Tag Archives: NSA

S.O.L. – Use the Power of Lyrical Truth

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Kind words and a real good heart

Doesn’t mean you get respect

Kind words and a real good heart

Doesn’t mean you get the best

 

It doesn’t mean they won’t get brutal

It doesn’t mean they won’t assault you…

Joan Armatrading-Sleight of Hand (1986

Sometimes, songs you hear carry a whole lot more weight than what the words say on the surface.  This didn’t come from me.  This thought came from, well, maybe I should lay it out for you what happened.

Joan was singing when I started out this morning, her song and lyrics at the top of the page.  Listening, I was taken aback by the veracity of what she was crooning.  But that’s nothing new for me; I expect music to inspire one to something other than a booty call.

At work, the FedEx delivery person was arriving, so I asked her about Joan and had she heard of the tune.  Maybe it’s my years-I don’t know why-but I find it hard to judge a person’s age these days, especially women.  Trust me, it’s gotten me into more hot water than a little bit.

Anyway, the young lady-got to find out her name-told me she was just a young thing during Joan’s heyday, but her Mom probably had heard of her.  Feeling primordial, I supposed that was so.  On her way out, she surprised me by saying that songs back then had all sorts of underlying meanings to them.

And she’s right in that artists today are explicit and “put it out there”.  It’s true, but where’s my inspiration, I wonder?  In years past songs did what music has done down through the centuries.  They not only entertained but they also stimulated, challenged, shamed or wheedled society to action on fronts that she hitherto before was skeptical or outright afraid to act upon.

I can’t help but think that today’s musicians are missing a golden opportunity; one that would take their craft to another dimension, where it would then be a catalyst for social change, again.  I mean, there’s a lot of stuff wrong with what’s going on, right?

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Absentee-activist Eric Snowden spoke to attendees of SXSW the other day, imploring technophiles to assist in correcting the mistakes of the NSA surveillance program.

The problem is coming from him and the likes of Julian Assange, another festival headliner, such talk is cheap, almost cut-rate mainly because a large portion of the public just won’t listen to the two.  But, if you really want to get people’s attention about the NSA, write some music about it.

Hell, I know there’s a song in there, someplace just waiting to get out.

Source: Joan Armatrading – Kind Words (and A Real Good Heart) lyrics taken from  MetroLyrics; Videos uploaded from YouTube.

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Expectations of government and the conspiracy that might be SYG

The British newspaper, The Guardian, has been publishing leaked documents provided by Eric Snowden concerning the domestic surveillance of innocents performed under the umbrella of national security by the NSA.  Those revelations have caused a lot of outrage among American citizens.

More recently, The Guardian has also put the spotlight on a little known entity that is the driving force of most, if not all, of the right-wing legislation being put forth that threatens many of the established beliefs of American society.  The American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC, is primarily responsible for state’s efforts in such activities like limiting or eliminating gun control, union busting, cutting taxes and curtailing voting rights.

As part of their gun control abolishment conspiracy, ALEC was a principle author of the Stand Your Ground Laws that first showed up in Florida under then Governor Jeb Bush.  Since then, that blueprint of “model legislation” was rolled out across the country in other states which, in turn, adopted SYG.

That there existed a concise plan to put such legislation forth, a plan that encompassed the blessing of almost 400 legislators, is troubling to me; and I’m not alone it seems.  Last year, on the heels of the botched investigation and trial for the Trayvon Martin killing, ALEC lost almost a third of its income as well as 60 corporate members and the 400 politicos.

But what is more troubling is that I wonder just how many Americans are aware of the existence of ALEC, not to mention their seemingly nefarious agenda.  I mean, the first I heard of it was through searching for any new developments in SYG incidents.  I would’ve remembered any reference to corporate shenanigans such as the back room, behind-closed-doors planning going on, the likes of such as proposed by this cabal.  On the other hand, the media is more than willing to stoke the fires of public discontent when it comes to the NSA and government spying.

I’ve said before that, try as I might, I simply can’t generate a decent level of disgust with what’s going on at NSA.  That’s not to say that I’m not vexed by the whole thing; I am.  But it’s mostly because I’m from an era that saw similar powers spying on black leaders and activists, especially the Black Panthers and Malcolm X, at a time when there wasn’t much domestic or global terrorism going on.  Those same powers basically equated domestic terrorism with the civil rights movement.

Today, with the world being the dangerous place that it is, I have expectations that there will be some national surveillance going on and, unfortunately, that surveillance may catch some innocents in its snare.  I often say that if they’re listening to me then they’re going to come away very, very angry.  But that’s me.  

What I do not have expectations of is for my government and its duly elected officials to secretly put forth an agenda that seeks to undermine decades of progressive legislation that protects the rights of all its citizenry and in doing so, make it easier for one group to prey on and kill another.

We all should have those same expectations.

Because that’s what SYG brings to the table, plain and in a nutshell.  I’m just saying…

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Punishment necessary as a true hero takes his lumps

Whistleblowing is becoming quite popular these days, especially in defense circles.  From Bradley Manning to Julian Assange and now Eric Snowden, the latest in what seems to be an increasing amount of young people willing to spill the beans about perceived illegal or immoral activities perpetrated by their employers or other entities.  My whole problem with not only Snowden but also Manning and Assange is that each of them wants and appears more than ready to take the kudos and acclaim for their actions but none of them seems willing to take their lumps.

As the motivations of Snowden are weighed along with the debate over the evaporation of our privacy, we need to look at this growing trend.  For those who are involved with, employed by or are members of the military or defense contractors, care must be taken as we consider the punishment necessary when people begin to talk out of turn.  For those serving directly in the military, it becomes a question of honor as well as the law, since anyone who’s served in the armed forces knows of the oath of allegiance you take.  For all others, particularly defense contractors, it’s more a problem of morality and truthfulness but still is a question that requires a legal answer.

And punishment is necessary in all of the presented cases, make no mistake.  Each individual has broken the laws of either, our government or the branch of it that they chose to serve.  Each knew full well the consequences of their actions yet went ahead and did their deeds anyway.  It’s only after the crimes have been committed that they seek to have their activities expunged through the court of public opinion.   But while Joe public can and should be involved in the privacy debate, he or she has no standing on whether or not a crime has occurred and what the punishment for those actions should be.  That has to remain up to the injured party; in this case, the federal government.

And what should we think?  For me at least and maybe it’s a baby-boomer thing but that our government is spying on us did not come as a surprise.  I can’t seem to get up a head of steam and register the outrage that seems to be coming from many in the country.  We’ve had the technology at least since 9/11  (remember, there was the occasional debate/question concerning whether or not surveillance programs existed) and as the war on terror raged on in that infamous date’s aftermath, I was almost certain that if they did indeed have such expertise, they were certainly going to utilize it.  But of course, there’s surveillance and then there’s spying. 

Black Nationalists and others deemed “subversive” were spied on during the 60’s and 70’s.  The current program does not rise to that extreme, I don’t think. While it blankets our entire population, it doesn’t necessarily target specific domestic members, or ordinary citizens, as they did back then.  Anyway, I’d prefer to have the NSA listening in on my phone conversations rather than listening in on my bedroom conversations.  And as hearings are held concerning the benefit that the program has garnered, we must consider the good that’s happened because of it; i.e. foiled terror attacks along with the arrest of those involved.

We should also reflect about what we would think if any of the disrupted plots were allowed to come to fruition.   If, say for instance, the NYSE was bombed (a foiled plot), we’d wonder why, in this day of satellite communications, there was nothing that we could’ve done to prevent such a catastrophe. I can hear it now; “Wasn’t anyone listening?”   Well, now we know that someone is and maybe, just maybe, we need to be thankful that they are.  And along with giving thanks, we should deliberate and accept the fact that those individuals leaking secrets are most times in fact, criminals who have broken the law and should be held accountable.  Continue the debate but don’t excuse illegality while doing so.

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BIG BROTHER is us

We were first introduced to Big Brother in George Orwell’s novel, 1984. Since then that mythical character has taken root in the world’s culture as an example of big government gone decidedly wrong.  One can’t deny the similarities exiting between the fictitious, totalitarian republic of Oceania and many of today’s societies, ours included.  GPS and surveillance cameras along with secret prisons where habeas corpus is non-existent, were all an integral part of that mid twentieth century tale, and yet now, are all a part of our every day lives. And in still another example of art imitating real life, we learned Thursday that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been sifting through our phone records for years since 9/11, with the permission of the carrier, Verizon.  Why people are outraged, I don’t quite fathom.  And I don’t understand because more so than the government, we’ve become accustomed to spying and prying into our neighbor’s affairs and we’ve become pretty good at it since we’ve been doing it for some time now.

Once we were happy to be isolated from one another.  We knew we weren’t alone and could find a friend when needed but each of us had at our disposal an occasion to raise a barrier of sorts that afforded some protection from the prying eyes and ears of those bent on doing us harm, or those who were simply nosier than was necessary.  We came inside our homes, closed our doors and pulled down our shades.  We took our phones off the hook and kept out of sight when we chose to.  We existed in our singular castles, lowering the drawbridge and offering access only to the few and the vetted.  But then, something happened that changed us and our perception of that treasured, privileged right.   That which we previously guarded so judiciously is these days now readily surrendered for the sake of utility and oftentimes, status.

Consider this: every time we tweet a clever phrase or turn of the tongue, we give away a piece of our intellectual property; all the while gathering followers who expect us to continue to do so.  Hearts are laid bare as we update our statuses on Facebook, either because of a sincere desire to find some sort of support in the proceedings or simply to keep up with the Jones. Whatever the reasons why we do so, once we do we can’t take it back.  We’ve created an atmosphere of expectation, of wanting and of relinquishment.  We, as members of society, have opened that Pandora’s Box ourselves.  Is it any wonder then that the government would attempt to benefit from the relaxed atmosphere of acceptance that exists in this day and age of social media?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not trying to beat up on Facebook or Twitter.  There is a place for social media in today’s society; we’ve seen the benefit their use can provide during troubled times.  Lives were undoubtedly saved in Oklahoma because of people being able to notify each other via their smart phones and on Facebook.  All sorts of beneficial platforms and apps exist that can provide immense relief in a variety of situations.  Still, the current way we utilize those same platforms opens each of our lives up to the other, oftentimes unfortunately, to our individual detriment.  But yet, we continue to log on.  As we persist, despite our concerns over our loss of liberty, real or imagined, isn’t it disingenuous of us to expect our government to provide us with something that we seem to no longer hold that near and dear to our hearts?  I think so.  I’m just saying…

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