The Watering Hole, Saturday, June 8, 2013: Mother, Should I Trust The Government?

When your government, one that is supposed to be of the People, by the People, and for the People, appears to violate the Constitution and invade the privacy of the People without probable cause, should you really just trust them when they can just say they can’t tell you exactly what they’re doing because it would harm national security? Especially when, most of the time, they are not required to prove to any judge that national security really is involved? And this is despite the fact that when the Supreme Court ruled that the government can invoke such a privilege (it was not the first time it was used, simply the first time the Supreme Court said they could do it), they stressed that the decision to withhold evidence is to be made by the presiding judge and not the executive. Unfortunately, judges generally defer to the Executive. This is a bad idea. The government doesn’t always tell the truth, which is what happened in the very case that led to recognition of the state secrets privilege. “In 2000, the [withheld classified information from the 1953 case was] declassified and released, and it was found that the assertion that they contained secret information was fraudulent.” So the right of the government to claim that information shouldn’t be released because it contained details whose release might be harmful to national security was based on a case where the government lied and said the release of certain information would be harmful to national security when it really wouldn’t. Doesn’t that mean they can keep anything they want secret just by invoking “state secrets,” even if it doesn’t really apply? How do you convince a judge to look at the information and challenge the government’s claims?

We recently learned that our government has been collecting “telephony metadata” on every phone call made by Verizon customers (and let’s not assume that it only applied to Verizon customers) for several years now. It is important to note that they stressed that it was important to note that they were not listening to the phone calls themselves, nor were they recording the calls so they could be listened to later, and that they were only collecting the phone number of the caller, the phone number being called, the time of day, the length of the call, and possibly the location of the parties involved (! emphasis mine). Here’s why I’m concerned (from the second link):

“But civil liberties lawyers say that the use of the privilege to shut down legal challenges was making a mockery of such “judicial oversight”. Though classified information was shown to judges in camera, the citing of the precedent in the name of national security cowed judges into submission.

The administration is saying that even if they are violating the constitution or committing a federal crime no court can stop them because it would compromise national security. That’s a very dangerous argument,” said Ilann Maazel, a lawyer with the New York-based Emery Celli firm who acts as lead counsel in the Shubert case.

“This has been legally frustrating and personally upsetting,” Maazel added. “We have asked the government time after time what is the limit to the state secrets privilege, whether there’s anything the government can’t do and keep it secret, and every time the answer is: no.”

That’s not how our country is supposed to work. We’re not supposed to have a Constitution that defines and limits our government’s powers, but then decide we’ll ignore it when it gets in the way of doing what we want to do. If you want to do a search on private information without a warrant and without probable cause, then amend the part of the Constitution that says in order to do a search on private information, you have to have a warrant and you have to have probable cause. And if you read the Constitution (which I know many Americans have not, as evidenced by what we’ve seen at Tea Party rallies), you will find that the only mention of secrecy in our government is to the part of each House of Congress’ daily journals they think should be kept secret. It mentions nothing about Executive Privilege, or state secrets, or even of any right of the President (or Vice President) to hold secret meetings and keep the advice of the unnamed guests secret. People (and by the term “People” I’m generously including Justices of the Supreme Court) seem to forget that the President of the United States, for all the power we give that office, is a Public Servant. So any advice given to the President, by anyone at all, that concerns what might be in the best interests of the People ought to be both available to the public and actually in the best interests of the people. Otherwise, the President is not being a servant of the public but a servant of a private interest, and this can not be allowed. But in order to make sure that isn’t happening, we have to have access to what was discussed in those meetings. [Discussions with military personnel would be an obvious exception, but only because the military personnel would be addressing their Commander in Chief, and would not be having domestic policy discussions.]

The argument that if you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to worry about is a ridiculous one because that isn’t the point. The point is that our Constitution clearly says that not only do you have a right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, but that if they want to begin one, they have to get a warrant, supported by oath or affirmation, and “particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” (The Constitution is unclear on whether the search they can now conduct can be an “unreasonable” one. If the TV shows I’ve seen showing cops cutting open furniture, spilling powders on the floors and tables, and emptying anything that might be a container are in the least bit realistic, then it seems they are then allowed an “unreasonable” search.) So who gave the FISA Court judge a statement under oath or affirmation that says it’s necessary to know what number was called from your phone, when the call was made, how long it lasted, and where the two of you were when the conversation was taking place? The authority to conduct any such search is supposedly granted under the USA PATRIOT Act, but that law, if you know what the letters mean, is about tools for fighting Terrorism. Is there some reason the government should have the idea that you’re a terrorist? Then what business do they have keeping track of how your phone is being used?

Another false argument is that you already give your personal information away to private corporations, so what’s wrong with the government asking them to give that same information to you? What’s wrong is that a private corporation does not have the authority to throw you in jail based on what it knows about you. And for all anybody knows, it’s probably in the tiny print of that credit card agreement that you gave them permission to share everything they know about your credit card use history the first time you used it. I think it says somewhere in there that you agree to any new Terms of Use by using the card. But that’s because you didn’t equate the private corporation with your government. Perhaps that’s where you went wrong. Is there really any difference any more?

A line from the following was the inspiration for the title:

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss government surveillance or anything else that keeps you up at night.


55 thoughts on “The Watering Hole, Saturday, June 8, 2013: Mother, Should I Trust The Government?

  1. Step 1: Repeal the Patriot Act.
    Step 2: Stop screwing with the rest of the world; keep our fingers out of the global pie except via honorable and acceptable means. WAGE PEACE, NOT WAR!
    Step 3: Bring the military home and keep it home; and cut the warmongering budget by no less than 80%.
    Step 4: Draft Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and each and every wingnutcase that loves war but never bothered to serve, then have them wash dishes and/or peel potatoes on military bases for the entire of their four year service (unless they die first, of course, from overwork).

    • Bill Maher had a great point last night. If the right is so willing to trounce on the 4th amendment, why is the 2nd off limits?

      Although, the right was okay with trouncing the 4th amendment until Obama did exactly what Bush did. Then it wasn’t okay.

  2. Excellent post, Wayne. Its on a subject I have been pondering, especially since I saw a local paper headline that read “HAS BIG BROTHER ARRIVED?”. I agree with your assessment on the government issues but have to disagree on the private side, somewhat. It is becoming clearer by the day that private corporations are having greater influence on government than anyone foresaw. The idea that freely giving a private entity personal information and then being terrified of the government having the same information is pretty silly.

    Trusting that corporations that have been building monopolies for decades, gathering data on every aspect of our personal lives are somehow not a threat to our liberties and then turning around, aghast at the government doing the same is just setting things up for a oligarchic takeover. It smells of the Republican meme of our gubmint is bad but the free market can save us. And it goes hand in glove with the bipolar choice idea, either/or when, in fact we have many options.

    I am greatly disheartened by the growing theme that the President is no better than Bush and that these assaults on our suspended rights are more heinous because he is supposed to be more progressive and pure. The fact remains he is still a President; a more politically savvy one than most give him credit for. Jimmy Carter stuck to his progressive guns and was blown from the water, mostly for being a decent human. Obama has shown himself to be much more aware of the politics involved in getting a job done in the face of enormous opposition.

    I may be wrong about this but right now both the Right and the media are at flap state 4 ranting about the gross violation of our Constitutional Rights incurred under the use of the Patriot Act. The Left has been outraged by this for years but has been poopooed by the Right. To me, it seems a brilliant use of reverse psychology. He knows that if he is for something, the Right is going to kneejerk in opposition.

    What it comes down to is our rights aren’t under any greater threat than they have been for over a decade. What we have now is media and Republican outrage joining the Left in bringing it to light.

    • Thank you. I should have been clearer about the private corporations and our privacy. I meant that people are mostly unaware that they have, for the most part, agreed to give up their private information to corporations simply through using their products. I don’t like that myself, but people probably think it shouldn’t matter because VISA can not put you in jail for what they learn from your credit card use. But if they turn over that info to the govt, the govt can jail you, so you should be concerned about what information private corporations are allowed to collect.

      If the information is never collected in the first place, it can’t possibly be sold or shared with the government.

      • Another aspect to consider is, thanks to the last decade at least, Americans should be aware that there are much more dangerous threats than having the gubmint being able to jail them. We only have so many jails but a trashed economy?

    • Good point. I, for one, trust Obama a whole lot more than I trust, say, Jamie Dimon, or some bigmouth who once headed someplace like Bain Capital.

  3. …that’s because you didn’t equate the private corporation with your government. Perhaps that’s where you went wrong. Is there really any difference any more?

    The corporations are citizens my friend and if they decide to buy
    turn ‘states evidence’ and share….
    who are we to argue?
    When a Government (BabyBoyBush & Company) can lie its way into an effen war, strip many rights (Patriot Act) we the people just follow along with the script ‘for safety sake’ until some day we wake up and it is too late…

  4. I noticed these traveling to and from my brief job south of town. There appear to be more than a ‘handful’ now.

    New Solar Panels Go Up On South Memorial Parkway

    If you’ve driven on Huntsville’s South Memorial Parkway, you’ve probably noticed a new project taking shape in the last week. Crews are installing a handful of solar panels.

    Southern Solar Systems, a Huntsville-based company, is installing the solar panels for the landowner, who will sell the power they generate back to TVA as part of the Green Power Providers program.

    The land these occupy is between the Parkway and a railroad track, underneath a high voltage power line. Aside from a few businesses in temporary locations and a sell-your-own car lot, this land is mostly empty, and perfect for these solar arrays.

    • Good for Alabama entering the sustainable energy source of the 21st century! (of course the sun has been around a great deal longer – great that AL is taking advantage of it)

      How does AL feel about windturbines?

      • Well, we used to harvest the sunshine in the form of cotton. I guess they still do. I’m not as sure about wind power, we’re not known for consistently windy conditions. If I end up living at my building, I’d like to cover it with as much solar panels as I could afford. It’s out in the open and gets plenty of sun, even in winter. I have more trees here at the house I’m in now, so they wouldn’t work as well here.

  5. I was listening to the news this morning, and one of the guests said that occasionally content of phone calls is inadvertently swept up, and there are concerns as to how the government would/should handle that.

    How does content get swept up “inadvertently” if they aren’t monitoring content?

  6. Karen Finney’s New MSNBC Show Gets a Name: ‘Disrupt’

    MSNBC’s new weekend program to be hosted by Democratic communications guru Karen Finney has a name. Finney’s new program will be called “Disrupt with Karen Finney.”

    The show, which already has social media accounts in place, will debut Saturday, June 8 at 4 PM, leading into “The Ed Show” at 5 PM.

    That’s today one hour ahead of Ed, 4pm eastern.

    • I didn’t realize she had a show, but just happened to have the stupid machine on MSNBC. Maybe this will help me remember to watch Ed on the weekends.

      • Hang on about 27 more minutes and Ed will be on there!

        Thom Hartmann mentioned yesterday that he was at the Talkers Convention most of the week, so I’m guessing that Ed was there as well.

    • About 40 minutes into the Karen Finney show, they put on a mashup of Republican crazy talking, and I had to go back and double check on something. The song playing in the background was the B52s’ Planet Claire. 😀

  7. We have, for several years now, lived at the grace of a government equiped with the intelligence gathering powers to identify all who speak out against the government, be it libertarians, progressives or the Tea Party.

    We have allowed the government to claim such powers out of fear – fear that if we don’t the terrorists will somehow get a nuke and wipe out a major city in an instant. The fact of the matter is, this fear is not to be discounted. Pakistan is the prime example of a country with nukes and enough civil unrest to make those nukes susceptable to being stolen and used anywhere in the world.

    Yet we treat terrorism as if it were an incurable disease, by attacking the symptom – “terrorists” instead of the underlying disease – the abject poverty caused by the gross disparity in the distribution of wealth, lack of social mobility, equality and justice. Indeed, we seem to be heading in the opposite direction – increasing the disparity in the distribution of wealth, and the lack of justice through “too big to jail”.

    The path we are on leads to the creation of more people willing to become “terrorists” – in essence “freedom fighters” from their perspective. This, in turn, leads to more draconian and authoritarian measures to combat the “terrorists”.

    All the while, it is the interests, power and wealth of the privileged that remains protected at the cost of the lives and quality of life for the rest of the planet.

    We’re heading to a French Revolution on a global scale. The long-term upside will be that the dramatic decrease in the human population will allow the Earth, over time, to restore balance to its ecosystem.

  8. Boy did I have a crazy night last night. I have been attempting to stay up later so I’ll get up later that 4:30 AM. So yesterday I didn’t partake of sleep inducing things like alcohol or THC and forced myself to stay up until about midnight. I was awaken at 1:30 in a cold sweat from a very vivid dream. The dream involved an interaction with a former girlfriend (or should that be woman friend) whom I split with in 1995.

    I’ve always thought of dreams as being a way for the mind to work out matters floating around in the subconscious but this particular one actually scared the hell out of me. I got up and jumped online to occupy my thoughts on other matters and had a couple of glasses of bourbon and water. I went back to bed about 3:30 still unsettled from the dream.

    I’m still somewhat unsettled about this primarily because the last time I had feelings this intense they occurred the night my father died in 1979. (I just paused writing this comment to fix a drink.) I almost dread the phone to ring at this point.

  9. One thing about the whole 4th Amendment issue today, that cat is out of the bag and is never going back in. Its like a female who has just discovered she is pregnant worrying about her lost virginity. We do have a serious problem but even if we tell government it can’t do these things we all know they will. The ability is there and neither they nor private entities are going to stop using it.

  10. Oh you’re kidding me! He’s been on what? Three weeks and he’s already got a substitute on?

  11. Getting ready to leave for my first farmer’s market (as a vendor). 😯

    Wish me luck!! I’ll let you know how I do. 🙂

  12. This is for Zooey when she’s back from the market. (I know she likes this guy, I think the adjective used was ‘gorgeous’.)

    Of Slippery Slopes by Charles M. Blow

    Maybe I’m a bit pessimistic when it comes to governmental paternalism and the unrelenting erosion of civil liberties, but I’ve always assumed that someone or something — including the government — is tracking, or could track, everything I do in an increasing virtual reality.

  13. Free Shotguns For Residents of Houston’s High-Crime Neighborhoods, Yeehaw!

    Houston resident Cheryl Strain’s inexperience with guns was apparent as she struggled to load shells into a 20-gauge shotgun.

    Strain’s northwest Houston community of Oak Forest is the first neighborhood in the country being trained and equipped by the Armed Citizen Project, a Houston nonprofit that is giving away free shotguns to single women and residents of neighborhoods with high crime rates.

  14. If you ever thought about watching an auto race, tonight’s at Texas on ABC might be your best bet. Indycar’s oval package produced a record number of lead changes at Indianapolis, and Texas, while a smaller track, has more banking, and has always produced awesome races, particularly when the cars are aerodynamically as close as they have been this season.

  15. Hi, Critters & Zoosters!

    The market went really well — way more people than I expected, since there are no fruits & veggies yet. Didn’t make as much as I would have liked, but I talked to about a million people and gave out a bunch of business cards. It’s early yet, and I’ve got all summer. Next market is on Tuesday!

      • Good work bag lady. Networking takes time and effort, and it sounds like you have started off well. Just remember to listen to your customers because they have much to offer for your future.

        • Thanks, nwoldguy. 🙂 I took it as a compliment. 😀

          Making the soap is the easy part; talking to people I don’t know and smiling all the time is SO stressful. But I don’t think they’re going to bang on my door, begging me to sell them soap, so I need to get over it.

          From what my neighbor vendors said, things pick up when the fruits and veggies start coming in. The people i talked to gave me good info about their needs, so let the fine tuning commence!

      • Thanks, Ebb. 🙂 My face hurts from smiling so much.

        Time for me to go read my Harry Potter book and try to sleep. I’ve got work to do before the next market on Tuesday!


    • Anyone with Scott Walker on their playlist is OK in my book. The bunnies are just a bonus!
      The player is at the bottom of the screen, playlist at the left. Usually I hate autoplay music when I click on blogs!

  16. Chris Wallace is pitting Lindsey Graham via tape, against Rand Paul, over the NSA spying. Pass the popcorn!

  17. Ron Johnson thinks the people have lost faith in the President. He needs to look at the polls again. They rate Obama a lot higher than the body in which he serves.

  18. Danica’s on track at Pocono. F1 Montreal coming up. I have the BBC online with their pre-race broadcast. Busy, busy, busy!

    • A fine day for racing!
      Spins my brain around how you can keep up with all the goings-on!

      • As long as the brain is spinning anti-clockwise, I can keep up with the oval racing. It’s when I have a day like today, and I have to simultaneously spin clockwise for the road course that it’s difficult. 😀

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