March 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Trading privacy for security. Wake up.


Daylife/Getty Images used by permission
Yes – we stopped George W. Bush from doing this – but, you can trust us!

The Obama administration is moving to relax restrictions on how counterterrorism analysts may retrieve, store and search information about Americans gathered by government agencies for purposes other than national security threats.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Thursday signed new guidelines for the National Counterterrorism Center, which was created in 2004 to foster intelligence sharing and serve as a terrorism threat clearinghouse.

The guidelines will lengthen to five years — from 180 days — the amount of time the center can retain private information about Americans when there is no suspicion that they are tied to terrorism, intelligence officials said. The guidelines are also expected to result in the center making more copies of entire databases and “data mining them” using complex algorithms to search for patterns…

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A Nation Of Beggars

March 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Is that what we are now? A country full of people, palms outstretched, dribbling from the mouth as we rave about what is “owed” to us? What we are “entitled” to? Too often, I hear Americans talking about what the government needs to do for them, and what the government owes them. If this is you, stop and listen to yourself. The government doesn’t owe you anything more than what is outlined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Oddly, I hear more fuss about these entitlement programs than infringements on the things that ARE guaranteed to us. Like the right to privacy. Monitor my phone calls and internet usage all you want, just make sure you don’t touch my welfare check. Those priorities are flawed.

The government didn’t make you poor, and the government didn’t put you in debt. Your own decisions did. Own up and take some responsibility for yourself and your actions. I do understand that there are circumstances that are beyond a person’s control, and bad things happen. However, most people simply cannot claim this is the case, not when they’re honest with themselves. Even for those born in circumstances that stack everything against them, there remains the ability to better oneself. “Well, I’m this way because my dad did this,” or “My parents didn’t do this for me,” or “I don’t know how to do that,” and on and on. Quit with the lame excuses and do something productive. Be your own person, stop blaming everyone else for your problems, and you’ll probably find that you’re able to instead boast of your own accomplishments.

I hear this complaint all the time about how “rich” people need to pay more taxes than “normal” people because they make so much more. Apparently, the average American considers $100,000 a year to be “rich.” It isn’t. I don’t make nearly that much money, and still I know that doesn’t go very far. Besides that, there are some problems with that thinking. You’re saying that someone who chose to go to college or trade school, actually finished, and majored in something like chemical engineering, versus, I don’t know, say psychology, they should be penalized because they worked harder than you. How greedy and absurd can you get? I’m a fan of a flat tax rate, myself, but that’s for another post. Many people seem to have a problem with that idea, though, and if you do, you’re just greedy. Own up to it.

I know someone will read this and the first thing they are going to think is, “Ten percent of what I make is going to hurt me a lot more than ten percent of what they make.” My response to that is, “So what?” They are still paying their fair share. I’m sure they would much rather keep ALL of their money, and find a use for it, the same way you would. Stop being greedy. Or make more money. Or both. Stop making the government more powerful with your laziness and greed. Get out there and do for yourself what you expect others to do for you. If this hit too close to home, there’s probably a reason for it, and you should think about what that is. Wake up.

SOPA and ACTA. The Fight Is Not Over

March 22, 2012 1 comment

By now, many, if not most, Americans have heard of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). It is a proposed piece of legislation that would “expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.” In truth, this law, in its latest form threatens your right to free speech, effectively censors the internet, and gives more intrusive authority to an already frighteningly powerful federal government.

On January 18, 2012, many websites, most notably the English version of Wikipedia and about 7,000 enacted service blackouts to raise awareness of the issue. You probably remember it. On January 20, 2012, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Smith postponed plans to draft the bill, stating that, “The committee remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of online piracy that protects American intellectual property and innovation … The House Judiciary Committee will postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution.”

While this was welcome news, there are two reasons that it is too early for celebration. First, you can be sure we haven’t seen the last of SOPA, or its type of legislative ilk. Second, and much more troubling, there is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Disguised as a trade agreement, the legality of which is extremely debatable, this international agreement ultimately results in the invasion of your privacy in a myriad of troubling ways.

stopactaACTA effectively gives the federal government permission to be Big Brother. ACTA removes “legal safeguards that protect Internet Service Providers from liability for the actions of their subscribers.” What this means is that your internet service provider would have no choice but to continually monitor your internet activity, violating your privacy, on suspicion that you may do something that a trademark or copyright holder feels infringes upon their potential profits. More than forcing your ISP to monitor you, it would actually facilitate suspicious copyright holders gaining access to records of your activity. Further, ACTA allows law enforcement to seize and destroy your personal property on the mere suspicion that the contents might be used for commercial copyright infringement, or at the request of a “rights holder.” Anyone else see a problem with this?

So who are these rights holders? The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) comes to mind. Not to break on a tangent here, but the Obama administration has said that it refuses to make public the extremely secret happenings concerning ACTA on the grounds that it presents a “national security” concern. However, it is known that the MPAA has attended meetings and negotiations concerning ACTA. Perhaps I am speaking from a place of deep ignorance here, but since WHEN did the MPAA have ANYTHING to do with matters of national security? This is the same MPAA that very publicly and plainly threatened the President and Congress with discontinued financial contributions after SOPA got shot down. So…does one and one equal three, or is there something much more obvious going on here? Wake up.

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