We are no longer the United States

The federal government has lost its way, and more frightening, the American people don’t seem to care.

First, consider the National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drugged Driving, conducted five times since 1973 to ascertain the impact of drunken and impaired-driving laws.

A lawsuit has been filed by a man in Reading, Pa., alleging his civil rights were violated. He contends a government contract employee stepped in front of his car and forced him to turn into a parking lot where he was questioned repeatedly by a woman who wanted answers about his driving habits. The woman also asked for a mouth swab to detect the presence of illegal or prescription drugs. Unlike the already questionable DUI checkpoints, the survey isn’t always being conducted by local law enforcement, which may only be on scene to provide security, but by federal contractors. It is not meant to deter crime or drunken-driving accidents but to gather personal information about drivers. Motorists may submit to a breath test, and provide blood samples, in exchange for a stipend. One woman said it was worth the $65 she was paid, that the government just wants to know who was driving with what in their system.

The United States of America used to be a place where the Constitution said the government had no right to ask that question unless a law was broken first.

Apparently $65 is the price of Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure without probable cause.

Second is a First Amendment crusher known as the “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” which would subject broadcast news departments to in-depth, probing questions from an on-site inspector about the daily choice of news stories, how they’re covered, how they’re reported, why they were covered and more. Reporters would be asked questions about times they proposed stories that the editor spiked. The “survey” in the name of the public interest takes a quantum leap beyond the powers of the FCC by putting newspapers to the same federal scrutiny. The federal government never has found a legal justification to control newspapers, because not even the ruse about the “public airwaves” can be used. Mama America didn’t invent the paper fiber or the printing press, either. Print journalists are in no way the purview of the FCC. It’s a power grab.

Broadcasters are said to be allowed to decline participation, but every eight years they’re licensed by the FCC. How effective would a refusal be at that time?

The only reason this mess has come to light is that an FCC commissioner was so repulsed that he wrote an op-ed piece last month about it in the Wall Street Journal, and, surprisingly, there has been little outcry about it.

Even though the FCC backed off the plan Friday, the thought of a government official standing in the newsroom at the local TV station or radio station or in the newspaper editorial room questioning the thought processes that are in use should frighten Americans. Our nation has a 237-year-old democracy based on the knowledgeable voter, who is educated by a free-flow of information – information that presents as many sides of an issue as it is possible to report. It’s then the voter’s choice to decide. And the voter can choose to tune out or not read articles. That’s the freedom of the free marketplace of ideas.

But we would note here that the government that controls the traditional press would have little trouble taking control of the Internet. Remember, President Barack Obama has sought the power to “turn off” the Internet to civilians in times of civil distress. Also, at least so far, your daily purchase of a newspaper doesn’t leave an electronic trail back to some Big Brother in Washington. And that should frighten Americans as news content continues a steady migration onto the potentially federally impeded Internet.

Combine all of that with the malaise about the NSA storing everyone’s phone records in the name of the war on terrorism and the nation obvioiusly has turned a scary corner. Or a recent effort by Homeland Security to create a national license tag tracking database through private contractors, again, in the name of safety and security.

The lack of outcry is frightening to any student of the Constitution or American history. More frightening is that some in the government that has created this frightening pattern want a new constitutional convention.

Are Americans so uninformed, so myopic as to accept $65 as the price of freedom or government officials in the newsrooms of the land, or the storage of all phone call and e-mail data in a federal facility without evidence of any crime?

If so, then it’s the end of the nation founded by Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, et.al. If so, the United States of America truly has ceased to exist.