Larry Flynt

Archive for July, 2013

Hands Off Social Security

Monday, July 29th, 2013

larry-flyntFor those of us who took President Obama’s pledges of “hope” and “change” seriously, his administration has been a disappointment. But few of his concessions have been as painful as his recent budget proposal to cut Social Security benefits by lowering cost-of-living adjustments. The new measure—dubbed the Chained Consumer Price Index—would hit the most vulnerable people in the country, our seniors. The ranks of the retired have paid into the system their whole lives. Shafting them now is wrong.

Obama’s bad call makes him the first President to propose cutting Social Security benefits to seniors since the program was founded in 1935. Not even Republican Presidents have gone that far. The Social Security Act was a direct response to the disproportionate suffering of seniors and the disabled during the Great Depression. It is one of the greatest milestones to progress. We, as a society, recognized that the weaker among us should not be abandoned, that we have a responsibility to take care of them. That responsibility is not up for negotiation. Contrary to the hard right’s propaganda, Social Security is not socialism. It is a common-sense, capitalist strategy: Keep the entire population financially stable, and you keep the economy strong.

It is true that the population is getting older, and the economic burden is growing. However, the solution is not to cut benefits but to increase revenue. If the wealth class in this country were taxed fairly, the government’s budget problems would disappear. Let’s hope that by the time you read this, President Obama will have come to his senses and taken Social Security off the table for good.

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Deadly Cycle

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

HOW VIOLENCE THRIVES IN THE MIDDLE EAST

by Simone Wilson, reporting from Israel and Gaza

It’s one of the world’s most elusive holy grails: lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. From a distance the conflict seems absurd. But for the people who live it day to day, the reasons are as real as life and death. As deadly exchanges again flare up, our reporter explores why the emotional wounds on both sides refuse to heal.

The bombs over the Gaza Strip—a small stretch of Mediterranean scrubland along the western coast of Israel, about one-third the size of Los Angeles—often seem to materialize from thin air. In seconds an Israeli F-16 has swooped down over its target, let go its missile with a gut-splitting noise and opened up the earth below into a thunderous well of smoke, flames and flying concrete. After the boom, it takes the people on the ground a few moments to realize if they’re dead or alive—if the guy who was sitting next to them is now on the floor with a shard of glass through his skull, or if the sounds of bloody hysteria are coming from farther off, somewhere across war-torn Gaza City.

“It’s like you’re dying in every second,” says Khader al- Kurdi. The 21-year-old college student has lived through four wars and many more small conflicts, the most recent of which stretched over one week in November 2012, leaving over 150 Gazans lifeless under the rubble. But the worst of the violence, recalls al-Kurdi, came in the winter of 2008 when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead. Tanks and soldiers roved the streets and F-16s bombed from above, killing about 1,400 Gazans in three weeks of fighting. The experience “charged me with hate toward Israel,” says al-Kurdi.

RECURRING NIGHTMARE
Just a few miles off, in southern Israeli towns such as Sderot and the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council (a collection of liberal farming communes called kibbutzim), civilians have 15 to 45 seconds to find a bomb shelter at the first scream of an air-raid siren.

As residents brace for one of Gaza’s homemade Qassam rockets to hit, these slow-motion moments of pain anticipation are their own special brand of torture. “When there’s an alarm, and all the kids are outside, they’re running just like ants,” says a sixth-grade teacher at Sha’ar Hanegev Elementary School. “In a few seconds the field is empty. It’s like a trigger. They’re all programmed to be playing and happy and dancing and skipping, and within one second they switch into emergency mode.”

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) estimates that Hamas—the U.S.- classified terrorist organization that rules Gaza—has hurled more than 8,000 rockets over the fence since Hamas took power in 2006, killing 60 and injuring hundreds more.

If a rocket isn’t intercepted by the IDF’s advanced “Iron Dome” airdefense system before coming to earth, its random trajectory ensures that no space is safe and no mind at ease. Windows explode, homes shake on their foundations, and shrapnel zings across the gardens of Sha’ar Hanegev’s many kibbutzim. “It looks like a big arrow with fire, and when it bombs, it blocks your ears,” says Gal, an 11-year-old student at Sha’ar Hanegev Elementary who recently saw a rocket fall in his grandma’s front yard. A rocket killed a young boy in the back of a Sha’ar Hanegev school bus in April 2011; and another killed community hero Jimmy Kdoshim, a father of three who was known to drop lollipops to local kids as he flew over the farmland on his parachute.

The children of Sderot and Sha’ar Hanegev have heard stories about terrorists getting loose from Gaza on foot too. “I have a recurring nightmare that a man in a keffiyeh [Arab headdress] breaks into the window and shoots me,” says Eliav, 11.

ULTIMATE ROADBLOCK
Kids on both sides, when instructed by their parents and headmasters to sit straight in their chairs and speak with the nice American journalist, recite that they don’t hate the people on the other side of the wall and that they only want peace. But it’s apparent that their mistrust for each other runs deep.

“We educate for peace and mediation and coexistence,” says Sha’ar Hanegev principal Anat Regev. “But here it’s not so simple because they were born into this situation. They’ve been bombed all the time. You cannot take it for granted that they will want peace.”

Yael Tzalka, an American teaching volunteer at a junior high in Rishon LeZion—which a Hamas rocket narrowly missed in November 2012—observes that “a lot of these kids are liberalminded but really fed up at the same time…. Some of them end up being like, ‘Just kill them all.’ They’re like, ‘Why do we have to go through terrorism?'”

A recent study showed that almost 45% of seventh- and eighth-graders in the Israeli border town of Sderot show signs of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the constant threat of rockets. And in Gaza, researchers say the PTSD rate has shot up to almost 70% among high-school students who live in the region’s heavily bombed refugee camps.

Eyad El-Sarraj, one of Gaza’s most respected scholars and doctors, has described this endless cycle of psychological trauma as the ultimate roadblock to peace. After Operation Cast Lead he noted in a New York Times op-ed that “Palestinian children in the first intifadah [uprising] 20 years ago threw stones at Israeli tanks trying to wrest freedom from Israeli military occupation. Some of those children grew up to become suicide bombers in the second intifadah ten years later.” El-Sarraj added, “It does not take much to imagine the serious changes that will befall today’s children.”

ANGRIER GENERATION
Although they have likewise seen unthinkable war atrocities in their day, most elderly residents of Gaza and Israel—and those in the larger Palestinian West Bank—at least have a firsthand understanding of the enemy. They remember a time when Israelis and Palestinians worked alongside each other in factories, when they shook each other’s hands to close business deals, when a one-state solution didn’t sound like an absurd joke.

“We want to live in peace,” insists Gaza City resident Majed al-Kurdi, 49. “I want my son to be able to live, to work, to visit America and visit Israel.”

But his eldest son interjects. “No, I don’t want to,” says Khader. “He wants. I don’t. How can the place who stole your land give you peace? I don’t know how.”

With a few exceptions, historians and older residents in Israel and the two Palestinian territories agree that the younger generations are getting angrier—and, in effect, taking a more conservative attitude toward the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The wounds of Operation Cast Lead had hardly healed in Gaza—its children were still mourning their classmates, still playing in the rubble of bombed-out skeleton buildings—when Israel decided to “mow the lawn,” as conservatives have dubbed it, again in November 2012. (According to the IDF, the attack was in response to 100 Hamas rockets aimed at southern Israel over a 24-hour period.)

“I hate them,” says Ariel, an 11-year-old Israeli girl whose hometown of Be’er Sheva came under attack during the conflict. She compares the feeling of watching Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jabari get blown up by an Israeli missile to the joy that Hansel and Gretel felt upon pushing the witch into the oven.

Adel, a clean-cut ten-year-old walking the streets of Gaza City, says he was friends with the al-Dalou family, who lost 11 members—including four children—when their home was turned into a massive crater by Israel during the 2012 operation. Asked if he could say one thing to the Israelis, Adel crosses his arms and declares, “I want to fight you.”

RIPPED TO SHREDS
Oftentimes the only interactions between Israeli and Palestinian youth are angry, impersonal exchanges over the Internet—where one’s humanity is reduced to a profile pic. “On social networks such as Facebook and YouTube, [Israelis] share their bad opinions, and I can read it and feel how they feel about us,” says Khader al-Kurdi.

In December 2012, when a young Israeli woman serving her mandatory time in the IDF shot Mohammed Salima at a checkpoint in the West Bank after the 17-year-old allegedly pulled a toy gun on a fellow border policeman, Palestinians and their supporters ripped her to shreds on the Internet. They passed around a link to her reported Facebook profile—which, like those of most women her age, was filled with duck faces and bikini shots—and labeled her a “terrorist,” “bitch,” “Zionist whore” and “child killer.”

Just days after the cease-fire, at a bar in Tel Aviv (Israel’s secondlargest and most modern city), a charismatic twentysomething wearing lit-up devil horns starts spitting Arabic like a party trick. His friends and observers snicker, calling it the “nigger language.” Probe another partygoer about the Gazan children who died during the 2012 conflict, and he’ll tell you that while they may look cute, in the end they’re just “suicide bombers in training.”

Over tea and coffee at her family’s home in Gaza City, 18-year-old Samar al-Kurdi—whose baby cousin was fatally crushed during Operation Cast Lead—asks, “How can I have an Israeli friend if the people in Israel hate the Palestinians?” Her little brother begins dancing around in the driveway, singing a popular new song from Egypt called “I Love Israel.” The ironically titled tune plots out various ways to destroy the land of the Jews—such as pouring gasoline on it or hanging it from a noose.

NATIONALISTIC EDUCATION
Psychologists have found that those exposed to war traumas often resort to simple, good-guy-bad-guy storytelling to make themselves feel better. “When you are being attacked, the main challenge of society is to cope with the situation,” says Dr. Eran Halperin, an Israeli professor who studies the causes of political extremism. “And the ultimate way to cope with the situation is to create a very, very clear and one-sided story to justify the fact that we have to be in this situation.”

Dr. Rony Berger, another Israeli psychologist, adds that “people exposed to trauma and who develop PTSD are more likely to adopt anti-democratic extreme measures against anybody that is not like themselves.”

In the case of Israel and the Palestinian territories, experts say that the two populations’ lack of exposure to one another, combined with societal influences like war propaganda and a nationalistic K-12 education, is contributing to each side’s increasingly us-versus-them mentality.

“Education in Israel today is very far from a peace-loving education,” says Mordechai Bar-On, an Israeli historian who once served as chief education officer for the IDF. “Even if it’s not extremely right-wing, which it sometimes is, even the normal schooling system is overtly nationalistic and overtly pessimistic.”

The mandatory draft for all Israeli men and women over 18 may serve to strengthen this early surge of patriotism, breeding a country of hardened soldiers. “For the majority of the people, after being exposed to the typical Israeli education, military service has a negative impact,” Bar-On explains. “It tends to fortify your patriotism— your belief that only a strong hand can solve your problems, that you have to defend yourself, that the Arabs are no good, that the Arabs are primitive people, etc.”

Nir, a 24-year-old student in Be’er Sheva, attests that after serving in the IDF, he became more supportive of the Israeli government. “When you are serving, you see things differently than when you are a civilian,” he asserts. During his time as a guard in the West Bank, Nir says he heard crazy stories about Palestinian extremists from fellow soldiers and saw that they weren’t going to give up until they took back Israel from the Jews.

STATE OF TRAUMA
The education system in Gaza is likewise getting a heavy dose of Islamist extremism under Hamas rule. And there are many to influence: Over half the population of Gaza is under the age of 15.

German TV journalist Richard Schneider, who has done extensive reporting in the Palestinian territories, says that at a recent Hamas rally he witnessed some supporters “take their children, put plastic guns in their arms, give them plastic suicide belts, call them shaheeds and everything’s wonderful. Many of the kids are educated that this is something good.”

Yusef—a cherubic Gazan five-year-old in a shirt that reads, “Experts agree that you are an IDIOT”—pokes his head out from behind his father and pretends to fire his toy machine gun at the visiting American. His family says he became so frightened during the recent conflict that he would sob during the night and had to sleep in his parents’ bed.

“If they keep on fighting us, I am going to let Yusef fire rockets toward them,” says his father, Shaban al-Kurdi.

Whereas Israel has the resources and priorities to patch up rocket damage as quickly as it appears, Gaza’s wounds have been left to flap in the wind. Little reminders of the occupier’s wrath pop up everywhere: empty window frames whose glass was blown out by an F-16; daily power outages resulting from both war damage and the blockade of natural resources; a little girl’s Mary Janes poking from the rubble of her family home.

Mohamed, another member of the al-Kurdi family, says that two of his friends from school, along with his Arabic teacher, were killed in the most recent Israeli bombings. “They didn’t do any bad things to make Israel kill them,” the 16-year-old says, his knee jiggling compulsively. He seems especially upset about the bombing of Gaza’s central soccer stadium, a popular spot for games and concerts that Israel claimed was being used as a launching point for Hamas rockets.

So Mohamed was proud when the rockets finally hit Tel Aviv—a record distance for Hamas—in November 2012. In an assignment for his English class, he wrote: “For the first time in war history, the resistance shelled the capital of Israel, Tel Aviv city, and Israelis escape to shelter like mouse.”

Psychologists say that strong feelings of hatred and aggression— of grouping the other side into one big evil entity as a defense mechanism—spike during wartime, when fear and trauma run high.

During the November violence, Gaza freelancer Wasseem El-Sarraj—the son of Dr. Eyad El-Serraj—documented his own hardening to peace in the pages of The New Yorker. “It’s my first harb (war), and it has stirred in me feelings that I had tried hard to suppress,” wrote the journalist. “I never wanted to see Israel as an evil force. I said to myself that that sort of thinking, that sort of emotion, would not be helpful, would not be constructive, would not be ‘me.’ I had wanted to work with Israelis; to reconcile, I suppose. After four years of living in Gaza, this has become an untenable position for me.”


Pope Francis

Monday, July 15th, 2013

With the mainstream media hailing the new pope as a cuddly, squeaky-clean messiah for the shamed and shit-stained Catholic Church, it looks like it’s up to HUSTLER—and a few diligent historians—to do the journalistic dirty work. Formerly known as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio from Argentina, the new human hotline to heaven may have dropped his old moniker, but he still has some serious historical baggage. The closer you look, the more this papal savior resembles Pontius Pilate.

During his country’s military dictatorship and its “Dirty War” of the 1970s, when scores of resisters were killed or disappeared, Bergoglio honed his reputation as a guy who would gladly bend over for any junta that came along. After all, complying with dictatorships and fascism is a deep-seated tradition in the Catholic Church.

As local head of the Jesuit order at the time, Bergoglio stripped two priests— Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics—of their official functions, withdrawing the protections provided by the church. The priests were involved in helping the poor, an activity that smelled to the junta’s jackboots a lot like Peron ism. Anything Juan Perón and his wife Eva fought for—like democracy, trade unions and care for the underprivileged—was a scourge to the new regime. How dare Jesuit priests follow their vow of charity when they should be rimjobbing the new Butchers of Buenos Aires?

No sooner had Bergoglio made the priests unfair game than they were grabbed by paramilitary thugs and delivered to the torture chambers of the notorious detention camp Escuela Mecánica de la Armada, or ESMA. Later, when people started asking questions, the priests turned up drugged and naked in a field outside Buenos Aires. Yorio later testified that “Bergoglio never warned us. It was him who provided our names to the military.” The future pontiff, they charged, even lied to the priests’ families about their fate.

As if that weren’t disturbing enough, Bergoglio dutifully looked the other way while newborn babies were stolen from detainees and given to regime-friendly families. He claimed he didn’t know it was going on, but witnesses under oath swore otherwise.

Bergoglio has consistently invoked privilege and dodged questions about his complicity with the deadly regime that ruled Argentina until 1983. The Catholic Church, of course, denigrates the accusations as the usual anticlerical attacks. Anybody see a pattern here? People accuse the Catholic Church of disgusting deeds; the church denies everything; then it all turns out to be true.

The unsurprising revelations that the Catholic Church turns out to be rife with proven pedophile perverts is by far the Vatican’s biggest bummer these days. It tends to put a damper on parents handing their sons over for altar-boy duty when the job likely involves sucking off Father O’Diddley.

Witness the Grassi affair. Father Julio César Grassi was a priest in Buenos Aires who founded a charity called Happy Children. Creepy already, right? Turns out, the charity was his personal groping pen. Bergoglio and Grassi were bosom buddies, so the future pope vouched for him even though Grassi was a convicted child molester!

Pope Francis, whose name supposedly comes from St. Francis of Assisi (we suspect it was actually borrowed from Francis the Talking Mule) is obviously the clean-up guy whose job is to sweep the whole nasty childrape chapter under the chapel carpet. In full bury-the-bodies mode, the Vatican is loudly proclaiming that “what is important is what the Holy Father does now.”

What Bergoglio promptly did upon nailing the papacy was to get in some prayer time at the basilica where Cardinal Bernard Law happens to reside. Law is the arch – bishop emeritus of Boston, who fled to Rome ten years ago when his shitty practice of protecting child molesting priests hit the big fan. The archdiocese left behind by Dirty Uncle Bernie has since paid out over $100 million in settlements to victims.

Francis, of course, gave the old prick a big papal hug, something advocates for survivors of priestly abuse called “extraordinarily hurtful.” Sure, but ain’t that a Catholic Church specialty? First Grassi, now Law. Makes you wonder just how many pervert pals the freshman pope has.

Despite the humanitarian hype around Francis, his cultural attitudes are still stuck in the days of the Inquisition. When Argentina’s president pushed for a gay-marriage bill, Francis bayed that it was “a destructive attack on God’s plan” and “the devil’s work.” As for the pro-choice movement, it’s an insidious “culture of death.” Let’s be honest. Francis the Mule would never have become pope if he had any intention of rattling the church’s entrenched dogma about women, gays or anything involving penises entering anything (other than children).

Some pope-watchers do, however, speculate that Francis could soften up one bit of traditionally Viagra-hard dogma, namely the church’s old condom phobia—probably under pressure from the mass of fornicating padres. He’s even said the celibacy rule isn’t a matter of faith and “can change.” Time to bust out the blessed ultra-thins!

Ultimately, whatever good Francis might do, he is still the head of the world’s most relentlessly evil institution. The Catholic Church’s extended, Satanic history of corruption, torture, greed and perversity has caused so much misery and harm, it’s going to take more than one old coot in slippers to turn it around. The only pope we’d hail would be the last one. So our appeal to Pope Francis is this: Admit to the world that catholicism was a sick prank that’s gone on way too long and just shut the whole thing down. Sure, you’ll go to hell, but admit it: You were on your way there anyway.


Bold Move

Monday, July 8th, 2013

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016, MAVERICK REPUBLICAN RAND PAUL AMPS UP HIS DEFENSE OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS.

by Nat Hentoff

Impressed by his insistent, often-solitary championing of civil liberties in the U.S. Senate, I twice wrote that Rand Paul should be our next President. But at that time I knew it was just a pipe dream because the Republican’s national name recognition was so low. Now, thanks to his filibuster during the Senate’s ultimate confirmation of John Brennan as CIA director, Paul has become a viable 2016 candidate. Even more surprising, Kentucky’s junior senator barely uttered a word about Brennan throughout the electric 13 hours he spent addressing his fellow lawmakers on March 6, 2013.

Two days later this new media phenomenon made his goal much clearer in a Washington Post op-ed titled “My filibuster was just the beginning.”

For years I’ve been complaining in HUSTLER about the apathy of Congress and much of the country with regard to how the Bush-Cheney regime and then Obama’s formulated their own rules of law against terrorism. That’s why Rand Paul “wanted to sound an alarm bell from coast to coast. I wanted everybody to know that our Constitution is precious and that”—dig this, fellow citizens—“ no American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime. As Americans, we have fought long and hard for the Bill of Rights. The idea that no person shall be held without due process, and that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted, is a founding American principle and a basic right.”

I’ve been writing again and again that, as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison warned, only We the People can protect our individual liberties under the Bill of Rights. Rand Paul began to do it nationally overnight.

Undoubtedly stung by the enthusiastic approval of Paul’s filibuster on Capitol Hill and around the country, Attorney General Eric Holder sent Paul a terse letter that made the libertarian senator believe his hoisting of the Bill of Rights had been successful up to a point: “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil? The answer to that question is no.”

But Paul is far from silenced. In his op-ed, he added that “my filibuster was the beginning of the fight to restore a healthy balance of powers. …The Constitution’s Fifth Amendment [granting due process and other protections] applies to all Americans; there are no exceptions.”

Besides celebrating that “millions have followed this debate on TV, Twitter and Facebook,” Paul went on to say that “I hope my efforts help spur a national debate about the limits of executive power and the scope of every American’s natural right to be free. … I believe the support I received this past week shows that Americans are looking for someone to really stand up and fight for them. And I’m prepared to do just that.”

The longer-range significance of Senator Paul’s 13-hour fire alarm is that more of us who do not call ourselves libertarians—or even know what the term means—have been jolted out of the conditioning of Bush- Cheney and Obama’s “new normal” that has increasingly abolished personal privacy. Nevertheless, Americans reelected a President who insists he can order the military to imprison Americans right here in the Land of the Free without habeas-corpus rights for supposedly being “involved” or vaguely “supportive” of terrorism.

After years and years of what Justice William Brennan once told me—“The Bill of Rights never gets off the page and into the lives of most Americans”—Rand Paul has spurred numerous citizens to openly criticize the government’s attacks on our basic liberties.

Exemplifying Americans’ anger is Rita Lasar, whose letter was printed in the New York Times on March 11, 2013: “The idea that any President can kill an American citizen without a trial is abhorrent and frankly scares me more than any act of any ‘terrorist.’”

Although Attorney General Holder assures us this is no longer possible on U.S. soil, smashing the “new normal” hinges on knowing that the assurances of recent Presidents and their minions have been plain crap. So Rand Paul’s Presidential aspirations, while buoyed by his filibuster, will be fruitless if his fellow Americans don’t reeducate themselves on what’s guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. It’s up to us.


Kiss Your Privacy Goodbye

Monday, July 1st, 2013

THE FOURTH AMENDMENT IS BEING RIPPED TO SHREDS BY WALL STREET MERGERS, UNCLE SAM’S WAR ON TERROR AND THE HIGHEST COURT IN THE LAND.

by Robert Scheer

Ever read the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? Probably not, or you—like most Americans—would not be so accepting of its demise as a pillar of the freedoms guaranteed to us by the Bill of Rights. The Fourth is the one that guarantees “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. …”

As the wording of the amendment clearly states, it’s not just your home that is your castle. Dating back to the late 12th century, when English common law was first taking shape, this principle granted a person sovereignty over his space even if a tyrannical monarch was sitting on the throne. The Fourth Amendment goes further than that, extending your sovereignty over “houses, papers, and effects.” So even when you are traveling beyond the confines of your domicile, your fundamental right to a private space is protected.

That space can only be invaded by agents of the state under the Fourth Amendment’s narrowly prescribed parameters: “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.”

How much clearer could the framers of our Constitution have made it? They knew exactly the dangers they were describing: agents, acting on behalf of King George III, who would conduct general sweeps through the homes of rebellious colonists as a means of enforcing blind obedience and squelching any rumblings of revolution. Privacy of home and thought was not some perk of leisure to the founders but rather the bedrock on which free citizens could stand.

Better tell that to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has defended the increasingly widespread use of drones to spy on every second of our most personal activity. Easy for Bloomberg. As one of the country’s richest men, he can no doubt find heavily guarded sanctuaries to provide him with virtually impenetrable privacy. His advice to the rest of us on his weekly radio show was that privacy is doomed: “You can’t keep the tides from coming in. We’re gonna have more visibility and less privacy. I don’t see how you stop that.”

What a cop-out to liken calculated assaults by state and private snoopers on our most intimate affairs to the natural rise and fall of sea levels dictated by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun along with Earth’s rotation. Snooping is dictated by the eagerness of snoopers, official or private, and their unconstitutional antics can be banned as a matter of law. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

For example, back in 1999, Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, permitting insurance companies, investment houses and commercial banks to merge. At the time, privacy advocates pointed out that this would permit the consolidation of massive medical and financial databases. They called for a statutory requirement that an individual’s records could not be shared without their express consent. Under pressure from the banking lobbyists eager to exploit this new trove of personal information, Congress rejected that safeguard. What should be confidential is now public.

Unfortunately, in 2001 that assault on our privacy rights was followed by the so-called War on Terror in response to the 9/11 attacks. The pretext of fighting foreign enemies has led to a massive expansion of warrantless surveillance of our phone calls and emails without any of the safeguards enshrined in our Constitution.

Earlier this year the Supreme Court threw out a challenge to this surveillance on the grounds that since it is secret, we citizens have no basis for claiming we are being spied on even though the government concedes it is doing just that.

So much for the Fourth Amendment and your privacy rights.


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