Monday, January 10, 2005

immanentizing the eschaton on the taxpayer's dime

Headline: "Congress passes 'doomsday' plan". My first thought was that is about time they came out and admitted it.

What they've done is create a contingency plan for dealing with a hypothetical situation where a large number of lawmakers are taken out by terrorist attacks. The Constitution says that a majority of the 435 members of Congress are required for passing laws or declaring war... but in the event of a national crisis, there might not be 218 lawmakers left and the rules need to be changed.

The sane thing to do would be to modify the law such that a majority of the surviving members would be adequate, but nobody is going to accuse our government of being sane any time soon: they decided instead that a majority of the lawmakers who are able to show up at the House would be sufficient... meaning that it's possible that a dozen people might be enough to declare war. (Sadly, this is in some ways an improvement over the current situation, where Congress quite unconstitutionally gave the president sole discretion to declare war in the fall of 2001.)

The interesting bit is that the plan doesn't allow for votes to be cast by phone, or by secure electronic means, or even by postal workers on horseback... lawmakers must be physically present for their votes to count. This all makes sense if the scenario is that the whole country has been bombed back into the stone age, but given that we ourselves are the most heavily-armed fundamentalist country on the planet the odds of this happening are vanishingly small. Besides, the Bad Guys don't need to carpet bomb the US to destroy us... they took out two buildings and the ensuing mad dash to surrender our civil rights to some unrealistic and unattainable idea of 'safety' still continues over four years later.