Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Land of the Free and Home of the Brave?

- From the beginning, I have been wishy-washy about Edward Snowden. Is he a hero or a traitor? I simply haven't been able to reach a definitive conclusion in my own mind. I think he told the American people things we needed to know but did he also step over the line to give our enemies information that is detrimental to our security? Despite my ambivalence, I hope he makes his way safely to Venezuela or wherever he ends up. At least, that's what I hope with what I know as of now.

-  I think America handled the aftermath of 911 with stupidity and cowardice. We created a sweeping new law, the Patriot Act, that curtailed the freedoms of every day Americans. We created a huge new bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security, that sucked mega-dollars out of our economy and did it in darkness, in secretive ways we were unaware of. We created massive new spying programs, again, without our knowledge, as revealed by Snowden. We created Guantanamo Bay so we could treat enemy combatants any way we chose, riding roughshod over the principles of fairness and justice and honor that America had stood for its entire existence. We, who had been primarily responsible for the Geneva Conventions, now shrugged off torture and extraordinary rendition as necessary evils. We embarked upon two wars, with 911 as the justification for each of them - one went on for 10 years and the other is still in effect 12 years later (our longest war) at a cost of trillions (we literally shipped bales of money on pallets to Iraq, money which was mostly squandered) and yet now our Republican congresspeople are horrified at the costs of Head Start and Meals on Wheels. But we still spend almost $1 million a year on maintaining each of the pathetic creatures in the limbo hell of Guantanamo. It is our national shame but the Republicans refuse to allow President Obama to shut down this horrible place because they are too terrified to allow these broken men on American soil, even in a super-max prison.

Prior to September 11, 2001, America was the land of the free and home of the brave. Since then, not so much.

- Did you know that Chief Justice John Roberts appoints all of the FISA court judges who dictate how and when and where our government can spy on us? Yep, every one. No one else has any say at all - not the president, not congress, not the other justices. He has appointed all 11 that currently serve (10 of whom were appointed by Republican presidents - hey, surprise!) He will continue to appoint all of them for decades into the future...as long as he is Chief Justice. The FISA court is essentially a law unto itself. When Congress wrote the Patriot Act, they made it clear that in order to spy on Americans, the needed information must be immediately relevant to an on-going investigation. The FISA court changed the definition of the world relevant to "if, maybe, someday, possibly, at some point in the future" the information could become necessary, the government could go ahead and collect it now, just in case. Since it was created, the FISA court has heard approximately 34,000 petitions to spy on us. Guess how many it has rejected? Eleven.

So, really, I'm not sure who I think is more dangerous to our security - Edward Snowden or Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

- There is some talk going around that when we finally leave Afghanistan, we may not leave any Americans there at all. That's what the New York Times reported. Other sources denied that option is even being discussed. God, I hope the Times' account is correct. I think we should have been out by now, every single one of us. We've given Afghanistan enough of our blood and treasure. Leave it up to them now. Anyway, we aren't very good at picking winners and losers. Hamid Karzai is preferable to the Taliban but that's not to say, he isn't totally corrupt himself. Let them figure it out as best they can. Did all our years in Iraq do much good? Not so's you notice. Do they love us there for "setting them free"? Not so's you notice. I think its time to focus on America and let the rest of the world take care of itself.