Monday, June 16, 2014

Tomorrow Today

Change is ever faster and faster.

News about our government's secret surveillance of American citizens sits near the top of the headlines. While the government hopes to learn everyone's most secret secret, so does the public hope to learn the government's secrets. The government's secrets are both much more vulnerable and much more interesting, as its crimes are much more blatant and more profound than the petty crimes of the average American.

Whistle-blower Chelsea Manning, who long ago released to the public a cockpit video of an American helicopter gunner shooting down newsmen who were filming the scene of a military action, and who followed that by passing on a veritable shipping pallet of incriminating documents to universal publicizer Wikileaks --- has just written an op ed piece for the New York Times, explaining how Americans have been continuously lied to since the start of the war. She called it  "The Fog Machine Of War".  Respectability has come to her while still in prison.

Another whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, is still in Russia, but...
"Edward Snowden routinely hangs around at the New York ACLU offices by means of a BEAM telepresence robot, through which he can meet with journalists for "face-to-face" interviews."
He recently gave aid, over the video, to a reporter who was having an epileptic seizure. (He himself has had epilepsy.)

Nationalization of our local police continues. The latest embarrassment has been the discovery that, using a CIA tool called Stingray, police cars can capture the cellphone calls of people in their houses. Stingray pretends to be the nearest cell tower, capturing a call because its signal is more powerful and then making an actual link to a real cell tower. It just inserts itself into the line.  "Hi, mom... "

What is even more embarrassing to the government, the feds are trying really hard to keep the states' open records laws from revealing publicly the police-to-CIA emails that let them set up this vast fishnet. These attempts to cover their very private secrets are very public.

When I was a little kid, it was very important to know if your barn door was open, and worse, if the horse was out of the barn. The federal government is now trapped in the spotlight, trying to pretend that its horse isn't really out of the barn. Popcorn, anyone?

From 'The Independent' - Trevor Paglen documents the hidden world of governmental surveillance, from drone bases to "black sites"   But everyone's doing that these days...

   On 6/5, 65 Things We Know About NSA Surveillance That We Didn't Know a Year Ago

Terrorism, defined as "the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims" has come to America. Two recent attacks on local government by anti-government gun-toting not-quite-sane people both fulfill the definition.

One chap had just about had it with his local courthouse. He was expected to enter a plea on June 6th to eleven felony drug charges. He had other plans:
"Dennis Marx wore body armor and a gas mask. He brandished an assault rifle, an assortment of grenades, "all kinds of ammunition" and even used his silver Nissan SUV as a weapon of sorts, according to authorities. The 48-year-old man toted his own water supply and flexible handcuffs, presumably to corral hostages once he got inside the north Georgia courthouse."
Within three minutes, he was dead on the lawn. Suicide by police. He was believed to be a supporter of the Sovereign Citizens movement, which denies government's right to enforce the laws. He also was a former government employee for much of his life.

Then in Nevada, a couple of days later, two young people who had been expelled from the Bundy ranch for being too radical, decided to start the next revolution by killing two policemen. They became trapped behind a barricade in a store. The young woman shot and killed the young man and then herself.

They were of pseudo-fascist leanings, laying a 'swastika-stamped manifesto' on the dead policemen.

For those whose lives have become desperate, desperation turns to anger, and anger to violence. When one's own life is worth nothing, then neither is anyone else's.

Drastic, shameful, desperate poverty is real in America. The courts are making poverty criminal, fining the poor, and then sending them prison when they can't pay the fine:

A poor lady died on the floor of a jail. A single mother, she couldn't always get her kids to school already fed, well-dressed and on time. She was fined for their truancy. And then sent to jail because she could not produce documentary evidence for not paying the fines. She had high blood pressure and needed medication. The jailor did not give it to her. She died on the floor of her cell.
"Thousands of people have been jailed over truancy fines in this county since 2000, and two in three of those jailed have been women, according to the AP. But the criminalization of poverty is a much broader national phenomenon, with court costs and fees magnifying the statutory penalties for a variety of minor infractions such that the financial penalty snowballs into an un-payable debt for low-income people.
The results, as catalogued in a year-long National Public Radio investigation, are staggering: a 19-year-old jailed for three days after catching a smallmouth bass during rock bass season, because he couldn’t pay the fine; a homeless man sentenced to a year in jail over $2,600 in penalties incurred by shoplifting a $2 can of beer; a recovering drug user sent to jail three times for being unable to make payments on nearly $10,000 in court costs."
The crime is that of being poor in a society with an economic system designed to move money upwards.

While the devotees of fascism described further above may have an unscrewed motto or two, their pain is economic, and they rightly recognize that the power of the government enforces the pain, as in Mrs. Dinino's case. The government is at war with them.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will be available for employment soon - he has been 'primaried' by a conservative far to his right, a rare tea-party intellectual. His upcoming departure will be "a blow to military spending."  More popcorn.

China has just demonstrated its unawareness of the world's hunger for news by arresting a very public, very popular civil rights lawyer on some very hazy, trumped-up charges:
"Police said Pu was arrested on suspicion of "creating a disturbance" and "illegally obtaining personal information." It did not provide details, but the former offense, a kind of public disorder crime, has been widely used to prosecute activists in recent months. Pu's friend said the accusations were groundless.
"Just half a year ago, civil rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang was earning accolades in the Chinese media for his work pushing for the abolition of labor camps."
The Chinese authoritarians must think that no one will ever know that they have made for him such a problem. Popcorn! We surely haven't heard the last of this.

The fascist kids who killed the cops thought they were starting a revolution, but it's been happening for a long time at a much lower level.

Low-Level Insurgencies: The Working-Class Mini-Revolts of the Twenty-First Century

In England, some chintzy folks put iron spikes in the sidewalk to prevent the homeless from sleeping nearby.  Activists recently poured concrete over those spikes, turning them back into sleeping spots.

Where government has been screwing up, it has been paying through the teeth:  New York City Agrees to Largest Occupy Wall Street Settlement Ever 

A Philadelphia school district has just paid $610,000 for taking 50,000 pictures of students for two years without their permission while they were at home, in some cases dressing and undressing, using laptops that had been loaned by the school to the students for free.

Remember the Nisour Square killings in Baghdad, in 2007?  Blackwater contractors shot their way through traffic when they got nervous.

"After years of delays, four former guards from the security firm Blackwater Worldwide are facing trial in the killings of 14 Iraqi civilians and the wounding of 18 others in bloodshed that inflamed anti-American sentiment around the globe."

Good news for the planet, as well - electric car manufacturer Tesla has just opened up its patents for use by others, adding them to the public domain. Now lots of companies can make electric cars. This will help guarantee that charging stations are available, and Tesla will still make the best electric on the market.

It all works out in the end.


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