Saturday, October 5, 2013

Is Edward Snowden in the Clouds or on the Beanstalk, a Spy?

Latest Research Notes on Spying for Future Thinking on the Subject

Is Snowden a spy?  Let's say he is. And let's say he's a spy for Global Main Street. As a spy for Global Main Street, shouldn't his job include finding out who the counter spies are? Isn't it his job to protect Global Main Street from those who could harm it, intentionally or unintentionally? 

Now that Snowden has climbed the Beanstalk and exposed a network of counter spies, Global Main Street appears to be heading toward the familiar and historical impasse, where so many opportune moments for real change have died or become ineffective. Impasses usually disappoint because they force a compromise of ethics for the sake of unity. As of now, Global Main Street stands united in standing still together, looking up beanstalks and waiting. It's kind of like Waiting for Godot in the electronic age.

Where is Jack (Edward Snowden) in our Beanstalk Saga, anyway? Still in the clouds? On the Beanstalk? On his way to the political ovens? According to his lawyer, Snowden is still in Russia, where identity shaping and stripping are probably as ongoing as they are in the United States. Just a different version with greater intensity and transparency. For example, you can go to jail for creating art that satirizes Russian leaders. You are assured lives in Russia are being  tracked on a barometer of obedience/dissidence. In America, the NSA is working toward such greater transparency as part of its job to keep the American people informed. It still amazes me how easy it seems for people in leadership roles to disregard the liberty and privacy of other people. People's lives are so precious, yet are treated so carelessly.  Who can walk outside these days without breaking into tears?

The odds favor Snowden is sometimes in the clouds and sometimes stuck in different places on the beanstalk. In his arms he still carries the Golden Goose for Global Main Street. What will become of it?  Maybe he needs help. He's probably tired. Maybe we all need to find a beanstalk.

Time Passes

It took the Syrian mass murder debacle to slink the NSA revelations back into the alleys, where the NSA debacle festers and its function increases in strength. You can tell I do not like this peeping vehicle. I suppose if I had one thing to become an activist over, it would be to help close down the NSA and other agencies like it around the world.  Now both the Syrian mass murder debacle and NSA peeping debacle have stepped aside for the latest debacle, the US government shutdown. Time passes. Th US government shutdown takes the stage. Even in this it's  Main Street that  feels the kicks and bruises.   I'm not much of a TV watcher, but it does feel like someone is switching channels. I can only imagine what's next.

I feel quite certain that the shutdown helps the NSA's Audacity of Peeking Program (AOPP) by diverting attention away from the spying programs, which continue to grow in size and power while Global Main Street continues to get more kicks and bruises. 

Current Status of the NSA Surveillance Programs:
  • Its workers and supporters get paid to dilute and narrow its scope to a hunt for terrorists
  • It has crystalized its focus to Grand Protector in Operation Hush-Hush as in a children's sci-fi cartoon
  • It has rigidly taken charge of limiting its own weakness to a few bad apples sneaking peeks through naturally arising prisms
"Don't get me started on that list," said one co-worker, who said he's so traumatized by the news of the surveillance programs, he's starting to talk to people who he thinks are listening to him sing and yell at other drivers on the road. "It's like I can never drive alone anymore. I miss that refuge. . .I'm not much of a wilderness guy." The surveillance has added new worries to his life. He wonders how it sounds when "they" hear his shaver going off in stalled traffic. 

What some are saying about the Surveillance.

Oct. 3: Glenn Greenwald maintains his position in an interview in which a newscaster worries over Greewald and Snowden carrying secrets belonging to governments that could end up in the hands of terrorists. 

If a burglar breaks into homes in my neighborhood and I'm Head of Neighborhood Watch, do I have the right to set up a secret surveillance system in which I track all activities in my neighborhood such as tapping people's Internet accounts in order to catch the thief? If I get caught by my neighbors and I explain only parts of my secret system, insisting to dismantle it or explain any further might give the thief the facts to change his approach, does that transparency give credibility to the secret system I've created?  It's not a clean analogy, but it hints at the irresponsible, intrusive and irrational world of these surveillance programs. As Head of Neighborhood Watch do I have the responsibility to be intelligent and ethical in my reasoning and choices? Or may I do what is easiest for me? Is it my choice to define intelligent and ethical to suit my needs?

The conversation with Glenn Greenwald ends about 14:10. Then a couple of people come on, an intelligence specialist refutes what Greenwald says. She explains why she thinks the surveillance programs are commonplace and should be accepted along with the latest electronic technology. A second person defends Greenwald, who almost gets the last word.


More News on the Topic
  Alan Rusbridges, editor of The Guardian, in an hour-long interview (includes written transcript) on Democracy Now! on Sept. 23 discusses the background and present status of the Snowden revelations. It's an interview built on reminders about what has transpired over the past 3 months or so rather than on revelations or a deeper analysis of events or conditions.

About 34:00 On the Miranda detainment
About 40:00 On sharing documents with New York Times and ProPublica
About 46:00 On effects of surveillance on international business community and governments 
About 50:00 Obama's reaction--just trust us
About 54:00 Letter to families of NSA employees sent by NSA Chief Director, Keith Alexander
About 56:00 On Julian Assange

 "On Sept. 24, Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo PatiƱo discusses why President Rafael Correa is not  attending this week’s United Nations General Assembly; the plight of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has spent more than 450 days in the Ecuador’s London Embassy after being granted asylum last year; and Ecuador’s role this past summer in the drama surrounding National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and his attempt to secure political asylum." 

Marx in Soho

 Howard Zinn's play. Terrific play, a monologue worth the hour whether you know the works of Karl Marx or not. Marx returns to life (ends up in Soho in New York) not just to set the record straight about his ideas and personal life but to take a look around at our world today. At times comedic. The acting isn't the best but acceptable.

Early on in his monologue, Marx insists he is not a Marxist. Sets the record straight on his statements such as "religion is the opiate of the people" (about 16:00, begins with a story about a Christmas party with Frederick Engels).

At about 26:00 he recounts living with his boils and that some critics attributed his ideas to having boils.

At about 36:30 he recounts an argument with Jenny (his wife) on how to talk about surplus value, labor value, commodity value.

At about 40:00 he recounts Jenny's position on the emancipation of women.

At about 42:00 he sets his theory straight on the definition of communism today, which he sees distorted by thugs.

At about 44:50 he recounts his tumultuous relationship with the anarchist Bakunin and includes a great sequence of the establishment and destruction of the short-live Paris Commune.

At about 58:00 he poses the question on capitalism's triumph.

"Don't ask who deserves it. Everyone deserves it."

If the video disappears, which it has, here's the direct link.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Spy satellite launched from California into Space August 28, 2013

Transparency has taken on a new meaning after the Snowden revelations. Today a rocket, 23 stories high, carried a spy satellite into space.  The launch of the NROL-65 is being billed as a "hush hush mission" in honor of those who fight for freedom. 

Unfortunately, this episode is not a science fiction tale. It is just another symptom. We humans really are this bizarre.  We'd rather spend our time and money spying on one another than on advancing science (minus war and spying apparatuses), medicine, education and the arts.

How we reached this strange state of being, this unique form of global madness, might be a productive place to begin an open debate with the goal of freeing ourselves from such globally mad behavior.  It's true. In our present mental state, it's mesmerizing to stand around, or sit around tables or on couches, and watch the trajectory without asking how it colors and shapes our daily lives. We should always be looking for the damage, the potential, the loss in the decisions others make for us. This new kind of transparency appears to be replacing our critical questioning. It appears to provide the answers so we don't question. We forget that when the lights of the fireworks disappear, it's the end of the show. How untrue about spy rockets and satellites. The show goes on unseen to influence not just our everyday lives but the unconscious in multiple ways. Oddly, these transparent and momentary glimpses of the tiny edges or small parts of the whole are paraded as acts of liberty and celebration. 

Below is the story from the Guardian.

Boeing Delta 4 lift off
A Boeing Delta 4 rocket flies from Vandenberg Air Force Base over California in 2006. Photograph: Len Wood/AP
A massive rocket carrying a spy satellite for the US government launched from the central California coast on Wednesday.
The Delta IV Heavy rocket soared off the launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles, and sped toward low-Earth orbit, officials at United Launch Alliance said.
The rocket carried a satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office, which oversees the nation's constellation of intelligence-gatheringsatellites. Liftoff occurred at 11:03am PDT, about 10 minutes later than planned as engineers dealt with some last-minute minor issues.
Since the mission is classified, no other details were available.
At 23 stories, the Delta IV Heavy is the largest rocket in the country. The last time it launched from Vandenberg – in 2011 – the roar of the engines shook the nearby city of Lompoc. Some people reported hearing the engine roar from 50 miles away.
This time around, the three main engines were ignited one after another to lessen the impact during liftoff.
Air Force security and police closed a nearby beach and evacuated campers as a precaution. About 200 cars lined the access road to the base and spectators gathered at other viewing spots for a glimpse of the rocket cruising through the cloudless sky.
United Launch Alliance is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corporation and The Boeing Corporation to provide space launch services to the federal government with their Atlas and Delta rocket programs.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Governments Showing Teeth Against Leaks of Surveillance: Miranda, Creon, and Jack in the Beanstock

Update Research (8/20) Update (8/20) Democracy Now!  interviews owner of Lavabit (Snowden's email provider) on shutting down after the government showed its teeth to him.
Even Bloomberg recognizes when the giant, out of control with hubris, goes too far.
Update Research (8/19 9:48 PM): Various comments on the detainment.

8/19/ 4:22 PM 

Governments Show their Acidic Teeth

It appears that the detainment of David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald is an instance of the British and American governments showing their teeth. They don't like they've been awakened from their slumber (secrets) by Snowden and others trespassers, so they plan to put them in the political ovens and cook them publicly.

But what psychological fairy tale underlies this true story? Are Britain/America the giants and Snowden and other trespassers Jacks, who have climbed up the beanstock? Are Snowden, Greenwald, Poitras and others like them in in the clouds running from the giant? Will they escape with the "Golden" Goose? And what is the Golden Goose for Main Street and what shall we do with it if we manage to secure it? These are questions that need to be answered fast before those ruling over Main Street get ahold of the questions and twist them to satisfy their perspective of events along with the future for Main Street. Right now such people in power mine everything to twist it to their advantage.

One thing for certain, if the Golden Eggs from Golden Goose are meant to help Main Street dismantle the bulk of the surveillance powers and its laws as well as dismantle the global austerity programs, we can be sure that anyone promoting either will be running from the teeth of government.

Why are governments finding it necessary to bare their teeth to the public through detainments such as Miranda's? Perhaps it's a kind of instinct of power to do so, a political knee-jerk reaction. Britain officials told the Guardian that "it" (I guess that means most of us) had its "fun" debate on surveillance and should move on. Rugby anyone? But remember Creon in Antigone by Sophocles? Rather than engage in a healthy introspection on his own shortcomings or errors or listen to others or change a bad decree, Creon shows his teeth to Antigone, his son Haemon and all of Thebes. Clinging to his authoritarian rule, he realizes his hubris too late. Tragedy follows.

The detainment of Miranda is similar in nature to the grounding of the plane of Boliva's president when the US and its allies believed Snowden might be on board. It is a signal of what might happen to future planes (including those carrying a president of a weaker country) that might be carrying Snowden. Teeth showing by a giant can be scary. You can't take it lightly. The giant will cook you in the political oven and use you for its food. How tragic that the giant wants to possess power for itself alone and fears equality in economics and liberties. The leadership around the world needs deep analysis and a new job.

But back to Jack and the Beanstock. Now that Main Street has gotten smarter by finding the kingdom in the clouds, its own position has been put on alert. As a result of climbing the beanstock with Jack (Snowden), Main Street is beginning to see the conditions that threaten its hard fought for rights such as freedom of speech, assembly and privacy.

Main Street is also beginning to sense political positions (including that people in power are nothing more than other ordinary people except for their position) and how these privileged ordinary individuals, who happen to be societal decision-makers, can cause not only chaos but terrible damage and destruction to other individuals and even whole societies.

These decision-makers show their teeth like mad dogs if they feel too threatened. They are never wrong. We need only look at Egypt and now countries attempting to protect their surveillance programs (not to mention their austerity programs).

Main Street is beginning to see just how powerful the giants (never sleeping) are against the Jacks. But baring teeth doesn't give the giant the last word. Main Street has a choice. ( Fill in the obvious. ) Whatever the choice it makes, Main Street must believe that the giant's own self-interest and knee-jerk reactions are not enough to prevent Jack from stealing the Goose and its Golden Eggs or get safely away.

Just because the giant is bigger and stronger (has more money or more connections to money and more weapons), the giant certainly is not wiser, more compassionate or more equitable in spirit, the basis for a humane society intent on keeping global strife at a minimum and keeping pursuit of happiness at a maximum.

Let's assume that the giant (in its hysteria) sees Jack as a kind of political terrorist. Let's assume that kings, presidents, and other officials are just ordinary people except for their positions (usually based on or connections to wealth), and these officials (acting in their own self interests) have brought about not only the austerity programs but also the surveillance systems to protect their positions and privileges.  Let's assume any giant can hold a gun or threat over your head or act beastly by threatening to throw you in jail or kill you. It can dismantle your computers and steal your creative ideas. Now what?

To change rusted or destructive systems (in a timely manner) takes a tremendous will. Global Main Street is the only entity capable of bringing about such a change.

Familiarity--the backbone of the status quo--itself  can be a highly tantalizing but destructive force regardless of the security or illusion of security it offers.

We will have to see what happens to Jack, the Beanstock, the Golden Goose and the Giant.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Chomsky and America's Capitalist Democracy Ceiling

What is the ceiling of America's capitalist democracy? According to Noam Chomsky, the ceiling has lowered considerably since it peaked in 1949. In his article "The U.S. Behaves Nothing Like a Democracy," he explores the present ceiling level of America's capitalist democracy. He writes,
According to received doctrine, we live in capitalist democracies, which are the best possible system, despite some flaws. There’s been an interesting debate over the years about the relation between capitalism and democracy, for example, are they even compatible? I won’t be pursuing this because I’d like to discuss a different system – what we could call the “really existing capitalist democracy”, RECD for short, pronounced “wrecked” by accident. To begin with, how does RECD compare with democracy? Well that depends on what we mean by “democracy”. There are several versions of this. One, there is a kind of received version. It’s soaring rhetoric of the Obama variety, patriotic speeches, what children are taught in school, and so on. In the U.S. version, it’s government “of, by and for the people”. And it’s quite easy to compare that with RECD.
Read the full article.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

NSA, Snowden, Pressure Cooker, and Quinoa

In my research, I found an interesting story that shows how the NSA has benefited from Snowden's revelations. In discussing the article with a colleague, he reminded me (and I paraphrase) now that we all know the NSA spies on everyone, it will become more and more commonplace for such visits without resistance as Catalano describes below--until at least  people find such visits more dangerous than spectacle. 

Catalano was at work, but her husband was sitting in the living room as the police arrived. She retold the experience in a post on on Thursday. She attributed the raid largely to her ongoing hunt for a pressure cooker, an item used devastatingly by the two Tsarnaev brothers in Boston, but also used by millions across the country to prepare vegetables while retaining most of their nutrients. 
Catalano, a writer for indie music and politics magazine Death and Taxes wrote: 

What happened was this: At about 9:00 am, my husband, who happened to be home yesterday, was sitting in the living room with our two dogs when he heard a couple of cars pull up outside. He looked out the window and saw three black SUVs in front of our house; two at the curb in front and one pulled up behind my husband's Jeep in the driveway, as if to block him from leaving. 
Six gentleman in casual clothes emerged from the vehicles and spread out as they walked toward the house, two toward the backyard on one side, two on the other side, two toward the front door. 
A million things went through my husband's head. None of which were right. He walked outside and the men greeted him by flashing badges. He could see they all had guns holstered in their waistbands. 
"Are you [name redacted]?" one asked while glancing at a clipboard. He affirmed that was indeed him, and was asked if they could come in. Sure, he said. 
They asked if they could search the house, though it turned out to be just a cursory search. They walked around the living room, studied the books on the shelf (nope, no bomb making books, no Anarchist Cookbook), looked at all our pictures, glanced into our bedroom, pet our dogs. They asked if they could go in my son's bedroom but when my husband said my son was sleeping in there, they let it be. 
At this point, Catalano said, the police were "peppering my husband with questions"."Where is he from? Where are his parents from? They asked about me, where was I, where do I work, where do my parents live. Do you have any bombs, they asked." 

It was at this point that the conversation took a delightfully culinary turn, with quinoa making an unlikely appearance in the FBI's inquiries: 
Do you own a pressure cooker? My husband said no, but we have a rice cooker. Can you make a bomb with that? My husband said no, my wife uses it to make quinoa. What the hell is quinoa, they asked. 
The joint terrorism task force did not press Catalano's husband on the dilemma facing liberals over whether quinoa consumption is ethically sound – many Bolivians can no longer afford their staple food now everyone in Brooklyn is eating it.

Here's the full story taken from an article at theguardian.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Noam Chomsky on NSA--ZNET Internet Radio

Research updated August 17: Here's a video from July 27, in which Chomsky states at the Geneva Press Club.  The format is questions and answers. The video is 1 hour and 44 minutes. The video opens with Chomsky talking about Kerry, Israel and Palestine. He moves on to discuss Iran, Syria, Egypt, Jordan. He includes Washington and Europe's role in the conflicts. He addresses the justaposition of power in America against the emerging powers of China and South America at about 1: 11. He offers a critical historical fact on America "losing" China in 1949 (at about 1:13). He offers an informative talk on the prevalent practice of rendition (sending prisoners to other places for torture) and its current changing face, especially in Latin America. Near the end of this discussion, he brings up the barring airspace to the the plane believed to be carrying Snowden (about 1:15). At about 1:19, he addresses the Switzerland and the Geneva Initiative. These comments are followed by comments on Snowden's situation at about 1:21. The full written text on Chomsky's response on Snowden is on the page link. He argues that Snowden should be "honored."

He states,

My own opinion is that Snowden should be honored. He was doing what every citizen ought to do, telling. [Applause] He was telling Americans what the government was doing. That's what's supposed to happen. 
See the link for the entire response.

Earlier Post published on July 29

While doing research, I just discovered this Internet Radio Station. Here are my notes.

There is a strange recording that starts with this post! I'm trying to find it and remove it. It's on Occupy.

Blog Radio interview with Noam Chomsky on Snowden and NSA

The above interview starts out a bit chaotic and slow. It begins with that traitor/hero dichotomy. After that surface discussion, the interview takes off in an informative manner. Chomsky goes over Snowden's innocence and appropriate actions, but also covers an overview of his thoughts on the surveillance system the American government uses on everyone and anyone it chooses.

1. hero or traitor? Hero.
2. Some things should remain secret such as negotiations. Snowden has kept certain materials secret that might harm national security. Embarrassment is not an issue that harms national security.
3. Government argues that metadata collection is necessary to prevent terrorism. But such a claim is ludicrous because the governments own actions (such as drone attacks) creates potential terrorists.
4. Bradley Manning has been tortured and will probably get a long sentence.
5. Snowden could easily get the death penalty.
6. Other countries fear the United States because it is a violent and vindictive "master."
7. South American countries cannot get Snowden out of Russia safely.
8. Once considered America's backyard, South America is now the only region of the world willing to stand up to the US.
9. The US is sending people to other countries to torture them for information. Other countries help out. Latin America, once a torture center, is the only place in the world (for past ten years) that refuses to participate in the terror programs of the US.  First time in 500 years Latin America has not been under foreign powers.
10. US is threatening Latin America to keep Snowden out. US refuses to extradite wanted "real" criminals from Latin America. Chomsky does not advise any Latin America country to take Snowden in. Why? US will retaliate. Doesn't have the power to institute a coup. But it can punish in many other ways. Which country would Snowden be the most secure it? Possibly Brazil.
11. Appeals Court case: Hedges against Obama. NDAA legislation authorizes government to keep others (including American citizens) under indefinite detention. A district court accepted Hedges position. But the Obama administration went to court to appeal and won. Thus, people can be indefinitely detained.
12. US does not allow itself to be subjected to international law. It has exempted itself. US cannot be brought to trial for any international treaty.
13. Metadata collects communication. It identifies hubs of dissent.
14. PRISM has direct back door access to emails, calls, etc. These communications are stored in NSA storage. Strategy: Collect it all. If you need it, it's there. While the US is more free than other countries, the government protects concentrated powers and state's interests.
15.According to James Madison (Constitutional Convention), power must be in the hands of the wealth of the nation, the most responsible group of men, those who respect property ownership. Aristotle didn't like most governments. But Aristotle pointed out that democracy was probably the best. Like James Madison (who came over 2,000 years later), Aristotle pointed out the dangers of democracy (the vote) was that the poor could take the powers away from the rich. Madison's solution was to reduce democracy. Aristotle's solution was to reduce inequality. He called for what we call today welfare state measures. With a strong middle-class there's less pressure for rebellion. Powerful sectors do not run away. They find new ways to hang on to their power.
16. Seventy percent of Americans have no influence on policy. Thus, we live in a plutocracy.
17. Over sixty percent of young people approve of Snowden's revelations. Gap between popular opinion and policy common.
18. Past US President Jimmy Carter supports Snowden's whistleblowing. He also states that US has no functioning democracy. But Carter received almost no coverage for his statements. Got around through Internet a bit.
19. Domestic drones spy on and threaten ordinary citizens. Population wants more environmental legislation.
20. Just about every European country spies on its citizens. France doesn't even need a court order and that's pretty much true throughout Europe. But they don't have the sophisticated technology that US has.  If governments have the power and technology, they are going to use it. COINTELPRO and Red Scare were worse in the US.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Snowden, Neither Hero Nor Traitor

Updated Research August 17

Recent developments include American corporations mining China through surveillance, or the "shoe is on the other foot." For article head to the Motely Fool site. The headline of this article reads:  Did Edward Snowden's NSA Papers Really Hurt American Business Interests?

Updated research August 7: Here's an article by Glen Greenwald on the canceled meeting between Obama and Putin as well as references to several refusals of the Washington administration to extradite people to other countries. It offers a bit of a global view of the extradition battleground arena an inspires further research.

Here's a taste of the article

Research Notes

Update, August 1: Snowden leaves airport room with temporary asylum to live in Russia for a year.

Now that Snowden has left the airport and is busy reestablishing a life in a new country, I hope to see a strong move toward investigating, reducing and monitoring surveillance programs around the world. It will be an interesting year for 27/7 surveillance programs versus people who find them offensive, illegal and dangerous. We'll see if anything happens happens.

July 21

In the case of Edward Snowden, let's drop the argument on whether he is hero or traitor. It will not do us any good as a population of people attempting to enhance our living conditions in America. Either way, we would have found out the details sooner or later.

Besides, how could I or anyone possibly know if is a hero or traitor? Just the word hero limits his actions as does the word traitor. Anyone using either term to define Snowden should perhaps take a think it over walk. You may have been too quick with the labeling gun. I'm suggesting, for those of us interested, it isn't an either-or situation. Its complexity makes him both and neither, one cancels out the other.

 I like the word enlightener for Edward Snowden. Such a word has nothing to do with whether he's a traitor or hero. It defines the act. An enlightener simply makes public what until his or her exposure has remained, more or less, hidden.

I like to think of Voltaire, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and Naomi Klein as enlighteners to the positive. Poets, novelists, filmmakers and song writers can be enlighteners. Satirists such as Michael Moore, Paul Krassner and Matt Groening are perhaps some of the more visible enlighteners today as they use humor to bring questionable behavior to the surface, and in doing so, reach a broad range of people from varied cultures and backgrounds. Daniel Ellsberg, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange fit into another category of enlighteners. Supporters of Edward Snowden put him in with this last group. But there are all kinds of enlighteners with a political microphone,  Elizabeth Warren, Robert Kennedy, Bernie Sanders, to name a few.

We should note another group of enlighteners. This last group of enlighteners have no recognizable face of intent. These people go on missions to enlighten people for the wrong reasons, those likely to harm  Main Street for the benefit of the few. I suppose voices such as Dick Cheney fall under this category. These are the ones who expose to justify actions or ideas such as metadata collections, the presence of terrorists, dangers of a weak economy or public debt, the need for higher interest rates, the justification for a mortgage crises, and so on, in order to shape public acceptance and attitudes and prevent mass discontent.

So, what are we supposed to do with our new knowledge, the facts?

First we have to answer some critical questions. Should the government or corporations be the first to know when we fall in love? Or have an argument? Or come up with a new idea? Should some bored or unimaginative hack steal our earliest creative impulses put on paper or into an image and sent to friends or colleagues for early feedback? Should the government have the tools to create a working profile of us and use it for its own purposes with or without our consent? Is it okay for other people--our neighbors, perhaps--to follow our every move? Listen to our every word? Know where we are at all times?

If so, I suggest we tear down the walls of our homes and put a giant transparent tarp over neighborhoods. That might be the best way to ensure one another nothing fishy (dissent or broadly defined terrorism) is going on behind closed doors.

We're familiar with boogeymen from our childhoods. While we've grown up, we still harbor emotional canals filled with pus (fear) that make us do stupid things, like put our heads under the covers (give up our civil liberties) in hopes the boogeyman won't get us.

While many of us already knew we live under a system of international surveillance, we lacked the detailed facts of its extent. Now we have them and the responsibility that goes along with it. Will we act on the responsibility?

I digress for one moment. I voted for Obama. But not for the reasons you may think. One person cannot possibly undo the extensive damage imposed on how we govern ourselves in the US.  I never believed him capable of making the changes he promised for Main Street. But I did believe--probably just as naively--he'd leave open the door just a crack (through transparency?) for Main Street to get its foot in. I really believed Main Street would rise to the occasion and spend Obama's 4-8 years in the streets and at the tables making untold critical changes to create a truly better America in terms of education, health care, distribution of wealth, cost of living, working conditions, and increased awareness at all levels.  I was wrong. Whether feeling comfortable or paralyzed, Main Street has sat on the couch most of the time.

To grind myself further into disappointment, I now predict Main Street will not jump to its feet and stop the massive surveillance against our personal privacy. So far I've seen less than a handful on Main Street jump to their feet this past week when the Fisa Court quietly extended the government's surveillance programs. Meanwhile, the government, just as do corporations, has assured Main Street it can self-regulate its surveillance. And that appears all it takes to keep people on the couch.

We should look at who has the chance to benefit from the Edward Snowden saga.


Group A
This group believes in freedom of the press and privacy. It's been unable to get any real traction in support of these freedoms since 9/11, when America put the brakes on real freedom and stalled its own momentum toward a greater open society with real liberty and real opportunity for all. Real freedom. This group has the opportunity to benefit now if it becomes very visible and very loud. It can demand that all records collected on Americas be destroyed and surveillance stopped. It can boycott social media and corporations who spy (is that all by now?) until they prove they stop. It can call for dismantling the Utah Storage Chamber and using its funding, present and future, to establish and maintain some kind of research, arts and recreation center for the advancement of culture, science and medicine. It can borrow the mantra, America will never be the same after 6/9-11 with the intent that the people will be keeping an eye on Washington and Corporations rather than the other way around. For this group to benefit, it has to engage in movement and get itself and others off the couch.

Group B
The group trying to make the debate on privacy versus security now has a very large microphone inside the public arena, including just about every media outlet, to get its argument heard and repeated, echoes in the closed chamber of the new America. They benefit because they can accumulate followers who are willing to vote for less privacy to gain what they believe is more security.  

Group C
The government officials and petty officials who wanted to go public, at some point, with the news that everyone in America is being watched in order to prevent terrorism but really to control dissent. This group now has an international open ear.  This group needed a Snowden in order for this group to use his revelations to sensationalize, distort and circulate the news. They welcomed a diversion (Snowden) to lighten the blow to the American people and to keep the real issue--privacy and freedom of speech and the press--in the background. Chase scenes in films are usually mesmerizing.  If the Snowden saga seems like a chase scene in a movie, this group benefits. With Main Street focused on the chase rather than the revelations, the exposed surveillance systems get twisted into appearing as the victims in this saga. Once the fake victims convince Main Street that Snowden, in the chase scene, is a bad guy not good guy, it gets Main Street to root against itself and save the fake victims and crucify Snowden. Meanwhile, time passes and Americans get used to this notion of being watched 24/7. We're very good at taking sides or adjusting to changes in the weather.

This group can also benefit by finding a new context--6/9-11--to remind Main Street that terrorists still exist and pose a threat 24/7. It can also benefit by using Snowden as an example of what happens to you if you reveal illegal (and spying on innocent Americans is illegal) actions people running the society engage in.  So for this group, they have 9/11 and 6/9-11 to maintain control 24/7.This group benefits by turning and twisting Snowden's plight until it ends up free advertisement for a system already in place!

Group D
Social media groups and communication corporations. These groups benefit by no longer having to hide their subservient role to the government. With the news in the open, everyone is now free to spy on everyone else. Let us not forget that hundreds of anti-surveillance devices to protect privacy (not really but kind of) from the government and corporations are emerging for reasonable prices. Such a deal. Oy!

Group E
Other countries with repressive regimes. These countries can now bring to light that the United States is just as another form of corrupt and disfigured Democracy. It spies on its people just as does China, Russia, Germany, England, and others. Just because everyone is spying on Main Street does not make it right. Other regimes can benefit because they too can make their surveillance systems known. I guess it cost more money to hide them than it does to make them visible.

Group F
Boogeymen can benefit by being set on a pedestal, capable of taking over at any time, powerful to the nth degree. There's a lot of ego to be gained if Main Street willingly gives up its civil liberties and money just to keep you at a distance.

Ultimately, with everyone being watched 24/7, the world has a chance to become globally in tune with one another, more narrow in its thinking, less imaginative in its art, more suspicious in its dealings, and less energetic to build a freer environment for itself. Settling for surface living, we have the chance to willingly censor and scrub our words and our gestures. In our bedrooms, we have the chance to willingly let in satellite devices that pick up our making love moves. We have already let smart meters in to measure how often we turn on our ovens and computers. When we sit down to dinner, we can now willingly agree which devices we'd like the government to use to count our calories.

updated July 20 & July 26.

My novel Plato's Screw will be published next month by Del Sol Press. It is about love, work and surveillance. It took ten years to write it. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Surveillance Devices Found at Ecuador's London Embassy

June 3, 2013
 Ecuador's Embassy in London is removing planted, hidden surveillance devices from its office.
Julian Assange has...condemned the bugging of Ecuador's London embassy, where he is living, after Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino announced that a listening device had been found in the ambassador's office. (for full story).
My Own Musing over Events

Obama has publicly used the word transparency to define his Presidency. We might remind him that Snowden's exposure is also what transparency looks like. We might remind the administration as well that it's not enough for us to know that these surveillance programs exist.

(Obama said everyone is engaged in these surveillance practices. We might remind the administration to look at the logic of that statement and check a basic book of logical fallacies.)

But more important, we might remind the administration that transparency does not give the green light to acceptance. Transparency is not the end, is not the last stop of arrival in our journey toward a more democratic government. It is the first step.

 I hope we as a people are smart enough to understand the crossroads we are it. Do we make transparency the end point? Or do we make it the beginning point to an equitable and open society? The choice is ours. We can no longer trust the current leaders of the world who participate in controlling our every day lives for the benefit of the few.

If the government is asking us to take sides, I am on the side of those calling for the US to return Edward Snowden's passport, so he may travel to a country that will give him political asylum.

I fear a fixed debate on the issue of privacy versus safety.  This either/or fallacy is a trap to get us to accept transparency as the end point. Why should we agree to protect the interests of the wealthy with our right to privacy?  We have many options at our crossroads, finding a balance is not the only one and should not be viewed as the equitable option. If we poke out our own eyes, how many of us will live fulfilling lives?