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“Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss”

June 6, 2013

So now, we have the reminder that the United States Government is still spying on us.  It’s all legal.  In the wake of 9/11, the Patriot Act and all its children legally allow the collection of data from people who are not suspected of any crimes.  It’s based on the convenient and fallacious “if you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to hide” principle.  George Bush and the Republicans did it.  Barack Obama and the Democrats are doing it.  President 45 will do it too.  Call it “data mining.”  Call it “security.”  Call it a violation of the Fourth Amendment.   Government sanctioned spying on Americans is a bipartisan sport.

It also comes in the wake of the IRS targeting scandal.  One of the worst PR nightmares the Obama Administration has had to face is about to get a fresh injection of paranoid indignation.  Even the most tolerant of people now have to wonder just how much truth there is in that tinfoil hat-speak about government conspiracies.

I’ve given up on Washington from the legislative side.  It’s an institutionalized Hatfields and McCoys perma-feud.  You’re locked into parroting the party line depending on the color of your shirt.  Those not wearing red or blue are not invited.  Independent thinking is discouraged and gridlock is expected.  That’s the level of non-critical thinking that has gotten us here. 

The judicial side is not much better.  Court vacancies are unfilled because of more partisan bickering over who nominated whom and what party everyone belongs to.   The rulings at the federal level are increasingly matching partisan viewpoints, and the Supreme Court epitomizes this. 

Up until now, we had been comforted by the appearance that the Obama White House was different from the Bush White House.  All the partisan excesses in the name of truth and justice, the pursuit of Osama Bin Laden, and a few wars were being reversed as of January 20, 2009.  Not anymore. 

Sen. Diane Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee chair, tells us that this is all old news. “As far as I know, this is the exact three-month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years.”

I know that this question will never be answered, but has this program been successful?  Here’s the best part:  The answer doesn’t matter.  If it is successful, it will be continued and expanded to find more bad guys.  If it’s been a failure, it will be continued and expanded until we find the bad guys.  This inevitability is only dependent on the right series of circumstances and people coming together.

Benjamin Franklin had something to say about everything.  Now we know that he and the rest of the Founding Fathers have no idea about the internet and digital society but he knew when things were getting out of hand.  “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” However, I’m thinking of something a little different, a quote that appeared in the New York Times on September 12, 1938.  In a world becoming increasingly colored by Nazism and fascism, Halford E. Luccock delivered a sermon at Riverside Church in New York City.  “When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism’” 

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