Beyond the Cusp

December 17, 2014

Has the World Gone Crazy? Government Wants to Look and See


Thus far this week we have witnessed too many instances of violence from all across the globe with none of it making much sense. There was the taking of hostages in a small eatery in Australia with a wannabe ISIS crazy who amongst his demands insisted on talking to the Prime Minister of the country. There was a Taliban raid on a Pakistani school murdering innocent children with the count approaching one-hundred-fifty and nearly countless more reportedly in area hospitals, let’s pray it does not exceed that number. The United States did not miss out as a former Marine went on a killing spree in Philadelphia northwestern suburb in Pennsylvania murdering his ex-wife and her sister, mother, grandmother and two children of the sister as well as shooting and injuring the sister’s husband. These, as with too many murders reported unfortunately almost daily, are the actions of disturbed minds or people blinded beyond sanity by their cause will remain beyond our ability to understand. Where the twisted reasoning behind any murder may be beyond the ability of our ability to discern and understand, efforts should continue to see if any discerning and identifying character traits or other determining actions and indicators can be discovered such that in the future some of these grisly events can be prevented. We will probably never have the ability to prevent every time somebody goes beyond all societal norms and commits some act of violence tearing a hole in society as a whole.


The question we as societies will need to answer is how far are we to permit law enforcement to go both in their abilities to collect information and survey public or even private areas in order to prevent crimes and provide a higher level of safety in their efforts to circumvent crimes, especially crimes of violence. There are already increasing usages for cameras and sound detection equipment in cities throughout the world with London taking the lead as the most surveyed city with sound detectors and cameras placed throughout so that they can see virtually every area of the streets, river, shopping centers, service alleys and probably the darkest recesses and corners throughout the city. Surveillance carried out to such an extent combined with the advancing artificial intelligence advances in computer technology including facial recognition software, gait detection and profiling which will lead to computers monitoring the entirety of these cameras and potentially adding the microphones so that they can discern every spoken word and conversation using software collating the data in order to alert police to suspected criminal acts they determine are imminent. The police would be directed in the hope that their mere presence would prevent the crime and to interdict any criminal act as soon as it occurs or prevent any violent action intervening at the predicted moment such violence might occur. It would be a virtual future crime system used as deterrence and placing police exactly where they might be needed moments before any criminal act. For crimes such as theft or a holdup such a system would likely deter many criminals but then how far would such a system be empowered. Would they use such a system to determine the name of a person crossing a street in other than a designated crosswalk and send them a summons or ticket just as speed cameras and red light cameras do in many cities currently? Such a system would potentially provide a huge increase in revenue which could potentially completely finance the entire police department.


If placing cameras and listening devices all throughout our cities and towns is acceptable, then what if the government decides to go further? It would start with a program where the government would give people payment if they were permitted to add any monitoring cameras and sound devices people currently had in their homes and businesses. The program would begin innocently and be voluntary so what would be the harm, people could simply say they have no interest and such a program might make others who would be unable to afford an alarm system with cameras and twenty-four hour monitoring and such a program would be enabling more homes to be monitored and kept safe. What argument could be made that this was not a good thing and it is still voluntary, right? Then the government would eventually see this as now a right they could extend as were not most of the people who had systems voluntarily opting to join the government subsidy. Anyways, anybody now refusing the government mandated monitoring systems and the government including these systems in their extensive monitoring would be proof that you have something to hide. The thing is such a demand would not be instituted until the vast majority of the public had already agreed to this monitoring by the government and nobody had been adversely affected, so where is the harm in government placing monitoring in every home. Such monitoring would keep homes safe from burglaries while people were at work and where would be the harm? There was a time when people would only accept a ticket if it was written by an officer who had witnessed their exceeding the speed limit or running a red light. Nobody would accept a ticket from a camera radar trap and receiving one would result in their going to court and demanding to confront their accuser. Initially this defense was accepted by the courts and then the city council allowed for a regulation, or even passed a law in some instances, that made these tickets legal and no longer permitted the defense of demanding to confront your accuser and thus no judge would accept that defense. It has become common for camera evidence to be considered superior to an eye witness’s testimony. Add facial recognition and cameras can be utilized to identify people beyond any reasonable doubt in most courts. Where these automated law enforcement technologies will end is anybody’s guess. The camera and the microphones are just the tip of the coming iceberg as we can expect explosives detection systems placed in sensitive areas or places where large crowds are expected to form such as malls, ballparks, amusement parks, concerts, fairs and special events as well as whatever devices and data gathering system which have yet to be developed. Many of the larger ports and other commercial shipping and mass travel systems including trains, planes and ships have detection equipment which checks the luggage or shipping containers as well as magnetometers to check the people while visual checks are made of carryon luggage and bags. These detection devices are simply a computerized version of using a dog or other trained animal and currently almost as reliable and their evidence is acceptable in a court as sufficient evidence for permitting an officer to search and arrest any person refusing the search in order to search the person once in custody.


There are numerous types of surveillance equipment with abilities which would astound the average person readily available to police departments should they care to make the outlay funds to purchase such devices. There is equipment which can listen to a conversation simply by placing an invisible laser onto any window to the room which the conversation of interest is being held. This technology has progressed to the point that one would need to cover the window with sound dampening screens or external cover such as aluminum storm shutters. There are systems which can see through walls with amazing detail capability. There are systems being researched which will allow governments to monitor people in ways they likely never imagined. People can be tracked by tracking their cell phones. Using your cell phone a person can be located to within ten feet and their cell phone can be activated to listen to any noises or conversations within the ability of the microphone to detect. Even the cell phone camera can be activated though such is often not very revealing as if the phone is in a purse or pocket the video will not reveal much. There are ways to monitor people’s computer usage as long as their computer is linked to a network which has internet connection active or if the computer itself is connected to the internet. The invasions of our privacy which government can potentially utilize if they wish to monitor our lives covertly are astounding and place every individual potentially in a very compromised position even without their knowledge. These are simply implications of the modern world we all reside within. But then in a world where many of us post even intimate information about ourselves on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, Vine and others, why would many of us complain or have any problem with the government monitoring our daily activities. Perhaps the government could start their own social media site and simply put videos of some of the craziest things they monitored and maybe also the top ten crimes of the day. The one prediction which can be made safely is that privacy is a quaint idea whose definition is growing ever smaller with every passing new technology. Perhaps any legal definition claiming that we have unalienable rights to privacy, that our homes are inviolable or that our papers, effects and private information are secure from search or seizure without a court order, summons or warrant are simply cute little ideas whose potential possibility is nil in our high-tech world where information rules and those who can best gather information rule. In simpler terms, if one wishes to have privacy they best be prepared to make a sizeable effort to assure that their desire has been attained. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Perhaps this could be adapted to modern times where we add that not only is eternal vigilance is the price of liberty but also the price for personal privacy from government. It could be argued that privacy is necessary to have liberty and to have real freedom. To be honest, it is rightly well worth the effort and allows one to sleep better each night.


Beyond the Cusp


May 22, 2013

The ‘A’ Responses to Pregnancy

If the question was put to a thousand Americans what word beginning with the letter ‘A’ they associate with unwanted pregnancy the vast majority, if not every single one, would most likely respond abortion. As a Western society with what has come to be considered a metropolitan attitude in which anything that causes life to become troublesome must have an easy resolution which frees the citizen from any responsibility for their actions. In the case of what is euphemistically called an unwanted pregnancy, the easy, no fuss, no muss answer is to get an abortion and presto, no more pregnancy. Abortion was presented as the simple and neat way to avoid one of the consequences of having unprotected sexual encounters which, of course, are nobody’s fault as such can occur to any woman at a moment’s notice.


Abortion came to the fore as the responsible way to resolve the situation of an unwanted pregnancy replacing its predecessor, adoption. But the modern metropolitan answer to pregnancy in the new, no responsibility, fast paced, immediate resolution of all problems had to find an instant, microwave fast resolution to pregnancy that did not require actually going full term and giving birth to a baby then giving the child up for adoption. Adoption was too messy and required the consequence of carrying the pregnancy for the full nine months and might even cause the unthinkable, ruin a girlish figure. Not in this modern world was it even thinkable to make a woman carry a baby to term just because she and her interest of a moment had pleasured each other without bothering to take precautions which might have actually delayed such actions and possibly even ruined the mood which drove the desire for such actions. Thus, adoption was out and abortion was in. Everything was now sped up to keep pace in the no consequence, fast paced, modern metropolitan world.


The ghastly, repulsive, repugnant details of what abortion is in reality was glossed over by changing the argument to make pregnancy resolution simply a choice and the zygote or fetus, dependent on length of pregnancy before detection, was minimalized and dehumanized into being nothing more than a collection referred to as a cellular mass. Everything about the actual pregnancy had to be redefined into a non-humanized, new world, metropolitan denotation which masked the entirety of what was actually occurring. But that is all falling apart and in the coming months this wondrous clean metropolitan lifestyle is going to have to face some very unpleasant and grizzly truths. The first shot across the bow was fired by the trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. The abortionist who kept jars with baby’s feet on his desk and other jars of various baby parts as mementoes decorating his clinic. Abortionist Kermit Gosnell ran a less than perfect clinic which lacked refinement, cleanliness, or observance of the law. Kermit Gosnell performed late term abortions beyond the legal limit, delivered live births and then performed what was referred to as clipping which severed the spinal cord at the base of the neck disconnecting the brain from the rest of the body. Every single horrific practice which one could imagine in their worst nightmare was a weekly occurrence in Kermit Gosnell’s clinic. Kermit Gosnell also preyed upon those women who really had nowhere reputable for them to turn to and were the most vulnerable in our society. This should make our indignation even more strident and purposeful for if our society does not protect the most vulnerable among us, what can be said to mitigate such callousness.


There are already the faint rumblings of even more Kermit Gosnells operating similarly grotesque abortion mills from other states. What we should fear but also prepare to face is a torrent of similar findings from numerous more cities and towns than we may care to admit, but that will not prevent witnesses from coming forward in the coming months. Initially the Kermit Gosnell case will be heard despite the near total media blackout and refusal to give this horrid and sordid case the attention deserved and that will start the first smattering of other such clinics being made known. The growing number of such clinics will force coverage from a reluctant media which will only serve to bring more cases into the light of day. We had best brace ourselves for the shocking horrors that are the truth about abortion as it will be coming into our consciences and there will be no way of avoiding the truth. The only honorable result of this entire sordid affair will hopefully be the awakening of our society to the actual truths about abortions and a return to a more sane approach to unwanted pregnancy and a return to the other ‘A’ answer, adoption. If the horrific witnesses testimony and horrifying evidence uncovered and brought before the courts and the public results in a renewed debate over the appropriateness of legal and easy abortion as an acceptable alternative for adoption, then some goodness may yet be salvaged from this shockingly graphic tale of criminal malfeasance. Maybe we as a society can demand that much of the needless expenses and overtly complicated legal forms and many layered administrative demands be streamlined and simplified and return adoption as the societal default answer to an unwanted pregnancy. Where our societal discussion went wrong was confusing the concept of an unwanted pregnancy with the fallacious concept that the child, which would result from the pregnancy going to term, would be equally unwanted. Nothing could be further from the truth as is witnessed by the long lists of people wishing to adopt and being circled around the system like an airplane at an overcrowded airport waiting for clearance to land. It is time our society weighed the truthful facts about abortion and gave equal consideration in the debate for adoption. If we prove to be half as civilized and removed from barbarism, then we will choose life over destruction, promise over regret and fulfillment of dreams over nightmares of hope dashed and kindness discarded.


Beyond the Cusp


July 29, 2012

But It Can’t Happen Here in America

I was raised during the hay day for Reform Judaism in America. Everybody in the congregation were Democrats and the talk of the day was usually about the last rally or protest march the Rabbi had participated in and which other Civil Rights luminaries were also there. There was never any talk about anything of an uncomfortable nature as everybody basically agreed. The one issue which was universal was that in the modern world anti-Semitism was dead and buried, never to return and rear its ugly head. Unfortunately for me, I had heard disparaging words from some in my public junior high and high school who held great hatred for Jews and had been asked if I agreed with them. You see, I do not exactly look Jewish, whatever that means. But having blue eyes, blonde hair, well, back then it was, and a broad German nose, I was mistaken by some as likely to be from the fatherland and thus suspect of having “normal” proclivities including no fondness for Jews. In a way, I still see this as an advantage I have had as it allows me to see the world from a different perspective than most other Jews. Still, the principle I was raised under was that anti-Semitism died with the realization of the death camps and the horrors of the Holocaust, the Shoah, and were never to rise again. The world, we were told, had learned the lesson and would never repeat such horrors again. My other predisposition which made me out of sorts is that I held a lesser view of humankind than my altruistic optimists and knew deep down that history repeats itself and the history of the Jews taught that the one thing mankind had never learned was to accept the Jewish people. I believed the part in the Haggadah used for the Passover Seder where it says, “In every generation there are those who rise up against us.” I saw no reason that would change this little morsel of ancient wisdom and the world today bears this out.

There can be little doubt about the animosity and hatred seething within much of the Muslim world towards Israel and the Jews. All one needs do is peruse the translated news reports and speeches made throughout the Middle East and North African nations on MEMRI to find ample evidence proving the existence of anti-Semitism, some of it of the worst kind equal to that of the Nazis. But still there are a majority of Jews who live among populations where the Jews are a plurality or significant part of their communities and this has produced a false sense of safety and security for many Jews. This is particularly true of the assimilated Jews who feel they are an accepted and respected part of society. Maybe in the sectors of society where they live and circulate such is true, but not universally. Whenever you relate to these Jews who live in gilded Jewish ghettoes a case where pure unadulterated hatred and anti-Semitism has been revealed such as the placing of graffiti including swastikas, derogatory statements such as “Jews go home”, Hitler was Right”, “Judenfrei” or “Judenrein” on a synagogue or in a near uniformly Jewish neighborhood they will immediately deny the threat and dismiss it with it was the pranks of some hoodlum kids who did not know what they were even writing, it’s not to worry. I, unfortunately, have experienced different and have usually lived in neighborhoods where I am likely the only Jew living within miles. I have way too often in my life met people who upon hearing that I am Jewish are amazed and confess that I am the first Jew they have ever met, an experience most Jews will never have as they travel in carefully crafted sectors in society. So they continue blissfully unaware that trouble and hatreds are returning and this time they are possibly even a greater threat. But I am still assured in Synagogue that “It can never happen here, not in America.”

Another reason that most of my fellow Jews never hear of the anti-Semitism which is growing throughout the world is due to the sources of their news. Mostly they listen to NPR and read newspapers which veer way to the left and as such never discuss such things. They would never read any conservative news, even Jewish or Israeli conservative news sources such as Arutz Sheva. If they did, they might have read about the increase in the number and severity of graffiti attacks upon the Hareidim living in their communities in New York City. In the past six weeks there have been a consistent spate of such attacks with numerous swastikas being found two or three times a week spread in all sections of their neighborhoods. They would have read of some recent attacks upon these same religious Jews in their neighborhoods. They have heard of some of the worst and most violent attacks such as the one recently which murdered a Rabbi and three precious children gunned down in front of a Yeshiva in Toulouse, France or the suicide murder bombing of Israeli vacationers boarding their bus in Burgas, Bulgaria. Even these incidents of anti-Semitism they reduce to the actions of small and insignificant groups of militant Muslims who pose no real threat. The saddest part of the blind eyes so many of my fellow Jews turn towards this growing animosity and threat is how almost perfectly it follows the same exact statements, refutations, dismissals, and excuses which I have read were part and parcel of Jewish reactions to the changing political scene in Weimar Republic Germany. The Jews who were assimilated into what they saw as the most progressive society with high levels of education and apparently total acceptance of Jews in the circles in which they traveled who said things such as, “It can never happen here in Germany” and “We are accepted as a vital part in German society and are University professors, judges, and in every professional pursuits and we have never been more secure in a society in Jewish history.” That fell apart as the economy failed and we all know what came next. I am pained but can see it happening again, maybe not in the United States, not at first, but in Europe and the Middle East it is rushing forward like a runaway train and will not end well.

As far as the United States, let me retell two articles from this past week and supply you with a link to each in an Israeli news source. Needless to say, these stories were not widely covered in the liberal press my fellow Jews read so they likely missed these items. The first report tells of a seventy-five year old Jewish woman who lives in an apartment in Charleston, South Carolina. The article is titled, <a href= target=blank > “Jewish Woman Finds Swastikas Scrawled on Apartment.”</a> Estelle Whitney was born during WWII and remembers, as she told a local news station, “In order to go to preschool I had to wear a Jewish star pinned to my dress. I would say to my mom, I don’t want to wear this, even asking what is it. You don’t know what it is when you are three years old.” She was returning home from a brunch to find five swastikas scrawled on the walls of her apartment. They were obviously intended for her and drove her to wonder, as she pointed out, “Give me a reason you know, why do you hate me, what did I do to you?” She recalled that, “I was shaking like a leaf. I saw them from the corner of my eye right away. The swastika. I couldn’t believe it. My parents were Holocaust survivors, it really means a lot to me, this terrible thing.” Estelle Whitney was born in Paris, France where she saw more than her share of anti-Semitic hatreds and has lived in Charleston for over a decade without encountering such vile hatreds. She is shocked and worried and will likely not rest the same until those who committed this heinous act are caught and she is given some answers and assurances that such will not be repeated.

The second story is, believe it or not, even worse. It takes place in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania in Wayne County. The article is titled, ” Five Charged with Terrorizing Jewish Camp.” I will likely not do this story anywhere near the justice in supplying a complete description here, so please go and read the entire story, it is horrifying. These five human monsters perpetrated a multiple event over multiple days that instilled terror and life-threatening horror on a camp for children. Their initial harassment simply consisted of driving in circles at high speed in order to damage several sports fields on the grounds of Camp Bonim. In the next assault they targeted campers by firing a paint gun while at least one was heard to have shouted obscene racial slurs and told the Jewish campers, “I’m going to kill you, you (expletive) Jews” and “Go back where you came from.” The next attack occurred in the middle of the night including an attempt to run over a camper with their truck only missing by a few feet from potentially killing the child. The next day one of the perpetrators targeted a counselor from the camp who was in town outside a local store where he rammed him with his vehicle and broke his leg. All five have been caught and have confessed to at least some of the charges and will be held for trial. But, remember, it can’t happen here in America.

Beyond the Cusp

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