The Road to a Police State

18 September 2014

                On May 13th, PBS offered a two hour documentary (no commercial interruptions) on the unravelling of the NSA story triggered by Edward Snowden’s leaks.  It was an important first step in coming to grips with the question of secrecy in a democracy.  In our polarized society, Snowden is reviled by the Right who call him a traitor and celebrated by the Left who credit him with bringing national secrecy into the public forum where it belongs. 

                Ever since 9/11, incumbent administrations have used terrorism as justification for all their covert activities.  The NSA collected the phone calls of foreign governments and American citizens – thousands of them.  Whenever it chooses to, they can watch your fingers as you type on your computer.  The PBS program did us a great service by showing us the deep unease of people in the NSA, both Republican and Democrat, who finally acted by resigning or rebelling. 

                The NSA and the CIA have succeeded – in the name of national security – in becoming secret arms of our government that operate without any oversight whatsoever.  And do remember, the NSA may be in the business of gathering intelligence, but the job of the CIA is to act on it.   In tandem with any administration that doesn’t understand the Constitution, the combination could be lethal.  Please watch PBS Part 2 on Tuesday, May 20th.  And please make this issue one you follow closely as it unfolds.

David Brooks On Joy

 

2 May 14

In a sublime column (see below) in the New York Times on 2 May 2014, David Brooks pierced a vulnerability many of us didn’t even know we had.  On one level he wrote a deeply moving account of a meeting between the philosopher Isaiah Berlin and the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova.  On another, he captured the joy of a spiritual and intellectual exchange that made his readers look inward.  Continue reading

Change – Get Used to It

Think about the 1800s.  Waves of people looking for new lives climbed onto sailing ships in Europe and died by the hundreds within close sight of the American shore.  Why?  No lifejackets, no lifeboats, no telegraph, no telephone, no radio (1840).  As they approached New Jersey’s Navesink Highlands on the way to New York Harbor there was no communication between ship and shore.  With sad regularity, the wooden ships were crushed on rocks and reefs while passengers died, victims to the limited navigation tools of the time.     Continue reading