Orwell’s 1984 may have finally arrived.
The first sign was news that U.S. citizens living near Mexico were being denied passports on the grounds that their birth certificates were suspected of being fake.
Can you say “Magna Carta?” How about “Clause 39 therein?” How about “due process?”
The bedrock of our protection from the government is the principle that if the government wants to deprive me of my rights as a citizen, especially my citizenship itself, they may do so only “by the lawful judgment of equals or by the law of the land.”
Our government now imitates its birther leader and thinks it can dismiss anybody’s citizenship on the basis of suspicion and without any trial.
That’s completely out of bounds.
Anyone who thinks this won’t affect them because they don’t have a Hispanic-sounding last name or because they don’t live near a border probably hasn’t kept up with all the ramifications of the patriot Act.
If you’re reading this, you probably live within a hundred miles of SeaTac. You live next to an international border.
Another alarming story concerns a Democratic congressional candidate in Virginia, Abigail Spanberger. She found out that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service had released her Standard Form 86, the standard questionnaire required for national security clearances, to a Republican PAC, who turned it over to Republican Paul Ryan.
She had applied for a job at the Postal Inspection Service that required clearance.
The USPS released her security clearance information to the PAC based on a Freedom of Information Act request. But the document was private to Spanberger and not subject to FOIA at all. The Postal Service broke the law and jeopardized national security.
The U.S. Postal Service has said “Oops, sorry.” But I’m afraid this sort of thing is going to happen more and more, as long as we have a president who doesn’t consider it his responsibility to denounce it and probably approves of it.
Those were the scary-not-at-all-funny stories. I’ve saved the scary-but-funny news story for last.
Donald Trump must spend hours every day Googling himself. Why else would he even care whether Google search results were favorable to him?
Our president is so out of touch with the way the real world works he thinks you need ID to buy lean ground beef at a supermarket.
Now he has noticed that whenever he does a Google search for “Donald Trump,” there appear three news stories at the top of the results page that almost always criticize him. He thinks that means Google is manipulating the result. He thinks there’s a little man in a cubicle at Google headquarters whose job it is to hunt down news stories critical of him and boost them to the top of his search results.
Paranoia isn’t always a bad thing. It’s a sign of creativity. Go ahead — believe that there is an international conspiracy whose goal is to plant the number 23 in every statistic. What’s the harm? And isn’t that a lovely hobby, after all? It beats stamp collecting. I can vouch for that.
A friend of a friend of mine filled a prescription for a certain name-brand drug for erectile dysfunction. My friend was horrified that, the very next day, their friend received an ad in their gmail for the same drug. Google must have been looking in his window last night!
I was invited to a party at a house in a neighborhood I didn’t know very well. So I used Google Street View to find out what the house looked like and where it was in relation to the nearest bus stop. When I got there and the host asked “Did you have any trouble finding the place?” And I told her, no, I’d seen it already on Google. She ran to close the curtains. “How long have they been watching us?” she asked.
There’s no little man in a cubicle rigging the search results. Yet ….
There will be, if Trump gets his way. He wants to rig them! He wants to stop Google from showing news stories critical of him, even when they are what their users are looking for when they search his name. He wants to prevent you from getting information you are looking for.
So let’s see. In one week we’ve had a major attack on the principle of due process, we’ve had our national security undermined (who wants to apply for a security clearance today?) and now the First Amendment is under attack.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd.
Check out the full Sept. 5 - Sept. 11 issue.
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