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Land of the Free?

Posted on March 12, 2014 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (3)

There was once a time when the Gestapo was demonized, the Stazi feared,and the KGB hated by Western Democracies. To them, government intervention in personal matters, forced obedience under threat of extreme punishment, and the de facto loss of civil rights and liberties were the absolute antithesis to the free and civilized world. Leading the freedom pack was the undisputed leader of the free world and champion of freedom for all: the United States of America!

Then 9/11 happened… or did 9/11 really change anything?


Today, the LA Times reported that Senator Dianne Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, escalated tensions with the CIA by publicly accusing the agency of spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee itself.[i]

While the Senate Intelligence Committee acts as oversight for the CIA and others, it has also been a staunch defender of actions taken by the CIA when the committee has deemed questionable actions necessary. However, it seems that those actions have now crossed a line by spying on the committee, as Senator Feinstein touted from the Senate floor, "I have grave concerns that the CIA search may well have violated the separation of powers principles. I am nottaking it lightly."[ii]

In the midst of NSA spying (both foreign and domestic), IRS targeting,and AP monitoring, the last thing the intelligence community or this governmentcan afford (and still call itself “free” is another scandal resulting in thebreaching of Constitutional rights. While for more than a decade 9/11 has beenused as justification of these actions, the truth is that history shows us thatthe only thing that 9/11 MIGHT have done, is speed up this kind of disregardfor the US Constitution.

In 1994, against the valiant efforts of telephone companies and privacy advocates, the House of Representatives approved legislation that forced phone companies to make their networks accessible to law-enforcement wiretaps as the switch from analog to digital was made. While the phone companies said it was unnecessary due to their practiced compliance with law enforcement and privacy groups called it too much of an intrusion into private affairs, both the Bush(41) and Clinton Administrations championed this bill to law.[iii]

By 1996 “2.2 million conversations were intercepted… 1.7 million of which were deemed innocent by prosecutors.” the ACLU reported in 1998. The Clinton administration defended their actions by saying if it wasn’t allowed to do the spying, its "ability to fight crime and prevent terrorism" would be"devastated."[iv]

But this was in 1998, three years before the attacks on New York City andWashington DC. When looked at from this standpoint, it is easy to see why the PATRIOT ACT was so easily implemented. The infrastructure for the programs detailed within it had already been built, 9/11 merely gave the intelligence community carte blanche in using it.

So Senator Feinstein will most likely continue to bash the CIA for misconduct against the Senate and find herself waiting a long time for CIA acknowledgement and apologetic gestures as CIA Director, John Brennan is expected to publicly defend his agency later today. However, given the agency’s past and legislature support for that past, one must wonder if the Senator is truly upset about lines crossed and laws violated, or simply upset that her committee were the ones being spied on this time?

 

 

[i] (Times) 2014)

[ii] (K. D. Times) 2014)

[iii] (S. C. Times) 1994)

[iv] (American Civil Liberties Union 1998 )


Works Cited

American Civil Liberties Union. 1998. Big Brotherin the Wires: Wiretapping in the Digital Age. March 1. Accessed March 11,2014. https://www.aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/big-brother-wires-wiretapping-digital-age" target="_blank">www.aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/big-brother-wires-wiretapping-digital-age.

Times), Ken Dilianian (Los Angeles. 2014. Feinsteinpublicly accuses CIA of spying on Senate computers. March 11. AccessedMarch 11, 2014. www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-pn-feinstein-cia-20140311,0,4351864.story#axzz2vfXrdguM.

Times), Sabra Chartrand (New York. 1994. Clintongets a Wiretapping Bill that Covers New Technologies. October 9. AccessedMarch 11, 2014. www.nytimes.com/1994/10/09/us/clinton-gets-a-wiretapping-bill-that-covers-new-technologies.html.

The Return of Sputnick

Posted on March 11, 2014 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Beep… beep… beep…

Imagine a sound so terrible, so paralyzingly horrifying, that it frightened children into hiding under desks and hardworking middle classfamilies underground in their back yards.

Beep… beep… beep…

Yeah! That was all it took. That was the sound that launched an entiregeneration of new political, military, technological, and scientificinnovation. For the first time in 4.6 billion years, life on Earth, had createdsomething that left the Earth and America was caught sleeping. On October 4,1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I, and the space racebetween humanity’s two superpowers was on.[i]

The US, still living high on their triumph in World War II, would not bebested and by the end of 1958 not only would the US launch its first satelliteinto space but NASA would be born.[ii]Though initially behind, the US took the reins and ultimately won the spacerace on July 20, 1969, when, under the Stars and Stripes, humanity walked onanother celestial body.[iii]

Flash forward forty-four years, and Russia’s military occupation of theUkrainian Autonomous Republic of Crimea, threatens America’s presence on theInternational Space Station. Not because in the forty-four years the SovietUnion overtook the US in the space race and built a series of condominiums onPluto or created a gravity warping machine that saw the first known wormholelaunch the first human vessel to another star. No. Russia’s occupation ofCrimea threatens the US space program because on August 31, 2011, the US put anend to its space shuttle program with no program to replace it.[iv]

Since then, the United States has opted to pay Russia 70 million dollarsfor each astronaut the US sends to the International Space Station.[v]

Wait! What?!

"With the retirement of the Space Shuttle, America currently has nodomestic capability to transport our astronauts to and from the InternationalSpace Station." House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas,said in a statement on March 4, 2014.[vi]

The complete and utter irony of this situation would be comical if itwasn’t indicative of a larger looming problem the United States currentlyfaces. While one might think US concerns might turn to Russia using this aspolitical leverage against the United States, former Astronaut, Tom Jones, iscertain this is improbable.

"What they [Russia] lack for example, is all the control softwarethat we use to point, maneuver and control the space station. So, they wouldnot be wise to deny us access, because they would be denying themselves accessto all the utilities and supplies they need for the space station."

So if cosmological blackmail is not a concern, then ultimately what is?

When you take a look at America, the world’s lone and potentially lastsuperpower, it is amazing where it finds itself today. Once upon a time,America was the “Land of Tomorrow” and the home of technology and scienceinnovation. America had survived depression, triumphed in the greatest war ofall time, and placed a man on the moon. America represented freedom andequality with an opportunity to “make it” if one truly tried. During and afterthe space race, America found itself on the frontier… of EVERYTHING.

America’s space program was more than a symbol of America’s overwhelmingability to produce and raise capital in a crisis. The Space Race offeredinspiration to an entire generation of scientist which created the microchip,the computer, and the internet. The Baby Boomers are often called thegeneration that saw the most change in their time and it is most likely becauseof the culture of innovation and technology cultivated during the space race.In the 1970s, the very concept of outsourcing of jobs was foreign as there wasno one else in the world that could do what America could do – they had justlanded on the moon!

Research and development was center stage in the United States and by theyear 2000, America had defeated its Soviet rival. By creating new technologies,America created new markets, new opportunities, new jobs, and new innovators.America’s bravado was not a slogan, it was a practice.

Yet in the second decade of the 21st century, America findsitself mired in a stagnant and shrinking economy and failing social programswith a government shrugging its shoulders looking for answers that are staringthem in the face.

In 2013, the National Institutes of Health felt budget cuts that saw 700fewer research grants awarded than in 2012.[vii]The National Science Foundation reports an approximate 10% decrease to basic researchfunding between 2010 and 2012 and a 13.5% decrease in applied research in thesame period.[viii]And finally, NASA, the organization that pioneered the answer, whosediscoveries have produced countless spin-offs, bolstered the economy in everyUS state, and doubled their investments on just about every venture, has seenits budget reduced from .75% of the national budget in 2000 to .48% by 2012.[ix]

The equation is simple: new technologies = new markets = newopportunities = new jobs = new innovators = a strong economy. At no point inthis equation will you find scrapping the manned space program for a $70million dollar ticket on a Russian space craft.

Humanity is an incredible species and it will continue to innovatewhether America follows its equation or not. If it does, it will continue to bethe leader of the frontier. If it does not, another nation will. This should bea very familiar sound…

Beep… beep… beep…

[i] (NASA 2007)

[ii] (NASA 2007)

[iii] (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum n.d.)

[iv] (Space.com 2011)

[v] (McKelway 2014)

[vi] (McKelway 2014)

[vii] (Stein 2013)

[viii](The National Science Foundation 2013)

[ix] (NASA 2012)


Works Cited McKelway, Doug (FoxNews.com). 2014. Crimea crisis comes at touchy time for US-Russia space program. March 05. Accessed March 05, 2014. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/03/05/crimea-crisis-us-soviet-space-program/.

NASA. 2012. Fiscal Year 2012: Budget Estimates. 2012 Fiscal Report, NASA.

—. 2007. Sputnik and The Dawn of the Space Age. October 10. Accessed March 5, 2014. http/history.nasa.gov/sputnik/.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. n.d. Apollo 11 (AS-506). Accessed March 05, 2014. http://airandspace.si.edu/explore-and-learn/topics/apollo/apollo-program/landing-missions/apollo11.cfm.

Space.com. 2011. Nasa's Space Shuttle Program Officially Ends After Final Celebration. September 1. Accessed March 2014, 2014. http://www.space.com/12804-nasa-space-shuttle-program-officially-ends.html.

Stein, Sam (Huffington Post). 2013. NIH Losing $1.7 Billion, 700 Research Grants Due To Sequestration . June 4. Accessed March 05, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/04/nih-sequestration_n_3385949.html.

The National Science Foundation. 2013. Federal Funding for Research Drops by 9% in FY 2011. September. Accessed March 5, 2014. http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf13336/.

Conservatives: Did you keep your receipt?

Posted on November 25, 2013 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)

THANKSGIVING HAS BEEN HIJACKED!!!

From Target, to Wal-Mart, to McDonalds to your local mall, the holiday known as Thanksgiving in America, is under attack from lassiez faire capitalism. The reason for this is simple: unless you are a grocery store, traditionally there is no way to make money directly from the holiday. It is, in many respects, the last pure holiday. Federal holidays are hijacked by red tag sales, Valentine's Day, Halloween, and Christmas are major commercial money makers, and New Year’s and Superbowl Sunday are booze and food goliaths. Days that can't be capitalized on, such as Veteran's Day and Patriot's Day are marginalized and bypassed as quickly as possible. But Thanksgiving was different. Shrouded in tradition, history, and family, Thanksgiving was something all America had in common, and the people seemed reluctant to let the holiday go. That is until about a decade ago, when government and corporate corruption became so endemic that the citizen was drafted into the all-time consumer distraction ranks. At that point, Black Friday started earlier and earlier, until corporations decided to skip waiting until Black Friday altogether and start right after the dishes hit the sink from dinner.

But why are the Conservatives so upset over the end of Thanksgiving?

Conservatives that have issues with the end of Thanksgiving are like the cast of the Jersey Shore protesting reality TV on their Reality TV show. I get the fact that you are upset that a "pure" holiday has been raped and plundered since it couldn't be exploited, but isn't that capitalism? Isn't squeezing every ounce of wealth out of every opportunity the very definition of Capitalism? Isn't the market the Almighty dictator of what is worth doing and what is not worth pursuing? So why then, when capitalism claims its most recent victim, Thanksgiving, are conservatives up in arms over the market deciding to skip over the last bit of traditional purity America still had left?

If you religiously chant CAPITALISM CAPITALISM CAPITALISM all year long as if it were a nervous tick you can't fight off, you have no right to complain when a holiday becomes a victim of capitalism (which is a small victim when you consider that the Wall Street debacle, the Iraq War, and the current plight of Africa, can all be laid at the feet of capitalistic ideology). If you preach the mantras of no food stamps, no day care, no school lunch, no welfare, no governmental social programs, no international aid, no education assistance, and no free medical care, you can't complain about the death of a holiday. If you describe capitalism as an insatiable monster, back it anyway, and then get upset when capitalists do something capitalistic; you are a hypocrite. Especially if you try to lay the blame of this on the shoppers themselves.

Here's a thought, conservatives that back a cannibalistic system that has become a runaway freight train of corruption and public abuse (which is ALWAYS what capitalism becomes without government regulations), YOU are the problem! Capitalism doesn't care about your precious traditions and touted holidays. It cares for one thing... the bottom line. So perhaps you should revisit the economic system you love so much before laying the destruction of the holiday on the shoulders of the shoppers...

But they are not without their guilt...

If you shop on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or any other day your Corporate masters crack their whips and dangle their carrots and you blindly go out and spend money you don't have on things you don't need, to make people you don't like richer then you'll ever be... you're not a problem, you are a lemming. If these corporations can offer these prices on one day, they can offer them every day and by pathetically lining outside your local mall, Target, or Wal-Mart right after familial dinner or at 2am the next day, you merely reinforced just how easily enslaved you really are.

So what are your thoughts? Do Conservative get to keep their ideology and get to complain about the death of Thanksgiving? Will you be trolling the malls and stores on Thanksgiving or Black Friday?

Comment below and let us know!


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