by Jan Baughman
"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."
—Donald Rumsfeld, February 12, 2002
(Swans - July 16, 2007) In its Fourth of July Special Issue, The Onion, ("the Greatest Country in the World's Finest News Source") ran a faux news brief that would be all the more amusing were it not for its prescience of the week's "real" news.
Revised Patriot Act Will Make It Illegal To Read Patriot Act
President Bush spoke out Monday in support of a revised version of the 2001 USA Patriot Act that would make it illegal to read the USA Patriot Act. "Under current federal law, there are unreasonable obstacles to investigating and prosecuting acts of terrorism, including the public's access to information about how the federal police will investigate and prosecute acts of terrorism," Bush said at a press conference Monday. "For the sake of the American people, I call on Congress to pass this important law prohibiting access to itself."
Later in the Beacon of Democracy's birthday week, the "real" news reported that the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against warrantless wiretapping, which the Bush administration implemented under the veil of the War on Terror, was tossed into the wind by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, further inching the Bill of Rights much closer to moot than quaint. The legal logic concluded that the wiretapping program is top secret, meaning you can't know if you're being tapped, thus you cannot prove that the wiretapping, which may or may not have existed, harmed you.
The legitimacy of paranoia as a harmful psychological condition was apparently also rendered moot by that learned Court. So if you have nothing to hide, and you're a good, non-terrorist person, don't worry; just assume someone is listening and behave accordingly... Today's schoolchildren would be well advised to memorize the definition of "terrorist" along with the Pledge of Allegiance, and recite both every day with a full understanding of the implications, with liberty and justice for all.
Should this eavesdropping that may or may not occur ever result in the thwarting of a "real" terrorist threat the program will be heralded as a success, but the size of the haystack from which that evil needle is removed will never be revealed...
The U.K. monitors its citizens in a less covert fashion, with cameras capturing their movements to the extent of 300 times per day, with a camera-to-people ratio of about 14:1. Britons are used to being watched, and even like it, the "real" news tells us. So much so that New York is considering amplifying its use of cameras, with up to 3,000 expected to be installed by 2010, which Americans support and welcome, so we're also told in the "real" news. At a minimum, they provide nice video footage of good crimes gone bad that the "real" news and YouTube will run, and they can help identify criminals after the fact, giving a false sense of security that perhaps the next crime will be thwarted.
Senator Joseph Lieberman has called for the increased use of surveillance cameras, which should give us serious pause. Yet he reassures, "And of course, we can do it without compromising anybody's real privacy." He didn't put "real" in quotes, of course, though I would have, had I the opportunity to edit his speech.
So just what liberties remain protected for you and I? The most important is free speech; the very freedom that allows these words to be published, and which allows us to protest (in fenced-in areas with the proper permits) these known and unknown forms of surveillance, and to lend our support to those who would challenge these oppressive actions, not those who continue to serve up our civil rights on a platter in order to feed perpetual war. Yet a recent Supreme Court decision rendered corporate campaign contributions a form of free speech, allowing those corporate persons to shout louder than you or I possibly can, thereby rendering one man/one vote that much closer to moot than quaint.
The learned Court, just sticking to the facts, did not expound on the converse: if giving money is protected as free speech, then is not giving money the same? Can we, the non-corporate People withhold 50% of our tax money in protest of war, and choose instead to give it to education, or health care, or funding for the arts? With the Court now stacked against the Constitution, it isn't likely.
Surveillance crept into the Democratic presidential debate this week, revealing Hillary Clinton and John Edwards apparently plotting to get the fringe candidates off the next stage, further demonstrating just how quaint the democratic process has become. There's a year and a half left in this perpetual campaign cycle to do some serious thinking about the candidate to whom our individual vote will be cast. Let's spend it wisely. We can't afford to keep squandering our precious votes on those with enough money to buy their power while selling out the Constitution.
How Corporations Became People
Blips #53 From The Martian Desk, Gilles d'Aymery, Swans, July 2, 2007.
"Lieberman Calls for Wider Use of Surveillance Cameras," by Klaus Marre. The Hill, July 1, 2007.
"Should US Cities try a London-style Camera Network?" by Alexandra Marks, The Christian Science Monitor, July 11, 2007.
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