TBR News December 24, 2019

Dec 24 2019

The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. December 24, 2019:“Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.
When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.
I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.
He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.
He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.
It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the
election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it.
Commentary for December 24:”There is an official German government investigative report into the crooked dealings of the once-CIA controlled Deutsche Bank.In the body of this report are specific charges that large sums of Russian mob drug money has been laundered by Donald Trump and his family and that Trump has permitted Russian drug dealers free access to his numerous hotels to facilitate their drug business. A translation of this document is making the rounds in Washington and copies have been sent to Republican Senators who very soon will be considering impeachment charges against Trump. Also, Trump has been making all kinds of disconnected and often bizarre public statements that has the Republicans in a growing panic. If the public gets wind of these, it will not improve his approval ratings and, in fact, will start a downward movement.”

The Table of Contents
• How Trump has betrayed the working class
• ‘I never understood wind’: Trump goes on bizarre tirade against wind turbines
• Be careful you are not giving away your privacy with Christmas gifts this year
• The Watchbird is Watching You!
• The Season of Evil

How Trump has betrayed the working class
Trump’s corporate giveaways and failure to improve the lives of ordinary working Americans are becoming clearer by the day
December 22, 2019
by Robert Reich
Trump is remaking the Republican party into … what?
For a century the GOP has been bankrolled by big business and Wall Street. Trump wants to keep the money rolling in. His signature tax cut, two years old last Sunday, has helped US corporations score record profits and the stock market reach all-time highs.
To spur even more corporate generosity for the 2020 election, Trump is suggesting more giveaways. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney recently told an assemblage of CEOs that Trump wants to “go beyond” his 2017 tax cut.
Trump also wants to expand his working-class base. In rallies and countless tweets he claims to be restoring the American working class by holding back immigration and trade.
Most incumbent Republicans and GOP candidates are mimicking Trump’s economic nationalism. As Trump consigliere Stephen Bannon boasted recently: “We’ve turned the Republican party into a working-class party.”
Keeping the GOP the Party of Big Money while making it over into the Party of the Working Class is a tricky maneuver, especially at a time when capital and labor are engaged in the most intense economic contest in more than a century because so much wealth and power are going to the top.
Armed with deductions and loopholes, America’s largest companies paid an average federal tax rate of only 11.3% on their profits last year, roughly half the official rate under the new tax law – the lowest effective corporate tax rate in more than eighty years.
Yet almost nothing has trickled down to ordinary workers. Corporations have used most of their tax savings to buy back their shares, giving the stock market a sugar high. The typical American household remains poorer today than it was before the financial crisis began in 2007.
Trump’s tax cut has also caused the federal budget deficit to balloon. Even as pre-tax corporate profits have reached record highs, corporate tax revenues have dropped about a third under projected levels. This requires more federal dollars for interest on the debt, leaving fewer dollars for public services workers need.
The Trump administration has already announced a $45bn cut in food stamp benefits that would affect an estimated 10,000 families, many at the lower end of the working class. The administration is also proposing to reduce Social Security disability benefits, a potential blow to hundreds of thousands of workers.
The tax cut has also shifted more of the total tax burden to workers. Payroll taxes made up 7.8% of national income last year while corporate taxes made up just 0.9%t, the biggest gap in nearly two decades. All told, taxes on workers were 35% of federal tax revenue in 2018; taxes on corporations, only 9% .
Trump probably figures he can cover up this massive redistribution from the working class to the corporate elite by pushing the same economic nationalism, tinged with xenophobia and racism, he used in 2016. As Steve Bannon has noted, the formula seems to have worked for Britain’s Conservative party.
But it will be difficult this time around because Trump’s economic nationalism has hurt American workers, particularly in states that were critical to Trump’s 2016 win.
Manufacturing has suffered as tariffs raised prices for imported parts and materials. Hiring has slowed sharply in Pennsylvania, Michigan and other states Trump won, and in states like Minnesota that he narrowly lost.
The trade wars have also harmed rural America, which also went for Trump, by reducing demand for American farm produce. Last year China bought around $8.6bn of farm goods, down from $20bn in 2016. (A new tentative trade deal calls for substantially more Chinese purchases.)
Meanwhile, health care costs continue to soar, college is even less affordable, and average life expectancy is dropping due to a rise in deaths from suicide and opioid drugs like fentanyl. Polls show most Americans remain dissatisfied with the country’s direction.
The consequences of Trump’s and the Republicans’ excessive corporate giveaways and their failure to improve the lives of ordinary working Americans are becoming clearer by the day.
The only tricks left to them are stoking social and racial resentments and claiming to be foes of the establishment. But bigotry alone won’t win elections, and the detritus of the tax cut makes it difficult for Trump and the GOP to portray themselves as anti-establishment.
This has created a giant political void, and an opportunity. Democrats have an historic chance to do what they should have done years ago: create a multi-racial coalition of the working class, middle class, and poor, dedicated to reclaiming the economy for the vast majority and making democracy work for all.

‘I never understood wind’: Trump goes on bizarre tirade against wind turbines
President’s nonsensical rambling remarks about ‘windmills’ in segment from weekend speech raised eyebrows
December 23, 2019
by Richard Luscombe in Miami
The Guardian
He says he knows more about Isis than his generals, and claims to understand politicians “better than anybody”. Now there is another subject in which Donald Trump’s expert knowledge surpasses that of everybody else: wind turbines, though he calls them windmills.
“I’ve studied it better than anybody I know,” the president asserted in a bizarre segment from a weekend speech to young conservatives in West Palm Beach, Florida, close to his winter retreat at Mar-a-Lago where he is spending the holidays.
“I never understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much. They’re noisy. They kill the birds. You want to see a bird graveyard? Go under a windmill someday. You’ll see more birds than you’ve ever seen in your life.”
Trump ripped into a range of familiar targets in a speech lasting more than one hour at the Turning Point USA student action summit, from the Democrats and House speaker Nancy Pelosi, to his recent impeachment and the so-called Never Trumpers in the Republican party who he said were “the dumbest human beings on earth”.
But it was his rambling and often nonsensical remarks about wind turbines, during a diatribe against the Green New Deal and renewable energy resources, that raised eyebrows.
“They’re made in China and Germany mostly,” Trump said of wind turbines, of which there are more than 57,000 across the US, according to the American Wind Energy Association. “But they’re manufactured tremendous if you’re into this, tremendous fumes. Gases are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe. So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything.
“You talk about the carbon footprint, fumes are spewing into the air, right? Spewing. Whether it’s in China, Germany, it’s going into the air. It’s our air, their air, everything, right?”
It was unclear what exactly Trump meant, or how Trump equated wind turbines converting clean air into energy to toxic fumes fouling the atmosphere. But he did share his thoughts on their appearance.
“You see all those [windmills]. They’re all different shades of color,” he said. “They’re like sort of white, but one is like an orange-white. It’s my favorite color, orange.”
The president’s “war on wind” is not new: earlier this year he was ridiculed for his claims that wind turbines destroyed property values and caused cancer from their noise.
He is accused of having begun his tirades against wind turbines after wind farm developments were proposed near the golf course he owns in Scotland.
There is some evidence that wind turbines have a negative impact on wildlife: a 2013 study by the Wildlife Society estimated widespread fatalities in California, including close to a million bats and more than half a million birds, including 83,000 raptors such as bald and golden eagles.
The president’s final words on the subject, before hailing himself an “an environmentalist” presiding over an environment “in very good shape”, concerned the long-term aesthetics of wind turbines.
“You know what they don’t tell you about windmills? After 10 years they look like hell. They start to get tired, old,” he said, lamenting that owners of ageing windmills not replacing them without government subsidies was “a really terrible thing”.
Comment: Trump would benefit, enormously, from the regular use of Prozac. He should also have a competent proctologist tend to that large hole under his nose.

Be careful you are not giving away your privacy with Christmas gifts this year
Internet-connected devices are a tempting way to fill Christmas stockings, but our privacy is often traded away while we’re swept up in the fun
December 22, 2019
by Tim Singleton Norton
The Guardian
This Christmas, you may be considering just how much your family would appreciate a cool new gadget – that latest internet-enabled watch for dad, a smart speaker for your grandmother’s kitchen, or an amazingly interactive talking doll for your niece.
But what if you knew that these handy devices would record your conversations, expose you to malicious hacking or even create risks for your children’s online and physical safety? Might think twice about it then, huh? Good. Because there is a very real and present danger that comes from the rise in surveillance devices that are permeating our homes and invading our personal privacy.
Many of us are unwittingly contributing to the world of surveillance capitalism – making our homes, cars and lives part of a vast machine that sucks our personal privacy up and spits out the promise of ease and access. As we all rush to fill the Christmas stocking, let’s spare a thought to whether the trade-off is worth it.
The term surveillance capitalism was coined by academic Shoshana Zuboff to explain the market-driven process in which the commodity for sale is your personal data. The capture and production of this data relies on mass surveillance of what we do online and in our homes. It is the dominant mechanism behind the success of many Silicon Valley tech companies, and increasingly a daily invasion into our own personal space.
The huge trove of data necessary for this system has to be collected from somewhere – traditionally from our browser histories, shopping habits and interactions on the internet. Increasingly, we’re seeing a rise in the collection of data from internet-connected devices such as smart hubs, fridges, drones, cameras and other items that we place in our homes without full control over the data they produce.
It should be no surprise that the Silicon Valley goliaths of Amazon, Google and Facebook are driving this trend, with an impressive range of privacy-invading tech toys available for purchase around the world. Each has a variation on the smart home device that promises to search for recipes, control music systems or tell you the weather.
These devices utilise internet connections to send your data back to central servers, purportedly to allow them to cross-reference information, receive updates and learn to be more intuitive and reactive to their user’s requests. The amount of data that is recorded and transferred is staggering, with stories of devices sending private information to colleagues, or the always-on recording ability being used to provide recordings to police.
Amazon’s “Ring” doorbell allows owners to link their front door to integrated security systems, recording and viewing video footage from anywhere via a mobile app. In the US, this has led to a rapid take-up of the tiny cameras on front porches and doorsteps. In turn, this has been too tempting an opportunity for US law enforcement, which earlier this year went into partnership with Amazon to gain unprecedented and unfettered access to video footage. There have also been reports of Ring owners being hacked by would-be thieves, using the devices to check if homeowners are present before breaking in. Hacking tools to break into these systems are cheaply available online and are considerably easier to use than a set of lock picks.
The threat from the tech bogeyman also comes in the form of children’s toys, which are often now more connected and technologically advanced than the old-fashioned teddy bear. Toys that contain cameras, microphones and other sensors to note their environment and respond accordingly; remote-controlled robots that can be operated over wireless or Bluetooth control; or anything that connects to the internet – these can be hacked or controlled without the owner’s knowledge.
In 2017, a relatively benign-looking child’s doll named My Friend Cayla was labelled an illegal espionage device by German authorities, who issued warnings asking parents to disable it. The doll recorded conversations with children, uploaded these to internet-connected servers, translated them to text and were shown to be easily hacked via remote access. This becomes especially creepy when you learn that if a child asked the doll “can you keep a secret?” it would reply: “I promise not to tell anyone – it’s just between you and me.”
In January 2018, Hong Kong toy manufacturer VTech paid out US$650,000 in settling a case brought against them by the US Federal Trade Commission that it had failed to adequately protect the privacy of children using its devices. VTech provided its Kid Connect app to operate digital cameras and other devices, which allowed for the transfer of visual and audio files but did so without seeking consent from parents or informing them what data was being collected.
While connected devices are a tempting way to fill Christmas stockings, this track record shows that our privacy is often traded away while we’re swept up in the fun. Fortunately, it’s not too late to make considered decisions about what ends up under your tree this festive season.
The first and arguably the most important step is to be informed and aware of the risks. Any device that can connect to the internet is an immediate risk. If possible, its internet access should be limited or shut-off. Robotic toys, interactive voice-controlled toys, “smart home” devices that require external data connections to the internet or utilise Bluetooth to connect to other devices – all of these run the risk of having data intercepted, recorded or manipulated. These risks should be considered carefully before bringing one into your home.
As with most purchases, it’s important you make an informed decision before grabbing the latest tech toy. What information will you be giving up to access its functionality? What risks exist for a potential violation of your privacy rights? Does the manufacturer treat you as the owner of your data, or merely a source of information for their advertising customers? The Mozilla foundation publishes an annual list of those devices that fail their privacy test. Closer to home, the Australian eSafety Commissioner has an excellent resource for parents to learn more about the potential dangers of ill-informed purchases.
Ultimately, it is the persistence and pervasiveness of surveillance capitalism that is of real concern. Just as the ever-present eye of the Elf on the Shelf reinforces an acceptance of constant surveillance, the introduction of surveillance devices into our personal lives will normalise a world in which our individual privacy is a commodity to be sold. So what do digital rights activists want for Christmas? An end to the insidious data-sharing industry, which exploits our goodwill and profits from opaque privacy policies.
Maybe socks and undies aren’t so bad a present after all – at least until they start coming with GPS trackers built-in.
• Tim Singleton Norton is the chair of Digital Rights Watch

The Watchbird is Watching You!
December 23, 2019
by Christian Jürs

Millions of Americans, and other nationalities, are spied on daily and vast amounts of personal data acquired and stored.
The cover story is that this is designed to “locate and neutralize” Muslim terrorists, both inside and outside of the United States, but in fact, according to a U.S. Army document, the actual purposes of the mass surveillance is to build significant data bases on any person likely to present a domestic threat to established authority.
This fear has its roots in massive popular rejection of the Vietnam war with its attendant mass meetings, defiance of the government and the development of ad hoc student groups firmly, and often very vocally, opposed to the war.
There was a great deal of civic unrest on college campuses throughout the 1960s as students became increasingly involved in a number of social and political movements ranging from the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Rights Movement, and, of course, the Anti-War Movement. Over 30,000 people left the country and went to Canada, Sweden, and Mexico to avoid the draft.
The bureaucracy then found itself under siege and has stated subsequently that this must not happen again and that any kind of meaningful civil disobedience is to get negative mention in the media and members of such groups subject to arrest and detention.
The Obama administration punished any government whistle-blower with such severity as to discourage others from revealing negative official information.
FEMA has a network of so-called “detention camps” throughout the United States, most only sites, to be used in the event of noteworthy civil disturbance.
The current, as of November, 2019 according to a highly classified NSA report, programs of mass surveillance are known and approved at the highest levels in the government, to include the President and government-subsidized private organizations.
The high technology consists of such subjects as surveillance cameras in public places, drones, satellites, interceptions of telephone, computer and mail (USPS) communications.
There are as of this instance, no less than five million names on the officlal government Terrorist Identies Datamart Environment list and nearly sixty thousand names on the TSA no-fly list.
The government intelligence agencies and their allied private contractors now regularly accesses all emails, chats, searches, events, locations, videos, photos, log-ins and any information people post online with a warrant, which the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court always grants secretly and without being ever made public.
And the revelation of Prism, a secret government program for mining major Internet companies, states that the government now has direct access to Internet companies’ data without a warrant.
Every company impacted – Google, YouTube, Yahoo, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Skype, PalTalk and AOL – publically deny knowing about the program or giving any direct access to their servers. These denials are intented to bolster public confidence in their services because in reality, all of these entities cooperate fully with requests for customer information.
Google is the supplier of the customized core search technology for Intellipedia, a highly-secure online system where 37,000 U.S. domestic and foreign area spies and related personnel share information and collaborate on investigative missions.
And there is absolutely nothing one can commit to the Internet that is private in any sense of the word
In addition, Google is linked to the U.S. spy and military systems through its Google Earth software venture. The technology behind this software was originally developed by Keyhole Inc., a company funded by Q-Tel http://www.iqt.org/ , a venture capital firm which is in turn openly funded and operated on behalf of the CIA.
Google acquired Keyhole Inc. in 2004. The same base technology is currently employed by U.S. military and intelligence systems in their quest, in their own words, for “full-spectrum dominance” of the American, and foreign, political, social and economic spheres.
However, Internet Service Providers and the entertainment industry are now taking Internet monitoring to a whole new level….
If someone download copyrighted software, videos or music, all Internet service providers (ISP) have the ability to detect this downloading.
The vast majority of computer surveillance involves the monitoring of data and traffic on the Internet. In the United States for example, under the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act, all phone calls and broadband Internet traffic (emails, web traffic, instant messaging, etc.) are required to be available for unimpeded real-time monitoring by Federal law enforcement agencies., to include the FBI, NSA, the CIA and the DHS.
There is far too much data on the Internet for human investigators to manually search through all of it and so automated Internet surveillance computers sift through the vast amount of intercepted Internet traffic and identify and report to human investigators traffic considered interesting by using certain “trigger” words or phrases, visiting certain types of web sites, or communicating via email or chat with suspicious individuals or groups. Billions of dollars per year are spent, by agencies such as the Information Awareness Office, NSA, and the FBI, to develop, purchase, implement, and operate systems such as Carnivore, NarusInsight, and ECHELON to intercept and analyze all of this data, and extract only the information which is useful to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. One flaw with NSA claims that the government needs to be able to suck up Internet data from services such as Skype and Gmail to fight terrorists: Studies show that would-be terrorists don’t use those services. The NSA has to collect the metadata from all of our phone calls because terrorists, right? And the spy agency absolutely must intercept Skypes you conduct with folks out-of-state, or else terrorism. It must sift through your iCloud data and Facebook status updates too, because Al Qaeda.Terrorists are everywhere, they are legion, they are dangerous, and, unfortunately, they don’t really do any of the stuff described above.
Even though the still-growing surveillance state that sprung up in the wake of 9/11 was enacted almost entirely to “fight terrorism,” reports show that the modes of communication that agencies like the NSA are targeting are scarcely used by terrorists at all.
Computers can be a surveillance target because of the personal data stored on them. If someone is able to install software, such as the FBI’s Magic Lantern and CIPAV, on a computer system, they can easily gain unauthorized access to this data. Such software can be, and is installed physically or remotely. Another form of computer surveillance, known as van Eck phreaking, involves reading electromagnetic emanations from computing devices in order to extract data from them at distances of hundreds of meters. The NSA runs a database known as “Pinwale”, which stores and indexes large numbers of emails of both American citizens and foreigners.
The government agencies have been fully capable to look at any and all emails.
A warrant can easily grant access to email sent within 180 days. Older emails are available with an easier-to-get subpoena and prior notice.
Government officials also are fully capable of reading all the ingoing and outgoing emails on an account in real time with a specific type of wiretap warrant, which is granted with probable cause for specific crimes such as terrorism.
Google received 122,503 user data requests involving 2,375,434 users from the U.S. government in 2016. It granted about 98 percent of those requests.
Microsoft, with its Outlook/Hotmail email service, received 61,538 requests involving 52,291 users, at least partially granting 92 percent of those requests.
With the advent of smartphones and SIM cards, cellphones are no longer strictly for storage of digits and 180-character short messages.
Cellphones assist in navigating for car trips, to enable making Internet purchases and to watch events on television stations. It is possible to deposit checks with a bank app and a camera, locate businesses of interest and also to use transportation by using a QR-code. Phones hold our coupons, our favorite cat videos and functions as a credit card when we forget ours at home.
The NSA collects subscriber information from major cell phone carriers. This information is primarily based on metadata, such as location and duration of calls, along with numbers dialed, all in search of links to suspected terrorists.
In 2013, to date, law enforcement agencies made 2.3 million requests for subscriber information.
These government requests for surveillance information from the NSA, are limited to metadata. That doesn’t mean that the content of conversations is off-limits. To listen in, the government just needs a warrant, one that’s granted through the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The court approves almost every request, fully denying just nine out of 133,900 government applications for surveillance over its 33-year existence, according to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reports submitted to Congress.
Although this is not new technology, law enforcement authorities are using our own cell phones to spy on us more extensively than ever before as a recent Wired article described….
Mobile carriers responded to a staggering 1.3 million law enforcement requests last year for subscriber information, including text messages and phone location data, according to data provided to Congress.
A single “request” can involve information about hundreds of customers. So ultimately the number of Americans affected by this could reach into “the tens of millions” each year.
The number of Americans affected each year by the growing use of mobile phone data by law enforcement could reach into the tens of millions, as a single request could ensnare dozens or even hundreds of people. Law enforcement has been asking for so-called “cell tower dumps” in which carriers disclose all phone numbers that connected to a given tower during a certain period of time.
So, for instance, if police wanted to try to find a person who broke a store window at an Occupy protest, it could get the phone numbers and identifying data of all protestors with mobile phones in the vicinity at the time — and use that data for other purposes.
Perhaps you should not be using your cell phone so much anyway. After all, there are more than 500 studies that claim to show that cell phone radiation is harmful to humans.
The official and unofficial tapping of telephone lines is widespread. In the United States for instance, the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) requires that all telephone and VoIP communications be available for real-time wiretapping by Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Two major telecommunications companies in the U.S.—AT&T Inc. and Verizon—have contracts with the FBI, requiring them to keep their phone call records easily searchable and accessible for Federal agencies, in return for $1.8 million dollars per year. Between 2003 and 2005, the FBI sent out more than 140,000 “National Security Letters” ordering phone companies to hand over information about their customers’ calling and Internet histories. About half of these letters requested information on U.S. citizens.
Human agents are not required to monitor most calls. Speech-to-text software creates machine-readable text from intercepted audio, which is then processed by automated call-analysis programs, such as those developed by agencies such as the Information Awareness Office, or companies such as Verint, and Narus, which search for certain words or phrases, to decide whether to dedicate a human agent to the call.
Law enforcement and intelligence services in the United Kingdom and the United States possess technology to remotely activate the microphones in cell phones, by accessing phones’ diagnostic or maintenance features in order to listen to conversations that take place near the person who holds the phone.
Mobile phones are also commonly used to collect location data. The geographical location of a mobile phone (and thus the person carrying it) can be determined easily even when the phone is not being used, using a technique known multilateration to calculate the differences in time for a signal to travel from the cell phone to each of several cell towers near the owner of the phone. The legality of such techniques has been questioned in the United States, in particular whether a court warrant is required. Records for one carrier alone (Sprint), showed that in a given year federal law enforcement agencies requested customer location data 8 million times.
Think Uncle Sam knows where you buy your coffee? He might be able to tell you the exact cafe.
It all starts with that stripe on the back of your credit card, which gets swiped through thousands of readers every year.
That solid black bar is made up of millions of iron-based magnetic particles, each one 20-millionths of an inch wide. Each credit-card owner has a personalized strip full of intimate data sitting right inside his or her pocket. Any purchase can be traced directly back to your wallet.
Although the scope of credit-card tracking efforts are unknown, the Journal reported that the NSA has established relationships with credit card companies akin to those that they had established with phone carriers, which provide them with data under warrant, subpoena or court order. These former officials didn’t know if the efforts were ongoing.
What could they find? Based on the technology of the mag stripe, quite a bit.
Even with just the metadata – digitally contained bits of information – on a credit card, they could most likely see when and where a purchase was made, and how much it cost.
Whether they’re walking to work, withdrawing money from an ATM or walking into their favorite local grocer, Americans could be within sight of one of the United States’ estimated 30 million surveillance cameras.
Police use them to monitor streets, subways and public spaces. Homeowners put them on their houses. Businesses mount them in stores and on buildings.
In Boston, for example, the FBI used still photos and video pulled from cameras to identify suspects after the Boston Marathon bombing. The images showed the suspects making calls from their cellphones, carrying what the police say were bombs, and leaving the scene.
New high-tech, high-definition security camera manufacturers give police departments the options of thermal imaging, 360-degree fields of view and powerful zoom capabilities for identifying people. Advances in camera technology enable new ways to monitor American citizens.
Surveillance cameras are video cameras used for the purpose of observing an area. They are often connected to a recording device or IP network, and may be watched by a security guard or law enforcement officer. Cameras and recording equipment used to be relatively expensive and required human personnel to monitor camera footage, but analysis of footage has been made easier by automated software that organizes digital video footage into a searchable database, and by video analysis software (such as VIRAT and HumanID). The amount of footage is also drastically reduced by motion sensors which only record when motion is detected. With cheaper production techniques, surveillance cameras are simple and inexpensive enough to be used in home security systems, and for everyday surveillance.
In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security awards billions of dollars per year in Homeland Security grants for local, state, and federal agencies to install modern video surveillance equipment. For example, the city of Chicago, Illinois, recently used a $5.1 million Homeland Security grant to install an additional 250 surveillance cameras, and connect them to a centralized monitoring center, along with its preexisting network of over 2000 cameras, in a program known as Operation Virtual Shield. Speaking in 2009, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announced that Chicago would have a surveillance camera on every street corner by the year 2016.
As part of China’s Golden Shield Project, several U.S. corporations, including IBM, General Electric, and Honeywell, have been working closely with the Chinese government to install millions of surveillance cameras throughout China, along with advanced video analytics and facial recognition software, which will identify and track individuals everywhere they go. They will be connected to a centralized database and monitoring station, which will, upon completion of the project, contain a picture of the face of every person in China: over 1.3 billion people Lin Jiang Huai, the head of China’s “Information Security Technology” office (which is in charge of the project), credits the surveillance systems in the United States and the U.K. as the inspiration for what he is doing with the Golden Shield Project.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding a research project called Combat Zones That See that will link up cameras across a city to a centralized monitoring station, identify and track individuals and vehicles as they move through the city, and report “suspicious” activity (such as waving arms, looking side-to-side, standing in a group, etc.).
Governments often initially claim that cameras are meant to be used for traffic control, but many of them end up using them for general surveillance. For example, Washington, D.C. had 5,000 “traffic” cameras installed under this premise, and then after they were all in place, networked them all together and then granted access to the Metropolitan Police Department, so they could perform “day-to-day monitoring”.
The development of centralized networks of CCTV cameras watching public areas – linked to computer databases of people’s pictures and identity (biometric data), able to track people’s movements throughout the city, and identify whom they have been with – has been argued by some to present a risk to civil liberties. Trapwire is an example of such a network.
A joint Pentagon/Department of Transportation plan to conduct a permanent surveillance of all motor vehicles using the Federal Highway System is code named ARGUS. It was initially a part of an overall public surveillance program instituted and organized by Admiral Poindexter, who was convicted of various criminal acts as the result of the Iran-Contra affair and then brought back to government service by the Bush Administration. Following public disclosure of Poindexter’s manic attempts to pry into all aspects of American life and his subsequent public departure from government service (he is still so employed but as a “private consultant” and not subject to public scrutiny) many of his plans were officially scrapped. ARGUS, however, is still valid has been fully developed and now is in experimental use on twelve Federal highways across the country..
This surveillance consists of having unmanned video cameras, soon to be installed over all Federal highways and toll roads with Presidential approval. These cameras work 24/7 to video all passing vehicles, trucks, private cars and busses. The information is passed to a central data bank and entered therein. This data can readily viewed at the request of any authorized law enforcement agency to include: private investigative and credit agencies licensed to work with Federal law enforcement information on any user of the road systems under surveillance. Provision will be made, according to the operating plans, to notify local law enforcement immediately if any driver attempts to obscure their license plate number and instructs them to at once to “apprehend and identify” the vehicle or vehicles involved. Federally-funded high-tech street lights now being installed in American cities are not only set to aid the DHS in making “security announcements” and acting as talking surveillance cameras, they are also capable of “recording conversations,” bringing the potential privacy threat posed by ‘Intellistreets’ to a whole new level.
The program has cost to date over $5 billion over a three year period.
This program can easily be installed and running on a nationwide basis within two years from its commencement.
It also is now a Federal crime to attempt to damage or in any way interfere with these surveillance devices.
Some states, such as Colorado, are using cameras as an alternative method of charging motorists toll fares. As a motorist drives through the toll lanes, motion-activated cameras capture an image of the license plate and the driver is billed.
Cameras are watching if you speed or run a red light, too.
Also, police departments in several metro areas began employing cameras to deter traffic infractions and raise revenue.
Libertarians and electronic privacy advocates oppose these methods, citing a lack of transparency in the use of the cameras and the retention of the data they collect.
As many as 30,000 domestic drones will travel the skies above U.S. soil within 20 years, according to a report for Congress by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Congress called on the FAA to integrate unmanned aircraft into the national air system by 2017.
Already, the FAA has approved domestic drone use by 81 agencies, including schools, police departments and the Department of Homeland Security.
Among the applicants approved: the Arlington Police Department in Texas; California State University in Fresno; Canyon County Sheriff’s Office in Idaho; the city of Herington, Kan.; the Georgia Tech Research Institute; Kansas State University; the Miami-Dade Police Department in Florida; the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources; the Seattle Police Department; and the Universities of Alaska at Fairbanks, California-Davis and Florida.
Although these drones range in size, most are able to hover tens of thousands of feet in the sky, collecting images of people on the ground below.
Based on current trends – technology development, law enforcement interest, political and industry pressure, and the lack of legal safeguards – it is clear that drones pose a looming threat to Americans’ privacy.
Law enforcement agencies all over the United States are starting to use unmanned drones to spy on us, and the Department of Homeland Security is aggressively seeking to expand the use of such drones by local authorities.
The Department of Homeland Security has launched a program to “facilitate and accelerate the adoption” of small, unmanned drones by police and other public safety agencies, an effort that an agency official admitted faces “a very big hurdle having to do with privacy.”
The $4 million Air-based Technologies Program, which will test and evaluate small, unmanned aircraft systems, is designed to be a “middleman” between drone manufacturers and first-responder agencies.
The EPA is already using drones to spy on cattle ranchers in Nebraska and Iowa. Will we eventually get to a point where we all just consider it to be “normal” to have surveillance drones flying above our heads constantly?
The FBI uses aerial surveillance drones over US soil, and has agreed that further political debate and legislation to govern their domestic use may be necessary.
The bureau’s director admitted it used drones to aid its investigations.
However, the potential for growing drone use either in the US, or involving US citizens abroad, is an increasingly charged issue in Congress, and the FBI acknowledged there may need to be legal restrictions placed on their use to protect privacy.
It is known that drones are used by border control officials and have been used by some local law enforcement authorities and Department of Homeland Security in criminal cases.
Currently (December, 2019) operating governmental search and observe techniques
• Access to all American school records starting with Kindergarten and going through college or university;
• Access to all medical and psychiatric records of any American citizen.
• Access to all American credit card records
• Access, via USPS, of all American mail sendings and deliveries
• Access to all American bank accounts and possession of a safe deposit box(s)
• Access to public and school library records showing the reading and check-out lists
• Access to all magazine and newspaper subscriptions of American citizens
• Access to all public travel records of American citizens to include rail, air and bus
• Access to all transfers of real estate

The FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system is a $1 billion project that is aimed at dramatically expanding the government’s current ID database from a fingerprint system to a facial recognition system. NGI uses a variety of biometric data, cross-referenced against the nation’s growing network of surveillance cameras to not only track your every move but create a permanent “recognition” file on you within the government’s massive databases. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab have developed software that can read the feelings behind facial expressions. In some cases, the computers outperform people. The software will lead to empathetic devices and is being used to evaluate and develop better advertisements.
A fully operational NGI serves as a vast data storehouse of “iris scans, photos searchable with face recognition technology, palm prints, and measures of gait and voice recordings alongside records of fingerprints, scars, and tattoos.” One component of NGI, the Universal Face Workstation, already contains some 13 million facial images, gleaned from “criminal mug shot photos” taken during the booking process. However, with major search engines having “accumulated face image databases that in their size dwarf the earth’s population,” the government taps into the trove of images stored on social media and photo sharing websites such as Facebook. A company known as BRS Labs has developed “pre-crime” surveillance cameras that can supposedly determine if you are a terrorist or a criminal even before you commit a crime and dozens of these cameras are being installed at major transportation hubs in San Francisco.
In its latest project BRS Labs has been to install its devices on the transport system in San Francisco, which includes buses, trams and subways.
The company has put them in 12 stations with up to 22 cameras in each, bringing the total number to 288.
The cameras are able to track up to 150 people at a time in real time and build up a ‘memory’ of suspicious behavior to work out what is suspicious.
Mobile Backscatter Vans
Police all over America are driving around in unmarked vans looking inside your cars and even under your clothes using the same “pornoscanner” technology currently being utilized by the TSA at U.S. airports….
American intelligence agencies have joined the US military in deploying American Science & Engineering’s Z Backscatter Vans, or mobile backscatter radiation x-rays. These are what TSA officials call “the amazing radioactive genital viewer,” now seen in airports around America, ionizing the private parts of children, the elderly.
These porno scanner wagons look like regular anonymous vans, and cruise America’s streets, indiscriminately peering through the cars (and clothes) of anyone in range of its mighty isotope-cannon. But don’t worry, it’s not a violation of privacy. As AS&E’s vice president of marketing Joe Reiss sez, “From a privacy standpoint, I’m hard-pressed to see what the concern or objection could be.”
RFID Microchips
Most Americans don’t realize this, but RFID microchips are steadily becoming part of the very fabric of our lives.All of your credit cards and debit cards contain them. Many Americans use security cards that contain RFID microchips at work. In some parts of the country it is now mandatory to inject an RFID microchip into your pet.
District officials said the Radio Frequency Identification System (RFID) tags would improve safety by allowing them to locate students — and count them more accurately at the beginning of the school day to help offset cuts in state funding, which is partly based on attendance.
Automated License Plate Readers
Automated license plate readers are being used to track the movements of a vehicle from the time that it enters Washington D.C. to the time that it leaves….
More than 250 cameras in the District and its suburbs scan license plates in real time, helping police pinpoint stolen cars and fleeing killers. But the program quietly has expanded beyond what anyone had imagined even a few years ago.
With virtually no public debate, police agencies have begun storing the information from the cameras, building databases that document the travels of millions of vehicles.

The Season of Evil
by Gregory Douglas

This is in essence a work of fiction, but the usual disclaimers notwithstanding, many of the horrific incidents related herein are based entirely on factual occurrences.
None of the characters or the events in this telling are invented and at the same time, none are real. And certainly, none of the participants could be considered by any stretch of the imagination to be either noble, self-sacrificing, honest, pure of motive or in any way socially acceptable to anything other than a hungry crocodile, a professional politician or a tax collector.
In fact, the main characters are complex, very often unpleasant, destructive and occasionally, very entertaining.
To those who would say that the majority of humanity has nothing in common with the characters depicted herein, the response is that mirrors only depict the ugly, evil and deformed things that peer into them
There are no heroes here, only different shapes and degrees of villains and if there is a moral to this tale it might well be found in a sentence by Jonathan Swift, a brilliant and misanthropic Irish cleric who wrote in his ‘Gulliver’s Travels,”
“I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most odious race of little pernicious vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.”
Swift was often unkind in his observations but certainly not inaccurate.

Frienze, Italy
July 2018-August 2019

Chapter 37

While the others, especially Lars, were unnerved by the winds that thundered against the shutters, banging them and whistling around their edges, Chuck found the noise somehow relaxing and he was very slowly descending into sleep.
There was a soft double knock at the door.
Gwen opened the door several feet.
“Can I come in?”
Chuck grunted.
“I suppose if you want to. Is there a problem?”
“My room is so cold. The fire has gone out and I don’t think the heater is doing a very good job.”
“It must be forty degrees below outside. It’s working OK but it’s hard to keep up with the cold.”
In the flickering orange light from the fireplace, he saw that she was wearing a new suit of thermal underwear that made her look much younger. It was obvious to him that she was indeed developing her charms. Late bloomers had it all over the Mediterranean types that blossomed at thirteen and sagged at eighteen.
She got into the bed and pulled up the covers to her chin.
“It’s nice and warm in here.”
She put her cold feet against his bare leg.
“Jesus, don’t do that! You’re feet are like ice, Gwen.”
There was silence as she shifted around on her side of the bed.
“How long will this storm last?”
“It’s weakening a little. Three or four hours probably. Look, I am really tired, dear, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to get to sleep.”
“I guess we have to get up in the morning and milk the cows.”
“That’s Lars’ dream, not mine.”
He resumed his long, pleasant slide into sleep again.
Just at the point where he was about to plunge into oblivion, a sudden voice cut across his consciousness.
“I guess you’re all busy, right?”
“Lars, go to bed,” Chuck said thickly.
“That’s what I want to do, Chuck. My room is really cold and I can’t sleep.”
He, too, was wearing thermal underwear and like Gwen, he climbed into the bed.
“Lars, if you put your fucking feet on me, I’ll punch you out.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t. I just want to get warm. It’s not any quieter in here, is it?”
“Lars, I want to go to sleep. No, it is not quiet but I prefer the sound of the wind to the both of you jacking your jaws. Good night, all!”
There was a little silence, the sound of the burning logs only faintly audible over the storm sounds, and then a loud crash from somewhere outside.
Gwen sat up, raising the covers and letting in cold air.
“What’s that?”
Chuck grabbed at the comforter.
“God damn it, you’re freezing me! Look, some tree fell down. There must be a dozen down so far. Just go to sleep, OK?”
“Chuckie’s in a bad mood, Lars. Don’t make any more noise.”
“Can I fart?”
“NO!” Chuck roared.
“Oh Chuck, let him have just a little fart. Maybe I’ll join you. That was an awfully rich dinner.”
Lars started to snicker.
“Be careful you don’t take a dump at the same time, Gwen. You’ll have to live with it all night and it won’t smell nice at all.”
Chuck took a pillow and pulled it over his head. His voice was muffled but he could be understood without any problem.
“Will you two assholes please let me go to sleep? If you want to be funny, go get into someone else’s bed, OK?”
Gwen responded by running a knuckle up and down Chuck’s ribs. He tried to grab her hand and she began to laugh.
“See, Lars, he’s not sleeping at all.”
“Jesus, stop that!” and in spite of himself, he started to laugh.
Then it was Lars’ turn to poke Chuck in the ribs on the other side.
Still laughing, Chuck rolled over to punch Lars. When he did so, Gwen ran her finger up and down his bare back.
“Oh Lars, Chuck is buck naked!”
Lars was being pummeled and was laughing in spite of it.
“How do you know?”
“I’ve got my hand on his bare ass, that’s how I know.”
Suddenly, Chuck stopped laughing.
“Hey, hey, cut that out, Gwen. That’s not my ass and you know it.”
Chuck grabbed her questing hand and then rolled over on his stomach to protect his manhood. This proved to be a mistake because someone grabbed the upper part of his leg and began to knead it.
“Hey, Gwen, let go of my leg! I mean it!”
Gwen put both of her hands on his arm.
“It’s not me, honey. See?”
“Lars! You goddam pervert, let go of my leg!”
Lars let go.
“You get so rude sometimes, Chuck.”
“Rude? I’ll rude you. First one of you gropes me and then the other grabs my leg. What are you guys trying to do?”
Gwen kissed him on the ear, her tongue moving around its convolutions.
“We’re going to rape you, sweetie. Just lie still and enjoy it.”
They did not rape him but the balance of the evening’s entertainment was of a strenuous and eventually exhausting nature.
All of them were asleep by two and the storm was beginning to wind down, the wind blowing intermittently.
When Gwen woke up about seven, she looked around at the shambles of the bed. Bedding, pillows, comforter and occupants were so entangled that it looked like the scene of a tornado’s passage. She had a bare leg, probably belonging to Chuck, draped over her mid-section and there was resonant snoring coming from underneath a pillow that had been stripped of its case and was now bobbing gently up and down.
Picking up her thermal suiting, Gwen retreated to her room and took a very long shower before climbing into her own bed.
The others did not wake up until noon and Chuck was the first to greet the mid-section of the new day.
His eyes were gummed partially shut and for a moment, he had no idea where he was or why he was lying in such chaos. Lars had stopped snoring but Chuck decided that the muscular leg lying across his outstretched arm did not belong to Gwen. Then he remembered fragments of the night’s activities and sat up quickly, trying to wrap something around his nakedness.
Modesty had returned with the new day.
Chuck’s movements had wakened Lars who made snorting noises as he pulled the pillow away from his face.
“Oh, I am really sore this morning. Is anybody around here?”
He saw Chuck sitting up at the head of the bed, a pair of thermal underwear pants wrapped around his shoulders.
“Hey, Chuck, how are you?”
He struggled to sit up and they sat facing each other, a pile of bedding between them.
“Lars, you are a thoroughly evil and perverted person. I never got any sleep last night and I have to tell you right now that I do not appreciate your sticking your tongue down my throat.”
“I was horny, Chuck. Sorry. Are you mad at me?”
“At this point, who cares? Little girls are bad enough but I had no idea you were gay.”
“I am not gay, Chuck. I just like you a lot, that’s all. I mean when we worked at the store, you were always sticking up for me and we had a lot of fun trashing old Art’s house.”
He scratched his head absently.
“Yes, I used to stick up for you because you let people pick on you. Now that I have had the repeated opportunity of seeing you naked, I don’t understand why you didn’t take Marvin out into the parking lot and beat the shit out of him. You always looked puny in your clothes.”
“I don’t like to hit people, Chuck. I used to box in high school and once I hit a guy so hard I broke his nose and shoved part of it up into his head. It killed him and ever since then, I don’t like to hit people. My coach told me I was the best guy he ever had and I believed him. He told me a lot of other things too but I found out later he was lying.”
This was the coach that had seduced him when he was fifteen.
“Never mind the coach. I never had even the slightest idea you were bent. How long have you been lusting after my body?”
“Ever since I saw you in the motel in Santa Cruz.”
“Christ. Well, I tell you what, buddy, sex with women is trying enough but I don’t want to get involved with men, especially with someone who is a friend.”
“Gwen told me you were really good in the sack and you know, she was right.”
“That’s mechanical. As of right now, we can either screw Gwen or make love to our hands but please, not each other. OK?”
Lars shrugged.
“I guess not. But we all did have fun last night, didn’t we?”
“I hate to admit it but it was fun. And I am going to talk to Gwen about that because it was her idea.”
“No it wasn’t. It was mine.”
“You’re so gallant, Lars, taking the blame for her.”
“Hey, come on over here and I’ll show you what I mean.”
“No, I am not coming over there or over here either. Look, leave it alone.”
“Sure, Chuck, I will. No hard feelings?”
“No, no hard feelings. Just, we all live together and there is really nothing worse than sexual triangles. I know, I was involved in one once but with two women, no men. In a way, that’s worse. Do you know what the Chinese ideogram for trouble is, Lars?”
“Two women under one roof. Now, let’s get cleaned up, do something about this bed here and get some food. I am really hungry.”
“And you don’t smell too good, either, Chuck”
He got up and began a search for something to wear.
The fire had gone out but at least the wind had stopped and glints of sunlight crept into the room through the shutters.
After taking showers and putting on clean clothes, they took the dirty linen down to the laundry room in two great heaps and then there was a very late breakfast combined with an early lunch.
Gwen was sitting in the kitchen, reading a book on Queen Victoria when the pair returned from the laundry room.
“Hello, boys. Did you all get a good night’s sleep?”
“No,” Chuck said, looking into the stock pot, “I did not. Lars and I are getting married just as soon as the snow melts. Thank you so much for bringing us together.”
She put down her book.
“My God, are you kidding?”
“I hope so. And that’s the last time we ever do something like that. The next time you suggest strip poker, I will personally immerse your inflamed pudenda in a tub full of ice water and torpid eels. How about quiche for lunch, children? I have the ingredients in the refrigerator.”
After lunch, it was decided that since the storm had blown over, there would be adventures on the snowmobile. Gwen had no interest in the subject so Chuck and Lars went into the garage and opened the door.
The brilliant sunlight reflecting off the enormous mass of snow that surrounded the house momentarily blinded them and Chuck had to go back inside for dark glasses.
There was room on the back of the machine for another rider and after some experimentation, they drove off along the ridge to the west of the house.
It took some time to get used to the nature of the machine but eventually, they sailed over banks of snow, threaded among the trees and in general had an exhilarating voyage of discovery in the new landscape.


This is also an e-book, available from Amazon:

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