Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Obamacare" is just plain stupid

   It is not often that I write more than 140 characters at a time. It is even less often that I would consider associating the word "stupid" with the name "Obama". In fact this is the only time. But allow me to explain why the name "Obamacare" is just plain stupid.
   We all know where the name originated. It originated as a Tea Party "Conservative" soundbite. Let us consider the "meaning" among the obsessed radicals of our new "mainstream" political party. It means "Obama's Marxist Invasion". It means "Shariacare". It means "President Obama". Conservatives had to create a distraction from the policy itself. They had to distract the media as well. By summing up the regulations in one "entity" or name, the focus is removed from the related regulations and placed squarely on this "thing" called Obamacare. "Got Blue Cross? Say goodbye because "Obamacare" is the new Health Insurance provider!" That dire warning doesn't sound the same when you say The Affordable Care Act, does it? Even if the false premise of losing your access to Blue Cross insurance is allowed, the "Affordable Care" part is quite inviting. It would be almost as accurate to say "The Heritage Foundation Healthcare Act", but that is getting into the tit-for-tat of messaging wars and falls into the snark category, despite it's inherent truth.
   We all recognize the effectiveness of "Obamacare" as a messaging device within the bubble of Hate Nation. In the heat of the campaign in 2012 someone came up with the shortsighted idea that "Obamacares" is a great way to spin out of the negativity. That "someone" totally miscalculated and I literally exploded when the President, in the heat of the campaign, granted permission to all of media to use the term "Obamacare" because somehow it can only reinforce the vague notion that "Obama cares" and this Federal Act of Law is really just like Romneycare...which is rarely called Romneycare outside of Democratic circles. As media pundits strain their shrinking envelopes of credibility by forcing the issue that, "No, really, the name Obamacare is a good thing. We really WANT this complex Act reduced to one President and one website", I grind my teeth and wonder if any of these people can project consequences beyond a two week time frame. Yes, it would be oh-so-fun to gloat and scream "Obamacare WORKS!" when the day comes that health care costs bend into a deflationary curve (which has been deemed "impossible" by conservative think-tanks), but it would be just as satisfying to say the Affordable Care Act works. It would be far more permanent to say the Affordable Care Act is about affordable care...not about the President. By using "Obamacare", it reinforces the false premise of self-absorption (when Conservatives get personal about it). There are just so many negatives...
   Of course, the obvious argument is to say that using the term "Obamacare" in a positive manner reinforces it as a positive. Really? In politics? In BBQ conversations? And may I ask, is it worth all of that effort when there is no mention of Obamacare anywhere in the law? That said, I'm done saying any more. I've said my piece and I will stick with "the ACA" and avoid the other name because my hope for Americans, with regard to this particular issue, is affordable health care, not scoring political points.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Groundswell Incorporated

Catherine Engelbrecht - True The Vote @TrueTheVote

Darrell Issa - @DarrellIssa

John Boehner - @JohnBoehner @SpeakerBoehner

Frank Gaffney - @FrankGaffney @securefreedom

Jerry Boykin - @GenBoykin @mighty_jerico @FRCdc

Allen West - @AllenWest @PJMedia @AllenWestRepub

Ginni Thomas - @GinniThomas (protected account) @DailyCaller (associated account) 

Cleta Mitchell - @ActRightLegal (associated account) @RedState (associated account) @FoleyAndLardner (partner with account)

J. Christian Adams - @ElectionLawCtr @PJMedia * interesting photo collection:

Jeff Sessions (R-AL) - @SenatorSessions

*As more operatives are exposed, more contacts will be added...taking down the Shadow Government.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Friday Rant!

It's been quite a week! Almost exhilarating since Project Greenwald was finally implemented. For months, the activist, claiming to be a journalist, has been quietly sifting through thousands of classified documents. Classified documents that were gathered in a dragnet executed by one Ed Snowden. Snowden turned over the product of his indiscriminate data capture program to Glenn Greenwald. Glenn performed the arduous task of searching the vast amounts of data for information relevant to his cause, or as we often call it, "evidence". Hmm, that sounds a lot like the alleged activities of the NSA, nothing surprising here folks. In the spirit of transparency, Glenn is withholding most of the data.

Okay, I've had my fun, but there is a nagging point in there. In all fairness, the WaPo has untold amounts of data unreleased as well. That privacy stuff is catchy, huh?

I'm going to link an article that I find most pertinent. Please share the link on Twitter from the source. But before I do that, I want to say that Chris Hayes is not an "evil-doer" nor is he a willfully ignorant hipster enamored with the ideal of a civil liberties Utopia. I like Chris, I can tolerate his show and I apologize to tweeps for using him as a punching bag through the week. There are two issues that I find repulsive, however. One is this new movement to blur the lines between activism and journalism. It's a movement with many players, but among the leaders "du jour" are Scahill, Moore and Greenwald. Fine, they want to play that game, but when Chris Hayes lends them credibility on MSNBC? I find it repulsive. I get tired of the one-sided coverage of a one-sided "debate". And by one-sided debate, I mean to ask, "Why are you letting Corporations get away with "secret" data mining?" Data MINING, not a data search based on known quantities or defined parameters or warranted legal concerns. Data MINING or even espionage by Corporations is apparently fine and dandy, if my only source of news is MSNBC. While Rachel Maddow has also focused on the one side, at least she has made the decision to drop Project Greenwald from the "top stories" into the "updates". Ultimately, my point is to say that activism is NOT journalism and we can do better, MSNBC can do better. The second issue is much more complicated, but it can be summed up with one word, "Obamabot". this word is filled with so many repulsive implications it is astounding that ANY legitimate Pundit or Politician would associate themselves with Greenwald on this issue alone. And who can forget the infamous "Nun rape" incident? By the way, "Obamabot" implies subhuman intelligence...think about it. While Ron Wyden may be struggling and stumbling in his zeal to attract a younger demographic, he's been careful to keep a distance from Project Greenwald. However, Merkley and Ellison wanted "all in", until it's revealed they both CHOSE to miss the briefings on these programs. I'm pretty sure their schedules are suddenly too full for attention-getting interviews on the topic for at least a little while. rant is done. Thanks for your time. Now, here's that link I promised:

PRISM isn't Data Mining

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Don't Tap Me, Bro!

Glenn Greenwald got a "scoop" from one of his loyal readers...make that a few scoops. Whether he will continue his "drip, drip" strategy or opt for a "dump", Glenn has some shiny objects to share. He's been "working" on this scoop for about 2 months, but he's been an activist for much longer than that. While the Media has quickly toned down interest and the NSA is reclassified as a sideshow, I'm having a difficult time with moving on to more important issues. I keep hearing the words my good "virtual friend" Karoli would often tweet, "This is why we can't have nice things".

When the news of a 7 year old NSA program "broke", I literally reacted with "Well, duh". To my dismay, I witnessed good people I had long assumed were at least borderline tech-savvy, lose their collective shit. For many, "metadata" had an entirely new meaning..."Monster Data". Data so huge, so intrusive, so personal, so everything awful that the last straw had been pulled and the proverbial camel's back had not only been broken, but doused in jet fuel, burned into ash and thrown violently into a garbage heap along with our freedom, liberty and the US Constitution.

Regarding motivations, ideologies and personalities, I'll leave that for another time and place. Regarding the legality, constitutionality or morality, I'm not here to denounce or pronounce the NSA tactics. What I cannot shake is the concern that the issue of "data collection" and storage will fade once again into the ether as politicos rush to sweep the Patriot Act, the NSA and the difficult questions raised off the front page. The internet and the cell phone are many "things" to each one of us, but most of all they are "digital". They are "data". And we share a LOT of data. Sometimes we are offered a special "secure" web page to share our data, but most often we are not. There's a reason. And you know what I find most surprising in all of this hair-lighting outrage? No one has bothered to ask why ALL web pages are not "Secure". I won't be surprised when they understand why and only then can we move forward with an adult conversation about metadata, national security, privacy and the lifestyle choices we all have to make.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Six Decades to Separation From Reality

Welcome to the Internet! The Wild West of the new Millennium! 


   Where to begin. Perhaps I should relate my frustration, anger and sorrow when my son was too confused and ashamed to tell me he had replied to a spam/phishing comment that promised he had just won a new Xbox 360 console, only to lose control of his Facebook account. A Facebook account that he took pride in, as he chatted with friends and displayed his basketball photos and artwork. His dismay, the lost innocence, was difficult to bear as a Parent. Imagine his excitement that HE was selected and his Dad and Mom would be so proud that he jumped on this great opportunity! He and his brother wouldn't have to fight over the one Xbox, now there would be TWO! I tear up every time I think about son has the biggest heart and it is always worn lovingly on his sleeve. Sure, it's "only a Facebook account" and my son has since opened a new account and he's that much wiser. But that first account was his property, his place to just be himself with his friends and it was stolen. Not only was it stolen, but it became a playground for the thieves to continue their scam in search of enough information to steal money through ID theft. They sent messages, pokes, invitations and more, using my son's "credibility". And you know what? It was all my son's fault, according to the tech-savvy geniuses at Facebook and any other profit center on the Internet. PayPal is Legend for this type of "buyer beware" attitude that always seems to benefit the profit center with, what else, more profit. In the example with Facebook, the abandoned account is still open and actively sending out spam after two years, which allows Zuckerberg and friends to add another "user" in their advertising calculations. While I'm very skeptical of the value in advertising on Facebook, YouTube or any website, it is the driving force that makes the internet what it is, for good or for bad.
   It's almost an irony that the internet began as a non-profit, non-commerce, non-Corporate "thing" to build our knowledge base as a species of living beings capable of conscious thought, long term memory and complex language. As rapidly as the internet blossomed into a force for intellectual growth, it has decayed into a rotting corpse of greed and corruption. Under the guise of "freedom of speech", we have abandoned all notions of accountability, integrity or honesty. If the end result is an increased profit-margin or shareholder return, damn the torpedoes, "troll" the masses and full steam ahead. And the cruelest joke of all with regard to the creation of the "Information Superhighway"? Ignorance and misinformation provide the biggest profits of all. Rather than expanding our knowledge, advertising dollars have transformed the Internet into a Snake Oil Emporium where humans reinforce their worst imaginable fears, their worst misguided beliefs and their worst inhibited behaviors. Six decades ago, the Internet began. We have 6 months to reinvent it.
   Reinventing the Internet? Where's the website? Is there a petition I need to "sign"? Where do I "donate"? What's the name of this "movement" and can I join? Will I get more "followers" if I join? The first step in reinventing the Internet is to raise your awareness. For one 24 hour period of "surfing" the Internet stop joining, stop counting followers, stop signing petitions, stop clicking on ads and yes, stop donating. Hit the reset button and ask your friends to give it a try. This isn't a permanent change, although some may decide it's not a bad idea. The purpose is to simply raise awareness of the value YOU and your "click here" possess.

   Thanks for your time. Have fun and be safe!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Twitter Politics

   Just about the time I was preparing for my vacation from Twitter politics, I vaguely remember some invitations to "Unite Blue" and there was some reference to "Connect The Left" in there somewhere. In the past, I would usually click on follow if a new follower had the CTL hashtag in their bio. Safe, harmless and I have applied the same basic formula to new UniteBlue followers when I returned. But I've noticed a significant change in twitter habits among the Unite Blue crowd. They seem to be operating under some guideline that requires the UB hashtag and avoids using the open source, unaffiliated "#p2" that was fundamental in facilitating dialogue and messaging through the 2012 elections.
   First, I haven't bothered to research into the UB forums or even broach the subject on Twitter, but regardless of whether it is a formal or informal guideline, it's not a healthy development. Ideology tied to a specific organization under the auspices of a supervisory "board" for the sole purpose of driving membership numbers and creating a culture of exclusivity with "perks"...that's the basic formula for the Pro-life orgs, the Tea Party, The Breitbartians and the spin-offs. Second, while I haven't researched, I'm well aware of a twitter "beef" simmering below the surface and the numerous blogs questioning the motives behind Unite Blue. I haven't read many of the blogs as I've tried to preserve a more naive perspective and just "let it play out".
   At this point, I'm merely suggesting you dedicate 3 of your 140 characters to #p2. To continue the tradition of open source progressivism and liberalism, unfettered by organizational ties or loyalties. A hashtag that was truly created by the grassroots FOR the grassroots. Thanks for your time.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Where's Waldo? Or...can you spot the ad?

   To be clear, there's nothing I find offensive in the content and feel free to "Like, Share, Favorite, Subscribe and Bookmark" if you're into that sort of thing. But before you do, ask yourself, "What exactly is Rollie trying to accomplish?".
   I also encourage you to ask the same thing of that "BlueTrooth" guy, by the way. But let's take a look at what Rollie has got goin' here. When I clicked on the link from one of my Twitter friends, the website took a full 15 seconds to load. I assumed it was due to a spike in traffic following an "all points bulletin" link-fest encouraged by the source. No biggie, I patiently (ha! Fifteen seconds is my limit!) waited as the page loaded. My first impression was "Great! No cumbersome ads!" and I watched the embedded video. Jon Stewart at his finest, doesn't get much better than that. As an afterthought I read the brief intro from Rollie, a witty one at that. And then I see the bold Facebook and Twitter tabs, along with a couple more by his image, along with even more choices at the bottom of the screen (I apologize for the abbreviated screen snip, but it's not really necessary for the point).
   The point being, I realized I am really looking at one big ad for Rollie's Facebook and Twitter feed. Obviously, nothing wrong with that, but awareness is important in everything we do on the internet. The internet began as an educational "tool". It was once a mysterious and "fabled" entity in the 80's, often described as the "ultimate electronic bulletin board system" (commonly referred to as "BBS"). But it has evolved into the ultimate market of commerce, selling everything from ant farms to personal web browsing data. I decided I would try a little test and I reloaded the web page. To my surprise, it took the same excruciatingly long 15 seconds which indicates a few cookies might be busy. I'm not saying we should outlaw analytics, but I am saying your browser offers clues regarding which data-mining programs are active. Again, it's about awareness. So where is the ad? It's the entire page. And it's not an ad selling Comedy Central, it just might be selling you.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Don't Troll On Me

   April Fools Day...after a relaxing 3 months of blissful immersion in self-indulgent and, some might say, juvenile fun, I'm breaking my "silence". I power up the "black box" (my matte black PC designated for politics only) and after the brief boot-up, my eyes are fixed on the all-too-familiar Tweetdeck columns. Familiar by their titles and yes, the great friends with which I've shared so many "convos" and sarcastic quips. Bear in mind, "great friends" can also mean "complete strangers" in this day and age of virtual reality. But also remember, friendship is a trust built on fond memories and I personally have no shortage of those. Without much fanfair or forethought, I compose a simple tweet.

   "No April Fools...". Now, I'll be honest, I don't remember the exact words following "No April Fools" and I'm sure not going to review my tweets. The rest of the tweet went something like "starting tomorrow I'm back on Twitter. We've got work to do!". Heh, in hindsight that seems a bit of a presumption, bordering on absurdly arrogant and overly dramatic...Twitter "gold". But the tweet was really meant for me, myself and I. Trust me when I say that a swift kick in the butt and a public tweet demanding follow-through are quite necessary before plunging back into the shark-infested waters of political junkies, conspiracy theorists, the willfully ignorant and the skillfully exploitative. To drive that point home, I will note that the following day I repeatedly debated with myself whether I should open Tweetdeck, distracting myself with small projects around the house and even firing up the Xbox a few times. Why am I so hesitant? It's certainly not for lack of conviction, compassion or concern. But there's something else I was wrestling with and that something was, and still is in some ways, my "jaded" perspective. You see, I've experienced "life without hashtags".

   Please understand the light sarcasm I've employed in the writing of this essay. But also recognize that I'm relating my true experience, an experience that is shared with more than one "IRL" friend. That said, I'm tempted to go through a long laundry list of justifications to leave the politics behind. To lament the online politics of Twitter as a poor substitute for the real politics of daily life. An annoying obstruction to real activism. A virtual marketplace of trolling for dollars using the most insidious, despicable and destructive tactics imaginable. THAT is the "jaded perspective". There is certainly some truth in those criticisms, but I've only described the worst of Twitter, the seamy sideshow that exists only to steal your money as they push you out the door. All the more reason to push my way back in...

   To be clear, I left Twitter on my own terms. It was time for a break. I'm slowly getting back "in the groove" and visiting my friends at the usual places like The Obama Diary or The Peoples View, Crooks and Liars and PoliticusUSA to name just a few. And you can expect more "shoutouts" when I write some thoughts here in the future. As many of my friends know, and the archives surely attest, I haven't been a frequent blogger or accumulated a lot of frequent blogger miles, but that will likely change. You see, we DO have a lot of work to do. We must "keep it real" on Twitter and confront the exploitative on both sides of any particular issue. I will never suggest that monetization is inherently exploitative or a "bad thing", but we must employ a healthy skepticism toward any blog or organization that requires or even requests anything more than a username and a password. It's common sense and it's a topic I'll likely cover in more depth by relating my experiences. And that's what you can expect from me in the future. Experiences on the interwebs, some policy opinion and the obligatory rant, some questions for discussion and some community building. Thanks for stopping by, it's good to be back and hope to see you again soon.



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Xbox: Why every Parent should own one!

   If your Representative or Senator is suggesting that "Hollywood and video games" are a leading cause of gun violence, they either haven't watched a movie or gameplay in a long while or they are afraid of the repercussions regarding the big "P" word...Parenting. I'm a rookie, a noob, a greenie...I play Black Ops and I sold my rifles years ago and have no desire to buy a new one. I play Black Ops II with my pre-teen boys. Now, put the lighter fluid down and let go of your hair because there are hundreds of thousands of younger gamers (as evidenced by the higher register in their voice). If your child has an Xbox, they have most likely played Black Ops on more than a few occasions. That aside, my boys understand that they are playing a game where winning and losing is not a matter of life and death, and not a measure of self-worth. But I'm really getting ahead of myself, so let's review a few flawed premises.
   The most common perception of gamers in the "violent games" debate is the young male, generally an underachieving loner in school, that spends countless hours in the "basement" (or his room with the door barricaded) filling himself with Cheetos and endless fantasy of revenge. 
   Another scenario is the "double-life". Good student with plenty of friends becomes addicted or obsessed with the "violent game" and steals his parent's gun(s) for a fantasy-driven assault.
   Both of these situations would make a decent plot for a B movie designed to cash in on the "fear" being ginned up, but it seems fairly obvious that neither "plot" would get very far without disengaged Parents. There's also the nagging reality that actually shooting a REAL gun is far more likely to actually stir fantasy of destructive power. But, of course, the underlying assumption is that "kids" don't just go out and shoot guns, they're supervised! Continuing the imaginary debate between the gun "nut" and the game "nut", exactly why are video games assumed to be unsupervised? Why aren't parents involved? The average Parent is most likely unaware that Black Ops and most shooter games make statistics, individual player stats, not only relevant but central to the gaming experience. While "kills" and "deaths" are certainly the language of violence, they actually represent "tags" and "back to home" in classic game terminology (in this case the game of tag). In addition to mind-numbing stats regarding "usage", there is the very important number of hours played and last time online. That's right, a built-in "monitor". Video gaming is extremely easy to supervise if the Parent is engaged. The "set up" of the system itself includes all of the Parental "control" you could possibly imagine would be necessary. If you're a Parent with absolutely no interest in computers or gaming devices...well, I might then assume you have little interest in your child's ability to compete among or relate to his or her peer group.  Sounds pretty harsh, but this World is running on technology now. If you're big on supporting "free markets" and Capitalism, how can you ignore an industry that is generating Billions in revenues and profits? So many tangents, but I'll "soldier on" and wrap this up...
   While it isn't necessary to "own" an Xbox just for Parents, it's a lot easier to discuss video games with your kids when you've actually attempted to play them and you've experienced the "online crosstalk". Online communications should be a far greater concern than the actual content of the game. But there are simple and easy to understand filters or "rules" you can apply in set up to block unwanted communication from strangers. Ask your child to show you his/her "account information" and you'll see Parental Controls are readily available. Review these settings periodically, just in case your child is particularly curious and ingenious at discovering passwords. There is also the very convenient and well-monitored ability to report ANY Xbox Live participant for a Terms of Service violation. Obviously, inappropriate conversation with children IS a violation, as well as "open mic" vulgarity to all players. Lastly, individual "gamertags" (other Xbox Live accounts) can be blocked at any time with the push of a few buttons. I provide a little detail here to point out the wide array of defenses against intrusions into what should be a fun, energizing and spirited competition that includes teamwork as a fundamental value toward "success". Ironically, this "destructive" game can actually provide a great platform for strengthening your bond with your kids, as long as you can willingly subject yourself to humiliation and "pwnage" while you learn the techniques and develop your "skill set". This basic rule applies to any game you share with your kids, by the way. In my case, NBA2k13 is a consistent source of humility and grace under pressure, in addition to COD games.
   Other advantages to owning an Xbox 360 and Xbox Live membership? You can chat with your kids in "regular conversation". You gain credibility when explaining the downside to addictive or obsessive gaming (time flies, missed a great show, eyes got blurry or maybe a headache in example). You can be introduced to your child's friends and better understand "who's who". And in all the chatting, you have the opportunity to set the "tone". You can keep it lighter with humor and take the focus off of "deaths" and "kills" with quips like "he'll be back" or "go to the end of the line, buddy". You can also correct any objectionable talk, of course. You can choose to be on the same team and teach teamwork, or on opposite teams to demonstrate sportsmanship, as well. Of course, the whole "helicoptering" parent thing can become a real drag for your child if you overdo it, so keep that in mind if you sense some irritation. You can still monitor hours played and what game is played with a few button pushes. By the way, there is "Private chat" and "Party chat", so you can request his/her private attention for certain discussions (like homework?) that might make them uncomfortable in a Party setting.
   I started this piece focused on Black Ops and Black Ops II, the best-selling first person shooters from the Call of Duty franchise, because there are whispers anew that these games should be "regulated". My point is to say they actually ARE regulated and the only missing piece of the puzzle might be Parental involvement. With regard to the 24 year old loner with a closet full of guns, are you really suggesting a video game put them "over the edge"? What motivated the purchase of those weapons? Was it a video game that in no way translates to "target practice" or planning a scenario? It's not as if there's a "Schoolyard" map for the game. But then, you'd know that if you tried playing the game. And you just might get closer to your kids if you do.