Government Official Uses Homeland Security Data to Stalk Ex-Girlfriend

This story represents a perfect example of why the government needs to be limited in its power and why our privacy as citizens needs to be protected. Benjamin Robinson, a 40-year old government agent from Oakland, CA within the Department of Commerce, has been charged with illegally accessing a Homeland Security Database in order to stalk his ex-girlfriend and her family. His indictment by a federal grand jury in San Jose this week was in connection with allegations that he accessed the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS) over 163 times to track the woman’s movements.

Robinson is being charged with making false claims to a government agency and unlawfully accessing data from a protected computer (seems the computer wasn’t very secure at all). If found guilty, Robinson could face a $500,000 fine and a maximum of up to 10 years in prison.

The scariest thing about all of this is that if this individual got caught, imagine all of those who haven’t gotten caught and are spying on us. Everyone kind of expected in the back of their minds that this could happen, and it’s sobering to see it actually happening as perhaps this can actually incite some people to act. The only way to stop government spying on citizens is to limit the power of the government.

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Palestine’s Mahmoud Abbas Speaks But Nobody Listens

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah forces have been battling the ruling Hamas party over the weekend, condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas in what was probably the most honest, true statement to come out of the Middle East in all of this year. He said:

Gaza is free of occupation, but there are no investors and no prosperity. We dreamed that (Gaza) would prosper and dozens of investors from all over the world came to Gaza. Nothing has come to fruition. We decided it was better to fire rockets. Israel left, said goodbye, and instead of (Gaza) remaining calm and flourishing, there are those that still prefer to fire rockets.

The fact that Abbas said this is pretty remarkable for a number of reasons. Chief among them is the notion that this essentially cuts the legs out from under Hamas and everyone else in the Middle East who endlessly complain about Israeli occupation in the Gaza strip. Hamas, which the United States and European Union list as a terrorist organization, has for years used Israeli occupation as an excuse to fire rockets and send suicide bombers into Israel. Now, it seems they’ll have to find something else to scapegoat.

Abbas is a great man to criticize his own countrymen and basically stick up for Israel. I’m not saying Israel is always in the right and can do no wrong; when it comes to the Middle East clearly everyone is guilty, including those from distant lands. However, the time for clashes and wars is over. One would think that after nearly 60 years Arabs would have learned that Israel is not going anywhere, and starting fights with them isn’t going to accomplish anything. Abbas recognizes this, and has in recent months called for direct peace talks between Israel and Palestine, which Hamas has vowed will never happen. In its charter, Hamas declares one of its goals as the destruction of Israel. That isn’t necessarily the problem per se, anyone can say what they what, heck there are probably old Ku Klux Klan members lying around who would like to cause harm to African Americans. The issue arises when individuals with these irrational mindsets become heads of state, as in the case of Iran.

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shares the fanatical views of Hamas, so much so that he directly supports their causes through funding, weapons, etc. Just a few days ago the leader of Hamas was stopped on a return trip from Iran and other countries in the Middle East, carrying up to $35 million in briefcases. This is a perfect example of the point Abbas is trying to make. Israel is gone, they want peace with the Palestinians. Yet, organizations like Hamas are still actively campaigning the destruction of Israel, and they’re getting support from several nations; notably Iran and Syria.

It is not until Middle Eastern countries put the future of their children first that there will be any true hope of attaining peace. Children in the Middle East shouldn’t be raised as suicide bombers, they should be educated and push their domestic economies to become more self-sustainable nations. When are we ever as humans going to be able to look past greed and selfish ambition and actually do something that we know is right?

Also, I know this is becoming a rather long entry but I want to mention quickly that isn’t it odd how the Western media didn’t cover this statement by Abbas? Apparently Rupert Murdoch, Ted Turner and others prefer to ignore the truth, even when it is coming from Arab leaders themselves. Perhaps it is more profitable to make Israel the bad guy, I mean who would buy newspapers if there was only good news?

At any rate its a shame that the unquenchable greed of a few prevents harmonious peace for many. It truly is, in essence, 21st century communism on a global scale.

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Kofi Annan Bids Farewell to United Nations

Kofi Annan today gave his farewell address as Secretary-General of the United Nations. Annan, who has opposed the Iraq War since the beginning, criticized the Bush Administration’s global leadership, or rather lack thereof. He said that America must not sacrifice the democratic principles on which it was built while waging the war against terrorism. Annan said that “human rights and the rule of law are vital to global security and prosperity,” and added that when America does not follow these principles its allies abroad become “troubled and confused.”

He also discussed the United Nations as an organization, and suggested that the UN Security Council be expanded to better reflect today’s world. Originally, when the UN Security Council was formed, the countries to which the most authority was given were the 5 original nuclear powers (United States, Britain, France, Russia and China). However, critics, in particular Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, vehemently argue that the United Nations and especially the Security Council is an irrelevant organization due to the inherent polarization of power by the North. A reformed Security Council would most certainly see inclusion of a greater number of developing nations from around the world, and most likely a reduction in the veto power of the 5 permanent members.

Annan summed up five principles that he considers essential for there to be any chance of sustainable peace: collective responsibility, global solidarity, rule of law, mutual accountability and multilateralism. When combining several or all of these aspects I see a myriad of issues that could easily be overcome, such as global warming, peace between Israel and Palestine, a resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue, etc.

The world would be wise to listen to the words of this acclaimed individual of peace, for remarkable men of his stature don’t come around very often. Best of luck to his South Korean successor, Ban Ki-moon, who takes the reigns January 1, 2007.

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Al Jazeera English going global 11/14/2006

Al Jazeera, the highly controversial Arab satellite TV station, announced that it will launch on Wednesday a global channel dubbed Al Jazeera English. It’s about time! Americans, whether liberal or conservative, democrat or republican, constantly bicker about the overarching bias of certain broadcasting networks. One that gets mentioned as often if not more than any other is FOX News. The bottom line, however, is that they’re all biased. American TV networks can claim to be as “fair and balanced” as they want, however the undeniable aspect of it is that they’re all biased, and always will be, for the simple fact that they are the Western media. CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, BBC, etc., all owned and operated by the Western world.

It is in this respect that Al Jazeera differs from the rest. According to Wadah Khanfar, head of the Al Jazeera network, Al Jazeera is “the only international network that is based in the developing world.” Khanfar claims, and I agree with him, that this gives Al Jazeera a strategic advantage. For example, when an international news team covers a story in the Middle East they will travel to the location and meet up with other Western colleagues, share information, report a story, and go home. However, Al Jazeera has local correspondents throughout the Middle East, individuals already embedded within their respective societies, which Khanfar says will provide for much better insight. Al Jazeera English will explain the Middle East region to the outside world, because “the role of the media is to give an honest understanding of reality,” Khanfar says.

Many nations have long been at odds with Al Jazeera. Although clashes been Al Jazeera and the United States have received the most media attention, several Middle Eastern countries have raised complaints against the network; such as Saudi Arabia, who has never allowed the bureau to operate within its territory. Even Qatar, the country which is home to Al Jazeera, has been critical in many instances.

What remains to be seen is just how many people will have access to Al Jazeera English, given that it is a satellite TV station. I can see it gaining initial popularity in European countries, where there is no big brother-ish corporate America controlled media that certainly does not want Al Jazeera English to be broadcasted. After the democrats’ mid-term election landslide over republicans last week in the House of Representatives and the Senate, one can only imagine the repercussions the executive branch would be forced to endure if the American public were to actually find out the truth about our foreign policy with respect to the Middle East.

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America: Freedom to Fascism

A documentary by Aaron Russo entitled America: Freedom to Fascism (full video) attacks certain characteristics of American government and society, most notably the Federal Reserve banking system and the notion of Federal Income Tax, and is a must watch for any American who is of voting age and pays taxes.

Russo begins the film with some historical background as to how the Federal Reserve and Federal Income Tax systems came into being in the early part of the 20th century as a result of the limitless greed of past bankers like Rockefeller, Morgan and others. Striking is the fact that the Supreme Court labeled income tax as unconstitutional, and it even failed to garner the appropriate number of senate ratifications to become law; however the government has happily been taxing our hard-earned wages, unknown to the masses that this practice they’ve been engaging in for over 90 years is in no way required by any part of the law.

According to the constitution, for income tax to be legal it would have to be apportioned, or distributed evenly among the masses as other taxes are such as the taxes we pay on gasoline and other consumer goods. Anyone who pays income tax knows this is hardly the case. Furthermore, nowhere in the law does it state that Americans are required to complete and submit a 1040 form to the IRS. The government has been taking our well-deserved income right out of our pockets and doesn’t even have the authority to do so.

The irony of it all is that the money collected by the government in these “taxes” doesn’t even go toward the people; rather, the income tax collected by the government goes directly to the foreign debt we owe outside investors. Let me state that once more: not one cent of the money the government takes from your paycheck goes toward you, or any other American.

The latter part of the documentary devotes a good amount of time to raising awareness about the Real ID Act, which I too must confess to having never heard of before this film. Basically the Real ID Act is George Orwell’s Big Brother come true, a national identification card which would be required when performing common tasks such as flying in an airplane, opening a bank account, entering any government building, etc.

He goes even further, with evidence to support his claims, detailing government programs to implant tiny, grain-of-rice size transmitters inside of people. These devices would take the national ID card notion even further by allowing the government to track every single move you make, even so much as to account for where you spend your cash.

This film, America: Freedom to Fascism, is probably the most eye-opening documentary to hit America since Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore; and in my opinion, much more powerful as well as frightening, because it shows that continued inaction on our part of changing the way our government operates will only lead to the inevitable elimination of our civil liberties the way we know them today. Our forefathers would be sick.

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