Tag Archives: nsa

New School Methods for Old School Tricks for Disappearing People

11942334_10153577638946575_8114869526653973585_oNew Orleans    In the age of “big data” we are led to believe that eyes are everywhere on all of us. All is known by the all-knowing. NSA is up our nose. It goes on and on.

Yet, somehow we are losing people.

We lost more than 400,000 people on certifications under the Affordable Care Act that was four times the number we lost last year. Ostensibly these are re-verifications of citizenship status, but of course the fine print indicates that people only had 10-days to reply and, trust me on this, many found the forms and requests mystifying, and so it is more likely that people simply dropped through the crack. One immigration health expert essentially said, “Really? who in their right mind would have risked being deported by filing for health insurance? Duh.”

You know who else is disappearing? The elderly it turns out. A group called HelpAge International says old people are slipping through the cracks by the millions. In fact they put out an annual Global AgeWatch Index, and report that almost half the countries in the world – 93 of them — have zero data to offer on their elderly. Worst, unsurprisingly, many of these are the poorest countries in the world where many of us would most like to have some information, including the United Nations which has made raising living standards a huge priority over the next fifteen years. In a Times’ article they mention that “Of 54 countries in Africa…there was enough data available to include only 11 in the index.” Even for the data available of course there’s bad news in that the “gap in life expectancy at age 60 between the countries at the top and bottom has increased to 7.3 years, compared to 5.7 years in 1990.” Talk about “aging out” once you get long in the tooth you just flat out disappear it turns out.  Who knew that was so easily accomplished in the age of big data.

Speaking about being invisible and besides the elderly we’re back to migrants and refugees. Running errands from the ACORN Farm someone on public radio was going on and on about whether the waves of people coming into European countries from Syria and the Middle East these days are refugees from the civil war or economic migrants. The reporter was arguing that this was a political issue, which it is, but fortunately by the end of the piece they admitted it didn’t change the fact that we had to do the right thing no matter what label was placed on it. Another commentator reminded the American listener that we needed to be careful tut-tuting since during the heart of the depression in 1930 we had forcibly removed an estimated one-million Mexicans, 60% of whom were American citizens, in a so-called “repatriation” to Mexico. These same pictures of people on trains would have been of US trains from Los Angeles and other cities to the Mexican border. This atrocity is news to many, if not most, of us.

The real solution to this invisibility problem for the elderly, poor, immigrants and others is not big data in all likelihood, but being willing to look around us in the first place.



The Clock Keeps Ticking and Investigations Continue on Assange and Snowden


Snowden at SxSW

New Orleans     Whatever happened to Julian Assange of Wiki-leaks and Edward Snowden of NSA mega-leaks?  Well, Assange has now done 1000 days in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he received political asylum, and Snowden remains in Russia where he has been given a 3-year visitor visa. Amazingly, though the investigations by the USA and the hard feelings from the administration continue unabated.

On the whole, Snowden seems in better shape than Assange.  He has become quite the video star appearing frequently via big screen internet connections everywhere from college campuses to Austin’s South-Southwest extravaganza, as well as a starring in the Oscar winning documentary, Citizenfour. He might even be able to take comfort from the 10 ½ hour mini-filibuster that Senator Rand Paul waged on the floor to prevent renewal of the Patriot Act because of the privacy breaches proven by Snowden.

Assange is quite simply a more complicated character and harder to like on almost every count.  And, then there’s that rape charge in Sweden, which right or wrong, has an undeniable “ick” favor that is hard to get by.

The endgame on Snowden will be long running and would require a plea deal under a different President and Congress along with détente with Russia.  Count on the fact that he is going to know another language pretty well before he ever puts a foot on American soil again.

Assange, amazingly, may be near a break in his case.  The stalemate seems to be breaking on the question of being interviewed by the Swedish prosecutor.  It’s hard to remember that Assange has never actually been charged with a crime in Sweden.  He’s been avoiding the domino effect that appearing in Sweden for the interview could subject him to extradition to the US on charges of espionage, which Michael Rattner, his lawyer with the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights, calls the “classic political crime.”

An exchange on this issue between Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now” and Rattner illuminates his situation pretty well:

AMY GOODMAN:“…the director of public prosecutions in Sweden, Marianne Ny, issued a statement.  She wrote, quote, “My view has always been that to perform an interview with him at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London would lower the quality of the interview, and that he would need to be present in Sweden in any case should there be a trial in the future.  Now that time is of the essence, I have viewed it therefore necessary to accept such deficiencies in the investigation and likewise take the risk that the interview does not move the case forward.”

MICHAEL RATNER :”Yeah, well, she’s not telling the truth there.  The Swedish Supreme Court just issued an order to the prosecutor saying, “Explain the investigatory delay in this case.”  The lower court said to her, “This case has not preceded according to Swedish law.” So, it’s not right.  She could have done this questioning a long time ago.  Of course, one of the big problems with this is that, meanwhile, the U.S. has continued its intensive investigation of Julian Assange. Just a few weeks ago, they admitted that they were going forward with an espionage investigation.

As always, it’s hard to keep up with these cases once they fall from the front pages to the back pages to no-news-at-all, but these fellas are more than mere footnotes to current events, so it’s worth keeping an eye on whether or not they remain isolated in foreign lands as men without countries forever as prisoners of conscience and action.


The NSA hate this song 🙂 Dan Bull