Beyond the Cusp

June 3, 2014

America Starts Down the Slippery Slope

The standing order the industrialized western world once stood solidly and uniformly behind was the ideal which forbid the negotiation with terrorists and especially not to negotiate the trade of prisoners no matter who was held by the terrorists. This was the position that was initially taken because of the rash of hijackings of passenger aircraft. President Obama just stepped away from this principle by trading five Taliban prisoners who were some of their top leaders and trainers for one American soldier. The fact that he did not follow the set procedure and notify the Congress of the trade and receive their agreement will prove to be the least of the ramifications down the road, or should I say further down the slippery slope. Today the President of the United States traded five terror leaders for one soldier and now before too much longer the United States will end up offering hundreds or even thousands of terrorists for a single soldier or possibly just to be granted an audience in order to pretend to negotiate a peace which all know cannot be reached. How can I predict this? Easy, Israel started trading three terrorists for a single soldier and within a couple of decades Israel traded over a thousand terrorists for Gilad Shalit, and even worse, they agreed under pressure from the United States government to offer over a hundred terrorists just to sit and be insulted in what was recognized by all from the start to be a farce dressed up as a peace process. Israel had held out for years before finally breaking their policy of never ever to negotiate with terrorists. How did Israel end up starting to negotiate with terrorists? The same way other western nations ended up agreeing to negotiate with terrorists, it seemed like the necessary and right thing to do at the time. Once Israel had negotiated the first time with terrorists the barrage became inevitable and was helped along when some Israelis bought onto the idea that negotiations could be carried on with Yasser Arafat and the PLO as long as they took another name for the sake of negotiations, thus was born the Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his willingness to be transformed from one of the world’s terrorist leaders into an advocate for peace. Of course Yasser Arafat actually had not changed; just the honors and treatment he was to be granted by the western nations changed and the blind spot they developed in order to continue that farce only grew with time. That very same blind spot grew sufficiently that it now conceals the terrorist heart beating in Mahmoud Abbas.

 

The transformation from never negotiating with terrorists to trading a thousand plus terrorist prisoners for a single soldier and even offering to trade over one hundred terrorist prisoners in exchange for false peace talks took a simple matter of a few decades at most and might happen almost instantly by comparison as the United States will be traversing a path already paved by Israel making the transition that much the easier. The giving of an inch and compromising what had been initially presented as an unalterable, cast in iron policy and shattering that policy and principle has been done so completely that it can never be reassembled with anywhere near as little effort. Transgressing principle the first time is often unbelievably stressful and difficult but once transgressed, the principle will take near beyond insurmountable climb to reclaim and reestablish, especially that those who are the opposition will hold the controlling position as back down and folding once simply makes the enemy redouble their efforts to push to shatter the next principle and then the next as once they break the first ring, the center, the heart becomes the target and the susceptibility of your heart makes it perilously endangered. So, America is now one giant additional step closer to fulfilling the promise made by President Obama during his first campaign; to fundamentally transform the United States of America. This begs the question of how long before President Obama makes good on the second most ominous of his campaign promises, “Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” Oh, never mind, he just did that one today so that makes two in a row. At this rate he might keep every promise he has ever made by Labor Day. I guess the dreams of hope and change are finally on course to be realized now that President Obama does not have to face the electorate ever again. Or at least we can hope he never faces another election to any office.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

April 6, 2014

Are Privacy Rights Even Possible Today?

The United States Constitution stipulates a carefully constructed and balanced governance with opposing interests and powers separated and posed as checks against the usurpation of excessive power over time by any one branch, individual or small group of individuals. Still, the Founding Fathers were challenged by the representatives of the various states and the people to give stated recognition and formalized structure to the protections of the individual from the power and infringement by the government which resulted in the first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights. This set of Amendments placed defined limitations on the government and its related institutions as well as defined unabridged rights awarded the people by an authority which superseded the government and any individual, group, corporation or entity. Initially there were a dozen proposed Amendments which were to constitute the Bill of Rights but only ten survived the ratification process. The first of the two Amendments which were not ratified pertained to the number of representatives and the maximum number of citizens they would be permitted to represent all in a sliding scale that increased the ratio as the number of representatives in the House of Representatives is increased as the total passed each hundred. It is easier to read the proposal than explain, so, it reads, “After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.” The other rejected Amendment concerned the rate of payment for members of the House of Representatives and read, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

 

All that may be interesting but it also has as much relevance to the modern world as do those definitions for the number of citizens each House of Representatives member has in their districts as today that number is in excess of seven hundreds of thousands, not the tens of thousands as was originally thought to be a fair ratio. The idea of personal anonymity and the safeguarding of each person from excessive government intrusion and inspection were considered sacrosanct at the writing and founding of the United States. This was a unique concept whose origins were a recent concept then and now is either a concept that has never been addressed for much of the world and becoming a quaint and dated concept where it originated in the political parlors and by the political philosophers and thinkers leading up to the founding of the United States and the explosion of representative governance in Europe and America. The current debate has taken some twists and turns especially since the revelations introduced into the public conscience through the release of classified information by Edward Snowden about the extent of spying on individual citizens by the United States government. Of course his releases told of what many thought to be excessive intrusions by the NSA and other data gathering government agencies and were perceived as being something relatively new as such unprecedented ability for gathering data, especially electronic data, was thought to be a recently acquired ability for government. The reality is even more frightening than what was revealed by Mr. Snowden as the NSA has been capable of recording virtually every bit of electronic data generated in the United States since somewhere back in the 1970s. This ability has been supplemented and expanded repeatedly going through different names, one of the more memorable being the Echelon System used in the 1980 -90s which also was capable of recording huge amounts of data comparable to the total electronic data output of the United States. It is apparent that the NSA has increased their abilities in, at a minimum, direct correlation to the amount of electronic data capable of being produced by the United States, no small feat. Recent revelation have told of the United States actually recording every e-mail and electronic communication of any one nation in the world in addition to its abilities to monitor the United States electronic output and some have spoken of the ability to record to some extent and level all the electronic communications and generated data of the entire planet. What possibility for privacy remains when measured against such unfathomable abilities?

 

Those who specialize in knowing the extent and depth of the abilities to gather data on an individual often are quoted, though almost always as an anonymous source, telling of borderline or even absolutely mind-boggling abilities possessed by the government spying and law enforcement agencies. There have been cases claiming they have the ability to listen to a conversation in a closed room from as much as a quarter or half mile distant simply by pointing a specialized laser at a window pane and interpreting the changes in the vibration of the glass molecules as long as the window is not covered by a thick, sound dampening set of curtains. There are claims that they can locate people using thermal imaging through walls of almost any building. Many have heard that the spy satellites optics are capable of reading a newspaper that somebody is reading sitting on a park bench. The Soviet Union demanded that their government employees never carry any classified documents outside of buildings unless they were safely contained in a briefcase. Many of the tactics used in the biggest Hollywood films such as listening in on conversations from a distance utilizing parabolic microphones and other such routine spy thriller capabilities are likely outdated by the time we see them in movies. There was a recent report that some government agency was researching some form of determining through observable and easily collected data who would be most likely to commit crimes, what those crimes would be, whom they would target and when the crime would be committed with some degree of dependable accuracy. What is the obligation of the government if they are capable of predicting future criminal events in preventing any harm resulting from such acts and how close are we to replacing the precogs lying in a pool and seeing events referred to as precrimes as in the movie Minority Report except using instruments, computers and software programs to predict such possibilities. Between the abilities of governments for data collection, computing of metadata, and making accurate predictions and profiling individuals, what possibility does anybody have of escaping with even the slightest shred of privacy intact? And what can be done to prevent governments from misusing such data, and even more important, what limits should be placed on private companies when it comes to sharing personal data and forming profiles on individuals which can and are used in targeted advertising and other such abilities. And even if such limitations were to be incorporated into regulations or criminal codes, how would they even be enforced or even could they be enforced and if enforced, what other problems would result from government attempting to gather the proof of such crimes being committed? It becomes mind-boggling just playing out the ever-expanding web resulting from data collection and manipulation.

 

The final area that also is providing insights which may be an even bigger threat is in the area of AI, artificial intelligence. Google and Microsoft are working with the United States government and who knows who else to utilize the data they are able to collect using buying patterns and search terminology used when searching the internet and many other data inputs to formulate a program or set of programs that will be able to predict future trends and reason and think in a manner close to that of a human being. They claim such research is being used to better serve the public and to be able to design robots in the future that will be better enabled to interact with people. What threats to our privacy exist as a result of such research and is there any way we can protect ourselves from such intrusions? The result of everything we are experiencing and that are being reported is that there is no longer anything that even resembles the privacy that the Founding Fathers attempted to give the people guarantees would be held sacred by government. That is looking less and less likely with every revelation. Now the United States is implementing a healthcare system which will posit all the healthcare information into the computers of the IRS, Internal Revenue Service, the tax people. How much power will the government have when the IRS has complete records of your healthcare and your financial situation? How will government use such data and will the government now determine the level of healthcare a person will be entitled to be provided conditional on their financial worth to the society as a whole? This could easily enter an area which at its worst could result in some form of euthanasia and a form of means testing to qualify for healthcare treatments at the least. Thinking too long and too hard on the completeness of the government’s ability to gather every iota of personal information on each and every individual, especially realizing that each of us are potentially ourselves, and to utilize this data to predict our future actions and results of everything in our lives such that they can literally know before we ourselves are aware of what tomorrow holds for each of us and use this ability for nefarious purposes which will compromise every shred of our privacy and most know our most intimate thoughts before we even have them, can any government or person be trusted with such knowledge and the power it imparts. Some of the items which were restricted to the areas of futurist political science fiction such as in Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World are now becoming within the grasp of government and companies making these stories warnings of what is coming soon to our worlds and it will make for many horrifying prognostications on what our lives will become. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely and ultimate power corrupts beyond imagination and what is coming is beyond even that.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

December 8, 2013

Congress Should be Congratulated and Lauded for Inactivity

There have been a plethora of articles of late criticizing and belaboring the fact that the present Congressional session had passed the least pieces of legislation and considered far less bills than any in recent history. What is confusing me is why exactly that is a bad thing. It strikes me that the less Congress passes in legislation making new laws which spawn hundreds if not tens-of-thousands of new regulations for each piece of legislation passed the more freedom and liberty will remain with the American people, and that is a really beneficial and decent thing to laud. If you have any doubts about such, just take a look at the results from one piece of legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare. That one piece of legislation was over a thousand pages of legalese and delegating responsibilities to different positions and staffs to fill out the needed and necessary regulations to fulfill every vaguely defined goal and any implied desirable results which could be divined from the endless text of the legislation. This led to over twenty-thousand pages of regulations at last count if some watchdog sources are to be believed. What makes things even more dire are the results we have already witnessed that have befallen many Americans who thought they were within the dictates of the law believing President Obama’s promises that they could keep their insurance if they liked it and they could keep their doctor if they liked him or her; but now we know those were lies and the worst kind of lies, intentional and misleading lies made to an unsuspecting and trusting people, after all it was the President who made the promises. So, when it was announced a few weeks back that this Congress had passed and considered the least amount of legislation and took less actions, votes, and other sundry decisions I was overjoyed and pray that this is simply the beginning of a favorable trend.

 

Imagine if this becomes a continuing trend where each successive Congress considers less legislation, passes less new laws, approve less new regulations and perchance spending less funds, what a boon that would be for the American people. If such a trend went on long enough the point might even be passed where the Congress would need to rescind legislation undoing some of the damage previously accrued through Congressional actions. Imagine less regulations and fewer laws and a government actually shrinking as it released itself from some of the most unnecessary or redundant workload which currently is the cause of wasted millions of dollars if not billions. Imagine if the Congress actually rediscovered one of the better and more innovative ideas from the Founding Fathers which was to leave all of the day-to-day regulating and laws to the individual states to address and the Congress and Federal Government simply attended to matters between the United States and other nations and was available to settle disagreements between states which were expected to be concerning fairness in trade more than anything else. That would give the American people the advantage of fifty separate states each attempting to address the day-to-day laws and regulations in as efficient and orderly a manner as they could imagine. Some states would excel at one thing while others would excel at their specialty and even if some states simply never got a great idea of their own you know what? The states could learn from each other’s actions and adopt the systems that functioned closest and were the best at attaining the goals of each state. Over time some states which adopted the methods of another state as they proved more efficient but they found something they could tweak to make it function even better in their case, well that improvement might be adopted by the originating state to test if it worked better there as well. There would be more minds with greater variety at addressing the needs of the people, the citizenry, that things would improve and better ways of getting items taken care of would be found more readily making everyone’s lives better off. Now if the United States Congress would just agree, but a slowdown is a step in the right direction.

 

As long as we are on the subject of improving governance and the government that is responsible for such perhaps a few pipe-dream suggestions could be offered. The first would be that when Congress passes any legislation they then must approve every single regulation which is written to flesh out the bill and make it functioning. The Congress need not necessarily write every single regulation, though that would be preferable as that at least is performed under the scrutiny of concerned citizens, they should have to vote every one of them up or down such that the regulations are at least reviewed by the people elected by the citizenry to represent their interests. The laws passed by the Congress should necessarily be applied to the members of Congress and their staffs with absolutely no exceptions. The use of Congressional exception that allows the Congress not to be subjected to the very laws they impose on the people is the height of governmental hypocrisy. This should include all laws pertaining to illegal insider trading and other illicit financial dealings as the members of Congress should not be allowed to invest their monies into companies they know they are about to grant multi-billion dollar contracts and thus become wealthy beyond measure as a result. The members of Congress and their staff should be required to place their investment monies in a blind trust where a manager controls their investments and it should be illegal and punishable by impeachment and imprisonment for any member of Congress to dictate or even contact the person handling their investments by direct or indirect means. All laws and regulations should be given a sunset clause of no more than a decade such that if the law or regulation is not reviewed and voted to remain active at least once every ten years, then that law or regulation should be made null and void. Then there is the final pipe-dream; make the entire Federal Government, every department, sub-department, agency, cabinet position, committee and any other functioning part of government justify their continued existence by stating before a review board appointed by the states what exactly under the Constitution allows their continued existence and if they are unsuccessful in doing so, then they would be disbanded and cease to exist. A similar procedure with laws and regulations might not be a bad idea as well. My bet is that virtually every unfunded mandate which places the financial responsibility for a Federal Government imposed requirement or program be placed on the individual states would disappear in a rapid manner. The unfunded mandate is an edict from the Federal Government which denies the states their right to have a vote in determining what they will be required to finance. That is just one more reason to return the selection process for Senators to the individual states by repealing the Amendment XVII. States could decide to continue to allow for the direct election of their Senators by their voters, but they should be granted their choice as having the states choose the manner or even the person who will become their Senator was another of the major checks and balances built into the Constitution and the balance has been destroyed and is very much responsible for the Federal Government expanding its powers unchecked and running roughshod over the states in the process. It is time to give the individual states back their voice in the Federal government, way past time.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

Next Page »

The Rubric Theme. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: