a decree mandating that each federal agency create a "regulatory policy office" (a politcal appointee) to review any new statement or policy guideline; that the agencies must compute the aggregate effect of all regulations before issuing new ones; and that the agnecies demonstrate a specific "market failure" in conducting regulation. It's a surprisingly small shift only because, compared to the loss of habeus corpus and the protection from warrantless surveillance -- and, you know, obedience by the executive to the clear laws of the United States -- this Kremlin-esque sweeping of political power over economic regulation is a minor thing.
2007 0104
During a signing statement, President Bush asserted his power to open physical mail without a search warrant or other legal constraint. The bar dropped 3% because this marks the death of yet another centuries-old civil protection. But it dropped only 3% because it really isn't anything more than the warrantless wiretapping and because, hey, today the Democrats returned to the majority and oversight returned to Washington. Let's hope they rein in this nut before too long.
2006 1230
Setting the initial value is tricky. I've been pretty depressed these past six years and it's tempting to set the number low. On the other hand, there needs to be somewhere for it to go. In light of the recent election I'm tempted to put the number at 50%, meaning that we have about a half-chance of the Republic persisting. But then I remember that I would, in effect, be counting on the Democrats to save us, and that just plunges me back into despair. Prior to the election, I'd have put the number around 20-25%.