Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, June 24, 2006

...And formidable to Tyrants only

Dick Cheney went out to defend the latest Bush scandal. Bush told us in April 2002 that there would only be searches with warrants. In December '05, the press revealed that the Bush administration is listening in on every overseas call. That's all. Nothing more. Nothing to worry about unless you're Al Qaeda. Then, in April '06, it was revealed that they are keeping a database of every American's telephone calls. Again, that's all. Nothing more. No more secrets. Nothing to worry about unless you're Al Qaeda. Now we find out they're tracking the banking records of every single American. That's all. Nothing more. No more secrets. Just that. And, as always, the Bush administration is angry about the leak:

Here is Dick Cheney yesterday:
"What I find most disturbing about these stories is the fact that some of the news media take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people. That offends me."

The arrogance is astounding! The pattern should now be clear: there is no limit to their arrogance or lust for power. This administration is treating everyone one of us as a terrorism suspect, especially the free press, and is spying on all of us, our phones, banks, mail, everything. Tony Snow, press secretary, keeps saying you "have nothing to worry about unless you're Al Qaeda." That's what tyrants always say. Only bad people will be hurt. What are we, six year olds?

I get so angry when I hear numbskulls like the new CIA chief speaking of the need to "balance" liberty and security. And senators and newsmen nod sagely. It's a false choice. There's no balance. They aren't really all that related. The premise, rarely spoken but widely believed by the right wing, is that if we were a total police state, we would be totally safe, and everything else is a compromise, where we accept less safety in exchange for civil liberties. Of course, it never works. They have terrorism in Russia. They have it in Syria. In Egypt. Saudi Arabia is a totalitarian nightmare, but they have terrorists there. That's where most of the m--f--ckers come from!

Why doesn't a police state bring security? Because when the government treats everyone as a terrorist, it can't tell who the real terrorists are anymore. When you broaden the definition of suspicious activity to include the normal behavior of free people who want to mind their own business, every transaction looks suspect. And, on the flip side, every dangerous transaction or conversation become strangely normal, because people start behaving differently. Everyone starts talking in hushed tones around authority figures. People stop ratting on suspicious activity, because they know it will only turn the suspicion on them, too. Don't stick your neck out - a terrible lesson if you want citizen vigilance! The Soviet Union went to extremes of imprisoning tens of millions and killing as many. We can argue whether that "worked," but I don't feel like trying it. Or am I just soft on terrorism?

Security doesn't come from the spy-on-everyone-and-mine-data approach. Brute force isn't the answer. Intelligence is, in every sense of the word. We need a vigilant citizenry that cooperates with high-quality, targeted, and intelligent police investigations. We need ICE agents who pay attention, and don't give visas to dead people. We need people who are eagle-eyed, not bureaucrats. The answer isn't reorganizing existing bureaucrats to the Department of the Oogy-Boogy Homeland Security, but dramatically raising pay and recruiting the best and the brightest (even if they are gay, or - in the case of the Air Force, not Fundamentalist Christian).

Here's the score, Mr. Bush. Why do you hate freedom? Why are you afraid of it? The best defense we have is a free and vigilant people with a government that respects them, and vice versa. And how dare you lash out at oversight by press or Congress! Jefferson spoke of the revocation of his people's right of representation in legislatures thus, "a right inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants only." Otherwise, what are we fighting for?

The response, from various Republican Senators is, "You can't have civil liberties if you're dead." So is that our only goal, then - stop attacks and save our own hides? Well, then we're WAY off! I mean, if it's that important to prevent terrorist attacks, why don't we just keep all our civil liberties and constitution as it is, but just withdraw all US troops from the middle east and stop supporting Israel. Or convert en masse to Islam. Cheap and effective. If there's more at stake than just our lives, stop trying to anything just by saying "it saves lives."


Anonymous said...

I agree with LTG. The Republicans say they are defending not only American lives but the American way of life itself. But what is that way of life if it is not based on liberty?!

Why do Republicans hate liberty now? I don't know but I suspect it has something to do with profound feelings of personal insecurity. That's why their message has greatest appeal in those parts of the country most obviously in decline - i.e. the rural South and Great Plains.

The Democrats should cry "For Liberty and a Balanced Budget!" 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

I want to expand on what I said above about "the premise, rarely spoken but widely believed by the right wing, is that if we were a total police state, we would be totally safe, and everything else is a compromise, where we accept less safety in exchange for civil liberties." That is the right wing view, that too many Americans accept. It's also the genesis of fascism.

Why do I care so much about this? Because that premise is fundamentally anti-democratic. Rightists believe that democracy is weak and ineffective. Left to its own devices, democratic societies would be defenseless peaceniks. Strong leaders and strong actions are needed when the rubber hits the road, to make serious decisions. That's what the TV show "24" is about - a non-stop advertisement for the idea that democracy is too weak to handle real problems. Rightists view democracy as weak, even effeminate. Civil liberties are just shields for criminals and ivory-tower do-gooders who don't understand the "real world." You weren't in New York, man, you don't understand. I don't care if they're breaking the constitution. Terrorism is serious. They have to keep us safe.

I read an essay by William Safire (a first rate jackass if there ever was one) saying he was a "starker" - a person who believed in being strong. He called on the legacy of Jews who did not fight the holocaust, who he thought were in error, versus those who did. That was his justification as to why Israel had to be aggressive in the occupied territories. Same shit, different menu.

You have heard this shit all your life from all sorts of people, for all kinds of reasons. This view is so pervasive in the right wing Republican party that the FIRST thing they do in response to any crisis is to militarize the situation. Like hurricanes or crime. The military is believed to be much more effective than civilian leadership. We have been all but conditioned to believe that martial law is an appropriate first response to a disaster, rather than a last-ditch response to a total failure of civilian institutions. It is so pervasive in every movie and on TV.

That's not right at all. IT's downright dangerous. It's time for real Americans to stand up. Liberty and democracy are not weak, effeminate (like there's anything wrong with that...) or ineffective. They are what has kept this country strong. They are what patriots have fought and died for since the Revolution, in the streets at home and in armed forces. Almost every square inch of this planet has been occupied, undergone painful dictatorship, or suffered violent change of government since 1900, but we are among the very few exceptions. They are all strong democracies: Australia, Canada, USA, UK, Iceland.

Remember, there were many, including those in Lincoln's cabinet, who thought that holding elections during the Civil War (1862 and 1864) and permitting anti-war candidates to run was suicide. They were dead wrong. America owes a lot to the fact that the elections went ahead.

Let's start calling the idea that Democracy is Weak and Ineffective exactly what it is: the root of tyranny and the seed of fascism. Or to put it more simply - Treason. Al Qaeda can't destroy our way of life- only we can do that, if we are too cowardly to follow in the footsteps of patriots who persevered, and give in to the soothing promises of Strong Men who promise us safety if only we would give them more power. 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

I recommend to you Senator Feinstein's Speech 
on these subjects given earlier this month. She wonderfully reminds the audience of the abuses that led to the first American Revolution. 

// posted by Anonymous

Anonymous said...

The comments I keep hearing from slightly-right-of-center friends go something like this, "Dear, *you* don't have anything to be afraid of. You're just one little person who doesn't have anything to do with bad stuff or bad people. Why are you so worried about who's watching your phone calls/emails/bank records?"

I couldn't articulate it until today, but I think the same reason this sort of thing worries me is the same reason I get all nervous and annoyed in airport security lines.

In an airport security line, you know some idiot on a power trip can make you miss your flight, so you smile, nod, take off your plastic flip-flops, drink your own breast milk, etc. Or you feel awfully compelled to do the silly things they ask of you even if there is no security-based reason for the particular intrusion. While some of it (x-raying laptop bags) might be helpful, most of the checking is just plain asanine, unpleasant, and basically useless. Yet you put up with it since you're trying to get to the darn plane.

I don't want to live the rest of my life in a bigger version of an airport security line. All of this watching and checking isn't making anyone any safer. It just makes us less free.

-Seventh Sister 

// posted by Anonymous

Anonymous said...

I am reminded of our previous long blogs about the militarization of America, the military industrial complex, and my complaint that we use the military for 1) social integration experiments 2) driver for technology (remember the internet was a DOD invention 3) a driver for reform (focus on math, science, foreign languages). We frame everything in terms of the "national security" need. No one ever thinks to justify more spending on foreign language education because it is good for our kids to have that type of exposure. No one justifies an art program because it helps teach kids to think creatively. But say we need to teach our kids Arabic so that they can fight terrorists and we need art to teach engineering and weapons design, and suddenly people listen. It is our fault as a society because we only place value on things that have immediate and tangible results. I propose that the "militarization" is possible because we have let our voices be divorced from the process. Once the voter became irrelevant, so did checks and balances and all the rest that comes with it. Democracy begins with the voter, with the civil society.

But both parties have contributed to the decline in the relevance of popular participation. They established their own sand box on K Street (A democratic party invention, actually). They have gerrymandered to the point where only a handful of states matter in an election and those states are never representative of the whole nation. And in those few states we disenfranchise voters through all sorts of mechanisms. I mean, why bother with the pretense? Just tell black folks they can't vote. Our professional political operatives (again military terms) have staged the conventions and candidate debates to the point that they are irrelevant. Our capitalist system has allowed us to so fine tune a marketing strategy, be it for a product or a candidate, that there is not room for error, for a real person to emerge. The tail wags the dog and all the privileges that the political class has reserved for itself are protected. Yes, Minister  may be a BBC comedy, but you know it is funny because of the truth contained within.

Democracy requires spontaneity, character, and principles. But we run on economics, money, and markets. We aren't a democracy. We are a capitalist system where greed trumps principle. (I scare myself by sounding like a Marxist!)We all participate. I know that RBR thinks that blaming such complexities on faults of character is simplistic. But at this point, it is the only thing that makes sense to me. I think it is a lack of character on a large scale. Either that, or massive manipulation. I just keeping thinking about what one friend of mine once said. "The one thing most likely to bring this country down is its greed." And something another friend of mine who spend part of her childhood in Hitler's Munich said, "We were complacent. Complacency is poison."

// posted by UNWest

Anonymous said...

My issue with complexity and character is that in complex environments it is possible for a group of entirely well meaning individuals to produce a suboptimal outcome. At the same time, it is possible - in a copmlex situation - for a group of entirely greedy, selfcentered jerks to produce an optimal outcome.

Our country does suffer from an unhealthy dose of fascist ideology. But I think those fascist tendencies come from exactly those segments of society we would expect - namely the rural and small town lower middle class from the South and Great Plains where populations are declining and old, comfortable life styles are no longer sustainable. They see this is as a universal decline of civilization and being relatively uneducated, they use grandiose vocuabulary of nationalism and religion to express their insecurity and fear. The Republican party leadership is only too willing to take advantage of that for their own purposes.

Under most conditions, this wouldn't be more than an annoyance but because of the rare situation of universal Republican control that we find ourselves in, this is a huge problem.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

RBR makes an interesting point. I was listening to an interview with Jonathan Alter, author of "The Defining Moment:DR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope . And he was saying that at his book signings, so many older people come to him and want him to inscribe the book to their grandchildren. He says that they want their grandchildren to know what it was like to be in the presence of such great leadership. That touched me.

He said, and this is interesting, that things were so bad when FDR was elected, that people were calling for a dictatorship in this country. Doris Kerns Goodwin also wrote about this. Dictatorship was seen as a positive possibility. People said that American needed a Mussolini. FDR was close to suspending the Constitution once elected. But he reconsidered. And instead, he declared war powers. But then persisted to do almost everything legally. I say almost because many would argue, and correctly, that he stretched things pretty tight at times. But he used the Constitution to build up the country, which is what it was meant to do, not to tear it down.

He was avid for information and was likely to ask more questions of journalists than be asked questions by them. He was confident enough in himself that it was OK for him to show that he didn't know something and he didn't need to be surrounded by yes men and political appointees. This is in sharp contrast to what we now have. Insiders tell is that Bush never asks questions.

So RBR is right, we suffer an unhealty dose of fascist ideology. As FDR demonstrated, you can transform a nation for generations by helping people help themselves through the use of strong, but tempered leadership. And good leadship motivates people to be better than than they thought they could be and to give them that little extra push to try. We are long over due for another generation of strong, right minded leaders.  

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

FDR had the problem that the Supreme Court of those days (what Orrin Hatch calls "five unelected justices" with respect to flag burning, but NOT with respect to the coup d'etat that installed Bush Jr. in office) had adopted a very ideological view of the constitution that forbade, for example, minimum wage laws. That view - still popular with Republicans and their judicial appointees today - is that the federal government has no right to interfere with business, or prevent the reverse.

FDR, not an intellectual genius or lawyer, was of a mind to just "suspend" the constitution which had been interpreted as prohibiting almost all economic regulation. After assembling the Brains Trust (something no Republican would do) they adopted a much better approach. In 1937, the Supreme Court reversed itself under intense pressure, the famous "switch in time that saved nine."

FDR is the greatest president of the 20th century by leaps and bounds (shame on republicans for wanting to take him off the dime and replace him with the dimwit Reagan). FDR effected a revolution in this country, in the midst of economic chaos, to strengthen democracy against the private powers that had hamstrung it. His great failing was in the area of civil rights, where he privately supported blacks (such as inviting them to the WH for the first time) but did not upset the southern half of his political coalition by pushing for more or, for example, integrating the US army. 

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

Greetings from Melbourne, Citizens! I have just re-connected to the internet and have read many good posts that you all have written over the past several days. Perhaps the most thought-provoking of all was LTG's lengthy post arguing that the much-hyped "trade" between liberty and security was illusory. LTG said, "...when the government treats everyone as a terrorist, it can't tell who the real terrorists are anymore."

That really got me to thinking. I appreciate that post and all the fine comments that followed.

So we have been tricked into giving the government the ability to spy upon, inconvenience, and otherwise control us, thinking that these powers also give the government the ability to keep us safe. But as LTG (and other commenters) have said, even the most repressive government cannot stop terrorism--indeed, even Mr. Bush says (when it suits him) that the lack of freedom is what fosters terrorism in the first place.

The responsibility to keep our community safe belongs to us. It's not something we can give to "them" and hope "they" do it. We are the only ones who can do it. The reason we do not have the kind of insurgent violence they have in Iraq is not because they have more weapons than we do (they do not) or because they have more people who hate their government than we do (they do not) but because, as a society, we will not tolerate such behavior. It is the tacit support that the Iraqi population (in some areas) gives to the insurgency that allows it to exist. The entire might of the U.S. armed forces cannot stop a guerrilla campaign when the civilian population is not with us (one of the key lessons from Vietnam, right?)

Just as Bush's isolationist policies prevented us from having the best cooperation with foreign intelligence, so his domestic policies have prevented us from having the best cooperation with our greatest asset in the fight against Islamo-fascism: our large, domestic muslim population. Clamping down on liberty makes certain kinds of control easier, but makes true security harder. (As another politician said, long long ago in a galaxy far far away, "The more you tighten your grip... the more star systems will slip through your fingers.")

Thanks for reminding me that it is liberty that truly keeps our society healthy and secure.

trueamercancountry said...

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