Snoops

Privacy is such a quaint notion. Since 9-11, we have become inured to having our personal belongings searched at theaters, airports and the lobbies of big buildings. Records and recordings of our calls reside in humongous government data warehouses, ready for scrutiny and analysis. We know that if we use the super-convenient transit credit cards like New York City’s Metrocard or drive past tollbooths with EZ Pass, we are leaving an easily followed trail of our comings and goings. Wayward husbands can no longer “hike the Appalachian Trail” in Buenos Aires with impunity. Credit cards, customer loyalty programs, just about anything that makes everything we do easier and faster comes at an unspoken price. We willingly and often unwittingly divulge intimate details that would have been unthought of only a few decades ago. Our faces are recorded by cameras in the street, at building entrances, public spaces and elevators.

One of the many devices we can rely on is a thermostat that can be remotely controlled. The Nest knows when you are home and figures out when to raise or lower the heat. It tracks your energy use and like Santa, sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake, and it continuously relays all this information and more via the Internet to the company that made it. Amazon, Netflix and Roku know of your predilection for porn and what kinky action turns you on. Or not.

Your smart phone, as you know, is constantly sending out your MAC address, a unique identifier that can be tracked very precisely to determine exactly where you are, how you got there, how often you go there and where you go afterwards. Retailers can track you in their stores. The signals from your phone disclose which displays interest you, based on how long you ponder them and whether you subsequently buy the product. Storekeepers may also use this info to fine-tune the arrangement, positioning and content of their displays. We’re all familiar with the way Google and Facebook analyze what we write and the links we click to profit from that data.

Drilling down, merchants now know who is driving by their billboards and how many of those drivers are buying the advertised merchandise. According to The Boston Globe (May 19, 2016), “the nation’s largest billboard company, Clear Channel Outdoor Inc., is bringing customized, pop-up ads to the interstate.” Using data gathered from 130 million AT&T subscribers, augmented by phone apps that corral millions more, “Clear Channel knows what kinds of people are driving past one of their billboards at 6:30 p.m. on a Friday— how many are Dunkin’ Donuts regulars, for example, or have been to three Red Sox games so far this year.”

All this information is for sale, and it is probably impossible to control.

Even Trump must have been surveilled. Clearly, not directly by his predecessor. At the very least, the same devices that hover over all Americans will have collected data that can easily be exploited by any of the agencies that spy for the government. Did Trump gut the State Department and cripple Justice to hobble investigations of his Russian connections? He may have anticipated the exposure of some of the tentacles of his Russian deals, corruption and collusion.

Surveillance cameras photo by Quevaal at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.o0

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Trump’s fiddling ’cause he can’t put out the fire

What a MESS! One minute the demagogue’s rabble-rousing has me tearing out my hair in despair, but the next … I wonder long he can last. With a rising chorus questioning his indefensible charges against Obama, the courts against him on the travel ban, and everybody against him on Trumpcare— excuse me, Ryancare— he’s not WINNING.
How many more blows to his fragile ego can he take before he admits the presidency isn’t at all what he thought it would be? Not nearly so much fun, not a simple negotiation, not unquestioning adulation, but unanticipated opposition lined up against him. And not just from the Dems, but even from faithless Republicans as the scales slowly drop from their eyes.
Will he toss in his chips and go home? He and his family have, in this short time, already profited handsomely, even though they will never be satisfied. Still, he’s not used to being stymied so consistently, especially on the fanciful ideas that got him elected.
I’m probably guilty of magical thinking, but I don’t see how he can see it through for four years.

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Lilacs in the snow

Look closely and you’ll see the lilac buds. Lilacs are early bloomers, and their buds are already beginning to swell. The indomitable buds point straight up in defiance of the snow. It may have triumphed today, but the snow’s victory is ephemeral. Already it is weakening, its icy grip melting in the sun.

But what about America? Winter is coming. Trump’s grip is tightening. He is beefing up the army, fortifying the police and expanding the reach of the ICE. The power of all three is growing. Trump is adding soldiers, police, agents, jails and judges to enforce his decrees. Does this sound like the beginning of a police state? Does Trump want a Wall to keep his enemies out or will he have to keep Americans in?

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Women on the march

International Women’s Day in New York City— beautiful, brisk, and perfect for marching, cheering, chatting, comiserating and consoling. Women of all ages and all colors were united in their will to resist the Trump agenda. If women were striking, I did not see them. But the women I did see were marching for their less fortunate sisters who did not have the luxury of taking time off from work. They demonstrated their solidarity with the many women in the US and around the world who work very hard for long hours and minimal pay. Some are not paid at all. They marched for equal pay, reproductive freedom and the health care they now have with the Affordable Care Act. They marched to restore clean air and clean water, and public education for their children.

Young

Eight-year old Ravan Peterson (below, left) was delighting everyone who heard her with her enthusiastic support of women everywhere. “Women are stronger than men.” She said she was “marching to support all women, but especially women who are suffering all over the world.”

Older

 

Black

 

White

The sign reads, “Tinkle, tinkle little czar. Putin put you where you are.” Golden showers fall on the umbrella.

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Stand up on International Women’s Day

Women’s rights are human rights. Wear red in solidarity with women across the US and in more than 30 countries. March 8 will be A Day Without a Woman, in which women who can will take the day off from paid and unpaid labor and avoid shopping.

Show up at town halls and petition your members of congress to repair Obamacare. Speak up for the gutted EPA, clean water and clean air. Insist on the importance of public education, of the arts and of a social safety net to provide the necessities, like nutritious food and health care to those who can’t provide for themselves. Defend regulations that were put in place to protect people from predatory lenders, to safeguard public health, to keep the stock market honest. The fabric of American democracy is being rent by a blitz of lethal blows. You know of others that also affect you personally. Stand up! Make yourself heard! There is power in numbers.

Read Emily Crockett’s “The ‘Day Without a Woman’ strike, explained.” She’s done a masterly job of examining the “gendered revolt” kicked off by the Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

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How far out will Trump be allowed to go?

When will Republicans acknowledge that Trump has gone over the deep end? What more does the president have to do to convince his cronies that he’s truly unhinged and dangerous? How high a price are they willing to pay for low taxes and unregulated business?

Trump’s latest twitter tantrum, insisting (as POTUS!) on his fantasy that Obama bugged his phones, is lunacy. Admittedly, it is conceivable that some actionable intelligence led a federal agency to investigate possible illegal or treasonable activity in Trumpworld. But that hypothesis became untenable when FBI Director James Comey took the unprecedented step of going over Trump’s head by instructing the Justice Dept. to deny the accusation publicly. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in a better position to know than anyone else, also denied it.

Yet Trump continues to repeat his claim. How a man with such a weak hold on reality be trusted with the nuclear codes? North Korea launched a missile last week; today he launched four of them. What happens when these two puerile bullies confront each other? A game of chicken with unthinkable consequences.

It’s time the Republican leadership put their country ahead of partisanship. Every day Trump wades out a little farther. He is way out of his depth now. He is going in over his head and will drown the whole country with him.

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Trump steps in it

Hard for me to decide whether Trump is insane or crazy like a fox. He lies and contradicts himself and tweets his outrage at “fake news,” i.e., any unfavorable press coverage. He continues to do it because that kind of behavior won him the election. But who in his right mind would ruin a potential week’s worth of good press following his maiden speech to Congress? Whether Trump actually deserved praise is a moot point, but his success in reading the complete, coherent sentences on the teleprompter for an hour is definitely an accomplishment for him.

Yet instead of basking in the acclaim for appearing “presidential” for the first time, Trump got enmeshed in the Sessions brouhaha. Though Sessions gave false answers under oath, Trump fumed over the attorney general’s recusal from the investigation into the contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Even more difficult to understand is his claim that President Obama wiretapped the telephones in Trump Tower. If Trump’s accusation was an attempt to deflect attention away from the Sessions/Russia fiasco, the effect was to intensify attention and negative publicity. Trump either doesn’t know or assumes his base doesn’t know that a president doesn’t have the authority to order the surveillance of an American citizen. So, if Trump is wrong, he’ll look beyond stupid and vengeful.

On the other hand, if Trump is right, it’s even worse for him. The surveillance would have to have been authorized by the FISA court, based on probable cause, in effect, a charge that Trump or someone connected to him had committed a crime.

Then Trump followed his sensational accusation with a peevish complaint about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance as his replacement on “The Apprentice.” The juxtaposition of a presidential criminal act and the ratings of a TV show is striking.

We are in deep do-do, falling down a seemingly bottomless rabbit hole. Welcome to Trumpworld’s Wonderland!

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