THE LIFE, WORKS AND ACTIVISM OF SCOTT BIDSTRUP

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Why "Nothing To Hide" Does Not Mean You Have Nothing To Fear

When Edward Snowden got on a plane in Hawaii with four laptop computers loaded with some of the deepest secrets kept by the National Security Agency about warrantless spying on ordinary citizens in the United States, and landed in Hong Kong and proceeded to reveal the contents, one might have thought that the revelations that came forth would have brought torch-bearing mobs out into the streets. Edward Snowden certainly did. So did many others. But much to his surprise, nothing of the sort happened. In fact, after a couple of weeks' kerfuffle in the media, little came of it.

So why was such an important revelation greeted with such a collective yawn by its millions of victims?

Because the vast majority of U.S. citizens believe, quite incorrectly, that they haven't done anything wrong and aren't planning to, and therefore have nothing to hide, so they really don't have anything to worry about. But, as the dystopian novels of George Orwell clearly demonstrated, nothing could be further from the truth. The broad masses have plenty to worry about. And if they really understood the full extent of their vulnerabilities, vastly magnified by this spying, they would, in fact, be scared as hell. There really would be torch-bearing mobs in the streets, carrying buckets of hot tar and bags of feathers, looking for any NSA managers and policy-making government officials they could find.

There are several reasons why these revelations should be of concern to everyone, whether they are political activists or dissidents, or just ordinary folks trying to get by. First, it is indicative of the rule of law - proof, if any were needed, that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. constitution is no longer in force and is not being observed in any manner other than in the breach. The freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, in the absence of any judicial oversight, has, for all intents and purposes, been abolished. If your government can get away with lawlessness on this scale, what other forms of lawlessness will they be able to get away with when no one's looking? That should be a prime concern to everyone, whether you're a huckster dodging the law or a sunday school teacher supportive of about anything the government wants of you.

Second, no matter how innocent you are, you really do have things to hide - or at least keep private. Are you comfortable with government snoops rooting around in your bank accounts - with passwords to it? Your browser history? The contents of the My Documents folder on your computer? How about being able to turn on the microphone and camera in your computer or cell phone by remote control, without your knowledge, and record conversations in the room as they please. Think about that - have you ever said anything, in your entire life, that you are glad no one from the government was around to hear? Consider that that conversation can now be recorded, automatically, without your knowledge, and stored forever in the ginormous NSA data warehouse in Bluffdale, Utah - and if, at some future point, some government agent gets a wild hair up his butt and wants to do you in, getting the goods on you is just a matter of a few keystrokes. And there it is - those dodgy comments you made, in a private conversation in the privacy of your own home thirty years ago can come back to haunt you - big time.

Third, the more places your personal data are stored, the more likely a leak is to occur which can be personally disastrous for you. And because the more comprehensive and complete the database is, the more tempting a target it is for potential blackmailers among the cybercriminal gangs - or crooked politicians, for that matter. Your bank needs your account numbers in their computers, of course, but does the NSA? Your doctor and hospital need your medical records, but does the NSA? The telephone company needs your call records, but does the NSA? The businesses with which you make transactions online need your account and password information, but does the NSA? The pharmacy needs to know what medications you are on, or ever were, but does the NSA? The problem with the NSA having it all collected and wrapped up together in one neat, tidy not-so-little database, is that it becomes the Mother Of All Targets for potential blackmailers, and that makes it that much more likely to be hacked - and all it takes is once.

Don't think, either, that the "protection of the herd" principle will most likely keep you safe. Did you know that the theft of credit card databases is now so common and frequent, that the price for stolen credit card information on active credit card accounts is now market driven - and rises and falls on the basis of supply and demand? That use of it now nets organized crime more money than all the cocaine and heroine trafficking in the U.S. - combined? And that's just credit card information, which has a very short life. Imagine how useful information would be that could go back decades and be of potential use to a blackmailer. Imagine someone coming to you to tell you that he knows you poked some chick way back in college, but unbeknownst to you, she got pregnant - and if you don't fork over some money, he'll reveal your name and address to the girl, who will happily sue you for 18 years of back child support? Do you suppose that none of this ever occurred to an NSA insider? An Edward Snowden-type, but a bit more maleviolent, who demonstrated he could easily get the goods on anyone he liked? Consider that it's not just economic enemies, it's political enemies too, if someone doesn't like the way you voted.

Yes, my friend, you really do have a lot to worry about, no matter how innocent you consider yourself to be - much more to worry about than you might ever suppose. George Orwell, in "1984" and his other novels, wrote frightening accounts about the potential life in a futuristic surveillance society, but there was thing about his writing where he got it all wrong - he didn't go anywhere near as far as where we are right now. Big Brother isn't just Watching You, he can or he is recording your every move, your every phone call, your every bank and commerce transaction, your every conversation, your every porn download. And he's not just snooping, he's writing it all down, in an easily searchable database. Just in case he ever wants to deal with you. Welcome to 2084, citizen.

Scott Bidstrup, Tobosi de El Guarco, Costa Rica, July 12, 2013

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ESSAYS

Commentary on Politics and Culture

Are We There Yet? when ideological, treacherous Tea Party Republicans prove to be willing to put the nation's very future at risk to merely score a poltical point about raising taxes on the obscenely rich, we are tempted to ask if government has arrived at a a definition of fascism that is meaningful. The word has been wildly overused, but nevertheless, the experts warn us...

Why I Left America answers the question that a lot of the readers of my web journal have been asking about why I have gone into exile...

So You're Leaving The States An entire section of this web site, it offers information that those contemplating exile really need to know, from one who has gone through the process of voting with his feet. This section offers critically important information you won't find in the guide books...

Why Do They Hate Us So Much? explores the roots of the terrorism situation America faces, and what we will have to do to genuinely fix the problem, rather than just bandage it with an ineffectual and absurdly expensive "war on terrorism"...

The Great Awful Truths And What To Do About Them is an essay that explains in some detail five great awful truths that are so awful, most people live their entire lives in deep denial about them - and how the ruling elites use the denial about three of those truths to manipulate and control the population - but there are two others that can be used to counter the manipulation by the elites themselves...

Not With A Whimper, But A Bang - The Endpoints Of Capitalism was written before the current depression, but predicted it. It is an essay that explores the fact that capitalism contains the seeds within itself of its own destruction, and why those seeds seem to regularly sprout and grow, yielding a bitter harvest - and what we can do about it...

Free Market Fundamentalism: Neoliberalism, Friedman, and the "Chilean Miracle" discusses the failures of the "neoliberal" economic model, and why it not only has failed, but has increased in popularity since it was first expounded...

The Dubya and Dick Scandal Chart is a downloadable chart, showing all the interconnected unsavory relationships, excessive campaign contributions, insider trading, conflicts of interests, fraud, influence peddling, etc., that characterize the previous administration. It is the document whose publication ultimately ended in my exile...

Conflict In The Middle East: The Untold History Of The Israeli-Palestinian Confict as seen from the Palestinian perspective, but minus the propaganda, explains why the Palestinians have become as radicalized as they are...

The Gathering Darkness: America In The 21st. Century is a discussion of the trends in American culture and politics -- and some of the alarming directions in which America is headed. Written in 1997, it is interesting to see how the predictions in this almost-decade-old essay have been borne out...

The Darkness Arrives: America in the 21st. Century includes some thoroughly shocking examples of the degree to which the Bill of Rights is ignored when the rich and powerful are in jeopardy of being embarrassed. Powerful evidence of the above essay's contentions...

Causes of the Culture Wars explains why the argument between conservatives and liberals is vastly more significant than just a disagreement about politics...

Gay Marriage: The Arguments and the Motives looks at gay marriage and the arguments against legalizing it -- and neatly demolishes them, one by one...

Homophobia: The Fear Behind The Hatred looks at how homophobia has come to be, why homophobia is the right word to describe the hatred, and the terrible price all of American culture pays for its homophobia...

Stranger in Your Own Home Town is an autobiographical essay on the experience of growing up gay in America, and how it is different from the heterosexual experience in some really surprising ways...

The Politics of Ignorance and Self-Interest explores how conservatism is borne of personal inexperience and self interest rather than broad education and a sense of egalitarianism, and therefore has fundamental flaws that prevent it from being a philosophy of politics consistent with cherished American values...

"The Sovereign Individual" - Prescription Or Propaganda? explores how a brilliant propaganda piece has ended up as an influential cult classic, believed in and followed by hundreds of thousands, who have been influenced by it, to work against their own best interests, and against the best interests of society as a whole...

Just What Is A "Secular Humanist Liberal," Anyway? answers the question of just who are those people that "religious right" so loves to hate...

A Shameful Legacy The results of what I've seen from living on the public lands, this essay explains why we have vast forests but don't have enough timber for our needs, why our rangelands are degrading and our cultivated acreage is shrinking every year and why we're ruining the legacy we're leaving for our children...

The Natural "Crime Against Nature" talks about the commonality of homosexuality among animals, and shows how those who refer to sodomy as "the crime against nature" are actually exposing their ignorance...

Saint Aelred The Queer: The Surprising History of Homophobia is a brief survey of homosexuality in pre-contact Africa, native America and Europe - and the surprising reasons that homophobia has arisen in the Christian church...

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme discusses the fact that the fierce new debate about RU-486 and other abortifacients is actually quite irrelevant in the light of the historical options available to women...

Living to Work or Working to Live is a discussion of the increasing work week, why the length of the work week is rapidly increasing, and why the "Dotcom Generation" should be gravely concerned about it...

Commentary on Religion

Why Fundamentalism is Wrong talks about the logical errors of fundamentalist religion, Christian and otherwise...

Creationism: An Argument Against Reason is a discussion of the current debate over the nature of Creationism and why it is dangerous to teach it in the public schools...

Mormonism: Legitimate Religion Or Cult? discusses that church's unsettling resemblance to the Cult Awareness Network's definition of a cult...

The Bible and Christianity: The True Origins demystifies the real origins of Christianity and the Bible, and brings a dramatic new perspective to the origins of traditional Christian values...

The Mind Virus is an exploration of how ideas in society can behave like viruses in the body, and a look at the most successful mind virus in world history...

Experiencing God: The Neurology of the Spiritual Experience discusses the recent discoveries of neurophysiology about how the brain produces such experiences as the out-of-body experience, the near-death experience, the visions of religious figures and more...

What the Christian Fundamentalist Doesn't Want You To Know: a Brief Survey of Biblical Errancy is a discussion of some of the more glaring problems with the Bible, and why they are insoluble from a rational perspective...

Towards A New World Religious Philosophy explores the failures of existing religions, the need for a new world religion, and the characteristics that religion should have...

Why Am I Me? discusses the deep significance of that simple question from childhood, and why its answer is deeply important to an understanding of religion and even modern physics...

The Case Against "The Case For Christ" is a look at one of the more popular Christian apologetic propaganda pieces, which attempts to open the minds of skeptics to the Christian meme complex...

Crazy Ideas

Saving The Planet While Saving The Farm shows how an interesting archaeological discovery in the Amazon made a few years ago, could end up revolutionizing tropical agriculture while it saves the planet from the scourge of global warming...

Making The Desert Blossom As The Rose offers a novel way of solving the climate problems of the arid lands of the American west - showing how the desert really can be made to "blossom as the rose"...

Why The SETI Project Is Doomed To Fail A Radio Engineer's Perspective On The Project And Its Prospects - shows how the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is extremely unlikely to succeed - based on simple, well-proven principles of radio communications engineering...

Thoughts On My Experiences In Africa

Scott's Excellent Adventure In Nigeria is a travelogue/essay about some of my truly incredible experiences living in that country and the conclusions I reached about Africa's message for the West...

Africa's Agony: A Plan For Action is my ideas of how Africa can overcome the terrible plight in which it finds itself...

So You're Planning A Trip To Africa is a page of advice for those planning a trip to Nigeria or anywhere else in sub-Saharan Africa. It's sobering reading...

Personal Adventures and What They Mean To Me

Playing In The Backyard is the story of my living in the motorhome I built myself, on the road full-time with no permanent address for six years...

RV Fulltiming: Is It Right For You? is my advice and a few tips for people considering full-time life in an RV...

My Biography surprises me with the amount of mail it generates, compared to the number of hits it gets. Seems everyone who reads it comments on it...

Let's Rodeo! is the story of gay rodeo, and why I am so passionately in love with it...

Humor

"Remove Me From Your Rooster" is a fun little collection of the best of the hate mail received by myself and a few others in response to gay rights activism on the Internet and elsewhere...

OTHER CONTENT

"The Cool Page for Queer Teens" is my effort at helping gay teens avoid some of the misery I faced growing up gay...

"My Child is GAY! Now What Do I Do?" is a page that is designed to help parents cope with the unsettling discovery that their child is gay. It's also available in Spanish...

W7RI in Costa Rica is a section of this web site devoted to my ham radio activities. If you have recently worked me and are looking for QSL information, or you are searching for the "Scott's Tools" freebie calculator software, or just curious about what it is like being a ham in a DX country, you can find it all here...

Wallpaper Images From The U.S. Southwest I've been having a lot of fun with my digital camera over the last couple of years. Here are some nice pictures of the Southwest (and a couple from Africa), suitable for your desktop wallpaper image...

Wallpaper Images From Costa Rica I did what every landscape photographer dreams of - I took a trip to Costa Rica, and in just two weeks got more and better wallpaper images than I had before...

The News: Finding Out What's Going On is a brief compilation of resources, both print and electronic, that can help you become and stay informed about what's going on - news and information that the powerful in Washington or the corporate media have neglected, or worse, actually suppressed...

Putting A Stop To Telemarketing offers a simple, easy way to deal with the problem, and some practical advice for serious telemarketing abuse problems...

"Cool Stuff" is a collection of fun things I've found on the web over the years...

My Professional Resume (in Word format) in case you're here to offer me the big bucks...


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