My irregular musings on city life, politics, baseball, roller derby, and whatever happens to be getting my goat today.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

war pigs

I’ve never spent much time around livestock, but I’m told that hogs in a pen become vicious animals. Wound one, in fact, and the others will smell its blood and weakness and devour it. Or so I’m told. When I lived in Ohio, I worked for a while with a woman whose grandparents had been bootleggers. I learned a lot from her, among other things how to make fried green tomatoes. I had some fantastic co-workers in those days... Anyway her grandparents raised hogs in addition to their extra-legal whisky business, and on at least one occasion a government “revenuer” ended up getting fed to the foul creatures, erasing the evidence of whatever it was that had led to the sudden death of a Federal agent on private property. I have no idea whether the story was true, but she sure liked to tell it.

Such folk legends of resistance against government authority are a part of people’s identity in many parts of the country – antisocial, yes, but quintessentially American. I used to look on these loony libertarians with a certain amount of skepticism and despair, but recent events have me coming around. What with the government claiming the right to spy on Americans, detain them without evidence, torture them, and hold them incommunicado for the rest of their lives, these folks are starting to make a lot more sense to me.

Common sense arguments seem to fall on deaf ears. Torture doesn’t work as an intelligence gathering tool. It produces compliance, not information. Spying on everybody just wastes scarce resources like agents’ time and leads mostly to dead ends and useless information. The good stuff the NSA can get the old fashioned way, with warrants, the way the FBI does when it’s surveilling the same people.

These arguments don’t convince anyone because the White House is bent on expanding power for its own sake, not because they want to defend the country. They think the American people are so dumb stupid that they can justify anything just by shouting terrorism! 9/11! Look, bin Laden! So if the whole point of this exercise was to push some old school liberals like me into the arms of the Libertarians in wanting to restrict the scope and power of the Federal Government, then congratulations. You win.

It makes me so mad, these people should by happy there’s not enough room in my postage stamp back yard to raise hogs.

Sometime soon I'm gonna edit this guy and put the links back in, but I just can't be bothered this morning.


Bob said...

If I could make a suggestion, I would ask that you do a post about WHY warrantless, illegal spying is a bad thing. I have a general sense of why, because I read 1984, but in the mean time, we need better arguments for dumb hicks who shrug and say, "I don't have anything to hide..."

I feel like there are plenty of people saying that it is bad, and sure, it is illegal, but I need a deeper discussion of why - what are the impacts? Why should people REALLY care.

I have some ideas, but I'm having trouble thinking through them.

E-mail if you want. Thanks.

Stockton&Tweed said...

I like the post.

Caeser's near dictatorial powers were acquired by him not through a violent overthrow of the Roman Republic but through the acquiesence of the Roman Senators. The same is true for Augustus, the first true Roman Emperor.

The Presidency in the US has benfitted from the same sort of creeping dictatorship for decades. The difference is that this President has made a determined effort to create executive perogative that is not subject to any real checks or balances from either the legislative or judicial branches.

An answer to Bob's question: It doesn't matter whether you think you have anything to hide from the government. There are two reasons people should care: (1) if they can justify this now, the government will justify even greater infringements on our freedoms later (the NRA argument about gun control) and (2) information is power and we don't know what the government does with the information it gets.


Wells said...

I second Tweed regarding the fact that we have no idea what they are doing with this information. The more frieghtening thing is that they probably don't either - not now at least. But storing this information costs very little.

As for the dictorial powers - one of my British friends finds it interesting how Americans respect authority. This friend recently told me that in a staff meeting for his company he challenged the boss a bit - several people looked at him as if he had sinned. While I agree with Elwood about the resistance against governmental authority in much of the country, I think there is just as large and growing group that looks toward governmental authority - and not just the "vote for me or the terrorists win" kind. When these questions arise, I think back to a book I read in a graduate course - Escape from Freedom by Erich Fromm.

Wells said...

by the way, my girlfriend lived on a farm for several years - and she loves pigs.

Trope said...

Well, the dumb hicks are not gonna like my reasons anyway, so I'm not sure if I should engage the debate. But lots of my friends have things to hide; little things, mostly, like nonprofit recreational gardening, a fake address to hide their non-city residency, or a second job that they're not supposed to have. I don't currently have anything to hide, but in a few years I well might. Posts like these on abortion-related topics are obviously not going to stay legal long, and not being able to discuss those topics over the phone would certainly be a barrier to access. Plus, phone tapping is not materially different from bugging a house, which is not that different from installing video cameras. Just leash us all and be done with it.

Wells said...

Well Trope, the potential for finding new crimes is a very real. We can debate all day if the man power exists to actually to check information out - but i am sure that software applications can do much of the leg work before any human has to be involved. But thats not the point. The point is that we will be in a place where we have surveillance for surveillance sake. There probably isn't anyone invading your privacy, but how do you know? Isn't the threat of surveillance enough?

In London it is now said that from the moment you leave your home everything you do can be caught on film. The relative ease of wiretapping phones or reading email pretty much means there is nothing private about being a private citizen. There are too many supporters of this kind of governmental authority. That public property really isn't for the public. For me, check and balances are not enough. The fact we are putting cameras on every street corner and all that is a problem. Basically, before information can be collected and images stored - they need to show what it is being used for, who has access, why this is needed, how long is it kept before being destroyed, and what is being done to protect us from information being abused. If you think this burden can really be met and abuse free, I have land to sell you in Florida.

Bob said...

Thanks for the responses, everyone. The point that we don't know what the government is doing (or could do) with any collected information is the one that hit home the most. Stuff I do online (yes, THAT) and e-mails to ex-girlfriends could come back to haunt me. I guess I've always known that, except that I never figured anyone was watching (until a few months ago). I don't mind being judged, but I certainly don't want anyone in this administration judging me!