Private? Citizens

The term “Private Citizen” means one’s private information should not be available to other citizens whether public official, enforcement officer or other governmental position/contractor unless individually authorized by our previously established rule of law.  Holding “Public Office” means that one’s information, particularly regarding any official actions, should be available to “The Public”.  Transparency is the key in the actions of “Public Servants”.  All data collected by the NSA on the activities of elected representatives should be available to and searchable by their constituents.  Data availability should not be a “one way street”.

It appears that we currently have the contrary situation in which the data of private citizens is available to a wide array of elected/appointed officials and contractors while that of public officials is available to the public  only at the whim of that official with little regard for the truthfulness of the information provided.  In fact it appears that for a good part of government there is no accountability to constituents or the greater public.  Even more dystopian is the apparent impunity conferred on government officials and their contractors as demonstrated most recently by the admission of Mr. Clapper of lying to Congress, illegal surveillance, extra-judicial rendition and torture to list a few of the more egregious.

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When surveillance is inevitable, Demand Access

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
 Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit,
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
 Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
. – The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám

Nuclear Power, Executive Privilege and Computing Power are three examples of the development and use of power. Whether for good or ill, the control of power may transfer but it never decreases. This is particularly true for powers which are powerful enough to be kept hidden from the public. Chemical and biological weapons may have written rules of development and use, even banning them, yet they persist. Land mines, and the militarization of space are similar examples. Executive Privilege, Clandestine Services (CIA, KGB, FBI, NSA, DOE) are governmental constructs which are similarly so valuable that their fundamental power cannot be decreased, but only transferred or replaced with something of greater power.

The ability to monitor and record is a similar power. Recent NSA leaks have revealed a functioning global ability to surveil detailed human activity, particularly all electronic communications. This capability is so powerful that it has been a well known internationally shared secret. Each specific technical means of surveillance are national secrets as is the ability to access the data. Although civil law suits are now challenging the secrecy and legislators are beginning to draft limits on use and access, the actual collection and use of this data will not be destroyed. It’s control can only be moved to new hands.

Total surveillance is here to stay. Our laws are only capable of protecting the search for and release of the surveillance. Those in control of surveillance will seek to hide it and to criminalize access and even disclosure of its existence and use. This access is the goal that can and should be obtained. That surveillance records will be kept cannot be changed. That they are broadly available can be enforced.

In general, most societies require their public officials to reveal more abut their personal and work activities than is required of the public they represent. This requirement of transparency is taken for granted and not rigorously enforced. The claim of protection and the greater good of the public is the common justification for officials to withhold information. This impunity from accepted behavior is a current but different problem that will be addressed in another posting.

Given the inevitability of universal surveillance, our best protection is broad access to the surveillance records of all public officials. This would be a FOIA without government middlemen. of curse there would be a continual “cat & mouse” game of trying to conceal governmental wrongdoing, but the legislated right to access must be preserved, not criminalized. Without transparency there can be no accountability.

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Giving Consumers What They Want

One of the key tasks of responsible parenting is teaching children to control their immediate desires.  Eating too much candy, running into the street, screaming when angry, and biting or hitting other children are a few of the typical actions that we teach our children to control.  Early on, we must physically prevent them from these kind of activities and as they grow we guide them to remember these rules and to add social norms such as not interrupting or insulting others.  The underlying desires remain but are controlled.

Beyond the protection of children, most societies have imposed restrictions on violence considered to be totally unacceptable.  From Roman gladiators to bear baiting and dog fights, most societies have outlawed these practices as both inhumane and inciting violent behavior.

Under stress or when encouraged, however, even adults may forget the value of these rules and act irresponsibly, usually harming others and often themselves.  We see this in a variety of criminal behavior, in “mobs”, including highly emotional situations such as sporting events and of course in war.  Our free speech ethic allows this kind of encouragement or incitement to break social norms or even to break legal rules with a few exception such as “shouting fire in a crowded theatre” or the plotting of or conspiracy to commit criminal acts.  Public officials and media personalities are given even greater latitude to incite generally unacceptable behavior with the only preventative recourse being defamation and libel suits..  Political opponents, echoed by the media, are commonly allowed to make outrageous claims which would be severely criticized or even criminal if made by private citizens.

It is our body of laws which are intended to provide the background guidance for acceptable behavior.  Well beneath laws against violent acts, most societies impose a wide variety of restrictions to protect the quality of life including restrictions on “disturbing the peace”, food preparation and sale, pharmaceutical, Motor Vehicle, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives restrictions as well as construction and building codes, and many others.

In attempting to deflect criticism of poorly controlled gun ownership, the gun lobby has recently pointed to video games and popular movies and television as a serious cause of violent acts.  Civil rights groups have similarly accused the government of encouraging general lawlessness  through the acceptance of violent treatment of prisoners, outside of the recognized rule of law.  While it is widely held that viewing and simulating violence heightens the chance of violent acts, it is also considered to be protected speech and activity.  Complicating this conflict further is the definition of violence.  How do we determine what activities are encouraging violence.  At one end of the spectrum most people would laugh at the idea that a board game or badminton match encourage violent behavior.  The record of violent fan behavior associated with various professional sports (UK Football, EU Soccer) or the problem of returning soldiers who have been trained and conditioned to react violently are undeniable sources of violent behavior.

Within recent history, however, we have a number of examples of how society has controlled access to socially undesirable material or events.  The Motion Picture Association of America maintained standards of acceptable content although it has recently been reduced to a published rating system dependent upon viewer discretion and parental control.  Purchase of tobacco and alcohol sales are restricted based on the age of the purchaser.  It would seem that society should be able to apply similar restrictions to violence simulations such as violent video games.  Unlike violent movies, video games place the player in the position of committing violent acts virtually.  To the extent of the players imagination and the visceral quality of the games immersive sensory experience, the player has the experience of actually committing these violent acts.

“…half-man, half-machine cyborg ninja, equipped with a soul fueled by revenge.”

“Facing deadlier evolved enemies”

“Chaotic street fighting and tank battles”

Grand Theft Auto,

Mortal Kombat

Assasins Creed

Black Ops

Executions

Thrill Kill

Even games for young children such as Luigi’s Mansion, Lego City, while rated for “Everyone” teach the use of simple weapons to destroy various targets and act as gateway games to the more violent teen versions.  One of the key lessons taught by all these games is that Winning Requires Violence.  While parents are ultimately in control of what their children experience, exposure to violence inciting materials should require action on the part of parents, rather than negligence.  This would match our existing restrictions on alcohol, tobacco, driving, and guns.  Without direct parental action, children would then be protected from materials and practices considered dangerous to themselves and others.

Unfortunately, the current limits of acceptable corporate and personal behavior have not been found.  Oddly, oversight and regulation are least for those with the most economic and therefore political power.  Whatever the wage earning public is willing to buy, or at least allow, will be offered.

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Terror without the T

“Terrorism refers to criminal or illegal acts of violence at randomly chosen targets, in an effort to raise fear. It is practiced by extremist groups with a limited political base or parties on the weaker side in asymmetric warfare. Terror, on the other hand, is practiced by governments and law enforcement officials, usually within the legal framework of the state.” (Wikipedia)

pitchinteractive shows 366 CIA drone attacks in Pakistan killing 47 high profile terrorists. If only 1 Hellfire missile was used in each attack at $68,000 each, this would be a cost of 1/2 million dollars per terrorist or about 100 years of a high salary in Pakistan. (This doesn’t include the cost of the Drones or the people who fly and service them so a better number is likely double.)  To get each key terrorists, however, we also killed 4 children and 11 other civilians and wounded many more.

The bulk of those killed, however, are bystanders considered to be “bad guys” by virtue of having been male and within the kill zone during the attack and with no one to make a claim to the press that they were innocent.

Including these men who cannot be proven to be civilians the cost per kill drops to only $10,000 per person or about 4 years average salary. So we kill 3 possibly bad or at least unknown men for each child or civilian killed.

Whether this is Terror or Terrorism , one million dollars and 15 or more civilians dead per each doesn’t seem an economical way to assassinate a high profile terrorist.

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The New Normal

Normal is what we’re used to, or the life that we see others experiencing which we strive to achieve.  In either case, Normal is based on our personal experience and therefore on our memory.  This cannot exceed our lifespan minus our years of infancy and dementia, say an average of 75 years.

Measured on a 12 hour clock, that 75 years is only the last 60 microseconds of the earth’s existence or the last 77 microseconds of life on earth.  All right, a more fair comparison might be the last second of the clock of Homo sapiens existence.  Still not a realistic comparison?  If we compare our personal memory of “Normal” to all recorded history those 75 years are still only the last 39 seconds or 0.09% of recorded history.  In other words, our memory of “Normal” is the same as a 75 year old remembering a little less than their last 10 months of life and considering it “Normal”.  We would likely call that a form of dementia.

Looking at this longer range view, we can begin to imagine our place in history.  We’ve figured out that aerobic (oxygen loving) bacteria were responsible for generating the oxygen we breath and in the act, caused the major die off of the former dominant life, anerobic (oxygen hating) bacteria.  Exxon commercials taught us that dinosaurs, or more accurately, their lush forests, resulted in the deposits of crude oil that have fueled our development over the last 100 years.  What legacy will humans be remembered for in 100,000 years, and by whom?  The species which eliminated mammal diversity, refined and distributed elements and depleted all hydrocarbon reservoirs?

Contrary to popular movie themes, major change does not happen catastrophically, overnight or even over a century.  A look at current conditions in much of the Middle East and Africa confirms that “modernity” has yet to reach much of our planet.  While nuclear contamination or a pandemic or even a meteor strike could stress humanity, it seem far more likely that major world change we will come from gradually exhaust our resources due to overpopulation.  When we have reached the point that our resources cannot support additional population, we will all use our stockpile of resources, food, fuel and weapons to protect our diminishing hoards until we find a New Normal.  Without the fuel to maintain a large underclass population willing to deliver their resources to the privileged in exchange for a fraction of their value, our present lifestyle will deteriorate.  As it happens on a global scale, the same fight for dwindling goods will occur within each level of privileged sectors.  Life style will remain high for fewer and fewer people, leading to battles over who will control and consume the remaining resources.  As the remaining privileged groups shrink, their ability to control resources will also diminish until a truly sustainable level of consumption is reached.  The ability of the privileged to maintain if not advance their technology infrastructure, will determine how long and how far the quality of life will deteriorate.

This is not a plea for the privileged class to consume less and be more “organic”.  Our short history has shown that as a species we are not capable of restraining ourselves, even if small bands of us “see the light” and are willing to restrict our consumption.  The past 20 years of history has demonstrated that even in this, our “most enlightened” age, our technology far outreaches our ability to control our use of it.  Population reduction and control seems the only answer to reaching a sustainable level at which consumption matches the earth’s renewable resources.

“Saving the Planet” has become a widespread subject.  Since “The Planet” is in no danger, our focus is more accurately an attempt to save our privileged lifestyle.  There are two things which we can depend on:  The world will not end, and what we now consider Normal will deteriorate.

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Embracing Terror

With the onset of cooler weather comes the common cold and the painfully familiar symptoms.  Many of the most damaging results of disease result from the body’s over-reaction to the initial infection.  The annoying cough and sniffle of the common cold which drag on for days or weeks are not caused by an active infection, but by the over-reaction of our immune system to the initial infection.  The most dangerous effects of influenza are caused by a positive feedback loop which causes a run-away over-reaction of the immune system.  Until this positive feedback is damped (stopped) the body continues to see its own symptoms as invaders that must be fought.  Natural, painful and if not stopped, deadly.

For the majority of Americans, the first experience of terror was in 9/11.  Our natural reaction to the resulting fear was a massive demand for action by our leaders to protect us from further terror.  Massive demand provides equally large opportunity for anyone who can offer a solution, whether or not it is an effective solution.  The media acts like an immune system amplifying these fears and demands.  Political and business leaders quite naturally make their living by meeting demands whether real or imagined.

We see the results daily.  Expanded security forces all trying to find enemies at a time when crime shows there are fewer enemies to available.  Instead, we invent enemies out of anyone who appears “different”.  Continued deregulation of banking and decreases in taxation have given us the highest income and wealth inequality greater than anytime on record other than 1929.  Protected behind the security paid for by the 1%, the 99% offer many targets to identify as enemies.

Our social “immune system” reacts to this lack of enemies by increasing funding to find enemies.  The results are becoming painfully evident to any who look over their security fence. Recent examples are reminders of previous events.

TSA abuse of citizens

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 (http://www.seattlepi.com/local/komo/article/Dying-woman-gets-security-pat-down-at-Sea-Tac-3932417.php?cmpid=twitter)

A dying woman says a security pat-down at Sea-Tac Airport left her embarrassed in front of crowds of people.  Michelle Dunaj says screeners checked under bandages from recent surgeries and refused to give her a private search when she requested one. Dunaj, who is dying of leukemia, carried a large amount of prescription drugs through Sea-Tac to head to Hawaii for what would be one of the last trips of her life. She called Alaska Airlines ahead of time to request a wheelchair and to ask how her medicines should be separated for the security line.

NYPD Stop & Frisk profiling and abuse despite statistics showing it to be ineffective.  http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/10/nypd-stop-and-frisk-caught-on-tape.html

“I just got stopped like two blocks ago,” says Harlem teenager Alvin, who covertly recorded the encounter on his phone. “You know why? You look very suspicious,” an officer responds before adding, “Shut your fuckin’ mouth before I slap you.” Asked why he’s being held, a cop tells Alvin, “For being a fuckin’ mutt.” And the threats keep coming: “Dude, I’m gonna break your fucking arm,” says the officer, “then I’m gonna punch you in the fuckin’ face.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rWtDMPaRD8&sns=em)

The highest rate of prison incarceration in the world.

The incarceration rate in the United States of America is the highest in the world. As of 2009, the incarceration rate was 743 per 100,000 of national population (0.743%).In comparison, Russia had the second highest, at 577 per 100,000,Canada was 123rd in the world as 117 per 100,000, and China had 120 per 100,000.[2] While Americans only represent about 5 percent of the world’s population, nearly one-quarter of the entire world’s inmates have been incarcerated in the United States in recent years.Imprisonment of America’s 2.3 million prisoners, costing $24,000 yearly, and $5.1 billion in new prison construction, consumes $60 billion in budget expenditures. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_incarceration_rate)

Islamophobia

“The tension between free speech and hate speech is already on display in the Middle East. Now it’s come to the New York City subway system. An ad campaign branding Muslims as “savages” has gone on display.”

“Investigators are looking for evidence of arson after a mosque in southwest Missouri was burned to the ground in the second fire to hit the Islamic center in little more than a month.”

Secrecy – Not Transparency

– Friday, October 05, 2012 -The military detention law(NDAA) allowing terrorism suspects, including Americans, to be held indefinitely without trial has been reinstated by a federal appeals court.

Wikileaks / Hunt for Julian Assange / Collateral Murder

Abandonment of half of Americans

Romney told donors that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay income taxes and are dependent on government and “my job is not to worry about those people.”

Even Women as a class are under attack

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 12:06 PM EDT  Since January 2011, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has voted repeatedly for an extreme anti-women agenda in the 112th Congress. The House voted 55 times to undermine women’s health, roll back women’s rights, and defund programs and institutions that provide health care and support for women.

The highest rate of prison incarceration in the world.

The incarceration rate in the United States of America is the highest in the world. As of 2009, the incarceration rate was 743 per 100,000 of national population (0.743%). In comparison, Russia had the second highest, at 577 per 100,000,Canada was 123rd in the world as 117 per 100,000, and China had 120 per 100,000.[2] While Americans only represent about 5 percent of the world’s population, nearly one-quarter of the entire world’s inmates have been incarcerated in the United States in recent years. Imprisonment of America’s 2.3 million prisoners, costing $24,000 yearly, and $5.1 billion in new prison construction, consumes $60 billion in budget expenditures. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_incarceration_rate)

Anti-Immigrant legislation (Arizona SB1070)

Drone attacks based on the secret “Kill List”

We are being led into chaos and constant fear by our political leaders, their enforcers and media. 

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RUNNING NAKED WITH KNIVES

During this political season, there have been incendiary comparisons of candidates to the people and actions of Nazi Germany.  This has been primarily a means of expressing the complete rejection of a perceived course of action supported by those accused.  While I share many of the sentiments of revulsion and suggested changes in our course, equating actions with those of the Third Reich is not accurate in degree or intent.

The comparable example is that of England negotiating with the Third Reich prior to the declaration of war.  Chamberlain was a conciliator and a Hitler apologist.  Today’s American media are playing this role for the GOP.  Presenting double-speak and clearly destructive plans as proposals worthy of equal presentation and debate is equivalent to Chamberlain’s denial of the clear wrongs and dangers of the Third Reich.

Further deregulation of banking, finance and industry while dismantling social and environmental protections is not a valid alternative worthy of debate.  It is the destruction of the precepts of the bill of rights, the constitution and the American way of life.  The GOP platform and the hate and demagoguery spouted by Republican officials should be the key news.  Romney’s pandering to his audience-of-the-day with wild swings in position should be highlighted by the media for the dishonesty they demonstrate, not debated as possibly sincere misunderstandings or changes in position.

It can be no surprise that ABC (owned by $100 billion Disney), NBC (owned by $100 billion Comcast and $600 billion GE), CBS (owned by $60 billion Viacom) and FOX owned by Murdoch’s $60 billion News Corp.) find the business centric GOP platform to be worthy of serious consideration.  The conformity of PBS to this presentation style while being the next “head on the block” is perhaps the most Chamberlain-like performance, driven by fear of their potential pay-masters and the desire to be like their better funded private colleagues.

Who will tell us plainly:  The would-be kings have no clothes, but they do have knives.

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