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Opinion

As this is being written, the debut of Facebook as a publicly traded stock is off to a rocky start with share prices taking a significant dip from its original offering. Being a mild critic of this web giant, I do have a small measure of glee. I believe that eventually Facebook will meet the same fate as the former king of the social networking hill – Myspace, that has faded into obscurity. But, then again, I also predicted the demise of karaoke and rap music.

In an earlier generation, television earned the nickname of boob tube for a reason. Too much of a good thing can be a waste of time. At least back then, data on what you watched or how much you watched wasn't being collected by various sources such as prospective employers. “George, I see you have been watching a lot of Three Stooges, any particular reason for this?”

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For those hoping to better understand how and why we arrived at this dismal point in our nation’s history, where individual freedoms, privacy and human dignity have been sacrificed to the gods of security, expediency and corpocracy, look no farther than America’s public schools.

Once looked to as the starting place for imparting principles of freedom and democracy to future generations, America’s classrooms are becoming little more than breeding grounds for compliant citizens of the police state. In fact, as director Cevin Soling documents in his insightful, award-winning documentary The War on Kids, which recently aired on the Documentary Channel, the moment young people walk into school, they increasingly find themselves under constant surveillance: they are photographed, fingerprinted, scanned, x-rayed, sniffed and snooped on. Between metal detectors at the entrances, drug-sniffing dogs in the hallways and surveillance cameras in the classrooms and elsewhere, many of America’s schools look more like prisons than learning facilities.

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As the war of words intensifies with Iran, perhaps it is some non-words that are a portent of things to come. Google recently decided to omit the name “Persian Gulf” from its online maps. Right now, it's just a large nameless body of water. So far, Google's only response has been a lame explanation that not all locations on their global maps are named. Fortunately, Franklin's geopolitical flashpoint – Lake Emory, is properly identified.

Barring the possibility of a computer programming glitch, the missing moniker may indicate a political back story. In recent years, there has been a trend for the U.S. Government to refer to the Persian Gulf as the Arabian Gulf. Our ships aren't patrolling off the Persian coast – we're patrolling off the Arabian coast.

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“The Man’ is a term that garnered usage in the 60s as a description of law enforcement and the authoritarian practices often associated with it. For many in that volatile social era, “protect and serve” was code for “harass and detain.” Perhaps today, it’s deja vu all over again as the authority of law enforcement finds itself under increasing scrutiny and criticism.

The militarization of law enforcement and the ensuing estrangement of the general population accelerated following 9/11 but I like to point the finger to 70’s TV program ‘S.W.A.T.’ (I also blame the TV show ‘Flip this House’ for the housing bubble.) Every week, in what looked like a pimped-out UPS truck, a special police squad would race into action, thwarting hardcore evil-doers in an unidentified California city. In the early 80s there were an estimated 3,000 Special Weapons And Tactics raids per year in this country. That estimate has now climbed to 50,000, mostly involving drug-related crimes. Unfortunately, along the way there have been numerous innocent people literally “caught in the cross fire.”

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