Poor Man Survival
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Big Brother and others are stalking you
Ron Paul recently said that governments will use COVID-19 as an excuse to "...dramatically expand the surveillance state via real-time tracking." I hate to break the news to him, but it's been happening already.
In fact, if you get that creepy feeling that somebody's watching you, you're probably right. And Ron Paul is also right, that your privacy is at risk. Even your safety could be at risk. What if you just drove to the wrong place at the wrong time and then you get falsely accused of a crime? At the very least, your movements and habits are being sold as data.
Cameras are everywhere, recording the movements of all who pass them. Traffic cams, dash cams and security cams in stores, office buildings and homes monitor your comings and goings in still photos and video.
By themselves, these images can reveal what went on at a particular location at a particular time. Many can't directly identify who was involved. But in the case of automobiles, simple scanners can read license-plate numbers, exposing the identity of the vehicle and its owner, if not its occupants.
Big Brother is using this technology to spy on millions of vehicles traveling the nation's highways. The Wall Street Journal reported it had learned from present and former officials and government documents that the Justice Department has been building a national database to keep tabs on vehicles all over the country in a secret spy program that scans and stores hundreds of millions of records on the movements of motorists.
The intent of the license-plate tracking program, which is run by the Drug Enforcement Administration under the Justice Department, is to seize cars, cash and other assets from drug-runners, according to a government document. The program originally focused on states in the Southwest, including the major drug-smuggling routes through Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas. Florida and Georgia were added, and the program expanded eventually to include the entire U.S.
The database can be accessed by other law enforcement agencies hunting for vehicles that may be associated with a variety of serious crimes such as kidnapping, murder and rape. It has also been used in conjunction with the Amber Alert program to help find abducted children. The national database was launched in 2008 and was made available to state and local law enforcement agencies a year later.
Requests for information from the database are handled by the El Paso Intelligence Center in Texas. Known as EPIC in law enforcement circles, the database can now be accessed by any participating police agency 24 hours a day.
No crime? Too bad
The cooperation between Feds and other law enforcement agencies is a two-way street. Data recorded by local and state police dash cams and traffic cams is being fed into the database, though officials will not reveal which states are involved over concerns of giving useful information to criminals.
The program captures data about vehicle movements showing the time, direction and location, and in some cases records images of the occupants clear enough to make out who they are. With images collected from multiple sources, the data can show a very accurate path of travel for a given vehicle — not just the drug-runners but your car as well.
The stated purpose of the license-plate tracking program is to enable asset forfeiture, a weapon used by the DEA to seize property from the criminals, according to an internal email in 2010. This is the controversial practice of seizing cars, cash and other valuables from suspected criminals to ratchet up the cost of doing illegal business. The practice is being questioned because of reported instances when seizures have allegedly been made without any evidence of a crime involved.
One DEA employee even suggested using surveillance cameras to snap photos of vehicle license plates near gun shows in the U.S. to check up on gun trafficking. DEA Administrator Michelle Leonhart issued a statement in January saying it was only a suggestion that was never authorized and never put into action. An Associated Press report said that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not authorize or approve the license-plate surveillance plan. Still, I can't help wondering if some eager agent operating independently has tried the idea out.
When the government invades your privacy — whether by searching your car, or tracking it — it is supposed to notify you of that intrusion. Except now that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has been re-authorized for another two years, under Section 702, "the government is required to tell individuals that it has spied on them only in very limited circumstances: when the government intends to use evidence that was gathered with the help of such a search in a criminal trial or other legal proceeding," according to the ACLU.
So much for privacy in your car. California is even considering using garbage trucks to spy on citizens. And did you know that tow truck companies and repo crews photograph millions of plates a day?
From Car and Driver magazine: They have "... scanners mounted on tow trucks and even on purpose-built camera cars whose sole mission is to drive around and collect plate scans. Each scan is GPS-tagged and stamped with the date and time, feeding a massive data trove to any law-enforcement agency — or government-approved private industry — willing to pay for it.
"You've probably been tagged at the office, at a mall, or even in your own driveway. And the companies that sell specialized monitoring software that assembles all these sightings into a reliable profile stand to profit hugely."
And now with drone-mounted cameras soon to be flitting all over the sky, you basically won't be able to move without being observed and recorded by somebody else.
The problem with all this is that there are no consistent national rules that govern how law enforcement people can use this information, how long it can be kept and how widely it can be distributed. That opens a huge can of squirming privacy worms.
Of course, the basic presumption is that anytime you are visible from a public viewpoint, you're fair game to have your picture taken by anybody, including the government. But how that information is collected, stored, shared and used by government agencies is a matter of growing concern among privacy advocates.
"Any database that collects detailed location information about Americans not suspected of crimes raises very serious privacy questions," said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU. "It's unconscionable that technology with such far-reaching potential would be deployed in such secrecy. People might disagree about exactly how we should use such powerful surveillance technologies, but it should be democratically decided, it shouldn't be done in secret. "
I have often said to you that I'm all for giving law enforcement agencies useful tools to nab criminals. But when those tools threaten the privacy of citizens, a line must be drawn. In this case, the license-plate reading technology is indiscriminate and records images of all traffic passing before the cameras, even families on the way to grandma's house for Sunday dinner.
The fact that the license-plate reader program is so secretive may be understandable given the nature of its purpose (the less the crooks know about it, the better), but the big question of oversight and control to prevent abuses concerns me.
There's not much you can do to avoid having your car photographed when you drive. Even license-plate scanning shields don't stop photographs. One possibility is the GPS-enabled radar detector. These store camera locations and use their GPS locations to warn you that you are approaching one.
You can walk more, ride a bike, take public transportation or even rent a car, although there is a record of your credit card transaction. You can also take a taxi and pay cash, or use a car-sharing service. You can still be monitored through surveillance cameras, but there's no license-plate number involved.
Yourcaryourdata.org is attempting to create a driver bill of rights. But the simple fact is, we do much of the damage to ourselves. We're sharing our private data with more and more devices that are directly connected to our cars, and that data is being extracted.
Passing laws to limit the use of license-plate data and location
data makes most people feel good. But government routinely ignores these laws
in the name of "protecting" us. So you can contact your city, state
and federal lawmakers to let them know of your privacy concerns over the
license-plate reader technology in the hands of government. But don't be surprised
if the only thing that works is changing your behavior.
Yours for the truth,
For long-term survival, you will need to grow some of your own food (which is also the healthiest option of accruing food, as I have written to you about before) and plant some medicinal herbs as well.
Some of these grow wild in many parts of North America. But it would be easier to be able to harvest them in time of need rather than having to forage for them.
Recommended medicinal herbs are:
- Andrographis — It greatly reduces symptoms of the common cold. You can grow this "king of bitters" from a seed if you live in a humid climate with lots of sun.
- Bee Balm — Used by American Indians. Can be an antiseptic, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic and stimulant. It was used to treat colds, headaches and gastric disorders. Grows wild in eastern North America from British Columbia to Georgia, and also in Mexico.
- Boneset — Used by American Indians as a stimulant, fever reducer and laxative. Found throughout North America.
- Cayenne Pepper — Used to treat colds and sore throats.
- Echinacea — Also called Goldenseal, it was used by American Indians to cure many ailments including snake bites, rabies, toothaches, sore throats, colds, venereal disease, smallpox, chickenpox and eye infections. Grows wild throughout North America.
- Garlic — Major benefits regarding the heart and stopping cardiovascular disease. It relaxes blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.
- Jewelweed — Used by American Indians to treat skin rashes including poison ivy and poison oak. Grows in eastern North America from Canada to Florida.
- Peppermint — Useful in relieving indigestion, nausea and internal gas. Peppermint tea is recommended for headaches and can be used as a mild sedative.
- Rosemary — Can be used as a tonic and stimulant and to treat digestive disorders and headaches.
- Sage — At one time or another has been offered as a cure for just about anything. It is especially useful in treating cold symptoms and relieving sore throat pain and for canker sores.
- Slippery Elm Root — This native North American elm variety is a good remedy if you're coughing or sneezing or dealing with some type of upper respiratory infection. It helps coat and protect your inflamed, sensitive throat.
- St. Johns Wort — Imported to North America by Europeans, it is used for its antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. It now grows wild in much of North America.
- Stinging Nettle — When properly prepared can be used as a tea, is edible and can treat bronchial conditions and infections. It should be picked wearing gloves to avoid the sting. Stings can be treated with jewelweed.
- Thyme — Considered one of nature's most powerful antiseptics. It is used in toothpastes and mouthwashes, as an expectorant and cough suppressant. Can be brewed in tea and is a gargle for sore throats.
Other remedies that can be found in nature include:
- Acorns — Cracked and boiled in water, they can be used to treat poison ivy and poison oak.
- Dandelion — Which grows wild in many a lawn, can be used in a salad or used to make wine. It also is a mild laxative, an appetite stimulant and a diuretic.
- Honey — Which is an antibacterial agent. Local honey also reduces allergic reactions.
- Rhodiola — It's classified as an "adaptogen." This means it can help normalize your body's response to stress.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki recently reiterated President Joe Biden's desire to go after America's millions of lawful gun owners when she said that Biden "would love to see action" on gun-control measures. Read More
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