Back in the US, Back in the US, Back in the USSA

This is a truly stunning, alarming, and embarassing (for those of us who fondly remember the country pre PATRIOT ACT) story, from a diary by Purple Rose of Sharon at dailyKos.  A tale of how a single mom in VT was investigate by the FBI as “a person of interest” because she had a Muslim friend in Pakistan she spoke with on the phone from time to time.

Really, I feel like I should send this woman an apology on behalf of the remaining sane people in the country that this happened to her.  She had a  Muslim friend she spoke with on the phone so she’s a suspect? Of what? For what? Why? And what kind of people are FBI agents who actually carry out orders to investigate our fellow citizens such as this woman?

I have a friend from Colombia. If I receive a phone call from her, should I be investigated as a potential drug smuggler?  I have a friend from Africa.  Am I guilty of genocide?  Should I never accept a phone call from my friends from Korea, the FBI might get it confused and think they’re calling from North Korea and then I’d be in world of trouble.

And just since when is everyone listening in or tracking all of our overseas communication anyway? How paranoid do we become in the name of anti-terrorism measures.  At this point haven’t the terrorists already won?  We’ve given up our ideals and freedoms.  We accept invasions of privacy and suspensions of rights and liberties in the name of national security and think we’re upholding freedom and democracy, but it’s the opposite and it baffles me that there’s no major outcry in the streets over this.

Maybe it’s because stupid has become the new smart.

In this Sunday’s New York Times, Stephen Pinker writes

The overall theme that Ms. Palin and Senator John McCain have been trying to advance: that expertise is overrated, homespun sincerity is better than sophistication, conviction is more important than analysis.

Being able to see Russia from Alaska, then, means you have an understanding of foreign policy; living in an Arctic state means that you have an understanding of climate change. In Mr. McCain’s case, it means, as he wrote last month, understanding technology policy because he flew airplanes in Vietnam and being concerned about the oceans’ health because he served in the Navy.

This bothers me. It’s not just that I come from an admittedly intellectual religious tradition in Unitarian Universalism or that I can be. alright I am, a geek. I don’t want people who cultivate the image that it’s okay to be ignorant running things, my schools, my financial institutions, and certainly not my government.  That they would use this as a tool to help them get to be in control of the government gives rise to the the dilemma, what is worse, that they would use such a tactic or that it works?

Maureen Dowd, also in Sunday’s  NY Times points out the stupid as smart approach of Sarah Palin:

We could, following her strenuously folksy debate performance, wonder when elite became a bad thing in America. Navy Seals are elite, and they get lots of training so they can swim underwater and invade a foreign country, but if you’re governing the country that dispatches the Seals, it’s not O.K. to be elite? Can likable still trump knowledgeable at such a vulnerable crossroads for the country?

Talking at the debate about how she would “positively affect the impacts” of the climate change for which she’s loath to acknowledge human culpability, she did a dizzying verbal loop-de-loop: “With the impacts of climate change, what we can do about that, as governor, I was the first governor to form a climate change subcabinet to start dealing with the impacts.” That was, miraculously, richer with content than an answer she gave Katie Couric: “You know, there are man’s activities that can be contributed to the issues that we’re dealing with now, with these impacts.”

At another point, she channeled Alicia Silverstone debating in “Clueless,” asserting, “Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be-all, end-all of just too many people in too many parts of our planet.” (Mostly the end-all.)

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