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    • The Path Of The Great Prophets
      A religion is an ideology with supernatural elements. We consider it OK to criticize Marxists or capitalists or libertarians or monarchists, but we tend to shy  away from saying that a religion has bad elements. The Hindu caste system is evil. It needs to end, and it needs to end today. If The Laws of […]
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More Obama Privacy Creepiness

Hooliganism moves online at The Cave in Chicago, sucking up your private information and harassing your friends

There’s nothing surprising (at least to Clintonistas) that the Obama campaign has been using peer pressure and psychological manipulation to herd Democrats.  But in light of Snowden’s revelations about the extent to the NSA’s reach into our private lives, the Obama campaign’s tactics are deeply disturbing.  If you got an email from a suspicious sender asking you to surrender your address book and a lot of private information so he can harass your friends, you’d quickly change all your passwords and turn on two-step verification.  But when it’s some 20 something Obama fan boy in a cave in Chicago doing it, we’re supposed to trust them?

I don’t think so.  

Anyway, listen to the Terry Gross  interview with Jonathan Alter and think to yourself how different this sounds now than it would have a month ago.  Who believes that the information gathering, retention and mining stopped after the election?  I have bridge in Brooklyn…

Random Drug Test

The school just called.  It was the nurse.  I’m thinking, “great, she knocked her front teeth out in gym” or “She is throwing up, can I come pick her up?”.  No, the nurse was happy to assure me that Brooke had participated in the random drug test and there were no drugs in her system.

No duh.  *I* could have told them that.  The kid is as clean as a whistle.  How do I know?  She spends all of her free time teaching herself Chinese.  I have the notebooks to prove it.   She just won a prestigious award in German.  She never emerges from her basement lair unless she is lured up with food.  I can’t even get her to hang out with her friends.  WHEN was she going to be doing drugs??

Is there any reason to test her?  No.  It’s just to keep kids on their toes, like some panopticon thing.  Make them feel guilty without even trying.  And what’s this crap about “participated”?  It’s more like coerced.  If she doesn’t hand over the pee, she can’t participate in any after school programs.

Why can’t we suspect a kid of being bad before we jump all over their case about it?

This is where the next round of authoritarian followers will come from.

Back to the nurse, she just wanted to call to tell me that the kid isn’t on drugs, isn’t that delightful?  She always wants parents to know even when there is a good result, just to let them know that we are keeping an eye on everything they do and say and breath.  Yes, it’s a conspiracy between parents and teachers to keep these teenagers as toddlers as long as we possibly can.  They must remain under our watchful eye even when all evidence points to them being really terrific human beings.

I told the nurse that the drug test wasn’t necessary and I am not concerned.  In fact, I think they should have called me BEFORE they pulled her out randomly for a drug test and asked me if she needed it.  Otherwise, I just see it as a violation of trust and her civil rights.  Of course, the board of ed could always argue she’s a minor and therefore doesn’t have any civil rights.  But it does make us suspicious of each other.  Parents learn to immediately suspect the worst of their children and children learn that nothing is off limits to scrutiny even when there is no reason to suspect anything.

Oh, and the school is in lockdown mode because of some rumor of something happening in another school district somewhere else.  For gawdssakes, this is the most boring suburb on the face of the planet.  Nothing happens here.  You can’t even crowd surf the hallways in the last week of school without being barred from graduation.  So, no one can leave the school grounds during lockdown.  Like they were breaking down the doors to get out on a normal day.  Doesn’t “lockdown” sound like a prison term? It’s overkill.

Home schooling is looking pretty damn good right about now.

Wednesday: I don’t like this

Aside from an Occupy march or three, my life is unexciting.  I’ve never had a speeding ticket, never been arrested, don’t do drugs.  But if I *wanted* to smoke a joint in my backyard, I’d like to think I could do so without some drone hovering a mile overhead watching me do it.  Don’t they even make little drones that look like insects and birds and stuff or did I read that in a Michael Crichton book?

This article in The Atlantic should have all of us pretty pissed off.  There’s a limit to how much surveillance we need to keep everyone on the straight and narrow:

Drones, in my mind, make it clear how many of our feelings about privacy rest on the assumption that surveillance is time consuming or difficult. If someone smokes a joint in her backyard, she is making the (pretty good) calculation that a police officer is not watching. In our cars, we assume we can quickly send a text message at a red light or not wear our seatbelts for a few minutes or drive a few miles over the speed limit. We don’t expect that someone is watching our every move and that gives the law some give, a bendiness that reflects it’s a human construction.

But these little flying video and audio recorders, paired with powerful data analysis tools, make previously unthinkable levels of surveillance possible, even easy. Before the Internet, tracking someone’s reading and shopping activities would have been nearly impossible without a private detective. Now, new online tracking tools make it possible to easily capture every page that you visit on the Internet. So companies do. Technology doesn’t create entirely novel privacy questions, but it tilts the playing field towards or away from increased privacy without many citizens (or courts!) really noticing that anything had changed.

Let’s look at one example of how drones change the privacy equation. We tend to think of our homes as having a perimeter. Property maps are two-dimensional, we talk about property lines as if they were burned into the ground. There are access points in two-dimensional space — paths and roads — that channel visitors through a small number of places. We can build fences or plant hedges and they need not be high to mark the territory out.

A flying drone with a zoom lens, though, makes that whole sense of two-dimensional privacy an anachronism. If one wanted privacy from the government or other citizens, one would have to defend the entire volume of airspace reaching up from one’s property to several hundred feet up, if not much farther. This vastly increases the cost of physically hiding one’s activities. And, vis a vis law enforcement, the idea of “plain sight” hardly even makes sense anymore, as Jonathan Zittrain pointed out yesterday:

“The prospect of constant government surveillance of citizens through cheap drones tests the “plain sight” doctrine by which, under our Constitution, police are generally allowed to scope out whatever is in plain view, without requiring a warrant. Supercharged technologies face some limits — extra-sensitive remote microphones, or heat signature detectors of the sort that might be pointed at the wall of a home to detect marijuana-growing lamps in use inside.”

Anyway, the concept of a drone is sort of what my concept of biblical God is.  Doesn’t God have better things to do with his/her time than watch ordinary people do things that shouldn’t be illegal?  And what kind of life do you have when everyone is afraid to step out of line even a fraction of an inch for fear of being fined or jailed?  Isn’t that like being a cow or some other dumb animal?  You get up in the morning, go out to a pasture, chew some cud, go home and go to sleep.  What would be the point? I’m sure the apocalyptic evangelical fundamentalist crowd would see this scenario as some kind of earthly paradise but what about the rest of us?

On the other hand, all of those people who are looking for houses with a lot of “privacy” from their neighbors might as well give it up.  You’re never going to get a chance to have a threesome in the pool with your wife and that personal fitness instructor that you’ve been fantasizing about.

The writer of the Atlantic article thinks the additional surveillance (just because we can) will prompt citizens to run screaming to their legislatures and courts demanding legal protections and that the backlash will include things we don’t even think about now, like various internet giants tracking our every move through the web.  I don’t care if they check out where I’ve been but there is a limit to how much information I’m willing to share with the outside world and the world right now is pushing it.  And giving an entity this much power is an invitation to abuse.

One other thing that’s worth noting is the effect this will have on our most innovative, artistic, and politically useful people.  If everyone is forced to conform as if they live in a fanatical townhouse association with the Staasi for neighbors, then we’ll get the same cookie cutouts running our elected offices too.  Nassir Ghaemi, author of A First Rate Madness says that in times of crisis, the last thing you want is some normal dude or dudess who has no mental abnormalities and has never tested the bounds of what is socially acceptable, which is why it should come as no surprise that George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been such disasters. Monogamous, normal, sane, conformity minded people make the worst leaders in times of crisis and make horrendous decisions.  In fact, it helps to have had a mental health crisis of some kind or to have broken some social taboo.  Think Winston Churchill and his cyclical political career, JFK and his affairs and illnesses, Abraham Lincoln and his depression and atheism and finally Steve Jobs and his LSD use.  If there’s a drone watching you and listening in to every conversation, it’s much harder to think out of the box and do what needs to be done without fear of severe reprisals.  In fact, you may never get the chance.  Drones are going to nip a first rate madness in the bud (no pun intended).

Maybe the world works best when there’s a little bit of unravelling, a soupçon of testing the limits.  Sometimes you have to go up in energy to overcome some barrier.  That involves a certain amount of risk taking that others may not approve of.  As Nucky Thompson said, “We all have to decide how much sin we can live with.”  With a drone buzzing up above, that decision may be made for us.  And that’s not a good thing.

**************

The People’s Party considers non-violence:

*************

In other news: Chemists are screwed.  The statistic in this article is old.  The pace of job losses has accelerated in the last two years for chemists.  You know, I can’t think of a more depressing prospect for a chemist than to have spent at least 4 years stuffing my brain with all this complexicated nollij and then be stuck in a CRO lab doing the same damn thing, day after day, like some low level factory worker, never being involved in the design of the compound or asked to participate in a project.  So, maybe it’s better if we just didn’t have American chemists at all.  Yeah, let’s all devolve.

*************

The only guy who could compete with Jon Stewart, George Carlin, takes on the pro-life (actually, the pro-dirty, illegal abortionist) position:

It’s hard to believe he’s been dead for 4 years because he could have written this material yesterday.

Credo: What do YOU believe?

What do you believe?

Some of you may have seen this before.  It seems appropriate that we reflect on what makes us Deomcrats. We will all need to come together before the fall. Let’s craft a message that even wingers will envy. Here is my credo post from last fall:

Some of us have lost our minds lately. We are putting conditions and litmus tests on our candidates. We are getting lost in the trees while failing to see the forest. We have lost the common goals that will help us stick together in the coming year and make us an effective force in setting this country back on the proper course- forward. So, I came up with my credo, my personal belief. This is what makes me a Democrat and is why I’m here. It is what makes me a proud American. Help me make it better. I am a Democrat and I believe in the common good. I believe Americans can accomplish great things when we watch each other’s backs and help each other take risks without fear of the lifetime consequences of failure.

    I believe in social justice. That is, we may not all be born with the same advantages but we are born with the right to be treated equally before the law. I believe in quality public education, the right to vote without obstructions, that individuals have the right to be treated equally regardless of sex, age, religion, marital status, national origin, disability or sexuality. I believe it is important that individuals excrcise personal responsibility but I’m not going to ask them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and then deny them the boots. I believe in the right of employees to unionize and negotiate for better working conditions and benefits. I believe that immigrants should be offered a path to citizenship and not treated as a permanent underclass. I believe that no child in America should go to bed hungry, should forgo college because they can’t afford it or suffer from illnesss their parents can’t afford to treat.

    I believe in fiscal responsibility. I believe in using tax payer’s money responsibly. I believe in paying my taxes for the common good. I believe in a progressive tax structure. I believe that deficit spending is justified to pay for infrastructure but not for unnecessary wars. I believe in Social Security and the entrepreneurship that blossoms when citizens know they have a safety net. I believe in universal healthcare because when we are all insured, the cost of healthcare will go down for all of us.

    I believe in preserving a healthy planet. ‘Cos where else are you going to go? I believe in reducing greenhouse gases, in moving away from an oil based economy. I believe in research into alternative fuels. I believe in investment in mass transit. I believe in reducing pesticides and antibiotics in our environment. I believe in being a good global citizen and joining in committments to protect our environment.

    I believe in privacy for citizens and the right to be left alone. I believe in a citizens right to worship or not worship without penalty or reward from the state. I believe that government should stay out of our bedrooms and the sex lives of consenting adults. I believe that the government has no state interest in interfering with a woman’s right to choose to have children or not. I believe that citizens have a right to believe that their private conversations are not wiretapped, that their homes are sacrosanct and shouldn’t be searched without a warrant.

    I believe in the wise use of our forces. I believe that national security is best when our military is well-prepared, well-equipped and well rested. I believe that the national guard should be used to defend us at home and not abroad except under the direst circumstances. I believe in treating our soldiers with dignity and respect because we are asking them to put their most precious possession on the line for us. I believe we have an obligation to defend the helpless from genocide. I believe we should not pre-emptively invade a country that has not threatened us. I believe we should participate in peaceful negotiations in regions of the world where there is conflict. I believe we should not throw our weight around just because we are a superpower. I believe we should go to war only as a last resort, do the job efficiently and thoroughly and have an exit strategy.

    I believe that all of the Democratic candidates match my beliefs but that they have different ways to achieve their goals. I am going to vote for the best prepared, strongest candidate who I feel is the most capable of putting America on the path forward with solid policy and vision.

    What do YOU believe?