Category Archives: News

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Pope Francis Punches Out the Wrong Guy

Pope FrancisBarely a week since the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the additional murders that followed, the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, has made some remarks on the broader issue of free speech and the appropriate response to insults to one’s religion. According to the Associated Press, he spoke in an interview aboard the papal airplane and opined that there should indeed be limits to free speech, which he illustrated with this example:

If my good friend Dr. Gasparri [an aide to the Pope] says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.
[…] There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others. They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr. Gasparri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit.

It may be surprising to many to hear Pope Francis speak uncritically of punching someone for merely delivering an insult or curse. What happened to turning the other cheek? That was, after all, kind of a big theme with the gentleman who started this whole Christianity racket (in which—full disclosure—yours truly endeavors to sometimes participate). What was his name again? Continue reading Pope Francis Punches Out the Wrong Guy

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Pens versus AK-47s and Cartoons versus Atrocities

Je Suis CharlieWhat happened today in Paris at the offices of the publication Charlie Hebdo ought to be a watershed moment that forces just about everyone in what we think of as the free Western world to remember what freedom is, and one that makes the ever growing threats against that freedom no longer possible to deny or excuse. However, a few hours into the watershed moment, it’s not exactly clear that this will the result. There has already been plenty of equivocation, talk of how what the satirists at Charlie Hebdo did was too provocative, and so on. Indeed, it was meant to be provocative, but in a free society provocation by way of ideas and statements should only produce in response other ideas and statements: not riots, not punishment under the law, and not bullets from a Kalashnikov. The spontaneous gathering of people in the streets in France (and around the world) to stand up for those massacred today, symbolically lifting pens into the air, is, on the other hand, a reason to hope that the correct lesson is being drawn by the critical mass of citizens. Continue reading Pens versus AK-47s and Cartoons versus Atrocities

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For Christmas in New York: Murder

Officers Ramos and Liu

Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were murdered in Brooklyn yesterday, five days before Christmas. They were shot to death as they sat peacefully in their patrol car, eating lunch, and performing duty that would have found them without question coming quickly to the assistance of anyone in trouble in the nearby public housing project, as NYPD officers do on a routine and daily basis. The church that Officer Rafael (Ralph) Ramos regularly attended was reportedly packed this morning with those showing sympathy to his bereaved family. Ramos himself, a devout Christian, was to graduate today from the New York State Chaplain Task Force. His partner, Officer Wenjian Liu, had gotten married just two months ago. He and his bride were described today by a neighborhood acquaintance as having been “quiet and clearly in love.” Continue reading For Christmas in New York: Murder

Is Ebola Coming for My Dog?

Ebola and dogsIn Spain, a nurse’s aide named Teresa Romero Ramos contracted Ebola from a patient (in a manner that has yet to be confirmed). In response, authorities quarantined her husband, Javier Limon, and three other people. And then today they killed her dog, a twelve-year-old mixed breed named Excalibur. The dog was showing no symptoms, and had not been tested and shown to be carrying the virus. (What message does this send to other desperately-needed health professionals dealing with Ebola victims? Just this: If you contract the disease during your work, your pets will be killed.)

In a funny (although not very “ha-ha”) way, this story may be bringing home the seriousness of Ebola to people who haven’t worried much about it. I think most people have indeed paid attention to it, and been concerned, but those of us living in the West have likely been assuming that this is a Third World disease and that the superior health systems in the developed world will be able to handle and contain it. There is some generalized apprehension, yes, but most individuals are likely not fearful for their own lives. (I think that most of us, at least until we get to a certain age, still regard ourselves as more or less immortal, anyway.) However, this killing of the dog is a little different. It is more mundane, more comprehensible: the government decided the dog needed to be killed, and it was (and this despite burgeoning protests and a petition garnering 350,000 signatories). We may find it hard to picture ourselves dying from Ebola, but we can more easily picture the van pulling up and the government agents arriving to drag our dog off to be euthanized. Continue reading Is Ebola Coming for My Dog?

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Articles of Faith (and How to Commit Genocide and Get Away with It)

Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 18

Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is simple enough and says the following:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

This document was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948, and eventually (by 1976) it was included in two larger “Covenants” which were ratified by a sufficient number of member states to take on the force of international law.

Yeah: right. Continue reading Articles of Faith (and How to Commit Genocide and Get Away with It)

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James Garner 1928 – 2014

James Garner passes aged 86James Garner died over the weekend at the age of eighty-six. As a film and TV actor, he had a remarkably long career, and his passing is provoking tributes from far and wide. But I suppose to people in my own age group (whatever that may be) he’ll always be remembered and loved first and foremost for the character of Jim Rockford, private investigator, a character created and written for him and which he played so incredibly well and clearly relished.

It’s difficult to re-imagine my own childhood without The Rockford Files in it, and I daresay it must be the same for many others. Sure: it was just one of a bunch of detective shows on TV (and the 1970s produced some great television) but there was something special about Rockford. Who couldn’t relate to him? He was no superhero; he broke the rules, wisecracked his way out of situations, was unafraid to show fear for his own skin, worked for the pay-off but—you always knew—had heart of gold underneath his jaded exterior that prevented him from ultimately doing anything truly wrong and mean. It was a somewhat different portrayal of manliness from some other popular ones on the screen, to be sure, but it still was manliness; he was not a weasel. Continue reading James Garner 1928 – 2014

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The World Dithers While Israel Fights

JihadIn Nigeria, the jihadist group Boko Haram is reported to have massacred at least 100 people a few days ago while attacking, taking over and largely burning down a town named Damboa. They gunned people down as they fled their firebombed homes. The official death toll is naturally expected to increase. Of-course, they’ve been massacring many thousands—mainly Christians—for a very long time now. What you might call their “vision of Islam” involves eliminating all Western and non-Islamic influences, so schools and students have all along been favored targets. The world briefly paid closer attention when, in April of this year, instead of simply massacring people they chose to kidnap some: more than 200 schoolgirls. Twitter hashtags were brought to bear against the group by those concerned in the world-at-large, but so far the jihadists have only responded with more massacres, destruction and kidnappings. (Perhaps improved WiFi access in the area would better get the message across?) So, aside from token measures, the world wrings its hands. Continue reading The World Dithers While Israel Fights

A Young Punk, a Knife and an Elderly Couple

Punk, Knife, Elderly CoupleIt’s a bloody and unspeakable vignette far too common in America and in this broken world generally. A 25-year-old man had been doing odd jobs in a neighborhood in Springfield Township, in the state of Ohio, including for a 92-year-old World War II veteran named Hugh, and his wife Ruby, aged 89. Apparently he got the idea that they might have a lot of cash in their home. One day he knocked on their door, which was opened by the frail 89-year-old Ruby. He made pleasant small talk, saying he’d soon be going to college, which made Ruby very glad. Then he asked if he could come in to use their telephone. On being ushered in, he talked with Ruby’s husband, Hugh, while she left the room. When she returned a minute later, she saw to her horror that he was wielding a knife and demanding money. Hugh was enraged, telling the young thug to “go to hell.” The punk swung the knife, slashing the elderly WWII veteran in the face and throat. He died on the floor from his wounds. The attacker then stabbed Ruby, pushing her to the ground. Then he apparently grabbed what he could find in the space of a few minutes. Cops who later picked him up—still in possession of the elderly couple’s credit cards and Ruby’s wedding and engagement rings—estimated that he basically had gotten away with a couple of hundred dollars in cash. Ruby survived long enough to describe to the police what had occurred, but died a week after the brutal attack. Continue reading A Young Punk, a Knife and an Elderly Couple

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Man “Baked to Death” in New York City Jail Cell

Man baked to death in NYC jail
A man in New York City
was picked up last month on the charge of trespassing. He had been found by police sleeping in a stairwell of a public housing project in Harlem. It has surely been a very cold winter in New York, and I guess a stairwell there is one of the places where someone without a home of his own could find some shelter. Public housing projects in New York City generally have token and non-functioning security mechanisms, so that anyone can just stroll in off the street and do whatever they want in the stairwells—which is naturally catastrophic for the quality of life of all of the residents (and yet our new mayor is more concerned about banning carriage horses from pulling carriages, rather than fixing such a fundamental problem for so many poor city residents). The easy accessibility of a legally-prohibited sleeping space was arguably tragedy number one for this man, Jerome Murdough, although really it had come after all of those other tragedies that led him to his life of living on and off the street. Continue reading Man “Baked to Death” in New York City Jail Cell

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Ariel Sharon: One Last Victory

one last victoryAriel Sharon’s story would provide a lesson to anyone tempted to believe that history just rolls on regardless of the efforts of the individual. A cursory glance at the events of his life (as in the newspaper today) would show the degree to which—beginning at a young age—Sharon made the very history he lived through.

And no one can live a life like that without causing controversy, all of which is being exhaustively argued out elsewhere.

However, I’d just like to take this opportunity to note his most recent achievement, one which was already referred to in this space about a year ago.

Following his stroke in 2006, Ariel Sharon was diagnosed as being in a “persistent vegetative state.” A few years later a hospital manager was quoted as saying that “the part of the brain that keeps his body functioning, his vital organs, is intact, but beyond that there is nothing, just fluid.” The definition of a vegetative state is indeed the absence of any cognitive function at all, with the brain only retaining the ability to sustain involuntary bodily functions like breathing. (This is as distinct from “brain death,” where even the ability to sustain those involuntary functions is gone, which is why brain death—when properly diagnosed—is regarded as an irreversible terminal event for a human being.) Continue reading Ariel Sharon: One Last Victory

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Natural Wonders and Belief in God: Important New Research

Natural wonders and belief in God
Once again, scientists have directed their telescopes and most advanced instruments upward, have spent long months studying the data and spending their grant money, and emerged to deliver their important conclusion: The sky is blue.

The story this time is in the UK’s Daily Mail: “Natural wonders increase our tendency to believe in God and the supernatural.” Doctor Piercarlo Valdesolo of Claremont McKenna College and Jesse Graham of the University of Southern California announced their findings based on studying the reactions of human subjects to awe-inspiring natural sights, and have concluded that such sights increase the tendency of people to believe in God or the supernatural. Amazing. Continue reading Natural Wonders and Belief in God: Important New Research

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Sandy Hook Again

newtown sandy hookWith the release of more details in the case of the massacre at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut on 12/14/2012, and the renewed focus by much of the mainstream media on the perpetrator, it is worth reminding ourselves of what the broader evidence shows about the motivations of those who commit these kinds of crimes. That is, that they are motivated by a desire to inflict spectacular harm that attracts universal attention—even deliberately competing to outdo previous mass killers—in the expectation that the same universal attention will then be focused on themselves and on their own nurtured grievances, frustrations and hatreds, whether contained in published manifestos or not.

They create the most horrifying spectacle possible in order to make a spectacle of their own hatred for the world and everyone in it. And every time the glare of the media spotlight is shone on one of these killers, it provides direct encouragement and inspiration to others who may be teetering at the abyss of similar horror. Continue reading Sandy Hook Again

nixon 1960

What if Richard Nixon Had Won in 1960?

If Nixon won presidency 1960

I like hats. Proper men’s hats, that is. It’s an affection that has developed in recent years, after belatedly realizing their utilitarian value and coming to understand that they also provide a relatively inexpensive and fun way of bettering one’s look and mood. When one begins wearing hats, it’s a natural thing to wonder why they ceased being ubiquitous in America, as they appear to have been based on photographs taken wherever men are present during the first half of the twentieth century. No man seemed to ever be without a fedora or other brimmed hat, at least when outdoors. Conventional wisdom has an answer to this—whether fully true or not—and it is that when John F. Kennedy stood hatless at his inauguration in 1961 the image of him doing so changed fashion on a dime, and men’s hats were transformed from a required item into a niche category. And then there came so many cheap baseball caps … and civilization duly collapsed.

This got me thinking: if Richard M. Nixon had been the winner of the 1960 presidential contest, would men’s hats have remained in fashion? On consideration, I don’t think so, because I don’t entirely buy the idea that JFK alone altered that fashion; I think it was bound to take place, and he merely hurried it and provided a prominent symbol. Yet, this train of thought leads to other speculations. The 1960 presidential election was one of the most closely-contested in American history. John F. Kennedy ultimately beat his opponent with only 0.1% of the vote. It was believed by many then that dead voter shenanigans in Richard Daley’s Chicago and similar fraud in Texas swung the election for Kennedy. Nixon chose not to be the first presidential contender in history to dispute an election, whether out of a genuine desire to avoid division or because he didn’t believe he would prevail. And John F. Kennedy was hatlessly sworn in on January 20th, 1961. His was a transformational presidency, though arguably more due to the hinges of history that would turn as a result as opposed to personal accomplishments in office. Continue reading What if Richard Nixon Had Won in 1960?

Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella

Let a smile be your umbrella
Researchers have found a dramatic link between the presence of smiles in photos taken during childhood and young adulthood and the future happiness of the people in those photos (see WSJ article by Matthew Hertenstein). Most specifically, a study of hundreds of college yearbook photos found that those individuals who smiled least were about five times more likely to get divorced later in life versus those who smiled most. Further research indicated that even photos taken at the age of 10 illustrated a strong correlation between a full-faced smile and a future successful marriage, versus a flat or stoic look and the likelihood of experiencing divorce(s) instead. The better-smiling types also seem to live substantially longer.

It seems clear enough that the more research that is done, the more associations there will be between smiling in youthful photographs and successful outcomes in every area of life. This is very depressing for someone like me. Were one to go through my childhood photos, one would conclude that I should be divorced four or five times by now. As it happens, I have failed to get started on even my first divorce. I can only conclude that my wife’s far more cheerful and smiling nature as a child has somehow outweighed the grim misery with which her future husband was obviously burdened. So, therein lies a key lesson for the non-smilers: do not marry someone as sour-faced as yourself. Continue reading Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella

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Lou Reed 1942 – 2013

Lou Reed, R.I.P.It was something of a shock seeing the announcement today of Lou Reed’s death. Although chronologically he was 71 years-old, and although it was known he’d been having health problems, Lou Reed seemed more ageless than most. It’s hard to recall when he might have been young. He was just … Lou Reed. Never overexposed, but popping up from the periphery with reassuring regularity.

Despite his orneriness and his sometimes arrogant persona, and despite his tendency (at least in my opinion) towards self-indulgence in his work, there was something very likeable about Lou. He didn’t just have a unique singing voice; he was a unique voice. Although his music was intensely simple, he was one of the few true stylists of the whole rock & roll circus of the last fifty years, a seminal influence to countless other performers and one who never lost his creative spark. Continue reading Lou Reed 1942 – 2013

Sad Commentary: A Fatal Fall at Sutton Place

Sad commentary: Fatal Fall at Sutton Place
A 35 year-old woman fell to her death from the 17th floor of a building on 57th St. in New York City last night (or early this morning). She was apparently leaning against the railings on her apartment’s balcony when those railings suddenly gave way. The details are no doubt still to be fully established. Obviously, tragic accidents occur every day. This one is in the news at all only because of the particular drama of such a fall in midtown Manhattan. The story itself is, truth be told, relevant only to the people personally involved, and the people who mourn the woman’s loss.

Yet, what’s really remarkable is seeing the kinds of comments on this story that so many people have left, using in most cases their real names and Facebook identities. I don’t read comment sections anymore as a rule, but the first ones I saw on this were so horrible that I felt obliged to go on and see if they continued in that vein. And they did. Many of the most vile remarks were those directed at the dead woman because the story had reported that she was smoking on her balcony when the accident occurred. People felt it worthwhile to pause long enough on the page to leave brief derisive comments such as, “Who wants to date a woman who smokes and smells like tobacco – yuck,” or “She was a smoker. Poor judgment is par for the course.” Or something along the lines of “Tobacco kills!” Again, people using their real names, with photos and actual Facebook profiles attached (sometimes hugging a spouse or clasping their small child in their arms) stop to leave a random insult on a public webpage with a story about a woman who has just died. They are capable of being just that shameless. Continue reading Sad Commentary: A Fatal Fall at Sutton Place

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Mariano Rivera and a Gift from God

Mariano Rivera & a Gift from God

Mariano Rivera, born in Panama City, Panama, is the greatest relief pitcher in the history of baseball. No serious person will argue that point, I think. He has arrived at this status as a result of being a reliever—mainly the closer—for the New York Yankees, for nearly twenty years now.

Being a New York Yankee fan by birth (born in the Bronx even if I grew up largely on distant shores) those few times that Rivera blew a big save naturally loom unnaturally large in my memory, but taken as a whole his achievements defy explanation or even praise. What can you say about someone who is so beyond-the-norm of excellence?

2013 is to be his final year of pitching for the Yankees, at the age of 43, if the amazingly-stellar year that he’s having so far (30 saves, 1.83 ERA) does not compel him by acclamation to return for yet another year. There is much being said and written about his career and his character. He is clearly one of the most loved and respected players in baseball, by both friends and opponents, and by both players and fans. Continue reading Mariano Rivera and a Gift from God

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Knight, DeJesus and Berry: A Statement (and a Message Obscured)

Michelle Knight statementAmanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were held captive in a house in Cleveland for about a decade. A man named Ariel Castro faces trial for their kidnapping and abuse and also for aggravated murder in the death of a baby which one of the women conceived during that time. I think it’s reasonable to say that most of us can only imagine in our worst nightmares what these women experienced during that decade of captivity. Most of us would also maintain that we’d rather die than face such an ordeal. Today, a video was released which features these three brave women thanking the public for the help and support that they’ve received since being freed.

Aside from being a compelling story on its own merits, it is also interesting to see how their message is being summarized in much of the media, for those who do not stop to watch the full three and a half minute video. In a portrayal that I’ve found typical today, TIME.com has this:

In an inspiring, yet heartwrenching statement, Michelle Knight, who went missing in 2002 at age 21, said:

“I may have been through hell and back but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and with my head held high and my feet firmly on the ground … I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation.”

What’s interesting to me is what is left out by means of those three dots in the middle (and the same words were left out by USA Today and the BBC and others). Read just as it is there, it seems that Michelle Knight is crediting a personal sense of pride and self-regard for her strength and her survival. But there’s a little bit more to it than that, if you listen to her full statement (embedded at the bottom of this post). Here is the bulk of it, as transcribed by yours truly:

I just want everyone to know I’m doing just fine. I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face, and with my head held high, and my feet firmly on the ground, walking hand in hand with my best friend.

I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation. I don’t want to be consumed by hatred. With that being said, we need to take a leap of faith and know that God is in control. We have been hurt by people but we need to rely on God as being the judge.

God has a plan for all of us. The plan that He gave me was to help others that have been in the same situation I have been in. To know that there’s someone out there to lean on and to talk to.

I’m in control of my own destiny, with the guidance of God.

Continue reading Knight, DeJesus and Berry: A Statement (and a Message Obscured)

Bono Son of God shocker

Bono in “Son of God” Shocker

Bono in Son of God shocker

Bono, the lead singer of U2 and a prominent activist for AIDS relief and economic development in Africa, has been interviewed by Jim Daly of the American evangelical Christian organization “Focus on the Family.” (Embedded audio at bottom.) The interview has generated various headlines, in particular with regard to Bono’s statement that he believes Jesus is the Son of God. The statement is not likely to be too surprising to those who’ve followed U2 and noted the spiritual and biblical content of their work along the way, but any time a celebrity makes such a blatant statement of belief it produces shockwaves of various kinds. The relevant part of the interview goes something like this:

(Bono speaking) When people say “good teacher,” “prophet,” “really nice guy”—this is not how Jesus thought of himself. So, you’re left with a challenge in that, which is either Jesus was who he said he was or a complete and utter nut case. You have to make a choice on that, and I believe that Jesus was, you know, the Son of God. I understand that for some people and we need to—if I could be so bold—need to be really, really respectful to people who find that ridiculous and people who find that preposterous.

Predictably a lot of the reaction to this is along the lines of exhortations to Bono to stop believing in a “man up in the sky,” but more interesting to me (and more sad) is the negative blowback from those who profess Christian faith themselves but feel for one reason or another that Bono is a poor example. One accusation that keeps cropping up is that Bono is a “universalist,” and therefore should be treated with great skepticism or shunned. I’m pretty sure I know where this notion of Bono as a religious universalist (i.e. someone who believes everyone’s truth is as good as anyone else’s) comes from and I believe it is actually a misunderstanding or mishearing of something he was proclaiming from the stage a few years ago.

During tours in the 2005/2006 time-frame, during the song “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” Bono would talk about a sign which he said was “written on a wall in Lebanon,” which read “Coexist,” incorporating in its letters an Islamic moon, a Star of David, and a Christian cross. The screen behind the stage displayed such a sign in huge letters as he spoke. Then he would begin singing some lines and encourage the crowd to participate. What caused great scandal was that some people heard him sing this line: “Jesus, Jew, Muhammad: All true.” Well, if that were what he were singing it would be a pretty empty-headed bit of pablum, to be sure: dangerous to some and fundamentally disrespectful to all three faiths being invoked. (One does not have to pretend there are not serious differences in order to have respectful dialogue with those of other faiths; in fact, the opposite is true.) Someone preaching this from the stage and getting thousands of concert-goers to sing along made for a pretty disturbing image even to some real fans of Bono and U2, and people wrote about it, blogged about it, facebooked about it, and the story got out there to lots of people who never attended a U2 concert for themselves.

Only problem was, that’s not what Bono was saying (or singing) during that segment of that show. I base this opinion on recordings such as the one you can currently listen to via YouTube at the bottom of this post. What Bono actually sings is the following, I do think:

Jesus, Jew, Muhammad, it’s true: all sons of Abraham
Father Abraham, what have we done?
Father Abraham, speak to your sons
Tell them “no more, no more, no more”

So, to spell it out, that which he’s saying is “true” is that Jews, Jesus and Muhammad are all descendants of Abraham. And this actually is true, as far as the Bible goes and as far as we know. And then in the succeeding lines Bono is pleading with Abraham to speak to his sons and tell them to stop fighting. Continue reading Bono in “Son of God” Shocker

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Everybody Knows (Starting with the N.S.A.)

Everybody Knows (starting with the NSA)
With all of the recent news stories regarding the data that U.S. intelligence agencies are collecting, at home and worldwide, my brain has been hosting a not-entirely-unpleasant ear-worm of the old Leonard Cohen song, “Everybody Knows.” It’s from his 1988 album I’m Your Man, but some of the words sound especially timely right now.

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost

What we’re experiencing is a belated “catching-up” to where it is that the technological changes of the past 10-15 years have put us. It has all happened so quickly. When it comes to conventional telephone calls, it is well known that the NSA has been snooping on those (internationally) for decades. What has changed so quickly is that so much of everyone’s ordinary life is online; it is transmitted, recorded and preserved in digital format. One’s personal communications, one’s banking and bill paying, one’s shopping habits, one’s political inclinations, one’s philosophical and religious beliefs, one’s embarrassing predilections, one’s health problems and concerns … all of this and more can be found out by crunching the data on one’s internet use. With the alleged and/or potential reach of an agency like the NSA, all kinds of sources of material could be matched up together with data filters to obtain a complete and intensely personal portrait of the individual, with information that could be “abused” either by an oppressive government authority or simply by an unscrupulous employee who happens to be able to access it. Continue reading Everybody Knows (Starting with the N.S.A.)

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Among the Bravest

Memorial Day in the U.S. is a day to remember those who have fallen in the service of their country, but inevitably also reminds us of those who are risking everything in that service at the present moment. If one does not have a close relative or friend in the military, bearing such burdens, it’s easy to forget that those sacrifices continue to be made. The war in Afghanistan is winding down, right? Imagine how that sounds to someone about to get on a plane and leave his or her family for a tour of duty there, where the threat of attack by suicide bombers and what we could politely call “rogue Afghani security personnel” is more deadly than ever.

Deploying to a war zone is always an act of bravery in itself, but imagine the added challenge of doing it when the mission is so difficult to define. Oh, I have no doubt that those paid to do so have come up with catchphrases for it, both diplomatic and military, but in all honesty, what is it? It is at best something like this: “Complete the drawdown under fire while preserving as much dignity for the U.S. military as possible.” Is that an objective one is prepared to die for? The soldiers must have to reach deep down and see their mission on a broader level and remember somehow that what they’re doing is worthwhile and tell themselves that it contributes to a better future for their kids. But you’d surely like something more sturdy to cling to than an “orderly drawdown.” Continue reading Among the Bravest