Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Privacy Alerts

Greetings.  It seems as though there are continual assaults and threats to privacy now.  It should be clear that all of us need to stand together to oppose such intrusions.

Concerns include government spying, of course, but also corporate spying and data collection, which too often gets shared with law enforcement/government; far too often without a warrant or any meaningful oversight.  Some fairly recent examples:

  • AT & T developed a product and marketed it to law enforcement for access to their data... no warrant and they insisted on this being kept secret.  Read an account from common dreams .  Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said: "If companies are allowed to operate in this manner without repercussions, our democracy has no future." 
  • Google (yeah, and sometimes I wonder about them owning blogger) over the summer changed its policy to allow ad tracking to link to personal, identifiable info.  Shame on them!!!  Read about this - and how to disable it .
  •  Facebook, Twitter and Instagram gave special access to a company called Geofeedia, a company that has a very controversial marketing design. From a report at The Guardian:  "The ACLU previously found that Geofeedia’s marketing materials have referred to unions and activists as “overt threats” and that the company told police its product can help track the “Ferguson situation”. One California police department allegedly used the software to monitor South Asian, Muslim and Sikh protesters, the ACLU said."  Read the article here .
  •  A report by the AP found that LE officers have been know to abuse access to databases - databases which contain personal information. 
  •  This report says HALF, that's right HALF of U.S. adults are in facial recognition databases.  This should concern all of us due to privacy, profiling and potential abuse concerns.  There arr also concerns that facial recognition may not be the most accurate and thus could wreak havoc if someone might be misidentified in certain situations.
  • And we all should be concerned about the "internet of things."  Data can be shared with - who knows - and such devices can also be  hacked.  Now, be warned there is adult content - but here are two related reports:  something was phoning home and related lawsuit.  
  • And don't forget about yahoo allowing the gov't to scan e-mails.  One has to wonder if any other provider is/was also doing that.  
Well, I suppose that's something to think about for now.  Be aware, spread the word, and let's all stand up for privacy.

P. S.  Let's keep the protesters/water defenders protesting the DAPL in our prayers.  The latest report shows outragous police brutality against peaceful protesters.

And if you found this post to be of value, please share and/or comment!  Thanks.

Monday, October 24, 2016

R. I. P. Tom Hayden

Too soon gone for sure; it's sad to note the passing of icon Tom Hayden.  I'll admit I really didn't know all that much about him, but reading the articles recounting his life in the wake of this loss for all of us really gave me an appreciation of his contributions.

He really was a fighter and true advocate for left/ progressive causes.  He kept up his activism throughout his days. He was committed to working for peace, racial justice, economic and social justice, and was also concerned about environmental causes.

The Guardian has a good overview of his life.  I first learned of his death via a report on commondreams.org, which is my homepage.

Their article is fairly short, but is worth reading.  This quote still rings true today:

"If we appear to seek the unattainable, as it has been said, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable," reads the conclusion of the Port Huron manifesto, which Hayden drafted in 1962 for the leftist organization Students for a Democratic Society.

Included in the common dreams report are some tweets memorializing Mr. Hayden.  I really love this one from a John Nichols:  "Tom Hayden sought a multi-racial, anti-sexist, LGBTQ-embracing radical movement that anticipated our best politics."  That sounds very much what I so often advocate right here!

So Rest in Peace, Tom Hayden.  You really fought the good fight.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Little Thing Called "The First Amendment" - Updated!

Do you know what week it will be from 10/17 - 10/23?  Hint - the title of this post might give a clue...
It's Free Speech Week.  All are encouraged to celebrate Free Speech in any number of ways. So Speak out!

I found out about FSW while researching this post - about a little something we call the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.  Do you know what your rights are?  Do you know there are threats to them?  We need to be aware of such challenges and stand together against them and for their continued exercise.

  To begin: a short reminder of the contents of this important text:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Let's consider some recent developments regarding these Freedoms as well as some good resources.

One nice resource is the site of the Bill of Rights Institute.  They have plenty of resources and a great one is blurbs of critical Supreme Court Decisions for various Bill of Rights Issues.  However I find their site a bit hard to navigate.  And I didn't see any landmark Supreme Court cases for freedom of Religion.  However, here's a link to the Freedom of Speech, General section.  Good luck navigating!

Freedom of Religion  This is listed first.  It has been much in the news recently as concerns over Islamophobia have continued.  There are reports of armed groups opposing mosques.  That's just a very recent example.  Many news reports suggest Islamophobia is on the rise - both in the U. S. and elsewhere.  Mother Jones has an article speaking to the effect this is having on young students.

Let's remember that the fight for Religious Freedom isn't new.  Jefferson fought for the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.    We should all listen to the words of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama: “All major religious traditions carry the same message: a message of love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment, self-discipline — all religious traditions,” he continued. 

Then let's stand together in ways small and large to support Religious Freedom.  Not too long ago I met a nice lady and she and another nice gal and I were chatting (I guess I must have been in a troublemaking mood as I mentioned I quit a mailing list because of the continuing Islamophobic posts. Her reaction was  ---- well they want to kill us.  I told her that some (like the Isis militants might, but not all Muslims were like that.  From the expression on her face when I said that it seemed to be a thought she hadn't considered.  Maybe, just maybe it opened her mind even a tiny bit.

Freedom of Speech  This is next on the list. Certainly one challenge we've noted is the reaction of some to protests started by Colin Kaerpernick to kneel, sit, stand, raise a fist, or otherwise during our National Anthem to protest the treatment of African-Americans.  Some of the comments go on about this being sooooo disrespectful, so un-American,  Participants have been punished or threatened.  Do these folks even stop to think that we were founded on protest and we are supposed to be about something called FREEDOM - including freedom of speech and expression?  Here's an interesting article from common dreams about the spread of protests.  Kudos to Mr. Sherman and the DeSoto, TX School Board for supporting the students' right to protest.   From the statement at the article:  "As an institution of learning, we are charged with preparing our students to become problems solvers and productive citizens; not to stifle their innovation or rejection of complacency. None of us have the right to infringe on the rights extended to our young people as American citizens."  Unfortunately, such support isn't universal.  

An interesting aspect of Freedom of Speech is a trend for online news outlets to stop having their own online comments but go to only social media comments.  I ran across this blog post from the National Coalition Against Censorship about NPR website doing exactly that (disclosure: - I used NPR News site as my home page for a while, but never registered to comment).   The major point made is that these platforms don't have the same legal obligations to the First Amendment and may also have content limitations.  And, I might add, what about those of us who refuse to go on facebook?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

How About...

a world where:


  • hate speech is no longer a "Free Speech"  issue because folks have all rejected using such repugnant rhetoric?
  • What if the "Three R's" also mean Respect, Reasonableness, and Reconciliation?
  • people, especially those dealing with the public actually listened?
  • there's a return to honoring public spaces?
  • public infrastructure and transportation are well-maintained and readily available?
  • we pour more money into education and social services than into the military and associated industries?
  • economic inequity issues get more media coverage than political tantrums or celebrity scandals?
  • what if privacy were truly respected and we weren't surveilled or tracked all over?
  • we don't need to deal with a protracted automated customer service phone maze to get to a live person?
  • we try to live more harmoniously with our environment?
  • folks who have needed them before now have access to basic things like clean water and enough food?
  • torture and abuse are occuring so infrequently that those words are not in most people's vocabularies?
  • we seek to understand where we've been in history, but not let that determine our future path?
  • where we're really marching toward Dr. King's Dream again, even if with fitful steps (I say this because I think we've been backsliding)?
  • peace is actually breaking out all over?
  • and ------- my only worries are things such as: 'Did I play enough with my cat today?', 'Do my plants have enough water?'; and 'Is there a photo from Pluto I haven't seen yet?'

 Well, how about it?

Friday, September 30, 2016

Alerts for Awareness

Greetings once again.  It just seems as though there are so many things to keep track of.  Here are a few alerts that should command our attention.  We need to shine light on what's happening, good and bad.  Knowledge and awareness are crucial for us to come together to progress. Don't get caught napping! Get a clue and clue in others as well!  Let's turn now to those alerts.  And if there are alerts or concerns you'd like to share, please feel free to do so in comments.

  • The ongoing protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)  We have posted here about the way the peaceful protesters there (often calling themselves 'water protectors' have been treated.  The latest - riot police blocked exit of a public road to peaceful, praying protesters.  Militarized polie made around 21 arrests.  Here is coverage from the independent news outlet, Unicorn Riot.  You might also want to read their experience regarding what they believe to be censorship of their coverage of the protests.  And BTW, has there been coverage of the situation Amy Goodman is having with the arrest warrant issued by that infamous ND county?  I don't believe The Intercept has written anything a out this. Why, I can't understand, because Jeremy Scahill used to work for her. And they're always harping about challenges to Freedom of the Press.  FOR SHAME, TIOne outlet who did have her on following the warrant being issued was Tavis Smiley!

I hope that some readers will view this in time, for there is a call for a global meditation in support of the water protectors and protests against the DAPL.  It is scheduled for tomorrow, 10/1/2016 -- at 3 p.m. EDT/ 12 Pacific (or whatever the corresponding time is in your zone).  Praying and sending supportive vibes is certainly a good idea!

  • Ongoing challenges to filming police The Intercept still has some good reporting.  Here's an article detailing how an Arkansas State Rep. was arrested for --- filming police!  An ACLU analyst says such arrests are becoming less common, but the cases listed and a judicial ruling in PA now under appeal make a point that there is still room for improvement.
  •  Another drone strike which killed civilians  Yes, quite soon after one strike, here's another which killed at this point it seems, 15 civilians.  Will this ever end?  Can we stop the killing already?
Well, good readers, that might give you something to think about over the weekend.

If you found this post of value or any of the other posts here, please comment and/or share!  Thanks.

Monday, September 26, 2016

If Paul Revere Were to Ride Today...

Just suppose, just for a moment, that the events of the Revolutionary War period would be happening today.  And suppose Mr. Revere were to ride and give warning...

Paul Revere got into his convertible, started the engine and began his ride.  He picked up the bullhorn he had stored in the seat next to him and yelled into it: "The British are coming! The British are coming!"

The first person he rode by never looked up from texting on his smartphone.
The second person observed: "You know, he really should just start a hashtag."
The third person said to the fourth person: "Oh, I just don't want to even think about anything political."
The fourth person replied: "I know, if it doesn't impact my daily life, I just don't care."
The fifth person responded, "Oh, he's just being alarmist, anyway."
The sixth person said to the seventh person, "Hey, did you catch 'Survival Nation' last night?"
The seventh person replied: "Oh yes, and wasn't that blowout between Larry and Harry something?"

And somewhere, George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and the rest of the Founding Fathers - and Founding Mothers - must be crying.

If you enjoyed this or any other post here, please comment an/or share! Thanks!

Related Post:   Now, What Would THEY Say?


Friday, September 23, 2016

Think Causes Not Just Symptons 2

Greetings again.  Even though I try to remain at least somewhat optimistic, it is certainly a real chore to go through the news these days.  Yes, sometimes I feel as though I'm viewing a train wreck; stunned, but still unable to look away.

In a previous post (link below), I outlined some thoughts about the underlying causes of some of the problem we face.  Isn't it common sense to look for underlying causes and think of ways to address those, rather than continually just treating symptoms?  We very much need to do this, and to do really do some critical thinking if we are to work toward any real solutions.  So here are some thoughts:

One underlying cause is definitely greed and corporatism.  I feel that is so evident in two major stories currently in the news.  One is the scandal over Mylan tremendously hiking the price of its Epi-pen.  They are showing no regard for the people, yes people, this will impact financially and health-wise.  Another instance is of the reaction to the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  Despite concerns over environmental issues and concerns over the total lack of respect given to Native American sacred sites, cultural heritage and sovereignty, peaceful protesters are still given a very rough time.  I visited the site of the ND county (to find out where to e-mail a note of criticism) and was stunned to see all over their home page, link after link of negative stories about the protesters.  One has to wonder who these county officials are looking out for: is it really the people and the environs, or is it the corporate interests behind this nefarious project?  These are just two examples, and there would not be enough time to list all one could find.  It should be clear to everyone that the influence of big money in so many areas is keeping most of us from having the influence WE should be having!

Another underlying cause is depersonalization.  One example that comes first to my mind is those awful automated phone systems.  Sometimes, for something quick, they may not be too bad.  But I find that systems where you're continually asked to speak to the machine, question after question, strike me as demeaning.  The excuse always is, well, we have so many customers or callers. FINE, PEOPLE NEED WORK, HIRE MORE CUSTOMER SERVICE WORKERS! Then I've seen some commercials: there was one for a car rental service, I believe where the actor went past reps to his car, going on about an app so you wouldn't even have to talk to a human if you don't want to... and there is a new one, something about if you don't want to keep interacting with people in your car... What is this?  Is this a subtle, or not so subtle message that human contact should be avoided if possible?  How can we come together (which we so need to do) and solve problems if we keep avoiding each other?