Wednesday, June 12, 2013

#ROW80 – WEDNESDAY CHECK IN - POST 16 – TECHNOLOGY SURPASSES MORALITY AND PRINCIPLES

One of the things I did in college was write a bit. Not a whole lot, because I was either studying the viola like mad and then some 20 years later boning up (boning up, hell, I was learning it for the first time; I slept through it in high school) on mathematics and computer science. But, I did some dabbling in writing. Enough to win awards for my rhetorical writing; fiction was never really my bag and if I ever tried to express anything that required imagination, it would be stupid, to say the least.


I'm not naive when I say THIS is the America I believe in. The one where I am free to dissent. The one where I am free to worship as I choose. The one I am so proud to be a part of. The one that holds it's hands out to new immigrants and that cares for all.

The kinds of things I wrote about and the articles with which I had my biggest successes were based on intangibles, if you will, although there is nothing tangential or intangible about them. We certainly should, if we are adults, or not, as this is not magically awarded to anyone at the age of 18, but is built over a lifetime I guess, possess good character. Character or morality of a sort that bestows upon us the ability to choose right from wrong and adhere to principles, that we, as a society have agreed upon to be fair, just and own some measure of equality.

To be honest, these are not principles we ourselves chose and wrote into a charter, but they are ideas that set the framework of the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. The Constitution itself cannot be changed, but the Bill of Rights can be amended and it's framework, like that of the Constitution, is deliberately porous, so as to meet any contingency that would follow after its passage and after the deaths of the authors and signers.

We, as Americans, must take the time and care to understand what this all means. It means that we must understand how government works and what these documents mean and what they can and cannot do. It takes time to read and study all of that, but we must, if we are to remain free. We must also understand something else. There are people in our government who are foursquare for us. I know of many Senators who guard their constituencies and truly care about them. Iowa, and Senator Robert Krause. I've been amazed; well, lurking in his wake, watching how he drums up support for various fund raisers; very much a grass roots leader. I really admire that. I am going to follow his run for the Governorship. I plan on learning plenty; I started reading his charts on the economy and the reasons why it hasn't bounced back.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have the Governor of my state of Florida, who the less said about, the better. Senator Bill Nelson is around, and is right now trying to get catastrophic aid for Hurricane victims passed; always a tough battle. If I drop him a line, he answers. Senator Krause answers me too. The fact that these busy people have time for people who are or aren't their constituents amazes me.

These are the people who get things done, and we need our Senators and Congressmen and women. They are earnestly holding up the principles outlined by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

But, right now, we have this whole other thing going on and this is not a good thing. I mentioned the Patriot Act yesterday. Back in 2001, six months before planes hit the WTC (which I had actually flown over the previous Wednesday, out of Logan, at sunset, after teaching a software class at Bell Labs, on September 6, 2001) a TV show called “The Lone Gunmen” aired a pilot that hinged upon a thwarting of a plot to fly a passenger jet into one of the towers. It aired March, 2001.

I am not going into conspiracy mode; I mention it as a casual aside. I am in civil liberties mode. How much of our information is controlled? Not only how much is taken from us, but how much is let out? After the trauma of 9/11, people were willing to sign anything. We were also willing to go haring off to Iraq, when there really was no evidence of WMD, or that the Iraqis were involved. It was found out rather early on that the hijackers were Saudis, yet they were already hand in glove with the Bush family. All air traffic had been halted, yet a plane filled with members of the bin Laden family were let out secretly.

The Patriot Act was signed and there were loopholes and codicils all over the place. Homeland Security with Tom Ridge was pretty much a non-starter. He disappeared into thin air, but the Patriot Act lived on and with that, dragon's teeth were sown. Now, we have the NSA actively seeking “information” via phone records from Verizon, and At&T. They've been trying to get in through back doors at Twitter and Facebook. I would be willing to bet the FBI has already done so.


Martin Niemöller was a prominent Protestant pastor during the 3rd Reich. Quote from him upon his release from one of several concentration camps: "First they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out --- because I was not a Socialist.  Then they came for the Trade Unionists and I did not speak out --- because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out --- because I am not a Jew. Then they came for me --- and there was no one left to speak for me.


The trip I was coming home from? Bell Labs? I worked for Verizon. We had 7 people on the roof of WTC1 that day. I worked in the Mainframe and PC deployment/training group, going after rogue servers at the time, I did catchall stuff. I didn't have a formal job title. Those people's computers continued to transmit “handshake” codes for weeks after the towers fell, until their batteries finally died.


Understand, the NSA or whoever, are going through formalities. They're already watching and listening. They have been for years. Being caught with their hands in the cookie jar is only making them go through the sham of begging permission. We gave up that right to privacy when the original act was signed in 2001. “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels,” and “Any society who gives up its freedom for security is neither free nor secure.” Neither of those are mine, but they both apply here. We should have raised holy Hell years ago; it's too late now. 
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