OF DRONES, TERRORISM, FREEDOM — AND LAZARUS


PROTONIUS HERE, WITH SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT THE “30,000” DRONES THAT MAY SOON BE FLYING IN AMERICAN SKIES (OR ZOOMING INTO YOUR HOME?) — AND WITH AN UPDATE ABOUT THE POTENTIALLY LIFE-THREATENING HUMANOID & OTHER BIZARRE ROBOTS THAT, SOONER OR LATER, MAY BE INVADING YOUR STREETS — AND YOUR LIVES.

NOTE: MY COMMENTARY is purely meant to reflect my views on these matters. I have striven to be factually accurate; if I have misrepresented any facts or issues, please understand that any such misrepresentation was not intentional.

READER-COMMENTS, if focused on the issues at hand and if, in my view, within the bounds of propriety, are welcome, and may be submitted by first registering and logging-in; the link is below — or to the right of — the commentary.

DISCLAIMER: Any views or representations posted by commenters to this blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect — and are not necessarily endorsed by — Protonius or this blog.

AND NOW, MY COMMENTARY (Copyright Protonius.Wordpress.Net 2012 and 2013):

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One Drone-design among many — and who’s to say what designs the future may bring? In any event, this Navy image is of a Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) X-45C on display at a 2005 Naval Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Air Demo at the Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Maryland. Operational missions listed for the X-45C “may include suppression of enemy air defenses; strike; electronic attack; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance”.

(PROTONIUS, 19 May, 2012, with updates as of 17 August 2012 and October 6, 2013) – “30,000 surveillance-drones, under the control of the U.S. Military and various law enforcement agencies, to potentially soon be flying in America’s skies”. 

All too true, thanks to a Congressional bill signed into law on February 14 of this year by Obama: the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (H.R. 658).

But that’s not all! Now, this update:

“ROBOCOP” (character based on the “Robocop” films). What would a real “humanoid policing-robot” — or “pursuit-oriented robot” — look like, and what would it actually be equipped to do — and be capable of doing?
(Image source: “DMY/Sandbox, at Wikimedia Commons).

According to a 16 August 2012 report by Infowars.Com, “The Department of Defense has awarded a lucrative contract to an engineering and robotics design company {Boston Dymanics – ed.} to develop and build humanoid robots that can act intelligently without supervision. … While the Pentagon says the robots are for “humanitarian” missions, one cannot avoid thinking of the propensity to adapt this kind of military style technology for other more aggressive purposes. Indeed, the Pentagon has, in the past, issued a request to contractors to develop teams of robots that can search for, detect and track ‘non-cooperative’ humans in ‘pursuit/evacuation scenarios’ “. (Source: http://www.infowars.com/pentagon-developing-autonomous-humanoid-robots-to-perform-evacuation-operations/)

(10/06/2013 Update:) Still skeptical? Still thinking that the idea of developing a real-world “Robocop” is pure fiction? Then perhaps you might want to consider this 2013 Boston Dynamics project (affiliated with DARPA, the U.S. Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency), to develop “Atlas – The Agile Anthropomorphic Robot”. Here’s a photo:

"Atlas - The Agile Anthropomorphic Robot" (Boston Dynanics).

“Atlas – The Agile Anthropomorphic Robot” (Photo, courtesy of Boston Dynamics & DARPA).

According to Boston Dynamics ‘ website (http://www.bostondynamics.com/robot_Atlas.html), ATLAS is “a high mobility, humanoid robot designed to negotiate outdoor, rough terrain. Atlas can walk bipedally leaving the upper limbs free to lift, carry, and manipulate the environment. In extremely challenging terrain, Atlas is strong and coordinated enough to climb using hands and feet, to pick its way through congested spaces.” Further, says the website, “Articulated, sensate hands will enable Atlas to use tools designed for human use”.

And that’s just for starters.

How would you like a future version of ATLAS coming after you? To, perhaps, rescue you from harm — or to apprehend you for a perceived crime — or to hunt you down “with extreme prejudice”?

So it would seem that my speculations,  which are detailed in my original 2012 commentary below, as to the potentials that are now being pursued to develop and assign missions for increasingly sophisticated robotic technologies, have been right-on-target — and that it may indeed be fully rational to wonder how long it may be before We, the People, become — quite frighteningly — their chosen target.

Humanoid robotics — especially if weaponized — to do a controlling-agency’s bidding, especially if that agency does not quite have our “best interests” at heart? Non-humanoid, bizarre-looking, robotic devices, rumbling down our streets, scrabbling up our walls, clambering through our windows, slithering under our doorways — or even, on a “nanotechnology-scale“, being imprinted into our clothing, or infused into vaccines or into our food-and-water supplies, and becoming a more-or-less permanent component of our biological selves, so as to “tag” us, “track” us, “control” us, perhaps even to influence not only our physical, emotional, and mental states, but also to generate — upon command —  a particularly permanent result?

Is this the kind of future whose birth-stages we are now witnessing? Is this the kind of future that is now starting to first tentatively creep, then unsteadily saunter, and then aggressively gallop and swoop, into our lives?

These technologies, reportedly, are all on-track; perhaps the key question we are facing is: how will these technologies be used — and who will be the ones doing the using — and how do we fit into that picture?

Who of “we” will be in charge of these creations? Who will determine what these things may or may not do? What absolutely unbreakable “guarantees” will there be that these creations will be used only for “good” (and “good” by whose definition?)? Or, for any of these devices and technologies that are specifically designed to inflict “harm” to an “enemy” (but “enemy” by whose definition?), what are the absolutely unbreakable “guarantees” that “innocent” people will not, as a result, become the chosen targets or even become “collateral damage”?

Perhaps some answers to these questions are in my analysis below, in which I’ve tried to cover many of the key areas of what once may have been referred to as “things to come” but which, now, are apparently “just around the corner” — or are “already here”. (Note: Details on the topic of “nanotechnology” will have to wait for a future analysis.)

Let’s start with the issue of “the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012and the Drones:

Drones, now set to be launched into American skies by the thousands, and all to allegedly be utilized in a (perhaps endless?) “war” on “crime” and “terrorism” — a war in which, its proponents argue, these drones will make you more “safe” — but also a war in which, quite possibly, you yourself, and everyone else whom you know, even if you believe that you are completely innocent of any “wrongdoing”, might all too easily become targeted as “a person of interest”.

And what might be the consequences of that determination?

Is this the beginning of a no-longer completely fictional “SkyNet“?

“SkyNet” – Not just for “The Terminator” films anymore?

And so a whole host of critically important questions now arise:

Why was this bill, with its drones-aspect, and with so little Congressional (and arguably no public) debate, rushed into law?

With this bill’s passage into law, what has effectively happened to your Constitutional rights?

Why this giant “next-generation leap” to transform our nation into a “surveillance society”?

Why is this happening now? Why is it happening at all? Is it only to, allegedly, protect us, and the nation, from suffering at the hands of “the bad guys”? Or might there be other, less obvious, goals in mind?

And what may the future hold as these drones’ capabilitiesand the missions to which they will be put — morph toward goals that the American public may yet find unpleasant to envision, even now as drones by the thousands — unless something changes — will soon become ubiquitous in America’s skies?

Still skeptical that this will happen?

According to a 24 April 2012 report by the UK’s online Daily Mail (MailOnline), titled “Is there a drone in your neighbourhood? Rise of spy planes exposed after FAA is forced to reveal 63 launch sites across U.S .”, it would appear that the operation of  unrevealed numbers of drones — military, governmental, corporate, civilian — in America’s skies is already significantly underway — and that at least some of these drones “may have been designed to kill terror suspects”. (Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2134376/Is-drone-neighbourhood-Rise-killer-spy-planes-exposed-FAA-forced-reveal-63-launch-sites-U-S.html).

The U.S. military-operated drone known as “Predator“.
How soon might this type of drone — or others possessing even greater capabilities and technological prowess — be flying over your house?
Note: A key component of the U.S. military arsenal in the fight against “terrorism”, Predator drones reportedly are also used, at least in various of the “war zones” that are so often in the news these days, not only as observational craft but also in terms of another of their functions: to kill.

Military and law-enforcement (and corporate) controlled surveillance-drones flying over your head. Over your town. Over your property. Over your family members. Maybe even over you as you drive your car, go shopping, go to work, visit a friend, chat with neighbors, walk down the street, relax in your backyard – and who-knows what-else.

Surveillance-drones — with their autonomous mission-commanding non-human controls, or their software-determined targeting and responses, or their clandestine human masters at distant controls — seeking, viewing, analyzing, categorizing, and acting upon, anything and everything that they can determine about us as we, like ants on an anthill, scrabble about our daily lives while potentially benevolent — or malevolent , depending upon one’s point of view — eyes peer down at us from above.

The famous red eye of HAL 9000, from the motion picture “2001: A Space Odyessey”. (Image by Cryteria).

“Surveillance-eyes” by the thousands! 

Is this to protect us all from what We, the People, define as “crime” and “terrorism” – or might these drones, as part of this rapidly accelerating push toward surveilling us, instead become a tool — a weapon — that can be used against us, as those who are positions of governmental authority choose to apply their own definitions as to what, at any given moment, constitutes “crime” and “terrorism”?

Or, as some critics are also charging, is it even more than that? I.e., some critics ask, might these drones — especially in coordination with all of the other ways that various  Governmental authorities are increasingly devising to track and control our every move — become yet another component in a panoply of powerful tools intended to subjugate “We, the People” to the rule of a totalitarian state?

Law enforcement, as a category, generally asserts that these drones can be critically important, and valuable, to tracking-down criminals, locating and rescuing crime-victims, and even locating and rescuing lost Alzheimer’s patients and the like. If so, it would certainly seem that there is a positive side to launching — within tightly selected operational parameters — some of these drones into American airspace.

Who of us, for example, if we were the victim of a kidnapping, or were interminably lost in a hostile remote environment, or were cornered in a dark alley with someone holding a gun to our head, would not want a law-enforcement or other relevant agency to use all tools possible to find and rescue us from such a potentially injurious or deadly fate?

And who of us, for example, would not want a law-enforcement agency to be able to use all tools possible to locate and stop a “terrorist” from setting-off a bomb in a crowded street or shopping-center?

Utilizing the best that technology has to offer, to neutralize such dangerous situations and to save innocent people from such terrible fates, would seem to be an admirable – and worthwhile – goal, especially in this age of concern about “terrorism” and, against the backdrop of a severely strained global economy, about the possibility of a rising and broadening spike of domestic crime.

But what if  the definitions that a governmental or law enforcement agency applies to “crime” and “terrorism” substantially differ from our view of those terms? What if those authorities’ methods of using these particular high-tech tools to root-out and fight “terrorism” and “crime”, also happen, incidentally, to have the effect of destroying our freedoms, and putting us into the cross-hairs, and throwing us into the arms of a burgeoning, surveillance-oriented, increasingly dictatorial, form of government — what some believe is increasingly trending toward becoming a “police-state“?

Is that what we want? Is that to be our future, here in what used to be known as “the Land of the Free”?

OVERRIDING QUESTION: What is to prevent any of these drones, or similar technologies such as those outlined below, from being used in a way that abuses our Constitutional rights, or from being manipulated in such a way as to accidentally — or intentionally — cause damage to our life, limb, property?

There may, in some instances, be a positive side to the use of drones in U.S. airspace. But, from the standpoint of how the use of drones in American airspace might impact on freedom, it would seem that there is a negative side too — and it is huge.

FOX NEWS commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano (see http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31353.htm and http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/may/17/is-there-a-drone-in-your-backyard/print/), and other critics, reportedly see this pro-drone trend as constituting a dangerous, and completely unConstitutional – and therefore, in their view, illegal – development that potentially can be utilized as, and in the view of some observers may well be, a tool to advance the development of a “police state” — a “Big Brother” type of dictatorship, right here at home.

In their view, the deployment, at least as currently envisioned, of these drones into U.S. airspace, represents a huge danger to our freedoms – a danger that must, they say, be stopped at once, if our freedoms – such as they are – are to be preserved.

To which I add the following thoughts:

CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING 10 ISSUES:

This image reflects the comparitive orbits of the network of GPS (Global Positioning System) satellites circling the Earth. How comprehensive might a similar network — or multiple networks — of “spy satellites” perhaps look?

1. Hi-resolution military & related observational satellites — American and otherwise — hundreds to thousands of miles above Earth’s surface: To what extent may any of these have been — or perhaps still be — tasked with observing us and various of our activities? Perhaps it’s just a matter of how comprehensive and detailed the form of data-collection may be, what those who are operating these satellites determine to be the focus of their interest, the parameters within which these systems are permitted to function, and the limits of the satellites’ operational capabilities.

So, a question: How many of these satellites have been, or are, or may soon be, observing us, and in what degree of comprehensiveness and detail might they be doing that, and by whose (or which agency’s) command might they be doing it, and for what purpose? And to what use is that gathered-data — if indeed it is of our observed activities — being put?

2. But 30,000 airborne-over-the-U.S. spy-drones over a 10-year period? Who sets that time-frame, and who is to say that the deployment will actually be limited to just 30,000? And who, too, will be empowered to collect, store, distribute, and otherwise utilize, those crafts’ collected data?

According to a 02/08/2012 report by The Business Insider (at URLhttp://www.businessinsider.com/robert-johnson-bi-30000-drones-by-2020-2012-2#comments):

“Congress passed a bill this week paving the way for unmanned drones to ply American skies. The bill requires the FAA to rush a plan to get as many drones in the air as possible within nine months. How many drones are we talking? Shaun Waterman at The Washington Times reports the agency predicts that 30,000 drones could fill U.S. skies by the end of the decade. Naturally, many are concerned that surveillance by police and federal government agencies will skyrocket in response.”

The Pentagon - HQ for the U.S. DoD

The Pentagon – HQ for the U.S. DoD

Not only that, but reports have also come out that state that the U.S. Military has been accorded, or has given itself, the authority — which critics say is in violation of Constitutional law — to store and distribute any data that those craft collect incidentally, such as “accidental” imagery of a citizen’s private property, for a period of up to 90 days.

This powerful (in my view) video-clip of a May 14, 2012 FOX NEWS report of the situation goes right to the heart of this issue and is well worth a view. The URL is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qg1TAAqrqMo .

As to the projected “30,000” over a 10-year period:

Why take all that time, and why stop at 30,000? And even if there are such projected limitations at present, who is to say that those limitations won’t soon be revised into obsolescence, as those limits are removed and the drone-related floodgates are flung more widely open?

The answer to those questions, in my view, is not quite “freedom-friendly”; instead – unless competent attention is now focused on safeguarding our freedom (and our Constitutionally-guaranteed rights) from these dangers – the trend, as I see it, is more likely to be as follows:

IMO, ultimately there may well be no realistic limit — other than one designed to “open the floodgates” — to the speed of deployment or to the number or range of designs of drones that may be deployed. In fact, as I see it, the design, manufacture, marketing, deployment, operation, of drones may well become the next “go-to” industry, with potentially immense profits that are just begging to be harvested, such that the drone (and related robotics) industry – and buyers – will soon be racing to make that figure of 30,000 “just a drop in the bucket” of what this industry – in tandem with a trend toward a advancing the interests of a police-oriented state – will really be attracted to generate.

For that matter, “The Business Insider”, in the same 02/08/2012 article that I mentioned above, also states that “The commercial drone market would be worth hundreds of millions more if the bill passes”. That reference was to the bill that, less than a week later, became FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2012; it was signed into law by Obama on 02/14/2012.

So, among the potential attractions — depending on motives of those who are involved in this scenario — of building, deploying, and operating these surveillance-drones, may well be the following:

— Gain of financial profit;

— Gain of increased political, business, or military influence;

— A big step forward in the tracking of, and coming down hard on, “crime” and “terrorism”;

— Increased accretion of and centralization of power;

— Diminution of the influence of, and diminution of the Constitutional rights and freedoms of, and — if these drones become weaponized and capable of launching an attack — possibly even the case-by-case survival of, the individual American citizen.

Welcome to what may well become America’s future.

3. Drone-design:

Are we talking low-flying Predators or Predator-cousins? Larger craft? Smaller ones, like model airplanes ? But who’s to say that these upcoming drones need resemble common man-made aircraft? Or even, if their purpose is to spy, that they need be of the “flying” variety at all?

The “Nano Hummingbird” surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft developed by AeroVironment, Inc. under contract to the U.S. Government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Perhaps it’s not yet equipped for high-altitude flights or missions lasting more than several minutes — but it does have its uses. And, what capabilities might future progress in its development bring?

For example, just scan the various news-reports, or videos on sites such as Youtube, for “drones” (and similar terminologies), and you will find that designers — often major industrial companies, some with military or law-enforcement ties — have already designed and been putting into operation drones of many different sizes, appearances, and capabilities — some of these creations even being as small as, and resembling,  side-scrabbling crabs, armadillo-like rolling balls, wall-climbing match-boxes, hummingbirds, or even flying insects.

Or even bizarre-looking, high speed, incredibly maneuverable, flying devices, some of which look  as though they might have been designed by “Alien” and “Prometheus” director Ridley Scott.

Want to see a version of the “Hummingbird” drone in flight? See the videoclip at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96WePgcg37I .

Or here’s a link to a Youtube clip of a homemade “Quadricopter” in actual flight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTWmOHedrXw&feature=related

Now imagine (or do an internet-search on) the more highly sophisticated designs of these things that are being constructed for — and to some degree are already in operational use for — the military and for agencies tasked with “law enforcement“, not to mention for other entities who wish to utilize such craft in the exercise of their own “special interests”.

Here’s a screenshot from the above-mentioned “homemade Quadricopter” clip:

               And you thought that “UFOs” were spooky?                         Screenshot of a “Quadricopter“, also known as a “Quadcopter” or “Multicopter“, in a demonstration-flight. This screenshot is from the full videoclip titled “best toy ever (multicopter)“, at URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTWmOHedrXw&feature=related .

View the videoclip; watch that device buzz and zoom through its unbelievably swift tumbles, twists, and turns. Then imagine how you might feel if such a device — a device under the control of some faceless, hidden, source, at whose intentions you could only guess — were racing above, or buzzing around, your head.

Not enough to catch your attention or, perhaps, to give you a sense of personal concern? Then take a look at this following videoclip, in which you’ll see a demonstration of swarms of quadricopters being flown in a variety of amazing, complex, coordinated, formations – and then imagine that such craft, at the behest of some clandestine entity in what may soon become our future, are directed to swarm around you:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmWD76jwjbQ&feature=related

Now take that all a big step further ahead, and imagine (or do an internet-search on) the panoply of the more-highly-sophisticated drone-designs that are in the works, and the missions for which they are being constructed – especially as relates to the goals of the military, of agencies in “law enforcement”, of universities and laboratories of various kinds, and even of the entertainment-industry  — use your imagination — or, perhaps, of other entities who wish to utilize such cybercraft in the exercise of their own “special interests“.

So what are we really letting ourselves in for, as these “30,000” — a number that I suspect may eventually be far exceeded — start flying, buzzing, racing, circling, overhead and perhaps even “accidentally” coming much closer than that?

And might that projected “30,000” be limited to drones that only fly and which, by regulation — but remember: regulations can change — and regulations, sometimes all too easily, can also be circumvented! So, must these drones, of whatever design, fly only above a given altitude? Or might more (and more frightening) drone-capabilities, including other kinds of drones, operating under less stringent (or circumvented) regulations, also at some point be permitted to come into play — and into our lives?

Ah, but wait a moment! “Insect-Drones” also limited to flying only above a given altitude — how practical might that restriction be — especially if such a drone might be designed to unobtrusively scoot into our homes or to quietly alight onto a nearby wall, desk, countertop, bric-a-brac, or even on our shoulder, to secretly spy on us — or to even do worse than that?

Ever been stung by a bee?

And what about “climbers”, “crawlers”, shape-shifting “slitherers” and “morphers”, and more such seemingly bizarre cybernetic creatures that also are now being developed for “surveillance” — and potentially for other less savory — purposes? Does a supposed “altitude-restriction” have any practical relevance to their possible use, as the cybernetic net around our society — and around our freedoms — tightens?

Even so: remember, we’re only looking at projections based on what is publicly known as to current technologies; who can say what technological breakthroughs will emerge and be applied, toward watching and responding to our every move, as we inexorably move headlong into our future?

4. A closer look: is “SURVEILLANCE” all?

Here’s looking at YOU, Kid!
(Image: courtesy of Thomas Tolkien)

As I suggested above: would these drones, whether of the “flying” or of the “rolling” or “crawling” or “climbing” or “running” (etcetera) variety, be limited – by structural design as well as by law – to having only observational capabilities?

For example, even if they were limited to “observing” — a limitation whose applicability seems to open to serious question — what “observational technologies” would they be limited to employing?

Common civilian-camera low-megapixel “daylight-imaging” technology only? Not likely.

It would seem that various drones, if purely observation-designed, would also likely be equipped with, and empowered to utilize, whatever other forms of intrusive “observational, mission-specific” capabilities that state-of-the-art technologies can offer, such as, for example, high-power optical and digital zoom and magnification capabilities, face-detection/recognition, gait-detection/recognition, light-amplification, infrared thermal and night-vision technologies, and any number of other advanced forms of multispectral/object-recognition and scanning technologies “that can get the job done”.

And that’s just for starters.

How about also, I wonder, additionally utilizing the various other kinds of advanced technologies that NASA, for example, uses in its Lunar and interplanetary missions — technologies that go well-beyond the above-mentioned observational capabilities? Or how about other surveillance (and attack-related?) technologies, whatever they may be, that perhaps have been developed for and successfully utilized in this nation’s various military operations, such as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan?

But, as to just the possible visual-observational capabilities alone, take a look at the 12/29/2011 BBC News item at URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16358851 . It’s headlined “US Army unveils 1.8 gigapixel camera helicopter drone” — and it is an eye-opener!

Headlined “US Army unveils 1.8 gigapixel camera helicopter drone”, the article states that the Army says that this new technology promises “an unprecedented capability to track and monitor activity on the ground”, and, in part, adds the following information:

The drone’s specially-equipped 1.8 gigapixel camera “offers 900 times the number of pixels of a 2 megapixel camera found in some mobile phones. The system can provide real-time video streams at the rate of 10 frames a second”, can “track people and vehicles from altitudes above 20,000 feet (6.1km) across almost 65 square miles (168 sq km)”, and “operators on the ground can select up to 65 steerable ‘windows’ following separate targets to be ‘stared at’. Vehicles, people and other objects can be tracked even if they move in different directions.”

How would you like something like that to be flying overhead and peering down at you from above?

But is “visual observation and tracking” to be the limit of what any of these projected drones will be designed — or commissioned — to do? Might other “surveillance” technologies — and applications of those other technologies — also come into play?

How about “air-sniffing” or chemical-detection or other technologies to remotely detect not only potential “terrorist materials” but also to detect — as was demonstrated in the Vietnam War, for example — hints of human biological activity, for tracking (and targeting) of selected population-groups or individuals?

Or what of technologies that would allow for the remote detection and analysis of such  things as “interesting” patterns of electricity-usage or of analog or digital signal sources and transmissions, or even of tapping into — and jamming, altering, or otherwise affecting — digital communications (perhaps as an adjunct to how extensively our nation’s digital communications are, in many cases, reportedly already being surveilled)?

More to the point: in the hunt for “terrorists” and “crime cells”, for instance — and if the reportedly widespread and “legalized” Governmental ability to hack into every American’s digital communications is any example — by what logic would a drone-based effort to detect “criminals” and “terrorists” in America not also include whatever digital-hacking technologies that might help in such an effort?

And yet it still doesn’t necessarily end there. As time progresses, and as these technologies become more sophisticated — or as the drones become more intrusive — what additional drone-based detection-capabilities might also come into use?

What exactly, in essence, is entailed in the concepts of “observation”, “detection”, “tracking” — e.g., surveillance”? Isn’t this, too, a key question that we all should be asking — and for which we should demanding clear answers?

5. But is “DETECTION” all?

What if the capability to “deliver payloads” is also, at some points and in some cases, designed into any of these drones? Again, please take note of that key line in the above-mentioned Daily Mail (MailOnline) article of 24 April 2012, which states that  that at least some of the drones that are already being flown in America’s skies “may have been designed to kill terror suspects”.

So perhaps it’s not an idle question to ask whether any of these upcoming “30,000” craft may – by whatever the justification – be designed with, and operated with, the capabilities to also deliver payloads.

And what kinds of payloads might those be? Might they include, for instance, the targeted release of clouds of nanochips for tracking of (or to otherwise affect) individual targets? Or systems designed to remotely access or disable a target’s (or target-area’s) communications-grid, power-plants, computer-systems, transportation-systems — e.g., the target’s infrastructure? Or to deploy high-tech “crowd control technologies”, such as directed-energy  infra-red beams of pain or deafening beams of ultrasound or micro-second-delayed soundwave-beams that retransmit and disrupt whatever a targeted-person is trying to say — technologies that reportedly are already being developed for potential military and “crowd-control” use?

Or, as with the Predator-missions overseas — or in line with the above-mentioned Daily Mail article’s report — might any of these upcoming drones also be equipped to, as it were, “take a target out”?

And what if that “target” just happens, by intention or error, to be you?

In short, what are the limits – in actuality to what these drones will be permitted to employ?

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral - re-enactment. (Photo © by James G. Howes, 2008)

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral – Tombstone, Arizona (re-enactment). (Photo © by James G. Howes, 2008)

What, by law (and by which law?), will these drones be limited to doing? What will be the safeguards, if any, against their misuse? Who will fight to crush crime and to protect our rights? And who gets to decide?

Or is this just the start of a new – but potentially of great concern to a free people – form of “the wild, wild West” — or of “1984”?

6. And what of the deployment of OTHER types of drones, on American soil?

If these currently-discussed “30,000” flying-drones are allowed, by law, to potentially intrude, within the U.S., on every person’s outdoor — or possibly even more than that — activity, who is to say that the next step — building on that precedent — won’t possibly also be the Governmental approval of the use of any of a whole range of ground-based (or ground-and-air-based) robotic devices rolling or speeding or galloping or crawling or climbing all over the place, spying on us – and possibly targeting us – at just about every turn?

Note: Will such permissions be given? Perhaps time will tell. But as to the technological side of this equation, if you think that I’m “imagining things”, may I suggest the following:

As I noted above (in my 17 August 2012 update), now DARPA has contracted with Boston Dynamics for the designing and construction of humanoid robots, those robots to be capable operating autonomously — i.e., without direct human control — and to be employed in “evacuation/pursuit” operations. Certainly these devices could serve in a way that is “angelic” — but what guarantee is there that they won’t instead be tasked to “do the work of a devil”?

“BigDog” robots trot in the shadow of an “MV-22 Osprey”. “BigDog” — modeled on the actual dynamic muscular and skeletal structure of a dog — is a dynamically stable quadruped robot created in 2005 by Boston Dynamics with Foster Miller, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Harvard University Concord Field Station. “BigDog” is already in service to the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

Now take a look at this photo. Those four-legged “critters”, both of a robotic type named “BigDog”, are actual, and astoundingly capable, robots, that can rapidly walk, run, jump, climb, carry heavy loads — even be weaponized — and possess who-knows what additional capabilities their designers may choose to give them.

And that’s “just for starters”. This photo dates from 2005; just imagine how far their technological prowess may have progressed since then. But take note: this family of robots is already in military use.

Care to see more?

Go to Youtube, punch-in “Boston Dynamics” (or go to this URL: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=boston+dynamics&oq=boston&aq=5&aqi=g10&aql=&gs_l=youtube.1.5.0l10.841.1956.0.4275.6.4.0.2.2.0.70.266.4.4.0…0.0.FsEiO4v47a0 ), look at some of their amazing videos of robotic devices that they’re building– and some of which arealready being deployed — for military and other uses.

Or, at Youtube, just punch-in the term “Robots” or “Robotics” or “Military Robotics” — for example, go to URL http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=military+robots+and+the+future+of+war&oq=military+robot&aq=3&aqi=g10&aql=&gs_l=youtube.1.3.0l10.13035.19767.0.23831.10.10.0.0.0.0.119.729.9j1.10.0…0.0.Qo1nyguo-uc  — and view the videos that come up.

Or take a look at some Youtube-clips that fall under the category of “Spy Robot Insects” — at URL http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=spy+robot+insects+&oq=robot+insec&aq=3m&aqi=g2g-m3&aql=&gs_l=youtube.1.3.0l2j0i5l3.18478.22766.0.26324.9.6.2.1.2.0.133.462.5j1.6.0…0.0.59SyIVhJ6tM — and see what a whole range of other companies and inventive technologically sophisticated individuals are coming up with in the area of robotics.

The aerial surveillance device known as the “Insectothopter”. It was designed and utilized by the CIA back in the mid-1970s. Reportedly, it showed great promise — but the project was eventually dropped due to the Insectothopter’s susceptibility to being blown about by strong winds.

Here’s one such little creature that was built for the CIA as far back as 1975: the “Insectothopter”.

About the size of a dragonfly, this spy-thing was gasoline-engine powered and actually flew. The project was reportedly eventually abandoned, as the device was difficult to control in headwinds.

But Governmental and other agencies, in the U.S. and abroad, continue to press ahead with the R&D of technologies for similar “flying-insect” robotic devices that are collectively classified as “Micro Aerial Vehicles” (MAV’s) and even tinier robotic spies classed as “Robobugs”.

For some fascinating details about those developments, you may find it worthwhile to access the article titled “From Insectothopter to Delfly” at the website of the West Holland Foreign Investment Agency, at http://www.westholland.nl/from-insectothopter-to-delfly .

But, wait a sec; as the saying goes, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”.

How about some real cybernetic creatures that are now already being created, and from which the emerging science of combining synthetic constructs with actual living organisms — whether for purposes of spying or delivering “payloads” — may well lead to monsters — insect-size or otherwise — whose missions may transform our lives in ways that, until now, have only been the stuff of science fiction horror-films and nightmares:

Bugs — yes, actual living insects — are now being experimentally, in laboratory-settings, outfitted with human-controlled neural implants that reportedly can control where, when, and how, these insects move or fly. But that’s not all. Experiments have already been demonstrating how such neural implants, into living insects, reportedly can tap into the insects’ visual systems and project onto a computer-screen what the living insect is seeing!

Evidence? Tap into these “buggy” videoclips and see for yourself:

— “Cyborg insects “: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSCLBG9KeX4&feature=fvwrel

— “Cyborg beetles to be the US military’s latest weapon”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_i-_1QdY2Zc&feature=related

And then also consider some of the non-biological — but perhaps in other ways astounding — shape-shifting creations that are now also under development and which, it would seem, may also be morphed into our lives in ways and for purposes — purposes perhaps including but also going beyond “surveillance” — as yet to be determined:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq8Yw19bn7Q&feature=relmfu

Would you suspect that all these developments are being pursued just for the fun of it? Or only for entertainment, or purely for positive and personally helpful purposes, or even just  for financial profit? Or to spread peace and freedom, enhance and strengthen our tenuous grasp of privacy and liberty, keep our nation and its people (and the rest of the world?) “safe and secure”? Or might some other motives — or, regardless of motives, other outcomes — perhaps, be at work?

Could the potential “filling of the skies” with drones also be part of some other plan meant to obfuscate something else that may be going on in our skies?

I don’t know — but as I implied above, I suspect that if this is all new to you, you may be find it worthwhile to carefully consider these questions.

Either way, having viewed those videos and having read-up on these robotic creations, imagine any of these creations being commissioned to come to your town and to your street — and to your house — to spy on you.

Or to do more than just that — to you.

All in the name of, ostensibly, “helping people” and “fighting terrorism” and “fighting crime”.

Well, helping people, and fighting crime and terrorism, can be a good thing, of course. And perhaps the idea of these particular types of robotic creatures coming to spy on — or to do something to — Americans on American soil, would seem — to some people at least — to extend beyond the limits of permissibility except, perhaps, as tools to truly help people in need and to avert acts of “crime” or “terrorism”.

Then again, in the current — and increasingly divisive — political climate, perhaps some people might have what in their view is a more sanguine approach to these developments.

And perhaps it all comes down to a matter of definition, and of whose definition is the one that rules.

But either way, take note:

As I mentioned above, some of these types of robots have been designed for — and are currently are being deployed in — military use in actual battlefield operations; these are not toys, nor are they fiction. Nor might their potential uses necessarily be quite so innocent.

And also take note:

What if — as in the classic Michael Palin film “Brazil” (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazil_%28film%29), which I highly recommend that you view — the authorities’ definition of “crime” and “terrorism” turns out to not quite dovetail with your definition of those terms?

And then ask yourself:

Against the backdrop of this current Governmental authorization for some 30,000  airborne spy-drones to fly-and-spy over localities across the U.S., is the additional thought of a similar — or more far-reaching — Governmentally-authorized use of any of these OTHER types of robotic-creations, on American soil, so far-fetched?

Too, to what extent might any of these robotic-creations, or other such creations that have yet to emerge from the drawing-boards, be empowered — whether in the near or not-so-distant future — by our representatives in Government, or by the military, or by any national, state, or local, law enforcement agencies, or even by elements of private industry, to intrude on our lives?

7. OK, so there are obviously  MAJOR Constitutional and privacy issues involved in this shift toward moving the U.S. a big step closer to becoming what some might call an increasingly-intrusive surveillance-oriented state.

“Big Brother” poster, based on George Orwell’s classic book “1984”.
(Image via Free Art License; Copyright © Frederic Guimont)

But is that degree of “surveillance” — danger to our freedoms though it may be — the limit of the problem?

Say critics, add to that scenario the impact, on our freedoms, of, for example, the Patriot Acts; the expanding encroachment on our freedoms by the TSA; NSA surveillance (according to such organizations as the Electronic Frontier Foundation) of millions of Americans’ telephone and  internet communications; the NDAA Acts (2012 and 2013 versions); various Executive Orders authorizing (illegally, say critics) the assassination — without notice or right to a trial — of American citizens; the FATCA Act (look it up!); and now the newly-proposed ExPATRIOT Act (which some critics say is so freedom-destructive that, in their view, it may well serve as the precursor to what they warn may be the next step: that of locking every American citizen — via the Government locking onto every American’s money — into “a land of no escape”: a financial version of the Iron Curtain, which, say critics, will have as its effect “No Exit Allowed”).

And now add these newly-authorized tens of thousands of spy-drones to the mix — and a chilling question leaps to the foreground: WHAT’S NEXT?

But “shooting-down a drone”, as FOX NEWS commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano recently referred to as some people’s proposed solution to this drone-deployment?

Not a great (or practical) solution, in my opinion — unless the goal is to actually bring the full force of the state down upon both the shooter and on anyone else who also may, collaterally, be classified — by that state — as a potential threat to the “public order”.

DETENTION, ANYONE?
Well, although this is an Iraq-based U.S. Army photo of a suspect being lead to detention, maybe it still gets the idea across: for those “who take the law into their own hands” and attempt to illegally attack a Federally authorized drone, what might be the consequences?
(Image source, from Wikimedia Commons:
“Description Spc. Colby Richardson detains a man after he is identified as a possible suspect.
Date 15 June 2007
Source US Army images
Author Air Force Staff Sgt. Quinton Russ (on duty)”.)

I.e., what better opportunity — from the viewpoint of (in some people’s view) a state or authority that’s “just waiting for an excuse” — for that state to institute local, regional, or national, martial law?

Or, at a minimum, for that state or authority to simply apprehend the shooter — along with anyone and everyone that the state or authority asserts (legitimately or otherwise) was in some way “associated with” the shooter or the “plot” — and then charge him/her/them with a major crime, convict him/her/them, and throw him/her/them into prison (or, using the “military detention” provisions of the NDAA, possibly “disappear” those persons)?

Hmm, but what about shooting — or swatting with a rolled-up newspaper, for example — a “bug-drone”? For most people, isn’t swatting a bothersome bug a normal, common, thing to do?

Still, the issues would seem to be complex; and what might be the broader result if the nation were now to become a sort of “wild, wild West” where everyone — everyone who still possesses a gun — starts “shooting up the place”? This, I do not advocate.

My view: Far better to offer, and to vigorously (but within the legal system) promote, more-productive, anti-crime, pro-freedom, alternative solutions — solutions that will work to both stem this pro-surveillance-state trend (and the dangers to our freedoms that the deployment of these drones may bring), and which will also be seen as acceptably positive (and Constitutional) by our lawmakers and law-enforcers — and by We, the People.

8. But assume that this pro-drones movement just keeps burgeoning, and these spy-things get launched. What about the incidental dangers – the dangers of “collateral damage”?

Aside from the Constitutional and privacy issues, what will be the legal issues if and when any of these flying spycraft causes a passenger-plane or helicopter to crash, possibly also causing passenger-deaths?

And what will be the legal issues if any of these spycraft plummets downward — whether due to malfunction or command — or even launches an actual attack — and causes property-damage or personal-injury or death? What rights would the injured party (or the party’s family or estate) have for redress, and who should get sued?

Along those lines: contemporary news-accounts every so often tell us of how drone-attacks, by U.S.-operated airborne drones, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, have caused “collateral damage” — “damage” in which innocent civilians have been “accidentally” killed. If any such drones, with attack-capabilities, even if not intentionally targeted our way, are launched into America’s skies, who among us would feel comfortable with the possibility that we, or a family member or friend, might even remotely have the possibility of coming to be listed as “collateral damage”?

“Compensation”? Would that make such a victim “whole”?

Or would the Government (or whichever agency is involved) have already shielded itself and the drones’ manufacturers and operators from all prosecution — much as America’s vaccine-manufacturers are shielded, by Federal law, from public prosecution — even if their devices cause injury or death?

Note: The issue of whether or not these spy-drones might intentionally be employed to attack targets  is not idle speculation. Reportedly, some law enforcement authorities are already recommending that some of these drones be equipped with crowd-control devices or even weapons.

For example, CBS DC (at URL  http://washington.cbslocal.com/2012/05/23/groups-concerned-over-arming-of-domestic-drones/ ) offers this report:

“Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas told The Daily that his department is considering using rubber bullets and tear gas on its drone.”

The Daily” also reports (at URL http://blog.thedaily.com/search/drones), in part, the following:

“The United States is beefing up its anti-terror arsenal with the Kamikaze Drone. … The drone finds you from above, divebombs and crashes into you…. Smaller than a backpack and boasting a stealthily silent motor, the Switchblades deliver real-time video to personnel who navigate them remotely, and can be steered directly into a target, where they’ll detonate on impact. Think of it as a smart, remote-control grenade with wings.”

And those examples are aside from the allegation, by critics, that all those “wonderful killing-devices and technologies”, that were developed for use in those overseas “wars against the terrorism”, are now looking for a new — and potentially profitable — home.

We can hope that those concerns are not the case. And that the American airspace deployment of drones such as these is a fully reasonable — and necessary — thing to do  in order to safeguard the nation from threats of destruction — threats which, perhaps, may be all too real.

But what if the concerns of the critics are valid — that the alleged “terrorist” threat “from outside” is actually not quite so real, and that the fact instead is that the raking-in of huge financial and political profits, and the gaining of increased control and subjugation of We, the American people, are the intended targets?

As the saying goes: stay tuned.

9. Wait there’s more! Every hear of “cyber attacks”?

Who knows what a computer-hacker, with the requisite skills, tools, and access, might be able to do in regard to any drones whose command-and-control systems are less than unbreakably secure?(Source of, and info about, the above image is descried at Wikimedia Commons as follows:
“Donart Kelmendi is a computer hackers and he has attacked Websistes of Serbia, Greece.He has attacked Serbia websiste of educational establishments and the various ministries and other regions of Serbia and other regions of Serbia very websistes.On Greece has attacked up 1.000 websistes of Grece, and enter the lot servers to TV on very states.
Date 30 January 2012
Source Own work
Author Donar7″

According to various news reports & commentaries, “cyber attacks” — whether from “hackers” or from other sources with disruptive intent — are happening now and are steadily becoming an increasing threat to the security of America’s infrastructure.

So, now plug these airborne “drones” into that equation: 30,000 (minimum, I suspect) drones flying overhead in the next several years. Who’s to say that not a single one of them — let alone any number of the full 30,000 — will be 100% secure from falling under the control of — or being operationally disrupted by — “hackers” and/or “terrorists”, who, perhaps, would figuratively “drool over the prospect” of putting those commandeered in-flight drones to other “special” use?

Where are the safeguards against that possibility from becoming a reality?

(June 25, 2012 UPDATE: Seems my speculation about “terrorists” possibly taking control of these drones was right-on-target! FOX NEWS is now reporting that this danger is real:

          “Professor Todd Humphreys and his team at the University of Texas at Austin’s Radionavigation Laboratory have just completed a successful experiment: illuminating a gaping hole in the government’s plan to open US airspace to thousands of drones.

          They could be turned into weapons.

          “Spoofing a GPS receiver on a UAV is just another way of hijacking a plane,” Humphreys told Fox News.

          In other words, with the right equipment, anyone can take control of a GPS-guided drone and make it do anything they want it to. …

          Humphreys says the implications are very serious. “In 5 or 10 years you have 30,000 drones in the airspace,” he told Fox News. “Each one of these could be a potential missile used against us.” “

(SOURCE: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/06/25/drones-vulnerable-to-terrorist-hijacking-researchers-say/#ixzz1yopyHezO)

Now envision the possibility that various of these drones, having fallen under the control of hackers — including, perhaps, criminals and “terrorists” — are also weaponized.

Get the picture?

10. So, in sum, where are all these drone-related issues actually headed?

How do we safely resolve the issues of protecting the nation from “terrorism” while also preserving our “freedom” (including not only freedom from “terrorism” but also, um, freedom from “terrorism”)?

I.e., what is the definition of “terrorism” today — and who gets to define it, especially in our current political context in which, or so it seems, the definition flexes and twists, such that, according to surveys, many Americans now fear their own Government and that same Government, in the view of some, seems to fear whole categories of the nation’s own People?

Who, then, in that context, and in the eyes of the other, becomes the potential “terrorist”?

Screenshot from the 1936 epic motion picture “Things to Come”.

And so now, against that backdrop, HERE COME THE DRONES?

As, perhaps, in this prescient clip — at URLhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPJsnTegGlA&feature=related  from the 1936 H.G. Wells epic motion picture “Things to Come”?

Hopefully all these issues will get resolved amicably, peacefully, successfully, and to the benefit of the nation, the People, and the fundamentally important concept of protecting our lives and our freedoms.

But how to achieve that goal? Or is that just “wishful thinking”?

To borrow a line from “Captain James T. Kirk”, in which he wistfully commented on the situation in which one man (“Lazarus”) and his other-dimensional counterpart (an opposite “Lazarus”) were consigned to be at each other’s throats for eternity:

“What of Lazarus? What of Lazarus?”
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Posted in DRONES, POLITICAL, Sci-Tech, SURVEILLANCE, TECHNOLOGY | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“OBAMACARE” on the Downturn: Awareness on the Rise?


(Note: The following commentary is meant to convey my OPINION on what I perceive to be a matter of significant public importance. If, in this commentary, I have erred by misstating or misrepresenting anyone or anything, please know that that was unintentional. I hasten to add that I have no affiliation with any party, pro or con, involved in this issue. Also, you may, if you wish, submit your comments, if they are within generally acceptable standards of decorum, via a clickable link that is either just below this commentary or perhaps is in the column at the right. Thanks! And so, now, to begin:)
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"Obamacare": In some aspects, a laudable goal - but could it also be that "the Devil in the details"? (Photo: Whitehouse.Gov)

(NY, NY, 10/28/11) — Obamacare”:    So now, say surveys, Americans are increasingly seeing it as a negative.

But on what basis might that reported shift be justified?

Is “Obamacare” really that bad?

Isn’t it supposed to improve the nation’s, and our, “healthcare” system, for the benefit of us all?

Well, on the one hand, doing away, as it does, with the restriction on “pre-existing conditions” seems, in my view, to be a strongly positive, important, humanitarian, and eminently constructive move, one that, by itself, should theoretically — if we put aside other considerations (such as this action possibly increasing our costs or reducing the quality and availability of our care) — be welcomed and valued by everyone who’s desperate to be covered by healthcare insurance in this country.

But please take note of the above word “should“. Because if doing away with the “pre-existing conditions” requirement also happens to generate a decidedly customer-unfriendly increase in the cost of premiums, or a patient-hostile reduction in the degree or scope or availability of coverage — well, there again,  it would seem, “the Devil is in the details”.

But certainly an end to the “pre-existing condition” requirement, as “Obamacare” mandates, is, at least in theory, an important and positive step — in my opinion — toward hopefully creating a more equitable, more compassionate, system of healthcare for all.

In addition, as I see it, designing a healthcare system that would provide truly great healthcare, affordably and accessibly, for every American — including, without restriction,  for “the elderly” — and which would provide that care without damaging the insured’s pocketbook, privacy, freedom of choice, and other such freedoms and rights — must certainly also be an admirable goal.

But does “Obamacare” do that?

IMO, not quite. And in some ways, perhaps it does quite the opposite.

And that’s on top of the various calculations, from critics and other sources, that the numbers are now increasingly showing that “Obamacare” is already in some ways damaging the current American healthcare system; shredding Obama’s oft-touted promise that under this Plan “you can choose your own doctor”; harming seniors’ (and Medicaid recipients’) ability to get necessary healthcare or even be seen by a doctor; forcing numerous businesses to shut-down their employees’ healthcare-coverage by the tens of thousands of policies; generally raising healthcare premiums all across the country; forcing many Americans who are studying medicine — and forcing many Americans who are already in the medical profession in this country — to rethink their career-choices and abandon it (or the United States) for other pastures; and on and on.

And that’s aside from the Plan’s various mandates that , say critics, tear into the privacy and confidentiality rights of healthcare consumers (which would, by force, under “Obamacare”, be every American); of doctors; of hospitals; of the until-now-sacrosanct doctor-patient relationship; and would even intrude into the full panoply of — in case you hadn’t noticed this part of the “Obamacare” law — every American’s personal finances, via a first-ever-in-history authorization and systematization, by “Obamacare”, of using the IRS as an enforcement-arm of this purportedly wonderful new “healthcare plan” that’s supposed to be so good for “We, the People”.

Got that?

Not that some of the prominent “healthcare plans” proposed by the Republican Party are quite the solution either, in my opinion; aspects of those plans, too, in my view, leave much to be desired. But that’s a subject for a separate analysis.

"... to promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity ..."

In the meantime, say some critics, “Obamacare” — regardless of whether or not the impetus behind its initial conceptualization may have been one of “political one-upsmanship” or of honor and high moral principle — appears to instead be constructed in such a way as to violate both the spirit of the Constitution and the letter of the Constitution; and in so doing, say critics, “Obamacare” thereby unConstitutionally aggrandizes to the Federal Government — and unConstitutionally takes away from “We, the People” — an enormous chunk of power over our lives.

“Obamacare”, critics additionally charge, does this not only “in the moment”, as its elements go into effect, but also in that it establishes, most concerningly, a dangerous precedent — one that they say could easily provide the basis for, even invite, this current or future Administrations (or a “central government” of whatever form it may take at the time) to assert even greater, more extensive, more intrusive, more overbearing, more “control-oriented”, and more threatening, authority, over “We, the People” — and we may not be quite pleased with where that path may lead.

If this current Government can do this, say critics, just imagine what that knowledge can empower this Government, or any of its successors, to do next.

And then: whither us?

"... that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." (Photo: NPS.Gov)

Is this what “We, the People”, really want? The promise — but in many ways not quite the reality, and in some ways quite the reverse — of the presumably well-intentioned goal of providing “healthcare for all”?

In pressing for an improved healthcare system, did we really mean to push for a huge and ever-expanding encroachment by a Central Government on our individual freedoms and rights?

Did “We, the People” also ask for, cry for, stand up with one voice to call for, a healthcare system that would raise our healthcare-costs (as is reportedly already happening due to “Obamacare”), reduce the amount of time and guidance and services that our doctors and hospitals could provide for us at our times of need (much as reportedly is currently already happening, or will  increasingly be happening, due to “Obamacare”)?

Did we somehow fail to take into account warnings, by critics and even by the CBO, that the shifting, by this Administration, of enormous sums of money away from Medicare in order to help fund “Obamacare” would be tremendously harmful to an already-stressed Medicare system — warnings which, according to news reports, are now coming true?

Did we really, with full understanding of the consequences, opt for a system that would especially reduce and with even greater constraints ration the amount of time and guidance and services that our doctors and hospitals will provide to our elderly – an entire class of our fellow human beings which would include not only our elderly friends and loved ones but also, sooner or later, us?

Or, for anyone who, under this Plan, becomes (un)fortunate enough to reach the Medicare-age of 65, and then at some point needs serious medical care, will a denial of needed medical treatment, or a prescribing of what in essence might be an open-ended period of physical or psychological suffering (even if on the Obama-suggested “painkiller”), or a hastening of that individual’s death, be presented to that individual (or to his or her doctor) as, essentially, the only viable options?

Did “We, the People” – who, according to polls at the time the “Obamacare” bill was being shunted through Congress, expressed in overwhelming numbers opposition to various key provisions of the then-proposed bill, such as —

* the “individual insurance-purchase mandate”, or

* the IRS tie-in as an enforcement-arm of the mandate, or

* the mandatory periodic “end of life” planning-reviews, or

* the digitization and centralization (and consequent data-sharing risks and the loss of doctor-patient privacy) of all our medical records, or

* the provisions that threaten doctors for noncompliance with mandates that  require that they cast aside their own best medical judgment in order to instead defer to Federally-generated, middle-management-driven, bureaucratically-determined, medical “guidelines” … 

— did we really agree to all that? 

(Photo: by "Friend of Wikimedia User Ysangkok")

Did “We, The People”, in wanting “healthcare for all”, really want our “representatives in Washington” to instead devise a law which, while answering some of our healthcare-needs, might also, as critics claim, reduce the overall quality of our healthcare, take away key aspects of our personal freedoms, take away (and possibly put at great risk) a vital component of our privacy, take away even a single one of our Constitutional rights (as via the “personal purchase-mandate”), damage our doctor-patient relationship, and also create the potential to bring the full force of a powerful Governmental agency down on us for our own “noncompliance”?

Uncle Sam wants YOU.

Did we really want our Government to establish a law that would automatically declare every citizen of our nation as, in effect, a potential criminal, subservient to the long arm of the law via the IRS, if we fail to comply with the “Obamacare” mandate that requires, under penalty of law, that we purchase — at our own expense no less — a product from a private company?

Is that what we wanted?

Is that to be “the new face” of our “Uncle Sam”?

But wait a moment; how about the positive side to this “Obamacare” coin — the side that many millions of Americans resoundingly praise as being one of this nation’s most profound, most compassionate, most revolutionary, most urgently needed, advances?

Certainly it appears that there are positive aspects, in principle and also in fact, within parts of the system known as “Obamacare”. And, as I would also agree, a healthcare-coverage system that would improve on what, in the view of many, is currently a deeply flawed healthcare-coverage system in this country, is intensely and urgently needed; in my view, it is unacceptable that this nation — traditionally (until recently) one of the most widely admired countries on this planet — has such an apparently difficult, costly, problematic, system of providing decent healthcare to its own citizenry.

"No Solace", by fallingwater123 / ©

I also concur in any heartfelt desire to extend a compassionate, healing, uplifting, saving-grace, to all who are in need; how, I wonder, can anyone be so heartless as to “turn a blind eye” to someone who, regardless of age or standing, and through no fault of his or her own, desperately needs appropriate medical care but doesn’t otherwise possess the ability to obtain it?

How could “We, the People”, as a nation, be so callous as to turn our backs on so many millions of our fellow Americans who are currently trapped in, or are even now falling into, that abyss?

What fate has befallen that phrase of conscience that exclaims “There but for the grace of God go I”?

And where is there any shred of “humaneness”, of any thought of extending some compassion to our fellow human being, in coldly declaring that if those who are less fortunate than us weren’t able to earn the ability to pay for needed care, then who are we to care a whit about their agonized pleas for a helping hand?

Perhaps, these thoughts, even if viewed through a political lens, are what may have been going through Obama’s mind as he conceptualized and pressed for his vision of a healthcare system that would potentially be accessible to, and empowering for, us all.

Perhaps.

Too, in my view, the goal of extending healthcare – or what, in my preference, should be the goal of extending great healthcare – to all of our nation’s people, including to the poor, the ill, the currently uninsured, the elderly, and all of us – is a goal that is eminently worth striving for and achieving — if we can do it without concurrently causing ourselves harm.

But what if our perception of reality, and the underlying reality itself, are two distinctly different things, each potentially leading to profoundly divergent life-altering outcomes?

Should the goal of attaining “universal healthcare” — the general perception of which seems to paint a highly positive picture — be sought at the cost of a reality that may well include our loss, to even a partial but significant degree, of portions of our freedoms, of our civil liberties, of our Constitutionally established rights, of our ability to access and afford or receive the quality of medical care that our condition actually demands?

Elderly Woman - Photo by Chalmers Butterfield

And what if, despite all the comforting speeches and promises, the reality of the plan is such that its very design threatens the fate of our elderly loved ones (and at some point possibly ourselves) by consigning them to be eligible to receive only increasingly restricted, increasingly narrowed, “rationed”, care — a diminished level of care that, in practice, may possibly have the effect of intensifying their suffering and/or hastening their demise?

And why should this be?

Might it, even in a purely medical context, be the wisest and most compassionate choice possible and truly in that patient’s best interest?

Or might that rationing essentially be enacted not because of the patient’s true needs but instead because a bureaucratic and politically-directed system has decided, for coldly calculated non-medical reasons, that this, perhaps, is the “most expedient way” for “the system” to cut costs, to juggle expenses, to help other parts of the system work (or appear to work), or even to fulfill a momentary — or personal — political need?

Note: As to that latter possibility, you might recall the fact that this Administration, in starting to enable elements of “Obamacare”, chose to remove approximately $500,000,000 from Medicare and Medicaid, in order the shift that money into supporting “Obamacare”. Is this how they plan to “support” healthcare “for all” — and especially healthcare for the elderly?

In my mind, that one action alone certainly is a major clue — and it is frightening.

Or does no one recall that uniquely-concerning 2009 statement by Obama — the one in which he suggested, in an ABC NEWS “Questions for the President” piece, that for some elderly persons, it might be appropriate for the Government to advise that person’s doctor that it makes more sense to have the elderly patient to “forego the surgery” and instead opt for “the painkiller”?

Or am I the only one — and the answer is no, I am most assuredly not — who sees that admonition, especially when it’s coupled with certain related components of “Obamacare”, as yet another possible warning as to how our elderly might actually be treated under “Obamacare”?

But judge for yourself — view and listen to the Youtube video-clip in which Obama makes that statement. It’s at this URL:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-dQfb8WQvo

So I ask: 

"Big Brother": Is this how it begins -- or is it where it can lead? (Photo = from 1955 film of George Orwell's "1984")

Is this what we are now being conditioned to meekly accept as the predestined, carved-in-stone, fate of our elderly — and of the powerlessness of ourselves to generate the courage to come up with — and to push for — a better path for all?

When, in American history, or in our current times, did “We, the People” decide that it was a good idea to take some of our most cherished humanitarian principles – principles that we have traditionally held most dear – and simply dump them for the sake of “expediency”?

For those who are still fortunate enough to have decent healthcare coverage in this country, especially the kind (if such exists) which the insurer will not pull out from under us when we need that coverage the most, I propose that we can be thankful for those aspects of our healthcare system that work for us and which — to a point, at least — are usually there for us when we need it.

I also do grant, from personal experience, that although my healthcare coverage over the years has not, in my view, been perfect, and has cost me significant funds, it absolutely helped me at times of great need; without it, I expect that I would have had impactful problems, financially and, possibly, healthwise as well. So I do give the system, and my insurers in those instances, a great deal of credit.

But at the same time, I also see — as do many other fellow Americans — a great many deeply concerning faults with this nation’s contemporary, pre-“Obamacare”, so-called “healthcare insurance” system: faults that, in some instances, as have been shown in various news reports, are enough to make a person scream in outrage, crumble in sorrow, suffer in agony, or, for some, even die.

Yet, nothing is perfect. And most (or all?) healthcare insurers,  in this country, are, essentially, businesses, and as such, presumably they must operate on a profit-making basis in order to remain viable. But at whose cost?

That our nation’s current, traditional, healthcare system would also be structured in such a way as to, in effect, facilitate or even promote such negative outcomes as those mentioned above, especially when more humane, more healing, paths might otherwise have been made available by those same insurers; and when, at the same time that a person’s coverage is being unfairly dropped or the cost of his or her premium is, through no fault of his or her own, skyrocketing, while the insurance company is pulling in huge profits and its CEO is taking home a multi-million dollar salary and a wealth of perquisites — this situation, in my view, is unacceptable and a clarion call for reform.

Against such a backdrop, it’s no wonder that Obama — even if purely or primarily for political reasons — is pushing for an overhaul of the American healthcare system — and, in my view, it’s no wonder that such movements as “Occupy Wall Street”, within  their apparent multiplicity of goals, are pressing for a what they believe can be more equitable system of financial and social structures for the nation — and for ourselves.

Whether they’ll get it right, of course, remains to be seen.

So let’s probe just a bit further, for a moment , some of the downsides of the current system. And then let’s take a closer look at “Obamacare” to see if it, too, offers — or mandates — any corollaries to those negatives. Because, in my view — and apparently unlike Nancy Pelosi — who, as you may recall, urged the House to first pass this “Obamacare” bill and then, after passage, get to know what’s in it — it is important that we get a handle on this situation before it gets its hands on us.

So, consider:

How horrendous it is that, for example, if, in this nation, an insured person – one who has somehow been fortunate enough to even be able to afford coverage by a health-insurer – can in some instances be unceremoniously, and, in my view, inhumanely, forced out of that coverage, or be simply dropped from that coverage, through no fault of his or her own, particularly when he or she needs that coverage most.

How terrible it is, in my view, that a person who, through no personal fault, contracts an illness or undergoes some physically (or psychologically) damaging trauma or injury, and then, because that problem becomes classified by the insurer as a “pre-existing condition”, is unable to obtain health-insurance coverage at his or her time of great need — or is “kicked out of coverage”, on the insurer’s excuse that there was some alleged discrepancy in the person’s application.

Plus, how positive is it – and in my view the answer is that it is the opposite of positive – that our nation’s system of “healthcare insurance” relies primarily on “allopathic” (i.e., “western”, pharmaceuticals-based) medicine and provides essentially no — or very limited — coverage for non-allopathic, non-pharmaceutical, alternative approaches to healthcare, even though, in the opinion of many proponents of such alternate approaches, those alternate approaches can often be superior to, safer than — and cheaper than — the allopathic paradigm.

But what about “Obamacare”? As per my understanding, it seems that it, too, overall, fails to give any real support to those alternate approaches – meaning that once again, “We, the People”, under “Obamacare”, and whether we like it or not, will primarily be stuck with just a “new version” of the same old western medical paradigm. But the “packaging” will be different.

Then the question becomes, to what extent do you trust — or fear — the packager? And how confident do you feel about the efficacy and safety — and accessibility — of what may be in the package?

However, on the positive side, “Obamacare” does appear to have some good within it. And, IMO, the idea of creating a system that would provide “quality healthcare for all” is hard to fault.

And under “Obamacare”: No coverage-denial based on “pre-existing conditions”. No dropping an insured’s coverage without cause (or at all?). Presciptions drugs, well, maybe mostly covered, but the formula is unclear (at least to me at this moment). Coverage: available to every American, including — by whatever the title of the moment — “illegal aliens”.

But funded? Supported? Well-planned? Ready to go? All of it supportive of and respective of our freedoms and liberties and Constitutional rights? And all of it in our best interests? Who’s kidding who?

Plus:

Suddenly offer the promise of heathcare coverage to an additional — depending on whose numbers you believe are accurate — between approximately 15-million and 48-million currently uninsured people, and where is the Plan supposed to get the money to do this? Where, for that additional estimated 15-to-48-million people, is the nation supposed to find the doctors, the nurses, the rest of the needed medical staffs, the hospitals, the medical supplies and equipment, the facilities, the medicines?

Take more money from Medicare and Medicaid?

And that’s not to also mention that insurers — who, because of the Plan’s personal- purchase-mandate, stand to rake in a veritable fortune once the Plan goes fully into effect — have already been raising their premiums to counter, they say, the costs that they are now being forced to absorb because of the Plan’s mandate that the insurers do away with their “pre-existing conditions” rule.

Nice.

What a mess. Um, in my opinion.

But, aside from the allegation, according to critics, that “Obamacare” will be massively underfunded and, by sheer numbers, will vastly overwhelm the nation’s already-overburdened and severely-stressed medical personnel and resources, there is the following assertion that some critics have also advanced: that despite whatever lofty goals may have propelled this Plan into law, “Obamacare” is dangerously suffused with  freedoms-destructive, privacy-shredding, healthcare-quality-reducing, end-of-life-promulgating, authoritarian-power-centralizing, flaws – flaws that, for what is supposed to be a “free society”, can well instead create a chilling counterpoint to the Plan’s purported benefits.

So, which way to go?

Should we be psychologically “locked into” thinking that there are only two paths to consider – the contemporary, still primarily operative, private insurance-companies system, versus the “Obamacare” system?

Or might there be a better, third path, even a fourth or a fifth path, that we should open our minds to conceiving and to consider pursuing?

Must whatever “healthcare” plan we, or “They”, come up with, be infused with – along with “the good stuff” – a really dangerous load of bad stuff?

Must every field of beautifully blossoming, heavenly-scented flowers have vicious venom-fanged snakes slithering in the grass?

Can’t we create a reality that’s better than that – or which at least diminishes the flaws to insignificance?

Whatever the answer, one particular image comes to mind that perhaps illustrates, at least for me, the heart of my concern in this whole matter:

Picture, if you can, that indelible moment in the  classic 1950s film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, as actor Kevin McCarthy, in his role as the lone alien-pursued survivor who has discovered the truth,  seeks in vain to warn people of the invasion that’s taking place right before their eyes, as he turns to the camera and declares:

"Invasion of the Body Snatchers": A parable for our times?

“You’re next!

You’re next!

— Just a thought.

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DID TROY DAVIS DESERVE TO DIE?


 9/22/11 – A date to remember. For on this date, TROY DAVIS — convicted as a cop-killer by the State of Georgia, despite his claims, and evidence, of his innocence — was put to death by the State.

Like  9/11, perhaps the date 9/22 will also be emblazoned upon people’s minds, both in the U.S. and the world over, as the date when a new spark was lit to a blazing wildfire that may soon follow: a massive, and unrelentingly intense,  probe of the forces — above-board and perhaps also in the shadows — that actually drove Troy Davis to his death.

And into the entire system of American (and other nations’) jurisprudence, particularly in regard to how various forces may combine to codify, uphold, and act on, decisions whose result may be, in even one case, the taking of an innocent person’s freedom — and life.

Thus, some of my observations herewith. Please note that these observations are purely my expressions of my opinion, and if there are any factual errors, they are unintentional.

From my reading of the case, I strongly believed, that at the very least, Troy Davis deserved clemency or, at a minimum, a reprieve and an opportunity for a FAIR hearing  or re-trial in which to make his case. In my view, there was just too much evidence in his favor to NOT grant him that critically important opportunity to defend his right to live.

Yet, in the final analysis, it would appear that the State denied him that request.

Yes, according to reports. he had been granted some rehearings over the past years. But as his attorneys reportedly pointed out, new evidence continued, over the years, to surface, that he was unjustly convicted — evidence of which the relevant authorities were either unaware or to which they had not yet given requisite attention.

So if Troy Davis did have those previous retrials and hearings, what — if anything — went wrong? Was he, or were his lawyers, denied the right to bring certain evidence into those hearings? Did the courts essentially rule that “procedure” must take precedence over “fact”? Did some vital evidence come to light only after those hearings were history?

Were his lawyers, in essence, muzzled by restrictions placed upon them by the courts?

Or, did his lawyers simply not fight well enough?

Or was the actual evidence, ALL of it, truly overwhelmingly persuasive that Troy Davis was the killer as charged?

 Perhaps these, and other such issues, now merit a laserbeam of scrutiny — particularly if it turns out that Troy Davis was right and that he was unjustly incarcerated — and executed — on fatally flawed grounds. In which case, the State of Georgia — whether through proper (though incorrect) decisionmaking or through procedures and motivations that should themselves be placed on trial — has now murdered an innocent man.

I too signed online petitions urging the Georgia authorities to block this execution, to grant clemency, or to at least grant Troy Davis additional time and opportunity to have a new and FAIR trial in which to present his case.

It seemed to me that even if he were guilty, he should have had the right to present — in  a FAIR setting — important new exculpatory evidence — evidence of a nature that at the least might cast sufficient “reasonable doubt” as to whether the case against him was strong enough to merit his demise.

With most of the original witnesses, who had initially testified against him, now recanting part or all of their previous testimony, and with there also being an allegation by a witness that another person had personally confessed to the crime, and with the man’s life on the line, how, I wondered, could a fair and objective judiciary NOT see fit to grant him a full and fair opportunity to present this new evidence?

How, at the least, could the authorities NOT choose to at least grant the man this one, last, wish?

Interestingly, as some petitions urged us to fax our requests to Larry Chisolm, the Chatham, GA, District Attorney, I also made multiple efforts at doing so on the day prior to the execution-date — with the result being that apparently NEITHER of D.A. Chisolm’s official FAX numbers (which I’d gleaned from petitions and also from his office’s pages on the net) were working, and that my multiple efforts at faxing him therefore FAILED.

And I thought to myself: Was this fax-nonfunctionality an error? Did he, or his office, decide that they just couldn’t handle what may have been an onslaught of pro-Troy-Davis fax-after-fax coming in, and so they turned off the fax-answering systems? Did the D.A. decide that since he — as he publicly reported — was “powerless” to act in defiance of the Superior Court’s ruling on the execution, that receiving any further fax-requests on the matter would be useless, and so he thus ordered that his office’s fax-reception be deactivated?

Or, I wondered, was this fax-reception nonfunctionality planned because “the die had already been cast”, and that it had “already been made clear” — or, in some way, “ordered from above” — that NO plea for clemency or delay was to be considered, and that Troy Davis — despite any relevant evidence of his possible innocence — MUST die?

United States Supreme Court -- The Justices as of 2011

I also find it more than merely interesting that the U.S. Supreme Court, when it ordered, a few years ago, that a lower court must grant Troy Davis an “evidentiary hearing”, the U.S. Supreme Court — according to news accounts — “raised the bar” in what strikes me as a very peculiar, unfair, chilling, and perhaps unConstitutional, way:

They ordered that the hearing be restricted to presenting evidence proving (if such were the case) that Troy Davis was INNOCENT — which is a tremendously different standard than the one that has for centuries been the underpinning (when used) of American jurisprudence: that of raising “REASONABLE DOUBT” that the defendant is “GUILTY AS CHARGED”.

And so came 9/22, and the authorities offered him a “last meal” — why not instead offer him a last, and full, shot at justice?

How many times have we seen, in TV courtroom dramas — or in actual courtroom events — or been otherwise made aware of in the American legal system — that a judge, or jury, will be given the choice of declaring either of ONLY TWO alternative judgments: “Guilty” or “Not Guilty”?

Never is a defendant, who is exonerated of the charged offense, officially declared “Innocent”. Maybe that itself is a fundamental flaw of the system — but nevertheless, it is a fact.

So how is it, I wonder, that in Troy Davis’ case, the U.S. Supreme Court, in that 2007 instance, had ruled that Mr. Davis must provide convincing evidence of his INNOCENCE, rather than be required only to provide REASONABLE DOUBT as to his alleged GUILT?

As to his request, in the past few days, to be given a polygraph test — a request that the prison authorities reportedly rejected:

On the one hand, it is my understanding that polygraph test-results are usually inadmissible as evidence in a courtroom-trial. But what would have been the problem for officials to have granted Troy Davis this last simple request? Would it, in their view, have “opened the doors” to a “flood” of prisoners, across the state and nation, demanding that they (the prisoners) too be granted a polygraph-test, especially if they themselves might be headed for “Death Row”? So was it a question of “precedent”?

And, for that matter, why not grant such a precedent?

Maybe this is an issue too that should now become part of the public debate.

Or might it be that the authorities, in Troy Davis’ case, did not want to “open a Pandora’s Box” by permitting a polygraph-test that might possibly provide new evidence — for all the world to see — that, despite the state’s pronouncements to the contrary, Troy Davis was NOT GUILTY OF THE CRIME?

And how many other “Troy Davises” are similarly convicted, locked up, and serving time or headed for execution — or have already been executed –, by judicial/penal systems that seem unethically stacked against them, despite legitimate and substantial evidence that these persons too are, perhaps, NOT GUILTY OF THE CRIME?

But where are the petitions, the mass media coverage, the national or global concern, over THEIR fate? And where, in all those cases, is the widespread cry for a weeding-out of the flaws, unethical practices, erroneous decisionmaking, and, as some might allege, less-than-wholesome motivational factors, in the systems that have possibly driven those victims to their unjust fates?

 Yes, there are cold, brutal, even savage, criminals whose very nature demands that they be locked away and prevented from ever committing another such crime.

But there are also people who are swept up by a “justice system” and, for whatever the reasons, locked away, even though they are innocent of the alleged crimes for which they have been convicted. What about THESE people?

Or, as would APPEAR (at least from my reading of the questions raised) to be the case in the matter of the conviction and execution of Troy Davis, have we now, publicly, and essentially worldwide, witnessed an instance in which the state — having long ago “made up its mind” in the matter, and in which the state also long ago decided to unbendingly adhere to its own initial interpretation of its own (and possibly flawed) rules, and in which the state, in this long and loudly clanking ghostly chain of actions that it’s hammered out and dragged behind it over these years, link-by-link, felt that it had no choice but to continue justifying every previous FLAWED link that it had locked into place at each step in this saga — decided that EVEN IF NOT GUILTY OF THE CHARGED CRIME, TROY DAVIS MUST DIE?

Did the state of Georgia make the right decision? Was Troy Davis really guilty as charged? Or did the state of Georgia, and all those authorities involved in sending this man to his death, do so along the lines of the scenario suggested above?

Guilty or innocent, his reported last words included a request that the search for the truth of his case continue to be vigorously pursued. Sounds like a good idea to me.

ADDENDUM: I wonder how quickly this case, and key elements involved in it, will be legitimately and thoroughly investigated in regard to how this entire situation came about.

I also wonder how quickly — and how accurately — the tale will be converted into a made-for-TV movie or a Hollywood major motion picture — and what messages that production will (or will not) convey.

QUESTION: Might this Troy Davis case become the spark of a wildfire of revelations and reforms to come?

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(NOTE: Comments, if they are reasonable and respectful,  and not slanderous, libelous, or obscene, are welcome. There should be a link, somewhere below this post, for submitting them. Thanks.)

(Copyright Protonius at protonius.wordpress.com 2011.)

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I’VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN: SCANS, NANOBOTS, COMPUTERIZED IMPLANTS … and the BORG?


(New York, 08-13-2011) — Major new science/technology advance: a thinner-than-a-human-hair, cellophane-like, nearly completely transparent, stretchable, flexible, computer-circuitry device that can be naturally “glued” to human skin by the Van der Waals Force — a natural, sort of “magnetic” force that … Continue reading

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The Ghost of Osama: Be Afraid — Be VERY Afraid?


(NOTE: As with all my posts on this blog, what I post here are my opinions, based on what I believe to be the facts of the matters at hand; if I have misconstrued those facts, please be assured that it was unintentional. Oh, one more thing: Constructive (non-obscene!)  feedback is appreciated, so if you’d like to offer some comments, please use the “Comments” link somewhere below the bottom (or to the right) of the commentary; there, click the link, register, log-in, and post your comment. Thanks!)

Blog & Commentary:© protonius.wordpress.com, 2011 & 2013, all rights reserved.

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(NOTE: 09-28-2013 Update to my Commentary below: According to today’s edition of Infowars.Com, “Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh says that the raid which killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011 is “one big lie” and that “not one word” of the Obama administration’s narrative on what happened is true”. Source: http://www.infowars.com/seymour-hersh-bin-laden-death-one-big-lie/).

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The Ghost of Osama: Be Afraid — Be VERY Afraid?

BIN LADEN -- OR IS IT HIS "GHOST"?(New York, 05-04-2011, with subsequent updates) — So, today, the alleged body of Osama Bin Laden — or what may be left of it by now — or of his double, or of somebody, or of anybody who “just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time” — or even of nobody — is, allegedly, somewhere in the depths of, allegedly, the Arabian Sea. 

Or is it?

But, whatever has been the fate of Bin Laden himself, where, in effect, is Osama’s GHOST?

Could it be, perhaps, ululating a ghostly, reverberating, call, to Osama’s followers around the world, that the time for a renewed and revitalized “jihad” is “now“?

(August 2011 Update: Along those lines, isn’t is interesting that since that alleged “liquidation” of Bin Laden, the Department of Homeland Security has ratcheted the warning of terrorist-attacks on the U.S. upward, declaring that, as a result of this purported killing of Bin Laden, the U.S. and all Americans are now under greater threat of terrorist-attack than if he had been left free and alive?)

Talk about the power of a ghost!

If Bin Laden is dead (or alive) — which is still open to debate — or if he was indeed killed in this alleged raid (or perhaps has been dead since December 2001, as some allege) — could it be that his Ghost, perhaps, is nonetheless continuing to serve its intended purpose — roaming the halls of the White House, the Pentagon, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, and much of the mainstream media, whispering influential “guidances” into political decisionmakers’ ears, and appearing before worried — or pleased — Government officials as a politically convenient bone-chilling phantasm whose “Threat From the Grave” gives them power to do things that the American people would otherwise never let them do?

Is his Ghost, even now,  forcibly altering the course of American politics? (SUGGESTION: Ask a guy named Snowden).

Is Osama’s Ghost, in the darkness of his spirit, sauntering with even greater determination — and breadth of impact — than before, through our lives and former freedoms, as it continues to spread fear wherever it goes — fear that, as this Ghost — and those persons in political leadership positions well know — can so easily be utilized to vastly increase a Government’s control over the nation’s people and can, also by design, transmogrify a nation’s previous traditions of openness and freedom into an all-consuming, society-distorting, nightmare for its people, one of near-total subservience to and dependence on that same Government?

Could it be that Osama’s Ghost may even now be silently knocking at your  door — or even, and without your conscious knowledge, be letting himself in — as he, in spectral form, and with the full backing of _______ (Fill-in the blank), surreptitiously glides into your life and observes — and reports on — your every move?

The U.S. (and parts of Europe) have now been reportedly ratcheting-up their “terror-alerts”, based upon, they say, just the possibility — but no specific threat — that supporters of the allegedly assassinated Bin Laden may now, as a consequence of his newly-alleged assassination, have become so “fired-up” by that alleged killing that they are now likely hurrying to launch some horrendous, massive, new attack or attacks against the U.S. (and the West).

Talk of “hidden nuclear bombs”, those devices to be exploded somewhere in the U.S. and Europe, perhaps, is also an element of this newly-released cloud of fear.

So, to what extent, if at all, is the story of Bin Laden’s recent alleged capture and “liquidation”  real?

SO MANY QUESTIONS:

Was this really Osama Bin Laden who, allegedly, this past weekend, was summarily executed and dumped in the sea?

Is the renewed, heightened, alleged “terror-threat” real, and if so, to what extent, if any, does it merit a ratcheting-up of our nation’s  systems of surveillance and detection?

Or, whether false or real, how can we know whether or not the threat was facilitated not so much for purposes of security as for purposes of advancing a political agenda?

It would seem that in politics, some ghosts — even the Ghost of Osama — can also serve a political goal.

Again, it would seem that this issue comes down to the key question of whom, and what evidence, one chooses to believe.

Even if this latest alleged execution of Bin Laden was genuine — although, at present, that’s debatable –, to what extent might it, and the alleged renewed terror-threat, also be used as a convenient excuse by the “powers-that-be” — particularly in the U.S. — to empower the Federal Government and various of its agencies to clamp-down yet further on the rights of the American people?

For example, might the TSA, for instance, consequently be given yet greater authority to institute yet more stringent “protective” measures that, arguably, would  further impinge on the Constitutional rights and health-freedoms of the American people?

Or that other methods and systems of surveilling American citizens will be empowered to take another step forward? 

Could it be that such a hypothesized — or even real — increase in the “terror-threat” might also be employed, by the “powers-that-be”,  to justify the implementation of the equivalent of yet another, perhaps even more far-reaching, rights-diminishing, PATRIOT ACT, and other such impingements on our traditional Constitutional freedoms?  

Just a Thought…?

Or, along those lines, might we expect to soon be experiencing an expanded and intensified observational intrusion — as has already been happening — by elements of the Federal Government, into every American’s communications, financial transactions, and various other previously “private” activities, perhaps soon also including, among other things, into where we travel, with whom we associate, what our political views may be, and more?

Aren’t those the very things that the Constitution is said to prohibit, and which the United States — until Bush II — has traditionally and vociferously opposed as constituting a fundamental violation of human rights? 

And, for that matter, what about the use of torture as a tool to obtain information from a person? Much of the American news media, and the Obama Administration, are now saying that much of the information that lead to the identification of Bin Laden’s Abbottabad wherebouts was revealed via the application, on various “enemy combatants” imprisoned at Guantanamo, of “enhanced interrogation techniques” — techniques which you and I would probably call “torture”. 

Yet, how does this sudden, glowing praise of the use of torture, square with the fact that the use of torture has been decried, by many experts, as being not only unjustifiably cruel but also, in almost all cases, as being essentially ineffective as a means of extracting truthful information, such that, typically, a person being tortured will fabricate and confess to just about anything, just so long as doing so may grant that person a relief from pain?

So is it true that, in the current case, the use of torture — by whatever the name — actually did work?

Or, even if it did work, that it is therefore now considered to be acceptable as a tool for extracting “the truth”? If that’s the case, then how far down into our civilian judicial system might that acceptance of torture also travel?

What is the precedent here?

In other words, in what ways and to what extent does this whole thing — including the use of torture to extract information, plus the manner of, and official justification of, the alleged killing and disposal of the person that the Obama Administration says is Osama Bin Laden — provide a precedential basis for this Government to redefine, and possibly reduce, our range of rights and freedoms? 

And what does this affair demonstrate to the world about this particular — and now Presidentially reinforced — American view of “justice”?

How can it not be logically expected that, in particular, this affair may well be interpreted — even if the view it out of balance with the rest of reality –, by much of the world, as indicating that the United States of America now demonstrably believes that “justice” comes not from “the fair, objective, and impartial, application of the law” but from the use of torture and “from the barrel of a gun”?

How about the global ripple-effect that such an example might generate — and which it is already generating?

And how might this particular version of  “justice”, if it’s permitted to serve as an acceptable precedent, someday personally affect us all? 

But, for that matter, is this form of American “justice” all that new? Perhaps not quite — or did the eight years of the Administration of George W. Bush, with its acceptance of the use of “torture” (albeit by other names) and “rendition”, and, reportedly, its authorizing extra-judicial executions of high-level “terrorists” — even if those targets might be American citizens –, not happen? And, too, did Obama, as President, not only continue that policy of “rendition” and of permitting the extra-judicial killing of high-level “terrorists” and of Americans citizens deemed to be involved in or carrying out terrorist acts against the U.S.?

There is, of course, an on-going debate as to whether or not, or to what degree, these policies are justified, much as there is also an on-going debate as to what and from where the threats to the United States may actually be.

If the threat to the nation is as terrible as we’ve generally been lead to believe, then certainly it would seem that our Government must be permitted the tools necessary for the nation’s defense against that threat. But, at the same time, shouldn’t our own personal, Constitutionally guaranteed, rights and freedoms also be protected?

In that context, what may be the impact on those rights and freedoms, as a consequence of how the Obama Administration has now been handling this Bin Laden affair, including the alleged raid, extra-judicial summary judgment and execution, and rapid disposal of the body, as well as the outpouring, in the U.S., not only of jubilation at this alleged set of events but also at how, reportedly at least, in this case the use of torture (of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay) actually worked??

How much of a “leap of imagination” might it be to also ask if this Obama-Osama development, this renewed and heightened fear of “terrorism”, predicated on this event that took place at the behest of the highest levels of the nation’s Government, might now also be used as a means of persuading the American public to relinquish yet another aspect of personal security and protections of law to what seems, to some, to be an increasingly authoritarian-prone Government?

Or, conversely, might this entire “End of Bin Laden” episode somehow actually strengthen our freedoms, our nation, and the positive values that most Americans have traditionally held dear?

I would certainly hope that the latter choice is the case.

For that matter, suppose that this proverbial, widespread, collective “sigh of relief” — if justified and not rooted in a primal “blood-lust for revenge” — does take hold:

How far might it go toward, at the least, reducing the kind of psychological tensions that hold a people — and a nation — back from pursuing what could be a wonderful destiny?

And, who knows? Perhaps it could also enable the “ratcheting-down” of all those freedoms-sucking, finances-draining, controversial anti-terrorism “protections” that most Americans seem to dislike or even despise — including the idea of “Constitution-free zones” within the U.S., or those roving warrantless police-roadblacks and searches, or those infamous TSA “pat-downs” and x-ray scans at airports and train stations.

And that’s just for starters.

Well, it’s a nice dream, anyway. A more peaceful, friendly, freedom-cherishing, world would be nice, for a change, wouldn’t it?

But, getting back to reality:

What’s the more likely truth of the matter?

WAS THIS ACTUALLY BIN LADEN — OR HAVE WE BEEN FED SOMETHING THAT’S LESS THAN THE TRUTH:

As to whether or not the executed person whom this Administration identified as Osama Bin Laden was actually Osama Bin Laden, for example, presumably somebody knows for sure. But who? And whose version should we trust to be the true one?

This Administration says that the man whom it executed was indeed Osama Bin Laden.

Strikes on Tora Bora, December 2001

Yet critics point to evidence that, they say, shows that Bin Laden has in fact been dead and gone since the 2001 Battle at Tora Bora, where he was allegedly killed, or that he died of an incurable medical condition not long thereafter.

And what about the claims of various critics why maintain that the subsequently-released audio- and videotapes of, supposedly, Bin Laden, show definite indications of being fraudulent, one of those videotapes even featuring, allegedly, an Osama look-alike, and not a very convincing one at that?

According to these critics, it is only the the myth that “Osama lives” that has been intentionally kept alive, by the Bush II and Obama Administrations, among others, in that the myth, whenever needed, could usually be relied upon to serve the tremendously valuable purpose of mobilizing the public behind — or misdirecting them away from interfering against — policies and actions that the “powers-that-be” wished to implement.

So how can we, the public, determine whom best to trust? How can We, the People, who have been so long the target of misinformation and manipulations emerging from the mass media, Madison Avenue, and the realm of realpolitik, ascertain that what we are being told about this whole affair — regardless of which point of view we are being presented with — is indeed the unvarnished, complete, truth — if indeed, it is the truth, which it may or may not be?  

So this, we are told, was Osama Bin Laden. Was it?

And now, with this latest event, in which even the body — of whomever this purported person was — was allegedly quickly, summarily, and irretrievably, disposed of, without so much as an independent, professional, full medical autopsy, what are we to believe is the truth?

At the very least, the summary judgment, on-the-spot execution, and hastily dumping the body at sea, would certainly seem to cast a justifiable pall of suspicion over not only the Obama Administration’s view of justice and the application of law, but also over this Administration’s credibility — because now — even if they were acting honestly and honorably — it begins to look as though this Administration had something to hide — such as the facts as to (a) whether this murdered man was the real Osama Bin Laden or (b) whether this Administration thought that Bin Laden — if that’s who this man was — may have possessed secrets which the Administration preferred should never be revealed.

So are either of those latter two possibilities at play? I don’t know — I just read the news like everybody else. 

But in any case, it certainly would seem to me that the summary judgment, execution, and quick disposal of the body, now justifiably gives rise to the appearance, and to the consequent suspicion, that something “untoward” may have been afoot in how this affair was planned and managed.

What really happened? Was the disposed-of victim really Bin Laden — and if not, who was it, and where is the real Bin Laden? Or has the real Bin laden not only been really been dead, but also “really most sincerely dead”, and gone, all these years?

The whole affair would seem to cry out for careful examination. 

Too, a key part of that concern revolves around how, in this affair, the American concept of “justice” appears to have taken yet another step away from the pre-Obama, pre-Bush II, concept of the importance of not only affording an accused a fair trial, but also of, at the least, assuring that the evidence involved is accurate, independently verifiable and fully available for subsequent re-analysis and review: 

Rather, and even if this was Bin Laden and even if it had already been proven, for the sake of discussion, that he is a mass murderer, this current affair seems to suggest that the concept of “justice”, under Obama, has now been reshaped to fit a perceived predetermined goal — a situation not unlike the Bush II effort to reshape reality to fit a predetermined pro-invasion policy-goal, as evidenced in the “Downing Street Memos”.

With that particular issue in mind, I can almost picture the Ghost of Osama — even aside from whatever punishments he may be receiving as a consequence of the evils that he himself wrought — accusingly haunting the American political discourse for years to come.

SO, THE TRUTH AS TO EACH OF THESE ISSUES IS … WHAT?

I recently sought to explore possible answers to that question, in a forum at NaturalNews.com. There, a writer asserted his belief that the official excuse for the current raising, instead of there being a lowering, of the “terror-alert”, in the U.S., is, in essence, part of a Governmentally-run fraud, which he asserted is little more than an intentional power-grabbing ploy, by the Government, in its effort to yet again take freedoms away from the American people.

Here — with some modifications — is the essence of my response: —————————————————————————— 

IMO, you’re half wrong and half-right:

(1) RIGHT about the assertion that this”War on Terrorism” is predicated on fighting against a quality, rather than targeting on a specific tangible physical entity, and that, as such, this is a ploy that allows the “war” to become essentially endless and to be manipulated as the given situation (as defined by whomever are the “powers-that-be” of the moment) warrants.

(2) RIGHT – in a sense – about what appears to be a contradiction between the assumption that –         

     (a) once Bin Laden is out of the way, the “terrorists” will presumably have consequently lost one of their most important strengths, versus           

     (b) the fact that the U.S. is now ramping-up, instead of reducing, the “terror-alert”, whereas logic – at least in part – would seem to suggest that now is the time for the U.S. and the West to reduce their concerns over the “terror-threat”.

(3) WRONG at least partly so — in your implied assumption that the removal of Bin Laden will throw the “terrorists” into disarray, resulting in their sudden major weakness and, presumably, loss of heart, from which we can then all relax. That assumption, in my view, is at least to some degree wrong because of many factors, including the fact that –            

     (a) Ayman Al Zawahiri, who in recent years came to the fore as a major Al Quaeda mastermind perhaps equal or complementary to Bin Laden, is still presumably out there;            

     (b) Al Quaeda, and related elements of the so-called “terror networks”,  have long been said to be running their operations on a sort of cell-based, insular, confederational, almost “holistic”, system of command-communications-control, such that if one unit – even Bin Laden – is “taken out”, the system nevertheless purportedly has alternate, parallel, operational mechanisms in place and can thus continue to successfully function.

That’s not to say that the sudden removal of Bin Laden’s mindset, knowledge, connections, and “hands-on” influence, is having no effect on those “terror networks”. Nor is it to say that the U.S. gain of access to Bin Laden’s computerized and other such operational data, as a result of this raid, will not potentially have a huge impact on this “terror-network”.

Because, logic would also seem to dictate, that if that alleged “treasure trove” of digital data taken in the raid is deciphered and gives massive and critically important information about these terror-networks and their operations, those participants in those terror-networks may well soon meet their end.

But to what extent will that now happen?

And how quickly and effectively, if at all, will new networks, with “new” “terrorists”, spring up to replace them?

However, I would say that it remains to be seen whether the removing of Bin Laden, by itself, will also defuse — or further inflame  the anti-West and anti-U.S. beliefs, intentions, desires, and, efforts, of his supporters.

But certainly, it would appear to me that there is, as yet, no informed basis upon which to make the assertion that any possible “terrorist-initiated “ attacks against the U.S. and the West have now, suddenly, become purely and exclusively the phantasms of a paranoid imagination, and that we now, as of the day of Bin Laden’s alleged death, no longer need to have any “anti-terrorist protections” in place.

The “bad guys” are still “out there”.

Are they as much of a threat as we’ve been told? That’s another issue.

But consider this: 

Much of this planet’s population – even many of those persons who, in the name of “freedom”, are battling against their nation’s own dictatorial regimes – despise the U.S. and the West with a passion.

For that portion of the populace who are already, or who will now become, supporters or admirers of Bin Laden, and who may possibly come to despise the U.S. with an even greater, or more immediate, passion than they had already possessed, the issue is not so much that their ire has been inflamed by the Bin Laden’s execution, but that their heightened ire, coupled with a sense of time-urgency, may now likely spur them to desire to initiate actions against the U.S. at this time – e.g., to do it “now”, because of either of three powerfully motivating reasons: 

(1) In the “terrorists’ ” view, to wait would be to disrespect and betray, rather than honor, Bin Laden, their “brothers”, their God, and all that they and, in their view, hold dear;

(2) Now that the U.S. authorities have gained access to Bin Laden’s trove of digital terror-data — assuming that the data is still timely and can now be deciphered and used — the survivability of many of these “terrorists” and “terror-cells” may soon, at any moment, be brought to an abrupt and deadly end — making the initiation of any terrorist-desired action and of any effort to block such an action an imperative race against time.

(3) But even putting those rationales aside, there’s this: Even at its most simple level, have you never heard of the game – and unfortunately, on the global-level, it’s also often a deadly game – of “tit for tat”?

Or, more simply put, of how hatred, anger, violence, and fury, feed on hatred, anger, violence, and fury?

So, is there legitimate reason to believe that there may now be increased efforts, by “terrorists”, to inflict damage on American interests in the very near future? I suspect that the answer is “yes“.

Will there consequently be an increase in actions by the U.S. Government (and by various of its agencies, such as CIA, DoD, DHS, FBI, and TSA) to detect and block — or to appear to detect and block — those possibilities, even if it means enacting yet further intrusions into the American people’s lives, and energizing a further tightening of restrictions on Americans’ freedoms, and a putting Americans’ health further and more deeply at risk? In my view, the answer to that question too is, most probably,  “yes“.

But I also ask this:

Should those negatives, of our rights of privacy and our personal liberties being taken away, and of our Constitutional freedoms being diminished and our health being threatened by carcinogenic and in other ways harmful x-rays and millimeter waves (and who knows what else will be “coming down the pike”), all in the name of “security”, be considered “acceptable risks” — somewhat, perhaps, akin to “collateral damage” — by us or by our Government?  Do we really wish to live as an increasingly and overbearingly subjugated, life-threatened, people? Especially if there are better alternatives?  

Or, if, hypothetically, the Ghost of Osama Bin Laden were to be able to make that choice for us, what do you suggest should be our answer?  —————————————————————————–

SO, WHERE IS, ACTUALLY, THE “GHOST of OSAMA”?

Alive and gleefully active in the “terror-alert” machine? Insidiously roaming the nooks and crannies of a fear-driven American psyche? Wildly dancing in the hearts and minds of his “terror-attuned” supporters? Lounging happily in 72 mansions (perhaps not unlike the “mansion” of his alleged Abbottabad compound?) in which each room has 72 virgins (but virgin what?)?

Or someplace where it’s, perhaps, just a bit exceptionally warm?

Haunting, perhaps, our very psyche? 

Home, Sweet Home?

Or, perhaps, just fading away, bit by digestible bit, inside a school of wide-eyed fish happily swimming along the bottom of a sea?

Boo, anyone?

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RETURNING AMERICANS BEWARE? Or is it time to BRING AMERICA BACK?


© protonius.wordpress.com

FOREWORD: The following commentary is purely an expression of my opinion as an avid follower of issues that I think are important and worthy of analysis. But I hasten to point out that I am not a lawyer, nor do I have any “inside information” or affiliations of any kind with any persons or entities in this commentary; I simply am seeking to offer my thoughts on what I believe is a timely and important matter at hand, in the hopes that my observations may help generate some positive directions worth considering. — Protonius.

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(April 8, 2011) – Thanks to a recent ruling by the Ninth Circuit Federal Court, U.S. Customs agents at border-crossings have now been further empowered – unConstitutionally, in my view – to seize, examine the contents of, and indefinitely (or for an extended period of time) confiscate, any digital-data storage-device in the traveler’s possession, without a warrant and without a reasonable basis of suspicion (except that the person is desiring entry into the United States) [1].

Because, with this judicial ruling, which adds “the force of law” as an additional support for operational procedures reportedly already in effect at U.S. Customs entry-points into the U.S., it would seem that in these locations the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution has now been officially declared to no longer apply.

Can they really do that?

I also recall reading, over the past couple of years, reports asserting that  Customs makes a point of applying those “search and seizure rules” especially to American citizens attempting to return to the United States. If those assertions are true, I, as an American citizen, find this disparity very disconcerting. However, as I am currently unable to re-locate those informational sources, I cannot at present say if the above claim is fact or fiction. Perhaps some readers of this blog can offer some clarity on this point?

Nonetheless, as an American citizen – and even though, should I find myself traveling back to the U.S. after a sojourn abroad, “I have nothing to hide” – I believe that this Court’s ruling is not only Constitutionally improper but also a significant and unwarranted encroachment on my, and every American’s, Constitutional  rights – and that what it portends for the character of our nation (outside of possibly “catching the bad guys”) — and our freedoms — is not encouraging.

There must be a better way to keep the nation safe — a way that also preserves our Constitutional rights!

The unConstitutional (in my opinion) creation of “Constitution-free zones” – such as a 100-mile-wide strip along (but within) the continental U.S. borders, and now, in effect, the U.S. Customs-controlled points of entry into the U.S. [2] – constitutes yet another insidious step toward – and a worrisome, and in my view unConstitutional, codification of a “danger-point” – a condition which, in my view, all concerned Americans must start to realize (if they haven’t already done so) is a very real threat to the nation and to their freedom.

But wait, it gets better: it’s not only digital devices:

As I’ve read in other accounts of this trend in recent years, U.S. border-agents also have been tacitly given the authority – or at least they have exercised that authority – to seize and confiscate any data-storage “device” that anyone – especially (?) returning Americans – seeking to enter the U.S. may be carrying – and that even includes paper notebooks, writing-pads, and any other paperworkeven scraps of hand-written-notes that might be in the individual’s pockets. [3]

Agreed, U.S. Customs has a tremendously difficult job, especially in today’s terror-fear world, to “weed out” — and safeguard the nation from attack by — unsavory characters who, presumably, would like nothing better than to blow up airliners, spread a path of panic and destruction, bring our nation to its knees, and, ultimately, to murder us all. So, screening an estimated 50-million incoming passengers each year [4], and “getting it right”, cannot be an easy job. So I give Customs much credit for seeking to do its best to fulfill that mission.

Further, in fairness to Customs, I feel it only proper to note that Customs has an extensive online explanation and defense of its border-control operations, which is well worth reading. The URL is http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/congressional_test/laptop_searches.xml.

And I agree that is it vitally important to uncover dastardly plots, and prevent the “evil-doers” from gaining entry to the U.S., and that Customs must be empowered to do that as effectively as possible.

However, the problem arises – same as it has arisen in many other aspects of the national debate – when the methodology of providing those protections violates some of the core-principles and foundational law upon which this nation, and the nation’s very identity, rests.

Or, piece-by-piece, are we to continue to throw our fundamental freedoms – the very principles and foundations that have defined our nation and our way of life as being uniquely open and committed to the rights of the individual as established in the United States Constitution, its Amendments, and the Bill of Rights– out the window, as a way of somehow “protecting” those freedoms?

In terms of safeguarding our borders and our rights, isn’t there a better way?

Conversely, as we blindly trundle yet further down that darkening path — a dangerous pathway on which we’ve already embarked, thanks to such things as the Patriot Acts, the Military Commissions Act, massive Federal eavesdropping on our electronic communications, the “Obamacare” insurance-purchase mandate and the related establishment of the IRS as a political/financial-enforcement tool, to name a few — all these being steps that are increasingly “chipping away” at our rights in the name of some aspect of “security” — when should it be most appropriate to ask “Where does it end”?

And, for that matter, if we fail to ask that question — and to demand of ourselves an answer — does it end?

I, for one, am not so wealthy that I can afford, as a traveler, to let someone just confiscate my notebook computer. Nor do I harbor any unsavory desires or have any unsavory data stored on my computer.

But I also believe that I, as an American, have a Constitutional right to privacy and to be secure from unwarranted, warrantless, searches and seizures. And I think that a policy that permits Customs to warrantlessly override those rights is wrong and should be reversed.

But couple a policy of such warrantless search and seizure with, for example, the highly controversial treatment of airline passengers (and now beginning to extend to train-passengers and even to automobile passengers and pedestrians) by the TSA, and this complex of an increasing threat to our freedoms becomes significantly more clear.

Yes, agreed that “the bad guys” must be stopped. But isn’t there a better way — one that also respects and safeguards our Constitutional rights and freedoms?

Imagine this scenario:

Customs agent to a returning American citizen:

“Welcome to Checkpoint America! Now, give me your computer, your portable hard-drives, your flashdrives, your camera, your memory-cards, any photographs, any notations, any paperwork, that you may have in your possession, reveal to me any and all passwords or other such privacy-protections that you may have set-up for any of these items, and I will have some specialists examine them all, we may or may not eventually return any of these items to you, and, for your digital devices, we make no guarantees that if we return them to you that we will not have first extracted and copied any of your data or installed any clandestine eavesdropping-programs in those devices. Plus, if we determine, according to our own subjective standards, that any information that we find in any of your items is, in our view, questionable, please expect to promptly or eventually possibly be hauled before a Federal Court or a Special Investigative Body where you may or may not be given an opportunity to know what the charges against you are, or on what basis those charges were generated, or how to defend yourself against those unrevealed charges, and possibly you may or may not be entitled to be represented in those hearings by a lawyer who possibly will not be of your choosing, and most likely any effort to defend yourself will be quite costly to you, as you may thus find yourself to be a lone and rightless individual pitted against the unbridled and vast power of a Government agency replete with its own motivations and capabilities, such that your loss may well ultimately be a foregone conclusion. Oh, and by the way, if you do enter the U.S., and later wish to leave, our colleagues at the TSA checkpoints will have other pleasant surprises in store for you too. Just thought you’d like to know. Now, do you have anything to declare?”

Well, of course I’ve exaggerated somewhat; and Customs agents do have to be especially, and cleverly, vigilant. But the idea is there.

And you thought that leaving the U.S., which, these days, entails being subjected to arguably cancer-generating, privacy-invasive, full-body X-ray and millimeter-wave scans, or the possibly disease-transferring and generally unpleasant (and arguably unnecessary) sex-organ gropings by TSA agents, on the way out, was problematical enough. Just wait until, after an overseas trip, you want to return to “the Homeland”.

The trend started under George W. Bush. It continues, and apparently is becoming more intrusive, under Obama. And, it seems, the respective sessions of Congress have further empowered this trend, either by voting in favor of such developments or by condoning these developments by not seeking to reign them in.

Proper and caution-based inspection, yes; but based on violation of Constitutional rights, no!

What, after all, can be said of a nation that professes to honor its Constitution, when, by contrast, the nation’s Government and Judiciary somehow choose to permit the carving-up of the nation and its related territories (such as its Customs-checkpoints and that 100-mile land-strip along the nation’s continental boundaries) into “Constitution-free zones”?

Is it beyond reason to view this recent Federal Circuit Court ruling as yet another step toward similar freedom–diminishing actions to come?

President Harry Truman had a slogan mounted on his desk: “The Buck Stops Here!”

Yet now, with these actions, it seems that we’re being faced with a new slogan: “The principles inherent in the U.S. Constitution, and which were designed to protect your own personal freedoms and rights, stop here!”

Is that really what we want?

One has only to study the lessons of history to see where this trend of “legalizing” of the ripping-away of the American People’s freedoms may lead.

Perhaps it’s time that we follow the admonition of “Howard Beale”, the fictional network news commentator in the film “Network” [5], in which he declared that it is time to “get mad as hell” and decide for ourselves that “We’re not going to take this anymore!”

And use every legal, nonviolent, political tool possible, to force a reversal of this dangerous freedom-destroying trend, and work to put respect for the Constitution and the Rights of the Individual back on track where they belong!

I remember when Ronald Reagan was President. Regardless of one’s views about his Presidency, one thing about Reagan always seemed to stand out: He consistently expressed a positive personal view about the nation, a personal enthusiasm toward generating a better time to come.

It was a view that came across especially forcefully — and upliftingly — as he proudly declared: “America is BACK!”.

It is time that we press hard to restore our Constitutional rights. It is time that we BRING AMERICA BACK!

– Protonius, 9 April 2011.
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Footnotes:

[1] http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20110407/sc_livescience/laptopsandotherelectronicsmaybeseizedonentrytous#mwpphu-container and http://www.networkworld.com/news/2011/040611-us-can-conduct-offsite-searches.html

[2] http://www.naturalnews.com/024734_America_americans_government.html and
http://www.aclu.org/national-security_technology-and-liberty/are-you-living-constitution-free-zone

[3] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/content/article/2008/08/01/laptops.html

[4] http://www.bigsiteofamazingfacts.com/how-many-people-visit-the-united-states-from-other-countries-every-year

[5] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/content/article/2008/08/01/laptops.html
and http://www.americanrhetoric.com/MovieSpeeches/moviespeechnetwork2.html
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THE MAN IN THE OVAL OFFICE – And a Court, and a Congress, and a Guy Named Trump


© protonius.wordpress.com

FOREWORD: I am not a lawyer. Nor do I have any affiliations connected with this matter. Nor do I possess any “inside knowledge” as to this long-standing controversy over whether or not the man currently occupying the Oval Office (as of this writing) is legally eligible to serve as this nation’s President.

Nor, I hasten to point out, is my analysis below meant to fully explore the question of whether this individual is Constitutionally empowered to hold the reigns of the Presidency.

However, I do have a great concern as to how this issue has been, and is being, generally handled, as the potential consequences of that process are, in my view, bound to be far-reaching. And that is the focus of what my analysis below – which is purely an expression of my opinion as to the underpinnings and potential impact of those issues – is meant to be about.
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(April 10, 2011) –

The Man in the Oval Office: Is he, or isn’t he, legally entitled to serve as President of the United States? A Question of Controversy – and of Exploration:

On May 2nd of this year, according to WorldNetDaily, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hold hearings (with invited parties) for oral arguments as to whether a lower-court ruling – which stated that any questions about Obama’s eligibility to serve as President should be directed not to the courts but to Congress – should be overturned. [1]

This is a major step forward in possibly getting to the truth of the matter. Or at least to exposing, for the public to witness, some of the most factually illuminating arguments on both sides of the issue.

Or – as has happened in so many of the previous court-cases in which the eligibility-issue was raised – not.

If these hearings take place as scheduled, and if all sides in this case are fully permitted to present their arguments and information, without restraint, in these hearings, and if the arguments and information presented therein are permitted, without restraint, to be concurrently (or promptly thereafter) fully open to the mass media and the public – and if the mass media presents, to the public, those arguments and points of information in a manner that is honest, comprehensive, and objective – then at least we may be getting somewhere.

Perhaps to where no court – or occupant of the Oval Office – has gone before.

Or not.

Just watch any episode of “The Practice” or its successor “Boston Legal” – or even watch just a few hours of debates in the U.S. Congress – or follow this unbelievably long and, so far, continuing chain of actual refusals by numerous Federal courts to even address this Presidential-eligibility issue, no matter who had brought the charges and no matter the basis of the claims – and perhaps you’ll begin to get the picture:

Regardless of the facts of the matter: a case, or even the possibility that a court will permit or refuse either side’s request to present its evidence, and even the question of whether a court will allow a case to even be heard, can go either way. Sometimes the outcome reveals the truth – and sometimes the outcome has nothing to do with the truth.

Just look at the trial of O.J. Simpson. Or the trial of Reuben “Hurricane” Carter.

On cases in which the current Oval Office occupant’s eligibility to serve was the issue, guess which way those cases went?

Away. Far away.

But to Oblivion? Not by a long shot.

Because still, at least as per my understanding of the pros & cons of the matter, at least four fundamental things are still true:

(a) The actual, long-form, original, official, genuine, “Birth Certificate” – not the purported (whether genuine or not) “Certificate of Live Birth”, and not the statements by some officials asserting (but not stating in sworn testimony before a court, where evidence of making a false statement can be grounds for a ruling of Perjury) that they “have seen” the original, genuine, “Birth Certificate” – has not been publicly revealed. And all it would take for that original, genuine, “Birth Certificate” to be able to be publicly revealed would be for the person whom it’s all about to authorize its release. But instead that person has reportedly been spending millions of dollars to keep it sealed from public view! Why?

Or, as some have asked, might he be waiting “for the opportune moment” – such as at a moment shortly prior to the next Presidential election – to make it (or an approximation thereof) public? And if he is indeed waiting for that opportune moment, what does that say about his sense of concern over the fact — again, if this is the case — that his years-long refusal to release that document has put the nation through a continuing, costly, divisive, and totally unnecessary, trauma?

Too, as many critics are asking, what if there never existed this alleged “Birth Certificate”, or if that document does exist but shows him to not be eligible for this high office, and what if he was aware of these points when he ran for and assumed office: then what?

But maybe those issues are the heart of what this controversy is all about.

Why would a President of the United States – a person who, with, more or less, a phone-call or a stroke of a pen, can institute an international “Kinetic Military Maneuver” and commit this nation to a conflagration with potentially huge consequences – find it so hard to do what any American citizen can easily do regarding their own birth-documentation: request that his official, genuine, Birth Certificate be released for the mass media, and the public – and independent forensics experts – to see?

(b) The eligibility-issue further centers not just on where and when the current person serving as President was born; it also centers on his alleged parentage and their citizenship, as those factors, too, bear directly on whether or not he meets the Constitutional requirement that he be a “natural born citizen”.

(c) There are many other issues involved in this eligibility-debate too; but what particularly bothers me about them all is how, at least as I gather, most of the nation’s major media seem to have chosen to give this person in the Oval Office a “free pass” on this issue, and that they – as I see it – have largely abdicated their responsibility to honestly, diligently, thoroughly, and, most of all, objectively, dig for the truth of this matter.

Or has their “sense of responsibility” been redefined, such that, for whatever the reason, they have decided that their “responsibility” is not to the uncovering of the objective truth but instead is to accept as truth what they wish to be the truth — or what the financial, political, and market forces controlling them are directing them to accept as their definitions of “truth”?

Please note: I also do believe that various persons in the major media are, in their view, fully and conscientiously doing what they believe is their journalistic best to get at the root of these issues.  I have also seen publicly available information that, to some degree, appears to persuasively refute some popular — but arguably less-than-valid — claims that the current occupant of the Oval Office is not eligible to occupy that office. And I’m doing my best to be open to exploring the eligibility-evidence from all sides.

And, I also recognize that I, too, am fallible.

But even so, in my view, the preponderance of coverage (or lack thereof) by the major media in the U.S. — and the often-dismissive attitudes expressed by a variety of prominent players on the national stage — appears to be along the lines that I’ve already mentioned above: they seem, by and large, to be giving this individual occupying the Oval Office a “free pass”.

And, as no doubt even Donald Trump must know – regardless of whatever the merits of his arguments may or may not be –, this particular issue, of whether or not the current occupant of the Oval Office was ever, or currently is, legally entitled to serve as the nation’s Chief Executive and to serve as Commander-in-Chief of the nation’s military, is just about as politically entangling and explosive as a case can get.

And now it seems to be reaching the stage of – in political terms at least – war. And what’s that little homily about war?

Actually, a few come to mind:

“All warfare is based on deception.” – Sun Tzu (Chinese Military General, 544–496 BC)

“In war, truth is the first casualty.” – Aeschylus (Greek tragic dramatist, 525 BC – 456 BC)

“…among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.” – “The Idler” magazine (11/11/1758)

To which I would add the following, more contemporary, quote from an April 24, 2006 commentary in the New Statesman, by journalist John Pilger. His commentary was written as the Bush-Cheney-Blair military action in Iraq was still in full-swing – but, in my view, the essence of Pilger’s words is also worth note in regard to this current “eligibility controversy” today:

“The oldest cliché is that truth is the first casualty of war. I disagree. Journalism is the first casualty. Not only that: it has become a weapon of war, a virulent censorship that goes unrecognised in the United States, Britain and other democracies; censorship by omission, whose power is such that, in war, it can mean the difference between life and death for people in faraway countries, such as Iraq.”

For clearly, whether it is ultimately decided, with the force of law, that the man in the White House must stay or leave, the consequences will be profound.

Yet, in what way has much of the major media in America – at least as I’ve observed – been dealing with this “eligibility” issue?

With ridicule.

Ridicule — of the issue itself.

Ridicule — of those who would question the process by which the current man in the White House was deemed to be eligible to serve as President.

Ridicule — typically by those who, as it seems to me, would apparently more prefer to accept, on its face or with only cursory review or less than rigorous logic, the claim — even if it might be true — that the current occupant of the Oval Office is Constitutionally eligible to serve as President.

Ridicule of critics — denigratingly labeled, by those who would ridicule them and shut their voices down, as “Birthers” — who maintain that there is fully valid and substantial evidence that opens the whole claim of “eligibility” to legitimate — and necessary — question.

And then, of course, we have the courts:

Yes, the courts, to which a whole chain of independent cases, questioning that Oval Office occupant’s eligibility to serve, have been brought. And how have the courts, even including the United States Supreme Court, so far responded?

The Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, as noted above, has scheduled oral arguments for a date in early May. It will be interesting to see whether that hearing-schedule holds and what then transpires.

But moving one step backward in time, to the most recent court case dealing with this eligibility-issue, what do we find?

On November 23, 2010, one of those cases finally received some consideration by the United States Supreme Court, which reportedly then “conferred … on whether arguments should be heard on the merits of Kerchner v. Obama, a case challenging whether President Barack Obama is qualified to serve as president” [2].

The outcome? On November 29, 2010, according to WorldNetDaily:

“The court effectively killed the Kerchner case with one terse statement: ‘The motion of Western Center for Journalism for leave to file a brief as amicus curiae is granted. The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.’” [3]

As far as this eligibility-issue goes, this seems to be “par for the course”.

And the arguments presented by Donald Trump? At least he, seemingly alone amongst all the prominent players on the U.S. political turf today, is making what appears to be a concerted, no-holds-barred, all-out effort – whether for personal principle or for political gain – to raise these critically important questions, and to bring attention to the valid issues involved, on the national stage.

Trump, in my opinion, is single-handedly doing what no other major national figure has dared to do or succeeded at doing: He is throwing the spotlight, with what many see as legitimate substantiation, on one of the most profound political questions of our time.

Gulf of Tonkin? Watergate? The Ellsberg Papers? Weapons of Mass Destruction? The whole controversy about 911? Like these, how could legitimate questions, with arguably valid supportive substantiation, about the eligibility of a President, not be of profound public importance?

Now, what if it turns out – as many say is already the case and that it has long been “a done deal” – that the current occupant of the Oval Office is, indeed, completely Constitutionally eligible to serve?

Well then, like him or not, he is President, and, as a consequence, perhaps a modicum of a sense of stability is applied to every law and situation that has been based on, or yet may pivot on, the certainty that he is indeed the Constitutionally-authorized President of the United States.

But what if it turns out that, according to the courts or the Congress (as in an impeachment and conviction), it is determined that he never was – and is not – eligible to serve as President?

In such a situation, of those Members of Congress (current or in the prior term) who, having had the opportunity and the responsibility to prevent or correct this situation in which an ineligible person was allowed to assume the reigns of the Presidency, what political and/or legal repercussions – if any – might, or perhaps should, befall them?

But, then again, how many such Members of Congress would want to set a spark to a political conflagration whose blowback might also burn them?

Could it be that such a potentially unpleasant vision might persuade them to seek to “play down”, or take no part in, this eligibility issue, and to seek to defuse any thoughts of impeachment or even of investigation?

Can you imagine the massive and incredibly convoluted tangle of “fallout” that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling – or a Congressional impeachment and conviction action – in which it is ruled that the current Oval Office occupant was not and is not eligible to serve as President, would generate?

For example, how many of these Government officials, and whatever projects or decisions they have generated or participated in or that they are currently tasked to pursue, would be affected by a U.S. Supreme Court verdict that declares that:

(a) a Constitutionally ineligible person is illegally serving as President,

(b) this same individual possibly knew he was ineligible to serve but accepted the nomination and election and Presidential position nonetheless, and

(c) this same individual thenceforth continued to knowingly illegally serve as (or usurp the functional authority of) the President of the United States?

And, would each and every such official then agree that each and every political project or decision that he or she participated in – as a consequence of any given action or influence by the individual who had unConstitutionally assumed the role of President – should now be nullified and invalidated?

How do you un-bake a cake?

Or might those same persons choose to keep those projects and decisions in place, maintaining — truthfully or otherwise — that those projects and decisions would have come about regardless of any Presidential action or influence? Or that, as a realistic and practical matter, it would just be an impossibility to undo everything that’s been done?

How do you undo the effects of an accomplished military attack? How do you undo already-spent expenditures that have already generated a multi-trillion-dollar Federal deficit? How do you pretend that alliances that have been made, or damages that have been done, never existed?

How do you undo the present and turn back time?

Against that backdrop, is it at all possible that if a Federal Court, especially the Supreme Court of the United States, were to rule that the current person serving as President is holding that position unConstitutionally and therefore illegally, that such a ruling would automatically carry within it a stipulation that each and every of this individual’s actions and points of influence as President — past as well as present — must automatically be made null and void?

And, too, what of the fate of Vice President Joe Biden? Since Biden ran on the same ticket with this individual and attained the Vice Presidency on that basis, and if the Supreme Court, for example, rules that the individual now serving as President is doing so unConstitutionally, would Biden be Constitutionally authorized to become Acting President — or would Biden’s very election to the Vice Presidency, despite his personally meeting all Constitutional requirements, be ruled to be unConstitutional as well?

What a tangle.

But somehow, I suspect that the Court, much as it did in generating a concatenation of questionable (and some might say “bizarre”) rulings in regard to the vote-count in the first George W. Bush election, would find a way to avert this problem, and would equally find a way to rule that this now-ruled-ineligible person’s actions and influence as putative President must instead be permitted to remain intact.

Who knows? Perhaps the decision could be that it is entirely reasonable to leave the effects of all the actions  of the individual occupying the Presidency intact, based on the Court’s possible assumption (or “finding of fact”) that it was broadly believed, in good faith, by the nation and the world at large – and possibly even by he himself – that he was fully Constitutionally authorized to serve as the nation’s President and as the Armed Forces’ Commander in Chief.

Too, whether or not the Court were to rule that he is, or is not, ineligible to serve as President, might the basis for that ruling be founded not solely on the canon of law but also on a perceived superior foundation of “a need to maintain political and social stability”?

Or, in other words, a tendency to accord a particular primacy to the thought that “Discretion is the better part of valor”?

The question also arises as to what such a decision might mean for the operations of, and the impact on, the Supreme Court itself, not just in terms of how it reached that decision but also in terms of the aftermath that its process of reaching that ruling, and the effects that the ruling itself, might generate.

For the Supreme Court to, essentially, “throw a President out of office”, may well quickly spark a huge Constitutional crisis, one with vast and possibly drastic repercussions.

Perhaps, to some observers, the Court’s action would be viewed as a “judicial coup d’etat” – an aggression, by the Judicial Branch, with the goal of usurping the legal and Constitutional authority of the Executive Branch, an act that could send the nation into a political tail-spin.

But if the Court will have “done the right thing” – which is what it is supposed to do – quite possibly the outcome would not be so drastic, in that they will perhaps have been widely perceived as having set the country back onto a positive and broadly-welcomed track.

For example, during a time of tremendous national turmoil, largely culminating with Richard Nixon resigning from the Presidency (even though he was not forced out by the Supreme Court), the nation did not fall apart.

Rather, the nation, and its system of Government, prevailed. As his successor, President Gerald Ford, then said:

“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.” [4]

Perhaps, similarly, if it is legally determined that the current person in the Oval Office must go, we will survive through that too, and the nation will move on.

But getting back to an issue as to the mechanics of how the Supreme Court, if it accepts a case about this eligibility-issue, might proceed – this too is of critical importance:

Two of the current justices on the Supreme Court – Justices Sotomayor and Kagan – were appointed to those positions by the same person whose eligibility to serve as President – and whose authority to have nominated and appointed them – is the very question that would be confronting the Court.

Unless these two justices were to recuse themselves from this case, is it possible that their participating in the case would constitute, as some have argued, a “conflict of interest”?

Even so, whether or not they were to recuse themselves, what if the Court were to rule that the person in the Oval Office was not, and is not, eligible to serve as President? Might such a ruling have the effect – unless the Court figures a way around this conundrum – of nullifying those same two justices’ appointments to this Court?

Would it put them out of a job?

But, then again, as this issue is such a monumental “hot potato”, will the case even be heard?

And, whether in the Judicial System, or in the Congress, or in “the Court of Public Opinion”, when and how thoroughly and how accurately will this Constitutional eligibility-issue finally and convincingly be resolved?

Inquiring minds want to know.

I want to know.

Isn’t it amazing:

All this individual had to do was to publicly release his actual, official, verifiably genuine, “Birth Certificate”. But, it seems, he chose another route. And look where that has lead us now.

Just as a tiny acorn can grow into a mighty oak, and as a small truth can grow into a mighty shield of honor, so can a small misdeed or error grow into something monstrous.

John Lennon said it best: “All I want is some truth!”

Whither the truth?

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=281301

[2] http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=232073

[3] http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=234433

[4] en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Gerald_Ford
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