A week ago, we discovered that President Barack Obama became furious after discovering that people shared a photograph that he had allowed to be taken of himself. This week, Obama’s obsession with photographic privacy has become news again.
This time, the news comes from The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. The Jefferson Center released its 2014 Muzzle Awards yesterday. The Muzzle Awards are given to “those who in the past year forgot or disregarded Mr. Jefferson’s admonition that freedom of speech ‘cannot be limited without being lost.’” – the individuals and organizations in the United States that have done the most to promote censorship.
The Obama Administration has earned the top three Muzzle Awards this year.
One of those Muzzle Awards was given to the White House Press Office, for its policy of banning journalists from taking photographs at events involving President Obama. The White House claims that these prohibitions on ordinary press activity are due to the need for privacy. The White House Press Office typically releases its own photographs of these very same events.
The Obama Press Office policy has little to do with privacy, and a great deal to do with control of President Obama’s political image. President Obama’s team only wants to release polished and processed images that suit its political agenda. Giving photojournalists access to the White House would interfere with that project.
This is White House censorship is just the latest in a long course of Oval Office hypocrisy from Barack Obama. While Obama and his team demand that they be granted privacy for their public actions as public servants of the American people, they have unleashed unreasonable search and seizure of Americans’ private photographs, documents, homes, offices, communications and photographs. President Obama has even been working with British spies to steal pictures of naked Americans, in their own homes, from Yahoo.
If Barack Obama were subjected to the kind of privacy violations that he has inflicted upon the American people through the NSA, FBI and CIA, we would be able to read his emails, search through logs of his cell phone activity, and look at up to the minute maps of his GPS-tracked travel, all while watching and listening to live web cams of the Oval Office, top diplomatic meetings, and even the West Wing bedrooms.
We need more transparency from the President of the United States, and less in our own lives. Barack Obama volunteered to serve us. We did not volunteer to be the subjects of government spying.
On June 22 2013, the the official petition to pardon Edward Snowden surpassed a the threshold of a hundred thousand signatures officially required for a response at the White House’s We The People petition website. The Obama administration pledged that of all petitions receiving a hundred thousand petitions, “White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.”
292 days later, the official petition to pardon Edward Snowden has received no response from the Obama administration.
No word of response for well over 100,000 Americans. Why? Taking Barack Obama’s word was clearly the wrong approach. They should have followed the example of David Cohen, Executive Vice President of cable industry giant Comcast. To get an audience with President Obama, Cohen gave the President oodles of campaign money. If the American people want to be heard, they clearly need to stop dicking around with petitions and bundle large dollar
bribes contributions for politicians instead.
Online music service Songza has more than catchy pop ditties. It has tunes to work and study by. In this category, it offers a channel called In A Busy Coffee Shop. This channel offers audio recorded in a coffee shop, with the kinds of clinking noise and indistinct background chatter that’s often heard in large cafes, though particular words never rise through the din to reach conscious awareness.
Does it seem odd, or perhaps even wasteful, for Songza to use the Internet to broadcast nothing but indistinct coffeehouse noises?
Actually, there is a thread of justification for the belief that such sounds may be helpful to productivity.
Two years ago, the Journal of Consumer Research published a study by Ravi Mehta, Rui Zhu, and Amar Cheema entitled Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition. The study consisted of five experiments, one of which compared the impact of noise in a working lounge area during loud lunch breaks, moderately noisy coffee break times, and quiet times in between. Study participants were offered various choices of products available to purchase, ranging from relatively traditional to relatively innovative. Analysis of the experimental data found that one group of experimental participants selected more innovative products to purchase as the noise in the lounge increased. In this group were those research participants who had scored high in a separate test of interest in innovative behavior. Those who had scored low in this “creativity” test had no such change – no matter what level of noise the low-creativity participants encountered, their interest in innovative products remained the same.
Songza, and the web site Coffitivity, have extrapolated the results of this study to conclude that moderate levels of noise such as the kind that are found specifically in a coffee shop will help people become more creative. What they neglect to mention is that this effect was only found among people who were assessed as more creative to start with, so that uncreative lugs shouldn’t be expected to benefit. Cafe Society is only good for those who have already got a perk on.
There’s also some reason to question the consumer researchers’ judgment that interest in buying innovative products is a measure of creativity or innovative quality within the psyche of a shopper. It could be that people are most interested in buying innovative products as tools of compensation when they are feeling the least ability to summon innovative thought themselves. As the research didn’t ask participants to explain the motivation behind their decisions, there’s a great deal of unanchored assumption taking place in its conclusions.
So, if you’re feeling the need to summon creative ideas from within yourself, you could listen to Coffitivity, or the coffee shop mumble channel on Songza. You might, on the other hand, come up with a more creative solution, such as experimenting with audio settings already available to you, taking notes on your productivity as you sit out on a stoop, in a city park, on a bench in a subway station, or even in a coffee shop, separate from the artificially chatter of online audio streaming services.
In spite of the fact that it’s been hyped by the powerful marketing resources of Google, and by tech-enthusiast writers who have received product samples to test, Google Glass has yet to catch on. The electronic eyeglasses, which contain a small computer, a teeny camera, and a semi-transparent screen that fits over part of the wearer’s field of vision, are distracting to both the person wearing them and to the people around them. They manage to simultaneously compromise the quality of both ordinary sight and online activities. They’re ugly.
Never mind all that, say Google Glass afficionados. Google Glass is the mobile communications technology of the future, they say.
Who’s going to actually use Google Glass, and for what? “It’s for the 90% of workers who don’t work behind a computer and use their hands a lot,” says Yan-David Erlich, CEO of Wearable Intelligence, a company that has designed software for use on Google Glass.
The 90 percent of workers who don’t work behind a computer? Who are they?
The latest data release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the following as the largest occupations in the United States.
retail salespersons and cashiers
combined food preparation and serving workers
general office clerks
waiters and waitresses
customer service representatives
Half of these top six occupations (retail, office clerks, and customer service) spend a lot of time working with access to computer screens. They don’t need Google Glass. That “90 percent of workers” Erlich refers to isn’t really 90 percent of the workforce.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also notes that most workers don’t make enough money to buy Google Glass as a professional accessory. Nor do they work for employers who have shown a willingness to invest in expensive technology to help workers do their jobs more easily. “Most of the largest occupations were relatively low paying,” the Bureau found in its latest data review.
Google Glass costs $1,500 plus sales tax per pair.
Then there’s the vulnerability of a lightweight computer worn on the face in a hands-on workplace. Cooks work in kitchens where steam, smoke and grease will obscure glass screens that hang over ovens and fryers. Highway crews and park rangers work outside, where it rains and snows. JP Mangalindan of the Wall Street Journal, who spends most of his time working in front of a computer, proposes that, with Google Glass, “a construction worker could work without ever reaching for a building map”. A construction worker also wears a hardhat because of the danger of falling objects that could smash a dainty pair of Google Glass into a million little high-tech pieces… and how hard is it really to reach for a building map?
The more people struggle to find reasons to use Google Glass, the more plain it becomes that Google Glass is the Segway of the face.
I am grateful to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board for at least holding hearings on the subject of the massive warrantless surveillance. On March 19, 2014, the PCLOB held a hearing and subsequently produced a transcript so that we can hear the Obama administration’s point of view on civil liberties.
As you already know, the United States government has been storing huge amounts of information on the communications of law-abiding Americans, sweeping them up as supposedly incidental in searches for terrorists, then searching through those communications anyway in order to uncover evidence of pedestrian, non-terrorist law-breaking or legal but suspicious activity.
At one point, Board member Elisabeth Collins Cook asked a question that raised the constitutionality of such a process. After all, the 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibits unreasonable search and seizure and insists that “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Read Cook’s question, and Deputy Assistant Attorney General for National Security Brad Wiegmann’s answer, for yourself:
MS. COLLINS COOK: Thank you for coming here this morning. We really appreciate your time on this and happy to be a part of this dialogue here.
I wanted to follow up on a couple of points that have already been raised, but first, we’ve talked about the Fourth Amendment implications of the collection. We’ve also talked about the fact that, or it is known that the information that’s collected can subsequently be queried. Do you consider that subsequent query a search for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment? And if not, why not?
MR. WIEGMANN: No, I would say that the search occurs at the time that the collection occurs. So when the information, as Raj just explained, from a particular selector is acquired by NSA, then that’s the time at which the search occurs.
Once you’ve lawfully collected that information, subsequently querying that information isn’t a search under the Fourth Amendment, it’s information already in the government’s custody.
The War on Terror proves its worth. If you can convince people that “terrorists” are out to get them and it’s OK to suspend liberties protection to hunt terrorists, you can collect everything in the hunt for the “terrorists.” Once you’ve got everything, you can search through it all without protection. Without probable cause.
That’s not exactly right, of course. “You” doesn’t mean you. It means your government. The U.S. government has after more than two centuries obtained general search powers. In the 1700s, general warrants so upset American colonists that they started a revolution and wrote the Fourth Amendment to stop them. The British are back; King George has won.
Three and a half years after, what do you think?
A graphic making its way through social media sites has a message with which I have some sympathy: There are alternatives to the manufactured health products upon which we have come to rely. Yet, there are some elements of the “Field Bandage – Cut finger? Oh no!” message that go a bit far even for me.
I love the idea that we might be able to use fresh herbs, rather than sterile plastic band aids, but when I look at the details communicated in this graphic, I wince in anticipation of an amputated finger.
1. The Cut
With a cut the size of the one shown in this graphic, there’s a sizeable chunk of flesh missing, much more than just a simple slice of the skin. It might go all the way to the bone, by the looks of it. I’m no medical professional, but it looks to me like that wound might need some stiches. It needs to be looked at by a medical professional pronto. Frilly leaves and flower petals aren’t enough. Heck, a band aid probably won’t suffice.
2. The Dirt
An essential piece of advice that’s missing from this herb garden infographic: Wash the dirt out of the wound! If you’re the kind of person who has fresh herbs readily available in the event of accidental lacerations, the chances are good that you’ve received a cut while working with dirty hands out in the garden. Are there anthrax spores out in that soil? Have neighborhood cats used it as a litter box? Did an animal die of a flesh-eating disease where you just planted the dahlias?
The graphic advises us to “apply the leaves and/or flowers to your cut”, but doesn’t advise how this application should take place. Does it matter whether there are flowers or not? What about flower buds that are on the verge of opening, or old flower heads that have finished blooming and are becoming brittle? As its species name implies, Achillea millefolium has many little leaves, and its flowers are quite small as well. What do we do if the leaves and/or flowers adhere to the wound, so that we cannot remove them without vigorous washing? Anyone who is familiar with Achillea millefolium knows that the leaves and flowers come on long, stiff stems. What do we do with the stems? Do we leave the leaves and/or flowers attached, or break the stems?
4. The Mythical Cities of Yarrow
The wild yarrow to be applied to our bloody wounds is, according to this graphic, “a common weed you can find in many cities growing in direct sunlight”. I know what Achillea millefolium looks like, and I’ve been to many cities on different continents, but never have I seen this plant growing wild in any urban environment. In what cities, in what kinds of locations, can wild yarrow actually be found? How long should we wander around a city, bleeding, looking for volunteer plants of this species, before we give up and go to a pharmacy?
5. A Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose?
Scientific studies have found that rose petals can have some mild-to-moderate antibacterial properties – depending on the variety of rose being used, and depending on the way in which the rose petals were processed. Currently available research studies alcoholic or petroleum-based extracts of rose petals, however, not the direct application of rose petals to open, bleeding wounds, as this graphic advises. Which kinds of roses should wounded people take petals from, and how should those rose petals be prepared?
6. Extract of Plantain
Plantago major, unlike Achillea millefolium, actually is a common weed in urban areas. As with rose petals, however, studies of the healing properties of plantain leaves have used extracts, rather than direct applications of entire leaves. Also, the FDA has discovered that herbal packages sold as “plantain” have, in the past, contained foxglove leaves. Foxglove has strong cardiovascular effects that can lead to heart attacks in some people when taken in poorly controlled doses.
7. Feeling Handy?
In the scenario proposed in this graphic, people who have at least one bleeding cut on a finger are supposed to hunt around their backyard gardens or urban landscape, searching for plants to contribute to an herbal remedy for their wound. They are supposed to pick leaves and flowers, and gather these ingredients together, then assemble them, one by one, without any adhesive or wrapping, and then tie them all down in a secure fashion on a finger using the stem of the plantain flower.
Plantains flower only during the late summer and early autumn months in many places in the United States, but even if these flowering plantains can be found, how can a person with one wounded hand securely tie a knot over a three-layer herbal bandage onto one of their fingers?
8. Red Snows
What is a wounded person supposed to do in wintertime, when all the plants listed here are dormant, without fresh leaves or flower petals? Are they advised to walk south until they reach Florida, or just sit tight and hope for the best? Should we keep indoor gardens going, under artificial lights, just in case?
K. of Washington State writes in to Irregular Times with a request:
Could you possibly offer a Robert Reich in 2016 bumper sticker?
(It’s one way of encouraging him to run. We need a good candidate with a major party affiliation. Independents like Bernard Sanders do not get elected, and he’s too old.)
Fact check: Senator Bernie Sanders is 72, but Robert Reich is just 5 years younger at the age of 67. Does Robert Reich’s “Just for Men” look, compared to Sanders’ white mop-top, really make the age difference seem so much wider? Can we allow a president with white hair? Must there be speckles?
More seriously, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Bernie Sanders will be running for President, and he’s always been outside the Democratic Party. But what do you think of someone like Robert Reich running from within the Democratic Party? Could you support a Robert Reich run?
Yesterday, a reader named Jamie visited our article about Homo capensis conspiracy theories. Homo capensis is supposed to be a species of big-brained alien-human hybrids that hide behind the scenes, pulling the strings, enslaving Homo sapiens.
Jamie agreed that the Homo capensis idea was quite silly, but for a reason I wasn’t expecting: The political elites who secretly control everything, Jamie said, purposefully create fake stories of alien invasions as a “false flag” to justify a wicked power grab to follow.
“Google project bluebeam,” Jamie wrote. So, I did. The following is a summary of what I discovered.
Canadian writer Serge Monast developed the idea of Project Blue Beam in the 1990s, but the original conspiracy theory predicted that Project Blue Beam would begin to be put into effect in 1982, the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, “When the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars, then peace will guide our planet and love will steer the stars.”
1983 was supposed to be the date when the New World Order would be established. The title of George Orwell’s Book, 1984, was supposed to be clue to this.
Of course, 1983, came and went, and no New World Order was put in place. “It has been delayed; we don’t know exactly why,” Monast puzzled in the mid-1990s. It was proposed, however, that a single world government would still be installed very soon, before the year 2000, serving as an intermediary of the USA, the UK and the USSR.
Those who notice that the USSR had ceased to exist by the mid 1990s will perceive a problem with this prediction. Still, belief in Project Bluebeam continues to this day. When Serge Monast died of a heart attack in 1996, his death was incorporated into the conspiracy theory. Believers assert that Monast was assassinated.
Monast wrote that the goals of Project Bluebeam were:
“To abolish all Christian traditional religions in order to replace them by a one-world religion based on the ‘cult of man’.
To abolish all national identity and national pride in order to establish a world identity and world pride.
To abolish the family as known today in order to replace it by individuals all working for the glory of one-world government
To destroy all individual artistic and scientific creating works to implement a world government’s one mind sight”
None of these things have come to pass.
Project Bluebeam was supposed to be a cooperative project between NASA and the United Nations, and would unfold in the following stages:
1. Artificial earthquakes would be created in order to reveal fake artifacts that would disprove the tenets of Christianity and Islam. Apparently, there could be no easier way to plant fake archaeological artifacts than to devise technology capable of creating fake earthquakes.
2. A “gigantic space show with three dimensional optical holograms and sounds, laser projections of multiple holographic images to different parts of the world, each receiving different images according to predominating regional/national religious faith” would be created by the Soviet Union.
3. “Telepathic electronical two-ways communication where ELF, VLF and LF waves will reach the people of the earth by the inside of their brain making each one to believe that his own ‘god’ is talking to each one from within his own soul.”
These steps, it is claimed, would make people ready for the imposition of a new religion that would be both “New Age” and “Satanic”.
The year 2000 deadline for Project Bluebeam passed long ago. Yet, conspiracy theorists continue to develop new descriptions of the supposed Bluebeam elitists, who are believed to be perpetually on the verge of unleashing their nightmarish powers.
In December of last year, for example, Bluebeam believers claimed that the project had unleashed something called HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program), using a secret technology to control the weather. The big tsunami in Japan that wrecked the Fukushima nuclear power plant is supposed to have been an attack under this aspect of Project Bluebeam.
Bluebeam believers perked up their ears again this week when former President Bill Clinton appeared on a late night talk show and declared that an attack by an extraterrestial civilization “may be the only way to unite this increasingly divided world of ours… think about all the differences among people of Earth would seem small if we feel threatened by a space invader.” People like our reader Jamie view statements like these as signs of a “false flag” operation to finally get Project Bluebeam underway.
There isn’t any evidence that Project Bluebeam, or anything similar to it. On the other hand, the predictions of Project Bluebeam believers have repeatedly been proven wrong.
But then, belief in Project Bluebeam isn’t based on evidence. It’s based upon an ideology paranoid presumption that secret elites, be they Satanist, Communist, or extraterrestrial, are working behind the scenes to orchestrate everything that happens – including the apparent debunking of conspiracy theories like Project Bluebeam.
For that reason, we can expect stories about Project Bluebeam to continue to spread for a very long time.
Barack Obama is feeling pissy.
It seems that, after Obama agreed to have his picture taken with professional baseball player David Ortiz, Ortiz choose to post that photograph on his Twitter account. Samsung then retweeted that Twitter post, sending the photo to its many followers.
Obama was outraged. He protested. How dare Samsung take a photograph of him that was voluntarily distributed in public, and then distribute it in public some more, without his permission?!?
This complaint is coming from the President who has used the military’s National Security Agency to steal billions of photographs, texts, emails, phone calls, and other private electronic communications from the Samsung smartphones of law-abiding Americans – without their permission.
Mr. President, why don’t you submit your complaint to the same toothless government “oversight” committee that comments on violations of privacy by the NSA?
See how far that gets you.