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Imagine yourself outside our universe looking down through the universe, across the suns and planets and moons, focusing on earth, seeing the mountains and oceans as tiny specks, coming closer and closer in, focusing closer in until you see the larger animals, elephants and whales and then closer and closer until you see us, humans and then all of the cells and bacteria in us then in smaller animals, ants, then plants.
That is what I think about when I want to get a perspective on my problems and my relationship with God. We are about as big in terms of the perspective of the universe as that tiny speck of bacteria is in the video in the OP. We are nothing. And yet we are our whole world because the world is contained in our perception of it. There is, for each of us, no world, no real world, beyond the world we can perceive, touch, feel or at least imagine and think about. And our perception of ourselves in that immensity, our tiny selves in that greatness, only our souls, the spiritual aspect of ourselves can travel across the great vastness of the universe. And we only travel the distance when we are spiritually whole.
That is perspective for me.
Posted by JDPriestly | Mon Dec 16, 2013, 04:31 PM (0 replies)
Back in the late '80s, interest on a home mortgage was 9.5% or 10%. That's what we got in the late 80s.
In the late 90s, interest rates on private student loans were 7.5-8.5%.
Those of us who paid the increases in payroll taxes that were enacted to save in the Social Security Trust Fund for the retirement of the baby boomers (starting during the Reagan administration between 1983-1985) PAID those interest rates.
The interest rates now are artificially low thanks to Fed maneuvers and the crash of the housing boom. Please note that the first of the baby boomers who were born in 1946 first became eligible for Social Security at the reduced distributions for 63-year-olds in 2009. The housing crash and bank failures were timed perfectly to harm baby boomers.
As is the proposed default on the Social Security benefits.
And please note that the Republicans were in office when the housing boom and subsequent crash were allowed to happen.
We are due a lot of interest on the money that we put into the Social Security system.
Most of us started putting in money when we were still kids back in the 1960s. Our generations (war babies and baby boomers) often started working as early teenagers.
The money we put in when we were in our teens and 20s so long ago has accrued an enormous amount of interest. That is why we probably are not really even getting back the value that we put in with the current benefits.
Average benefits paid out to retirees as of August 2013:
Old-Age and Survivors Insurance . . . . 1,203.72
Retirement benefits . . . 1,224.69
Retired workers . . . 1,270.38
Spouses of retired workers . . . 634.20
Children of retired workers . . . 619.95
The minimum benefit is $1.
The maximum benefit depends on the age at which you retire and your income (how much you put in).
The maximum benefit depends on the age you retire. For example, if you retire at your full retirement age in 2013, your maximum benefit would be $2,533. But if you retire at age 62 in 2013, your maximum benefit would be $1,923. If you retire at age 70 in 2013, your maximum benefit would be $3,350.
The recent job deficit has forced more people to retire earlier. That means that the monthly benefits they receive are and will continue to be lower than those who can still work until they are 70.
People retire because employers really don't want to hire older workers.
If workers were in big demand, if we had very, very low unemployment, fewer people would retire before they were 70.
So, the real problem is not Social Security but our bad economy. We have outsourced and exported too many jobs. That is our problem. Our free trade policies are really hurting Americans. Social Security is a red herring. It's not the problem. The lack of jobs is the problem.
Posted by JDPriestly | Sun Oct 27, 2013, 03:15 AM (1 replies)
and was, following instructions from Greenwald and Snowden, careful not to publish any details that might harm US security interests.
Here is a very brief excerpt from what Le Monde said in its editorial on the Snowden revelations regarding France.
The freedom to communicate and to benefit from secrecy in one's correspondence is a cornerstone of functioning democracies. The systematic intrusion in private lives is the mark of totalitarian systems, as the film, "The Lives of Others" which described the Stasi's operations in East Germany reminds us. . . . .
La liberté de communiquer et de bénéficier du secret de la correspondance est une pierre angulaire du fonctionnement des démocraties. L'intrusion systématique dans la vie privée est le propre des systèmes totalitaires, comme a pu le rappeler le film La vie des autres décrivant l'appareil de la Stasi en Allemagne de l'Est. . . . .
Posted by JDPriestly | Mon Oct 21, 2013, 07:46 AM (0 replies)
service he rendered to our democracy.
The people who defend the NSA have not thought through what the surveillance means for our country. In the late 1970s when the Supreme Court ruled that police may collect metadata, they were deciding a specific case concerning the collection of evidence in the narrow facts of a legitimate investigation of a crime that had occurred. That is not what the NSA surveillance is about. Not at all.
You have a First Amendment right to freedom of association. That means that Congress can pass no law that permits anyone in government to interfere with your free association with anyone in the world. The First Amendment arguably does not apply to foreign nationals outside the US. But it most definitely applies to all communications of Americans. It is not a freedom that is limited geographically to "within the United States," not in my reading of the plain text. It prohibits the government from limiting the association of Americans, period. That is my opinion. If the Congress has enabled the NSA to collect all the metadata on your communications, how can you or anyone else associate with others or ultimately organize freely?
You have a First Amendment right of freedom of religion. That means that the government cannot pass a law that authorizes any employee to limit your right to freedom of religion at all. But if the NSA can collect your metadata without any cause at all, much less probable cause, how can you really be free in your religious search, expression and association?
You have a First Amendment right of freedom of the press. That means that the government cannot pass or impose any law that abridges (limits) your right to read any news or obtain any information from the media that the media can provide. How can you enjoy the freedom of the press if the NSA is spying on reporters to discover their sources?
And in that context, think of Thomas Paine. He published the documents that stirred the hearts of the patriots in our American Revolution. The NSA and our government would surely have threatened him as they threaten Edward Snowden. We are supposed to be a country that encourages freedom of information and free dissent. A criminal, including terrorists, is defined as one who has committed a crime. How can a journalist be a criminal under the First Amendment? So why should journalists be under investigation.
Our government is far too dependent on its secrecy laws for keeping the peace and establishing what it considers to be "security" in the country. Think about what happened with the Occupy movement. Were they a threat to the security of the country? I don't think so. A messy inconvenience at most in all places in which they were nonviolent. (And that was most everywhere.)
The NSA and our military are a small elite in the country. They are not elected. They barely even answer to our elected officials. They have willingly and conspicuously lied to our Congress. We should be finding out much more about what is going on in their hidden, undemocratic, possibly very corrupt halls. The existence of such a "special" protected cabal within our otherwise democratically elected government is a huge threat. Snowden and his revelations are no threat at all compared to the threat of this very powerful, very secretive clique in our government. Which, by the way, has taken access to all kind of information that could be used to intimidate or blackmail at the NSA's whim.
The NSA spying is incompatible with even a shadow of a democracy. It makes a mockery of everything that previous generations of Americans fought and died for. It is in my opinion unconstitutional.
There was a time when slavery was considered to be lawful, to comply with the Constitution. The NSA spying enslaves our communications, and will destroy what we have left of democracy. I know this sounds extreme, hair-on-fire they say. But think about it. If you do, you will agree with me.
Of course those under 65 probably did not take a good government course and probably never really learned much about the US Constitution. The Nixon administration and the right wing of the US got so scared after the Viet Nam demonstrations that the serious study of government was all but removed from high school curricula.
To whom did the files that Edward Snowden allegedly "stole" really belong? To that elite clique in the NSA who were never elected and who live and "serve" through series of weak administrations and snub their noses at money-grubbing members of Congress, waiting until they get the right court in order to expand NSA power?
No. The files that Edward Snowden "stole" belong to you and me and every other American.
So, no. I don't see Edward Snowden as the person who violated an enforceable law here. He was acting in the greatest American tradition which places limits on unrestrained, out-of-control authority in a nonviolent way.
I don't think of Edward Snowden as a hero. I think of him as having done the job that others in the NSA should have been doing on behalf of his employers, the American people.
Posted by JDPriestly | Wed Sep 18, 2013, 04:53 PM (4 replies)
Private companies are going to use that information if they get it at all to try to make a profit from their products. They aren't going to use it to control our political speech. They will try to convince us to buy their products, but they won't try to convince us to start an illegal war or hate the people of another country or agree to waste money on more surveillance.
Private companies are somewhat controlled by their obligation to make money for their owners or shareholders. It isn't much solace when compared to the amount of information they have about us, but it is some.
When the government has this information, it can use it for purposes that destroy meaningful democratic government or even any illusion of meaningful democratic elections or government or decision-making.
And above all, when we say that the government has this information, what we really mean is that a tiny clique in the government, a clique that is part of and controls our domestic and foreign military power and legal power over people's lives here and around the world. They have that information. That information that I hypothetically took from your mailbox, and unlike private companies, they can easily access all your information, not just your phone bill but your electric bill, your charges at Walmart, everything that you have entrusted to electronic transmissions.
And that tiny clique has your information, all the details of your life in their possession. Maybe they won't use it. Maybe they will.
But what is unacceptable is having that much information on so many Americans in the hands, in the databases of so few. It is like the Middle Ages where you had to check in and out at a gate as you came in and went out of town. Your movements, that vacation in Maine, that call to your old high school boyfriend in Florida, the phone return you made to Verizon, the big bills you ran up talking to your son in Ireland? All of it is within the files of a small clique of people. Do they access all of it all the time? No. But it is within their discretion to access any or all of it at any time.
East Germany did not have the capacity to place their nation under surveillance that our NSA has, and yet they wreaked havoc in the lives of East Germans.
Giving the NSA the authority to acquire all this information is too great a temptation, too great a power for government. I'm no libertarian, but I do know a bit about history.
This is the most dangerous program I have ever heard of.
Posted by JDPriestly | Mon Aug 12, 2013, 10:12 PM (1 replies)
What does Snowden stand to gain from his revelations in your view?
From what I have read so far, he appears to have asked nothing other than asylum for the truths he brought to light.
I don't think he spoke up or published these documents for personal benefit.
Rather I think he is paying and will pay a tremendous price for his courage and honesty.
It will be a long time, maybe never, before he gets to bask in the glory of having opened the eyes of millions in the world to the surveillance to which we are subjected.
In fact, just to live, just to survive, he has to fade from the stage, leave everything he has ever known and retire to a very, very quiet life far from anyone who has ever known him.
He is at sea. He can know no one. He can trust no one. And that for a long time, maybe the rest of his life.
Meanwhile, you and I sit here in our comfortable chairs posting on the internet, living the good life until we die of natural causes. And quite possibly, we will eventually enjoy just maybe a tiny bit more privacy in our communications thanks to his revelations. We may gain, but Snowden will lose. He will be on the run, never to feel secure probably for the rest of his life.
And there may not be much left of that.
Snowden a coward? Really?
A "coward" who will never sleep a night without wondering who may have seen him during the day, who is coming for him, whether today he will be hunted down by our powerful state and our mighty, ubiquitous military.
Snowden will wonder perpetually to what sadistic police force in what remote country he will be secretly renditioned, to what kind of torture he will be subjected, what violent end he will meet.
Meanwhile you and I chat away, our every word, our every keystroke watched, collected, sorted and categorized by the voracious computers at Booz, Allen.
Now, who is the coward(s)?
For my part, I'm really grateful to Snowden for making the sacrifices he has made to let us know that our own government is Big Brother and is watching us, slicing and dicing our every communication, classifying our every call, ready to claim every word we write or speak any time it wishes.
Posted by JDPriestly | Sat Jul 6, 2013, 11:55 PM (2 replies)
Snowden just told us that they were stealing it.
Snowden did not take anything that didn't already belong to us, the people.
Ours is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Since we are the government, since we govern ourselves, who took our metadata? It is a small elite clique, a rogue group in our government that operates under the color of authority but that does not have legitimate authority. Why does this program lack authority?
Because once people understand what is happening and what the repercussions of this spying and collection of our metadata means for our self-determination, for our press, for our freedom of speech, religion and association among other freedoms, this spying will have no authority whatsoever. It is a program that operates under the color of law but is as illegal as police brutality.
Snowden has brought out the facts. It will probably take years, but the program's inevitable excesses and abuses will come to life and the people will take back their authority and end the program.
Posted by JDPriestly | Sat Jul 6, 2013, 06:19 PM (1 replies)
I value democracy, representative government, participatory government so much that I volunteer in political campaigns, I discuss politics with my neighbors and friends and family, and I read and post on DU to keep up with political developments. I devote a lot of time to democracy and to participating in what I have always thought was the democracy in which I live.
So once you decide how much you value democracy, it comes down to what you believe is necessary in a society in order to have a democracy.
For me, we need a free press, near absolute freedom of expression (right up to the point at which the only expression that should be barred is expression that makes democracy and the expression by others of their ideas impossible), freedom of religion, freedom of association and freedom to petition government and a government that answers to all the people and not just the wealthy, the well connected.
For me, a democratic, a representative government answers to the people. It does not manipulate the people. It does not indulge in psy-ops, influencing the people with psychological tricks. It does not require the people to use ID cards made with technology that uses biological markers like DNA or a photo of the singular eye of the card-holder.
When I was a child, I was told that our Forefathers fought and worked and wrote the Constitution so that we would live in a democracy, so that we would have and participate in representative government and so that certain rights we be guaranteed to us to insure that we could live in democracy.
This surveillance program is incompatible with democracy because it makes a free press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and all our other freedoms impossible.
It makes a joke of representative government, since under this surveillance program we cannot, without the government's knowledge, communicate with each other or learn news that the government might not approve.
Further, once the government has collected our metadata, knows the names of the people we communicate with, the organizations we belong to, the books we buy or borrow, etc. the government, regardless which party is in charge, can classify us, and most important, if it sees what websites we visit, it can categorize us by our interests.
Once it has that and similar information, it can influence us. It can make sure that we are contacted by people who have links to the organizations, religious, social, professional, that are important to us. It can make sure that we will be exposed to the information it wants us to have.
In fact, I have wondered, here on DU, whether one or maybe more of the people who post a lot and always feed us with information, very elaborate and well organized information that is extremely, unusually and always favorable about, flattering to, our current government are employed by someone, maybe the government, to influence us, to do psy-ops on us on DU.
It may just be coincidence, but, is it possible that a real person would always, always, always be able to think up reasons, arguments for us to side with the Obama administration? A person who genuinely thinks for him or herself is, in my opinion bound on occasion, at least once in a while, to disagree with Obama on something no matter how much they support Obama.
I strongly object to this surveillance program. It is not compatible with democracy or representative government.
It is also not compatible with human rights. The minute that our government places us under surveillance we are not free to say or think what we really say or think.
This program enables the government to manipulate and influence us -- inevitably. If the government is not yet actively influencing and manipulating us, sooner or later it will.
This surveillance takes away our freedom.
In my view, for that reason, it is unconstitutional.
If you think I am wrong or exaggerating, think a little harder.
A reporter whose phone records, whose metadata is collected by the government cannot make a call to talk to a source without the government knowing that the communication is taking place.
A troubled soul cannot call his pastor or his doctor's office with the government finding out that call took place.
An abused wife cannot call an attorney for advice without the government knowing about it.
This surveillance deprives us of our freedom and enables our government to influence us. That is not democracy.
So that is why I am grateful to Snowden for letting us know that this program is taking place.
Punishing Snowden would mean the government is telling the American people that the American people do not even have the right to discuss this surveillance program, much less criticize it.
Obama has said we should have a discussion about surveillance, but he wants to punish the person who began this discussion. That makes no sense.
Again, there is somehow a contradiction between claiming that you encourage discussion on a topic and then trying to arrest the very person who started the conversation.
We live in dangerous times. Surveillance is a dangerous development.
Posted by JDPriestly | Sat Jul 6, 2013, 02:05 AM (9 replies)
That's not Snowden's thing. He is a cyber-revolutionary. I'm not at all saying that I think that is a good thing or a bad thing. I'm just saying how I see this situation realistically.
While I am happy that Snowden has let us know that our electronic communications are not at all private and that we have no right or means to know whether we are among the surveilled or not, I don't know enough about the cyber-revolution, the cyber-war in which he seems to have taken a command for himself to know what it means for the rest of us non-computer-geeks.
I have no idea how computers work other than that I can turn one on and enter stuff and stuff comes out. I don't understand the internet well enough to post successfully on any website other than DU, but I do send e-mails and do Google searches.
Seriously. I have joined other websites, but I can never seem to get back on if I don't go back for a while. I haven't learned to text yet. So you can see. I am not a soldier in the cyber-wars. Not even a likely enlistee.
But I do now understand what General MacArthur said to Theodore White two days after Hiroshima.
"White, he said, White, do you know what this (the atomic bomb on Hiroshima) means?" "What sir?" I (Theodore White) asked. It meant, he said, that all wars were over; wars were no longer matters of valor or judgment, but lay in the hands of scholars and scientists. "Men like me are obsolete," he said, pacing back and forth. "There will be no more wars, White, no more wars."
Theodore White, In Search of History, A Personal Adventure (Warner Books 1978) page 224
Snowden was born in 1983. Although it was already an inevitable reality, Congress argued about opening up our markets to international free trade on a pretty unlimited basis in 1985 (maybe earlier, but 1985 is when I learned about it). Snowden's generation of Americans does not have the same concept of "nation" that his parents and ours did.
Snowden believes in a cyber-world in which everybody puts in their two cents, and the best ideas win. Information is conveyed on line. People shop online, get medical advice online, socialize online, see the world online. The people even vote (recommend, like) online.
Snowden does not believe in nation-states. He buys a computer made in China out of parts made from about five other countries. His pants are made in Sri Lanka. His shirt in El Salvador. (Not really. Just examples.) His tomatoes come from Mexico, his grapes from Chile, his wine from France. He joined the US military and was sent on a cyber-mission, to spy on people around the world of all nationalities, colors, races, including the US.
And now he has taken an open field in the cyber-war. The cyber-war that puzzles the world's governments but is only understood by the computer geeks themselves. We, including our "leaders" are the peasants. Our cyber-fields will be left in ruins by this. Just wait and see. We will be much more cautious in our electronic communications once we begin to comprehend what this means.
And now Feinstein says to him: you took an oath.
Well, Feinstein took an oath too: to uphold the Constitution. But she and the rest of Congress and the Supreme Court construe the Constitution according to their interests - liberally when it comes to the powers of government, when it comes to approving secretive laws and secret cabals within the executive branch and to giving big chunks of tax money to private contractors and military junk production companies.
But when it comes to the First, Second, Fourth and maybe the Fifth and 14th Amendments (at the very least), the Executive, the Congress and worst of all, the Supreme Court believe in free authority for government and restrained rights for people.
That interpretation of the Constitution does not work well in a world of international trade and international electronic communications. Our trade agreements conflict with the concept of local, democratic government. That does not bother members of Congress like Feinstein, Pelosi and Shumer because they know how to profit from those agreements.
But the internet and electronic communications open up the world to ordinary people who clamor for international rights and international freedom. And that scares the same people who have foisted international trade on us in exchange for what used to be our jobs.
Snowden is not revolting against the US. He is beyond that. He is revolting against the constraints of traditional nation-states. He wants freedom for the internet.
He seems to have chosen to be a soldier in the government of scholars and scientists that MacArthur predicted would fight future wars. So here we are. The cyber-war is on.
I sit here, approaching my dotage. I am still part of the library generation, except that more and more, I realize that my generation would better be called the library-book-sale generation. Because that is where I am finding all these precious old books written by people who were not trying to squeeze communication into three one-syllable words expressed in symbols and smiley faces.
I look at what Snowden is doing and I am as baffled as Obama sounds, as Putin looks. I hear the skies are full of planes roaring from the capitols of countries on the out list among American diplomats. What a strange war we are in.
Personally, I'm on the side of the books -- the old books I find in used book shops and library sales -- the casualties, the orphans of this cyber-war. Unless I announce it on the internet, only I know whether I am reading Voltaire or Locke or Goethe or Haiku or Theodore White. That's privacy.
Posted by JDPriestly | Tue Jul 2, 2013, 02:12 PM (4 replies)
We are hearing a lot about Smith v. Maryland these days. In that case, a majority of the members of the Supreme Court determined that the police did not violate the Fourth Amendment rights of a suspect when they obtained the suspect's telephone metadata or a pen register of the suspect's calls from the telephone company without a warrant. That decision concerned the records of a person who was reasonably believed to be a suspect that had committed a crime. And at that time, the government did not have the ability to correlate and map out the relationships between all kinds of people based on e-mails (which did not exist) and telephone records and records of other electronic communications.
Here is a brief excerpt from Thurgood Marshall's dissent to the majority of the Court's decision in that case:
The use of pen registers, I believe, constitutes such an extensive intrusion. To hold otherwise ignores the vital role telephonic communication plays in our personal and professional relationships, see Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. at 389 U. S. 352, as well as the First and Fourth Amendment interests implicated by unfettered official surveillance. Privacy in placing calls is of value not only to those engaged in criminal activity. The prospect of unregulated governmental monitoring will undoubtedly prove disturbing even to those with nothing illicit to hide. Many individuals, including members of unpopular political organizations or journalists with confidential sources, may legitimately wish to avoid disclosure of their personal contacts. See NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U. S. 449, 357 U. S. 463 (1958); Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U. S. 665, 408 U. S. 695 (1972); id. at 408 U. S. 728-734 (STEWART, J., dissenting). Permitting governmental access to telephone records on less than probable cause may thus impede certain forms of political affiliation and journalistic endeavor that are the hallmark of a truly free society. Particularly given the Government's previous reliance on warrantless telephonic surveillance to trace reporters' sources and monitor protected political activity, I am unwilling to insulate use of pen registers from independent judicial review.
. . . .
BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. STEWART, J., post, p. 442 U. S. 746, and MARSHALL, J., post, p. 442 U. S. 748, filed dissenting opinions, in which BRENNAN, J., joined. POWELL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
About Thurgood Marshall:
As usual, Thurgood Marshall understood far more, saw much further and was more compassionate and faithful to justice for all than his colleagues on the Court.
As liberals, we should raise our voices to echo the wisdom and guidance of Marshall with regard to the massive eavesdropping in which our government is engaged. PRISM and other related and similar programs present dangers and extremism that was not presented in Smith v. Maryland. I believe that, over time, as more facts are presented to the Supreme Court, Smith v. Maryland will be overturned in part or in whole. Think about it. Marshall was truly a prophet in his dissent in Smith v. Maryland. His death was a great loss to our country.
I repeat because I just love this quote:
Permitting governmental access to telephone records on less than probable cause may thus impede certain forms of political affiliation and journalistic endeavor that are the hallmark of a truly free society. Particularly given the Government's previous reliance on warrantless telephonic surveillance to trace reporters' sources and monitor protected political activity, I am unwilling to insulate use of pen registers from independent judicial review.
Posted by JDPriestly | Mon Jun 24, 2013, 03:41 AM (10 replies)