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Opinion

As a pop-culture-challenged individual, my interest is activated when I recognize a name in the entertainment news. The current paparazzi pole position is owned by 1976 Olympic gold-medalist, Bruce Jenner, or for those under 40, the reality TV-star and Vanity Fair cover girl, Caitlyn Jenner. The Jenner story is something that probably should be ignored but it's like walking past someone's laptop - you just can't help but look to see what's on the screen.

The 1976 Olympics in Montreal was a great show. It was a time when it seemed everyone was watching and talking about the competition. 1976 was in the thick of the first Cold War. Olympic Games, and not war games, were the preferred method of projecting strength for the super powers. Questions concerning gender involved the musclebound Bulgarian or the East German women's track and field teams. In Montreal, 26-year-old American Bruce Jenner, earned the title of “World's Greatest Athlete” winning the decathlon. I identified with him. It wasn't because I could run very fast or far or throw a javelin, but we both had the same haircut, which I still have.

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As this is being written, it's been a few days since we have been left “unprotected” by the full force of the "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act," or commonly known as the Patriot Act.

The main “appropriate tool” that has legally expired is metadata collection. As a refresher, this data mining is said by the government to be impersonal in nature and therefore of no threat to lawabiding Americans. Cell phone records such as who you call and who calls you, plus duration and location of communications is not considered an infringement of privacy of any real consequence. The NSA has insisted that they do not conduct warrantless eavesdropping on our actual phone conversations but then again, a similar denial was made concerning metadata collection before Edward Snowden revealed otherwise.

The odd thing is, that the trolling of bulk data isn't even mentioned in the original Patriot Act. Verbal sleight of hand is used to imply otherwise. Section 215 of the Patriot Act is claimed by the White House to be the “legal basis” for metadata collection. Since virtually no one is going to read that section or any portion of the Patriot Act, the claim of “legal basis” is accepted as correct or at least plausible.

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We now have a fourth branch of government.

This fourth branch came into being without any electoral mandate or constitutional referendum, and yet it possesses superpowers, above and beyond those of any other government agency save the military. It is allknowing, all-seeing and all-powerful. It operates beyond the reach of the president, Congress and the courts, and it marches in lockstep with the corporate elite who really call the shots in Washington, DC.

You might know this branch of government as Surveillance, but I prefer “technotyranny,” a term coined by investigative journalist James Bamford to refer to an age of technological tyranny made possible by government secrets, government lies, government spies and their corporate ties.

Beware of what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go, and with whom you communicate, because it will all be recorded, stored and used against you eventually, at a time and place of the government’s choosing. Privacy, as we have known it, is dead.

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“Schadenfreude” is a German word for the “pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.” Psychologists believe that this sentiment has a correlation with envy and low selfesteem. However, I have a feeling, that virtually no one is immune from occasional bouts of schadenfreude. Maybe this explains why the daily news tends to be pessimistic. Perhaps we are only being served the madness and mayhem that our psyches crave.

The perception that there is too much “bad news” is a complaint often made by people who read, listen and watch a fair amount of it. It's depressing, but they can't turn away. I've gone off on a news bender a time or two and know the feeling. Digesting too much news is like chewing bubble gum way after the flavor is gone. It just makes your jaw sore.

A study done last year at Canada's McGill University demonstrated that most people, even those who claim to prefer positive news, tend to seek out the negative. Participants at computer terminals were told that they were part of "a study of eye tracking," when actually it was articles they chose that were being tracked. (Doesn't everybody know by now that studies like these are a ruse in order to test something else?) The majority of the stories read by those tested were on the dark side of the news spectrum.

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