democracy, politics, privacy, technology, tips

Verizon and the Sale of the Customer

According to Verizon’s latest update to their privacy policy, they will now “share” (i.e. sell) lots of information that may make customers uncomfortable. Verizon’s changes to their privacy policy, one must assume the term privacy is being used ironically, includes sharing:

Mobile Usage Information:

  • Addresses of websites you visit when using our wireless service. These data strings (or URLs) may include search terms you have used
  • Location of your device (“Location Information”)
  • App and device feature usage

Consumer Information:

  • Information about your use of Verizon products and services (such as data and calling features, device type, and amount of use)
  • Demographic and interest categories provided to us by other companies, such as gender, age range, sports fan, frequent diner, or pet owner (“Demographics”)

Verizon is trying to make users feel better about this by quietly offering a opt out and promising that no personally identifiable information is being sent. It should be noted that this doesn’t mean your personal information isn’t being held back, it just means your name, account number, and the like aren’t being sent.

This is the loop-hole that corporations have carved out for themselves in order to commodify customers. Sell everything about the customer, except for their names. It is a good way to make money. Companies like Verizon are charging people to use the service and then having those customers create a product that it can sell. In return for the service the customer provides Verizon the customer gets nothing. Even as this erosion and commodification of privacy becomes common practice these days, there is not much customers can do.

Corporations like Verizon have the upper-hand and can simply place the onus on the customer and the free-market. If you don’t like how they collect data, don’t give them your business. Never mind that the next company will do the same. Never mind that services like internet and cellphones are essential to modern society.

Giving those who oppose regulations the benefit of the doubt, lets say they often miss this important fact— that corporations have only their best interest at heart, and that many (though obviously not all) of their services are not optional. A democratic society should protect its citizen from the corporations which have become micro-oligarchs.

politics, random

How Human readable Contracts will Destroy Innovative Credit Card Companies

I found this in a CNN article “A push to simplify credit card ‘gobbledygook’” referring to the push for the government to force credit card companies to simplify contracts so that are human readable.

But the industry is fighting the reforms. The American Bankers Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce argue that they’ll stifle innovation and limit consumer choice.

I wasn’t aware that there was an innovation among the credit card companies. Unless “innovation” means new sneaky ways to bilk people out of money.


What is a Reverse Racist?

Rac•ism ˈrāˌsizəm
the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief. (New Oxford American Dictionary)

I’ve heard the term “reverse racist/racism” thrown around from time to time (most recently by Rush Limbaugh) and it has always confused me. We don’t use the word reverse this way for anything else I can think of.

Could someone please point out a reverse Catholic, reverse capitalist, a reverse nazi, or a reverse anything else? They don’t exist. You can’t be a reverse anything, including a racist.

What would a reverse racist be? Someone who doesn’t believe that people from one “race” posses certain characteristics and discriminate based on those beliefs?

I know that the people who use the phrase would say that it is when minority groups are racist, but that only creates more questions. Like: why aren’t they just racists then?

Rush Limbaugh seems to agree with the idea that racism needs power, going so far as to point it out after a long series of non-sequiturs defending his reverse-racism accusation. And if you keep reading the Rush Limbaugh’s transcript you’ll also see he says that Obama and Sotomayor do have power. I guess looking for logic in Limbaugh is like looking for hookers on the moon.

It seems that people like Limbaugh just mean racist, so why use the term reverse-racist?

To stir up racial tensions because they are afraid. And because they realize even with a black president America is still a country dominated by rich white people and they’ll sound like assholes calling a black or hispanic person a racist when the truth is white people in the US don’t really face racism at all.

Maybe I’m wrong though. Has anyone heard of a person not getting promoted or hired strictly because of being white? Don’t sing that affirmative action song, though, you’ll just sound stupid. It is one factor in many for hiring, promotion, and entrance to college. It is more a mythical excuse than a reality. Most of all it is bullshit though, white women are the largest beneficiary of affirmative action. So white people are doing alright by it too.

America is fast becoming a country where race isn’t the real issue anymore. It is class. The rich have power, the poor have none, and the middle class shut up and keep their heads down hoping to work their way into the upper class where they can have that power too.

Rush Limbaugh isn’t complaining about race at all. He is complaining that black and hispanic people are reaching more and more positions of power. He is afraid. He sees that the makeup of america is changing and fears that fat loud mouthed jerks might not get radio shows forever. I can’t blame him for being afraid, but I just wish he’d be more honest about it.


Cuba Versus China (the politics of being useful)

Steve Marshall is an English travel agent. He lives in Spain, and he sells trips to Europeans who want to go to sunny places, including Cuba. In October, about 80 of his Web sites stopped working, thanks to the

The sites, in English, French and Spanish, had been online since 1998. Some, like, were literary. Others, like, discussed Cuban history and culture. Still others — and — were purely commercial sites aimed at Italian and French tourists.
NY Times (A Wave of the Watch List, and Speech Disappears)

The question Americans should be asking is: Why is it that Cuba is so bad but China is okay? Clearly, lack of democracy is problematic. I won’t argue that the Cuban government is saintly. But it is also impossible to argue that Cuba approaches China’s human right violations by any order of magnitude. And that doesn’t even consider its various other violations.

Why is it that China kills, tortures, and suppresses its people and gets to host the Olympics, while Cuba keeps getting punched in the throat?

Leaving that question behind, we need to ask why the US Government is engaging in practices befitting of countries like China and Cuba. What makes our actions better? How is our suppression of free speech moral and democratic?


Obama Fever Hits Obama, Japan

People in Japan overwhelmingly seem to like Obama. That goes double for the city of Obama. They are really excited, though part of that excitement seems to be the hope that they can use the name recognition to increase their city’s notoriety. But when you think about it, Obama’s campaign is about spread hope, and that’s what he’s doing for the people of Obama City, so I think in a way it is perfect and maybe even amazingly great.

Who’s have guessed there would ever be Obama Fish Burgers or an Obama Kimono?

politics, technology

Will Yahoo! and the Others Change Their China Policies Now?

Shi landed in trouble three years ago when the Chinese government prohibited journalists to report on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989.

When Shi forwarded the notice to human rights groups, the Chinese government pressured Yahoo to give them the name of the account holder, and they did so. Shi was also sentenced to 10 years in prison.

CNN: Yahoo settles dissidents suit

Yesterday’s announcement that Yahoo! is settling with the families of a men imprisoned and tortured with Yahoo!’s help sends a nice message, but is it enough to change the policies of companies like Yahoo!, Google, News Corp, and Microsoft which aid the Chinese government in suppressing democracy and commit human rights violations? Probably not. But that change is getting closer.

Yahoo! has tried to excuse their reprehensible actions by explaining that non-compliance with Chinese authorities could land their Chinese employees in jail. Clearly, the US needs to apply an equal pressure here. American companies must not be allowed to break national and international laws without consequence. NPR has reported that Congress is taking steps towards making this happen with something called the Global Online Freedom Act, which would make it an explicit crime for US companies to aid China’s effort to suppress and torture its people. The act finds that:

Technology companies in the United States that operate in countries controlled by authoritarian foreign governments have a moral responsibility to comply with the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Technology companies in the United States have succumbed to pressure by authoritarian foreign governments to provide such governments with information about Internet users that has led to the arrest and imprisonment of cyber dissidents, in violation of the corporate responsibility of such companies to protect and uphold human rights.

Technology companies in the United States have provided technology and training to authoritarian foreign governments which have been used by such governments in filtering and blocking information that promotes democracy and freedom.

The act also decrees that “A United States business may not locate, within a designated Internet-restricting country, any electronic communication that contains any personally identifiable information.” and that “Any information that may be provided under subsection (a) for legitimate foreign law enforcement purposes may only be provided through established legal channels as determined by the Department of Justice.”

The act basically says that America companies operating in China have conducted themselves in a way befitting of American values and laws. And since these companies are unable or unwilling to act in a lawful and moral manner the US Government will make them. While it would be nice if companies like Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, and News Corp did what was right on their own it is good to see that at least Congress is trying to make sure US companies acting as the henchmen of dictators. That is, if the act ever gets voted on.


2012 Olympic Games

This message was not brought to you by the real Olympic Games, but is instead a demonstration of the free speech which the folks who run Olympic Games are trying to kill. Why should you care? David Edgar puts it pretty well:

By declaring images, titles and now words to be ownable brands, these various organisations and individuals are contributing to an increased commodification and thus privatisation of materials previously agreed to be in the public domain. For scientists, this constrains the use of public and published knowledge, up to and including the human genome. For artists, it implies that the only thing you can do with subject matter is to sell it.


Clinton Calls Out Repblicans on Bait and Switch

Former President Bill Clinton was on CNN last night calling a Republican party move as he saw it. I admire a person who has the courage to take a public stance and say what he or she feels needs to be said and does so intelligently. So when Clinton pointed out what he called “feigned outrage” over’s Petraeus ad saying that it was disingenuous that the same folks in the republican party who became indignant are the ones that sought to smear the patriotism of war vetrans like Max Cleland, John Kerry, and John McCain. The most insidious instance of the three being the portrayal of Cleland with Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. Let’s not forget also that it was members of the Republican party who gave us the term swiftboating.

humor, politics

Cheney's Concept of America

I found this screen capture from The Onion recently and it gave me a soft sad laugh. The caption reads “Cheney vows to attack US if Kerry elected.” It’s funny to me because it kind of strikes me as half true, it’s a dark joke about how folks like Cheney seem to see a lot of the American public as adversaries instead of a group of people who’s voices need to be heard.

“Lucky” for us Kerry was never that great of a candidate so we didn’t need had to see how far Cheney was willing to go to win.