Class Warfare Blog

June 12, 2013

Selling Our Freedoms for Nothing?

In the current debate over the National Security Agency harvesting vast amounts of phone and Internet data on you and me the discussions have largely centered on the Fourth Amendment being trampled (it is) and on the potential abuse future politicians and bureaucrats might commit. Possibly the discussion will get around to the vaunted “oversight” by both Congressional committees and by the federal courts, both of which are jokes, but I want to bring up another point. A point that trumps all of the other points save the Constitutional one.

We are being told this is the cost of keeping us safe from terrorists. They might as well say from the boogeyman, but for now terrorists will do. Consider the following graphic:


If our goal is to prevent deaths, why are we spending millions of dollars per life threatened by terrorism but chump change for deaths from other threats? (We don’t know how much money is being spent to fight terror as that is secret, along with apparently everything else they are doing which means any bureaucrat who pulls back the curtain from the Great and Powerful Oz is being threatened with the Sedition Act).

Could it be that the power mongers in Washington, D.C. are just playing “the game” and it has nothing to do with “keeping us safe.” Could it be that we are losing our freedoms (the freedom from unreasonable search and seizure at this point), so these dickheads can play power games?

What if we were to take 90% of that money back and use it to feed and clothe and educate the poor? Would we not all be a great deal better off?



  1. There is some more fun statistics on what is more likely to kill you than a terrorist attack:
    Even the toddlers kill more people.

    Comment by List of X — June 12, 2013 @ 11:40 pm | Reply

    • Thanks. It is just ridiculous we are spending untold billions to undermine our democracy … ourselves. Bin Laden said that his goal was to bankrupt the U.S. I thought he meant financially but now I think he included morally and politically, too.

      Comment by stephenpruis — June 13, 2013 @ 8:55 am | Reply

  2. Saw a meme just yesterday that said (i’m guessing its correct) that more Americans have been killed by children with guns than by terrorists in the last 10 years.

    Comment by john zande — June 13, 2013 @ 8:43 am | Reply

    • You mean ?

      It is just ridiculous we are spending untold billions to undermine our democracy … ourselves. Bin Laden said that his goal was to bankrupt the U.S. I thought he meant financially but now I think he included morally and politically, too.

      Comment by stephenpruis — June 13, 2013 @ 8:54 am | Reply

      • That’s the one. I wanted to say toddlers, but i couldn’t remember if that was the word used.

        Peter Bergen put it in another way: last year 300 Americans drowned in their bathtubs… we don’t have an irrational fear of bathtubs.

        Comment by john zande — June 13, 2013 @ 8:59 am | Reply

        • The rational fear I have is these gonzos with big balls in Washington are burning huge amounts of our money to undermine our liberty for no good reason. Maybe the Tea Party got some of this right … naw!

          I saw a report from a Sao Paulo bar on San Antonio Spurs forward Tiago Splitter who is from there. Much excitement amongst the minor sport aficinados in the bar! I think you missed it.

          Comment by stephenpruis — June 13, 2013 @ 9:14 am | Reply

          • Got a link? This is basketball, right? It’s huge in the city i am (Sao Jose, north of horrible, ugly, awful SP) so he might be from here originally?

            Comment by john zande — June 13, 2013 @ 9:24 am | Reply

            • They implied he was from Sao Paulo, but didn’t say it explicitly. According to Wikipedia he was born in Blumenau, Santa Catarina, Brazil (have no idea where that is) but in 2004 became a naturalized citizen of Spain (traitor!). I don’t know whether you’all allow dual citizenship. But if SA wins, Splitter will be the first Brazillian born athlete on an NBA Championship team.

              I played center in college (at 6’3″ !) … I still have some bruises from then, I think.

              Comment by stephenpruis — June 13, 2013 @ 9:54 am | Reply

              • SC’s down in the south, big German population, so no, he’s not from here. Well, good for him… Now i have a team to cheer for!

                Hey, i saw some nasty weather is (was) heading your way. Do try and keep dry.

                Comment by john zande — June 13, 2013 @ 10:20 am | Reply

                • Well, they said tornados and baseball size hail (how do they size hail in other countries I wonder (here it is the “golf ball, tennis ball, baseball, softball” scale)) but we had a mild thunderstorm last night. Very disappointing! (Obviously we don’t park on the street, nor must we go out if we do not want to.)

                  Thanks for the concern.

                  Your friend in Chicago,


                  Comment by stephenpruis — June 13, 2013 @ 10:25 am | Reply

  3. “We don’t know how much money is being spent to fight terror as that is secret …”

    It would likely be an amount that would eliminate the national debt and keep Social Security and Medicare solvent into the 22nd century.

    Comment by lbwoodgate — June 13, 2013 @ 10:18 am | Reply

    • When you consider that the defense budget doubled under G. Bush and the NSA’s funding is almost entirely off the books, I think you are oh so right.


      Comment by stephenpruis — June 13, 2013 @ 10:22 am | Reply

  4. What a strange way of looking at it! How much is spent on measles vaccines? How many deaths from measles occur? What would happen if we stopped spending that money for that purpose? “Wouldn’t children be better served by having that money spent on education?” Come on.

    It would take one dirty bomb to even up that graph. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of money to stop it.

    While we’re on the subject of money: Were the 3,000 lives in one day (9-11) the only losses? We lost a ton of money that day! And in the years that followed, not including any money spent on going after the animals who attacked us. How much money would we lose if we stopped spending money on fighting terrorists? Hopefully we’ll never know.

    Comment by conservative2cents — June 13, 2013 @ 9:48 pm | Reply

    • So, could we stop a similar event today? And what is the real threat of a dirty bomb? Let’s just say a group of Saudi’s decided to fund the construction and implementation of a dirty bomb, deliver it here, and set it off. Could they do that without detection of who they were? Could not our response be something like bombing Mecca and Medina into slag? Could anybody capable of effecting such a plan be totally ignorant of the consequences?

      So, while you can imagine such a thing, is what we are doing necessary or even sufficient to stop it?

      Conservatives talk about using “business principles” in government. Can not we talk about the cost effectiveness of our “security” services or do they just get a blank check?

      Comment by stephenpruis — June 14, 2013 @ 8:28 am | Reply

      • Unfortunately, it’s necessary to keep secret how efficient these efforts actually are. Just knowing that a dirty bomb had been stopped would encourage others to try, try again. Have we stopped any? i don’t know. neither do you. And so, we may very well be wasting some money (it’s the government, after all).

        We don’t know in what ways how many plots have been thwarted. For me, it’s enough that a terrorist act didn’t happen today. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re doing something right.

        I agree with you that if it becomes clear that anti-terrorist activities constitute illegal search, they should end. Putting a price tag on it, however, is something I don’t think we should do.

        Comment by conservative2cents — June 14, 2013 @ 10:58 am | Reply

        • The comment “For me, it’s enough that a terrorist act didn’t happen today. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re doing something right.” is like the guy selling elephant repellent in New York City. There is no denying that it is effective because, well, “Do you see any elephants.”

          The essence of government *by* the people is that we need to know enough about our government to make good decisions about who is to lead, etc., etc. While I do not want names of government agents leaked or enough information leaked to identify them and put them in harms way, how harmful can the total budget of the NSA be? Or how harmful can a general accounting of “Terrorist Acts Twarted” be? The argument that we haven’t had a terrorist act today could be used to go back to pre-9-11 procedutres because, “See, they were working.” The difficulties are that our capapbilities are growing in leaps and bounds but our government’s capabilities are not. (Consider how many Senators skipped the NSA briefing last Friday.) The FISA courts seem to be rubber stamping courts but we really can’t tell because … their findings are secret.

          This is a complicated problem and I hope we all will stay engaged long enough to get some structural oversight that will be more satisfactory.

          Comment by stephenpruis — June 17, 2013 @ 8:06 am | Reply

          • With or without repellent, I think we both know there’s no elephant problem in NYC. I think we both know there is a terrorist problem, though, don’t we? I don’t think it’s merely coincidental that we’re spending money on it AND we haven’t had another 9-11 scale attack.

            Comment by conservative2cents — June 19, 2013 @ 6:57 am | Reply

            • It’s not the point, we had never had a 9-11 scale event before 9-11. The fact that we haven’t had one since doesn’t say much. All of the security money spent has been, presumably, on preventing smaller scale events. But when you give a government agency a blank check they will do all kinds of things that aren’t particularly cost effective (consider the behavior of the Pentagon overe the last 50 years). Are the Israelis more secure than we? Are the Swiss? What do they do? I don’t think it includes building giant data centers in Utah to store all of the communications data created in a nation of 300 million people.

              There is some cost to remaining free. Are we willing to pay it or are we just going bankrupt in a futile pursuit of absolute security?

              Comment by stephenpruis — June 19, 2013 @ 7:56 am | Reply

  5. Maybe the government is onto something they are not telling everyone else but still I don’t think the idea of PRISM can sell to any right thinking individual. Something is certainly not right

    Comment by makagutu — June 20, 2013 @ 6:18 am | Reply

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