A Requiem for Privacy Lost

“It is with knowledge of the human being, his tendencies, his desires, his needs, his psychic mechanisms, his automatism as well as knowledge of social psychology and analytical psychology that propaganda refines its techniques.” 

– Propagandes, Jacques Ellul 

Creepy logo of the Information Awareness Office, an agency reportedly scrapped by the US government.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_Awareness_Office

What is privacy, and why should we care? More and more, people are comfortable living their lives quite publicly. Social media gave us an avenue to connect with old friends and share, which I happily embraced by posting many pictures of my cats, my kid, and my cooking. 

I’ve been on Facebook for ten years now, and sometimes cringe at the “On This Day” memories. No longer do the actions of the present disappear into the annals of time. Our day-to-day banalities are digitized and exist forever. 

I now know details about people I haven’t seen in years, sometimes quite intimately. And while I love the feeling of community and easy access that technology provides, I find it unsettling that anything I’ve done in the last 15 years can be digitally “remembered” fairly quickly, and by a host of stakeholders. My phone company, my phone manufacturer, any app I’ve downloaded has varying degrees of access, and the National Security Agency all know where I go, who I speak to, the messages I send, and the schedule I keep on my calendar. 

In the early 90’s, my only worry was about my jealous boyfriend looking at my beeper. When I got my first cell phone in 1994, carrying it with me was just a night thing for safety. Today’s tech is sophisticated and collects information about my life that is fueling a multi-billion dollar data industry. Healthcare insurance companies collecting data off the Activity Tracker on my Apple watch are using it to inform how they will treat me as a customer. My 90’s-era boyfriend stalking me drove me nuts but at least he couldn’t refuse to cover my pre-existing condition because I missed three fitness classes last week. 

Devices and apps that geo-locate us have made our lives more convenient in myriad ways which seem innocent enough. But how these conveniences affect us and what we are trading in return for it are another matter entirely. Neither average Americans or Congress are prepared to understand how AI will change us in the years ahead. It has already changed us profoundly. 

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), an arm of the military that develops emerging technologies, has been psychologically profiling Americans and developing specific communication designed to infiltrate and disseminate propaganda to influence public opinion. 

With the passage of the Patriot Act and it’s unholy follow-ups, the Protect America Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, both the Bush and later, the Obama administration, widely expanded government power without the consent of the people or Congress. 

The Protect America Act, ironically named, was enacted to protect the phone companies from being sued by Americans for giving the Bush administration access to ALL our phone records thousands of times a day, dating back retroactively to 1983. Warrants are no longer necessary for searches. Our 4th Amendment protections, so well thought-out by the forefathers, were axed without a word to the public. 

Of course, a New York Times journalist discovered what was going on in 2005 and though the Times initially suppressed the article at the behest of the Bush administration until after the election. Once it was revealed in December of that year what the executive branch was doing, the public was fed the usual rhetoric about patriotism, safety and country. At the same time as they promised AT&T and the rest of their corporate comrades immunity from civil action.

Shady business got even shadier when the Inspector General’s investigation into NSA mass surveillance produced a report that was conducted as a panacea for public outrage. And rather than bore us with the usual redacted glory reserved for declassified documents, they made up a second, shall we say… scrubbed report and passed it off to the public as the real one. 

So today, I give you this requiem, an homage if you will… let’s have a toast to privacy lost, and remember fondly Mr. Bush in his ten-gallon hat at the Crawford Ranch, and Mr. Obama whose beautiful speeches I sorely miss, even if he was a two-timing son-of-a-gun who sold us out with a smile. 

With a 2013 budget request of approximately $10.8 billion, the NSA is the second-largest agency in the U.S. intelligence community. It is headquartered in Fort Meade, Maryland.http://creativetimereports.org/2014/02/10/overhead-new-photos-of-the-nsa-and-other-top-intelligence-agencies-revealed-trevor-paglen/

Here are five examples of privacy rights you probably weren’t even aware you’ve lost. Fallen by the wayside, quietly, swiftly… May they forever rest in peace. 

  • Privacy of your trash via the Waste Watch Driver Training Program, active in 170+ U.S. cities and towns. 
  • Privacy of your DNA: if you were born after 1963 in Massachusetts; 1970 or so elsewhere in the U.S. your DNA is taken by the hospital and is now stored in various government facilities from state to state. The states claim a right to your genetic material and use it for their research. 
  • Privacy of transaction: welcome to the darknet, aka Echelon, PRISM, and [X]Keyscore. I’m not sure I could say this better than Andreas Antonopoulos did in his TED presentation: …“The darknet is operated by intelligence agencies because they are on a daily basis committing massive crimes against human rights, they are orchestrating a totalitarian financial surveillance network that monitors everybody’s transactions and as a result everybody’s location, everybody’s purchasing preferences, everybody’s political preferences and what kind of porn you watch, because all of that is tied to your financial life. Because everything is tied to your financial life. This system of totalitarian financial surveillance is the darknet. They don’t fear the darknet, they just don’t want us to have one.” 
  • Privacy of location: I touched on this already but it still bears emphasis. Even if you turn your GPS off, your smartphone is a personal tracking device that is constantly triangulating your location via cell towers and WiFi, then sharing your information thousands of times a day with the NSA and likely a host of third-party companies. 
  • Privacy of thought : Cue the Orwellian nightmare: researchers at New York University and University of California have created a mind-reading machine. Similar to facial recognition, it’s a software that reconstructs images of a person’s mind using brain scans. We will have commercially available mind-reading technology, presumably to help disabled people type. Google did try to sneak an entire “smart city” facial cam recognition system by the residents of Toronto without public review but hey, I’m sure there’s no reason to worry about anyone using it for nefarious purposes, right? 

References for this story include the following:

How Big Data Is Changing Healthcare: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2015/04/21/how-big-data-is-changing-healthcare/#3764b9a02873 

Privacy and Security in the Era of Digital Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4859641/ 

How Businesses are Collecting Data and What They’re Doing With It: https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/10625-businesses-collecting-data.html 

Project Censored: The Homegrown Terrorist Prevention Act: https://www.projectcensored.org/6-the-homegrown-terrorism-prevention-act/ 

MALINTENT: Homeland Security Gets Inside Your Head: https://artificialtelepathy.blogspot.com/2009/01/malintent-homeland-security-gets-inside.html 

Total Information Awareness is Back: https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/10/total_informati.html 

Report: NSA’s Warrantless Spying Resurrects Banned ‘Total Information Awareness’ Project: https://www.wired.com/2008/03/nsas-warrantles/ 

The Cambridge Analytica Files: A Guardian investigative report: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump 

The Patriot Act:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriot_Act 

Protect America Act of 2007: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protect_America_Act_of_2007 

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_Intelligence_Surveillance_Act 

Bush Lets U.S. Spy Callers Without Courts: https://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/16/politics/bush-lets-us-spy-on-callers-without-courts.html 

James Risen Recalls ‘Game of Chicken’ with NYT Editors to Reveal NSA Spying: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/james-risen-new-york-times_n_5324303 

Snowden Files Declaration in NSA Spying Case Confirming Authenticity of Inspector General’s Report: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/11/snowden-files-declaration-nsa-spying-case-confirming-authenticity-draft-inspector 

How 9/11 Birthed the Modern Surveillance State – YouTube Clip of Edward Snowden interview w/Joe Rogan: (3) Snowden – How 9/11 Birthed the Modern Surveillance State | Joe Rogan – YouTube 

Garbage Men Being Trained to Spy on Customers: https://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/constitution/item/26485-garbage-men-being-trained-to-spy-on-customers; Waste Management Trains its Drivers in Waste Watch Program: https://citybizlist.com/article/435280/waste-management-trains-its-drivers-in-waste-watch-program; Waste Management’s Waste Watch Program, Reporting Suspicious Activity: https://ccsoblog.org/2018/12/26/waste-watch/ 

Newborn DNA banking: https://www.aclu.org/other/newborn-dna-banking; DNA Collection at Birth – The Death of Genetic Privacy: https://busy.org/@krnel/dna-collection-at-birth-genetic-privacy-is-dead 

Andreas Antonopoulos TED Talk– How Bitcoin is Changing the World: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2zH-T_hmLs  

The Robot That Knows When You’re Lying: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-5197747/AI-detects-expressions-tell-people-lie-court.html 

How Far Away is Mind Reading Technology?: https://www.em360tech.com/tech-news/microsoft-working-mind-reading-technology/ 

Mind Messaging – Thoughts Transmitted by Brain to Brain Link: https://www.livescience.com/47708-human-brain-link-sends-thoughts.html 

Mind Reading Brain Scans Can Retrieve Images From Human Memory: https://www.ibtimes.co.uk/mind-reading-brain-scanner-can-retrieve-images-human-memory-1449043

DreamRose Lifestyle Magazine – Fall 2019

Our inaugural issue! My partner Annmarie LaFauci and I actually put this to bed late last month, so excuse the delay in debuting it here. This is our first go at putting a project like this together and most of the work fell on just a few passionate – but unpaid hands.

Launching a magazine and getting our bi-weekly show off the ground has been a labor of love, and I still work two side hustles in order to dedicate myself to writing independent content that I find meaningful and interesting.

Many teachable moments were had in the creation of DreamRose Lifestyle, but luckily we love to learn and my partner has incredible tenacity so the setbacks we experienced were instructive.

My contributions include the cover story on Boston-based pop group X’s & O’s, an investigative piece called A Requiem for Privacy Lost, and the first-ever Luxury on a Leash column, a concept I came up with while on vacation back in August.

I assisted with editing contributor content, but I’ll let readers guess which articles I meddled with. Those who know my phrasing style will probably spot it, but my aim when editing others’ work is to maintain their voice as authentically as possible.

Overall, this was a BIG opportunity for me to stretch as a writer, editor and journalist. Thanks to ALL the contributors, stylists, photographers and bloggers who helped this issue come to life. Everyone that is part of this magazine is a proud Bostonian!

I hope you enjoy it and please, send me your feedback or ideas on topics you’d like to see covered next quarter either in the comment section below or via FB message to my Jennifer Psallidas, Writer page.

All the best – Jenn P.

The Pentagon’s Coup is Complete

Dear readers: $1.48 Trillion in spending for the Pentagon has been approved by the House.

If you can look at that list of 219 Democrats without the urge to vomit or violently punch someone in the throat (that was my reaction), then guess what? Your programming is complete, congratulations. You have been fully lobotomized.

The party of the downtrodden has overwhelmingly decided to support a lying dictator (no matter what they might say on TV) AND this psychotic, murderous Pentagon with their ever-growing need for more weapons, more destruction, and more support for the folks that ARE MISSING $22 TRILLION ALREADY. Think about that.

The only thing the Pentagon doesn’t want more of is agency-wide accountability. The last audit was two years ago now, one of only 3 in the last 25 years. The missing $22 Trillion that the Pentagon just can’t account for seems blackly comical, except it’s not.

We keep throwing our hard-earned cash at them without batting a single eyelash. THIS is the very definition of a dystopian reality we’re living in now, bitches. Buck up, and pay yer’ taxes, fight our boogeymen, and don’t protest. The CEO of Lockheed Martin needs a new yacht.

Oh, how I long for September 10th… Remember that day? When Rumsfeld announced a “war” on the Pentagon’s budget because they were missing $2 Trillion? How cute. That number has now usurped the GDP of India.

Of course the very next day the Pentagon was hit by a plane, so we forgot all about that silliness and immediately pumped more dollars than ever into military budgeting. Interestingly tactical, that a Boeing 757 (that no one has footage of anywhere) should hit the Pentagon’s accounting department. Those bean counters never knew what hit them. Sorry guys, but we’re not doing that anymore…

0 1 0 9 1 4 – F – 8 0 0 6 R – 0 0 5 FBI agents, fire fighters, rescue workers and engineers work at the Pentagon crash site on Sept. 14, 2001, where a high-jacked American Airlines flight slammed into the building on Sept. 11. The terrorist attack caused extensive damage to the west face of the building and followed similar attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Cedric H. Rudisill. (Released)

Personally, I find it a little weird that the Pentagon hit doesn’t look like the WTC tower. I know we have two different angles of impact and there are likely other factors involved but this doesn’t look like a plane hit the building at all. A Boeing 757 has a wingspan of over 120 feet wide. More pics of the aerial damage are available at https://publicintelligence.net/911-pentagon-damage-high-resolution-aerial-photos/.

A 757 cut through the North and South Towers like butter. America watched as an airplane was swallowed whole into the 78th floor.

Footage of the South Tower upon impact. I have been doing 9/11 research for two years and I’m noticing a lot of footage being scrubbed from YouTube. Download while you can: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S14hP8FxJdc

Our Pentagon and government has been shown time and again to be completely and obscenely wasteful without remorse and without a shred of accountability to the American people who fund their warmongering ways. When we will we have enough of political parties which are designed to divide us and keep us distracted from the serious problems we have? We could have had a completely green energy system implemented by now, and these covert wars of conquest in the Middle East and South America must be stopped. THOSE are our biggest problems.

Without resolving those issues nothing else can happen. We must look at root causes if we are to challenge and fix our democracy. The hour is late but we can still do something about it, I believe. Maybe that’s a foolish belief but I will fight for peace overseas and transparency in our government’s spending until my dying day without regret. It doesn’t matter if I make any real difference in the world, it only matters that I continue to speak for what’s right.

Each and every person can do this – I know the urge to give up is strong, but don’t. Use common sense, and don’t hate your Republican neighbor. Clearly the Democrats are on board with never-ending war, at the expense of all the other things we could do with that money. Trump is a symptom of the disease, not the cause.

Check out the article from Common Dreams that references the recent budget vote in the House. https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/07/26/unprecedented-wasteful-and-obscene-house-approves-148-trillion-pentagon-budget

Ex-Offenders Matter: Sister Hearts

After spending 13 years in a Louisiana prison, 6 of which were in solitary confinement, Maryam Henderson-Uloho was free (so to speak).

She found herself struggling immediately. As a felon, she was unable to rent an apartment, find work or get a credit card. As she puts it, “You’re not allowing me the tools that I need to sustain myself out here in society.”

Realizing that safety was of paramount importance for women in particular, she started Sister Hearts, a thrift store and “re-entry” program “focused on providing ex-offenders with a safe environment to achieve their goals with dignity.”

Incarceration in the U.S. does little to actually rehabilitate inmates, nor does it adequately prepare them for the uphill process of putting their lives back together outside prison walls. Meeting deadlines with probation officers is non-negotiable and include finding employment, a place to live, money to pay fees, and reliable transportation to accomplish these tasks.

The imminent threat of going back to prison adds additional pressure, and many do just that: a 9-year (2005-2014) Bureau of Justice study shows 43-55% of ex-offenders end up back inside. More than 30% of those who re-offend do so within the first 12 months of release, with the first three years showing the peak arrest rates.

Extended time in solitary is particularly traumatic. Studies have been able to measure DNA rewiring and physical changes in the brain occurring within the first 24 hours. Mental trauma akin to having suffered a head injury and PTSD make assimilation back into to daily life painfully difficult.

And I don’t have a study to quote but I’ve personally observed what I will call an unsympathetic, rather unforgiving public sentiment toward felons in general. It seems “time served” for some people means nothing and felons are not to be afforded the benefit of a second chance. I’ve heard people say things like, “Well, I’m not the one who went to jail.” Or my personal favorite, “They shouldn’t have broken the law in the first place.”

It’s beyond the scope of this post for me to get into the particulars on the failings of the justice system, but at the very least consider that a prison term was served, and ex-offenders are not escapees. Supposedly people serve time so they could pay their “debt to society” for whatever wrongdoing was done.

I think it only makes sense support those coming back into our communities by allowing them the rights that other people have. Otherwise, why let them out in the first place?

Anyway, do check out the film short I posted. Henderson-Uloho’s compassion for others in similar circumstances is a gorgeously moving thing to behold. If you are able, I encourage you to donate. She has lots of options for directing funds to help out in specific ways, like with basic toiletries or a fresh bed. Or just a straight-up digital cash gift works too.

Justin Amash: Independent Man

Amash, (I) Mich. Interview with Jake Tapper on CNN

Justin Amash: Independent Man

Justin Amash has left the GOP and all his committee assignments. Scandalously (note to new readers, that’s sarcasm), he’s chosen to be an Independent in D.C., which of course I’m not going to disguise my pleasure about (not sarcasm). I honestly think this two-party dog and pony show has got to go, and wish Amash well. Perhaps more will follow.

Then again, I’ll hold my tongue. If too many Senators start going rogue and declaring Independent status it wouldn’t be long before being Independent would be as corrupted and meaningless as being a Republican or Democrat is. My condolences to those of you who still believe in party alignment. You’ll probably hate my POV in general – it’s best you just stop reading now and save yourself the aggravation.

My registered Independent status is dear precisely because it is not an organized party, not in the establishment sense. Actually, as far as the DNC is concerned it might as well be Anarchism, for heaven’s sake. I guess we’re considered liberal (or the dreaded “Liberal” with a capital L) but I notice most Independents have unique views that crossover into many ideologies and are not easily categorized, though many try. I am liberal, but most Liberals do not share my political views which is fine by me. It takes all kinds to make the world go around, right?

The GOP is not wasting the Amash departure opportunity to get in line with the President, and although their public position is something akin to “you’re dead to me”, I have a feeling they’re secretly jealous. No grown-up can maintain dignity when they’re terrified of the repercussions of defying their Commander in Tweet. That’s all right Senators, you can pass notes in the Congressional bathroom.

I admit: I have never heard of Amash before. I follow politics pretty closely but I’m a long way from having the entire Senate memorized. In any case, better late than never. So far I am impressed with the way he carries himself in this brief interview and believed him when he spoke of his commitment to his constituents being his primary concern. Tapper was flummoxed of course, the poor dear. What’s better than holding partisan power on deadlocked Congressional committees?? NOTHING screams Tapper’s soul but he maintained control, God bless him.

Amash has some interesting things to say about the way power works (or doesn’t) in D.C. and I found his candor brave and refreshing. I would love to hear what readers think about his move, so please comment away (whether you like him or not). (FYI – Because of spam and for your protection from hackers I monitor comments before they go live, at least for now.)

During the interview, Amash framed his choice to leave the party as the only way he can get some legislative work done or at least openly try. He is confident in the support from his district and I’m not surprised there.

Amash goes on to discuss how proposing Amendments to legislation has become a closed process under both previous Speaker Ryan and the current Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He has some strong feelings regarding Pelosi’s stance on impeachment and he rightly called out her hypocrisy to that end. I will let you discover that tea for yourself – do enjoy. Key Republicans have already taken to Twitter to speak out against Amash but again, I think it is a show for Trump.

A lot of American people are fed up with the BS partisanship, or at least a large portion of us are. Being a woman of a certain age I do remember a time when the parties would appear to somewhat cooperate and speak respectfully to one another. Maybe a little shade got thrown here and there but absolutely nothing like what we’ve seen since the last Bush term.

The lack of decorum has continued to spiral downward, and with each passing year discourse amongst the political vanguard reaches a new low. Maybe we do need Maryanne Williamson to come in and teach some basic spiritual principles of cause and effect. You don’t pour oil all over fires and expect them to extinguish, but our executive branch has not gotten the “Rule With Love” memo.

Justin Amash is from Michigan, the state which brought us the Flint water crisis and the DeVos family. I don’t know if Amash represents Flint but they could certainly use someone like him in their corner. I hope readers are aware that the water continues to poison people there, and though there have been some indictments of city employees I find it irritating that the news outlets haven’t been at least speculating about the role of Nestle in this matter. I found one article from 2017 in The Guardian that mentions it and have added that link to this post’s footnotes.

Nestle has been siphoning off water from several locations in Michigan for only $200/year, pumping between 150,000 and 450,000 gallons of water per minute. Residents of Flint are outraged that the company is profiting off selling water back to them and depleting their natural resources at a time when Michigan hasn’t directed financial resources to fix the residential water supply . Nestle gets to make their bottled water and drinks by using an obscure interpretation of a Michigan law regarding usage and water access, thereby virtually privatizing what ought to be a public asset.

This is a practice Nestle used when they tried to take over the water supply in San Bernadino, CA and other cities in the last decade, a practice halted after a 2015 investigation by the California water board and subsequent lawsuit concluded it didn’t have the rights. Fun fact: residents of San Bernadino were helped by Bernie Sanders back then with a grassroots campaign that saved their water supply, a fact I’ve never heard Sanders brag about. Then again, I don’t think he does very strong self-promotion at all, which is part of what makes him appealing I suppose. Watch C-Span and you will see a lot of his activism within the Congress that he also doesn’t boast about and should, but I digress.

To add a little salt in the wound, the Guardian piece I read stated that many residents of Flint had their water shut off for delinquent bill payment. Ah, the hypocrisy of capitalism at work when it comes to the poor is brutally efficient.

Amash’s declaration of Independence couldn’t have come at a better time, and he seemed unruffled and had a poised response to Trump’s grade-school Twitter ire.

Mainstream news coverage lost its mask of respectability when Gary Webb got killed, assassin-style, two bullets to the head. (He was the journalist who broke the Iran-Contra scandal and was marginalized and ridiculed by his peers for years before being conveniently “suicided”, because shooting yourself twice is like, so possible…I know, I’m digressing again…) Long story short, I’m surprised CNN chose to do this interview at all.

Let me know your thoughts either here in the comment section of this blog, on my Twitter or Facebook page, Jennifer Psallidas/Writer, where I’ll be cross-posting.

A little housekeeping here before I leave you and return to my whiskey. You may have noticed it already but if not I want to call to your attention to the domain name change for this website, in case you get email when I post. I’ve chosen the more succinct JPNoteworthy.com but the old site address should still be working too.

And a final note, because I wrote this post off the top of my head. Though I’m signing off for the evening, in the spirit of open-source journalism I promise to finish adding links throughout the body of this post and below (look to **extras for additional context). I seriously encourage readers to always question anything I’ve stated, and to dig into informing yourselves on these and ALL matters.

I don’t know who said it but the quote “Freedom is not free” seems apropos these days, and I truly hope folks are motivated to learn as much as possible about what is happening behind the scenes of the government and the mainstream press as well. We as citizens must do the work of educating ourselves at a time of public fatigue with the plethora of information available, most of very little substance.

The fear of outrage and retribution from our peers and neighbors is the same thing those in Congress are facing, though it plays out on a different stage. One thing we citizens can do to empower ourselves is to accept responsibility for our role in creating the situations we find ourselves in. We can do this by not tuning out, and also recognize our own cognitive biases that confirm false narratives. A greater tolerance for frustration is a definite plus.

Let’s avoid the herd mentality of shaming and marginalizing people who ask questions as “fringe”, conspiracy theorists, racists, Russian trolls, or stupid. If you only make one alteration to your current mindset, may I suggest calling the TV “news” “infotainment” instead? It’s a term that more adequately describes media’s current function.

I have been Left-leaning all my life but I have been listening to the so-called Right a lot over the past year and they do have a good point about many issues. So do Independents and Libertarians. Shaming and censorship of ideas only makes the worst of those ideas proliferate and gain credibility.

It’s late; my whiskey awaits. Good night and Goddess bless.

Links in order of appearance plus some extras marked with an **:

The Atlantic: How American Politics Went Insane

The Guardian: Flint water crisis: Michigan’s top health official to face trial over deaths

**Michigan Live: Find out how much your county uses water with this database.

Michigan Residents Deplore Plan to Allow Nestle to Pump Water for Next to Nothing

** The Story of Stuff Project: Nestle Takes on the Tap

** Hilarious clip: Bill Burr riffs on Nestle (at 2:18) on Conan.

**Nestle’s website responds to questions about legality of taking water from San Bernadino forest.

EcoWatch: Settlement Ends Nestlé’s Expired ‘Zombie’ Permit to Siphon Water From San Bernardino National Forest

Nestlé Spring Water Extractions in San Bernardino National Forest