The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Where's Waldo?

Over the past week, I've been amused by the main stream media's treatment of James Snowden, the hero/villian of the NSA surveillance leaks. In what amounts to a media game of Where's Waldo?, the media seems less concerned about the important and difficult issues raised by Snowden's leak and far more focused on where he is and where he's going.

Let's take a look this.

Although I was an supporter of the Patriot Act as it was originally proposed under the Bush Administration (you remember, back when Barack Obama was a staunch critic of surveillance programs), there are now very real reasons to be concerned about the newly-disclosed NSA surveillance program. There's no question that we need continuing intelligence to manage the threat posed by Islamist terrorism worldwide. But we need targeted intelligence, focused on those who (dare I say it) fit a specific profile. But do we need to establish a full network of every American's communications, email, phone calls, etc, even if it's at a meta-level? I think not.

What we do need is the ability to track communications once a clear threat has been established and clearly vetted by extra-governmental authority. The details of all of this are very complex, and there are no easy answers, but at their core is the following problem (enunciated by Glen Reynolds):
The problem is, it’s hard to trust the people who are supposed to use that data to protect us to do so, when they abandoned their own in Benghazi [and then lied about the reasons for the attack and stonewalled the events that occurred afterward]. And it’s hard to trust them not to use that data to oppress us, when they’ve already abused their powers that way in other connections. Which is why abuse of power is itself a kind of treason: It weakens the fabric of the nation like nothing else, by undermining the trust that is essential for the system to work.
We allow government intrusion into our lives because we trust that the intrusion will be used in very limited ways. If we are to believe Obama apologists (and I do not), the IRS scandal was the work of "rogue" IRS agents in some backwater office far, far away from Washington, DC. Just for laughs, let's take that ridiculous claim as the truth. If the Obama administration can't manage a bunch of G-11s in Cincinnati, how on earth can they manage the sophisticated techies at the NSA. And if, as most rational folks believe, the IRS abuses were politically motivated, not by G-11s, but by people unknown in Washington, DC, it is hardly far-fetched to believe that similar politically motivated abuses could be performed by "rogue" NSA employees. And that's the problem—trust is no longer there.

Even worse, as Barack Obama and the Democrats seek to further expand the size of government, the danger of abuse [and fraud and waste] only grows in direct proportion to size—bigger is absolutely NOT better.

But instead of looking at the reasons why the NSA program might run amuck or why abuses that have already occurred are a harbinger of even more ominous abuses as the government grows, the media plays Where's Waldo? Why am I not surprised?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pandora's Box

It's been well over a month since my last post—the press of work required to nurture and grow a small business gets in the way of posting. But domestic and international news continues to astound.

For those of us who believed in 2008 that Barack Obama was uniquely unqualified to be President of the United States, the last month has been an "I told you so" period. Over the past month, a number of true Watergate-level scandals have exploded onto the national scene, and each in its own way is an indictment of Barack Obama's hyper-partisan approach to politics, his divisive rhetoric, his incompetent leadership on the domestic front (e.g., "I learned about the IRS scandal from the media"), his administration's stonewalling on important events, and his incoherent foreign policy. In little over a month, we've had a continuation of Benghazi, the ominous IRS scandal, the DoJ scandals which featured unprecedented, dishonest, and partisan investigations of the media, the little-mentioned FDA scandal in which favored groups received gentle treatment and politically-incorrect groups got ravaged by an out-of-control bureaucracy, and, of course, the blossoming NSA scandal in which broad-based data collection is occurring without proper boundaries and controls. And now, a hesitant and ill-planned approach to Syria (a policy blunder but no scandal) that is neither appropriate nor wise.

What is truly ironic is that Barack Obama and his shrinking band of staunch defenders, all avid proponents of big government, have shaken the public's trust of big government in significant ways. Those of us who worry that big government does far more harm than good, wastes far more that it contributes, and constitutes a increasing threat of tyranny via bureaucracy have been validated by the missteps of big government itself.

As these myriad scandals play out, I would hope that things might change, that controls might be implemented, that the federal government might shrink. But none of that will happen. Past presidents, such as Richard Nixon, cracked open Pandora's box, and were severely punished for lying to the American public, misusing the Federal government, and arrogantly stonewalling when investigation into their behaviors were initiated. With his Chicago-style political worldview, Barack Obama has torn the lid off of Pandora's Box. The big question is whether he will be punished. The bigger question is whether a government that is far too big and too intrusive can be reigned in. I suspect the answers to both questions are No and No. Sad.