Monthly Archives: June 2013

On the Snowden Affair

The USA is outraged that other nations are not cooperating with the extradition of Edward Snowden. The USA is demanding that the other nations follow the law in this matter. The problem with that is the fact that the USA hasn’t followed other bits of international law, particularly in regards to Snowden’s revelations about how the USA swallowed wholesale their network transmissions.

I’m also concerned about how the USA has targeted Snowden more than it has targeted its massive security apparatus. So far, the only real successes of observing everyone’s communications have been in the area of harassing political opponents and blackmailing leaders of rival intelligence agencies. Never mind the criminality of the electronic harvest: consider the cost! Twelve years of this, and it’s only shown that it can bolster a president’s power against only his political enemies. It’s all so useless and inefficient.

Now for the legality of all that… it’s only needed if the USA is not run by the people. 100 years ago, authors of the day were already remarking on the stranglehold major corporations exercised on the USA’s government. It’s gotten worse since then. Consider why the security apparatus is justified: we must catch the terrorists! Why, then, are there terrorists? They hate us?

Well, why do they hate us? It’s not our freedom-loving lifestyle, I guarantee. It’s the way the USA topples popular governments and supports ruthless regimes in the lands of the terrorists. It’s also in the way the USA raises up terrorist groups to further our foreign policy in some lands, and then abandons them when our aims are achieved.

So what are our aims? Not freedom and justice for all – the support for terrorists and dictators on our payroll gives the lie to that idea. Our aims, all too frequently, are to allow our corporations to have exploitative access to foreign markets and resources, particularly in the oil industry.

So, we have terrorists on our case because ExxonMobil, Chevron, and other oil majors are the real Joint Chiefs of Staff. We need a security apparatus ostensibly to protect us from the terrorists, but that same apparatus is turned on we, the people, to keep us from opposing the powers that be. Edward Snowden revealed something of the extent of that security apparatus, and yet the official outrage from the Senate and House is directed at Snowden, not his former spymaster employers.

I could explain what is going on to Russians about my age or older. We have samizdat in the form of Wikileaks. We have defectors in the lands of our political rivals. (Consider: Gerard Depardieu defected to Russia…) We now have evidence that the apparatchniks are in control and their reach is long and broad and deep.

Snowden violated the law: fine. But Snowden violated the law in order to reveal how we in the USA are ruled by some very, very bad laws that need to go away. The fact that the elected leaders of the USA are not taking on the apparatchniks reveals that they themselves are members of that group.

So is the USA going down the path of Communist Russia? Not at all. It’s going down the path of Mexico. From the 1930s forward, Mexico was ruled first by a single party – PRI – and now by their elites. They have peaceful changes of top political leaders who are beholden to major interests. In Mexico, there is a law for the rich and a law for everyone else. Of course, the metaphor is not a complete one.

In Mexico, the people still turn out for major political rallies. In Mexico, the government does not yet harvest everyone’s electronic communications. And, finally, in Mexico, people don’t just talk about taking up arms to oppose an oppressive, non-representative government: they actually take up arms and fight for their rights.

The fact that gun nuts here haven’t yet risen up in actual insurrections shows how America as a whole has lost its spine to resist. And that’s why the apparatus shown us by Mr. Snowden has not triggered an uprising – and why those same gun nuts aren’t being rounded up by the apparatchniks. The gun nuts are controlled, docile, and not a threat. It doesn’t matter if they have guns or not to protect themselves from an overly oppressive government. They have no intention of actually resisting the government. They just want to pretend like they could. Those guns are a safety valve, believe it or not.

The fact that our political leaders can vilify Snowden without wagging a finger at the security apparatus and not worry about losing their seats in the Senate or House is the ultimate punctuation at the end of the Snowden affair. The USA does not respect international law, sponsors terrorists that we manage to get to turn on us, is run by major corporations, uses the threat of armed conflict to cow smaller nations into handing their economy and population over to those major corporations, justifies a massive security apparatus, and does not fear its own people because they are all bark and no bite. That is what the Snowden affair reveals in its totality.

On Government Surveillance

Government surveillance of the people it governs is needed only to prop up a regime that has no legitimate support among the people it governs. It was true long ago, it is true today. Given that our government is made up of unelected bureaucrats and elected officials that are supported – and vetted – by major corporations and lobbies unconnected to the people as a whole, it is necessary that the government place its citizens under surveillance.

How long has this been going on? Look back to the COINTELPRO operations of the 1960s. Not only did the FBI and CIA spy on US citizens in the name of national security, they also engaged agents provocateurs to stage incidents, assassinated leaders of movements hostile to the status quo, and even did some drug dealing of their own to radicalize the antiwar movement. Perhaps the scope of recent revelations seems vast by comparison, but the amount of communications currently ongoing is equally vast.

Given what national security apparatchniks could do back in the 1960s, the current revelations regarding PRISM are merely a logical extension of those capabilities. The question we’re now faced with is simple: what does our government do with that information that it collects every day?

Clearly, it’s not to catch terrorists. The only terrorist captures trotted out to our view are victims of government sting operations – people approached by the government and encouraged by the government to engage in radical, violent activities… and then arrested by the government for falling victim to the temptation it offered. Anyone planning violence on his or her own goes about, unknown to the eyes and ears that are everywhere spying on us, and they carry out their violence with terrible effect. Worse, should the terrorist use a gun, a large portion of the nation will ride to the defense of that gun, if not the terrorist. Most bizarre are the politicians that will swallow whole the justification of national surveillance as a means to fight terror, but who will then strain at the notion of a database of gun owners that could be cross-checked with other databases, say, of known criminals or persons with sketchy mental histories.

So what does the government do with this information? It’s obvious. The answer, which may surprise some of you, comes from L. Ron Hubbard. The guy was no dummy, whatever his faults may have been. Hubbard went after his enemies not with bullets – “the guns only shot the pawns” – but with private investigators. Once you know someone’s sins that he or she would do anything to keep quiet, they’ll do anything for you.

If blackmail wasn’t enough, digging up dirt was still needed to form grounds for lawsuits. “The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.” – L. Ron Hubbard, A Manual on the Dissemination of Material, 1955

And, really, what’s a few million in lawyer fees to the US Government? Or, rather, what’s a few millions of someone else’s money spent on lawyer fees to the lobbies and corporations that dominate the government? That’s the whole point of our government today: it is to protect the powerful in their abuses. Surveillance is needed so that if anyone gets on the radar screen as a serious threat to the excesses of the powerful, such a person can be neutralized with ease. Blowhard television commentators are not threats, by the way. The true threats are people with actual stories to tell.

What’s sad is that those little people with big stories also have little sins in their lives that leave them vulnerable to character assassination in the media. It’s to the point where only Jesus Christ himself could take on the deviltry we call government.

On the Prophet Isaiah

A widely-held view among biblical scholars is that the book of Isaiah from the Old Testament has had three different authors. While such a view can be contended with via scholarly arguments – and such arguments do exist – I argue against that view based upon my faith. Namely, I do not see it as impossible for the book of Isaiah to be the product of one author simply because citations from throughout Isaiah appear in the Book of Mormon. I believe that the Book of Mormon is true, and that the people who wrote it had access to the whole of the Book of Isaiah.

Yes, I know one can criticize my faith as being simplistic: I respond that my faith is simple, that God can and does reveal his will to his servants, the prophets, and that prophetic language can contain notions in it that challenge the notions of what we consider to be normal, causal relationships. So be it. While I could argue about wordprint patterns and symbolic assignments to historical events mentioned in Isaiah, the fact remains that I’ll hold the view of Isaiah as a unitary person, writing the whole of his book prior to the Babylonian Captivity of Judah. I believe in the existence of prophets and their implication that God is involved in our daily lives on an intimate basis, as a Heavenly Father to his beloved children. I’ll hold that view, regardless of whatever scholarly debates may transpire, because my faith is simple and I accept that we have contact with a world largely invisible to us through our own spiritual experiences individually and through our prophets collectively. They are, if I could borrow the concept, part of our sensory apparatus as much as our eyes or ears are.