Tag Archives: Trump administration

DHS All Up in Your Internet: Don’t Panic…Yet

5 days ago, Forbes published an article titled “Department of Homeland Security Compiling Database of Journalists and Media Influencers” (Michelle Fabio, Forbes online website, 4/6/18), in which they made a reference to a posting by Homeland Security asking companies to submit “capabilities statements” for doing “media monitoring”.

Aside #1: I find it odd that I haven’t seen this news blasted all over TV and the internet.  Too much going on with the White House, I guess, what with the FBI raiding the president’s lawyer’s office and all.

Homeland Security is already monitoring social media accounts of immigrants, as reported in September of last year (“DHS Wants to Monitor Immigrants’ Social Media. No One Knows What They Will Do With This Information”, Walter Ewing, Immigration Impact website, 9/29/17).  Oh, and that includes green card holders and naturalized US citizens – and the people with whom they interact, which of course includes US citizens who were born here.

When you add these 2 things to the revelation about Cambridge Analytica mining the data of not only 87+ million Facebook users but an untold number of people via online survey sites like E-Rewards (that subcontract out their surveys to different companies), it seems that no one’s information is safe anymore – not their likes and dislikes, their buying habits, their age/gender/location, and now their political views (“Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Data Mining: What You Need to Know”, Ian Sherr, CNET website, 4/9/18).

Aside #2: I got one of those notices from Facebook telling me my data had been compromised because of something called “My Digital Life” – a quiz that 200,000 or so people took that also hijacked their lists of friends so their data could be mined, too.  I didn’t take that quiz so they got me via some friend of mine who did.

I don’t mean to sound alarmist – clearly I don’t care who knows my political views or buying habits, as I blog about politics and take online consumer surveys – but the bigger issue is whether or not somebody should be able to get information about you without your permission. 

For example, I have never allowed an app or a survey to connect to my Facebook page, mostly because I don’t want them to get to my friends’ data that way.  They got you anyway, sorry.

It seems to me that unless you go completely offline, and do not have a social media account, do not comment on websites, or don’t even Google anything, someone somewhere has some data on you.

Even if all you do is order products online, someone still has some data on you.  And who knows – I don’t, certainly – what home assistants like Alexa know about you?

This latest news about DHS monitoring “media influencers” is troubling.  What does that even mean?  YouTube “stars”, bloggers who have a certain number of followers, people who follow and comment on the Idiot’s Twitter account, people who do podcasts, commenters on political sites such as Raw Story and Daily Kos?

How many millions of people would that be?

This would not be a daunting task, I suspect, because there are computer programs that can find people on a DHS “watch list” such as this.  Just think of how quickly and how much a search term in Google returns – when I Googled “how many returns per search term”, I got 125 million hits in 6 seconds.  How hard would that be to search the web for parameters set by DHS?

Basically, we’re all going to be on some watch list, somewhere. And under this administration, that can be particularly scary.

We do, of course, have this thing called the First Amendment.  It guarantees freedom of expression, speech, the press, and assembly.  It states that the government can neither establish a state religion, nor restrict religious practices.  It also guarantees the right to petition the government.

But we also have sedition laws, which hinge on whether or not the “seditious” speech or action is an “imminent threat”.  There have been very few prosecutions in this country for sedition, mostly because we do have the right to “agitate” – for lack of a better word – under the First Amendment.

It’s that pesky “imminent threat” definition that makes things a bit murky.

Considering we have a president who stated last night that the raid on his lawyer’s office and hotel room was “an attack on our country” (“Trump Denounces FBI Raid on His Lawyer’s Office as an Attack on Our Country”, Michael D. Shear, NY Times website, 4/9/2018), who knows what “imminent threat” will mean to a Republican-appointed DHS?

Add this to the fact that dangerous man John Bolton (the new national security advisor) just fired the head of DHS – no doubt for being not far enough to the right – and things start to look a bit alarming.

It’s all concerning right now, but we don’t need to panic.  At least not until we see new prisons and detention centers being built.

Hopefully, this administration will either be gone or severely restrained (think “midterm elections”) before that happens.

Weird news of the week: “Why is Orange Snow Falling Across Eastern Europe?”  Insert your own 45 joke here.

Recommendation for the week: I may have recommended her before, but it’s worth doing again.  If you want to know – really know – what’s going on in the White House and politics, you won’t do better than watching The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.  And if you don’t watch MSNBC, you can still hear her on her podcast.  She lays things out so clearly, and explains them so thoroughly, that you will learn quite a bit every time you tune in.

Be good.  Be kind.  Knowledge is capital, knowledge is power.

 

 

 

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Dragon-Ridden Days, Nightmare-Ridden Sleep

With apologies to Yeats, who wrote this in his poem “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen”:

“O what fine thought we had because we thought/That the worst rogues and rascals had died out.”

Here’s a link to the full poem: “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen” by Yeats

He was writing about Ireland, of course, but I think there are similarities with today’s political/social climate.  Plus, I love Yeats – he was the focus of my never-finished dissertation.

I haven’t written much, for a long time – not here, anyway.  But one of my New Year’s resolutions is to re-start this blog, and continue writing every Wednesday.

I can’t give you any good reasons or excuses why I have not been writing.  Some of it was this illness, some of it was a chronic state of upset over the election of the worst president in US history, and some of it was feeling overwhelmed in terms of subjects about which to write.  We here in the US are living each day in crisis.  Every day brings a new situation to worry about.

It makes sense in terms of narcissistic personality disorder, as 45 is responsible for creating chaos and crisis on a daily basis.  It’s what they do.  I’ve seen it time and time again in outpatient and inpatient settings, and usually was not sucked into it, but it’s hard not to howl at the TV when it’s happening to the entire country.  In a clinical situation, me ignoring behavior like this has an immediate impact on the patient; but, in the situation where the whole country is being played, me ignoring it or attending to it makes no difference.

That’s a hard thing to deal with.  And I didn’t want to deal with it in this blog.  Many clinicians and laypeople address this on a daily basis, and I can’t really add anything to the discussion.

So, briefly to start out, a health update: After many tests, and after switching endocrinologists (Dr. Asshat was pissing me off more and more), it appears as if I have hyperparathyroidism.  I am still taking Vitamin D and drinking copious amounts of calcium-fortified almond milk, and I get blood tests tomorrow.

My next endocrine appointment is Jan 16.  I am hoping it comes out that this is the actual problem, and that I don’t have to go see another specialist.  This endocrinologist thinks that it is secondary hyperparathyroidism due to Vitamin D deficiency, but the tests over time do not bear this out.  We’ll see.

The title of today’s post was chosen due to the imagery of dragons stampeding during the day – i.e., hearing and seeing all the wildly scary news on a daily basis – and having nightmares when finally crawling into bed, having no escape from the day’s insanity.  I imagine this scenario is true for the majority of the country right now.

I wonder, sometimes, what I would tell a client/patient if I were working right now, and was listening to the anxiety and depression that can be aggravated by societal upheaval.  Addressing the basis of the problem can, and does, get a therapist fired for “being too political”, but not addressing it and just suggesting the person medicate, meditate, and/or take up a new hobby just does not seem helpful.

We, as therapists, tend to put way too much responsibility on the client/patient, and not enough on the environment and other conditions that are aggravating or even causing symptoms in the first place.  Yes, we all can (to some extent) control how we deal with information, but we do not live in a vacuum where we can just “rise above it all”.

Not when the environmental stressors are due to actual things that might materially affect people, like cutting social programs and the like.  It’s really easy to be unaffected by 45’s policies when those policies do not affect you personally.

That seems really obvious, what I just wrote.  But it’s far too easy to put the entire weight of treatment on the client/patient alone, when a little bit of material relief would do a lot to ease symptoms.  Or when some kind of action the client/patient could take would make them feel as if they are trying to change the conditions that cause the symptoms.

I could see myself giving a client/patient the therapeutic assignment of “write an email to your representative”, if the person is overwhelmed with worry about his/her disability being cut, for example.

I could see this being relayed to another staff member or client/patient, who then writes up a complaint and sends it along to my supervisor.

Along with that, the client/patient is usually reassigned and/or talked out of writing an email to his/her representative, which is fine with them because, typically, clients/patients don’t like therapeutic assignments of any kind.  That’s why so few therapists assign them.

That’s also why so many therapists’ clients/patients don’t get better.

As I, hopefully, inch towards resolving my health issues and look to applying for jobs again, I am going to have to think a lot about where I can reasonably fit in.  I’m not seeing anyplace, to be honest.  And, without a car, my choices are really limited.

But that’s another blog post.

In weird news, Nebraska cops ruin Christmas by arresting elderly couple for weed.  The folks were trying to bring holiday cheer from California to Boston and Vermont.  The couple are the parents of the county prosecutor in Burlington, who has disavowed any knowledge of the felony his parents committed.  Jerk.  These people need a GoFundMe page.

Recommendation for today is for Schwan’s.  It is a food delivery service that’s been around for ages.  I am recommending them because they take the SNAP card.  Yeah, it’s expensive and you don’t get nearly the same amount of food you would get if you shopped at, say, Aldi, but it’s ideal for someone who is house-bound and it beats all hell out of Meals on Wheels (which, though free, has food that’s utterly disgusting).  So if you know someone who uses SNAP and has a hard time getting to the store, please tell them about this.

Be good.  Be kind.  Have a better year than the last one.

 

Make No Mistake: This Was Never About Jobs

Brief health update: I am being tested – for the 3rd time – for pheochromocytoma, which is an adrenal gland tumor, and also being tested for carcinoid syndrome, which is a tumor ‘somewhere’. The endocrinologist thinks the tests will be negative, judging from my past test results, but he wants to make sure because my symptoms indicate one of those two diseases. He told me as I left that he might have to send me to Pittsburgh, which is the default answer for doctors here when they don’t know what’s wrong with you.  I can’t go to Pittsburgh, as I have no way to get there nor money for a plane or train (plus taxi, plus motel, etc).

At this point I would just be happy if they found a way to control the symptoms.  This illness has completely derailed my life.

Anyway, on to the subject at hand: the election.

I was dismayed that Trump won, and I was very disappointed that the Democrats didn’t get the turnout they should have.  I should mention, I live smack dab in the middle of “Trump country”, which is Central Pennsylvania.  The polling place I voted at had very long lines, and that should have been the first clue that Clinton wouldn’t win – my polling place never has a line, usually.

I also noticed a lot of apparent first-time voters, judging by how many people needed to have their hands held as they were walked through the process of using a voting machine.  No further comment on that.

So…Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but lost in the electoral college.  This is the 2nd time in 16 years that this has happened to a Democrat running for president.  But since she won the popular vote, this indicates – at least to me – that Trump doesn’t exactly have an overwhelming mandate from the American people.

Now, I have been watching news shows all through this election and beyond, and I have to say I disagree with the general consensus that Trump won because people have “economic anxiety” and that we “have to listen to them”.

No.  And no.

I live amongst the people who voted this guy into office.  I have heard their views – unwillingly, mostly – on the bus, on the senior van, in the hospital, in the shops, and so on.  Not one of them ever mentioned jobs when they went on their “I love Trump” rants.

They mentioned getting back to “the way things were, when no one was politically correct”. The translation?  “When I could be disrespectful and mean to anyone not like me, and no one would challenge me.”

They mentioned “taking our country back.”  Translation?  “I don’t want all these brown and black folks in my neighborhood/town, and I certainly don’t want to have to look at them or interact with them.”  Similar to that is “I don’t want these thugs coming to live here from Philadelphia, selling their drugs.”  Translation?  “African-Americans who live in this area are thugs and drug dealers, and are responsible for the drug epidemic.”

Never mind that the heroin problem here is multi-generational.  I worked as a drug and alcohol counselor and most of the heroin addicts I treated got the habit from parents, grandparents, cousins, etc – in other words, this heroin problem has been around for many, many years.

But it’s just another thing to blame on minorities, another justification for racist thought.  That is never acceptable, no matter what form it takes.

Not one time did anyone mention jobs, except as an afterthought about when this area had a lot of factories.  It was part of the landscape, not the central reason these people are so angry.

The closest I heard to anything like that was at a talk some man gave about his life as a machinist for Slinky.  He mentioned that he had seen machinery jobs leaving this area for many years, but he still told his kids that they should be machinists, too, and not be “lazy, like those kids who do programming.”

As far as I am concerned, if he saw the writing on the wall and still steered his kids towards being machinists instead of learning marketable skills (like a good parent would), then that’s on him.  He has some hang-up about certain skills and certainly about higher education, and his stubbornness hurt his kids.  It’s his fault.

No one in this area thinks Trump – or anyone else – can bring back the factories that dotted the landscape in Central PA.  That ship sailed long ago, in the 1970s.   The owners of the means of production decided they could make more money overseas, it’s as simple as that.  They weren’t and aren’t going to come back just because people want them to.

The people here know that.  A lot of them, too, are retired military people who have never worked a production job in their lives.  And the average Trump supporter pulls down $72,000 per year (“Trump Voters Earn a Lot More Than You Might Think”, Josh Hatner, USA Today online, 5/5/2016).

These are not poor folks.  They own houses, and cars, and bitch about how much they have to pay for Medicare (which is based on their income, so I really don’t feel sorry for them).  They are comfortable in their little world and they resent non-white people moving into the area.

They complain about “having to be politically correct” even as they say hateful things when other white people are around (I hate that, their assumption that because someone is white they will agree with whatever bigoted shit they care to spout – and I make that reaction clear to whomever tries that with me).

They don’t even want to discuss race or gender, because then they would have to examine their own racist and sexist viewpoints…and let’s face it, they don’t want to do that because it makes them feel uncomfortable.

Luckily, they feel, someone came along who would say all the stuff they were thinking, and now he’s president!  Now they have carte blanche to be as ugly and horrible to others as they want to be, and it’s ok because Trump got elected.

In some ways, as much as people get on the news shows and express disgust with Trump’s and his supporters’ racist/sexist/xenophobic/lgbt-hating ideas, backward and wrongheaded ideas have now been normalized.  This is what bugs me about people, liberals all, who keep insisting that Trump supporters are not bigoted, and we need to “understand them.”

Most progressives already do understand these people.  It’s why we won’t stand to let them get away with anything – not their rhetoric, or certainly not their hateful actions.  What liberals like Michael Moore – who, to me, is just a blowhard even if I agree with some things he says – want us to do is pander to bigots and racists.

They want us to “reassure” these hateful people that they are not under attack.  I won’t, and I can’t, do that.

They are under attack for a reason.  Well, for several reasons, actually.  Their viewpoints that they hold represent:

Racism

Sexism

Xenophobia

Anti-Semitism

Anti-LGBT

And on and on.  These ideas, this yearning to return to a time when only straight, white men were listened to, and everyone else was either vilified or ignored, are not compatible with the values our country is supposed to stand for.