CISPA passes in a closed-door session… uhh…

cispaSOPA failed to pass last year because of a MASSIVE internet uproar that made it so politically toxic, even co-authors pulled their support.

This time, John Boehner‘s House Intelligence Committee is doing a good job of keeping it’s successor, CISPA, very quiet — and indeed, passing it with as little noise as possible.

Passing in a vote of 18-2 in the House Intelligence Committee, one of the dissenters to the bill, Rep. Jan Schakowski (D-IL) specifically voted against it, because she wished to attach riders to the bill that, among other things:


Rep. Jan Schakowski (D-IL)

“…would have strengthened privacy protections, ensured that consumers can hold companies accountable for misuse of their private information, required that companies report cyber threat information directly to civilian agencies…  I strongly agree with the need to enact effective cyber-security legislation… but this bill doesn’t sufficiently protect individual privacy rights.”

When she proposed these amendments above, she was overruled in Committe, saying that the amendments were not acceptable.  Moreover — the bill amends the National Security Act of 1947, a law that, while arguably, needs constant “boning up,” to keep the law up to date with those who would go “around the law” to harm American citizens.

If this is such a horrible problem — particularly with American citizens, why is a warrant unnecessary?  Why are your browsing histories, your private email, and your other digital rights now any less meaningful than your other privacy rights?

Law Enforcement needs a warrant to enter your home… and right now, Law Enforcement needs a warrant to access your private documents, browsing history, and your other private digital information.  CISPA, essentially says, “no longer necessary.”

I find this highly disturbing.  Does anybody else?  If you’re as disturbed by this as I am, call your members of Congress, both the Senate AND the House — and demand a NO vote on this nonsense.

Personally, I think they don’t get to play with privacy rights on the internet until they fix… oh, I don’t know… THE DEFICIT?  Maybe the Fiscal Cliff disaster, too?

A good video with further information -> The Young Turks – 12 April 2013: “What Privacy?  CISPA Passes in Closed Door Vote.”

Political Comebacks… Are they possible?

265005_10151214146056817_1276640492_nMany political careers — particularly in the late 20th and this, the early 21st century thus far, have ended in embarrassing ruin.  Bill Clinton, leaving office with some of the highest presidential approval rates in history, is often cited for jokes such as “having made the word ‘blowjobpolitically correct,” or having all sorts of goofy images posted of him that would otherwise be looked over as innocuous.  On the other hand, George W. Bush left office with among the lowest approval ratings in history — but in his retirement, the vehement rhetoric launched toward him, and his dismal approval ratings, have been softened by time.

Other political post-mortems have been much more hilarious.  Former Congressman Anthony Wiener resigned in disgrace after he accidentally posted a photo of himself on Twitter; which blew open a scandal of himself sending less-than-fully-clothed pictures of himself to women online.  Having resigned nearly two years ago, he’s now looking at making a comeback as a candidate for the Mayor of New York.

George W. Bush has essentially retreated to a private life — arguably because of the overwhelmingly negative view the people had on his Presidency; whereas Bill Clinton, while still as polarizing, has enjoyed overwhelming public support — even in the ever-existing shadow of his own sexual scandals in office.

Are such political comebacks possible?  Could George W. Bush or Bill Clinton [or Anthony Wiener in this case!] make a comeback in a positive light, or would their scandals and disgrace continue to follow them?

SOPA + PIPA + CISPA = Congress selling out?

ImageFor at the third time, the Congress in the United States is attempting to circumvent the privacy rights of its citizens on the internet.  The first two attempts, the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act failed in Congress because of overwhelming negative feedback from constituents that, was indeed so strong — that even the co-authors wound up pulling their support of the bill.

Why do Representatives in Congress keep trying to shove this type of legislation through?  Is it because of issues that Congress says, which is everything from intellectual property protection to the enforcement of trade embargoes.  OR…

SOPA author Congressman Lamar Smith, a member of the House representing the 21st District of Texas, received almost US$ 2 Million in the last reporting period, according to  Among his Top 5 Highest Contributors?  CC Media, Comcast and TimeWarner.  What do these companies have in common?  Oh!  Intellectual Property!

Republicans in the United States often argue that “big government” is bad for business — that “big government” today is the basis of why the American economy can’t gain significant traction post-The Great Recession.

However, government in business affairs is okay, on the other hand, when the businesses say it’s okay, apparently.  Fund a Congressman’s campaign — and all of a sudden, you can now write your own legislation, which you hand over to the Congressman’s office, and he places in the ballot box for you.  Sounds preposterous, right?


Rep. Rachel Burgin     (R-FL)

Sadly, it’s not as preposterous as you may think.  Recently, a Congresswoman from the State House of Florida submitted a Bill for consideration.  In her haste to do so, however, she forgot to remove the cover sheet of the email that it came through.  Rachel Burgin’s blunder blew open the fact that the American Legislative Exchange Council actually WROTE the Bill, and gave it to Burgin to submit, to which she did… without even removing the proof that SHE didn’t write it.   [The Bill can be seen here, in it’s original format, as she submitted it — the name of ALEC is plainly visible on the first page…]

Is this an example of the leadership exhibited by our Members of Congress?  While they can’t come together to work out issues of Party and Partisanship, they quietly collect campaign contributions, and then do their bidding by submitting Bills that they write, in the name of the Representative or Senator they buy and sell like Stocks on an exchange?

UN on Belle Isle? Detroit had a say in this…

English: The James Scott Memorial Fountain in ...

English: The James Scott Memorial Fountain in Belle Isle Park, Detroit, Michigan, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back in the 40s, even during the hottest parts of World War II, the world was trying to decide exactly where to place the headquarters of the up-and-coming United Nations, a place where the nations of the world could come together in a single place and discuss everything from commerce to diplomacy.  In the midst of this, Detroit jumped right in and said “We have the PERFECT place for it!”

The place: Belle Isle.  A large island connected to Detroit, now a preserve and park, then, almost became the world’s center of diplomacy.  It’s location almost dead-on the US-Canadian border made it an ideal place in the eyes of local leaders — on both sides of the border.

Indeed, almost over night, the City of Detroit found itself in hot competition with other cities across the nation, including Boston and Chicago.

When it was decided that the Midwest was far too against the idea of Globalization than more costal areas, that, and a grant from John Rockefeller in the amount of $8.5 Million USD essentially made the deal for the City of New York.


NASAs FY ’14 Budget: Catch an Asteroid…


Artist conception of a satellite on an Asteroid

In NASA’s next year’s fiscal budget, to be formally announced by the Obama Administration soon, it includes an appropriation of $100 Million for a satellite to capture an Asteroid and deliver it into the orbit of the Moon for study and possible mining.

Back in February, two large asteroids came closer to Earth than most of it’s communication satellites — one exploding in the skies over Russia, causing a fair amount of damage.  Could this be the Obama Administration’s response to the startling realization that Earth is indeed susceptible to strikes by the rocky and metallic objects?


Meteor explosion over Russia

Aside from testing our ability to launch a satellite or other object to intercept and deflect an incoming stellar body — this could be an incredible chance for study… finding out more about what makes our universe works; as well as a possible source of rare minerals, or even possibly minerals not native to Earth.

Is this worth the hefty pricetag in today’s economy?  Could an investment today save us in the future — or is this something we should put off for another day?

Samuel’s hidden love: Physics

One of my favorite passions that I don’t get a chance to get into often with others, is physics — particularly quantum physics.  I’ve had a love of what makes the universe tick since I was a kid watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, and trying to wrap my head around the idea of Warp Drive.

One of my favorite theories of what makes the universe tick is “Where did we come from?  Is this all there is — is there anymore than what we see?”  We now know there is matter beyond the subatomic, particularly if you, like me subscribe to String Theory.

ImageThe Multiverse theory is the the ideology that says our universe isn’t the only one out there.  Our universe exists like a bubble in an ocean filled with other bubbles.  Each bubble has it’s own laws of physics, some are compatible with our own, others are not.  For instance, one may be a universe filled with a liquid.  Others, like ours, contain a vacuum of dark matter.  Others may be a solid mass.  Another ideology of the multiverse is the idea of parallel universes; in which all possible outcomes that can happen DO happen — in another universe.  For instance, there is the possibility YOU are the President of the United States.  Another could be where you weren’t born at all.  This is only one possible theory of the multiverse.

ImageOne of the physicists that helped bring the idea of the multiverse to the mainstream in theoretical physics is one of my favorite scientists, Dr. Michio Kaku.  Dr. Kaku is often referred to as “the man who made theoretical physics understandable for everyone.”   Indeed, as a young man, he asked his mother for permission to build a nuclear accelerator in his garage as a science fair project.  His other agreed — and he built a reactor so massive, that, once he plugged in and flipped the switch, to which the device drew so much power, that it blew EVERY fuse in the service box in their home.  A short time later, the son who blew the the service box in the house out of commission wound up getting a scholarship to Harvard; from which he graduated summa cum laude.  Today, he is the Professor of Theoretical Physics at City College of City University of New York.  In his teaching capacity, he’s delivered countless lectures on the matter, including his futurist philosophies of time travel, travel between universes, the multiverse theory itself, and the physics and technology of the future.

I love learning about what makes things work… even the [multi?]universe we all live in.

Why I stopped donating Blood…

Blood bagAbout this time a year ago, I made a decision that went against several years of one of my coming-of-age traditions: I stopped donating blood.

The time after time I’ve donated blood, I was asked several questions regarding my personal mannerisms including my sexual proclivities, most notable was:

“Have you had sex with another male, even once?”

I knew there was a “lifetime deferral” on those who are gay (or, “Men who have Sex with Men,” or “MSM” in FDA and ARC parlance…) but I finally sat down one night and looked into why.

According to the Human Rights Campaign:

quote-open“Current federal regulations require any man who has had sex since 1977 with another man, even once, to be deferred from donating blood. Blood centers nationwide screen potential donors by asking a set of questions written to determine risk factors that could indicate possible infection with a transmissible disease, such as HIV or hepatitis. According to the Food and Drug Administration, this pre-screening eliminates up to 90 percent of donors who may be carrying a blood-borne disease.”

Who writes the policy?  HRC continues:

quote-openThe FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research regulates and establishes standards for the collection of blood and blood products. The center receives advise on this issue by the Blood Products Advisory Council, which meets regularly to consider issues such as altering the pool of potential blood donors.

When I found out there are two separate tests done specifically for HIV/AIDS, one being the “standard” HIV/AIDS screening, and also the Nucleic Acid Testing.  The first of which, which is just a straight viral load test, is over 95% accurate.  However, NAT testing is well over 97% effective.  As both tests are performed on blood, both make the mathematical probability of contracting HIV from a transfusion a near-impossibility.  While no test is 100% effective, that’s assuming those who chose to donate blood tell the truth about their activities.

Finding this offensive, and a final vestige of America’s 1980s panic regarding homosexuals and HIV/AIDS, I called the FDA and spoke to a Public Affairs Director (who was the “equivalent of a GS-13”) who stated that this was still in place “not because of a homophobic policy,” but because “Men who have Sex With Men are simply, mathematically the highest risk population for engaging in behavior that would lead to HIV infections.”

Is the policy outdated?  Or is it simply a matter of data?  My answer should be obvious — it’s why I no longer donate blood.  If a gay man who’s perfectly healthy can’t help save the life of someone, why should I be able to?

Is Apple losing its “Cool” without Steve?

English: Apple iPad Event

English: Apple iPad Event (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Steve Jobs was the very heart of Apple’s “cool.”  His drive for absolute product perfection to the point where he drove people around him to anger paid off every time for Apple.  It’s innovative products from the first consumer-friendly computer, to his latest innovation we know he was involved with, the iPad — all paid off huge for everyone at Apple… even the stockholders!

However, there is one indisputable fact: While Apple is still very popular with those who value the premium computer product, such as myself — Apple’s [outward] innovation has apparently slammed into a brick wall.  I say [outward] because none of us are privy to what goes on in the R&D Labs at 1 Infinite Loop, but it no doubt continues.  Since the iPad, while Apple has produced new upgrades and models of its lines, there’s been nothing particularly innovative since Steve Jobs passed away.

While Apple stocks remain overall very strong and positive — it’s obvious investor confidence in Apple remains just as strong and positive.  However, not much has been done to bolster the consumer confidence that is now missing with the passing of Steve.

Steve demanded to be the official final signoff on any product that Apple marketed.  If EVERYONE else liked it, but Steve didn’t, it didn’t make it out.  He’d either nix the product, or demand changes.  I think this is why Steve and Apple were so successful.  The finished product didn’t make it out onto the floor without Steve’s OK… and his OK took a lot of work to make happen.  He settled for nothing less than his view of absolute perfection.  Smooth lines, nice edges, perfect glass.

chart-of-the-day-apple-stock-since-steve-jobs-passing-oct-2012While Apple has obviously done well with itself and it’s market capitalization since Steve’s unfortunate demise, the chart to the right shows that overall, Apple stock has remained strong, and remained on an upward trajectory… showing that the market and the people who own it continue to have the utmost confidence in Apple’s future.

Like any other Geek, particularly Apple Geek, I mourned the face of geek culture when Steve passed away — I suppose like anyone else would have.  Indeed, my sister lead a large movement that took off HUGE on Facebook, that had us all wearing black for Steve the day after he died.  Without his innovation, will Silicon Valley and the Technology sector be able to recover what was lost — both the face of the culture, and the innovation of it?

However, will that change if Apple can’t soon release a product that shows it can think without Steve — and that those products will be of the same quality he demanded?  Will Apple continue to innovate and be the premier, premium product purveyor (lol, I didn’t do that on purpose, I swear…) that the guy in the blue jeans and black mock-turtleneck was known for delivering — every time?

The Corporate Veil — Still working?

Gold BarsHaving my experience in business and high finance that I do, I got to see the height, and the subsequent crash of the Financial Boom several years later… I literally watched it from my corner office begin to unfold in March 2007 — in the subprime mortgage market.  Watching in sheer terror while lender after lender sent emails stating they were no longer funding unlocked loans, or were closing their doors and declaring bankruptcy altogether.

Many harmed were innocents — those who either didn’t know better and were taught by lousy or bad brokers, or were roped into it by dirty Account Executives just looking to fill their pipleline and collect their cut of the dough, as well, loan officer and client be damned.

One question I find myself wondering about is, “Why aren’t more executives and bank owners in jail?  These are the people who, if they didn’t engineer the crisis, they at least ignored the signs.  These are supposed to be the world best, brightest and finest in high finance, right?”

How can one man, who steals $400 by knocking over a gas station with a knife as a weapon get four times as much prison time as the executive who colluded, knowingly with others to cover up and lie about it to the American people, who wind up bailing out the company for millions, and insuring their bad notes and purchases?  While a handfull have gone to prison for their role in the crisis, many on the other hand, have not.

Case in point: Angelo Mozilo.Image

The founder of Countrywide, his accidental email replies and golden parachute, even after he singlehandedly ran his brainchild into the ground, are the stuff of legends.  Offering the most powerful people incentives to work with him through his “Friends of Angelo” program in the way of favorable mortgage rates and programs otherwise not available to anyone else.  Big names benefitted from this program — names like “Dodd,” “Pelosi,” ‘Clyburn” and “Boxer.”  Indeed, Senator Christoper Dodd was later documented to be given a $75,000 reduction on properties he owned held by Countrywide.  Michael Moore’s movie Capitalism, A Love Story,” shows proof that he received credits and reductions in excess of half a MILLION dollars.  These Representatives, Senators and Regulators are the people who were supposed to oversee his business.

While Mozilo later settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission to pay a massive fine and accept being barred for life from serving as an officer or director of a public company within the United States, he never did do jail time for his role.

Is this justice for those who lost their homes to his business practices?  What about the American Taxpayers who had to subsidize his business failure?  What about Bank of America, which absorbed Countrywide?

What I learned… Dr. Adrian Lottie

ImageDr. Adrian Lottie — one of my top four favorite teachers I’ve ever had — and one of the top-3 I’ve had in college yet.  To say that this guy is smart and quick as a whip is an understatement.

I had him my first semester at Eastern Michigan University — indeed, he was the second instructor I met as a student.  One thing I like about him is his wit.  If you didn’t read the readings, and tried to talk out of your butt, as I did once — he’d be the first to call you out on it… in front of everybody.  It made me a better student from the get-go.

quote-open“Oop!  You just told on yourself, Mr. Cummings!  Didn’t do the readings, huh?”

I’ve had him twice — once my first semester for PLSC 215 – “Civil Rights and Civil Liberties,” and a year later for PLSC 210 – “Political Analysis,” arguably the HARDEST math class I’ve ever taken.  Ever.

What I learned from Dr. Lottie:

Dr. Lottie helped me understand statistics in a way I never could before.  His choice in Salkind’s “Statistics for People who [think they] Hate Statistics” was an awesome choice.  I kept the book; as I think it will come in handy in the future.  I’ll always be grateful for his teaching me how to make sense of r-squared, tests of significance and strict scrutiny.

He also told a story during both semesters that stuck with me — as a non-sequitur.  When he was a young Army Lieutenant, he took his platoon out on an orienteering mission.  His Commander specifically noted “ALWAYS keep your pencil sharp when you lay out lines of bearing on your map,” as even a slightly dull pencil can throw calculations off a couple of degrees.  Long story short, he accidentally wound up orienteering his platoon on “the ass end of the rifle range!”

quote-open“The moral of the story,” he said: “…keep your pencil sharp.  Always.”