I live in a country generally assumed to be a dictatorship. One of the Arab spring countries. I have lived through curfews and have seen the outcomes of the sort of surveillance now being revealed in the US. People here talking about curfews aren't realizing what that actually FEELS like. It isn't about having to go inside, and the practicality of that. It's about creating the feeling that everyone, everything is watching. A few points:
1) the purpose of this surveillance from the governments point of view is to control enemies of the state. Not terrorists. People who are coalescing around ideas that would destabilize the status quo. These could be religious ideas. These could be groups like anon who are too good with tech for the governments liking. It makes it very easy to know who these people are. It also makes it very simple to control these people.
Lets say you are a college student and you get in with some people who want to stop farming practices that hurt animals. So you make a plan and go to protest these practices. You get there, and wow, the protest is huge. You never expected this, you were just goofing off. Well now everyone who was there is suspect. Even though you technically had the right to protest, you're now considered a dangerous person. With this tech in place, the government doesn't have to put you in jail. They can do something more sinister. They can just email you a sexy picture you took with a girlfriend. Or they can email you a note saying that they can prove your dad is cheating on his taxes. Or they can threaten to get your dad fired. All you have to do, the email says, is help them catch your friends in the group. You have to report back every week, or you dad might lose his job. So you do. You turn in your friends and even though they try to keep meetings off grid, you're reporting on them to protect your dad.
2) Let's say number one goes on. The country is a weird place now. Really weird. Pretty soon, a movement springs up like occupy, except its bigger this time. People are really serious, and they are saying they want a government without this power. I guess people are realizing that it is a serious deal. You see on the news that tear gas was fired. Your friend calls you, frantic. They're shooting people. Oh my god. you never signed up for this. You say, fuck it. My dad might lose his job but I won't be responsible for anyone dying. That's going too far. You refuse to report anymore. You just stop going to meetings. You stay at home, and try not to watch the news. Three days later, police come to your door and arrest you. They confiscate your computer and phones, and they beat you up a bit. No one can help you so they all just sit quietly. They know if they say anything they're next. This happened in the country I live in. It is not a joke.
3) Its hard to say how long you were in there. What you saw was horrible. Most of the time, you only heard screams. People begging to be killed. Noises you've never heard before. You, you were lucky. You got kicked every day when they threw your moldy food at you, but no one shocked you. No one used sexual violence on you, at least that you remember. There were some times they gave you pills, and you can't say for sure what happened then. To be honest, sometimes the pills were the best part of your day, because at least then you didn't feel anything. You have scars on you from the way you were treated. You learn in prison that torture is now common. But everyone who uploads videos or pictures of this torture is labeled a leaker. Its considered a threat to national security. Pretty soon, a cut you got on your leg is looking really bad. You think it's infected. There were no doctors in prison, and it was so overcrowded, who knows what got in the cut. You go to the doctor, but he refuses to see you. He knows if he does the government can see the records that he treated you. Even you calling his office prompts a visit from the local police.
You decide to go home and see your parents. Maybe they can help. This leg is getting really bad. You get to their house. They aren't home. You can't reach them no matter how hard you try. A neighbor pulls you aside, and he quickly tells you they were arrested three weeks ago and haven't been seen since. You vaguely remember mentioning to them on the phone you were going to that protest. Even your little brother isn't there.
4) Is this even really happening? You look at the news. Sports scores. Celebrity news. It's like nothing is wrong. What the hell is going on? A stranger smirks at you reading the paper. You lose it. You shout at him "fuck you dude what are you laughing at can't you see I've got a fucking wound on my leg?" "Sorry," he says. "I just didn't know anyone read the news anymore." There haven't been any real journalists for months. They're all in jail.
Everyone walking around is scared. They can't talk to anyone else because they don't know who is reporting for the government. Hell, at one time YOU were reporting for the government. Maybe they just want their kid to get through school. Maybe they want to keep their job. Maybe they're sick and want to be able to visit the doctor. It's always a simple reason. Good people always do bad things for simple reasons.
You want to protest. You want your family back. You need help for your leg. This is way beyond anything you ever wanted. It started because you just wanted to see fair treatment in farms. Now you're basically considered a terrorist, and everyone around you might be reporting on you. You definitely can't use a phone or email. You can't get a job. You can't even trust people face to face anymore. On every corner, there are people with guns. They are as scared as you are. They just don't want to lose their jobs. They don't want to be labeled as traitors.
This all happened in the country where I live. You want to know why revolutions happen? Because little by little by little things get worse and worse. But this thing that is happening now is big. This is the key ingredient. This allows them to know everything they need to know to accomplish the above. The fact that they are doing it is proof that they are the sort of people who might use it in the way I described. In the country I live in, they also claimed it was for the safety of the people. Same in Soviet Russia. Same in East Germany. In fact, that is always the excuse that is used to surveil everyone. But it has never ONCE proven to be the reality.
Maybe Obama won't do it. Maybe the next guy won't, or the one after him. Maybe this story isn't about you. Maybe it happens 10 or 20 years from now, when a big war is happening, or after another big attack. Maybe it's about your daughter or your son. We just don't know yet. But what we do know is that right now, in this moment we have a choice. Are we okay with this, or not? Do we want this power to exist, or not?
You know for me, the reason I'm upset is that I grew up in school saying the pledge of allegiance. I was taught that the United States meant "liberty and justice for all." You get older, you learn that in this country we define that phrase based on the constitution. That's what tells us what liberty is and what justice is. Well, the government just violated that ideal. So if they aren't standing for liberty and justice anymore, what are they standing for? Safety?
Ask yourself a question. In the story I told above, does anyone sound safe?
I didn't make anything up. These things happened to people I know. We used to think it couldn't happen in America. But guess what? It's starting to happen. I actually get really upset when people say "I don't have anything to hide. Let them read everything." People saying that have no idea what they are bringing down on their own heads. They are naive, and we need to listen to people in other countries who are clearly telling us that this is a horrible horrible sign and it is time to stand up and say no.
Global Warming's Terrifying New Math [Rolling Stone; July 19, 2012]
If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven't convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.
[…] Meanwhile the tide of numbers continues. The week after the Rio conference limped to its conclusion, Arctic sea ice hit the lowest level ever recorded for that date. Last month, on a single weekend, Tropical Storm Debby dumped more than 20 inches of rain on Florida – the earliest the season's fourth-named cyclone has ever arrived. At the same time, the largest fire in New Mexico history burned on, and the most destructive fire in Colorado's annals claimed 346 homes in Colorado Springs – breaking a record set the week before in Fort Collins. This month, scientists issued a new study concluding that global warming has dramatically increased the likelihood of severe heat and drought – days after a heat wave across the Plains and Midwest broke records that had stood since the Dust Bowl, threatening this year's harvest. You want a big number? In the course of this month, a quadrillion kernels of corn need to pollinate across the grain belt, something they can't do if temperatures remain off the charts. Just like us, our crops are adapted to the Holocene, the 11,000-year period of climatic stability we're now leaving… in the dust.
US drought could trigger repeat of global food crisis, experts warn [Guardian; July 23, 2012]
America’s drought threatens a recurrence of the 2008 global food crisis, when soaring prices set off riots and unrest to parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America, food experts warn.
Corn prices reached an all-time high on Friday, as the drought expanded across America, trading at $8.24 a bushel on the Chicago exchange. Soybeans were also trading at record levels.
The US department of agriculture meanwhile predicted there would be less corn coming onto global markets over the next year, because of a sharp drop in US exports.
It's past time to tell the truth about the state of the world's coral reefs, the nurseries of tropical coastal fish stocks. They have become zombie ecosystems, neither dead nor truly alive in any functional sense, and on a trajectory to collapse within a human generation. There will be remnants here and there, but the global coral reef ecosystem — with its storehouse of biodiversity and fisheries supporting millions of the world's poor — will cease to be. […]
“This week the Georgia State Legislature debated a bill in the House, that would make it necessary for some women to carry stillborn or dying fetuses until they ‘naturally’ go into labor. In arguing for this bill Representative Terry England described his empathy for pregnant cows and pigs in the same situation.”
The rest of the civilized world thinks this country has lost its mind. It’s no wonder. Look at this list of frenzied misogyny:
1. Making women carry still-born fetuses to full term because cows and pigs do. […]
2. Consigning women to death to save a fetus. Abortions save women’s lives. […]
3. Criminalizing pregnancy and miscarriages and arresting, imprisoning and charging women who miscarry with murder, […]
4. Forcing women to undergo involuntary vaginal penetration (otherwise called rape) with a condom-covered, six- to eight-inch ultrasound probe. […]
5. Disabling women or sacrificing their lives by either withholding medical treatment or forcing women to undergo involuntary medical procedures. […]
6. Giving zygotes “personhood” rights while systematically stripping women of their fundamental rights. […]
7. Inhibiting, humiliating and punishing women for their choices to have an abortion for any reason by levying taxes specifically on abortion, including abortions sought by rape victims to end their involuntary insemination, […]
8. Allowing employers to delve into women’s private lives and only pay for insurance when they agree, for religious reasons, with how she choses to use birth control. […]
9. Sacrificing women’s overall health and the well-being of their families in order to stop them from exercising their fundamental human right to control their own bodies and reproduction. […]
10. Depriving women of their ability to earn a living and support themselves and their families. Bills, like this one in Arizona, allow employers to fire women for using contraception. Women like these are being fired for not.
You presume to consign my daughters and yours to function as reproductive animals.
This is about sex and property, not life and morality. Sex because when women have sex and want to control their reproduction that threatens powerful social structures that rely on patriarchal access to and control over women as reproductive engines. Which brings us to property: control of reproduction was vital when the agricultural revolution took place and we, as a species, stopped meandering around plains in search of food. Reproduction and control of it ensured that a man could possess and consolidate wealth-building and food-producing land and then make sure it wasn’t disaggregated by passing it on to one son he knew was his — largely by claiming a woman and her gestation capability as property, too.
The only problem is that identifying pregnant customers is harder than it sounds. Target has a baby-shower registry, and Pole started there, observing how shopping habits changed as a woman approached her due date, which women on the registry had willingly disclosed. He ran test after test, analyzing the data, and before long some useful patterns emerged. Lotions, for example. Lots of people buy lotion, but one of Pole’s colleagues noticed that women on the baby registry were buying larger quantities of unscented lotion around the beginning of their second trimester. Another analyst noted that sometime in the first 20 weeks, pregnant women loaded up on supplements like calcium, magnesium and zinc. Many shoppers purchase soap and cotton balls, but when someone suddenly starts buying lots of scent-free soap and extra-big bags of cotton balls, in addition to hand sanitizers and washcloths, it signals they could be getting close to their delivery date.
As Pole’s computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score. More important, he could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.
One Target employee I spoke to provided a hypothetical example. Take a fictional Target shopper named Jenny Ward, who is 23, lives in Atlanta and in March bought cocoa-butter lotion, a purse large enough to double as a diaper bag, zinc and magnesium supplements and a bright blue rug. There’s, say, an 87 percent chance that she’s pregnant and that her delivery date is sometime in late August. What’s more, because of the data attached to her Guest ID number, Target knows how to trigger Jenny’s habits. They know that if she receives a coupon via e-mail, it will most likely cue her to buy online. They know that if she receives an ad in the mail on Friday, she frequently uses it on a weekend trip to the store. And they know that if they reward her with a printed receipt that entitles her to a free cup of Starbucks coffee, she’ll use it when she comes back again.
“We have the capacity to send every customer an ad booklet, specifically designed for them, that says, `Here’s everything you bought last week and a coupon for it,’ ” one Target executive told me. “We do that for grocery products all the time.” But for pregnant women, Target’s goal was selling them baby items they didn’t even know they needed yet.
“With the pregnancy products, though, we learned that some women react badly,” the executive said. “Then we started mixing in all these ads for things we knew pregnant women would never buy, so the baby ads looked random. We’d put an ad for a lawn mower next to diapers. We’d put a coupon for wineglasses next to infant clothes. That way, it looked like all the products were chosen by chance.
“And we found out that as long as a pregnant woman thinks she hasn’t been spied on, she’ll use the coupons. She just assumes that everyone else on her block got the same mailer for diapers and cribs. As long as we don’t spook her, it works.”
And they’re hostile about it, too:
When I sent Target a complete summary of my reporting, the reply was more terse: “Almost all of your statements contain inaccurate information and publishing them would be misleading to the public. We do not intend to address each statement point by point.” The company declined to identify what was inaccurate. They did add, however, that Target “is in compliance with all federal and state laws, including those related to protected health information.”
When I offered to fly to Target’s headquarters to discuss its concerns, a spokeswoman e-mailed that no one would meet me. When I flew out anyway, I was told I was on a list of prohibited visitors. “I’ve been instructed not to give you access and to ask you to leave,” said a very nice security guard named Alex.
"Yes, but starting tomorrow, we’re going to start searching your crotchal area" — this is the word he used, "crotchal" — and you’re not going to like it."
"What am I not going to like?" I asked.
"We have to search up your thighs and between your legs until we meet resistance," he explained.
"Resistance?" I asked.
"Your testicles," he explained.
‘That’s funny," I said, "because ‘The Resistance’ is the actual name I’ve given to my testicles."
Bipartisan support should be immediate. For fiscal conservatives, it’s hard to come up with a more wasteful agency than the TSA. For privacy advocates, eliminating an organization that requires you to choose between a nude body scan or genital groping in order to board a plane should be a no-brainer.
He opted out of showing his penis to the government, so they told him he’d have to submit to an intimate testicle fondling. He told the screener, "if you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested." After faffing around with various supervisors and supervisors’ supervisors, he opted not to fly, collected a refund from the American Airlines counter, and started to leave the airport. But before he could go, the supervisor’s supervisor’s supervisor told him he wasn’t allowed to leave the checkpoint once he entered it, that he was already in for up to $10,000 in fines, and that he would have to return and allow the man’s minons to palpate his genitals before he’d be allowed to leave the airport.
The degradations of passing through full-body scanners that provide naked pictures of you to Transportation Security Administration agents may not mean that the terrorists have won — but they do mark victories for a few politically connected high-tech companies and their revolving-door lobbyists. […] But this is government we’re talking about. A program or product doesn’t need to be effective, it only needs to have a good lobby. And the naked-scanner lobby is small but well-connected.
It’s the day ordinary citizens stand up for their rights, stand up for liberty, and protest the federal government’s desire to virtually strip us naked or submit to an "enhanced pat down" that touches people’s breasts and genitals in an aggressive manner. You should never have to explain to your children, "Remember that no stranger can touch or see your private area, unless it’s a government employee, then it’s OK."
The goal of National Opt Out Day is to send a message to our lawmakers that we demand change. We have a right to privacy and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we’re guilty until proven innocent. This day is needed because many people do not understand what they consent to when choosing to fly.
By the way, it is the official position of Goldblog that everyday is opt-out day. There’s no need to wait until November 24th. But come November 24th, here’s an idea you might try to make the day extra-special. It’s a one-word idea: Kilts.
Coming back from Chicago, Celeste, like increasing numbers of travelers, was forced to make a difficult choice – either allow strangers to see her naked or allow strangers to touch and squeeze her breasts and groin in full view of other travels and TSA agents. “This was a nightmare come to life,” Celeste says, “I said I didn’t want them to see me naked and the agent started yelling Opt out- we have an opt here. Another agent took me aside and said they would have to pat me down. He told me he was going to touch my genitals and asked if I wouldn’t rather just go through the scanner, that it would be less humiliating for me. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I kept saying I don’t want any of this to happen. I was whispering please don’t do this, please, please.”
Bold legislators in New Jersey and Idaho have introduced bills stopping the new porno-scanners, but that’s not enough — we need to pass these bills in every state! So I set up a thing to make it super-easy to contact your state legislator about it. Just add your name and zip code to our petition and we’ll automatically email your state rep.
An organization seeking advocacy and recognition of the TSA’s and DHS’s actions against our privacy and right to refuse unwarranted search.
Today the Sunlight Foundation launched analysis that reveals more than $1.3 trillion in federal reporting data from 2009 is broken. These data inaccuracies account for 70 percent of the total $1.9 trillion in government spending data reported last year. Clearspending offers a critique on the reliability of data from USASpending.gov, across three metrics–consistency, completeness and timeliness–and covers spending from 2007, 2008 and 2009.
While there has been an increase in the number of programs reporting to USASpending.gov in the past three years, the reported data suffers from an abundance of errors, as well as problems with the data’s timeliness and completeness. Findings from Sunlight’s Clearspending show that a significant portion of the government’s data is unreliable and that USASpending.gov has not fulfilled its legal requirement of providing the public access to accurate, timely and detailed information on how federal agencies fulfill their spending obligations.
Bye Bye Blue-fin.
My announcement is premature but perhaps not by much. Up until a couple of months ago the blame was on fishing and particularly Malta. With the blue-fin getting rarer and the price for a fish up around a third of a million bucks it would hard to imagine that fishermen would stop going after this lucrative prey.
However, it seems that BP will strike the final blow. Giant underwater dispersant and oil plumes are creating huge dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and … that’s where blue-fin tuna spawn – and it’s the ONLY place they spawn.
So go buy a couple of tins and put them away somewhere cool and maybe in 50 years or so we can try to recreate the blue-fin from canned DNA – or just eat it when you get tired of soylent green.
Dictionaries have been removed from classrooms in southern California schools after a parent complained about a child reading the definition for “oral sex”.
Merriam Webster’s 10th edition, which has been used for the past few years in fourth and fifth grade classrooms in Menifee Union school district, has been pulled from shelves over fears that the “sexually graphic” entry is “just not age appropriate”, according to the area’s local paper.
The dictionary’s online definition of the term is “oral stimulation of the genitals”. “It’s hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we’ll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature,” district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus told the paper.
While dancing back to front, all dancers must remain upright – no sexual bending is allowed. Examples are, no hands on knees, and no hands on the dance floor with your buttocks touching your dance partner. There will be no touching of the breasts, buttocks or genitals. There will be no straddling of each others’ legs. Both feet must remain on the dance floor at all times. Students will be given wrist bands at the door. One warning results in a teacher cutting off the wrist band. A student dancing inappropriately with no wrist band will be asked to leave the dance. This may result in loss of dance privileges for the year.
The dance will be videotaped to insure the safety of all students attending.