Category Archives: The Land of the Free

All your emails and phone calls are recorded

With the Boston bombings having become a perpetual fixture in all network news reporting, media outlets have been interviewing anyone and everyone who can claim to be an expert in crime or terrorism investigations.  One such expert is former counter terrorism agent, Tim Clemente who recently came right out and said that everything you say on the phone is recorded so it can be accessed later.

The discussion on CNN’s Out Front was about whether Katherine Russell, wife of Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, might have had prior knowledge of the bombings.  And how might they be able to ascertain that?  By reviewing past phone conversations between the two.  Calls made before the bombings and before they were under investigation. When Out Front anchor, Erin Burnett challenged Clemente on that claim, Clemente responded:

“All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.”

Welcome to “the land of the free” where the government does is becoming increasingly secretive about what it does at the same time as it is increasing surveillance over  everything us citizens say and do.

Greenwald’s whole article is here.

Ranking U.S. states by freedom

The latest rankings of states according to their freedom published by the Mercatus Center.

At the bottom of the ranking, New York ranks worst by a significant margin, with rent control and burdensome insurance regulations dragging down its regulatory freedom score. New York is behind California at 49th, then New Jersey, Hawaii, and Rhode Island.

The authors note that residents respond to the costs of freedom-reducing policies by voting with their feet. Between 2000 and 2011, New York lost 9% of its population to out-migration.

Monday Morning Links

Bailout agreement for Cyprus will close their largest bank and seize deposits greater than €100,000.  Without the bailout it might have been the first country forced out of the Eurozone.  No one wants to be first, you know.

The good news is the Dow Jones is back to what it was before the financial crisis.  The bad news is that the value of the dollar relative to gold has fallen faster than the improvement in the Dow.

While the U.S. government looks for ways to restrict gun ownership in “the land of the free”, the CIA is busy shipping thousands of tons of military equipment to rebels in Syria.  Because the U.S. unequivocally supports the right of people to rebel against tyranny (except in cases where the tyrants are friendly to the U.S.).

The military is asking Congress for money to expand the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.  The want $50M for a new building to house special prisoners.  This would bring the total bill for upgrading the prison to $195M.

So much for Colorado’s plan to treat marijuana like alcohol.  And that’s not to suggest that alcohol regulation is exactly a great example of government restraint.  The real mistake was letting government think it had the power to control either one.


The costs of war don’t end when the war ends.  We’re still paying beneficiaries from 19th century wars and billions for 20th century wars.  And the costs of recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are rising.

Afternoon Links

  • Fifth Circuit rules that Benedictine monks can make and sell low cost caskets in Louisiana referring to the regulation as “nonsensical”.  Up to now, state law forbade anyone except state license funeral homes from selling caskets.  You know, to protect the people.  Such a law would instantly be recognized as sleazy political corruption by anywhere except in “the land of the free”.
  • No charges will be filed against a New Jersey man who posted a picture on Facebook of his son holding “what appeared to be a military-style rifle”.  From what I’ve heard through various news sources, it’s pretty obvious the cops, acting on an anonymous tip called into a child abuse hotline, used intimidation tactics to try and get permission to search the house and record the serial numbers of his weapons.  Well, you know, anything to protect the children…
  • Kill Anything that Moves is the name of a new book about Vietnam that I just added to my Amazon wish list.  The reason you have to read numerous books about war is no other governmental activity generates so much official and mainstream media bullshit.  We will never hear the story of what the U.S. really did in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Egypt, Mali, or Syria until everyone who played a role in it is dead.  By then  most of us will also be dead.
  • The “Rise of the naked female warriors“.  I wish two things.  First that they had a position I believed in and second that they weren’t always protesting in places so far from where I live.  They clearly favor using nudity and sex as a means to get attention.  But, they oppose women using nudity and sex to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.  The same story in U.S. media outlets would, of course, be edited to satisfy those who vociferously claim to be offended by nudity in order to make sure no one else can see it.
  • Obama declares that the oxymoron, Mideast Peace, is not an oxymoron just as every U.S. president since WWII has done.  Peace will remain perpetually unlikely as long as neither the Palestinian nor Israeli (or U.S.) governments would benefit from it.  Obama supports a two-state solution which is exactly one state beyond what the Israeli government is willing to agree to.

ACLU starts campaign against police militarization

From a March 6th entry on the ACLU national website:

American Civil Liberties Union affiliates in 23 states today simultaneously filed more than 255 public records requests to determine the extent to which local police departments are using federally subsidized military technology and tactics that are traditionally used overseas.

ACLU-storiesThe site lists ten horror stories like the one at left to make the point that the aggressive tactics routinely employed by over-zealous police departments for ordinary crime are becoming more like the battlefield methods used in war zones, often visiting preventable tragedy on innocent people.  The scary part is that these tactics are becoming increasingly common even for low risk, non-violent situations.  The supply of battlefield weapons is expanding under continuing armed forces hand-me-down programs.

This blurring of the line between police and military will eventually transform “the land of the free” into an occupation zone as police substitute brute force where they once used reason and intelligence.  It will fuel an “us against them” mentality which will only result in further deterioration in the relationship between police and the community.

Whose drones are whose?

According to the New York Times, recent drone attacks in Pakistan are being disavowed by the CIA.

“They were not ours,” said one of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the drone program’s secrecy. “We haven’t had any kinetic activity since January.”

Sounds like another case of leaks of classified information that will never be prosecuted because they serve the government’s purposes.

What exactly took place in those remote tribal villages, far from outside scrutiny, is unclear. But the Americans’ best guess is that one or possibly both of the strikes were carried out by the Pakistani military and falsely attributed to the C.I.A. to avoid criticism from the Pakistani public.

If the American version is true, it is a striking irony: In the early years of the drone campaign, the Pakistani Army falsely claimed responsibility for American drone strikes in an attempt to mask C.I.A. activities on its soil. Now, the Americans suggest, the Pakistani military may be using the same program to disguise its own operations.

So, let me get this straight.  The Pakistanis  say the CIA did it, but they used to cover for the secret CIA attacks.  But now we’re supposed to believe the CIA when they say they didn’t do it.  The article then goes on to explain the difficulty in getting any accurate information out of the area because foreign reporters are barred from the area and local reporters are subject to pressures from powerful local influences.  And it’s not like the U.S. government has established any credibility when it comes to telling the truth about…  anything.

If one thing is clear about the drones, it is that all sides — Pakistanis, Americans and the Taliban — have an interest in manipulating reports about their impact.

I’m sure Pakistanis all realize that American drone attacks are for their own good.  They should consider it an honor to have American bombs falling on them.  It’s not like the U.S. just bombs anyone, you know.  Well, okay, that last part isn’t true.

Viewed from Washington, a handful of erroneously reported strikes may seem inconsequential. According to most estimates, the C.I.A. has carried out about 330 drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt since 2004, the vast majority of them in the past five years.

Yet in Pakistan, they carry greater significance, igniting huge and sometimes violent anti-American demonstration that make drones a toxic subject for generals and politicians alike. But the American claims about the two attacks this month suggest that they may, also, be trying to have the best of both worlds.

It certainly is a great government in Pakistan, one of our great allies in the war on terror, that agrees to let the U.S. routinely bomb their citizens.

This all seems so distant, of course.Pakistan is half way around the world.  Who cares what happens there?  And it’s not like that kind of militaristic, drone-dominated environment will ever come to “the land of the free”. Right?



Encryption: The only cure for warrantless eavesdropping?

Governments around the world are beginning to recognize how the internet shifts the balance of power away from government toward the citizenry and they are taking the threat very seriously.  Not a week goes by without a news story of government attempts to expand their power to monitor and control the internet.  These power grabs usually take the form of legislation disguised as measures to control child porn, copyright infringement, or terrorism, but they have been less than successful because of the public outrage they sometimes inspire.  So, when it comes to monitoring internet communications, the government has taken to cloaking its operations in secrecy, thereby thwarting any opportunity for anyone to know whether they are being spied on.  If you have no way of finding out whether the government is monitoring your communications, you are powerless to challenge them on it.  And it is exactly that tactic that permits the government to sidestep any Fourth Amendment limitations.  Basically, when it comes to the internet, the requirement for a search warrant is dead.

So, while the government will presumably always have the power to pull the plug on the internet, you can fight back against their monitoring by using encryption.  According to, encryption schemes have not integrated well into email clients and other communications software…

But Kim Dotcom of MegaUpload fame has stepped in to fill the gap. Facing prosecution for his old cloud storage service, Dotcom has not only battled extradition to the United States from New Zealand, he has started Mega, a new encrypted cloud storage service. And what better to go with your encrypted cloud storage than an encrypted means of discussing what you keep in there? Says Dotcom of his new email service, “we’re going to extend this to secure email which is fully encrypted so that you won’t have to worry that a government or internet service provider will be looking at your email.”

Unfortunately, Kim Dotcom has not been very successful in fighting extradition to the U.S. where he faces charges of piracy, racketeering, copyright infringement, and money laundering.

Nevertheless, better encryption software is being pursued and is already available from some vendors.  The real question is whether those vendors will be able to adequately convince the public that they aren’t in cahoots with the government, providing them a way to decrypt the traffic without ever telling the public.  With the powers the government has acquired since 9/11, it seems very likely that a software company could be compelled to provide backdoor mechanisms for the NSA and be forced to keep it a secret under threat of prosecution.

Such is life in “the land of the free”.

The war on sex workers

The February Reason magazine has a great article by Melissa Gira Grant on the “An unholy alliance of feminists, cops, and conservatives” that targets the commercial sex industry.  Those of you who arrived at this site via Sex Hysteria! are already familiar with my past writings about how conservatives and liberals have joined forces in a fight to wrest from women the right to control their bodies, their sex lives, and their incomes.

Melissa Grant’s article presents an excellent portrayal of the movement to ban sex work, how it evolved into what it has become, and what its strategies are to eliminate the world’s oldest profession.  My few comments don’t begin to do the article justice.

While these crusaders prefer to be called abolitionists, they are much closer to prohibitionists in terms of their end goals.  They have been hard at work to recast their message in a way that makes it much simpler and easier to sell.  By focusing on prostitution as separate from pornography, the  movement has eliminated opposition from that part of the women’s movement that supports First Amendment rights.

To garner further support through the tools of newspeak, they broadened the definition of sexual exploitation to include essentially all commercial sex work. Essentially, all prostitution is now human trafficking, conflating voluntary prostitution with sex slavery, instantly painting themselves as if they were out to rescue women from bondage, hence their adopting the mantra of “abolitionists” and identifying themselves with the Civil War era abolitionist movement.

To shed the stigma associated with advocating the arrest and imprisonment of those they are claiming to be rescuing, they now define prostitutes as victims of their customers and campaign for tougher laws against soliciting prostitution.    When sex workers reject the characterization that they are victims, the prohibitionists ignore them: Anyone who claims to be selling sex by choice are simply deluding themselves.

The power of this strategy hinges on one factor above all others.  By characterizing these victims as adolescents (which can mean anyone under 22 years old), they combine the issue of sex with children, instantly disarming people’s natural skepticism.  The mainstream media totally buys into the theme and quotes these organizations without question.  The logic works like this: All prostitution is human trafficking and almost all prostitutes begin as children, therefore to voice opposition to this movement is the same as condemning children to live as sex slaves.

The extent to which these organizations distort the facts is nothing short of stunning.  They know they are doing it, but they’ve convinced themselves that they’re saving children, so the ends justify the means.  They know that they will get a warm reception by CNN and be seen by a million people, but those who actually question and investigate their claims reach only a few thousand.  They can’t lose.

And what is the ultimate result of all this crusading to deny woman the right to make their own decisions about their own lives?  The bad side is that it drives prostitution deeper into a lawless underground where exploitation, danger, and fear are an inevitability.  There is no good side.

Read the whole article.

Democrats versus Republicans

Here, I made this handy little chart to help people make up their minds about whether to support democratic or republican politicians.


Whether you decide to support republicans or democrats you’re going to be disappointed about half the time.   By not choosing either, you will be disappointed almost all the time.  But, regardless of your choice, politicians will still be the same.  Whether you choose to be a democrate or republican doesn’t alter the fact that there are really only two kinds of people in the U.S.: Those that govern and those who are governed.

Mom hires strippers for son’s 16th birthday

The New York Daily News has a picture.  Apparently she wanted to do something special for him.  Now it’s the government’s turn to make an impression.  The cops charged the woman with five counts of endangering the welfare of a child.  There were kids at the party as young as 13.  Life, as she knew it, is over for her.  She could spend a year in prison if convicted.  In today’s world the senior parent in any household is always the government.

No matter what your views are about sex, nudity, and children, the idea that a lap dance constitutes child endangerment punishable with prison time is preposterous.  But then, injecting sex into any situation inevitably brings out the stupid in people.

My wife hired a stripper for me once many years ago.  She enlisted the assistance of a number of people where I worked to coordinate the surprise and make sure the girl was escorted into the engineering lab which was located in the corporate office building.  I’m pretty certain that everyone in the building came to watch.  Later, some of them expressed outrage, of course.  I didn’t get into trouble, but there were no kids there.  It was the first and last time they had a stripper come to that company, though.  Somewhere I have two Polaroid pictures of it.

When the quarterly sales figures were good, the CEO of this company would announce it over the PA system and follow it up with a short audio clip from the restaurant scene in the movie “When Harry Met Sally”.   This kind of thing would no longer be tolerated in “the land of the free” because behavior in the workplace is now ruled by those who can utter the words, “That offends me!.