Category: Rights

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Fly the Unfriendly Skies

Spanning most of my career, whether working as analyst or journalist, I have repeatedly railed against how U.S. law treats businesses—essentially as people. Reason: Moral dichotomy, where the ethical priorities of publicly-traded companies vastly differ from—and often contradict with—values of the people founding, running, or working for them. Keyword is value, where one usage refers to beliefs and another to money; meaning stock price and proceeds returned to shareholders.

My first, best articulation of this concept came during an April 2006 radio interview—I believe for NPR marketplace—when discussing major U.S. search providers Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo censoring results in China, at the government’s insistence. Behind the action there loomed censorship’s morality, such as restricting search terms like “democracy”. I expressed that there is no moral high ground in business. The high ground is quagmire, because all public companies share a single, moral objective: Make profits for stockholders. Plain, pure, and simple. Sadly, that moral agenda explains why United Airline’s PR week from Hell is Heaven for shareholders. Overbooking means the carrier fills seats; operations are lean and mean (quite literally, the latter). 

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I’m Mad! Some Dude is using My Gmail to open Dating and Deal Site Accounts!

Question: “When is stupidity fraud?” I ask because someone is using my gmail address to sign up for a humungous number of newsletters and websites. At first, I presumed someone trolled me. But that no longer appears to be the case. This guy, presumably living in North Carolina, either uses my address randomly to hide his identity, or he mistypes one that is similar. Given many of the services are for an unidentified widower looking for love, I assume the latter.

Behind my question are real concerns about identity and privacy that do not just apply to me. The email address gives me the ability to change the passwords and even cancel accounts—both of which I have done, treating his misuse of my email address as identity theft and violations of my privacy; after years of careful cultivation that reduced spam, crap is on the rise as this misuse spreads my gmail identity across dating and discount sites and sex webcams. Who knows on what mailing lists it will appear next. But over the past 24 hours, the amount of spam offers, like being paid to take surveys, exploded. The email address may be permanently ruined for personal and professional purposes. 

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Don’t ‘Fall into the Gap’

The Internet outrage over the photo for a Gap Kids advertisement is rather ridiculous. The meme accuses racism, because the taller white tween rests her arm on the shorter black girl’s head. Gap was wrong to apologize and replace the pic, bowing before the will of social media bullies. They read too much into the modeling, and you shouldn’t side with their idiocy.

The posing isn’t unusual for Gap marketing, and there is at least one earlier instance where roles reversed: Black tween resting arm on the head of a white girl, as filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry tweets with question: “Does the @GapKids pic on the left make the pic on the right okay? Let’s debate”. The answer is immaterial, because motivation and meaning are assigned, in conspiratorial fashion. I look at the pic and could, purely for contrarian perspective’s sake, assign equally-outrageous interpretation. 

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Tim Cook’s Defining Moment

Some documents are historically significant. They mark moments, comment on them, in manner demanding future citation and even use in courts or classrooms. That’s how I read Apple CEO Tim Cook’s “Open Letter to Our Customers“, about breaking iPhone encryption  His exposition spotlights seminal moment in the United States of America: Government’s further expansion of powers encroaching indiviuals’ rights to privacy and one company standing up and saying “No”.

Some people will scoff at my comparison, but it truly is what I see. Cook is like Rosa Parks, refusing to take a seat at the back of the bus—or in this instance behind one court judge and the FBI. Cook and Apple stand up for us all. I applaud law enforcement’s efforts to protect us from terrorism but tyranny shouldn’t be the means; taking away Constitutionally-given freedoms to protect them. Tim Cook is right. 

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Bernie Sanders DMCA burns Wikipedia

I have a whopping “WTF?” headache this fine Saturday over a Wikipedia report that the Bernie Sanders campaign filed a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) request demanding removal of the Presidential hopeful’s logos. Seriously? From an encyclopedia? If this is the future under so-called Democratic Socialism, run for cover. The Police State pounds the door! He talks the good talk—gentile Uncle promising freedom for all—but I look where he walks, and that’s with a club beating baby seals of free speech. Yikes!

I am decidedly non-partisan, meaning: All politicians are fair game for our bow and arrows to shoot and Bowie knife to gut. (Got a taxidermist on contract to stuff them, too!) The Donald is easy prey, but I never expected Bernie to gloriously trump Trump! The take-down notice’s absurdity outdoes the proposed Wall protecting Americans from Mexicans south and Canadians north. 

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Where No Values Have Gone Before

For more than two weeks I have kept open in a browser tab essay “How Star Trek Explains the Decline of Liberalism” by Timothy Sandefur. Someone shared the story in one of my social feeds in mid-September—and apologies for not recalling whom. I don’t agree with the title, set against the writing, but I do largely agree with the analysis about Star Trek’s reflection of our society over the course of 50 years.

I loved the original series, which aired in 1966. Much as I liked, and even imitated Spock, Kirk’s bravado and moralism rapt my attention. He acted rather than hesitated. Meanwhile, series creator Gene Roddenberry and his producers, directors, and writers used the storytelling as metaphors and allegories commenting on American society and its values. I aspired to be like James Tiberius Kirk: Do the right thing, for the greater good of all, regardless the risk. 

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Who Mourns for the Fourth Estate? (Part 2)

June 2009, the future of 21st Century journalism moves with protestors across Iran’s capital. In an area somewhat removed from the commotion, philosophy student Neda Salehi reportedly steps from a car and is soon shot by a sniper. A bystander videos her death and uploads it to YouTube. The moment becomes the rallying point for demonstrators in the country and for spectators from around the globe. It is a seminal moment of change for the news media.

The next night, June 21, I write

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Will Taylor Swift’s Apple Admonishment Strike a Chord?

“This is not about me”, singer Taylor Swift writes in a Tumblr post that is viral news everywhere today. She explains why her newest album, “1989”, will not be available on Apple Music when the service starts on June 30.

“This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field—but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on his or her songs”. 

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Apple Music Takes from Artists to Give to Subscribers

For a company that generates more profits than any other ($18 billion during fiscal first quarter 2015), sits on a cash horde of nearly $200 billion, and has the gall to charge $150 for a watchband, stinginess is an unbecoming trait. Scratch that. Greediness. Putting profits before people, particularly devoted customers, when corporate advertising is all about how they matter more, is simply stupid public relations. In business, perception is everything.

So Apple’s reported decision to give away music for three months, without compensating artists, is cheapskates behavior that demands criticism, particularly about a company claiming that music means so much. Speaking to developers last week, CEO Tim Cook: “We love music, and music is such an important part of our lives and our culture”. Oh yeah? If it’s so important, why diminish its value? To zero. “We’ve had a long relationship with music at Apple”. For how much longer without artists’ cooperation? You don’t own the content, Mr. Cook. 

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Flickr a Day 98: ‘NgaNga’

Dramatic is my reaction to this protest shot from Freedom II Andres, in Makati City, Philippines, on Oct. 4, 2013. The second “Million People March” rallied against the country’s so-called pork-barrel scam that a Philippine Daily Inquirer investigative series exposed about two months earlier.

The photographer’s name is appropriate for a protest shot like this one, and spotlights his family heritage. The second of four sons, “we are all named Freedom“, he explains, “simply because our father was one of the student-activists of his time in the 1970s, when Filipinos fought against the dictatorship of then president Ferdinand Marcos”. 

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Rolling Stone Story Undergoes Brutal Forensic Analysis

The symbolism is recognizable, but as what depends on the eventual outcome. Dateline April 5, 2015, Easter Sunday, “Rolling Stone and UVA: The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Report” posted to the magazine’s website. The holiday celebrates Jesus Christ’s resurrection, following crucifixion. The Washington Post and several other organizations crucified Rolling Stone in December 2014 for long-form news story “A Rape on Campus”. The exhaustive autopsy of the story’s reporting and publication is another another crucifixion, arriving on a day that celebrates resurrection, salvation. Will RS have the one by voluntarily inviting the other?

“A Rape on Campus” spotlights the alleged sexual assault of a University of Virginia student identified as Jackie. The investigative report paints a campus culture of acceptable assault without reproach or reprisal. But the veracity of Jackie’s account later collapsed. Rolling Stone sought outside examination, which by itself demonstrates just how strongly the magazine strives to report responsibly.