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

 

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July 12, 2013

NSA Snooping Bothersome, How About the IRS?

Ever since Edward Snowden blew the lid off of the NSA Prism Program and the cataloguing virtually every single electronic signal worldwide, people have been in panic mode worrying over an overly intrusive government. The fact that the information readily available is that of trends and unless some trigger causes there to be suspicions about a particular person, the government would never actually listen to or read any of one’s personal catalogued information. This does not appear to have allayed many people’s fears and likely with a fair amount of good cause. The simple fact that this treasure trove of personal data and possibly inconvenient facts are in some gigantic storage site just waiting for somebody to decide to misuse these presumably secure files for whatever nefarious purpose their evil little heart’s desire is simply too much of a threat to allow people to maintain absolute sense of calm.

 

To those amongst us that knew about the predecessor to Prism which was called Echelon, we faced this fact back in the late 1980s or 1990s when that system was sufficiently powerful to record almost every electronic signal of the day. Running concurrent to Echelon was an agreement between the Anglo-nations of Australia, Canada, Britain and the United States that each nation would monitor the civilian information gathered through Echelon and should anything of interest be found then alert the nation where the suspected person resided. This allowed for domestic monitoring of each nations citizenry without running afoul of the laws against domestic spying by the intelligence agencies such as the CIA and NSA. No longer does the government feel it is necessary to go to such extents to avoid the regulations and laws which make spying within the borders by our intelligence agencies forbidden. Now they simply promise that the information they are collecting will simply be left unsifted beyond searching for suspicious patterns or other such traits trip set indicators. Of course we need not fear as we all can be assured that there are no people in government who might, without cause, actually sift through the personal information even if they have a friend who suspects his or her spouse may be having something undesired and would really appreciate knowing who he or she has been trading emails with? I mean, what could possibly go wrong when every phone conversation, email, instant message, web site visited, television show or movie watched, and purchase made is recorded and available to anybody within the Federal Government with the proper security clearance to peruse at their leisure?

 

Believe it or not, the invasion of privacy that Prism permits the Federal Government through the NSA is about to be dwarfed by the invasion of our medical privacy by an arm of the Federal Government which has already been proven to use their powers for nefarious and vindictive reasons when the IRS held up and demanded unnecessary details and information from conservative and pro-Israel organizations seeking tax exempt status. Starting with the advent of Obama Care the IRS will be charged with keeping the files of our entire medical histories. They will be able to profile every American for health problems and have influence over treatments that will be allowed to be made available. They will assess fees and make numerous health care decisions. Does having the IRS, who already holds every iota of your personal financial information, now be charged with your entire health care and medical history make you feel at all comfortable? Between the IRS and the NSA there will no longer be a single secret about your life that the government will not be privy to. I would be hard pressed to pick which I find more troublesome, the NSA with every byte and possibly bit of my electronic history or the IRS having every piece of my financial and health histories at their fingertips. And even if one could choose which is worse, you can depend on the fact that there will be sharing of this information between the two agencies whenever anybody’s name becomes one of those “names of interest”, whatever that may come to mean.

 

How much longer before we will all find ourselves being careful not to allow too much emotion to show as such discretions might raise the suspicions of some government minder who would then file your name as a person of interest which would start a full review of your files to decide if your show of emotion was out of sorts requiring further investigation and monitoring or simply some understandable reaction to a recent event. We must also remember the networking by numerous municipalities of all the city’s public and private security cameras tied to facial recognition software, and more are joining this list every month. And just to make an obvious prediction, the government at all levels will very soon be able to track your vehicle on every trip it makes. This will come into play once sufficient numbers of people drive vehicles which use little or no petroleum fuels. This will cause the government to tax your vehicular mileage which will require every vehicle to be fitted with an electronic identifier with GPS route and distance tracking for the purpose of collecting revenue. Such would never be utilized by the government to discover who belongs to the gun club or regularly drive to TEA Party events or other places of particular interest. Some people will tell you the government already has this ability to track movements of anybody by following their cellphone. The answer to that is sometimes let your cellphone stay home while you clandestinely go to your destination assured of arriving under complete secrecy. Privacy? We don’t need no individual privacy.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

June 5, 2013

The Coming Consequences with Obamacare

Obamacare, or as the more erudite among us call it, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will take full effect in theory this coming January of 2014. The only saving grace is that Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius is well behind in formulating all of the regulations which are demanded within the thousand plus pages of the legislation. Of course the ever diligent IRS is well on their way to hiring the eventual 16,500 additional agents to enforce the taxation related to the national healthcare system. There is a feeling that something is basically wrong with a healthcare system which requires the government to hire so many additional tax enforcement agents while not having any proposals to hire a single additional doctor. Unfortunately, the lack of hiring of healthcare workers is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of the irregularities surrounding the differences between promises and the reality of Obamacare.

 

As noted above, the lack of hiring of even a single additional doctor is troubling and only gets worse when you add that there has been no hiring of a single additional physician’s assistant, nurse, healthcare technician, orderly or other hospital worker. Making things far more ominous has been the results of numerous polls of physicians which on average have presented results indicating that anywhere from 35% to a startling 65% of those polled were seriously considering hanging up their stethoscopes rather than practice under the rules stipulated in Obamacare. If even just 10% of physicians hang up their stethoscopes the backlog of patients will be an insurmountable problem within the first year. The real problem is that it has been estimated that there could be as many as 25% increase in caseload added to the healthcare system, and that is one of the more conservative estimates. How the healthcare system will stay astride a measurably significant increase in caseload with a reduction in the available physicians to treat said patients is definitely going to present a serious problem. Either physicians will need to increase the rate at which patients are treated or add hours to each physician’s day or longer their workweek. I would not want to take any bet that physicians would face burnout in short order, simply retire or start to treat patients outside of the restrictions and requirements of Obamacare. The last of these choices would place them on the wrong side of Federal Law in short order and they would likely be closed down if not incarcerated. The government is not known for their sense of humor nor taking kindly to those who wish to operate outside their imposed systems.

 

Another realization which has been admitted by the administration and those who have investigated every letter of the Obamacare legislation is that there really will be panels which will decide who gets what levels of care and whether or not any patient will receive any care on some prorates cost-benefit analysis. The one name for the system that will be utilized has been referred to as the “Complete Lives System” which limits severely any care provided at either end of the age spectrum. Such a system if implemented would have some groups of voters up in arms in a very short time. Senior citizens would be up in arms as soon as they realized that they would not be receiving any medical procedures which carried with them anything beyond a minimal monetary outlay. That would mean no hip replacements, no cancer treatments, no surgeries of any variety, and some highly active and angry set of people who vote regularly, have the time to demonstrate and would engender sympathy from the general public, especially since most of us have parents who will someday be in this category. And the ire of the senior citizens would pale in comparison when parents are informed that their child is not worthy of any expensive procedures as they are not of sufficient age. The younger the child the less expense the care given the Complete Lives System is willing to allocate. Imagine the parents of a child born with what is now a regularly treated hearts defect commonly known as Blue Baby Syndrome. Such surgery on a newborn would fall outside of restriction on infants as they are not considered readily likely to be a cost benefit as their work-life is still a good twenty years away and so many possible complications could prevent their ever becoming a producing member of society. Another category of people who would receive next to no care would be the chronically ill be it a physical illness such as diabetes or a mental disorder as in both instances the person is considered more expensive to care for and a poor investment of medical expenditures. Yes, that’s right, in the Complete Lives System Stephen Hawking would never have become a physicist as he would have been deemed a bad health risk that would not have been likely to produce a positive financial outcome.

 

The worst problem which comes consequential to Obamacare is that it takes approximately 17% of the United States economy and makes it into a government program. Since investigations of numerous government programs has produced a result that the Federal Government must take in five dollars for every three they intend to spend, some of these researchers have found returns far worse where some departments would be fortunate to get one dollar for every five dollars collected. Even using the most optimistic return on tax dollars of three out of five dollars returned, then this will make the 17% of GDP into over one quarter of GDP at slightly over 28% of GDP. Add this significant quantity of the United States economy into the mix of other Federal expenditures and all government would then be responsible for well over half of GDP. Many economists will tell that at such size the government becomes unsustainable. Europe is currently figuring out that they can no longer continue to provide the services at current levels even with their tax rates at levels well above anywhere currently in the United States. Maybe all those who were labeled alarmists or conspiracy theorists were actually giving an accurate accounting of the unavoidable results of Obamacare would lead. All of these problems which will result from Obamacare do not take into consideration the unseen unintended consequences which seem to accompany every governmental effort. The only additional question that remains is which will compel the citizens to rebel first, the poor resulting quality of care under Obamacare or the ever spiraling upward taxes which never seem to prevent huge deficits because of Obamacare. Either way, Obamacare may just turn out to be the largest failure of the Federal Government, quite an accomplishment after the other SNAFUs we have managed to live with thus far.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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