President Obama: Tyrant?
Years ago when I was covering county government for the Anderson Valley Advertiser in Mendocino County, there was a small group of people convinced that because of a pending contract with Waste Management Inc., the Mafia was about to take over the county's garbage system. They disrupted public meetings and shouted down county officials who tried to explain the contract. They also worried that county officials would soon be inspecting/invading individual households using the new Mafia-controlled garbage system as a pretext. Nothing the county said denying this fanciful notion made any impression on this group, which was soon known as The Garbage Gang.
A county official put his finger on the silly assumption underlying their protest: Just because the government can do something doesn't mean that it will do it---or even wants to do it.
This week's hysteria about government surveillance is based on the same goofy assumption---that because the federal government has programs in place to look for links between terrorists abroad and people in the US, that it of course can listen in on our phone conversations and monitor our online activity. And because it has the technical means to do that, it either is already doing it and/or really wants to do it.
The leftist Bay Guardian is in full hyper-rhetoric mode. Of course Tim Redmond is worried:
Most people still think they can make phone calls without being monitored. And while my trolls love to say "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about," we all know that's untrue. People are arrested and imprisoned fairly often in this country on suspicion of crimes they didn't commit; when it comes to terrorism, the situation is even worse. And besides: Do you really trust the government to know everyone you've ever called, and from where, and when? I don't think Obama's a bad person or has any evil intent---but still. Imagine if it were Cheney. I'm unhappy with the president, of course, but I think I'm most pissed at my senator. Because presidents always push the limits of their power, and Congress is supposed to be a check on that, and Feinstein is supposed to be perhaps the most important check on potentially the worse expansion of power. And she failed.
There's a lot of ignorance and foolishness in this, but it's not worth my time unpacking it all. Redmond naturally doesn't think there's any real need for the government to be concerned about terrorism, since his ideology tacitly assumes that the US is the bad guy. Recall that the Guardian was completely silent several years ago when the Islamic crackpots went on a murderous rampage over the Danish Mohammed cartoons (which you can see here) and successfully intimidated the national and local media. And Redmond was again clueless when Geller and Spencer paid for the anti-jihad ads on Muni buses, even retailing an outright lie by a CAIR representative about how local Moslems were afraid to ride Muni because of the ads.
As the news reports tell us, members of Congress were well aware of these programs and were briefed regularly on them by the intelligence agencies. Feinstein is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and she of course knew all about the programs, which are based on laws passed by Congress. It's ridiculous that the political editor of the city's progressive weekly is shocked, shocked that the National Security Agency is conducting electronic surveillance to try to stop terrorists from attacking the United States.
A new and prolific contributor to the Guardian's political blog is a guy named Johnny Angel Wendell who, oddly, is based in L.A.
Wendell on the Prism controversy:
If you haven't broken the law or done anything to raise suspicion, then it's Bobby McFerrin serenade time, right? No shit? See "Internment camps, Japanese-Americans, 1942". Or perhaps "Screenwriters, Ball, Lucille, 1952". Or "King, Martin Luther, 1962". Or "National Committee, Democratic, 1972". Property seized, livelihood destroyed, assassination, election-rigging. And you'll note that of the above, none of the subjects were "doing anything wrong". Don't your ears get grimy with your head in the sand all damned day?
Hard to believe that the Guardian couldn't find someone here in Progressive Land to provide this kind of stupidity. (Johnny should know that up here we put the quotation marks outside of the period, as does the rest of the United States.) But look out: Internment camps! Assassination! Rigged elections!
The massive intellectual failure of the left in San Francisco continues.
James Fallows blogs sensibly about this kerfuffle. Check in with him whenever the country is going through one of its periodic national hysterias, notwithstanding his recent softball interview with Governor Brown.