Wednesday, June 12, 2013

If You Can Keep It

Benjamin Franklin, has gotten a lot play in media and social media in the past several days. His quote on liberty and security is ubiquitous now due to revelations of active spy programs, some for domestic surveillance, run by the by the federal government's National Security Agency, among others. Seems to me that if you really stop and think about what he said, we've taken it out of context. In my view Franklin was talking about acquiescence, where, given the choice, some people would CHOOSE to be less free in order to be more secure.

There is another Franklin quote, which I believe to be a more apt representation of the state of the nation, if for no other reason than to contrast how we find ourselves today with how it all began. When asked what kind of government they had created for the United States, Ben Franklin replied,
"A republic, madam, if you can keep it".
The government we have now is not a cause of the problems we see, but a symptom of the fact that we couldn't keep it. Some may view it as a case of the chicken or the egg, but in my view, we lost the culture first, the government merely followed.

Government, after a half-century of unconstrained growth, no longer operates within its constitutional boundaries, and is now, both guarantor and arbiter of national, economic, financial, and social security. Government is no longer responding to these needs, but defining them for every area of our lives. What started out as an historically unique experiment with a republican form of limited government, has morphed into an authoritarian nanny security state of unlimited reach. How unlimited was finally made clear by the recent leaks of information on the domestic phone metadata captures, and Prism, where the top nine internet service providers colluded with the federal government to spy on offshore internet users.

Also abundantly clear now is that there is a cadre of statist enablers of this expansion, even among erstwhile conservative political and media figures. These are the people who have worked hard to assure us, for example that this domestic phone metadata capture is "lawful" and "legal", dismissing our concerns as unfounded and attributing our concerns to mental defect or unhealthy fascination with with tanks and helicopters. They hope we'll soon get tired and go back to carping at the IRS so they can have a peaceful adult discussion about this spy and get something done whatever that means.

Hopefully they won't get their wish.

Eternal vigilance is price of liberty, with apologies to Mr. Franklin and our posterity for having squandered our inheritance.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mukasey vs The People of The United States

Readers of today's Wall Street Journal were treated to an opinion piece authored by apparent statist, former federal judge and US Attorney General Michael Mukasey. I haven't seen a hit piece like that on conservatives and libertarians in the Journal since the '08 presidential campaign. It was such a tantrum, I thought he might have been channeling Saul Alinsky.

What follows is my response to his op-ed screed.

Where to begin? I neither hear nor see tanks nor black helicopters. Mr. Mukasey follows his scurrilous assertion that all opposed must be conspiracy nuts, with the despot's favored cudgel - that we're all afflicted with a psychiatric malady, namely "delusions of reference".

So we're crazy for being concerned about all these mere perceived violations of propriety, but before and after the diagnosis General Mukasey went on in detail about the ways the government, including and especially this current administration has mishandled confidential information and intelligence assets. At the same time he tried to make the case that it was, and still is all quite lawful (which doesn't make it RIGHT) but we're crazy for being concerned... because the surveillance isn't political. But, everything - EVERYTHING - this administration does is political...

Judge Mukasey ridiculed us for drawing parallels between Orwell's "1984" and Metadatapalooza 2013, but never really denied it. And then there's this. Mr. Mukasey wrote, "Foreign governments spy on us and our citizens. We spy on them and theirs. Welcome to the world."

I fully expect foreign governments to spy on us.
I fully expect this government to do everything in its power to prevent it.
I will not, however, accept that the United States government has any justification to spy on me.

Since Mr. Mukasey mentioned "1984", I wonder what he'd make of this, sent to me by a friend yesterday, from "Nineteen Eighty-four" Part 2, Ch 9, by George Orwell, published June 8, 1949:
"... in the past no government had the power to keep its citizens under constant surveillance. The invention of print, however, made it easier to manipulate public opinion, and the film and the radio carried the process further. With the development of television, and the technical advance which made it possible to receive and transmit simultaneously on the same instrument, private life came to an end...." emphasis mine
Replace television with the internet and wireless communications....

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty because it's NOT just Mukasey versus the people of the United States.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

George Orwell's 1984?

It was odd.

I woke up thinking about "1984".

I've not read the book in over 20 years, so it at least seemed an odd direction to go on a Sunday morning....

Most of what passes for government in America today is corrupt, from the corridors of power in Washington, to the state house in Nashville, to the local level here where I live. Nevertheless, like a lot of Americans I have been surprised, and quite offended by the most recent revelations of treachery perpetrated by the federal government, the revelation of the scope of the metadata being swept up by the FBI and NSA under the auspices of their Verizon telephone warrants.

On the heels of that comes the latest revelations of another surveillance program called Prism and the subsequent release today of a video of the alleged leaker, Edward Snowden. It was jarring to watch as he discussed in measured tones the nature of that program, and his reasons for outing it. Needless to say there are already people lauding his courage and others calling for his head. Irrespective of his stated motivation, I found his point about turn-key tyranny a more than a little chilling. I am gravely concerned over the "1984" authoritarian overtones pervading the federal government. I wonder if O'Brien wouldn't feel right at home?

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty because, apparently, Big Brother is watching you.