NSA Corporate Spying Creates A Civil Liberties Opportunity

The recent revelations by Der Spiegel about our NSA spying on big American corporations got me thinking about the current lay of the land. If we couple this with the federal judge indicating the NSA Program Is Unconstitutional and the conflicting ruling from a New York Judge currently appealed by the ACLU, we see the conflict.

The Fourth Amendment is clear and rather than giving some arbitrary FISA Court de facto veto over the constitution, I think we either change the Constitution legitimately through the Amendment process or the NSA should be scaled back within constitutional limits.

Sniffer The Satire Dog Now that my bias is in the open, I can understand why the NSA would use the reported tactics on American big business. This thesis (which is disputable) if correct suggests a very different set of problems in terms of balance of power.

Because we fallaciously treat corporations like people without giving them the responsibility AND big business now possess more power than many nations, what we have is a loosely confederated feudal-ish system that can become oppositional at any time. It may be blithe to think that Apple Computer or Exxon-Mobile possesses less power and influence than Poland or Tajikistan simply because they are businesses. If what I am saying is true then the balance of power is not shared by the Judicial, Legislative, and Executive branches but rather those three AND a list of corporations that have equal or perhaps even more influence and less accountability.

If corporations have more power than foreign states, why would not the NSA treat them with similar scrutiny?

I hold it as open question whether or not the public has a genuine interest in favor of such spying on, the centralized power, concentrated in the hands of corporations to use F. Hayek’s terminology. With this question, the large difference between a human and corporation becomes clearer.

Imagine the corporate executive who ordered his laptop online. The machine requires not only a password but also a fingerprint or other scan to access. This fellow must now wonder if his computer was compromised in route to him and that the NSA logs his activity both personal and professional. They know his porn, his mistresses and his mister’s.

Is that the ghost of J. Edgar Hoover howling in the wind?

I am stretching, but I do not think my suggestion should be summarily dismissed without good reason. Civil libertarians could add a strange bedfellow to their cause and if they work it to their advantage, the rights for all will become the beneficiary, not simply the rights of corporations. In this light, recent revelations could move mountains. The people controlling the most wealth (tax free and offshore) have an interest in line with the ACLU and other civil liberties organizations.

Don’t f>#k this up guys!

Hidden Habits that Hurt

We can unconsciously surrender to the influence of our habits. We see the limit of these tendencies when life places us in new circumstances. When our dominant hand must heal we see it requires attention do things we would otherwise do unconsciously. For those of us who do not wish to be limited to such autopilot when it truly isn’t useful the question becomes how to stop. Unfortunately we may limit change to replacing one habit with another that is hopefully better. However, to be limited to a closet full of habits seems rather narrow.

 A bad habit like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer…

Animated Head3

…it feels good to stop.

Right Arrow[expand title=”Not all habits are bad.”]

I agree with Karl Popper that habit liberates the mind to focus on things besides routine tasks we can relegate to the unconscious. We need not repeatedly learn to tie our shoes and a musician who has habituated the fundamentals can create with more freedom. Much of our lives and relationships are not redundantly laid out like the keys on a piano. We need trial and error for new discovery involving observation, rational thought and intuition. These are abilities that redundant mannerisms can stifle. Habits, imitation, prejudice, routine, generalizing and belief, though they are different, overlap in that they all predict a future. I recommend Sam Harris’s excellent book titled Free Will for a consideration of the biology explaining how we make choices and the limits of our understanding.

I’m pointing to a part our habits we might not notice. If I am correct the way we frighten ourselves away from any alternative to our habits make our tendencies much stronger. This will apply with more force in extreme cases like racism.

When faced with choosing between actions A, B and C we should notice the absence of more alternatives.  The universe of possibilities is not necessarily limited to our habits of mind. We have the choice between the options that make it past our prejudices. We may tend toward one choice more than the others. For now let us take the common practice of misleading or frank lying to lovers or spouses.

Consider three alternatives



It may seem that “A” would be the most likely choice and assume this is a habit. A = telling a lie, B = saying nothing, and C = telling the truth. For example, a man returns from doing business in Nevada and is asked by his wife about the trip. After all, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas… Baby!

The fact that we recognize choices does not liberate us from habit.

Now consider the drug addict who repeats that they could quit any time they wanted, they just don’t want too. The statement is as true as it is trivial, particularly in light of serious consequences. We see the drug use but what we don’t see is the judgment of any alternative. Like imagining only a dull world of angst and pain without cocaine. Similar reasoning can exist when parent’s lie to children, when considering leaving a job or a group like a church, family, or lovers. I wonder how many people got married imagining an otherwise disagreeable life. Notice the presumption to know the future not only about matrimony but also the alternative. Again the point here is the way we ward ourselves off of the options other than what we are predisposed to choose especially when one option includes stepping into the unknown.


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Surprising Suppository – Self Deception

Self deception can be agonizing. Most of us have witnessed ourselves or others thinking about some event and creating additional meaning based on our beliefs or prejudice. The significance we add can induce any emotion and be very compelling.  I will give some brief examples and let them stand for countless others. Then expose the way we create meaning.

“She won’t go out with me because I’m old.”

“He didn’t smile back because I’m fat”

“Obama wants bipartisan compromise, therefor he’s a communist, fascist, Muslim, who wants to take away our bibles and make our children gay.”  

Before proceeding let it be said the meanings above “might” be true. Perhaps consider all the things that “might” be assigned to any one of us explaining why we are late. There are far more possible wrong answers then there are correct ones.

The thought experiment. This way to PineappleImagine shoving a pineapple up your ass.

Pineapple SuppositoryIf you gave your conceptual powers to this task you may have winced at the thought.


We disobey this thought quite easily.

Now, imagine your lover or spouse sexing up somebody else.

We should notice that both concepts are constructed of the same substance – thought itself – and moreover coming from the same mind. Notice you were not compelled to insert the pineapple just because you imagined it. Could it also be so with other thoughts? Let’s  look a little closer.

One might say it would be painful to input the tropical fruit into the tush and no reason exists to do so. I completely agree. Why does a difference exist between the thought of the raspy fruit and the ideas about a lover? They are both mental reflections of things in the world. Both events are possible but one seems less likely to actually happen.

Cough, cough… excuse me.

We would not be tempted to identify ourselves with one of the above events. If we use the lover as evidence that we are – who we think we are – then any deviation from the roll we’ve assigned to them becomes a threat to a sense of our-self. Note the same mind constructs the sense of self that imagined the fruit and the excited lover. In other words,  with ideas we can construct a fictitious self and also imagine the meaning for this identity when a conceptual lover has a contrived sexual encounter.

If we take one of our original examples…

“She won’t go out with me because I’m old.”

This kind of thinking prevails in many ways. The mind reproduces the girl and the self and creates an inference based on prejudice. Is it that odd to see a younger woman with an older man? I don’t think so.  Now we see how habits of mind can create a false sense of reality when indeed the whole story looks like the pineapple narrative.

The good news

Pinapple Arrow

We are not obligated to believe or obey any narrative we conceive.

If we view all inference as hypothetical (or Maya as the Buddhists might say) our views of the world can be exchanged easily for better ones. This includes inferences about a self that you couldn’t find if you looked for it.  This identity  disappears in one moment of no mind and yet you still are!

Conceiving of ourselves may be one of the oldest habits. Like chewing gum we can do it without thinking, or consciously, and we can also spit it out.

So many flavors of gum






Texas abortion restrictions reinstated on appeal

It's my vaginaHow astonishing that conservatives keep thinking they can control women with such laws. I saw a teenage girl walking in the freezing cold yesterday  in a mini skirt. For the sake of fashion this girl endured great discomfort. Imagine what she might endure in fear that the course of her life could be changed due to an unwanted pregnancy. Women have always found ways to end pregnancy, sometimes with tragic results.  Anyone who thinks women on the whole are going to be told what to do with regard to their bodies must not be paying attention.

 Clinics like Planned Parenthood that are being forced to close also provide many needed services besides abortion and those are lost as well.  In Conservatives and Black Market Abortion I discussed that women are simply going to Mexico or ordering drugs online,  so this law just makes abortions more dangerous. There could actually be far more abortions and lawmakers would not know because illegal abortions are not tracked.  It seems, yet again, ideas have become more important than people, and when I say people, I refer to women.

Religion Frightening Children – A Journey Beyond Belief

Cross DaggerIn remnants left behind by a child, I came across a bookmark made for my father when I probably six years old. Green construction paper cut into a crude arrow scrawled with a cross on one side and the words Happy Fathers Day. Opposite a picture of a white Anglo-Saxon Jesus adorned the strip along with this scriptural passage.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith.”

Ephesians 2:8

It stands as vestige of my time at Bible school and it brought back memories.

Infrequently as a youngster, I found myself with the console TV-Turntable all to myself. On one such occasion, while spinning the dial between the five stations available in rural Beaver Creek I landed upon a passionate televangelist that grasped my attention. This remains in my memory; he spoke of hell in a tone of terrifying importance to a crowd of adult white people. He stated unequivocally that salvation through Jesus and nothing else guaranteed avoidance of the certain tortures he described and that all people were sinners. I took seriously the warning of punishment, having plenty of direct experience with the lash of a belt. The demagogue induced fear that roared in my belly which reinforced his threats.

My mind was burdened with the frightened narrative of a religious firebrand. It played repeatedly like an earworm, each time reflecting the same terror. At one point, the stress became unbearable. I did not want to go to hell. Imagine the author of these words as a child running to a bedroom kneeling and, per the instructions of authority, inviting the lord, with all childish sincerity, to cleans his heart of all wickedness. My terror went away as a result and I experienced a great happiness. A cliché comes to mind. If you are hitting yourself in the head with a hammer, it feels good to stop. A religious authoritarian turned the human power of conception against a child who possessed it. The inferno this preacher described existed only in my mind for I possessed no other reference for it.  The preacher created a fictional problem, mistaken to be real, and then offered a solution.

A turning point in my faith happened with the death of my sister. The affection of my big sister meant more than all others, I was nine at the time. Some well meaning pastor came to counsel the family, probably at my request. Then he started saying some bullshit about Evelyn being in a better place and that god called her to him. I could see the man of god had absolutely no way of knowing any of these things particularly about her location. After all, I among five others carried her body in a fancy box to the grave. I wanted the comfort of god but the inconsolable feeling coupled with the ridiculous explanations kept me swinging from hope to rage. Slowly I became a rebel against this god who through an “act” supposedly took my sister from me. My dissent caused me to explore ideas contrary to those I learned as a child.

Religion bears a great deal of responsibility for the loss of mental freedom by stuffing unfounded and absurd ideas into the minds of those who are suggestible, regardless of any good intentions. It may seem odd that through quieting the mind I realized all spiritual beliefs to be mental. In meditation, we can become conscious of the activity in the mind, seeing beliefs rise and fall like all thoughts, in an unarticulated awareness. A large distance exists between rebelling against a belief and having no reason at all to think it true. The former assumes something real enough to fight while the latter possesses liberty from ideas. This understanding also applies to beliefs about anything we call self.

Freedom remains an un-analyzable notion for we cannot replace it with any object as a definition nor can we break it into any component parts. But what we mean when we say freedom becomes restricted when we treat ideas like they are facts outside the mind. We learn to treat concepts as facts by listening to authoritarians. Knowledge that cannot rest on evidence rests on decree and that method serves all totalitarians. Just watch the mother of a three year old and ask how many things we learned in this way.