The Widdershins

Remain Calm, Etc: The Spies Who Love Us

Posted on: August 8, 2013

Good Thursday, Widdershins.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am baffled.  The national security fervor is washing up in all directions again. and is being firmly embraced by a group of people who are normally hypervigilant in the protection of their personal freedoms.  I must also confess that I cannot easily comprehend how folks who are so crazed that background checks and registrations = mass confiscations are just fine with government agencies rooting through all aspects of our lives.  At least the “Doomsday Preppers” are consistent and view absolutely everything as an unwarranted intrusion.

09/11 changed us as a nation, as well as a people.  The shock of that day will stay with us a surely as the shock of Pearl Harbor stayed with my parents’ generation.  Pearl Harbor brought forth a series of human rights violations against Japanese people living n the US in the name of national security, while we did things a little differently after 09/11.  Dubya seized the moment, and one if the most lackluster presidents in American history was suddenly transformed into a heroic figure.  Yep, he was takin;’ care of bid-ness and keepin’ us safe,

How many times did we hear ” We’re gonna fight ’em over there so we don;t have to fight ’em over here”?  Draconian measures were visited upon all of us courtesy of the Patriot Act, and the population cheered.  We were assured that we were perfectly safe from government intrusion, as the electronic snooping was to be leveled at wrongdoers, not law-abiding citizens who were going about their business.  Further, we were sternly admonished by our Vice-President that questioning our President during time of war was tantamount to treason.  AG Alberto Gonzalez appealled (and flouted) a federal court ruling that domestic spying was a violation of the Fourth Amendment in 2006, and the Bush administration continued its activities unchecked.

Fast forwarding to the present, we have learned that the alphabet soup of national agencies have actually been collecting data on each and every one of us, and are presently involved in exchanging information collected in the name of crime-fighting.  Libertarians are naturally horrified, and I’m with them solidly on this one.  Not that I’m advocating crime running rampant, but I’m a big fan of actual court-ordered, evidence based warrants for the collection of information, not broad data collection that is later sifted through and passed out to various agencies like a cookie exchange.

The way things are headed, Orwell’s famous 1984 is beginning to resemble a “how to” cookbook for the NSA.  Americans have discovered that not only are their internet searches and telephone calls being routinely archived, but that the GPS on their cellphones enable any capable agency of following them wherever they might go.  More recent revelations include the fact that microphones can be activated on your phone at any time, enabling surveillance of face-to-face conversations.

Sadly, the vast majorities of our elected representatives are just fine with all of this. The President went so far as to assure Jay Leno that there really isn’t an organized domestic surveillance program.  Nosirree, nothing to see here at all.  Excepting for (gulp) Sen. Rand Paul, there gave been pitifully few objections raised to the ongoing (non)surveillance activities.  Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) worked with Rep. John Conyers to pass an amendment which would defund domestic spying programs, and it failed narrowly 205-217.  I’ve read that a great deal of arm-twisting on the part of both Party leaders was required to ensure that narrow victory for the status quo.

Fortunately, a counterflow of people who are sick to death of intrusion has also formed and is running parallel to those who would keep it going.  “Restore the Fourth” is an interesting group, and if they come to the greater Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area, I may well attend.  RTF of San Francisco demonstrated in front of Nancy Pelosi’s office to convey their displeasure with her “no” vote on the Amash amendment, and have promised to return again and again until she sees the light.  Recent polling indicated that 56% of the population is fed up with this overreaching on the part of national agencies, and I honestly believe that this number will continue to grow,

More and more pols are being challenged on the topic, and Chris Christie recently walked right into a landmine.  I must admit that I had begun to soften somewhat on Mr. Christie after the hurricane.  He is  blustering, bombastic, and bullying in his approach, but his demeanor was considerably softened as he viewed the wreckage of his state.  The Governor was gracious to the President, comforting to the residents, and in general seemed like a Jersey Boy at heart.   At a recent event,  Christie was questioned on the information-gathering activities and promptly reverted to type.  He railed against libertarian thinking, and  blustered at the temerity of the questioners,  He condemned the effete, intellectual pantywaists who would raise doubts about the program, and mourned for the widows and orphans of 09/11,  Apparently, he thrilled the GOP establishment and scared the hell out of the libertarian wing of the party, most especially Peggy Noonan.

In a blistering post for the Wall Street JournalMs. Noonan  mourns the degradation of both personal liberty and her warm feelings toward Governor Christie,  Here’s the heart of the matter, per Peggy:

So Christie is wrong that concerns and reservations about surveillance are the province of intellectuals and theorists—they’re not. He’s wrong that their concerns are merely abstract—they’re concrete. Americans don’t want to be listened in to, and they don’t want their emails read by strangers, especially the government. His stand isn’t even politically shrewd—it needlessly offends sincere skeptics and isn’t the position of the majority of his party, I suppose with the exception of big ticket donors in Aspen.

And Christie’s argument wasn’t even…an argument. It was a manipulation. If you don’t see it his way you don’t know what 9/11 was—you weren’t there, you don’t know how people suffered. If you don’t see it his way you don’t care about the feelings of the widows and orphans.

It seems to me telling that he either doesn’t have a logical argument or doesn’t think he has to make it.


His comments on surveillance were an appeal only to emotion, not to logic and argument and fact, but emotion. This is increasingly the way politics is done in America now. It’s how they do politics at the White House, where the president usually doesn’t bother to make a case and instead just tries to set a mood. But it’s not how Christie normally approaches public questions. In speeches and appearances in the past he’s addressed the logic of the issue at hand, whether it’s spending or the implications of pension promises, or union contracts, or tax rates. That’s part of why he’s been so popular—he’s blunt and logical, has an argument to make and makes it clearly.

Not that this is new.  The argument/manipulation of agree with me or you don’t respect the victims of 09/11 is right out of the Bush playbook.  It flourished from 2003-2008 under the master manipulators of the Bush administration, and I have to wonder why there was not a full-throated libertarian outcry at the time.  As for Governor Christie, well I suppose “blunt” would be one way to put it.

Just remember, your government loves you and only wants the best for you.  Now, wash your hands and face, brush your teeth, say your prayers and go to sleep.

This is an open thread.


15 Responses to "Remain Calm, Etc: The Spies Who Love Us"

There is some info here on this deal between the DEA, NSA and Gawd knows who else that apparently sharing info faster than two Irish washerwomen over the clothes line. And the cynic in me wants to question how much of the latest security scare with closing embassies just might have been cooked up to show us “see we need these things!”.

I always suspected that the number of thwarted terror plots varied inversely to Bush’s approval ratings. Every time they dipped, yet another plot was discovered and foiled.

chat@2: Oh yeah, the infamous colors. We got to the point at work we would jut ask “what’s the color of the day?” That way we’d know whether it was even worth it to go off the facility for lunch or not. Sometimes it just wasn’t worth it to go out.

Yep. Color me unimpressed by the whole color thingie.

@4: I’m gonna run and hide after doing this.

“And now class: chord progressions.”

Chat thanks for this — I really don’t know where I stand in all of this. Honestly, I think I might fall into the great abyss where most Americans seems to be on this: I assumed they were doing this all along and just dulled to the reality of the world in which we live.

There was a quote by someone the other night: If it is digitized, then it is neither private nor extinguishable.

Good lesson.

I’ve known at some level that this was going on despite protestations to the contrary.

My opinion on it is: If you have to do this then do it, but it should be the least amount required when it comes to U.S. citizens.

R.I.P. Actress Karen Black.

I haven’t thought of her in years.


Yes, Lord, but not televised until 11 pm here.

Well done post, Chat! Re: your comment @ #2, that’s exactly how I remember it. Saturday Night Live did a funny skit about that color warning chart nonsense. Their chart was all different colors of beige, like eggshell, ivory, taupe, etc. I remember laughing my ass off when I saw it.

I think I recall that one. Puce was one of the colors, and they referenced the J. Crew catalog..

chat@12: We have the falcons and bengals. As of now: falcons 3 and cincy 17.

i have no idea when they’ll have a Saints game on in this area.

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