Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Here's looking at you, citizen

It is eerie just how much the United States is becoming just like the "utopic" world of the book, 1984. I know I am not original in this thought, but I cannot stand to see this country lose its freedom and not seem to care.

We are in a post-9/11 world, and our sensibility has changed. We have to watch out for the invisible bad guys who are out to get us. We also live in an internet-driven world, where watching the actions of individual "surfers" is both trivial and profitable. This current world also has a global economy and United States citizens are encouraged to accept open boarders, jobs going to other countries, immigrant workers (legal and illegal) taking jobs here. This current world is filled with media messages about how families are destructive and full of hurt, that fathers are abusive monsters or bumbling idiots, and teenagers should have all the freedom in the world. Racial tensions have not improved much, despite legislating against hateful speech and thoughts. Drug usage (both legal and illegal) is way up, and our general health is not improving.

We are a nation feeding on ourselves, eating our innards in a desperate attempt to satiate hunger. And what is that hunger? Most couldn't even identify it if asked. We are insecure. We desire security, but everything we do creates greater insecurity.

There are those who are willing to capitalize on our insecurity. I would say that the American citizen is so beaten down, so knocked about, Americans barely know which way is up. Of course, there are many in the world who would happily say, "Poor Americans, with their cars and houses and computers and TV's and food!" And it is true that we have a lot, in material goods. But Americans are becoming prisoners to the corporate greed and governmental control. Not only are our jobs barely paying enough to allow the average American to survive, but our very thoughts are being shaped by the onslaught of advertisements, entertainment and advertisements disguised as entertainment.

We are becoming slaves in most every aspect. Monumental debt alone is a large enough millstone to crush the spirit of the average American. And we just sit and watch, helpless, as our freedoms and liberties die, one by one. Privacy, never protected by the constitution, was an afterthought, assumed to be a part of that life, liberty and happiness clause. Well, we are no longer innocent until proven guilty, because the entire nation will be watched. The current law being considered to monitor all citizens on the internet, via their ISPs, is the latest in a long line of abuses we have had to put up with. They say it is to catch child pornographers, but who cares what the justification is? This is another step down that path. The path to which I refer will only end if someone in government gains some sense, or someone among the average citizenry sparks a revolution. Feel free to read more about this at http://blogs.zdnet.com/Ratcliffe/?p=125&tag=nl.e539 or do a Google search.

Are we truly so far gone, that we are willing to put up with this? Is there no one out there willing to speak out. Someone must say, "Stop the madness!"

In reading an article on Stratfor by George Friedman (http://www.stratfor.com/products/premium/read_article.php?id=266237&selected=Analyses), I have gained some balance in my views. We cannot forget or ignore that there is a real danger out there to our lives. However, we also cannot forget that absolute power corrupts, absolutely. Let us remain a nation of rules and law, including those in governmental capacities.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A possible solution to RFID privacy concerns

I'm not taking my eye off of RFID users. Their goal is not my privacy. Their best interest is not mine. But it is heartening to see at least someone actually listen to the consumer. IBM has come up with a great way to discard the little buggers after a consumer purchase. The RFID units are sewn with their antenna inside a small tag that can be torn off of the merchandise. Tear off the antenna and the unit becomes useless. Sounds nice. A lot cleaner than nuking your clothes in the microwave to make sure you aren't bugged by this privacy nightmares.
This article (on Information Week) discusses this new solution, and is one of the first I've read that actually admits that RFID tags pose a security/privacy risk to the consumer. I say "Bravo" to IBM and anyone who adopts this method or similar methods to empower the end-user.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Drug companies creating illnesses

As someone who currently works for a natural health book publisher and who hopes to help people with their mental health needs in a nonpharmaceutical way, I am definitely not a promoter of drug use, illegal or legal. I am also very cynical about people who earn billions off of drugs that don't cure anyone (despite what the FDA says). All drugs cause side effects, and side effects make people worry that they are getting sicker, so they take more drugs. Disgusting. And we have all these wonderful "programs" to make sure people, young and old, will be addicted to medical advice and drugs for their entire life.

So it comes as no surprise to me that the BBC had a recent article stating drug companies have been known to come up with diseases. Coming up with more creative uses for their legal poisons? How surpising!

Naturally, the drug companies deny the allegation of disease-mongoring. But you tell me. Does it make sense for billion-dollar companies to not try and grow their businesses? Do they really expect us to believe that they aren't manufacturing reasons to take their drugs? Why should they change their business model when it is so lucrative and has very little consequence?
Anyway, read more about it on the BBC website:

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Wikipedia abuses

Obviously, I underattend this blog. Although there are dozens of governmental and business abuses every day, I cannot report on all of them, and there are so many other places to find such shenanigans. But when I read about this, I knew I had to say something. Our elected officials (I'll refrain from calling them representatives of the people) have been known to abuse their power. They have also been known to indulge in the sin of pride. With the power of Wikipedia, an open source encyclopedia, anyone can make changes to entries. There has been a lot of talk lately about how such an open system can get abused. Duh. Email is an open system, and it is being abused daily, hourly by spammers. Open is insecure is open. Can't escape it. However, most people didn't realize just how this could be until recently. I won't rehash the news, except to say that the most recent abuse to come to light is the uncomplimentary changing of entries by congressional staffers. You can read more about it here and elsewhere.

I think Wikipedia is great. It has the potential to be a truly useful tool. But it only takes a few bad apples to ruin the pie. Perhaps they should tighten up security, add accountability to the editing procedure. However, the abuse by people in government, even if they are merely staffers, is inexcusable and childish.

I remain unchanged in my view of politicians.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Bad legislation

The world of "fair use" and "the customer is always right" are numbered. I know, this isn't anything new. In fact, I have bemoaned this very fact several times. But I can't escape the fact that we, a supposed democratic republic, are not in fact represented by those whom we put in office (through our vote or our neglect). Those who claim to be our representatives answer to a higher law, big business. Don't believe me? Let's look at the current problem by first looking at the past.

The late 1990's. So-called "piracy" actually stimulated sales of albums, as people were able to hear the music before they plunked down their hard-earned dollars. Consumers were getting wary because popular music was crap and albums were (and still are) populated with maybe one good song and completely padded with poor songs. A little later, the dot-com bust happened. The economy took a dive. People were still buying, but not as much, because there wasn't as much money. The one good thing going for the music industry, something that actually got people excited about music again, was killed off (Napster).

But the "piracy" continued. People hopped over to other services. Music sales continued down. But the discretionary spending of the average American was down, not just in music, but in all areas of luxury spending. But no, it had to be the "piracy." Sharing services came and went, and the industry decided that suing their customers was a good idea. Hey, no consumer has the money to fight the lawyers hired by the deep pockets of the music industry, so nothing came to court and no one could get the courts to declare their (the music industry's) actions as illegal. But the "piracy" continued, because there are so many people and only so many lawsuits that could be filed at a time. Hey, you might get unlucky, but more likely, you will be ignored, or so the logic went.

Now we come to today. We have politicians easily in the pockets of the music industry who are happy to trade our rights as citizens and consumers to accommodate those who create the shoddy content, the music. There is a law being considered that would virtually take away fair use, in the name of "protecting" the profits of the music industry. The law is called the Analog Content Security Preservation Act of 2005, and you can read about it on Extreme DRM or on the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Of course, I have faith that some plucky hacker out there will circumvent any technological protection scheme, but when the laws of the country are not protecting the citizens, we are one step closer to a fascist state. Some day, we will look back on the old days when the RIAA just sued its customers, and wish things were still so simple. "Back then (we will say), we knew who our enemies were."

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Finding what you love

I am not a Mac user, nor do I have an iPod of any kind. It might be fun to have one, but the cost prohibits me. Nonetheless, I have to have some admiration for Steve Jobs. He is a unique person who has had some real impact on the world of movies and computers. Rather than sing praises to his name, I want to point you to a transcript of his commencement address at Standford this past June. It is powerful and meaningful to me.

Here is the link to his address.

He tells us to find what we love and do it. Doing something just for money does not bring lasting happiness, and there is the possibility we may find financial success while doing what we love. He talks of finding the good in even the worst of circumstances. Lastly, he tells us to live life to its fullest, as if each day is your last. This is great advice that I try to follow, but it is not easy. I suspect it will be worth it in the end, though.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Church and state and war

George W. Bush has not hidden the fact that he is a religious man. Regardless of his past (drinking and carousing about), he seems pretty sincere about his religious affiliations. And while I definitely want a moral and ethical person in office, and further want someone who is not anti-religion, I am more than a little concerned how much "W" puts his religion into his policy-making.

There is a recent report (which you can read here at the Independent) that George W. has claimed God told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. Naturally, the White House denies such statements as false, which comes as no surprise. Most people do not want a war president taking his orders from God. No, they would feel more comfortable with a president taking orders from our enemies, like China (thank you, Mr. Clinton!). But I understand the concern. A war has been declared, between a Middle-Eastern religion and a Western religion, much like the wasteful crusades of the past. And what was gained by those crusades? A lot of bloodshed and resentment that we can still see today.

Bush can believe what he wants, of course. However, whether he claims to have heard the voice of God directly (not as likely, but possible), or just feels he is a messenger who kills in God's name (more likely), it is the same. The decisions being made are not going to be in the best interest of the nation.

As a Latter-Day Saint, I have read enough history of how things work in a theocracy. I don't think I would have enjoyed living under the shadow of Brigham Young's controlling fist. This nation was founded for freedom of religion (among other reasons), and that means freedom from having a national religion forced on everyone. I think it should also mean freedom from having national policy made for quasi-religious (and barely justifiable reasons).

I did not support the war in Iraq, but I support the young men and women who are willing to fight for our country, even in wasteful wars that they don't believe in. There are times when war is justified. To right a grave wrong, such as Hitler. To protect freedom, such as the cold war. To retaliate when others attack us, as in World War II again, or after 9/11. I support a nation's right to defend her borders, (although our government is not doing enough of that (have you seen southern California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico lately?). But our "reasons" for going to Iraq changed constantly. I was truly surprised we didn't fine weapons of mass destruction, but only because I expected there to be evidence planted (yes, that's the cynic in me talking).

On this subject, I would say one thing more. Separation of church and state does not mean we divorce ourselves from the very principals upon which our nation's laws were founded. Whether we like it or not, our laws are based on the ten commandments and Judeo-Christian tradition. It was out of that tradition that the concept of a free nation for all was born. Sure, we have made mistakes as a nation, but we have so much capacity for good. Let us embrace all that is good, from whatever source it may come, but not forget the lessons we have learned in the past. The ten commandments do not cover everything, by any means, but they are a good place to start and they are where our nation's morals did start.