Support Our Troops, But Don’t Bash Dissenters

A lot of people post things in support of the troops. I am cool with that. I am all for supporting the troops.

Whenever this happens though, you will often get people who are pissed off about the wars, and about the government, and about the direction that things have gone. Believe it or not, I am cool with that too. I understand what they are getting at and where they are coming from.

What I am not cool with is that the response to these people is almost always a personal attack, with a liberal application of jingoistic slogans and references to 911.

People who get the most pissed off about our government’s military actions are generally not anti-troops. You don’t have to protect us from them. They are on our side too.

What may be a good idea though is to take a step back, and read what they posted and think about it. Google a bit. Ask questions. Don’t just jingoistically wave the flag and sing the praises of the troops while invoking the image of 911 as the answer to all the concerns you might have.

Yes, 911 happened. A lot of people died that day. That number though is dwarfed by the number of people killed in the decade since. That number is dwarfed by the number of men women and children who will never see another birthday, who will never see their families again. Most of them were only guilty of being in the country that our leaders decided to attack under the guise of tracking down a non-state entity.

By non-state entity I mean that we officially went to war against a group equivalent to the Mafia, only smaller and less well armed. We did not declare war on a specific country.

There are politicians that will still use the argument “They hate us because we are free!”

Guess what, they hate us because we bombed their neighbors. They hate us because we used words like “Crusade” and “Jihad” to describe a war not only on a group of people, but on the religion that group claims to follow. They hate us because having a Muslim sounding name is all that it takes in some places to get picked up off the streets and not see your family for four years… That is totally ignoring the fact that at the end of those four years you were dropped off in a random Middle Eastern country where you have no connections, have never been, and don’t even speak the language (That guy was Canadian, picked up in Canada at the request of our Government).

This is the sort of thing our government is doing in our name. They send our troops to faraway lands to cause massive damage and leave behind massive numbers of casualties, and they claim it is in the name of the “War on Terror.” The troops suffer. The local populations suffer. Their families suffer (both the troops and the locals). The military contractors make millions. And when all is said and done, they like us even less than they did before. Not only do they hate us more than they did before, but most of them don’t even know why we are there. When polls have been done, questioning people in Iraq and Afghanistan, over ninety percent had no clue what happened on 911. First word they got that anything was wrong involved an explosion in their back yard.

And of course, once the dust settles, and the end of hostilities officially arrives, it is only a matter of hours before the oil companies, and the mineral companies have boots on ground securing contracts.

Some thoughts on identity theft and social media

There are three pieces of personal identifiable information (PII) that most organizations, especially financial ones, use to prove who you are in over the phone and electronic transactions.

These are:
1) Your Name
2) Your Birth Date
3) Your Social Security Number

The three of these are considered so interconnected that if you have any two of them, you can find the third. Quite often this can be done through web based resources that you can find using Google.

Now, one of the most common things popping up on Facebook these days are “games” that even if they mean well, are ripe for abuse by criminals.

“What is your rock band name?”
“Who is on your Harry Potter Zombie Apocalypse Team”
“Who is your ”

I am sure you have seen them around. They all use a simple formula where the first person/thing/name is based on the month you were born, and the second is based on the day. From there, if you have EVER said ANYTHING online in any public place about your age, they know your date of birth. If you are on FaceBook, then there is a pretty good chance that you are using your real name.

From there they can use that information to track down all kinds of things about you.

This brings me to another point. NEVER EVER EVER set the contact/biographical data on your Social Media profiles to public. If you want your friends to be able to see it, and you are selective about who is on your friends list, then letting them see it is generally ok. This is especially true if everyone on your list is friends and family that you think have (or should have) the information anyway. Don’t put it out where everyone can see it though.

If you are using a social network that doesn’t give you the option of hiding data, then there are three safe options (depending on how it is set up).
1) Leave the information blank.
2) Lie
3) Use another website, and leave that one alone.

To be honest, if they don’t have a way to lock down data, and they make you provide something, you are probably better off going elsewhere anyway.

Remember: This is the information age. This is the age in which your online presence means almost as much as your physical presence. This is the age in which financial institutions depend on data points to act as “finger prints” to prove who you are. What you know is who you are. What someone else knows, can allow them to be you.

How many of us have called up our bank and said: “Hey, I am trying to set up a direct deposit, and I forgot my account number?” and then two minutes later, after a few security questions (name, ssn, date of birth) had that information?

You can generally get the banks routing number from their website, usually with only a few clicks.

With those bits of information you can set up a deposit. You can also set up a withdrawal.

How many of us have online checking? How many of us use our check/debit card for pretty much everything? I know I barely carry cash any more. The result is hundreds of transactions on my account every month ranging from five dollars; up to almost two grand (my rent is on an auto-withdrawal).

Would you notice if a random transaction showed up in the middle of that madness for say, twenty dollars? Especially if it was processed through some random payment platform that looked a lot like the name of a bank ATM.

Then, after a few of these without gaining attention, suddenly the same organization does a withdrawal of five hundred dollars, or even more. That one gets your attention, but at that point it can be really hard to fight. After all, it was authenticated with your PII. As far as the bank knew, it was you.

Modern American Slavery: The Prison Industrial Complex

The Private Prison Industry is one of America’s greatest shames. Corporations contract to the states to run prisons. They profit off of every person in their “care” and they generally have minimum occupancy agreements with the states that run as high as 90%.

This means that our governments are not only paying another entity to run our prisons at a profit, but they are promising to keep bodies in the beds. There is no way to make such a promise unless you are also promising (spoken or unspoken) to violate every constitutional principle a person can think of.

These corporations crow proudly that they are “Successfully” keeping their facilities full and that they are “successfully” increasing occupancy every year. Sorry, but by the very nature of a prison system, growth is a failure not a success. It only counts as a success if you are a share holder or a board member who is counting the inmates as units of money and not people.

The rise of the prison industry as a for-profit industry has caused massive damage to us as a society.

“We believe we have been successful in increasing the number of residents in our care and continue to pursue a number of initiatives intended to further increase our occupancy and revenue.” – CCA 2010 Annual Report

This quote basically says it all.

* Their lobbyists push to keep the war on drugs going.
* Their lobbyists push for policies like “Stop and Frisk.”
* Their lobbyists are entirely responsible for the various “Three Strikes” laws.
* Their lobbyists push the agenda to have more police in schools (as opposed to private security firms) resulting in police being involved in the disciplinary process of the schools. More children are in prison as a result.
* They actively push the agenda to increase the number of undocumented immigrants that are locked up while awaiting trial, even though it has been proven that most are otherwise law abiding and will show up for court dates on their own.
* The level of corruption in the courts has sky rocketed, as they work out back room deals with judges to pay them off for tweaking verdicts and sentencing in favor of the prison system.

This is just the beginning of the list. This doesn’t even begin to deal with the fact that in order to guarantee occupancy, someone’s rights have to be ignored.

People talk about potential dystopian futures. Screw that, we are already there. Human beings, American Citizens, are being treated as cattle, and bought and sold for the profit of corporations. I am not going to point fingers at one political party or the other. After all, the country changes hands between them every four to eight years. Even if that were not true, this took cooperation on the part of both political parties to make happen, and to get to the degraded, depraved state that it is in.

And then of course, there is the most recent addition to the whole fucked up mess. Leasing out prisoners to perform labor for corporations at nickels and dimes per hour. Yes, our nation is slowly but surely reinstating full out slavery. This is going on at the state level now, but the federal government has not stepped in to stop it.

And people wonder where the jobs are going.

Here is a link to a HuffPost article on the subject:
30 Ways the Prison Industry Gets Rich