Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Privacy? At What Cost?

          One thing for sure: I learn lots by writing this blog. A couple of weeks ago, several news sources reported, via a former defense contractor leak, Verizon was ordered to turn over all of its customers’ phone records to the National Security Agency. Well, I’m a Verizon customer and, on the face of it, I didn’t like this at all. So I started doing some digging. As is usually the case, this issue is complex, and I'm blaming that on the government. The implications for national security versus personal privacy are huge.

The impact of the 2001 Patriot Act

          The practice of monitoring phone records, among other security surveillance activities, has been around since the inception of the Patriot Act in 2001, an outcropping of the terrorists’ attack on the U.S. Many of the act's provisions were to sunset beginning December 31, 2005. All along there has been Republican vs. Democrat conflict about the act’s provisions but some of the security activities were set up in an additional bill that has allowed them to continue. Civil liberties issues have been hotly debated between the two parties – no surprise there! However, on May 26, 2011, President Obama signed the Patriot Sunsets Extension Act of 2011, a four-year extension of these three key provisions in the Patriot Act: roving wiretaps, searches of business records, and conducting surveillance of "lone wolves" — individuals suspected of terrorist-related activities not linked to terrorist groups. I guess viewing Verizon customers’ phone calls is part of that search of business records and is continuing now because … because why, I wonder.

Is this the best way?

          Yes, the NSA follows people of questionable origins with questionable activities talking to questionable people but, out of Verizon’s cabillion customers (90-million wireless, 12-million residential and 10-million commercial) that might represent like 20 people???? I’m sure this is too simplistic, but might it be better to identify the questionable people and then subpoena Verizon for their phone records??? That’s the part that has me bothered. Access to all MY information can be strong-armed when the vague ‘for the good of us all’ blanket is tossed out there.

           I don’t have definitive reasons or the Ph.D.-level information to form an outstandingly cogent argument either in favor of or against gathering this information in this manner. But I don’t like it either way. It rankles my sense of privacy and I think it perhaps always will.

The bigger issue.....????

         Perhaps a bigger issue is:  if we give our private information to Yahoo or Macys.com or Facebook, is it okay for the government to have that same info?

           What do you think? Does this ‘invasion’ piss you off or do you see the justification in the name of security and safety of the U.S. and all its citizens? Perhaps you view your privacy as contingent on what the government identifies is important. Perhaps you just thought it must have been a slow news day and you don’t really care one way or another. And finally, maybe no one in America thinks anything is or should be private anymore. I’d like to know….

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You might also enjoy:  Should you Forgive? If So, How?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A "divine stepping stone" for Paula Deen

          It can happen to anyone. One day you’re on top and the next day you’re scraping the bottom of the proverbial popularity barrel. By now, anyone who is alive and ever watches cooking on television is aware of what happened recently to jovial Paula Deen. Inappropriate racist remarks stripped her of her Food Network empire within 24 hours of the information becoming public. While I’m not an avid viewer of her programs, I was a little shocked that the butter queen could be toppled so swiftly. Now, if we’re talking Howard Stern, I’d applaud and say, fire his …. well, you know.

          And aren’t we just the judges sitting pretty in our black robes (the girls with lace collars, of course), passing judgment on a woman who, like most of us, does something stupid and pays severely for it. Yes, our mistakes aren’t usually in full view of millions of fans and viewers.

          The remarks that Ms. Deen made were in 2007. Say what? So, this wasn’t an overnight thing. She saw it coming, probably even was thinking of it when she spoke to Oprah last year and said something like, “I keep having a bad dream and when I wake up this [arms out to encompass her food empire] was all gone.”

          While I certainly don’t condone what she said back in 2007, I do feel a huge amount of compassion for her error. This week’s guest blog by Rev. Jane Beach talks about mistakes and how we can grow from them (Mistakes - Growing Tools).  I'll bet this incident will be a "...divine stepping stone," as Rev. Beach discusses. Ms. Deen will learn and learn and learn from all that happens around this. In the meantime, I’m feeling her anguish. I’ve done stupid things too and also felt that pain. I told myself at the time not to let one incident define who I was as a person. I hope she won’t either.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The “84-year-old woman claims massive Powerball jackpot” Headline Made me Think About Money

           I’ve got to talk about money. That’s what I thought when I read this article in the US News Report (6/5/13). But I don’t want to. After all, who am I to comment about money and spin off this article about an unlikely windfall for one senior woman in Florida; and talk about an issue that causes so much discomfort for so many people?

Don't bring it up unless you can do it justice.

           One of the stumbling blocks I encounter is thinking that everything I write has to be perfect and that if I don’t express it correctly I will have squandered an opportunity to comment on something important. Has that ever happened to you? Have you delayed speaking up about something important because of nameless fears?

           Money is such a taboo topic. While I can be pretty open talking about it with my close friends, I remember infuriating my first husband who came from a strict German background and never would permit even a casual conversation of what something cost amongst friends.

Can we afford NOT to talk about it?

           Money has a huge impact on senior citizens and on people considering retirement. What is the right formula in order for you to have sufficient funds to retire? Will there be enough to have an enjoyable life? Do we keep this topic to ourselves or do we share our ideas and information with others in order to make better decisions?

           I’m thrilled for Gloria MacKenzie, the elderly woman in Florida who, before taxes, has won the nearly $371-million. She waited two weeks to come forth with her winning ticket and didn’t share her exciting news with any of her neighbors, preferring instead to remain as far out of the limelight as possible. She did say, “I’m grateful for this blessing of winning.” Perhaps another reason this headline caught my eye was because I had just bought my Fantasy 5 ticket. I’m sure it’s a winner!


           My experience is its okay to talk about money if it’s to complain that there isn’t enough. It seems like people with money (how ever much that is) feel as though they are supposed to be coy and evasive and pretend like they’re just like all those other people who struggle from day to day to make their lives work with limited resources. But that’s just what I’ve experienced.

What about you?

          Are you comfortable talking about money? If you are okay discussing it, perhaps you will consider finishing this blog post for me….

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Check out:  How to be Wealthy

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Senior Moments of Clarity and Wisdom

          Being smarter than when I was younger is one of the main things I like about getting older. All those life experiences, both positive and negative, have helped to create a mantle of wisdom and clarity. Sure, these qualities are not only associated with seniors, but younger people, in general, have fewer real life events from which to learn. I do admit there's no one who can be more compassionate and supportive than a spouse or a parent, whether they're a senior or not.

It's not all about me?????

          When I was in my 20’s and 30’s (yeah, probably most of my 40’s and 50's too!) it was all about me. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to see the impact of my words and actions on others. That’s when the clarity and wisdom started to manifest itself in my life.

          I’m neither sage nor a guru, but I have more answers now, the kind of answers that speak the truth rather than try to show how smart I think I am. When I'm sharing my opinion or volunteering some uncalled for information, I try to visualize molasses oozing slowly out of a jar. I try to drag it out and let the content and manner in which I respond form more fully in my brain before spewing forth. Ideally, I question whether my opinion is called for at all!

          It’s not like I’m Oprah with a staff of editors and censors standing behind me monitoring what I say and how I speak. I’m thinking on the fly. It’s easy for me to contest myself with how quickly I can come up with a snazzy answer before anyone else. Very rarely, however, does clarity and wisdom show up in these situations. These days, especially now that I’m retired, it’s less important that I be first with the ‘correct’ answer or comment. Thankfully, there are no work situations for me that require a fast solution to one problem or another. But we do live in a sound bite world, so it’s easy to feel responding quickly is better than responding with forethought.