Category Archives: George Orwell

Your Daily Hot Air

Paranoia

It always happens in these cases of pack journalism.

We learn far more than we ever need to know about trivial things and far less about the important stuff.

Case in point: We now know that Edward Snowden‘s girlfriend calls herself a “pole-dancing superhero” and that she’s a compulsive selfie. We’ve also discovered that she’s a blogger who uses ultra-flowery language that would embarrass an emotionally overwrought high school sophomore.

Mills

Lindsay Mills

For instance, the girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, wrote the other day, “My world has opened and closed all at once. Leaving me lost at sea without a compass…. Surely there will be villainous pirates, distracting mermaids, and tides of change in this new open water chapter of my journey.”

Yikes! No wonder Snowden took it on the lam halfway around the world.

Disney Mermaids

Dangerous Disney Characters

The inspiration behind this ejaculation of purple prose is the furor surrounding Snowden’s revelation that it was he who blew the whistle on the US National Security Agency’s data harvesting programs that are either:

  • The realization of our worst nightmares that George Orwell’s fictional “1984” has become fact

or

  • No big deal.

Funny thing is, even Snowden’s name seems to have sprung from the keyboard of a bodice-ripping romance novelist. And then Edward kissed me, his masculine yet gentle lips brushing against mine, his strong yet sensitive arms holding me close, then letting me go long before I wished for freedom from them. He stroked my tear-stained cheek and said ‘Farewell, my darling.’ With nary another word, he picked up his valise and walked out of my life forever.

BTW: Mills actually employed one of those lacrimose images when she told the world that she was typing on a “tear-stained keyboard” in the wake of Edward’s escape from the federal government’s spooks this month.

Book Cover

Well, hell, there are millions of emo-junkie bloggers and poets in this world and I don’t mean to belittle them and Lindsay Mills (well, not too much) but there’s only one Edward Snowden. We still know far too little about him and, far more importantly, we know next to nothing about the clandestine operations he has revealed.

And that’s precisely why I haven’t yet figured out whether I should be up in arms about this whole affair or just chalk it all up to the Republicans once again trying to sully the image of our first foreign-born, communist president.

One voice in my head sez that I don’t like the idea of fed spooks listening in on each and every one of my communications, up to and including the voices in my head. The overriding concern of guys in power is to stay in power and they’ll use every sneaky trick in the book to remain there. If that means my Constitutional right to privacy isn’t worth the parchment it’s written on, then that’s the way it’s going to be.

On the other hand, what kind of rational observer can expect to keep her or his electronic transmissions a secret in this day and age of Google and Facebook where, for instance, we can learn instantaneously the progress of the bowel functions of public officials who’ve undergone recent appendectomies. Look, Walmart, PepsiCo, and ConAgra know more about you and me than any army of government moles and plants could ever find out.

Spy vs. Spy/Mad Magazine

Everybody’s Doing It

Here are the two extremes of reaction to PRISM and other hijinks committed by the secret agents of the United States of America:

  • At this very moment, a government spy is listening in on my call to my doctor’s office to schedule an appointment regarding my ingrown toenail
  • The democratically-elected officials of this great land would never, ever violate my sacred rights.

Holders of either stance are delusional.

Some 310 million people live in this holy land. They send more than 10 billion text messages daily. The number of phone calls we make each day also numbers in the billions. It would take at least 310 million spies to monitor our daily typed or verbal chats with Aunt Debbie, the gas company, and the chick who works in the cubicle down the hall whom we’re convinced is hot for us.

So, yeah, the feds aren’t listening analog-ically (now there’s a tortured coinage for you) but, apparently, they’ve developed sinister logarithms that can cull the bad guys out from among us, simply by highlighting key words and phrases. Then an individual can be assigned to listen to a potential terrorist’s rants and raves for a few weeks or months.

I call them sinister because, conceivably, a naïf such as I could inadvertently type the word-combo angry, explosive, god, and federal building in the same message and be put on a terrorist watch list. Then the bastards would be able to learn all about my ingrown toenail.

Product

Incontrovertible Evidence

To that end, my radical lawyer pal Jerry Boyle has passed along a helpful faux message we all can type, in part or in toto, into our smart phones or on Facebook, just to mess with The Man. Here it is:

Hey! How’s it going? I’m all right.

My job is so shitty I wish could overthrow my boss. It’s like this oppressive regime where only true believers in his management techniques will stay around. I work marathon-length hours and he’s made all these changes that have made it the worst architecture firm to work at in Manhattan. Like he moved the office to the Financial District and fired my assistant. She was the only one who knew where the blueprints were! I need access to those blueprints to complete my job! F my life, right? And he keeps trying to start all these new initiatives to boost revenue, but seriously we just need to stick to what we do best. There’s only one true profit center. I seriously feel ready to go on strike at any second.

I just read this article about how these free radical particles can cause the downfall of good health and accelerate aging. These could actually cause death to millions of Americans. If these particles are flying around undetected everywhere, does that mean we’re all radicalized?

Have you seen the second season of Breaking Bad? I just finished it. I couldn’t believe that episode where they poison the guy with ricin! That was the bomb! I won’t say any more because I don’t want to reveal the earth-shattering events to come.

Oh! So I’ve been planning a big trip for the summer. I’m thinking of visiting all of the most famous suspension bridges in the United States. So probably like the Golden Gate Bridge, The Brooklyn Bridge, and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. I’m gonna bring my younger brother and I know he’ll want to go to bars, so I’m thinking of getting him a fake drivers license, but I hope that doesn’t blow up in my face.

Okay, I gotta run! I’m late for flight school. I missed the last class where we learn how to land, so I really can’t miss another one. Talk to you later!

Heehee! It’s chock-full of just about every alarm-bell word or concept that might give any good NSA desk jockey a case of raging priapism. Let’s all do it! Then we’ll all be a nation of suspects. As is the case with any label, if everyone’s a suspect, no one’s a suspect.

Secret Agent Man

The Pencil Today:

HotAirLogoFinal Sunday II

THE QUOTE

“Never follow the crowd.” — Bernard Baruch

Baruch

DIG THE NIGHT SKY IN 2013

This, from the Science Lama:

13 Must See Stargazing Events for 2013

[EP ED: Events and explanations reproduced verbatim unless otherwise noted.]

1) January 21 — Very Close Moon/Jupiter Conjunction

A waxing gibbous moon (78% illuminated) will pass within less than a degree to the south of Jupiter high in the evening sky. Your closed fist held out at arms length covers 10 degrees. These two won’t get that close again until 2026.

2) February 2-23 — Best Evening View of Mercury

The planet Mercury will be far enough away from the glare of the Sun to be visible in the Western sky after sunset. It will be at its brightest on the 16th and dim quickly afterwards. On the 8th it will skim by the much dimmer planet Mars by about 0.4 degrees.

3) March 10-24 — Comet PANSTARRS at its best

First discovered in 2011, this comet should be coming back around for about 2 weeks. It will be visible low in the northwest sky after sunset. Here are some sources predicting what the comets may look like in the sky.

Image through Faulkes Telescope South

Comet PANSTARRS, Observed August 9, 2012

4) April 25 — Partial Lunar Eclipse

[Not visible here in the Midwest, so forget it.]

5) May 9 — Annular Eclipse of the Sun (“Ring of Fire” Eclipse)

[See above.]

6) May 24-30 — Dance of the Planets

Mercury, Venus and Jupiter will seemingly dance between each other in the twilight sky just after sunset as they will change their positions from one evening to the next. Venus will be the brightest of all, six times brighter than Jupiter.

7) June 23 — Biggest Full Moon of 2013

It will be the biggest full moon because the moon will be the closest to the Earth at this time making it a ‘supermoon’ and the tides will be affected as well creating exceptionally high and low tides for the next few days.

"Supermoon," March 19, 2011

The Supermoon Will Eat The Earth!

8) August 12 — Perseid Meteor Shower

One of the best and most reliable meteor showers of the year producing upwards of 90 meteors per hour provided the sky is dark. This year the moon won’t be in the way as much as it will set during the evening leaving the rest of the night dark. Here is a useful dark-sky finder tool. – http://bit.ly/UdcDUY

9) October 18 — Penumbral Eclipse of the Moon

[See comments for items 4 & 5.]

10) November 3 — Hybrid Eclipse of the Sun

[See above.]

11) Mid-November through December — Comet ISON

The second comet this year, ISON, could potentially be visible in broad daylight as it reaches its closest point to the Sun. It will reach that point on November 28 and it is close enough to the Sun to be categorized as a ‘Sungrazer’. Afterwards it will travel towards Earth (passing by within 40 million miles) a month later.

12) All of December — Dazzling Venus

The brightest planet of them all will shine a few hours after sundown in the Southwestern sky and for about 1.5 hours approaching New Years Eve. Around December 5th, a crescent moon will pass above the planet and the next night Venus will be at its brightest and won’t be again until 2021.

Moon & Venus

The Crescent Moon & Venus

13) December 13-14 — Geminid Meteor Shower

This is another great (if not the best) annual meteor shower. This year put on a show at about 120 meteors per hour and in 2013 it won’t be much different so expect another fantastic show. However, the moon – as it is a few days before full phase – will be in the way for most of the night obscuring some of the fainter meteors. You might have to stay up in the early morning hours (4am) to catch the all the meteors it has to offer.

SCIENCE VS. FEAR

I’m gonna make enemies here again.

No, no, I don’t mean the right-wing-nuts whom I skewer on a regular basis. As far as I know, none of them visit this communications colossus anyway. (BTW: That doesn’t mean there are no Republicans among our loyal readership — there’s a world of diff between good, solid GOP-ers and the too numerous loons who have been trying to hijack the party in the last half century.)

Scene from "Hogan's Heroes"

“We Must Take Over The Party.”

I suppose I mean — Gulp! Dare I say it? — the left-wing-nuts.

Yes, I admit it, there are those among my brethren and sisteren who are just as paranoiac, just as reactionary, and just as full of crap as those on the dark side of the political spectrum.

Matt Taibbi has a great account of the lunacies on both sides of the aisle in his 2008 book, “The Great Derangement.” In it, he compares and contrasts the right-wing whack-jobs of the evangelical/charismatic Rev. John Hagee’s ovine congregation and the left-wing subculture of 9/11 “Truthers” who live on the interwebs and in their own delusional world.

One group staunchly believes, in the face of virtually all expert, scientific evidence, that someone — probably Dick Cheney in overalls and a disguise — somehow planted bombs within the various buildings that collapsed following the 9/11 attacks.

The other group — again, at odds with the scientific community — is certain that climate change is a worldwide hoax.

Taibbi concludes that there’s next to nothing to distinguish between the two, save for their haircuts, god-loyalties, and eating habits.

Now, I’ve harped on this before and here I am, at it again. But a certain phenomenon seems to be growing bigger by the day. The anti-GMO movement, especially here in Bloomington, one of the capitals of Foodfetishstan, is gaining currency and popularity.

To hear some folks talk about it, one might think even looking at a food product containing a genetically modified organism is more dangerous than having a ton of Tarot cards fall on your head.

At first glance, their argument is seductive. Monsanto Company is the acknowledged worldwide leader in GMO research and development. Nobody’s ever mistaken Monsanto for for a corporate teddy bear. The company has attempted to corner patents on common livestock breeding techniques. It has persecuted farmers for seed-saving. It exploits the legal justice system to bully critics and competitors.

Pig

Monsanto Wants You To Know: It Invented The Pig

It is the bête noire of the agribusiness universe.

Ergo, if Monsanto does it, it is by definition vile.

Which sounds to me like the commonest logical fallacy employed by the right.

I’ve argued in these precincts in the past that the preponderance of expert, scientific opinion holds that there is little evidence that GMOs are dangerous. This is not to say we might discover some unintended consequences of the proliferation of the little mutants in years to come.

Hell, who in 1910 would have foreseen that the automobile would actually change the planet’s weather?

If we outlaw everything that just might be problematic at some time in the fuzzy future, the only legal option left would be for us to sit cross-legged in a field and hope nutrients enter our bodies through the pores in our skin.

Every invention poses risk. In the 1930s and ’40s, the technogeeks of the day saw television as the greatest tool for mass education ever conceived. Who knew TV would have given us the Kardashians? But even before TV became a fixture in every living room, people like George Orwell imagined it as a hammer in the fists of tyrants.

And, I suppose, some modern-day novelist might pen a bestseller entitled “Twenty Eighty Four” in which GMO monsters seize the White House.

That doesn’t mean it’ll actually happen.

That said, all we can go on is the consensus opinion of scientists. I mean, that’s the criterion we’re using to try to convince the ostriches of the right that Homo Sapiens sapiens has caused climate change, isn’t it?

That’s why a recent speech by one of Europe’s top anti-GMO activists, Mark Lynas, is big news.

As far back as the mid-1990s, Lynas was leading the charge against test-tube agriculture and Frankenfoods. Many European nations are in the vanguard of the GMO=disaster school of thought, some banning their use in food outright, thanks in large part to Lynas’ efforts.

Lynas spoke at the Oxford Farming Conference three days ago and made a starling admission.

“As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely,” he said.

He had been, he says, dead wrong about GMOs.

He explained to the conference how this metamorphosis took place. “…[T]he answer is very simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.”

Lynas admitted to having sabotaged clinical trials of experimental GMO crops. He confessed, “… I had done no academic research on the topic, and had a pretty limited understanding. I don’t think I ever read a peer-reviewed paper on biotechnology or plant science….”

Now, Lynas says, the growth of the Earth’s population makes it imperative we utilize biotechnology to produce more food. He believes the current rage for “natural” agriculture and micro-farms, if unchecked, could lead to starvation for millions.

In other words, he had been a member of  a crowd that some two decades ago began to convince itself that GMOs are evil. And now he is quitting.

There’s a madness, Scottish journalist and author Charles Mackay once opined, in crowds.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“There’s nothing like eavesdropping to show you that the world outside your head is different from the world inside your head.” — Thornton Wilder

FRUSTRATING THOSE GOOGLE SPIES

Here’s a follow-up on a report from NPR’s Morning Edition. Reporter Steve Henn explained how to thwart Google’s mechanism for keeping track of your website search history.

This is important to people who believe our wired society is turning into a Big Brother nightmare. These folks don’t want some faceless, soulless corporation knowing what kind of winter boots they like to buy online or which political candidate’s blog they follow. It’s of even more pressing urgency to those who surf websites like, oh, say, www.hairydivas.com.

Yes, This Site Does Exist

(Now, I haven’t linked to the above-mentioned site not only because it’s NSFW but even if you were tempted to cruise it at home, you wouldn’t want to have this up on your screen if, by some weird turn of fortune, you up and collapsed of a heart attack and left this vale of tears. Can you imagine your loved ones and paramedics knowing that this was your last act on Earth? Suffice it to say this site is dedicated to comely women who proudly display extraordinarily lush growth in their tropical locales.)

Anyway, here’s how to stop corporate eavesdropping and avoid afterlife humiliation.

Go to Google itself. Type in the words google dashboard.

The top result should read Dashboard – Google. Click on it.

Sign in using your gmail password.

Your Google Accounts page will turn up.

Okay so far? Click on Manage account.

This page should turn up:

Scroll down to the section called Services.

Click on Go to web history. This should be displayed.

Now click on Remove all Web History. You’ll be asked Are you sure you want to clear your entire web history? Your web history will also be paused. Click OK.

That’s it. You’re finished. This should appear on your screen.

Now you’re safe to purchase online any brand of winter boot you desire without some market research weasel from Google knowing about it. And you can go to hairydivas.com. Just make sure your heart is in good shape.

THE SANTORUM BOGEYMAN

Lots of my Democratic friends were pulling for Rick Santorum to upset Mitt Romney in yesterday’s Michigan primary. I’d even heard that some Michigan Dems had registered as Republicans so they could cast a vote for the man who would bring us back to the good old days of the Inquisition.

Their reasoning? Santorum would be walloped in November by Barack Obama whereas Mitt Romney has a chance against the incumbent.

Very clever, no?

No.

I Wonder What Rick’s Measuring

This is why I’m thrilled to pieces that Romney edged Santorum in Michigan yesterday. What if by some bizarre chance Santorum was elected president of this holy land?

It would indeed become a holy land — and not in the ironic, jokey sense that I use the term. Santorum clearly desires a theocracy here.

That’s not a risk I’d be comfortable taking no matter how clever some people’s voter strategy is.

THE PRICE OF JUSTICE

So, Lauren Spierer’s parents have upped the reward for information on the whereabouts of their missing daughter to a quarter of a million dollars.

This acknowledges the possibility that someone, somewhere knows what has happened to the IU student and has not spoken up yet only because the money wasn’t good enough.

Wow. Imagine that. What kind of ghoul do you have to be to deny these poor souls closure because $100,000 just isn’t good enough for you?

Considering the likelihood that Lauren Spierer, who went missing on June 3rd, has met a horrible end, that would make for a total of two ghouls in this case so far.

SEX CRIME — 1984

Both Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart comprised Eurythmics. In truth, though, Eurythmics was all about Annie Lennox.

I’ve never seen the 1984 film, “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” The book was depressing enough, albeit brilliant literature. I couldn’t imagine sitting through the nearly two-hour exploration of a world that is terrifyingly possible. At least with the book, if the mood became too oppressive, I could put it down.

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