“Constitution-Free” Zones.

Since taking office, the orange dicKKKtator has done his best to subvert the Constitution in a myriad of ways. He has banned Muslims from entering our country. He has suspended the rights to asylum to thousands of Central American refugees. He has denied constitutional protections to immigrants by separating children from parents and holding them in overcrowded cages. He has emboldened white supremacists and neo-Nazis to attack people of color and non-Christians. He has encouraged ICE to break down doors to remove long-time residents from our nation. He has threatened his political opponents. And he encouraged and enabled Russians to interfere in our elections on his behalf.

All of those things are not only inhumane. They are unconstitutional. But in large portions of the US, the constitutional rights were suspended long ago.

In 1953 (at the height of the red scare), the US Department of Justice expanded the nation’s borders to include a 100-mile perimeter surrounding the entire nation. And at least two federal courts have permitted Border Patrol operations outside the 100-mile zone. In doing so, they have essentially weakened the protections of the Bill of Rights and the 4th Amendment for nearly two-thirds of our nation’s population, giving Customs and Border Patrol the power to stop citizens; to interrogate them; to search their vehicles and possessions; to rifle through their phones and computers; to read emails and text messages; to listen to voicemails; to sort through contacts.

Even though Border Patrol agents cannot legally pull over anyone without “reasonable suspicion,” in practice, they routinely ignore the limits of their authority. They are more than willing to detain and search you if they think you’re driving the wrong kind of vehicle, if they don’t like the way you look, if you look nervous or if you say the wrong thing.

And the agents don’t just operate on our southern border, setting up checkpoints and forcing local ranchers and workers to pull over every time they pass by. Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont lie entirely or almost entirely within this area. In addition, 9 of the nation’s 10 largest cities lie within the 100-mile zone: Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego and San Jose.

The aggression of the Border Patrol and ICE with Trump at the helm has increased exponentially, creating the opportunity to collect information, even to detain and imprison innocent people. At the same time, technology has permitted the agencies to conduct even more intrusive surveillance through the use of cameras, drones, even facial recognition.

This is the Orwellian 1984 Big Brother on a massive scale that is prioritizing fear, Islamaphobia and racism over civil rights. Many have often worried that the government would become too powerful. But most felt secure in the belief that our leaders would exercise caution and respect our Constitution. After all, the nation’s leaders are elected by the people and for the people.

They didn’t foresee a narcissistic sociopath gaining power with the help of our nation’s greatest rival.

Further Disintegration Of Our National Media.

Nancy Grace’s recent interview with a father whose child had been reported missing was, in a word, disgraceful. By choosing to tell the father on-air that his child had been found demonstrated a lust for sensationalism and insensitivity that defies any journalistic standards. Worse, she first announced to the father that the child had been found not specifying that the child was alive. After what I’m sure seemed like an eternity to the father she then included the fact that the child is alive.

Upon learning of the child’s discovery, Grace should have cut to commercial and informed the father off the air. Instead, she went for the “big moment” – the sensational shot of the father’s on-air reaction…likely hoping that the father would confess to some sort of wrong-doing. Of course, anything is possible. It’s possible that the father conspired with his 12-year-old child to gain national attention. But it’s doubtful. After all, the police had already searched the house multiple times…at least once with dogs.

In any event, Grace should have shown much more integrity, compassion and professionalism in a sensitive situation. One can only hope that HLN and its viewers express their disgust for Grace’s behavior. But given Grace’s past history as the “Murder Trial Queen,” we shouldn’t be surprised. In fact, the network seems to have disintegrated from Headline News into a network focused on gossip, sensationalism and prurient interest led by pseudo-journalists like Nancy Grace.

Grace is unlikely to ever change her tactics, but it would be justice if, one day, her family was the subject of a news story and she received similar treatment by another uncaring, callous “reporter.”

Do NSA Revelations Actually Surprise Anyone?

Ever since Edward Snowden announced that the National Security Agency is collecting phone and email records of US citizens before skipping the country, many in the media and in Congress have expressed surprise and outrage.

Really? How could anyone be surprised at this invasion of privacy?

Since the late nineties, there has been an explosion of surveillance cameras on city streets and in public buildings across the country. Large firms have been working on various forms of customer recognition since at least the mid-eighties. First, we saw the “smart” card – a credit card with a computer chip containing a wealth of personal information about the person carrying it. Then we saw efforts to “read” the magnetic strips on credit cards as you enter a store. And, following 9/11, Congress passed the Patriot Act giving the government sweeping powers to prevent terrorism.

Now, according to a story on CBS’ 60 Minutes, we are nearing an era of facial recognition which will allow governments, retail stores and other institutions to use security cameras to identify people from mug shots, driver’s licenses, passports and other forms of identification. Add to that the information already being collected by the three major credit agencies, along with the GPS feature in your cell phone and your car, and almost no aspect of your life will be private. Even your activities in the bedroom are potentially vulnerable to hackers through your computers, cell phones and smart TVs.

By comparison, that makes the activities of the NSA seem a lot less threatening doesn’t it?

Too Cute By Far.

I don’t know if Edward Snowden is a hero or a traitor; an honorable whistleblower or a self-serving snitch. Those distinctions will be up to history, the public and the courts to decide. But I do know that, if his revelations ultimately show as he claims, that US spying is out of control, he is going about his mission the wrong way.

The initial revelations were really nothing surprising. But they did get the attention of the entire nation and initiated a useful discussion of how much surveillance is necessary to protect us from terrorists. In that regard, Snowden did us all a great favor.

The fact that he obtained his information through lies and deception, however, raises as many questions about his character and his methods as it does about the NSA. And the fact that he is on the run, seeking asylum from some of our nation’s adversaries, raises questions about his motives.

Snowden’s most recent claims are as unsubstantiated as they are sensational. Moreover, they have caused great embarrassment to the US and strained relationships with our allies.

All of this leads me to believe that, if Snowden’s motives were honorable, he would have approached his task in a much different way. Before going public with his revelations, he could have approached Congressmen or Senators to see if he could find a receptive ear. There are many, like Senator Ron Wyden, who would have helped him accomplish his goals in a more effective and legal, but less sensational, way. If that approach wasn’t to Snowden’s liking, he could have had the courage to stay in the US, divulge his information to the press, and continue his quest through the courts, if necessary.

If he found either of those paths too daunting, he could have protected himself by providing all of his information to his accomplice, Glenn Greenwald, as insurance that it would eventually be made public. If his goal is, indeed, to protect the American public, the American people would have his back and prevent any extraordinary consequences. He would have been viewed as the hero he apparently thinks himself to be.

But Snowden chose a more cowardly, sensational path.

As a result, he finds himself trapped in a Russian airport and denied asylum by other nations. If he returns to the US, he will be arrested and spend a lengthy time in jail while awaiting trial. If he travels to most other countries in the world, he will likely face extradition. And any nation that will grant him asylum is likely to be one in which he won’t want to live.

I, for one, will not feel sorry for him. He had other, and better, options.