Friday, 11 July 2008

Bosses and Court Jesters

An off-duty cop in plain clothes gets into a traffic incident with another driver, pulls out his gun and kills him. The grand jury, a malleable prosecutorial tool, refuses to indict him even for reckless use of his service weapon. The grieving mother, a poor black lady of course, can go piss off up a rope.

That happened yesterday in New York City, and it is a fitting emblem of how things work in the security apparatus from police on patrol all the way up to the Pentagon war room. They do stuff, hurt innocent bystanders and get off scot-free. Everyone knows it’s wrong, but the cost of reining them in is too high. They get resentful and then won’t obey you when you need them. Soon—or perhaps eternally—the exercise of a society’s policing and/or snooping power becomes largely autonomous and escapes real civilian control.

Permit me to suggest that this may also explain how our friend Obama finds himself signing on to the telecoms’ immunity, the dismantling of the Fourth Amendment and the slavish obedience of the Copperhead Democratics, determined to hand yet another inexplicable triumph to the unlikely, yet real, George Bush.

Perhaps it was naïve to think Obama could actually defend our privacy in the face of government spying and creeping Big Brotherism, notwithstanding the convincing speechmaking to which someone my age should be immune. I suspect in certain power stratospheres, there are non-negotiable, Tony Soprano-like deals to which one either signs on or becomes toast.

What a curious reversal of roles with the ever-calculating Hillary C who, no longer needing to show her tough side, voted against the appalling FISA sellout to win points with her outraged liberal base in New York. Had she won and Obama lost, I strongly suspect the votes on FISA would have been exactly reversed. The spying/policing system appears suddenly as the real permanent state, and its on-screen presidential and senatorial faces mere marionettish playthings.

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