Letter 2 America for October 17, 2014

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Dear America,
Governor Rick Perry of Texas speaking at the R...

Governor Rick Perry of Texas speaking at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. Please attribute to Gage Skidmore if used elsewhere. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


On the subject of the power of our central, federal government, there are two issues that I see as ripe for discussion, and when juxtaposed they present the dilemma faced by the Obama administration ever since it became apparent that the Republican call for cooperation between the parties and compromise in Washington, D.C. was nothing more than the bait to which newly minted President Obama rose in his 2009 inaugural address.  The two issues in question are the ebola threat that becomes more menacing every day if you listen to the news media, even though there have been only three diagnosed cases in this country so far, and the danger that criminals and radical militants represent if we citizens are allowed to hold our "papers and effects"...in this instance our cell phones..."free from unreasonable searches and seizures" requiring our government to get a warrant if it needs access to them for a legitimate, legally cognizable reason such as national security.  The former is bound to be a full-blown campaign issue for the next couple of weeks, and the latter will be in the 2016 presidential campaign, somewhat like the Patriot Act was after 9/11.

As to Ebola, so far all of the ebola morbidity we have seen stems from treatment of the first patient treated in this country, who contracted the disease in his native Liberia in consequence of an altruistic act, which blossomed into ebola symptoms only after he arrived in this country.  The story has been amply covered in our news media, and it only bears mentioning again so as to posit the underlying principles involved in the political debate.  Thomas Duncan was coming here to marry the mother of his child...his finance...and just before departure from Liberia, he helped a pregnant neighbor in Liberia who was sick with ebola to get to the hospital for treatment, at which time he apparently contracted ebola.  When his symptoms began to emerge, he went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas where he was turned away because the staff didn't think the presence of a high fever and vomiting in a recent √©migr√© from Liberia, the center of the font from which all ebola infections in the world today flowed, merited further attention.  The hospital has apparently apologized to Duncan's family for failing to give him the fighting chance of which early diagnosis might have availed him, as it did American health workers who contracted the disease in Africa but came back home to be treated successfully for the 70% fatal disease.  With those facts as predicate, Texas Governor Rick Perry has called for exclusion of travelers from West Africa who attempt to fly into American airports, which is something he presumably wants the Obama administration to do.  Of course, Perry still went to Europe to grand stand about economic development in Texas after the first healthcare worker was diagnosed with ebola in Texas, but he did come back home to manage the crisis when the second one came down with it.  Of course, regulation of hospitals in Texas is primarily a function of Texas state government, and Perry, to his credit, seems to be acknowledging that, though he is hedging that acknowledgment with the caveat that the state can do only so much and the federal government needs to do the rest.  But that isn't quite the tone he struck on the issue of the Texas abortion clinic bill, which closed almost all of the clinics in the state for lack of doctors' privileges at local hospitals.  Regarding that law, he has demonstrated full support, but what is he going to do about ebola?  If he's truly concerned about the performance of health care procedures in Texas, maybe he should be concentrating his attention on the lapses in treatment protocol that have resulted in contagion so far in Texas instead of advanced-campaigning in Iowa, New Jersey and Connecticut on the basis his "pro-life" credentials.

As to the privacy issue, Apple and Google have announced that the latest iterations of their smart phones are imbedded with an encryption program that renders the phones themselves impervious to scrutiny if they are confiscated by law enforcement officials pursuant to criminal investigations.  The federal government, for one, is complaining.  The argument goes that law enforcement officials need to be able to scrutinize those phones when they are in the possession of criminals and terrorists when they are arrested.  The argument runs parallel to this: you can't buy a safe that the federal government can't open because the federal government might want to open it some day...without a warrant.  It goes along with the claim that the NSA should be able to listen to all of our phone calls just in case there is one somewhere that occurs pursuant to a criminal motivation or activity.  Essentially, the federal government's opponents to the Apple/Google encryption program is that the contents of your cell phone aren't covered by the fourth amendment of The Constitution; the right to privacy goes only so far as it is convenient for the federal government.  But the advocates of increased governmental intrusiveness seem to have forgotten that the argument they are now invoking is exactly why the fourth amendment was included in The Constitution 250 or so years ago.  Basically, government cannot be trusted with carte blanche.  

So, the debate over the reach of federal agencies is in full bloom in Texas and Washington.  Texas's governor wants the federal government to do more about ebola, and he certainly will complain about it if President Obama...well, does anything because the good governor is a good card-carrying conservative, and states' rights are his signature issue.  On the other hand, the federal government wants to do more on the issue of access to our personal information, and that affects Texas just like Ebola has.   I can't wait to hear what Governor Perry has to say about that.

Your friend,

Mike

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Wolf published on October 17, 2014 12:17 PM.

Letter 2 America for October 14, 2014 was the previous entry in this blog.

Letter 2 America for October 21, 2014 is the next entry in this blog.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Wolf published on October 17, 2014 12:17 PM.

Letter 2 America for October 14, 2014 was the previous entry in this blog.

Letter 2 America for October 21, 2014 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

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