Matthew Yglesias at The American Prospect puts the USA Today piece in its broader perspective:
FUN WITH SURVEILLANCE. Turns out the NSA, with the collaboration of every phone company except Qwest, is monitoring all of our calls -- not to listen in to what's being said, but simply to gather data about the calls and draw inferences from that. It's important to link this up to the broader chain. One thing the Bush administration says it can do with this meta-data is to start tapping your calls and listening in, without getting a warrant from anyone. Having listened in on your calls, the administration asserts that if it doesn't like what it hears, it has the authority to detain you indefinitely without trial or charges, torture you until you confess or implicate others, extradite you to a Third World country to be tortured, ship you to a secret prison facility in Eastern Europe, or all of the above. If, having kidnapped and tortured you, the administration determines you were innocent after all, you'll be dumped without papers somewhere in Albania left to fend for yourself.UPDATE: Growing up, these were the kinds of behaviors we learned to associate with tyrannical regimes. Government surveillance was the sort of thing adults warned us kids would happen if the United States ever fell to communism.
Now eat your cereal.
They were wrong. It's the kind of thing that happens when Americans are too busy acquiring stuff and figuring out how to pay for it to tend the garden of democracy and defend it from the neighborhood bullies and vandals. I left it unattended for too long, and now look.
And patriotism? They were wrong about that too. If this is what it feels like to be a patriot locked in a struggle for your heritage and your country, it has little to do with uplifting music and light spirits. It's more about righteous anger, fierce determination and a set jaw.