Is Our Nation Broken?

Lately I have been saddened by the division in our Nation. I think it has always bothered me that we have a long history of division. Like when we hated on the Indians and all but annihilated them and enslaved a portion of our society that was predominately black and further punished them with segregation and Jim Crow laws, but I had hoped we had left some of that behind.  The most obvious division today is among the Haves and the Have Not’s and between those who want more government control and those who do not. Those we have elected to lead us have been putting on a pretty good show of fighting for the cause of their constituents, yet our government continues on its set course. That course being more control over its people and more information about their lives and more of their money. Obviously they are not content to just control their own citizens, but people all over the world as evidenced by the surveillance of foreigners and the constant intervention in other nations by our government. Should we be in a constant state of war without a defined enemy. The stated enemy is terrorism yet we refuse to acknowledge that it is a war with Islam where the Quran calls for the killing of non-Muslims. We also have the internal and external war on drugs where tens of thousands of people have lost their lives in a struggle to illegally provide the United States with drugs and hundreds of thousands of Americans are imprisoned and lose their property because their drug of choice is not alcohol or tobacco. These things are being used as an excuse to gather information on every citizen in this country and many abroad. Privacy in our communications, information searches, shopping habits and our medical history is gone and all that information along with our location is now available to our government. We have surrendered our individual sovereignty for the illusion of safety.

Lets consider some of the implications from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. One provision is the smokers have been accessed a $3000 penalty or premium increase that cannot be subsidized with tax money. That $3000 is just an arbitrary number. What if it increases to $6000 or more and how hard would it be to say that anyone who uses an illegal drug should be charged more. You could always just not tell them but likely medical exams in the future will include toxicology exams since the government is picking up the tab. Laser powered molecular scanners will very likely find their way into medical diagnostics and drug use will be obvious, both legal and illegal. If you do not report your drug use you will be guilty of felony fraud.

The use of the Internal Revenue Service as the enforcement arm of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is also troublesome. Does anyone remember the abuse of power about awarding or withholding tax-free status to groups and individuals along party lines. The Internal Revenue Service has always been used by our elected leaders to reward those in their favor and punish those who are not. It is also being used to divide our nation. We are split between the Haves and the Have Not’s where according to CNN Money, 10% of the people pay 70% of all income taxes. Randi Rhodes once told me that it wouldn’t do any good to tax the poor because it is like squeezing blood from a turnip but I disagree. Those who do not pay income taxes ( about 47%) don’t have any skin in the game and they can vote for whatever benefits they want from government and not have to worry about how it is paid for. When we authorize our government to take away from a few to supplement others it is theft, even if it is backed by the rule of law. If everyone pays, then we could find the level of government benefits that we can agree on and pay as we go. This astronomical national debt thing has to stop if we are to leave any kind of decent future for our children and grand children.

If America wants to turn this around, it can be done, but we have to act in unison. Stop voting for lifetime politicians. Their allegiance is not to you but too their party. Demand term limits and run for office if you are dissatisfied with the selection of candidates. We need more ordinary citizens in office. Above all watch those that take office and let them know what you expect from them. Silence is seen as approval.

Randy Johnson

What Makes A Crime Criminal

We all know that crimes are committed by criminals and those that are caught are punished by society through the criminal justice system, with fines, probation, incarceration and in extreme circumstances by death. But what constitutes a crime? Must the action that constitutes the crime harm others, as in assault, rape or murder, or could it simply be an action that deprives others, their right to life, liberty or their pursuit of happiness. This should be a simple answer but it is not in our society. According to a documentary originally aired on Fox News by Jon Stossel, the United States Government now has over 125,000 pages of law governing everything from treason, to the type of light bulbs you can purchase and the type of toilet you can install and how much water your faucets can flow. These laws are used to enforce, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the National Environmental Protection Act, the Clean Air Act, the Firearm Owners Protection Act and thousands of other laws currently on the books at all levels of government that we are subject to. A Book by Harvey A. Silverglate titled Three Felonies a Day documents how people commit crimes, unknowingly just because there are so many laws governing so many different things that most people would never consider a crime, it becomes impossible to know for sure we are not doing anything illegal. It is very likely that anyone could be arrested for a crime any day of their lives. Laws are written so broadly that they may be interpreted by authorities to arrest anyone. With the use of domestic spying on all of us through our electronic communications, we are all in danger of coming under the scrutiny of authorities, who could make our life a living hell if they so choose. We’re all Criminals by C.M Sturges discusses how the vast array of laws we have, are meant to suppress and control us, not maintain safety and freedom.

Some laws we have are for another purpose though, they are meant to protect the interests of the ultra rich who have a strangle hold on those we elect to represent us. Companies such as Dupont , Monsanto, General Electric, Westinghouse, General Mills that are held and controlled by the elite in society, with names like Rothschild and Rockefeller that meet in secret locations to discuss and decide on world policy and direction. Remember the Monsanto Protection Act that ensures that it will be near impossible to challenge the use of genetically modified foods or seeds.

The war against marijuana is no different. Our government hides and ignores evidence that shows hemp and marijuana to be a benefit to society and a safer alternative to alcohol use, to protect businesses such as the pharmaceutical industry, the cotton industry, the pulp wood and timber industry, the drug testing industry, the drug rehab industry, the prison industry and the petrochemical industry. Lets not forget the DEA with its multibillion dollar tax funded budget which employs a multitude of drug enforcement officers who want to keep their jobs and that the war on drugs is the main justification for the militarization of our police forces and the main justification for paramilitary raids on civilian homes. The United States government is also using their advanced surveillance, secretly to initiate drug busts and directing police to cover up where the initial evidence for the investigation came from. Circumventing rights and freedom is just another tool in the pursuit of total control over the population. More laws governing everyday activity are incrementally employed , gradually reducing freedom and creating a population that will cower to the will of the government. Will we continue to say the loss of freedom and privacy is not that bad until it effects us, instead of someone else? Or will we rise up and demand that our rights and freedoms are honored by the people we elected and who swore an oath to uphold them, the members of Congress and the President of the United States?

Randy Johnson

Stop Killing People For Using Marijuana

I keep finding stories about people killed over marijuana possession. Eighteen year old Ramarley Graham was shot to death by officer Richard Haste in his Grandmother’s bathroom while allegedly trying to flush a dime bag of marijuana down the toilet after New York City police saw him make the purchase and followed him to his residence. A video shows Graham walking to the residence and entering with police running up to the door a few seconds later, where they unsuccessfully try to kick the door in. They moved around to the rear of the residence and finally gained entrance by breaking in. Also in the home at the time were his Grandmother, Patricia Hartley and six-year-old brother. Several stories have evolved from the initial event such as that Graham had a gun that was never found and that Graham had struggled with the police which turns out not to be the case according to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. The indictment of the officer involved in the shooting has been dropped because the Grand Jury was not informed that fellow officers had told Haste that Graham was armed. Graham’s Grandmother was treated badly after her grandson was shot The grandmother, 58 years of age and 85 pounds, was forced into a chair and her arm twisted while police called her a f—ing liar for covering for her grandson, and hauled her in for questioning for 7 hours, while she was denied heart medicine and medical treatment and officers delayed her lawyer from seeing her for 90 minutes.

Since police have acknowledged watching the hand to hand drug buy, I am certain they knew it was not a large quantity of drugs. It was obviously a personal use, small time drug buy which brings us to the question of why it was so important to break into a home and shoot someone over a small amount of marijuana. Is it so important for society to eliminate drug use that they will do so at all cost, even killing people? While I do fault the police, for this tragic over use of authority, they should not stand alone in fault here. Also culpable are the Police Commissioner, and all the elected officials from the mayor all the way up to Congress and President Obama who played a role in directing police to pursue small time drug buyers and users with such aggression. The police in this case were likely just following a directive that came from someone far above their pay grade. That does not excuse their behavior but it does shed a little light on a much larger problem that starts with Congress and The Office of The President and filters down to the poor and people of color that are preferred targets in this war on drugs. While the Office of the President no longer calls this a war on drugs, the tactics have not changed where police are urged to aggressively pursue drug crimes through Congress making military weapons and equipment available to local police departments for free or drastically reduced prices and offering grants for police to train for and interdict drug use. More and more our fourth amendment rights are circumvented or ignored while judges rule that the end justifies the means in this war on drugs.

But what about the people caught up in this horrible, hateful and unjust war. The victims like Ramarley Graham, or his Grandmother or his younger brother. Was it just to kill this man just because he liked marijuana. At his age purchasing alcohol would have been just as illegal, but it is very unlikely he would have been shot over a six-pack. Did his grandmother deserve the abuse she received after watching her grandson being killed by police. The saddest part of this story is that it is just not that uncommon. It breaks my heart to think that society supports this kind of treatment of our fellow Americans at the hands of those we trust to serve and protect us, from our local police all the way up to The President, but that is exactly what is happening. Without public outcry in defense of those abused by our justice system, our leaders see silence as approval. When we vote them back into office after supporting this kind of behavior, they think we approve. We are all guilty of what happened to Ramarley Graham and others like him when we don’t rise up in defense of those abused by the justice system. There is no justification for ruining people’s lives and killing them because of marijuana. Call your Mayor, your Congressman and Senator, and call The White House and tell them you want this to stop, unless you approve.

Randy Johnson

NSA Surveillace Is Unacceptable

There are a large number of our elected officials in Congress and The President who believe that they are justified in maintaining the surveillance of our electronic communications and internet searches along with our banking records and medical records. Their justification seems to swing on the premise that they are protecting us from terrorist threats. My question is what is going to protect us from them?

A majority of them seem to believe that continuing the blatantly racist and useless war against marijuana is a good idea. I’m not saying that marijuana should not be regulated, but the Federal Government has a long history of favoring rich industry in its actions and that is what I believe is the primary motivation for continuing their failed marijuana policy. I want the Federal Government out of the business of ruining people’s lives over marijuana. Let states decide how marijuana should be regulated.

There is sufficient evidence now showing that marijuana is far safer than alcohol or tobacco and it has a very promising place in future medicine, yet those we have elected to lead us regularly ignore and suppress any evidence showing marijuana to be beneficial to society. Their action only serves to protect industries that would be negatively effected by legal marijuana and hemp. Most Americans would benefit from a well-regulated marijuana and hemp market when considering how useful the marijuana plant can be. Hemp for instance is one of the best plants to make biofuel and petrochemical products and is carbon neutral. It can also be made into building products such as beams and sheathing to replace lumber and is a fine source of fiber for paper. It can also be made into clothing and hemp seeds have all the essential oils and nutrients for human health and have been used for human and animal food for thousands of years. The medicinal uses of marijuana alone should be enough of a reason to change the restrictions on marijuana use in the Controlled Substances Act, but Congress and the President seem bent on protecting the pharmaceutical industry and others. States that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes have seen a 9% reduction in traffic fatalities, likely due to people substituting marijuana for alcohol. If marijuana was available for recreational use those traffic fatality reduction statistics would likely be even more dramatic.

Even if all this were not true, allowing adults to celebrate with a libation different from alcohol should not be illegal as long as it caused no more harm to society than alcohol. Alcohol causes far more harm to society than all illegal drugs combined and the harm from marijuana is a miniscule part of that harm to society. When the overwhelming racial bias in the prosecution of the war on drugs is factored in, I believe our freedom is in serious jeopardy. Until our government has a long history of protecting our freedom, instead of selling us out for profit, I for one want the surveillance stopped.

Randy Johnson

We Have Rights Our Government Refuses To Honor And Obligations We Have Neglected

Recently I have noticed that a large percentage of people I have talked to, did not know who Edward Snowden is. Most would add that news is depressing and they try to avoid it. Even my wife has told me the same thing. She avoids news because it is depressing. But we all suffer from information overload. In our society, we are constantly bombarded with new and often unimportant information mixed with information that we need, so it is not in our best interest to ignore it. We take it all in and filter what we believe is relevant or important and ignore the rest. We also live in a society where communication is almost as easy as looking at a watch and entertainment is as close as our phone. We can play interactive games, text, watch movies and surf the internet virtually anywhere, yet we have become disconnected from the things I believe are most important. Keeping watch over those we elected to lead us and protect our freedom.

Those we elected to represent us in government have failed to protect our rights and to uphold their oath of office. They refuse to acknowledge our second amendment as a right and treat it more as a privilege that can be legislated away incrementally, locally as well as at the federal level. All Constitutional rights and natural rights should be the same in any state or territory in our union. It is the job of Congress, the President and the Supreme Court to uphold the Constitution of The United States of America as the supreme law of the land and protect our freedom, yet those in office are constantly looking for ways to circumvent the Constitution. Greed and corruption are rampant and it has become business as usual for Congress to pass laws favoring one business over another to create wealth and reward campaign contributions. A revolving door system of bureaucrat’s go back and forth from the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve, the same can be said for companies like Monsanto and Cargill and the Department of Agriculture and the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies. Lobbyists from the richest and most powerful industries meet in private with members of Congress and the President and form federal policy and law without the voice of the people. If and when our rights, get in the way of this profit machine, government lawyers look for ways around the Constitution and our freedom suffers. Our fourth amendment rights against unlawful searches has also been attacked. Our elected leaders have allowed and likely encouraged the NSA, FBI, DHS, CIA and who knows what other government agency to view and record all of our phone, text, email, banking records and now the IRS will have access to all of our medical records. Even the Supreme Court which is supposed to be the last line of defense against unconstitutional laws passed by legislature, unanimously decided that dogs can authorize searches.

We have failed as well, in our obligations as citizens of society and to our government. We must work if we can and support our government by paying taxes, obey the laws and be willing to serve as jurors in the judicial process. We also are obligated to watch over those we elect to lead us and hold them accountable when they fail to uphold the Constitution. We are also obligated to come to our country’s defense if needed in time of war or any other national calamity. Regardless of whether we agree with one another, we have to live in this country together and find a way to get along. Yet we continue to push our elected officials to pass laws to keep us safe or to keep us from being offended. That leads them to pass laws that restrict freedom in almost all cases. Free people are no longer allowed to act on their freedom for fear of offending someone or getting sued. Communities are passing laws preventing all kinds of things such as smoking, gardening, clothes lines and lemonade stands. Our children were put on a diet by Federal mandate and one child was expelled from school for chewing a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun. Reason and common sense have given way to panic and hysteria where knee jerk reactions from our leaders further our loss of freedom. Discipline among our children has been lost and the judicial system has become the backup plan and we have the largest per capita prison population of any nation on earth. What happened to the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”?

Randy Johnson

Happy Independence Day

July 4th marks the birth of our nation. Brave men risked their lives, their fortunes and the lives of their families in an act of treason by sending our Declaration of Independence to King George III and declaring that they would no longer tolerate the acts of tyranny perpetuated by royal dictate from a king that did not recognize their rights. It listed several basic human rights that had been violated and declared that some of our rights were ordained by God and therefore could not be taken away by men. They declared that all men are created equal and that when governments become hostile to basic human rights, and after long suffrage, men have the right and obligation to throw off those bonds and form their own government and that those who govern do so by the consent of the governed. Their actions set the stage for what would become the greatest nation on earth, an economic and military superpower and a beacon for freedom and democracy. We have every right to be proud of America and all that it stands for.

It is worth noting though, that not all Americans share the same reverence for this holiday celebrating our freedom, because not all of them received their freedom as a result of the birth of our nation. The American Indians certainly have no reason to celebrate the birth of a nation that destroyed their way of life and stole the land that had been passed down to them through countless generations. The blacks in this country generally celebrate their independence on Emancipation Proclamation Day, when slavery was abolished. Even then they had to wait and suffer before they were allowed to vote and faced decades of persecution and discrimination because of racial prejudice and hatred. Women’s right to vote came years later. Although our Declaration of Independence says that all men are created equal, it has taken us 237 years to get to where we are today and still people are struggling for equal treatment and freedom under the law.

The Edward Snowden affair highlights what the founders of our nation were fighting, a government that has lost its way and become openly hostile to the rights of its citizens. In direct violation of our 4th amendment rights of privacy and guarantees against illegal searches, our government has decided it is ok to spy on us and believes we have no right to even know about it, much less question their motives or ask how they justify such actions. Congress swore an oath to support and defend our Constitution, yet they have become openly hostile to protecting our rights and the rule of law that they are obligated to uphold. Another battle in the assault on our 4th amendment rights is the war against marijuana where now the Supreme court says that dogs may authorize searches and paramilitary raids on homes and helicopter and drone surveillance have become all too common, just for choosing a drug that is not alcohol. A drug that is safer for the individual and society than alcohol, yet those who use marijuana are still treated as enemies of the United States. They are persecuted and prosecuted at every opportunity and people of color are still arrested and incarcerated at a grossly disproportionate rate.

We are still one of the most free nations on earth but we seem to be going in the wrong direction and loosing freedom to a government bent on gaining knowledge of all parts of our lives and control of all of our actions. More and more we are being treated as though we are the enemy, yet we are The United States of America, and those that govern us are supposed to represent us and govern by our consent. I just hope it is not too late to preserve our nation and the freedom that so many of our brave men and women have fought for. We still have a long way to go before we are all free. Lets keep our eyes on the prize.

I hope you all have a happy Independence Day.
Randy Johnson

Dear Congresswoman Pelosi

Dear Congresswoman Pelosi and other distinguished members of Congress,

I recently read in the news where you said at a press conference concerning the Edward Snowden affair, that your job is to keep Americans safe. I believe you are in error in that belief. Your oath of office if you will recall says that your job is to support and defend the Constitution of The United States of America. The Constitution says that Congress is to provide for the common defense of this nation, not to keep it safe. Keeping America safe is our job by volunteering to serve in the military or even being drafted into service if the need arises. We also must be willing to serve as jurors and police if needed to preserve the rule of law. Your job is to make sure that our Constitutional rights are protected and to make sure the military and police have what they need to defend our great nation. Which means planes, ships, tanks, bullets, guns and bombs to fight those who would threaten The United States or our Constitution. Never should we have to give up any of our rights to have the illusion of safety. If we can’t have both, this American would rather be in a state of war. I would never choose safety over freedom. That would be an act of a coward and a disgrace in light of those who have valiantly fought to preserve our freedom and way of life. Just issue me an M4 rifle or I can bring my own and a ride to the enemy and I will gladly risk life and limb in defense of our nation, our Constitution and way of life. Our rights against illegal searches and privacy should never have to be surrendered to have the illusion of safety, nor should our right to bear arms. When Congress believes that we must surrender our Constitutional rights to be safe, they become the enemy. What defense do we have to that?

Randy Johnson

There Are Traitors Among Us

With the news of Edward Snowden releasing classified information about NSA surveillance of Americans to the press, I am reminded that we have traitors among us. Edward Snowden was a contractor, working closely with the NSA in the direct role of surveillance of Americans by listening to phone calls, reading texts, email and observing web searches in search of terrorist activity. He fled to Hong Kong and exposed what he says is an unconstitutional breach of the Fourth Amendment of our Constitution by our government. He has been called a traitor by Dick Chaney and Nancy Pelosi but the claims he has made are really not new.

From The Guardian

Edward Snowden said “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you, or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the President if I had a personal email.”

Glenn Greenwald follow up: When you say “someone at NSA still has the content of your communications” – what do you mean? Do you mean they have a record of it, or the actual content?

Both. If I target for example an email address, for example under FAA 702, and that email address sent something to you, Joe America, the analyst gets it. All of it. IPs, raw data, content, headers, attachments, everything. And it gets saved for a very long time – and can be extended further with waivers rather than warrants.

User avatar for Anthony De Rosa

1) Define in as much detail as you can what “direct access” means.

2) Can analysts listen to content of domestic calls without a warrant?

2) NSA likes to use “domestic” as a weasel word here for a number of reasons. The reality is that due to the FISA Amendments Act and its section 702 authorities, Americans’ communications are collected and viewed on a daily basis on the certification of an analyst rather than a warrant. They excuse this as “incidental” collection, but at the end of the day, someone at NSA still has the content of your communications. Even in the event of “warranted” intercept, it’s important to understand the intelligence community doesn’t always deal with what you would consider a “real” warrant like a Police department would have to, the “warrant” is more of a templated form they fill out and send to a reliable judge with a rubber stamp.

In an article at Reason magazine by Brian Doherty titled “5 Alarming Things We Should Have Already Known About the NSA, Surveillance, and Privacy Before Ed Snowden” Brian sheds light on (1) Three whistle blowers that have been prosecuted for leaking classified information about NSA surveillance on Americans (2) The governments use of Telcom companies like Google and Yahoo who had been given immunity from prosecution and law suits because of their cooperation with the NSA (3) Anyone who writes about and repeats what Edward Snowden has revealed about the NSA is a criminal under federal statute. (4) As early as 2008 anyone paying attention would know that communication privacy in America had become a joke with the NSA having a room at a huge ATT data center in California where data was funneled through NSA equipment where they captured everything. (5) The Fourth Amendment had already been gutted by the Supreme Court when it ruled that business data or data stored by a third-party was available for government scrutiny.

It is clear that several if not all members of Congress and the President knew and were complicit in the NSA surveillance of Americans. This is a direct violation of our Fourth Amendment rights as guaranteed in the Constitution. According to the Oath of Office for Congress, they are required to support and defend the Constitution of The United States. I’m pretty sure that includes the Forth Amendment. If members of Congress refuse to honor their oath of office and are complicit in its circumvention, doesn’t that make them traitors as well?

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

Randy Johnson

Driverless Cars Are Here

I read and an article in Reason Magazine about self driving cars. Google, one of the companies that stores and categorizes data about the intricacies of our daily lives and at times shares that information with our government, has a dozen or so self driving cars roaming the roads in California, Nevada and Florida. So far these are the only three states that have allowed driverless cars on public roads. This experiment in hassle free transportation seems to bring with it some unexpected benefits as well as a loss of privacy. Google is about 5 years away from releasing this technology which could make auto crashes a thing of the past. Self driving cars could pick you up in front of your house, drop you off at your destination and then go park. Intoxication, fatigue, texting or even watching a movie would no longer be obstacles in transportation safety. Self driving cars could even be operated by children as long as they could speak or type their destination into the car’s computer. Just get in and enjoy the ride while you surf the internet or even sleep. These cars would also help prevent traffic congestion as they would be allowed to drive at higher speeds and closer together without increasing personal risk. In order for these vehicles to be able to move us safely across town or across the country they will need to be connected to a network that will be able to track millions of vehicles and be updatable in real-time so things like road repairs, traffic congestion and weather can be managed or mitigated. With this type of tracking and our governments interest in collecting our personal information and Google’s willingness to do the same and share that information with the government, a large amount of privacy will likely be lost. When your car (Google) knows about all of your Dr. visits, how many trips you make to the gym or how many times you eat at McDonald’s, that information could be used to raise your insurance rates or even deny health care coverage if authori\ties believe you are living an unhealthy life. Google will have a record of where you go, when and how often, and maintain a history of those visits to share with authorities should you happen to come to their attention, very similar to how authorities today harvest GPS data, texts and e-mail from our phone and internet providers. This invasion of privacy is in use today through our smart phones and internet providers but we still have the option to disable the GPS signal on our phones or tablets or simply turn them off. This may not be possible with driverless cars that will have a need to be aware not only of where they are and what is around them, but also information about their destination and the route to that destination complete with weather information and traffic data. This added to information available when our smart phones become currency, where we will use our phones the way we use debit and credit cards today, our lives will be an open book. What we consume and where we go will be easy to discern by data mining computers. Combined with the increased use of drones, smart street lights, facial recognition software tied to networks of high-resolution cameras and laser powered molecular scanners we will have no secrets. Is that distant light in our near future a Google self driving Prius or the end of privacy?

Randy Johnson

Our Government Is Out Of Control

We have so many laws on the books that anyone, anywhere could be charged with a crime of some sort. Last year the federal government added tens of thousands more pages to the mountain of federal laws already on the books. Local laws on top of those make it impossible to be legal at all times, even if you work hard at it. In the past year or so I have read about armed milk raids, kids busted for lemonade stands or selling cookies, a man jailed for trapping rainwater on his own property, people fined for having the wrong kind of tree, people fined for home gardening, people fined for cleaning a drainage ditch and the list goes on and on. There seems to be no end to the madness of telling people how to live their lives and what they may do with their own property. I really am having trouble understanding why Americans are not more concerned about what is happening to our freedom. Maybe its like boiling a frog. The supposition is that if you put the frog in cool water and warm it slowly it won’t try to get out. While I have never attempted to boil a frog and there is likely a law against that, the analogy seems to fit. The incremental loss of freedom seems to keep us apathetic to change. Surely if we lost our freedom all at once, people would complain. We seem to be so disconnected as a people that we don’t care when others are harmed by the system designed to govern our society. We seem numb to the injustice and we don’t take the steps required to keep our government in check. Our leaders view silence, as approval of what they are doing. We must communicate what we expect from them if we want them to govern in a certain direction, and here lately we have just have just been along for the ride. If we don’t tell them we want our freedom preserved, the day may not be far away when we will miss the freedom we lost. Considering what our freedom cost, it would be a terrible thing, to just let it slip away.

This YouTube video by John Stossel, “Illegal Everything” seems to tell it all. Sorry for the length of a little over 40 minutes but it is worth seeing.

Please call or write to your elected officials and let them know how important you believe your freedom should be to them.

Randy Johnson

I Don’t Believe That Dogs Should Be Used To Authorize Searches

Not long ago, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously that signals from a dog constitutes reasonable search. Traditionally that task has been the sole responsibility of judges of law by issuing a warrant. Our Constitution says that searches are only to be conducted upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation and defining the place to be searched and the person or things to be seized.

Dogs have an amazing ability to smell things that people cannot. They can detect odors hundreds of times better than us and use that keen sense to track animals or humans, detect contraband material, and have even been known to detect cancer with surprising accuracy. But they are not human and do not have the capacity for judgement that is required, not only by our Constitution but also demanded by their task. Peoples lives hang in the balance of the decision of a dog that is mostly focused on pleasing his master. They can’t swear an oath or testify to details about what they are thinking or smelling. Molecular scanners on the other hand, exceed the potential for detection than that of dogs. They are capable of detecting similar things as good as a dog but from 50 meters away and give a printable detail of what they detected.

That brings us to the real moral dilemma. This type of technology will not go away. It will only get better and more portable. We may be able to slow the acceptance of this technology and surveillance, but we can’t uninvent it. Eventually it will be accepted as reasonable search without warrant and as evidence in court and will be as acceptable as fingerprints and DNA evidence. Its like the invention of gunpowder or nuclear weapons. You just can’t put the genie back in the bottle. These detectors can already tell what you ate for breakfast, whether your are armed or carrying drugs. The direction our government seems to be heading is for more surveillance and more control of our lives. If we are going to live with this close of surveillance and loss of privacy, do we really want a government that is so intrusive into how we live our lives? I would be a lot less concerned about this loss of privacy and protections from illegal searches if our government was actively trying to protect our rights, but they are not. Already our federal government has put all school children on a diet. It went so far that parents are being told what must be mandatory items in box lunches brought from home. Local governments have been banning all sorts of things from large sugary drinks and cloths lines and even home gardens. America is on the verge of financial collapse with millions of people out of work and they don’t even want us to be able to dry our cloths outdoors or plant a garden. If we don’t demand that our rights are honored, we may be in for some very dark times in the near future. We need to demand that our government protect our rights instead of taking them away


Marijuana prohibition is on the front lines of this assault on personal freedom. Is marijuana use so unacceptable that we as a society must use the power of the judicial system to either make users stop or remove them from society? Keep in mind this is not some form of tough love. Prohibition is a horrible and hateful thing to do to your fellow citizens. There is no kindness in using the judicial system to try to control unwanted behavior. It is designed solely to ruin people’s lives and cause suffering; physically, mentally and financially. If any of us resist this punishment, that resistance is met with force up to and including deadly force. And then there is the persecution associated with prohibition, being denied employment, legally separated and shunned by society and hated because of lies and misinformation sold to an unwitting public by our own government. Lives are destroyed for preferring a recreational drug that is safer than alcohol. There is no moral difference between alcohol use and that of marijuana, but we are demonized because of the propaganda campaign waged by our own government. There are dozens of common items we use or are exposed to every day that are more harmful or dangerous than marijuana use. Tobacco and alcohol are two good examples, but many over the counter medications such as Tylenol and aspirin kill more people than marijuana. So does salt and trans fats. Obesity kills more people than marijuana. More people die drinking water than from marijuana use and yet we demonize and punish this portion of society. A recent study citing government funded sources, determined that states that had legalized medical marijuana had a 9% reduction in traffic fatalities, but you won’t hear that from the federal government. Their agenda seems to be that of protecting favored businesses from competition or loss from legal hemp and marijuana, even if they have to stifle research and hide the truth. If you are an investor in these industries that profit from the war against marijuana, you may count this as a benefit of prohibition, but from a freedom stand point, we all loose.

Randy Johnson

Will Government Surveillance Destroy Freedom?

How far will our government go in its effort to control us and keep themselves safe from any threat, or could it be that they really do have our best interest at heart? An article in Wired Magazine written by James Bamford about the new Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah highlights the ever-expanding and scary secret spying on Americans by our government. The art of intelligence gathering has been expanding at unimaginable rates. Methods of gathering information on us from monitoring our location by cell phone GPS signals, to actual monitoring our phone calls, text messaging and e-mail have been improving at great speed under the guise of national security and remain shrouded in secrecy. Huge data bases have been built with more under construction to collect, categorize, analyze and investigate data collected on all of us looking for any perceived threat to national security from drug use to terrorism. Huge computers with amazing speed and capacity pour over data night and day recording and analyzing data from all our phone and computer communications, both personal and business. Data about our web surfing, shopping, internet searches and communications are stored and categorized while being scanned for target words and phrases or connections to known threats. Virtually everything we do is recorded on some computer somewhere and the NSA wants access to that information to examine, looking for any activity it may suspect as criminal or suspicious. Breaking the encryption of all this data takes extremely fast and large computers and they are being built. Former NSA senior crypto-mathematician, William Binney quit the NSA in 2001 citing violations of the U.S. Constitution is his resignation.

Binney left the NSA in late 2001, shortly after the agency launched its
warrantless-wiretapping program. “They violated the Constitution setting it up,”
he says bluntly. “But they didn’t care. They were going to do it anyway, and
they were going to crucify anyone who stood in the way. When they started
violating the Constitution, I couldn’t stay.” Binney says Stellar Wind was far
larger than has been publicly disclosed and included not just eavesdropping on
domestic phone calls but the inspection of domestic email. At the outset the
program recorded 320 million calls a day, he says, which represented about 73 to
80 percent of the total volume of the agency’s worldwide intercepts. The haul
only grew from there. According to Binney—who has maintained close contact with
agency employees until a few years ago—the taps in the secret rooms dotting the
country are actually powered by highly sophisticated software programs that
conduct “deep packet inspection,” examining Internet traffic as it passes
through the 10-gigabit-per-second cables at the speed of light.

The software, created by a company called Narus that’s now part of Boeing, is controlled remotely from NSA headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland and searches US sources for target addresses, locations, countries, and phone numbers, as well as watch-listed names, keywords, and phrases in email. Any communication that arouses suspicion, especially those to or from the million or so people on agency watch lists, are automatically copied or recorded and then transmitted to the NSA.

The scope of surveillance expands from there, Binney says. Once a name is entered into the Narus database, all phone calls and other communications to and from that person are automatically routed to the NSA’s recorders. “Anybody you want, route to a recorder,” Binney says. “If your number’s in there? Routed and gets recorded.” He adds, “The Narus device allows you to take it all.” And when Bluffdale is completed, whatever is collected will be routed there for storage and analysis.

According to Binney, one of the deepest secrets of the Stellar Wind program—again, never confirmed until now—was that the NSA gained warrantless access to AT&T’s vast trove of domestic and international billing records, detailed information about who called whom in the US and around the world. As of 2007, AT&T had more than 2.8 trillion records housed in a database at its Florham Park, New Jersey, complex.

Verizon was also part of the program, Binney says, and that greatly expanded the volume of calls subject to the agency’s domestic eavesdropping. “That multiplies the call rate by at least a factor of five,” he says. “So you’re over a billion and a half calls a day.” (Spokespeople for Verizon and AT&T said their companies would not comment on matters of national security.)

Considering what the government may do with this ever-expanding sea of information Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier published an article in Popsci titled, “Should We Use Big Data To Punish Crimes Before They Are Committed”. Similar to the movie Minority Report, law enforcement may soon have access to unlimited data on all of us fed into huge computers capable of (with surprising accuracy) predicting our behavior. These systems of logarithms that define human behavior and analyze our actions have been shown to predict human aggression with 70% accuracy and it will only get better as advances in these programs are made. As long as this information is not used to punish people for anticipated actions it may not be a problem, but who knows how this loss of privacy will affect our future. Almost as scary is the danger of being categorized and labeled by this information. It could be used to deny employment, insurance and even medical care or gun ownership. How safe will we be when our secrets can be mined and sold. This type of surveillance of our shopping habits and e-mail is already being used to target us with sales and investment offers.

Soon none of us will have any secrets. Drones will soar above us watching our every move and record our communications. Check points with molecular scanners and facial recognition will check if we are armed or carrying drugs and look for people suspected of being criminals. Huge databases with our lives laid bare will be used to target us in ways we never dreamed possible. This information could be used to target gun owners for confiscation or virtually any group or person deemed worthy of government scrutiny. We are all vulnerable to this invasion of privacy and our freedom has already been infringed. Our Constitutional rights are incrementally being neutered and the saddest part is most of us are unaware or unengaged. Apathy may bring the end of freedom as we know it.

This article at Prison highlights the recent onslaught of violations of our constitutional rights and the use of ever-increasing surveillance on all aspects of our lives. It discusses the use of drones, information surveillance of our computer and phone usage and smart street lights that can listen to our conversations, track individuals with facial recognition software and cameras and even be used to give instructions through built-in microphones. Who will be the first criminal to surrender to a street light?

A research project under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security called FAST (Future Attribute Screening Technology) tries to identify potential terrorists by monitoring individuals’ vital signs, body language, and other physiological patterns. The idea is that surveilling people’s behavior may detect their intent to do harm. in tests, the system was 70 percent accurate, according to the DHS. (What this means is unclear; were research subjects instructed to pretend to be terrorists to see if their “malintent” was spotted?) Though these systems seem embryonic, the point is that law enforcement takes them very seriously.

I know this age of information keeps us busy. We are bombarded with texts and e-mail. We have almost limitless entertainment and information at our finger tips. Never in the history of man has so much information been so portable and accessible or so overwhelming. And never have we been so disconnected from the process of governance. It may be caused by apathy or information overload but we have failed to oversee those that govern us and hold them accountable to constitutional limits. The part that worries me, is that many of our elected officials don’t seem to recognize our rights anymore and they may use this wealth of information to take away more of our rights. We need to demand that they recognize and honor our rights if we want to keep them. The longer we wait, the less likely we will succeed in preserving our freedom.

Randy Johnson