Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Congressional Development

I saw a couple of blurbs about this and - wow, it really has been introduced in Congress!  I wanted to post this today, so no one would think the date implied it was - well, not true.

There is a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, H. R. 1466; it's the Surveillance State Repeal Act.  It was introduced by Representatives Mark Pocan and Thomas Massie.  It would repeal The Patriot Act and institute surveillance reforms.  Here is a report.  There is also a tracker you can use to keep up with its progress!

Today I called Rep. Pocan's office and spoke with a staffer to say thanks and offer support.  He (the staffer) said prospects for the bill weren't good, but that they had been getting quite a few calls.

So, we do have some actions.  Call Rep. Pocan  (202-225-2906) and/or Rep. Massie (202-225-3465) and thank them and express support.  Call or e-mail your own Rep. and ask him or her to support this bill.  And, of course, spread the word!!!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Hall of Shame

Well, I alluded to this in my last post, so here it is.  My effort to shine a glaring light on some shameful darkness.  Therefore, I present the following 'Hall of Shame' exhibits:

  • Hall of Shame - Intolerance Division:  Indiana gets a law allowing discrimination  - Once this door is open, who knows whatever groups could be targeted next for what is indeed discrimination.  Did Hoosiers miss the memo about the meaning of the Civil Rights Movement?  I wonder if there will be some movement to challenge this or repeal it.  Or maybe boycott Indiana events?  Anyone and everyone involved should be ashamed.  UPDATE:  There are calls to boycott.  But believe it or not, 18 other states have similar laws.  As does the federal government.  Read more here -  the article has a link to a WaPost article about the various states and these laws.
  • Hall of Shame - Who's Above the Law Division:  Glenn Greenwald nailed this story of a court case most of us probably have never heard of.  The ruling:  the gov't intervened - in a private and secretive session with the judge - to stop a private lawsuit on grounds of "national security."  We have NO idea of the nature of the 'threat' or even the agency which felt 'threatened' - yes, that's all been made secret.  The DOJ and the judge should be ashamed.
  • Hall of Shame - NSA Continued Overreach Division:  Maybe you've heard of CISA.  Beware, though - this sounds like a bad idea.  Trevor Timm reports it's really a surveillance bill.  For more details, you can check out Marcy Wheeler's take on Emptywheel blog.  The NSA should hang up its intrusive snooping in shame. 
  • Hall of Shame - Continuing Shame Division: Gitmo.  That place needs to be closed and the detainees either released or charged and given more humane conditions and access to due process.  We've made mention of Guantanamo Diary here before.  Here's another story of a detainee.  The U. S. should stop this continuing source of shame.
  • Hall of Shame - Unconscionable Division: Read about a proposal in CA seeking to get to the signature-gathering stage.  I can't bring myself to type the horrible idea it espouses.  I don't recommend reading the comments to the op-ed link, though - I scanned some and some were pretty intolerant.  There is also a link to a previous article - general news about the controversy.  The originator of the petition should be "run out of town" in shame.  I have no idea how anyone could advocate such a petition and still call him or herself a human being.  I really hope a judge quashes it or the AG follows author Thrasher's recommendation.
Now that we've visited the 'Hall of Shame" - maybe we should say a cleansing prayer to dispel the gloom and drive the forces perpetuating such atrocities into retreat:

A Cleansing Prayer

Heavenly Father:
Cleanse our hearts,
Clear our minds,
And purify our spirits;
Show us better ways
Of promoting general welfare
And securing the blessings of liberty for all
Show us more positive ways of relating to one another
So that we may truly walk together on this journey.

Friday, March 27, 2015


The past few days, I've contemplated another blogpost.  Of course, the news and also some stories at The Intercept have really been dreadful.  So much so that I find myself asking if there is ANY good news out there.  I may do another post just listing some shameful recent items.

But one thing that is in my mind and on my heart is the Germanwings flight crash.  How can this be?  First, we had to wonder about what kind of accident/problem/error could account for this tragedy.  Now, there's the revelation that the co-pilot locked the pilot out of the cockpit and intentionally crashed the plane.  How are we to make any sense of that?  How could someone do such a thing?  What kind of black hole must he have entered into to commit such an act?  It's rare (thankfully for that), but a pilot intentionally crashing a plane has happened before.  It's just unbelievably horrific.

The victims and their families surely need to be in our thoughts and prayers.  We should not forget the victims and families of the other recent air disasters, either.  I can't really begin to imagine the sheer fright the victims had as the tragedies unfolded.  I can't really know the pain their families are enduring.  Still I hope I can send some sort of healing vibes and I really hope others will be doing the same.

And we must never stop searching for answers as to why these tragedies happened.  Will we/can we - ever know for sure?  Maybe, maybe not.  But we must keep probing as deep as we can.  And we must keep trying to improve airline safety.  Improvement is always possible.  And Dad, if you're up there listening (Dad had a private pilot's licence for a while and even owned a plane for some time) - please pray for us down here and send some vibes to help keep flying folks safer.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Any More Doubts?

Well, there always seems to be something that gets my blood boiling.  At least that helps circuation :-)  Easier than exercising, I suppose!

The latest comes from an article at The Intercept regarding Mall of America's spying on a Black Lives Matter rally there.

Documents show that MOA used a fake facebook account to 'friend' members of the activist groups involved in the rally, gather intel about them under this fake premise without the knowledge of the subjects, and create dossiers on them.  The article also mentions intel efforts involving other activist groups.  Disclaimer: I'm not on facebook, intend to keep it that way - and for me, this is just one more reason for staying off it.

If there were any doubt that this mass surveillance that is becoming all to prevalent is being used to target activists and dissenters for their political views, well, this should put that to rest.  This should set off alarms for all of us.  Just remember if you think it's only "them" who have anything to worry about - the next target may be you - or at least a cause that you espouse.

And to ANYONE who keeps saying - "no expectation of privacy online" - I say:
Is THIS how you would want to be treated by private corporations, law enforcement and government agencies?  Do we want a system that creates dossiers on people just because of their political views?  Isn't that what we would condemn if "other countries" were doing it?

Wake up and smell the coffee, folks.  Wake up and stand up for privacy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Stop Educational Snobbery

An open letter to NPR Ed and Ms. Shereen Meraji:

I thought your article (I almost hate to link to it and give it any more traction) about why smart, low-income students aren't applying to elite schools would be interesting - that is until I read this line:

"These students often wind up in community college or mediocre four-year schools."

I was angered to read that, to say the least.  So I have written NPR Ed. and while the adrenaline is still pumping, am writing this blog post.

I am a proud graduate of a community college; the college at which I later proudly taught.  I am also a proud graduate of a state college now university.  I am also a proud graduate of a private Catholic liberal arts University.  Not elite schools, but I would describe my education at them all as excellent.

We need to dispel the notion that not being an Ivy Leaguer is a condemnation to educational "Siberia" and a roadblock to success.  Take Dr. Yvonne Thornton, author of The Ditchdigger's Daughters.  She attended Monmouth College (yes, here in NJ!) and became the first of their students to be accepted in to a Medical School (Columbia U., College of Physicians and Surgeons), so I think her undergrad experience at Monmouth U. ended up serving her pretty well.  She was also very talented, of course, and extremely motivated.  I've long felt that educationally, the student's motivation and efforts are what determine his or her achievement.

Of course, the article states that graduates of elite colleges turn out better financially.  But I'm not at all sure of all the reasons for that.  There may be biased perceptions that lead employers to favor graduates of elite schools, even if the two candidates are otherwise equal.  Graduates of elite schools probably also have access to more as well as higher-powered networks. There may be more at play here so just looking condescendingly at non-elite colleges isn't bringing those factors to the discussion.  And by not discussing them, we're not getting closer to actually addressing them.

This is an issue that deserves our attention, but this article doesn't come close to doing it justice.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Revisiting "A Modest Proposal"

Almost exactly a year ago on my Daisies and Diamonds blog, I posted a small rant against commercials.

Well, as viewing would have it, I feel it's time to revisit. Just for now, my primary consideration is tv commercials; but internet ads are also far too invasive and ubiquitous.  It seems to me that the tv situation has probably gotten worse!  I haven't sat with a stopwatch yet (two would be good - one to track actual show time, one to track commercial time), but I've noticed that we're lucky to get ten minutes of show time between commercials.  It seems closer to around 8. This article has some Nielsen stats as of May of last year. 
guess what?  I just found some more recent stats - and commercial time has increased again!  And I read somewhere we allow more commercial time than does most of Europe. Then there's the matter of the commercials themselves.  Well, the aforementioned article says that there has been an increase in short (15 second) commercials.  Maybe.  But I also seem to notice some long ones -  those that run around FIVE minutes (think vacuum, weight loss system, the 'not shampoo' haircare line, and some creepy thing to wear over your eyes while sleeping).  All those overly long commercials are extremely annoying and quite unwelcome - to me, anyway.  Oh yes, and if you feel the networks are jamming in more commercials; you are correct!

What is this doing to us? First, a big item: this affects our democracy.  Really.  John Nichols and Robert McChesney, authors of Dollaracracy, have written this overview article.  Pay attention to their points about political ads found on page 2!

Second, what does it do to us to be so relentlessly subjected to sales pitches?  Although I'm not quite as negative as the author of this article, he did hit on a point I feel is very on target. From the article:  "It is not the cacophony of the commercial claims on our attention that has shortened our attention spans; it is the soullessness that the market economy demands that has sent us searching for self-medication."  He also has some great stuff about Neil Postman's prediction about entertainment conquering social domains and the fears arising from monetizing attention in the paragraph just following that quote.  There was also something I saw about a fellow who said that tv was now just a medium for getting us to pay attention to commercials - but I've even combed through my history several times and haven't found it.  But that observation does have the ring of truth, doesn't it?

But to inject a humorous vein and in an effort to shame the offenders, here are nicknames I propose for some of our tv networks, although rampant proliferation of commercials seems to be across the board:
  • Americans Broadcasting Commercials
  • Commercial Broadcasting Service
  • Nothing But Commercials
  • Greeting Card Channel Sales and Promotions
  • Hawking Quite Zealously (think of the letters that are two before each starting letter alphabetically)
  • Commercial Nirvana Nightly
  • Totally Broadcasting Spiels
  • Advertising Massively Channel
  • Ultimately Serving Advertisers
  • Every Sponsor's Product Network
  • Advertisements & Endorsements

And the matter of those "Pledge Break Stations" is another discussion entirely!

If the commenters on some of these articles are any representation, at least some folks are disgruntled about this ad creep.  So - what can we do to scale these commercials, ads, and promos back to some reasonable level?  How can we push back about the relentless advertising - not just on tv, but on the internet and so many other places all around us?  Thoughts?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The N-word Needs to Die

Hello all -

I just saw that I have had lots of page views recently - here and at Daisies and Diamonds.  Would be REALLY great for some of you to leave a comment once in a while - let me know who you are.  Let me know if what's here is worth reading (I surely hope so :-) !!!)  C'mon, don't be shy!  

Well, I think everyone is aware of the incident of the racist chant by members of the Oklahoma University chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and the house mother's video. Free Speech or not (what a discussion that is!), I have absolutely NO use for the n-word or for ANY racial slur whatsoever.  We need words to build us up and bring us together, not to lower the caliber of our communications. The idea of getting rid of the n-word (and I absolutely would include any and all other racial slurs), is something that comes up usually when something like this happens.  I totally agree that we need to DROP IT and DROP IT NOW! As most of you readers know I'm mixed race and this clearly hits home for me.  In my family, we NEVER used the n-word (and I myself have NEVER used any other ethnic slurs, either), and never felt that it was appropriate in any context.  

Tonight I caught some discussion about the incident on CNN.  I totally agree with Alumni SAE brother William Bruce James II and also with Ben Ferguson (although I probably would not agree with him on a lot of things) that the word needs to die.  


           That Notorious Slur Needs to Die

That notorious word needs to die, along with every ethnic slur
It needs to die one thousand deaths for one is not enough
It needs to die at the hands of all of us
Using small acts of goodwill to accomplish the deed
It needs to die by respecting self and respecting others 
And reflecting thoughtfulness in the language we choose
It needs to die by someone simply stating 'That isn't right'
And challenging such divisive words
It needs to die by realizing that what might seem funny at the time
May open wounds in others
It needs to die by educating ourselves
And learning who really lies behind our perceptions
It needs to die and on its grave
We should plant words to raise us
And bring us closer to what should be our goal
Being one nation, one people

Monday, March 2, 2015

Wake Up, Speak Up, Wise Up

How does one process some of the abuses going on right in U.S.?

Let's start with the case of Tamir Rice, the 12 -year old gunned down by Cleveland Police.  In this article from The Guardian,  the defense of the city of Cleveland is outlined.  It is so incredibly despicable; it really comes down to blaming the victim, a child.  I just cannot comprehend how they can defend the indefensible - just remember the video.  And that Tamir Rice wasn't given medical attention after the shooting until too late. One of the commenters to the story has a link to the original video.

Then there is the revelation that the Chicago PD has been operating a "black site" at the Homan Building in that city.  The Guardian broke the story - it came out of the investigation of  a Chicago cop who was a torture at Gitmo.  Juan Thompson at The Intercept has a follow-up.  There has been at least one commenter at TI saying there are other "black sites."  Thompson says to watch for more follow-ups. 

One commenter at the previously mentioned article on Cleveland's answer to the lawsuit about Tamir Rice posted about an incident in LA that he witnessed and another poster provided this non-facebook link.

The Guardian now has a story up concerning the above incident in LA. 

We'd better keep tabs on this investigation.

And let's not forget the police shooting right in my "backyard."  A rally was just held.  Other reports say police even had machine guns.  Why aren't we asking -is it really necessary to have such arms at peaceful protests? 

That leads into the recent proposal in NYC to start this Strategic Response Group - to handle things like counterterrorism and - protests - saith nefarious Commissioner Bratton.  But even some backtracking doesn't mean we shouldn't be VERY concerned.  Here's the take of Hands Up United.  And speaking of lumping protesters with terrorists - isn't that just what notorious Gov. Walker of WI just did?

I think we'd all better wake up and start raising our voices against such abuses, and such disdain for civil liberties and the rights of us real people.