The Dish

I’ve been reading Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish since it was part of The Atlantic magazine – it is now independent and supported by subscribers so there is no advertising on the site.  Two noted guest writers are contributing this week.  One, the environmental activist and writer BVill McKibben, writes

Climate change is no longer a future threat—it’s the single most distinctive fact about our time on earth

The other, Ann Helpern from The New York Review Of Books and McKibben’s wife, writes

Over those same years, though, I’ve found that my “belief” in politics, has diminished. If, before, I thought that electoral politics mattered—and I did; I was the one going door-to-door in swing states—now I have a hard time holding on to that belief. If I thought that government, our government, because it is of and by and for the people—that is, because it is us—existed to make our lives together more tenable, well, let’s just say that with my tax dollars going to support Gitmo, the militarization of the police, subsidies to oil companies, and on and on, I’ve become much more cynical. Wouldn’t it be nice if, when we paid our taxes we could tell the government where we wanted our money to go—to the National Parks, say, and not to those oil companies—but of course that’s not the nature of democracy.

Andrew Sullivan is a conservative, but not of the type that has driven the Republican Party so far to the right.  If he is a conservative then I must be, in part, a conservative, although I like to think of myself as a progressive libertarian.  I agree with libertarian views on individual rights, but their believe in free market economics is wrong.  The freest markets exist when government  at least attempts to ensure a fair and safe market.  Regulated capitalism is the route to the greatest freedom as long as the regulations aren’t devised or implemented to benefit big business at the expense of individuals and the country at large.

Whatever your political persuasion, check out The Dish.  It is information and fun.

Obama’s Intelligence Speech

Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say: Trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect. History has too many examples when that trust has been breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power.

I found the above lines of Obama’s speech of yesterday compelling because I feel that there is already too much “trust me” in government today, even in the Obama administration.  There was a lot of “trust me” in Obama’s speech, although if  the initiatives he suggests are implemented our privacy will be greater than it is presently.  Our Founding Fathers were not trusting people.  They thought that no one individual should be entrusted with unrestrained power.  That remains the one of the key foundations of a society that abides by the rule of law.  Stalin’s solution to the trusting of individuals was to execute, deport, or imprison anyone who he thought threatened his power.  He did his best to concentrate all power in himself.  In our system, power is dispersed widely and I think it has always been seen as a threat to our way of life when one sector grabs too much power, whether government or business.

. . .the challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone. Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data, and use it for commercial purposes; that’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically.

Again, I am glad to see this stated by Obama.  But at the same time I read of the idea of allowing private organizations like Google to store metadata about our phone conversations instead of the NSA or other government organizations.  I would much rather trust the government not to misuse such metadata than I would trust a large corporation.

I listened to the speech with mixed feelings.  Still too much “trust us”, but moving towards a better situation than exists today.