S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Bigger and Bigger Brothers

January 3, 2008 -- Thursday, Iowa caucuses will be the first official tally of voters' preferences for our next United States President. Where the candidates stand on the issues is one thing; how voters feel about the candidates is something else entirely.

Many of us are convinced that our next Chief Executive must have a good grasp on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The current office holder and his party have shredded a significant number of our most basic civil liberties, sometimes with the help -- or at least the acquiescence -- of Democrats.

See, here's the deal. Control freaks want control. And seeking control in unhealthy ways is always in the service of diminishing one's own anxiety. Do you know where your candidate stands on these civil liberties questions? And do you know why it is so important to the nation's future?

People under covert or overt control of their own government are not free. We have become less free since the turn of the century. And the efforts continue to this day to empower more and bigger "Big Brothers." Following are a few of the items that have not made the headlines during this very political horse race-style coverage.

"FBI aims for world's largest biometrics database," is from Reuters Science News (of 12/22/07). The operative word is ubiquitous. The name of the next natural and logical progression of this game is dossier, master file, perhaps national identity card, credit and medical history, phone and e-mail transactions, buying habits, etc., etc. To quote:

The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion project to build the world's largest computer database of biometrics to give the government more ways to identify people at home and abroad, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

The FBI has already started compiling digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns in its systems, the paper said.

In January, the agency -- which focuses on violations of federal law, espionage by foreigners and terrorist activities -- expects to award a 10-year contract to expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives, it said.

House bill aims to control people within our borders who are seen as potential threats --
(Hat tip to TXSharon) for "R.I.P Bill of Rights" (12/29/07). She cites OpenCongress "H.R.1955 - Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007." The House bill's author was Representative Jane Harman (D-Calif). was referred to the Senate Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Joe Lieberman (I-Conn). Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-Maine) is sponsoring the Senate measure. The Status of the bill can be found at, from which I quote the bill's chilling summary:

Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 - Amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to add provisions concerning the prevention of homegrown terrorism (terrorism by individuals born, raised, or based and operating primarily in the United States).

Directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to: (1) establish a grant program to prevent radicalization (use of an extremist belief system for facilitating ideologically-based violence) and homegrown terrorism in the United States; (2) establish or designate a university-based Center of Excellence for the Study of Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States; and (3) conduct a survey of methodologies implemented by foreign nations to prevent radicalization and homegrown terrorism.

Prohibits the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to prevent ideologically-based violence and homegrown terrorism from violating the constitutional and civil rights, and civil liberties, of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.

Department of Defense aims for control of the people of Iraq. Thought control is not just for Americans who could be radicalized. In a previous S/SW post, "Power Sources and the Military" (10/14/07), I discussed the latest rather novel effort at quelling the violence in Iraq through employing social scientists to work within the military. People have been reading this post ever since because it comes up in Google searches on my featured news-making Anthropologist, Montgomery McFate. "Anonymous" added another comment today. To quote:

The Charlie Rose Show featuring Sarah Sewall and Montgomery McFate talked about many things that are similar to what Metro Police did in Baltimore to lower crime in the 90's by changing to a Community Policing Model. Counter Insurgency, in some ways is a spin on a Community Policing Model used by US Police for over 2 decades. The Brits used this model, but with more of a Martial Law style of policing in Ireland to defeat the IRA.

By placing Iraqi and US Military Police, Military Intel and Contractors in an area where they can study, learn, conduct surveillance and communicate with the locals of a specific area in Iraq, they can slowly counter an insurgency and change people's mindsets. The basics are that, this would help us in finding the bad people...the "hard-liners" and who can then be arrested, removed or eliminated. Finding the straw the breaks the camel’s back is what they are ultimately trying to do.

"Touchy, feely in the kill chain" -- From David Isenberg, writing for The Asia Times, comes another story on the subject of the military and anthropology, whereby the DoD has hired Anthropologists to assist with the war in Iraq. To quote from the article:

On the issue of voluntary consent, the commission found that research subjects are unlikely to be able to differentiate between anthropologists working with military units and these units themselves, particularly if they are dressed in military fatigues and armed. The close working relationship of anthropologist and military personnel, and resulting likelihood of tacit or unintended coercion in the process of data collection, suggest a basic lack of "voluntary informed consent" on the part of potential research subjects. That some HTS anthropologists carry weapons or travel with a security convoy raises troubling questions about the voluntary nature of anyone interacting with these anthropologists.

Supporters of HTS were not helped when it was reported that Human Terrain research gathers data that help inform what Assistant Undersecretary of Defense John Wilcox recently described as the military's "need to map human terrain across the kill chain".

. . . Leaders of the Human Terrain System have said that the data collected by the program's social scientists should generally be kept open and unclassified. But in a recent interview the program’s deputy director, James K Greer, said, "When a brigade plans and executes its operations, that planning and execution is, from an operational-security standpoint, classified. And so your ability to talk about it, or write an article about it, is restricted in certain ways."

More and more media consolidation -- means less freedom of the press. Kevin Martin, Republican Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, finally got his way, anyway, despite his fellow Commissioners wished to delay action on this. With fewer and fewer watchdogs, members of a free press confined to fewer companies that are increasingly profit-oriented, and fewer sources of news from several perspectives, the news about this development is disturbing. A New York Times story talked about the FCC's December actions. To quote:

As for the relaxation of the newspaper-broadcast rule, telecommunications lawyers said it could pave the way for Rupert Murdoch to win permanent waivers to control two television stations in New York, as well as The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal.

In one 3-to-2 vote on Tuesday, Mr. Martin sided with the agency’s two other Republicans to relax the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules in the nation’s 20 largest markets. Under the new rule, a company can own both a newspaper and either a television or radio station in those markets as long as there remain at least eight other independent sources of news. If it is a television station, the rule requires that it cannot be one of the top four.

Today is the first day of the New Year 2008. "Happy New Year" to everybody is absolutely in order again. And thinking about the upcoming voting caucuses and primaries is also in order. But these are not the only things happening that could have a direct effect on your peace and well-being. Because a thoughtless man declared a "War on Terror," all Americans and Iraqis have become subjects of these Bigger and Bigger Brothers demanding more and more control. Take a chill pill, folks. A diminished sense of security does not require that we all give up our basic freedoms and civil liberties.

My links:

(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)

My “creativity and dreaming” post today at Making Good Mondays is about the environment.

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The Future Was Yesterday said...

Regardless the outcome of Iowa, or any other primary, there is one thing that really worries me: NO candidate on either side, has said a word about rolling back the draconian executive orders given by the first murderer!

To the best of my knowledge, we are still without Habeas Corpus. There is little sense in electing anybody, if they are going to accept the status quo as it stands.

Carol Gee said...

Future, you should be worried. Thanks for your comment. Power is a really funny thing. It is hard to get into recovery once one is addicted to it.
Chris Dodd seems to be the only one who has had his eye on civil liberties, but he may not continue after Iowa.
These candidates are who we have. And any one of the Dems looks better that all of the Republicans.
It is going to be a long year, my friend.