AN OBLIGATION

"Barack Obama is spying on me through my microwave."

Depending on what you do for a living, you could be legally (or at least ethically) bound to take action upon hearing this statement from another person. Imagine yourself in any number of scenarios – Teacher and student. Doctor and patient. Therapist and client. Service provider and customer. Supervisor and employee. Coworker and coworker. Or simply a friend, relative, or casual observer who hears an adult make that statement. Your first inclination might be to verify that the speaker was serious and not speaking figuratively. Your next would be to figure out how to get this person to a competent mental health professional for a check-up.

If your friend started posting conspiracy theories at this level of paranoia you would be alarmed. And you would be right to be alarmed; thoughts of being the subject of surveillance or conspiracies are a sign of a person in the early stages of losing contact with reality. Yet it is apparently the New Normal to have thoughts like this expressed by the President of the United States and his inner circle. Conspiracy theories are a useful tool for someone like Trump, but we have to start raising the question of how much of this is believed versus how much is spat out for calculated effect. There is no way to ascertain the truth now that the tidal waves of ridicule have washed over Kellyanne Conway. Certainly she will hide behind the "I was just kidding" defense that serves the far right so well. But I am not entirely convinced that these delusions about being spied upon are all a case of artistic license. We have to consider the possibility that these people in control of the Executive Branch believe that their appliances are being used to spy on them.

If a student said this to me and was not obviously kidding, I would be obligated to do something about it. Fortunately there are some things I could do – involve health professionals, report it to a higher authority at the university, and so on. There's nothing I can do when I hear it on the news, though, from some of the nation's most powerful people. We are taking another step toward life in a sub-Saharan style kleptocracy, right down to the crackpot dictator and his inner circle of relatives and cronies. Trump isn't necessarily Mobutu-level crazy, but he isn't necessarily sane either.

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44 Responses to “AN OBLIGATION”

  1. Major Kong Says:

    Ha! The joke's on them! My very stylish tinfoil fedora protects me from their microwave spy cameras.

  2. mago Says:

    The mitochondria of this subset contains radioactive implants beamed from solar flares and contrails, which condition reaction and response.

    Or maybe it's an amalgam of Vienna Sausage, Mountain Dew and Tyson Chicken.

    Something.

  3. Buckyblue Says:

    Who the hell needs to spy on His Orange Tweetness. What, with his tweeting, openly inane statements and the CIA apparently now writing columns for the press, no one needs to spy on him. He's worried about Obama bugging him but not whoever the hell booked the table next to him at the Patio Restaurant at Mara-Lago? We're way passed any chance of professional help and are steaming directly to possession. We're gonna need an exorcism in the WH after these assholes get done with the place.

  4. Mike S. Says:

    "If a student said this to me and was not obviously kidding, I would be obligated to do something about it."

    You're a mandated reporter of statements that don't communicate a threat?
    That all by itself is troubling.

    Moreover, the "Internet of Things" is real and is insecure re: privacy. Household appliances are increasingly capable of being put to precisely the use Conway indicated.
    To be sure, she's full of shit and has no evidence to support the notion that Trump's microwave was used to spy on him.
    That's not the only issue here.

  5. democommie Says:

    Imagine my not terribly great surprise when I turned on "Elementary" last night and the second part of a two part drama involved a nefarious gummint agent, a number of bodies and an apparent plot to destabilize Argentina via a "toilet bomb".

    It was "Mission Impossible" level complicated and completely implausible–or it might have been a few months back.

  6. c u n d gulag Says:

    Whenever I suspect that my microwave is listening in on me, I alternate how I speak:
    Word 1 – Whisper
    Word 2 – Scream
    Word 3 – In between the two above
    Word 4+ – Begin cycle again

    And after one or two sentences, I'm so fucking confused, I assume that my microwave and who/what ever is listening to me, has to be at least as confused as I am! *

    *Obviously, I jest.
    I just unplug the fucker before making an important call, or having a conversation with someone, in my kitchen.

  7. quixote Says:

    Mike S., as another college prof I'd add that the point isn't some sort of Stalinesque spying on students. As teachers we have a small level of duty of care. Not as great as a nurse in a hospital, but it would be frowned on if you had a student with obvious slash marks who was self-harming and you did absolutely nothing to try to steer them toward some help.

    Believing your microwave is taking pictures of you is up there with getting messages on your fillings.

    (In the Internet of Things, audio receivers can be turned on and listening when you don't know about it. Your laptop webcam likewise. Your cellphone is a dictator's dream. But your microwave? If yours has a microphone it's a way more expensive model than any I've seen.)

  8. Huntly Says:

    Had he said that it was his "smart" TV spying on him, maybe he could have gotten it by.

  9. Coises Says:

    Maybe not a microwave, not yet… but sadly, the idea that “my appliances are being used to spy on me” will soon not be “crazy” at all:

    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20170307/08085036858/cia-leaks-unsurprisingly-show-internet-broken-things-is-spys-best-friend.shtml

  10. define and redefine Says:

    3rd world dictator with 1st world intelligence and military infrastructure.

    Grand.

  11. Noskilz Says:

    They're really good at not really understanding or paying attention – perhaps this is a garbled misunderstanding of the potential hazards of the "internet of things." Imagine stories about the sloppily secured data coming out of IOT teddy bears ( https://arstechnica.com/security/2017/02/creepy-iot-teddy-bear-leaks-2-million-parents-and-kids-voice-messages/ ) and sex toys ( https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/09/sex-toys-and-the-internet-of-things-collide-what-could-go-wrong/ ) filtered through people who are pretty careless about details and doing their own legwork.

    Or maybe she's just losing it.

    But yeah – it's a pretty sad state of affairs when lying, insane or both seem like perfectly reasonable explanations – but I suspect it's more just an attempt to float the idea all this hi-tech stuff people fill their lives with can be used against them at any time, so rally around the administration for some unclear reason. Is this supposed to make leaked recordings and video less credible or make voters cut him some slack out of sympathy for all the foolish behavior their electronics are forced to witness?

  12. Pat Says:

    Dude, c'mon. Trump is a broken clock, or a clock going backwards, but at some point in the day he's going to be right about something just by accident, and this is one of them: The United States security/surveillance apparatus has completely metastasized, and the amount of time when a national security agency (if not THE National Security Agency) is monitoring your communications) is unknown, but it's pretty much a guarantee it would floor you. It is, as they say, worse than you can possibly imagine, even if you take into account that it's worse than you can imagine and revise your imagination downward.

    So why t.f. are people calling themselves good lefties or liberals taking "Trump said it" to equal "it's wrong" even when he's saying the CIA is evil and doing illegal shit?! They certainly are! And if it's a matter of moral comparison, you could wait ten minutes for another one—he'll be saying shit about orphans by next Tuesday, at this rate—but the national security apparatus of this country might be the one part of our government more evil than Trump.

    As @Coises says, your kitchen appliances and mine are hackable. The government is hacking some of them. They're definitely monitoring your communications, and it's 100% certain they were in fact recording every call from the two candidates to any person outside the U.S. (which, if you wanted a story, is this: they recorded Trump's campaigns contacts with Russia, Trump now knows about this according to his tweets, which is prima faciae evidence that Trump knows he's under investigation—see? you don't even have to wait 'til Tuesday for him to insult orphans!). Why use this one thing real as a weak bludgeon?

    Shit… I used to come here (and to other Democratic blogs like LG&M) pretty much every day, going back to the Bush years, and since the election, I just can't. It really causes me pain to come here and see Burroughs's "Howl" replayed in my own lifetime. "Best minds of my generation…."

  13. geoff Says:

    @Pat, it's Ginsberg's "Howl" ; )

    But yeah, the Times and Post have both gone at length quite recently about how unnamed intelligence officials have alleged the Trump campaign had contacts with "Russian intelligence agents". I don't doubt that the Trump campaign was monitored; after all, they (NSA/CIA/GCHQ et al.) monitor EVERYBODY.

    And those "Russian hacks" of the DNC look a lot less like a "slam dunk" now that Wikileaks has revealed the CIA's "Vault 7" docs which show their ability to mimic Russian "fingerprints". SO, the US government's accusations that the Russian government hacked the DNC are not only unverifiable, the hacks themselves could have come straight out of Langley, or Frankfurt.

    It's getting weirder and weirder out there.

    https://wikileaks.org/ciav7p1/

  14. Tim H. Says:

    The whole lot of them, to the Betty Ford clinic, NOW.

  15. doug Says:

    I am waiting for 'dental implants are telling me things'..
    And watching no one intervene…

  16. Katydid Says:

    You guys made me laugh so hard with your comments! Major Kong, Mago, and Gulug in particular, huge standing ovation!

    Mike S., during the Y2k craziness, one of my coworkers started bragging about stockpiling food and water so he'd be prepped when society collapsed around him. Then he started in with the conspiracy theories, including being positive the authorities were listening in on him because hey were jealous he was so prepared. We all laughed at him as his craziness escalated…and then he tried to kill his son because God told him to. Not so funny anymore. The guy was disintegrating mentally and none of us understood because so many people were in the paranoia about Y2K.

  17. Robert Walker-Smith Says:

    Surveillance using microwaves is frequently reported by 'targeted individuals'. That's the term used by people who believe themselves to be the subjects of extensive, organized persecution by persons unknown. Look up 'gangstalking' for more information, if you want to learn about desperately unhappy people reinforcing each other's​ delusions​.

  18. Katydid Says:

    @Coises; yup, your Internet of Things is certainly hackable, which should make anyone question why they're so very special that they can't make a stupid cup of Keurig coffee or turn on a lamp without using an app to do it. Likewise, people should be questioning why they think they need a full fledged "entertainment system" in the dashboard of their cars that lets them watch Youtube videos, stream movies, and post stupid stuff to Instagram while Liking things on Facebook…they're on the road driving their 3-ton Canyoneros, not sitting on their couch. Opening up their cars to the internet only makes them hackable.

    @Pat; as we've recently learned yet again thanks to Trumpolini's caterwauling, the NSA and the CIA need to go to court to get a warrant to tap your phone or your house. You're far more in danger of non-American hackers breaking into your life and stealing anything you have worth taking.

  19. Katydid Says:

    @Quixote; a huge thank you to college professors who do monitor their students. One of my cousins had his first schizophrenic breakdown while away at college, and it was a professor who noticed the kid was acting oddly and alerted the med center. And that, as Frost says, has made all the difference. With meds, the cousin finished college and now has a job. Had he not gotten help? We've all seen the untreated mentally ill person wandering the streets.

  20. Ten Bears Says:

    The "if you see something say something" meme is troublesome.

  21. Breezeblock Says:

    I'm wondering if Dumb Donald is now thinking "Maybe there IS such a thing as too much media exposure." Of course, the word "thinking", above, is purely speculative.

  22. democommie Says:

    "Believing your microwave is taking pictures of you is up there with getting messages on your fillings."

    Yeah, but your fillings can't make Instanachos, dude.

    "3rd world dictator with 1st world intelligence and military infrastructure."

    It just need a tweak:

    "1st world dictatorand military infrastructure with 3rd rate intellect.".

    FWIW, I think that they have recently started selling microwace units and other kitchen appliances that are "voice activated" and almost everything you use in your home that is electric/electronic is made in CHINA–not our friends, near as I can tell (I mean the Chinese gummint).

    Pat:

    Bullshit.

    Geoff:

    Bullshit, also, too.

    Sorry, fellas, Trumpligulanapologia is what you bring.

    The current occupant of the Oval Orifice was a dirtbag long before he became a reality* tv pricksonality and he's only gotten worse in the last 4 months, since the election.

    Basically, if Trumpligula says something I pretty much know it's a deliberate lie or the product of his sub-par intellect attempting to make sense of things he does not begin to understand AND the lack of conscience, depth of malice and near complete lack of self-control that he displays every time he says anything.

    * One of the most misapplied names in the television business.

  23. greatlaurel Says:

    @katydid and @Quixote Thank you for your rational and compassionate posts. A college professor had reported the disturbed student who eventually committed the shootings at Virginia Tech. Administrators did not take effective steps to help the student, who was clearly suffering from some sort of mental illness. Due to the failure of those administrators many lives were lost and many others suffered as a result of that failure. Plus the NRA also helped to ensure a mentally ill person got access to guns.

    Reporting someone suffering from mental illness so they can get treatment is no different than helping a heart attack victim or a diabetic suffering from hypoglycemia, Reporting child, spousal or elder abuse fits in there, too. Being responsible and helping other people is not sinister.

    It is a shame that the sycophants that have surrounded Trump, since he was young due to his money, and Tyrants are using Trump for their own ends. Trump has clearly been mentally ill since he first appeared in the media. However, the news media has used him to boost ratings. It is just another version of the "if it bleeds it leads" media strategy. Unfortunately, the GOP and Putin are now using Trump for the destruction of the American Republic and the major news outlets are complicit, just to boost their ratings.

  24. democommie Says:

    MY microwave just told me to "drop the nachos and step away from the counter.".

    Ah, crap, it was Buddy the Wonderdog, throwing his voice!

  25. greatlaurel Says:

    Democommie, Thanks!

  26. Townsend Harris Says:

    "they (NSA/CIA/GCHQ et al.) monitor EVERYBODY."

    Hoovering up all the metadata – who called or wrote whom, when and where, by telephone, by mail, by email, by text – and having it available for future investigation is the current scope of 'monitoring everybody'. Being able to crack open every phone call, every mail piece, every email, every text and having the resources to review it for actionable intelligence is a whole 'nother level of the ballgame. And we're not there yet, not even with a court warrant.
    Fwiw, my OCD means I've got old paper telephone bills from the 1970s containing the exact same metadata.

  27. Jestbill Says:

    You've cried about all those dolts out at the Golden Corral and wondered how they live with themselves. They do it by not thinking critically about ANYTHING.

    KConway talks like one of them. She's read that the IoT is hackable and picks one "thing" at random to suggest that it might be hacked.

    She (and Trump) simply don't care about exactitude. Trump says everyone will get health care with no intention to include "literally everyone."

    He says Obama was hacking his phones meaning somebody somewhere listened in on a conversation. Not Obama, not necessarily a phone, and not necessarily at Trump Tower.

    He's one of those same (everyday American) Paul Blarts who can say "under God" and then "with Liberty and Justice for All" who do not understand the word "All."

    It's all hot air but they'll fight you if you call them on it.

    And that is why all talk of Democratic party's failure to "listen" to WWC voters is also a lot of wasted breath.

  28. democommie Says:

    @ greatlaurel:

    I went through 44 years of my life before a psychologist tested me and diagnosed ADD/Adult ADHD, mathematic and geometric "dyslexia" and a few other bon-bons on top of the sundae.

    School, my time in the Air Force and the 20+ years after I was discharged were all fraught with incidents of my impulsivity and inability to perform numerous tasks that, only accounting for my verbal skills–which are way up there, every time I've tested–makes it look as if I'm being lazy or obstinate.

    Obviously, back in the period between 1955 and 1975 there were no diagnostic tools and most of the learning issues I have were not recognized by the mental health profession.

    Nowadays they are and that should make things all better, yes? The fly in the ointment is that if you HAVE a problem it can, and will be, used by HR types, peers who have an axe to grind, supervisors, employers, family members and the like to marginalize/ostracize or demonize you. At this point in my life, I don't worry about any of that nonsense as I am not going to be hired by anyone and my benefits are secure–at least at the moment–and not dependent upon anyone at the VA or SSA liking me.

    For those who still do have to deal with people all day, most days, there is a dilemma. Do I get help and have my diagnosis leaked to my boss by someone? IF I hear voices in my head do I try to utilize a mental health program or do I try to "tough it out" or, far worse, pray it away?

    It's a difficult thing to deal with, for sure. On balance, though, I really wish my learning issues had been dealt with, along with my issues of being sexually abused–before another 30 or 40 years had been spent suffering their effects.

    So, yeah, an instructor concerned and aware enough to even notice there's a problem and make a suggestion (way better than "giving advice") that there's assistance available–that's somebody I want in my classroom/office/relationship.

  29. jcastarz Says:

    If our own government organizations were truly helpful, they could use the Internet of Things to better serve us citizens. This is what I've included in my correspondence to my reps in Congress:

    Big (Government) Data
    ————————–
    The U.S. Intel Community has been monitoring – and storing – the communications of private American citizens for the stated purpose of Terrorist Interdiction. If you want to justify this massive intrusion, then extend it to meet needs American citizens are screaming for: track down the bad actors who rob and pester Americans over their phones and the internet. Fraudulent credit card calls, fake IRS calls, fake charity calls, phishing emails, computer "repair" calls from outside the country, server break-ins that steal proprietary data; the list goes on forever. I cannot speak for others, but solve these problems for me and you've got my permission to abuse me all you want. Warning: this will require government agencies (CIA, NSA, FBI, DIA, State Police, etc.) to share expensive resources, and in so doing, demonstrate inter-agency cooperation. But, if we are seeking to slim down government, then continuing to dedicate huge budgets to political subsets of otherwise technically similar problems is Not a cost-effective approach.
    ——————————————————————-

    Alas, our Intel techies seem to be interested in only ** some ** of the services they could be providing the taxpayers… it really speaks volumes about our collective national focus on these issues – especially when the same data and tool sets could be applied to hunting down bad actors other than just the ME terrorists.

  30. Skepticalist Says:

    Kellyane needs (as Steve Bannon suggests to the NY Times) to shut up. She may be more entertaining than our 3rd grade President but I almost feel sorry for her. Trump probably uses her interviews for "white noise" before nodding off. If they ever decide to admit her for treatment they'll have to find a place that uses alternative medicine.

    These little blips are probably fed to Trump to keep him interested in being President of at least the White House. It doesn't take much for him to become bored.

    If her lunatic story were true it would be just one more reason not to chisel out the caked on crud in my microwave.

  31. mago Says:

    Of course Trump was under surveillance. It goes with the territory, but the methods used are more sophisticated than rigged household appliances. What's this group yowling about? If Trump and entourage didn't know about it, well, there's stupid and then there's stupid.

    As for this personal surveillance business? Well I have a bit of personal history. Way back in the 20th Century customs at JFK grilled me upon arrival from Amsterdam, asked if I'd lived at a certain address, which raised a red flag but I couldn't place it. The agent tagged my passport and shunted me to another section where another agent grilled me.

    It wasn't until they let me go that the nickle dropped. That was a fake address used 3 years before at a California motel where I stayed while doing some legitimate business for a person of interest, thus making myself a person of interest. I think my guts turned to water.

    Anyway, it's possible that the Mago name still floats like a ghost in the system, but I'm not too worried about it. When I hear paranoid mutterings about "they're coming to get me", I can only think maybe, but it won't be because you passed gas on the subway.

  32. Katydid Says:

    @Ten Bears–"if you see something say something". Yes, that it troubling because many people are just plain old stupid. Anecdata time: my oldest went to a preschool that taught the kids a little bit of American Sign Language–hello, goodbye, my name is… and the sign for "I Love You". When he started school and got on the school bus, he'd flash the "I Love You" sign to his father or me (whoever put him on the bus). One of the crazy neighbors went around telling the other crazy neighbors that my child was flashing "gang signs" on the bus. Mind you, this was around the time that the US Post Office had their "I Love You" in ASL stamps. We're whitey-white-white and boring and threw the neighborhood into a tizzy–could you imagine what might happen to a Scary Brown Person ™ whose neighbors ratted them out for "gang signs"?

  33. pathman Says:

    Matt Stoller on Twitter has interesting question about you Ed.

    https://twitter.com/matthewstoller/status/841703949551972352

  34. geoff Says:

    @DemoCommie (great name!), just because I think Trump may have actually been monitored by US intelligence (sic) does not mean I am in any way defending him or esp. his actions as President. Just recently finished reading David Cay Johnston's "The Making Of Donald Trump", and Jesus it's even worse than I thought. My tinfoil hat theory of the day is that Giuliani and Christie were not offered posts in the administration because as former US Attorneys they have a pretty good handle on all the legal problems Trump has faced over the last 30-40 years. Highly recommended!

  35. Skepticalist Says:

    Giuliani looks like he had a stroke or is on worse drugs than Steve Bannon. Christie is probably their connection.

    Poor Kellyanne needs lots of drugs having to deal with her knuckle dragging throwback employers.

  36. democommie Says:

    @ Geoff:

    Okay, my bad, sorry.

    In future I'll try to remember that.

    I don't doubt that everybody above a certain pay grade in civilian or gummint life is being watched and listened too. Trump may be right about the surveillance, and in being right be nothing but one of the herd. Otoh, how much fucking time do you think that idiot spends near a microwave? It's the Oval Office, not the oval butlers' pantry.

    I always get a kick out of the idiots that tell their good buds on various websites and blogs, "Yeah, I got me oneathem fully automatical machine gunz and no gummint sumbitch is gonna find me!".

  37. geoff Says:

    @DC, no worries, sir.

  38. April Says:

    http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/rural-america-understanding-isnt-problem

  39. Jestbill Says:

    @April: !

  40. April Says:

    @Jestbill – Yeah, I thought it was a great article. (I'm assuming that's what you meant.)

  41. democommie Says:

    I shocked a couple of young fellas I know while I was at the bar, last night*.

    They were talking about how fucked up life has gotten in the last few months and wishing that somebody was working on changing the political landscape. I told them the same thing I tell ALL young people. We need some firebreathing, evangellically fervid (but not in a GODLY way) people who are willing to stand on a podium and tell the truth, with out being polite. I did not give them the sample oratory below, but I will when I next see them.

    Politics 101 for the morons who stayed home or voted the "Gofuckyourself" ticket.

    "Hi, there, thanks for giving me an opportunity to paint your pain. There are a few things you need to know. They are, in no particularly linear order, these points.

    1.) The assholes you people keep electing to cut taxes are not cutting YOUR taxes. They are cutting the taxes of those who already have enough money to buy and sell ALL of you, several times over. In order to acheive that lofty station they have deliberately and with malice aforethought rigged markets, allowed dangerous working conditions, polluted the planet with abandon and involved this nation in a number of wars wherein they made money while you folks, your forebears and your progeny die to ensure their continued economic hegemony–this, btw, is only a partial accounting of their misdeeds and mismanagement.

    2.) The people you elected because you fear the HORDES? They consider YOU to be part of the HORDES.

    3.) That fix for Obamacare/ACA that they've been trying to ram through Congress so the M-in-C** can YUUUUUUUUGELY sign it? That will BE the death panels that those same people warned you about. Except that they won't be very selective. If you're below THEIR level of income, when you get really sick you can either die or lose everything you own and then die.

    4.) The people who preach to you about the "Invisible Hand" and "Free Markets"? Well, they got BOTH hands on your shoulders, so that's not a proctology exam you're getting back there! WAKE THE FUCK UP!!"

    They already thought I was crazy but not in a bad way.

    * Yes, I go to the bar most nights. Beer is cheaper at home, but Buddy the Wonderdog really only speaks about three words of english, "food, out, fooooooooood". Trust me it's like Mandarin, all nuance and stressing the vowels.

    ** Moron-in-Chief

  42. Katydid Says:

    Hey, Demo, do you really have a dog? One of the things I miss about my dearly departed dog is his absolute fascination with anyone who was eating. You could get that dog to do just about anything if you promised food.

    On the serious side, dude, I am really, really sorry to have read about your history of learning disability and abuse.

  43. sad Says:

    Idiot.

    He's spying on you from your TV.

    And your cell.

    And your Wifi.

    And your neighbor's Wifi.

    And that goddam kid that doesn't seem to live anywhere but he's always around anyway.

    And your microwave.

  44. democommie Says:

    @ Katydid:

    I don't "have" a dog. I do have a roommate, he's about 25" long, not counting his expressive tail. He weighs 15 or so pounds (down from north of 19 pounds, so his seizure meds will work better and they do). He eats homemade wet food, homemade biscuits and Rachel Ray Just 6 kibble. He walks me often enough so that I don't get too restless and to help me to remain socialized–he doesn't know about the bar thing, he would not approve. He is currently resting, following an invigorating romp around his food dish. Sometimes I think that dogs get it right–eat REALLY FAST, it leaves more time for important stuff, like sleeping. I would post a photo if I knew that would work here.

    On the serious side. If you have children with learning problems and don't do what you can to mitigate them you're not being a good parent. Obviously when problems are undiagnosable (as my learning difficulties were, back in the period I grew up in) there's not much that can be done aside from listening to what is said, watching behaviours and parsing, as best one can, the way to go forward.

    As for abuse. Well, if somebody's kid gets apprehensive around certain adults for no good reason–there probably is a very good reason for their discomfort. It's always a tough situation but patience and support for victims of abuse, any age, any level of abuse, are always better off than those left to their own devices and private hells.