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Opinion Editorial

Tinky Winky and the TeleTubbies demonstrate what goes around, comes around. For those of you lucky enough to have forgotten the controversy from 1999, Tinky Winky, is a children's animated TV character who was alleged by evangelist Jerry Falwell, to be symbol of homosexuality. Based on rock solid evidence such as the character wearing a purple jump suit and sporting a triangleshaped antenna on his head, the claim of being a gay recruitment officer garnered a fair amount of press and paranoia. Fast forward 16 years and some of the same people who recognized the absurdity of symbolic threats have turned around and set their sights on the Confederate flag.

Warner Bros. announced that it is ending the production of toys and other replicas of The General Lee, the car from the TV show, “The Dukes of Hazzard.” The iconic orange 1969 Dodge Charger is a symbol of the popular 1980's program, but because of the Confederate flag image on its roof, it is considered by some, to be a symbol of racial intolerance. The provocative Daisy Duke action figure is still available with no current outcry of it being a symbol of male chauvinism and there is no word yet of plans to pixelate The General Lee's flag in video episodes of the show, but we do have the technology to protect sensitive eyes.

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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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