Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Putin to Bush: you fired Rather didn't you?

Last week, Bush was supposed to be the Voice of the Free World, giving a stern lecture to V. Putin who is crushing all forms of independence in Russia and seems determined to return it to the bad old Soviet days.

When Putin looked at Bush however, he didn't see an example to follow, but a soul mate. There was an all too revealing private moment at the Bush-Putin Summit, that has been caught for posterity: Time magazine :

But when Bush talked about the Kremlin's crackdown on the media and explained that democracies require a free press, the Russian leader gave a rebuttal that left the President nonplussed. If the press was so free in the U.S., Putin asked, then why had those reporters at CBS lost their jobs? Bush was openmouthed. "Putin thought we'd fired Dan Rather," says a senior Administration official. "It was like something out of 1984."

now why oh why would Valdimir think that? *cough* Karl Rove *cough* hmmmm can't imagine...

But it does beg a very interesting question. Is Putin a "confused foreigner who doesn't understand our ways" or he a lot closer to the truth than we are comfortable admitting? Last week I posted Dan Froomkin's brilliant piece dissecting Bush's "America is wonderful and free" speech, when asked the equivalency question again by a Russian reporter. And in reading those links as well as fellow Kossack Tomtech's Ongoing series "this week in Fascism" has really made me stop and wonder.

Are we still a free people? If the question were, to steal a phrase from the Gipper, "are you Less Free today than you were 4 years ago?". The answer wouldn't even take a second's thought. My law school career began 1 month before 9/11, and since that time I've watched the steady erosion of our rights and freedoms. In nearly every class I had in Con Law, Crim Pro, or 1st amendment, the professor was forced to say at some point "well this has been the settled law for almost 50 years, however in light of recent developments..." and then they would tick off gaping new holes that had been opened in some of the most basic Civil rights":

Habeas Corpus? Ask the Detainees at Gitmo about that one.

Right to a Fair and Speedy Trial? Well except for Jose Padilla

Right to the assistance of Counsel? I'm sure Lynee Stewart would love to have a conversation about that with you

Right to be free from government Takings without due process?: Well Benevolence International would dispute that point

Well how about the 1935 ruling that ended the use of Confessions obtained by torture? Surely a 70 yr old standard of decency was safe? Nope

Okay...hmmm lets go to the basics: The Rule of Law? Separate and Co-equal branches of government? Not if you ask choke Attorney General Gonzales

I wont even bother to get into the FCC trampling free speech, The Justice department Shredding the idea of personal Privacy, and Wingnuts on the hill who want a DNA sample on your driver's license. I think the point is made. Are we still in a free country? Balancing everything I still think we are, things are bad right now, but they have been worse (especially if you were black or female) in this country and we have persevered. Will we be in 5 more years if we don't do something? That's a harder question to answer


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