Portland ranks among the Top 10 Most Surveilled U.S. Cities, according to Cybernews. Atlanta tops the list.
We live in a world where surveillance is a fact of life. Any encrypted software product may be backdoored, and even if it is not, you have no guarantee that the person on the other end does not have spyware such as keystroke monitoring or screen video capture running on their system. Encryption enthusiasts and amateur hackers, no matter how valiant, simply cannot compete with a nation-state in this game. Cf Pegasus.
Sneak and Peek, or “No Knock,” Warrants have been around since the Patriot Act was passed in 2001, but they receive scant attention from the media. What they mean is that you may have your home searched, and items removed from your home, without any official notice from law enforcement. Ditto for electronic files. If you file a FOIA request and the investigation in which you are named is still ongoing, you will not receive any confirmation that a warrant exists. (Pat Eddington, Cato Institute)
The most frightening aspect of these warrants is the potential for planting false evidence. The second most frightening aspect is the potential for planting surveillance devices for tracking and listening — as if cell phones were not effective enough.
“Nothing to Hide?”
Like roughly 2/3 of the U.S. population, I reside within the 100-mile “border zone” where Border Patrol agents are granted additional authorities and the Constitutional protections of the Fourth Amendment no longer apply. You may think all of this is irrelevant if you are a law-abiding citizen.
The problem is that who you know can get you put on a list.It can also make you a target. To put it another way, we all know somebody who has a cousin who is a drug dealer.
Laws in this country are changing, and not (in my opinion) for the better. Roe v. Wade is gone, and civil rights for gays and lesbians may soon disappear as this country takes a hard shift right. Remember ICE? Children in cages? Forced sterilizations?
Come 2024, they may all be back.
If you don’t feel like being a freedom fighter, if your first priority is keeping your family safe and saving for your children’s college tuition, I am not here to judge. Just remember that in a world where power rules in place of law, abuse of that power is an inevitable consequence.
Get in a traffic accident with somebody employed by the surveillance state? What if one of them rapes your daughter? Or your son? When a large class of individuals are above the law, nothing good will come of it. This is especially true when the same individuals fear consequences from their actions. They tend to lash out and do everything they can to harm and intimidate witnesses and injured parties.
I am not an America-hater. Far from it. The country I grew up in gave me 40+ years of freedom in its purest form: freedom to explore, to create, to love and befriend those I chose, to work as much or as little as I liked. Freedom to just be. I am a GenXer. I don’t mean to talk like a crusty old-timer, but I believe I’ve seen this nation at its absolute best.
Or maybe the best is yet to come.
Nothing is fixed. Nothing is certain.
The combined 2022 budget of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the 17 different United States spying agencies (of which CIA and NSA are only two) is over $150 billion.For comparison, that is roughly one fifth of the Department of Defense 2022 budget of $742B. But remember, the DOD budget covers submarines, fighter jets, aircraft carriers, helicopters, tanks, nuclear weapons, and anti-missile defense systems, not to mention an active network of bases around the world. That’s a lot of people and hardware.
What exactly are we paying for? This remains largely unclear. Marijuana is now legal in 19 out of 50 states, but the DEA’s funding continues to grow. If you were an officer monitoring wiretaps and running undercover operations in Colorado or Washington State, where and to what were you reassigned? And as far as truly terrifying threats to health and safety, the surveillance state could be doing a much better job. We read about mass shootings in the news practically every week. It failed to prevent the violent attempted coup at our nation’s capitol on January 6, 2021.
Your tax dollars at work, my friends.
Government salaries range from $20K (GS-1) to $147K(GS-15) — much less than the equivalent in the private sector. If we assume that wages (including benefits) average $100,000 per year, we would expect that the surveillance states employs as many as 1.5 million people in the United States. Keeping in mind, that is not accounting for slush funds to be distributed overseas, or James Bond style gadgetry, server space, or the cost of buildings and operations.But if we slash that number in half, that is still one federal domestic spy for every 440 U.S. citizens.
And that’s a lot.
Regarding terminology, “federal domestic spy” includes FBI informers, often recruited under duress or experiencing economic hardship. It does not include state or local police forces.
I am an extremely law-abiding citizen. That has protected me to some extent, but not completely. Somebody who has cheated on their taxes or who runs a warez server with their friends is at high risk of being “turned” and pressured by law enforcement to inform on others and further widen the surveillance network.
If you wish to minimize the risk that a conversation will be overheard, consider the New Yorker Protocol.
The New Yorker protocol consists of three simple steps:
Assume good intent. I am not interested in contact with people for purposes of criminal profiteering (drugs or other contraband) or with groups that instigate violence. My philosophy is nonviolence except in the case of self-defense. I am only interested in working with people who share these values.
Confirm receipt as soon as possible.If somebody emails you asking to meet for coffee, say, “Hey, I got your email. Swamped right now! Will be back in touch to coordinate a time.” If somebody you know leaves a signed, sealed note taped to your front door with instructions to communicate only by dropping messages in yonder hollow tree, then by all means, drop them a note asking, “Did I get the right tree?”
Allow up to 90 days when making a major decision. Depending on the stakes involved, this might be anything from agreeing to meet somebody for the first time for coffee to participating in civil disobedience or leaking a story to the news media. If you feel certain of your course of action sooner than that, of course it is ok to let the other person know. Likewise, if you know you are not down for whatever the person is asking, don’t feel that you need to respond at all. The basic courtesy of acknowledging receipt (Step 2) is enough.
Two of these three steps come directly from the New Yorker writer’s guidelines for submitting unsolicited short fiction manuscripts. I was so taken with these guidelines (in particular, their clarity and brevity) that I submitted a short story almost on the spot. I don’t expect that it will get published, but I do appreciate that 90 days after sending it in I am free to re-submit wherever I like. I also appreciate that immediately after emailing my story as an attachment, I received an auto-responder email acknowledging receipt.
The New Yorker protocol should by no means be restricted to clandestine activities. I consider it an effective strategy for social and business networking as well.
Creating an expectation to observe and respect these simple guidelines is an essential first step to initiate an effective communications process that is platform- and technology-independent and minimizes surveillance risk.
I am concerned because while I was in Phoenix, AZ earlier this month I encountered a dangerous piece of malware allowing an outside entity to take control of a phone.
The thing that complicated matters was that my cell phone locked up on me. Nobody ever touched it — I hadn’t clicked on any links recently or installed any new apps. It just went dark, with a tiny bit of purple visible. Occasionally it would come back to life, but not reliably.
The source of this vulnerability is almost certainly Bluetooth. I recommend turning off Bluetooth on your phones as a precautionary measure.
I would like to explain what is confidential about this series. First and foremost, it is my name. I have an unusual first and last name combination, and I have had stalkers. For the purposes of this blog, I go by “Rose C.” That’s short for Rose City.
Here is my avatar:
If you don’t like it, I’m sorry. It was a public domain vector illustration that I adapted. People have many good and legitimate reasons for wishing to protect their privacy. To give just one example, this blog post gives advice to parents about how their children can avoid rape. It is based on personal experience.
The second reason I am using a pseudonym is that I may occasionally piss people off or cause strong reactions. I know we had over 600 unique visits on this site in the last week. Some of those may be ‘bots. Regardless, it appears that even though we do not advertise and rarely post on social media, real people do from time to visit our site. As a writer and creator, this makes me happy, I’d like to encourage it!
But you can’t be an honest journalist and never report anything negative.
For instance, right now I am typing this blog entry at Old Town Pizza in downtown Portland. So far, the experience has been only positive: good beer, a good slice, a comfortable corner booth to write at. It’s really nice, honestly, to find a space that’s not a strip club or a cabaret and still has affordable food and beverage in this neighborhood on a Sunday evening. Portland’s downtown isn’t what it used to be. It needs all our help to come back and thrive once more.
But perhaps something will go horribly wrong at this restaurant before I sign for the check! I cannot imagine what that might be, but I reserve the right to write a critical restaurant review if circumstances demand. That is another reason I choose to remain Rose C.
Something else you should know about PDX Local, if you have not visited before:
We have a number of different writers, and we welcome volunteers. We are not advertiser-supported. We accept donations, but to be honest there are a lot of other local organizations that can probably benefit more from your hard-earned cash. I will try to profile some of these in the weeks and months to come. Suggestions welcome.
We are free and independent media. We are here by choice.
Yours truly (that is to say Rose C.) has a contract job at a large and well-known corporation, but I would not call myself rich. Not by a long shot. I have a lot of credit card debt to pay off. Some of that is medical debt. Some comes from taking my ex-partner and his child along with me to South Korea on a business trip. Some comes from travel back to the East Coast to see friends and family. A lot comes from simply using credit to pay for all of life’s daily necessities (including groceries, utilities, and transportation) for approximately ten years, while I was toiling away as a startup founder, with enough money to pay my employees (including the aforementioned ex-partner) but not myself.
Do you hear the world’s tiniest violin playing here?
It’s been the ride of a lifetime, and it’s not over yet.
If my job vanished tomorrow (and I hope it doesn’t) I would go back to doing deliveries—driving for DoorDash and UberEats.
Restaurants are so important to our local economy. If they go away, I don’t know what Portland will become.
If you have parents or grandparents who live far away, you may be worried about the fact that you can’t help them with daily tasks. Luckily, there are many ways to help your senior loved one maintain a great quality of life, even if you can’t be there yourself to provide hands-on care. Read on for resources that can help the elderly in everyday life.
Find Tools to Help Your Senior Loved One with Important Financial Decisions
Finances are often a primary concern for persons in retirement. Make sure your parents or grandparents are managing their money wisely with some helpful tools.
Provide them with a smart assistant so they can do things like adjusting lighting and music hands-free.
Invest in a medical alert system with fall detection to bring you both peace of mind.
Find innovative ways to connect from afar, like virtual game nights.
Connect with Third-Party Providers to Ensure Your Loved One’s Needs Are Met
When you can’t provide hands-on help yourself, knowing there are others nearby to assist can bring you and your parents or grandparents peace of mind.
Find a senior-specific transportation service to help them get to appointments.
If cooking is a hassle, get a meal delivery service for them.
For seniors who need more hands-on support, get a caregiver.
If they are struggling with mental health issues, connect them to a virtual wellness practitioner. PDX Local offers a roundup.
Living far away from your senior loved one can be emotionally and practically challenging. However, there are many resources and tools to help you care for them from afar. Let the above guide inspire you.
Can vegan chocolate ever be as good as the real thing?
So many people can’t have dairy or follow a vegan diet. They don’t want to settle for hard, bitter chocolate. You can still get great tasting chocolate with that creamy mouth feel and not have dairy in it. We use coconut oil for a silky-smooth mouth feel. You get that milk chocolate mouth feel without the dairy.
How do you ensure that your products are ethically and sustainable sourced?
We order from companies who source their ingredients from reputable sources. Our organic cacao powder comes from the Dominican Republic and other locations in South America. It costs more but it’s worth it.
What are some of the health benefits of coconut oil? Why choose this over other dairy alternatives?
We chose coconut oil because of the truffle like texture it provides. It also a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT’s). It helps keep you satiated or feeling full. This means that only a few pieces of Cocacao will satisfy a craving.
We are a refrigerated chocolate due to the coconut oil. We use only 3-5 ingredients in Cocacao and no stabilizers or preservatives. Due to the low melting point of coconut oil we need to be kept in the refrigerator. It doesn’t go bad if it is left out, it only gets soft in a warmer environment. In stores you can find us in the refrigerated bakery, grab-n-go, or even by the dairy. Each store is different since refrigerated space is very limited.
I am always asked what do you do with Cocacao? YOU EAT IT! Cocacao is a decadent, delicious treat that is made from 3-5 simple ingredients, no refined sugar or dairy, silky-smooth texture, pre-portioned pieces, and will satisfy in small amounts. You can melt it in short bursts in the microwave (5-10 seconds), stir and pour over granola or ice cream (creates a magic shell). People will drop it in their coffee or smoothie. But really it is just a decadent dessert that everyone can enjoy, no matter what their diet looks like.
What is your favorite flavor?
My favorite flavor is our Blueberry. It has dried organic blueberries from Oregon in it. I love the chew of the fruit in it. The Hazelnut and Sea Salt is the most popular flavor. If you enjoy an after-dinner mint, then our Mint flavor is for you. It has the cool taste of peppermint. We have a Cayenne and Cinnamon flavor that has some kick to it. Those that like a spicy chocolate will enjoy this flavor. Our Pumpkin Spice seasonal flavor is like a chocolate pumpkin pie. And those that want simplicity, our Original flavor is for you. Only three organic ingredients.
Can you talk about how Cocacao came to be?
Ours is a story of Death, Divorce and Chocolate. After the loss of Jeff’s wife and my divorce, he asked me on our first date, “Do you like chocolate and coconut?”
My answer of yes led me to not only a new marriage, but to running a company. Jeff had a health need to have a treat that would not cause inflammation and I wanted a decadent chocolate that wouldn’t cause a migraine from refined sugar. For the full story, see “Our Story” on our website.
This essay isn’t being written to settle scores. It’s about setting the record straight. And also feminism.
And also, so this never has to happen to another woman.
This is a picture of me and you, from our town’s elections. You ran for City Council as a Democrat, and won. I really liked you and your husband and your daughter. I thought you were both supercool. You had one birthday where you asked everyone to make music mixes. You had another birthday party where you rented out a roller skating rink.
And then over time, you distanced yourself. You even left Go Greenfield, the Facebook page we had started together to promote positive news about our town. I think I know why.
Another woman worked for me briefly and then resigned from my company. I didn’t actually fire her. I just refused to give her some vacation time that she had asked for, and then she decided to stop showing up at work. She had been on the job for less than two months. After we parted ways, this former employee (not you) did everything she could to sabotage my company and wreck my personal life.
She made all of our friends choose between us. If they invited me to a party, she wouldn’t come. When I tried to talk to our mutual friends to make peace she blocked me. She had signed a nondisclosure agreement (something she wanted — I didn’t ask for one). I think the gag order made things worse. What happened, as far as I can tell, was that this woman didn’t say anything bad about me directly, but passively encouraged rumors to fly. Particularly in local Democratic Party circles. (She was also a City Council member.) Another influential female Democrat in that town, someone I had known since college, de-friended me without explanation.
What were people saying? I have no idea. I feared there were lies floating around: either that I was a prostitute or that I had broken up somebody’s marriage. All I can say is that I will swear on the Holy Bible that neither of those things are true. Same for porn, by the way. Wouldn’t go near that industry if my life depended on it.
I moved to this town because my husband left me for another woman. I know how it feels to lose everything. I would never want to be the other woman, or to be with a man who would cheat on his spouse. I know how people in small towns talk, because I heard the talk about everyone else. There I was, walking down Main Street to my office all summer long, wearing a sundress or a tank top (my house didn’t have central air conditioning). I think that was all it took.
It still surprised me when a Boston concertgoer told me he had met a woman from Greenfield, who claimed to have heard of me and told him that my reputation was “not good.” Maybe he was just making up that story. I don’t know. But maybe he wasn’t. My old company kept our existing clients, but we had sort of a donut hole when it came to new business.
We got more clients from suburbs and cities nearby, but local word-of-mouth dried up. There could have been other factors in play. Greenfield was in the midst of an opioid epidemic, so that could have been part of the problem too. It was never that bad. Nobody ever spat at me in the street as I passed by. I still had my friends. I still had the same web development company, which by the way is now in its tenth year of business.
Before Coronavirus we were one of the most visible and well-known independent businesses in town, after the natural foods co-op and the periodontist. But at the end of the day, there wasn’t enough money to pay me and pay the lead developer also. He brought in the majority of the billable hours, so I sold the company to him and moved to the West Coast, expecting to start over. Greenfield was for me my perfect place. I loved that you could find streets where chickens roamed free, great food, and amazing hiking trails. I knew that people were committed to making our schools and our library better. It may not have been as fashionable as some of the other towns but I was proud to call it home. I miss my town. I miss the house I bought. I wanted so much to give back. I expected to stay and grow old there.
Iris Vicencio-Rasku, you were elected to public office in Greenfield. You were respected and liked by pretty much everyone. I found out last summer that you blocked me online. I have no idea why.
During all the time that I was running my business in that small town in Massachusetts, I tried to look the other way. But as far as I can tell, the whispering campaign continued. Until I eventually did have to leave town. I realized then that being polite and nice doesn’t always work. If someone is a threat, particularly if they have treated you badly, they are going to keep looking for ways to sabotage you and put you down.
There is no neutral or safe territory. It is easy to speak out against schoolyard bullies. It is harder to know what to do when you are a single woman in your late thirties, trying to run a business and give back to your community, while there is a whispering campaign against you.
Iris, I don’t blame you at all, but I am sorry we are no longer friends. The conflict between us happened because of other people’s agendas. I am chalking what happened up to envy and jealousy. I survived. But I miss Massachusetts.