April 15th, 2010

Didn’t I see you naked on The Internet?

Updates follow.

As a U.S. Senator running for The Office of President of The United States Barak Obama voted to remove a provision from FISA legislation that provided immunity to telephone companies that had willingly provided access to the National Security Agency (NSA), without Court issued warrants to the telephone conversations of US Citizens. The amendment that was defeated would have removed civil immunity for the telephone companies from FISA and allowed citizens to hold telephone companies (telcoms) responsible and subject to Civil Action in our courts. Then Senator Obama contradicted himself when he went on to vote in favor of the FISA legislation which included civil immunity for the telephone companies that had violated Federal laws; thanks President Obama – nice flip-flop. The violation of our rights by the telephone companies, The Bush Administration (via NSA) and the United States Senate has come to be known as the “warrantless surveillance program.”

The problem with giving up our Civil Liberties is that we give up those rights in drips and drabs and become accustom to the “new ways.” 40 years ago I know people who would have brandished a gun and shot out the security cameras that now look at us everyday. Now days we don’t give those cameras a second thought. When was the last time you willing gave out your Social Security number – perhaps because somebody told you they couldn’t do something for you without it?

This case, filed in Federal Court this past Tuesday by a Pennsylvania family may or may not be adjudged true:

“A Lower Merion family has set off a furor among students, parents, and civil liberties groups by alleging that Harriton High School officials used a webcam on a school-issued laptop to spy on their 15-year-old son at home.”

If it turns out to be true it is an example of how much we’ve given up to live in a “safe world.” Even if it turns out not to be true it demonstrates, in my opinion, how paranoid we have to be to live here in these United States.

If you use email in these rather twisted times, remember that somebody else is probably reading the words you write. If you make a phone call there is a good chance that somebody unbeknown to you is listening to the words you speak (maybe a computer equipped with voice recognition software is transcribing your words), or at the least the numbers you have dialed and the numbers you have received calls from have been data mined for analysis (probably using billing information). If you make a purchase with a credit or debit card you are being tracked. Big Brother is among us.

Oh, and just for fun here’s a tune that you might enjoy though I know that my co-conspirators here at The Ptarmigan Nest have heard it many times.

Update I (2010 Feb 24): Shut down Webcam use, judge tells school district

Update II(2010 April 15) John P. Martin reports on The Philiadelphia Inquirer website, “Lawyer: Laptops took thousands of images.”

The system that Lower Merion school officials used to track lost and stolen laptops wound up secretly capturing thousands of images, including photographs of students in their homes, Web sites they visited, and excerpts of their online chats, says a new motion filed in a suit against the district.

More than once, the motion asserts, the camera on Robbins’ school-issued laptop took photos of Robbins as he slept in his bed. Each time, it fired the images off to network servers at the school district.

Back at district offices, the Robbins motion says, employees with access to the images marveled at the tracking software. It was like a window into “a little LMSD soap opera,” a staffer is quoted as saying in an e-mail to Carol Cafiero, the administrator running the program.

“I know, I love it,” she is quoted as having replied.

Update III You can’t make this stuff up: Lower Merion report: “Web cams snapped 56,000 images.”

January 27th, 2010

I’m embarassed by President Obama

Does Obama really think that he can freeze all of the Federal Budgets that deal with what used to be called “the commons” while he and his minions continue to funnel money to the corporations that work for DOD? What have I missed? It’s time to get a life and give them what for!

Glen Greenwald’s take is worth a read – though I think he’s a Johnny-come-lately; folks have been complaining about the DOD budget since Eisenhower – hell, even President/ General Eisenhower seemed like he was a bit nervous when he spoke of it upon leaving office. Folks like those at The War Resistors League and CDI have been pointing out that when we pay our taxes close to $0.50 on the dollar go towards military spending, in all its bizarre permutations (can you say bankers?).

Have a nice day!

December 1st, 2009

It’s time for a military draft

If President Obama, who I voted for because I thought he was progressive, sends 30,000 troops into Afghanistan it’s time to institute compulsory military service in the United States. Our military has depended on “Stop Loss,” the ultimate Catch-22, to keep volunteers in the military seemingly for ever. I think that doctors, lawyers and bankers should be forced to have their sons and daughters placed in harms way. The Stop Loss policies first embraced by President George Bush the lesser and currently embraced by Barack Obama guarantee that so many military volunteers have no way of knowing when they have fulfilled their contract with The State. For the most part the folks that are fighting the battles resulting from the lip service paid to National Security by a rarefied group of elites that love to wave
“our flag,” come from the poor sectors of our society. Interestingly most of those elites huffing and puffing the loudest have never had to carry arms in battle. It’s time to spread the risk among all – rich and poor alike.

August 20th, 2009

Is Obama a fool or does he just think we’re stupid?

I was just listening to Trudy Lieberman (CJR) on this weeks CounterSpin from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) talk about Obama’s “health care reform.” Kinda depressing to hear her point out that Obama has shifted the conversation away from the “universal health care” that he promised during the campaign to “health insurance reform.” All the more depressing since I just read what Glen Greenwald wrote yesterday about White House strategy and our nation’s health care debate (hint – Obama is giving us the shaft). Greenwald also had a short OpEd piece in the New York Times yesterday. Greenwald seems to be spending too much time looking at the under pinnings of late – he better be careful or he’ll start sounding like Chomsky. Unfortunately, all failed to mention campaign finance reform (or a Constitutional amendment to take free speech rights away from corporations).

Update: Paul Krugman takes on Obama’s unwillingness to be progressive in his column this week, “Obama‚Äôs Trust Problem.”

March 7th, 2009

Obama: “Let me be clear”

I voted for Obama – but when I heard he tried to exclude Rep. John Conyers from his recent “Health Care Summit” even though the White House invited several high profile health care industry lobbyists I thought – here we go again. Conyers, BTW, introduced HR 676, a bill that would implement “single payer” health care. Let me “be clear,” I predicted that Obama was a Clinton clone – and at least so far that seems to be the case (take a look at his cabinet). It’s time to really change things and I don’t see that happening. Obama is tossing out some crumbs while sucking up to the usual suspects. I don’t think Obama’s plan will work (too many things are missing) and when the money is gone we (the people) will be the ones that have been screwed. But the money may already be gone – the rich bastards that have 30% + of my retirement are now busy deciding how to spend my tax dollars. Flame out.

P.S. I’m sick and tired of Obama’s use of the phrase “Let me be clear.” He should think of something else to say.

February 10th, 2009

Obama ducks question from Helen Thomas – THE ANSWER IS ISRAEL!

There’s a reason why “Bush the Lesser” refused to take questions from White House correspondent Helen Thomas – she asks REAL questions. So at last nights press conference President Obama ducked one of Helen’s two questions. While I’m thrilled he called on her (did he really have any choice – I thought she’d be first in line?) he didn’t answer her question and that to me was very disappointing – who is it, on the Israeli right President Obama is protecting? Our “Middle East” foreign policy must be based on pragmatism, but President Obama is unable, or unwilling to speak the truth.

Obama: All right. Helen. This is my inaugural moment here. (Laughter.) I’m really excited.

Helen Thomas:…. And also, do you know of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?


Obama: With respect to nuclear weapons, you know, I don’t want to speculate. What I know is this: that if we see a nuclear arms race in a region as volatile as the Middle East, everybody will be in danger.

And one of my goals is to prevent nuclear proliferation generally.

I think that it’s important for the United States, in concert with Russia, to lead the way on this. And you know, I’ve mentioned this in conversations with the Russian president, Mr. Medvedev, to let him know that it is important for us to restart the conversation, about how we can start reducing our nuclear arsenals in an effective way, so that —

[CK: at this point Obama cuts Helen off and moves on to another reporter]

Who Mr. President, who has nuclear weapons in the “Middle East?” Come now – I hope you know the answer. :(

January 30th, 2009

Dark thoughts

I just realized what has been bothering me about all the blather I’ve been listening to on NPR, CNN, MSNBC, the BBC, and even Air America over the past few months. All: NPR, CNN, MSNBC, the BBC and Air America (just to name a few) have been focused on maintaining the “corporate mainstream,” as it collapses in upon itself. The news and opinion media has been using fear as its tool of choice. According to the mainstream media we should be quaking in our boots because if the investment houses and banks fail (haven’t they already?) we might loose our homes, loose our jobs, and we might not have enough food to eat. Hmmmmm. I have heard scant mention of the many alternative economic models that might prove helpful. The experts these media outlets have enlisted (NPR is by far one of the worst), are mum on anything that might change the basic configuration of our economy, even though many very successful alternative economies exist.

Why haven’t we heard about cooperatives, collectives or even community gardens from our media? Even Obama is mute on “alternative” economic models; hell why else would he offer up a $700-billion stimulus package to back up the trillion dollars plus of OUR money that Bush spent before Obama took over? Most of that money, from Bush and Obama, is being given to the folks that caused “the crisis” in the first place. Seems to me, that if times might get really bad the government should be spending my money helping people. I would suggest that the Feds start helping people by offering classes and workshops on how to successfully grow food so that we can survive hard times? Alas, there is little profit in it so why should our government bother? Ironic, no?

The folks that we are bailing out are responsible for destroying the manufacturing core of The United States and the jobs that sector used to provide; why are we rewarding them now with huge publicly funded subsidies? I have come to realize that we are being handed a bill of goods and a shitload of propaganda. It’s time to start talking about real alternatives to the systems that have failed us.

P.S. At least based on the reading I’ve done, experts on propaganda seem to agree that the purpose of propaganda has nothing to do with what you think – what you think is of little importance to the propagandist; the central focus of all propaganda is how you behave.

January 22nd, 2009

Obama’s first major blunder and he’s only been in office for how long?

Obama wants to appoint George Mitchel a long time Israeli apologist as Middle East envoy. Unless Mitchell has had some sort of religious (and foreign policy) epiphany since he last dealt with issues in the Middle East – we are in a heap of hurt. So it’s business as usual and nothing will be solved, but the U.S. Zionist lobby and my former neighbors in Brooklyn will be happy. Of course I can hope that Mitchel’s experience in Northern Ireland has changed his world view, but if I were betting in Vegas I’d bet against those odds. Too bad for us and the world.

I hope I am wrong!

Just to refresh your memory:

“In October 2000, when 14 out of 15 members of the UN Security Council voted to condemn Israel’s excessive force against civilians, it was the US alone that abstained. Then-US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke threatened to veto any further resolution. The Israeli government rejected any fact-finding commission that might be authorized by the UN, insisting it would be nothing but a “kangaroo court,” and instead demanded an investigation led by the US. Shortly thereafter, the parties agreed to accept a fact-finding commission led by former US Senator George Mitchell, not under UN auspices.”

from: http://www.fromoccupiedpalestine.org/node/222