Thursday, May 11, 2006

No Hep Spat

It's an anagram. Paranoid? Who, me?

I been Mick Jaggered, silver daggered.
Andy Warhol, won’t you please come home?
I been mothered, fathered, aunt and uncled,
Been Roy Haleed and Art Garfunkeled.
And I just discovered somebody’s tapped my phone.
-- Paul Simon, "A Simple Desultory Phillipic"

I love our government. It's the best government on earth. I wouldn't ever do anything to criticize it.

So I'm just noting that this happened:

"The Republican chair of a key Senate committee said Thursday he would require phone company officials to testify after a newspaper reported that the U.S. agency in charge of a domestic spying program is building a database of every call made within the country."

It's all part of national security, and I feel very secure. And it only concerns those with suspected links to terrorism. Which is apparently all of us. For the record, for anyone listening, I hate terrorists, and I love the U.S. of A. I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free. And I'll start listening to Toby Keith real soon now. I promise.


jackscrow said...

6 degrees. everybody knows someone who, etc....

With me it's a guy i used to be in a band with who is the nephew of the guy who spent 7 years in fed.pen for keeping books for that east coast gang, the Pagans.

That guy knew a guy in Jersey who supplied pot to the guy in Connecticut who also worked for the Pagans and ran most of the ho's on the east coast.

The guy who ran the ho's knew a guy in Detroit who the Pagans used when they “needed some guy from out of town”.

The guy “from out of town” knew another guy who had an “in” with a Canadian who smuggled Afgan smack that came thru LA on a freighter from Thailand.

That guy knew a guy from Cleveland who went to college in Buffalo with my girlfriend.

My girlfriend and I saw a John Prine concert not too long ago.

Everybody knows John Prine is Un-American.

yeah, I know. that’s 7 degrees. don’t worry. the NSA will keep track.

The only thing about this post that gives Andy any hope at all is that I won’t have access to computers at “The Camp”.

jackscrow said...

Oops, I think that's eight degrees, counting the girlfriend.

Nine, if you count John Prine.

Andy Whitman said...

I'm sorry if I seem a little bent out of shape. It's only because I am. The spin control has already begun:

"We are not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans," President Bush said."

So since the goal is to track every single phone call of every American, and since innocent Americans are apparently not involved, what does that mean? That we're all, every one of us, guilty Americans?

I have watched, with increasing fascination and horror, the ongoing dismantling of the English language during the current admnistration.

It started with the use of the term "Just War" before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. "Just War" is a time-hallowed term that has a very specific meaning in Christian theological circles. The term was originally formulated by Augustine in the 4th century, and he outlined very specific criteria that must be met before a war can be considered "Just." Other theological thinkers, most notably Martin Luther and John Calvin, have expanded on the concept, but the basic criteria have not changed, and they include a) defensive war (i.e., pre-emptive strikes are precluded), b) last resort (all other means have been exhausted), and c) noncombatant immunity (which not only excludes civilians as military targets, but which holds governments responsible if they die "inadvertently"). And yet the Bush administration routinely called the invasion of Iraq, a "Just War," and actually got some religious shills who are are in bed with the Republicans like James Dobson and Chuck Colson to go along with the charade.

Then we had the infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech three years ago. Pay no attention to the thousands of soldiers and civilians still fighting and dying in Iraq. We're done. The mission has been accomplished.

And now, today, we have the mind-boggling assertion that although every single phone call of every single American is being tracked, no innocent Americans are affected.

Sorry to keep hearkening back to T-Bone Burnett, but his words sound more prophetic than ever today:

If we were to cast an eleventh commandment
In twenty years people would be amazed to learn
That there had once been only ten
And wouldn't care if there had been.
-- T Bone Burnett, "Every Time I Feel the Shift"

Truth is whatever the government declares it to be. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. That's George Orwell, by the way, from 1984. Every war that we fight is a just war, and we've already won the latest just war (never mind those body bags), and we're going to track every phone call you make, and no innocent Americans will be affected. Forget those silly logic classes you took in college. Why? Because we say so.

jackscrow said...

See you at the "Facility", Andy.

Anonymous said...

uhm... "happens to" ?

Andy Whitman said...

Close. "Phone Taps."

Anonymous said...

a hen stop?

danthress said...

I voted for Kerry.

Andy, is this from the new Simon/Eno record? If so, how do you like it?

I don't have you pegged as an Eno man, but I may be wrong.

Andy Whitman said...

Dan, the quote is from a song on the Simon and Garfunkel album "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme" (1966). Prophetic, huh?

I like the new Simon/Eno album collaboration quite a bit. You can read my review at Or wait for the new issue of Paste.

Normally, I'm not a big Brian Eno fan, although I liked his collaborations with David Byrne (Talking Heads) in the early '80s very much. His production fits Simon's songs perfectly, though. It's really a wonderfully warm, open-hearted album, with lots of spiritual searching evident throughout. Who knew that Paul Simon would ever write a batch of songs about God and family? But he has.

Anonymous said...

andy and group:

since i work for a world database company, the ability of the government to acquire the storage to cronicle all the conversations is near impossible. i think they could get a large segment of which numbers are calling and receiving calls from eachother. that way they could theoretically mine the traffic and setup connection tables for potential terror links.

dont think i celebrate the government doing this. i think working on a exit strategy for iraq and afghanistan are more improtant than data mining for domestic terror links. also, i think that the whole issue has more to do with the appointment that bush made of hayden to head the cia from a nsa background. this reeks of a conflict of interest to me, but what do i know, i am just a scientific info. analyst.

here are some facts about the program from the governments web site. i can get the link if anyone likes...

"Under a contract with AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, the list is collected and analyzed through a program launched by the NSA after Sept. 11, 2001, that uses a technique known as data mining to detect patterns in seemingly random data. "

“FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978) does not prohibit the government from doing data mining,” as long as there are no “personal identifiers” such as names or street addresses included as part of the search.
And, as Judge Allan Kornblum, a U.S. District Court judge and one of FISA’s authors, told a Senate hearing recently, FISA does not override the president’s constitutional authority to spy on suspected international agents under executive order.
Such an executive order has been issued by every president since Jimmy Carter.
Indeed, going back even further, FDR spied on suspected saboteurs and spies, ignoring court rulings forbidding it.
Now FISA is being used to attack the NSA’s warrantless surveillance of suspected foreign terrorists, a program run by Hayden.

any thoughts,


Andy Whitman said...

Matt wrote, quoting a government web site:

“FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978) does not prohibit the government from doing data mining,” as long as there are no “personal identifiers” such as names or street addresses included as part of the search."

Names, addresses, social security numbers, financial records -- all can be very easily extrapolated by cross-comparing phone numbers to other databases. That information can be available in nanoseconds. Sorry if I'm not comforted by the fact that it's "only" phone numbers.

Up until yesterday we have been left with the explanation that the government only listened to calls with Al Qaeda suspects overseas. Now it turns out that the government is collecting records on untold numbers (but apparently millions) of domestic calls, for no clear purpose other than to detect patterns. This is known, in non-governmental obfuscatory terms, as lying. Or hiding the truth, if you prefer. Take your pick. So far, none of the sources that described this practice to USA Today has said these calls are being recorded, but it is a violation of individual privacy to have this information collected, especially when it is done without the knowledge of the public and a vote of authorization by Congress. As if this is not alarming enough, the USA Today source also stated that the goal was to build a database of *every* phone call made in the U.S.A. You had better believe that Big Brother is watching you. And I love Big Brother. Let me just state that for the official transcript. Am I being paranoid? Maybe. But I'm not betting on it. I'm serious. I love Big Brother. Big Brother is my friend.

I've talked to several folks in the last 24 hours who have advised me to take it down a notch and just trust the government. They're nice folks, and they mean well. This is a government, by the way, that has shown a penchant for secretive activity and that seems to have an aversion to the concept of accountability.

I am not a terrorist. But for all I know, my phone calls are being tracked. And if they're not being tracked now, then it's evident that they will be in the near future, because that's the goal. This angers me. It ought to anger every American. It's none of their damned business. By the way, I plan on calling my daughter at college tonight, BB. You can, and probably will verify that later, but I just thought I'd save you the trouble of checking up on me. So when you see 440-338-7543, that's me calling Emily, okay?. She's not a terrorist either.

I think it is extremely naive to think that the good ol' benevolent government won't go any farther than just collecting phone numbers. We are almost certainly on our way to a major constitutional confrontation on Fourth Amendment guarantees of unreasonable search and seizure. And that confrontation cannot come too soon, as far as I am concerned. And I hope that the much lauded "checks and balances" that have been built into the American government haven't been eroded to the point where they no longer matter, and I hope, before we turn into a police state, that the executive branch will be smacked down hard.

Do you ever get concerned by what the government isn't telling us? I do. We keep finding out new information all the time, none of it good. I can't and won't shut my eyes to this. It's despicable.

Anonymous said...


i know what you are saying and your concerns. i have them too and i am not trying to justify the governments abuse of authority in the name of the war on terror.

data mining would be convenient for adding context to phone numbers as you suggest. i dont think it good to blindly trust an entity of government and hopefully the checks and balances will be in place.

i do get concerned with what isnt said. unfortunately, as a scientist, i get to see what can be done in the name of science and the conspiracy theorist in me has a hayday.

one interesting feature of our current war is how distinct it is from wwII. for instance, the world conditions regarding the threat of germany and japan were such that the world united around the cause. pro-war pronponents will try to compare the two, but to think mein kampf was published in 1933 and the blitzkreig did not start in sept 39 is mindblowing.

i am very concerned that the programs that we are meant to trust today will be used to violate the 4th ammendment. sadly, i dont pray enough for divine intervention to influence our leaders who make policy decisions.

as i close this post, know that i trust you andy because i get to see you weekly and know your consistent behavior over the two years i have known you. as far as washington goes, i need to pray for the leaders who i dont know or see.


Andy Whitman said...

Matt, yes, praying for our leaders would be a good place to start. Can I do that right after I wring their necks?

I think you know this, but please be assured that my ire is not at all directed toward you.

Anonymous said...


i know that you are not mad at me. i appreciate your frank and honest writing style.

i have spoken to about a half dozen people who were adults during vietnam and about 3 or 4 who were adults during wwii and i get the idea that technology and desire for information dissemination is inversely proportional from wwii to now. today, many pro-gevernment types speak about how we need to protect information at war and why is the media breeching security. that is a good discussion topic, but one in which concerns me from both sides.

i am glad that i dont have the responsibility of being a member of congress, the presidents cabinet or a holder of a top secret security clearance. i jsut get to be matt, a believer in christ who tries to live in a world going to hell faster than we know it.

for all the conspiracy buffs out there or the government who is likely reading this... june 6th 2006 is a numerical 6-6-06 and this data point needs attention, not phone numbers...


Andy Whitman said...

"In Wartime, the Truth is so precious, she must be attended to by a bodyguard of lies."- Winston Churchill."

I'm not going to respond point by point by you, crosis, but I will say that I absolutely loathe this statement, certainly do not believe it, and profoundly pity and pray for the country that operates this way.

Anonymous said...

Hey Andy,
Remember, "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you."

A handy little phrase I often use with folks who seem to be dancing a little too close to the edge.

I am a firm believer in the entire Bill of Rights, and I believe it's good to question those instances where it appears that the government may be violating those rights.

At the same time, I also realize that we are at war, and, even though the casualties are nowhere near what we suffered in Viet Nam, this one is a far more serious threat to America and Americans, as well as the rest of the world, and any discussion or critique of policies promulgated to fight this war need to be viewed in this context. Keep in mind the mood of this country and its citizens in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Another incident even remotely as frightening as 9/11, and once again you will hear the loyal opposition wondering why we didn't know about it, that there was a failure of intelligence, and once again, it will be Bush's fault.

One final shot: Bush says the Democratic leadership in Congress knew about this latest revelation at the time it was implemented. While I've heard a lot of Democrats criticizing it, I haven't heard anyone denying the foreknowledge.

KarlandBethany said...

Well I pray that the Checks and Balances that we have in place are strong enough to keep things from getting out of hand. If not…

Excerpt from “The Declaration of Independence”
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. ……

I understand the need for intelligence. After 9-11 I sat down and realized that if someone wanted to they could blow up every bridge over 1-270. With the appropriate planning not get caught before they did it. (I have no need or want to do this just postulating what someone could do here in Columbus if they really wanted to.) I know that a rouge terrorist like Timothy McVey is the hardest to defend against as there isn’t a network of people to watch. With the very real threat that we have from al-quida, and other groups that hate Americans, the government agencies charged with protecting my drive to work have a tough job. Without spying on people there is little that can be done to protect us proactively. I don’t want our children to have mandatory military duty so that we can have a solder on each street corner with an M16 just incase someone walks up with a bomb in a backpack. I’d rather give up some of my privacy than have that happen.

Now does it suck that someone might hear Bethany tell me that she loves me and would like me to pick up a gallon of milk on the way home? Yeah but it also sucks that I have to wear flip-flops to the airport so that I can take of my shoes and walk through the metal detector. But I do it as I’d rather be unconvinced than on a plane destined for the front step of the white house.

My privacy is important until it comes to the safety of my family and friends. At that point I’ll give up something for the greater good.

Now I’m not saying that the government agencies are doing everything right. I know they aren’t. I know that someone out there will abuse the situation. We’ll hear down the road that someone took this data and used it for their own greedy purposes. I could have the same thing happen because I gave my visa number to someone over the phone yesterday too. That is the world we live in, it sucks as it’s not the Garden of Eden. We should do our best to keep abuses like this from happening. So our government agencies should be scrutinized with in regards to the use of the data they collect. But we shouldn’t cripple their ability to protect us just for our privacy.

I’m listening to Keith Green today and he reminds me that “The battle is already been won” with the Prince of darkness. As Christians this is our battle, Eph. 6:12-18 it’s not over governments, land or commodities but over the souls of those we can talk to everyday. Everything else is a side note, something we live with while we spread the word of God and bring others to a place where they can accept Christ.

With that said I’m going to make sure I don’t use the phone for my government conspiracy ramblings. I’ll just blog about them.


jackscrow said...

"In Wartime, the Truth is so precious, she must be attended to by a bodyguard of lies."- Winston Churchill."

By golly, that ranks right up there with "What you don't know won't hurt you."

There's a difference - some may not think so - between our government (military or civilian) operating in our "best interest" beyond our borders during either peace or war and the government spying on its own citizens within our borders and without probable cause.

Ooooh, and here I'm gonna get some flack:

It's about as Constitutional as "sobriety checkpoints".

Several similarities.

Funny how the same people who hate one can put up with the other.

Andy Whitman said...

Karl wrote:

"I’m listening to Keith Green today and he reminds me that “The battle is already been won” with the Prince of darkness. As Christians this is our battle, Eph. 6:12-18 it’s not over governments, land or commodities but over the souls of those we can talk to everyday. Everything else is a side note, something we live with while we spread the word of God and bring others to a place where they can accept Christ."

I appreciate your comments, Karl. I'm not willing to go as far as you're willing to go in sacrificing my privacy. In fact, as best I see it, one of the distinguishing marks, at least in the past, of the U.S.A. vs., say, the old Soviet Union, was our ability to live our lives without egregious government intrusion. I see this as less and less true almost every day. I'm not exactly sure what "the land of the free" really means if the KGB, I mean the NSA, is given carte blanche, and operates outside of the supposed checks and balances of the judicial and legislative branches of the government. And I don't think I want to know.

Re: the quote above, I'd say that you're setting up a dichotomy that doesn't need to be there. I don't think this is a "side show." As Christians, our witness should cut across party lines. Jesus was not a Republican or a Democrat, and neither should we pledge our allegiance to either party. However, that does not mean that a Christian worldview should not inform our view of politics. It must. I am criticising these policies not because I am a Democrat and can't stand George Bush, but because I actually take things like the Fourth Amendment seriously: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

I'd like to see that amendment upheld. Our country and government is based on it. And I also believe that there is something fundamentally Christian about that amendment. It says that people -- individuals -- are important, more important than governments and institutions, a view that I find consistently upheld in Scripture. It says that the government can't come along and seize my stuff, or search through my stuff. And my phone conversations are just as much a part of my private stuff as my home and my belongings.

I think we set a dangerous precedent if we acquiesce and just say, "Oh well, it's a time of war." It is precisely for these kinds of rights that this country was founded.

As Christians we can work for justice, not only among individuals, but within the society in which we live. I'd like to think that my ranting, small and ineffectual as it is, is a part of that. But I don't like what I see. And quite honestly, I'm unlikely to shut up about it.

danthress said...

"Why don't you teach us something we already know!" -one of my students last week

Karl, we voted out the check and balance system. We live in a dictatorship now.

"...praying for our leaders would be a good place to start. Can I do that right after I wring their necks?"

Yes, "ring" their necks, then pray for those of us who still believe in Bush's "christian" retoric.

Andy Whitman said...

crosis, to state what may be obvious, I'm writing about this now because it's happening now.

You list a litany of (debatable) government abuses in the past. But so what? The fact that there is a litany of past abuses doesn't change the fact that abuses are going on now. I can't undo the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. I was nine years old when the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed. Did I do anything about it? Nope. I was learning to write in cursive instead. But as I've gotten older and more aware, yes, I've been involved in protesting various government policies that I think are unjust. And those policies have cut across political parties.

You also seem to be missing the scope of the current efforts. It is the stated goal (at least according the USA Today article published yesterday) to track every single phone call made by every single American. This dwarfs any domestic spying arrangements that may have been going on in the time of J. Edgar Hoover, Kennedy, etc. because a) everyone is implicated, and b) the technology is such that the spying can be much more intrusive. It is simply not true that the level of government intrusion has always been what it is now (or at least what it has the potential to be).

Finally, I still hate that Churchill quote. It smacks of cynicism and it cheapens the value of human life -- every human life. I'm trying to follow a savior who left 99 sheep behind to find one that was lost. It's highly impractical and non-expedient, but there you go. I hope I don't lose that sense of idealism.

KarlandBethany said...


What if Crosis is right? What if our government has been eaves dropping on all of our calls for the last 50 years?


John McCollum said...

"A before we get all our panties in a bunch about body bags, and who is or isn't lying, try this one for size.

American Civl War= 58,000 Three Days, Battle of Gettysburg
World War Two= 5000+ American Soldiers Dead, 1 Hour, June 6th 1944
Vietnam Conflict= 58,000 Dead 12 years.
Iraq= 2400+ Dead 2+ years"


Appalling that we only count American deaths. As a Christian first and as an American second, I am as concerned with those killed BY my armed forces as those killed FROM my armed forces.

Shame on anyone who doesn't calculate their enemy's cost. To hell with anyone who doesn't count the lives of innocent non-combatants. "Whatever you've done to the least of these..."

Andy Whitman said...

Fred, yeah, Paul Simon is the real deal.

It is interesting to see the different perspectives people take toward music. There's a website ( that specializes in reviewing young, hip, indie bands and performers. They totally slagged Paul Simon's new album (which is great, by the way), its chief fault being that it wasn't made by a twenty-five-year-old hipster. I read the review, initially wanted to plant an old-school cream pie in the young pup reviewer's face, and then decided to wait to see what other publications would have to say. So Simon's album has received almost overwhelmingly positive reviews, and one snarky whine fest of a review. Pitchfork, your biases and stereotypes are showing. These things have a way of working themselves out, and the Pitchfork review sticks out like a sore thumb. Meanwhile, everybody else seems to have figured out that old farts can still make good music.
Eno is an old fart, too, but he contributes a lot to the album, and certainly helps to make it very, very listenable.