Bright Ideas from a Dim Bulb

Bright Ideas“Bright Ideas…” ; mixed-media assemblage – $125

I didn’t mean to get on a political bent, but, that seems to be the way that I am… bent.

This piece addressed a narrow-minded group in Millville, NJ – a group that was against anything that reeked of progress.

Now, I am bent – and the bend lends towards fiscal conservatism, while I am more liberal on social issues, hence my moniker the “unRepublican Republican”.

I do not care what two people are doing in the privacy of their bedroom, regardless of their sex or the deviancy of their acts. And, if it is none of my business, it is certainly not the business of any elected official.

I deeply adhere to the principles of the Declaration of Independence that “all men (people) are created equal” and that we have the right to the “pursuit of happiness” (no guarantee of, only the right to seek) as long as we do not trample the rights of our fellow human beings.

This leaves me in a political quandary. What party do I join?  I love a good party!  The problem is that I am not cool enough for the one party, and not good looking enough for the other. I am stuck partying alone…

Nothing brings this closer to home than the recent news concerning the NSA and government snooping on our emails, phone calls, and  – well you name it. It is all done in the name of “your best interest”. Security first, and privacy – well, “whenever we decide to give it back…”

The chief concern I have is the total lack of concern of the majority of the public. They shrug their shoulders, and say that they are not doing anything wrongs, so why should they care? There seems to be an innate trust in the government, because of course, our elected officials and appointed bureaucrats would never, ever do anything immoral, illegal or questionable. Yeah, and Richard Nixon was a saint…

Innocents were not massacred at Wounded Knee. Black men were not used as human guinea pigs in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Our enlisted soldiers were never used in secret human experiments. The entire population was not inoculated with vaccines containing cancer during the 1960’s. There is no conspiracy between the federal government and bedfellow Monsanto to ensure that GMO foods are never labeled as such. Oh, the list goes on – but we will still trust our elected officials and never, ever once demand an explanation – especially if we voted for them.

The fourth amendment of the constitution reads:

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.

This is quite explicit. Now, the Michael Moore’s of this world will argue that modern technology is not covered by the constitution, since it wasn’t invented yet – at least that is the only conclusion I can come to interpreting his statement that the 2nd amendment only covers muskets. There can be no free press, because the high speed presses and digital communications did not exist back in 1776. The first amendment does not cover his videos… video was not even in anyone’s imagination in 1776…

Okay – that silliness aside – intelligent people understand that the Bill of Rights covers principles. Had radio waves and color television and YouTube existed in 1776, these forms of communication would have been protected.

Now – let me be clear. If you post a comment on Facebook or Twitter, and that comment is available for the public to view and comment upon, you have no expectation of anything other than the fact that that comment can and will surface later, and likely haunt you. You have no expectation that federal agents will not be reading your comments – and our duly appointed and hired personnel would be remiss if they were not scouring the public forums for worthwhile information andleads.

The issues arise when the government is discovered to be; #1, reading emails that are stored in “the cloud, and over six months old”; #2 tracking the recipients and senders of every email ever; #3 collecting the metadata of every phone call of every American, without a warrant or just cause.

People seem to think, “well, it is just metadata, they are not tapping our phone lines”, and then proceed write this intrusion off as negligible. This is short-sighted, for many reasons. Metadata is much more worthwhile to the feds and tapping phone lines – there simply is not enough manpower to listen to every conversation, but alliances and friendships and guilt by association can be inferred by phone records.

First, we need to understand the Bill of Rights. I don’t have the time or the space to expound, other than to recommend that the reader indulge themselves in the “Federalist Papers” and the “Anti-Federalist Papers” in order to understand the political situation when this country was founded. Without that basis, you will be destined to watch Fox News or MSNBC and to consume the bilge they serve up as news never the more aware of just how far this country has diverted from the intentions of the founding fathers.

If you actually believe that any news you read or watch is unbiased, you should seek psychiatric help immediately. You are delusional. You want proof? Okay – pretend you are a reporter, and your assignment is to write a totally unbiased article on a subject with which you have a strong opinion. Let’s say, there is a group that wants to legalize sex with children -and you are assigned to cover BOTH sides, with NO prejudice one way or another. Can you do it?  Will not your choice of adjectives describing either side of the argument not be biased, in some even slight way? I mean come on, unless you are truly sick, you will want to see certain people castrated. Will you be able to set aside your own feelings?

The fact is, there is no news source that is unbiased – and the 1st Amendment protection of the “freedom of the press” was designed to protect the free expression of ideas – completely biased ideas. The free press, the early press, was never “unbiased” nor did it pretend to be. But I digress…

And allow me to digress even more…

Free speech – the 1st Amendment was not written to allow an artist to piss in a jar and to immerse a crucifix to make a statement. But, it does protect that speech.

The 1st Amendment was not written to allow a comedian to say filthy words you would not say to your mother, in a public performance. It does indeed protect that.

The 1st Amendment was not written to allow Jim Morrison to fake copulation with a goat on stage…

The 1st Amendment was written to ensure that political speech was protected, and that the sitting government was not allowed to interfere to to do anything, whatsoever, to discourage free discourse. And that includes political discourse that abrogates a current administration.

Political discourse is the main reason for the 1st amendment (with the exception of the religious exception). A free press was designed to allow free dispersion of unpopular political ideas. The freedom of assembly ensured that the masses had a voice and could not be dispersed (for lack of paying this fee or that…)

Now – back to the 4th amendment.

A phrase NOT found in the constitution is “the right to privacy”. This is the loophole that government pundits are using to justify their surveillance of every aspect of the lives of law-abiding citizens.

Another phrase not found is “the separation of church and state”. Yet another is the “right to vote”.

The secret is in reading the constitution with an understanding of period language and sentiment. You can try to make it say something the authors did not intend, you can ask what they would have intended under current circumstances, or you can just make shit up.

The first amendment prohibited an establishment of a “state” religion. It ensured that religious people would be free to worship as they chose, without government intervention, dictating religious practices of any sort. So, while religious pundits will love to quote any of our forefathers on “this is a Christian” nation, they will be hard pressed to find one time where adherence to any “Christian” dogma was mandated by law. Every person is free to practice their own religion, however nobody is free to mandate the tenets of their faith onto another human being. “Separation of church and state” is never stated, but the principle holds firm.

So, while, many concepts were not named as we currently define them, the principles were well in place.

The “right to vote” is never stated in the constitution, but the concept is most certainly addressed in the 14th, 15th, 24th amendments, just to name a few.

“Privacy” was not a concern as a word as much as it was protected in principle, explicitly, in the 4th amendment.

The right to be “secure” in ALL areas were an 18th century might expect to find themselves was explicit. Their “security” of “person and “papers” covered ALL alternatives that could be conceived of in that century. Had telecommunications and the internet been even conceived of then, these modes of communication and information storage would most certainly have been covered. There is not one valid argument that can be made otherwise.

Anything you do in public, if it is viewed, is public. That is not up for debate. However, anything you say in the expectation of privacy is private, and NO government agent has any right to hear, read, or otherwise view, without a valid search warrant based on viable facts that you are in violation of legal laws.

For instance, in US vs. Jones, the Supreme Court ruled that the police could NOT plant a GPS device on the vehicle of a suspect where they had no warrant, in the hope that he information proved by the GPS would give them information enough to warrant a warrant – a lot of puns there…

The ruling on the above quoted case held “The Government’s attachment of the GPS device to the vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment.” Now, we have to look at reasoning here, it is the collection of “meta-data” that is the point of interest. This is the same sort of data that is collected every time you pick up your phone or email somebody. Your non-physical movements are being illegally tracked, just as Jone’s physical movements were being illegally tracked in violation of the fourth amendment.

If all they were doing was listening to actual phone calls, there would be no concern – yet. There is not enough manpower to actually listen to every call – or to read every email. Yet. The concern, the REAL concern, is the metadata. Very inexpensive computer programs can EASILY track every phone call and email, and with that data make comparisons.  If you ever emailed a person on the “watch list” you are now a suspect, and without a warrant, the government can now ask for a FISA (rubberstamp) order to track your every movement. In effect, the government has declared and every other citizen “a person of interest” and you have been already declared guilty. That, my friend, is not the way that a free and honorable government behaves.

Now, even excepting these situations – the main concern is the oppressive and chilling effect on free political speech. If a local police department tracking the physical movements of a suspect without any proof of wrongdoing is unconstitutional, how can the federal government claim a right to track the digital movements of EVERY citizen in the hopes of finding one out of a million that might be doing something wrong? AND, with the recent developments that a Democrat administration was in control when conservative groups where targeted by the IRS (and the evidence is pointing to a more concerted effort than has been admitted) how safe will liberal groups be under another J. Edgar Hoover, or Joe MCarthy or even worse, in the future? Everyone must stand up for what is right whether you like it or not, or else forfeit the right to expect anyone to stand up for your rights when they are infringed.

 

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