Did you know the Post Office sells your information?

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I wish I had known this long ago. I would never have put in forwarding requests. It’s mean, it’s ignorant, and from a moral standpoint it’s downright reprehensible – but it’s legal, and they do it gleefully to get gain.

After our recent move to the wilds of Utah to the east coast, I put in three forwarding requests – one for our personal mail, and two for businesses. Little did I know that this would cause me no end of trouble, as that information was instantly transmitted to marketing agencies and basically anyone who has two coppers to rub together, and immediately began receiving junk mail and having my new information appear on automatically scraped websites.

Here’s the Forbes article I found – a bit dated, but still valid – that opened my eyes to this dirty little secret.

Whenever you fill out a change of address form with the United States Postal Service, the USPS adds your new details into a database of 160 million previous address changes over the past four years. The USPS has deals with data brokers to sell this data to anyone who pays, provided they have your old address. That means data firms cannot buy the address of Leroy Jones in Cincinnati, but can obtain his new address if they know where he used to live, which they usually do anyway.

This is, in a word, filthy. The PO’s responsibility is to get my mail from here to there, and that’s where their responsibility ends. To take people’s personal info and sell it to data brokers is nothing short of criminal, and it shouldn’t be permitted.

So this time, when we move from our temporary apartment to the home that we will – it is to be hoped – shortly be purchasing, I will not be relying on the PO to forward my mail. In plenty of time, I hope to inform our critical correspondents of our new address individually, and let the junk mail  get returned to sender.

There is supposedly a loophole, although I don’t know if I trust the Post Office as far as I could throw a grand piano:

There is, however, a loophole that keeps data brokers from accessing your updated address. When you fill out the online form to change an address, you can indicate a temporary change that provides six months of forwarding that can then be extended for another six months.  That information, unlike the changes marked as permanent, is not included in the master list sold to data brokers.

Time will tell.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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The People Here *still* Don’t Want a War.

Newser, one of my favorite aggregators, recently published a summary of an article by Stephen Peter Rosen at Wall Street Journal entitled

We Need to Sell Young People on War

Even though the body of the article is behind a paywall, if Newser’s summary is any indication this entire premise is pure kack. Never forget that Congress and the President make war, but it’s our soldiers who fight them; to the latter, honor and respect – to the former, my disdain. If every congressperson who voted to waste noble American blood and resources on futile and inhumane causes were given a weapon and shipped to the front lines, the votes would quickly be different. As Chaucer spake, moste witerliche:

“Up roos tho oon of thise olde wise, and with his hand made contenaunce that men sholde holden hem stille and yeven hym audience. “Lordynges,” quod he, “ther is ful many a man that crieth ‘Werre! Werre!’ that woot ful litel what werre amounteth. Werre at his bigynnyng hath so greet an entryng and so large, that every wight may entre whan hym liketh, and lightly fynde werre; but certes, what ende that shal therof bifalle, it is nat light to knowe. For soothly, whan that werre is ones bigonne, ther is ful many a child unborn of his mooder that shal sterve yong by cause of thilke werre, or elles lyve in sorwe and dye in wrecchednesse. And therfore, er that any werre bigynne, men moste have greet conseil and greet deliberacion.”

For those not comfortable with Middle English, this is what Chaucer wrote:

“And up rose an old man, and with his hand he made signs that men should be silent and listen to him. “My lords,” he said, there is many a man who cries ‘War! War!’ who knows little of what war means. War, at its beginning, has such a great and large commencement that any poor yutz [my translation] can jump in and find war; but it is certain that it is not easy to say what the end will bring. For of a truth, when that war has once begun, there is many an unborn child who shall die young because of this war, or else live in sorrow and die in wretchedness. And therefore, before any war begins, men must have great counsel and deliberation.”

The only reason war is justified – in my poor and simple view, is to “support our lands, and our houses, and our wives, and our children, that we might preserve them from the hands of our enemies; and also that we might preserve our rights and our privileges, and our liberty.”  [1] Insane conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, waged to preserve what we consider to be our oil, our power, and our influence do not now fall under this head, and never shall.

Take note: I believe in a strong defense against all enemies foreign and domestic. I do not believe in disbanding the military. But I do believe that a vast percentage of our nation’s resources are being squandered on inhuman and inhumane causes. Have a look at the OMB’s chart showing the president’s 2014 recommendations for discretionary spending:

spending_-_discretionary_pie_2014_big

With so many people in this country out of work, with so many children going to bed hungry every night, with so many roads and bridges crumbling to the point of catastrophe, with funding for education and science being cut year by year, a military budget that size is unconscionable and obscene. This is not building a world that works for everyone, but a travesty of global proportions.

With apologies to Bobby Darin, the people here *still* don’t want a war.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

—————-

[1] Paraphrased from The Book of Mormon, Alma 43:9

 

Stupidity, hard at work in the White House

Stamps

The Post Office designed a new set of stamps to encourage kids to get active. Great idea, right?

Unfortunately, thanks to some Old_Wolf_Censoredon the President’s Council on Fitness, the project has now been put on hold, because it appears that these three stamps are promoting “unsafe” activities:

danger

The stamps deemed unsafe by federal officials included illustrations of kids skateboarding without kneepads, doing a cannonball dive into a swimming pool, and doing a handstand without wearing a helmet. A handstand without wearing a helmet???

There are times I really wish I could swear. Of all the chuckleheaded, doltish, ludicrous, ill-considered, short-sighted and politically correct nonsense I have ever heard, this takes the cake. YOU BLISTERING SIMPLETONS! Yes, I’m SHOUTING! Did you get run over by the stupid truck? What, are you going to put federal monitors on every school playground and in every backyard, to make sure kids don’t run, jump, do cartwheels, tumble, climb trees, roll down hills, do somersaults, and everything kids do to enjoy life and burn off energy? [1]

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I’ve written about the difference between safety and paranoia, but it appears the general trend continues in favor of paranoia, fueled largely by attorneys hungry for billable hours and with far too much time on their hands. For the love of anything you consider holy, every single one of those activities on the stamp sheet come with some inherent risks; we might as well curl up in a ball under our bed if we’re worried about safety to that extent. At least that way, nothing will get us but the dust mites.

I don’t believe in violence, but things like this are very stressful for me [2].

It was earlier reported that the entire run of stamps is being destroyed, but according to USPS spokeman Roy Betts, “The stamps are on hold and a decision would be made later.”

You can read more about this mind-boggling witlessness at ABC News.


[1] It appears stupidity is not limited to the USA. A school in Australia actually tried to ban kids from doing cartwheelsOld_Wolf_BrainNuke

[1] Stress: The confusion created when one’s mind overrides the body’s basic desire to choke the living daylights out of some jerk who desperately deserves it.


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Post 1000: An Open Letter to Congress and the White House

This is my 1000th post on this blog since I began writing 18 months ago. I wish I had a happier topic to write about, but today is day 3 of an inexcusable, unconscionable, and cruel shutdown of our “government.” Notice those scare quotes there… they were placed for a reason.

We do not have a government. What we have is this:

three_way_tantrum

Babies.

Babies in a miserable, wretched sandbox fight.

Babies crying about not getting their way. Throwing sand, pulling hair, crying, taking their ball and going home… babies who are charged with the stewardship of trillions of dollars, not a single one of which belongs to them. They are fighting amongst themselves for only one reason – to shore up their support for the next election. And in the meantime, thousands of workers have been furloughed, parks are closed, visitors are being turned away, revenue is being lost, women and children in desperate need are unable to get supplemental food, critical space projects[1] are coming close to missing deadlines imposed not by some mid-level government functionary but by physicsbitches, our debt rating with the world is being flushed down the toilet, along with seven jillionteen other detrimental consequences, and still they sit there, crying, beating their breasts about dogma and ideology, and not giving a rat’s south-40 that almost all of America, regardless of political persuasion, is saying,

Stop it!

stop-just-stop

As a body, you are not governing. You’re not doing the job you were elected to do.  Although a few of you see the folly and are doing your best to make things happen, but the numbers just aren’t there in the face of all the partisan, ideological obstructionism that pervades both houses of Congress and the presidency, and we, the people, are sick to death of it. As for me, I want to slap every one of you until you come to your senses.

We need jobs. We need education. We need healthcare for every citizen of this country, regardless of their ability to pay. We need to work on reducing poverty, crime, alienation, disenfranchisement, and a host of other social ills – and you arrogant, selfish, short-sighted, privileged buffoons sit there and allow the mechanism that our founding fathers put in place to address those problems to shut down.

garbage

This is where I’m at. I’m disgusted with all of you. I would like to see a total sweep. But in very truth, things are reaching a tipping point.

You, the “leaders” of our country who are leading us nowhere but into deprivation and destruction, are fast approaching a time when voting you out of office will not be enough; rather, you are courting insurrection among the people whom you are charged to govern, and if it comes to that, it will be upon your own heads. America is champing at the bit for a chance to clean the inward vessel.

Take heed. Get off your privileged butts and get the government back to work. Hundreds of millions of people, of whom 15% live in poverty and a much vaster percentage can feel economic terror snapping at their heels on a daily basis, depend on you to do your jobs. Now stop throwing sand, and do them.

The Old Wolf has spoken.[2]


[1] The next time you wonder about what good comes from space exploration and research, have a look at your GPS-enabled phone.
[2] And I’m quite pleased that I was able to express my feelings without sinking to the level of vulgar profanity that I feel is warranted by this debacle.

NSA vs. the World

Over at Reddit, user /u/SexualWeasel came up with the idea for this new NSA logo, which was then vectorized by user /u/joystick354:

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This absolutely begged to be turned into something else, and redditor /u/Sqorck went ahead and did it. Amazingly well.

For your gratuitous enjoyment, I present you with USA vs. NSA:

An alternate version was also created – you can decide for yourself which one you like best:

I have insufficient words to describe how awesome I think these are.

Naturally, the original concept came from Pixar, to whom credit and apologies are offered.

The Old Wolf has spoken, and the NSA is listening.


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Lies, Spies, and Videotape.

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Edward Snowden. Hero? Traitor? Irrelevant?

It’s a big deal, and the calls for lionization, incarceration, exculpation, evaporation, and a lot of other “-ations” are beginning to ring from coast to coast and across the world.

I have no doubt the NSA, CIA, FBI, and Mogg knows what other hush-hush agencies would like to see this man suffer in the fiery heat of Satan’s hottest furnace for eternity. On the other hand, civil libertarians are calling for an immediate pardon for a man they see as a brave and fearless national hero.

It appears that Snowden certainly broke the law in releasing the information that he did, but in so doing it also appears that he brought to light an even greater violation of principles than he himself is guilty of. So where do we draw the line?

mission-impossible-season-5

“As usual, if you or any member of your IM force is caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.”

Sean Connery as James Bond

License to Kill

Spies are paid to lie. Governments who employ them lie on a regular basis. The popularity of the action/spy thrillers on TV and in movies proves that we expect, nay, demand it. In real life it may not be right, but it becomes a matter of national security in some cases; nations simply don’t operate along the same moral lines as we would like them to. Can you imagine what would happen if governments were  completely open, honest, and transparent with one another? [1] The “good guys” are pretty much obliged to resort to deception and subterfuge to combat the “bad guys,” and keep their nations safe. That’s what the NSA and the CIA are there to do. For what it’s worth, we even spy on our friends. Don’t ask me how I know… I’d have to lie to protect certain other people.

Unfortunately, the CIA and NSA and other alphabet-soup agencies have also been tasked with things that have much less to do with keeping our nation safe than with keeping it rich, at the expense of other governments and peoples. If you’d like a glimpse into that shadowy world, read “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” by John Perkins; it will most likely raise both your eyebrows and your conscience. An extract of Amazon’s review:

“John Perkins started and stopped writing Confessions of an Economic Hit Man four times over 20 years. He says he was threatened and bribed in an effort to kill the project, but after 9/11 he finally decided to go through with this expose of his former professional life. Perkins, a former chief economist at Boston strategic-consulting firm Chas. T. Main, says he was an “economic hit man” for 10 years, helping U.S. intelligence agencies and multinationals cajole and blackmail foreign leaders into serving U.S. foreign policy and awarding lucrative contracts to American business. “Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars,” Perkins writes. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is an extraordinary and gripping tale of intrigue and dark machinations. Think John Le Carré, except it’s a true story.”

What has been revealed by Snowdon goes far, far beyond keeping our nation safe from external evils; it has much more to do with controlling a domestic population, and despite groans and sobs of denial from those in the know, I can’t believe – I refuse to believe – that this massive accumulation of data can and will not be used for financial and potentiary gain by those in a position to access and use it.

And the fact that this mind-boggling misuse power was authorized years ago by the “patriot act” does not make it any more right. I’m glad it came to light, and I’m glad there’s a dialog going on, and I hope that some people are going to get their feet held to the fire, and I hope that what comes out of it is more transparency, and better for the citizenry of our country than for the power brokers.

I don’t condone illegal behavior. But I do believe in the principle of the “greater good.” I think Mr. Snowdon has recognized that his actions would carry a heavy price, and it was a price he is willing to pay to act according to the dictates of his conscience. I have no idea how all this is going to play out, but for me, at this moment, I’m keeping him in the plus column.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


[1] Somewhere out there is a science fiction story (or perhaps creative fantasy) about a special blend of coffee that mutates somewhere, and has the stunning effect of making people reasonable. After drinking some of it, the French delegate to the UN stands up and shouts, “It’s all balls!” In the end, the entire world has partaken, and governments actually start acting with decency and common sense, for the good of all the people of the world. I have never been able to relocate this story. If it sounds similar to Mark Clifton’s 1952 story “The Conqueror,” that’s not surprising – instead of coffee it was a mutant pychotropic dahlia root that changed the world:

“So it came about that one by one the members of the Politbureau tasted of the dahlia, even to the leader himself.

All of this took much time, and meanwhile heads of other nations who were not so suspicious of every shadow, and not so inaccessible, were eating regularly of the dahlia.

When finally the sincere word of peace and goodwill came ringing from Moscow to all the world, it was echoed back with all sincerity.”

A lovely story. Read it, if you’d like a smile.

A Sad Tale of Abuse of Power

On May 21, 2012, Barbara Alice Mahaffey died of colon cancer in her home in Vernal, Utah. It was 12:35 AM, and her husband Ben and a friend who was also an EMT were at her side. Within ten minutes, a hospice worker and a mortician were present to attend to the remains… along with Vernal police officers Shawn Smith and Rod Eskelson. Instead of allowing Mr. Mahaffey to grieve and attend to his wife’s body, they insisted that he stop what he was doing and help them search for any prescription painkillers his wife had been using.

The search was warrantless. No one knows how the police came to be there in the first place.

“I was indignant to think you can’t even have a private moment. All these people were there and they’re not concerned about her or me. They’re concerned about the damn drugs. Isn’t that something?” Mahaffey said. Mahaffey said he was treated as if he were going to sell the painkillers, which included OxyContin, oxycodone and morphine, on the street. “I had no interest in the drugs,” he said. “I’m no addict.”

Not surprisingly, Mr. Mahaffey wasn’t happy about what happened, or how he was treated. He complained. And the story gets worse.

Mr. Mahaffey says he asked Assistant Police Chief Campbell where his officers had gotten authority to enter the home without invitation and conduct a warrantless search, and was abruptly told that the Utah Controlled Substances Act granted the requisite authority.

City Manager Ken Bassett dismissed plaintiff’s concerns by saying that his own parents had recently passed away, and that although their prescription drugs had not been seized by the police, he would not have cared had the police done so. He also informed Mr. Mahaffey that he was being “overly sensitive to the actions by the police, and that the police were only acting to protect the public from the illegal use of the prescription drugs.”

The city attorney told Mahaffey that his contract with Good Shepherd Hospice waived his rights to be protected from police intrusion in his home, but no such clause in the contract appears to exist.

Chief of Police Dylan Rooks allegedly told Mr. Mahaffey that “this is a great program and we’re going to continue it,” meaning the active pursuit of drugs in the community.

After trying to have “meaningful, man-to-man” conversations with Vernal officials, and finding them “rude and condescending,” Mr. Mahaffey turned to the courts and filed a federal lawsuit against the city, police officials and the two police officers who invaded his home.

I don’t much care for attorneys, and there are far too many frivolous lawsuits clogging up our court system. In this case, however, it appears that everyone in Vernal has lost their sense of decency and humanity.

“Note the utter lack of compassion, the inability to see a grieving husband as anything other than a potential drug dealer. Note the priorities on display. The most important thing the cops had to do that day was get those drugs out of that house. Preventing someone from using Barbara Mahaffey’s pills to get high, or preventing Ben Mahaffey from–God forbid–using pain medication not prescribed to him at some point in the future, was more important than giving a widower a last moment of dignity to say goodbye to his wife of 58 years.” (Radley Balko, Huffpost)

The maraschino cherry on top of this cake of shame is found in this article from the Salt Lake Tribune, which reports that a former Vernal detective has been charged with stealing prescription medication from a couple under the guise of repeated “pill checks.” It would seem that the elected and appointed officials in Vernal would do well to cleanse the inner vessel and re-examine their priorities. Violating basic dignities at one of the most sensitive moments in a person’s life bespeaks a shameful lack of humanity; this lawsuit should act as a wakeup call for those involved, but based on the response thus far, what I’m predicting is that they will circle the wagons, deny any wrongdoing, and continue their campaign of ignoring fundamental civic rights.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


Sources: