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Mass Surveillance? It’s The Money, Lebowski

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. As we get more information on the mass surveillance programs (both PRISM and the “Terrorist” Surveillance Program), I’m becoming convinced of one thing; these programs are about feeding the military industrial complex with our money. More importantly, it’s about feeding the privatized military industrial complex.

Why do I think that? Because The White House, and several senators who vehemently support the program have been bumbling and fumbling to come up with just one terrorist plot that was thwarted by these programs. On Friday, Mike Rogers claimed that these surveillance programs were instrumental in foiling Najibullah Zazi’s plan to bomb New York City subways. It took me fifteen minutes of Googling to find the holes in his story. Twelve hours later, Buzzfeed debunked it. And then on Monday, several US officials including Dianne Feinstein claimed that the surveillance programs should be credited with the capture of David Coleman Headley, who planned the Mumbai attacks. By Wednesday, ProPublica debunked those claims. Then on Wednesday, Gen. Keith Alexander claimed that these programs thwarted dozens of attacks, including the two that were debunked. Wouldn’t dozens of foiled attacks mean dozens of trials with dozens of trial transcripts containing intercepted communications?

These claims are a joke on their face. So why are these people twisting themselves into pretzels to defend programs they can’t legitimately justify? It’s the money, Lebowski.

The US intelligence budget for 2013 is 19.2 billion dollars. Booz Allen (whose employees are in a revolving door between Booz and the NSA) was awarded 3.8 billion dollars in government contracts last year. That represents 99% of Booz Allen’s total revenue. And that’s just one government contractor.

Our current Director Of National Intelligence, James Clapper is a former Booz Allen employee. I promise you that both he and Gen. Keith Alexander will both be receiving giant paydays when they finish their government service and to to work for Booz Allen.

And just like the fighter jets the pentagon doesn’t want and doesn’t need (but gets anyway), and the tanks they don’t want and don’t need (but get anyway), this program will not die.

And like the fighter jets that don’t work, these programs aren’t going to continue because they’re keeping us safe. They won’t die because of the money, Lebowski.


DNA, Fingerprints…What’s The Diff?

The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that police can take a DNA sample from a suspect who has been arrested without first getting a warrant. In the majority opinion, the court claims that there’s no difference between collecting fingerprints and collecting DNA. That is patently wrong on eighteen different levels. 

First of all, as Scalia pointed out in the dissenting opinion, this shits all over the 4th amendment. Police need a warrant to search a person’s home for evidence. That means that they need to go to a court to demonstrate that they have sufficient evidence against a suspect in the first place, to justify entering the home for the collection of more evidence. In other words, the police can’t enter your home to get some evidence without first establishing that they already have a reasonable suspicion that you’re a viable suspect.

In this case of Alonzo King, the police arrested him on the suspicion of committing an assault (he did confess). They ostensibly had the evidence to make that arrest. I can’t find any evidence that there was a DNA sample at the scene of that crime that required a comparison sample. The police then collected a DNA sample from him, just because. Now keep in mind that they didn’t get a warrant to collect that DNA, and he wasn’t yet convicted of doing a fucking thing, and the collection of the sample had nothing to do with making the assault charge stronger. They just gratuitously took his DNA, thereby crapping on the 4th amendment.

After they collected King’s DNA, they entered it into a national DNA database (CODIS) and discovered that it matched a DNA sample collected at the scene of a rape committed six years earlier. He was subsequently convicted of that rape, based solely on the DNA match. That conviction was correctly overturned because of the warrantless DNA collection. Keep in mind that the police had no other evidence connecting King to the rape, and therefore had no probable cause to compare his DNA to the DNA collected at the crime scene. 

In my opinion, there should be evidence presented to a court to demonstrate that there is probable cause to collect DNA, and there should be great care and consideration given before a DNA sample is allowed to be collected. I certainly don’t think that a DNA sample should be collected just because. And I definitely don’t believe that a DNA sample should be taken, simply because someone is arrested. Keep in mind that arrested isn’t guilty, or even eventually convicted.

There are two things about the mass collection of DNA that should scare the shit out of everyone.

The first concern is with the police themselves. They are increasingly becoming incapable of doing effective police work. Instead of establishing ties and developing relationships with the communities they serve, they are turning into ineffective bullies. They’ve replaced learning my name and touching base with me every so often with stopping and frisking my black neighbor for no reason other than we live in Harlem. They shut down whole cities in pursuit of one person, rather than relying on the tens of thousands of eyes in that city to help them. They sit in “command centers” watching thousands of hours of video of tourists taking pictures of Times Square, instead of talking to people. They have become lazy (NYPD made that allegation against their own officers during the stop and frisk trial two weeks ago) thugs who don’t even know how to gather intelligence anymore. Instead of assuming that we’re all law abiding citizens who want safe streets, they assume that we’re all guilty of something. They surveil, and stop and frisk all of us just to catch the small percentage of us that are doing the slightest thing wrong. And it isn’t working. Remember, the police didn’t catch the would-be Times Square bomber. A responsible citizen reported seeing something suspicious. All of the cameras and the intimidation isn’t working. And when an organization views an entire community with suspicion, putting more information in their hands is a very bad idea. They’re not going to use these tools to protect you because they believe that you’re guilty of something. This is just going to make them dumber, lazier, more thuggish, and less effective.

And yes I know that in this case, they caught a rapist that they wouldn’t have caught otherwise. To that I say, if you’re okay with this, you’re replacing one menace with another. They should have been able to catch the rapist with police work. And I’m not willing to put more power in the hands of an organization that; a) isn’t competent enough to catch a rapist any other way b) sees us all as criminals. I’m not willing to empower one evil to extinguish another. You’re not eliminating danger that way. You’re just shifting that danger around.

The scariest part of this lies in how DNA is nothing like fingerprinting. Your fingerprint belongs to you and only you. If it’s found somewhere, that means that you were there. Your DNA belongs to your entire family. Your DNA will contain markers shared by your parents, siblings, children, grandparents, and grandchildren. That’s some scary shit.

Let’s say that my sister is arrested for peacefully protesting something (if I had a sister, I would want her to be an activist!) She is then arrested, and will be released a few hours later. During the booking process, her DNA is collected. A few years later, a bodega in my neighborhood is robbed and someone is shot. Since this bodega is in my neighborhood, I often go there to buy a newspaper. During the course of the investigation, DNA samples are collected. My DNA, which is on some newspapers in the bodega  then shows up as having the right number of markers to tie me to my sister. The police then come barreling down my door. Do you see where this can go horribly wrong? The faster law enforcement can get DNA samples from some of us, the faster they will have DNA on all of us.

Putting more data in the hands of an organization that views you as the enemy is dangerous. Remember, David Petraeus’ affair was exposed because an FBI agent with an agenda had access to his emails. What do you think is going to happen when people have access to everyone’s DNA. As we saw with Patraeus, no one is above the negative ramifications of rampant data collection.

So no SCOTUS, collecting DNA is nothing like collecting a fucking fingerprint. And frankly, I can’t believe there are five people stupid enough to make that assertion on the highest court in the land.



What About The Children?

Pew Research put out a report a couple of days ago that (you should have seen this coming, since it’s “research”) has some right wingers in a tizzy. The research, called Breadwinner Moms finds that women are now the primary or sole breadwinner in 40% of American households. I wasn’t even remotely shocked when I read this report because I fucking live in America. I have plenty of friends who earn more money than their husbands, or who are single moms. I do not live in a 1960s bubble where Mad Men is a reflection of the times, rather than a look back to days of old where the Fox News family seem to live.

Watch Lou Dobbs, Juan Williams, and Erick Erickson lose their shit over modernity;




Let’s go through the batshit crazy in this video point by point.

Juan Williams (the “liberal”) makes the point that men have been harder hit by the recession than women. Why is that, Juan? Could it be that professions like construction work, coal mining, and other industries that are male dominated have taken the biggest beating in the past twenty years? Then he refers to “something going terribly wrong in American society, and it’s hurting our children”. Why, Juan? Why are the children affected by which parent the breadwinner is?

And then Lou Dobbs gratuitously mentions the number of abortions that have taken place since Roe v Wade, as if those children having been born would have resulted in fewer female breadwinners? What the fuck?

And then we get to the grand poobah of douchebaggery Erick Erickson, who absurdly claims that people who are fine with female breadwinners are “anti-science” because nature shows us that males are born to dominate. Hey asshat, have you ever heard the term “queen bee”? I won’t go through the list of species in which females dominate because you can Google that for yourselves, and because that’s not my point. My point is that it doesn’t get any more anti-science than making bogus claims about nature, just to bolster more bogus views. He goes on to ramble about “complementary” relationships between men and women, assuming that men and women can only complement each other as long as the male is dominant. Wow! How much Xanax does your wife have to take, just to get our of bed every day? Erickson then goes on to twist some of the data in the report. He claims that “3/4 of the people surveyed recognize that having moms as the primary breadwinner is bad for kids and bad for marriage”. What the report actually says is that 74% of adults say the increasing number of women working has made it harder for parents to raise children, and that 50% say that it has made marriages harder to succeed. I will get to Erickson’s monumental douchebaggery later. For now, I want to finish unpacking this video.

Juan Williams jumps in to add, “…it is tearing up minority communities even worse than white communities in this country”. I’m sorry, Juan I’m not getting your point here. Are you blaming minority women for being more careless with their families than white women? Do you think that maybe minority women need to work more because of the increased unemployment rate among minorities? Could that be the cause?

In my view, the feminist movement wasn’t about putting women in the workforce. It was about giving women the same options that men have. Unfortunately, right after the feminist movement got some serious traction, those options immediately became limited. Why? Because somewhere in the 80s, families could no longer make it on a single income. I believe that lots of women were forced to work because their husband’s salary was not sufficient to support the family, which is why Erick Erickson is a giant douchebag.

You can’t light your hair on fire over the increasing presence of women in the workforce, while supporting policies that bring wages down. You can’t be for busting unions and for stay-at-home moms. You can’t support Paul Ryan’s bill to eliminate overtime pay and expect those worker’s families to make it on a single income. In short, you can’t support GOP wage suppression policies while demanding that women stay home and raise the kids.

So apparently Erickson got enough shit for his comments, that he had to write a post to clarify his comments so that he would sound less misogynistic. Here’s what he said;

Prior to having kids, Christy and I both worked. Once we had our first child and I was making a full time go of RedState, Christy had to work if we were to have insurance. Frankly, we could not make ends meet on my salary alone and, even after the cost of day care, had to have the remainder of Christy’s salary to help make ends meet. We still struggled.

Hold on Erick, did you just make a case for health insurance reform? And did you just say that you lived my point about families not being able to make ends meet on a single income? I will never understand people who go through the difficulty of a situation and continue to advocate against remedies to those difficulties. This man is an asshole, who goes through life learning nothing. He goes on to say;

At one point I had to contemplate being a single dad, but thank God I did not have to be. When we made the decision that Christy would stay home with the kids…

I’m sorry, did you just liken your wife going to work every day with single fatherhood? Are you fucking kidding me with this shit?

And then he goes on to say;

What should be insulting to single moms is for society to tell them they can do it all and, in fact, will subsidize their doing it all. I know a number of wonderful, nurturing single mothers. They do as best they can. Most of them have wonderful children. But not one of them prefers to be a single mother.

Then why the fuck are they doing it, Erick? Could it be that financial pressures are a big factor in marriages falling apart? Do you think that Boeing opening a plant in South Carolina (a nonunion state) and paying those airline mechanics half of what they pay the union workers in Washington may be putting some pressure on the families? Asshole!

You can’t make a career out of beating up on workers and then beat them up for the consequences of those policies. Something has to give here. You can either have a society that implements the tools necessary for a single breadwinner household or you can embrace the effects of not doing so, but you can’t do both because that just makes you a bloviating asshole.