Coffee heat rising


...or this?
…or this?

How can I do without being spied on by Google at every damn turn? Let me COUNT the ways!!!!!

Really, the invasion of privacy that company inflicts should be prohibited by federal law. It should be effing ILLEGAL to track you around the Internet and track every one of your correspondents, too.

In fact, if Google were a government agency, it would have to get a subpoena to engage in the kind of spying into our personal lives that it does routinely. The reason it gets away with it? It’s a corporation. Because the Founding Fathers could no more have envisioned a world dictated by computer technology than they could have imagined taking a stroll on the moon, it never occurred to them to extend constitutional protections against overweening government to the real government that one day would evolve.

That would be the corporate shadow government, the one that dictates how we live, what we eat, where we work, how much we’re paid, whether we can borrow money and at what rate, whether we can insure ourselves against financial ruin in the event of accident, sickness, or natural disaster…actually, when you think about it, the one that dictates just about every aspect of our daily lives.

This morning I RSVP’ed to an upcoming meeting of a writer’s group I belong to. This group happens to have a site. And is synced with — who else? Google, of course. Within seconds after RSVPing that I would attend, in came an email informing me that Google has automatically installed a notice of the meeting in one of my several Google calendars (all of them, for all I know!) and that it will be sending me an email reminder. Lucky me! Here was a wonderful new G-service!

God damn it. Now I had to get into not one, not two, but three G-mail accounts and disable the damn calendars’ automatic notification. Yet another electronic time-suck. Really: do you need your time wasted that way? I sure don’t, and I’ll bet you don’t, either.

If I wanted Google Calendar to pester me with email reminders, I would proactively ask it to do so. The reason I don’t is that I tried Google Calendar and found it to be an endless hassle and annoyance. Annoyance annoyance ANNOYANCE! I do not WANT to be binged, pinged, and emailed for every deep breath I’m about to take. I don’t WANT Google to record every meeting I attend and every meeting I decline to attend.

So I quit using Google Calendar. I use iCal, which a) is resident on my machine and does not require me to go out on the Net to enter events, b) is easier to control, and c) can be persuaded not to make you crazy. I haven’t used Google Calendar in years.

Wouldn’t you think that would tell them something?

But ohhh no! Willy nilly, whether you love their tool or hate it, they’re going to push it in your face. That’s because they have THEIR corporate face pushed up your butt.

So why, you ask, do I use Gmail at all? No Gmail, no nuisance “calendar,” eh?

Well, because…

I own a business and need a business address separate from my personal address.
That business needs two “addresses,” one for the publishing enterprise and one for the editorial business.
And I have a G-mail address that I use when forced to provide an email address to people I do not wish to share my address with, and to organizations that I believe are going to spam me.
If you own a small business and can’t afford your own server and an in-house IT team to run it, you don’t have much choice but to use Google. It is, in effect, the only game in town, and because of that, it’s coercive.

One of the biggest mistakes this country has made in recent history was to defang the anti-trust laws. And Google is a prime example of the reason those laws are necessary and should never be watered down.

Consider the aspects of our lives this corporation has its fingers in:

Gmail owns my thermostat, which sends them data (presumably stored someplace) about the amount of electric power I use, the number of hours per day I use the power, and the time of day I use it. Harmless? Maybe. But that’s none of anybody’s business!

Gmail evidently owns, which it markets to just about every volunteer and social group in the country. Every time a group sends out an invite with an RSVP, Google collects data on the group and on every member in the group: who RSVPed and, by extension, who did not RSVP. What groups I belong to and which of their meetings I choose to attend are none of anybody’s business!

Google watches your Web searches, evidently recording those, too, since it never seems to forget what sites you’ve visited in the past. None of anybody’s business!

Google publishes pictures of your home on the Internet, complete with specifics about its location and clearly showing where the doors and windows are, simplifying burglars’ lives. With a vengeance, none of anybody’s business!

Google owns Motorola Mobility, which has to do with your Android phone. How much information that’s none of anybody’s business are they collecting from that?

Google owns YouTube (which, we might add, it has nicely broken). It knows what videos you watch and which you post to your websites. None of anybody’s business!

Come to think of it, Google knows all about what you write on your websites. Of course. What you choose to post to the Internet by default becomes everybody’s business. But that’s about it.

Google owns 180 companies, many of which have reason and capacity to collect and store data about you, your comings, and your goings. It may very well be the largest spy network on the planet.

Soon it will be producing electric cars, which will track and record all your movements about your city, town, and country. Those movements are already being tracked to a degree if you have a newer vehicle that’s “connected” to the Net. But when you’re driving a Google car, bank on it: every trip to the grocery store, every trip to your mother-in-law’s, every visit to your paramour or to the local whorehouse is going to be seen and recorded.

And why is this legal? Why has intrusion into our daily lives become so routine we sheeple hardly even notice it? Pretty obvious, isn’t it: the other 99% of us can’t afford to buy Congressmen and Senators, that’s why.

When corporate America can buy the government, folks, it is the government. If you’re not mad about that, you sure as hell should be!

U.S. Capitol at night. David Iliff. GNU Free Documentation License.Patio at Googleplex. Jijithecat. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Big Brother: Not about to quit watching us

Interesting op-ed article in today’s NY Times: former CIA officer and NSA contractor Edward Snowden rejoices that at last Americans and people around the world are waking up to the ubiquitous spying on innocent private citizens accused of no wrongdoing. He applauds Congress’s move to ban the NSA’s phone-call tracking program and President Obama’s about-face in stating that surveilling every citizen of the United States has done nothing to prevent even a single terrorist attack.

All very nice. But it’s a day late and a dollar short, in my opinion.

In the first place, a huge government infrastructure designed to track the private movements of everyone in the country now exists and has been deployed against us all. Does anyone seriously believe it’s suddenly not going to be used anymore?

And in the second place, Big Brother is not the government. It’s private industry. Note that only the NSA has been told to stand down from spying on us.

Google hasn’t. A few weeks ago, members of our neighborhood association reported that Google mapping trucks were moving up and down the alleys with vehicle-top cameras peering down into people’s backyards. Google tracks every move you make on the Internet. Every time I walk down my home’s hallway, the Nest thermostat on the wall records that I am home and sends that tidbit of information back to a Google-owned server. Nest also records and transmits the details of when I use power to air-condition and heat my home, and how much I use.

Just about anyone who wants to sell you something or to keep tabs on the public is watching you.

Using cookies, any business on the planet can keep track of every website you visit, every message you post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, every search term you enter in  your browser, every whatnot.

When you walk through a major shopping mall with your phone in your pocket or purse, curious minds are watching what stores you enter, what food kiosk you visit, even which window you pause in front of to eyeball the merchandise.

Insurance companies, healthcare corporations (that would include your doctor’s and your psychological therapist’s employers and any hospital or out-patient facility you visit), financial institutions, and credit bureaus gather and store — permanently — vast amounts of private information about you.

Here in my state, the county sends helicopters aloft to photograph people’s property; the aerial images are stored, and when you go in to ask for, say, a zoning variance so you can build some addition on the back of your home, an inspector studies a picture of your lot. If anything is found to be out of order, the supervisors will order you to take it down. They’re also likely to deny your variance request.

Every time you telephone your credit-card company, a utility, or many other entities, your phone number is recorded and checked against the number you gave when you started doing business with that entity. This overrides any caller-ID blocking you may have in place.

Retailers track your buying habits by name, phone number, and address every time you foolishly hand over your private information in exchange for a card giving you a few cents off a store’s inflated prices.

Facebook tracks everything you do on its site and often uses casual remarks to spin advertisements to you and to your friends.

Netflix knows what you’ve been watching, reminds you of what you spent time with, and tries to persuade you that you’d like something else based on your viewing habits.

And by now, you may be sure that some hacker somewhere knows your name, address, birthdate, Social Security number, employment history, and educational history.

Most that information is none of anybody’s business. But in fact, just about anybody can easily make it their business.

That Congress is finally coming around to putting the eefus on the hideous Patriot Act is all well and good. But we’re not going to get our right to privacy back until private enterprises are also prohibited from gathering and storing personal information about us.

How Much Does a Politician Cost?

Ever think how fine it would be to own an elected representative? Just think of what you could get done! Advance your idea of what should be the nation’s agenda…spread moral probity across the land…make the world safe for (your) business…to say nothing of getting invited to a lot of great dinners in DC. Wow! The benefits boggle the mind.

Well, it may not cost as much as you think. Here we have a list of candidates for federal office supported by the Koch brothers — very interesting. Some are pretty pricey: a Republican from Kansas cost the Kochs upwards of $105,800. But others have much more reasonable price tags. Here’s a Democrat from Delaware who went for a mere $250 — less than a year’s worth of lattes, no doubt. Quite a few are in the $1,000 range, not out of the question, given the ROI.

Amusing, isn’t it?

War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.
Corporations are people.

The State of Your Health: Is It Your Employer’s Business?

Today at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon, we heard a panel discussion on employee wellness programs, presented by folks who have a vested interest therein: mostly directors of such projects.

It was interesting, particularly as an effort to persuade corporate leadership that employees’ health bears, in ways obvious and subtle, on the bottom line. And the discussion pushed one of my buttons.

Among the strategies the panel presented is a program in which workers are coaxed, by way of a $15/month bonus added to the paycheck, into submitting to tests to determine whether they’ve been smoking tobacco. There are similar thrusts in these programs having to do with diabetes prevention and control, obesity control, and the like. But this one exemplifies most perfectly, to my mind, what is wrong with such Big Mommy schemes. Videlicet:

What you choose to do about your health maintenance is none of your employer’s business.

Your health care is between you and your doctor, not between you and your doctor and your department manager and HR.

While I personally do not smoke, chew, or snort tobacco — and no offense, dear nicotine-loving friends, but I fear people who do are a little stupid — the stuff is a legal product available freely all over the country. There’s no law against smoking tobacco. And your employer has absolutely no business telling you that you can’t engage in a lawful activity on your own time, outside of the plant.

And your employer has even less business (we’re in the negative numbers now!) demanding that you submit to a test to confirm your word that you do not smoke. It’s an unwarranted and unacceptable intrusion into your private life.

Whence this anxiety to insert a whole new level of nosiness into our private lives?

The almighty dollar, that’s whence. The hype generated around the so-called “obesity epidemic,” which was recognized as hooey when it first arose and which some inquiring minds still question, represents a vast money-making opportunity. As in billions and trillions of dollars. The very folks who, over today’s lunch, regaled us with the glories of in-house “wellness” programs themselves stand to profit. Whether they work as wage slaves for companies that institute the programs or whether they own businesses contracting to companies to run such programs, they’ll profit.

If we’re all being bribed — or ordered — to take tobacco tests, what will be next?

Alcohol use is one hell of a lot more detrimental to productivity than puffing tobacco on your own time. It really would make more sense to test people, regularly, to determine how many cocktails or glasses of wine they had with dinner the night before.

Sugar: Exceptionally bad for you. Will we all be required to take blood glucose tests on Monday before we sit down to work?

Salt: Worse yet! You don’t even have to be fat for salt to drive up your blood pressure. How’s about we add a blood sodium level while we’re drawing blood for those glucose tests? No more hot dogs and potato chips at those Sunday afternoon football games for you, pal!

Folks. We have got to get a grip on this kind or exploitation. And somehow, someday Americans really need to come back to a basic fact of pre-Facebook, pre-Google, pre-Big Brother life: what’s your business is your business. And no one has any right to demand to poke their corporate nose into it.