Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why Worry About Total Surveillance When You're Just An Ordinary Joe?

Originally posted on

"I'm an upstanding citizen and I'm not doing anything wrong.  I just don't want the government invading my privacy."

I got into a heated argument, a disagreeable shouting match over that idea today -- mostly being shouted at for nitpicking someone on my own side.  I find the above rationale to be a surface response without any thought behind it or any acknowledgement of how actual surveillance-societies of the past devolved into Orwellian abominations.  Worse still, the current drive for a "Total Information Awarenesssociety, where birth to death communications will be stored forever by the government, looms over us. NSA / Booz Allen Hamilton whistleblower Edward Snowden has said:
"they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behavior in the world known to them."
 To that end, the NSA's operating budget has increased steadily, avoiding any cutbacks from the so-called "sequester."  The new NSA storage facility in Utah is a central piece of this total data capture society:
"An article by Forbes estimates the storage capacity as between 3 and 12 exabytes in the near term...advances in technology could be expected to increase the capacity by orders of magnitude in the coming years." (Wikipedia)
NSA Whistleblower William Binney revealed further problems at the National Security Agency and its runaway capabilities:
" Binney alleged... controls that limited unintentional collection of data pertaining to U.S. citizens were removed, prompting concerns by him and others that the actions were illegal and unconstitutional. Binney alleged that the Bluffdale facility was designed to store a broad range of domestic communications for  data mining  without warrants."  (Wikipedia)
 Edward Snowden has also said:
"I also had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications.  Anyone's communications at any time.  That is the power to change people's fates."
Changing people's fates is the key phrase here.  How and why can this personal data be used?  With lifelong surveillance of everyone, we are little better off than goldfish swimming from glass wall to wall, always under the complete scrutiny of the authorities.  It doesn't take any imagination whatsoever to see the implications of total scrutiny by secretive government or quasi-governmental entities (or others!).

Monday, August 12, 2013

U.S., Russia, China, All Torture Prisoners

Contributed by Sherwood Ross

The three most powerful nations all operate prison systems that are places of sadism, sickness, and madness unfit for human habitation, much less human reformation.

They also lead the world with astonishing rates of imprisonment far higher than in other industrialized nations. “The U.S. incarceration rate of 737 per 100,000 people is the (world’s) highest, followed by 611 in Russia,” Reuters reports.  Compare the above rates with the following nations: Spain, 149; Canada, 114; Australia, 103; The Netherlands, 82; Germany, 80; Norway, 71; Denmark, 68; Sweden, 67; Finland, 60; and Japan, 54.

America has 2.3 million souls behind bars; China ranks second with 1.5 million, and Russia places third with 870,000---a figure Deputy Justice Minister Yury Kalinin says actually is closer to 2 million. Whatever, all three inflict gruesome tortures on their prisoners.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Are Police in America Now a Military, Occupying Force?

by John Whitehead
Originally posted on

Despite the steady hue and cry by government agencies about the need for more police, more sophisticated weaponry, and the difficulties of preserving the peace and maintaining security in our modern age, the reality is far different. Indeed, violent crime in America has been on asteady decline, and if current trends continue, Americans will finish the year 2013 experiencing the lowest murder rate in over a century.

Despite this clear referendum on the fact that communities would be better served by smaller, demilitarized police forces, police agencies throughout the country are dramatically increasing in size and scope. Some of the nation's larger cities boast police forces the size of small armies. (New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg actually likes to brag that the NYPD is his personal army.) For example, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has reached a total of 10,000 officers. It takes its place alongside other cities boasting increasingly large police forces, including New York (36,000 officers) and Chicago (13,400 officers). When considered in terms of cops per square mile, Los Angeles assigns a whopping 469 officers per square mile, followed by New York with 303 officers per square mile, and Chicago with 227 cops per square mile

Of course, such heavy police presence comes at a price. Los Angeles spends over $2 billion per year on the police force, a 36% increase within the last eight years. The LAPD currently consumes over 55% of Los Angeles' discretionary budget, a 9% increase over the past nine years. Meanwhile, street repair and maintenance spending has declined by 36%, and in 2011, one-fifth of the city's fire stations lost units, increasing response times for 911 medical emergencies.

For those who want to credit hefty police forces for declining crime rates, the data just doesn't show a direct correlation. In fact, many cities across the country actually saw decreases in crime rates during the 1990s in the wake of increasing prison sentences and the waning crack-cocaine epidemic. Cities such as Seattle and Dallas actually cut their police forces during this time and still saw crime rates drop.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Laws to Penalize Drug Lords Being Turned on the Innocent

Contributed by Sherwood Ross

State “civil-forfeiture”(CF) laws aimed at drug kingpins are being twisted to confiscate the property of people “never charged with a crime,” The New Yorker magazine (August 12) asserts.  

Example: a Philadelphia couple fighting a home eviction after their son sold a small amount of marijuana to an informant.

What’s more, a high proportion of the victims appear to be African-Americans and Latinos, the magazine says.

Example: Tenaha, Texas, where victims of CF actions were motorists who had been pulled over for routine traffic stops, “and the targets were disproportionately black and Latino,” The New Yorker quotes one defense attorney as stating.

Under laws once enacted to penalize drug dealers and their ilk, the authorities using CF “are routinely targeting the workaday homes, cars, cash savings, and other belongings” of the innocent, writes magazine reporter Sarah Stillman.

“In general, you needn’t be found guilty to have your assets claimed by law enforcement; in some states, suspicion on par with ‘probable cause’ is sufficient. Nor must you be charged with a crime or even be accused of one,” Stillman adds.