Adam’s First Law Politik
“The issue is never the problem a law attempts to solve, the issue is what the law allows people to do.”
I’ve never heard someone formalize this issue, so I decided to name it after myself. Hopefully that isn’t too narcissistic for the world…
The nature of human problems is that they don’t have simple solutions. When a problem exists, it is inevitable that any attempted solution will cause at least as many issues as the original problem. This is why any attempt at solving problems by government must be done circumspectly and with surgical precision. Any gap, opening, or loophole will be exploited by someone, thus necessitating another law which creates six more problems necessitating another six laws which all create their own set of problems. I’ll pick three basic examples.
1) The Patriot Act
After the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, America was left wondering how something so grand and coordinated could have happened and we knew nothing about it. It accomplished it’s intent… America was in fear. The manifestation of that fear was to center national focus on Islamic terrorism out of the Middle East and find ways to prevent a reoccurance of the same. So, assets were frozen, dossiers were passed around, and the Patriot Act came in to existence with the guise of being able to monitor Middle Eastern terrorists’ communication with their operatives in the United States. Thus, phone numbers and communications began being monitored and tracked without warrants which, in the case of American citizens, is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. However, there was and is valid concern about Middle East terrorism (ie, probable cause), so it makes sense to “bend the rules” a tad… and besides, if it only affects the small percentage of American citizens who routinely communicate with the Middle East, what’s the harm compared to the “greater good”, yeh?
Wrong. Dead wrong.
After the establishment of the FISA Court in 1978 (another “simple solution” for obtaining warrants against suspected foreign intelligence operators at the height of the Cold War), the Government never needed to go to an open and public court to obtain a warrant ever again. Meaning, not only could the obtain warrants on the flimsiest of grounds, but there wouldn’t be any way to challenge the “oath” of the swearing officer or “probable cause” because the warrant would be issued and executed with no one ever knowing about it. These powers were dramatically increased under the Patriot Act, as probable cause was redefined to include the potential to commit a crime rather than proof of a conspiracy to commit a crime. Exploratory warrants… hoorah… “We are going to watch this person to see if we should be watching this person.” As the realm of terrorism has changed and expanded, so too has the government’s monitoring capabilities. Under the guise of the Patriot Act and National Security, the NSA is now accessing e-mails, phone metadata (Verizon), and private servers (AP). To highlight, the issue isn’t primarily the Patriot Act. The issue is what the Patriot Act has since allowed the Government to do.
2) Gay Marriage.
I’ve already written pretty extensively about my opinion on the Gay Marriage discussion back in March… so why bring it up now? I would like to highlight this quote from that blog entry, “If the Supreme Court can strike down the will of the majority of the electorate in California, none of us are safe from the tyranny of the Courts…regardless of our sexual orientation.” The effect of the SSM debate is far more complicated than people being able to file joint tax returns, having visitation rights at the Hospital, or even serving as foster homes or adopting children. If that was all there was to it, this entire conversation would be wholly irrelevant to me as an American citizen. What worries me far more is that which we have already seen in Arizona where a bakery was sued, picketed and eventually forced to close because they refused to make a wedding cake for a Same Sex couple. What worries me about the SSM debate is what we do when businesses and churches of principle are threatened with legal action if they don’t violate their conscience or religious belief.
Once again, it isn’t about the law… it is about what the law will allow people to do — in this case, undercutting the two major tenets of the First Amendment: Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech.
It’s hard to imagine the whole Syria situation turning into a bigger clusterf+++ than it already is, but it could be oh, so much worse. I’m referring, of course, to this bargain being offered by Russia. It sounds great, doesn’t it? The US promises not to use force on Syria, and Syria declares then turns over all their chemical weapons to Russia. So, the US gets to walk away from the diplomatic/civic black hole created by President Prancercize-Putter and the Secretariat of State scot free and Russia takes responsibility for Syria’s magically appearing WMD’s. But using this same exercise from the previous two examples, let’s think this through —
A) If the US is to take Russia’s bargain, it means that the US has just been told what to by another foreign power. This is absolutely a diplomatic coup for Russia — A.K.A., the Cold War antagonizer. The US will have officially ceded whatever leadership it still had on the global front to another superpower. That is a position that this country has not had since WWII.
B) It is proof of what we have all “known” for a while… that Syria is Russia’s lapdog. Translation: If Russia had any interest in removing Assad or empowering him, it would have done so already. Russia is positioning itself to become Syria’s primary patron regardless of who wins that Civil War. Ultimately, if the US takes Russia’s offer, it does so at the expense of making Russia into a savior. As one astute commentator put it, “It would be the first Nobel Peace Prize awarded for stopping another Nobel Peace Prize winner from starting a war.”
C) The scary part: for politically saving his hindquarters, President Obama will owe Vladimir Putin a favor. If there is one standard operating procedure in dealing with power-brokers, it is this: never owe a favor to the Russians (hello, Mafia…). There is no telling exactly “how” that would manifest itself, but I can guarantee you this — it will not be over soon, and we will not enjoy it.
When dealing with politics — international, domestic, or otherwise — it is worth remembering this one fact: it is never about the proposal on the table… it is always about what the proposal will allow people to do. I would urge as many as read this to consider it whenever it comes to influencing our national leaders. Whether we are talking about renewing the Patriot Act, legalizing Same Sex Marriage, invading Syria, repealing the ACA, restricting gun ownership, pushing “green energy” or whatever else, always remember to consider the consequences before pulling the trigger. If all you see is the block in front of you, you will never see the line of dominoes about to fall on top of you.