Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Privatization and the Snowden affair

With all the talk about Snowden, it's easy to lose sight of the real issue here --- the surveillance and collection of massive amounts of information on US citizens – from emails, to telephone calls, to videos, under the Prism program and other Fisa court orders.

As juicy to the media as the Snowden escape story, or his pole-dancing girlfriend  might be, his story is just a sideshow to the real debate his whistle-blowing has opened up around the government's violations of its own citizens constitutional rights vs. national security requirements.

The Guardian, which has done most of the heavy lifting and risk-taking (especially ace reporter Glenn Greenwald) on this story, is also doing some of the best analysis. An excellent piece by Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson appears in today's Guardian ("The NSA's metastasised intelligence-industrial complex is ripe for abuse"). You might remember them from Plamgate, where CIA Operations Officer Plame had her identity leaked by conservative journalist Robert Novack and State Dept. official Richard Armitage as payback for her husband's role in debunking the WMDs rationale for the invasion of Iraq.

Plame and Wilson make an interesting assessment of the trend towards privatization and government sub-contracting of its most essential public-sector functions, ie. security and education.
The roots of this trend go back at least as far as the Reagan era, when the political right became obsessed with limiting government and denigrating those who worked for the public sector. It began a wave of privatization – because everything was held to be more "cost-efficient" when done by the private sector – and that only deepened with the political polarization following the election of 2000. As it turns out, the promises of cheaper, more efficient services were hollow, but inertia carried the day.

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