Donald Trump recently declared that he would “put the interests of the American people and American security above all else.” His campaign has already been exemplifying this policy through nativist hostility to foreign journalists. But Trump’s “America First” is merely the explicit expression of a creeping mindset, long in the making; the foreign policy manifestation of the rapid moral decadence in that society, whereby enlightened self-interest, which had undergirded the Pax America, devolves into raw self-interest. Continue reading “Canada and the “America First” Policy”
I agree with you. The United States of America is awesome. We are awesome.
It may only be a matter of time before the American news media puts The Comedy Channel out of business. For, which SNL comic could deliver that line above with such sincere fervor and straight face? It is a tribute to the dazzling success of the self-esteem movement, which applauds a child’s accomplishment, regardless of the number of feet away from the baseball, he swings the baseball. Yes. We incarcerated, and tortured, and anally raped, and trampled on their religious sentiments. Yes, Many of them were completely and knowingly innocent. But we did it in an awesome manner, and for awesome cause. We are awesome!
Should we sit down in ashes and wail in jeremiad lament? Nay. It’s time for another Anderson Cooper giggle fit!
♦ ♦ ♦
And yet there was a time when America was awesome; when American Exceptionalism had some recognizable validity. And that Exceptionalism had less to do with a “benevolent global hegemony” and material success; but with uniquely distinctive understandings and principles. One of these American eccentricities came to mind during all those NSA exposes last year.
After the expose of the PRISM program, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, a previous leader of the Conservative Party, declared.
The net effect is if you are a law abiding citizen of this country, going about your business and your personal life, you have nothing to fear; nothing to fear about the British state or intelligence agencies listening to the content of your phone calls or anything like that.
It was that expansive expression of posh condescension, inculcated in this son of Dandelion and Burdock manufacturers, declaring you have nothing to fear; which provided that magic moment; one, which I doubt, American parodists could out-parody. Had someone scripted and produced those lines in a movie drama, the thespian would have been mocked for ham acting; the scriptwriter lampooned for creating such a stickman caricature.
I can imagine Herr Doctor Hague greeting with wide smile and sweeping assurance for those naked Juden, trudging towards those shower stalls.
If you are an obedient and healthy inhabitant of this camp, going about your assigned tasks and routines, you have nothing to fear; nothing to fear about these soldier’s protrusions or oversized easy bake ovens.
Herr Hague might be a persona who could probably get away with it.
♦ ♦ ♦
It was this if you are a law abiding citizen of this country, you have nothing to fear attitude, distinctive of British Toryism, and one with which I was familiar here in Canada of my youth, which reminded me of the Exceptionalism of the historical small-r republicans of the American political heritage. In America, there was always acknowledgment that that propensity towards mendacity, vice, self-aggrandizement and tyrannical impulses in humanity did not magically terminate upon election or appointment to civic offices. The watch guards needed to be vigilantly watched and occasionally resisted.
The ability and license to “collect it all”, acquired by the NSA or GCHQ, in the name of protection against criminal and foreign elements, is not merely a matter of an inconvenient invasion of privacy. Rather, that information could enable the use and abuse by these watch guards to violate the life, liberty and welfare of its citizenry or even of the foreign elements! That point is rarely raised.
The good will and motivations of the governors are too readily assumed by the governed nowadays. This shows up in the U.S. by the all too easy acceptance of porn photography and genital groping by the TSA, roadside shakedowns of vehicular occupants, pre-trial exoneration of corrupt and/or incompetent cops, warrantless collection of private information, quick dismissal of military and intelligence travesties or the expansion of Presidential discretion in the execution and de facto legislation of laws.
The roots of this devolution from American Exceptionalism are theological/philosophical. A Puritan or Non-Conformist version of Calvinism, which stressed the radical propensity and enslavement of human nature to evil, including in that of the governors, founded this republican impulse, which maintained healthy skepticism of civic officials and structures to check corruption and tyranny. However, with the dilution of this skeptical perception of the virtue of human nature comes a dilution of that healthy skepticism and perceived need for citizens to protect themselves from their leaders.
In this regard, America is no longer Exceptionalist.
NSA and Christianity: The Case for Concern (Part 2)
Part 1 is here.
Possible Reasons for Dearth of Concern in Evangelical Circles
Why has there been such a low level of practicable Christian notice, concern and resistance to the dangers of the Authoritarian Omniscient State? This is particularly peculiar since artifacts abound that American Christians are facing noticeable and increasing depredations from such Power.
Paul Washer warned of coming persecution.
The church in America is going to suffer so terribly. And we laugh now but they will come after us they will come after our children. They will close the net around us while we are playing soccer mom and soccer dad. While we are arguing over so many little things and mesmerized by so many trinkets, the net even now is closing around you and your children and your grandchildren and it does not cause you to fear.1
Continue reading “NSA and Christianity: The Case for Concern (Part 2)”
NSA and Christianity: The Case for Concern (Part 1)
The capacities and practices, revealed by Edward Snowden have become an abrupt awakening to the state of the current world order; as to the temporal proximity of the End Times. Yet another plank is being laid in place. To quote Snowden, “the architecture of oppression” is emerging.
It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.1
Continue reading “NSA and Christianity: The Case for Concern (Part 1)”
NSA and the Universality of the Nature of Humanity
One particular seminal idea that the American political heritage contributed to world civilization, (although it can also be found less convincingly in the British heritage) is the application of Calvinist pessimism about the nature of humanity to political theory. That pessimism was a cornerstone in the construct of checks and balances within government, between governments (federal and state) and between government and the larger society. The concept of checks and balances predated the Founding Fathers of the American Constitution in the varying colonial governments that had evolved in the prior centuries. That pessimism was a key to minimalist government (unlike the French Revolution) and constitutional limits to the potential scope of public power over private individuals and entities, noted in the Bill of Rights. Calvinistic pessimism differentiated the Enlightenment’s effects on American minds from those of continental Europe.
The Calvinist thesis differs from the underlying assumptions of Scholastic (originally Hellenist) thought; which held that certain categories of humanity, in whom reason prevailed, could be trusted. This latter belief, strong amongst secular liberal descendents, perceives evil as primarily a facet of ignorance and irrationality (i.e. Jefferson, Camus), to which credentialed education could largely ameliorate. Snowden’s lack of educational credentials constitutes a considerable element of the attempted denigration of Edward Snowden. These insults are not merely a result of credential and class snobbery. There prevails a belief that knowledge and intellect, or at least the credentialed proxy for having obtained knowledge and intellect, equals virtue and wisdom.
Radical Calvinist pessimism about the nature of humanity holds little sway in modern America; even amongst Evangelical/Protestants who largely see their ‘depravity’, as more one of mere isolated flaws rather than as radical and profound systemic evil in the person. Consequently, the ideological foundations and impetus for a true limited, minimalist and checks and balances government flounders. The secular liberal faction largely judges the Constitution to be an obsolete anachronism, which they seek to furtively circumvent. But even the conservative faction nowadays has reverted back to that ancient Hellenist perspective; in which an educated and credentialed elite can escape the baseness, vice, ignorance and irrationality that is all too evident amongst common rabble.
Because of their higher credentialed and class status, these elites are willing to give benefit of the doubt to their peers. Thereby, the so-called checks and balances that the elite class places upon itself is none too rigorous. They will admit that the constitution and its protections are violated with justification under the present or some other circumstances. However, so certain of their virtue, by virtue of their credentials, these elites believe and declare ‘trust us’ as the foundation by which they will not abuse these constitutional violations. Or they erect a Potemkin façade of checks and balances to ensure that these constitutional violations are violated without abuse.
A secretive FISA kangaroo court, which permits only one side (NSA) to present their applications without standard scrutiny provided by an adversarial system, executes these requests at a rate that rape, murder or assault victims could only salivate over (might not be applicable to the murdered). Consider this statistical evidence of a rubber stamp court.
In light of the optics, one would have thought that some bright and bushy-tailed operative in the intelligence department would suggest presenting a number of so-ridiculous-an-application that such would have to be refused. In these motions, which were rejected; it would it appear that the FISA court was acting as true safeguard. So much for the psychological intelligence, insight and wit of Intelligence Departments! But it could be worse. Perhaps the NSA did present a number of these so-ridiculous-an-application applications. However, FISA judges just kept on approving them.
Alas, the country is supposed to depend on federal judges, who by virtue of their very credentials, must have “integrity” and would not approve something “that they feel is wrong”1. Their credentialed overlords, such as Eric Holder, might engage in mendacity. But these judges; they are supposedly immune to the common vices, folly and disingenuity of mankind.
As demonstrated in the Wall Street banker duplicity leading up to the financial panic of 2008/9 and again in the current corruption and mendacity of Washington bureaucrats and politicos, there is no genuine disciplinary action and punishment for those sufficiently high enough in the elite echelons. NSA Director Keith Alexander, Director of National Intelligence “least untruthful” James Clapper and Attorney General Eric Holder blatantly lie to Congress and the public without procedures for their indictment or termination. The elites are protecting the scoundrels within their incestuous ranks. So what type of check is one which promotes mendacity and corruption without legal, employment or social consequence?
Thus the politicos and bureaucrats pay Orwellian paean to check and balances government. A dissonance exists between purported claims and true reality. But the whole idea behind genuine checks and balances governance (and also peer review, which has also proven profoundly flawed) is that the political system does not depend wholeheartedly on the hope of individual integrity. Rather, as Ronald Reagan stated: “trust, but verify”.
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One of the reasons that I resented the mindset of my native country in my youth is this justification for excessive and unchecked power in the hands of authority. The mantra was that if one has nothing to hide, hasn’t done anything wrong; one has nothing to fear. I heard this drivel repeated in histrionic condescension by British Foreign Secretary William Hague to the BBC. It brought to mind some camp commander reassuring naked Jews as they were entering the showers at Auschwitz.
If you are a law abiding citizen of this country, going about your business and your personal life, you have nothing to fear, nothing to fear about the British state or intelligence agencies, listening to the contents of your phone calls or anything like that.2
The repudiation of the presumption of virtue in authority in historical American political thought was a primary entry point to the appeal of the American civil religion for me. (I knew nothing of its Calvinist roots, having been reared in a nominally Christian home.)
But this repudiation has been largely lost in the mindset of most Americans. Excessive authority is being given to the coercive powers of the state on the basis of “trust me” or a fascistic naïveté in the virtue of those in authority. Insufficient and ersatz checks are being placed on this authority. The psychiatric system, for instance, is being used, to circumvent due process procedures and civic protections. And police organizations are alerted and eager to exploit this loophole, as in the case of Marine Brandon Baub.
And the protagorean arrogance (“I/we are the measure of all things”) of this clique of sociopolitical elites are myopically blind to their folly and vice; as they self-deal themselves undue and unchecked authority. Or their checks and balances, constituted amongst themselves, based on the myopia of their groupthink; is out of touch and scrutiny of the commoners or even the rest of the world.
“Measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves with themselves”3, these self-regarding elites do not particularly demonstrate themselves to be all that superior in intellect, knowledge, wisdom or virtue. There is the delicious irony of Edward Snowden; this so-called “grandiose narcissist” high school drop out, “who deserves to be in prison”, who ought to know his place.4 Well; this uneducated commoner, this 20-something slacker who came in from the cold5, plays a mean chess game; outwitting to date, the propaganda war set against him from the sociopolitical elite and their courtiers.
William F. Buckley Jr. retort “I would rather be governed by the first two thousand people in the Boston telephone directory than by the two thousand people on the faculty of Harvard University” (or variants thereof), still retains its resonance. And while it is true that the dumbing down of the mind and culture and the coarsening of the heart has occurred amongst the commons, it is no less true amongst the elite. The substantive difference and danger is that the elites have unmitigated arrogance to impose their folly and vice upon all the rest.
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It was originally claimed that the omniscient surveillance state stopped about a dozen terrorist attacks in the last decade or so. Like a game of Chinese Whispers or the retelling of all Tall Tales, that number inflates. As of June 18, 2013, it has become 50 potential incidents in 12 or so years. And the evidence of these assertions by “least untruthful answer” Intelligence Bosses are beyond rational and empirical scrutiny by outsiders. The government declares it so. And thus it must be so. Legitimate doubts are raised as to the extent that the all-encompassing amassing of yesteryears phone calls and internet traffic were instrumental in thwarting such threats, in isolation and apart from other counter-espionage strategies, or even in initially alerting these agencies to potential threats.
As Conor Friedersdorf of Atlantic Monthly noted; the NSA might have better served the safety of Americans by guarding against a conspiracy of nefarious bathtubs. 6 One need ask whether the monies expended in creating this “architecture of oppression” is rationally cost-effective. Indeed, overdependence on empirical signal patterns of voice calls, emails and internet traffic, if that is all that these agencies actually investigated, is not likely to obscure psychological insight. Overwrought concentration on the mechanical can misdirect attention from the psychological. The Boston Marathon bombers seem case in point.
Furthermore, how effective is this signal pattern technology when it cannot even detect anomalies and potential threats by employees and contractors (“connect the dots”) within its own organization?
The marginal benefit of this omniscient surveillance “architecture of oppression” seems relatively minor. Indeed, I would argue and it has been intimated by civic officials themselves that voice and electronic surveillance may only be useful in protecting against the less savvy would-be terrorist; attacks which would not cause inordinate numbers of deaths (beyond the typical serial killer rampage) or cause psychological social scarring of the 9/11 sort. I used to be a point man for my corporate clients in monitoring the private CCTV cameras within their offices etc. However, even my clients admitted that such devices only served as deterrents for low-grade and none-too-intelligent intruders.
There is significant economic cost expended, probably not well spent. But we have genuine cause for alarm in the potential abuse of such ‘omniscient’ electronic information in an increasingly polarized society and an increasingly de facto authoritarian political structure.
The very hunt for salacious material on Edward Snowden by the Establishment and its courtiers in order to discredit him; by combing through the 800 comments by Snowden scattered across the Ars Technica forums since he was 17 (2001) for instance; furnishes the very evidence of the dangers that Snowden is alerting and declaiming. For good cause or for ill, it is human nature to seek dirt on one’s adversaries. And that pursuit will defy and circumvent static regulatory systems that are put in place. Does anyone think that Intelligence Agencies’ investigations about Snowden are not partially motivated by concerns for their own personal self-interests or the interests of the agencies from which they derive a livelihood? Even if there was not a justified reason to open a NSA file on an individual who is rustling up social or political trouble for these agencies; does anyone honestly think that the rules and regulations could not be bent and circumvented in order to acquire knowledge from the accumulation of electronic information to discredit that individual? Could not some of that knowledge be furtively leaked in a selective and disingenuous manner?
If zealous Democrats or Republicans are stationed, particularly in bulk, at one of the agencies’ stations or its contractors, are they any more immune from deprecating their political adversaries through the use and leakage of salacious, scandalous or even criminal phone call and internet records than they are at the IRS? Are the Intelligence Agencies, unlike all other government bureaucracies, only hiring angels? Evidently, they are not: attested by the very persons who justify the existence of massive accumulation of phone and data records at the NSA and then complain about the NSA hiring weirdos, slackers, drifters and drop-outs.
Is America immune from possible autocracy or the tyranny of one polarized sociopolitical faction utilizing electronic omniscience to discredit, harass, extort, silence and/or persecute their adversaries?
Yes. A society needs to protect against internal and external terrorist threats posed from without the government. But a society also needs to protect against internal threats posed from within the government. Who guards against the guardians? That was the unique contribution of the American political heritage that seems to have been lost.7 It is not only a choice between security and privacy. It is also a balancing act between security threats from outside government and from within government.
1. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), “Comments in House Intelligence Committee hearing with NSA Director Keith Alexander”, June 18, 2013.
2. William Hague, “Interview on The Andrew Marr Show”, BBC One, June 9, 2013, Accessed http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/william-hague/10108560/Nothing-to-fear-from-GCHQ-says-William-Hague.html on June 19, 2013.
3. 2 Corinthians 10:12
4. Jeffrey Toobin, “Edward Snowden Is No Hero”, The New Yorker, June 10, 2013.
5. Roger Simon, “The slacker who came in from the cold”, Politico, June 13, 2013, Accessed http://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/the-slacker-who-came-in-from-the-cold-92534.html#ixzz2WJGqqyCM on June 15, 2013.”
6. Conor Friedersdorf, “The Irrationality of Giving Up This Much Liberty to Fight Terror”, The Atlantic Monthly, June 10, 2013, Accessed http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/06/the-irrationality-of-giving-up-this-much-liberty-to-fight-terror/276695/ on June 19, 2013.
7. The Roman Republic also distributed political power in order to prevent a reoccurrence of the Tarquin Kings (autocracy). However, their unwritten constitution came into being without a coherent philosophical framework. Other nations, particularly those of Northern and Western Europeans in which the Protestant Reformation made great impact, also constituted their politics with elements of checks and balances. However, the depth of distrust of unified government power has never reached the level as that in the United States; something that foreigners often and critically point out.
‘Snowden Broke the Law’
I confess to being somewhat astonished and perturbed, perhaps even contemptuous, by the lack of committed Evangelical comment on the NSA leaks, particularly by its leadership. On the days after the initial leads (June 5/6, 2013), Albert Mohler dutifully reported the incidents with studied neutrality. Etobicoke (Toronto) pastor and Evangelical-approved book reviewer fashions a pietistic homily1 on the matter; only obliquely giving indication of his sentiments in an emphatic denial of approving NSA actions in his comment section. There is Lutheran theologian of some note on the Patheos Evangelical channel (Gene Edward Veith) and a few bloggers. The only other Evangelical of note with an intelligent and intelligible opinion on the matter is John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute2, who is currently representing a Marine, Brandon Baub, who was taken into psychiatric custody without justifiable cause, based on domestic surveillance of his rantings on his Facebook pages.
There are many reasons to explain this dearth of publicly expressed concern about the ramifications of Edward Snowden’s revelations. And many of those reasons, I can think of, would appear as quite mean-spirited toward Gospel-of-Niceness-Truth-Be-Damned ‘evangelicals’ in this era of EVANGELICALISM STUPID and EVANGELICALISM IRRELEVANT and EVANGELICALISM TAINTED WITH CO-OPTION and EVANGELICALISM TIMID and EVANGELICALISM TEPID.
It is not as if the Evangelical leadership is averse to voicing specific opinions to highly complicated political issues. I observe that Rev. Franklin Graham is fast off the mark to opine to Obama about his intervention into Syria, having written an open letter on June 14, 2013.3 And Evangelical pastors are roaming the countryside like Constantinian bishops, rustling up support for an Immigration Reform Bill, googling up 40 Scriptural proof-text verses which have nothing to do with this specific policy initiative. 4 Political non-involvement and comment is not for most Evangelical theologians, an issue it would seem.
But for those who earnestly seek to avoid needlessly alienating the general public on secondary matters from considering the Christian message, the global omniscient surveillance state poses a threat to the unimpeded promulgation of the Gospel and Full Counsel of God. If religious liberty has now become a chief sociopolitical concern of Evangelicals; how much more so general liberty? Have we forgotten the logic of the altar and the gift on the altar?
You fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Whoever therefore shall swear by the altar, swears by it, and by all things thereon. And whoever shall swear by the temple, swears by it, and by him that dwells therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, swears by the throne of God, and by him that sits thereon.5
However, a full discourse on a nuanced approach to Christian involvement with secular society and politics is beyond the scope of this essay (and is a work in progress).
Of the few comments garnered from evangelical sites, there is evident and understandable conflict about the actions of Edward Snowden and its ramifications, which needs to be fairly addressed. And perhaps, it is time for Evangelicals to go back to school with regard to Christian political thought; revisiting the same sort of issues that Reformers, Anabaptists, Puritans etc of the 16th, 17th and 18th Century needed to deal with in order to promote the Gospel and Full Counsel of God in their time. (This is not to suggest that there exists a legitimate, coherent and consistent Christian political theory on this side of Judgment Day. However, there is much counsel to be ascertained and promulgated from the Protestant/Evangelical thinkers of those times; whose ideas were adopted by more secular-minded writers and founded on more naturalist underpinnings.)
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If a man steals an item from the thief, which had stolen that item from the legitimate owner, in order to restore the item to that original owner, is that theft? What if that thief was a government agent, who used the organs of government to expropriate that item? What if that civic expropriation required a secretive contortionism of interpretation of applicable laws in order to utilize the organs of the state to nick that item?
Perhaps, by the standards of legal niceties and procedural rectitude, the man who steals from a thief, is a thief. But is that natural justice? Common folklore celebrates the mythical Robin Hood; less because his roguery appeals to the baser angels of our natures, although that element certainly exists. It is in recognition that criminality remains criminality, even if a civic official or even a President does it. (Do we not remember Nixon’s Napoleonic complex moment6: “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”7 Sorry Mr. President. Even if state depredations do not quite show up in FBI statistics, they nevertheless remain a crime.
If a man violates a law or judicial interpretation of a law, which itself violates the plain (and common) understanding of the articles of a Constitution, via deft judicial sophistry and casuistry, is that man a traitor to the Constitution; to the Higher Law? Are laws and constitutions written in pig Latin, such that only credentialed legal priests have capacity to decipher them? But if the understandings of laws and articles of Constitutions become so contorted and distorted as to be inscrutable by the persons for whom they are to apply, is that lawfulness and justice? Have we not entered into Kafka’s version of the Twilight Zone?
If Edward Snowden broke the law and is a traitor to the Constitution, it is only in the sense argued by 21st Century American administrations and the toads who croak in choreographed unison. Theirs is a lawfulness and constitutionality of procedural rectitude.
We’ve got congressional oversight and judicial oversight…And if people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress and don’t trust federal judges to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution, due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.8
A cadre of duly elected and appointed civic officials has conspired to concoct this “architecture of oppression”. Because this elite priesthood has deemed legal, violations to the Constitution and the plain understanding of the letter and spirit of its Articles, it must be legal. Two and two is equal to five because the duly elected and appointed overseers have all concurred with this madness. It seems incredible and unbelievable! For, even ‘checks and balances’ government is no guarantee against tyranny, wholesale injustice and lawlessness by its civic officials; especially when deft sleight of hand maneuvers were utilized to circumvent the Constitution.
America (and other modern states) has approached the full fruition and reckoning of that judicial coup d’état of 1803 (Marbury v. Madison), which laid the groundwork for the undermining and overthrow of a written constitution and reversal of the American Revolution through the interpretative duplicity of sophists. “The Constitution on this hypothesis is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.”9 Ultimately, the blame for the clear cut violations of Constitutional articles rests with the long and winding road of judicial interpretative contortionism, which allows the present President and his Pips, in their superior wisdom and comprehension of pig Latin, to deem wholesale overthrow of civil rights as “modest encroachments on privacy”.
The Administration’s argument is the same argument as that of the medieval Romanist Magisterium against Martin Luther and the Reformers. Over the centuries since Christ, the labyrinth of “proper” Magisterial interpretation of Scriptures became at wide variance and dissonance to common rendering and understanding of the original text. And like in Luther’s time, the duly appointed authorities deemed submission to authorities to be the only lawfulness, regardless of the virtue, wisdom and lawfulness of that authority and its rendering of the Biblical Constitution.
If Jesus of Nazareth had abided to this principle of lawfulness, He would have been a sinner. For, Christ defied the prevailing interpretation of Mosaic Law in regard to Sabbath Laws, the fourth article of the Decalogue, defined by the duly appointed Jewish religious authorities. He did not submit to their duly appointed authoritative interpretation of Mosaic Law. And as Christ pointed out by the deft hermeneutics of Jewish religious scholars in regard to Corban10, the interpretative traditions of religious jurists had construed to violate the fifth article of the Decalogue (“Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long on the land which the LORD your God gives you”11)
Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.12
If Luther had capitulated to the Vatican demand that he submit to the duly self-appointed apostolic succession with its accumulation of hermeneutical contortionism which left Scriptures beyond all recognition, the Reformation would not have happened. (To underline the level of contortionism, this Roman Magisterium made the gift of conjugal sex, inherently imbued with evil and made conjugal relations that occurred on 67% or more of the days of the year, a venial sin requiring penitentials of various kinds.)
Without the fundamentally necessary principle of soul competence, the right and requirement that a doctrine, whether religious or secular, requires to be incontrovertibly proven to the subjective faculties of the beholder; the rise of Western Civilization would not have occurred. Yes. An individual may not, through disuse of intellectual faculties, intellectual dishonesty, lack of knowledge and understanding of proper principles of hermeneutics, reason and judgment of artifacts, find the truth. But knowledge of the truth is still a potential. This is a lesser ‘evil’ than the return to a medieval dark age; where cadre of priests, whether religious or secular, is able to pontificate assertions, without being perpetually subjected to scrutiny of any and every kind. It is for this reason; this modern dependence on ‘expert texperts’ and authoritative credentialism, that bullshit reigns in every intellectual discipline and sociopolitical endeavour.
Likewise, the same dynamics and principles that required an overthrow of duly appointed and credentialed authority in religious matters, requires a same application to secular political constitutions. The current understandings and practices by the civic agents of the state are at a great dissonance to the plain scrutable rendering of a Constitution that has neither been legally abrogated nor amended to justify such strange understandings of its wording. Just because the incompetent and compromised buffoons in Congress, the arrogant Pretender in the White House, kowtowing to the military-industrial complex, and judicial deceit have incestuously conspired to fashion a Kafkaesque lawlessness that blatantly contradicts reasonable understanding of the Constitution; their practicable interpretations of constitutions are no more legal than the ways that the Nazi regime contorted the non-abrogated Constitution of the Weimar Republic. It was through clear violations of a common understanding of the Weimar Constitution that German war criminals were convicted at Nuremberg.
Martin Luther repudiated the vow of celibacy that was insisted upon all Romanist theologians. His argument was that it was not an oath that was justified by the plain rendering of Scriptures but was that coerced through magisterial contortionism by a religious judicial tradition that had contorted the original and reasonable understanding of Biblical text. Edward Snowden’s oath, which he has violated, can be deemed similarly to be more valid, if by that oath he is required to do nothing while lawlessness and evil is perpetuated. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke) If Snowden violated laws, which themselves violated the Higher Law; in this case, the plain rendering of the Constitution, he is no more a criminal and traitor to the American Constitution than Jesus Christ or Martin Luther was to the Law of God.
Something is constitutional or lawful, when the plain and scrutable rendering of the constitution or law allows for it; not when some judicial priest contorts and distorts the meaning of said constitution or law beyond all recognition!
Christians are a People of the Book. We have a long history of contending with those many deceitful persons and artifices which have construed to make the Biblical Constitution state what it does not state, and to not state what it does state. We ought to inherently understand the dangers of a political establishment which has done much the same and in which the Constitution is becoming thoroughly unrecognizable in its practicable application by the duly elected and appointed.
©Copyright Johnny Hutchinson
- Tim Challies, “Fear God More Than the NSA”, …Informing the Reforming, June 12, 2013, Accessed http://www.challies.com/articles/fear-god-more-than-the-nsa on June 18, 2013.
- John Whitehead is a Christian civil rights lawyer, having represented Paula Jones against Bill Clinton. There was a write up by Ted Olsen of Christianity Today “The Dragon Slayer” (December 7, 1998). Otherwise, his perspective can be found at https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/.
- Franklin Graham, “Letter to President Obam”, Samaritan’s Purse, June 14, 2013, Accessed http://www.scribd.com/doc/148384711/Rev-Franklin-Graham-urges-President-Obama-to-keep-America-out-of-Syrian-conflict on June 18, 2013.
- It should be understood that I have conflicted thoughts on this matter. I am not a citizen of the jurisdiction in which this issue is being debated. My contempt is for the unjustified conscription of Scriptures to support a political issue. See “Evangelical Support for Immigration Reform is Biblical, Not Political” reblogged on Timothy Dalrymple’s Patheos Philosophical Fragments blog, March 13, 2013, Accessed http://www.patheos.com/blogs/philosophicalfragments/2013/03/13/evangelical-support-immigration-reform-biblical-not-political-soerens/ on June 18, 2013.
- Matthew 23:19-22
- As understood by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment, (1866) as beyond above the laws of God and men.
- David Frost, Interview with Richard Nixon, Part 3, May 19, 1977.
- President Barack Obama, “Speech in San Jose, California”, June 7, 2013.
- Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Spencer Roane, 1819.
- Mark 7:7-13
- Exodus 20:12
- Mark 7:13
GCHQ and the G20 Meeting of 2009
This week’s timely revelation from Snowden and company exposed the practicable willingness of Anglo-Saxon states to use their superior surveillance technological know-how for national economic advantage. The particulars of their duplicity include:
· monitoring email messages and voice calls on delegates’ Blackberrys
· setting up ‘dummy’ Internet cafes for delegates and using email interception programs and key-logging software to spy on their activities
· targeting the Turkish finance minister and his entourage (also South Africa)
· eavesdropping (via NSA) on Russian leader, Dmitry Medvedev voice calls to Moscow via satellite
· supplying round-the-clock summaries of communications between delegates (signal intelligence)
One must be impressed with the shrewdness of Snowden and company. Snowden either has an overwhelming catalogue of malfeasance by U.S. and British officials for any possible scenario. Or he has amassed the type of documents to correspond with the itinerary of current U.S. / U.K. officials. Last week, it was about NSA spying on Hong Kong university undergraduates etc just as Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, This week, the G20 revelation corresponds with the British hosted G8 meeting. The U.S. / U.K. officials might want to start changing their itinerary. In any case, depredations about Snowden’s lack of education credentials continue to backfire as college graduates, many of whom are Ivy League, are being outwitted by this drop-out.
In getting a feel for official and public mood, a revelation of this sort logically should and empirically seems to have initially soured Snowden’s standing amongst his own nationals. The commentariat regarding the Washington Post article articling this revelation1 seems to have strengthened the hands of those who are “officially disgusted with this treacherous little nerd”, whose “ideology trumps education and common sense”. However, one gets the impression that Snowden is not playing to a self-centered narcissistic American crowd but to greater humanity.
Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%. Our founders did not write that “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all US Persons are created equal.”2
And in Snowden’s love of his country, he is advocating a tactic that could be said to be taken out of Christian Scriptures in order to reach his ‘Chosen People’.
First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.”3
Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.4
The immediate impact ought to scuttle the strength of secular Turkish protests in Istanbul
The country’s embattled prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has blamed the international media, and in particular the BBC, for fomenting violent unrest and protests against his rule. Erdoğan has spoken repeatedly of an “international conspiracy”. News that his finance minister really was the victim of a British surveillance operation will strengthen his view.5
This revelation weakens the credibility of the secular faction in Turkey, who have long advocated and practiced laïcité while they were in rule, who are now on the defensive against a resurging Muslim population (largely rural and eastern). Indeed, in combination with other anti-Muslim Western policies and attitudes, mostly in Europe, it is quite probable that this NATO ally will increasingly drift into the Islamist and Russian camp; or at least towards a geopolitical neutrality.
And that is the rub. American foreign policy has since the 1960s, like its culture in general, moved toward a myopic, short-term, ad hoc, unprincipled, unenlightened self-interest. Henry Kissinger could be iconized as the first true personification of this self-serving indulgence, which finds itself consistently arming its future enemies, such as Iraq or Al-Qaida.
This devolution to raw self-interest is a far cry from Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points or the Truman Doctrine or Marshall Plan. Even if one disagrees with the particulars of Wilson’s plan, for instance; it is historically evident that an unenlightened self-interest contributed to the global propaganda coup by America against the small-minded, unenlightened self-serving interests of petty colonial European powers in the first half of the 20th Century.
Having spied on their allies; of whom many delegates were evidently too naïve and gullible (i.e. delegates using Internet Café of the host country) to distrust their hosts; responsible national self-interest can only lead to detrimental long-term consequences which hurt the Anglo-Saxon world. Even presuming that the elite class of every nation is aware of the duplicitous realities of their international counterparts, their less savvy masses become fodder to such revelations, which these elites can exploit at will. (This ‘everybody does it’ argument, found in the American commentariat is indicative of the old worldly-wise jaded whore that America has become, just like their European counterparts in previous centuries).
America/Britain has lost most, if not all, of their global moral authority. They can hardly castigate and preach about Chinese cyber and industrial espionage with straight face. And as a historical political observation and principle; attempting to govern without moral authority, requires considerably more blood and treasure than governing with moral authority. And as a historical political observation and principle, those elites, who lose moral authority, soon find a loss of raw power on the coattails.
The Significance Back Home
The British equivalent to NSA, GCHQ, which is led by that histrionic, patronizing prig, the Right Honorable William Hague, has a legislative mandate to gather information ‘in the interests of the economic wellbeing of the United Kingdom’ through the 1994 Intelligence Services Act.
The purpose is to give the UK a competitive and negotiating advantage. It is justified on legal grounds because the 1994 Intelligence Services Act says the job of GCHQ is gather information “in the interests of the economic wellbeing of the United Kingdom”.6
In other words, the purposes of global omniscient surveillance are not only because of due concern for protection against potential terrorist and other defense-related threats. No. It is also useful to give the UK a competitive and negotiating advantage, even against its allies. Ah! What else it this global omniscient surveillance useful for?
As much as having surveillance capabilities would be a wet dream for corporate managers in contract negotiations with unions, (or vice versa); a public would find such means of acquiring competitive and negotiating advantage unlawful and unjust. I doubt that the global community, who constitute 94-95% of the world population, beyond Anglo-America, thinks otherwise.
More importantly, NSA/GCHQ and their political overlords demonstrate a willingness to transcend or transgress the ostensible purposes of global omniscient surveillance that are being propagated. The argument by persons like Pat Buchanan, that the Defense and Intelligence boys are of a different quality of human being from other bureaucrats, such as those at the IRS, withers on the vine of this duplicity.
1. Anthony Faiola, “The Guardian: Britain, United States spied at summits”, The Washington Post, June 17, 2013, accessed http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/britain-united-states-spied-at-summits/2013/06/17/b4c3166c-d72b-11e2-b418-9dfa095e125d_allComments.html?ctab=all_& on June 18, 2013.
2. Glenn Greenwald, “Edward Snowden Q&A: Dick Cheney traitor charge is ‘the highest honor’”, The Guardian, June 17, 2013, accessed http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/17/edward-snowden-nsa-files-whistleblower on June 18, 2013.
3. Romans 10:19
4. Romans 11:11
5. Julian Borger et al, “G20 summits: Russia and Turkey react with fury to spying revelations” The Guardian, June 17, 2013, accessed http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/17/turkey-russia-g20-spying-gchq on June 18, 2013.
6. Richard Norton-Taylor, Spying for spying’s sake: spooks and their intelligence addiction”, The Guardian, June 17, 2013, Accessed http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/defence-and-security-blog/2013/jun/17/spying-spooks-intelligence-addiction on June 18, 2013.
Letter to Declan McCullagh regarding June 15 “Scoop”
Dear Mr. Declan McCullagh:
I appreciate your interest in help uncovering this tawdry business about the NSA. And I notice that your revelations on Saturday, June 15, 2013 has had to be scaled back, fraying your credibility a tad. So I wish to give you just a nickel’s worth of amateurish advice (my country has got rid of the penny, so the appropriate expression can no longer be used).
Although I was still too young, I do remember some lessons from the Watergate era. And these defense / intelligence chiefs give all the evidence of being true politicians/diplomats, using careful language to convey what they desire to disclose or veil, which might not be picked up except by an attuned and practiced listener. Therefore, one has to carefully ask scrupulously precise questions; especially of one who has admitted to giving least untruthful answers while having one eye on potential contempt of congress charges in future.
It struck me that when U.S. President Barack Obama said, “Nobody is listening to your phone calls”, his language technically allow for the possibility for machinery to do content searches on one’s phone call, while one could claim to not technically (from a legal sense) open up the voice call (or email) package. (From a programming sense, one has to open the file/field. But a political/bureaucratic chief can claim not to know the distinction (“plausible deniability”)) Thus, the question I never hear asked by journalists is this: “Perhaps, nobody is listening to our phone calls, but is any there entity, whether human, trained monkey or machinery, accessing the innards of these phone/email messages in any particular way without a specific and particularized warrant?”
I have done key word content searches on my files and emails for the last decade on relatively weak PC and I am amazed at how relatively fast a response there is, especially from the 1990s days. Perhaps, the technical capabilities are not here yet to do a complete daily content search; although we are a lot closer than I believed prior to Snowden’s revelations.
I observe the same nuanced sophistry in the push-back denial by “least untruthful answer” Clapper in the June 16, 2013 “ODNI Statement on the Limits of Surveillance Activities”. Why use the phrase “a single analyst”. This intimates to me that a bevy of analysts could ‘legally’ approve such eavesdrops as a way to avoid rogue abuses (i.e. IRS-like means to discredit political opposition or whistleblower access by the likes of Snowden). Whatever way Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) might have understood the NSA “correction”, it isn’t a true repudiation that content access is possible by analysts without a particularized legal warrant. Perhaps, multiple analysts, whether in a hierarchical or collegial approval process, must sign off on any access.
Even the phrase “without proper legal authorization” opens up the possibility of an initial blanket authorization by a secret court interpretation giving access based on general access principles.
I wish you well as I share similar concerns. However, you have to be as sharp as a Jesuitical lawyer.
NSA and the Circling of the Wagons
In these weeks following the Snowden revelations, we are witnessing a coming together, a circling of wagons by the current American elites, both political operatives and pundits, regardless of political persuasion. This abrupt ad hoc unity contrasts with the all-too-familiar and perennial internecine schism that has predominated for decades. This unity, granting unmitigated justification for invasion of privacy and violation of Constitutional precepts, and which denounces and disparages Snowden for daring to confront this established consensus, defies an increasing and virulent opposition as the governed are temporarily stirred from their long somnolence with worthless baubles and silly trivialities.
NSA Revelations and the Implications for Non-Americans
I am not surprised at the technical possibility of the type of NSA data collection that has been revealed by Edward Snowden and the Guardian. Having done some informal research for a couple of corporate clients on spam filters in 2003, the ramifications of that study (i.e. the ability to construct Bayesian algorithms to filter out the 2/3 of text-based emails which were spam at that time) made evident the theoretical means and utility. I recall watching documentaries (i.e. PBS’s Frontline – Top Secret America – September 2011), which intimated the advent of these practices. I still thought that it was still a little into the future.
But having not kept up with the improvements in hardware capacity and capabilities, I was taken aback that the theoretical had become practical so soon. I am astonished by the political will and folly by the political elite of both of the broad political factions and their courtiers and benefactors to eviscerate the letter and spirit of the American Constitution and its Bill of Rights. This has been a slowly increasing practical reality for many generations; only accelerated in the last decade.
In a recent documentary by “For the Record”, called the “Surveillance State”, it records a statement by NSA director, Gen. Keith Alexander, made at the American Enterprise Institute on July 9, 2012. In the 41st and 42nd minute of that document, he says about the Bluffdale, Utah Data Center:
“I can’t go into the details of the Utah Data Center. We don’t hold data on U.S. Citizens… One. We don’t do that. Two; when you think about just the volume of U.S. emails; just think statistically; just for one minute…think we’re talking about probably, probably you know, 30 trillion emails a year or more. Anybody read that many number of emails.”
This public official spouts deceit. If one was to do a content search on files or emails within their own computer, one would notice how quite amazingly fast that search has become over the years. One does not need to open the email to read. One merely needs to search with appropriate key word (syntax), in the language of each national. And this can be automated.
Regardless; even if Americans were to recover their liberties, this would not extend to protecting the liberties of those outside of their national narcissistic self-concern. The amassing of every electronic data transaction of individuals in Canada, Europe or elsewhere, would continue apace. And that dragnet, could at any time, be used in the future for extorting leveraging on any non-national to serve American self-interests as geopolitical fortunes toss to and fro.
It is hard to believe that limp protests by politically and militarily weak allies or other countries would effectively alter the conduct of America’s intelligence agencies and their overlords. Therefore, what to do?
Money talks in America. And perhaps, it is time that those outside of the U.S., who constitutes 95% total world population, begin to boycott the use of American I.T. products, services and infrastructure. What if global communications could bypass American gateway points, which record all electronic transactions, except when there is particular need for American resources? What if Canada became an alternative base and route for telecom and internet traffic between Europe and Asia for instance? What if there was an international consortium that sought to avoid the American monopoly and hegemony on information flow, (which now constitutes 85% of world bandwidth capacity (PRISM figures))? Are not non-American businesses worried about industrial espionage by this secretive American military-industrial complex? Would the threat of bypassing the U.S. imperialist be sufficient to leverage some restraint on the American political elite?
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I have long believed that the United States was on a trajectory to civil conflagration since the mid-1980s. This was based on the existence of an irreconcilable civilizational-level ideological chasm, which could only widen, deepen and sharpen as the corollaries of each side’s cosmological perspective played itself out in the sociopolitical arena. The problem is not so much in the gulf in ideas; but in the arrogance of each faction attempting to impose their ethic and ethos upon the other and the anticipated antipathetic reaction of the other.
In Thomas Carlyle’s “The French Revolution” (1837), he mentions British diplomat, Lord Chesterfield, anticipating that conflagration in 1753. “In short, all the symptoms which I have ever met with in History, previous to great Changes and Revolutions in government, now exist and daily increase in France.” I have felt the same about the U.S. However, the problem with predictions is timelines. Lord Chesterfield would need to wait another 36 years for the French Revolution to occur.
Around mid-May, I thought that there was enough evidence to place the timeline of real evidence of civil strife in the U.S. within a decade. With these latest NSA revelations and all of the corollaries to be concluded from them, it could be much closer. Or, this porn, gaming and social media generation just might return to its somnolence of silly trivialities in convenient cynical apathy, while a political coup occurs.
However, if the U.S. implodes in civil discord, does the rest of the world really want to be so dependent on American resources, which will then be subject to internal sabotage?