KingMidget's Ramblings

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A Peek Inside (with a Poll, too!)


My initial reaction to the report that the U.S. Government has access to all sorts of data from Verizon and that it may have some level of ridiculous access to the servers of all sorts of internet behemoths was outrage.  Things have changed since then and it’s this post from Andrew Sullivan that has convinced me of the error of my outrage.  Buried in the post is this nugget:

But are we actually going to prevent government from using Big Data, while Google plumbs its depths even further and Buzzfeed even schedules its content by chasing algorithms? At least there is some minimal check on the government, a judicial court.

I’m no fan of the Patriot Act or FISA or any other law that provides for ridiculous surveillance of American citizens.  I never bought into the “war on terror” and all of the measures that were passed to “protect” us from the enemy.  Virtually one of those measures was an over-reach by a government that was over-eager to assert power in a way that was and probably still is unimaginable.  I am a firm believer that the best way to combat the enemy, whoever it is — terrorists, communists, the boogeyman, is to stay truer to our ideals than we ever have.  Instead, ever since 9/11, this country seems set on a path of eliminating those rights in the name of security.

I get it.  To an extent.  I, too, want our government to be able to stop every terrorist plot it can.  I want no more shoe bombers, Boston Marathon bombers (by the way, if you can get a hole of the July Runner’s World Magazine, read it.  If you struggle with what the marathon bombing means, read it.  You’ll have a renewed faith in humanity).  I don’t want this country to descend into chaos, where a terrorist could strike at any moment, where a suicide bomber can blow himself up at the Starbucks down the street.  But I don’t want to lose my right to privacy, my right to be free from intrusion into my thoughts, my communications, my life … without probable cause.  Many of the latest reports of government action certainly point to an intrusion on those rights.

But, here’s the deal.  Andrew Sullivan has it exactly right.  As he so frequently does.  Google.  And Yahoo.  And Microsoft.  And Amazon.  And Facebook.  They and their internet brethren know more about you and your personal habits than the government ever will.  Where’s the outrage about that?  Why is that OK — for companies in their search for ever-increasing profits to know about every internet move you make — but in the name of security, the government can’t have access to the same data.  If it is acting legally, the only way the government can access the data is with court approval.  Generally speaking, of course.  But these companies, in their search for profits, have unlimited access.  So, the question is … is the outrage properly placed?  Invading your privacy is OK when it’s in search of the almighty dollar, but it’s not OK when it’s about securing you and your family?  Just seems somewhat odd to me.

***

A while ago, I posted about the American River Bike Trail.  It’s this wonderful oasis in the midst of Sacramento’s urban sprawl.  As long as I’ve ridden on it — which likely means something close to 40 years — there have been stenciled, painted words on the trail reminding users of the trail that there is a 15 miles per hour speed limit.  Problem is a lot of bicyclists would be stifled at 15 MPH.  Problem is it’s not just a bike trail.  It’s multi-use.  Joggers.  Walkers.  Families with children peddling their little bikes furiously and zig-zagging all over the place as they do.  Dog walkers.  It isn’t just about the bicyclist.  While I generally peddle along at a pedestrian 15-17 miles per hour, there are plenty of cyclists who hit 20, 25 and 30 miles per hour.  Plus, there are the group cyclists.  Packs of them, drafting off each other and zipping along at speeds that far exceed the posted speed limit.  The trail is a great place for bicyclists to train away from the danger of street traffic.  What happens?  There are accidents occasionally.  I have no idea how many.

Last week there was an article in the local paper that the rangers who patrol the trail will now be equipped with a radar gun and they will start ticketing bicyclists who exceed the speed limit.  This at a time when budget cuts have reduced the ranger presence on the trail, potentially leading to an increase in criminal activity.  And, of course, cyclists are in an uproar.  I’m not necessarily on their side since I generally stay pretty close to the limit and there have certainly been times when their zipping along has left me feeling less than safe.  There were a few times, years ago, when I took my oldest to the trail.  We’d peddle along slowly at his speed and, as he zigged and zagged as little kids do on a bike, I could only pray that a speeding cyclist didn’t come from behind and smack into him he he zigged when he should have zagged.  So, I get it.

But, why single out the cyclists.  What about the runners who run on the wrong side of the trail?  Or worse, rather than running on the crushed gravel shoulder, insist on running on the paved trail?  What about the walkers with their dogs who let the leash stretch across the trail?  What about the walkers with there dogs that aren’t on a leash?  What about the walkers who walk three wide?

There’s plenty of blame to go around for accidents that happen on the bike trail.  Ticketing bicyclists who exceed the speed limit seems to be right.  But at the same time so incredibly wrong.

***

In the last 10-12 years, I’ve tried the following:

To learn how to play the harmonica.

To teach myself how to play classical guitar.

Took violin lessons (for about a month).

And then switched to the saxophone.

Considered the bongo drums.  Enough to buy a book to help learn them, but not enough to get very far.

This after a lifetime of being pretty much non-musically-inclined.  Yes, when I was a kid, my sisters took piano lessons and through them I learned how to play the piano.  Nothing more than Christmas Carols and pop songs.  If I really wanted to, maybe piano would be the best option for me, but it doesn’t hold the same allure as other instruments.

I haven’t done much with any of these instruments the last couple of years as a result of the crush of other obligations and interests.  I’ve decided it’s time to change that.  So, you, my loyal readers, get to play a role.

What instrument should I focus on at this point (thank you for your assistance):

 

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6 responses to “A Peek Inside (with a Poll, too!)

  1. Sahm King June 11, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    I don’t think either case is okay, but it’s ultimately the government that allows for it, isn’t it? Perhaps we ought to address the system of campaign contributions that allow for Politicians to make promises for money. While it’s wrong to be outraged at one and not the other, I don’t think it’s right to forget what the other is doing just because people accept it from another entity. How do we fix it if we don’t start with the government? I think the aim is well placed, IMO.

    You can be ticketed for riding your bike too fast, now?

    I hope you’re able to get back into music. I’ve been hoping to get either a violin or a guitar (I have a fondness for string instruments and was once in an orchestra…way back when…).

    • kingmidget June 11, 2013 at 8:33 pm

      I am all for public financing of campaigns and eliminating the influence of money in politics. Problem is that there is a long list of court decisions that says that limiting candidates to public financing violates the Constitution. I wish it weren’t so.
      My main point in the post is …that, as you say, both are wrong … but, given the choice I’d rather see the intrusion in the name of security of the country and its people instead of in the name of profit for private corporations.
      And, yes, at least in Sacramento, you can now be ticketed for riding your bicycle too fast. Whoda thunk that could ever happen.
      I’ve never been anything better than a beginner at any instrument. I want to start one, focus on it, and get to the point where I’ll be able to pick it up and play. Just don’t know which instrument to try that with.
      Thank you for your thoughts.

  2. Conversations With The Moon June 12, 2013 at 12:38 am

    I agree with the premise that we are much more violated by private industry than government, however when we sign up for these commercial services, even the dimmest of us knows that those arcane “Terms of Service” contain some language essentially kissing off our privacy. I am voluntarily allowing these entities to intrude on my privacy, and although I don’t necessarily like it, I’m willing to enter into that social contract. What I’m not okay with is the government, in the name of security, data mining some of this same information in an as of yet unknown manner to “protect” me. I have not entered into that contract and I am presently demanding that my government be more transparent in the manner in which they cull my information. I believe they need to be responsive to their constituents and allow us to make those value judgments…in other words…give us the info so we can agree to their “Terms of Service”. Until this happens, I simply can’t support something I can’t understand because the information about “what some entity is doing to ME” is being withheld.

    • kingmidget June 12, 2013 at 6:48 am

      Although I disagree with you regarding the contract we enter into with our government (part of the social contract is that government is supposed to keep us secure), I do agree that there should be more transparency about what they are doing. By the way, did you see the poll that came out yesterday that showed 62% willing to give up their privacy in the name of security? Polls are pretty much useless, but that number was surprising.

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