Tag Archives: Facebook




Earlier today I blew up on Facebook. I called friends who generally share my views stupid and those who don’t stupider. Much of my heartfelt enmity is the result of the rise of Drumpf.

Why do I refer to him as Drumpf? You can thank John Oliver for that.

Immediately after my viewing of this episode I downloaded the Chrome extension that converts Drumpf to Drumpf (I have found I can’t even type the actual name here without it undergoing the transformation) on stories in my browser. It is one small consolation to see this at work in the headlines and stories I see on Slate, Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, and elsewhere, even on sites that lean farther right.

I deplore the lowlghts from all the 2016 campaigns. Our Presidential  electoral process is in the gutter, dragged there by Drumpf who has been joyfully joined there by Marco Rubio  who questions the size of Drumpf’s penis; by Ted Cruz simply being Ted Cruz; by Jeb Bush forced to defend charges of being a mommy’s boy; by Ben Carson, who fell in while sleep walking; by John Kasich, who destroyed any possible claims of being a moderate by defunding Planned Parenthood; and by the millions of presumably sentient human beings who listen to all the crazy talk about immigrants and an out of control government who couldn’t pass a U.S. citizenship/civics test if it were an open book exam and the original Declaration of  Independence and Constitution were splayed in front of them.

Holding them hostage there are David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremicist groups armed to the teeth courtesy of the National Rifle Association, crazed Evangelicals who believe Drumpf somehow possesses better Christian bona fides than the Pope when The Donald is probably more likely to provide a quote from a Smokey Stover comic book than from II Corinthians when asked about his favorite Bible passage.

Let us not forget the Secret Srvice which somehow has improved its training to the point that a reporter who wanders 10 inches outside the designated journalist area at a Drumpf rally is strong armed when only a few months ago intruders inside the White House grounds stole President Obama‘s favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe before being hustled to the requisite nearby mental hospital for observation.

Oh I’m not forgetting the Democrats. Their participation is in somewhat shallower waters near the curb cutouts that allow wheelchair crossing rather than in the middle of the block, but where the H2O is equally putrid. This time it is not so much the candidates themselves…Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton …hurling invectives at each other so much as it is the so-called BernieBros who have been accused of ugly misogynistic characterizations of the other camp while feminist icons Like Gloria Steinem, though using politer language, are equally sexist in how they portray young female Sanders enthusiasts.

And from these nominal Progressives come the enabling threats to withold their vote from the nominee should he or she not be the one they love to death at this moment. Enabling threats because by doing so they will practically guarantee that our next President will have a bulbous red nose, bizarre multi-colored makeup, a fright wig,  and will be making nonsense noises as he struts around the circus ring. Of course all but Drumpf will need to be fitted for this outfit.

Accompanying this flotsam down the gutter where it will eventually empty into the stream that will make the water supply of Flint, Michigan seem utterly pristine by comparison are various pundits, analysts, economic gurus, and the like offering opinions that may be parsley, rosemary, or thyme, but most certainly not sage.

Perhaps the only good that is coming from this is Spotlight. No, not the latest Oscar winning film but the harsh relentless glare focused on the entire Presidential nominating process that places premiums on a candidacy that begins within weeks after the prior election and is fueled by endless speculation, pollmongering profiteers, the need to fill cable TV news with anything but substance, and the proliferation of web sites whose sole purpose is to promulgate lies, denigrate anyone with opinions different from theirs, and disregard anything remotely likely to benefit the America they all profess to love but which they incessantly subject to virtual domestic violence while declaring their fealty between bruising blows.

Super Tuesday is an agglomeration of primaries in states and American Samoa which would be significant just for the sheer numbers of opportunities for voters to express their choices were it not for the media telling us that the issues have been decided by the primaries/caucuses already consigned to history in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina and whch have a combined poulation dwarfed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania whose own 2016 primary is not until April 26, a date by which the names of many former candidates will be not even a memory and which may represent only the merest possibility of ultimate success to the horses (asses) still in the race.

All this makes the Swiftboating of John Kerry in 2004 look more like the highest level of forensic debate by comparison.

Oh, hell. I’ll admit it. I, too have awkwardly stepped off the curb and fallen into the slime. But the murky waters are deep and I really can’t swim so I am about to drown in this torrent I am now a part of.

In splashing around for survival I might occasionally send splurges of nastiness into the open mouths of others, but they were there first voluntarily.



Sgt. Gary Stein, the U.S. Marine who openly criticized President Obama on his Facebook page, has been discharged from the Marines for violating its policies on political activities.

The complete set of regulations that describe what political activities are permitted and which are forbidden can be found here.


I would summarize these rules this way.

There are political activities in which troops may participate, so long as they are not in uniform or give the impression they are acting in an official capacity. There are some partisan political activities which are prohibited, in uniform or not.

Here is the offending passage from Facebook:

On March 1, Stein wrote on a closed forum for active-duty meteorologists and oceanographers that he would say “Screw Obama” and not follow all orders from him, according to Courthouse News.

“Obama is the economic enemy,” he wrote in the post. “He is the religious enemy … He is the ‘fundamentally change’ America enemy … He IS the Domestic Enemy.”


My personal view of the First Amendment that protects freedom of speech is much stricter than what is in practice in this country I basically believe anything goes. Any exceptions to that must be drawn narrowly.

Now I think Sgt. Stein was an idiot for how he portrayed the President. He joins a long line of Americans who have expressed their displeasure with him in the most vituperative terms possible. Yet, if he were not in a special position as a member of the military, I would have no objection to his words other that that I find them inappropriate and inaccurate.

That said, Sgt. Stein is a member of the military and President Obama is his Commander in Chief. As part of military discipline Stein must not openly question his superiors, whether they wear generals’ stars or work in the Oval Office.

Military law addresses this relationship between members of the forces and the President in many different ways. In the heat of battle failure to adhere to these rules could result in death. Though that threat may not be present at other times, the strict discipline taught must be practiced in all facets of military life so that it is instilled and second nature if in battle.

So punishment under military law of Sgt. Stein is not unwarranted.

I suspect, however, that though Stein dwells rather low on the military totem pole, since there have been incidents of general officers being caught openly questioning the President without the vituperation, merely policy disagreements as it were, the harshness of Stein’s words mitigated against him escaping any penalty.

I also supect that internal politics in the Marines were at play, as they all in nearly all work situations, military and civilian.

Sgt. Stein’s sentence could have been more severe. Immediate discharge from the Marines might be overreach as his contract was due to expire in a few months. He could have been permitted to serve it out with an appropriate reprimand issued.

Discharge from the service under these circumstances will result in the loss of many veterans’ benefits to which Sgt Stein would otherwise have been entitled. His ugly words were not widely disseminated even within the military, nor were they published for civilian consumption. Of  course unlike “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” what happens in Facebook too often does not stay in Facebook and people for whom that information was never intended are able to readily partake of it.

Sgt. Stein has apologized for what he wrote. If he no longer believes what he wrote fine. If he still clings to those words and his apology was insincere, he will soon be free to iterate his expression of them in many different forums with no consequences from the government, civilian or military.

I personally would tell him that, while he is free to disagree with or heavily criticize the President, the words he chose to do so serve no constructive purpose.

Many people back in civilian life will welcome him as a compatriot for his views and even deem him a hero or believe he is a victim

He is neither. He is an American citizen who, as a civilian, will now have the right of freedom of speech without the limitations of the military.

I trust and expect him to exercise it well.


The warnings about what information Facebook or Google or other internet sites glean from you and use or share are valid, but the real danger to your privacy and legal rights comes courtesy of those sworn to uphold the law, law enforcement agencies.

In December a couple of fans were driving home from a Star Trek exhibit in St. louis through Collinsville, Illinois when they were stopped by a local cop for allegedly making an unsignaled lane change. Thse were two white, middle-aged men, unremarkable in appearance or garb or vehicle. They did have out-of-state license tags.

Bad enough the stop was bogus, which the cop later admitted, but he then proceeded to delay them unnecessarily while he fished for information that might let him conclude they were carrying drugs. This has become standard operating procedure for highway cops observing cars with out-of-state plates.

The reason behind this? Not so much to stop the flow of drugs, but to justify confiscation and forfeiture of property, particularly cash, which their departments then use to bolster their budgets.

Watch the linked video and read the accompanying story to see how this is accomplished and noting that the K-9 drug dog search conducted here is done in violation of accepted standards and practices.


Just to refresh your memory, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constituition reads thusly:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Now the U.S. Supreme Court has carved out a number of exceptions to the warrant requirement, any exception being one too many in my opinion. (What say ye you advocates for original intent? Yeah, you bastards are silent until health care reform becomes law.)

For some of the many ins and outs and allowable police actions during traffic stops see this:


Watch your local news or read stories in your local newspaper and I guarantee that at least once a week there will be a tale of an arrest for drugs following a stop for a traffic offense. Many of these arrests stem from consent searches but since the drivers are most likely not aware of their rights, that consent is nonsense.

Now comes this exploration of the fact that police departments are tracking cell phones and their users, with much dubious legality.


With cellphones ubiquitous, the police call phone tracing a valuable weapon in emergencies like child abductions and suicide calls and investigations in drug cases and murders. One police training manual describes cellphones as “the virtual biographer of our daily activities,” providing a hunting ground for learning contacts and travels.

But civil liberties advocates say the wider use of cell tracking raises legal and constitutional questions, particularly when the police act without judicial orders. While many departments require warrants to use phone tracking in nonemergencies, others claim broad discretion to get the records on their own, according to 5,500 pages of internal records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union from 205 police departments nationwide.

The internal documents, which were provided to The New York Times, open a window into a cloak-and-dagger practice that police officials are wary about discussing publicly. While cell tracking by local police departments has received some limited public attention in the last few years, the A.C.L.U. documents show that the practice is in much wider use — with far looser safeguards — than officials have previously acknowledged.

The article notes the recent SCOTUS ruling that the warrantless placing of a GPS on a drug suspect’s vehicle was unconstitutional. With so many cell phones now having a GPS function, there is additional doubt to the legality of this tracking.

If all that were not bad enough, a drone may soon be coming to your neighborhood. You know what drones are, of course. They are the unmanned flying objects (the REAL UFO’s we should be concerned about) such have been used in Afghanistan and Pakistan and other venues of our foreign misadventures, most notably the one used to murder Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen not charged with any crime, last fall.

Glenn Greenwald of Salon has had his finger on the pulse of the movement to have local law enforcement unleash drones on U.S. soil, or should I say airspace.


That article has links to others he has written as well as to other sources.

He makes his point pretty well about the danger of drones:

Whatever else is true, the growing use of drones for an increasing range of uses on U.S. soil is incredibly consequential and potentially dangerous, for the reasons I outlined last week, and yet it is receiving very little Congressional, media or public attention. It’s just a creeping, under-the-radar change. Even former Congresswoman Harman — who never met a surveillance program she didn’t like and want to fund (until, that is, it was revealed that she herself had been subjected to covert eavesdropping as part of surveillance powers she once endorsed) — has serious concerns about this development: ”There is no question that this could become something that people will regret,” she told the LA Times. The revelation that a Predator drone has been used on U.S. soil this way warrants additional focus on this issue.

This may be Greenwald’s most trenchant observation:

There is always a large segment of the population that reflexively supports the use of greater government and police power — it’s usually the same segment that has little objection to Endless War — and it’s grounded in a mix of standard authoritarianism (I side with authority over those they accused of being Bad and want authorities increasingly empowered to stop the Bad people) along with naiveté (I don’t really worry that new weapons and powers will be abused by those in power, especially when — like now — those in power are Good). This mindset manifests in the domestic drone context specifically by dismissing their use as nothing more than the functional equivalent of police helicopters. This is a view grounded in pure ignorance.

He’s right. This large segment of the population willing to accept any tools authority wants to utilize are among the first to rail against Facebook and Google privacy policies.

Don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of Facebook or Google imprisoning or executing anyone.

Save the Constitution!