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etc. - a little of this, a little of that - by Oliver Del Signore

Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category


Skype makes chats and user data more available to police

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

So, you thought that by using Skype, the Internet-based communication service, you could talk or text without having to worry about Big Brother listening or watching?

Skype makes chats and user data more available to police

Skype, the online phone service long favored by political dissidents, criminals and others eager to communicate beyond the reach of governments, has expanded its cooperation with law enforcement authorities to make online chats and other user information available to police, said industry and government officials familiar with the changes.

Surveillance of the audio and video feeds remains impractical — even when courts issue warrants, say industry officials with direct knowledge of the matter. But that barrier could eventually vanish as Skype becomes one of the world’s most popular forms of telecommunication.

The changes to online chats, which are written messages conveyed almost instantaneously between users, result in part from technical upgrades to Skype that were instituted to address outages and other stability issues since Microsoft bought the company last year. Officials of the United States and other countries have long pushed to expand their access to newer forms of communications to resolve an issue that the FBI calls the “going dark” problem.

Microsoft has approached the issue with “tremendous sensitivity and a canny awareness of what the issues would be,” said an industry official familiar with Microsoft’s plans, who like several people interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly. The company has “a long track record of working successfully with law enforcement here and internationally,” he added.

The changes, which give the authorities access to addresses and credit card numbers, have drawn quiet applause in law enforcement circles but hostility from many activists and analysts.

Authorities had for years complained that Skype’s encryption and other features made tracking drug lords, pedophiles and terrorists more difficult. Jihadis recommended the service on online forums. Police listening to traditional wiretaps occasionally would hear wary suspects say to one another, “Hey, let’s talk on Skype.”

Hacker groups and privacy experts have been speculating for months that Skype had changed its architecture to make it easier for governments to monitor, and many blamed Microsoft, which has an elaborate operation for complying with legal government requests in countries around the world.

“The issue is, to what extent are our communications being purpose-built to make surveillance easy?” said Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of People for Internet Responsibility, a digital privacy group. “When you make it easy to do, law enforcement is going to want to use it more and more. If you build it, they will come.’’

Two days ago, Microsoft-owned Skype, denied its architecture restructuring was done to allow for future government access, but did not deny that it might be so used in the future.

The idea of the Internet being a place safe and free from government intrusion has always been more dream and fantasy than reality. Yes, you can still use TOR to mask your Internet travels, but my guess is that it will not be too long before the NSA or some other government concern figures out a way to beat it, or its use is made illegal.

Now, more than any time in history, Big Brother is watching and the surveillance will only continue to intensify as long as most Americans pay more attention to what’s on TV tonight than to what their government is doing.

IMHO, of course.

What’s your opinion on the matter?


Do you have a problem with “No Problem”?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

I can’t imagine anyone reading this has not, at some point, in some store or office, thanked someone and in response been told it was “no problem.” I get it all the time.

I try to be polite and good mannered all the time. Plus, having worked in retail and food service when I was young, I understand how difficult dealing with the public can sometimes be, so a sincere “thank you” is offered at every opportunity. I may even go overboard at times, so you will understand why the following column, which appeared in The Boston Globe, caught my eye.

To make sure there’s ‘no problem’ try ‘You’re Welcome’

During a visit with my father, I happened to catch the end of the television game show, “Wheel of Fortune.’’ On a couple of occasions, I’ve seen Pat Sajak, the emcee, bring up an etiquette issue. Thank you, Pat.

This time he let loose with an etiquette pet peeve that struck home. He asked, rhetorically, what the deal is with people who respond to a sincere “Thank you’’ by saying “No problem.’’

I couldn’t agree with him more. “Thank you’’ is an expression of appreciation one person offers another. To respond “No problem’’ is to shrug off this acknowledgment as really being undeserved.

 I think that whatever prompted the “Thank you’’ was more than nothing and deserves a more positive response than “No problem.’’

Too often we ignore or dismiss “Thank you.’’ Saying “No problem’’ is one of the most common ways it’s done. Nobody likes to be dismissed.

I’ve written about the importance of saying “Thank you’’ and writing thank-you notes in previous columns. As important as it is for one person to say “Thank you’’ to another, it is equally important for the person being thanked to acknowledge the thanks sincerely. And the friendliest, nicest, most sincere response is “You’re welcome.’’

By saying “You’re welcome,’’ a person shows she has heard the “Thank you’’ and appreciates the recognition given by the person saying it.

One of my own pet peeves in this arena is people who respond to a “Thank you’’ by saying “No, thank you’’ with the emphasis on “you.’’

Huh? What did I do to deserve your thanks? When I hear this response, I wonder if the person is trying to trump my thanks with theirs.

If you want to return the “Thank you,’’ there’s an easy way to do this. First acknowledge that you’ve heard it and appreciate it by saying “You’re welcome.’’ Then, having done that, you can say, “And thank you, too. I really appreciate . . . ’’

By first acknowledging the other person’s thanks, you are taking a moment to focus on what they have said and show that you appreciate their gesture. You are showing them a measure of respect. Then you can offer them your thanks as well, and it, too, becomes a sincere demonstration of your appreciation of them.

When I’m thanked by the checkout person at the grocery or or other store, I always say “you’re welcome.” Unfortunately, more often than not these days, a “thank you” is not forthcoming as the person hands me my change and receipt, so I issue a “thank you” of my own which is too often met with indifference or a “no problem.”

I sometimes wonder if this is just another face of the general coarsening of American society, or if it’s the result of parents who don’t bother to teach their children about manners and politeness or if the person who trained the employee is an example of The Peter Principle at work. Whatever the answer, business owners would do well to think about the message their most visible employees are imparting to customers.

Politeness demands that we let it go when our thanks are met with a “no problem” even though I always want to ask if doing their job courteously and well normally poses a problem for them but in my case, did not.

Oh well.

Is my experience a function of living in the Northeast, where high school and college kids fill most low-level positions at stores or is this kind of thing common where you live, too?

Do you have a problem with “no problem” or do you often say it when thanked? If so, why do you say it instead of “you’re welcome”?

And do you wonder, as I sometimes do, if all this will bottom out one day and a return to civility and politeness and good manners will begin?





Do we have an absolute right to privacy?

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Do Americans have an absolute right to privacy? Some think so. I am not among them. Let me explain.

Although many will deny it, it seems clear to me our natural right to privacy is, indeed, enshrined in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

It is contained in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. It is also implied by the Third Amendment, which prohibits government from forcing you to house a soldier, and by extension, other government agents. Article Four prohibits government from rooting around in your life. And Article Five says we cannot be forced to testify against ourselves. None of those would have any meaning without the foundation of a right to privacy.

So I believe we do have a right to privacy, but not an absolute one.

For example, if a store posts a sign at the entrance that clearly states if you enter the store, you will be video recorded in all areas of the store and that the video can be used for any and all purposes, you give up your right to privacy when you walk through the door and can’t complain when the video of you in the changing room ends up on YouTube. Of course, no store would be stupid enough to try to get away with it. Even if they did, as soon as the first person publicly complained, the media would run with it and the store would find itself with no customers.

Privacy is the basis of our “Miranda” rights. Police must advise you of your right to keep your thoughts and words private but if you give up that privacy, they’ll use whatever you say to hang you if they can.

Although the Constitution constrains government, it does not similarly shackle private businesses. Your employer can order you to not engage in any political speech in the workplace or may equally order you to engage in a particular form of political speech as a condition of employment. Similarly, you have no absolute right to privacy in the workplace. Your employer may monitor all your work-related communications as well as any communications that take place using business-owned equipment. Hopefully, they make their employees aware of this, but they are not obligated to do so.

On the other hand, if your employer happens to be a government entity, I believe they do have an obligation to advise you that communications can be monitored.

Lawsuit says FDA monitored e-mails
Agency workers filed complaints

WASHINGTON – Current and former Food and Drug Administration officials say in a lawsuit that the agency secretly monitored their private e-mail after they raised concerns that approved medical devices might risk public safety.

The doctors and scientists who researched the products approached members of Congress and the incoming Obama administration to express alarm that the devices were approved over their objections.

Their lawsuit contends that the agency monitored e-mail sent from their personal Gmail and Yahoo accounts from work computers over two years. It says those e-mails included messages to congressional staff and drafts of whistle-blower complaints.

The staffers say they were legally protected whistle-blowers and the monitoring violated their constitutional rights to free speech and against illegal search and seizure, even though a warning on FDA computers said they had no expectation to privacy.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

I am no fan of the FDA. It’s one of the many departments of government I believe should be abolished. But that is beside the point. In this case, they did nothing wrong by monitoring the use of their equipment which included a clear warning that users should not expect any privacy.

I fully support whistle-blowers. But the lawsuit filed claims “the monitoring violated their constitutional rights to free speech and against illegal search and seizure” which it clearly does not do. Do they expect those monitoring the computers use to magically know when they will be using it as whistle-blowers and so close their eyes or turn off the monitoring for the duration?

If there was any retaliation, those who instigated it should be fired. But the whistle-blowers should have waited until they got home and used their private computers to blow the whistle.

Really, it is as simple as that and the lawsuit should be dismissed.

Then there should commence an independent investigation of and prosecution of any wrongdoing brought to light by the whistle-blowers.

Do you agree or disagree we have a right to privacy but not an absolute one? And why?

Was the FDA monitoring wrong even though everyone was warned it would take place?

And where and when do you think privacy should be inviolate and where should it not.


Isn’t it time we got over our aversion to talking about sex?

Friday, January 20th, 2012

I was disturbed, this morning, by a small item in the newspaper, so I checked online for the full story.

CDC: Many teen moms didn’t think it could happen

ATLANTA (AP) — A new government study suggests a lot of teenage girls are clueless about their chances of getting pregnant.

In a survey of thousands of teenage mothers who had unintended pregnancies, about a third who didn’t use birth control said the reason was they didn’t believe they could pregnant.

Why they thought that isn’t clear. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey didn’t ask teens to explain.

But other researchers have talked to teen moms who believed they couldn’t get pregnant the first time they had sex, didn’t think they could get pregnant at that time of the month or thought they were sterile.

“This report underscores how much misperception, ambivalence and magical thinking put teens at risk for unintended pregnancy,” said Bill Albert, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

How is it possible that in twenty-first century America, so many girls and young women do not fully and completely understand their bodies and worse, that sex can always lead to pregnancy?

We live in a culture that bombards our children with sexual images, music lyrics, advertisements — is there any product or service that does not use sex to sell itself? Yet so many of us cling to a puritanical aversion to even acknowledging sex exists, much less that we have it and, hopefully, enjoy it.

We would never think of sending our children out into the world without teaching them to look both ways before crossing the street, to be wary of certain kinds of strangers, to brush their teeth and take a shower every day so they won’t stink. Yet we turn them loose with little or no information about something that could change their lives forever and produce a new life that, studies show, will likely suffer significant disadvantages. And all because we’re too embarrassed to talk about our body parts and what they are used for?

Approximately 400,000 teens aged 15–19 years give birth every year in the United States, and the teen birth rate remains the highest in the developed world according to the Center for Disease Control report on which the news story above is based. 400,000 girls who may never achieve their full potential because they didn’t think they could get pregnant the first time they had sex, or because they thought withdrawal was a good contraceptive choice, or any of the myriad other misconceptions that result in conception.

Isn’t it time we learned to say the words — penis and vagina — and even the earthier euphemisms, outside the bedroom, to our children even?

I’m not suggesting we tell our kids to run out and have sex whenever they want. Quite the opposite. I’m suggesting that we arm them with the facts, with the truth, with foreknowledge of how their young bodies will respond to kissing and petting so they can better resist the biological urges until, ideally, they someday find themselves in a loving, committed relationship.

That said, like it or not, most of our children will not wait until they’re married to have sex. I know my two did not. But both my son and my daughter were well armed with as much information as we could feed them, despite their embarrassment at having to listen to mom and dad talk about sex, and their even greater embarrassment at being forced to think about mom and dad actually doing it. At least twice!

Isn’t it time we got over our aversion to talking about sex?

What do you think?

Am I crazy for wanting sex to be just another subject for families to talk about at the dinner table?

Did your parents have “the talk” with you? At what age? Was it comfortable or embarrassing?

If you have children, have you had “the talk” with them? At what age? Did you follow up with more information as they got older?

And what can we do, as parents, aunts, uncles, and as a society, to ensure each and every boy and girl fully understands what they will be facing once the hormones kick in?


Yesterday’s Internet blackout protest victory should be only the beginning

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

If you stopped by the Backwoods Home website yesterday between 8 AM and 8 PM, you found a protest screen instead of the blogs, Forum, articles, an other site content.

I’m pleased to say congressional support for the legislation that was being protested has largely been withdrawn, for the moment, as a result of the protest. I say ‘for the moment’ because folks like former Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris “The Dope” Dodd, currently chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America condemned the SOPA “Blackout Day” as a “gimmick” and an “abuse of power” by the Web companies participating in the protest against pending anti-piracy legislation.

As a former US Senator, I guess Dodd would know all about abuse of power.

There are many reasons why so many companies and websites participated in the protest yesterday. But this morning, the following story in my local paper made me realize the one, big, overarching reason.

China plans to collect identities of bloggers

BEIJING – China will expand nationwide a trial program that requires users of the country’s wildly popular microblog services to disclose their identities to the government in order to post comments online, the government’s top Internet regulator said yesterday.

The official, Wang Chen, said that registration trials in five major eastern Chinese cities would continue until wrinkles were worked out. But he said eventually all 250 million users of microblogs, called weibos here, would have to register, beginning with new users. Wang indicated that under the program, users could continue to use nicknames online, even though they would still be required to register their true identities.

Wang leads the State Council Information Office, which regulates the Internet and the government’s domestic public-relations machine. He also is a deputy director of the Communist Party’s propaganda department and, in particular, is in charge of China’s lavishly financed recent efforts to burnish its image worldwide.

The government has said it is studying real-name registration of microbloggers to limit the spread of malicious rumors, pornography, scams, and other unhealthy practices on microblogs, which have become a major source of news for many Chinese.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Here in the United  States, there are many in government who would love to have the kind of absolute control over the Internet that the Communists exert in China. Legislation like SOPA and PIPA are the foot-in-the-door many have sought since the Net graduated out of academia and into the real world where it’s been a game-changer in so many fields, including politics. A political protest as widespread as the one yesterday could never have happened pre-Internet and many, like Dodd, would very much like to ensure such things never happen again.

Some will say it’s a far leap from SOPA to forcing bloggers to register with their real names and contact information, but two decades ago, those same people would have said the idea of government agents feeling the genitals of adults, children and even babies in diapers before they’re allowed to board an airplane could never happen in America

Thomas Jefferson said “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” For far too many decades, far too many Americans have been too lazy or simply unwilling to pay that very modest price.

Yesterday’s protest showed that we can, still, make a difference if enough of us band together. If you are reading this blog, or Claire Wolfe’s blog, or Massad Ayoob’s blog, or any of the thousands of similar blogs on the Net, you’ve already opened your eyes, you’re already one of the vigilant.

But vigilance isn’t enough. It’s only the first step. Action is the second step.

Talk to your neighbors and friends. Send them links to eye-opening news reports, articles, and blog posts. Loan them the books you read and ask their opinion.

Do something!

The window of opportunity to effect positive change in America is still open. Yesterday’s protests proved that. Let’s take advantage before it slams shut.


Do you have any ideas of ways to engage folks who have heretofore shirked their duty to remain vigilant?

Or do you think it’s too late to do anything and if so, why?


Are our cars getting too “smart” for our own good?

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

The ultimate mobile device
Cars’ Internet connections may change driving life

Talk about a smart car.

Coming soon to a garage near you is a car that will download your work schedule and trigger your alarm clock. By the time you get behind the wheel, the car will have analyzed the morning’s traffic and weather and calculated the best route to get you to the office on time. You won’t even have to touch the radio – it’s already playing the same station you were listening to in the house. And as you pull away, it will shut the garage door and turn off the lights.

Cadillac’s CUE system already offers a suite of navigation and communication tools

Those capabilities are built into Ford Motor Co.’s Internet-connected Evos, a so-called concept car making its North American debut at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“By 2014, you’re going to see nearly every auto manufacturer have a connected vehicle option,’’ said Leo McCloskey, vice president of marketing at Airbiquity Inc., a Seattle firm that manages wireless communications for many models of connected cars.

About 40 percent of the cars sold in the United States last year can already connect to wireless data networks, allowing drivers to listen to Internet radio stations or get traffic reports; the next step will be cars that constantly monitor online data.

Alan Taub, vice president of global research and development for General Motors Corp., said his company’s goal is “360-degree situational awareness’’ – a car that can “see’’ and respond to its environment.

Too much technology, however, might overwhelm drivers, posing new dangers.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Call me a Luddite, if you will, but I’m one of the folks who think 24/7 connectivity is not a good thing. I spend ten to twelve hours each day here at the keyboard to earn my living and when I quit, the very last thing I want to do is jump online or play some mindless game on my telephone. Speaking of which, I’m the proud owner of a dumb phone. All it’s allowed to do is to make and receive phone calls. Text messages? Not for me. If one of the few people who have my cell number have want to tell me something, they can call. If it’s not important enough to call, it’s not information I need.

Knowing all that, you can imagine my reaction when I read the article, above. The very idea of driving a car with total connectivity seems crazy to me.

Paying attention to what is happening around you on the road is difficult enough when one is alone in a car doing nothing but driving. Add the distraction of a phone call, and attention declines. Up the ante with texting and you’re an accident waiting to happen. Adding the kind of technology talked about in the article can only make things even worse.

Do we really need our cars and trucks monitoring our stress level to decide if we’re too distracted by the technology that’s causing the stress? Wouldn’t we all be better off if all the technology was simply turned off to begin with?

It is the challenge of the auto industry, as well as regulators, to objectively assess what tasks should be safely allowed in the vehicle.

I don’t see that as a challenge at all. Driving is the only thing that should be done in a moving vehicle. Anything else, like changing a radio station or eating or texting or applying makeup or reading or any of the myriad things we do in cars while driving, serves only to distract us. Purposely installing even more distractions would seem to be a recipe for disaster.

What do you folks think?

Do you think the kinds of technology they’re talking about can be installed without having a deleterious effect on the driver’s ability to drive safely?

What kinds of things have you done while driving that reduce your attention to the road?

And have you ever been involved in an accident because you or the other driver were distracted by something?


Is it me, or has the Obama campaign moved from fishy to scary to downright menacing? Also, funny kids video.

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Is it me, or has the Obama campaign moved from fishy to scary to downright menacing?

Some of you may recall “,” the Obama cabal’s first attempt to get Americans to spy on their neighbors and friends by encouraging them to “report” anti-Obama email and websites.

Then they decided to go after folks who publicly criticize or say unkind things about Our Dear Leader with their #AttackWatch on Twitter campaign.

Now, The Smartest President Ever® and his water-carriers want you to help them re-educate all the nasty Republicans and, presumably, other wrong-thinking folks who oppose him by sending him their email addresses.

Obama Campaign Collecting GOP Emails

The Obama presidential campaign is launching an effort to collect Republican email addresses by inviting its supporters to submit information about their Republican associates to the Obama 2012 website.

The effort could help the Obama campaign build a database that would enable it to target Republican voters during the general election campaign. But, more perniciously, it could also become part of an Democratic effort to influence Republican primary voters to select a candidate Democrats think Obama could most easily defeat.

The Democratic National Committee last month released a video that seemed designed to damage Mitt Romney, the GOP candidate feared most by the Obama campaign.

The Obama information collection effort is cast under the mischievous guise of asking Obama supporters to “have a little fun at the expense of a Republican in your life” by signing them up to get an email from the Obama campaign ribbing them for having “inspired” the Obama supporter to donate.

The result, however, is that the Obama campaign gets a new trove of Republican email addresses that it could never have collected through voluntary submissions.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Has there ever before been an American President with the unmitigated effrontery to do anything like this? Even Richard Nixon, with his famous “Enemies List” would not have dreamed of asking Americans to rat out their neighbors the way Obama and his henchmen have been doing, and getting away with, thanks to their lapdogs in the media.

Isn’t this “report your neighbor” stuff the kind of thing that used to happen in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia and may still happen today in places like North Korea?

Is this really the kind of government, and the kinds of people running it, that America wants?

Is it what you want?


On the lighter side, a friend sent me the link to this video.

I have to admit, I thought it funny even as I cringed at what some parents would put their kids through for a joke. You’ll know the ones I mean.



It’s all in how you say it

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner – Mechelle.


Media bias is well-known to everyone except those in the media.

Sometimes, the bias is overt, as when an outlet shamelessly cheers on a particular political candidate. Sometimes it takes the form of omission, deliberately ignoring, withholding, or downplaying information that might cast their candidate or cause in a bad (true) light, as happened in the last presidential campaign. More often, I think, it takes the form of a choice of word or phrase that shapes the story a particular way in the minds of some readers or provides a aeemingly innocuous code word. Take two stories from today’s left-tilting Boston Globe.

Optimism, candor boost Cain in polls

Herman Cain

 WASHINGTON – He’s more than Mr. Congeniality, popular for his straight-shooting sense of humor and powerful gospel-singing voice. Herman Cain, a pizza magnate, conservative talk-radio host, and the only serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination without prior political chops, has in recent weeks proved to be a candidate who some analysts say should be taken seriously.

Read the rest of the article here.

Did you see any bias or code words in that opening paragraph? If not, look again.

While the reporter, Tracy Jan, could have chosen to refer to Cain’s powerful speaking voice or just powerful voice, instead she chose to highlight his “powerful gospel-singing voice.” And it’s right up front where folks who just scan the first few paragraphs will be sure to see it.

That may not mean much where you live, but here in The People’s Republic, it implies Cain is one of “those people” — bible-thumping Christians. Now, he may or may not be, but of what relevance is that either way unless he’s come out and said he wants to run the country as a theocracy? Did he run his business empire that way? Wouldn’t knowing that, rather than what kind of singing voice he  has, be much more relevant information for voters to use in assessing his candidacy?


The second item features a phrase I see and hear used all the time by reporters and news readers.The item is short, so I’m reproducing it in its entirely

Amazon, Conn. in showdown over tax

HARTFORD – Connecticut officials are not giving up on requiring Internet sellers to collect state sales taxes, despite signs from that it won’t abide by the state’s new Internet tax law.

Amazon wrote to the state to say it is not obliged to follow the law because it lacks a physical presence in Connecticut. The state will press Amazon for taxes it says should have collected at least during the month when Amazon was affiliated with Connecticut websites. Amazon has cut those ties.

The state could expect up to $9.4 million a year in additional revenue if remote sellers, including Amazon, comply with the law, according to a legislative estimate. Connecticut plans to evaluate other connections Amazon has with people in the state and start building a case that may be decided in court.

At least six states have enacted laws similar to Connecticut’s, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. It estimates all states combined are losing $23 billion each year.

Did you catch the spin in the last paragraph?

The combined states are not “losing” $23 billion each year. To lose something, you had to first have it. None of the states ever had tax revenue from Internet sales.

What they are trying to do is grab more of their citizens’ money by forcing companies that have no physical presence in their state to begin acting as tax collectors for them.

I know most will think the turn of phrase is not a big deal, but to me it is, because it endeavors to place in the reader’s thoughts that Amazon is fighting to withhold from the state money the state is owed, just as if a Hartford department store decided to stop collecting sales taxes from its customers when, in reality, it is fighting to keep government weenies away from a technology that has transformed the world.

If states are really worried about businesses within their borders losing customers to the Internet, if they really want to level the playing field, they should slash the bureaucracy and spending and eliminate their state sales tax.

I hope these two examples will, if you do not already do so, cause you to begin reading and listening  more carefully, to start looking for the many subtle ways in which stories are slanted, and help to make you a better consumer of information and more resistant to propaganda from any direction.

So…what do you think? Am I seeing bad where none exists?

Do you have any other examples of how a simple word or phrase can send a message or change the slant of a story?

And what, if anything, can we do about it?





Who REALLY has your best interests at heart?

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Yesterday, I posted about an attempt to compare the Tea Party movement to the Nazi Party. It got me thinking about how everyone these days seems to fling accusations and rhetoric every which way to the point where it can be overwhelming, to the point where it’s easy to throw up your hands and conclude it’s impossible to know who and what to believe anymore.

So I thought about it for awhile to see if I could, perhaps, come up with some easy method, some rule of thumb I and other folks could use to at least get an idea of whether listening to and analyzing what someone has to say was worth our valuable time. I couldn’t find one single thing to look for, but I think the following list of six pairs of questions may well do the trick.

Ask yourself…

Are you, too, feeling this way more and more often?

• Is the person speaking in vague generalities and/or relying on catchy slogans and sound bites? Or is the person offering facts and data?

• Is the person promising to solve all my problems? Or is the person encouraging me to use facts and data to solve my own problems?

• Is the person telling me government can and should provide me with “benefits” of one sort or another? Or is the person telling me government can and should make it easy for me to earn my own benefits?

• Is the person telling me what to think or how to think? Or is the person challenging me to think for myself?

• Is the person attempting to make me dislike or hate others who are better off or worse off or just different from me? Or is the person focusing on me and my freedom to do and be whatever I can?

• Is the person telling me he or she has all the answers? Or is he or she telling me that the answers are different for everyone and that each must find their own answers?

The way I see it, anyone who is best described by the first of each pair is someone who seeks personal power and glory and/or who wants to use the power of government to force me and everyone else to think and live according to their worldview. On the other hand,  a person best described by the second of each pair is much more likely to honestly have my best interests at heart.

How do you see it?

Do you think the questions are valid? If not, why not?

And can you think of any pairs that could be added to the list?


Android app for T-mobile lets you surf with no data plan

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

New Android App Smozzy Lets You Surf The Web Without A Data Plan

Smozzy is a new Android application that lets you search the Web on your mobile phone without a data plan. The app works only in the U.S., only on T-Mobile phones and requires that you have a messaging plan (unless you want to be charged). Despite these restrictions, the app itself is pure genius – it cleverly uses SMS and MMS to send requests and receive the content. And to the end user, the app appears to work just like your own Android phone’s browser, only a bit slower.

The Smozzyapp is very basic – just a combo URL/search bar at the top and a keyboard below. You can type in your search query in the URL bar or you can type in the exact URL you want Smozzy to retrieve.

The end user requests are sent to Smozzy’s servers by SMS and the responses are sent back via MMS. Here’s where things get tricky. Smozzy downloads the requested page and all its resources (stylesheets, images, etc.) and puts everything into a Zip file. The file is then encoded as a PNG and the PNG is sent out via MMS. It’s downright hack-tastic!

That said, you should be aware that Smozzy’s messages aren’t encrypted, so you shouldn’t try to browse secure content or send passwords via the app. (Sorry, no Facebooking, folks.)

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I don’t have an Android phone and I don’t use T-Mobile, but this sounds like a fantastic, money-saving app for anyone who does.

If you’ve tried it, please let us know what you think of it.



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