Thursday, January 30, 2014

It’s Not News, It’s Propaganda, Part 1

I was out walking my dog the other morning, and my neighbor Tom--known locally as “the gentle radical”--was out shoveling the snow from his walk.  He was puffing, and I asked him if he’d like to take a break and give me a turn at the shovel.

“Thanks for the offer, Ace,” he said with a smile, “but I need to do things like this to work off my frustration.  If I couldn’t shovel snow, rake leaves, and tend to my garden, I think the top of my head might periodically blow off.”

The dog had lain down at my feet and wasn’t in any hurry to get anywhere, and Tom seemed ready for some friendly conversation.  “What’s challenged your blood pressure this time?” I asked.

“The media,” he said.  “Especially TV at the moment.  The way they handle this Snowden affair is so unprofessional and unjust that they ought to be ashamed to call themselves part of the ‘free press.‘  Present company excepted, of course.  Your sports reporting seems unhindered by any constraints.”

“Ah, thanks, Tom.  I guess.  What about Snowden coverage has you so upset?”

“Most recently, the Sunday talk shows.  Last week they allowed themselves to be used in an attempt to smear Mr. Snowden by alleging that he’s a Russian spy.   That happened on  all three of the old mainstream networks.  NBC’s Meet the Press,  CBS’s Face the Nation, and ABC’s This Week.”

“I don’t get it,” I admitted.  “Why would they do that?”

“It was one colossal diversion,” said Tom, “a desperate attempt to make Snowden the issue and turn attention away from the massive secret spying on all of us that he has exposed.”

“I never watch those Sunday talk shows,” I said.  “What exactly went on?”   

“Mike Rogers, the Republican chair of the House Committee on Intelligence; Michael McCaul, Republican chair of the House Homeland Security Committee; and Diane Feinstein, the  Democratic chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, all took a swing at Mr. Snowden.  Mr. Rogers was the one who weighed in most heavily, if you could use that phrase to describe such an empty case.”

“What do you mean, ‘an empty case’?”

  “Well, for starters, there was no evidence offered, mind you.  Nor were there any demands for evidence by the hosts.  Nor was any person with an opposite viewpoint there to respond.  How unfair can you get?  It’s one-sided, and it’s an abdication of the networks’ responsibility to the public.  It’s not news, it’s propaganda.”

The more Tom talked, the redder his face grew.  “Excuse me for a minute,” he said, then turned and began shoveling.  After a couple of minutes he stopped, heaved a sigh, and said, “Where were we?”

“You were just criticizing  the Sunday talk shows.”

“Ah, right.  You know, I don’t blame you for not watching them.  That kind of dishonest political theater can tear your heart out, if you really care about your country.”

“But suppose they’re right and Snowden actually is a Russian spy?” I worried.

“That’s a good question, Ace.  We have a problem here, don’t we.  Clearly, somebody is lying to us ... either Edward Snowden, or all of the powerful figures lined up against him.  Who should we believe?  The honorable thing to do is to give a fair hearing to both sides.  Let’s look at the evidence, shall we?”  And he began to sum up the evidence, ticking off the points on his fingers.

“One, despite revelation after revelation from Mr. Snowden of the scope and nature of NSA spying, no one has ever denied that his revelations are accurate.  In fact, they appear to have been chosen with extreme care to do just what he claims they were intended to do: give the people of the U.S. the information they need to make an informed choice about whether the NSA’s total surveillance is really the kind of society they want to live in.
Two, despite a lot of loose talk about Mr. Snowden’s endangering people’s lives, not a single instance has been produced where that has actually occurred.
Three, Mr. Snowden’s itinerary clearly shows he had no intention of staying in Russia.  He was trapped there when the U.S. invalidated his passport.
Four, he ended up stuck for forty days in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.  As Mr. Snowden joked--accurately, I think--, ‘Spies get treated better than that.’
Five, with the NSA having the surveillance capacity Mr. Snowden has described, they should already have been able to locate any phone calls, e-mails, or other contacts he had with Russian spymasters.  No such evidence has been produced, which is a strong indication that such contacts never took place.
Six, nobody talks about Edward Snowden’s politics.  Do you know why?  Because he’s a libertarian, a free-market advocate, even an opponent of Social Security.  He’s to the right of Ted Cruz!  To think he’d spy for the Russians strains credulity.  Beyond that, he appears to have been a hard-working, honest, model citizen.  Believe me, if he had major skeletons in his closet, the administrations wouldn’t have waited five minutes before they posted them on billboards in Times Square. 
Seven, the F.B.I. has already concluded that Mr. Snowden acted alone, and its conclusion was reported last week in the New York Times.”

“That’s a long list,” I said.  “It’s always hard to prove a negative, but the case against his being a secret operative for a foreign power sounds awfully convincing.  What’s the case on the other side of the argument? “ 

“Well, first, we looked at Mr. Snowden’s track record.  His information has been accurate.  He has been open about what he found and why he felt obliged to expose it.  Now let’s look at the record of those attacking him.  Snowden’s revelations made it clear that the NSA has lied in sworn testimony about the nature and extent of its spying.”

“They lied to Congress?  To the people who are supposed to be representing us?”

“They sure did.  James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, lied under oath to Congress back in March of 2013, when he was asked whether the NSA collected ‘any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans‘ — and Clapper said, ‘No, sir ... not wittingly’.  Then Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, admitted last October that his testimony that NSA surveillance had foiled 54 terrorist plots was bogus. One Republican congressman told Alan Grayson that he doesn’t even attend intelligence briefings anymore because ‘they always lie’.  Grayson says that many congress members believe that the congressional intelligence committees go right along with the NSA, and are more loyal to the ‘intelligence community’ than to the Constitution.  These committee chairs who attacked Snowden are working hand in glove with the NSA they’re supposed to be overseeing.”

“What evidence did these intelligence committee chairs offer on Sunday then?  They must have had some good stuff if they’re so close to the spies.”

“No evidence, but a good amount of innuendo--which makes you think that there isn’t any evidence.  Mr. Rogers implied that, because the U.S. government stopped Mr. Snowden’s flight in transit, resulting in his being stranded in Russia, he must have been spying for the Russians.  Is that logical?”

“I’ll admit that sometimes I’m logically-challenged,  but no, that doesn’t make any sense.”

“Mr. Rogers also implied that Mr. Snowden’s having a go-bag ready was proof that he was a spy.”

“Wait a minute,” I said, “you lost me there.  What’s a go-bag?” 

“Some people call them ‘bug-out bags,’ or ‘GOOD bags,’ for Get Out Of Dodge’,” explained Tom. “ They’re kits that people keep packed full of the things they would need to get through the next 72 hours if there’s an emergency or disaster.  It would have been pretty standard for anyone in a position like Mr. Snowden’s to have one while working with the CIA and the NSA.  If you arrested everyone who had a go-bag, the CIA and NSA would be half-empty.”

“That’s pretty thin, then,” I said.  “What else?”  

“I’m afraid that’s it.”   

“That’s it?  That’s nuts!” I said.  “If you could convict people on flimsy stuff like that, you could sentence anyone for anything.  I’ve got a scope-mounted Remington 700 for deer hunting.  Does that mean somebody could accuse me of planning to assassinate the President?”

“Very good, Ace,” he said, with a slight look of surprise.  “That’s precisely the kind of thinking I was talking about.”  

© Tony Russell, 2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Banner for Losers to Gather Under

“You have a funny look on your face, Ace.  What’s up?” asked Patty.

“I don’t know,” I told her.  “I guess I’m still thinking about my stop at the library at lunchtime.”

She gave an exaggerated look of surprise.  “The library?  What were you doing in the library?”

“Come on, Patty,” I said, “quit pulling my leg.  You know darned well I read sometimes if there’s not a good game on.  But I went today because Kevin had a book due, and he asked me to drop it off while I was downtown.”

“So what got your attention there?”

“I just wasn’t expecting the place to be so full,” I said.  “There were people at all the computer stations, most of the chairs were filled, people were at the newspaper rack... it was a bustling place.”

“Huh,” she said, “that does sound a little odd.  We have a great library, but I don’t remember its being that busy when I used to take Kevin to the children’s room.”

“I asked a woman at the desk if they were having some kind of event or giving away prizes to draw so many people, and she told me it’s like that almost every day now.  When I asked her why that was, she whispered that a lot of the folks there come in almost every day.  Either they’re homeless or they’re out of work.  For the homeless it’s a warm, safe place to hang out that will also let them use the restrooms.  For the unemployed folks, it’s a place to check the Help Wanted section of the newspapers, fill out job applications online, or use the printer to run off resumes and cover letters.  Others have given up, and are killing time there instead of sitting around the house trying to find something worth watching on daytime TV.  They still have lots of other patrons, but they’ve also become a kind of adult day care center.”

“Gee,” Patty said, “I knew things were getting worse for a lot of people, but I didn’t realize they were that bad.”

“It’s not just our library,” I said.  “She told me that it’s like that in libraries all over the country.  I had about the same reaction you did, and she asked me if I’d seen the new Oxfam report, Working for the Few.  When I said ‘no’ she told me I ought to read it, so I waited a few minutes until one of the computers came open and googled it.”

“What’s it say?” asked Patty, curious.

“It’s a 32 page pdf file,” I said, “so I didn’t print it all off, but here are the highlights.”  I skimmed through what I’d printed.  “They report that 70% of the world’s people live in countries where economic inequality has increased over the past 30 years.  They also say that ‘The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data between 1980 and 2012’.”

“I guess I’m too focused on our own country,” said Patty.  “But really, what they’re describing is what you’d expect with multinational corporations getting a stranglehold on business worldwide."

 "What kind of stranglehold are you talking about?"

  "Oh, you know.  How all these trade agreements paved the way for companies to send jobs overseas, to poorer and poorer countries with pitiful wages.  First to Mexico, then to Taiwan and India and China.  Companies like Walmart squeeze their suppliers to make stuff cheaper and cheaper.  That’s all got to add up to something.”

“It sure does.  More profits for the big boys, more pain and less freedom for everybody else,” I said. 

"You know, we used to think of ourselves as the land of opportunity, where each generation could work and educate itself toward a better life than the one before," Patty mused.  "That looks as remote as the Garden of Eden now.  No more upward mobility; it’s downward mobility in high gear."  

"You got that right," I told her.  "The report says that ‘In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer’.” 

“Whoa!  Are you serious?” said Patty.

I kept on skimming the report.  “Listen to this.  The 85 richest people in the world own as much wealth as... take a guess.”

“Oh, you know I’m no good at this kind of thing, Ace.  Let me see.  Eighty-five people.  Hmm.  I’m going to guess they own as much as ... I’ll say the poorest one hundred million people.”

“You’re too kind, as always,” I said.  “The richest 85 own as much as ... the entire bottom half of the world’s population.  About 3.5 billion people.”

Patty gawked.  “Three and a half billion?” she exclaimed.  “Can I use your pencil and grocery bag for a minute?”

I watched while she did some quick division.  She looked up at me with a shocked expression.  “Ace,” she said, “if you average it out, each one of your  85 richest people has the same wealth as 41,176,470 poor people combined.”  

“One person’s wealth is equivalent to that of more than 41 million people?!” I asked incredulously.  “No way that’s fair or just or humane or right or democratic or .....”  I realized I was sputtering, and stopped.

“It’s wrong,” said Patty.  “It’s immoral.  It’s evil.”

“You know,” I told her, “even if the size of the actual numbers shocks us, it’s not as if we didn’t already have a pretty good idea that most of us are getting screwed.”

“That’s true,” she said, and we stood there for a moment.  

“Maybe people think the game’s already decided,” I said.   “It’s March madness, it’s the World Series, the Kentucky Derby, the NBA champion, the Super Bowl.  At the end of the season, there’s only one winner. Everybody can’t be a winner.”

Patty got a glint in her eye.  “You mean all of us except maybe 85 people are losers?  Seven billion of us are losers?  That’s what you’re saying?  It doesn’t matter to you that the game is rigged?”

“What do you mean, it’s rigged?”

“Oh come on, Ace.  Think about it.  The rich have the law on their side; they write the laws.  They own the courts.  They own Congress.  Now they’re buying up state legislatures.  They own the media that report the news--that decide what gets reported and how it’s reported.  They own the corporations we work for.  They run the universities our kids attend.  They see and hear everything we do or say on computers and telephones.  Doesn’t that sound like a stacked deck to you?”

“Remember that old American saying, ‘You can’t fight City Hall’,” I responded.

“Oh, great,”  snapped Patty.  “That’s a real banner for losers to gather under.  Give up without a fight!  That’s a sure-fire guarantee you lose.  What about those other old American sayings?  Where’s that land-of-the-free-and-home-of-the-brave-don’t-tread-on-me-government-of-the-people-by-the-people-for-the-people-all-men-are-created-equal spirit when it really matters?”

“Well, I’m no Crispus Attucks and you’re no Betsy Ross, but what do you think we ought to do about it?”

© Tony Russell, 2014

[Note: Readers who would like to see the full Working for the Few report can see it here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Austerity and Hard Times

He was listening to the news, and his granddaughter was proudly making a hat for him with the new knitting needles she got for Christmas.  “Grandpa,” said the little girl without looking up, “what’s ‘austerity’ mean?”  

It’s funny what kids will pick up when you have no idea they’re paying attention to what’s happening around them, he thought, not for the first time.  He studied her for a minute.  He’d known this day would come, but he hadn’t expected it to come so soon.  Was she old enough to have this discussion?  “Heck,” he finally said to himself, “if she’s old enough for Harry Potter novels, she’s old enough to be told about austerity.”

“‘Austerity’ is another word for what we used to call ‘hard times’ back when I was a boy,” he began.

Giving her a different name for it didn’t give her much to go on.  He knew that.  She needed to picture it in her mind to make it come to life, so he wasn’t surprised when she said, “Oh. Well, what’s hard about hard times?” 

In some ways he hated to tell her.  She was young to be carrying the freight of that knowledge.  But you couldn’t shelter kids forever.  You needed to be honest with them about the world they were growing into.

“In hard times--what they call ‘austerity’ nowadays--lots of people lose their jobs or their farms.  They can’t find a new job, or the job they have pays less and less, with fewer benefits. After a while they can’t pay their bills.  They lose their home.  They lose things they were buying on credit.  They sell off whatever they have that’s valuable, just to get some cash.  They can’t pay their loans.  They can’t afford to go see a dentist or a doctor.  They buy cheaper and cheaper food.  They get discouraged and depressed.”  

“Gosh, Grandpa, that sounds horrible,” she said.  “What makes austerity happen?”

Now came an even harder part: talking about the dark side of human nature to someone who had been cared for and cherished all her life, who had never known anything but consideration and kindness. 

“It doesn’t happen by accident,” he said.  “Some people choose to cause hard times for other people.  They make it happen with laws and policies that benefit themselves and hurt the other people.”

“What kind of people would do that?” asked the little girl, clearly struggling to understand the notion of a world with those kinds of people in it.

“Austerity is caused by rich people who want to get even richer,” he said.  “They do things to squeeze more money out of people like us, and they don’t care whether people who don’t have as much as they do get poorer or even lose everything.”

“That’s mean!” exclaimed the little girl.  “Why are they so mean?”

And how do you answer that, in a way that’s fair but honest?   He tried.

“Some of them are mean because of the way they were raised,” he said.  “They were always around other rich people, and they thought they were entitled to good things because they were better than other folks.  We know that’s not right, but they never learned it.  They weren’t brought up right.  Others are mean unintentionally, because they have rigid ideas that they think are right, and they get stubborn.  They stick to those ideas, even when there are all kinds of evidence they don’t work.  Others choose to be hard-hearted.  They decide they’d rather be mean and rich than kind and poor.  And some work in big businesses called corporations, and they do mean things to make the corporation more profitable, things that they’d probably never think of doing to people or places on their own.”

She thought for a moment, still trying to puzzle things out. “Where is austerity, Grandpa?”

Now that was really a tough one.  He wasn’t sure how to answer.  He got up, walked over to the bookcase in the corner, and took the globe off the top shelf.  

“I’m not sure I can answer that, sweetheart.  It seems to be almost everywhere.  Over a hundred countries--119 I think the man just said on the radio--cut their budgets last year.  The ones that get all the publicity are the ones in Europe, like Greece, Spain, Ireland, and Italy,” he continued, pointing to them. “But three-fourths of the countries being hit are in developing countries.  Most of those are down here.”  He ran his hand over the southern hemisphere. 

The little girl nodded.  “Can you show me where Greece is again?” she asked, and he did.  “What’s it mean they cut their budgets?” was her next question.

“You ask a lot of questions,” he said.  “That’s a good habit to get into.  Keep it up.  ‘Cutting their budget’ means they didn’t spend as much money,” he said.  “Mostly they eliminated jobs and cut what we call public spending.  That means they cut money for things like health care, education, housing, pensions, and unemployment.”

“Why did they have to do that?”

“Well, sweetheart, they didn’t have to do that.  Instead of taking away things from ordinary people--what some folks call the 99%--they could have provided jobs and improved the lives of most of the people in their countries.  All they had to do was change their tax systems, so the richest people contributed more and corporations paid a fair share.  They could have stopped rich people and corporations from hiding their money in places called tax havens.   They could have eliminated tax gimmicks that kept rich people from not paying taxes.  They could have cracked down on people who cheated on their tax returns.  But they didn’t do those things, because those cheating rich people and corporations were their friends and supporters.  So they took the money instead from the rest of us.  The rich have more than they’ll ever need, the poor don’t have enough to live on, and the people in between are having a harder and harder time.”

“That’s not nice,” declared the little girl firmly.  “I don’t want to be that way when I grow up.”

“I’m glad to hear it, sweetheart,” said the old man.  “Just remember that if the world tries to change you.”

She seemed to catch the solemnity of his words.  “I won’t change,” she promised.

“That’s my girl,” he said, giving her a hug.  Then he turned off the radio.  “Enough of listening to that thing,” he said, and picked up his fiddle, plucked the strings, and adjusted the tuning.  “Here’s an old song we used to sing when I was your age.  Do you know it?  It’s called ‘Hard Times’.”   He began to sing as he scratched out the tune. 

“Oh, I know that one,” she said.  “Mommy sings it sometimes.”  And she joined him, adding her sweet young voice to his as they sang Stephen Foster’s opening verse:

As we pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears
While we all sup sorrow with the poor
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears:
Oh, hard times, come again no more.

“Could we change ‘hard times’ to ‘austerity’ in the chorus?” she asked quickly.

“Sure,” he said.  “We can do whatever we want with a song.”

© Tony Russell, 2014

Monday, January 06, 2014

Big Brother on Steroids

Uncle Jimmy was in for the holidays, and I pulled him aside after dinner last night.  I knew he was going to leave early Monday morning to drive back up to his job at the Pentagon, and there was something I wanted to ask him about.

“Jimmy,” I said, “I saw a headline on Yahoo!  What’s the deal with Bernie Sanders asking the NSA if it spies on Congress?  That’s crazy talk, isn’t it?  Why would he even think such a thing?”

Jimmy looked surprised.  “The NSA's spying on people in Congress was the first thing I thought about when Snowden’s revelations started popping up,” he said.  “Any intelligence service, sooner or later, targets the people who are supposed to oversee it.  Sooner, usually.  That’s where their money comes from, and where the power lies.  When news came out that the NSA spies on the UN, and then that it spies on the leaders of our allies, it was obvious these guys are operating in a free fire zone.”

That definitely wasn’t what I wanted to hear.  “What I don’t understand, Jimmy, is that Sanders asked a ‘yes or no’ question,  but the NSA didn’t give him a ‘yes’ or ‘no‘ answer.  Sanders asked, ‘Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials?‘   And what the NSA wrote back was, ‘Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons’.”  

Jimmy laughed.  “Oh, Sanders got his answer all right.  ‘The same privacy protections as all US persons’ means Congress members don’t have any privacy protections.  None.  Zero.  The message the NSA is sending loud and clear is ‘YES, we spy on Congress and other elected officials--and people in the administration too.  You didn’t think you were exempt from the spying that you’re approving for everybody else, did you?‘  The NSA did everything but give Congress the finger with that answer.  It makes you scratch your head.  Did those people in Congress really think that the great fishnet in the sky had a catch-and-release program for them because they’re big fish?”

“Wait a minute,” I said.  “What do you mean when you say that having the same protections as all US persons means they don’t have any protections?”

He gave me a look of disbelief.  I get that a lot.  “Lord have mercy, boy, don’t you read your own newspaper?  Or listen to the news on NPR?  Or get news somewhere?”

“Mostly the sports page,” I admitted.  “Actually, only the sports page.  Well, and the comic strips.  And sometimes my horoscope.”

He groaned.  I get that a lot too.  “An informed citizenry is the cornerstone of democracy,” he muttered.  “Okay, Ace, here’s what we know at this point.  Edward Snowden said these NSA programs ‘put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever.’  The NSA collects and stores data on every phone call made in the United States.  They also track and store the information on hundreds of millions of cellphone users on a minute-to-minute basis around the world--including our exact locations at each moment, where we’re going, who we meet, and where we meet.”

“They’re tracking me everywhere through my cellphone?!” I asked incredulously.

“Yep.  The NSA also broke into the global data centers of Yahoo! and Google, which enables them to collect information at will about hundreds of millions of people.  They search our e-mails, our online chats, and our browser histories. They also bribed the company that provides encryption programs for computer security to create a ‘back door’ enabling them to enter and spy on supposedly secure data and communications.”

I was stunned.  “What does all that mean?” I asked, still trying to take it all in.

“Basically it means none of us have any privacy when we use any electronic communication device, or when information about us goes into any electronic data system.” 

My mind started racing over things I’d looked at or written online.  Whoa!  “That’s scary,” I said.

“It sure is,” Jimmy said.  “There’s a saying that ‘information is power.’  Nobody in the world has ever had anything even close to as much information as the NSA.  If that saying is correct, the NSA is now the most powerful institution in the history of the planet.”

“Another saying is that ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’,” I threw in.

“That too,” Jimmy agreed.

“But now that Congress members know their lives are under a microscope just like the rest of us, they’ll do something about it, won’t they?”

“Well,” said Jimmy, “from the NSA’s standpoint, that’s the beauty of it.  Congresspeople are just as human as the rest of us, with the same weaknesses and vices--maybe even more, because the sheer expense of running for office, along with the lure of the political spotlight, guarantees that Congress will have more than its share of the ambitious, the vain, and the power-hungry.”


“So while members of Congress are thinking about the NSA’s response, they’ll also start thinking about that stretch they spent in rehab.  About their confessions to their AA sponsors, which they thought were private.  About the affair they’re having with a staffer, and the e-mails they’ve sent each other and the telephone calls between them--all part of their NSA record.  About the bribe they took for a vote.  About the information on their medical record--now converted into an electronic health record which the NSA can break into.  About lies they’ve told.  About their gambling habit.  No need to go on; you get the idea.”

“It doesn’t take much of a scandal or hint of weakness to derail a political career,” I mused.

“No, we definitely operate with a strange standard,” said Jimmy.  “‘For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,’ according to the Good Book.    But that doesn’t help somebody at the ballot box.  And if the congressperson feels fairly secure about his or her own life--which sure isn’t guaranteed--, what about their spouse, their kids, their brothers and sisters?  When you get right down to it, we’re all vulnerable.  And now congresspeople are on notice.  If you don’t vote right,  if you try to stop the NSA or even make an effort to curtail its power, they can hurt you.  Really hurt you.  Your life is an open book to them, and they wouldn’t hesitate to make a best-seller out of it.”

“What’s gonna happen then?  Can the NSA keep on getting away with all this?  It’s like Big Brother on steroids!”

Jimmy frowned.  “It doesn’t look good,” he said.  “James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, lied under oath back in March of 2013, when Ron Wyden asked him if the NSA collected any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.  ‘No sir... not wittingly,’ said Clapper.  Just three months later, in June, NSA director Keith Alexander lied to Congress when he claimed that 54 terrorist plots had been thwarted through use of mass phone surveillance.  Eventually Alexander admitted that the number 54 was entirely fictitious, that maybe one or two plots have been affected in some way.  At a bare minimum, both should have been fired immediately and the NSA reined in.  Both could and probably should have been charged with perjury and contempt of Congress.  But neither paid the slightest price for lying.  Which probably gives you a pretty good indication of the leverage they have over Congress.”

“I don’t get it, Jimmy,” I said.  “What you’re describing sounds more like a police state than the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

“Those are your words, not mine,” he said.  “I’d be careful not to use them in an e-mail or on a telephone.”

© Tony Russell, 2014