In stark contrast

texasWhile a lot of todays action in the Texas Capital, as covered by social media, is about the “open carry”  bill being sent back for procedural reasons, given we still have a full 7-weeks of the Legge before they remount their horses and get out of dodge for the next 1.5 years(I know, how weird is that?), there is no doubt the bill make to it the Governors desk, where Governor Abbott has said he’ll sign it.

I’m left feeling pretty empty and hollow about Texas today though. I heard the news today on the Texas Standard about SB 204. I don’t know anything about this subject, but when I saw the justification

that the state could “no longer afford” the cost of operating all of its 13 state-supported living centers.

I was left wondering how. in what universe can Texas not afford to run these? Neither the Texas Tribune or the Texas Standard had any details on how the some 3,000 beneficiaries of these State Institutions would be cared for.

A few minutes later the Texas Standard went on to cover this story, about Sex trafficking and human slavery. The article makes a number of claims, all of which are appalling and repugnant.

the Polaris Project says 100,000 children are trafficked a year for sex in this country. The Polaris Project maintains the national human trafficking hotline. Texas ranks second in the number of calls to that hotline.

It seriously makes you ask, why are we not focusing on this as a problem, are there State programs, State hospice care, State rehab centers?

But most of all, what kinda of Men are the “buyers” and facilitate this in Texas? It’s just disgusting.

Almost as bad though is that the Legge is busy debating open carry, meaningless tax cuts, and closing State institutions because it can’t afford  them. A fine example of “you get what you vote for”.

Abbotts Texas Miracle

This week Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott continued to demonstrate that the Texas Miracle is based only on smoke and mirrors.

Zap, Pow, Sock it to 'em Abbott
Zap, Pow, Sock it to ’em Abbott

First up, Abbott claimed victory over the evil empire, the Federal Governments’ Environmental Protection Agency. Abbott has time and time again sued the EPA to try to get relief for Texas based businesses, claiming almost everything except the dog ate their homework. The only thing Abbott hasn’t denied is that Texas is the worst state when it comes to air pollution, and given it’s size and position, that pollution is a major contributor to US pollution and to pollution in other states. But, hey, apparently that’s too bad as the regulations would be too costly for Texas businesses to implement.

The truth is that Abbott won a battle to save small businesses from implementing these regulations, but lost the war, the coal plants and other major facilities will have to implement them. The EDF has a different perspective but comes to the same conclusion.

Meanwhile, Abbott(“What I really do for fun is I go into the office, [and] I sue the Obama administration.”) has been explaining the unexplainable, back-peddling on his order to restrict access to the hazardous Chemicals list. As posted last week “The Texas Freedom Illusion“, Abbott confirmed the ban of releasing information to the public as Tier II reports in the 1986 Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA).

Well it turns out, he’s explained his position. You, yes, you the people, have not lost your right to know under the EPCRA. If you want to know, apparently all you have to do is visit the plants or write them, and ask. Instead of letting concerned citizens check the state database, where businesses are required to register, the State is pushing handling costs on the business. The Daily KOS has a great piece on this, describing Abbotts remarks as “jaw dropping”. < Zap pow!

It can’t be because it’s more secure that way.because it sure isn’t anymore secure. I’m sure the terrorists would never think of that, after all, they didn’t think of taking private flying lessons pre-9/11… when they couldn’t get trained by the Government.

Meanwhile, Abbott has also been re-confirming that the Texas Miracle doesn’t come with workers compensation insurance, the only state in America to do so. The Texas Tribune this week published a damning report into the cost and effect of this on workers. For as little as $1.38, businesses could provide workers comp. but like that EPA cost, thats too much of a burden. The downside of this, i workers getting hurt, seriously hurt often have no medical coverage, that means you are and I are picking up the tab.

So, lets summarize. Abbott is running for Governor. He is

  • Not prepared to require businesses meet the same emissions standards they are elsewhere in the USA
  • Not prepared to require Workers Comp. insurance
  • Not prepared to provide citizens access to data the State has on dangerous chemical storage
  • Continues to sue the Presidents Administration, costing hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars, for no real purpose and little result

I’ll be protesting in the morning, Taxation with no representation, I can’t even vote for someone else, let alone against him. Zap Pow – Robin’ the people to pay for business.

Privacy as an abnormal condition in America

I’ll get the gloating out of the way first, last week both Edward Snowden and Julian Assange appeared live by video at SXSW here in Austin. Given SXSW is one massive geekfest there was bound to be social media coverage, and some news coverage depending on what either of them said, or which way the wind was blowing in the mainstream media.

Assange on the 55-inch TVHowever, due to the successful Texas Tribune kickstarter campaign, tens of thousands of us were able to watch it simultaneously live via livestream.

I contributed just $250 to that kickstarter, I more than got my moneys worth from just those two livestreams, forget the tour of the Trib offices with Chief Innovation Officer Rodney Gibbs, a private review of the livestream equipment, and iof course all the Governors race coverage that signed up for in the first place.

Typical of the coverage was this Tweet: https://twitter.com/jeremywaite/status/443071488615141378

Snowdown on the laptopApparently, the count was up around 50,000 for Snowdon. I could go on for hours about what both Snowdon and Assange said, or didn’t say, but that wasn’t the point of this blog. Both discussions focused around the individual right to privacy, both explicit and implicit privacy.

Explicit privacy are those things that you have a right to expect will be kept private. These include those personal details, which if revealed, can cause you harm; Your social security number, your bank account details and balances, your medical records and a number of other items. Implicit privacy are those things which, no one really has a right to know, even if they feel they can use that information. This week I’ve realized finally, not only is there no boundary between the two here in America, but for the most part no one has any expectation of real privacy.

This is primarily because here in America corporations have relentlessly abused our privacy, sharing data to the point where, societally, people have no real expectation or understanding of privacy.

I’m sure its my background, maybe my English upbringing and/or family. However, I find it intolerable to get letter after letter from what are borderline scams to re-finance, using variously Presidential decrees, acts and so on. Each and everyone of these has the precise amount of the loan I have. Except I don’t have a loan, so each and everyone of those letters not only has the amount of my Home Equity line of credit, they also have the name of the lender. How did they get this? Disgusted I called my FCU, why had they given this out or sold it? They hadn’t, it was public record at the credit agency they use.

At least from my upbringing, one didn’t boast about the amount of money one did, or didn’t have. When it came up in discussion, you mostly let it go without answering, it was none of their business.

Another example of a violation of implicit privacy is my leased car. I received a call from yet another company using a dressed up, pseudo scam approach to extended the warranty on my 2010 VW CC. Except again, I don’t have a 2010 VW CC, I sold it 13-months ago. That doesn’t make it ok though. The tele-sales person that called me had enough information to make a pass at convincing me this was an official call. Just a few (social engineering) questions about the mileage(the last record the have was…), why I had purchased the car rather than taken a new lease…

The caller actually had very little real information, again no more than could be gained from the credit agency(lease) and some additional information from the VW Leasing or Dealership. However, what they were trying to do was to convince me they were the official leasing, extended maintenance dept. and they were using social engineering. While that may not be illegal, it’s certainly deceptive and immoral.

And there is the problem. When it comes to privacy in the US, for the most part people do not complain because they’ve been subjected to years of relentless commercial exploitation which has both worn them down, and taken away their will to fight back. At the same time, companies have automated their systems to the point where you just can’t talk to a human about privacy, and the relentless push for outsourcing, contractors, sub-contractors has made it incredibly difficult to even find out who knows what, much less stop it.

Assange and Snowdon in their ways have bought these massive government data breaches to our attention. They’ve highlighted how this data collection is going on at a massive scale. Eventually the information will leak to these scam-like commercial companies, you won’t hear about that, because they will just use the information to increasingly financially, socially, and morally to attack you.

A friend posted on facebook recently something to the effect of “which is worse the government or a private company when it comes to collecting data? – The government because they can take away your liberty.” – I would say, private companies are far worse, you have no privacy, liberty, no freedom and increasingly, no choice.