Putting it all together

There have been a number of stories in the news lately that, on their own, may not appear to be related. But if you think about the common thread, I think there should be pause for concern.

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As you may have heard, a number of Hollywood actors and actresses had their iCloud-stored nude selfies hacked, stolen and presented on the Internet for all to see.

Also within the past few months, the government’s healthcare enrollment site, healthcare.gov, was hacked in July, according to the government.

Meanwhile, players in the NFL and corporate CEO’s (among others) are paying steep prices for sharing their thoughts on gays in football and gay marriage, respectively. And NBA owners are losing their teams while some newspapers won’t even print the Washington Redskins’ team name anymore (you know… the Redskins). In short, when one is afraid to share an opinion for fear of offending anyone – and especially the penalties that can come with it – we have effectively arrived at thought control.

Privacy is gone, and we have been willing enablers. We all enthusiastically jump on Twitter or Facebook to share every detail of our lives. We all have our own blogs (irony alert) where we put all of our thoughts (more irony) for everyone to see.

And where we aren’t volunteering it, the government is insisting on moving all of our healthcare and personal records to digital format where they can be shared, and consequently accessed, by anyone.

Many think those who are afraid of what might happen to ones digital footprint are paranoid conspiracy theorists. They think they’re just one small person and who would notice them. But tell that to those who got involved in politics through the Tea Party.

In an effort to stop, or discredit, the Tea Party surge, the administration had the IRS refuse status to many of these groups and unnecessarily targeted them for audits in other cases.

Unlike our major political parties, the Tea Party wasn’t a group of establishment elites. There was a lot of grass roots support – people who didn’t expect to have their names on anything like it.

This scandal should serve as a reminder, if not an education, to all about what the government can do with all of the information that is out there on you. I know many are inclined to think it could never happen to them. But it can.

We like to assume our Presidents are nice people. We hope they have our best interests at heart. We don’t like to speculate that our elected officials are capable of evil.

But that’s what German citizens in the 1930s thought. Hitler was enthusiastic and had a cause. He gave the people a rally cry, and it was all about a strong Germany. But none of those people could have foresaw the Night of the Long Knives.

In preparation for the Night of the Long Knives, Hitler had identified those who might oppose or resist his movement. He fingered people who could possibly lead a movement of their own, and he had as many of them killed as he could. In the end, hundreds were killed and thousands more were arrested.

This happened. And it happened while the whole world sat silently by… until it was too late. And he did it without anywhere near the information we have available to us now about nearly every resident of the country.

If you saw Captain America: Winter Soldier, you know this was the premise of that movie. As a Marvel action movie, it might be easy to discount it as eye candy. But the real story behind it is that in this age of digital records, it would be easy to identify and predict those who may rise up or resist any sort of government power grab. The villains in the movie created a way to systematically kill those people in the millions.

Imagine if Hitler came to power today. His Night of the Long Knives could have gone very differently.

Meanwhile, you have Obama hellbent on destroying the Republican Party, and the Republican afraid or unwilling to fight back or make any kind of case at all for their philosophy.

Remember when Obama told a crowd “if they bring a knife, we bring a gun.” Sure, he meant this figuratively, but it does illustrate just how aggressive and passionate he gets when it comes to tearing down conservatives. Have you ever seen him that passionate about terrorism, illegal immigration or even ebola?

At this point, many start seeing paranoid fantasy. It’s hard not to. But what if? When anyone noticed, would it be too late?

These news stories and events trickle by us one at a time. But at some point, people need to start taking a holistic view and see the pattern emerging. It’s not just about Obama. There’s a lot of power to be had in our collective digital information. I’m not sure I trust anyone with that kind of power.

Do you?

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Lucky this didn’t happen in California…

A man in Idaho was charged for assault with a Burrito because he threw his burrito at a woman in his assisted living center.

Fortunately for the woman, this happened in Idaho and not California.

As I once wrote in my definitive post about what makes a decent burrito, key element #5 of a great burrito is that it has to be wrapped so tight “…you can use [it] in hand-to-hand combat… like a billy club.” If this man had such a burrito, this woman might have been in danger.

But typical of a burrito from inferior burrito-making states, the woman “was struck with “several pieces of the burrito.” The balance of the burrito “was on the wall,” investigators reported.”

A California burrito would not have separated into “several pieces.” It would have been like throwing a hammer at her.

While this woman’s life may have been saved because the burrito was poorly made, I don’t think this is a legitimate excuse for all the mediocre burrito making going on across the country.

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I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn.

“I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn” is the standard default message the site sends when you want to connect with another on the site.

It’s one thing when people I know use the default message and send their connection invitation along. (Though, I always write a personalized message.)

It’s another when someone you don’t know and have never heard of uses it.

If you’ve never met or even heard of a person you’re trying to connect with, I would first ask, “why are you even trying to connect with them?” But then I would ask, “Why, if you are trying to connect to someone who has never heard of you, would you not write a personalized note explaining who you are and why we should connect?”

I guess the flip side is why would anyone accept a LinkedIn invitation from someone they don’t know. But that’s for another post…

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Being offended is for suckers

Man, I’m sick of people who get offended at things. It’s such a waste of time.

There’s nowhere in society – constitution, Bible, Quran or otherwise – that says you have the right to not be offended.

Fear of offending is what prevents us from having real discussions about real issues and developing real solutions.

We’re all afraid to identify things that are right in front of us. All so we don’t hurt somebody’s feelings.

People who get offended are chumps.

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Obama and Neil deGrasse Tyson

Recently, Obama was attempting to justify his illegal executive actions by saying that “The American people don’t just want me standing around.”

It’s no secret that most Americans could use an entire course of civics lessons about how our government works. The shame is that Obama counts himself among them.

We have three branches of government to ensure checks and balances. This is one of the most prominent concepts behind our system of government. For Obama to attempt to take actions on his own simply because he doesn’t want to engage with or wait for our Congress is to miss the entire point of our system.

If Obama, or any President, decides the American people “don’t just want [them] standing around,” any action they take on their own is a step toward dictatorship, which America decidedly is not.

If Obama wants to accomplish something, he should be making his case both to the American people and to Congress and then working with them to accomplish that. If he can’t get Congress or the American people to agree, that is perhaps a sign that it’s not what people want. And if people don’t want it, then we don’t want him to pursue it.

Our system is designed specifically to prevent anyone or branch from acting alone. If only more people understood this there might be a stronger reaction against it.

Which brings me to Neil deGrasse Tyson. I just saw him speak recently at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. He made many great points, but the general premise of his speech was the importance of learning, knowing and understanding science and how far back we could step as a society if we don’t. He is an excellent advocate for science, as evidenced by his popularity and the popularity of his recent show, Cosmos.

Perhaps America needs a Neil deGrasse Tyson to evangelize for why it’s important for Americans to understand and pay attention to our system of government and what goes on within it.

America became a superpower largely because of our system of government and our adherence to a capitalist philosophy. Only now, people seem to have forgotten this and our working to embrace philosophies that have only ever failed over the course of history.

We’re allowing the embrace of socialism largely because people don’t understand the fundamentals of our government system and the tenets upon which our success was based. If we had a Neil deGrasse Tyson evangelizing for the importance of understanding our government, we may yet save ourselves.

The door is open. We just need someone to walk through it.

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