Welcome to Behind the Lines, a weekly conversation with Salt Lake Tribune cartoonist Pat Bagley and BYU economist Val Lambson.
Lambson: Bravo on your Big Ideals/Big Brother cartoon. It seems we are slipping (once again) in the "eternal vigilance" department.
Bagley: A few people in the comment section challenge the facts presented in the cartoon. (I know, I know. . . since when do cartoonists care about facts? Some of us actually do). They point to sections in the act that specifically exempt U.S. citizens and resident aliens from the possibility of indefinite detention on nothing better than the word of the President. The best I can determine is that my critics may be right, but then again, maybe not. It's complicated.
In any case, the Constitution doesn't make distinctions between citizens and non, except in very specific instances, like voting. Everyone within reach of U.S. law is entitled to the protections of that law.
Lambson: I'm not a lawyer and I haven't read the act. The latter I suspect I have in common with all those who voted on the bill; the former, not so much. I find it curious if there are sections that specifically exempt U.S. citizens and resident aliens from violations of their constitutional rights. Shouldn't that be understood and therefore unnecessary?
Bagley: I'm not a lawyer, either. Too bad; obviously neither of us is the 1%. I figure I'm currently rubbing shoulders with the 30%. Better company, anyway. (Apologies to my lawyer friends and family: I don't mean you). What is unnecessary is selling our birthright of personal liberty for a mess of security. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mess_of_pottage
I know I'm speaking your libertarian language here, but give us liberals some credit. Sure, America can make itself absolutely, totally, 100% secure against terrorist attacks, but it would have to turn itself into another North Korea to do it. I, for one, wouldn't welcome our new security-hawk overlords.
Lambson: Liberty seems to be the first casualty of war, and when war is lacking there are metaphors that work just as well: War on Drugs, War on Terror, War on the 4th Amendment. (OK. I made the last one up, but it does seem real sometimes.) This transcends party. I am reminded of the Patriot Act every time I have to explain to a banker where my bank balances came from. My banker couldn't care less where they came from; but the Bush Administration decided that it is the government's business and essentially forces bankers to spy on their customers.
Bagley: At least my librarian and bookstore friends do care that they could be used to spy on their customers. Like I said; better company.
Lambson: I think bankers care too, but the government requires that they report suspicious transactions. What are suspicious transactions? What the government decides, with the benefit of hindsight, should have been considered suspicious. So to be safe bankers must report pretty much everything. Not what, say, Sam Adams envisioned.
Bagley: I imagine this time of year in Boston he envisioned putting up his feet before a blazing fire with a mug of wassail in his hand. Which reminds me: Happy holidays, Val!
Lambson: Likewise, my friend. And happy holidays to our readers too!
Bagley: Last week's BTL about Mormon adherence to the GOP drew a record number of comments that quickly strayed off topic. There were some that stayed on point, like this from wbl2745:
I find it so amusing that the Utah Republicans don't get it that they are for the most part not respected by the rest of the party. Their loyalty is ignored and taken for granted.