Last night, Bill Maher finished with a New Rule about our civil liberties in the 21st century.
And finally, New Rule: If Ben Franklin writes something smart, but Sarah Palin tweets it twice and puts it on Facebook, that cancels it out. It's like if you drop your popsicle, and a possum licks it, and bites it, and rolls in it, and sticks it up its ass â you can rinse it off forever, you're still not going to want to eat it!
All right, now actually, the quote of Ben Franklin's I'm referring to isn't very smart, even though it's become kind of an unquestioned conventional wisdom.BEN FRANKLIN: They who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.Yeah, bullshit.
What do you think you're doing when you stop your car at a red light? Or pay taxes? I'm not free to keep all my money. I have to give some of the money to the government so they can equip an army, pay the police, and bribe Afghan warlords.
This is called the social contract. It's why we have things like airport security lines, drunk driving laws, and gun control. OK, two out of three.
Now Ben Franklin in his time could afford to be absolutist about not trading any liberty for safety, because in 1755 the worst weapon an enemy could bring against you was a cannon or a musket. But now we have undetectable deadly nerve gas, and nukes. The Founders were brilliant, but they weren't fortune tellers. When they wrote the Fourth Amendment, they couldn't foresee e-mail. And when they wrote the Second Amendment, they couldn't foresee Ted Nugent. (audience applause)
You want to see one reason why I am willing to negotiate away some of my freedom for security?
(picture of nuclear device)
What you're looking at in this picture is something called the Mk-54 suitcase nuke. And here we see J. Edgar Hoover showing it to two other guys, who are also J. Edgar Hoover.
The Mk-54 is a portable nuclear bomb that weighs just 51 pounds, and we've known how to make it since the 1950s. Which means other people can make one too. Do I want someone snooping into their e-mail? Yes. Yes I do. But I also want there to be draconian penalties if they snoop for any other reason. Then I can live with my trade-off.
Because don't get me wrong, I don't like the government photographing my e-mail, or the cops tracking my license, or the NSA keeping a record of all those calls I made to Dionne Warwick's psychic friends hotline. Is it cool they've heard all the phone messages to my "friends" who bring over the "stuff"? (audience laughter) No, it's not. But the good news is there are at least 10 bills in the House and Senate right now that would modify or outright repeal the PATRIOT Act. We're at least now having that debate about our security trade-offs.
And for that, I gotta give credit to Mr. Ed Snowden. He's a little kooky, but before he showed up with his nerd glasses and his stripper girlfriend, nobody was talking about the NSA. It was just another government agency nobody paid attention to. You know, like Congress.