I have to admit that I feel a great deal of unease sliding into 2015.
The fact that the Communications Decency Act was overturned on Constitutional grounds sent me on a 20 year misadventure in which I thought that Constitutional rights might matter. We can see now what their limits are.
The NSA operates a nationwide, domestic telecom metadata surveillance system without authorization from Congress. It's clearly unlawful, and that doesn't matter.
Its defenders claim loudly that it is lawful, and loudly attack anyone who knows better, while quietly telling the courts to not actually rule on the statutory question. They never intended to tell us about this program in the first place, and as this is supposed to be a Democracy, the telling us about it is a necessary part of making it lawful. But they didn't tell us, and now that its out anyway, they've been able to keep operating it regardless. Our authorization is obviously not required.
The NSA also monitored the content of all emails and text messages sent in the Salt Lake City area during 2002. Even the thin legal rationalizations propping up the meta-data program don't support that sort of surveillance system, so we don't talk about it.
If we can go on for year after year avoiding the question of what the law actually is, then in the end, the laws are irrelevant. They are an inconvenience to be navigated through artful spin. One might even find doing so to be sporting.
I had a brief moment of hope that the recent protests over the deaths of unarmed people at the hands of police would lead to a constructive dialog. Barack Obama finally seemed to be doing something that people put him in office to do. But, that possibility has now past. We've had two innocent officers murdered, and in response a host of guilty ones have literally turned their backs on Democracy.
That is our future. The police turning their backs on the people.
The police and the military are increasingly tribes of their own, separate from the rest of us, using THEIR monopoly on the use of force to negotiate with US for their interests, as it is in every failed state in the world. God forbid there are more attacks on the police - this could get much, much worse.
This year Congress will finally authorize the domestic surveillance program by law, making it a permanent fixture, and opening the door to the deployment of a similar meta-data collection infrastructure in the Internet. A record of every website you click on will be kept for 5 years, just in case you do something wrong, and we want to have a look at what you've been reading about.
The following year, we'll be asked to choose whether we want Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton to be the next President of the United States, the most authoritarian pair of choices this country has ever seen. Neither will have a problem with selling more armor to the local governments. Neither is going to ratchet down the drug war. Neither will oppose secret domestic surveillance programs. Neither will do anything to contain the influence of special interests. Neither will do things to promote innovation. Both are very likely to involve the country in wars, and with gas prices dropping through the floor, there are going to be plenty of states out there with their backs against the wall - dry powder that could rapidly ignite.
We seem to be at the beginning of a dark time.