KingMidget's Ramblings

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They’re Watching You

Probably because of my posts about Prism (here and here), a friend sent me this, suggesting it might be something I’d want to post about.  The community featured in the article, Elk Grove, is where I live.  Kind of.  When I first saw the piece, I was ambivalent about the idea, but the more I think about it, the more it fits in with my evolving view on PRISM and the other “scandals” of the day.

I’m not somebody who fears Big Brother.  I also don’t fear the government.  That said, I also don’t want the government to have access to all of my data.  The reality is, I don’t want anybody to have access to all of my data.  Government, corporation, good guy non-profit.  Nobody.  The problem is that we all lost control on this years, if not decades, ago.

Last year, in California, there was an initiative on the ballot that would have required genetically modified food to be labeled as such.  I voted against it, primarily because we have reached a point on that particular issue where labeling is meaningless.  Corn is genetically modified.  Corn is in everything that is mass produced.  Ergo, everything we eat is genetically modified.  What’s the label going to tell us.  The initiative needed to be on the ballot a decade ago.  Maybe even further back.

It’s the same with PRISM.  It’s the same with cameras on every street corner.  It’s the same with so many things.  There is a certain element of the “battle” that we lost long, long ago.    Plus, with some of these things, there are benefits that outweigh the risks.

Let’s look at the cameras.  Does it bother me that there are cameras everywhere now?  Slightly.  Yes, I don’t want some stooge sitting in a control room somewhere watching me scratch my balls, pick my nose, or engage in other types of unsavory behavior.  But, again, let’s look at the reality.  Everybody, or everybody except for my brother, mom, and dad, has a smart phone.  They’re taking pictures and videos everywhere.  And, guess what?  You’re in them.

That’s one thing.  Here’s another.  Other than the aforementioned ball-scratching and nose-picking, I’m pretty sure those cameras won’t see me doing anything illegal, immoral or unethical.  Why is that?  Because when I’m out in public, I’m a law-abiding, upstanding citizen.  Those cameras aren’t going to find anything on me.  And, if they do — say, I run a red light at an intersection with a camera — well, you got me, how much is the fine?

One of the things I find fascinating about this is that we live in a nation of scofflaws.  Conservatives complain about more gun laws, claiming that those on the books already aren’t enforced.  “Why more laws?” they scream.  So, now technology provides greater tools for enforcing the laws that are on the books and those same people scream, “You’re violating our rights.”

I don’t know.  If you’re out on a public street.  In a restaurant.  Hanging out in a park.  You have no privacy.  Commit a crime and the camera catches you, where’s the problem?


The other thing I saw this week that fascinated me was Obama’s calls for further reductions in the nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States.  I was reminded of Obama’s proposal this afternoon when I read, of all things, a book review.  Theryn posted a book review of it and commented that a portion of the book took place in the ’80’s, when she was in high school and she, like a lot of people then, pretty much were convinced that the world would eventually, probably sooner instead of later, be vaporized in a nuclear holocaust.  As she states

I have to interject here and say this story totally reminded me why/how I spent my high school years thinking nuclear war was an inevitability. To the point I didn’t worry much about long-term consequences not because I thought I was invincible, but because I thought we were all going to be vaporized sooner or later. It’s weird, how this doesn’t get mentioned much, if at all, anymore.

I remember those days as well.  Reading books like Carl Sagan’s The Nuclear Winter.  I took a class in college titled Nuclear War.  That was it.  This was in the mid-80’s.  According to Wikipedia, at the time, the Soviet Union (Reagan’s Evil Empire) and the United States had approximately 45,000 nuclear weapons between them.  I remember maps of targets.  Ours and theirs.  At the time, Sacramento housed two major Air Force bases and was, and still is, the state capitol.  I figured that somewhere in my lifetime, I’d be wiped off the face of the earth as would most of my fellow Sacramentans.  It’s a weird feeling to have and to recall, because as Theryn says, nobody really talks about it anymore.  And I certainly don’t think about it much.

From 45,000 weapons thirty years ago, we’re now at a point where the countries’ combined arsenals could drop below 3,000.  That’s a pretty remarkable feat.  Sadly, it’s still enough to end life on this planet.  Even more sadly — or scarier — is that the proliferation of weapons, while the superpowers reduce their arsenals, continues.  I marvel that no nuclear weapon has been exploded in an attack since 1945.  Sixty-eight years ago.  I’m willing to bet we don’t go another sixty-eight years.  Our survival on this planet will depend significantly on the world’s response the next time one of these bombs goes off.  I wish sometimes that I didn’t think of these things.


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