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TIPS of the Iceberg 

We don't need no stinkin' spies

I am frankly appalled that the government would instigate something like the new Operation TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System) program launched by the Department of Justice. The basic intent of the program sets Americans against each other by encouraging people who frequent the homes of their fellow citizens, such as mailmen, cable guys and meter readers, to report any "suspicious" activities or objects.Naturally, we should be cautious and report activity that seems genuinely suspicious. But didn't we know this prior to TIPS being started? Of course we did. When the government asks us to literally become informers, though, they create distrust.

In response to such complaints, government mouthpieces and various officials endlessly repeat the same mantra: "If you're not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about. If you're not a terrorist, you have nothing to worry about."

But we all know that's not true. TIPS will turn legitimate suspicions into a general suspicion against everyone, or at least everyone a TIPS participant doesn't like.

When people are reported to TIPS, how will the "investigations" be carried out? I'm afraid the whole idea doesn't remind me of 1984 or events that took place in Germany or Russia so much as recent American history; namely, Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his targeting of the Communists that were allegedly taking over the country in the 1950s. In a parallel to the TIPS concept of today, citizens were encouraged to report anyone who they thought might be a Communist. Although I suppose a few actual Communists were investigated, the inquiries that took place actually ruined more than a few regular people who weren't associated with Communism at all. Some of these people were turned in by mistake; others were turned in because a personal enemy wanted to get even with them.

I don't know about you, but that isn't the kind of country -- tinged with fear and paranoia -- that I'm interested in living in. This is precisely the reason we all need to speak out and denounce TIPS to our leaders. We can do our parts to "secure the Homeland" without a government program to turn this tragic year into a decade of terror.

There's another side to this situation that has dawned on me gradually, as my paranoia has been calmed by my ever-patient husband and a bout of spying on the meter guy to determine whether he was spying on me. (He didn't seem to be "investigating" me except for information regarding my power usage, so I think he's all right.) Which political party is supporting this TIPS idea? If you don't know, you could very reasonably guess the Democrats. I'm not dissing Democrats, by the way, just noting the truth. Democrats have traditionally supported such invasions of personal privacy as the V-chip, which ostensibly would give you control over television programming but could also give someone else control over your television programming. They also love to fight battles against smokers, even smokers who try to smoke in their own homes, and gun owners, who do have the Constitutional right to own weapons.

Republicans have traditionally liked for the government to butt out of their business. In fact, this is the only thing I like about the Republicans, who traditionally annoy me in every other possible way. So I was shocked when I first heard that it was the Republicans supporting this newest violation of personal privacy. I feel somewhat betrayed. I know that some of you view me as a psycho-liberal, but the truth is that I have found myself defending Republicans from my psycho-liberal ilk on many occasions. And always in these defenses I've always found myself going back to the Republican Party's position on freedom and the right to privacy. This marks the end of my Republican defending days.

Let's be fair, though. The Democrats should, judging by all recent political actions, be in favor of this initiative. They usually love barging in on the lives of Americans and taking charge because they don't trust us to wipe our butts properly. And yet, here they are opposing TIPS. Why are they opposing something they should be slobbering all over? I can think of only one possibility: it was proposed by Republicans.

Both parties should have a really easy time when they write the position papers for this year's elections. The Democrats on abortion: the opposite of whatever the Republicans say. The Democrats on campaign finance reform: the opposite of whatever the Republicans say. And for the Republicans it should be just as easy. The Republicans on abortion: whatever pisses off the Democrats most. The Republicans on campaign finance reform: whatever pisses off the Democrats most.

This is pathetic. What's the point of having a two-party system at all? Apparently, neither of them actually stands for anything. TIPS is yet another abomination to the American people, but for good or bad it's also a nail in the coffin of the two-party system.

Shall we let the Libertarians and the Green Party out of their cages and let them go at each other until they absorb each other to the point of moderation and meaningless middle-of-the-road babble? At least it will be interesting for a while.

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