Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Wartime rights

Via the NYT Magazine (19 Dec), Geof Stone, guesting here. I have commented on one point, but there is much else that is worth quoting:
unlike the Sedition Act of 1798, where the maximum jail term was 6 months, judges enforcing the World War I legislation routinely sentenced people to prison terms of 10-20 years in jail, and many of these people (like Mollie Steimer and Emma Goldman) were deported for their dissent.

And what, you ask, of the Supreme Court of the United States? In a series of decisions in 1919 and 1920, the Court upheld the convictions of these defendants. ...

Things today don't look quite so bad, do they?     [link]
On to World War II:
When asked why Japanese-Americans should be treated differently from German and Italian Americans, California Attorney General Earl Warren explained that it's possible to tell a loyal German or Italian from a disloyal one, but that such a determination was simply not possible with those of the Japanese race.
So, here's a question for you: Suppose the United States is hit with six terrorist attacks on the scale of 9/11 in the next three weeks. Suppose some of the terrorists are foreigners and some are American citizens who are Muslim. Suppose the Bush administration
orders the detention of all non-citizen Muslims in the United States and the temporary detention of all Muslims who are citizens of the United States, at least to determine which may pose a threat to the security of the nation. Would you support this? Can you distinguish it from the World War II internment?     [link]

And after:

Who was to blame? How did the Soviets get the bomb? Why had China fallen to the Communists? A group of anti-New Deal Republicans and conservative Southern Democrats had the answer -- it was American Communists who had sold us out and were working to further the Soviet cause. Men like Richard Nixon in California and Joseph McCarthy in Wisconsin began to play the Red Card in order to get elected, and they did. In the 1946 elections, the Republicans, who now portrayed the choice as one between Communism and Republicanism, picked up 54 seats in the House. After being out of power for 16 long years, the Republicans had found a strategy that could propel them back into power.

Democrats, who were overwhelmed by the growing anti-Communist hysteria, jumped on the bandwagon, afraid to resist.    [link]
'By the time we got to 1968, it was no longer possible to imagine a criminal prosecution of Gene McCarthy for opposing the war.' But...
The Nixon administration launched IRS audits of those who contributed to antiwar organizations, the FBI sent letters to the landlords of antiwar activists informing them that their tenant was a "Communist," it sent anonymous letters to colleges and universities accusing antiwar activists of drug violations, it encouraged local police agencies to arrest war opponents for traffic and other offenses, and so on. The FBI also sent anonymous letters to members of antiwar organizations accusing other members of embezzling the organization's fund, sleeping with the partners of other members, and even being FBI agents. The goal was to confuse, demoralize, distract, and discredit those who opposed the war, without doing anything that could be seen. None of this was known to the public until 1972.
the conventional wisdom is that the Supreme Court will never resist the executive branch in wartime. This is overstated. During World War II, the Court held unconstitutional the efforts of the Roosevelt administration to deport American fascists; during the second half of the Cold War the Court took a strong stand against McCarthyism; during the Vietnam War, the Court rejected the Nixon administration's effort to enjoin the publication of the Pentagon Papers and rejected its claim that it had a constitutional power to engage in national security wiretaps without a warrant. Most recently, the Court rejected the extreme claims of the Bush administration with respect to the rights of the Guantanamo Bay detainees and the rights of American citizens held as "enemy combatants" by the United States military. We should not expect too little of the Supreme Court.

Ultimately, though, the protection of civil liberties depends on an informed, determined, and courageous public. As Louis Brandeis once observed, "courage is the secret of liberty." May you all have the courage of your convictions.    [link]

"You cannot hope to bribe or twist thank God! The British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there's no occasion to." Jan Dalley in the FT a month or two ago [16 Oct?] attributed this to Chesterton.

Orwell quoted the same thing, saying 'in the lines by (I think) Hilaire Belloc:

You cannot hope to bribe or twist
Thank God! the British journalist.
But seeing what the man will do
unbribed, there’s no occasion to.'

The lines are attributed here (and by many others) to  Humbert Wolfe. That the lines can be got right and the author wrong is a tribute to the mnemonic power of verse (or even one attibute of verse - the lines have been described as doggerel). I do not claim this is so here, but sometimes mis-attribution can be revealing. Orwell again (on a different quotation) :

[Mr. Middleton Murry] attributes these lines to Thackeray. This is probably what is known as a ‘Freudian error.’ A civilized person would prefer not to quote Kipling —i.e. would prefer not to feel that it was Kipling who had expressed his thought for him


Will the EU's Constitution Rescue its Currency?       Professor Tim Congdon

 Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe: 1 - Treaty  (PDF, 807K) 


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