Wednesday, June 19, 2013

They Have No Right to Store Our Private Data for Potential "Future Use"!

I still say NO-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO to storing our data.  Even if "future access" requires a court ordered warrant in order to "legally view and use" this data.  Storing our --private U.S. citizen's-- data (phone conversations, emails, on-line media transactions and postings) is a violation of our constitutional right to privacy that goes way beyond the original intent of the Patriot Act.  The Patriot Act (enacted in the aftermath of 9/11) proved to be sufficient in keeping the U.S. and her citizens within the borders of the United States safe under the Bush Administration.  I fail to see the need or justification for this subsequent intrusive and secretive expansion of data collection for intelligence purposes, in not just scope but depth as well, that has taken place under the Obama Administration.  The government has no absolutely NO RIGHT to store my personal data and quite frankly I don't trust them in doing so --that is to say:  I do not trust in the government's ability to keep my private data safe. 

I am all for keeping Americans safe, but I won't willingly surrender my constitutional right to privacy in order for government to do so.  The latter being said, I am okay with the government providing sufficient grounds for probable cause and then legally obtaining a narrow and specifically targeted court-issued warrant to conduct a "targeted search of private citizen's data".  This was the intent of the original Patriot Act.  The current NSA surveillance program still operates under the original "USA Patriot Act", which was renewed in 2006 and again in 2011 (according to the "Seattle Times" newspaper).  Recent revelations about NSA spying on private citizens, secretly accessing and storing our private data --which they have not denied doing!*--  however, clearly demonstrate that the NSA has overstepped their original mandate, as outlined by the Patriot Act.  Now that the truth about the scope and depth of the current NSA surveillance program is thankfully out in the open:  It is up to us, "We the People", to demand some answers, along with a thorough congressional evaluation of the current expanded NSA surveillance program in order to verify that this program is not operating outside the scope of the "USA Patriot Act".  We need to put accountability in government back onto the table in order to ensure the constitutional rights of "We the People" to privacy are not surrendered and trampled upon moving forward, ever mindful of the fact that once we willingly surrender our constitutional rights we will never truly be able to get them back once again.

*In testimony to Congress yesterday NSA director, Gen. Alexander, when asked if the NSA has the ability "to listen to private citizens' phone calls and to read private citizens' emails" responded with an ambiguous ... "No ... No.  We do not have that authority."  We know the NSA does not have the "authority" to access this data without a court-issued warrant, but the question was does the NSA have the ability to access this data and the general clearly skirted the question with his answer.

And furthermore, does the NSA think that members of Congress and "we the people" are stupid?  If they're not storing our private data (phone conversations, emails, on-line media transactions and postings), then what the heck (feel free to substitute a more feeling expletive!) do they need the new $40 million data storage facility ("Dark Star"), in Salt Lake City UT --capable of storing multiple years worth of the entire internet's traffic in their entirety-- for????????????

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Once we willingly give it up: we're never going to get it back!

In today's high tech, digital world there really is no such thing as true 'privacy'.  I've always known and accepted this on some level.  Forgoing a certain level of privacy is just the price we pay for this technology we all seem to be addicted to.  The latter being said, you can't spend all your time worrying about invasions into your personal privacy, right?  You just have to live a good, relatively clean life, and hope that there is just so-oooooooo much information out there that you and yours will remain forever lost in the echoes.

Myself, aside from a lot of pain, I've got nothing to hide.  I would rather some people who hurt me from my past were never able find me again, but I know in my heart that if they truly wanted to they could find me once again.  I guess, for the time being, we should be thankful our own private thoughts (ones inside our head) still remain our very own, right?  After all, the United States is supposed to be one of the greatest nations on the planet and the current U.S. government administration claims that it is ... has been, will remain ... the "most transparent administration in the history of the U.S.", so we U.S. citizens have nothing to worry about?

Or so we thought ... In light of recent revelations these past few days regarding "data collecting" of U.S. citizens' private information (i.e., phone records, emails, and other social media messaging and posted digital content) for "future use as needed", a government surveillance program known as PRISM and a new NSA data storage facility, coming on-line in Salt Lake City Utah (Dark Star), capable of storing yottabytes of digital data  (where one yottabyte contains more than an entire year's worth of internet traffic!):  I'd have to say that "transparent" has come to take on a whole new meaning, with transparent being turned onto you and me, private citizens of the U.S. A.  When the author of the original "Patriot Act" comes out saying that the U.S. government has overstepped it's mandate on a grand scale, in this particular instance, you know the world has truly gone mad.  Maybe I'd better not even mention a recent article I read about government funded studies into the science of mind-reading ... "1984", here we come?

I understand that we live in a world where terrorism has literally come to our doorstep and as such the methods our government uses to combat this virulent terrorism have changed.  I was okay with the original Patriot Act, after careful consideration of the facts pertaining to this law ... which came to light in 2004, in the hospital room of then Attorney General John Ashcroft (program started in 2001 after 9/11) ... But this current revelation about the depth and scope of our government's spying on and storing our private personal information, in the form of phone records, conversations, emails and other on-line social media content and transactions, clearly shows our government's ability to dip into the lives of its private citizens without due process of law has really gotten out of control!   With this mass storing of our private information "for potential future use" there is no more protection from "unreasonable search and seizure" or any guarantee of "due process of law" because the previous requirements to get a court order before obtaining this type of data have now effectively been eliminated  as the government already has all our data!  And we citizens are just supposed to trust that government or individuals with the security clearance to access our data –perhaps with their own private agendas (e.g., political targeting, black-mail, etc.)-- won't use or abuse our personal data and completely trample on our individual rights to privacy?   

By accepting this type of behavior on the part of our government, without question, we, as Americans, will essentially have effectively given up our right to true privacy, in my humble opinion.  Once we surrender this power to the federal government we will we never truly be able to get it back!  This is an important point to make and consider, so I will repeat the latter:  Once we, as citizens, willingly surrender our right to privacy --and on such a grand scale-- to the federal government we will we never truly be able to get it back!  So now is the time to become informed, think this whole thing through and ACT!  I have to wonder which scares me more:  our government secretly overstepping its original mandate, as dictated by the Patriot Act, or U.S. citizens complacency in responding to this violation of power and privacy?  Is not our right to privacy one of the greatest, hard-won, and globally-speaking relatively unique freedoms we have as citizens of the United States of America?  A freedom that used to make the U.S.A. one of the greatest nations on earth …  And we are now somehow okay with just surrendering this freedom in name of an appearance of enhanced security????!!!!???  Yeah, I don’t think so!  Show me the 'money' (proof) and then maybe we’ll talk.  Keep in mind, this “enhanced security” did absolutely nothing to alert authorities to or to prevent the recent terror attack at the Boston Marathon this past Spring 2013.

Is it just me or are the opportunities for abuse in this blanket PRISM monitoring and subsequent data storage scenario unwieldy and wholly unacceptable?  I mean, if any analyst --even a government contractor, not directly a government employee under direct government oversight-- conceivably has the ability, and not necessarily the legal right or due process directive, to target any individual citizen are we then just supposed to trust that they (or god forbid others using them to gain access to private citizens’ information) will simply choose not do so?  That’s absolutely insane!

Given the facts to date, the important question now becomes:  what will we, as U.S. citizens and elected government officials, do about this egregious violation of our constitutional rights to privacy?  And will this action on our part be decisive and timely (unlike all previous responses to affronts on our civil liberties by this current administration) or will we just wind up letting things s-l-i-d-e, yet again, this time around as well?  Remember, once we let these hard-won constitutional rights go, getting them back once again will be next to impossible, so now is the time to become informed, think this whole thing through and ACT!  The way I see it, timing here is of the essence and letting this one "SLIDE" is simply NOT AN OPTION.  It is time for accountability in U.S. government to be put back onto the table ... We've been on the slippery slope for too long now and the landslide is coming.  The Patriot Act was one thing, PRISM and Dark Star are another matter entirely.  What’s more, given the fact that the latter violations to our privacy did absolutely nothing to stop the recent terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon speaks to the fact that surrendering more of hard-won civil liberties is not the way forward in our efforts to combat terrorists.  You have to draw the line somewhere and I say we draw the line at the Patriot Act, requiring court-issued warrants in order to store and access private citizen’s personal data.

And yes, the fact that this particular contractor to the U.S. government --not even a direct government employee -- had access to the intelligence information he says he did --and therein may lie the key-- does make you scratch your head and wonder why our national security secrets are so widely available and unprotected.  That being said, the lack of security w.r.t. to our national security secrets is another matter entirely:  a matter which sorely needs to be addressed, if true, but addressed in another conversation altogether.   And the fact that our government can't even safeguard information w.r.t. our vital national security secrets does not go a long way toward giving me any further confidence in the government’s ability to safeguard my personal information w.r.t. to phone calls, emails, and other digital transactions.

P.S.  This data-mining revelation kind of paints Microsoft's new "Skydrive: 7GB free cloud-drive storage for everyone", Flickr's photo sharing recent "A FREE terabyte of storage for everyone!", and Google's long running slogan of "With 1GB of free storage who ever needs to delete an email?" ... in a whole new light, doesn't it?  Help populate the database with useful data, you clueless citizens?  Our grandparents' were right:  there truly is no free-lunch, go figure .... And what about possible ramifications for limiting the field of potential candidates to run for political offices with everyone's skeletons now just a click of a few buttons away?  Some scary stuff if you stop for a moment and take a look at the BIG picture.

Monday, June 10, 2013

What makes a nation truly great?

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.   Truth ultimately lies in perception?  Think the fundamental questions we should be asking ourselves right now, in the light of revelations surrounding our government's most recent transgression, is:  "What makes a nation truly great?"  And have we, as citizens of this nation, seriously lowered the bar for "great" here in the United States of America if we are willing to allow this ever-growing encroachment upon our basic civil liberties (e.g., airline travel body scanners & groping body pat-downs, Obama-care, civilian drone monitoring and now NSA monitoring/long-term data storage of our private phone conversations, emails and other electronic data without a prior court-issued specific warrant to store this data for future potential access) and a lack of accountability in our government at-large (Benghazi, Department of Homeland Security stock-piling mountains of ammunition and now an IRS scandal) to continue ... And these are just the offenses that have come into the light. 

Doesn't any reasonable person have to wonder, given what we know, what is the size and scope of all that we do not know?  Where do you draw a line and when is enough, enough??  Perhaps a more useful exercise would be to remove President Obama from the equation and insert President George W. Bush in Obama's place.  What would we be doing in any of the previous situations if George W. Bush was at the helm right now and are we taking the same unbiased approach when addressing present circumstances?

Thursday, June 06, 2013

"How does the Republican Party go about attracting younger voters?"

It's been awhile since I have actually felt like writing about politics, but a recent discussion topic on the current events news show "The Five" caught me eye and got me to wondering ... which always gets me into trouble, but I digress ....

The question was:  "How does the Republican Party go about attracting younger voters?"

I love Greg Gutfeld, co-host of "The Five".  Yesterday, on the show --I happened to have time to watch for a change-- as the discussion topic above began Eric Bolling stated, rather matter-of-factly, that Republican candidates "need to return to their conservative roots" ... to which Greg replied "We had {a whole field} of conservative candidates this past election and they sucked!" Too funny, but true. You can always count on Mr. Gutfeld to tell it like it is.  The Republican candidates in the 2012 Primary cycle started out strong and then blew themselves up on the land-mines of conservative moral convictions.

Personally, I think that the key to attracting younger voters into the Republican party is for the conservative base to tone down their exclusionary rhetoric and to get a grip on the difference between holding a moral conviction and the infliction of those personal beliefs onto others.  A citizen has every right to believe and act upon their personal moral convictions, in their own lives, but they do not have the right to force their beliefs as such onto others unless these beliefs are the "Will of the people" and thereby accordingly become the "law of the land" as enacted by Congress ... After all, our government is supposed to be a government of "We the people":  ALL people, not just people who happen to believe the way you do.  In my humble opinion, a failure to recognize and speak to the latter on behalf of the Republican field of candidates alone --and the party at-large-- is what cost the Republican Party the White House in the 2012 election.

I also happen to agree with Greg Gutfeld when he speaks about the need for a "Libertarian revolution to sweep across the college campuses" of our nation, ushering in a return to revolutionary times of the times of late 60's - 70's --maybe just minus the drugs and other violent/counter-productive behaviors.  We need a revolutionary-like surge to re-invigorate younger voters, to help motivate them to find a driving belief in something (anything!) as opposed to just settling for being beat-down by the stagnant state of the accepted status quo our nation seems to have settled into these past few years. These days, upon graduation, college-degree holding graduates must often return to waiting tables and living in their parents basement once again, with the added bonus bonus of having accumulated thousands of dollars in student loan debt while having no viable career prospects in their immediate futures.  But shouldn't these same students at least be putting up a fight and demanding more from the rapidly vanishing "American Dream"? Perhaps the Republican Party can help to re-establish a driving belief in the notion that "we the people" can truly create a better, leaner, more efficient government that will finally succeed in bringing back much needed jobs to the United States, while earnestly working to increase our nation's competitive edge in order to create new-age/tech jobs, jobs that would extend way beyond the repeatedly pushed narrative of "employment opportunities provided by infrastructure revitilization" we've heard --with very little resultant actual opportunity, in terms of jobs-- time and again, over the course of the past decade.  With a new market for high demand tech and related jobs, we should see a subsequent substantial increase in GDP, which we can then begin to use toward the end of diligently addressing the growing (by thousands of dollars with each passing minute) need eliminate the current legacy of generations upon generations of inherited national debt.  The latter being said, any awakening belief that sparks hope for a rebuilding of our nation, on multiple levels, would be preferable to the general apathy and malaise of political-correctness and "safe-space" coddling that we are  currently seeing sweep across college campuses throughout the nation today.

In today's tech savvy global world, younger voters are especially more willing to dig deeper and to search multiple sources for information before forming an opinion on any given issue.  This could also be a function of the fact that they are just better and more widely connected in today's "social media"/information-access world. Younger voters are therefore exposed to a wider field of diverse viewpoints and this, perhaps, makes them more open to considering alternate viewpoints, thereby straying from 'traditional' party lines ... Unlike older generations of voters who often readily adopted --most often without questioning the merits of the adopted beliefs, particularly w.r.t. changing times-- the views of their family members and/or religious affiliations w.r.t voting and national issues  [A notable exception being opposition to the Vietnam War].  That is to say, while older voters often inherited their voting preferences, the younger voters of today want to get at a version of the "truth" before forming their opinions on a wide range of issues facing citizens and voters in our nation today.  This means these younger voters are going to be harder to sell when it comes to accepting the traditional Republican Party platform.
The Republican Party may have the best engine when it comes to fixing economic woes facing our nation, but if the Republican Party can't bend a little and adapt to changing times by exercising a willingness to rethink and repackage their message in an inclusive (vs. exclusive ... e.g., contraception) 'car body' for their economic engine:  then their "car ain't gonna drive" and the Republican Party will sadly be doomed to fail in round 3 as well.

P.S.  Before you judge me or write me off all-together w.r.t. my opinions posted above, let me just say this ...  Contrary to what you might think --per my more recent posts-- I am still a Christian ... I am just not an intolerant or a judgmental one, not that I have ever been intolerant or judgmental:  I am just now finding my own voice --this past year or so-- to speak out against the latter negative --yet somehow, still widely accepted--  aspects of "Christianity" as I do not find these traits to be truly of Christ or Christian in nature.  To my way of thinking Jesus was all about Peace, Love and Understanding, traits which run counter to the very nature of intolerance and judgment.  As Christians we should lead by example ... love, nurture and care for others in need unconditionally.  From what I have witnessed in my own personal life, it is this "unconditional" part that most Christians have trouble with, especially when it comes to resisting the temptation to force one's own moral convictions and personal beliefs upon others that we encounter in life.  In matters of a spiritual nature our choices must be made, felt and truly processed in the heart and mind of each individual for only then can true spiritual enlightenment and advancement of the soul along the path of our journey home to our Creator occur. The latter meaning simply that fear and coercion --forced or otherwise-- are not instrumental toward the end of spiritual enlightenment and advancement of the immortal soul along our journey home.  I have written several pieces (here in this blog) on contraception and other related topics if you are interested in truly opening your heart and mind in order to consider another valid point of view.