Tag Archives: Security

Liberty, Security, Privacy, Big Brother, and the Concept of the Common Good

The outrage is palpable and the increasing realization by the average American that they really, truly are now living in an Orwellian surveillance state has been an eye-opening experience for many across the fruited plain. The once mocked conspiracy theory of the all-knowing Big Brother state has shown itself to be far more of an ugly reality than a silly fantasy. He who called the War on Terror basically over has now been forced to admit that his administration has vastly expanded the concept of the security state in the name of ‘public safety.’ The ‘trust us’ stance of government is no longer a working defense for such actions as this administration, and the federal agencies under its control, have shown that they simply cannot be trusted. Therein lies the true dilemma for the Obama administration as it seeks to calm the rising storm.

We already have proof that powerful agencies of the federal government deliberately, under orders from Washington, harassed and targeted specific people and groups that were ideological opponents of the current administration. The vast powers of the state were used as political weapons against its enemies on a wide scale and possibly affected the outcome of the last presidential election. Such things should not be taken lightly.

The fact that basically every phone call, Facebook post, internet search, website visit, email written, and picture posted online is being sucked up by Big Brother without regards to privacy concerns, constitutional protections, or the concept of personal liberty goes against everything America should stand for. It is state of affairs that should raise a cry of outrage in every throat and force a fundamental change in what we will tolerate from our government.

The fact that leading tech companies including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple were participating in a secret surveillance program on the citizenry known as PRISM should (but will not necessarily) lead to a complete collapse of public trust in the current administration and our current concept of government in general. What has not been explained away is why the administration has assembled the most powerful and intrusive systems of surveillance ever conceived. The Founding Fathers would not have stood for such things for one second and neither should we.

Such policies can have a chilling effect on political speech and free speech in general. There are those who argue that liberals have successfully seized the State just as they have academia, education, the media, the entertainment industry and increasingly the military. And this may be just another tool and tactic for those seeking to monitor, track, and eventually silence those who oppose their utopian, socialistic, nanny-state agenda.

Mr. Obama stated “I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.” But if it comes down to a choice between the two I choose privacy. We should always, always choose a free state over a police state even if the latter provides slightly more security from the random Boston bomber or occasional crazy.

As Americans we should not be forced to live with a camera on every pole, a bug in every phone, and an internal security officer on every corner. That illusion of safety in reality then merely becomes the mask for eventual tyranny and oppression in the name of the ‘common good’ and societal safety. For as Ben Franklin put it, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Liberty should be the goal of government, not the antithesis of it. The Republic exists to secure such liberties for its citizens, not to be the opponent of such. We’ve now traveled far down the wrong path and we may have to pay a high price to restore the Republic and regain true liberty for our children, and our children’s children.

And frankly, you are right Mr. President. The fact that we can’t trust you, your cronies, the agencies under your control, and the “oversight” of stacked secret courts or the Congress who has been complaining, but doing nothing, about such policies means we are going to have some serious problems.

TSA Annexes NFL

TSA logic: Coming to an NFL stadium near you.

TSA logic: Coming to an NFL stadium near you.

I never thought I’d live to see the day when you couldn’t bring more than 3 oz. of shampoo into a National Football League stadium. Over the years I’ve grudgingly accepted the ban on explosives, handguns, rifles and vuvuzelas, but this may be the last straw.

The NFL has now decreed that fans (quaintly known in some quarters as paying customers) may no longer bring purses larger than a pack of cigarettes (also banned, BTW) into the stadium. In addition, the ban includes briefcases, fanny packs, coolers, backpacks, cinch bags, computer bags (!) and camera bags. Instead attendees may fill one clear plastic bag no large than 12” X 6” X 12” with their worldly possessions.

NFL officials suggest items that won’t fit inside the bag may be put in your pockets, around your neck or slipped inside a handy body cavity. In its benevolence the NFL is allowing fans to bring blankets inside, as long as you sling it over your shoulder like the infantry in the Army of Northern Virginia did.

The reason for the change is as tiresome as it is irrelevant: “To provide a safer environment for the public and significantly expedite fan entry into stadiums.” The new policy will expedite all right. Once the argument with the TSA–wannabe is over, females will be jettisoning personal possessions into waiting trash bins like shipwreck survivors tossing unneeded weight out of a lifeboat.

How sowing confusion is going to speed up security lines is something of a mystery. Many items formerly contained in a purse will go into pockets instead, where they will trigger metal detectors. This, in turn, will trigger pat–downs, wandings, pocket emptying, possession dropping and possession forgetting. You’ll have all the fun of an airport security line without the bother of remembering to put your tray table in “its full, upright and locked position.”

This season the NFL will be conducting an unintentional experiment in market dynamics. It will be interesting to see how long it takes the descending curve of a fan’s desire to attend the game to cross the rising nuisance curve of petty NFL rules. Commissioner Roger Goodell’s lasting legacy may be as the man who made pro football a studio sport.

Various credulous observers have commented, “I understand the need for increased security when it comes to larger bags. All someone needs to do is mention the 2013 Boston Marathon to silence critics.”

I’ve got a news flash: One couldn’t bring a pressure cooker into a Redskins game before the Boston bombing, much less afterwards. Dan Snyder, Redskins owner, wouldn’t allow the competition with his over–priced hot dogs. And speaking of Snyder, the NFL advised owners to establish a location where females who didn’t get the word could check their purses outside the stadium, like a hotel does with coats, and then pick the purse up after the game.

Snyder — a noted paragon of customer service — provided a little expediting here, too. Women were told to trek back to their cars with their purse or drop it in the trash.

The safety concerns of the majority of fans, and almost all the women, concern being protected from aggressive drunks, hurling drunks, disrobing drunks, cursing drunks and fighting drunks. (For their part the drunks may have some complaints, too but they have trouble remembering.) But ending alcohol sales or increasing patrolling security inside the stadium would cut into owner profits, whereas making you throw your purse in the trash costs Snyder nothing.

When you combine that with the fact you have to leave earlier to catch a football game than you do to catch a flight. The traffic home will be at least as bad as traffic to the stadium. Parking can run you $50. The ticket can cost more than an airline flight. And you have to sit idle while play stops for a TV commercial — the option of sitting at home and watching the game looks better and better. In fact, during the 2011 season almost two million seats went unsold in the NFL.

Airlines don’t worry too much about security irritation because there is no real alternative for long distance travel. But the NFL provides its own alternative: Televised games! Where you see better, eat cheaper, have a smaller carbon footprint and are on a first name basis with the drunks.

I can’t imagine this latest “safety” brainstorm is going to make NFL owners happy if they start losing concession, parking and ticket revenue.

Of course it could be that football fans are intrinsically more dangerous than baseball fans. I went to a Nationals game this week. The guard glanced in my wife’s large, black, opaque bag, saw clear plastic bottles of water and waved her though. It took about 15 seconds. There were no metal detectors and no pat–downs. I didn’t remove my shoes or my belt. Yet the family didn’t feel the least bit unsafe.

Something tells me the clear plastic bag has more to do with mom sneaking a granola bar into the stadium than it does pressure cooker bombs.

It’s enough to make you wonder if Goodell drinks Maker’s Mark bourbon. You may recall earlier this year Maker’s Mark was presented with a problem many companies wish they had in Obama’s economy — more demand for their bourbon than the company could supply at current production levels.

Classical economics offers two choices to a company in this situation: Raise prices until the demand curve crosses the price curve or keep prices where they are, endure resulting shortages and ramp up production for the future.

Instead, the owners decided to water down their bourbon, reducing alcohol content from 90 proof to 84 proof, so as to increase supply at the same price. Customers were outraged and the company quickly backed down and kept the alcohol level the same.

Goodell is diluting the quality of his product, too. But instead of water he adds irritation.

Ben Franklin: Thoughts from the grave…

Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin

As scandal after scandal seems to be uncovered, people are still clinging to their liberal leadership regardless of the magnitude.   As some used to say “Nixon was the only person who could go to China” my father, and political cartoonist A.F. Branco, coined the phrase “ Only Obama can get away with a scandal.”

The NSA has decided that privacy is not important.   So what?

Benjamin Franklin once said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” So why should Franklin , the man Walter Isaacson stated was “the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become”, be an expert on things of this nature?

Ben Franklin wasn’t just a major figure in the American Enlightenment. He was an author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat.  Benjamin had a resume that arguably gave him a platform to suggest relevancy in our era, at least enough relevancy for some to lend an ear to his advice from the grave.  But if that’s not enough, it’s important to remember the setting in which Franklin lived.

For most of us, regardless of social status, we live in a time and place where we aren’t in the immediate midst of war or invasion.  We all have struggles, trials and tribulations, but many of us are also comfortable sitting behind our computers attempting to put into perspective the violence and insanity that we hear about in the middle east, and other parts of the world.   During Franklin’s era however, he was all too familiar with war.  He also knew the negative effects of a government who did not see “faces” but instead, faceless “numbers.”  Franklin was against authoritarianism in the government and in religion.  He had a profound respect for the teachings of Christ, stating that they were “the best the World ever saw, or is likely to see” but he also rejected the effects of religion, and realized the possibility that Christ’s words may have been corrupted over time.

All in all, Franklin was a brilliant man who realized the potential for human nature to create an environment that was none too friendly to the common hard working person.  His fundamental principles were built around the practical values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, and self-governing institutions.  Those same values built the country that we have today, rapidly disintegrating under the utopian façade of progressivism.

It isn’t just this current issue with the NSA.  We were warned before by another man, who’s fundamental principles were similarly aligned with Franklin.  Ronald Reagan stated that we would never vote for socialism ” but under the name of liberalism the American people would adopt every fragment of the socialist program.”  Reagan had a specific scathing review for governmental reform of healthcare, because under the false pretense of providing healthcare for the masses, we would also be subject to an intrusion of privacy.  I would encourage everyone to watch Reagan’s 10 minute speech he gave in 1961, which was an eery pre-cursor to the health care system being implemented today.  (You can find it on you tube)

WHY IS PRIVACY IMPORTANT?  If everyone is doing the right thing, they shouldn’t have anything to worry about right?  Hypothetically, sure.  But who exactly is to say what is “right“?  Ideology grounded in the Ten Commandments and Red Letters from the New Testament are something that have guided many in life when all else has proven rocky and unreliable.

With an ever creeping government intent on keeping tabs on its people, we are more and more subject to what the minds of the political elite deem the “correct” way of living which, according to the government, may often coincide with our personal morals, but what happens when it doesn’t?  Franklin and Reagan believed quite seriously in the following creed: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Franklin, Reagan, and the many others before them were correct. Their intent was always to give people the freedom to make their own decisions, and pursue their personal motivations with minimal hindrance from the government.  They took their positions seriously, but more importantly they took seriously the fact that they derived “their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

The administration espouses that their actions are in the name of the safety of its people, but we will always be faced with enemies of our way of life.  “Essential” to our life and liberty is the ability to  make decisions without being put under a microscope, so to speak.  Furthermore, we’ve already seen the government take steps to re-establish some of the foundational belief systems our forefathers had, in the name of tolerance.

So, in an era where president Obama advises to reject the voices suggesting “tyranny is always lurking around the corner“, one may contend that a biblical perspective that advises  “test everything; hold fast to what is good,” might be a better alternative.  Having humbly taken the time to logically “test” some of the actions of the Obama administration, one can’t honestly say that the idea of tyranny is out of the question.

1. The Benghazi scandal
2. Fast and Furious gun running scandal
3. An IRS scandal targeting Conservative Tea Party groups.
4. A scandal involving collection of private phone records of several AP reporters.
5. The NSA and Prism scandals, essentially allowing the government access to all internet and phone activity.
6. The “Affordable” Healthcare Act that coincidentally will be deemed the largest tax increase in history.
7. Signing the NDAA which authorized the indefinite detention of American citizens without due process at Obama’s own discretion.

(THOSE ARE JUST A FEW)

Obama quoted his administration:
“I will also hold myself as president to a new standard of openness …. Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

Jay Carney stated:
“This president has demonstrated a commitment to transparency and openness that is greater than any administration has shown in the past, and he’s been committed to that since he ran for president and he’s taken a significant number of measures to demonstrate that.”

Whether its through rhetoric, mounds of confusing paperwork, or just plain denial,  the products of this administration have been anything but transparent.  It makes me uneasy to think that an administration that blatantly LIES about transparency will now have an unprecedented amount of access into our personal lives.  You can argue perhaps that some of these measures are necessary to ensure the safety of the American people,  but given the fact that our president has shown his disregard for our foundational documents, it doesn’t make me confident that he has our best interests in mind.

Ben Franklin also famously said,  “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”  Given the current IRS, and AP scandals its almost as if Franklin is here looking over our shoulders.  Everyone should stay grounded and “test everything.”  Not through the partisan side of Republican or Democrat, but through the humble eyes of a human being.  Right is right.

Violence is not the answer, but with enough people taking the time to hold fast to their values and not let political correctness sway them into feeling wrong, or obsolete,  good will prevail.  At the very least it will hold accountable those who think our foundation is changeable.