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The Big Answer


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Permanent Record

a book by Edward Snowden

(our site's book review)

The NSA's Plan Was to Pry into the Private Lives of Every Person on Earth

The Amazon blurb says that Edward Snowden, the man who risked everything to expose the US government’s system of mass surveillance, reveals for the first time the story of his life, including how he helped to build that system and what motivated him to try to bring it down.

In 2013, twenty-nine-year-old Edward Snowden shocked the world when he broke with the American intelligence establishment and revealed that the United States government was secretly pursuing the means to collect every single phone call, text message, and email. The result would be an unprecedented system of mass surveillance with the ability to pry into the private lives of every person on earth. Six years later, Snowden reveals for the very first time how he helped to build this system and why he was moved to expose it.

Spanning the bucolic Beltway suburbs of his childhood and the clandestine CIA and NSA postings of his adulthood, Permanent Record is the extraordinary account of a bright young man who grew up online—a man who became a spy, a whistleblower, and, in exile, the Internet’s conscience. Written with wit, grace, passion, and an unflinching candor, Permanent Record is a crucial memoir of our digital age and destined to be a classic.

Edward Snowden, heroic whistleblower, the Internet’s conscience, Edward Snowden has demonstrated the type of courage and wisdom we all need to aspire to, Edward Snowden has demonstrated the type of courage and wisdom we all need to aspire to
Edward Snowden, heroic whistleblower, the Internet’s conscience, Edward Snowden has demonstrated the type of courage and wisdom we all need to aspire to

Permanent Record Reads Like a Literary Thriller

“A riveting account... Reads like a literary thriller... Snowden pushes the reader to reflect more seriously on what every American should be asking already. What does it mean to have the data of our lives collected and stored on file, ready to be accessed—not just now, by whatever administration happens to be in office at the moment, but potentially forever?... When it comes to privacy and speech and the Constitution, his story clarifies the stakes.”—The New York Times

“Gripping... Snowden demonstrates a knack for explaining in lucid and compelling language the inner workings of [CIA and NSA] systems and the menace he came to believe they posed.”—The Washington Post

“Snowden eventually decided his loyalties lay not with the agencies he was working for, but the public they were set up to protect. He felt ordinary citizens were being betrayed, and he had a duty to explain how.... His account of the experiences that led him to take momentous decisions, along with the details he gives of his family background, serve as a robust defense against accusations that he is a traitor."—The Guardian

“Even for those of us who’ve followed the Snowden revelations closely, Permanent Record is full of surprises.... A deeply reluctant whistleblower, Snowden also emerges as a peculiarly American patriot, with roots that go back to Plymouth Rock.... As his memoir makes clear, all the techniques he exposed in 2013 remain in place. For that renewed warning—and for finally speaking for himself—he deserves our thanks.”—The Nation

Plymouth Rock has been an object of reverence, as a symbol of the founding of a new nation, so it is protected by a canopy
Plymouth Rock has been an object of reverence, as a symbol of the founding of a new nation, so it is protected by a canopy

“Well-written... Snowden’s descriptions of the real impact of the various surveillance systems he disclosed—stripped of abstract concepts and technical jargon—are some of the most disturbing parts of the book.... Offers a useful reminder of the god-like omniscience that digital data can bestow on those with the power to collect it all.”—The Economist

“Snowden’s book is straightforward, admirably so.... Having gazed through the windows of the panopticon, he experienced that rarity, a moment of vision: The world must be told these things I know. Against absurd odds, he delivered his knowledge to us. Now he proposes to explain to you, by first explaining to himself, how he became (both how he was formed, and why he chose to become) the person playing this watershed walk-on part on the recent historical stage.”—Jonathan Lethem, The New York Review of Books

“An extraordinary book... A riveting blend of spycraft as Snowden painstakingly figures out how to confirm his suspicions without tipping off his bosses, and a brilliant ethical treatise as Snowden reveals the reasoning that took him from each step to the next... The best proof yet that Snowden is exactly what he appears to be: a gung-ho guy from a military family who believes deeply in service and the values embodied by the US constitution, who explored multiple avenues of squaring his oath to uphold those values with the corrupt and illegal practices he saw around him, and worked out a breathtakingly bold and ambitious plan to do what no one else had ever managed: to expose wrongdoing in a way that provoked sustained interest and sparked action.”—Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing

About the Author
Edward Snowden was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and grew up in the shadow of Fort Meade. A systems engineer by training, he served as an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency, and worked as a contractor for the National Security Agency. He has received numerous awards for his public service, including the Right Livelihood Award, the German Whistleblower Prize, the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, and the Carl von Ossietzky Medal from the International League of Human Rights. Currently, he serves as president of the board of directors of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.


Snowden Joins a Long List of Whistle-Blowing Heroes

Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden is a great book on whistleblowers. Whistleblowers pay with their lives to save ours. When insiders like former NSA analyst Edward Snowden or ex-FBI agent Coleen Rowley or Big Tobacco truth-teller Jeffrey Wigand blow the whistle on high-level lying, lawbreaking or other wrongdoing—whether it's government spying, corporate murder or scientific scandal—the public benefits enormously. Wars are ended, deadly products are taken off the market, white-collar criminals are sent to jail. The whistleblowers themselves, however, generally end up ruined. Nearly all of them lose their jobs—and in many cases their marriages and their health—as they refuse to back down in the face of increasingly ferocious official retaliation. That moral stubbornness despite terrible personal cost is the defining DNA of whistleblowers. The public owes them more than we know.

Whistleblowing leads not to changes or to reprimands to wrongdoers—but instead to egregious persecution of whistleblowers that laws are supposed to protect
Whistleblowing leads not to changes or to reprimands to wrongdoers—but instead to egregious persecution of whistleblowers that laws are supposed to protect


The corporatocracy is robbing the citizens . . .
The corporatocracy is robbing the citizens . . .


. . .  and putting the loot into the oligarchs' money bins
. . . and putting the loot into the oligarchs' money bins

Edward Snowden is a hero, and deserves to have his charges dropped. Only less intelligent citizens ever bought that ridiculous claim that the NSA is catching terrorists with all their surveillance (name one!). They're catching dissent. They're keeping a finger on the pulse of unrest, so they won't be caught flat-footed if some rebels get out of hand. The corporatocracy is robbing the citizens and putting the loot into the oligarchs' money bins. The rich are getting obscenely richer and the gap between the rich and the rest of us has gotten obscene, like in the kleptocracy called Russia.

The rich are getting obscenely richer and the gap between the rich and the rest of us has gotten obscene, like in the kleptocracy called Russia
The rich are getting obscenely richer and the gap between the rich and the rest of us has gotten obscene, like in the kleptocracy called Russia


The gap between the rich and the rest of us has gotten obscene, like in the kleptocracy called Russia
The gap between the rich and the rest of us has gotten obscene, like in the kleptocracy called Russia

Big Brother in the NSA/FBI/White House Is Performing Mass Surveillance Activities and Butchering Our Privacy

It's never been okay that Big Brother in the NSA/FBI/White House is performing mass surveillance activities and butchering our privacy
It's never been okay that Big Brother in the NSA/FBI/White House is performing mass surveillance activities and butchering our privacy

It's never been okay that Big Brother in the NSA/FBI/White House is performing mass surveillance activities and butchering our privacy. It brings into question the integrity of the top officials in the White House. The Big Brother outrage began under Bush, got increased under Obama, and got rubber-stamped by Trump. Why didn't our leaders tell us these surveillance programs were so extensive? What else aren't they telling us? What are they hiding? See Big Brother: The Orwellian Nightmare Come True.

The Big Brother outrage began under Bush, got increased under Obama, and got rubber-stamped by Trump. Why didn't our leaders tell us these surveillance programs were so extensive? What else aren't they telling us? What are they hiding?
The Big Brother outrage began under Bush, got increased under Obama, and got rubber-stamped by Trump. Why didn't our leaders tell us these surveillance programs were so extensive? What else aren't they telling us? What are they hiding?

Permanent Record is well-written and compelling. It doesn't contain any government information that hasn't been published before, and so poses no tactical danger. It's mostly autobiographical. It starts out slow, then builds to relaying information to us in the last part of the book. This is the book that the government does not want you to buy or read. Because it reminds you to think for yourself. It reminds you to have integrity, and have the morals so lacking in our leaders. On Sept 17, 2019, the DOJ has filed a motion to grab all the profits from this book. Talk about sour grapes!


The Intelligence Apparatus of the USA Was Caught with Its Pants Down Because One Brave Hero Was Willing to Tell Us the Truth While the Rest of the Agencies' Seatwarmers Lied through Their Teeth

The intelligence apparatus of the USA was caught with its pants down because one brave hero was willing to tell us the truth while the rest of the agencies' seatwarmers lied through their teeth
The intelligence apparatus of the USA was caught with its pants down because one brave hero was willing to tell us the truth while the rest of the agencies' seatwarmers lied through their teeth


Snowden says that he took an oath to uphold the US Constitution, and makes a convincing argument that he was merely defending his oath when he saw illegal abuses against American citizens being conducted by the NSA and he blew the whistle
Snowden says that he took an oath to uphold the US Constitution, and makes a convincing argument that he was merely defending his oath when he saw illegal abuses against American citizens being conducted by the NSA and he blew the whistle

Snowden's book teaches us how much our privacy has been breached, abused and sold for profit by both the government and the corporations (Big Data). Snowden’s memoir also asks the question, who is watching the “watchers”. He also mentions how the Congress, watchdogs and Executive branches of government failed to protect its citizens. Snowden also mentions that he took an oath to uphold the US Constitution, that he will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States, etc. Snowden makes a convincing argument that he was merely defending his oath when he saw illegal abuses against American citizens being conducted by the NSA. See Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World.

Snowden's book teaches us how much our privacy has been breached, abused and sold for profit by both the government and the corporations (Big Data). Snowden’s memoir also asks the question, who is watching the watchers
Snowden's book teaches us how much our privacy has been breached, abused and sold for profit by both the government and the corporations (Big Data). Snowden’s memoir also asks the question, who is watching the watchers


Fly #353242252 reporting: Citizen #312,756,972 doesn't seem to be hiding a thing—my conclusion is that she's clean; but just to be sure I think I'll hang around a bit longer!
Fly #353242252 reporting: Citizen #312,756,972 doesn't seem to be hiding a thing—my conclusion is that she's clean; but just to be sure I think I'll hang around a bit longer!

Snowden’s Revelations Warned People to Encrypt and Adjust Their Devices and Online Habits and App Settings and Device Settings for More Privacy

How could we possibly not want to know about the abuses and privacy breaches mostly unknown before Snowden gave us the truth of the surveillance outrage? At least now people can encrypt, and adjust their devices and online habits and app settings and device settings for more privacy. At least now people have a choice because they are aware of the extent of the massive data collection and storage by the NSA.

For security and privacy, get Blackphone 2 with PrivatOS—or an iPhone. Also, the Erase Data feature on iPhones wipes the data after ten failed passcode entry attempts. This security feature is so unique that it distinguishes Apple’s iPhones from all other available smartphones in the market. And 94% of iPhones run iOS 8 or 9.)

Blackphone 2 with PrivatOS is secure
Blackphone 2 with PrivatOS is relatively secure


Apple iOS 9.3.2 beta 2 iPhone 5s is relatively secure
Apple iOS 9.3.2 beta 2 iPhone 5s is relatively secure

Snowden’s courageous act has highlighted the earlier brave efforts of other men and women whose names are familiar to many Americans: Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), Mark Felt (“Deep Throat”), Frank Serpico (NYPD), Jeffrey Wigand (tobacco), Karen Silkwood (nuclear industry), Coleen Rowley (FBI – 9/11), Sherron Watkins (Enron), and Chelsea Manning (Wikileaks). As Mark Hertsgaard makes clear in his study of contemporary whistle-blowing in the U.S. government, Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden, we owe a great deal to these brave people, who have helped keep democracy alive in America. (Sort of . . . Democracy—an American Delusion.)

Snowden’s courageous act has highlighted the earlier brave efforts of other men and women who blew the whistle
Snowden’s courageous act has highlighted the earlier brave efforts of other men and women who blew the whistle

In 2015, Congress Passed the U.S.A. Freedom Act, Which Prohibits the Bulk Collection of the Phone Records of American Citizens

However, the USA Freedom Act does allow the bulk collection of Americans' metadata by phone companies, which is then accessible by the NSA. Note that everytime the Congress passes something, it inserts a workaround/loophole that virtually castrates its actions, making the legislative branch of the government merely co-conspirators that fake things to impress the public that they are getting what they seem to be getting, but actually are NOT getting. This is fake government.

("Q: How many government bureaucrats does it take to screw in a light bulb? A: Two. One to assure everyone that everything possible is being done while the other screws the bulb into the water faucet.")

("Q: How many government workers does it take to screw in a light bulb? A: Two. One to screw it in and one to screw it up.")

"So what's changed since Snowden's revelations? The law, for one. In 2015, Congress passed the U.S.A. Freedom Act, which prohibits the bulk collection of the phone records of American citizens, addressing one of Snowden's major complaints. Now the government must get a court warrant to look at individual phone records. Also, ordinary citizens have become much more aware of how governments and private companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google may collect personal data. This, in turn, has led to the much wider use of encryption. '2016 was a landmark in tech history, the first year since the invention of the Internet that more Web traffic was encrypted than unencrypted,' writes Snowden. His daily life in Moscow sounds routine, though he remains in demand as a speaker. ' spend a lot of time in front of the computer — reading, writing, interacting,' he writes. From his rented apartment, 'I beam myself onto stages around the world, speaking about the protection of civil liberties in the digital age to audiences of students, scholars, lawmakers, and technologists.'" (Source: In 'Permanent Record,' Edward Snowden Says 'Exile Is An Endless Layover', Greg Myre, NPR)

(Wife) Lindsay’s hope in Obozo, as well as Snowden’s, would prove more and more misplaced—the man was a liar who oppressed more whistleblowers than all the rest of the presidents in U.S. history
(Wife) Lindsay’s hope in Obozo, as well as Snowden’s, would prove more and more misplaced—the man was a liar who oppressed more whistleblowers than all the rest of the presidents in U.S. history

"Snowden’s girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, had 'enthusiastically campaigned' for Obama. 'Lindsay’s hope in him, as well as my own, would prove more and more misplaced,' Snowden writes. The second half of Permanent Record reads like a literary thriller, as Snowden breaks down how he ended up in a Hong Kong hotel room in the summer of 2013, turning over a trove of classified documents to Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill of The Guardian, Barton Gellman of The Washington Post and the filmmaker Laura Poitras." (Source: In Edward Snowden’s New Memoir, the Disclosures This Time Are Personal, Jennifer Szalai, NY Times)

"And they very well might have, except that one morning in 2013 we all woke up to discover that a hitherto unknown 29-year-old geek, hiding out in a Hong Kong hotel, was exposing secret government surveillance programmes so comprehensive that even the most paranoid privacy advocate would have hesitated to believe their existence. In the immediate aftermath of Edward Snowden's revelations, EU parliamentarians got serious about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the UK passed the Investigatory Powers Act to legalise the things the intelligence agencies had been doing, and the world's internet experts set about beefing up computer security and deploying encryption. " (Source: Permanent Record, book review: The whistleblower's tale, Wendy M Grossman, zdnet)

In the immediate aftermath of Edward Snowden's revelations, EU parliamentarians got serious about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the UK passed the Investigatory Powers Act to legalise the things the intelligence agencies had been doing, and the world's internet experts set about beefing up computer security and deploying encryption
In the immediate aftermath of Edward Snowden's revelations, EU parliamentarians got serious about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the UK passed the Investigatory Powers Act to legalise the things the intelligence agencies had been doing, and the world's internet experts set about beefing up computer security and deploying encryption

"The revelations triggered what President Barack Obama grudgingly called an overdue “national conversation” about the country’s surveillance powers. In time, U.S. spy agencies were forced to retreat from operations that had stretched if not exceeded constitutional limits. The reports also showed the extent to which U.S. officials had for years misled the public about spy agencies’ domestic capabilities." (Source: Edward Snowden explains how he pulled off one of the largest leaks in U.S. history, Greg Miller, Washington Post)

"Whistle-blowing, at least by that breezy name, is on the rise. In the years since Congress passed a sweeping revision of the False Claims Act, in 1986, relators have recovered sixty billion dollars in misspent taxpayer money. “This is the age of the whistleblower,” [Tom, not Robert] Mueller observes. Mueller, who interviewed more than two hundred whistle-blowers and profiles half a dozen, focusses on the corporate kind, especially in the health-care and finance industries. [Allison] Stanger sets corporate whistle-blowing aside, declaring it a separate case. But the age of the whistle-blower is also an age of corruption, deregulation, and privatization in which the border between the public and the private sectors is as thin as a dollar bill. Snowden, notwithstanding his 'I used to work for the government' line, worked mostly for a series of private companies, because the kinds of services he provided, mainly security and systems administration, had been privatized." (Source: Edward Snowden and the Rise of Whistle-Blower Culture, Jill Lepore, New Yorker)

U.S. officials had for years misled the public about spy agencies’ domestic capabilities, and Snowden's revelations showed they'd been lying through their teeth for years
U.S. officials had for years misled the public about spy agencies’ domestic capabilities, and Snowden's revelations showed they'd been lying through their teeth for years

Snowden Defines the Top End of the Morals, Ethics, and Integrity Scales

The overall context of Edward Snowden's revelations in Permanent Record is about morals, ethics, and integrity, in our opinion. Obama, the Bushes, the Clintons, and Trump are low on the morals, ethics, and integrity scales. Snowden is at the top of the scale. He defines the top end. Imagine being such a patriot that you forgo your freedom, citizenship, job, familly relationships, safety, and security so that the lies our government was feeding us would get replaced by the truth: our NSA and intelligence agencies were and are conducting illegal and immoral mass surveillance on EVERYONE!

Our NSA and intelligence agencies were and are conducting illegal and immoral mass surveillance on EVERYONE!
Our NSA and intelligence agencies were and are conducting illegal and immoral mass surveillance on EVERYONE!

We citizens expext our privacy and yet we are being treated like criminals because someone just might discover something in their mountains of data that would threaten our security. AND BY THE SAME PERVERSE LOGIC, IF ALL 350 MILLION CITIZENS WERE IMPRISONED, NO ONE COULD EVER COMMIT CRIMES EVER AGAIN! We need the ironically named "intelligence" agencies to use warranted surveillance on suspected criminals or suspected terrorists and leave the rest of us alone. Snowden is correct, their obscene, unconstitutional overkill doesn't belong in a democracy. Stealing classified documents may indeed be illegal, but the reason for so much classification is that these agencies were violating our laws and our trust and classifying was a way to hide their immorality from public view. There was no way for the public to be informed of these abuses without swiping classified stuff. The Whistle-Blower protections were a joke—Obozo jailed them. Some "protection"! In the NSA the people you'd report abuses to are the same ones doing the abuses!

We need the ironically named
We need the ironically named "intelligence" agencies to use warranted surveillance on suspected criminals or suspected terrorists and leave the rest of us alone. Snowden is correct, their obscene, unconstitutional overkill doesn't belong in a democracy