Bjorn AgainstBjorn Against's Journal
We are told that a massive database with records of all of the phone calls that we make is necessary for national security reasons. We are asked to believe that this database is needed to combat terrorism, apparently just getting a warrant to tap a suspected terrorists phone is not enough for them. They need to have a database that will tell them whether or not you called your Grandmother last week, they can't fight terrorism without it. Of course they will tell you that they are only using this database to find terrorists and if you are not a terrorist they will not be looking at your private data, the massive database that holds records for damn near every last one of us is only going to be used to track down the terrorists. Trust them, they won't be spying on any union organizers or political leaders.
We are supposed to trust the NSA and just let them continue to operate in the shadows without telling us anything about what they are up to. We are told that everything they do needs to be classified, they are holding personal information on you for "national security" reasons so you don't need to know about it. No one seems to be able to explain what sort of vital national security information is held in Grandma's phone records, but we are supposed to just trust them that this is really important to keep us safe from terrorists.
Former FBI agent and whistleblower Coleen Rowley has been a vocal critic of the sort of blanket spying on American citizens practiced by the NSA. As a former FBI agent who actually investigated suspected terrorists herself she says that these sorts of blanket sweeps of information are totally ineffective for fighting terrorism. When you collect such vast amounts of data you are bound to find some suspicious patterns, but just because a pattern is suspicious does not mean there is anything actually going on. If agents end up wasting their time tracking down a false lead that means they have less time to investigate the real criminals. If there is legitimate grounds for suspicion a targeted warrant would allow them to monitor any suspected terrorist without infringing on the rights of the rest of us.
The vast majority of the American people are not national security threats and we don't need the government collecting private data on them in order to keep us safe.
Our country is facing one very real national security threat however, we have corporations that have become so large that they have the ability to take down the entire American economy. This may sound outrageous and it is, but if you think it is hyperbole I ask you to consider the financial collapse of 2008. When a few large banks imploded they nearly brought down the entire American economy, millions of people lost their jobs because of a few banks. Just think about the national security implications of that, these banks have become so large that they literally have the power to take down our whole economy. It is not only banks that hold this sort of economic stranglehold on our society, the oil industry also has made our nation's security dependent on them as well.
Just a short drive of less than ten minutes from my home exists this lovely place which is owned by the Koch Brothers...
That Koch owned facility supplies more than half the gasoline used in my state of Minnesota, nearly all of the gas we purchase in the Twin Cities comes from there. Think about the national security implications of that, we have one private corporation with a very sketchy background supplying virtually all of the gasoline in our entire Twin Cities and suburban area. We have essentially handed the Koch brothers the power to shut down our state if they want to, we have allowed them to become so big that our entire society depends on them and I don't know about you but I sure as hell don't want to be dependent on the Koch Brothers.
Make no mistake about it, this is a real national security issue. No one should ever be allowed to acquire so much wealth that they have the ability to sabotage our national economy. This is the elephant in the room that they don't want us talking about, but the concentration of wealth is one of the biggest national security threats our nation faces.
Yet instead of targeting the real national security issue our government is keeping tabs on citizens who pose no threat at all.
This is not about Obama, this is about a corrupt system that needs to face the sunlight.
We will get to the NSA scandal, but first I want everyone to take a moment to think back to 2008 when a few large banks nearly brought down the American economy. Most of us remember the darkness of those days very clearly, I will never forget the day that I went to work and saw 25% our workforce laid off in a single day.
I want you not just to think about how you were affected by the crisis however, I want you to think about what that crisis means about the way our economy and our government are structured. I want you to think about how the owners of these banks have become so powerful that their failure could bring down the entire US economy.
Now think about this in terms of politics and consider what this means in terms of Presidential power. Too often we only look at what each President did, we can see that Bush was a royal fuck up in everything he did but that really does not tell us nearly as much as we often believe it does. We also can see that Obama pushed some financial stimulus that did help get the economy back on track, but that is also not the key issue here.
The key issue is that despite anything that Bush did or Obama did the same system is in place that has existed for years. The reforms that have been made to the system are pretty minimal and not a single banker was held accountable for their role in the collapse.
We have had some very heated debates on DU about the lack of prosecution of the bankers not so much because we disagree on whether or not bankers should be prosecuted, in fact most people here seem to be in agreement that they should be prosecuted. What the division always revolves around is Obama's role, we yell at each other and divide ourselves over whether or not we think Obama has handled the situation well. Yet in debating Obama's role as an individual we often miss the big picture and we fail to recognize the system that Obama stepped in to. It is also the system that Bush stepped into, it is the system that Clinton stepped into, it is the system that our nation has been building for hundreds of years now and it has lots of powerful interests invested in it.
The bankers proved to us that they were so powerful that they hold the ability to collapse the entire global economy, do you not think that might cause Obama to pause before he prosecutes any of them? If they have the ability to collapse the global economy they have the ability to do a lot of other things that we can only speculate about as well, if one of them were to be prosecuted and the others wanted revenge they could screw a lot of people over very easily.
So how does this relate to the NSA scandal? Well we are falling for the same thing again, we are debating Obama's role in the scandal rather than recognizing the larger powers that exist.
The NSA was founded in 1952 and they have always been a very secretive organization, we really don't know what they have been up to for the last sixty years because they reveal very little about their operations to us. We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg when we are talking about metadata, the NSA undoubtedly has tons of information that we don't know anything about. This is a spy agency that has been operating in the dark under several Presidents now.
A lot of people say Obama should have issued an executive order to stop this spying. I certainly wish he had the power to do that, but let's be honest about just how corrupted our government has become and consider how far back this corruption goes. The NSA has been spying on Americans for the last sixty years, they have enormous databases of who knows what kind of information and there are powerful people who no doubt use these databases to look up information for reasons that are not in any way noble. They want you to think it is all about fighting terrorism, but you would have to be pretty naive to believe they are only looking at suspected terrorists and not monitoring their political opponents. Having this massive spy network no doubt benefits some powerful people, how do you think they would react if Obama tried to shut down their operation with an executive order?
I am not trying to defend Obama nor am I trying to blame him, what I am trying to do is make us all consider how little this has to do with any of the specific individuals involved in the case and how much it has to do with a rotten system that has been built up over the years. The reality of this case is the reality of damn near every story that hits the news, wealth has been so far concentrated at the top in American society that our democracy does not work any more. We can keep electing all the Presidents we want, but no single President is going to change this because the real power brokers are the people like the bankers who nearly collapsed the economy, when a few individuals amass so much money that they can bring down the entire economy if they want to no President is going to mess with them.
That is unless we push to change the system. The focus should not be on pushing to change Obama, the focus should be pushing to change the system. It is a system that has been in place long before Obama and it is a system that will be in place long after Obama unless we push to change it.
The corporate bigwigs want us to be debating Obama because they know that divides us. What they don't want us to be doing is they don't want us to be debating the NSA's powers, they know that if we were to focus on the system rather than specific individuals we would all see how fucked up their system is and we would demand real change. They want us to believe that the only way to bring change is to elect new people to office, but they never want us to think about challenging the very system that those new people are stepping into. They want us to believe the President is all powerful because if we realized that the President is not as powerful as the corporate interests are the illusion of democracy would disappear.
Let's not fight about Obama, let's fight the real enemies.
I have heard from so many politicians today both Republicans and Democrats that opening up our phone records to scrutiny is necessary for keeping safe. I am being told that we have nothing to fear then we should have no problem with people looking at our phone records, well I am sure that the people telling me this must not have anything to fear either or else they would never be advocating for such a policy.
Every election season I hear these same politicians tell me that they are men and women of principle so I am sure they will have no problem living by the same principles that they enforce on the rest of us the people.
If the politicians want to look at our phone records then I am sure that they will be more than happy to let us look at theirs, after all they have nothing to hide right?
I want to see the names of every donor and lobbyist that our politicians speak on the phone with, if they have nothing to fear then they should be willing to let us see who they are talking to should they not?
The next time your member of Congress holds a town hall ask them if they are willing to live under the same microscope they want the rest of us to live under, if they are the principled people they claim to be I am sure they will be more than happy to hand over their phone records to you.
A couple of scratches.
I have suffered worse injuries than those when I cut myself shaving.
We are being told that suffering a couple of tiny scratches in a fight justifies shooting and killing an unarmed teenager. Wrap your head around that and think about just how fucked up that is.
The fact that we are even having a debate over whether or not the killing of Trayvon Martin was justified shows just how nuts the NRA and their George Zimmerman defending minions have become, any sane person should realize that suffering a scratch does not justify homicide.
I think people should have the right to defend themselves, but when people try to tell me that suffering a couple of tiny scratches justifies killing an unarmed person that shows just how insane the definition of "self defense" that the gun nuts are promoting has become.
Even if murder and perjury suspect George Zimmerman's story were completely true, I still can not possibly see how killing Trayvon Martin would have been justified. If Zimmerman's story were true I would accept shoot to wound as self defense, but I have not heard any credible reason as to why shoot to kill was necessary in the situation Zimmerman was in even if his story were true.
Yet the gun nuts insist that they should have the right to shoot to kill on the basis of suffering a couple of tiny scratches in a fight. We can not allow the gun nuts to weaken the standards for what constitutes reasonable self defense, if Zimmerman's ridiculous self defense claim holds up I hate to think of the precedent it will set.
Most people support the right to self defense, but the sane among us will never allow anyone to tell us that suffering a couple of scratches justifies shoot to kill.
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