Tarheeltalker

Anonymity

I remember well a scene from the first Mission Impossible  movie in which Tom Cruise (aka Ethan Hunt) meets “Job”   wonderfully played by Vanessa Redgrave, and asks about the name Job. She  responds that ” anonymity … is like a  warm blanket.” Been  thinking about that quote a lot recently in the context of  blog/article comments made on the internet.

Most of the comments that I read are made by a person under a name other than their own. ( I know, so is my blog.) It is interesting to notice the screen names that people choose and speculate about why they were chosen. My thought has long been that these names are often used as a cover to make comments or observations that the person would never make using his/her own name. But, you might say that one uses a screen name to keep one’s identity from falling into the wrong hands, so to speak. I think that is only true in a minority of  instances. My reasoning goes thusly. The comments on polarizing figures or issues such as President Obama or Rush Limbaugh or Michele Bachmann or healthcare or any number of others are filled with such vitriol that one is almost embarrassed to one’ s self identified with them.

Even when I read comments that mirror my own, I am chagrined to note the level of anger that is involved. I can make comments ( and so can you)  about a political figure or issue without becoming tarred with my own brush and still be effective.

It is amusing to note that newspapers  and I suppose magazines have long-held to the policy of  rarely if ever publishing an anonymous comment and I like that. The few  times that I have written  in response to a newspaper article  were not situations where I  minded being identified.

In the wild, wild west of the internet the rules, such as they are much different. Makes me wonder if I need to rename my blog?

August 21, 2011 Posted by | Media | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Say it Ain’t so Joe”

Long time baseball fans will recognize the title  from way back in 1919. It refers to the comment made by a distraught young fan at learning that the great Shoeless Joe Jackson had been involved in ” throwing ” baseball games. It was the infamous Black Sox scandal that hit baseball very hard.

Today, there looms a much more dangerous Joe and one  which surprises me. It is Senator Joe Lieberman, the independent one from Connecticut. The bill  he is proposing, entitled  Protecting Cyberspace as a  National  Asset Act. Lieberman has been pushing for internet control for a while, it seems. This bill  would give the federal government the authority to shut down the internet, the proverbial kill switch, as it were, in response to a  Homeland Security directive.

Lest you think  Lieberman is flying solo, the bill has the stong support of  West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller. He has wondered aloud if maybe it would have been better had ” we never invented the internet.” Better not let algore hear him say that, huh?

Of course, the bottom line , the very scary bottom line at work here is control. The government, at least not yet, cannot control the internet. And it cannot control things like the Bob Etheridge video, for example .

No  president, repeat, no president, whether his  name is Obama or Reagan or even as incorruptible as a Washington needs this kind of control. Perhaps I am being too much of an alarmist. I certainly hope so. Perhaps some folks thought Paul Revere was overdoing it too.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Internet Dosing

Not an article about the internet but a certifiable scary way that it may soon be used. When I read about this, I was quite disturbed. As I reflected a bit, I could not imagine why civil libertarians, the ACLU and all those who abhor government intrusion were not shouting from the rooftops in protest. This action, if it comes about even close to how it is described is far worse than the FBI or CIA  or NSA maybe peeking at your email or cell phone conversation.

So, what is it? Well, how would you like to get your medication via a computer chip implant with dosages regulated by a physician online? Sounds just wonderful and impossibly far-fetched, right? Not so far-fetched at all, I am afraid.

This from Cybercast News Service, linked to by Rush. Just last week the Senate Committee on Aging, chaired by Herb Kohl, D, Wi , previewed the government’s role in future health care. Nicknamed e-Health or e-Care, the effort marries internet technology with health-care technology.

This next is one such feature. It is known as the automatic drug dispenser. Among its (it is  an electronic chip attached to the skin) features are the monitoring and adjusting of drugs wirelessly with no need to visit one’s physician or pharmacist.  The doctor can vary the doses, wirelessly, based  on  the feedback received from the device. Sen Ron Wyden, D, OR displayed the innocent little device at the Senate hearing.

This very ominous quote from Rush, ” They want to set up a device connected to your skin where your doctor via the Internet can regulate the dosages of whatever medications they have you on. Can you say, death panels, anybody?”

I don’t particular care to be an alarmist but this concept frankly scares  the “dickens” out of me. Can you imagine the enormous potential for controlling behaviour or worse?

April 27, 2010 Posted by | Health, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ides of Google?

March 15, 44 B.C. marked the assassination of Roman emperor Julius Caesar. The emperor had been warned to beware of that day by  a soothsayer and a fateful day it became. Thanks to Shakespeare, we are quite familiar with the term and have transformed it into  an almost generic term fora sense of foreboding. And yet, for Romans of that era it was a way to refer to the 15th of March, May, July and October.

Perhaps, in a different way, we have another example of somethings that should make us wary. The pervasive one, aka Google, has made quite an interesting offer to virtually any community in these United States. On February 10, the company announced an  unprecendented  offer. Although the offer was scant with detail, it has generated enormous response.

It was described thusly in the News and Observer on March 13 in an article by Sarah Ovaska.  Founded in 1998 (hard to believe) by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the Mountain View,Ca company issued this proposal. “…to rewire an entire community,free, with Internet service more than 100 times faster than what most people experience.Think gravel road meets Autobahn( great analogy, by the way).”

Her article was entitled, “Area Towns preen for Google, ” with an opening line of “The Triangle (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, NC) is getting all googly-eyed.”

No doubt that similar articles have appeared elsewhere. Certainly, cities all across the fruited plain and from sea to shining sea are making their pitch. The deadline for proposals is March 26, so time is short. Google says it has not tallied a number of responses. Don’t believe that for a second. Betcha they are analyzing the dickens out of this stuff already.

Now, why are they doing this? Google spokesman Dan Martin says, ” We want to see more people online, and we want to see the Internet become easier and faster.” I actually believe that statement, but, I also believe that it is by no means their real motivation. With details so sketchy, what will happen and when is as unknown as to whom it will happen. How much is Google willing to spend? Will it require financial participation from local government? How significant is the offer if computer ownership is not significant? Will there be  a corporate partner? Say Dell or Hewlett-Packard?

There are so many intriguing questions. It brings to mind  a line from my favorite tv show, NCIS. When queried about Gibbs past, “Ducky” has this telling response.”With Gibbs, there are always more questions than answers.”

Since our little town is probably not in the running, I will watch with interest to see the winner and what happens next. The whole thing is almost eerily similar to those instances when a federal agency solicits comment about a proposed ruling or decision. Could there be any connection( pun most definitely intended) to the FCC announcement of its 10 year plan to make high-speed Internet the country’s dominant communication network. Yep, that would mean the eclipsing of radio, cable tv and telephone comapnies by  whom?  Talk about ramifications. As Yoda might say, plentiful they would be.

March 14, 2010 Posted by | economy, Media, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Google Gets Religion

If one spends just a modicum of time online, one is well acquainted with Google. Search engine giant, owner of  YouTube,etc. It has to be  called ubiquitous and would probably like to be known as somewhat altruistic. After all, its motto is “don’t be evil.”

So, one has to wonder why, way back in 2006, it struck a deal with China censor search results there. To obtain its Chinese license , Google agreed to omit content that the Chinese government found to be objectionable.  Google execs struggled with their decision since it seemed (actually did) go against their motto. Dollars and cents anyone?

But now, some 4 years later there may be  a change of heart. Google says it will stop censoring its search results in China and may leave the country entirely. Why, it has discovered human rights activists are being tricked by hackers into opening the email accounts . Currently Google has about 30% of the search market in China versus about 60% for local rival Baidu.

One Clothilde Le Coz, who is the Washington director for Reporters Without Borders, has long  criticized Google for its behavior in China, but is not quite patting them on the back. The Chinese government, of course has no plans to change its demands on internet companies. Nor did it accept responsibility for the hacker attacks.

What is also interesting is that Google briefed the White  House on its actions. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs would provide no details. I seem to remember that the head honchos at Google were, and probably still are, big Obama supporters.

Might this action impair Chinese-American relations? Does our government have its fingerprints on this action? Or, is Google being used by the Administration in some way? Who knows. Sure is fun to contemplate though.

If none of the preceding is the case, why in the world is Google threatening to pull out now, of all times. Just cannot believe the Chinese government has been playing nice and, all of a sudden, precipitated the hacking.

January 14, 2010 Posted by | Technology | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Changing The Brain

It seems that so called brain food, blueberries, wild salmon and coffee beans- I knew it!, are have become a bit passe. What is really good for your brain is the internet. Somewhere, Google and Yahoo among others, must be singing hosannas.

Yes, a UCLA study has determined that one’s brain can be altered for the good by use of the internet.This  article was of particular interest to me since it made reference to aging brains and how they can be helped. That resonated strongly since I possess one of those aging brains and at times it does need  some help.

The UCLA study was headed by Dr Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. His study used people between the ages of 55 and 78 . Half were internet veterans and education and gender were balanced in the group as well.

This next sounds  a bit challenging. The subjects performed internet searches while undergoing  functional  MRI’s. the goal was to measure the subtle changes in brain circuitry while the activity was in progress.

Group members then went home and did normal  internet searches for a period of  1 hour per day for 7 days withing  a 2 week period of time. They then returned for another fMRI . Results of this  somewhat limited study indicated that us old geezers could achieve improved  cognition , stimulate neural activation patterns (that must be good) and enhance brain function.

Teena Moody, study author and UCLA researcher  said this  about the results. “…suggest that searching online may be  a simple form of brain exercise that might be employed to enhance cognition in  older adults.” Previous studies had also shown promising results while additional studies will likely address the issues more fully.

Wouldn’t it be great to be  a volunteer in such a study, I thought. Then I noticed one small phrase that was used to describe the  volunteers. They had to be neurologically normal. Oh well. there goes my shot at being a volunteer. Don’t you wonder if they were given prescribed searches or were allowed to choose their search topics? Got to believe that could have an impact on the results.

October 21, 2009 Posted by | Technology | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Limitless Choices For Information- Bad?

In the never ending quest to control what you see, hear, write, etc, the powers that be have unveiled a relatively new target, the Internet. Yes, folks, the world wide web needs to be controlled. Perhaps someone  thought it was the wild, wild west and it needed to be tamed. No matter because Mr Obama has a potential new appointee of whom we should all be wary. His name is Cass Sunsteinand he  is an Obama buddy from the University of Chicago Law School. He has been nominated to be the head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Mr Sunstein has been quite a prolific writer and not at all bashful about expressing his opinions. Let us take a look at just a few.

  • 2007-  Ban on hunting in the US
  • 2008- Angry emails should be technologically prevented from being sent for a 24 hour cooling  off period
  • The Internet is anti-democratic, i.e. too many choices . He said that limitless individual choices as far as communications are concerned is not necessarily in the best interest of  citizenship and self-government

Think about that last one while you ponder another Sunstein concept, discussed in 2004, that animals should have the ” right to sue with human beings as their representatives”. Let me get this straight. Too much info is bad for good citizenship but your dog could be allowed to bring a lawsuit? Should this guy be allowed to regulate anything, much less the Internet?

Cass Sunstein

Cass Sunstein

Cass Sunstein, ladies and gentlemen, another Obamite from Chicago.

April 29, 2009 Posted by | Media, Technology | , , , , | 2 Comments