Right: Nazi defendants wait to be tried at
"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories. AND TO RENDER THEM SAFE, THEIR MINDS MUST BE IMPROVED." - Thomas Jefferson, 'Notes on Virginia'.
Yesterday, our dear friend 'Nanette' visited from Aurora, and we had a really good breakfast before having a heavy conversation about Snowden, the NSA, citizens and rights. 'Nanette' like so many 'Muricans, felt in her heart of hearts that Snowden had "betrayed" his country and merely created hysteria about the NSA mass surveillance programs like PRISM. There was nothing whatever to fret about and the NSA was merely carrying out its mission to protect us from the millions who want to kill us. If you didn't do anything wrong, NSA wouldn't be tracking your every move. Just be a 'good guy' and move on, oh, and stop complaining!
When I mentioned the 'continuity of Government' (COG) program given teeth by the Bushistas through Sec. 215 of the Patriot Act, and how it provided for domestic protestors (like Occupy Wall Street and anti-frackers) to be labeled "terrorists" - and noted how the Occupy demonstrators were tracked and hounded- she merely shrugged her shoulders:
"I don't protest or complain so I have nothing to worry about."
When I told her that the same Sec. 215 allowed federal agents to break into a home and rifle through computer files and other documents without having to tell you, she just smiled - that was for others to worry about because she had nothing to cause any alarm. Only photos of her two kitties.
When I noted the 'Main Core' program and how 8 million innocent Americans were already listed under it, people who'd done nothing except perhaps speak out against the Afghan adventure and the waste of money involved, she just laughed. It doesn't mean a thing and no one is going to do anything with it. She would become a true believer if people started to get arrested and their doors get knocked down.
To her it was quite fine and dandy and not worth worrying or fretting over because, after all, government was good to us, our "friend" or at least 'Daddy': it paved our roads, it paid our benefits - like her Social Security and Medicare- and it regulated her foods so there were no salmonella infections, and supplied money for our schools (ok, at least the better ones through 'No Child Left Behind' and 'Race to the Top') and it protected us from all those bad guys that Clapper and Alexander keep warning us about.
When I cited the stat - from a Gideon Rachman Financial Times article, e.g.
and that "the average American had only a one in 500,000 chance of being killed in a terrorist attack", compared to a one in 346,000 chance of being annihilated by a large asteroid (> 0.5 km dia.) she again just shrugged. She still knew in her heart of hearts that the government was protecting her.
When I informed her the same gov't she praised for paving her roads also started wars that couldn't be paid for, she was mostly speechless. Finally, she agreed I had a point. When I added to that those unpaid for wars (as well as tax cut for the rich) meant cuts to her domestic S.S. and Medicare benefits she said she'd "wait and see". I added that, in case she forgot, the Supreme Court in a ruling some years back stated that no benefits are enshrined and the government could reduce them or even eliminate them.
In other words, her image of a benevolent government largely depended on who was in power: which party - and who in that party had what agenda in the Executive branch. It was certainly not a 'slam dunk' that in each election cycle we'd get the government we need or want. (And no one can dismiss the power of money to trump our votes, negating her argument that "we" get the gov't we deserve via our voting choices.) It could be a malevolent one with no citizen rights at heart, and no incentive to "promote the general welfare" as stated in the Preamble of the Constitution. As for the Bill of Rights, it was a truism that if people didn't use them then they'd lose them.
'Nanette' in this sense did appear to see the paradox of the NSA going ape shit to reign in terrorists with its mass surveillance dragnet (that didn't discriminate good guys from bad) but not attending to the millions of cockeyed gun owners with their AR-15s, Bushmaster .223s and other weapons - all 2nd amendment rights aficionados, when thousands of times more people were murdered than killed by terrorists each year.
But then these gun zealots - unlike 4th amendment civil libertarians - might go bonkers if threatened with the remote loss of any of their current rights.. At least she saw the divergence in government obsession between protecting 2nd and 4th amendment rights. The 2nd amendment folks struck fear in the heart of government, but not 4th amendment rights folks. (As I noted in an earlier blog post, protecting 4th amendment rights is always more difficult because they are largely intangible and people don't see when they're losing them. By contrast a gun owner can instantly see when he's losing his Bushmaster or Glock 9mm).
I tried my best to show Nanette it is the citizen's job to oversee and pay attention to what the government is doing, and not be asleep at the switch. I read to her Jefferson's quotes (above) and indicated that a real citizen had to treat government more or less like a toddler of immense power that might wander off the beaten path at any time -depending on political winds, or outside agents.
As MIT's Noam Chomsky put it in a recent interview:
"Governments are power systems. They are trying to sustain their power and domination over their populations and they will use what means are available to do this. By now the means are very sophisticated and extensive and we can expect them to increase. So for instance, if you read technology journals you learn that in robotics labs for some years there have been efforts to develop small drones, what they call “fly-sized drones,” which can intrude into a person’s home and be almost invisible and carry out constant surveillance. You can be sure that the military is very much interested in this, and the intelligence systems as well, and will soon be using it."
So true. The saddest part of our exchange is the extent to which I realized that Nanette was like the millions of good Germans who, had they paid attention and done their homework, might have averted the catastrophe of the Third Reich - by not turning a blind eye to what was going on. (In Nanette's view that'd never happen today since we're more "civilized". Hmmm... I reminded her that the Germans with their Goethe and Bach also fancied themselves to be).
Ironically, we Americans - who had to sacrifice so many lives to liberate Europe from Hitler's grasp- had no tolerance for any of the 'good Germans' - a historical point many 'good Americans' today would do well to ponder. Go back to the end of World War II and the American occupation of Germany in the years after 1945. We assailed the “weak” German people and mocked them for not standing up to the growing metastasis of Hitler’s Reich which they obviously saw but did nothing about. Hell, too many sided with Hitler, praised him and embraced his ideology while turning a blind eye to the wrongs. The last straw was the Enabling Act (1933) which essentially obliterated the last vestiges of the Weimar Republic. Our military also dragged out these “good Germans” and trotted them into the remnant concentration camps to see first hand what their Fuhrer and his minions did. They were marched in and forced to look at the naked, gassed bodies stacked like cordwood until they puked.
Meanwhile, our then military leaders rounded up the remaining high profile Nazis, including Hermann Goering (see photo) , and dragged them before a Tribunal to be accountable for their actions. (Read the book, ‘Judgment at Nuremburg’ or see the movie). Though they gave the excuse they were only “following orders” we didn’t buy it. We demanded a higher moral standard that NO one is obliged to follow orders to serve such vile ends and there exists higher moral law that trumps “orders” or “oaths”.
The U.S. insisted instead that violating a government order was mandated by the principle (VI) that the United States trumpeted in the Nuremberg war crime trials. Principle VI came to be known as the Nuremberg Code and clearly states: “The fact that a person acted pursuant to orders of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."
Note this Principle’s injunction is exactly analogous to what Edward Snowden followed. He had allegedly binding orders and “oaths” by which the government found it expedient to limit his actions, but he saw (as the U.S. military leaders did at Nuremberg) that the option of a higher moral choice dictated he inform the American people – whose liberties were at stake and threatened – of what was being done in their name. As Robert Scheer noted in a June 25 blog, ‘The Good Germans in Government’:
Read the Fourth Amendment to the
I ended our conversation (moving back to more light-heated fare) by suggesting to Nanette that she read the 4th amendment again and carefully, and take note that mass warrants were not permitted. The government had to seek out and issue individualized warrants specific to the perpetrators and context. It didn't matter if this "took time", or was "inconvenient" - that is what the amendment stated.
Why, I asked her, should we empower the government to take away our 4th amendment rights any more than the gun owners allow the government to take away their 2nd amendment rights?
She had no answer, but she promised to read the Bill of Rights again as her first resolution for this year. Let us hope millions of our fellow citizens do the same, in between their shopping excursions, instagrams and Facebook-ing.
Meanwhile, the fathead fool and dickhead Peter King (R- NY) has flipped out at the NY Times editorial board calling them "apologists for terrorists"- for calling for clemency for Edward Snowden. See,
This asshole still claims Snowden is a “traitor” - despite the fact Ed has done more to protect this nation's honor and principles than the fat bag of blowhard gas has done in all his years sitting in congress. The real traitors are pigs like King, and we need to call them out and say so!