Reach out and touch someone

The Grey Lady gives us this exegesis on the now thirty-year collaboration between the National Security Agency and itself AT&T. Short answer: if it was technically feasible for AT&T (and to a lesser extent apparently, Verizon) to hand the government anything transmitted over telecommunications (telephone or internet traffic), it would appear that it was done. Which has been my surmise for some time: the only limits on the government’s ability to spy on you are technical, not “legal” let alone “constitutional.” And so the powerful– the government and its corporate partners (and yes, that is the word used), can, and do, eavesdrop on every aspect of your life, for purposes not of “national security,” but of social control. This can take the form of the outright thought-control that results from the inevitable self-editing we all engage in knowing that “privacy” has long been something we had to “get over,” or perhaps from outright blackmail in the event someone proposes to get out of line (in any meaningful way).
To the extent any of this is talked about in the national dog and pony show election spectacle, it’s most likely by Republican Rand Paul (or to a lesser extent, by self-declared-socialist-but-running-as-a-Democrat Bernie Sanders). Most of this, of course, is blown away in the public imagination (such as it is) by the broader bluster of Billionaire Donald Trump, who actually might be the guy to do something about this, as Trump stands for generalized free-floating (White people’s) anger about everything, and “everything” might just include the immense sums of money that the government is spending to spy on its own taxpayers (and not, of course, on illegal immigrants, who are probably spied on to a far lesser extent because they are far less likely to devote most of their lives glued to an electronic device on which they are espied.)
Oh well. We are in an intertwined Gordian knot of bad stuff. An example of this that strikes me is the President’s scheduled jaunt to the Arctic to highlight the dangers of global warming which is an interesting case study. We have the same President who refuses to have his Administration sign off on a pipeline to transport Canadian tar-sand derived petroleum nonetheless approved Arctic oil drilling, stances that are “inconsistent.” Kind of like “the most transparent Presidency in American history” prosecuting more government whistle-blowers than all of its predecessors combined. The first and only time in American history we have the White House and Justice Department overseen by people of color, also happens to be the same government to give hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military equipment intended for use in war zones to American police departments, where it will be, as disproportionately as everything else in law enforcement, deployed against… people… of color.
To try to put what’s going on in the world in one long and unpleasant sentence, I am somewhat informed by my recent observations of the New York City subway system, in which virtually every advertisement I saw was either for (1) a financial value-skimming dot com (trying to suck value from everything from food delivery, to taxis, to help-wanted ads) that will now divert value to centralized Wall Street or Silicon Valley v.c.’s that used to go, albeit in a more diffuse, less “efficient” way, to Main Street and mom and pop ventures, or (2) some kind of vocational training, be it by a for-profit operation skimming from the federal student loan machine or occasionally by state-run community colleges. And so, my not particularly helpful take is that “Power that used to be spread out among workers, productive industries, governmental interests and the commonweal has now been ever-more concentrated into ever-more centralized pockets of power tied to money derived either from commons-devastating resource extraction or from the financial trickery facilitated by national policy designed solely to maintain the asset values of those already in possession of substantial assets based not on providing goods and services of real value but based upon the privilege of either issuing unlimited debt or accessing that debt at virtually no cost or risk which permits “them that has to gets” in ever larger quantities, resulting not merely in wealth and income disparity but power disparity to the point that an academic study concludes our nation is an oligarchy and not a democracy, and as a result of a peculiar psychopathology that has infected the powerful, their interests have amounted not to the long-term benefit (or even survival) of themselves or their offspring, but have instead resulted in an insane land-grab of everything in the interests of their personal short-term gain at the expense of the population writ large, resulting in ever more debt-generation (and all that goes with that), resource depletion, environmental degradation and the resulting adverse health consequences that result from that, loss of real living standards for all but those largest rentiers on top of the skimming-game pyramid, and a concomitant increase in the power (financial and otherwise) of those on top of the game at the expense of everyone else, all at the same time that decades of dumbing down education and popular culture seem to have quite literally sapped the very imagination of those not on top of the pyramid to the point where the only “solutions” amount to some variant of extending the status quo that has caused the problems in the first place.”
OK then. Remember that you have an infinite capacity for adaptation– it’s what has kept our physically-not-very-formidable species in the dominant position on this planet for a while (and, it is the habituation to the forgetting of this fact that will, if things do not soon change in a big way, kick us out of that position, and possibly, kick us out altogether). What can one do? I will start by leaving that as an exercise for your imagination.
The one place that AT&T, Verizon and the NSA can’t reach out and touch, by the way.