Beyond the Cusp

March 22, 2014

Can We Trust the Government Alphabet Agencies?

It seems every other week we read of yet another breach in security or illegal program spying on individuals, companies, foreign leaders of both friendly and not so friendly nations, and even agencies monitoring other agencies or even Congress. Then there have been the reports of the Administration using the IRS, OSHA, EPA and NSA among other agencies to spy on, impede operations of, obstruct functions in, intervene in daily operations or investigate personnel, personal, intimate and other sensitive information on organizations, businesses and people who they suspected might oppose or otherwise threaten the aims and objectives of their programs or even interfere with campaigning and electioneering that might oppose the President. The breadth, width and depth of these invasive policies have definitively proven that even if you have done nothing wrong or illegal you still might have much to fear and worry about from a government which appears to stop at nothing to compromise personal privacy of those they suspect of any opposition or even simply disagreeing with policies and intended programs. This past week we learned that the NSA not only has the capability to monitor and record every phone call and electronic communication of an entire nation and store the information for review for as long as a full month. Of course this revelation refused to identify the nation the Administration has chosen for such special consideration and inspection though I have a pretty good idea which nation has such a level of interest for such a deep and total level of spying and penetration into even the daily lives of every citizen and it is not the Russians, Chinese or any of the other nations which many American citizens would consider to be adversaries.

 

One of the most threatening and freedom chilling revelations was the level of inspection and extraneous required paperwork, reports, queries and intensive inspection that were utilized by the Administration through challenging the tax status or approval to applications for tax exempt status of agencies, organizations and other political entities which the administration had singled out as possibly having intentions to work against the reelection of President Obama. When it became obvious that many of the particular groups had identifying information or names containing phrases which included Tea Party, Constitution, Freedom, Conservative, Liberty and other identifiers the Administration suspected would indicate largely conservative, libertarian and constitutionalist groups which they considered to be political adversaries. There have been claims by some conservative and Republican sources claiming that these attacks were largely responsible for the apparent disappearance in the last election of Tea Party groups and have even blamed these reputedly illegal actions for Mitt Romney’s loss in the Presidential election. Of course whether those claims are truly valid is something we can argue forever as nobody will ever be able to prove anything one way or the other. The one thing I hope we could all agree on is such abuse of powers and using the brute force of the government for politicized gains is something that must not be condoned no matter who is committing such actions. What makes these accusations even more frightening is that apparently fellow citizens who work presumably for the public good performed these actions without objection or complaint. But then again, the Administration under President Obama has prosecuted both a higher percentage and larger number of whistle-blowers than any previous Presidential Administration in American history. They have also garnered one of the top spots for resistance and outright refusal to release information when responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. In many ways President Obama has operated in one of the most secretive and least transparent Administration ever while also having unheard of levels of malfeasance by government agencies and the worst records on protection and respect of privacy rights of individuals.

 

If none of the above worries you, then perhaps a few other bits of information might place things in a different light. The United States government is working in conjunction with a number of internet companies, technology companies, university researchers and the military on artificial intelligence research with an emphasis on algorithms and programs which can be used to predict both general behavior of the society and to find ways of predicting individual behavior through methods of simple observational data which can be gleamed using current surveillance and other related information. Another threat comes thanks to the Patient Protections and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) which will place all of people’s medical records and information in the hands of the most invasive department who already hold massive amounts of your personal financial information, as the IRS will now be tasked to handle your taxes and healthcare. Add to this the NSA and their abilities to record and analyze amounts of electronic data virtually beyond imagination and their working often at the behest of the FBI or the CIA through requests handled by Homeland Security Agency and couple these abilities and place them in the hands of an oppressive government and you are looking at the worst case combination of the most terrible predictions from the heart of political science fiction such as Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, and throw in the idea of Carousel from Logan’s Run as the end treatment resulting from the use by Obamacare of a plan named the “complete lives system” for the allocation of very scarce resources, such as kidneys, vaccines, dialysis machines, intensive care beds, and others, as proposed and written by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, health adviser to President Barack Obama. The future which is approaching faster than many of us can realize will either be a place of unbelievable progress and freedom or the most oppressive government which is intrusive to the point where personal liberties and freedoms will be but a fleeting memory and we will fear even exhibiting the slightest unaccepted action and our every emotional reaction will be picked up and recorded for analysis by biometric surveillance possibly provoking government interventions for the slightest hints of thought crimes.

 

Where I have enormous hopes for the future, I also temper that with a healthy level of suspicion and respect for the potentials for misuse of coming technologies. When I worked as a production repair and test technician as well as an R&D technician with the engineers of a company which manufactured leading edge EEG and computer automated seizure detection systems using mathematical algorithms to detect and aid in diagnosing patients and which were used for sleep studies and treating and analyzing epilepsy and other disorders of the brain, I got a glimpse into how much we were able to determine about medical conditions and other systems simply through mathematical analysis of medical data. This was close to thirty years ago and the company had units which not only recorded up to sixty four channels of EEG but also did seizure detection and analysis in real time even with processors as slow and primitive as were available back them. I also had the pleasure and honor of working with the most intelligent person I have ever had the privilege to know, a gentleman who designed circuits and had an understanding of electronics as well as higher math that was astonishing. I was honored when he chose for me to work on any project and realized the full potential of monitoring and predictive analysis which was available at that time and cannot even begin to imagine where those areas of science, medicine and electronic monitoring have progressed to and attained. That is part of why I have a deep respect for the potentials for government to use technology in intrusive and subversive ways which can be turned against the people in order to control the population under the guise of working for the betterment of mankind. For one frightening example of such simply do some research and read about the “complete lives system” and take a few deep breaths and try to relax with that knowledge and knowing it is at the heart of the government’s healthcare plans for the United States.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

July 28, 2013

Of Likud and Republican; A Problem Shared

They say that misery loves company and should that be true then members of America’s Republican Party and Israel’s Likud Party have plenty of company. Both of these political parties have had a split from in their membership and both sides blame the other for any election misgivings and shortfalls. What makes things even closer between the two is in both cases the split pits political purists who hold tightly to high political standard that might be best described as the pure essence of their party in theory while the other faction claims to be practical realists who hold that high political morality is great in theory but practice demands that the party must be more open to a wider group and that compromise is paramount. In both parties the purists claim that they have been ignored and that they have not had a candidate who holds fast to their strict definitions of belief while the realists blame the purists for forcing the party too far from the center and costing them the so-called swing voters which are necessary in national elections.

In the United States the Republican Party has had a group from which has been defined as the Tea Party Republicans but might be best defined as Constitutionalists and Libertarians. These Constitutional purists hold strongly to individual freedoms as defined by the Founding Fathers in their letters, writings and the founding documents of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Their claim is that there are a multitude of voters who believe the same way as they do and that many of these voters are even more stridently defined and are willing to stay home on Election Day rather than vote for a candidate they feel is too compromised on their issues. The realists claim that the dogmatic purity is too restrictive and denies the party the support of middle of the political spectrum voters. The realists claim that the Republican Party needs to position their candidates just slightly more conservative than the Democrat’s candidate as this will position their candidate to pick up the centrist voters as well as the strident conservatives of all stripes as who else would such people vote for, the Democrat or some third party candidate? They claim to run a stridently conservative candidate would leave the party with high political morals but no vote totals and they doubt that third party candidates actually take that many votes away due to their reference to put forward a compromise candidate. The biggest disagreement between these two groups in the Republican camp is where their recent candidates for the Presidency stood on the issues, especially in the last two elections where they lost to the Democrat Party candidate, Barrack Obama. In both cases the purists claimed that both John McCain and Mitt Romney were members of the realist camp while the realists claimed that due to catering to the purists these two candidates appeared too far to the conservative and libertarian end of the political spectrum. Both sides claim that the candidates were chosen and ran as if they were the epitome of the other side’s idea of the perfect candidate. Obviously both sides cannot be correct.

In Israel, the Likud Party has had an even rougher time despite currently being the party in power. All one has to do to see the convulsions which have wrought through the Likud body politic is to review some of the up and coming and established Likud Party leaders over the last decade or so. It was from the Likud Party that Kadima was born when the realists’ extremes of the party felt they could no longer accomplish their desired policies and remain within the Likud Party. It was a Likud elected Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, who divided the Likud Party by taking a fair number of the leadership and merging them with other opportunists from Labor and other parties to form a new party they named Kadima. Those who split and joined Likud claimed that their moderate views were not welcomed in Likud and that they really had little choice. Some of those who left Likud with Ariel Sharon, among others, were Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz, Meir Sheetrit, Gideon Ezra, Avraham Hirschson, Ruhama Avraham, Majalli Wahabi, Roni Bar-On and Omri Sharon. The main reasons for the divide was over whether Israel should carry out the disengagement plan and simply remove all Israeli presence from the Gaza Strip and turn the entire area over to the Palestinian Authority as a test case to give the Palestinians an opportunity to govern and prove their capabilities. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon carried out the disengagement and a short while later Hamas took control over the Gaza Strip in a violent coup which led directly to the rain of rockets and other terrorist attacks emanating from the areas Israel had vacated.

Despite the obvious failure of the disengagement as far as Israel is concerned and, oddly enough, as far as the Palestinian Authority was concerned, there is still a strong worldwide push to force another disengagement from Judea and Samaria turning the entire area over to the Palestinian Authority assuming that this time will work out better. What makes the push for finding a peace in which much if not almost all of the areas of Judea and Samaria, also known to the Arabs as the West Bank, is turned over to the Palestinian Authority is once again the issue that is splitting Likud onto two camps, one is the Zionist Camp which purports that Israel should simply annex the entirety of Judea and Samaria and set a method by which the Palestinians could apply and qualify as citizens in Israel while the other camp are the so-called realists who hold that the Palestinians cannot be granted citizenship in Israel for any number of reasons among which include the “demographic bomb which states that in thirty to fifty years the Palestinians will outnumber the Jews in Israel simply through natural reproductive growth, or the idea that Israel will find themselves in even a worse position where the rest of the world will impose a solution on Israel where they will lose everything and therefore a compromise must be found. Currently, the Likud led coalition is headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu who is working towards finding a path to making a treaty with the Palestinians where, according to rumors, Israel would retain the major Jewish settlement blocks which amounts to around fifteen percent of the lands of Judea and Samaria and the Palestinians would be allowed to form their state in the remaining eighty-five percent. This would entail the Israelis absorbing between sixty and eighty thousand Jewish Settlement refugees from the towns and farms that would be ceded to the Palestinians. As the lands of Judea and Samaria are a large portion of the traditional ancient Jewish-Israelite-Hebrews historic and biblical homeland, there are many who feel that relenting on these areas to be sinful and sacrilegious, tantamount to treason against the true faith of Judaism. One should be able to see that giving up lands whose name is Judea might be a serious compromise for a people and religion denoted by the name of Judaism.

So, what does the future likely hold for these two parties and their respective nations? First off, in the Likud the future is relatively clear in that the younger members of the party such as Danny Danon and Moshe Feiglin who are strident Zionists and favor Israel retaining all of Judea and Samaria and offering the Palestinians who wish to remain and become Israeli citizens a methodology and plan to do so and for those Palestinians who would prefer to leave and live in the Arab world be given fair compensation for all of their properties and an additional payment to facilitate making their transition easier. This shifting towards a stronger nationalistic outlook also matches one of the trends within the Israeli population along with trending towards the populations as a whole becoming more religious. There is a real, visceral, tangible revitalization of Judaism taking place within Israel that is growing healthily in accord with nationalism. The window that we hear being bandied about as a limited time remaining in which forming a Palestinian state being possible is very probably an accurate assessment but for reason different than those stated. The problem is not that the two sides are growing more strident in their positions and thus reaching a compromise will soon become impossible as it is that a growing number of Israelis are beginning to realize that the Palestinians will never live peaceably even should they be granted their own state but will continue to use terror and pleadings to the world, especially Europe, to return all of the lands to them and remove Israel from the map. It really should not be a huge surprise as this has been the message shouted loud and clear from Palestinian society and the Arab World at large since before Israel was founded and it has never changed. The Israelis hear it constantly on Palestinian radio and television broadcasts, read it in Palestinian newspapers, journals, magazines, and their children’s textbooks, and it is evident on their maps which show all of the land as Palestine with no mention of Israel whatsoever. Likud will eventually become an almost purely Zionist Party as will other Israeli political parties and that will not be a contended position in elections. Likud also supports capitalism, free trade with other nations, smaller government, privatization of government run services and companies, and less regulations and restriction on business in general. Their main competitors in the political realm are all socialists of different stripes.

The Republican Party’s future is not quite as easily determined as there is not the generational split anywhere near as obvious as it is for Israel’s Likud Party. The Tea Party segments of the Republican Party are a growing sector which is still flushing out its organizational structure and thus will gain some more voice and strength in the immediate future. The challenge for the Tea Party members will be maintaining their higher than average level of involvement which is often found when a movement is in its early stages and still growing. There have been signs in some elections where the Tea Party has surprised the establishment and pollsters by winning what were termed upsets such as Bridenstine against Sullivan in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Ted Cruz in Texas, among others. The problem with predicting the future of political parties in the United States over doing so in Israel is an obvious one, size matters and the United States has size over Israel in every manner you care to measure with the exception as both nations have a similar number of Jewish citizens, for now. When one speaks of the Republican Party, there is a huge difference as you look at different locations. An example which makes this point is that if one compares a Democrat elected to the United States House of Representatives from Texas or Wyoming to a Republican elected to the same august body from Maryland or Massachusetts, one would likely find that the Democrat would be considered the more conservative of the two. That is why it is impossible to form an exact definitive description for a member of any political party in the United States and especially for the two main parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. Politics in the United States is a lot like real estate, what matters a lot is location, location, location. Still, the Republican Party will likely face a reformation of sorts over the next decade or two and a good prediction would safely contend that Republican candidates will become more aligned with the founding declarations of individualism, freedom, and less reliance on government. They will push for reforms that lessen the reach and purview of the federal government and push for empowerment of the individual states and even to local city and county governments. Any contributions from the Federal Government will be in the form of block grants and there will be less stringent restrictions on their use. Whether this resonates with the public remains to be seen but there is a high likelihood that should some of the over-bloated Federal Government programs, even some of the newest among them, become financially untenable that rather than allow for Federal taxes to rise close to if not over fifty percent, the people of both parties will demand somebody take a carving knife to the Federal budget and the programs it supports. This will be the result more of necessity than anything else but it is surprising how frugal people can become when their ability to survive is on the line. But, as we have said before, time will tell.

Beyond the Cusp

May 2, 2012

GSA and Secret Service Why Such Total Corruption?

Before diving into the irresponsible and tawdry actions by government employees which was plastered on the front pages of the news of late, we need to first off recognize that those caught partaking of these misadventures are not indicative of government employees in general. The vast numbers of government employees are dedicated professionals who work diligently giving 100% efforts. Those who we refer to in what follows are the few bad apples in the barrel. Despite the joke about a substandard performance at a task as, “close enough for government work,” does a disservice to those who toil away, often thanklessly, in the services of the many layers of government. Most tasks performed by government employees are required to meet the same standards as similar professions must meet in the private sector, there are entire departments in government which hold their employees to an even higher standard. This editorial is about those government employees who have failed to maintain a high standard of discipline and judgment and have earned any aspersions thrown at them.

With the latest of the malfeasance and misappropriation of our tax monies have many questioning how could such actions have been committed and with such disregard for allowing it to become public knowledge yet nobody even seems to feel the slightest guilt. Granted, some of the Secret Service did pay for their sins with their jobs, but that was more for their breaking protocols established for securing the President and others whose lives they are held responsible for guarding more than it was for such poor judgments and misconduct. As some of the agents involved will remain in the department, the sin was not in the act but in the poor judgment to allow these actions to have taken place in their rooms within what was presumed to be a secured environment. And how many heads were placed on the chopping block from the GSA extravagance? The count thus far is the chief of the General Services Administration Martha Johnson resigned, two of her top deputies were fired and four managers were placed on leave. Perhaps that was sufficient but I question why those who did the actual planning of this disgrace were not also shown the door along with the compliant chiefs as they were the ones who presented the initial arrangements and had they done their jobs responsibly instead of making a lavish joke out of what was supposed to be a working conference, then none of this could have transpired. This is one of those times where the underlings were just as guilty as were those who as supervisors should have refused their plans.

But the question which often asked is how can the amount and expanse of corruption of the Federal Government in Washington DC be so extreme and beyond that found at almost any other level of government in the United States. Believe it or not, I have a theory on this; what a surprise, huh? When you consider the corruption we find from our elected Senators and Representatives we need to keep something in mind; these are not simple, ordinary politicians, the majority are true professional politicians. These are the product of years of holding public offices. Many started as township, city, or county office holders who then graduated to state level offices and after a decade or more they finally make it to the big show, the United States House of Representatives and eventually even into the Senate. These are people who have been living in the make-believe world of politics where they have the power to solve most of the problems brought before them by the lesser, little folk simply by having a staffer place a phone call or send off a memo to some bureaucrat whose salary they control through their power of appropriations. They attend lavish parties thrown by those seeking influence and as they get higher up the ladder the parties get more and more lavish. By the time they get to Washington DC their taste has been refined to caviar and champagne, and not the cheap stuff. Many of these lifetime politicians have ten, fifteen, even twenty years of experience of being pampered, primped, perfumed, and treated as almost royalty and it has often gone to their heads. They honestly feel they are above the people, above the law, above reproach, basically above everything they see before them and that is what creates the problem which leads to the graft, corruption, and excesses of virtually any kind.

The corruption in many of the elite levels of the upper ranks of the Civil Service personnel have the same track record except they simply held government jobs moving up regularly and eventually they are at what I call the convention level. This is the level that invents reasons to hold training sessions or hold a convention for some legal sounding excuse and it is almost always held in Las Vegas, Hawaii, Bermuda, or other vacation Mecca, possibly even the French Riviera, if your GS Level is at a minimum of twelve. Such is more often an inter-department event where almost everybody is a GS 15 or higher. These are the true professional people whose ability to make expenditures is of the highest orders and quite beyond the imagination of mere mortal taxpayers. These are government employees who have government provided chauffeurs driving them around in a Lincoln, Cadillac or even a Mercedes. By the time you get to the highest level of our Federal government you have been rewarded and rated as exemplary at your job for so many years and for levels of work that are often the butt of jokes for comedians performing in the Nation’s Capital. Actually, after having been raised in the suburbs of our Nation’s capital, I am surprised that there are not far more instances of such extravagant and over-the-top malfeasance by our highest level miscreants, sorry, government employees. The sorry thing is many actually do attempt to work diligently and competently, but the ones who are along for the ride give the whole a bad name. The only thing I can recommend we, the tax paying public, can do is to thank those who work in the government at any level when they treat their job and the public they serve with respect and show diligence. Complaining about the others will usually not accomplish anything except supply the water-cooler circle with grist for their comedic mills.

Beyond the Cusp

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