Monday, July 27, 2015

WND's Subtle (Or Not So Subtle) Bigotry Of Placing Quotes Around "Gay"

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat ~ Romans 14:10, The Christian Bible.

Has anyone else noticed that when the Rightwing site World Net Daily (AKA Wing Nut Daily AKA Black Mob Central) prints the word "gay", they place quotes around it? What they're saying is that being gay isn't a real thing. People aren't born gay, they choose to be gay (these bigoted nuts are saying).

"Christian Homosexuals" plot Church's transformation... Evangelist Ray Comfort issues warning: "Do not be deceived"... Christians considering how to respond to the Supreme Court's creation of "same-sex marriage" face a challenge from within – those who call themselves "gay Christians" and contend the Bible does not condemn homosexual behavior.

One of the most conspicuous figures in the movement is Matthew Vines, who has written a book arguing Scripture does not condemn same-sex sexual relationships. ... [sez Comfort] "Matthew Vines would do well to take notice that the verses begin with Do not be deceived. There's a reason for that. We mustn't be deceived of the fact that fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals and thieves will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Or to put it more soberly, they will end up in a terrible place called Hell. ...

"So let's summarize. There is no such thing as a fornicator Christian, an adulterer Christian, a homosexual Christian or a thieving Christian. Those who call themselves Christians but continue to cling to their beloved sins will see their great deception on Judgment Day". (7/25/2015).

Ray Comfort is a Rightwing bigot minister demagogue who sez one of the ways we will know the end of days is upon us is that "homosexuality will increase [and] the institution of marriage will be forsaken". Which means we should all start preparing for the Lord's return, I guess. Although as a Progressive Christian I agree with Matthew Vines and categorically reject the irrational homophobia and hatred of those like Comfort.

In quotes (signifying they don't believe they are real things) are... "same-sex marriage" and "gay Christians". The Supreme Court "created" same-sex marriage... as opposed to recognizing that the 14th amendment protects marriage equality. And, of course there are no gay Christians, just sinners who are going to burn for eternity in Hell. Huh. Sounds more like "hate the sinner" to me than "love the sinner, hate the sin".

Personally I think these un-Christian bigots are going to be muy surprised when they stand in judgement before the Creator. Specifically, The Lord is not going to be pleased that these "Christian" bigots judged their gay brothers and sisters and treated them with contempt (by condemning them to Hell). Judgment is the Lord's alone (James 4:12).

In regards to Comfort's anti-homosexual propaganda film Audacity, WND notes that he sez "homosexuals and those who consider themselves supporters of homosexuality will... be pleasantly surprised [because] there's not an ounce of hatred or stereotyping in it".

Sure, I can believe that. It's pretty easy to put on a different face in order to soft-sell a message of hate that has gay people burning in Hell for all eternity. In interviews conducted within the film, Comfort asks his dupes if they think adultery and fornication are human nature, to which the dupes reply "yes". Then Comfort sez "But even if it's human nature, we don't act on that, because we know it's bad".

Presto, being gay is a "choice". Because, even though it's human nature for people to want to fornicate or adulter, good Christians suppress these desires. Thus gay people can suppress their "sinful" desires as well.

Except that when people are married they usually AGREE to be faithful to one another. Unless you and your mate agree that your marriage will be an open one, you are betraying the agreement you made when you got married. It is the betraying of your mate's trust that is sinful, not the acting according to your nature (straight or gay).

Being straight or gay is not a choice. Acting on either behavior is a choice. Although this "acting on" is not a sin. The sin is hurting a person you love deeply by betraying their trust.

Regarding Comfort's interviews, one critic says, "in these manipulative, cringeworthy clips, he tricks people into saying that being gay is a choice through a series of faulty comparisons and leading questions". The people being manipulated are "random LGBT people and allies on the street"... so, yeah, that's why they don't ramp up the hate and stereotyping. It wouldn't work with the people being interviewed. But just about anyone can be manipulated.

I would strongly disagree, however, that there is "not an ounce of hatred". There is hatred present, it's just subtle and the interviewees are manipulated into accepting it. Which stands in stark contrast to the up front hate presented on WMD. Because that's the audience they're catering to (the rabid haters).

Which doesn't mean they can't utilize subtlety as well (such as the quote marks around "gay"). WND-types can appreciate the subtle stuff in addition to the front and center hate. Although I'm not sure how subtle the quote marks are... I mean, it's pretty obvious what they're implying when they use them. It's just a tad less obvious than most of the hate WND peddles.

Video: Matthew Vines, the gay Christian that has Ray Comfort and other Christian bigots freaked out, speaks on "the Reformation Project" (AKA "plot the Church's transformation"). Published on YouTube on 11/7/2014 (5:45).

See Also
[1] The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality by Matthew Vines. (Hour-long video w/transcript).
[2] Willis Hart sez "I strongly suggest that you check out the black on gay violence chapter in Colin Flaherty's disturbing volume, White Girl Bleed a Lot". The reason Willis recommends Colin Flaherty's work of demagoguery is because it, in addition to revealing the "disturbing" extent of just how violent Blacks are, also covers Black homophobia. BTW, concerning WND (the bigot online rag Flaherty works for), the Rational Wiki says, it "regularly runs stories that engage in base racism, often focusing on white fears of violent blacks. The website regularly features the work of journalist and alleged human being Colin Flaherty, who has done more reporting than any other journalist on what appears to be a nationwide trend of skyrocketing black-on-white crime, violence and abuse". Yea, figures Willis would be a fan, given that he regularly traffics in this kind of demagoguery on his blog. Although he calls it "a fuller rendering of the narrative".

SWTD #299

Friday, July 17, 2015

Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains Why Government Investment In New Technologies Is So Important

Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it's not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout our history, our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need ~ Barack Obama (dob 8/4/1961) 44th POTUS (1/20/2009 to 1/20/2017). Excerpt from his 1/25/2011 State of Union Address.

Back during the 2012 primary season, a 1/23/2012 GOP NBC debate featured a Newt Gingrich moment that had him proposing the construction of a permanent base on the Moon. Newt said that by 2020 (the last year of his *snicker* administration provided he *snicker* served two terms), private sector businesses spurred on by government-provided prize money would accomplish the task.

At the time I wrote a short commentary of a humorous nature on Newt's proposal titled "A Winning Strategy: President Newt". (Follow the link to read my side-splittingly hilarious laugh-a-palooza from 4/3/2012).

Following this unlikely proposal by Newt (unlikely that we'd build a Moon colony and unlikely that we would have elected Newt preznit), astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson appeared on MSNBC with Martin Bashir to discuss how probable the building of a base on the moon by 2020 might be.

During the 1/26/2012 airing of Bashir's eponymous MSNBC program, Mr. Tyson pointed out that, aside from the technical and scientific hurdles that would have to be overcome, the political climate would have to change. Simply put, the political climate makes this proposal very improbable - or it would have been improbable if Newt had improbably been elected and we had actually pursued it.

Mr. Tyson went on to explain why government investment in new technologies is so important (something those on the Right who believe the "market" should decide don't cotton to).

NDT: There is rampant delusion out there about what the future will hold for us. One of the problems is, the expectation is that the private sector will just advance the space frontier. No, they're not going to advance the space frontier. Because the frontier of space is expensive, dangerous, with unknown risks and unknown costs. That is not ripe for capital markets to value, OK.

The history of human exploration is one where governments take the first step. They pay for the first patents, they draw the maps. Government paid for Columbus' voyage. Magellan's voyage. Louis and Clark. That's who figures out what's going on out there. Then private enterprise comes in afterward. ...we are receding while the rest of the world is advancing. Because they realize the value of such investments. (MSNBC's Martin Bashir 1/26/2012: Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why the Newt Gingrich vision for space is too grand of an idea).

Conservatives HATE this idea, even though it is the model that has worked time and time again, as Mr. Tyson points out. Conservatives and Libertarians say this is government "picking winners and losers" and they strongly oppose it.

They object despite the fact that, without this model (where government leads the way when it comes to new technologies), the Internet would have never been invented (for example). The internet began with a government investment when "the US Department of Defense awarded contracts". Later, legislation championed by future president Al Gore led to the development of the interwebs as we know the series of tubes today (for which I thank him).

When I pointed out how crucial government investment is when it comes to new technologies (in the context of the green economy and the government loan program to support companies who invest in green energies such as solar), a whiny Conservative complained about "taxpayer funded gifts to wealthy investors and corporations".

But the evidence shows that when We The People intervene to "advance the frontier" (when the private sector is too timid to take the risk), the American people choose themselves as winners. When we fail to do this we chose to be losers (which is what the whiny guy I mentioned earlier would have us do).

The trick, of course, is to not let the corporations corrupt the system by bribing our elected officials in order to select them (the plutocrat business owners) as the winners. This crony capitalism problem is what greatly concerns Libertarians.

The solution, however, is NOT to do as Libertarians wish and give up because the wealthy special interests will always corrupt the system (that's what they say, at least). But it does not have to be this way! What we should do is reform the system (by getting rid of Citizens United and publicly financing elections, for example) and get down to picking the winners that will benefit We the People.

Unfortunately there is more and more of this defeatist Libertarian loser attitude going around today, and this is why other countries are surpassing us in the areas of green energy and high speed rail, for example [1+2].

Newt's campaign might have been a joke, but at least he was concerned about us losing our status as the cool country (despite being an uber-nerd), which we might have been able to recapture if gwb had not said NO to human-animal hybrids. If not for that bush decree we might have been on our way to a real Planet of The Apes! How cool would that have been? (Are "Humanzees" Possible?).

On second thought, high speed rail would definitely be a lot more gnarly, and more practical than a base on the moon (not that we couldn't do both). But Republicans hate high speed rail. Why? Because rugged individuals drive gas guzzling SUVs, that's why. Or coal rollers, which "are diesel trucks modified with chimneys and equipment that can force extra fuel into the engine causing dark black smoke to pour out of the chimney stacks... as a form of protest against environmentalists and Obama administration emissions regulations".

BTW, in regards to Gingrich being an "uber-nerd", how could he not be with a name like "Newton Leroy"? He also has several degrees in History and was previously employed as an assistant History professor before being elected to Congress.

Although he has had 3 wives, the 1st 2 of which *HE* dumped for a newer model. But that comes with the territory of being rich and powerful. You can be a nerd and get hot women. Not that I'm saying Callista is hot, only that she is surely hot when compared to Newton.

[1] China's Renewable Energy Revolution: What Is Driving It? (article excerpt) China is building a renewables energy system that is now the largest in the world. ... In terms of generating capacity, by 2013 China's WWS sources (water, wind and solar) accounted for... close to 20% of energy generated... China now has the largest electric power system in the world, rated at 1.25 trillion watts (TW), exceeding the US power system's capacity at 1.16 TW (and German at 175 GW). China added more capacity in 2013 sourced from WWS than from fossil fuels and nuclear sources combined. ...our conclusion is that in 2013, China's leading edge of change in its electric power system is moving in a green direction, away from fossil fuels dependence. (Article by John A. Mathews and Hao Tan. GlobalResearch 11/17/2014).
[2] China has the world's longest HSR network with over 16,000 km (9,900 mi) of track in service as of December 2014 which is more than the rest of the world's high speed rail tracks combined. Since high-speed rail service in China was introduced on April 18, 2007, daily ridership has grown from 237,000 in 2007 to 2.49 million in 2014, making the Chinese HSR network the most heavily used in the world. Cumulative ridership had reached 2.9 billion by October 2014. (Wikipedia/High-speed rail in China).

Video1: Martin Bashir and Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson discuss Newt Gingrich's intentions to colonize the moon by 2020, and to the funding of space exploration in general on MSNBC. Video posted to YouTube on 1/27/2012 (6:47).

Video2: With planet Earth in turmoil, Newt Gingrich leads a GOP-filled colony on the Moon. SNL 2/4/2012 (Season 37-Episode 13, Hosted by Channing Tatum).

SWTD #298

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Is Removing The Confederate Battle Flag A "Solution In Search Of A Problem"? (Addendum)

By Tuesday afternoon, sales of a 3x5 Confederate flag on Amazon had jumped nearly 4,600 percent, presumably in response to the controversy generated by the shooting and its aftermath. Sales of a similar flag rose nearly 3,300 percent ~ Quote from a HuffPo article by Andrew Lord, Amazon Bans Confederate Flag Merchandise. 6/23/2015 would be the Tuesday in question as well as publish date for the article.

With my prior commentary (SWTD #296) I addressed the question of the removal of "Confederate Flag items" from retail stores, including major retailers such as Amazon, eBay, and Walmart. My conclusion was that this was the right decision.

Well, it appears as though I spoke too soon. I sell on Amazon, and today I was notified that an item in my inventory is now prohibited.

Hello from Amazon. We are writing to let you know that the following detail pages have been removed from our catalog:

ASIN: B0015J9TU2, SKU: MN-5P28-QCML, Title: "the blue and the gray [soundtrack] [audio cd] bruce broughton".

This item has been identified as confederate flag merchandise. Amazon policy prohibits the listing or sale of confederate flag merchandise.

For more information on our policies, search on "Restricted Products" and "Listing Restrictions" in Seller Help.

**Action Required: Within 48 hours of this notice, please review your remaining listings and make any changes necessary to ensure compliance with our policies.

Failure to comply with this request may result in the removal of your selling privileges.

We appreciate your cooperation and thank you for selling on

Amazon Services.

I should have said that I thought removing "Confederate Flag merchandise" was a good idea - if they did the removing intelligently. The item in question here, a film score to a TV mini-series about the Civil War that features the Civil War as a backdrop, does feature an image of the Confederate battle flag, but it is mostly obscured, in the background, and below an image of the American flag (see pic below).

This isn't even the mini-series itself, but the orchestra score from the mini-series. I took out my copy and an listening to it right now (as I type this). I am in no way offended (although I'm not African American).

Removal of actual flags, or of clothing items that featured the flag is what I thought they were talking about. Removing movies on DVD or blu-ray (or the soundtracks from movies) is pure stupidity IMO.

In any case, the reason Amazon notified me of this is because the item is in my inventory... although it is an "Inactive/Out of Stock" item... because this film score on CD is a sold out (from the manufacturer) limited edition (2000 copies) that I sold out of. I did sell it (and made a profit due to it selling out from the manufacturer), but I shipped my last copy awhile ago. So, luckily, I'm not now stuck with a bunch of copies and no forum through which to sell them (I'm guessing it's banned on eBay as well).

I would be mad (instead of just shaking my head in regards to the stupidity of this) if I had any copies left. On the other hand, they may now be more valuable... if I could find a way to connect with a buyer who really wanted it. But, like I said, I don't have any more - except my own personal copy, which I kept because I am a fan of the composer, not because I am a fan of the 1982 miniseries.

Which I do believe I saw when it aired, but on which my memory is very foggy. All I remember is that one of the actors was Stacy Keach... and that's about it.

Synopsis of the miniseries from Wikipedia... although, remember, what Amazon is objecting to is not the miniseries, but the score (orchestral music) from the mini-series (as released on CD).

The Blue and the Gray is a television miniseries that first aired on CBS in three installments on November 14, November 16, and November 17, 1982. Set during the American Civil War, the series starred John Hammond, Stacy Keach, Lloyd Bridges, and Gregory Peck as President Abraham Lincoln. It was executive produced by Larry White and Lou Reda, in association with Columbia Pictures Television. A novel of the same name by John Leekley, Bruce Catton and Ian McLellan Hunter was published as a companion to the series in 1983. The colors in the title refer to United States Army and Confederate States Army uniforms of the period, respectively.

The plot revolves around the families of two sisters; Maggie Geyser and Evelyn Hale. The Geysers are farmers from Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Hales own a small newspaper in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Geysers are generally indifferent to the issue of slavery, but are sympathetic to the Southern cause. The lone exception in the family is son John, an artistic young man who becomes sympathetic to the plight of Southern slaves and free Negroes. The Hales are pro-Union and anti-slavery, but, like many Northerners at the time, they hope for a peaceful solution to the nation's problems.

Even stupider (?), the DVD of the actual mini-series (not the film score) *is* still available on Amazon (here, as a 3-DVD set). I do not, however, see a Confederate flag included in the cover image (including in the background)... which must be why you can still buy it.

I have to confess that am no longer sure if Amazon (and other retailers) getting rid of merchandise featuring the Confederate battle flag was a good idea. If Amazon had banned actual flags (full size or mini) and (perhaps) clothing items... I think that would have been enough. But a movie score CD being banned? That is ridiculous (IMO).

Also, Amazon is still selling (via a 3rd party vendors as well as Amazon itself, depending on the item) an actual flag, this Rebel Flag Notebook, a 1969 General Lee Dodge Charger Model Kit, a book titled "The South was Right" which features the Confederate battle flag on it's cover (although the content is likely a lot more offensive), another (Kindle) book titled "A Confederate Flag Turned Me Gay" (again, with an image of the offending flag on the cover), etc, etc.

Why haven't these items been removed, Amazon?

Image: Front cover image from the "Blue and the Gray" audio soundtrack CD (2-disc set) by Bruce Broughton. Released by Intrada Records as a part of their Special Collection (Volume ISC 57). Sale of this 2-CD set of orchestral music is now prohibited on Amazon.

SWTD #297

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Is Removing The Confederate Battle Flag A "Solution In Search Of A Problem"?

"We have decided to prohibit Confederate flags and many items containing this image because we believe it has become a contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism", eBay said in a statement, echoing the sentiments of others in the aftermath of the fatal shooting last week of nine black parishioners in a South Carolina church and the arrest of a white suspect. (Confederate Flag Sales Soar as Retailers Pull Stock, the NYT 6/23/2015).

According to the Libertarian blogger Constitutional Insurgent it is. Or, removing it from retail stores is.

Constitutional Insurgent: So retailers from Walmart to Apple to Amazon to the National Park Service are falling over themselves in an attempt to not be the last entity selling or displaying the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. Oh the horror...

Attempting to erase history to soothe the intellectually frail and those prone to the vapors isn't going to solve problems of racism or violence. The flag in question plays no role in these problems. It's an inanimate object and should be treated as such. But that's how our society reacts... erase a symbol and it will be proof of "doing something!" That's all that matters... the optics.

The battle flag should no more be flown over a government facility, nor incorporated into a state flag. (Erasing history: Solutions in search of problems 6/25/2015).

This is a strawman that the blog host is using to bash people he calls "assclowns". As far as I know, most people are arguing that this flag should be moved to a museum. And nobody has suggested that private citizens be ordered to turn over their flags for destruction ("erasing").

So what the hell is this doofus whining about? He doesn't like it that PRIVATE businesses have decided to no longer sell the flag? I thought that what PRIVATE businesses sell is their prerogative? If retailers from Walmart to Apple to Amazon to the National Park Service have decided they no longer wish to sell the flag (because it is a divisive representation of discrimination), do they not have the right?

And, businesses usually pay attention to public sentiment. If these retailers have come to the conclusion that they might lose business if they continue selling this flag, then it is purely a business decision to pull it (and who would expect a business to NOT make a business decision?).

As for those who are "intellectually frail", the Insurgent is referring to people who might protest this symbol of racism continuing to be sold? Screw him. The flag is an "inanimate object", but that does not mean it plays no role. It absolutely does. Removing a symbol of hate is a good thing. A step toward fixing the problem.

Yes, the Insurgent refers to removal from retail stores (and agrees it should be removed from government property), but retailers no longer selling this flag is the right decision, IMO. Does this mean the flag will be "erased"? No. There are plenty of them out there, I am sure. And other retailers and manufacturers will likely continue to manufacture and sell the flag. And they will continue to exist (in museums and in private hands) for a very long time to come. This is hardly "erasing".

Of course "doing something" involves more than removing a symbol from government property. But it is a good start. As is large retailers removing them from their stores.

The Insurgent is wrong on removing the flags from retail stores, and wrong when he says (later, in the comment thread of his post) that "the left has given the Battle Flag far more prominence and import than racists could ever have". What utter bullshit.

It's prominence is being greatly reduced, dipshit. Further dipshittery is the claim that the Confederate battle flag "honor[s] the courage and sacrifice of Americans". The flag is a symbol of hate and oppression, proof that is the case is why and when the South began flying this flag over government buildings.

The Confederate battle flag is about to be taken down in South Carolina, but as it comes down, it seems important to remember when and why it was put up in the first place. Ostensibly it was raised to celebrate the centennial of South Carolina starting the Civil War with its attack on Fort Sumpter.

But... that centennial just happened to coincide with an increase of civil rights protests in the Palmetto State. In January 1961 a group of 10 black students sat in at a lunch counter in Rock Hill, S.C. Nine of them refused to post bail, and they became known as the Friendship Nine. If the flag were raised only to commemorate the centennial of South Carolina's leading role in the Civil War, we can imagine that it would have been taken back down at the end of 1961. (The Confederate flag was raised in S.C. as civil rights movement began by Jarvis DeBerry. & The Times-Picayune 7/9/2015).

The flag was raised to send a message to the Ni**ers who might protest for their civil rights. The flag is a symbol of racism, not a symbol that honors those who fought for South, or a symbol that honors "heritage". That retailers are not going to sell them any longer has nothing to do with "intellectually frailty" and *does* represent "doing something".

More must be done, of course, but we don't need to continue making any more of these symbols of hate. Those who belong to private citizens are private property. They can keep them. I surely do not care if anyone wishes to fly them on their private property (and advertise their hate). But make more of them? I say no. And I say retailers who decided not to sell them any longer made the right decision.

This in no way qualifies as a "solution in search of a problem", nobody who pushed for removal of this flag from retail stores is "intellectually frail", the symbol isn't being "erased", and optics are an important part of "doing something".

SWTD #296

Saturday, July 04, 2015

My Message From The Land Of Nightmares (Part 2)

Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare ~ Japanese Proverb.

Despite the pitch blackness that prevented me from viewing my surroundings, I did as the disembodied voice instructed and moved forward. My arms outstretched, I baby-stepped my way toward a door or wall the voice said was dead ahead. Eventually I felt my palm touch a cool hard surface. Running my hand back and forth and up and down I concluded I had reached what was probably a stone wall.

"Feel for a knob down and to your right" the raspy voice that was instructing me directed. I felt around in the location described and found a cold metal knob. Twisting and pulling resulted in a door banging into the tips of my shoes. Stepping back I swung open the rectangular barrier on hinges, revealing a dimly lit passage. Stepping through the egress I pulled the door shut behind me. "Er, wait a minute" the voice that had led me to the door squeaked. The knob was pulled from my grasp.

Surprised, I jumped away from the door into the passage. The door reopened and a small imp hopped over the threshold into the corridor. A old-timey oil lantern swung from a hook on the wall when I backed into it. The blood-red horned imp with talons protruding from it's leathery wings barred it's fangs and hissed at me. "Keep back human" the demonoid warned. "My purpose is to bring you to my master, he who summoned you here".

"Is that so?" I asked, not trusting this evil-looking creature. "Yes, Mr. Charles is waiting for you" the imp replied. "Who is Mr. Charles?" I inquired. "Enough!" the imp shrieked. "My purpose is to guide you, not to respond to your inane chatter". The imp flicked the door shut with it's tail. It slammed closed and I heard a click. "Yes, the exit is locked" the imp confirmed. "Not that it would matter. The portal that brought you here is one-way". The imp cautiously passed by me, keeping close to the opposite side of the corridor.

"This way" the imp said, motioning me to follow with one of it's talons. Not seeing any other option, I followed. Soon we came to a four way junction, oil lanterns hanging from the wall illuminating the way. The imp turned right and I continued to follow. Hours passed and the imp and I trudged along through the dimly lit subterranean corridor. Growing tired I asked demanded of the imp "how much further"? Stopping short the imp turned. an angry look on it's face.

"Not that far now" he said. "Although we should have been there long ago" the creature muttered under it's breath. "What's that?" I inquired, growing exasperated in addition to exhausted. "I misremembered the way" the imp concluded after standing there motionless for some time (apparently he had been pondering). "You mean we have to return to the 4 way juncture we encountered so many hours ago?" "Indeed", the devilkin affirmed.

"M-effer" I groaned, contemplating giving the small creature a swift kick. But the imp (reading my body language?) hissed and bared it's fangs. "It has been many years since I have been in these particular corridors" he explained. "Not that I need to excuse myself to human scum" he added. "Back!" he commanded, raising his small (but viciously clawed) hand, motioning me to press myself against the cool rock wall. Which I did, not wanting to tangle with a creature possessing razor sharp fangs and claws.

The imp passed by and we headed back toward the 4-corridor junction. Many more hours passed until we made it back to where the wrong turn had occurred. "Now which way?" the deviling hellion murmured softly. Minutes passed as the creature contemplated. "Well, we came from that way" I said, indicating the passage that led back to the room this journey began in. "And we went this way before turning around" I said, referring to the passage I was still standing in. "That leaves two options". "One must be the way to... wherever it is we are going".

"Obviously" the imp agreed. "But I can't recall which one". The imp was looking quite frustrated. "Damn!" he screamed suddenly after several more moments of silence, causing me to jump. "Mr. Charles is not going to be pleased". "Wait", the devilkin finally concluded. "If we return to where we started... there is a map there".

"But didn't the door lock when we left" I said, remembering hearing a click. "Shut yer yap, mortal" the demonoid growled, pointing a sharp talon at me as a warning. "Don't you worry about that". And, as it turns out, there was no need to worry, despite the door being locked. When we got back to where we had started our journey the devilish sprite stuck a sharp nail into the keyhole and picked the lock. "Bring a lantern" he instructed as the door to the black room reopened.

Bringing a lantern with me into the inky darkness illuminated the room. "There", the imp indicated, gesturing to the wall to the left of the door after we had entered. There, affixed to the stone wall, was an engraved map. A you are here arrow pointing to where we were. "That cavern is where we are heading" the imp said, pointing to a enormous blank space near the top of the map. "I'm not sure of the scale, but this appears to be many miles from where we are" I deduced while examining the map.

After tracing back the route to where we were, I concluded that we should have turned left at the 4-way juncture. There were, however, many other junctures along the way to the enormous cavern. "Perhaps we should take this map with us?" I suggested, reaching for topographical depiction affixed to the wall. "Oh no, that map is firmly attached" the demonoid replied, moving toward the exit. "No need to worry any longer, human" the creature assured me. "I shall recall the way, now that my memory has been refreshed".

And apparently he did remember, as - after following him down the left corridor, we made our way with no hesitations at any further junctures. The imp knew where he was going (now). Or acted with confidence that suggested he did. And, after many more hours, the corridor opened into an enormous football-field-sized cavern (or many foot-field-sized, to be more precise). The cavern was lit brightly... and also quite warm.

In fact the temperature, before quite cool, increased to a degree that soon had me sweating profusely; and it was immediately apparent what the source of the heat was; a large burning lake of fire! "I do not wish to go any closer to the fire" I protested, feeling almost as if my clothing could burst into flame at any second. But the imp beckoned me on, pointing to the right. "There your host awaits you" he explained.

I looked in the direction the imp indicated and saw a long (60 foot?) wooden table surrounded by many chairs. Dinner plates, forks, spoons, goblets, bottles of wine and platters of food (down the center) rested atop the extended buffet. Approaching the far right end of the enormous feast, I was disgusted to find the food - large platters of roasted chickens, bowls of creamy mashed potatoes, cheesy green bean casseroles, large brown gravy boats and various other dishes - was rotten and squirming with maggots - reminding me of that pizza I had almost consumed in my kitchen (so long ago now it seemed).

The worms slithered in and out of the decaying putrid feast. "Ugh" I muttered as the stench invaded my nostrils. The stink did not seem to offend the imp, however, who hopped up on the table. His wings flapping a few times as he hovered briefly over the mess, then touched down on the table top. "I am so famished" the imp exclaimed, grabbing a green chicken leg, tearing it off, and chowing down.

"Disgusting" I exclaimed as the imp devoured the remainder of the decomposing grub-infested poultry - an act that almost caused me to vomit. "Over here" a gravely voiced proclaimed loudly. I turned and peered down the length of the table. At the other end a cowled figure was seated. This must be my host, I thought. Despite the intense heat a cold chill ran down my spine. Was this the mysterious Mr. Charles? The individual who had commanded my presence?

Image: The lake of fire.

SWTD #295, MES #4.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

George W bush And Dick Cheney Responsible For Today's Surveillance State

We can't go around telling people we're a free country when either the government or the corporate world knows every damn thing about you - that's not really freedom ~ Bernie Sanders (dob 9/8/1941) the Junior Senator from Vermont and 2016 Presidential candidate on the 6/1/2015 airing of of Late Night With Seth Meyers explaining his NO vote on the USA Freedom Act.

America's Surveillance State is a six part investigative documentary series currently airing on Free Speech TV [1]. During part 2 of the series, "Inside the NSA: How Do They Spy?" (which examines who is watching whom and why) retired CIA employee Ray McGovern says he became disillusioned and retired early.

According to McGovern the CIA conducted themselves "with respect to what they called the first commandment out there at Fort Meade, the NSA [which was] thou shalt not collect information [or] eavesdrop on Americans without a court warrant".

But McGovern says that changed after the election of gwb, "when Cheney came in he called [former Director of the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005] General Hayden and said "I know about that first commandment at the NSA. Forget about it". And that was before 9-11.

Then the interviewer asks, "so the decision for the NSA to begin collecting information on everyone and everything started with an order from above?", McGovern answers "oh sure, it was Dick Cheney and George Bush".

So this massive expansion of the surveillance state started before 9-11 and before passage of the Patriot Act. And it was so ordered (before 9-11) by bush and Cheney. Yes, Barack Obama has continued this unconstitutional (under the 4th amendment) collection of data, but that is hardly surprising, given that presidents rarely give up power. Not that this, in any way, excuses Obama, but still... I think it is noteworthy that it was bush and Cheney who began this unconstitutional data collection... and did so not in response to 9-11 (as many probably think).

Yet more proof that bush was one of America's absolutely worst and most lawless presidents!

The USA Freedom Act (legislation that modified the Patriot Act) supposedly puts an end to bulk data collection. However...

...the USA Freedom Act... gives the government a six-month period to transition to the new system, under which telecommunications companies would hold onto the data, only handing information over if the government has a targeted warrant. (Thought bulk data collection was gone? Think again by Jeremy Diamond. CNN 6/2/2015).

So the NSA will continue to bulk collect data for the next 6 months (so, to the end of 2015), and then the bulk data collection will continue... but be stored with the telecommunication companies and only handed over with a court order. But the data is still being bulk collected in violation of the 4th amendment. I mean, so what if it isn't the government directly that is collecting the data, but the telecoms at the direction of the government?

The Patriot Act is now repackaged with a new name, The USA Freedom Act and unfortunately government's unwarranted and indefinite storage of private records and communications continues. The new spy law, as was its predecessor, remains an attack on the 4th Amendment. Unfortunately for big government advocates, collecting and storing data on its citizens is not cited or even alluded to in Article I, Section 8 where the powers of the federal government are itemized. ...

Actually such activity is specifically forbidden in the 4th Amendment which reads: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized". The amendment was specifically designed to prevent government spying on its own.

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated" is the strongest possible language conceivable. ... Moreover, the new USA Freedom Act violates the 5th Amendment as well in that the accused is, in a very real sense, forced to be a witness against himself... (The USA Freedom Act is an attack on the 4th Amendment. From the website Before It's News 6/19/2015)

Wikipedia says that "Before It's News" was started by Jake Kettle, and that Kettle is "self identifies as a social democrat, advocating for a combination of direct democracy and socialism", but this particular article is categorized under "Opinion, Conservative" (BIN is "a community of individuals who report on what's going on around them, from all around the world which anyone can join").

But that this article is written from a Conservative/Libertarian viewpoint is obvious, given the insertion of an "enumerated powers" argument (in purple). The enumerated powers argument says what the government does is limited to the "list of items found in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution".

Although, being a Progressive Democrat, I reject that argument. As a Progressive I believe in an expansive interpretation of the General Welfare clause. An interpretation we are currently operating under and which the Supreme Court has upheld (DSB #6).

So, given that reality I think the reference to "Article I, Section 8" in the BIN article is not relevant. It is Conservative/Libertarian baloney that has no bearing on whether or not data can be bulk collected. One only need look to the 4th amendment for WHY the Patriot and USA Freedom acts both violate the Constitution [2].

Randal Paul, who voted NO on the USA Freedom Act, said "Congress may just be replacing one bulk collection program with another". This he is correct on, given that now it the telecoms bulk collecting our data (and storing the info if the government requests it).

Note that this would be one extremely rare instance when I would agree with Mr. Paul, although (my choice for our next president) Bernie Sanders also voted NO. (see final roll call here).

Hillary Clinton, the other major Democratic candidate for US president, tweeted her support, writing "Congress should move ahead now with the USA Freedom Act - a good step forward in ongoing efforts to protect our security & civil liberties".

Clinton voted for the initial Patriot Act during her time as a senator from New York in 2001 and again in 2006. Sanders voted against the Patriot Act as House member in 2001 and 2005, then again refused to back its re-authorization when he arrived in the Senate. (excerpted near-verbatim from here).

[1] View the entire documentary miniseries America's Surveillance State (2:45:14) here. To watch individual episodes, follow this link.
[2] The USA Freedom Act does not violate the 4th amendment says the editorial board of the Washington Post. They say that Randal Paul "is the one misstating constitutional law. [T]he phone records of law-abiding Americans are none of the government's business! his campaign Web site declares. Actually, the Supreme Court held 36 years ago that there is no constitutional right to privacy in phone records (as opposed to phone conversations). The court reasoned, realistically, that customers willingly convey numbers and times to the phone company each time they dial, knowing that the company retains the information for business purposes (excerpt from Rand Paul should stop stalling the USA Freedom Act. 6/1/2015).

Video: Bernie Sanders on the 6/1/2015 airing of Late Night with Seth Meyers (3:51).

SWTD #294