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Friday, July 30, 2010

Is Michael Moore planning a movie about Arizona’s immigration law SB1070?

Nothing is definite, and as a matter of fact this is only conjecture on my part. But just about every time Michael Moore has become riled, the result has been a caustic documentary that attacks the issue. He is upset with Arizona’s immigration law SB1070, and said so emphatically on the “Larry King Live Show.” You can see the video here.

Presiding in Phoenix on Wednesday, July 28, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton disemboweled the malicious bill just one day before it became law, cutting the two main parts most objectionable to those who respect human rights. Moore said the law is “absolutely disgusting.” He added that something must be done but…”not the bigoted solution Arizona came up with.”

You might remember some of Michael Moore’s documentaries starting with “Roger & Me,” which was about General Motors and its former CEO, Roger Smith. His recent “Bowling for Columbine,” “Fahrenheit 9/11,”Sicko” and “Capitalism: A Love Story” are four of the top nine highest-grossing documentaries of all time.

Judge Bolton put on hold 2 main provisions of SB1070 including stopping local police officers from checking an immigrant’s status when enforcing other laws. Second, she ruled that immigrants do not have to carry their “papers” with them at all times. State Senator Russell Pierce, author of the bill, and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer who signed the bill, have been served their comeuppance. Moore could make that visual.

The question is what kind of wacky moves will they make next, other than the obvious appeal?

Moore went so far as to say to Larry King that he is asking his studio to boycott Arizona with all his films. He also thinks the 2011 All-Star Baseball Game should be yanked from Arizona.

Want to speculate on a title for Michael Moore’s film on Arizona’s debacle? How about ‘Arizona Secedes From Reality?’ And who would play Russell Pierce and Jan Brewer? I see Mel Gibson as Pierce and an aged Lindsay Lohan as Brewer.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We’re either a racist nation or we’re not and it’s time to decide

The race issue wasn’t dormant before Arizona’s immigration law SB1070 was passed, but at least it had no established venue or sure-fire conveyance to run in. SB1070 gave it that and much more, from accusations that the Tea Party is a racist organization, to New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richard’s statement that the law “oks racial profiling,” to Howard Dean’s recent claim that Fox News is “absolutely racist” re. its coverage of the Shirley Sherrod story.

In the aftermath of all this, right wing radicals are spreading bigoted propaganda about how Blacks in power have some vendetta against whites. In an article, the Washington Post has urged President Obama to “stand up to the ‘reverse racism’ ploy,” but in the current state of affairs that could be political suicide. Or would it?

I grew up in a segregated South of the 1950s and 1960s, knew members of the Ku Klux Klan, and once lived very close to the Mississippi site of the Emmett Till murder. I played in a band that performed at a 1948 States Rights Party—also known as the Dixiecrats Party—rally, where J. Strom Thurmond was running for president. It was held in my then home town of Jackson, Tenn.

My father once took me to a Jackson beer hall when I was old enough to drink, and when I questioned some red necks who were openly disparaging Blacks using the “N” word, we quickly had to leave.

I discovered one day to my horror that one of my best friends was an avid racist; that is after I was finally “admitted” to his “study” where KKK material was all over the walls, on his desk, even piles of it on the floor. I often wondered what effect this had on his children, both of which were pre-teens.

It is hard to maintain an objective outlook on an issue with this kind of peer pressure, much less come to the conclusion that you were anti-racism, which I did, and, from which I have never faltered to this day. Big deal, you might say, but I do think it is. My hope is that there are others like myself out there.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

FACT: Hispanic population on way to making its statement

In a recent poll by NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo, the general consensus is that there is a diversity of positions on the immigration issue, but this is clearly polarized when the white population is measured against Latinos. The poll reached the political conclusion that in the short term Republicans will see gains, but in the long run Hispanic demographics will prove a powerful force. And this will likely be anti-GOP.

As an example, 70 percent of whites favor Arizona’s recently passed immigration law SB 1070, versus only 31 percent of Hispanics. Further, 58 percent of Latinos strongly oppose it. Although this is a national representation, the key is just where is the Hispanic population highest, and able to turn their views into votes.

I did some research using Census data and came up with the following:

The top ten states with the highest Hispanic population are California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey, New Mexico, Colorado and Washington, in that order. Total population in the ten states is 29,072,086, almost 10 percent of the U.S. population. Hispanics nationwide represent 12.5 percent compared to 69.1 for whites, 12.3 for Blacks and 3.8 Asians.

But the Hispanics also score impressive numbers when it comes to their income. Just over 63 percent have incomes of $25,000 or more, 30 percent over $50,000.

When you take a hibernating population composed of significant numbers that has been awakened out of its complacency—In many cases apathy—by a movement that represents their civil rights, and combine that with the education and financial means to stand up for their cause, the end result is usually change.

But the change won’t be automatic, and those who are in this country illegally must stand up now and get in line to achieve their right to be here legally. Whether it is amnesty, deportation, or other options, perhaps a combination of all, both President Obama and Congress must address this issue, not after the November election, but now.

Arizona’s ill-advised immigration law—set to go into effect this Thursday—started the ball rolling, and in many of the ten states, above, as well as across the U.S., registration drives have already begun to get the Hispanic population to the polls in November. With this kind of determination, I wouldn’t be so quick to assume even a short term gain by the GOP.

Census data compliments of EASI

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Handguns become pocket staple in Arizona on July 29

That’s right. On July 29, next Thursday, Arizona residents will be able to carry a handgun in their pocket or purse without a permit, nor do they have to have any safety training. Senate Bill 1108 was another piece of brilliant legislation by State Senator Russell Pierce, who also gave Arizona the anti-immigration bill SB1070. Sounds like Pierce is arming his white racist buddies to run Hispanics out of the state.

Arizona is one of only 3 states along with Alaska and Vermont to pass this bizarre kind of legislation, which became law on April 16, when signed by Governor Jan Brewer. Together, this duo, Pierce and Brewer, could eventually bring down the state with more similar legislative insanity.

Mesa, Arizona Police Chief, Frank Milstead—Russell Pierce’s home town is Mesa—thinks that people walking around with a gun in their pocket with no training is “disconcerting,” according to MSNBC. To gun control advocates it is probably sheer stupidity. Consider the training police officers go through, and then think of the jeopardy this bill places them in when protecting Arizona’s citizens.

Gun bubbas will wave their NRA flags about the 2nd Amendment and Constitutional rights to justify the legislation but it is just wrong. This law may be legal but common sense should tell all of us—and should have clued Brewer and Pierce before they passed it—that it makes absolutely no sense.

You can read other articles on gun control from this blog here.

How do you justify putting a handgun in the hands of just any individual who somehow legally or illegally acquired the weapon without at least making sure he or she knows how to use it? You don’t if you are a thoughtful, reasoning person. With lax laws controlling gun shows, this is yet just one more avenue for potential violence. Arizona is one of 33 states considered to be a “gun show loophole” state.

Most bars and restaurants in Arizona don’t allow gun toters, even though another absurd state law made that possible recently with a permit. Arizona likes to portray itself as a state of people who value their individual rights, passing laws like SB1070 and SB1108 to support those rights.

This concept can be taken too far, and in both of these bills that is the case.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Is there anything more bizarre than animal abuse through “crush videos?”

Nasty Jackthe Gadfly

Do you know what an animal crush video is? Well, it graphically depicts the abuse and killing of animals. It appeals to a sexual fetish, according to the Associated Press, and it shows females crushing to death small animals with their bare feet or using their high heels.

Earlier 1999 legislation was struck down recently by a conservative Supreme Court because it was too broadly written. The new legislation, passed already by the House 416 to 3, narrows the field to burning, drowning, suffocating or impaling animals

First of all, what kind of sick mind thinks up this stuff, and second, who are the three House members who voted against the new legislation?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Words you don’t want to hear from the FTC: current privacy laws aren’t working

In a Calgary, Alberta meeting this past June, a representative from the Federal Trade Commission said bluntly that the current privacy laws are not protecting American consumers. In fact, they place too much of a “burden” on them. Kathryn Ratte describes privacy laws as a “constellation,” which “in some very basic sense isn’t working.”

The FTC is charged with keeping the consumer safe from the bad guys who want to steal your personal identity, among a host of other issues. It was hoped that, with a Democratic administration favoring the individual compared to the GOP that heavily favors big business, progress would be made.

The FTC’s biggest accomplishment recently is the Do-Not-Call registry, established in 2004, which stopped objectionable and obtrusive junk telephone calls. This, of course, was under a Republican administration.

Ratte says that the FTC has “put too much burden on the consumers to understand these policies.” That is certainly true considering the scope of privacy reaching from financial to health to children and so on. A person’s privacy is one of, if not the most, prized possession they have. And, unfortunately, many are completely apathetic about protecting it, as evidenced with the overwhelming willingness to share their personal data today.

A report the FTC is preparing for Congress lists several issues where new laws are recommended, noting an expansion of the agency’s authority over “deceptive” Internet-related business practices. Some of the issues, according to CNET News, include the urging of companies to develop better data breach protection of their customers. Should more “opt-in” for participation be considered? Should health and financial data be regulated more vigorously than the rest?

Another very important issue is those consumers who are vulnerable like children, particularly the elderly. Con artists have concentrated on this older age group for years and so far only a few organizations have placed emphasis in this area; the American Assn. of Retired Persons (AARP) and the FBI to name a couple.

And finally the FTC is recognizing the need to target what is called “cloud” computing services where your private information is collected and stored, sometimes shared with others without your knowledge. Facebook and its privacy snafus are a prime example of this.

I’ll go one step further and say that more control over consumers’ names and personal data should be in their hands on the individual level, and make it their responsibility to monitor it for their own protection. The jury has been out on this concept of mine for several years now, and this may very well increase the consumer’s burden Platte mentions earlier. But who better to manage this treasure chest?

Visit the FTC Consumer Protection site

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Unsolicited convenience checks in the mail as bad as unsolicited credit cards

Unsolicited convenience checks from your bank or credit card company that is tied directly to your account can cause as much trouble as unsolicited credit card offers. Maybe even more since they carry your checking or credit card account number, as well as your name and address. Although credit cards have protection, bank cards and debit cards don’t, unless your bank is willing to work with you.

The credit card mailings no one asks for have had a recent resurgence in a somewhat improved economy; I received one that was pre-approved just last week. The worst part was that the “pre-approved” was headlined on the outer envelope, a move that sends the bad guys into ecstasy. A few quick changes by the crooks results in a new account in your name that you will never discover until it is too late.

Yes, almost all the charges are covered by federal law, but the effects on your credit rating could be forever.

The checks, on the other hand, can provide instant gratification to the thief, if he or she can just convince the person making the transaction that they are you. And with instant IDs that are readily available today, that isn’t so hard to do. This is the reason I monitor my bank account daily online to insure that this doesn’t happen. The quicker you catch the stolen check and report it to the bank, the more likely you are to receive cooperation.

Jay Foley, Executive Director and co-founder of Identity Theft Resource Center related another scenario to me of how the ID thieves make use of these checks. Once stolen, they duplicate them on their computer using your account number, and then print them in quantity for distribution to the crooks. The result could be a quick draining of your bank account.

Foley says there is little or nothing you can do about unsolicited convenience checks. The banking community claims in a study done a few years ago that the average loss to the consumer is one-half of one percent. Foley doesn’t agree and adds that the revenue produced by these checks is in the billions of dollars. He says you can plead with them not to send, but their bottom line will probably prevail.

For all of your questions on identity theft, go to: Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC)

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Will Arizona lose the 2011 All Star game over new anti-immigration law?

Bud Selig, NLB Commissioner, says the state won’t lose the 2011 All-Star game scheduled to be played in Phoenix in 2011. The Washington Post says that if the game is played in Arizona, “our favorite all-stars could enter a hostile environment, and the families, friends and fans of a third of the players could be treated as second-class citizens because of their skin color or the way they speak.” Perhaps a bit harsh, but it could certainly be heavy on the minds of those potentially affected.

With around one-third of the players in baseball Hispanic, Latino or African American, then add family and friends, plus other ethnic followers, there will be a surge of individuals converging on the Phoenix area that may very well be questioning the safety of their presence. The authors of the WP article, Wade Henderson and Janet Murguia, want the 2011 All-Star game pulled from Phoenix, and give their reasons why.

The embarrassment to those affected who are legal, and could be required to show that they are, perhaps in public. A regression of Constitutional freedoms, and having to face bigotry and intolerance. The perception of a sport that proudly welcomed the first Black to baseball in 1947. And all of it happening in Arizona, because of the authoring of a bizarre and ludicrous law by State Senator Russell Pierce, signed by Governor Jan Brewer.

It’s been done before; several years ago when the NFL moved the 1993 Super Bowl from Arizona because the state had refused to honor Martin Luther King Day. Hopefully, an injunction stopping SB1070 and its subsequent defeat by the feds will make all this moot.

And if not, will the Hispanic community have organized around their rights by then to the extent they have real clout, and demand their players, as well as other Latinos and African-Americans strike and picket the game?

Arizona does not deserve this, nor does it deserve Russell Pierce or Jan Brewer.

Photo compliments Creative Commons

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Could this be the real demise of junk mail?

Joan Fischer of Plattsburgh, New York rummaged through her mail at the post office, kept what she wanted, and dropped the rest in a new bin provided by the U.S. Postal Service marked “Recyclable Mail.” The USPS is finally owning up to the fact that they do deliver unwanted, junk mail that their patrons don’t want, and is finally providing them a receptacle where they can get rid of it guilt-free.

After spending 35 years in the junk mail industry as a data broker and database consultant, it is obvious to me the business has yet to learn how to limit their advertising campaigns to those who actually want it. There are ways to do that but most are just too lazy to put out the effort, or not willing to spend the money to develop predictive modeling.

I am talking about advanced computer technology that can target their offers to geography as small as only a few households. I know. I have done it for several mailers in the past and it was successful. But many in the industry aren’t convinced it really works, fear they could be losing potential customers by directing their mail at an established profile. At best, these households are borderline.

Maureen Marian, a USPS public affairs specialist, says of the recycle bins in the Press Republican that they plan to “expand the positive impact into the community.” Now let’s look at this possible scenario.

The U.S. Postal Service, the almost exclusive conveyance of junk mail, places clearly marked recycle bins across the country in their over 32,000 locations. They make it convenient, like in Plattsburgh, for the public to dispose of their unwanted mail, with the result that everyone feels good about being environmentally correct. They even specify on the receptacles that it is recyclable mail.

It almost sounds like the USPS is saying that junk mail “belongs” in these recycle bins, so a trend is started. Americans, fed up with getting mail they do not want, start dropping it off at their local post office, or regularly put it in their residential recycling—without even looking at it now—because they are finally convinced it is the right thing to do.

The junk mail industry must address this problem and do it soon to curb waste in landfills, and to honor a public that does not want junk mail. There is another reason, much more serious than waste: identity theft. A piece of household mail has the basic foundation needed by ID thieves…name and address.

When you add to that a current increase in credit card mailings, the overall situation becomes critical.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

George Orwell’s 1984 lives and could come to your body soon

Mark Gasson, a University of Reading researcher, infected himself intentionally with a computer virus in a computer chip implanted in his hand. The reason for doing this is to learn how the virus in his infected chip could transfer to radio-frequency identification chips (RFID) and spread the disease. I have done a couple of posts on the RFID concept over the years you can see here and here.

Before he had even left the Reading lab setting, the virus had inserted itself into the building’s computer and replicated itself through databases, with the ability to copy itself to computer access cards. In other words, it could move at will as long as there was a wireless system to receive its signal. You can see the article here on MSNBC.

Shades of Orwell’s “Telescreen” in his novel, 1984, that monitored every move made by the citizens of Oceania. “A single flicker of the eyes could give you away.” says Jackie Jura, whose site, Orwell Today is a wealth of information for those of you who believe we are losing our right to privacy. In the same manner, any data you might have stored on yourself that could be read by an RFID chip could be whisked away in seconds.

As Winston, Orwell’s protagonist in 1984 put it, “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull.” But this could change quickly if for some reason or other it was decided to implant chips in the brains of all human beings, much like they do with animals now. Even George Orwell didn’t think of that, but I’ll be there are those out there who have.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Where is THE liberal voice in talk radio?

There’s Beck, Limbaugh and Hannity, the obnoxious three of conservative talk radio. Unfortunately, there are more, probably hundreds, who spew the same regimented far-right prattle that can turn the stomach of even a moderate. You can tell. I am not a conservative, and have very little use for those who think that everything should be done according to their philosophy. If I wanted that, I would join the NRA.

And then there is liberal, or progressive as some prefer, talk radio. You have Rachel Maddow, Thom Hartmann, Bill Press, Ed Schultz, Stephanie Miller and Mike Malloy, a spectacular lineup. But not one of the able spokespeople in this avant-garde group has established the national notoriety as a Limbaugh or Beck. And I think it is due to their listening audience. If you are a part of that crowd, well, then…you aren’t listening.

And if you are, you aren’t walking around and sharing your thoughts on things relating to the new-wave left. On the other hand, your conservative friends are spreading the word daily, even hourly, of how we must isolate ourselves in a world that shuns outsiders who don’t belong, and concentrate on ourselves, especially the upper class. A good example is Arizona’s new anti-immigration law, SB 1070.

Another suggestion is for the talk show hosts to get more verbal, more outspoken, more provocative, and create a monstrous ring of enthusiasm around specific issues like immigration reform. I wouldn’t want to see the typical Limbaugh approach of mouthing off spurious criticisms of President Obama or other prominent Democrats, or general tirades against anything slightly to the left from right. But it could be honest attacks against deserving republicans and conservative issues.

We need to challenge and put in their place Republicans like Senator Mitch McConnell and Representative John Boehner. Both have constantly dragged down the Obama administration with never-ending fault-finding designed only to set up the President for failure. We have yet to see one piece of legislation come from them or their party recently that truly works for all the American people, not just the upper class.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

It finally happened to our family: the dreaded IDENTITY THEFT

I have been writing about the dangers of not protecting your personal data for over six years. I literally threatened readers with the possibility they could lose an average of $373 and take 21 hours to straighten out the mess, according to Javelin’s 2010 report on ID theft. Readers were told it is easy, and commonplace, for the public to read about this happening to others, but not to them.

Fortunately, I never assumed it would never happen to our family, and followed all the preventive tools to keep it from happening. Well…it happened.

We received a call this past Monday from FIS Risk Management, the company that handles account breaches for M&I Bank here in Phoenix, Arizona where our accounts are. The message left on my service said there had been questionable charges against my debit card, and please call them to confirm. No personal information would have to be given, just my name.

Because of my past writings on the issue, and because no company name was given, my next move was to call my bank and confirm the call’s credibility. My representative, Dan, who is one of the primary reasons we bank at M&I, took over and called me back within minutes with the go-ahead, telling me the company, FIS, did represent M&I.

A little background before continuing. We watch our bank account on a daily basis, our credit cards at least twice monthly. We also request free credit reports, both my wife and I, every 4 months. So how could this possibly happen?

The bad guys had stolen our debit card number through some transaction that we could not trace. It happens. What matters is that we were regularly monitoring our credit accounts and bank statements, and banked with a reputable institution that watches out for its customers. The breach did not cost us a penny, and the time spent was minimal.

There were 2 charges against our debit card; one at the Alaska Bayside Hotel for $6.48 and another at the New Mexico Candlewood Suites for $4.26. Since we live in Arizona, and there were no other records of travel to either of these places, a flag went up at the bank. We responded promptly and no damage was done.  Dan replaced the debit cards with new numbers and we are on our way

Yes, the charges were small, and some folks, especially the elderly, might just overlook or just ignore them because of the amount. That’s when the crooks go into action, and their next transaction could empty your bank account.

For the best information on identity theft—prevention, handling, follow-up—go to Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), and change your habits in the future to include regular protection of your private information.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Facebook just keeps flying in the face of privacy

In yesterday’s post, we talked about how the Millennials, age 35 to 44, are willing to share almost any of their personal data online, while the 18 to 29 year-olds are becoming more concerned about their private information, and taking action to protect it.

The 18-24 year-olds alone represent 40.8 percent of Facebook’s customers, according to a Strategy Labs 2009 report. Those 25 to 34 are another 26.7, so assuming about half of them are in the 18 to 29 age group, the total must be at least over 50 percent.

The next age breakdown by Strategy Labs is 35 to 54, representing 16.6 percent of Facebook’s customers. If we simply break that in half to sort out the 35 to 44 Millennials, we are only talking about 8 percent of Facebook’s customer base.

So the group with the most concerns over their privacy represent over 50 percent of Facebook customers. The ones who are loose with their personal data amount to only around 8 percent. And that is what this article is all about…how Facebook can continue to alienate over 50 percent of their customers with their privacy practices.

Mark Zuckerberg, the kid-whiz who dreamed up the now king of social networking, seems to think he can play with his toy any way he wants to, and the customers and regulators be damned. In a recent June D8 Conference (All Things Digital), he took criticisms re. his company’s handling of privacy, and admitted mistakes.

In a Wall Street Journal interview with Zuckerberg during the conference, Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher had to settle for canned responses. One example: Swisher says Zuckerberg’s ramblings made her feel “like I was watching the young CEO collapse under intense questioning on Meet the Press.”

Wired thinks Facebook has gone rogue, reneging on its privacy promises last December. At that time, it made much of your profile information public, and if you don’t like it, you have no control over who sees it. But Facebook does retain all the data and sells it to advertisers. Included are your music and reading preferences, employment information, etc. Then they dispatched your info off to Yelp, Pandora and Microsoft so they could personalize ads to you.

Fourteen privacy groups filed unfair-trade complaints against Facebook on May 5. Wired said Zuckerberg claims he is only “responding to changes in privacy mores,” which translated means that consumers controlling their own personal data is “just plain old-fashioned.”

Ryan Singel, of Wired, thinks it is time to let people control their private information. I agree and have for six years now while writing about the issue in this blog.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Conflicting reports on the current status of privacy concerns

The “Gen Y” or “Millennials” bunch, characterized by a Pew Research Center report as “always connected,” and sharing information “openly,” will probably change their habits eventually, becoming more careful. In the meantime, “Sharing is not the new black, it is the new normal.” according to Matt Gallivan, a research analyst for NPR, as reported onMSNBC.

Easy Analytical Software, Inc. (EASI), a worldwide provider of demographic and lifestyle data and software, says there are a total of 42.3 million Millennials aged 35 to 44, almost equally divided between male and female with the latter slightly higher.

The Pew study surveyed several technology experts from academia, research, business and government. More than two-thirds of these respondents said they do not believe this group will mature into more careful protection of their personal data. Gen Y feels this openness is a fair exchange for staying connected with job hunting, personal relationships, professional alliances and the like.

Howard Rheingold, who wrote The Virtual Community confirmed to Pew that, although some are concerned over privacy issues, he thinks most Millennials will continue to share openly. Pew says "Steeped in digital technology and social media, they treat their multitasking handheld gadgets almost like a body part…"

On the other hand, young adults aged 18 to 29 are progressively more concerned about their private information and are monitoring it more closely to protect their privacy. This is another Pew study which indicates, unlike what most people think about this age group, they are more likely to check their reputations online and manage what they find. EASI says this bunch numbers around 51 million.

As an example, 71 percent of those 19 to 29 say they have changed the “default” privacy settings on their social networking sites to limit what others can see. This is compared with 62 percent age 30 to 49, and 55 percent age 50 to 64. The 18 to 29 crowd was asked how much of the time they can trust social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Linkedin. The answer was 28 percent, compared to 19 percent for the 30 to 49 and 14 percent 50 to 64.

NEXT: How Facebook constantly flies in the face of privacy

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Reverse Socialism that works

Instead of taking away the wealth of the rich and giving it to the poor—which is basically socialistic—Bill Gates and Warren Buffett beat Obama to the punch and decided to give it away. Now how absurd does that sound, both giving up parts of two huge fortunes, and the fact that the President would even consider a Socialist government? He wouldn’t, and his critics who accuse him of this know it.

But the part about Buffett and Gates is true.

America’s richest two people are attempting to persuade their ultra-rich peers to anti-up half of their fortunes to charity. Sort of flies in the face of the “ME” generation, doesn’t it? If only the Forbes 400 come through, there would be $600 billion in the pot. It sounds great, as long as they don’t let the politicians get their hands on it. And we might also exempt much of the greedy business community.

The two philanthropists should also be looking at the sports field, where football, basketball and baseball players are signed for ridiculously high salaries. As an example, Kobe Bryant, of the Los Angeles Lakers, who just won the NBA championship, is paid over $23 million a year. I don’t care if sports careers are short, one year of Bryant’s salary would last most people a lifetime.

Next, they will want to summon the predators of Wall Street, like AIG management, who sucked the very blood out of American consumers. At least, the athletes earned it honestly. Gates and Buffett might want to increase the anti from 50 percent of Wall Street’s take to at least 95 percent considering most of these ill-gotten gains.

There are others that could be called before the court of humanitarianism, but you get the idea. There are those who need help, and it sounds like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are on the right track. They even have a site,, where participants can pledge 50 percent of their net worth. By the way, Buffett is pledging 99 percent. How much would you pledge?

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Friday, July 09, 2010

Radiation is medicine’s best friend

When is the last time you had a CT scan? Probably not too long ago since Americans get the most medical radiation in the world. It is hard to believe the U.S. accounts for half of the advanced technology using radiation, like MRIs and CT scans. We’re getting it six times more today than we did 20 years ago. Many caregivers blame this on a litigious society that forces the medical community to overcompensate. reports that one radiologist tracked patients at two hospitals who had had 10 or more CT scans, 5 if they were over 40, both considered dangerous amounts. The results were 50 people over a three-year period, including one young woman with 31 abdominal scans.

In a recent hospital visit, I checked into emergency for a surgery incision sore that wasn’t healing, and with hardness around it diagnosed as a hematoma. The immediate option was to take a CT scan which they did, which resulted in me being checked into the hospital. Several hours later, an orderly came to take me back to the radiation department. They were going to take another CT scan—now this is just within hours—on the same area, for the same reason.

Obviously I declined and told them to have the one taken at the emergency room sent to them, which they eventually did. Now, agreed, the hospital was different than the original emergency room, but either correct records of my visit weren’t sent to the hospital, or the caregivers at the hospital didn’t pay attention if they were. Because of the earlier surgery, I had already had at least one other CT scan within the last two months.

What’s risky? The latest comparison is with Chernobyl’s 1986 nuclear power plant accident, and survivors of the dropping of the atom bomb in Japan. Each had exposures of 50 to 150 millisieverts of radiation. A chest or abdominal CT scan, which I had, involves 10 to 20 millisieverts.

Combined with the other two or three scans I had earlier, I am at least 20 percent on my way to potential cancer due to medical scans.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Junk mailers constantly at work to ambush customers with alluring offers

After 35 years selling names and personal data in the junk mail industry, I still follow what is going on. And that is primarily to educate consumers on their rights to control their names and private information to prevent misuse. With billions of manipulations of your data in this business on a daily basis, it is a wonder there aren’t more breaches. But there are only a few connected to the industry, according to Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).

ITRC has counted 346 breaches so far in 2010, exposing 9.2 million records. There are close connections like banks that use junk mail to send credit card mailings, and smaller online companies, but nothing major…yet. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse states on its data breach site that their listings are those that are “made public.” This whole ID theft fiasco started with the junk mail data broker, Choicepoint, in early 2005.

So how do they get your name so they can send you endless mailings, and then sell it to other junk mailers who do the same? Denny Hatch, a pioneer in the business has a new book that explains how to create “emotional, hot-button copywriting.” That’s the stuff that jumps off a page of junk mail and immediately entices you to respond. And it works.

Here are the “seven key copy drivers” that Hatch says will make a copywriter’s career take off. The first is “fear.” What comes to mind here are the cancer insurance mailings years ago that scared you into buying coverage. Second is “greed.” We’re all greedy to a certain extent, but the right words will make that greed overflow, and often make you buy what you really don’t want or need.

Third is “guilt.” Used regularly by non-profit charities to solicit donations, some very reputable and do need the money for good. Where this premise falls short is when the elderly, who can’t afford to feed themselves, are convinced to give the money they don’t really have. Forth you have “anger.” In political mailings like the GOP and Tea Party have been sending out recently, anger is created against President Obama and the Democratic Party to, once again, enlist donations and enlist support.

The final three are “exclusivity,” salvation,” and “flattery,” the latter of which is supposed to get you everywhere. Like I said, Denny Hatch is a pro, having been at this for over 25 years, so he should know what you want. Next time you get a piece of junk mail, check to see which one of Hatch’s key come-ons it exploits.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Hispanics could decide the 2010 midterm elections

In 2008 the Democrats had the black and Hispanic voters along with some white votes. Obama had considerable strength in young, white voters age 18 to 29. That was then, but now is, well…different. White voters are deserting the President, as indicated by the latest polls, according to Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post. The House midterm elections could be “devastating” for Democrats as one top Democratic operative put it.

And there is more. A Washington Post/ABC poll has Obama’s rating with white voters dropping to 40 percent from 60 percent. An NBC/Wall Street Journal survey says Obama’s standing among white voters is very similar to those of George W. Bush in 2008, 28 percent.

Enter Arizona’s anti-immigration law, SB1070, authored by State Senator, Russell Pierce, a Republican, and Governor Jan Brewer, also a Republican.

White voters made up 79 percent of 2006 midterm voters. This changed to 74 percent in 2008. Is that a potential trend? The Democratic National Committee will be spending tens of millions of dollars hoping to recreate the success of their 2008 election model. This included the pursuit of young people, African Americans and Hispanic voters to produce a higher-than-normal turnout.

What is interesting is the Nevada senatorial race between Democrat Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, and Tea Party backed Republican, Sharron Angle. Tea Party backing could be one strike against Angle. Her support of Arizona’s law could be two assuming a large Latino vote. And if Harry Reid can mobilize the Hispanic vote in Nevada, currently 12 percent of the electorate, that could deliver strike three.

Reid will have to work hard to get Hispanics to register to vote, and then vote in his favor, due to the Senator’s inability to pass comprehensive immigration reforms. However, some think, because of the efforts Reid has made, Hispanics will come to the rescue.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Your personal data may be on the way to Phoenix, AZ

All of the personal data that corporations and organizations collect about you—and there is a ton—has to be kept somewhere. Obviously on computers, but these computers have to be housed in a place that is safe and dependable. John Yantis, writing in the Arizona Republic says that Phoenix, AZ is the second safest place for your private information in the U.S., after Rochester, NY.

He counts five such data centers in metro Phoenix that serve as either the primary or secondary warehouse for this goldmine of your factual background and lifestyle. It’s called out-sourcing, and is done by any establishment that maintains sensitive information. Primary means the first location other than the home source collecting the data. A secondary one simply duplicates the data duplicated by the primary from the home source.

Any one of the latter two could even be out of this country, anywhere in the world, including Phoenix.

Do you worry? Yes! After spending 35 years in the junk mail industry selling your name and private information, constantly working with computer facilities that hold this data, I can tell you that security, although attempted vigorously by a few, is always vulnerable. And that is from the inside as well as hackers on the outside. Of course, some of these companies or organizations make it easy by just losing your information.

Yantis makes a point that storage depots like those in Phoenix are expanding because of the increase of “digitizing” personal and business information. This isn’t just new consumers coming into the marketplace. Business is manipulating the data already on hand to build computer models that will predict virtually every move you make during the day.

Scary, but true. This makes it imperative that individuals monitor their financial and health information regularly, and order a free credit report every 4 months. Even then the bad guys could somehow slip through the cracks with their rapid and continuing technological sophistication.

Monday, July 05, 2010

GOP will regret alienating the illegal aliens

Robt. Creamer, columnist for the Huffington Post, says that Republicans will regret turning against undocumented immigrants, thus, alienating some Hispanic American citizens. Why? Because the latter are registering to vote in sharply increasing numbers, and it is likely most of them will vote Democratic. Creamer also says the GOP move was to keep from offending the Tea Party group.

As an example, Texas Republican Governor, Rick Perry, also supported by the Tea Party, has lost an early lead to Democrat, Bill White, according to Public Policy Polling (PPP). The PPP says it has all been due to Hispanicvoters.

Passage of the Arizona anti-immigration law, SB1070, forced Republicans to make a choice, and when it favored Tea Party racism strategy, a huge realignment started to take place in Latino voters across the U.S. Creamer says Hispanic voters see the GOP as anti-immigration zealots, and will punish them for it in the fall.

If the Hispanic community continues to grow at the fast pace it is on now—currently the fastest growing segment in America—it might be the chance liberals have been looking for. Put the conservatives where they belong; in at least second place…permanently.

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

The 4th of July is not Independence Day in Arizona

Today has not been a day of independence for many undocumented immigrants, as well as legal Hispanics in the state of Arizona. Their freedom is scarred by State Senator Russell Pierce’s despicable bill, SB1070, due to go into effect July 29. It requires local police officers to check the legal status of anyone for which there is any suspicion they might be an illegal immigrant, and if there was a legal reason to stop them in the first place.

It is tragic to witness—I live in Arizona—so much hatred against a single group of people. The fight against illegal immigration is beginning to parallel 1960’s racism against Blacks in the South, which I also witnessed first-hand.

It makes one wonder if some of the citizens of Arizona, and those in other states throughout the U.S. passing similar legislation, have forgotten what the word independence means, and what our forefathers had in mind when they gave us the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

GOP filibusters your unemployment checks…and wins

They have done it 3 times, succeeding the last time because Robt. Byrd was no longer in the Senate to make up the 60 votes needed to prevent a Republican filibuster. Two Republicans even joined the Democrats to support passage of the jobless aid extension; Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.

According to the Associated Press, 1.3 million people unemployed for more than 6 months have already lost their jobless checks averaging around $300 weekly.

Every week now 200,000 more Americans will lose unemployment benefits. Those out of work might spend the 4th of July weekend wondering why the GOP could spend billions for Geo. W. Bush’s Iraq War, but not help them put food on their table.

The only part of this issue for which Republicans joined Democrats was passing a bill allowing tax breaks to companies that hire unemployed workers. It seems the only way the individual can benefit is if Big Business is given a better deal.

When West Virginia’s Governor Joe Manchin III, a Democrat, appoints a replacement for Byrd, a Democrat, the legislation is likely to pass. Until then, you folks without jobs will no doubt start thinking about just which political party you will support in November.

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