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Call me unpatriotic. I dare you.
Sep 11th, 2011 by scaredpoet

 

Yesterday morning, I saw something I hadn’t seen in almost 10 years.  It was a military convoy; a column of drab olive green army vehicles , the type you’d think are commonplace in areas like Iraq, or Afghanistan.  Only it wasn’t.  This convoy was on the New Jersey Turnpike, which granted has a few military installations off a couple of the exits, but the timing and size of the particular movement was interesting to say the least.

That isn’t the only thing going on though.  With the 10 anniversary of the September 11 attacks upon us, and while people are going all out to “remember and reflect,” the public and the government are busy working themselves up into a tizzy, with news outlets chattering away about a “credible but unconfirmed” threat of a new attack occurring today.

Nevermind that “credible” and “unconfirmed” seem to be completely contradictory.  For the past 10 years, we’ve been living in contradictory times.

For the past 10 years, we’ve accepted a paradox in which we find it acceptable to “protect” our way of life by blindly sacrificing the constitutional rights that are central to that way of life.  Somewhere along the line, the attacks were used as an excuse to make safety and privacy mutually exclusive constructs.

We perpetuate a farce in which some of us harrumph around that religion is being marginalized.  But in saying “religion,” what’s really meant is “White conservative protestants.”  When certain other religions are mentioned, well, it’s okay to marginalize those savages. And don’t dare try to justify the positions of atheists, secularists and agnostics.  ”Religious freedom” for the last 10 years has been predicated on having very little freedom of religion, at all.

And most of all, patriotism has been distorted.  It’s no longer having pride in our country, but in harboring anger and a desire for revenge, and encapsulating it in hyper-populist propaganda and images.  You’re not a patriot unless you lace your speech with hate for “the terrorists.”

Most importantly, there’s something even more insidious.  It’s not that terror threat levels, being groped in airports by government employees, and a sharper, harsher ultra-demagoguous political rhetoric has permeated our discourse.  What irks me the most is that people are no longer viewed as patriotic if they choose not to “remember” 9-11 in an “acceptable” way.  And by “acceptable” I mean: staring at replayed images and videos, reliving the moments over and over.  Continuing to be victims.  Choosing to remain stuck in the past.  Refusing to heal. And punctuating the decor of websites, blog posts and even storefronts and walls with meaningless tug-at-your-heartstrings artwork like this little gem…

I can respect the pain of families of victims of the 9-11 attacks.  But I must also point out a view that, while unpopular and possibly even deemed “unpatriotic,” is very simply a basic tenet of psychological therapy: dwelling in the past is unhealthy.  Remembering isn’t a good thing, if you refuse to move on.  I honestly think that all the discourse, all the malaise, all the economic problems and the political strife in our country today is based on a refusal to move past this… to continue to wave 9-11 in everyone’s faces, over and over.

We must move on.  We must stop being afraid.  We must decide, collectively, to resume living our life instead of endlessly grieving.  We must reclaim our rights again, and re-learn to accept a basic tenet that we used to live by, but have chosen since late 2001 to ignore: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

As long as we continue to have memorial services to mourn the dead and reflect on what the terrorists did to “us,” we should also hold equally solemn memorial services for the additional, even more serious injuries we’ve inflicted upon ourselves.

Until that happens, we simply will not heal.  The way to beat terrorism isn’t by living in fear, and by systematically dismantling our freedoms and converting our way of life into a police state.  The way to beat terrorism is by refusing to be terrorized.

What saddens me is there appear to be those who don’t want to heal.  And to me, that is the most unpatriotic thing to do of all.

The new police search battlefield: your cell phone
Feb 22nd, 2010 by scaredpoet

One thing that really annoys me about the tattered state of civil rights in the US is how technology is being used by law enforcement as a means to short-circuit basic privacy protections. Flying under the banner of things like “Homeland Security,” the common excuse seems to be made these newfangled desktop and mobile computer-machines don’t operate like the old, analog, physical things that used to replace them, and so somehow, this means the existing laws don’t apply. Sadly, it also seems like lawmakers are in no rush at all to make it clear that our Fourth Amendment Rights apply whether or not our belongings are stashed in a physical box, or whether they’re accessible via a keyboard or touch screen.

The latest arena for the battle for your privacy is your cell phone, and so far, law enforcement is on the offensive here.

Read the rest of this entry »
The terrorists might not win, but we’ve still lost.
Jan 10th, 2010 by scaredpoet


It’s over folks. ?The age of civilian air travel is coming to an abrupt end. ?It’s time to mothball our jets, shut the airlines, and go back to trains and ocean liners as our primary means of long distance travel. ?The United States as a country simply cannot fly anymore.

Why? Because of terrorism you ask? ?No, not because of terrorism. ?It’s because we’ve become a nation of panicky pussies. ?That’s why.

To be sure, on Christmas day 2009, a terrorist?did try – we think – to blow up a plane. ?Hiding a syringe with chemicals and incendiary devices in his underwear, he ignited his payload as the flight he was one prepared to land in Detroit. ?The only immediate casualties, fortunately, were his crotch and – we hope – his ability to procreate. In this case, Darwin may have?prevailed.

Shortly thereafter though, I realized that one other casualty resulted from this incident: our common sense. ?It started right away with Republicans and politicians in Washington. ?Rather than actually caring about the safety of the public and working towards learning from this experience to see how we can adapt reasonably and safely to this threat, if it IS a threat, they chose to pounce on this as a media stunt and politcal scare tactic. ?That’s right, because some silly Nigerian chose to roast his crotch on a flight, to them this clearly meant that Obama failed us.

So, while Washington was busy wrestling with that idea and preferring to focus on the potential political fallout of whether “the system” was working or not, the people who are allegedly tasked with protecting the public good and safety basically stopped focusing on protecting the public’s good and safety. ?Inevitably, this means “the system” that everyone was so busy arguing about has pretty much begun to break down all on its own anyway. That left the general public with the impression that they must now pretty much fend for themselves on the matter.

The result? ?Now we must get molested before we board an airplane, even though it probably won’t help the situation anyway. ?We now also have to deal with air travel being more erratic and unpredictable than before, ranging from the cut off of internet access and other in-flight amenities, to denying passengers the use of bathroom facilities. ?Because we all know that terrorists won’t possibly consider blowing up the plane if they will be denied those last couple minutes of facebook-time, or are unable to take a leak before the big moment, right?

Of course, none of these measures really add to the security of the flights. ?The hope, everyone agrees, is that maybe it’ll just help people feel a little safer, even though we’ve already told them, through the powers of twitter, cable TV news and the iReport, that these measures are fruitless and ineffective.

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Sprint knows where you are, and so does the feds.
Dec 2nd, 2009 by scaredpoet

sprint-family-locator-service1

Remember not too long ago, when there was a huge fervor over warrantless wiretapping?? Back in the bad old days of the Bush Administration (and maybe even today), Verizon and AT&T willingly participated in permitting the NSA to monitor communications traffic on their networks, without the need for silly little things like, oh, search warrants and due process.? And boy, everyone sure got all in a huff when they found out!? Despite it being an extension of legislation hurriedly rushed into law to appease a panicky public, the citizenry refused (as they often do) to look at themselves in the mirror for being panicky petes, and instead the “Big Two” carriers mentioned above got the brunt of the public’s ire.? Lawsuits were threatened and all kinds of punishments were dreamed up for the corporate actors in this conspiracy, all while the Bush administration pretty much got shrugged off by the general public for, well, doing what they always did.

Another company to get a pass was Sprint.? You just didn’t hear about what their involvement might’ve been.

But it looks like now more than ever, surveillance is alive and well, and Sprint is making it incredibly easy for Law Enforcement to find out where any use of their network might be.? So easy in fact, that Law Enforcement has tracked the wherabouts of Sprint users more than 8 million times in the past year alone!

Sprint Nextel provided law enforcement agencies with its customers’ (GPS) location information over 8 million times between September 2008 and October 2009. This massive disclosure of sensitive customer information was made possible due to the roll-out by Sprint of a new, special web portal for law enforcement officers.

The evidence documenting this surveillance program comes in the form of an audio recording of Sprint’s Manager of Electronic Surveillance, who described it during a panel discussion at a wiretapping and interception industry conference, held in Washington DC in October of 2009.


Consider that Sprint has about 49.3 million customers.? Even if you assume that some users were no doubt tracked more than once, that’s still a pretty astonishing number.? Are there really millions of sleeping terrorists chatting and texting on Sprint phones?? Or has the government continued to be way, way too willing to disregard the freedoms of its citizens in the name of homeland security, while Sprint passively sits by and allows it to happen?

Telcos to FBI: LOLZ! No wiretaps for you, deadbeat!
Jan 12th, 2008 by scaredpoet

disconnected

Well, FBI wiretaps actually cost money! Phone companies not only do the dirty work for our fearless government, but the FBi pays them for their work. Who knew?

Well, truth be told, the term “paid” is being used loosely, as the Feds have lately begun to act like a finicky teen who ran up their phone bill and can’t pay it:

According to the Washington Post’s Dan Eggen, audit results released today found that “telephone companies have repeatedly cut off FBI wiretaps of alleged terrorists and criminal suspects because of failures to pay telecommunication bills, including one invoice for $66,000 at one unidentified field office….The report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General Glenn Fine also identified one case in which an order obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was halted because of ‘untimely payment.’”

Oh, in case you were wondering: there was also mention in the report of other incompetence at the FBI, too. You know, piddly stuff… like, guns and laptops with citizens’ personal data on them missing. Nothing terribly important. You know.

So here we were, all worried that our civil rights were being violated, but in reality the FBI can’t even pay a phone bill on time. Or, if you come from the right side of the aisle, consider this: actual terrorist targets are probably able to talk freely because the FBI can’t pay their damn bills. Greeeeat.

It also makes you wonder: how much does a single wiretap cost? Also, how much taxpayer money is the federal government pouring into telcos to spy on people as a whole?

Unfortunately, the cited article above goes into a rant about how we should send telcos a “citizen’s” bill and make them pay, linking this to the big issue of whether telcos should be granted immunity from lawsuits over wiretapping. Frankly, I don’t understand the hard-on that civil liberties unions have over suing the telephone companies. Let’s face it: they were doing what the government TOLD them to do. If a big menacing government-guy walks into the average IT drone’s work space and talks of terrorism and Homeland Security and then waves an officially looking piece of paper around, giving orders all authoritative-like, chances are, the IT guy is gonna cave. That’s just how it is.

If the Civil Liberties’ people want to sue someone, they should lobby hard to permit lawsuits on the issue against the government, and failing that, the individual people within government who gave the orders for wiretaps in the first place. Civil liberties groups keep referring to this as illegal wiretapping… so why are they ignoring that our government officials spawned the illegality in the first place?


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