Thursday, October 21, 2004

Such a Bother...

"Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds." John Perry Barlow

Privacy is inconvenient. If it was otherwise how private could our privacy be? I'm referring to the recent advances in communication technology that ranges from the so called "smart driver's licenses" to implanted medical chips that utilizing bar coding technology reduces identification, health history, etc. to a microchip. Think of it, your life story can now be scanned in the same manner as a jar of peanut butter.

Advocates for this technology assert it will protect us from terrorists, identity theft, and make it much more efficient for doctors to access our medical history. In other words, we sacrifice our privacy for convenience. But whose convenience is it?

Frankly, I don't want the government or for that matter any other entity having the "convenience" to tap into who I am, where I am, and what I'm doing. If my memory serves me correct our Bill of Rights seems to address this matter. And when it comes to government intrusion, the Bill of Rights is the single most inconvenient document on the planet.

The health supporters of this technology tout that it will insure proper patient identification and accurate treatment. The driver's license folks make the argument that it will insure that those nasty terrorists don't try to obtain driver's licenses. Plans are to install such monitoring and information systems in our cars, wireless phones, and anything we use on a regular basis topping any surveillance scheme George Orwell could have ever imagined.

Technology companies involved in advancing this technology assure us that such devices will not be abused. What they don't say is that what the government deems legal is no longer abuse. When you use your Kroger card to save a few pennies at the grocery store a computer registers everything you have purchased. Now imagine government agencies or perhaps private security companies knowing which Kroger you went to, how long you were there, and for that matter, who you were with.

Imagine the government knowing you were at a meeting that you thought was private, such as a political meeting to discuss privacy rights. Or perhaps one political party used this technology to spy on their opponents. Get the drift? Your wireless phone company has the capacity to locate you at any given time and if they can do it, you can safely assume the government can and in due time will.

Throughout history, governments have forged policies, created laws, and charted new directions sometimes for the better yet often without consideration of the unintended consequences. It is one thing to advocate the benefits of identifying you or readily knowing your health history in the event of a life-threatening emergency. Yet once this technology has been utilized, it is only a matter of time that the government in the interest of "national security," or "the War on Terror," or some other political spin jargon uses this technology to further snoop on Joe Citizen 24 by 7.

Increasingly local and state governments justify the use of surveillance systems to monitor traffic or crowds. Again, those that advocate such intrusions justify it in the name of safety and security. So, in such incremental fashion we get accustomed to constant surveillance. At what point do we say we have had enough and will not allow any further intrusions? When do we exercise civil disobedience in the name of liberty and find ways to render such devices inoperative?

A look at Google on surveillance issues indicates that this industry continues to grow leaps and bounds as the public surrenders their rights to privacy. Of course, the justification for government to monitor us via constant surveillance will receive its fair share of debate. Yet a casual glance of the movers and shakers in this industry indicate that this intrusion will not go away as long as the public accepts spying on law abiding citizens as an effective strategy in winning the so-called War on Terror.

It concerns me when I find the "security" advocates calling for Madison Avenue marketing techniques to convince the public to surrender privacy for security. Had the Patriot Act been named for what it actually is, say the Spying On Citizens as well as Bad Guys Act, it would have flushed down the Congressional toilets. Yet a Congress in panic over the September 11, 2001 attacks demonstrated the collective intelligence of the average schnauzer and passed a bill granting the government more freedom to strip away our freedom.

Since then, President Bush has advocated for an even stronger Patriot Act that amounts to no more than the United States creeping by default towards a police state while in the meantime giving the surveillance advocates plausible deniability. The current administration has demonstrated that it can deny the obvious and a sizeable portion of the citizenry will believe President Bush. So, if he says that constant monitoring does not violate our rights to privacy you can bet your hard-earned over-taxed dollar that a majority of Americans will chill with such sweet assurances.

We have moved from seeing government as a necessary evil to protect our individual liberties to seeing it as a pyramid with an all knowing eye watching every move we make. It is just too inconvenient to insist on minimal government with strict limitations on access to our privacy.

The English statesman, Edmund Burke, saw the propensity of power in the 1700's when he stated, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." He also said, "The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts."

As for me, no thanks Doc, you will not have convenient access to my health history. I will not allow my body to be defined via a bar code. And to the Virginia legislature, do not allow surveillance implants in our driver's license as I can foresee emerging acts of civil disobedience to find creative ways to render such devices inoperable.

Perhaps it's time for good men and women to do something to prevent the triumph of evil. Taking steps to insure that access to our privacy remains inconvenient is a good place to start.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Call Me Naïve If You Will

originally published June 2004 in several ezines and blogs

It's nice to go to bed each night safe and secure knowing you live in a land where liberty and justice prevails. Oh well, dream on.

When I was young and naïve, meaning, I was stupid, I believed that we could vote out saber rattling politicians come election time. When Clinton kept throwing our military into Haiti, Somalia or the Balkans, I took comfort knowing that he and Monica (oops, Hilary, I meant Hilary) would eventually leave office. Perhaps, the next president would not use our soldiers to police the world.

I was so stu… I mean naïve.

Then came the 2000 presidential election. And regardless of where you stand on the issue it proved once again that the temptation of power oft surpasses the preservation of justice.

When it dawned on me that Bush and his neocons chose Iraq, over, say, actually waging the War on Terror, I relished the thought of voting him out of office. I figured come this November enough voters would realize how he bathed his agenda in our soldier's blood to make the world safe for Halliburton and boot him back to Texas.

Now increasingly I read more and more rumblings from Washington that if there WAS another major terrorist attack against the United States, the November presidential election may HAVE to be postponed or cancelled altogether. A June 25th Associate Press story reported that government officials have slapped themselves on their federal foreheads, "Darn, we forgot to plan for this; we better get busy."

So the same kind of civil (paid by tax dollars) servants (to be pissy) that successfully managed the Florida (More Bush, Less Smirks) election are planning ways to screw this upcoming election. Just in case.

Now I am not that naïve.

This is not intended as an endorsement of John Kerry or any other candidate. It is an endorsement of a just (read: honest) and legitimate (read: really honest) election where the people actually decide who will be president. Didn't we long ago fight Britain (Home of the Tony Blair Bush Butt Kissing Band) so every 4 years we could elect another boring rich guy in a dark suit posing as a middle class good ole boy to replace the former rich guy in a dark suit?

Yet recall how Bush used the WMD lies to scare the hell out of us, so much so, that we would have supported his call to invade Canada, had he told us they were making WMDs instead of maple syrup? So, scared as we were, and lied to so often, we agreed that Saddam Hussein had to go.

What else might Bush do to retain power? He stole the election once. What would stop Bush from resorting to more lies and more terror to retain power?

Because Bush is not so naive.

We are losing the War on Terror. While we focus so much energy on going after Iraq's oil you will notice that al Qaeda is working overtime and Osama bin Laden remains a free man. And it should not surprise us that millions of Arabs pray for Osama's safety:

Because we perpetuate a lopsided position favoring Israel over the Palestinians;

Because, we have a history of supporting ruthless Arab dictators in the name of democracy;

Because, frankly, we've done a shitty job, showing the Mideast the marvels of democracy;

Because we assumed Arabs were so naïve.

So as it stands, some folks in the Mideast, with way too much time on their hands, dream up ways to hurt us.

Every time we ask Bush to explain why Osama is still free we only get meaningless answers. Mr. Bush utilized the most powerful nation on earth with the most advanced weapons at his disposal to run over Iraq. We caught Saddam Hussein. Yet nasty as he was, he never attacked the United States, while Osama continues the star role in Catch Me If You Can.

Catching Osama will not end terrorism. It can end the idea that bombs can deter democracy.

I fear that if Bush slips further in the polls, we will see more press conferences scaring us again, or worse, those naïve well-hidden terrorists will attack us again (just a coincidence). This time, as Rumsfeld (I have inside information and YOU don't) has warned us, it'll be much worse.

I say then, let's nuke Canada. I'm sure Halliburton can figure out ways to profit from radioactive maple syrup.

No, what I do say, is this: when will the vast majority of American people step away from American Idol long enough to understand the importance of the November presidential election? We finally have a chance to tell Bush and his boys to stick their "shoot first ask questions later" doctrine right up their preemption. We can make a statement that we want the United States to remain a democratic republic rather than a dynastic imperial state.

So, I offer a modest twofold proposal.

First, we make sure the election is held as scheduled. Write your senator and congressperson. Tell them that at all costs, the election must take place as planned. If terrorists attack we extend rather than cancel the election. Let's prove that violence cannot deter our electoral rights.

Secondly, vote Bush out of office.

And after he loses, we call on the FBI to preempt Bush and Cheney's (The F Man) retirement plans:

"Mr. Bush, for crimes against the United States and Humanity, you have the right to remain silent…"

I know, I am naïve, but I can still dream.

How To Save On Beer

Originally published in July 2004 on several ezines and blogs.

I'm sure you feel the same as I do when you learn that according to the
U.S. National Debt Clock, that as of this morning, the national debt stands at $7,276,744,197,657.03, (over 7 trillion dollars) and that is, GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY WHO'S GONNA PAY FOR ALL THIS?

Obviously YOU will, unless you are say, the President or a member of Congress and have conveniently exempted yourself from the tax legislation you've enacted. Your bill as a citizen however, comes to $24,770.39 and since September 30th, 2003, the national debt began increasing $1.69 billion daily or about 423,558,897 six packs of cheap beer per day.

While you're figuring out where you would store all that beer, you may wonder what the government does when it runs out of borrowed money, scheduled to happen
in October.

See when average Joe Citizen hits the limit on his credit cards he generally auctions off a kidney on Ebay to pay off his debt. But Uncle Sam is not like most people. He will warn Congress to raise the credit limit or else go get real jobs such as greeting people at WalMart. So, after much debate, blaming each other for catering to special interest groups, Congress begrudgingly approves the new debt limit and then resumes serving our country by catering to special interest groups. That's the beauty of this democracy that we have bestowed upon the Iraqi people.

So, if you find the numbers of our national debt shocking, check out
the costs of the Mission Accomplished War in Iraq. According to this site, our war dollars could have hired over two million public school teachers fulfilling President Bush's unfunded No Child Left Behind mandate (Note from Bush: I was only joking!) or provided health insurance for over 52 million uninsured children. Instead, our government has already spent $126 billion American tax dollars to invade a country that posed no imminent threat with an average cost to date of $1600 per citizen. Add this to your 24k bill.

Yet, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, assured us that the Iraqi conflict would cost no more than
50 billion dollars. This should serve as a warning to all of us that while under the influence of cheap beer your ability to project costs may be impaired.

And the costs continue to mount.

Running up our national debt.

So, before you buy cheap beer to help you forget all these staggering numbers, keep in mind that the generous Bush Administration awarded their friends at the Halliburton Corporation no-bid contracts giving them an extra $1 billion a month of your tax dollars.

But I must insist that Vice President Dick Cheney, Halliburton's former CEO, has shown no preferential treatment toward his former employer. The $30 million farewell gift they gave him came from a Halliburton office pool (they skipped lunch one day) to express their love and admiration for their departing boss. How touching.

Naturally then you can understand why Cheney got so miffed when Senator Leahy (Vt.) jokingly alleged the VP's continued ties with Halliburton. Displaying the type of diplomacy that has made him so successful Mr. Cheney encouraged Mr. Leahy to perform a certain sexual act you won't see anytime soon on C-Span.

In spite of Mr. Cheney's command of the English language, various audits have revealed that Halliburton bilks the military with everything ranging from outrageous fuel costs to over priced toilet paper. Every time a soldier uses the MX 790-GZ Army Field Toilet, your indebted tax dollars are hard at work. Please don't squeeze the Halliburton!

And Cheney had nothing to do with it. Got that?

Such is the Price of Freedom.

If this has angered you please recall when the Supreme Court handed the presidential election to Bush many hoped he would, if nothing else, stay on vacation and NOT mess up the successful Clinton economy of record employment, a federal surplus, and zero deficits. But, showing the same leadership style that caused him to fail in every business effort prior to becoming president, Bush gave us a war economy resulting in:

The largest deficit in U.S. history,

Record numbers of uninsured children,

A Medicare Reform Bill deceptively sold to Congress,

An unfunded No Child Left Behind mandate,

Tax relief for the top 1% of our wealthiest Americans,

Negative job growth, the likes of which hasn't been seen since President Herbert Hoover's Depression Era days.

Unless you are in the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans such as the Bush and Cheney families, your great grandchildren and their great grandchildren will have to pay for this war through increased taxes. Apparently this is what Bush meant when he said he would cut government spending.

So the impoverished children will have to go without proper health care, and the National Debt will continue to skyrocket, while our tax dollars helps Halliburton support the War on Terror by advancing the Bush Imperial vision.

As for me, tonight I'm buying premium beer with my Visa Card.

©2004, All Rights Reserved,
Audie Gaddis, Please contact author for permission to re-publish.


A Dying Mom and a Lying President

I really need to improve. All this time I figured I had a black belt in lying only to be outdone by President Bush and Dick Cheney™.

Lies have served me well. I remember as a school age child that I spent most of my evenings caring for my dying mother. I didn’t have time for homework. Being with mom during her final days was more important than any school assignment. Yes, I got bad grades. I also got to be with my mom when she said her final words, “Now why do you keep telling the teachers that I’m dying when I’m perfectly fine. Stop being so lazy and do your homework.”

Of course, not all last words are packed with meaning.

I couldn’t say she had died as you can only use the “I’m too busy mourning to do homework” excuse for so long, 2-3 weeks by my estimate. But, I had my mom dying all the way from second through eighth grade. Right up to the time when mom volunteered to chaperone a field trip and one of my teachers, a nosey one at that, had the audacity to ask her how she was coming along. My mother, said she was coming along fine. The teacher then complimented my mother on her unusual courage and fortitude, going on a class field trip when she should be in bed fighting for her life. That statement prompted quite a conversation between my mom and the teacher.

That next day while waiting to speak with the principal about what was purported to be a lie but I regarded as a mere commentary on the existential meaning of life, it dawned on me that some lies can only last so long. I promised myself then and there to have my mom dying for a few months before an angel healed her. However, after that fateful field trip and all the way through my senior year my teachers were warned about my dying mom story. This caused great suspicion when I replaced a dying mom with a dying maid. My dress and mannerisms did not bode as coming from a family that could afford a maid, and a dying one at that.

As in school, lies have their place in politics. When President Clinton announced to the nation, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," I felt immediately relieved. "Well," I said to my wife, "now we can forgive him and move on." She gave me a puzzled look and asked how could we because he was lying. I then explained to her that had he announced to the nation that he indeed did have sex no one would have believed him. So all the press stories would be trying to figure out what he and Monica actually were up to instead of having sex. Before long the National Enquirer would have broken a story that Bill and Monica were using Elvis to teach Saddam how to build weapons of mass destruction.

Ask my wife and kids and they will tell you not to believe anything I say. For years I had my kids believing I was not raised by my parents but reared on an Indian reservation. It was a convenient lie to use whenever I showed them something useful and credited any knowledge to my previous training at the reservation. Later they grew quite suspect of this story and at some point outright disbelieved and even scoffed at me. Had they known my mother was dying they would have been more sympathetic.

But, having watched three presidential and one vice presidential debate over the past several weeks I have come to realize that the Bush and Cheney™ team are stomping the Kerry and Edwards team when you add up the lies. After all, Bush's own administration have told the American people there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The only way Bush can wiggle out of his lies to justify this war is by telling us more lies that Saddam had the "capacity" to build nuclear weapons. I have the capacity as well provided you give me detailed instructions, all the equipment, and a few nuclear scientists, plus some radioactive stuff. I learned how at the reservation.

While the president was busy convincing the American people that Saddam was ready to blow us to smithereens, Iran and North Korea were busy actually building nuclear weapons. However, somehow striking out at these countries was not big on President Bush's War on Terror, even though it is well known that Iran has harbored al-Qaeda terrorists and North Korea was conveniently protected by China.

Had Mr. Bush told us the truth, that he and his oil buddies wanted a more lucrative oil supply, Halliburton to get richer, and it was his God-ordained duty to protect Israel's seizure of Palestinian lands, we would not have been so gung-ho to invade Iraq. However, the facts are, to protect his imperial plans, Mr. Bush has to continue lying to bolster support for his crimes against both Iraq and the United States.

If elected, I fear he will expand his imperial vision. More Americans will die; more countries will face the horror of American bunker busting bombs.

What is the alternative? Mr. Bush led us away from Osama, invaded a country incapable of harming us, and killed thousands of people by using a weapon of mass destruction, the U.S. military. Over one thousand American soldiers died to force at gunpoint a form of quasi-democracy under the leadership of a puppet Iraqi leader known to be a
thug. This is Mr. Bush's gift of democracy to Iraq.

President Clinton faced impeachment for his lies about his sexual escapades. No one died in that scandal; it proved to be a tough embarrassment to the president, his family, and Monica.

The Bush lies have resulted in the deaths of thousands yet he still holds strong in the polls. Rather than running for president shouldn't we arrest him for crimes against humanity, or at the very least impeach him?

I hope he understands that I won't vote for him. I have a dying mother to care for and much more to learn at the reservation.

Dick Cheney™ is a registered trademark of
Halliburton, all rights reserved.