I know that Republicans will refuse to believe this. That is part of the problem. For Republicans, the allegation of improper behavior has become the cart put in front of the proverbial horse of evidence.
Half of the Bill of Rights is devoted to the rights related to our judicial system, and four of those five touch on criminal matters. We constrain the government's power to search, to arrest, to impose excessive punishments, bail, and fines. We requires jury trials for offenses, we do not allow the government to compel people to incriminate themselves.
Just read through it, then research the jurisprudence around it. What's often called "liberal" by conservative critics of the judiciary would be better termed Constitutional. The Republicans, though, have gotten it into their heads that if we honestly, forthrightly express these rights, the country will fall apart.
The trouble is, you get into this mindset where people follow their beliefs, without first gathering the evidence to prove their beliefs, and with that, you get tyranny an injustice. You get a culture of policing that treats it more like a war, and less like a matter of keeping peace and stability in the community
You also get people who abuse the law enforcement and investigative powers of their offices to pursue political vendettas, and God help us, false beliefs up to and including paranoid delusions.
The Framers were aware of this, which is part of why one of the leading amendments was this one, the fourth:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The meaning of this amendment should be plain: the default mode of the interaction of your government with you, when it comes to accusations of crime, is that it can't intrude on your life, your communications, your person or your home. The Government can't just simply say, "I think you committed a crime, or are committing crimes, so I'll investigate based on my suspicion."
Probable cause. What does that mean? Well, in general, it's reasonable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, and that the person in question is involved. You can't just arrest people, or search them arbitrarily.
Why require it? To make sure that law enforcement officials couldn't just snap people up without cause. Evidence or observation of a crime had to come first. A warrant to arrest, to search, to seize property must start from evidence. After that, a law enforcement officer isn't simply free to do whatever they want. The text of the amendment demands that they limit themselves to a particular place, thing, and person. An officer can't just decide, say, to arrest a man's son on the spot, and threaten to charge him with a crime if the man doesn't confess.
If President Obama had ordered wiretapping without a warrant, that would indeed be a violation of Trump's constitutional rights. That said, Trump has failed to provide evidence... well, that the President is even capable of ordering a wiretap on a US Citizen under most circumstances.
In general, modern Presidents adopt a hands-off attitude with investigations, preventing the appearance of interference in investigations This is part of what made Reince Priebus's request of government officials that they refute certain stories in the media so irregular. The FBI likes to keep it's deliberations and investigations confidential, both to avoid alerting the subjects of their investigation, and to avoid the appearance that they're working a political agenda. This is part of what people found irregular and appalling about Comey's letter to Congress about the examination of new e-mails, especially in an election season.
The background on that also demonstrates the issue involved. Calling a Press conference to explain why the Justice Department was not charging Clinton with anything was irregular, as was the decision by Jason Chaffetz and others to call Director Comey on the carpet for his decision.
Chaffetz and other Republicans had been making political hay about the e-mails, and Benghazi before it for years after the 2012 elections. A previous generation of Republicans had obsessed over Whitewater and the Monica Lewinsky affair before settling on perjury in a civil trial as their route to impeach President Clinton. Forcing the President to testify in that instance was itself irregular, and for many people in the country, an absurd waste of taxpayer dollars.
Trump complained about witch-hunts, but when he says that, he's speaking of the so-far media-restricted investigation of quite a number of irregularities with his election. These inconvenient stories keep popping up, with news of Trump advisors like the Attorney General having misrepresented facts to Congress (a factually provable claim) overwhelming his good press. So, over the weekend, he breaks tradition again, and accuses his predecessor of spying on him. Based on what, something the FBI told him? The CIA?
Breitbart publishes his column, which alleges wiretapping by the former President. Does he have evidence?
When pressed for details on President Obama's personal involvement, Levin replied, "I'm not Nostradamus here."
The conspiracy theorist argued that any investigation against Trump would be unfair because Obama and Democrats had "squirreled their appointees into the bureaucracy."
Nostradamus... as a guy who was a real aficionado of Mysteries of the Unknown, I knew about him at an early age. Guy wrote a bunch of poetry about the future after having stared into a lit flame for a little while.
Yeah, I would hope that journalist wasn't trying to be Nostradamus, because that would kind of run counter to the way we'd hope a reporter found his stories.
I can understand the appeal of Nostradamus, you know. The secret lore, the predictions somehow divining truth across the ages. In general, these kinds of Fortean stories promise huge windfalls of insight for minimal effort investigating the truth. The man, who lived mostly a century before our time, would surely have been at home in today's internet culture.
The thing about these lines of thinking is that they can't deliver the real insight they promise. They can give us the pleasure of insight, though, which is what people get off on. It feels good to know, feels good to out-intuit the experts. It feels good not have to have study through ream after ream of material to get that sense that you understand the world. I should know, myself. It's part of why I loved that stuff. I've always been a keen pursuer of lore, of mythology, of stories.
As I grew older, though, my studies brought me to understand something: rationality and accuracy, true discoveries do not come naturally to people. Human senses and human thought are fallible. Subjectivity and ignorance are our natural states of existence. We have to fight to understand the world well, and unfortunately, there's too much to learn and know to figure it all out by ourselves. We have to consult others sources, figure out who and what to trust.
The burden falls on reporters in particular to be careful about the sources of their information This guy... the author of the Heat Street Article he based it on didn't agree with his assessment.
In tweets on Monday, Mensch emphasized that her reporting does not back up Trump's wiretapping claim, even though the White House cited her article to justify the allegation. She stressed that her reporting refers to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court warrant and does not mention anything about wiretapping.
But hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good story, or a strong belief?
Well, it's all about your interface with reality. The better you know the world as it is, the better your interface allows you to choose your actions wisely and well. Trump, quite frankly, is wasting the billions in taxpayer dollars that he's given to find out things from primary sources in order to consume information that is processed secondhand, third-hand, or worse.
What if Obama had gotten his information about the Boston Marathon Bombing or the Sandy Hook massacre from InfoWars, a site that alleges that both are false-flag operations? What if Bush had bought into a conspiracy theory that said that al-Qaeda was a false flag operation for Iraqi Intelligence?. What if an entire political party decided to push a conspiracy theory that alleges 90% of climate scientists are Marxist conspirators looking to destroy the US economy?
What is worse? Leadership that believes in conspiracy theories and acts accordingly, or or leadership that doesn't believe in them, and promotes them anyway?
While well-intentioned people might promote them, this conclusion-first, facts last approach to deal with processing the world is often encouraged by those who wish to manipulate people against their better interests. Gun companies that want people to buy a lot of weapons without asking why. MIlitary hawks that want people to go to war where they think people need to go to war. Energy companies that need people to overlook the frightening potential for environmental change so they can keep making money with petroleum and coal. Wall Street Firms that want to get back to the previous decade's business as usual without having to put down the crackpipe on the systemic-risk-intense proprietary trading they were making money hand over fist from.
And one President, who wants people to ignore what the Press is telling him. They've co-opted the term fake news, which described many pro-Trump and anti-Clinton stories, to label news they don't want people to believe. He's insisted that all the different institutions that are getting in his way are either insincere, hypocritical, or completely false in their reporting. Again and again, he tries to wall his followers off from stories and results that don't flatter the marketing push he's made for himself.
The problem with all this is that we the people become human shields for all the bad results of what they promote through this arrangment. We get killed in the wars that become fiascoes. The wars become fiascoes because people ignored information that didn't come through "politically correct" channels (politically correct in that it passes the litmus test that leaders and followers apply) The economies break down because people apply inappropriate models for human behavior, or push policy that breaks critical components of our monetary, treasury, or market systems. Society breaks down as harsh, cultish beliefs begin to pervade parties, and bigotries are allowed to flourish.
Folks wonder how the Nazis got into power, why people didn't see it coming, how awful it would become. Folks underestimate just how much people will go through to avoid cognitive dissonance, how much failure in the economy and the rest of the society they'll write off, just to avoid feeling bad, or being rude. It's difficult to get people in the media to call folks liars, even after they mislead people with pathological regularity. Sometimes we're too interested in being nice to ourselves and others to say no to something that's deeply, badly wrong.
Trump likes people to need him more than he needs them. He doesn't like to have to rely on people, likes to think of himself as the opposite of what he really is: a self-starter, self-made. In Ayn Rand terms, he'd think of himself as Roark or Galt before he'd think of himself as a James Taggart or Gail Wynand. But of course, what man of ego would ever consider himself the weak parasite privileged with resources, as opposed to the creative force of nature, virile and filled with manly integrity?
It is this self-deception that is at the heart of the reactionary right these days. We all would like to pretend like it's all up to us, ourselves, that we are the authors of our own successes. The problem with buying into this is that most of us lack the resources to just go out and do whatever we want on our own, and more to the point, a lot of the people who ask us to unleash all the forces of competition, let people compete anyway they want, typically have a better position from which to exploit that new freedom. Sometimes, they exploit it at our expense. You end up having to buy strongly into the system, no matter how dystopian, how dysfunctional it is, in order to gain that power.
There's constant pressure from people like Trump not to prod our way into places that are uncomfortable to them, that expose them as corrupt, ineffectual, unpopular, or generally lacking in virtue. They're constantly looking to market themselves to us, to prove themselves, at least in their own eyes, better than those who doubt them.
This can get toxic, corrosive. There are two ways to fight self-doubt: better oneself, and salve one's ego with bluster and rationalizations. One approach requires effort and humility. The other just requires contempt for whatever standards you fall short of. We can be greater than our former selves, or we can convince ourselves that we're good enough, great enough to begin with, and plow through any hits we take to our self-esteem.
It can be dangerous when you start doing more of the latter than the former. You kind of build up debts in terms of the quality of your choices. You get to a point where you're constantly on the defensive about what you're doing and why. At some point, the world, unkind as it always has been, locks you out of the ability to undo the harm that has been done.
The Republic that the Framers and the Founders built was not built with what they would call "conservative principles" in mind. A Conservative of that time would be somebody who favored the control of the monarchy, who believed in more authoritarian principles of government, the divine right to rule. Government based on notions that certain classes of people would have inherently better judgment (they would not need to earn it through study and hard work, experience and self-examination) That there was an unquestionable mandate to rule based on the fact of that ruler's gentle, noble, or royal birth, that the church and the state would operate together, that the press, people's ability to speak, assemble, etc. would be limited because of course there were just some things that could not and should not be said concerning those in power.
The old regimes, the monarchies of the day are barely in evidence today. Constitutional Republics and monarchies have replaced the more traditional forms of government that existed at the time. Hell, many of the nations our Framers would know of didn't even exist then. Today's student would hardly know what to make of a map of Europe in 1791.
What was radical about our government was the notion that the people had the right to remake the government until it suited them, that the enduring presence of that government depended on its success in fulfilling the social contract. To that end, the Framers created a system with heavy feedbacks from the citizens of this country. They're moderated feedbacks, to be sure, but at the end of the day, our systems is not built around testing the virtues of an elite-coddling system to the destruction of the Republic.
All these elections, all this separation of power and these checks and balances are about creating relief valves for dealing with the inevitable stress between stable, rational governments, and a world that changes, that proves what leaders believe wrong, that proves what the citizens, the subjects of the state believe wrong.
Human beings are fallible. Some systems demand that we keep on following one of those fallible human beings, even if that man or woman proves to be out of touch with the needs and the desires of the people. Our system let's us respond to them, exchange them for others when they fail. It doesn't vest power in one person, whose failures and weaknesses become that of the nation as a whole, it spreads power among more people, whose strengths and weaknesses can vary, giving us a better chance of finding our way out of problematic situations.
The balance is struck between a system which can act and react quickly to developing situations, and one that can deliberate and think things through. People are wasting the best qualities of each part, trying to force through an agenda no matter what.
Part of the balance of our system is a greater reliance on fact, on evidence, a more rationalist approach to law. The Framers were generations of experimenters, renaissance men who held learning in high regard. They weren't contemptuous of arts and humanities, of sciences and academic disciplines. They believed that government could operate less like some unruly mob or some spoiled brat of a monarchy, and instead could run with the same sort of experimental spirit.
America has gotten old enough that vested powers have developed, that an ad hoc sort of aristocracy of moneyed individuals has grown up. Of course, given their material success, they tell themselves that they've got it all figured out, and the rest of us should just catch up and give up, let them control matters.
But that no more avoids the troubles of aristocratic government in our times than it avoided it in ours. Whether they do so by formal means or not, a domination of the affairs of our nation by a moneyed, powerful few brings with it a stagnating, decadent influence. Even successful people remain fallible. The difference is, riches and power let those who have them extend their influence beyond their own lives, into that of others.
If we don't watch out, the informal and formal power they accrue can become just as much a trap to the pursuit of our interests as citizens, just as much a threat to our freedoms and our rights as any government's power. The same problem emerges from different places, emerging from the common features and failings of humanity.
Conspiracy theories are often, ironically enough, the tools of the upper class. Henry Ford helped distribute the infamous forged document known as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which itself was a product of the courts of the Czars. The Nazis snapped it up to fuel their persecution of the Jews of Europe, and in our day, Totalitarian regimes in the Middle East use them to slander Israel. It's much easier to get away with picking the pockets and shackling the hands of the average citizen if you give them somebody to hate, somebody to fear, and a threat to their livelihoods, to their way of life that they cannot resolve themselves, cannot resolve simply by dealing better with their neighbor.
It is, in many ways, the antithesis of our Framers' approach, the abandonment of reason and logic, tolerance and common debate in the forums in favor of paranoia, in favor of fear of the unknown, contempt for alternatives, isolation from those deemed undesirable. It works for the empowerment of the few, but at the expense of the interests of the many, the stability of the Republic, and the rational, democratic discourse that's meant to shape our nation.
Trump is pulling us towards that darkness. the Republicans are pulling us towards that darkness. What we need is the light of truth, of factual, evidence-based inquiry. What we need is to exercise our ability to acknowledge what we would prefer not to believe, but are forced by logic to accept. In that, and in that alone do we truly have freedom, truly have self-determination.
Trump's accusation of our former president isn't the first time he's slandered him, the birtherism a questionable political choice in the first place. This time, though, he's no longer just a public figure or candidate, he's the man in charge of the branch that decides whether people suffer the intrusion and censure of the law. There are layers of rules and procedures in place to prevent our chief executive from throwing his weight around in the criminal arena, so that prosecutions and use of law enforcement powers aren't adversely affected by President with not so sterling characters or intentions. Ironically enough, Trump is doing in real terms exactly what he's failed to prove that Obama has done to him: he's using his power as President to try and smear a political rival, to discredit his opposition, rally his supporters to his aid.
This abuse of his power cannot be tolerated, should not be normalized. If there is legal cause to go after the former President, let the FBI or whoever else lead the charge. By Trump doing so, he makes our law enforcement establishment look biased if it takes action, partisan. The announcement of the look into new e-mails was bad enough, irregular enough. Even if Trump does succeed in dragging his predecessor into court, nobody could deny the way Trump sought out the prosecution. If there isn't, Trump wasted his credibility for nothing.
His supporters have been lied to enough. They deserve and need better from their leader. They deserve to have proof available to them before they're asked to believe an accusation. To take any other approach is to get America's system of government, much less its system of justice, backwards.Posted by Stephen Daugherty at March 6, 2017 11:06 AM