Day 66: The thought police takeover

Something funny happened on the way to the revolution. Namely, one Republican senator got a severe case of think-for-myself-itis. Yes, surprise to say, my first common sense award for Most-Balls-in-The-Face-Of-Massive-Potential-Political-Ramifications goes to Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon for being the only Republican with the gumption (or is it integrity?) to both recognize the balanced budget amendment as no more than toothless chicanery for the purposes of duping the public into believing that, yes, there is a magical painless way to balance the books.

Predictably, there was immediately a movement, however small, led by Senator Connie Mack of Florida, to strip Hatfield of his chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations committee.

Strangely enough, Senate Chief Goober Phil Gramm wasn't a part of it. Indeed, he called for tolerance (WOW!) and temperance. Score one for the presidential wanna-be, but we all know that Hatfield will be the pariah of his party's Senate contingent. They won't say it publicly, though rumor has it Bob Dole is taking on the task of tailoring the dunce cap himself. Retribution is such a nasty business.

Speaking of Dole, and those of you who like him who feel "this won't die," even paramedics and doctors know that after a while, defibrillation just doesn't work.

The whole idea of this amendment was profoundly stupid. Hell, even if I did believe in the amendment at the start, by the end it was so watered down with amendments as to have no kick. Like the provision to preclude judges from making specific cuts and tax increases. If 2002 rolls around and we don't have the books right, how else do you enforce the thing, except to throw the Congress in jail. On second thought, . Ooops, sorry about that lapse into the world of fantasy.

Think of if this had been introduced and passed in 1929. The Great Depression could still be going on today. It ended because decisions were made and we had to borrow a little. That type of flexibility is severely hampered by the rigidity of this type legislation.

Speaking of hard decisions, let's see some teeth from the Republicans. The House Budget Committee has yet to submit even a five-year deficit reduction plan. And before they start whacking at the general budget, why don't they nix some of their own freebies first, like the health club.

Now it's time to get serious

Most of you know that there is something that makes law enforcement have to have a warrant when they search your property or abode. That something is the warrant clause in the Fourth Amendment. If they violate this, there is a principle called the exclusionary rule that makes evidence obtained illegally inadmissible in court. Exceptions include exigent circumstances (if officers believes a felony is taking place at the time), "hot pursuit," or if evidence is about to be destroyed in front of them. Most law enforcement officials, even the head of the FBI, think this is a good thing. It keeps the cops in line, and is a built in check against sloppiness. Since less than 2 percent of all felony cases are dismissed on so-called technicalities, it seems to be working.

Don't tell that to Republican Representative Bill McCullom of Florida.

Two weeks back, the House passed his legislation calling for an even bigger list of exceptions.

Think about this. How many of you want to go back to when police could ransack your place, finding (and sometimes planting) what they want and confiscating it and using it to prosecute you? For those of you who think that this time is quite remote, think again. The exclusionary rule didn't apply to the states until the 1960s. Polls say that most Americans are willing to give up some rights for a "safer" society. Well, how safe would you feel if the cops could come into your house on a "hunch?" If they could have your stomach pumped to find contraband on a "hunch." These things happened within the last quarter to half century, and were legal.

Be careful what you overlook.

Tyrone Henry is a political science senior.

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