Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » January 2006 » Argumentum Ad Labelum...

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01/03/2006: Argumentum Ad Labelum...

Ed from (Dispatches from the Culture Wars) has this good description of the *problems* in following the sound-byte defenses from those Un-Constitutional Americans out there for CIC’s NSA *Spying-On-American-Citizens-Without-A-Court-Warrant* Program.

“One of the things that most annoys me about political discourse in America is the tendency to substitute labels for actual argument. I blame this primarily upon the rise of talk radio, with its predominately juvenile and simplistic form of argument, and on the ubiquity of news-by-soundbite.

In today's mass media, newspapers and magazines have steadily lost readership as people turn to the primarily flashy and shallow cable news shows for their information. Rather than having a 600 to 1000 word column establishing an argument, viewers are fed a stream of 5 second soundbites.

In this kind of news environment, political discussion is reduced to a battle of the pithiest comments and the most effective catchphrases that can be stated in a few seconds time. Thus, the now almost inescapable phenomenon of what I will call the
argumentum ad labelum, where someone assumes that merely by labelling an argument as "liberal", for example, they have defeated the argument (and of course, the same type of argument is often heard from the other side as well, usually by applying the "neo-con" label to whatever argument they think they're defeating). So what does this have to do with the NSA wiretapping scandal?

We can see such an
argumentum ad labelum at work all over TV news shows as the President's defenders spread out on the talk shows to dismiss everyone critical of the NSA wiretapping as nothing more than "liberals" out to damage the President for political purposes. Some even go further and argue that those who criticize the NSA wiretapping are actually helping the terrorists. Pat Buchanan was on TV last night arguing that the New York Times had committed treason by reporting on the wiretapping program.

Well yes, of course. Anyone who objects to giving the President completely unchecked authority to order wiretaps on anyone he pleases is just a "liberal" who is "hostile beyond reason" to President Bush. But the simple fact is that there is very solid ground for criticizing the wiretap program as illegal and that criticism is not just coming from "liberals".”

And faulty legal analysis of the supposed “War Time” authority under FISA. As part of the “We are at war” argument for CIC’s claim to Extra-Constitutional-Executive-Powers by Orin Kerr (Volokh Conspiracy) creates a lame legal analysis that makes no mention of the FISA section pertaining to this specific limitation “following a declaration of war”:
FISA, §1811 reads: “Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this title to acquire foreign intelligence information for a period not to exceed fifteen calendar days following a declaration of war by the Congress.”

Which Timothy Sandefur (Positive Liberty) correctly evaluates into the legal mix with the a few pertinent Supreme Court cases on the topic of “[t]he standard reference for discussion of the President’s inchoate authority is, of course, Justice Jackson’s famous opinion in the Steel Seizure Case, 343 U.S. 579 (1952).”

So, all you conservatives, quit trying to slay this dragon with argumentum ad labelum sound bytes and come up with some actual *legal* justification as to Why this meets Constitutional muster and Why -- if it doesn’t -- this isn’t an Impeachable Offense.

Karen on 01.03.06 @ 05:48 PM CST

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