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Moscow on the Potomac
November 22, 2002
By Ernest Partridge

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"Choose your enemies wisely, for you will become like them." - Anon.

On Tuesday, the Senate approved the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, by a vote of 90 to 9.

So now we have our own Komitet Gosudarstvenoi Bezopastnosti (KGB) - sorry, I lapsed into an alien language. That translates into "Committee on State Security." Sounds a lot like "The Department of Homeland Security" (DHS) doesn't it?

This same week we learned of a super-computer database which will presumably be linked to the DHS. This is the brainstorm of Admiral John Poindexter, a convicted perjurer. This monstrous concoction will record book purchases and library loans, monitor e-mails, and compile complete records of credit card and checkbook purchases, and so forth.

In short, it will know everything about you except whether or not you own or have purchased a gun, this exception thanks to John Ashcroft and the NRA who will not allow such an "assault on our liberty."

"Oh well," we are told, "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear." Yeah, sure. But how soon will some of us want to "hide" our less than enthusiastic support of "our President." ("You are either with us or against us.")

So pause for a moment and reflect: Do you have a dirty little secret?

Did kindly Mr. Potlatch catch you swiping a candy bar at his Mom and Pop store when you were twelve years old? And did that get to the police blotter?

Were you busted in college for smoking a joint?

Did you once forget to make good on a check that bounced?

Have you, out of curiosity, rented an adult video or paid for access to the Playboy channel?

Did you get too friendly with your Secretary ten years ago, and have you managed to keep this from your wife, thus protecting a perfectly fabulous marriage?

Did you once, on a lark, buy a copy of The Daily Worker, or subscribe to Z-Magazine or The Nation?

Then, my friend, if you have a beef with "your government," you'd better keep it to yourself, because Adm. Poindexter's magical computer base will, like Santa, know if you've been bad or good. Furthermore, the Admiral's computer will "know" a bunch of things that aren't so - as reported by a disgruntled employee, or colleague, or a nosy neighbor.

By quick calculation, the portion of our population that has something in their past that they'd just as soon keep secret, comes to approximately 99.44%, the remaining 0.66 being certifiably "pure."

Are you scared yet?

All this reminds me of a 1990 conversation with a Russian friend at his Moscow apartment. As our conversation turned to politics, he put a finger to his mouth, making a "shush" gesture, and pointed to the ceiling at a hypothetical microphone. Thereafter we had all our political conversations outside.

As I walked late at night from the Metro station to his apartment, the lights were on at the local Post Office. When I asked why, he explained that the place operated 24/7, as the PO staff was reading the mail. Thank God, I thought, I live in a free country.

That was then. This is now.

Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" and co-edits the progressive website "The Crisis Papers"

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