Friday, October 26, 2007

Thought Crimes and the Bounds of Thinkable Thought

I posted below the excellent New York Times editorial excoriating the Democrats for their position on FISA legislation on warrantless surveillance, since said position was indistinguishable from the Republicans. There's nothing that unusual here -- in the last two years of the Reagan administration, even after Iran-contra had sullied the White House's reputation, Dems took a more conservative position on Contras and mujahedeen than The Gipper himself. Today, though, you'd be hard-pressed to find a civil-liberties-destroying piece of legislation that both major parties wouldn't sign their names to. Witness HR1955, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, sponsored by California Democrat Jane Harman. It's passed the House and is on to the Senate. As Lee Rogers of points out, it's a thought-crime bill, criminalizing mere thought. The scary thing is, I have sometimes jokingly said in public speeches that Noam Chomsky was inadvertently right in making jokes about "the bounds of thinkable thought" -- that perhaps there are certain forms of Wahhabism, Pol-Potism, not to mention child porn, that should be criminal to ponder, let alone act upon. But when such parameters are spelled out in serious legislation, the joke isn't funny. And neither is the present Congress. At least with our three branches of government, we can take heart in knowing all three branches suck separately and equally.

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