(Update: Audio recordings of the Cass County Commission meetings are available through the County Clerk’s office.)



Noun: Close observation, esp. of a suspected spy or criminal.
Synonyms: supervision – superintendence – oversight – control


A FB friend posted a link to the column in the UK Guardian about Verizon being ordered to send customer call data to the NSA. I saw a copy of what was purported to be the court order last night. It was four pages and was, to the best of my memory, identical to the one all communication carriers received around 2003 after the Patriot Act was passed.

The order we received back then was a preparatory order to allow the carriers time to put in place methods to retrieve Call Detail Records (CDRs) when requested by the FedGov. My area of the company created CDRs for specialty call centers used to help the deaf and hard-of-hearing communicate with hearing folks. The call centers were used for mundane things such as ordering pizza, making appointments, etc.

The processes we added were basically search engines. When we were given a telephone number and other criteria, such as receiving an international call or making one, making a call to, receiving a call from a specific number, we would extract the CDR for those calls and send them on to our legal department who interacted with the appropriate FedGov department.

In the following years, I can remember being requested to provide CDRs twice. In both cases, I was told, one of the parties were being investigated for some criminal act. I never really knew the details.

The bottom line is that we were never ordered to send Call Detail Records en mass, without some filtering, and then only for specific numbers. The supposed court order I read last night seemed to be worded the same as the one I read back around 2003.

That call detail records for specific numbers are being sent to the FedGov under court order is a fact. It’s governed by FISA, as amended in 2008. However, in this era of pseudo-journalism, is this “new” report, a change? That’s the real question.

We see so many reports today on Facebook and other social media sites, from various news websites and many stretch credibility. Many, very many, are subsequently proven to be false, complete fiction. However, the initial report frequently becomes viral, spreading throughout the internet. Everyone sees it. Few, however, never see the followup that proves the initial report false. Many who read the first report and pass it on, unfortunately, never send the correction—nor care, if it is contrary to their ideology.

When I see reports such as these, I try to perform my own due diligence. I read several reports on the subject, read, if possible, the original source documents and do my best to evaluate the validity of the report. I often find the initial report to be true. Just as often, unfortunately, I find the original report to be questionable or false.

This particular report about Verizon, has not, yet, passed my smell test. Without further confirmation, it stinks a bit. Why? The supposed order I read on the internet (link to it above,) has no date other than an expiration date in the body of the text. It appears to be a photo-copy. It has no classification stamps as I would expect and the document itself declares.

When I still had access to classified documents, every page was stamped, not just the cover-sheet. Classified documents had a specific form and format. If the copy being shown on the internet is a true photocopy, I would expect to see classification stamps on every page. That, and some other indicators, make me doubt its authenticity. It may be incomplete, or have been altered. I don’t know.

You, however, must decide on your own. Me? I’m waiting for more information. What I’ve seen so far, is lacking credibility.


By groupies, I mean social network groups like those in Facebook.  Politics and political organizing has moved to Facebook.  That’s a natural evolution in a growing digital world.  This blog is another manifestation of that same evolution.  Prior to Facebook, other social networks and blogs, e-mail and e-mail lists were the mechanisms used by the political savvy.

With e-mails and e-mail lists, we also received SPAM.  It became necessary to scrutinize whether any particular e-mail was from a friend or from some one with an agenda or was a malicious attempt to do you damage. We now have anti-virus, SPAM detectors and malware applications to protect us.

With Blogs, we also were presented with propaganda, with statements presented as truth but in reality are fantasy. Some of those mis-truths and lies were driven by personal and political agendas. They were attempts to spread misinformation to support an agenda.  There are no apps yet to prevent the spread of propaganda. We must decided whether to accept or reject information as it is presented. We must develop personal propaganda filters.

We have all that with social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn.  There are more than these two networks. I’m just using them as examples.  Social networks have all the advantages of e-mail lists and blogs.  And they also have all the failings.

I didn’t use a social network much until this last year and I did so with a large degree of skepticism.  It is easy to create a false persona.  It is easier to present a false agenda to collect “friends” to persuade them to accept you viewpoints.  It’s easier if you do so while keeping your agenda at a low profile.

Hook ’em while you “educate” them.

I have joined three Facebook groups. I dropped two and remain with the third.  The first group I joined was purported to be a local Tea Party group.  Maybe it was…originally.  It didn’t take long to realize it was one person with an agenda who was trying to create a following. When I uncovered the agenda, it was one that I could not subscribe.  The organizer was pushing the so-called Fair Tax.  He had all the usual talking points and refused to acknowledge any alternate views.

I’ve written about the Fair Tax and my opposition to it in previous blogs. Suffice to say I believe the implementation of a national sales tax will evolve into a Value Added Tax as practiced in Europe and we will have a national VAT tax as well as an Income Tax.  The Income Tax is anchored in the 16th Amendment.  If you want to remove the income tax, you must first repeal the 16th Amendment.  That will not happen.

The next group I joined was a state-wide group of conservative activists.  They are a 501(C)3 organization and are prohibited from campaigning for any particular candidate.  I hadn’t known that when I first joined.  My error.  I’m still a member of this group although in light of recent events I have to review how this revelation will affect my activities within the group.

The third group, one I left yesterday, was another with an agenda. An agenda that I disavow.  I was invited to join a week or so ago.  I observed the posts, made a few to get a feel for the group.  

It had been presented as a grass-roots organization to support conservative issues.  Or so I thought.  After observing the posts and reading the comments I discovered two agendas of this group.  

One agenda was the Fair Tax.  There was a so-called expert in the group who repeated the usual talking points. No alternate view tolerated. The second agenda was pushing the candidacy of Ron Paul. Paulbots.

I’ve said in other posts that in my opinion Ron Paul is unfit to hold any elected or appointed public office.  Some of his comments such as supporting Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons make me question his sanity. Once I discovered this group’s agendas, I left.

Social networking groups can be the avenue to link people of like minds, and many are. Others, however, are the modern equivalent of the Snake Oil salesmen of the 19th century.  They sell a worthless, and sometimes dangerous product. Con artists. When you interact with these groups you must also shield yourself with a large amount of skepticism.  When dealing with people whom you have no personal knowledge, Ronald Reagan’s advice is appropriate, “Trust but Verify.”  The degree of trust must be built as you investigate and verify the purported positions of these people and organizations.

If you do not and cannot not subscribe to the agenda(s) of the group, you must leave.

All too many people accept whatever is presented to them on the internet as truth.  I heard an acquaintance recently repeat some information he read on the internet or something that he heard and found some corroboration on the internet. You can find anything on the internet. Just because it’s there doesn’t make it true.  It was an outlandish position. One supposedly engineered by the government. However it was obvious to anyone who had at least a high school level of science education that the supposed acts were beyond and contrary to scientific fact. The position was completely false.

Ignorance prevailed.

Perhaps we should modify Reagan’s advice, “Verify then Trust.”  Verification is not just one instance of corroboration.  It must be a multitude of corroboration. Not a single piece, or even two or three pieces that appear to support a position but hundreds, thousands of articles that supports the issue or position.

Skepticism is a good and necessary attribute to acquire when dealing with the internet. All too many people don’t and they provide food for the predators in social networks and elsewhere.

It’s OK to be a groupie.  But be a smart groupie, understand the agenda of your group and accept their agenda or leave. That’s what liberty is all about. The freedom to leave when you do not or can no longer abide with the agenda of your group.

Be smart. Educate yourself and develop your own positions and political stance. Don’t be a robot following other’s agenda. Be an individual and make your own