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Category Archives: Internet

Internet Privacy – Do We Really Want it?

As the battle for Internet privacy rolls on in Washington, privacy advocates are condemning  the vote to repeal Internet privacy protections approved by the Federal Communications Commission in the final days of the Obama administration. The rules would have required Internet service providers to get your permission before collecting and sharing your data and to notify customers about the types of information they collected and shared.

Internet service providers have a lot of data about on your web browsing history, app usage and geo-location.

We give them that data for convenience. We allow them to have it so we can quicker find what we want when we shop, so we can be informed about great deals we might appreciate when shopping. We check in on social media, leave reviews of restaurants, car services, hair salons, and hotels.

We look to the internet for recommendations about where to shop, what car to get, for best deals on plane tickets, vacation spots, boutique stores, fashion advice, and school research.

We put an enormous amount of information about ourselves out there for people to see.

Facebook has become a definitive record of people’s lives. From birthdays to wedding anniversaries to pregnancies, religion, health issues, and family tragedies – it’s all out there for the world to see. I rely on Facebook to remind me of birthdays and anniversaries. We schedule parties, meetings, and other events on social media. We post photos of trips, children, and activities.

When we were looking at buying a new car six months ago, I did a lot of Internet research. Every ad I saw all of a sudden showed me vehicles for sale in our area.

I clicked on a real estate ad once, because I saw a neat house and wanted to explore the interior. I’m still seeing ads for realtor.com, Redfin, and other sites trying to entice me into buying a home.

I have an email account strictly for spam. Anytime a website requires an email login, that’s the one I use. I haven’t logged into that account in probably more than a year. I expect there will be more than 10,000 messages from various websites, trying to sell me a car, a house, a magazine subscription, or a candidate.

Netflix makes recommendations for shows and movies I might like, based on shows and movies I have already watched.

There’s nothing the Internet doesn’t know.

There’s nothing the world doesn’t want to know about us.

Things that were once private and personal are on full display for the world to see and judge. Employers are using the Internet, social media, and comment sections in news sites to find out more about applicants than ever before.

Reality shows are more popular than ever. When I was working for WINC in Winchester as a news anchor, I had to go out and get soundbites from people on the street about a new series that took the country by storm. The finale of the first season of “Survivor” was airing that night, and the feature story was about whom people wanted to win the million dollars.

Last night’s “Survivor” episode had a contestant desperate to remain in the game out an opponent as transgender. On national television. While the episode was filmed months ago, and Zeke Smith consulted with CBS about how to best air the revelation, the guy’s personal life was used as a tool in a reality show game and subsequently as a publicity stunt. What’s next? This guy will be claimed as a pawn by every special interest group out there. Exposing something so personal about a human being in order to garner ratings or win a game show… I’m sickened by it. Anyone who doesn’t see the pain and utter shock on Zeke’s face as an opponent uses something so personal to paint him as a liar in order to win some money is blind.

They took the most personal, the most painful, the most frightening secret a person could have and made it into a side show. And it got ratings. And it got outrage. And it got publicity because of the outrage.

Everything about us is out there for the world to see.

Our likes, our dislikes, our families, and our experiences are all out there for the taking.

So why are we upset to know that Internet providers are monetizing our lives – the very lives we put out there for others to examine, judge, and comment on?

This shouldn’t be a surprise. We expose everything about our lives for the world to Google. We put our every secret, every feeling, every emotion we feel every time we feel it out into the ether.

We brought this on ourselves.

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Internet habits

There’s no question that the Internet has changed us. We’re much braver from behind our keyboards, challenging one another in sometimes contentious ways, relishing in the anonymity the Internet provides. While we would never barge into someone’s living room – even if the front door is open – put our feet on the furniture, light up a cigarette, and proceed to berate the homeowner about their social/political/religious views, we are certainly brave keyboard warriors when it comes to barging into someone’s website, criticizing their views, and even threatening and showering them with invective. No problem. No one will find us, right?

While in our real lives and jobs we would be circumspect about how we analyze information, ensuring that our product is of the highest quality – whatever our job may be. On the Internet, we don’t care. We share clickbait. We fail to analyze. We believe every report – even the most questionable ones – as long as they confirm our biases. We don’t mind losing our shit over said reports. Going unhinged on social media has become the norm – without so much as a fact check.

While in our real jobs we would never use political memes as part of any presentation (unless the presentation is about political memes, of course), these days, we seem to get the majority of our information from these irritating, many times badly-written, shittily-researched graphics.

The other day, some random shit weasel sent me a message request on Facebook, which I immediately deleted. In said message, he derped something about me upsetting his friends (we had no friends in common – I checked), and how I’m a “terrible person,” who should tickle his taint or something. He appeared to be a sub-millennial douche flake with a badly-groomed, patchy wannabe beard and a snively, pussy hat wearing demeanor.  Would we ever say something like this to a living, breathing stranger, who was standing in front of us? Probably not.

The message didn’t upset me, mind you. I chuckled and deleted it, as any intelligent person would. But it does point out some interesting trends I see, as I travel the World Wide Web of Stupid. In addition to the increased boldness and visceral reactions above, I’ve noted a few other things that I either observe with dispassionate interest, or am disgusted by on a regular basis.

One is failure to read. Whether it’s sharing dated news stories and failing to identify them as old, or sharing a new story based on what often is a misleading title, this particular habit makes me crazy! Knowing how quickly things can propagate via social media, one shared old news story can quickly turn into 500 or more. That’s how celebrity death stories from 2012 continue to dominate our social media feeds. And if you’re going to share 5-year-old news stories, at least let us know it’s old news and why you see it fit to share it now, so you don’t look like a fucking moron for derping over old news.

And speaking of fucking… Has anyone noticed this weird tendency to criticize people’s language? I can’t tell you how many pedantic assholes have come over here gently chiding me for my language, or outright discounting facts, because they were offended by a bad word! I have provided plenty of warning about my use of invective on this site, and the bottom line is I don’t give a rollerblading fuck about your delicate sensibilities. If you can’t get over a couple of appropriately placed F-bombs in order to read an otherwise factual blog post, I cordially invite you to fuck a rabid hedgehog and to not allow the virtual door hit you in your virtual hedgehog-sodomizing arse.

Knee-jerking seems to happen a lot more often on the Internet than it does in real life. Am I crazy? I’ve been guilty of this myself. I read something without actually READING it, and I go into DERP! mode, immediately wanting to blast it out to an email distro or my social media contacts. There have been several instances where I’ve had to physically pull away from my computer to prevent myself from hitting the “send” button. Stopping and thinking seems to be out of style these days, because it is so easy to press that “send” button! It’s easy to hit the “share” button; I mean they’re provided in nearly every news site, blog, or information site, convenient for sharing. What isn’t convenient is stepping back and examining with a critical eye what you’re about to send. Would we do that in real life? Would we stick a letter that contains false information in an envelope, and drop it in the mail? Probably not. Convenience and our desire for quick gratification is breeding a whole lot of rude, false, misleading, and outrageous information being pushed out into society without thought.

I also think we’re getting quite inured to horror and bloodshed. This conditioning is breeding callous indifference to others’ suffering. I’ve noticed this trend is on the rise in the past several years. I remember in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks, a friend on the left making a comment about hoping that it was a white Christian, rather than a Muslim, so Muslims don’t get painted with that broad terrorist brush. I also see gleeful references to Muslim terrorism in the wake of any incident, as if my friends on the right are rubbing their hands in malicious glee, awaiting the inevitable “Islamic terrorist attacks” narrative. You know what’s ultimately missing? Kind thoughts about the victims. Horrified reactions about the deaths of innocent people. There was an attack in London today. I shared the latest story I could find on this topic – a story that changes as more information becomes available – and most reactions were political. They weren’t kind. They didn’t hold victims in their thoughts or prayers, even. They were just cold.

“Oh, they’re making it sound like the assailant had a gun! Guns are banned in Britain!”

“Oh, they banned guns in Britain, so now terrorists use cars and knives.”

“Oh, must be another attack by the disgruntled Amish.”

“Oh, they’re trying to hide the fact that he was Muslim.”

I consider myself quite a bitch, and there are few out there who are more dedicated to our gun rights and our national security than I am, but my first thought when an incident occurs is never, “Oh, I bet it was a Muslim, because POLITICS!” or “Look at the attack in a gun-free zone!”

My first thought is always, “I really hope everyone is OK.” And I’m not saying this to paint myself as some kind of concern troll. I’m saying this because I’m genuinely baffled at the fact that we’re so conditioned to immediately glom onto anything that provides confirmation bias to our political beliefs

For the record, if anyone gives a shit, one person is reported dead, and at least 10 people were injured. British authorities are treating this as a terrorist attack, which, by the way, occurred on the first anniversary of the terrorist bombings in Brussels that killed 32 people.

This callousness bothers me more than most other annoying Internet habits. It’s a complete disregard for the human experience. It’s indifference to the suffering of innocents. It’s cruel. No matter how much bloodshed we see, our first reaction is to wonder whether or not this incident comports with our political views. It’s on our screens, and even though those screens show unspeakable horrors, we are no longer bothered by them, because we’re so far removed and the information is so readily available, that we merely observe detached as bloodied victims and terrified families start to process their grief.

I don’t say this to shame my friends or to elicit some type of reaction I would feel appropriate in situations such as these. I say this as a not-so-detached observer, because having grown up without an Internet, I’m seeing stark differences in how people react to what goes around them.

The Internet, as anything else, brings with it both good and bad. It’s quick. It’s convenient. It can keep us informed. It can bring us vital news in the blink of an eye. We can do research, watch movies, watch cat videos, or write a blog.

But in this deluge of information and entertainment, I wonder if we’re forgetting basic customs, courtesies, and human decency.

Just some food for thought.

You want to lose hope for humanity? This is how you lose hope for humanity.

hopeI had to step back for a few days and not write. It feels weird how everything is crumbling around me. Two of the most unsavory characters possible are now the major party nominees for president. I see no difference between them. They’re both corrupt. They’re both noxious. They’re both authoritarian lovers of tyranny. One of them will be president.

As my parents like to say, “We came to this country to escape tyranny and statism, and now it seems to have followed us here.” What the hell?

The NRA has issued its enthusiastic early endorsement to the very man who once accused the organization of being uncompromising and criticized it for refusing “even limited restrictions.”

Cultural icons of my youth are systematically being demolished in the name of diversity – really a cover for lack of originality, but who’s going to look closely at that?

Ghostbusters now features four women with not even a nod to the classic original.

There are rumblings about making James Bond into a female.

Captain America – Steve Rogers – the quintessential fighter for good, for freedom, for American principles – has been revealed by Marvel to have been a Hydra agent all along. What in the everloving, freezing, snot-dripping fuck, Marvel??? I know this is the age of shock, where entertainment enterprises compete for who can provide the most shock value to the audience in order to keep themselves “fresh” and “original,” but seriously, WHAT? This isn’t fresh and original. This is a blatant attempt to generate buzz and appear edgy, when in fact, you’re just full of FAIL!

In the past few years we’ve seen reboots of everything from Total Recall to Star Trek to Star Wars. I’ll admit I’ve enjoyed at least the Star Trek and Star Wars flicks, but I found Total Recall to be a boring, dark, humorless fail. The remake of Point Break was an unwatchable, dull mess. Godzilla wasn’t as horrible as it could have been. Casting Godzilla as a character that is actually neutral and inadvertently winds up saving humanity from Mothra is not a bad way to revive the genre.

Further proof that Hollywood has run out of creative juices shows us planned reboots and remakes of classics such as Porky’s, An American Werewolf in London, Logan’s Run, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Stephen King’s It, which makes me want to issue a collective throat punch to every Hollywood producer involved in these unoriginal dumpster fires.

In other news that makes my soul die, 23 competitors in the 2012 London Olympic Games from five different sports and six different countries tested positive for doping, and  31 athletes (14 of whom were Russians) from the 2008 Games had also tested positive following re-examination of their samples. I get the competition is stiff, but the naive kid in me always viewed these games as a beautiful, unifying event. Way to crush my hopes and dreams, assholes!

Maybe I just need to stay the hell away from the Internet for a few weeks.

How the Internet Restored my Hope in Humanity

Social media is a funny thing. When I first started using Facebook, it was 2007, and I was deployed to Kosovo with my National Guard unit. 

You get close with the people with whom you deploy. We had units from all over the country, including Massachusetts, Texas, and Puerto Rico. After spending close to a year and a half together, you make and cement friendships, you learn about one another, and you help one another. You become a family. 

That’s why many of us got Facebook accounts – to keep in touch, to share our lives beyond deployment, and to continue nurturing those bonds we developed at Camp Bondsteel. 

I did not know at the time what Facebook would become. The subsequent bonds came in spurts, so to speak. A lot of my old friends from high school joined, and we connected even though we hadn’t seen one another in more than a decade. Then, college friends found one another. Then old buddies from AFN-Europe – both military and civilian. I found old colleagues from former jobs, fellow fighters in the gun rights movement, and even some friends from my elementary school in the former USSR! That one is a joy. 

When friends you have known for a long time recommend you become “friends” with someone in the virtual world, you develop a whole new set of connections. You share your experiences, expertise, and views with a whole new set of people, whom you’ve never met in real life, but into whose lives you all of a sudden have an amazing amount of insight. You become real friends, even though you have never met in real life.  I often shake my head at the amount of personal details folks shoot into cyber space. I was never a fan, because so many predators exist out there, who are looking for their next victim. And yet, here I am – blogging about the very personal, very frightening, very real and traumatic experience of possibly losing my house. Here I am getting emotional and very tangible support from readers who love this blog, and who enjoy reading my sometimes jumbled thoughts. I never asked for financial support, and yet, here you are – hitting the “Donate” button – giving your earnings to a person you’ve never met, so she could get a beer or have a little peace of mind – offering words of encouragement and advice. My gratitude knows no bounds, you guys. I am so humbled by and grateful for your friendship!

The Internet makes you feel like you’re not alone. Sharing those personal details – both on Facebook, here, and on This Ain’t Hell, where the wonderful Jonn Lilyea shared my story with the community of vets and supporters there whom I have grown to know and love, and the majority of whom I’ve never met in person, made me feel like they we’re in it with me. 

Two friends and partners in the gun rights battle emailed me and told me they were giving me a loan. One percent interest. Pay us back when you can. I protested, because I could not possibly know when I would be able to repay them, and because borrowing money from friends… They insisted. They love me, they said. They wanted to offer me some peace of mind, they said. When I finally do meet them in real life, I’m not sure there will be a hug big enough, strong enough, or long enough to express my gratitude for their love, friendship, and generosity! My plan is to put that money in savings and not touch it unless it really hits the fan, and I wind up homeless or the Redhead has nothing to eat. And once the fiasco with the thieving child molester and his lying, hypocritical wife is over, I will return the lump sum plus interest and more. Because I love them for the reassurance and peace of mind they have given me. 

A friend of a friend, whom I’ve never met, contacted me the night before last – when I was at the height of my despair – when I was weeping every few minutes, because a twisted pair consisting of a child rapist and a lying, sociopathic shrew, David and Pamela Cooper, stole my house with the help of a judge, who is supposed to uphold justice, but instead enabled theft – made me lose hope. She asked if I would mind if she started a fundraiser for me. I balked at first. Even though the thought of losing the house I worked for, and possibly my job, was terrifying, the thought of good, kind, people giving me money so I could pay for this child raping scum to live in my house free of charge was and is morally abhorrent. But the legal bills in this fight would no doubt mount, and while I’ve heard great things about the attorney who was helping us with the filings and giving us some legal advice on this matter, I would never expect him to work for free. So we compromised. Amanda – a beautiful, intelligent, kind woman I met on Facebook through a mutual friend, and whom I have never met in real life, set up a fundraiser on GoFundMe, and specified that this money would only be used for legal expenses – and not to keep a “man” convicted of carnal knowledge of a minor and his sociopath wife living rent-free on my property. 

I have to tell you, I’m overwhelmed by the response. Not only friends and acquaintances, but complete strangers, anonymous individuals, poured money into this effort! To date Amanda has raised more than $2200 – more than enough to put an attorney on retainer – in one day. In. One. Day.  To some, it may not seem like a lot, but to me, it is the world, folks. I’m a writer. It’s what I do for a living. And, yet, I cannot properly express my gratitude to each and every person who contributed to this effort. Frankly, it’s the last thing I expected, because I lost faith in anything and everything that was just and good in this world. But here you are – some of you complete strangers, while others I only know from the online world of political discussions and cat memes, coming to my aid and giving me hope. 

It’s hard to breathe through this much emotion!

This isn’t the first time people whose hand I’ve never had the pleasure of shaking gave me a hand up. When Mac got sick last year, friends and family came to her rescue and helped me pay for her medical care. When she died, I sent the remainder of your generous gifts to a homeless pets charity. When unexpected expenses for the best of me, beautiful individuals stepped in and handed me support. Just like that. With no strings attached and no demands. Because they could. I don’t forget that kind of friendship, and I pay it forward when I can – and sometimes when I can’t – because that’s how you are supposed to act. That’s what you’re supposed to do. 

When I was terrified of spending yet another $300+ on H&R Block at tax season, my friend, former Marine, fellow veteran Dave Hardin convinced me (he’s hard to say no to – he’s about as stubborn as I am) to use his CPA firm. The Accounting Firm (simple, elegant name) and the amazing Karen Hardin did my taxes via phone in just a few minutes. Taxes were filed. Refund was due. Through some kind of strike of horrid luck or bureaucratic insanity, refund didn’t happen. Karen spent hours on true phone with the IRS, filed additional paperwork, and continues to hammer them to return my money. No one charged me a dime. I had a large print made of a photo of a dogwood flower I took. I sent it to Karen as a token of my gratitude. Dave will get booze and a dance when we finally meet in person. 

But this… This is overwhelming, you guys. You didn’t just offer words of love and support. You didn’t just give me money. You didn’t just give me hope, although it’s a big thing. You have given me the will to fight this injustice! I may not ever get my house back. I may have to face foreclosure, but I’m not going down without a fight. And it’s all thanks to you. 

You, the Internet, have restored hope, and that’s priceless. 

Because what kind of world would it be if child molesters, liars, and thieves were allowed to win?

I should really post more

I know it’s been weeks since I’ve written anything. I needed a break. I haven’t really been in the mood to write. First, there was the snow, which prompted me to sit around in bed all day in my pajamas drinking hot tea and watching Law & Order reruns.

And now… I’m off on temporary duty to Miami.

I know… HARDSHIP! But you’d be surprised how crappy it feels to go from a foot of snow in DC to 85-degree heat with 10000 percent humidity down in southern Florida! So if you have a snarky comment about how you feel oh-so-sorry for me being down here, keep it to yourself, punkin, because all you’ll get from me is a one-fingered salute.

As for what I’ve been up to?

Well…

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been a regular part of the GunBlog Variety Cast along with some awesome folks, including Sean Sorrentino and Erin Palette. I’ve been doing this for a while now, but I’ve been an abject FAIL at blogging about it, because I’m lazy. So go over there and listen. Surprisingly enough, I don’t bloviate about guns on this one, but rather foreign policy. Erin talks about prepping, Sean and Adam talk about… stuff, and other incredible, talented, and intelligent folks talk about guns and tech. It’s fun. You should check it out, if you want to find out what I sound like on the air (shout out to my broadcaster background!).

And no, I don’t curse.

So what’s been going on?

Well, for one, we kicked Maduro and his band of Venezuelan thugs in the nuts with some sanctions last week. And if you hear them whining that this means the United States is about to launch into some kind of military action against them, you can laugh a little, because they’re either ignorant, or just want to raise the level of whining. Fact is that they were sanctioned under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which authorizes the President to regulate commerce after declaring a “national emergency” in response to any unusual or extraordinary foreign threat. It certainly doesn’t authorize any kind of military action.

Specifically, the E.O. targets those determined by the Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the Department of State, to be involved in:

  • actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions;
  • significant acts of violence or conduct that constitutes a serious abuse or violation of human rights, including against persons involved in antigovernment protests in Venezuela in or since February 2014;
  • actions that prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or peaceful assembly; or
  • public corruption by senior officials within the Government of Venezuela.

The E.O. also authorizes the Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the Department of State, to target any person determined:

  • to be a current or former leader of an entity that has, or whose members have, engaged in any activity described in the E.O. or of an entity whose property and interests in property are blocked or frozen pursuant to the E.O.; or
  • to be a current or former official of the Government of Venezuela;

What does this all mean? It means we don’t like corrupt thugs who steal money from their own people while undermining their basic rights using the U.S. financial system. So we cut off their access to it.

What else has been going on?

The Justice Department determined there was no basis for continued legal action against Darren Wilson, who last year shot Michael Brown in an action which was determined to be justified. Of course, Holder and the DOJ can’t leave well enough alone, so even though the shoot was good, they put out a report citing racism in the Ferguson PD writ large in an obvious attempt to mollify the screeching race hustlers. It is interesting to note that the report cites revenue generation being emphasized in the PD’s approach to law enforcement.

Patrol assignments and schedules are geared toward aggressive enforcement of Ferguson’s municipal code, with insufficient thought given to whether enforcement strategies promote public safety or unnecessarily undermine community trust and cooperation. Officer evaluations and promotions depend to an inordinate degree on “productivity,” meaning the number of citations issued. Partly as a consequence of City and FPD priorities, many officers appear to see some residents, especially those who live in Ferguson’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods, less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue.

This is a problem that’s not just limited to Ferguson. Nothing new and different there, and I’ve often been appalled at the outrageous fees and penalties imposed on citizens for engaging in a simple mistake or minor traffic violation. So I get it. It sucks.

But in the same breath, the DOJ’s report claims that “The harms of Ferguson’s police and court practices are borne disproportionately by African Americans, and there is evidence that this is due in part to intentional discrimination on the basis of race.”

Lemme ask ya something. If it is obvious that the city’s focus is on revenue generation, rather than public safety, and therefore, it views the PREDOMINANTLY AFRICAN-AMERICAN city as a source of revenue generation, wouldn’t it stand to reason that in a predominantly black city, the brunt of those revenue generation policies would be… um… black, and that the reason Ferguson’s law enforcement practices and policies overwhelmingly impact African-Americans is because THAT’S WHO PREDOMINANTLY LIVES IN THE FRIGGIN’ CITY?

But hey, some of us don’t go looking for racism under every bed and around every corner.

In response to said report, Ferguson’s city manager has resigned and a state judge will be in charge of all Ferguson cases. Every town needs scapegoats, I suppose. That, of course, didn’t mollify the stampeding hordes, and just this past weekend, two police officers were shot after working crowd control in Ferguson. Police charged Jeffrey Williams with the shooting. The suspect admits he fired the weapon, but claims he was aiming at someone else in the crowd.

I’m trying to wrap my head at the amount of fucking stupid it takes to make such an admission. Stupid #1) You fire your weapon into a crowd of fucking people. Stupid #2) You admit to doing so, but hey… you weren’t aiming at police, and I guess you were expecting to hit your mark dead on. In a crowd. You dimwitted, miserable FAIL of a fucktard. Stupid #2) The only two people you conveniently hit are two cops. How propitious, considering the demonstrations were all about supposed police “racism.”

And, of course, Holder has been sniveling about how much acts of violence against law enforcement are not to be tolerated. Never mind he and his DOJ are the ones fomenting said unrest!

OK, enough about that.

There was supposedly a ceasefire agreement reached in Ukraine. Well, it was reached, but if you’re thinking that it’s somehow been effective, you’d be wrong. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the ceasefire is “fragile.” I think while violence has been reduced some, he’s the master of the understatement. If you want a boots on the ground (so to speak) glimpse into what’s going on, you should follow U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt on Twitter. The Russians will tell you it’s not their fault – that it’s the separatists failing to abide by the ceasefire – that they have no control over said militants. Um… yeah… right. If you think that Moscow isn’t behind the continuous arming of separatists in the region, I have this bridge…

Yes, I know I should keep up with my blogging, but even I need a break sometimes, so if I’m not around, it’s because I’m busy having a life.

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