Wednesday, September 17, 2014

3 DOWN Are Kiwis constitutionally bound to madness? (1,7) [Hint: Key]

We are three days out from an election. Overseas readers will recognise that the (depending on your point of view) holy/unholy trinity of Greenwald, Assange and Snowden visiting our country over recent days has had the potential to skew our election. (Incidentally, only one of the trinity 'incarnated' themselves here, can you guess which two were only 'spiritually' present via the internet?)

The gist of their message to us has been that our spy services do more spying that our PM John Key has let on. (Numerous articles abound, here are two of the latest, Fairfax and Herald. You are allowed to be confused by the details!)

On the one hand this is sending some people, including a number of journalists into paroxysm and frenzy, driven by the moral crusade of trying to prove that John Key has broken the rubber band of truth stretching into an actual, proveable lie.

On the other hand some people (including myself) are 'So?' So what? I am So over this. So, what about real issues in Kiwis' lives like child poverty, access to affordable housing, better paid jobs? Of these the media appears disinterested.

Fuelled by Monday night's Moment of Truth event at which the trinity appeared, our media are acting as though preserving the secrecy of our spy services is a self-serving quest of the National Party, treating good men such as Ian Fletcher (head of GCSB) as some kind of villain out of an Orwellian terror nightmare and generally shouting SHOCK HORROR when their role in the service of the country they do not seem to love should be supporting the importance of NZ playing its part in the global defence of democracy and fair trade. (An honourable exception is Fran O'Sullivan). If only one journalist let along one opposition politician would utter these words, "United we stand, divided we fall, I favour a bi-partisan approach to intelligence gathering. Now let's get back to child poverty."

So there is a kind of madness going on, though there is a good chance that common sense will prevail and our votes when counted on Saturday night will support the status quo. Yes, that means supporting the sensibleness of our spy agencies keeping NZ safe, even if it means my unpublished thoughts (not many exist!) and your internet shopping raids might be viewed by GSCB clerks with nothing better to do. (Yeah, right ... they are, of course, looking for you to use other words on the internet than 'Amazon' or 'BNZ'. Words such as X-Keyscore ...).

There is a deeply unChristian angle to the presupposition beneath the trinity's crusade against their own countries involvement in the so-called Five Eyes network. That presupposition was clearly articulated by Glenn Greenwald on a Radio Live interview with Duncan Garner (yesterday afternoon, here). In that interview - which helped pass the time of day between Christchurch and Timaru - Greenwald asserted the absolute human right to privacy, to being able to do and say things behind locked doors and passwords which no one else could access.

There, I realised, is the intrinsic presence of sin and darkness within their crusade which, ironically is justified in terms of shedding light on aspects of government. By contrast, a Christian approach to living life is that we are to live in the light, hiding nothing, doing nothing under the cloak of darkness (e.g. 1 John 1:5-7). A Christian has nothing to fear from any eavesdropping on conversations or reading of emails.

Greenwald's argument is quite scary. By asserting this absolute human right to privacy he denies the possibility that the state might have a legitimate interest in private thoughts which involve the planning of evil acts of terror. Taken to its logical conclusion, Greenwald's argument would mean that we wait for terrorist actions to happen to us, rather than seeking to prevent them occurring.

If we have the means to prevent terrorism then it is unloving towards our neighbours, unloving of others to permit those actions to happen for fear of infringing on 'privacy.'

That we have few commentators willing and able to think clearly, beyond the media feeding frenzy, is a sign of the possibility that we are lacking philosophers to serve the common good of our society. Instead we have circus managers and an unending supply of clowns.

Of the latter, even our government has supplied a few. I am completely unimpressed that our government permitted the organiser of the Moment of Truth event, Kim Dotcon, into our country.

I am not particularly impressed with John Kay's handling of the intelligence matters. He has revealed too much and he has failed to offer an appropriate apologia for the importance of a cutting-edge community of intelligence agencies.

He will likely still be our PM after Saturday because part of the unfolding political tragedy of 2014 is that not one other party leader is capable of holding a candle to his abilities, exposed as they are to their many shortcomings. Seddon, Fraser, Holyoake, Kirk, Rowling, Lange, Bolger, Clark. They will either be rolling in their graves or rolling their eyes this week.


PS Shakespeare got it right when he said that those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. Kiwis, if we don't get over this madness, we will destroy ourselves. If we want to solve child poverty we need an economy which performs well. As Fran O'Sullivan points out the GCSB is at the heart of government moves to assist our great corporations in remaining at the top of their commercial game.


hogsters said...

I feel another Tui billboard coming on.

The media are all about keeping private things private. Yeah right.

I had a "discussion" with my teenage son and his mate last might. (just about in their twenties really) All hot and bothered about this stuff they were. My patronising old man of a dad answer to their protests was "don't be naive, wait till you grow up".

Oh to be young and idealistic.

Oh and yes Peter, I'm sure the "trinity" would have views on bringing things into the light.

carl jacobs said...

Snowden was given information on pledge of trust that he protect it. He was only given access because of that pledge, and he was told that willful violation would result in harsh penalties. He signed his name to a paper acknowledging all this.

He then decided that his political judgments were superior to those who had been given authority to make such judgments - a decision he had neither standing nor competence nor knowledge to make. Because he had no authority to change policy, he decided to force a change by compromising the information he had sworn to protect. He then beat feet out of town because he knew the consequences if what he had done. Whatever integrity his position might have possessed was compromised when he fled. He simply wanted to impose his own political judgment on his own authority but without personal consequence.

Snowden is no hero. He is a liar and a traitor and a coward. When they catch him, they will prepare a nice cell for him. And he will have earned every square inch of it.


Peter Carrell said...

Except Carl, Dotcom has announced that if his party gets a share of power after our election he will press for Snowden to be given asylum here.

PRAY for us!

carl jacobs said...


Well, speaking personally, that wouldn't bother me all that much. NZ is a more open society, and so it would be all that much easier to snatch him. And believe me, I would snatch him - complete with credible deniability or profuse apologies after the fact. That's because I have lived in that world and so feel viscerally the violation of trust that he committed.

But this is the point the Snowden never acknowledged. I can't make that decision. No one died and made me Chief Executor of US Foreign Policy. Others have been lawfully appointed to make those judgments, and I have no right to substitute my judgment for their judgment. So as much as I might want him taken, I have to submit my desire to lawful authority. That authority might have different priorities and different visions and different responsibilities that would overturn my desires.

Would that Snowden had realized all this before he arrogated power to himself that he could never rightfully wield.


Kurt said...

“Snowden is no hero. He is a liar and a traitor and a coward. When they catch him, they will prepare a nice cell for him. And he will have earned every square inch of it.”—carl

As usual, carl, you can’t see the forest through the trees. Above all, Snowden had an obligation to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, and the rights of the people it shields. He did that, and for that service, Snowden should be considered a hero by all Americans.

The people who ought to be in a “nice cell,” carl, are mass murders like Bush, Chaney, Rumsfeld—and Obama.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

carl jacobs said...


As usual, carl, you can’t see the forest through the trees

I know those trees. And that forest. And the ground around the forest. And the creek that runs through the forest. And the rocks beneath the forest. And the flora and fauna in the forest. I have spent almost all my life living in that forest, so when I speak about it, I speak with considerable credibility. I put on my first uniform when I was twelve. I have never really taken it off.

Above all, Snowden had an obligation to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution

The reference is to the Presidential Oath of Office, which is curious since federal contractors take no oath. So what then is the general obligation to which you refer? To report illegality? Snowden had means at his disposal to do just that. When you work on a black project, you are given phone numbers to call for just such an occurrence. But Snowden didn't do that because there was no violation of law and he knew it. He objected to the policy. That's not a matter of law. That's a matter of politics. No one would have any interest in his policy objections.

But ... upholding the Constitution and defending the rights of citizens! He had to do that, right? And how would he do that? How does he uphold the Constitution by arrogating to himself powers that are specifically delegated to office holders that hold office by virtue of that Constitution?

But ... they were abusing their power and acting unconstitutionally! Right? And here we come to the crux of your argument - that a constitutional act is a fixed matter of law and not a political judgment, and that Snowden was a lawful interpreter of that fixed principal of Constitutionality. Who gave Snowden the competence to make that decision? From whence did he derive his authority? Upon what basis does he claim to know better than those who are lawfully empowered by the Constitution to make decisions? A private citizen can have an opinion on Constitutionality but that doesn't give him the authority to act. He was not elected. He was not appointed pursuant to an election. He was just a federal contractor with access and arrogance and faithlessness.

Here is the first part of my Oath of Office. I actually took one, you see.

I, (Full Name) having been appointed a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic

And let's stop right there, shall we? Would you want me for the sake of my oath to arrogate to myself the right to define domestic enemies? Would you prefer I submit that political decision to my lawful authorities? When you answer that you would prefer the later, then you have destroyed your case for Snowden. For there is no difference. And you are the one who quoted the oath.


Kurt said...

Look, carl, I’m sure that you mean well. However, brick-by-brick, the Constitution— especially the Bill of Rights thereof—is being demolished by the growing national security police state here.

Snowden did, in fact, attempt to report “through proper channels” at least ten times. He himself states:

“The N.S.A. at this point not only knows I raised complaints, but that there is evidence that I made my concerns known to the N.S.A.’s lawyers, because I did some of it through e-mail. I directly challenge the N.S.A. to deny that I contacted N.S.A. oversight and compliance bodies directly via e-mail and that I specifically expressed concerns about their suspect interpretation of the law, and I welcome members of Congress to request a written answer to this question [from the N.S.A.].”

So, who should he have contacted? People like retired Air Force Lt. General James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence? Gimme a break, carl! This former flyboy officer BALDLY LIED when he was asked DIRECTLY at a US Senate hearing:

“Does the N.S.A. collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

Gen. Clapper responded: “No, sir…Not wittingly.” The man CONSCIOUSLY LIED to the Senate of the USA. He, not Snowden, should be in jail. But of course, in the new, national security police state in America, he goes scot free.

Another former military man who should be wearing prison stripes is Army General Keith Alexander. At another hearing Alexander, then director of the NSA, DENIED FOURTEEN TIMES that the agency had the technical capability to intercept e-mails and other online communications in the United States MORE LIES! Yet he retires with full pension!

And these are just a few examples of the people that carl is relying upon to “uphold” the Constitutional protections of Americans!

As far back as 1975, Senator Frank Church warned Americans about the growing threat of the NSA:

"I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."

In the digital era, his fears have nearly come to pass. The FISA court, which was set up to monitor the security agencies, is a total “kangaroo court” (pardon to you Australians out there), which rubber stamps intelligence surveillance requests routinely.

In such a situation, whistleblowing is a patriotic duty!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

carl jacobs said...


Look, carl, I’m sure that you mean well.

Look, Kurt, I don't like being patronized. I am not some internet ranger talking about factoids I have gleaned from Wikipedia. I have lived this stuff. This isn't theory to me. This isn't a clever argument from DemocracyNow! I have in the past worked on black projects. I know what the hell I'm talking about.

brick-by-brick, the Constitution— especially the Bill of Rights thereof—is being demolished by the growing national security police state here.

Yes, so you keep saying. You just fail to prove it. This is nothing but your assertion based upon your understanding of what the law should be. In legal terms, it means nothing. Snowden's perception of what was or wasn't illegal (or to be precise, what should or shouldn't be illegal) did not give him standing to violate the law. He isn't an authority. He simply agrees with you.. That is the sum total of his actual claim to heroism. Your brick-by-brick destruction is measured entirely against your political judgment of what rights the Constitution provides. Snowden therefore serves a cause you believe in. And that cause is political in nature. Instead if bleating about who should go to jail, you should trying answering what I said.

Snowden did, in fact, attempt to report “through proper channels”

Yes, I doubt it. Complaining to NSA lawyers isn't what I'm talking about. In any case, your description simply confirms what I said. Snowden didn't like the policy. He thought it was illegal. Too bad. That's not his call. His perception doesn't get him a 'get out of jail free' card. He may have a concern 'about their suspect interpretation of the law.'. That doesn't make his concern reasonable, actionable, or right. And it's certainly not a basis for breaking the law.

Two other things.

1. If you think you have a reasonable expectation of privacy on the internet, you are wrong. The internet is not like the mail. The information is immediately exposed. There is no point-to-point transmission. That's why I must encrypt proprietary data sent by email.

2. If you really think the US is a police state, you need to learn something about police states. Why don't you Google 'Cheka' and start the process?


Kurt said...

Well, carl, you can blame part of my “patronizing” attitude on our host, Fr. Carrell. His Christian kindness, and editor’s finger, won’t allow me to employ the apt epithets that I would prefer to use when dealing with such views. It’s his blog, so you will have to settle for “patronizing.”

[Re: Constitution/Bill of Rights being demolished bit-by-bit] “Yes, so you keep saying. You just fail to prove it. This is nothing but your assertion based upon your understanding of what the law should be.”

Good grief, carl, where have you been during the past two years? Out of the country on one of your “black ops?” Our friends Down Under should know that we American lefties (in all of our glorious diversity) are not the only people here who are alarmed. Many libertarians on the right have also been paying attention. We have not had to rely on Wikipedia, Democracy Now—or, even Rupert Murdoch’s Fox “News.” Yes, indeed, plenty of formerly secret documents and other materials have been released and are available on the Net for the people to peruse during their lunch hours without “talking heads” or, other gatekeepers, “framing the issue.” There is interesting, and alarming, stuff on many subjects—not just on “ black ops,” videos of drone operators sitting in safe cubbyholes machine-gunning journalists in combat zones.

“Snowden's perception of what was or wasn't illegal (or to be precise, what should or shouldn't be illegal) did not give him standing to violate the law. He isn't an authority.”

Ah, that’s the nub isn’t it, carl? Snowden isn’t an “authority” (or, should that be written Authority? Or, perhaps, AUTHORITY?) Authority must be obeyed at all costs, isn’t that right, carl? It’s Authority that really runs the country, isn’t it, and not the people? Authority in government; Authority in finance; Authority in the Church; Authority in the streets of places like Ferguson, Missouri, isn’t that rightl? It’s all part of the same goal.

And when The Authorities, including the likes of Air Force and Army generals, break the law, they get a pass because they are part of The Authority, and therefore, have “standing” to violate the law, right? What Ike Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex.” Whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, on the other hand, have the book thrown at them.

“Yes, I doubt it. [Snowden’s] Complaining to NSA lawyers isn't what I'm talking about.”

Well, enlighten us, carl. What should he have done? Kept his mouth shut? Deferred to Authority? Saluted like a good airman? What do you suggest we do to reverse this descent? Don’t be shy, tell us.

“If you really think the US is a police state, you need to learn something about police states. Why don't you Google 'Cheka' and start the process?”

Oh, I’ll freely admit to our friends Down Under that the process is not yet complete. Remnants of civil liberties still exist. The inertia of old habits. But as Senator Church warned us 40 years ago we must resist “the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America.” The general contours of the national security police state are visible, carl. And you are either part of the problem, or part of the solution.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt and Carl
Since NZ and Australia are part of the Five Eyes agreement with the USA, Canada and Britain, we are potentially as close to a police state tyranny as the States itself, so I am following your conversation with interest (hint: let's keep it as a conversation ...).

As a purveyor of global politics and surveyor of history of politics as it shakes down in real life, I continue to observe that the USA is a beacon of freedom. To that beacon people still flock. When they stop flocking, Kurt, I might take your concerns more seriously.

No doubt, Carl, some mistakes have been made in the application of intelligence (innocent people killed by drones etc). That, I hope, is always challenging the 'military-industrial' complex to constrain the use of its power. Otherwise, the old truism will dog their intention to preserve peace: power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Here Down Under, with the uncovering of a plot to randomly behead a stranger, we cannot treat ISIS as a problem in a country far away and potentially of no concern to us. I for one am grateful that we have our GCSB [Kiwi version of NSA] and the Five Eyes agreement to share intelligence. The price Australia and NZ pay for our vigilance is that the world, if it cannot immigrate to North America or Great Britain want to immigrate to us. We welcome some, we cannot accommodate all. When they come they are free to engage in free speech. But if they abuse that with sermons on jihadi ... we will be listening. But no one will go to jail just for talking.

A final point Kurt: much as I admire the singular consistency of your left-wing approach (even to the point of wariness of Obama [incidentally, in a Twitter exchange I got caught up in, my US correspondents insisted he is a Communist!]), I cannot think of one left-wing regime in the twentieth century which did not impose totalitarian control on speech if not on thought through the aid of a wide-ranging secret police with totalitarian powers to throw people in prison without trial or, at best, via show trial. I prefer democracy with surveillance to Marxist totalitarianism as so far experienced by humanity.

Kurt said...

Being a teenage Trotskyist, and now as an anarchist for the past quarter century, the Stalinist regimes were hardly “leftist” to me! But even among these states, Peter, there were marked differences.

A friend of mine, a fellow organizer who grew up in Poland under the Stalinists, has helped me see the differences, as well as similarities, of the various “socialist” regimes in Eastern and Central Europe. He thinks the best analogy for the USA today is East Germany. (Of course, the USA doesn’t shoot people trying to crawl over a wall to get out of the country. No, indeed! Here, one is more likely to get shot trying to climb in!)

But I quite understand where you are coming from, Peter. To some of our friends Down Under, we American lefties (along with many right-wing libertarians), are probably seen as “overreacting,” or being “alarmist.” I can assure you that we are not.

We know our history. From the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s, through the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, through the Palmer Raids of the 1920s, through the McCarthy Era of the 1950s (that I grew up with), to COINTELPRO in the 1960s and to the dispersal of Occupy Wall Street just three years ago, the basic freedoms, which we both prize, have been periodically assaulted by The Authorities. In the past, Americans have risen to the occasion, and turned back the tide of Authoritarianism. I have hope that, eventually, we will do so in the post OWS period as well.

But there are no guarantees in politics. Perhaps this time we will be bested by The Authority. It has happened time and time again to many peoples throughout history. The latent ugliness will become manifest for all to see, as the current contours are filled in. Only time will tell.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Jean said...

Hi Kurt and Caleb,

I like Peter have been interested in both your comments coming from different perspectives in the US.

I would agree Kurt, being 'left' politically speaking definitely isn't congruent with being a communist : ) being also leftish myself politically.

In terms of the debates over surveillance and whistleblowing. Well... I think a degree of targeted surveillance is necessary to both track down and monitor criminals from drug trafficking, to people trafficking to terrorist plots.

It does appear though that Snowden was prepared to pay a high price for his revelations including possible imprisonment and giving up being able to live in his own country. I cannot see someone making such a decision lightly - especially when they had been living on a comfortable $200 000 US a year.

I respect your position Carl on allegiance to confidentiality agreements and respect for those placed in authority above us. I also respect Kurt's position on allegiance to the American constitution and the rights of it's people, for those of us who do not have a constitution I would term this ethical standards of conduct for the good of all.

I disagree Carl that those in Authority always should be left to be the sole judges of what is legal or that what is legal is necessarily right. As Kurt points out your country has a long history of civil disobedience simply because some laws were unethical or immoral. As have most our countries.

In terms of Snowden I do not know what he revealed. If what he revealed amounts to an extreme abuse of power by the authorities in terms of scope and degree of actions of surveillance then I say he was courageous. If what he revealed compromises operations using necessary means to monitor and apprehend criminal activity I say he has abused the trust of the people he has served and worked for.

Both of you will be in a better position than us downunder to determine this.

NZ, however, has not escaped a little bullying from the US (authorities not individuals). When we declared ourselves to be nuclear free (this is power and weapons) we were 'punished' by the US for sometime by being excluded from certain military activities. Note we did not become nuclear free to offend the US. It had more to do with the dangers of nuclear testing close to home and the danger of radioactive substances.

Recently there has been a push in nz to have all food ingredients labelled e.g. Including genetically modified food ingredients. The barrier to this being undertaken is threats by the us admin of charging nz with inhibiting free trade if we do it. Um like isn't it free if people get to choose what they eat? Isn't this just a tad like bullying to try and control another countries desire to make information available to their own citizens?

It is for reasons such as these that I can accept Kurt's comments about the abuse of authority within the us is plausible.

Blessings Jean

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jean
Good points but here is a question:

If I am a tomato grower and the supermarket chain I sell to says 'only sell us tomatoes this size, shape and colour of red', what is the difference between that and the US saying 'If you want to export jars of tomato paste to us, their labels need to say this and not that'?

(I had an insight about this recently via discussions with one of our TPPA negotiators!)

carl jacobs said...


So let's talk about authority and the Constitution. Kurt talks as if there is a fixed understanding of the Constitution that exists in time and space. He doesn't however say what this understanding is. Nor does he say where it comes from. He simply assumes it. In fact he has substituted a vision of the Constitution from a Leftist perspective and held it up as a de facto standard. In other words, his entire argument proceeds from the idea the Constitution means what the Left says it means. To disagree is to admit that one is a fascist. (That was the "apt epithet that that [Kurt] would prefer to use when dealing with such views," btw.)

The appointment of Justices to the Supreme Court is a very political act in the US precisely because how one reads the Constitution will be determined by the presuppositions one brings to the Constitution. Kurt can't just say "The Constitution obviously requires X" without specifying those presuppositions. But if he does specify those presuppositions, then he admits the whole exercise is political. He can't any longer assert that Snowden legitimately acted for the sake of higher principle. So he does what he tacitly did on this thread. He says "All people of whatever political persuasion understand the Constitution requires X but some want to subvert X, and we call those people fascists." That's what passes for civil discussion with the Left.


carl jacobs said...


"But wait" you might object. "The Constitution does require certain things." Yes, and it comes down to the meaning of words. Let's look at a specific example.

The Constitution vests the power to declare war in the Congress. It gives the power of Command to the President. Command is a tangible power, whereas a declaration of war is a legal state. One does not need a legal state to issue commands. Presidents know this. They have greatly expanded their willingness to employ military force at the sole discretion of the Executive Branch.

So is this Constitutional or not? Depends on who you ask. What does it mean to 'declare war?' What may a President legitimately command the military to do in the absence of said declaration? Those questions do not have easy answers. The Constitution is intentionally vague on the subject. That leads to disagreement, and the disagreements will inevitably find their roots in politics.

The gray area around this power was in practice supposed to be negotiated between Congress and President by Congress defending its prerogative through impeachment. The President would learn Congressional limits on his power by the implicit threat if being removed from office. However, the Founders didn't envision either the two-party system or the difficulty it would cause for impeachment. That is why the President seems Constitutionally unconstrained. The tangible power of command was supposed to be balanced by the tangible power of impeachment. But Congress doesn't have the stones.


carl jacobs said...


So along comes Kurt, et al bleating about "illegal wars." Because, after all, the Constitution says it's Congress that declares war. So Presidents can't commit any forces to an offensive operation without a Congressional declaration. Any such operation is unconstitutional and therefore illegal. (This is especially important if you are a Leftist and see the US military as a bulwark of the Capitalist class system that is preventing the emergence of Socialism. See how easily politics gets smuggled in under the bed covers?)

As we have seen, such a command is not unconstitutional. It is specifically intended in the Constitution that the President should be allowed to act without Congressional approval. The limits are undefined. There is a point at which the President acts unconstitutionally, but there is no agreement in what that point is. These assertions of "illegal wars" therefore tacitly assume a specific constitutional point of view. They are not an exercise in revealing objective truth from the Constitution.

So let's then consider another of Kurt's hypothetical heroes. Suppose the President orders a strike, and some military member says "No, that is an unconstitutional order. I won't obey it." The member has taken it upon himself to interpret the Constitution. Is he the President? No. Is he elected to Congress? No. Then upon what ground does he presume to stand? Those are the constitutionality defined powers that are supposed to work out the war-making limits of the Presidency. There is no role for Joe Citizen (and certainly not Joe Soldier) beyond casting his vote. We empower people to make decisions for us. That means they have the power to make binding decisions.

Do you really want soldiers making private decisions about war and peace, or do you want them submitted to legitimate authority? Because if I can refuse a legitimate order to fight, I can also refuse a legitimate order to not fight. Private conscience cuts both ways. It's easy to yap about civil disobedience. Most people tend to approve of civil disobedience but only when they approve of the cause. They get real fussy about authority when they don't approve.


carl jacobs said...

Snowden broke a trust on his own authority. What was that authority? His higher calling to defend the Constitution. When did he become a constitutionally recognized authority capable of deciding how the Constitution should be defended? What if he reveals a secret and gets a source killed? Does that make a difference? What if he reveals a secret and dries up sources because the US can no longer be trusted to protect sources? Does that make a difference? And who are you going to blame the next time 3000 people die in an attack because there was not adequate intelligence to prevent it? Does that make a difference? Would he be able to properly anticipate any of these consequences? That absolutely makes a difference.

If Snowden wanted to assert a Conscience defense, then he should have stayed and accepted the consequence of his action. Civil disobedience doesn't usually involve running away to China of Russia. The point is to accept the punishment. But Snowden knew the severity of his punishment, and ... well, civil disobedience has its limits.

In the meantime, I will ponder whether a man has the right to impede the operation of abortion clinics for the sake of his private conscience because of his private understanding of what is Constitutional. How do you think Kurt would fall out on that position? Would he be talking about civil disobedience? Or would he suddenly find a new respect for authority?


carl jacobs said...

Kurt wrote:

we American lefties (along with many right-wing libertarians),

Now THAT is unintentionally hilarious. Not least because of how honest-to-goodness living breathing Libertarians would react to being called "right wing." He isn't talking about the more libertarian conservatives who trace their roots through William F Buckley to Edmund Burke. He's talking about the Randians with their dog-eared copies of Atlas Shrugged, the anarcho-Capitalists like Murray Rothbard. If you ever want some cheap entertainment, I highly recommend a Libertarian political convention.

Anyways. Let me tell you. When your policies have earned the wrath of both the anarchists and the Libertarians, you know your policy is in deep trouble. Those are two massive forces in American politics.


Jean said...

Hi Peter

The labelling desired (and this is largely requested by consumers lobbying the NZ Food Authority) wouldn't restrict imports:
e.g. it isn't suggesting manufacturers must restrict what their products contain, this or that, but "must put on the label what it contains".
Perhaps similar to saying please when exporting apples to us can you tell us what type they are e.g. Braeburn, Royal Gala etc.

I think some Japanese chains do have specific requirements for size and shape of vegetables and fruit but personally the weird shaped ones taste better!!! : )

What was your insight : )

Cheers Jean

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jean
I should have written 'this insight' i.e. the insight was that the labelling requirement is not different in substance to requirements already regarding our exports. A different example to tomatoes would be lamb where UK supermarkets want cuts with more meat and less fat than in former years.

Jean said...

Hi Peter

I think the labelling requirements are slightly different, only because they are not specifying what must be provided, only that what is provided must be listed. Similar to when NZ requested noting if MSG was an ingredient (additive 621). Many products on our shelves list additive 621 on the ingredients list and sell very well.

Say t'would be harder to grow lambs with less fat, than just tell the UK our lambs come with meat and fat. No doubt it would be hard for companies in the US to produce products without GMO but not so hard to say GMO ingredients are in the products.

Carl thanks for the reply I may take a while to digest it!!

Cheers Jean

Jean said...

Peter, forgot to say your insight is a good one though, what is asked of us by our free trade partners is no less or perhaps even more than what we are asking in return : ) ...

Kurt said...

My intent, carl, was not to make this an abstract discussion about the nature of the US Constitution per se, a subject of limited interest to our friends Down Under. Besides, you are obviously no more of a Constitutional scholar than I am. More centrally, I’m concerned—even if you are not— with the Bill of Rights and its erosion. In my opinion this erosion is leading in the direction of an authoritarian, militaristic, National Security Police State—if such a State has not already been created, at least in outline. I think in this particular discussion, carl that you and I have reached the point of: “Yes it is!” “No it isn’t!” “Yes it is!” “No it isn’t.” “Yes it is!” “No it isn’t!”

“In terms of the debates over surveillance and whistleblowing. Well... I think a degree of targeted surveillance is necessary to both track down and monitor criminals from drug trafficking, to people trafficking to terrorist plots.”—Jean

I think that’s just the point, Jean. I don’t think that Snowden, or anyone else, believes that narrow, targeted surveillance—reviewed and approved by a court—is out of the question. I live in NYC and I saw the Twin Towers fall. What people are objecting to is the vacuuming and storage of all of our data indiscriminately.

“Isn't this just a tad like bullying to try and control another countries desire to make information available to their own citizens?”—Jean

It’s more than “just a tad,” Jean, I think it’s outrageous. Also outrageous was the American government’s reaction to your declaration of a Nuclear Free Zone. It’s not as if New Zealand had the only ports available in the region for the American fleet. Something could/should have been worked out. But power, as Peter reminds us—particularly military power—usually makes bullies more stubborn.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

carl jacobs said...


I discussed the Constitution because you made the discussion about the Constitution. That was how you justified Snowden's action. You appealed to a general obligation to defend the Constitution. How then could I have avoided the argument I made?

My point has never been that authority cannot be defied. My point is that authority can only be defied by appealing to some higher lawful authority. It cannot be defied on personal authority. Snowden's private judgment doesn't count as a higher lawful authority.


Jean said...

Hi Carl

I acknowledge in most cases those who perform acts of civil disobedience do stick around to face the consequences. In essence it is their subsequent 'unjustified' prosecution which tends to appeal to people's conscience about the rightness or not of authority/laws (ie: Nelson Mandela's 26 years in prison). And more recently in the US Shane Claiborne being taken to court for feeding and sleeping with the homeless in a park, and having several unrelated people living under one roof (subsequently deemed a brothel by law), etc, etc. Fortunately for him the court ruled in his favour in these particular cases, stating in one that the law was not right.

I also acknowledge question's of following orders of superiors is a particularly difficult issue when considering people involved in the militiary; as the army works on obeying orders. And I can see especially when working in a position of trust that one can endanger others lives by indescriminately compromising such a position.

Like Kurt suggested, my understanding of your constitution is neglible as we do not operate under this system. However, putting the constitution aside, does a person have the right/obligation to act if they believe the law or person/s in authority are acting in a way which is morally or ethically inappropriate? - even in the army or intelligence?

I would say yes but only if the defying of authority is for the greater good of all. I respect appealing to a higher lawful authority as one would naturally consider, but also acknowledge in some cases a higher authority is not always accessible, especially a nuetral one.

In the case of Snowden I do not think his private judgement of what is right or wrong will rule the day, as with most whistleblowers or people who for personal convictions refuse to obey laws, the testing will be whether what he has revealed about the NSA is considered by the majority of people in the US and abroad as them undertaking a breach of the right/ethical/moral treatment of people, or whether it is considered by the majority as an unjustifiable act supported by a small faction of people with making incorrect assumptions.

Kurt, yes maybe a "little more than a tad". We here have inherited the English irony (ie: little Jim is likely to be a big man : ) ).

After hearing you two discuss your viewpoints and after talking to my brother who lived for a year in the states and said they didn't even dare mention politics, I think you could say left or right politically in NZ we would nearly all of us be considered politically central/middle if we resided in your country... No doubt there are many other differences such as our police not having guns ... or being a country weilding such a degree of international clout... so... I wish you both well in advocating for and acting upon, with reflection, consideration, and prayer the best course of action for your people. We downunder shall pray! - as for all nations.

Blessings Jean