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(O'Rourke) View From the Couch: Retire Please

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Big Brother has arrived, but he was invited. The all-seeing eyes of Orwell's totalitarian nightmare have become privatized. It's similar technology: camera lenses, computers, but it's in the hands of individuals as well as the state. YouTube, the social networks, Facebook and the like. Once it is voluntary, it's hard to complain when it isn't. The camel's nose is under the tent and it will only get worse, more complex, more intrusive. A recent example of the private becoming public is Condoleezza Rice at Stanford, being caught digitally and beamed up to YouTube; it went to the New York Times. I saw the clip, where Condi says a few revealing things to an inquisitive student at a meet and greet back at Stanford. Then, a couple of days later, I read about the clip in Maureen Dowd's column in the Times. It's not that we're not all under twenty-four hour surveillance, but it's getting closer. Condi might rue going back to the sunny climes of Palo Alto, rather than a cool, remote boardroom in the Emirates and she did look more than a little peeved having to talk to whippersnappers, but she certainly revealed her handmaiden status in the Bush White House. Quizzed about waterboarding, she objected to the statement that she authorized torture. "I didn't authorize anything," she snapped. She merely handed the authorization on. It's always amazing watching the formerly powerful claim to have had no power at all.

Changing jobs, or choosing to retire, isn't just Condi's problem. Arlen Specter is of the I'll-die-in-the-job crowd. He's 79 and has survived medical problems and various cosmetic interventions. But he wants to remain in the Senate for the foreseeable future. He, like the unlamented Strom Thurmond, knows that it's the world's best old folks home. Obama's support for the Specter switch must mean he thinks that the next two years are all that matter: And Obama wants Specter now for, I guess, procedural votes, since it was likely that if Specter had remained a Republican he would have been beaten by a Democrat in 2010. But this search for 60 "Democrats" is a fool's errand (and will be so when the jester Al Franken finally is seated). Specter, of the Warren Commission's magic bullet theory, has no shame. It's Obama's magic bullet theory, courtesy of Arlen Specter, that he'll have a filibuster proof Senate. (Though I'm slowly coming to believe — not that I haven't — magic bullet or not, it was just Lee Harvey Oswald. Convinced of it, that is.)

And then there's Justice Souter. Crazy David. I guess he's the last bachelor in public life. Even the gay rumors are tepid and thin. But he wants to go back to his rural life, reading by candle light, etc. I'm presuming that the next vacancy (not just the Souter one) on the Court will go to a woman, also. But this Court continues to behave like a mediocre law firm. The great minds are elsewhere. This last Scalia decision on bad words in FCC v. Fox was yet another activist judge coup, imposing his own personal tastes on the body politic. Scalia is a constitutional originalist only in the sense that it originates with him. Scalia supposedly was thinking of leaving the Court back when Bush was president, so Scalia could go get rich, not just hang out with the rich, which he so likes to do. But, perhaps, he found another way to get extra money. Anthony Kennedy could do the world a favor by retiring and letting a solid liberal vote onto the Court. But, in these economic times, Souter becomes the exception that proves the rule. Everyone is clinging to his and her job.

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