Tag Archives: Orwell

Security Blanket

Domestic surveillance is one of those issues that highlight the false dichotomy between Republicans and Democrats. Senior officials on both sides favor a surveillance regime which is illegal and unconstitutional. Opposing this bipartisan consensus are the usual suspects – Rand Paul, Ron Wyden, Justin Amash, and a surprisingly small cohort of American voters.


The great state of Kentucky has two senators, both Republican. Of course, Senator Paul is a Republican in name only. He is the leader of that party’s emerging libertarian wing. The other is Mitch McConnell, the majority leader. McConnell supports a straight extension of the Patriot Act, including section 215 – mass collection of everyone’s phone records.

Siding with McConnell is the Obama administration, including newly appointed Attorney General Loretta Lynch – she of the civil asset forfeiture scandal – and Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush. At least Lynch is consistent. She has no regard for the Fourth Amendment at all. The quickest way to find out if your senator is among the “security hawks,” is to start reading Dan Froomkin at The Intercept.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Among TV pundits, Fox News is mostly in favor of domestic surveillance (as here) except for the occasional libertarian, and CNN – well, CNN is the administration’s lapdog. This chimes with the risible survey finding that Democrats and Republicans only resist surveillance when the other party is in charge.

Your government intends to spy on you, by which we mean Congress, various police agencies, and the Obama administration with its media lackeys. It is easier to count the people resisting, which still includes about half of the judges – until AG Lynch starts replacing them.

Using mass collection of phone records, the police agencies can put together a map of who talks to whom and, by doping out who your friends’ friends are, decide if they should obtain a secret warrant for your arrest, further investigation, put you on the no-fly list, have the IRS audit you, etc. This article from Ars Technica explains how the three hops rule makes everyone a suspect.

Why should you care? You are pretty sure you don’t know anyone who knows someone who knows someone else who might be on a secret list of suspected terrorists. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear, right?

Wrong. In the real world, what happens when police agencies have vast power to investigate innocent people is that they end up abusing it. This goes all the way back to FBI harassment of Dr. King, and continues with the IRS selectively auditing political enemies.

… explicit allegations about King’s sex life … the letter offers a potent warning for readers today about the danger of domestic surveillance

Power corrupts. Surveillance power creates opportunities for blackmail and intimidation of political enemies – as well as vulnerable innocents. It is even conceivable that the NSA might someday blackmail its own masters in Congress. The FBI tried it once, under J. Edgar Hoover, and the CIA is not above hacking Congressional computers. This is a far bigger threat to America than the “war on terror” they claim to be fighting.

Domestic surveillance is a clear and present danger to our personal freedoms and the integrity of the republic. It is astonishing that young Americans – to paraphrase Paul Begala – don’t give a shit.

Activists in Europe hold their politicians to account. They march, they vote, and they ask tough questions. When was the last time you saw an American politician pinned down on this – or any – issue, and forced to give a serious answer?

Here, we are placated with an earnest speech or two – some waffle about “finding a balance,” and a committee to recommend someday making some changes. We’ll change the name of our writ from Patriot Act to Freedom Act, LOL.

Jeremiah blames public education. By negligence or design, we have raised up a generation that is self absorbed and easily led. One generation – that’s all it takes, and you will never get your freedom back.

See also: IRS Doesn’t Need a Warrant to Read Your Email


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Conspiracy Duckspeak

We were struck by this headline, Conspiracy Theories Abound in Nemtsov Murder. Jeremiah is intrigued by the increasing use of “conspiracy theory” to designate views outside the accepted mainstream. He has debunked a few, as here, and supported others.

The mainstream view is that the Putin regime was behind the murder. The conspiracy view is that some group of agitators, like the Ukrainian resistance or Russian nationalists, killed Mr. Nemtsov as a provocation. There are plenty of motives to embarrass Putin and goad Russia into some course of action or another. As for means and opportunity, President Putin is much more likely to arrest his enemies than to have them shot dead on a high street in Moscow.

This is not to play armchair detective. On the contrary – at this early stage of the investigation, no one should rush to judgment, and no theory should be dismissed out of hand. What we would like to see, as a gesture of good faith, is an invitation for German experts to participate in the investigation.

A right-wing media star drops dead… a coroner’s technician dies weeks later… right-wing blogs erupt! Seven months later, we know the technician died from arsenic poisoning.

Here in America, if an outspoken opposition leader dies under suspicious circumstances, the conspiracy theorists are those who suspect the government. Yes, we mean Andrew Breitbart, a strong young man who dropped dead from a “massive” heart attack while walking his dog – hours after making himself inconvenient for the Obama administration.

We might also include reporter Michael Hastings, whose Mercedes exploded after striking a palm tree in Hollywood. Of course, American spooks have the good taste to make it look like an accident – not like that maniac, Vladimir Putin. If you look into any of these stories, including the poisoned L.A. technician, you will read “conspiracy theory” prominently in every one.

Note the symmetry here. Of suspicious deaths in America, the crazies are those who suggest the government might be involved. Of suspicious deaths in Russia, the crazies are those who suggest the government might not be involved. That’s because political assassinations don’t happen in America. Right?

All of this just goes to show that you must make up your own mind. Some theories are indeed crazy, but when the press tells you a theory is crazy – that just shows whose pocket they’re in. Globalism, for instance, is a strong movement with institutional support and outspoken advocates – yet, for some reason, people outside the movement cannot talk about it without sounding crazy.

In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.

This is a lot like the way the government controlled speech in Orwell’s 1984. Their language was designed so that it was grammatically impossible to express dissent. Anyone who tried, would sound like an idiot. They called it duckspeak. We call it conspiracy theory.

See also: Written by the Victors

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War without End

Here is a pair of articles opposing another war in Iraq, which seems to be the minority view. One is a thoughtful piece by Emile Simpson, who was on the ground in Afghanistan. The other is a trademark rant from David Stockman. If you haven’t read Stockman, you should. He has a tremendous command of history, and a hilariously indignant style of writing. He’s like the Lewis Black of foreign policy.

The reason that there will be no Iraqi government and war-capable Iraqi Army is that there is no Iraqi nation – just the Sykes-Picot borders.

Regarding the conduct of the war, both say roughly the same thing – an all-air strategy is foolish, and events on the ground are best left to the locals. Regarding the motivation for war, Stockman agrees with Jeremiah on the concept of imperial overreach. He also refutes the argument about keeping jihadists out of America.

As Stockman says, we would not typically go to war over a single atrocity – especially after America has slept through months of Islamic State atrocities, and thousands killed in the Syrian civil war. This is a testament to our media driven foreign policy. If you recall the “bleed to bankruptcy” strategy coined by Osama bin Laden, then you can see the beheading as a deliberate provocation. We are playing right into their hands.

U.S. warplanes are flying sorties, at a cost somewhere between $22,000 to 30,000 per hour for the F-16s, to drop bombs that cost at least $20,000 each, to destroy this captured [U.S.] equipment.

If we really wanted to defeat Islamic extremism, we would long since have given up on military adventures, and attacked the root cause. This ongoing policy blunder is probably down to simple myopia, but we couldn’t help noticing the Orwellian connection here.

We are spending millions of dollars on a bombing campaign to destroy millions more of – our own – military hardware, on the ground. It is like a giant bonfire of American wealth. We could just as well pay Northrop Grumman to build the bombs and detonate them outside the factory. This is strikingly similar to the unending war described in Orwell’s 1984.

What would motivate years of war, squandered trillions, and lives lost? We are not ruling out simple stupidity. On the other hand, it could be the motivation described by Orwell. War provides an excuse for poverty, hardship, and the suspension of civil rights. Good thing we haven’t seen any of that.

See also: When is a war not a war?

Update: Jeremiah was not the only one to see the beheadings as a deliberate provocation.  Writing in The Intercept, Dan Froomkin gives a shrewd analysis of what ISIS has to gain from drawing America back into Iraq.

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Ignorance is Strength

JeremiaSominBookh often wonders how Americans can stand by while their civil rights are annihilated, and a dictatorship is erected over them.  The first answer from a centrist blog is “partisanship,” of course – a manufactured conflict that keeps the spin doctors employed and the public divided.

Ilya Somin has a different answer.  Americans are just plain dumb.  It’s funny when Penn and Teller get people to sign a petition banning dihydrogen monoxide.  It’s not so funny when they elect and retain evildoers in public office.

Can we reasonably believe that American citizens are actually interested enough in politics to learn what they need in order to cast knowledgeable votes?

Especially disturbing is the impotence of “retrospective voting.”  If nothing else, we should at least have the wit to vote for or against incumbents based on their record.  That’s why Jeremiah often lists congressmen by name, as here.

Politics is not just biennial trips to the voting booth.  Politics is your newspaper, your associations, your watercooler debates.  Politics is sending money for a cause, marching in a protest, standing up in a town meeting.  Politics is a vital process that keeps you alert and protects your liberty.  Ignorance of politics is inexcusable.  It’s like not knowing CPR.

By the way, if you don’t recognize “ignorance is strength,” that means you haven’t read Orwell yet.  You will want to do that while it’s still fiction.

See also:  He Said, She Said

Update:  An alert reader has pointed out that water is structurally H-OH, and so “dihydrogen monoxide,” while calculated to sound scary, is less accurate than “hydrogen hydroxide.”  Kudos.

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National DNA Database

DNAThe Maryland DNA case seems to dovetail with the NSA scandal, as yet another attack on the Fourth Amendment.  The Supreme Court, unbelievably, held that the police can sample your DNA when you are arrested, even if you are never convicted.  Leftists will be surprised to learn that Justice Scalia was the one protecting their nucleotides:

As an entirely predictable consequence of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national DNA database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.

What the two scandals have in common is the government’s attitude that they should collect data on everyone, “just in case.”  Here, they can take your DNA and go fishing for any crimes anywhere in their database – not only the one for which you were arrested.

Police DNA tests are not 100% accurate.  Combined with other evidence, a 99% match might be compelling.  If you go trolling in a database with 100 million samples, though, there are going to be errors.  So, you were arrested for resisting arrest, and now –presto – you’re linked to an unsolved axe murder from 1984.

The whole point to the Fourth Amendment is that the police must have good reason to suspect you, specifically, of a specific crime.  The police may not perform a blanket investigation to see if you are guilty of just anything.  Back when the Amendment was written, they called that tyranny.

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Objectivity Alert

The NSA scandal provides an opportunity to see who – among the media, bloggers, and our elected officials – is operating from principle, and who is merely a partisan.

Online, we are still reading an awful lot of “Bush started it,” which may cheer the Democrats, but leaves open the issue of why this outrageous program is still running five years into the Obama administration.  This is from the ACLU:

Obama said that he “welcomes” a debate about the proper limits on government surveillance.  But why are we having this debate only now?  Why was all of this secret for so long?

A principled position would be if you actually believe the “war on terror” justifies a massive and secret program of domestic surveillance.  Otherwise, the only question is – when are they shutting it down?

As for the media, it was fun to see them tripped up by a nonpartisan outrage.  Fox News is normally a friend of law and order Republicans, especially Rep. King of the intelligence committee, who blunted their attack on the Obama administration.  Contrariwise, CNN usually defends the president, but here is a blatant affront to civil liberty.

Of the two, Fox was quicker to adopt an objective posture, probably because they are so often accused of bias.  Jeremiah followed the story on both networks, to see exactly this.  CNN spent the first day covering someone called Paris and then decided to “report the controversy.”  Note that the story broke in a British newspaper.

Among politicians, those defending civil liberty include Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI).  Sensenbrenner, by the way, had a hand in drafting the Patriot Act.  Those defending the NSA include Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI).

See also:  Fascist Baseball

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Language Lesson

Jeremiah has a new pastime, trolling partisan blogs for the fascism debate.  Here we have Mother Jones defending the IRS, of all things, and then the community flaming one lonely centrist.

Where was your outrage when Bush used the IRS against Greenpeace?

This is healthy for young people who don’t remember the Watergate hearings, or maybe young liberals who came of age during the Bush administration.  In time, they will learn that surveillance and intimidation are always evil – no matter who’s in the White House.

Meantime, we have cracked the fascism comes from the left question.  It can’t, by definition.  The right calls it “tyranny.”  What we learned from the partisan blogs is that each side has its own language, which prevents them discussing a mutual danger.

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