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Unmanned Drones, Spying DVRs Spark Privacy Concerns Across US

Unmanned Drones, Spying DVRs Spark Privacy Concerns Across US


February 11, 201310:18 AM MST

Verizon's New DVR Can See You and Your Family

Media critics and the public at large are becoming increasingly alarmed about a slew of recent technological advancements such asdrones and next-generation DVRs that pose threats to the personalprivacy rights of average citizens.


Even politicians have taken notice. On February 9th Rep. David Taylor, an Olympia, Washington legislator, introduced legislation to ban drones from the surrounding skies in order to protect the privacy rights of the city's citizens.


The "spy-in-the-sky" drone is just the latest example of a technology that could potentially be used to violate the privacy rights of ordinary Americans. One of the more egregious examples of privacy-invading technologies is Verizon's newly-patented DVR which once placed in your living room will not only record you favorite TV programs but also your every movement and word. This DVR is equipped with a TV camera aimed right at you and your family that will use your words and actions to sense your “state of mind” as well as your product preferences. This information will be sent to a program that in turn will televise a regimen of ads tailored just for you.


Verizon’s set-top box will be able to even parse words from your living room conversations and detect your moods to better market to you. For example, this next-generation DVR can sense a particular viewer’s stress-level and instantaneously order up an advertisement for a vacation or aromatherapy to be aired in the next commercial break.


Questions abound. Will consumers have the choice to opt-out of such a service? Will government agencies, including law enforcement officials, be privy to this ongoing record of your words and actions? What if someone hacks the Verizon DVR and can now have an open window on your family's most private moments?


Everyone, it seems, is being tracked, by video cameras, their own smart phones, and E-Z pass devices connected to GPS equipment. And until recently we seem to have accepted this state of affairs.


Now surveillance is taking to the skies. Soon, it will not be easy to avoid the probing eyes of drones flying over cities equipped with monitoring and sensing devices. Local and federal agencies plan to fly at least 30,000 of these unmanned planes over American cities and suburbs. These drones will be equipped with powerful cameras able to monitor ordinary citizens’ behavior.


One can thank President Obama for these "spies in the skies" that will soon be invading the privacy of every US citizen. This month Obama signed a law compelling the FAA to "fully integrate" drones into U.S. airspace by no later than 2015 as a way to fight crime and terrorism.


Thankfully, some Americans are fighting back at this latest invasion of privacy, at least

in Seattle and a few other cities. Last year the Federal Aviation Administration gave Seattle’s law-enforcement agencies approval to train operators in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles,

more commonly known as drones. With money from a regional Homeland Security grant, the Seattle police department purchased two 3.5-pound Draganflyer X6 Helicopter Tech drones.




When citizens discovered that these unmanned drones would subject their everyday movements to law-enforcement agencies' scrutiny, they protested, so loudly and in such numbers that Mayor Mike McGinn pulled the plug on the department’s drone program even before it got off the ground.




An ACLU spokesperson applauded the decision. “Drones would have given police unprecedented abilities to engage in surveillance and intrude on people’s privacy,” he said, adding that “there was never a strong case made that Seattle needed the drones for public safety.”




Such debates are taking place across the US as law-enforcement agencies seek to utilize drone technology. Charlottesville, Va. ordered a two-year moratorium on the citywide use of unmanned aircraft, supposedly the first US city to do so.




Some believe that the invasion will cease only when members of the global and national elite— the world’s superrich and ultra-powerful—find themselves subject to unwanted public scrutiny. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange gave the international political establishment a taste of its own medicine when his organization intercepted and made public thousands of emails of politically powerful individuals. Over the last few years Anonymous, the global “hackavista” group, has broken into the private files and databases of everyone from the Arizona police department to the Greek government. Even the FBI.




This week the world learned that the personal e-mails and files of theBush family (yes,


that Bush family) have been pilfered and made public by a “lone hacker” named “Guccifer” and published on TimeWarner’s website




As the public becomes more techno-savvy, it is safe to say they will learn how to resist and frustrate the more obvious sources of privacy destruction, such as snooping DVRs and eye-in- the-sky aerial drones, either through personal choice or collective civic action.




Citizens must also get into the habit of not participating in this erosion of their personal privacy through revelatory comments and photos they broadcast to any and all through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.




It is hard enough to keep the prying eyes of government and corporations out of your personal business. You should not feel compelled to help them along through voluntary self-exposure.






Is Part-Time Employment America's New Normal?

Is Part-Time Employment America's New Normal? Rethinking Obama's Popularity--And The 2012 Election (Part 1)


June 8, 201311:49 AM MST

Many pundits are linking President Obama's sinking poll numbers to the recent rash of scandals involving the IRS, the NSA, and Benghazi.


Such poll numbers can only sink further when the public discovers that the NSA was sharing its information on Americans with a foreign intelligence organization, Britain's NSA equivalent, the GCHQ.


Public attention to these scandals has been heightened by various Congressional investigations of the administration's use of various government agencies to audit, spy on, and generally harass a range of political opponents, members of the media, and in the case of the NSA and PRISM scandals, the entire American public.


Such public scrutiny is definitely hurting the President's public image. According to pollsters, among 57% of those following the IRS, Benghazi, and AP scandals, President Obama's disapproval rating is as high as 57%.


In all of these discussion of the impact of the scandals on Obama's public image, the media is ignoring one basic fact. The President's approval ratings were already beginning to trend lower as far back as February of this year, even before these scandals caught the attention of the public. throughout much of 2013 Reuters, McClatchy-Marist, CNN and Wall Street Journal surveys have measured his standing with the American public at around 46% or 47%.


Many critics have linked President Obama's failed attempts to muster the Senate votes necessary to pass his gun control legislation and his inability to stop budget cuts, the "Sequestration" measure, to those weak early-2013 poll numbers. His push for immigration reform, although backed by a bipartisan "Gang of Eight" in the Senate, faces stiff political headwinds.


The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan senses that Americans are suffering from "Obama Fatigue" only six months into the President's second term. Democrats fret that Obama's declining "power to persuade" even members of his own party to follow his legislative lead is turning him into a lame duck leader.


Actually, the President's mediocre poll numbers over the last few months are very much where they have been for most of his time in office, going back to at least the summer of 2009.

In fact, the only time over the last few years that Obama enjoyed relatively high approval ratings,

in the 52%-54% range, were in the days immediately preceding the November 2012 election and for a month or two thereafter.


The real riddle is this: What factors or events in late-October 2012 caused Barack Obama's approval ratings to suddenly ascend to the uncharacteristically high levels that helped get him re- elected to a 2nd term?


It is unlikely Obama's economic record--historically high unemployment rates, shrinking incomes, and rising food and energy prices--caused that temporary leap in the polls in late- October. Similar economic conditions turned Presidents Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Ford into one-termers. Throughout his campaign Obama largely avoided discussing his foreign policy record, plagued as it was by his handling of the Benghazi assault and the "Arab Spring."


In my next column I will examine the factors that led to to Obama's election to a second term as President in 2012.


August 7, 20139:29 AM MST

The July 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report contained little data to spur optimism about Americans' economic prospects. Only 162,000 jobs were created, the June job numbers were revised down by 26,000 jobs, and most of the jobs created were in low-paying fields such as retail and food services.


The most disturbing number, however, is the ratio of new full-time to part-time jobs. Since March of this year, part-time jobs have increased by 791,000, full-time a paltry 187,000.


The meager number of new full-time jobs created is hardly good news for the nearly 2 million freshly-minted college graduates. Members of the Class of 2013 expect to start their careers this summer and fall, but the cold reality is that the full-time professional jobs most graduates hope to land are becoming harder to find every year. In fact, the number of such jobs is shrinking. Last month payrolls for those with at least a four-year college degree fell by 256,000.


According to a report by the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute, “For the fifth consecutive year, new graduates will enter a profoundly weak labor market and will face

high unemployment and underemployment rates and depressed wages.” EPI reports that 18.3 percent of recent graduates were underemployed, compared to 9.9 percent in 2007.


Most alarming is the long term trend in full-time job creation. Since January 2009 in the United States a grand total of only 270,000 full-time jobs have been added to the economy. At the same time, we added 1.9 million part-time jobs, according to a report by the House Ways and Means Committee.

Economists, politicians and pundits are pinning at least part of the blame for this fundamental transformation of the job market from part-time to full-time employment on the Affordable Care Act, popularly referred to as "Obamacare." This 1500-plus page law's employer health-insurance mandate applies only to full-time workers, which the law define's as an employee working 30 or more hours per week. Not surprisingly, employment lawyers have been counseling companies to transform many full-time jobs into part-time positions to avoid being caught in the Obamacare regulatory web.


Obamacare's perceived negative impact on jobs and the economy is hurting the President's standing with the American public. Rasmussen reports that only 45% of American approve of President Obama, 54% disapprove. Reuters and Monmouth polls find the President's approval rating in danger of slipping below 40%.


While we might debate the reasons behind the shrinking full-time job market, there is little doubt that part-time employment is rapidly becoming the "new normal" for American job-seekers.

According toKeith Hall, a senior researcher at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, over the past six months the household survey shows 963,000 more people employed, but practically all of them, 936,000, reportedly in part-time jobs. According to Hall, "That is a really high number for a six-month period.. I'm not sure that has ever happened over six months before."


These household survey employment figures translate into almost 35 part-time jobs created for every new full-time job!


It is doubtful that Americans expect or desire such a bleak future for themselves and their children. We can only hope that new leaders emerge with the vision to get the US back on the road to a true economic recovery.


AS US Workforce Shrinks, Disability Claims Skyrocket!

AS US Workforce Shrinks, Disability Claims Skyrocket!


April 9, 20137:37 PM MST

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Will this economic malaise ever end, Americans are asking? As we enter the fifth year of what many pundits and economists are calling the Great Stagnation, the employment situation in the US seems to be getting progressively worse.


The March jobs report contains very little good news. Only 88,000 jobs were created, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the April 8th Wall Street Journal reported that

last month almost as many people, just around 81,000, went on disability programs as landed a job. Now, 5.4% of the civilian workforce ages 25 to 64, close to 9 million people, are receiving federal disability benefits.




To make matters worse, in March of this year 496,000 Americansbecame so discouraged by their job prospects that they gave up their search for employment and dropped out of the workforce entirely.




According to the Federal Reserve's calculations, almost 90 million working-age Americans are unemployed, out of a total US population of around 315 million.




The most disturbing aspect of the evolving US employment picture is that over the course of more than a decade there has been little growth in the number of full-time workers. These are the citizens the country depends on to pay the taxes and contribute to Social Security, Medicare, and a host of other "safety net" programs. Only about 115 million Americans have full-time jobs, up only slightly since 2001.




As the population approaches 400 million people over the next few decades, expect the number of full-time workers to remain constant, or even shrink a bit. American companies have shown little inclination to engage in large-scale hiring of US workers any time soon. If anything, as a result of growing government regulations and laws such as Obamacare, small and large businesses are shying away from hiring full-time workers. When US companies do hire new workers, they tend to hire part-timers and temporary contract workers.




And mass layoffs continue. United Technologies, on paper a highly profitable company that employs many highly-skilled engineers and scientists, laid off 4000 workers in 2012 and plans to cut another 3000 in 2013.




As I have pointed out in numerous articles and books, America has at its disposal the resources to end this economic malaise and move forward to a prosperous new era. We can revitalize our industrial base, develop our energy resources, and reinvent our space program. However, we have to consciously dedicate our fiscal, monetary, and regulatory policies to the achievement of these goals.




At present, the US is moving in the wrong direction. The time to change is now!




Studies Show Medicaid Could Be Hazardous To Nation's Health

Studies Show Medicaid Could Be Hazardous To Nation's Health


December 4, 201312:28 PM MST


The Affordable Care Act was supposed to help millions of the uninsured to enroll in private health programs. However, the great majority of Obamacare enrollees are signing up for government-supported Medicaid programs instead.


Ironically, some of the enrollees are not willingly choosing Medicaid.Rather, they are being shifted onto Medicaid because their current private insurance policies, falling short of the new Obamacare law requirements, have been unexpectedly canceled, and their income levels automatically make them "Medicaid-eligible."


According to Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, "We're seeing a huge spike in terms of Medicaid enrollments."


CBS News has reported that in Washington State, 87 percent of the more than 35,000 people newly enrolled were signed up for Medicaid. In Kentucky, 82 percent of new enrollments were in Medicaid. In New York, that figure is 64 percent. Other states running their own exchanges report similar results.


This rapid growth in Medicaid's rolls has led economists and health care analysts to examine more closely the quality of medical care under the Medicaid program.


Unfortunately, studies conducted over the last several years have demonstrated that on balance people on Medicaid often receive medical treatment markedly inferior in quality than the treatment they can expect in private plans. In many cases, it was found that being uninsured was a better alternative to being covered by Medicaid.


An article in the Wall Street Journal summarized a host of clinical studies demonstrating that in many cases Medicaid can be hazardous to your health. A 2010 study of 1,231 patients with throat cancer revealed that that Medicaid patients were 50% more likely to die than patients insured privately. Medicaid patients had an 80% greater chance of having tumors that spread to at least one lymph node than those with private insurance. Studies reveal similar poor outcomes for Medicaid patients suffering from breast and colon cancer.


When compared to those with private insurance as well as the uninsured, patients covered by Medicaid were almost twice as likely to die during their hospital stay. One study revealed that Medicaid patients undergoing coronary angioplasty were 59% more likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes, compared with patients with private insurance. In another recent study, Medicaid patients who underwent lung transplants, when compared with both the privately insured and uninsured, were 8.1% less likely to survive 10 years after the surgery. Medicaid patients had a higher chance of suffering a major heart attack after angioplasty than uninsured patients.


The researchers conducting these studies controlled for the cultural and socioeconomic factors that might negatively impact the health of Medicaid's poorer patients.


Medicaid patients suffer poor medical outcomes for a number of reasons. The program has been drastically reducing payments to doctors and other healthcare providers for a variety of treatments. These payouts will shrink even more under Obamacare, further reducing the pool of doctors willing to service Medicaid patients. Meanwhile, Medicaid patients have problems gaining timely access to both specialized and routine medical treatment. Many researchers have concluded that the best and the brightest practitioners and specialists are choosing not to participate in a program that sets fees so low.


Truth be told, the growth of the Medicaid patient pool will lead to long waits for medical service that over time will get worse, not better, as the number and quality of doctors serving the growing patient pool shrinks. The tragedy is that many who were shifted from private insurance to Medicaid because of Obamacare regulations will experience a brand of medical care inferior to the service they previously enjoyed.


Clearly, Medicaid is broken and needs to fixed. With over a hundred million Americans predicted to lose their employer-based medical insurance in 2014, the situation will only get worse,


It is imperative that Congress begin examining Medicaid's track record as well as the medical fate awaiting the millions who could suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves on this program.


Expect Obamacare to be the central issue of the 2014 Congressional elections.



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