Saturday, June 29, 2013

America Spying on the World

I was asked this week what I felt would happen to Edward Snowden?  I have a different perspective on what Snowden has done than some of our liberals and neocons in Congress.  The criminal is the American NSA and those on our Intelligence Committees.  Americans should not for one minute believe those who are telling us they are only collecting “meta data” they are lying.  

E-crime experts around the world have known for some time that our government was collecting data on not just Americans but citizens of other countries as well.  The data was not just from ordinary Americans and Chinese, but from all our friends and allies -- Germany, Australia, Canada, Scandinavia, Latin and South America, and many others. (Why are we spying on our friends?)

Snowden is not a traitor or criminal but someone who exposed a crime.  The right to privacy from electronic surveillance is granted in most national constitutions.  This has been declared a human right by the United Nations and is a crime to collect it secretly.  As Americans we may we may sacrifice our privacy for national security but what about the rest of the world?  The Executive Branch, FISA court and even Congress may give their approval to spy on American citizens for the best interest of the defense of the nation but that does not include citizens of other nations.  

As hard as it may be for most Americans to accept we are not the only country that has a constitution that protect human rights and liberties.  Our country may be fine with our freedoms and liberties circumvented by the Patriot Act but the rest of the world is not happy with the United States breaching their sovereignty laws to spy on their citizens and businesses.  In fact, the rest of the world regards what the NSA is doing is an international crime and a direct violation of their human rights. As far as the world community is concerned the United States can no longer be trusted.

The Snowden fiasco will result in a geopolitical shift that will have a major impact on the United States as well as each of us as citizens of the United States.  As most Internet users are well aware that our government has wanted full control over the Internet.  As of now a major proportion of all global Internet traffic flows through networks controlled by the United States.  Eight of the fifteen global tier 1 telecommunication companies are owned by American companies and the social media companies are headquartered in the United States.  These companies all come under the U.S. Patriot Act no matter where their services are offered or what country their servers are located.  We might be able to live with this, but the rest of the world will not knowing how America has abused their privacy.

Having the Internet traffic routed through the U.S. puts the sovereign nations outside the United States at risk in guaranteeing the constitutionally privacy rights of their citizens.  This will be coming to an end.  Our government in its need to circumvent freedom and liberty has become an international criminal.   People around the world have been subjected to the NSA capturing and tracking their electronic communications.  Even though most Americans cannot see the seriousness of this action they would be furious if the roles were reversed and China was the world’s Internet controller and they were collecting personal data on every American citizen.  

Our politicians have become what we found so hated in Russia, China and Iran governments, the predatory Police State that spied on its citizens.  What is amazing is that Russia’s President Putin  lectures our President Obama on spying on Americans.  The world governments were outraged about America’s actions. There were heated and outraged discussions at the G-8 summit in Ireland. Eric Holder was flown to Brussels for questioning by the European Union. When Holder left, they were even more outraged. The Germans openly compared the United States actions to the actions of the Cold War-era.

I am also embarrassed to have our country lectured by the United Nations.  It is a sad day in America when the rest of the world is concerned about protecting the rights of privacy and America is the violator.

“Surveillance programs that trample on people’s right to privacy in the name of security actually risk damaging the fight against terrorism,” UN rights chief Navi Pillay warned .

UN Under Secretary General Jeffrey Feltman said: “If we allow compromise on human rights, we are not countering terrorism but letting it get its way. “When the principles enshrined in the human rights instruments are disrespected, extremism tends to thrive,” said Feltman, who heads the world body’s Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force Office (CTITF).

WOW! That hurts.  

Switzerland has asked Washington for explanations about Snowden’s revelations, especially on an alleged CIA blackmail operation to spy on its banks while he was stationed in Geneva as a diplomatic attache from 2007 to 2009.

In Germany, the country’s data commissioner has said he expects the government to put a stop to any American surveillance of German citizens, while worried lawmakers from across the political spectrum have said they want to know more.  Maybe they fear blackmail from the U.S.

“No one has a problem with the USA keeping terrorists under surveillance — that has prevented terrorist attacks in Germany before now too,” said Thomas Oppermann, a senior lawmaker from the opposition Social Democrats (SPD). (But) total surveillance of all citizens by the USA is completely inappropriate. The German government must protect the privacy of Germans from the USA too.”

“This affair looks like it will be one of the biggest scandals in data sharing ... Merkel cannot just look away and act like nothing has happened,” added Renate Kuenast, a senior Green lawmaker.

Peter Schaar, Germany's federal data protection commissioner told the Guardian that it was unacceptable that US authorities have access to the data of European citizens "and the level of protection is lower than what is guaranteed for US citizens." 

The list of countries who have raised concerns are those who we have called our friends and allies and then we treat them as enemies.  Our government has accused China of hacking and stealing information for years but when exposed as the thief, we blame the man who exposed these crimes as the thief. Our government will continue to distract the American public by blaming China, Russia and Snowden.  The national media will continue to focus on misdirection of the issues and stonewall the investigation. 

So what do I think will happen to Snowden?  Well, our President has already used drones on America citizens without due process.  Maybe he will add Snowden to his “kill list”.  Regardless the direction our government goes Snowden’s life is over as he knew it.  He sacrificed all to expose a corrupt government.  When the most arrogate political leaders in the world have been caught red handed they have no other recourse than to call Edward Snowden a traitor and demand that he return to America to be tried.  Who are the real traitors?  Everyone who knew about or gave orders to spy on the entire earth is a traitor to the right of privacy of every individual on earth.  

I understand that our government has been ruled by the Executive Branch for years.  This is proven by the fact, Congress cannot complete an investigation, nor can they stop the actions of the Executive Branch when blatantly committing illegal actions.  The IRS scandal, AP scandal, Fast and Furious, Voter Fraud scandals, and engaging in war without the consent of Congress all are examples of the ineffectiveness of our elected officials to run this country.  Neither the Republican nor Democrats have shown an interest in preserving the rights of the citizens of the world, let alone American citizens.

By the way, we are being told that the information Snowden leaked MAY cause the death of some operatives.  Again, misdirection and lies, our government does not care about its operatives.  Our State Department sacrificed the lives of four Americans, one being an Ambassador-- and we are rapidly approaching a year since it happened and nothing has been done.  We will continue to be fed a list of “talking point lies” and misdirected until it will soon be forgotten.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Is Russia, China and Iran Really Enemies of America?

My father was a strong anti-Communist and I attended anti-Communist rallies with him in the 1960’s.  I remember how the enemies of America were the Russians and Cubans.  At that time I viewed every Russian as an enemy.  That was until a Russian family was introduced to our family and later became good friends.  It was hard to see them as the enemy.  They were much like our family except they had an accent that sometimes made it hard to understand them.  This family changed my whole thinking about Russians.  

I still am not a fan of communism.  Nor can I accept a totalitarian government in which the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life whenever necessary.  (Sort of like what is happening in America.)  Neither am I a believer in socialism.  I believe the founding fathers of America in their great experiment of freedom and liberties were on the right track. However, I have with age come to understand that those who have lived under a government different from ours may still be good people and not our enemies.   I can still have friends who are either Republican or Democrat and like them for who they are but may never understand how they can accept the progressive ideas of the liberal or the neoconservatives who are ready to bomb anyone who looks at us the wrong way.  Which brings me to how can we call a country an ally and an enemy at the same time?  If we are friends why must we spy on our friends and then lie about not spying.

Over the years I have watched the face of our enemies change.  Being born after World War II I did not experience the hatred of the German and Japanese.  However, the Cold War gave us the hated Russians, Cubans, and North Koreans along with the Red Chinese.  Our government manipulated the American people to hate these “vile enemies.”  

Actually, what happened was we were subjected to war propaganda.  The Public Relations division of the great American war machine was devoted to manipulating people's attitude toward our “enemies.”  They created the boogeyman to scare us into supporting their wars.

We built an economy on war.   The Americans were feed a constant diet of “hatred” for the enemy.  This means that the news media was part of the propaganda machine.  They were on board with the government using their media to manipulate the general public.  The media saw nothing wrong with lies, misdirection, loaded vocabulary, staged events, and fallacious demagoguery, all of which they justified/rationalized by a 'good' cause, whether patriotic or idealistic.  For the government to be effective and cultivate hatred for the enemy requires the compliance of the news media and its willingness to no longer be the watchdog of the government.  It also requires the entertainment industry to support the hatred by the type of movies made.

During the Cold War, Russians were the “bad guys”, during the Viet Nam war it was the “evil Viet Cong”   with Missing in Action and Missing in Action 2 & 3, along with Rambo.  When the War on Drugs started we had the “evil drug lords” to fight and on the big screen we have- Clear and Present Danger.  As the face of America’s enemy changed so did the antagonist in our movies.  Movies about terrorist changed when America became engaged in the Islamic Wars.  If you ever wonder who the next new face of our enemy is, just watch the movies-- they are great predictors of who America will be fighting next. 

So here is where I am today—Russia, China and Iran are our enemies.  The question is why are they our enemies?  Is it because we are financially in debt to China to the tune of $1.1 trillion dollars? Is it because we rely on the imports and cheap products from China?  Is it because we are afraid of what they have and could use against us? If so?  Why, do we borrow from our enemies?  Why, do we depend upon their products?  If they are the enemy why do we keep giving them money and technology?  

How can we say Russia is an enemy when the Russian President has lectured our President on privacy? In an interview Putin said, “. . . you can’t just listen to the phone call in Russia; you need a special [court] order.  This is how this should be done in civilized world. If it is in the framework of the law, then it’s OK. If not it is unacceptable.” Is Russia the enemy because the Russian President is telling our President he is wrong in the way he deals with collecting data on Americas’ phone call, emails, and our Internet use?  Is Russia the enemy because they refuse to hand over Edward Snowden?  Is the Russians the enemy because they have lectured our President on the way he is dealing with the Muslim issues?  I for one think our President would do well to listen to the voice of experience.  Putin has experience with the Muslim wars and understands what is happening.  Does it make him an enemy because he has offered advice?

Then there is the issue of Iran.  This is one big mess.  America gets involved with Iran and puts a puppet ruler in power but then we back away from him and he is overthrown.  Iran is the last Shia Muslim country, when Iran falls to the Sunni Muslims the entire Muslim world will be controlled by Sunnis.  The Sunnis are the jihadists that have been backed by the Muslim Brotherhood.  The same Muslim’s Putin lectured Obama about.  Are we enemies of Iran because they are supported by Russia and China?  Or, are we enemies because they are a threat to our national security?   To say that we must protect Israel from the Muslim threat means we should not been supporting any Muslim group.  However, we are supporting the Sunni faction of the Muslim Wars which will soon control all Muslims countries and will be united against Israel.  I am confused as who is the enemy of America? 
I have not seen a Russian, Chinese or even an Iranian sneaking around in my backyard or attacking my family, state or even America.  However, there have been Sunni terrorists who are responsible for over 70% of all terrorist acts in the world.  Here is what our support of the Sunnis has given us: in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia-9/11; in Chechnya the Boston bombers; in Libya attacks on our embassies and murder of four Americans; in Egypt the persecution of Christians and Jews; in Syria—who knows what we will pay for supporting the rebels?

Again, who are our real enemies? 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Illusion of Knowledge

I enjoy watching the TV show the Brain Game.  One episode dealt with the illusion of knowledge.  The illusion of knowledge is the tendency to think we have a better understanding of a subject than we actually do.  Most often people will mistake a surface understanding of a subject with a deeper understanding. Some will go so far as explain a subject without even a surface knowledge just to keep from saying “I don’t know.”   It has been my experience as a teacher that most people given a little access to the web think they have a greater understanding of a subject matter because information is given in surface-bites which are short and to the point without the depth of thought.

The foundation of any subject must first be established before one can build the structure of understanding.  I don’t think this is an original statement but I have stated this to my students for years.

I attempt to teach basic guitar to young students who have a desire to play.  Almost always they have this thought that they will pick up the guitar and start playing songs.  They always assume that it will be easy.  The problem comes when they find their fingers are sore, the strings sound dead, and they cannot move from one cord to another without messing up.  The complications were not part of their knowledge of the guitar.  The ease in which the experienced player exhibits his or her skill makes the young student think that they too can play with the same ease of playing.  The problem is in the underestimation of how long it is going to take to learn how to play. The proficient player did not gain their ability by reading a few books and buying an expensive guitar.  They spent years of practice improving their skills.

Many students have started and quit when the realized it is not as easy as they first thought.  They practiced a few hours, their finger become sore and they now realize they will not be successful without hours of practice.  They have knowledge of the guitar, they can name all the components, they know the names of each string and its placement on the fret board, they can even form the basic cords but they cannot play.  What I have found is those who have a foundation in music are more successful in learning than those who think it is just a matter of pushing down some strings and strumming.  Understanding the theory of music is more than a surface understanding of playing the guitar.  The illusion of knowledge fooled them into thinking they understood how to play a guitar.

As a student of the Bible for over forty-five years I have tried to avoid giving the illusion of knowledge.   The more I study the more I understand I do not have a depth of understanding that makes me an expert.  Every book, chapter and verse is filled with information that shows I have only a surface understanding of much of what is contained in the Scriptures.  That is not to say I am lacking in knowledge of the subject, I do have a greater depth than most.  What I realize is that the depth of understanding the Word of God is far greater than I have reached in my over forty-five years of studying. God reveals His Truth to us as needed.  

The knowledge that we should have is not based on what I “imagine” or on my personal experience of life but rather upon the Scripture.  The Psalmist has warned of the imagination of the heart, “The heart is deceitful above all things. Every imagination of the thoughts of the heart is evil continually.”  The knowledge of Christ is not based on how I interpret the Scriptures or my own subjectivity but as revealed by the Holy Spirit.  2 Peter 1:20-21 “20 Knowing this   first that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

The Apostle Paul experienced individuals who had an illusion of knowledge when he confronted those who seemed to be experts in what you could or could not eat.   Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 
The illusion of knowledge will “puff up” those who imagine they know something when in reality they lack an understanding of the subject.  The warning that is given by acting like you know something in depth but only have a surface knowledge is dangerous.  , “. . . so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.”  We should be careful in giving “opinions and preferences” when speaking about what God has said.  

Those who have been in the church and have gained a little knowledge can experience the “puffing up of knowledge” and be very proud in their ability to expound on their surface knowledge.  Most of these people have sense of self-importance and are admired by their followers who have only a surface knowledge and are unwilling to search the scriptures and discover the depths of truth for themselves. The real discovery of truth has been sacrificed for a surface understanding on the altar of an illusion of knowledge.  

Don’t give the false impression that you understand the subject when all you have is an illusion of knowledge.

2 Tim. 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.