Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Reason For My Political Displacement

I've never been willing to be a Republican because most Republicans I know seem to believe that corporations can do no wrong and common laborers are all well paid and have it easy so they should just shut up.  Democrats give lip service to the plight of the common man, but they've always seemed to have equal amounts of guilt and noblesse oblige.  The combination is a bit off putting, so I watch politics as a spectator in the same way I watch football or baseball.  I try to avoid Beck's and Limbaugh's pro wrestling histrionics.

Today, I'm moving from seeing politics as a sports fan and beginning to view the situation in a more Shakespearean light:  to paraphrase Mercutio, a pox on both your houses.

The Cato Institute may not be part of the pro wrestling contingent of my analogies, but they may well be MMA.  I'm not a fan of Cato or MMA.  One must appreciate skill, however, and this Glen Greenwald essay expertly illustrates that corporate and government power is dangerously limiting Americans' liberty.

Greenwald begins by saying something that I've long believed.  Both political parties have used 9/11 to increase surveillance power.
It is unsurprising that the 9/11 attack fostered a massive expansion of America’s already sprawling Surveillance State. But what is surprising, or at least far less understandable, is that this growth shows no signs of abating even as we approach almost a full decade of emotional and temporal distance from that event. The spate of knee-jerk legislative expansions in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 trauma — the USA-PATRIOT Act — has actually been exceeded by the expansions of the last several years — first secretly and lawlessly by the Bush administration, and then legislatively and out in the open once Democrats took over control of the Congress in 2006. Simply put, there is no surveillance power too intrusive or unaccountable for our political class provided the word “terrorism” is invoked to “justify” those powers.
The situation seems to be getting worse.  Greenwald points out,
And yet, the more surveillance abuse and even lawbreaking is revealed, the more emphatic is Executive Branch opposition to additional safeguards and oversights, let alone to scaling back some of those powers.
Thus, even when our National Security State gets caught red-handed breaking the law or blatantly abusing its powers, the reaction is to legalize their behavior and thus further increase their domestic spying authority. Apparently, eight years of the Bush assault on basic liberties was insufficient; there are still many remaining rights in need of severe abridgment in the name of terrorism. It never moves in the other direction: toward a reeling in of those post 9/11 surveillance authorities or at least the imposition of greater checks and transparency. The Surveillance State not only grows inexorably, but so does the secrecy and unaccountability behind which it functions.
Presidents have always jealously guarded  their power.  So have the courts and the Congress, although Congress seems to be ceding much of it constitutional authority to the executive.  My bigger concern is the mix of corporate and government power.  Greenwald writes,
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of our mammoth Surveillance State is that the bulk of its actions are carried out not by shadowy government agencies, but by large private corporations which are beyond the reach of democratic accountability. At this point, perhaps it’s more accurate to view the U.S. Government and these huge industry interests as one gigantic, amalgamated, inseparable entity — with a public division and a private one. In every way that matters, the separation between government and corporations is nonexistent, especially (though not only) when it comes to the Surveillance State.
 I had always naively believed that government could check corporate overstretch and citizens could use the ballot to check government excess,  In this situation, it seems that average citizens are being assaulted by two behemoths.   Given that disturbing fact, I must share Greenwald's conclusion,
And as we acquiesce to more and more sacrifices of our privacy to the omnipotent Surveillance State, it builds the wall of secrecy behind which it operates higher and more impenetrable, which means it constantly knows more about the actions of citizens, while citizens constantly know less about it. We chirp endlessly about the Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, the Democrats and Republicans, but this is the Real U.S. Government: a massive Surveillance State functioning in darkness, beyond elections and parties, so secret, vast and powerful that it evades the control or knowledge of any one person or even any organization.
 It's been easy being displaced; I could always head back to the plains and have a bit of safety and anonymity.  Now, I'm not sure the plains are big enough to hide in.  That fact both disconcerts and angers.

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