privacy

Smart Meters

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on April 7, 2015

Drought-Monitor-July-8-2014

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Enforcement Of Mandatory Water Restrictions Is Only Just The Beginning

Warning Signs 2 - Public DomainSmart meters are now being used by authorities to crack down on “water wasters” in the state of California, but this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as what they can be used for.  Ultimately, smart meters are designed to be part of an entire “smart grid” that will enable government bureaucrats “to control everything from your dishwasher to thermostat“.   And in recent years, there has been a massive push to install smart meters in as many homes in the United States and Europe as possible.  Back in December 2007, there were only 7 million smart meters installed in this country.  Today there are more than 51 million.  On the other side of the Atlantic, the European Parliament has set a goal of having smart meters in 80 percent of all homes by the year 2020.  This is being promoted as the “green” thing to do, but could it be possible that there is more to these smart meters than meets the eye?

In Long Beach, California authorities were getting complaints that a local McDonald’s restaurant was wasting water in the middle of the night.

So what did the authorities do?

They installed a smart meter which instantly started providing incriminating evidence against McDonald’s.  The following comes from CBS Los Angeles

The Long Beach Water Department says sprinklers at a McDonald’s restaurant on Bellflower Boulevard went on for 45 minutes at a time, twice a night, for an undefined number of nights. Complaints continued to mount as water pooled and wasted. The department, however, could do little about the wasting.

That was before the smart meter.

Since its installation in February, Long Beach Water Department General Manager Kevin Wattier says he saw an immediate spike by tens of thousands of gallons, each time McDonald’s overwatered their property.

And according to NPR, other large California cities are also now looking into how they can use smart meters to enforce the new mandatory water restrictions in the state…

By next February, California cities together are supposed to cut their water use by a quarter. Sacramento, San Francisco and some Central Valley cities are also seeing whether smart meters can help.

But smart meters are capable of determining far more than whether or not we are using too much water.

Already, police all over the country are using the data provided by smart meters to identify homes that are potentially growing marijuana.  Homes that grow marijuana tend to use much more electricity than other homes, and so if your home is using a high level of energy that is a red flag for the cops.

In addition, there are a whole host of other ways that smart meters can be used as surveillance devices by law enforcement.  The following list comes from an electronics and media expert from Burbank, California named Jerry Day…

1. They individually identify electrical devices inside the home and record when they are operated causing invasion of privacy.

2. They monitor household activity and occupancy in violation of rights and domestic security.

3. They transmit wireless signals which may be intercepted by unauthorized and unknown parties. Those signals can be used to monitor behavior and occupancy and they can be used by criminals to aid criminal activity against the occupants.

4. Data about occupant’s daily habits and activities are collected, recorded and stored in permanent databases which are accessed by parties not authorized or invited to know and share that private data.

5. Those with access to the smart meter databases can review a permanent history of household activities complete with calendar and time-of-day metrics to gain a highly invasive and detailed view of the lives of the occupants.

6. Those databases may be shared with, or fall into the hands of criminals, blackmailers, law enforcement, private hackers of wireless transmissions, power company employees, and other unidentified parties who may act against the interests of the occupants under metered surveillance.

7. “Smart Meters” are, by definition, surveillance devices which violate Federal and State wiretapping laws by recording and storing databases of private and personal activities and behaviors without the consent or knowledge of those people who are monitored.

8. It is possible for example, with analysis of certain “Smart Meter” data, for unauthorized and distant parties to determine medical conditions, sexual activities, physical locations of persons within the home, vacancy patterns and personal information and habits of the occupants.

If all of that wasn’t bad enough, there are also substantial concerns about the impact that these smart meters are having on our health

According to physician and epidemiologist Sam Milham, Smart Meters, which are linked to an array of health issues, emit as much as 100 times the amount of radiation as a cell phone.

Daniel Hirsch, a senior lecturer on nuclear policy at UCSC, says the federal government purposely misleads the public by conducting biased safety studies at the behest of power companies.

A Washington DC power company stirred controversy in 2013 after they were caught lying to the public about how often their smart meters emitted radiation. Despite claims that the meters only emitted radiation once every 4 to 6 hours, an investigation by WUSA9 News revealed the frequency to be closer to 4 to 6 times every minute.

When there is that much radiation blasting through our homes on a continual basis, it is inevitable that there are going to be health problems.

According to Infowars, tens of thousands of people have already reported significant health issues that they believe are directly related to the installation of smart meters in their homes…

Tens of thousands of individuals are reporting officially, to governments and utilities, that they are experiencing illness or functional impairments following the installation of “smart” meters. Reported symptoms include headaches, sleep problems, ear ringing, focus difficulties, fatigue, heart palpitations, nausea and statistically abnormal recurrences of cancer.

Perhaps you are dealing with one of the health issues just mentioned.

If so, you might want to check to see if you have a smart meter in your home.

There has got to be a better way for the state of California to monitor water usage rather than smart meters.

And without a doubt, the state of California is facing a crisis of unprecedented proportions.  The snowpack in the Sierras is only 5 percent of the long-term historical average.  Snow levels are currently at the lowest levels ever measured for this time of the year, and the snow is melting five to 30 days earlier than normal.  For much more on the nightmare that the state is dealing with, please see my previous article entitled “How Many People Will Have To Migrate Out Of California When All The Water Disappears?

Thankfully, there is a lot of waste that can be eliminated, so a lot of water can potentially be saved.  It turns out that Californians are some of the biggest water wasters on the entire planet.  The following statistic comes from the New York Times

California’s cities consume 178 gallons per person per day, on average. That’s 40 percent more than the per capita water consumption in New York City and more than double that of parched Sydney, in Australia.

So let’s hope that Californians start banding together and begin using water more wisely, because this drought is not likely to go away any time soon.

And the truth is that what is going on in the state of California is kind of a microcosm of the water crisis that is beginning to emerge all over the globe

The move by California to require mandatory cuts in water use for the first time in its history has highlighted the world’s looming water crisis and increased the focus on the links between sustainable water and sustainable energy.

“We need a new paradigm,” says Steven Solomon, author of Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization. “The days when we could just go further into the mountains and find new sources of water are past. We need to make better use of the water we have.”

In the end, the drought in California is going to affect all of us.  A tremendous amount of our produce is grown in the state, and we will all soon be feeling the pain of the drought in our local grocery stores

As California’s multi-year drought rages on, consumers in the rest of the United States may soon be feeling the pinch at the grocery store as farmers around California reduce water and plant fewer crops.

California, sometimes called the ‘nation’s salad bowl’, is the country’s largest producer of grapes, kiwis, olives, avocados, broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, tree nuts and dairy. Now in the fourth year of a massive drought ‒ and facing only a year’s worth of water remaining in the state ‒ food prices in the US and agricultural unemployment in California are set to climb as farmers do what they can to conserve water and protect their investments.

So what do you think about all of this?

The Internet of Things

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on March 1, 2015

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A Dystopian Nightmare Where Everyone And Everything Will Be Monitored On The Internet

http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Biometric-Security-Cartoon-By-Welleman.jpgCan you imagine a world where your home, your vehicles, your appliances and every single electronic device that you own is constantly connected to the Internet?  This is not some grand vision that is being planned for some day in the future.  This is something that is being systematically implemented right now.  In 2015, we already have “smart homes”, vehicles that talk to one another, refrigerators that are connected to the Internet, and televisions that spy on us.  Our world is becoming increasingly interconnected, and that opens up some wonderful possibilities.  But there is also a downside.  What if we rapidly reach a point where one must be connected to the Internet in order to function in society?  Will there come a day when we can’t even do basic things such as buy, sell, get a job or open a bank account without it?  And what about the potential for government abuse?  Could an “Internet of Things” create a dystopian nightmare where everyone and everything will be constantly monitored and tracked by the government?  That is something to think about.

Today, the Internet has become such an integral part of our lives that it is hard to remember how we ever survived without it.  And with each passing year, the number of devices connected to the Internet continues to grow at an exponential rate.  If you have never heard of the “Internet of Things” before, here is a little bit about it from Wikipedia

Things, in the IoT, can refer to a wide variety of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, electric clams in coastal waters, automobiles with built-in sensors, or field operation devices that assist fire-fighters in search and rescue. These devices collect useful data with the help of various existing technologies and then autonomously flow the data between other devices. Current market examples include smart thermostat systems and washer/dryers that utilize wifi for remote monitoring.

But there is also a dark side to the Internet of Things.  Security is a huge issue, and when that security is compromised the consequences can be absolutely horrifying.  Just consider the following example

It is a strange series of events that link two Armenian software engineers; a Shenzen, China-based webcam company; two sets of new parents in the U.S.; and an unknown creep who likes to hack baby monitors to yell obscenities at children. “Wake up, you little ****,” the hacker screamed at the top of his digital lungs last summer when a two-year-old in Houston wouldn’t stir; she happened to be deaf. A year later, a baby monitor hacker struck again yelling obscenities at a 10-month-old in Ohio.

Both families were using an Internet-connected baby monitor made by China-based Foscam. The hacker took advantage of a weakness in the camera’s software design that U.S.-based Armenian computer engineers revealed at a security conference in Amsterdam last April.

The Internet allows us to reach into the outside world from inside our homes, but it also allows the reverse to take place as well.

Do we really want to make ourselves that vulnerable?

Sadly, we live at a time when people don’t really stop to consider the downside to our exploding technological capabilities.

In fact, there are many people that are extremely eager to connect themselves to the Internet of Things.

In Sweden, there are dozens of people that have willingly had microchips implanted under the skin.  They call themselves “bio-hackers”, and they embrace what they see as the coming merger between humanity and technology.  The following is what one of the founders of a Sweden based bio-hacking community had to say during one recent interview

“The technology is already happening,” says Hannes Sjoblad, one of the founders of BioNyfiken. “We are seeing a fast-growing community of people experimenting with chip implants, which allow users to quickly and easily perform a variety of everyday tasks, such as allowing access to buildings, unlocking personal devices without PIN codes and enabling read access to various types of stored data.

“I consider the take-off of this technology as another important interface-moment in the history of human-computer interaction, similar to the launches of the first windows desktop or the first touch screen. Identification by touch is innate for humans. PIN codes and passwords are not natural. And every additional device that we have to carry around to identify ourselves, be it a key fob or a swipe card, is just another item that clutters our lives.”

And of course this is happening in the United States as well

In America, a dedicated amateur community — the “biohackers” or “grinders” — has been experimenting with implantable technology for several years. Amal Graafstra, a 38-year-old programmer and self-styled “adventure technologist”, has been inserting various types of radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips into the soft flesh between his thumbs and index fingers since 2005. The chips can be read by scanners that Graafstra has installed on the doors of his house, and also on his laptop, which gives him access with a swipe of his hand without the need for keys or passwords.

But you don’t have to have a microchip implant in order to be a part of the Internet of Things.

In fact, there are a whole host of “wearable technologies” that are currently being developed for our society.

For instance, have you heard about “OnStar for the Body” yet?  It will enable medical personnel to constantly monitor your health wherever you are…

Smart, cheaper and point-of-care sensors, such as those being developed for the Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE, will further enable the ‘Digital Checkup’ from anywhere. The world of ‘Quantified Self’ and ‘Quantified Health’ will lead to a new generation of wearable technologies partnered with Artificial Intelligence that will help decipher and make this information actionable.

And this ‘actionability’ is key. We hear the term Big Data used in various contexts; when applied to health information it will likely be the smart integration of massive data sets from the ‘Internet of things’ with the small data about your activity, mood, and other information. When properly filtered, this data set can give insights on a macro level – population health – and micro – ‘OnStar for the Body‘ with a personalized ‘check engine light’ to help identify individual problems before they further develop into expensive, difficult-to-treat or fatal conditions.

If that sounded creepy to you, this next item will probably blow you away.

According to one survey, approximately one-fourth of all professionals in the 18 to 50-year-old age bracket would like to directly connect their brains to the Internet…

According to a survey by tech giant Cisco Systems, about a fourth of professionals ages 18 to 50 would leap at the chance to get a surgical brain implant that allowed them to instantly link their thoughts to the Internet.

The study was conducted on 3,700 adults working in white-collar jobs in 15 countries.

“Assuming a company invented a brain implant that made the World Wide Web instantly accessible to their thoughts, roughly one-quarter would move forward with the operation,” the study found.

In the end, they are not going to have to force most of us to get connected to the Internet of Things.

Most of us will do it eagerly.

But most people will never even stop to consider the potential for abuse.

An Internet of Things could potentially give governments all over the world the ability to continually monitor and track the activities of everyone under their power all of the time.

If you do not think that this could ever happen, perhaps you should consider the words of former CIA director David Petraeus

“Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation Internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing”

Are you starting to get the picture?

They plan to use the Internet of Things to spy on all of us.

But we just can’t help ourselves.  Our society has a love affair with new technology.  And some of the things that are being developed right now are beyond what most of us ever dreamed was possible.

For example, Microsoft has just released a new promotional video featuring 3D holograms, smart surfaces, next-generation wearable technologies, and “fluid mobility”…

The elaborate, highly produced video shows jaw-dropping technologies like a SCUBA mask that annotates the sea with 3D holograms, a multipart bracelet that joins together to become a communications device, and interactive, flexible displays that automatically “rehydrate” with information specific to the people using them.

This video from Microsoft was posted on YouTube, and I have shared it below…

So what do you think about all of this?

Paranoia Squared

Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on February 26, 2014

http://www.demotivationalposters.org/image/demotivational-poster/0910/paranoia-october-challange-bruce-campbell-evil-dead-army-of-demotivational-poster-1256131803.jpg

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Communicating on the Internet is full of all sorts of hazards.  Two of the biggest are the loss of Privacy resultant from dropping your thoughts on far distant Disk Drives run by other people and the fact that both Da Goobermint and Private Individuals can ascertain who you are and in some cases also where you live.

Over my years participating on the Internet in chat rooms and on forums and blogs, I have pursued a semi-Anonymous paradigm.  I write under a Nom-de-Plume, and my email addresses don’t feature my real name, like say Joe.Sixpack@beer.com. 🙂

So for the typical user who reads something I write, I am anonymous to them. Reason for this is that dropping your real name out there to the world at large can cause you all sorts of problems if somebody is annoyed at what you wrote.  They can find out where you work, and you can get harrassed on the job because of it.  In fact, going back to my earliest years in internet participation, I actually got fired from a job because some critiques I wrote of my industry got back to my employer of the time.

After that less than pleasant experience, I elected to do all my writing as an Anon, under the nom-de-plume most of the time in recent years in the Collapse Blogosphere as Reverse Engineer, aka RE.  This allows me to write my thoughts more freely, without so much fear of Blowback from it.  However, as I got deeper into internet participation and eventually started up my own websites with my own URLs and server space, I began to realize how really limited this level of Anonymity is.  When you register a URL (the Uniform Resource Locator which is your Web Address), you have to pay for that, and to do that you have to use a Credit/Debit card with your real name on it.  This goes into the database of all the owners of URLs, which can be looked up by anyone.  You can pay EXTRA to have your personal info masked to the public at large, but it of course always visible to the NSA as well as all the Admins of various routers that transit the information.

The next area of vulnerability is in participation on privately run websites, where whether you sign up or not, each time you post up your IP address is recorded along with whatever content you dropped on.  This IP address is Unique to the computer you were keyboarding on at the time, and records also the Host through which you are connected to the net.  In some cases it is possible to nail down a location just from this information.  For instance, if you are connected up to a Hotel WiFi and there is no masking or proxy servers being used, any Admin can see what hotel you are staying at when you make a post.

Internet surfers who are both truly paranoid as well as quite savvy will mask their locations by using proxy servers, if they do this then the typical Admin of a website can’t discern their location just from the listed IP address, though Tracing is possible and done by for-pay Security firms specializing in this sort of stuff.  Again for the NSA, this level of adding personal security is pretty much a waste of time too unless you are very, VERY good at it.  I am certainly not that good, so I simply no longer worry about being listed and followed by the NSA, if they deem my stuff worthy of following.

At the level of the individual website though, the folks who sign themselves up and post Anonymously hope to REMAIN Anon to the population at large.  So if/when they find out or realize that the Admin on their favored site has checked into who they are and where they are posting from, they get the feeling their Privacy has been Violated.  Has it been?

Not really, because the moment you sign up or even just post up, you GIVE AWAY certain privacy rights.  You cannot participate without your IP showing up with the post.  From the POV of the website Owner/Admin, you have to know the IP addys, because if you have Troublesome people on your website, this is the only way you can Ban them.  Troublesome people include Spammers who throw on Pharmaceutical and Video links in with their post as well as Trolls who drop on the site specifically to disrupt the conversations taking place and deliver their own agenda to the readers.

Here on the Diner, I have a basically No Ban policy except for Spammers, but even so with the Trolls I keep track of the IP addys so I know if somebody is posting under more than one Screen ID.  Besides the general practical problem of keeping the conversation civil and on track, there are also legal issues you face if you have a particularly extreme commenter show up on your site.  Such a commenter might be someone who is a Neo-Nazi advocating a Violent Revolution who also posts up Diagrams for making IEDs and maybe even Nuclear Bombs.  Or  somebody who persistently makes links to and embeds explicit Pornography.  I have never had either of those types show up on the Diner fortunately, but if they did I would Ban them despite my No Ban general policy.  Reason is at this point I can be held legally liable for allowing the stuff to go across my website.

InternetCensorship061208Most of the time though, you don’t face such extreme problems, but you still do keep track of everyone posting, and sometimes issues come up regarding the general Honesty of the poster, which happened here recently in the case of our Favorite Energy Industry Shill, MKing.  His real qualifications have been a persistent question on the Diner by many because he is very nebulous about them, and so one of our Admins decided to at least determine if he was where he said he was at an Energy Conference, and it turned out he was.  He was in fact validated as at least being there by the research this Admin did, and he wasn’t particularly upset about this.

However, though he was not upset much by this, some other Diners were TERRIFICALLY upset, and in fact one of the Diners deleted his membership as a result of this. The Paranoia became rampant here that people were being SPYED on and that Real Identities would be Outted on the Diner for the Anons.  Nothing of the sort has ever happened here, and will not happen if I can prevent it, because this is against my own personal ethics and the way I post on the net!  I don’t want my IRL Identity bandied about, so I am not going to advocate any other Anon Poster gets outted either.

Same time though, the more you post, the longer you post and the more deeply involved you get in internet communications, the more likely it becomes that your IRL Identity becomes known.  In fact, probably half of the Diners don’t bother with Anons at all, or have very thinly disguised ones.  WHD for instance publishes himself as William Hunter Duncan on his own Blog Off the Grid in Minneapolis, and JDW uses his real name of John D. Wheeler all the time.  In both cases also their locations are known, so you KNOW these guys are honest on this level.

I have seen how the paranoia regarding Identity and Location will hamstring participation on the net before.  One of our most valued contributors, BC2K dropped off the net after I informed him that his location was transparent by IP Addy.  Besides that, he used his real name as part of his email addy, so that is a dead giveaway right there.  As someone who REALLY wants to remain unknown and private, this was too much to bear for BC2K, so he disappeared from the net far as I can tell.  This was a great loss to the Diner Community, but a loss to BC2K as well, because there are always new things to learn here on the net no matter how good a solo prepper you are.

It is OK and in fact worthwhile to have a certain amount of Paranoia with respect to Web participation.  At the same time though SQUARING the Paranoia, and allowing yourself to be completely cut off from the communication with others helps no one, including yourself.

There are many basic means of securing yourself from problems that you worry about, like being infected with Viruses and Malware.  If this is a real big concern of yours, use a separate dedicated Netbook for participation on Websites that you think might infect your computer.  If it does occur, you can wipe the Hard Drive clean and start over, without damaging any files on your main laptop.  Don’t use your real name as part of your email address, make a separate email addy on Google or Yahoo just for the purpose of communicating on websites you believe are dicey or compromised.  Use Free Wi-Fi at Coffee Shops and Libraries if you want to hide your main Internet Provider and location.

Awareness of the problem and taking your own preventative measures can allow the best of both worlds.  You have good security for yourself while at the same time you can participate and glean more knowledge and information from others who are concerned with the same problems you are.

In the end here, we all are known quantities to the folks in control so long as we use the Internet they also control.  You cannot use the Internet AT ALL, including email, if you allow your Paranoia to Square itself.  Use CFS in protecting your identity and your computer if this stuff concerns you.  You can remain pretty safe and still participate, long as you have awareness and knowledge of how the system works and what is visible and what is not.  YOU have control over that, not the Admins of websites like the Diner.

From the NSA and Google though, you got no means to remain Anon  unless you are simply first class Hacker.  You gotta live with that one if you want to participate on the net at all.

RE

The Last of the Human Freedoms

Off the keyboard of  Jaded Prole
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The Last of the Human Freedoms

Originally published on the The Jaded Prole on August 12, 2013

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“Everything can be taken from us but one thing: the last of the human freedoms –

to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

– Viktor Frankl

I tend to comment a lot on, Pilotonline, that is, the online version of our local paper, the Virginian Pilot. For me, it is my morning mental and writing calisthenics but also, it serves a vital function: a public forum where ideas and opinions on the topics of our time can be openly discussed. It is free but because most of us work for others, many people are afraid to post, or post under assumed names for fear of repercussions. I can certainly understand this, having lost jobs for speaking out on issues in ways unrelated to employers, including my last job in 2008, ostensibly for “speaking out against the war” online.

 

This brings to mind the recent firing of Norfolk’s 911 dispatcher Jessica Camarillo for posting a particularly ugly comment on Facebook regarding the unfortunate killing of a young man by Norfolk Police while he was attempting to cash a stolen check. Her comment, suggesting the family be charged for the bullets, was certainly in poor taste but should she have been fired? How does the fear of workplace repression with widely published examples like this affect your freedom to express opinions publicly? As the dictatorial setting of the workplace reaches beyond the workplace itself, this also opens up a root question; can you really be free if you live in fear of exercising that freedom?

 

More and more we are living in a society where our associations and opinions are monitored. Employers search Facebook and Google potential and present employees. And the government, as we are learning thanks to Edward Snowden, is increasingly monitoring our every conversation, location, purchase and association.

My summer reading has further caused me to consider the implications of this on the state of our liberty and the health of our society. I have been reading Hannah Arendt, the mid-century philosopher and holocaust survivor most famous for her coverage of the Eichmann trial and her coining of the term, ,the banality of evil. In reporting on that trial from Jerusalem, what struck her was that Eichmann was not the monster she had expected. He was a bureaucrat who had abandoned any thought or opinion of his own and strove to do his job the best that he could. He had taken an oath of loyalty to his government and that was that. He was a career minded military man who was otherwise normal. She wrote, “The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.” She added that he had given up the option of even considering moral principles or of taking responsibility for his own decisions and actions, the very thing which makes us human, and instead had become an accomplice, even a leader, in the greatest crime in history. I personally have chosen throughout my life to only take jobs that did no harm and, at best, helped others. My refusal to relinquish my humanity has not served me well in the workplace but I can look at myself in the mirror knowing I haven’t been a good German.

 

How is the unquestioning loyalty and job focus of Eichmann really different from the fellow operating the drone, working in a munitions plant, mining fossil fuels, participating in missile launches from a ship, the JSOC commando carrying out assassinations, or the many bureaucrats and support workers that keep an ever-growing national security state functioning? This seems especially relevant in our military dependent area. Aren’t we responsible as individuals for everything we participate in? That seems to be the judgment of the Nuremberg tribunals as well as the Eichmann trial.

 

In her book, “Between Past and Future,” Arendt writes about the vital importance of Truth and of truth tellers. In examining what we mean by Truth, she distinguishes “rational truth” from “factual truth. The former being that which is undeniable like geometry, and the latter being historical facts and scientific findings. She focuses on the factual truth which is often contentious due to its implications and challenges to power and wealth. She writes, “The chances of factual truth surviving the onslaught of power are very slim indeed . . . factual truth, if it happens to oppose a given group’s profit or pleasure, is greeted today with more hostility than ever.” Interestingly, this was penned in the 1950’s. She also states that the opposite of factual truth is of course, a lie. She writes, “ . . . a liar, lacking the power to make his falsehood stick, does not insist on the gospel truth of his statement but pretends that this is his opinion.” Thus, those whose interests are threatened by factual truth, often present that truth as merely an opinion. Think of examples like the dangers of Tobacco, or Global Warming, or Evolution. We even do this with the ultimate but threatening truth of death, creating hoped for afterlife alternatives that give us comfort by rendering our certain end an opinion.

More important is the necessity of public communication in the search for Truth. Emmanuel Kant addressed this, stating that, “The external power that deprives man of his freedom to communicate his thoughts publicly, deprives him at the same time of his freedom to think.” We think in community. We need to check the thoughts in our head with that of others to make them valid. This sharing of information is especially vital in a representative republic where opinions become votes. An uninformed and cowed citizenry is an easily manipulable mass, barely meeting the definition of “citizen.”

 

This brings me back to the Pilotonline forum and the voiced intent of the paper to further limit posting privileges by eliminating the protection of anonymity which allows working people to participate in the public conversation without fear. I expressed my objection of this to Editorial Page Editor Donald Luzzatto, pointing out that the only people brave enough to post opinions under their real name were business owners, retirees and those with nothing left to lose. He disagreed but no doubt, knows the limits of what he himself can say in order to maintain his position.

 

In the larger world, we are seeing record levels of citizen surveillance, attacks on truth tellers, and on the Press in order to suppress factual truths our government finds threatening. In a recent ruling from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Obama administration won a stunning blow against Press freedom. As reported in The Guardian, “the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled on the case of New York Times reporter James Risen, delivered a blow to investigative journalism in America by ruling that reporters have no First Amendment protection that would safeguard the confidentiality of their sources in the event of a criminal trial.” The ongoing trial of Bradley Manning the charge of “aiding the enemy” had repercussions for those exposing information that might be vital for citizens to be aware of. The Pentagon Papers would be a good example as would exposure of lies to justify war. Fortunately Manning was found innocent of that charge. If the Press fears reporting anything not approved, is it still a “free press?”

 

Arendt points out, we may not even want to consider if life would be worth living in a world devoid of justice or freedom and that, “these are not possible with the seemingly less political idea of Truth. What is at stake is survival and no human world will ever be able to survive without people willing to say what is.” Throughout history, truth seekers and truth tellers have been ridiculed, tortured and killed and our own time is no exception. Bradley Manning and Eric Snowden are prime examples of this and they are not alone. Abdulrahman Haider Shiah, a Yemeni journalist who reported on the U.S missile attack that killed 40 Bedouin women and children in Al Majala, Yemen, was held in prison on a direct order from President Obama. He was reed last week but his life is still in danger. Truth telling journalists like Jeremy Scahill, Glenn Greenwald and Chris Hedges are sidelined slandered or threatened for their efforts in exposing truths most Americans never about.

 

Activists beyond the world of journalism also take risks, refusing to be like Eichmann, an unthinking cog abetting a larger crime. Brandon Toy, an Iraq veteran and defense contractor working for General Dynamics as an Engineering Project Manager building Stryker armored fighting vehicles recently wrote a formal letter of resignation. He wrote;

“I hereby resign in protest effective immediately.
I have served the post-911 Military Industrial complex for 10 years, first as a soldier in Baghdad, and now as a defense contractor.

At the time of my enlistment, I believed in the cause. I was ignorant, naïve, and misled. The narrative, professed by the state, and echoed by the mainstream press, has proven false and criminal. We have become what I thought we were fighting against.

 

Recent revelations by fearless journalists of war crimes including counterinsurgency “dirty” wars, drone terrorism, the suspension of due process, torture, mass surveillance, and widespread regulatory capture have shed light on the true nature of the current US Government. I encourage you to read more about these topics.

 

Some will say that I am being irresponsible, impractical, and irrational. Others will insist that I am crazy. I have come to believe that the true insanity is doing nothing. As long as we sit in comfort, turning a blind eye to the injustices of the world, nothing will change. It is even worse to play an active part, protesting all along that I am not the true criminal.
I was only a foot soldier, and am now a low level clerk. However, I have always believed that if every foot soldier threw down his rifle war would end. I hereby throw mine down.”

Mr. Toy, unlike Eichmann, reserved his right to choose, to make moral decisions, in short, to maintain his integrity and his humanity. Others, like the Catholic Plowshares activists practice non-violent civil disobedience to bring attention to crimes perpetrated in our names. Greg Bortje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice and Michael Walli are facing 35 years in prison for the Transform Now Plowshares action. This symbolic disarmament took place at the Oak Ridge Y-12 plant, where they managed, unimpeded, to get to the building where all of our nation’s highly enriched weapons grade uranium for nuclear warheads are stored. They hammered on the building’s cornerstone – nuclear weapons are the cornerstone of the US empire – and splashed their blood on it, graphically depicting the end result of the production and use of such weapons. They did this to demonstrate the immorality and danger of nuclear weapons and to voice opposition. They are charged with “sabotage” for their actions. Our local Norfolk Catholic Worker activist, Steve Baggarly, has participated in similar actions and has spent years in prison, voluntarily sacrificing himself to express his objection to militarism, war and empire and to bring attention to it.

 

He and many others regularly protest at the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia where Latin American soldiers are taught brutal practices of repression and torture. Father Roy Bourgeois has been leading this effort for years.

 

All of us make choices and have to balance our personal values with our need to make a living. In this effort we are subject to many pressures. Our ability to make those decisions is dependent on what we know and on how that shapes our beliefs. This requires access to Truth, for as Voltaire famously said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” History is replete with examples, as is the present. If we are to reclaim an open society and truly defend our freedom we must insist on the freedom to think, the freedom to speak, the freedom to know, and the freedom to choose.

 

Jaded Prole is the nom-de-plume of a freelance writer and poet as well as a publisher, and philosopher living in Virginia.

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