My Update Portrait

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Official Disclaimer

The statements in this blog are exclusively the opinion of the author. They are intended for discussion and entertainment purposes only. They are not meant to be news or political doctrine. Their purpose is to provoke thought. If you incapable of an original thought, please stick to Fox News, Rush Limbaugh or other Conservative program.


The Unforgotten
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Shocking

Everyone should be respected as an individual, but no one idolized. - Albert Einstein

The European Court of Justice brought into existence Europe's "right to be forgotten" ruling. In a nutshell, Europe wanted to protect citizens from the fact that the Internet never forgets.

The particular case heard by the court involved a Spanish man who was in the press for serious debt problems, but who later climbed out of debt. The court ordered Google, Bing and other search engines to remove his name as a search query that returned the outdated information about his finances. The court ruled that the public should have a right to petition search engines to remove search results for resolved indiscretions that are not a matter of public record.

This has thrown the journalism industry into a panic. They are no longer guaranteed access to references and searches for their news stories with the greatest of ease. As a result, as is the case with the majority of people that are directly affected by a political direction, they are demanding immediate action from somebody else to resolve this issue for them.

The Washington Post Editorial Board thinks it should be our government at all levels that should preserve access to the information they’d like to have to do their jobs with the greatest of ease. Mike Elgan, who is a frequent contributor to Computerworld, a trade magazine for the computer tech industry, believes Google itself should provide a peer-to-peer TOR style shadow network that bypasses government oversight and regulation to provide easy access to the Internet’s “dark internet” underbelly so as to provide convenient snooping on everybody but Mike Elgan.

There is not going to be any fantasy simple or conveniently balanced solution between privacy and security on the internet, no matter how much everybody demands it. No one wants to be responsible for determining where the line should be drawn. And even if someone would, the decision isn’t going to be accepted or tolerated by a substantial number of people.


Obamacare: a Personal Story
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Obamacare

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future. - John F. Kennedy

I got health insurance for the first time in 8 years as of January 1 of this year. I, like a lot of older Americans, have a pre-existing condition with a diabetes type 2 diagnosis and couldn’t afford health insurance in a high risk pool at my age. I was unemployed for two and a half years and insurance through my current employer would have eaten up half of my monthly paycheck.

Between my social security benefits and my current paycheck, I am now insured. I signed up though the federal health care exchange for an HMO. Waiting for 2 weeks before the December 23rd deadline helped, and the process was pretty painless. Although the signup failures get highlighted, the successes seem to get lost in the process. I got a policy without any subsidies, so I am on a very typical private insurance plan and pay $560 a month.

The problems with signing up for insurance have been well documented and publicized. I knew what to expect when and was told when it would be corrected. Not so, once I received coverage from a very prominent private insurer. That’s when the confusion and my uneasiness started.

Getting answers from my insurance company is nothing short of a nightmare. Any attempt to call them results in a wait of at least an hour, if I don’t get disconnected. I have an online account with them with a facility to get my questions answered via a contact Email form. I have put in queries for things like payment methods and clarification of primary care physician options. These queries have been stuck in limbo for 2 weeks. One query got a response and said only that it would be referred to the proper department.

After I paid for my coverage (It took a week for the payment to be posted), it took another 2 weeks to receive my insurance coverage card. I am still unable to get answers to my insurance questions. Apparently, there aren’t any competent “navigators” in the private insurance sector. This is their business handling a very costly product. They had years to anticipate a heavy load in their only area of expertise.

For all the public outrage about government shortcomings, I am massively unimpressed with the operation of the private industry sector regarding health care. It appears that this extremely well-known insurance company is more interested in insulating themselves against their subscribers than they are about providing service to their customers.


The Black Hole of Legislation Calls the Kettle Black
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Black Hole

Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban. And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person’s entire processes. - Republican Congressman Peter Sessions

We all know what a black hole is. It’s a swirling mass in the center of the galaxy that consumes hot gases and enlightenment and produces nothing. That would also describe our American Congress, the epitome of dysfunction within our country.

The remaining members of al Qaeda must be dancing in their caves right now. We as Americans have achieved things that they could only dream of. Things like a worldwide financial meltdown, destructive disclosures of our state secrets regarding defense, some unrepentant plagiarist and blowhard named Rand Paul staging a pointless and futile 10 hour rant about our drone program and most recently a near, partial, feel-good, not really, but okay shutdown of our government and virtual execution of our foot regarding our financial good faith with the debt ceiling.

Along comes October 1st and the Affordable Care Act, code named Obamacare. Despite Republican efforts to repeal, shut down, defund, constitutionally reject and hold the government hostage over it; they are falling all over themselves to demand that the government respond to its nascent popularity by commanding that it work flawlessly by decree.

I have been a part of enough large IT projects, including a successful one for the US military, to know that setting a do or die date for a project of this magnitude is a crap shoot at best. Besides, the system wasn’t designed to have to support federal exchanges for 27 states.

Per Computerworld:

The Standish Group, which has a database of some 50,000 development projects, looked at the outcomes of multimillion dollar development projects and ran the numbers for Computerworld.

Of 3,555 projects from 2003 to 2012 that had labor costs of at least $10 million, only 6.4% were successful. The Standish data showed that 52% of the large projects were "challenged," meaning they were over budget, behind schedule or didn't meet user expectations. The remaining 41.4% were failures -- they were either abandoned or started anew from scratch.

Now these same legislators that failed to navigate their own missions enough to keep our government operating are conducting investigations of those who were unable to automate this highly specialized and unprecedented project including that of Secretary of Health’s Kathleen Sebelius. If these Congressmen want to understand the profile of failure, they should assemble a committee and just put a big mirror in the center of the room, because the healthcare.gov team has something Congress doesn't have. A spirit of cooperation to achieve a goal.


National Intelligence
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Secret

Notwithstanding the fact that the most innovative and progressive space we've seen - the Internet - has been the place where intellectual property has been least respected. You know, facts don't get in the way of this ideology. - Lawrence Lessig

This is just a little something to chew on. With the Edward Snowden revelations of NSA surveillance, IRS profiling of the Tea Party and the Department of Justice investigation of leaks publicized by the Associated Press, we need to fast forward into the information age and open a broad discussion on intellectual property.

Whether it is named business strategy, digital media rights, trade secrets, state secrets, patent law, copyright, trademark, or personal privacy; they all fall under the heading of proprietary intellectual property. So for the purposes of this post, they will all be considered together as a unit. Although the property is intangible, it is still a unique product of the owner and is protected by various laws to contain and control the distribution of this property.

With all the rebuttals I have seen surrounding my previous posts about intellectual property, I have only seen two arguments that approach appearing, at least on the surface, compelling.

The first is that intellectual property cannot be stolen because the original property still remains with the author. Try telling that to someone who has had their identity stolen and have had devastating losses because of it. If something is transferred from the owner to another party without the original owners express or implied consent, it is theft. If a tangible item is stolen and then recovered, that does not undo the fact that it was stolen in the first place.

The second is that the laws concerning physical property theft do not apply to intellectual property theft. This is the usual argument from those who are unwilling or unable to comprehend that intellectual property has value, just like physical property does. Your personal intellectual property is traded every time you apply for credit, purchase an item on credit, enter a legal proceeding or apply for insurance. In all these cases, you are entrusting your personal intellectual property to your lender, creditor, lawyer, insurance company or doctor and are counting on them to safeguard it to the best of their ability.

So whether the NSA is collecting phone metadata and internet information to keep us safe from terrorist threats, the Justice Department is trying to find out who is betraying their mission as a result of leaking state secrets by getting contact information from the AP’s phone records or the IRS is trying to determine tax deductible status of the Tea Party movement that electioneered heavily during the 2010 elections; the government appears to be doing its best to do its job without the massive overreach for which they are being accused. Despite claims of oppression by the government, national intelligence and intellectual property rights laws that are already on the books are being prosecuted by the administration.

Edward Snowden is the unprecedented 7th attempt within this administration to prosecute a leaker. With the roguish sanctifications of Wikileaks and the Anonymous criminal organizations, it is no wonder that government leaks are thriving. I doubt that the information that was revealed by Snowden was anything new. The only thing that was revealed is the secrets behind the magic tricks used to keep us safe from terrorist attacks.

TBH, I don’t see why government collection of data on individuals is considered so nefarious to prosecute criminal activity when private sector of collection of data for their own profiteering, including Google photography of your home and facial recognition technology of your children, is considered to be innocuous. I will trust private sector privacy intrusions when their executive board meetings are on CSPAN.

Whether it is at a national level with security requirements down to the individual level with privacy, intellectual property will always be imbued with a sense of ownership. This property, like any property, has no purpose unless it is used and shared in some form. We need to take a serious look at how this is done with intellectual property now and in the future more than ever.


On Gun Defense
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Gunshot

Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. - Barry Goldwater

I had been searching for this for, what seems like, years. When gun debates come up, there is always a reference to self defense. I have Googled, Yahoo!ed and Binged and have never been able to see what a clear cut gun defense looked like until I ran across this story in the Washington Post.

I have always given gun rights advocates the benefit of the doubt and thought that the main stream media was unfairly shying away from gun defense cases because of some code of honor, political leanings or liability reasons. When I read this article, I was astonished at some of the things I discovered from it, such as:


  1. This was not a personal assault on the street, but a home invasion that required the victim to retrieve a gun from a safe and hide with her children in an area of this house that she hoped would be out of harm's way. There was no concealed carry involved.

  2. The victim has remained very private about the experience. No talk shows, no interviews, no publicity at all. The only statements made were from the police reports.

  3. All of the boasting has come from outside sources such as the NRA, Fox News and talking head radio shows.

  4. It has become apparent that crime will probably be mitigated and reduced in that neighborhood. Not because everybody is packing firearms, but because crime mitigation procedures such as Neighborhood Watches, a larger police force and security measures are being implemented.

  5. The biggest resulting braggadocio in the neighborhood has been the Walton County Sheriff, Joe Chapman, who was reduced to name calling in court calling the perpetrator a “dirt bag”.

  6. The perpetrator was shot 5 times in the chest and face with a .38 caliber handgun and still was able to escape in his car until he crashed a few blocks later. He survived, was convicted and sent to prison.

  7. The perpetrator was a resident of the community where he committed the crime.

  8. The perpetrator’s wife now possesses a gun to protect herself in what has become an arms race.

A news item like this would be in the best interest of the news media, the gun lobby and the NRA to promote this kind of account. Yet, things like this never seem to make it into any kind of press. Instead, mass shooting tragedies are arrogantly passed off as acceptable losses and any attempts to reduce gun violence are written off as bothersome irritation. It has become dangerously obvious that concern for the security of gun activists' armaments far exceeds their concern for the security of the society in which they live.

The picture that was painted by this incident didn’t follow the Hollywood script types of stories that gun activists like to paint. It is becoming more apparent that the scenarios that gun activists portray are, at best, anecdotal and incredibly rare and the reality invokes images of trauma rather than heroism.

This narrative goes contrary to concealed carry rationalizations. This is a clear cut case of domain protection, and not personal assault. This story reinforces my belief that aside from military or law enforcement professionals, those who arm themselves in public, and mentally and emotionally prepare themselves to take a life suffer from paranoid delusional fantasies. I think it’s worth noting that in the cases of military or law enforcement, their carry is not concealed.

My observations are further supported by the exceedingly zealous views of rabid gun activists who believe that the solution to every conflict is to shoot their way out of it. I am convinced that ordinary citizens that insist on concealed carry for protection are directly parallel to 40 year old male virgins that carry condoms. They will probably never use them, but they entertain a fantasy that their moment can come at any time.

It would seem that the NRA would be better served by representing the vast majority of gun owners who enjoy ownership for hunting, target shooting and domain protection. Instead, they feast on the fringe implementation of paranoid fantasies to justify their cause. The American Civil War is over. It's time we quit treating our nation like a war zone.


Life in the Balance
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Balance

Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it. - George Santayana

I suppose I shouldn’t complain. This is the kind of thing forums like this are made of. The news item that actually brought this to my attention for the first time was the Grimsvotn volcano that interrupted flights, predominately in Europe. There was public outcry that governments would shut down flights for safety reasons because it would inconvenience them. Lately, there has been the same kind of frenzy due to the West Fertilizer Company’s explosion in Texas.

Apparently, it has become the quest. of any institution, whether public or private, to generate as little outrage as possible. In the case of the volcano, would there be less outrage if airplanes were grounded, or if hundreds of lives would have been lost by allowing flights through volcanic ash? Would the dialogue be changed if highly intrusive regulation were imposed upon all businesses at great cost to taxpayers so the West Fertilizer Company’s explosion in Texas could have been avoided? Would justice be served if we put all people on the terrorist suspect list into WWII style Japanese internment camps or in Guantamo Bay; so that the Boston Marathon bombing could have been avoided?

Yes. The choices are extreme to most, but logical to some. The increasingly divisive arguments have morphed from the best solution for a society in general to the best solution for me as an individual. Little to no regard is being given to a sense of balance. Moderation has given way to radical ranting on all sides. Communication technology through the internet and the demand for more transparency in everything, including sensitive issues of national security, has amplified our voices. As a result, the most practical voices are being drowned out by the loudest voices.

Words of wisdom have now been turned into sound bites to be hurled against our political opponents. Patriotism is now nothing more than a political football. Political choices are made by voters based on headlines without any regard for the whole story.

We need to separate the shouting from the dialog. We must act as if our lives hang in the balance. Because they do.


That Was Then. This Is Now.
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Time

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide. No escape from reality. – Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody

The term: The New Normal has come to our language in the past couple of years. The phrase defines a change, usually a downgrade, which is expected to be lasting. As a result, The New Normal is an adjustment that is likely to be widely accepted as a standard.

The New Normal is not a bad thing for people that can roll with the punches. It is a healthy coping mechanism that usually follows a period of resignation when something has come to be acknowledged in our society. The problem occurs when The New Normal is written into the equation and is used to manipulate that society into accepting a substandard way of life. This seems to be happening on an incremental basis in America. A couple examples:

Bill Clinton Affair with Monica Lewinsky. This scandal was the basis for an impeachment of a President of the United States. The whole country was whipped into a lather that a President would actually engage in this kind of immoral behavior while in office. Anthony Weiner was disgraced and left his Congressional position after controversial pictures he sent appeared on Twitter. He is now running for Mayor of New York. Mark Sanford disappeared from his office to have an affair with a woman in Argentina. She is now his girlfriend and is running for Congress in the same state that he was disgraced as a governor. The New Normal? You tell me.

Columbine Massacre in Columbine High School, Columbine Colorado. The NRA and gun advocates were all over this incident to blunt the possible gun control fallout from this tragedy. Since then, mass shootings have become a regular feature in the news. The New Normal? You tell me.

The Financial Meltdown of 2008. Although the financial industry can be held culpable for much of this, Republicans and financial institutions have been lobbying heavily to overturn and sabotage any efforts to enforce the Dodd-Frank financial reforms passed in 2010. This is to allow business as usual as it was before the meltdown so that those financial practices, including bailouts, will remain The New Normal. Does this make sense? You tell me.

The Bush Tax Cuts and other administration actions were done on the back of our national debt and was excluded from the budget process until they were budgeted by the Obama administration. Since then, it has been the practice of the Republicans to starve the federal government of any additional revenue and have been trying to balance the budget on the backs of the middle class, the needy and senior citizens while trying to bloat their pet projects like the military infrastructure. The New Normal? You tell me.

Sometimes life will throw us a curveball and change our reality. Nothing illustrates that more than natural disasters. When that happens, we have always been able to adjust to The New Normal until we could recover. That’s how progress, resilience and innovation work. However, when that reality is artificially created to the whims of a few, the result is a society that dies a little at a time until that society’s normal vitality becomes a mere shell of its former self.


Pure Energy
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Pure Energy

Almost every way we make electricity today, except for the emerging renewables and nuclear, puts out CO2. And so, what we're going to have to do at a global scale is create a new system. And so, we need energy miracles. - Bill Gates

I am not one to beat the environmental drum, although I do agree that something should be done to halt or slow our path to global resource depletion. I think any progress that can be made in this area should be pursued. During the Reagan era, amazingly, there was a cooperative effort between the governments of the United States and Russia to create a viable fusion engine that would be able to generate electrical power on a global scale.

This post will increasingly delve into this concept as it goes on, so if you find yourself being baffled or bored, I would encourage you to skip to the conclusion. If you find it fascinating and encouraging as I did, you might want to read the brief article and watch the presentation video to understand it better. I got this from my daughter who posted this to my Google+ “wall”.

We are all familiar with the energy generated by the sun. Instead of the sun just burning hydrogen, which would have depleted the hydrogen of the sun in a few million years, the sun uses fusion. Simply put, subatomic particles are manipulated under extreme heat and pressure to convert hydrogen to helium. This process generates the energy of the sun and is the most resource efficient process known to modern science to generate energy of any kind.

In the 50’s, it was discovered that fusion could be achieved using a plasma field. Regrettably, at the time, the technology demanded enormous expense and resources in order to generate this field. Reagan and Gorbachev initiated the Tokamaks project during a summit that would create this plasma field efficiently. However, the fusion engine would have been 30 meters tall, weighed 23,000 tons, had 1 million parts and would cost $20 billion to produce. Its production on a global scale would have been prohibitive for the near future.

Lockheed Martin is developing a fusion engine that would fit on the back of a flatbed truck. It generates no hydrocarbons and is capable of an immediate shutdown in case of a stability breach of any kind. It is also incapable of being produced as a weapon. As opposed to the Tokamaks engine, it utilizes electromagnetic energy to contain the plasma field instead of a free flowing field like the Tokamaks engine. It is also viable for mass production and would be small enough for space exploration and colonization. Heat is created by radio frequency, so the resource to energy ratio would be more efficient.

Conclusion – Despite individual ranting that we live in a police state that uses its resources to horribly oppress its citizens in the United States, there is a fair amount of good that is coming out of the government. Yes, there are laws that dampen our ability to: be heavily armed, filch other people’s talents through intellectual property theft, allow predatory business entities to damage our citizens, allow the movements of those who pose a danger to others or themselves, mandate to a pregnant woman how she handles a parasitic organism within her own body, insist that our society provide our health care only because we refuse to provide it ourselves to the best of our ability

The government genuinely tries to work toward the best interest of all the people of this nation. Our government doesn't try to solve all our problems. It allows its citizens to overcome their own barriers because that's the essence of true liberty. This is one shining example of our chosen leaders moving our country and civilization forward in a manner that can’t be done on a smaller scale.


A Crisis of Confidence
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Indecision

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. – Dale Carnegie

I recently read an editorial in the Washington Post that brought something to light that should be an “Aha” moment for everybody in America. One of the hugest problems domestically is a crisis of confidence that is keeping the economy and everything else from moving forward into the 21st century. Companies aren’t hiring or expanding and consumers aren’t buying because nobody knows what the future is going to bring in this country. The article states:

That conclusion, drawn by Republican pollster Bill McInturff, carries ill omens as lawmakers seem all but certain to let more than $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts go into effect at the end of the month and with fights over keeping the government funded and raising the debt ceiling looming.

The article cites the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index in the editorial which is a measurement of consumer sentiment and confidence in America. I don’t have any real insight into the validity of this index and I’m sure its validity will be called into question in this discussion. This post doesn’t attempt to measure this confidence; only to note its bearing on the national mood.

There has been a lot of talk since 2008 about the impact of consumer and business confidence in the government, especially regarding regulation and taxes. We had seen a roller coaster effect with the stock market during and after the financial meltdown in 2008 and many blamed trends on perceived confidence in the future of America. This doesn’t seem to be happening nearly as much anymore. This stability appears to be due to international diversification of our economy and economic lines being blurred as the global economy no longer recognizes national borders or allegiances regardless of American financial trends.

Careerism and partisan ideology have totally replaced constituent representation and public service. It seemed that every concession made by the Democrats during Obama’s first administration was pocketed by the Republicans. The goal posts were then moved and the Democratic concessions were considered a starting point for the next negotiation. The only point at which the Republicans would flinch would be at the critical points that would be destructive to the country and ultimately their own party. During Obama’s second administration, instead of steering the country toward compromise, the Democrats have decided to follow the Republicans’ path of obstinacy.

The political gamesmanship and brinksmanship not only is going to continue, it seems likely that it will escalate exponentially. This is the price we pay for the ease of our meddling and scrutiny at even the most miniscule levels of government. As such, we can expect this crisis of confidence to become the new normal until the road to self destruction has become unbearably obvious to everybody. I hope it’s not It looks like it may already be too late.


Has the Tea Party Lost its Luster?
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Beverly Taylor from Hendersonville, Tennessee, rallies with others at the Tennessee State Capitol at the Tax Day Tea Party in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, April 15, 2009. Protests were also held in Washington, Chicago and Boston, loosely inspired by the 1773 Boston Tea Party rebellion against British colonial taxes, which helped spark the American revolution.   REUTERS/Harrison McClary  (UNITED STATES POLITICS BUSINESS)

Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war. - Donald Trump

President Obama admitted heavy losses with the 2010 Congressional election:

“I’m not recommending for every future President that they take a shellacking like they – like I did last night. I’m sure there are easier ways to learn these lessons.”

This was right after the Democrats lost the House to the Republicans from that election. Although the Republicans retained the House after the 2012 election, there were gains made by the Democrats in the House and the Senate. The loss of the presidential election came as a surprise to the Republicans in the 2012 election as well.

The Republicans are now scrambling to adjust their strategy as a result. Although both sides spent heavily, and despite the Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission ruling it has become apparent that money is less of a factor than was expected by both sides.

The New York Times published an article about a new effort to adjust the Republican Party to a more moderate image with its conservative base in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. Republican House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, is even becoming more moderate in his stance on immigration. This is being done by a new PAC called the Conservative Victory Project that is being spawned from Karl Rove’s most successfully funded American Crossroads PAC:

“There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected,” said Steven J. Law, the president of American Crossroads, the “super PAC” creating the new project. “We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win.”

The effort would put a new twist on the Republican-vs.-Republican warfare that has consumed the party’s primary races in recent years. In effect, the establishment is taking steps to fight back against Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations that have wielded significant influence in backing candidates who ultimately lost seats to Democrats in the general election.

Conservatives and moderates have been at odds within the Republican Party for at least the last election cycle . It appears that the Tea Party movement may have been marked for deletion by Conservatives for being toxic thanks to their disproportionately reactionary views toward the government. It appears to me that this is taking the sheen off the faction and marking the beginning of the end for the Tea Party cartel.


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