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American anxiety may be directed at the wrong revolution

Maybe the reason we see panhandlers with cell phones is so the people who track them can know where the best corners are.  (click pic for full view)
Maybe the reason we see panhandlers with cell phones is so the people who track them can know where the best corners are. (click pic for full view)
original art & photo recomposition: billy rainbow, 2011 November 30

For its December 05, 2011, edition Time magazine’s international editions for Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific feature a cover photo taken in Cairo during the protests that took place while America was fattening itself on turkey and consumerism. “Revolution Redux,” Time’s headline proclaims, referring to the lead article that explains the photo. It seems that after going to all the trouble this spring of ousting the US-supported dictator, Hosni Mubarak, and after enduring 30 years of authoritarian despotism, Egyptians aren’t all that into the way the US-supported military has clung to power. They want the elections they were promised, they want the military to get out of the way and let uncompromised civilians run the government, and they want it done now.

Concealed behind a gas mask, his upraised fist wrapped with a black and white checkered Arabic headdress, the figure in the center of the photo is defiantly taking his and his country’s future by the neck and leading it where popular will desires to take it, with or without the formalities of more polite forms of democracy. Behind him something on fire fills the air with smoke and others can be seen milling about the disordered street sorta like, “Well, that was fun. What next?”

Meanwhile, the US edition of Time magazine for December 05, 2011, features the sweetest little cartoon of the cutest little American guy with a knotty ball of red yarn positioned right over his chubby little middle, with one end of the yarn leading up above him to where it wraps around the midsection of the ‘X’ in the issue’s headline, “Why ANXIETY is good for you.” Presumably, Americans are far too cuddly and innocent for any of that awful, dirty, revolution stuff. They have anxiety to worry about instead.

Pity poor, apprehensive, fearful, cowardly, self-obsessed, propagandized, deluded America! The metaphorical little guy with the yarn problem may have anxiety! And well he should! In fact, he ought to be standing in a spreading yellow puddle with a big bulge in the back of his pants radiating steamy squiggles! That spectre in the gas mask with his fist in the air is coming for our timid little American. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but the more America makes the fiscal year's most vital event literally, physically, fighting over piles of junk on Black Friday even if they have to step over dead bodies to do it; the more intent America is on its addiction to professional sports, profitably contrived “reality,” and canned humor on the TV; the more America is dedicated to amassing epic piles of stuff that won’t last even a year; and the more America worries about being anxious than the reasons something close to 95% of the world has for making America that way, the more certain it is that American streets will one day look like the one in the background of the Time magazine cover that the protective publishers of Time hid from pampered America’s sheltered eyes.

Americans actually do have an awful lot to feel anxious about, but the reasons why that anxiety may be good for them are somewhat at odds with the teacup tempest of lip tremblers suggested by the image on Time USA’s cover.

Following World War, Part 2, America was coasting to the top of most of the lists it’s good to be at the top of, and landing around the bottom of all those people like to save for describing abject misery. By the 60s, during a period when wealthy people and corporations still paid real taxes, America had living standards that equaled or exceeded those enjoyed by pretty much anyone else, anywhere else. America’s president Lyndon Johnson was hawking the vision of a Great Society emerging victorious from a War on Poverty, and it was actually criticized by many for not being aggressive enough.

With passage of the Civil Rights Act, freedom in America was demonstrably a vital, growing force. When the flowers of cultural revolution bloomed during the Summer of Love, Americans responded with broad enthusiasm for the principles of American freedom, even if many were a little more doubtful about some of the particulars. Having only recently put the McCarthy era behind them, Americans weren’t eager to return to living in dread suspicion of each other and ceding their liberty to the State. The reaction to the Nixon administration’s internal security measures was quick, vehement, and a significant part of the reason why many Americans’ response to his resignation was, “Watch that door on the way out, it’s got a nasty backswing.”

On the other hand, today we have an American people positively supine for the forces tyranny. The American people have all but staked themselves naked and spread-eagled to a busy sidewalk with “Do Me” tattooed in bold type on their backsides. Even as this is being written, a bill is being worked out in the US Senate that proposes to officially designate American soil, from sea to shining sea, a battlefield in the Republican Party’s favorite “War on Terror,” an endless war that could never be won even if the US government were sincere in its claim to want to win it.

If it passes, what Senate bill 1867 will enable is unlimited, indefinite military detention, of anyone, without any charges ever being filed, regardless of whether they are American citizens or not, anywhere in the world, even right there in the spot where you sit right now, you enemy of all things capitalist Christian America stands for or you wouldn’t be reading this. Ok, maybe that’s a little extreme for right this second. Don’t start worrying too much about that creepy feeling you have that someone’s got your webcam switched on and is watching your retinas scan this page. But don’t laugh it off like it was another at best vaguely true 9/11 conspiracy theory, either, because you can be sure that someone you wouldn’t trust rummaging through your underwear drawer has contemplated the possibilities.

What may be the most frightening thing about the proposed legislation is that it has originated in the Democratic Party controlled Senate, and that the committee writing it is chaired by the supposedly more or less progressive Carl Levin. That is, someone we’ve been led to think is a friend and advocate for the 99%.

You have to wonder if Michigan’s Senator Levin is firing on all of the coughing, fossil fuel-fed cylinders manufactured for him in “why can’t we force ourselves to get excited about an electric car” Detroit. One of the questions Levin asked while debating the bill is, “If there’s an al-Qaida guy here attacking the military base. Some guy walks up to a military base and blows himself up ... can that person be detained by the military at that fort?”

Regardless of Senator Levin’s qualifications as a “good guy” possibly being more just by comparison to the opposition than from objective evaluation of the total, round in several ways senator himself, the main thing to consider in that quote is the dazzling brilliance, the razor-sharp intellect, the incredible insight, of wondering whether military detention is appropriate for someone who has blown himself up attacking a military base in the US. With geniuses like Senator Levin designing policy, there isn't enough Xanax on the planet to soothe American anxiety.

SB1867 takes the Bush administration’s attack on habeus corpus rights granted by our legal system’s English ancestors with the Magna Carta over 800 years ago, and adds disregard for America’s own Posse Comitatus Act from over 130 years ago. Viewed in perspective with the past decade’s considerable erosion of our rights to privacy and a rapidly diminishing ability to enjoy privacy whether we have any right to it or not, it would be hard to convince someone like George Orwell, the author of “1984”, that we don’t already live in a police state.

We would do well to look carefully at the way a nationally coordinated attack by militarized police was unleashed on the Occupy Movement and ask ourselves why the Major Media has consistently worked to depict the movement as having no real goals, when the movement itself has been very clear about a number of them all along – including criticism of the hip-lock between many in Congress and businesses whose profits are not only dependent on friendly legislation, but sources of income for the members of Congress that implement the legislation. Naomi Wolf points out that if the national crackdown wasn’t exactly orchestrated from the White House, it was certainly blessed by a Congressional committee and unopposed by the conveniently on tour President Obama.

As if a police state mentality isn’t bad enough, technological innovation and our own eager, heedless adaptation of it has made it much easier for the masters of the police state to do their work. For instance, these days practically everyone, including many grade school children, have cell phones. (How long before there are crib models available so busy parents can monitor their infants from wherever else they think they need to be? Or picture big, candy-like cell phone buttons in nursery colors so toddlers can speed dial “mommy.”) The devices have become so cheap and commoditized that they can be bought like call credit cards in grocery stores. Even street corner pan-handlers have been sighted using cell phones as they face traffic with those characteristic spaced out, on‑the‑phone stares – while holding crude signs begging for change that’s ostensibly needed to buy food.

However, modern cell phones come at a high price to privacy. All phones are now required to supply Enhanced 911 (E911) service to make callers easy to locate, and a recent mandate by the FCC stipulates that all cell phones must have GPS by 2018. That will enable them to be continuously located, traced, followed, and meticulously documented by automatic systems unless they’re turned all the way off. If users really want to avoid being subject to 24x7 surveillance, the best bet will be to remove the battery when their phones aren’t in use, and even that might need to be qualified.

There are legitimate-sounding excuses for being able to locate anyone, anytime, that most of us might support out of ignorance and fear that’s pumped into us by our culture and its compromised media. But are we really ok with “trackApartner” services – on steroids? This month the Supreme Court listened to arguments in a case that questions police rights to use warrantless, secretly implanted GPS devices to track people, and the Obama administration supports the already widely deployed, often used ability. Estimates are that several thousand people have been tracked in the past few years with capacity expanding rapidly. Some police organizations have stated that they have used, and will continue to use, whatever technology is available to track people whether the courts like it or not.

Unfortunately, the police don’t have to try too hard to get more information about us than we may know ourselves. Big Data has become Big Gold for many companies that churn through databases stocked with a billion times more data than any computer you’ve ever set in your lap. By sorting through data we’ve freely made available by using Facebook, buying things with our credit cards, using our driver’s licenses for ID, dealing with any businesses that have computerized record keeping or accept plastic money, and doing practically anything online, we’ve made it possible for data miners to assemble profiles of us that penetrate all the secret corners of our lives and would in more cases than we’d like to think, surprise our most trusted confidants. All that has already happened. If it has had minimal effect on our lives so far, it’s only because there’s so much data and so many of us that the few who might make a big, uncomfortable deal out of it just haven’t gotten to us – yet.

There are some who are important enough to motivate ambitious efforts in the creeping police state movement, though – our elected representatives. If any of them act strangely at times, working in ways that don’t make sense, it might be worth it to ask ourselves what skeletons could have been found in their closets, and who might be able & inclined to make a fuss about them.

But that’s just paranoia, right? That kind of lunacy is just the ravings of someone with too much anxiety. After all, our elected leaders aren’t the same kind of certifiable psychopaths who run industry. Take a chill pill, already. Then again, the Time magazine cover says that “…anxiety may be good for you.” Truly. Maybe Time is making a subtle suggestion that nowis the time to be anxious, before all concern is pointless.

Links directory (Really, visit them – especially the Bambi series. They may be the point of this whole article. J The article text that the links link from is in parentheses at the end of each line. And yes, the music is commentary. The lyrics for all the tunes have their own links so you don’t miss any of that not always very subtle messaging, although in the case of the Prodigy jam the lyrics are almost superfluous.)

Data Links:

  1. Common Dreams – And Some Wonder Why Americans Are So Dumbed Down? (Time magazine)
  2. Huffington Post (Tara Kelly) – Black Friday: Target Shoppers Step Over Walter Vance As He Collapses, Dies (step over dead bodies)
  3. Grist (Greg Hanscom) – Stuffed to the gills: How crap took over my life.and how I intend to take it back (amassing epic piles of stuff)
  4. The Daily Beast (Peter Beinart) – The GOP Candidates Want Never-Ending War on Terror (Republican Party’s favorite)
  5. ACLU (Chris Anders) – Senators Demand the Military Lock Up of American Citizens in a "Battlefield" They Define as Being Right Outside Your Window (Senate bill 1867)
  6. Wired, Threat Level (David Kravets) – School District Halts Webcam Surveillance (someone’s got your webcam switched on)
  7. Washington Post / AP – Senate panel pushes ahead with defense bill over White House objections on terror suspect plan (Levin asked)
  8. truthout (Shahid Buttar) – Military Detention Versus We the People (military detention)
  9. GivesGoodEmail – SB 1867 (SB1867) (The panel along the left of this page has links for a lot of great comics and other fun stuff!)
  10. Reader Supported News (Carl Gibson) – America Has Become a Fascist Police State (already live in a police state)
  11. The Atlantic (Arthur Rizer and Joseph Hartman) – How the War on Terror Has Militarized the Police (militarized police)
  12. The Guardian (Naomi Wolf) – The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy (Naomi Wolf points out)
  13. Gary North’s Specific Answers (Richard Waters) – Mandatory Cell Phone Tracking: You Are Not Alone. (Enhanced 911)
  14. InformationWeek (Ed Hansberry) – GPS Mandatory On Mobile Phones By 2018 (must have GPS)
  15. trackApartner – You Can Track Cell Phones anywhere in the world (trackApartner)
  16. Richmond Register (Ronica Shannon) – Supreme Court hears GPS use argument (Supreme Court)
  17. World Socialist Web Site (Tom Carter) – Obama administration defends unlimited warrantless GPS surveillance before Supreme Court (Obama administration supports)
  18. NPR (Yuki Noguchi) – Following Digital Breadcrumbs To 'Big Data' Gold (Big Data)
  19. International Business Times (Dave Smith) – Facebook Privacy Crackdown: EU Targets Ad System (Facebook)
  20. The Star (Mitchell Anderson) – Weeding out corporate psychopaths (psychopaths who run industry)

Multimedia Links:

  1. Chumbawumba – Liberation (YouTube – Libamaj888) (Revolution Redux) Lyrics
  2. Bambi Meets Godzilla, part 1 (YouTube – jzarbaugh) (sweetest little cartoon)
  3. Bambi Meets Godzilla, part 2 (YouTube – jzarbaugh) (cutest little American)
  4. Bambi Meets Godzilla, part 3 (YouTube – jzarbaugh) (cuddly and innocent)
  5. Prodigy – Smack My Bitch Up (YouTube – commandante85) (That spectre) Lyrics (NSFWOF – Not Safe For Work Or Family, i.e., kinda raunchy)
  6. Watch the Great Black Friday Two-Dollar Waffle Iron Riot (Gawker – @HurrAKAneCam19) (fighting over piles of junk)
  7. Anne Leonard – The Story of Stuff (won’t even last a year)
  8. Limp Bizkit – Nookie (YouTube – pandele18) (feel anxious) Lyrics
  9. Occupy Wall Street – #Occupy Bat Signal for the 99% (YouTube – OccupyTVNY) (the 99%)
  10. Who Killed the Electric Car? (trailer) (YouTube – f0xmuld3r) (electric car)
  11. Benny Benassi – No Matter What You Do (YouTube – habibiarabika) (penetrate all the secret corners) Lyrics
  12. Cenk Uygur – Legalized Corruption of Government Exposed (YouTube – TheYoungTurks) (skeletons they might have in their closets)
  13. Bambi Meets Godzilla, part 4 (YouTube – jzarbaugh) (anxiety may be good for you)
  14. Makana – We Are The Many (YouTube – MakanaVideos) (now is the time) Lyrics (This one is the Anthem Of The 99%, more or less. The lyrics include guitar chords in case you’d like to learn to perform it with passion wherever you go, hint, hint.)