YAHOO’S SHAMELESS DISTORTION OF THE NEWS TO FAVOR THE NRA

We all know that most of the media is owned by a handful of people or corporations (e.g., General Electric owns NBC and Rupert Murdoch, FOX), and that nearly all media are run by ideological right-wing Republicans; and we all know further that the last thing right-wing Republicans offer the public is impartiality of news and commentary. (Fox News is its own best witness to this shameful fact.) But Google-owned Yahoo—solidly in the right-wing camp as any perusal of its on-line news reporting and commentary can verify—shamelessly left out 50% of the recent Santa Barbara shooting story.

A father of one of the students who was murdered spoke to the press about the pain and grief of his son’s death, and of his anger at the politicians who refused to pass gun restriction laws after the killings at Sandy Hook, CT.  Yahoo left out, conspicuously, the father’s loud and very emotional condemnation of the NRA for its role in facilitating gun violence .Because his “whole body and soul” anger at the NRA was so visceral, visibly shaking every fiber in his grief-torn body, it is all the more surprising that this was edited out of the story so that not one mention was made of the NRA! Yahoo’s reporter, Dana Feldman, is either completely incompetent as a journalist or else (more likely) was instructed by her superiors to edit the father’s speech so as not to blame the NRA.

Is there anywhere in the US where the NRA’s influence does NOT extend? The Right has complained about Big Government’s influence in our everyday life. But government’s influence is nothing compared to the NRA’s. Ironically, the Tea Party folk—NRA advocates one and all—support a movement that is profoundly un-democratic! It is their patrons—the wealthiest 1%–who now rule undemocratically. But they are too blind to see it—or they approve of it.

The anguish of Mr. Martinez, the dead boy’s father, could have turned even hearts of stone to wax—except of course those of the NRA, with its many psychopathological gun enthusiasts.          These people suffer from a combination of several severe psychological disorders. They evidence an utter lack of emotional maturity and self-confident masculinity; they possess a grossly underdeveloped intellect, and with no ability to reason logically; they have no capability to empathize with others; and, additionally, they suffer from paranoia and grandiose narcissism.

As Jesus knew only too well, it is all too easy to bring violence and hate into the world; but the kingdom of heaven is reserved for peacemakers.  It’s peopled only by  those who bring love and mercy,  goodness and truth,  to our harsh and broken world. Of that unimaginably beautiful world, God’s kingdom, where reason and love rule high and low, the NRA and its proselytes can have no part, for they fundamentally oppose His  message of a kingdom of Peace, Non-violence, and Love. Heaven is for those who have practiced God’s love in this life through endless trials: hell, for those who have rejected God’s love for lust of violence and hate.

The NRA, through its lobbying, exercises almost absolute power in Congress and across America. Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, just vetoed a modest gun proposal that would have limited the number of shells in a gun clip. Not even that (token) gun measure gets passed due to the power of the NRA. No doubt Gov. Christie heard the “clink, clink, clink” of campaign cash contributions as he signed his name, vetoing the bill. “You scratch my back, I scratch yours.” And if this further imperils our nation’s children—well, so much the worse for our children!

Len Sive Jr.

NSA ONLY?

HOW ABOUT BUSINESSES AND ADVERTISERS? WHO IS MONITORING THEM MONITORING US?

It would be comical if it weren’t so frightening how eight key Internet providers (Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, et. al.) have petitioned the White House to do something about the NSA’s spying while failing to mention that they themselves are either spying on Internet users or else allowing others to do so—companies like Doubleclick, an advertising company, or QuestionMarket, a company that collects  data for example on your purchases, which may include your name and phone number, etc. Yet do we hear even a peep of concern over this ubiquitous spying by businesses?—Not a word!

And not one word either from Mr. Anti-Spying himself—Edward Snowden.  Are we to assume that  he knows all about government spying but nothing at all about businesses spying? Or does he feel that a government collecting personal and confidential information is one thing, while  a business doing it  is something else altogether.  If the latter, Is he so naïve as to believe that businesses are inherently virtuous and would never at some time in the future misuse our data? (After the recent  bank, real estate, stock brokerage , et. al., unprecedented  fraud that took the world to the very doorstep of another Great Depression,  one would have to be blind indeed to think that businesses  are more virtuous than governments.)  In light of Snowden’s continuous revelations about the NSA, his silence about Internet spying by the business world is most puzzling indeed.

The question we need to ask is: Are we to have merely “relative privacy”—privacy from government  spying but not from businesses spying? Are we comfortable with Google knowing, and  showing, not only where we live but which Internet sites we visit, when,  what we do there, what we buy, how much we spend, etc.?

“Privacy” (here defined as everything about ourselves: how we spend our money, who or what we visit, etc.) is a virtual absolute; it is either present or it’s not. There is no such thing as “relative privacy.”  Privacy is an either/or, not a both/and. It either is or it isn’t.—And unfortunately it isn’t! (I say “virtual” because with a court order, on a suspicion of a crime, etc, the interests of the state at that moment override the absolute privacy of an individual.)

So to watch this group of Internet providers wringing their hands in despair over the NSA’s spying  was comical, since each knows only too well that every Internet user is tracked if at all possible—yet not one word was raised by them against this practice. Why not?—Money. Profit. millions of dollars is at stake, that’s why. And uniquely in the US, profit habitually trumps virtue and morality, by the right-wing as well as by the left-.

And where, one may ask, is the public’s outcry in all this?

“ He who ceases to be vigilant will in time lose all his liberties.” So said Wendell Phillips, wisely.  Are we so engrossed in our little self-absorbed world of cell-phone texting, activities, and games that no one really cares if on the Internet someone watches, and notes, our every move?

Len Sive Jr.

EDWARD SNOWDEN: FRIEND OR FOE; PATRIOT OR PARIAH?

There are many important issues in history—or even everyday life—that do not resolve themselves into (so to speak) “easy round numbers,” but involve “messy arithmetical calculations.” So it is with Snowden: Any way you take him, the calculations to be done are messy indeed.

Let’s look at him, first, from a positive standpoint. What has he done that we ought to be thankful for? Clearly it’s revealing the inner workings of the NSA’s massive, indeed historically unprecedented, ability to monitor our calls, our emails, and our Internet activity—and to millions of Americans, and over many years, the NSA has been doing exactly that. And not just to us Americans, either, but to nations around the globe, whether friend, neutral, or foe. Snowden has also, as if to try to balance things out a bit, revealed that many European nations are themselves actively engaged in spying and data collection even as they remonstrated with the Obama administration over our nation’s spying proclivities and habits.

Spying is a universal activity; but it’s the depth and breadth of our capabilities that at first shocked, then angered, and then, upon sober reflection, frightened those whom Snowden revealed that we’ve spied on, with the rest of the world left to wonder if, and when, we will spy on them as well.

We have not only the world’s most advanced weaponry, ships, and planes, but clearly the most advanced—and audaciously run—intelligence gathering force on the planet. For many nations it’s clearly a case of “data envy”: if they had had our capability, they would have done exactly what we have been doing. But notwithstanding this, Snowden is largely right in showing the world that we have overstepped our bounds by a long country mile; and presumably legislation, already written up, corralling the intelligence community, will be passed soon. History shows that honoring a citizen’s rights is among the rarest of historical phenomena. Once those rights are curtailed, it’s difficult indeed to get them restored. So, on this side of the equation then, thumbs up for Snowden. We all owe him a deep debt of gratitude. Now for those messy arithmetical calculations I mentioned.

What has Snowden done that one can’t accept or approve of? First, Snowden lied on his application in order to get a job with the NSA so he himself could spy and eavesdrop and monitor and engage in data collection—against the NSA, CIA, et. al.: precisely the things he complains that the NSA has done, he did. Only he went one step further: He also stole top-secret documents which have nothing to do with NSA’s spying, many of which are of the highest strategic importance. On what grounds could Snowden possibly justify that? Moreover, for shelter he first went to one of our adversaries—and one of the world’s worst countries for human rights violations, then ended up in another country that also massively fails to honor human rights—this from someone supposedly concerned about the NSA’s violation of the rights of others. For Snowden, the ends evidently sanction any means (a pernicious doctrine if ever there was one);

and he talks out of both sides of his mouth, being pro-human rights yet cozying up to countries whose human rights records are wretched at best.

Second, he could have taken a few key documents and then gone to the Senate intelligence oversight committee, as a whistle-blower. That way, the monitoring of terrorists, at home and abroad, would not have been compromised, as it has been by his revelations. And if nothing had been done by the committee, he could then have gone public.

I get the impression that his ego played no small part in all this—that he thought of himself as being half James Bond and half Jason Bourne, with a dash of Daniel Ellsberg or Noam Chomsky thrown in. But this is no movie, and the stakes are high indeed—and very dangerous. Moreover, Ellsberg didn’t steal top-secret documents and then abscond to China or Russia like Snowden did. Ellsberg didn’t betray his country; releasing the Pentagon Papers on Vietnam cannot possibly be compared to stealing top secret documents that could seriously compromise our security.

So, for me the negatives win out. He betrayed his country unnecessarily, is hypocritical, and possesses an ego of dangerous dimensions. Moreover, if we allow this treachery to go unpunished, it would set a precedent that would cripple our armed forces in the future. No, patriots stand up and are counted; pariah  slink stealthily away.

Len Sive Jr.

Edward Snowden: Avalanches and Frankenstein

Perhaps it’s appropriate that Edward’s last name has “snow” in it, since he has caused a world-wide avalanche of reactions to his carefully released documents revealing how almost omnipotent the NSA has become in snooping, monitoring, and data gathering from seemingly every corner of the globe, whether friendly or hostile to the US.

Perhaps never before in history has electronic snooping been so ubiquitous  as to present at least the pre-figurement of Big Brother, if not Big Brother himself. The reassurances, for example, of the NSA’s director, Gen. Keith Alexander, that they didn’t break into Google and Yahoo data centers, that doing so would be illegal; given the enormity of offences already catalogued through Snowden’s disclosures, is less than reassuring, to say the least. When the NSA taps the cell phone of the Chancellor of Germany, who is America’s close ally and friend–for ten years no less– all bets are off as to what they wouldn’t do, or what they haven’t already done, or what they will do tomorrow.

Here we have a pregnant example of Lord Acton’s famous maxim, oh so wise: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It is simply human nature that when you can do something, eventually you do it. The NSA can snoop anywhere they desire—and they have, as we now know. Before Snowden no one knew. We lived in innocence. The world seemed a friendlier place, a relatively private place—before the avalanche of documents, released and yet-to-be released, destroyed our idyllic personal world of peace and privacy—and complacency.

Part of the problem is money. The NSA’s and CIA’s intelligence budget is 52 billion dollars. What can’t you do with a budget of that size? We have indeed created a monster, and now it has turned on its creator.

In today’s highly electronic-computerized world privacy is losing out to technology. The Frankenstein metaphor is now no mere metaphor. What’s to be done?

First, there must be non-intelligence personnel charged with oversight. Next, penalties must be super-stiff for violating a person’s privacy (phone, email, eavesdropping, surveillance, et. al. types of intrusion). Third, monies slated for intelligence-gathering should be cut and used for public projects like trains, subways, buses; solar and wind power; etc.  And fourth, a court order should be mandatory for all eavesdropping. And this is just a sampling of what must be done.

The power of spying has reached a critical stage. The public’s ability to focus is time-limited, so we must strike while the iron is still hot if we want to keep our privacy, and the privacy of others, in tact. It’s a race we’re in, a race against all-devouring technology. Will Frankenstein win out—or will we?

Len Sive Jr.