How the Government Ruined Internet Freedom

The government has become spies on it’s own people and ruined internet freedom. We all knew it was bound to happen, but when they locked Chelsea Manning in a cage, it was different.

How the government ruined internet freedom, a story of abuse.

I swung all the way to the Left for awhile and I’m becoming more moderate. Maybe even Libertarian. I’m not sure what started it, but what solidified it was the continuing efforts of Obama and the NSA to invade our privacy online. The internet is one thing that I really care(d) about–it was a place I could come voice concerns, talk about things that mattered, and NOT have to worry about someone from the government keeping a profile on me. My friend David and I would joke about it (“Hey, FBI, watch this!”) and we knew they were doing it, but it was hidden until this year. When stories were released about the invasion of privacy and the policing of citizens, I joined Fight for the Future and did a blackout for SOPA and PIPA (tl; dr: Internet entities such as Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Tumblr said the two bills would force them to be online police and hold them responsible if users of their sites link to pirated content; antithetical, they argue, to the ideal of an open Internet.).

Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning)
Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning)

The government has become spies on it’s own people. And while we all knew it was sort of ‘par for the course’ and bound to happen, it was different when they arrested Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley) and locked her in a cage (Manning on the cage: “I just thought I was going to die in that cage. And that’s how I saw it—an animal cage.”). Manning then was kept in an isolation chamber for nine months (Solitary confinement is considered to be a form of psychological torture when the period of confinement is longer than a few weeks or is continued indefinitely. Source, Wikipedia.).

But if Manning was being ethical and releasing information she thought should be in the public square, then what message does that leave with us? The writers, journalists, bloggers, outspoken members of any party? If we follow our conscious, do we then run the risk of being captured, caged like an animal and tortured by our own government? It may sound hyperbolic now, but just know that the government is using Manning as an example and has prosecuted many others that aren’t talked about as much in the news.

Members of Congress said Manning deserved the death penalty, but a judge sentenced Chelsea to 35 years in prison. In an interview with the Washington Post, Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project said the following:

When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system. This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it’s also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.

edward snowdenMeanwhile, a US court has charged National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden with violating the Espionage Act. (The Espionage Act has been used in a way that might be possible to prosecute journalists as spies: In April 2010, Thomas Andrews Drake, an official with the National Security Agency (NSA), was indicted under the Act for alleged willful retention of national defense information 18 U.S.C. § 793(e)…Considering the prosecution of Drake, investigative journalist Jane Mayer wrote that “Because reporters often retain unauthorized defense documents, Drake’s conviction would establish a legal precedent making it possible to prosecute journalists as spies.) Snowden says that the mass surveillance programs used by the US to tap into phone and internet connections around the world is making people less safe. He says the US government was “unwilling to prosecute high officials who lied to Congress and the country on camera, but they’ll stop at nothing to persecute someone who told them the truth”.

 

 

I’m Over “Occupy Wall Street”

First, let me say, no one likes corporate greed or government greed but this whole movement is a bit ridiculous. I’m behind the concept and I think the police brutality is disgusting, but I’m over it.

Let’s Occupy Churches and Religion and fight the greed and power hungry bastards there instead. But let’s not sleep in parks and act homeless. Let’s blog about it, share news stories about abuse and corruption in churches and organized religion and be responsible citizens in who or what we listen to when we’re “taught” about “truth.”

#OccupyChurches #OccupyReligion

I Am Not A Robot

I lost quite a few friends over being overly political and outspoken about being atheist. Not wanting to lose all my friends (or fight with everyone) I worked on being more diplomatic. Diplomacy isn’t a bad thing, especially for an activist. I’ve been doing well but I’m still navigating this complicated space of someone who has major reasons to detest organized religion and the stories that could make some belief systems crumble. Even when I word things well, people get all irate. All people get irate. I don’t always feel I’m wrong but I’m not always right. There are more global concerns someone like me needs to consider when discussing religion and I’d rather bite my tongue than speak in a way that miscommunicates my concerns. In fact, I’m not even sure I want to continue what I do, but you’ve heard this before.

Ironically, I recently lost a friend over being too moderate. I was attacked by someone I care about for that. Why do people put politics and religion before people?

I’m going to continue to be myself and I am going to put people first in my life who respect that. You won’t always agree but I will always treat you fairly as long as you do the same. I’m not going to change who I am because of political mobs of people who act more fundamentalist than Pat Robertson. I am not a robot and I feel that as humans we should be able to grow past labels that confine us and move beyond stifling constraints. We should be free, especially our minds. If that means we’re lonely, then fine.

I’ve been taught so many lessons about people in my life and I’m not finished learning. All of these people’s reactions prove that very few people (including myself) are actually open-minded and friendships are more fickle than I thought. People will worship you when they need you and discard you when you don’t conform to who they want you to be. I care about those people…to a point. But in the words of my friend Brenda, I don’t need people like that in my life. And neither do you.

Protecting Women’s Rights in a Religious “Right” World

Threats to women’s reproductive rights have been making headlines for the past few years but women received a small victory yesterday when the Obama administration announced that most employers will have to provide contraceptives at no cost to their employees.


Threats to women’s reproductive rights have been making headlines for the past few years but women received a small victory yesterday when the Obama administration announced that most employers will have to provide contraceptives at no cost to their employees.

While this is a victory to women’s reproductive rights, there are still a few things women’s rights activists need to consider. First, there is still a loophole for religious nonprofits. According to ThinkProgress.org, “Only houses of worship and other religious nonprofits that primarily employ and serve people of the same faith will be exempt.” For women like me, who used to work for a religious nonprofit, this may not be terrible news since abstinence-only and purity teachings are widespread. However, married women who may not want to have children immediately, or at all, may still have trouble accessing contraceptives due to the financial cost. And due to the fact that many religious nonprofits and houses of worship still hold the belief that women are to be mothers first, and human beings second.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, are the Roman Catholic bishops who are behind the lobbying that’s threatening women’s access to abortions and contraceptives. These men are simply not going away, nor will they stop lobbying just because they were defeated by the Obama Administration on this small matter. Laura Bassett writes in The Huffington Post

But the erosion of women’s rights didn’t begin with the GOP takeover. President Barack Obama’s health care reform law contained some of the most restrictive abortion language seen in decades.

Lift the curtain, and behind the assault was the conference of bishops.

“It is a very effective lobby, unfortunately, and now they have an ally in the Republican majority because both groups find this a means by which to fight women’s health issues in general,” said Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), a member of the House Pro-Choice Caucus. “The bishops carry a lot of clout.”

“We consider the two biggest opponents on the other side the Catholic bishops and National Right to Life,” said Donna Crane, policy director of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “They are extremely heavy-handed on this issue.”

And what do the Bishops have to say on the matter?

“By refusing to broaden the exemption, “in effect the president is saying that we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” complained Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops”

Sister Jane Marie Klein, chairwoman of the board of Franciscan Alliance Inc., a system of 13 Catholic hospitals, said, “This is nothing less than a direct attack on religion and 1st Amendment rights.”

When are my rights as  a women more important than the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops? When religious leaders begin to flaunt money, power, and the threats of “a direct attack on religion and 1st Amendment rights” it seems that we may have a problem on our hands. I have news for the Catholic Bishops and those who choose not to dignify women’s minds, bodies and souls: your religious “rights” end when my reproductive rights are threatened.  Read the rest of the article here…

Find more articles I’ve written here: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/user/mycultlife

Why Full Disclosure is Needed from Politicians & Pastors on their Income

For years I’ve said politicians and pastors are similar. Romney pays approx. 15% taxes, whereas most middle class pay 30% because most of his income comes from investors. Pastors on the other hand have the luxury of hiding income in various avenues around their non-profit churches and ministries. When is a church or pastor every truly prodded to come out with fiscal detailed statements? I wonder what we’d uncover.

NPR aired a story on Mitt Romney this morning, Romney Says He Pays US Taxes_About 15 Percent. According to the story:

Romney told reporters he also received money from speechmaking before he announced his presidential candidacy early last year “but not very much.” He provided no details, but in his financial disclosure statement, released last August, he reported being paid $374,327.62 for such appearances for the 12 months ending last February.

Here’s the problem with Romney and other politicians: they don’t disclose what they earn, or they speak in vague terms like “not very much” to cover up what is truly a large amount of money.  My problem isn’t with Mitt Romney per se, but he’s a good illustration point. Romney has stated that he’ll disclose his income taxes in April, but until then, what is he hiding? Will he disclose his past 10 years of income or just 2011 taxes that may be modified to appear more favorable for voters?

There are similar tactics in place in churches. When asked how much a pastor earned, a full amount is never disclosed. Not to mention, pastors, like politicians earn money based on donor giving which they may not disclose to the public.

For years I’ve said politicians and pastors are similar. Romney pays approx. 15% taxes, whereas most middle class pay 30% because most of his income comes from investors. Pastors on the other hand have the luxury of hiding income in various avenues around their non-profit churches and ministries. When is a church or pastor every truly prodded to come out with fiscal detailed statements? I wonder what we’d uncover.

Romney says he won’t release taxes until April. If we can’t get a politician to release his taxes how will we be able to get a church, ministry or pastor to release theirs?