Privacy not found!

Peep The All Seeing Spy EyeTrump demands secrecy himself but you cannot use the Internet with any privacy. To add insult to injury, every major company in any ties to the Internet are selling or going to be selling information about you.

Congress voted to repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy rules on March 28.  President Trump signed the legislation (SR Res 34) April 3rd, to take the regulations off the books and prevent future privacy rules.

Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, “the only people in the United States who want less Internet privacy are CEOs and lobbyists for giant telecom companies who want to rake in money by spying on all of us and selling the private details of our lives to marketing companies.”

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said “It is worth remembering that the FCC’s own overreach created the problem we are facing today. Until 2015, the Federal Trade Commission was protecting consumers very effectively, policing every online company’s privacy practices consistently and initiating numerous enforcement actions. However, two years ago, the FCC stripped the FTC of its authority over Internet service providers. At the time, I strongly opposed usurping the FTC, and the FCC’s struggles to address the privacy issue over the past couple of years (along with its refusal to recognize consumers’ uniform expectation of privacy) has only strengthened that view.”

The FTC’s Privacy Guidelines seem to cover criminal acts with your data or very fragmented rules about using your data.  Rules about how AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon use and sell your data seem to be governed by the “Privacy” contract (3000 words) that you forced to sign before you can get service.  If you have every read one, you will find that they allow the company to do just about anything with your data and change the contract at anytime.

Big Data cartoonCollecting, using, and selling your data has become a huge growth industry benignly called Big Data.  This industry collects, analyzes, and extracts value (make money).  Facebook is a database marketing company, posing as a social networking service, that eliminated the need for data collection and data entry by convincing 1.86 billion+ people to enter lots of data about themselves.

Donald, Do Not Fuck Up America!

Nor the rest of the world! Do nothing evil that you promised to do to women, Muslims, Mexico, immigrants and above all, do not nuke’em! Also do not sue all the women that came out accusing you of sexual harassment nor put Hillary in jail.  These things will not help most Americans.  I watched as you promised everything to everyone, but you cannot deliver everything to everyone.  Disinformation will not change the truth.  Please try to deliver something good to most people.  I fear that your term will continue the decline of America that President Obama was slowly turning around.  As in the words of one MSNBC commentator, “This is going to take a lot of sinking in.”  Donald, remember that more than half the citizen’s votes were not for you and some of your votes were not Hillary votes.

We do want you to improve our infrastructure.  Maybe you can deliver us the fastest, cheapest, most neutral Internet in the world.  And rebuild and secure our electric grid, because electric power is the fuel that will drive our success.  Please remember that everything that you say or tweet will send shock-waves around the world for better or worse for Americans.

Release your tax return or are you afraid that it will show you are not doing your fair share to make America great.  In the end the American public will judge you not on what you say or tweet, but what you do!  Think how it will effect everyone, not just Donald Trump.  And finally some hope from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, There has got to be a pony in this crap pile.

Donald Trump, Still A Loser!

You lost $916,000,000 in 1 year! You are the biggest loser!  Business has it’s ups and downs, but claiming you are the best because you can be a success while losing money and not paying people that work for you makes you a narcissist, not a successful business person.

I can only assume that you will fix the loopholes (as you stated) by plugging all the ones for lower income people (less than a billion dollars).  At the same time, expanding the loopholes for billionaires?

You have shown lots of people how to lose money at several Trump businesses, like the Trump University and Trump Entertainment Resorts.  The German government believes that a Trump presidency would result in a ravaged U.S. economy, expanding by less than expected by $1,000,000,000,000 (trillion) by 2021.  So you would Make America Great Again by making U.S. citizens the world’s biggest losers!

Pandora’s iPhone

Pandora's iPhoneThe U.S. government’s case against Apple to force Apple to change the iPhone’s operating system software, iOS to allow access to a terrorist’s information is an issue that impacts all of us.

Even though the FBI has insisted that this is just about this case is just about a single phone, the end result would be opening Pandora’s Box or iPhone in this case.  Once the solution has been created, everyone will want to use it; the British, the French, the Russians, your wife’s divorce lawyer….  And the FBI has other cases where this might be used to compel Apple to change their product.  And once a method has be created, it will only be a matter of time (weeks or days) before hackers have created their own version to steal your identity and bank balance.

As the government demands access to our secrets, they demand their secrets are protected by the highest level of encryption in the name of “National Security,” some which turnout to be questionable and illegal, many exposed by Edward Snowden in 2013.  On the opposite side, the government does have valid reasons for protecting certain information and so do citizens.

We all should be creating or buying the best encryption technology available to protect our lives, liberties, and bank accounts.  Our government should not be trying to weaken that protection.  Maybe it is time to create an explicit Right to Privacy in our constitution instead of the current maze of laws and implied protections.

Why no economic boom?

The current economic conditions in the United States has disappointed many in the government and business sectors.

Our current conditions have been decades in the making and business needs to shoulder most of the blame.  In the 1980s, business started out-sourcing and off-shoring, that reduced employment in manufacturing and information technology industries.  This gutted the middle class that had been the economic engine in the U.S. since World War II.

After that blow to the economy, the housing crisis hit reducing the largest asset of the middle class.  Meanwhile the top 1% gave themselves raises for “managing” their business so well.

In the meantime, corporate America’s cash hoard has grown to record levels.  Moody’s Investors Service reported in 2013:

The US non-financial companies that Moody’s rates held $1.45 trillion in cash at the end of 2012, up 10% from the record level of $1.32 trillion at the end of 2011…. Currently leading the pack with the most cash are Apple, Microsoft, Google, Pfizer, and Cisco. These five companies have $347 billion or 24% of the total non-financial corporate cash balances. This amount is up from $278 billion or 21% for the top five in 2011.

While they sit on piles of cash, they are waiting to hire, invest, and expand; for the consumer to spend.  The same consumer that they fired, hired at reduced wages or part-time; and whose income has not been growing with the economy.

GDP/Income Graph
GDP per capita vs. real median household income

This chart shows how U.S. economic growth is not translating to higher family incomes.  The term “real” means the figures are adjusted for inflation.  U.S. real GDP per capita, a measure of average total income per person, has increased since 1999 while the real median income per household has been flat, indicating a trend of greater income inequality.

It is up to the large American corporations and the wealthier 1% to start spending and keep spending until America booms again!

U.S. becoming a third world country?

It is beginning to look like this country’s police and sheriff departments are getting a taste for cash, your cash! You don’t need to be a criminal or even charged with a crime. They just demand citizens turn over any large amounts of cash and claim you are going to buy drugs with it without any proof.  This is how government officials/police are financed in third world countries.

Forfeiture has been used by authorities to fight the “War on Drug” with great impact on criminal organizations.  But now the local police trained by private companies such as Desert Snow, LLC and it’s Black Asphalt Electronic Networking System that is used by police to target individuals without proof of a crime.

As the tactics taught by Desert Snow are used in state and local police become more institutionalized, forfeiture has been abused to violate an individual’s right to property and presumption of innocence.

In civil forfeiture, the burden of proof has moved to the victim of forfeiture, making the return of property seized difficult and expensive.  Also the benefit to the governmental agencies involve is great, growing from $93.7 million (1986) to $2.50 billion in 2008 in Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture Fund.  Some of this was criminal forfeiture, but also includes innocent victims.

State and local agencies have found this is a way to increase their budgets significantly.  In Texas, in Jim Wells County, authorities seized more than $1.5 million during a four-year period mostly off of U.S. Route 281, described as a “prime smuggling route for drugs going north and money coming south.”  Seized cash is a third of the budget of the sheriff’s department, allowing it to buy more equipment, high-powered rifles, and police vehicles. There are few restrictions on how police use seized funds.  In some counties in Texas, 40% of police revenue comes from forfeitures. Texas, with many smuggling corridors to Mexico, and police seized $125 million in 2007.

The solution to preventing innocent victims of civil forfeitures, is to reduce or eliminate the incentives for police and governmental agencies.  By restricting the use of funds to neutral use, that does not benefit the agencies directly, abuse would be reduced.  Or eliminate the issue completely like New Mexico which passed a law making civil forfeiture illegal in New Mexico, the first state to outlaw the practice.

More info:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asset_forfeiture
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_forfeiture_in_the_United_States
http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2014/09/06/stop-and-seize/
http://www.hbo.com/last-week-tonight-with-john-oliver/episodes/01/20-october-5-2014/video/ep-20-clip-civil-forfeiture.html

New Horizons phoned home today!

New Horizons, an interplanetary space probe that was launched on January 19, 2006, passed by the dwarf planet, Pluto and took the best pictures to date of the distant plutoid.  Yesterday, New Horizons sent back the following picture of Pluto.

Pluto picture
Pluto from New Horizons on 7/13/2015.

The best picture previous to New Horizons was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1994, shown below.

Pluto from Hubble picture
Pluto and its moon, Charon, as revealed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in 1994

On July 14, 2015 05:49 MDT, the New Horizons spacecraft flew 12,600 km (7,800 mi) from the surface of Pluto, taking more pictures and gathering more sensor data.  In the next few days and weeks, this data will be sent back to earth, providing even better pictures of Pluto, up to 10 times the resolution of the picture sent just a day before now.

Congratulations to the New Horizons team for the success of their mission that began January 8, 2001.  I hope it continues generating new discoveries far into the future.

A Good Day for Internet Users!

Today, the FCC adopted strong legal protections for network neutrality that will yield civic, social and economic benefits for U.S. citizens.  The FCC issued a statement which said in part:

Today, the Commission—once and for all—enacts strong, sustainable rules, grounded in multiple sources of legal authority, to ensure that Americans reap the economic, social, and civic benefits of an Open Internet today and into the future. These new rules are guided by three principles: America’s broadband networks must be fast, fair and open—principles shared by the overwhelming majority of the nearly 4 million commenters who participated in the FCC’s Open Internet proceeding.

The details can be view on the FCC web site at http://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-adopts-strong-sustainable-rules-protect-open-internet

Comcast Failing Big!

As Comcast grows, their customer service seems to be getting worse.  This morning I turned on the TV to see the latest business news.  I usually watch Bloomberg as CNBC has gotten too political.  Something had changed!

There seemed to be different hosts.  Where was Betty Liu?  And the hosts seemed more political.  Then I realized I was watching Fox News, the propaganda channel of the 1%.  I hit my Bloomberg button on my third-party remote and again I got Fox News.  I looked at the on-screen guide and no Bloomberg channel was shown.  So I logged into Comcast’s web site to see if the channel line-up had changed.  Comcast’s channel line-up showed Bloomberg on channel 739, right where I had been watching it for several years.

Comcast Channel Line-up

So I called Comcast’s phone support.  After yelling at the IVR operator to forward me to a human for 3 minutes, I got connected to Paul (name changed). He listen to my problem and checked the line-up for my area and said “Bloomberg should be on channel 739.” He said he would remotely reset my cable DVR box and that might fix the problem after about 30 minutes.

While I was waiting for that box to reset, I checked my bedroom HD box to see if it had the same problem.  There was no Bloomberg on channel 739!  In fact, there was no channel 739, so the box went to the next available channel, Fox News.  While contemplating spending another 30 minutes trying to get to a human that could reset my cable box, I scanned around to see if other channels were missing.  And there on channel 747 was Bloomberg News HD!  Apparently hiding from everyone, including Comcast.

Comcast does not seem to know their head from their headend!  Someone moved the channel and the website and customer service knew nothing about it.  Since they moved the Science Channel to a higher tier, Comcast has been on my get-rid list.  Maybe it’s time to dump them for the Dish!

Are Free Markets Really Free?

Some people are demanding free markets to help the economy recover from the Great Recession.  Republicans and Libertarians maintain there needs to be less government regulation.  Free markets helped started the Great Recession and it has not ended!

The banking industry got their free market wish granted when Bill Clinton signed the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, AKA the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, into law.  This removed regulation that prohibited any one institution from acting as any combination of an investment bank, a commercial bank, and an insurance company.  The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission concluded that

  1. the financial crisis was avoidable;
  2. the widespread failures in financial regulation and supervision proved devastating to the stability of the nation’s financial markets;
  3. the dramatic failures of corporate governance and risk management at many systemically important financial institutions were a key cause of this crisis;
  4. a combination of excessive borrowing, risky investments, and lack of transparency put the financial system on a collision course with crisis;
  5. collapsing mortgage-lending standards and the mortgage securitization pipeline lit and spread the flame of contagion and crisis;
  6. over-the-counter derivatives contributed significantly to this crisis;
  7. the failures of credit rating agencies were essential cogs in the wheel of financial destruction.

To read the details of the report, download the official government PDF and make up your own mind.  My opinion is that laws and regulations that had protected us since 1933 were removed to create a free market.  This market crisis was not free and we are still paying for it! Laws and regulations are made to protect citizens’ lives and fortunes. Removing the laws that are working to that end allows people (and certain large corporations) to rob us blind.

As early as 1999 I was wondering how “mortgage companies” could loan out big sums of money to people that only had to show a drivers license.  When I heard about credit default swaps in 2007 and how they eliminated risk in risky mortgages, I could not see that could be the case in all situations.  When I tried to talk about these issues and my concerns, I was told to just refinance and keep quiet.  What I did not realize is that all that risk was being transferred to the citizens of the world and the biggest financial crisis in my lifetime was about to begin.  I doubt that the organizations that benefited from this crisis will every be held fully accountable, but I will not be silent when I see pending doom in the future.

Update 11/24/2014

It appears that the economy is recovering, but slowly.  Of course the conservatives are blaming President Obama because politically they cannot do anything else except to act defensively.  Big business leaders are blaming the federal government when they were the ones that gutted the middle class by moving middle class jobs off shore.  That has helped them to capture a greater share of overall income from the middle and lower income levels since 1967!