Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Which is Fiction & Which is Reality?

Excerpt from the book "What So Proudly We Hailed":

In 2010 we took a couple more steps. Just little ones, mind you, but steps nonetheless. And every step, no matter how little it is, still moves you forward.

Identity theft was nothing new, but the positive ID on the driver’s licenses was supposed to help curb it. It was supposed to prevent imposters from living in our midst.

Forget cleaning out bank accounts, we were talking about safety. We were still fighting a war on terror you know, and the bad guys were just looking for a way to get at us. The ease at which it turned out a fingerprint ID could be forged was a glaring issue that needed to be resolved, and we all knew it.

The only question was, how?

Oh, my babies, I can solve this for you, yes, I surely can. I can take the problem away from you forever. But . . . well, I shouldn’t have said anything. I shouldn’t have even mentioned it . . .

“What? What is it? Tell us! Tell us!” we cried.

Oh, no, nooo. It just wouldn’t do. You wouldn’t like it. It makes some people afraid. No, it just wouldn’t be right. Besides, there must be another way. Somehow, someway, we’ll find it. But I’m afraid for now we’ll just have to keep looking . . .

“No! Tell us! Tell us! We want it now! We want it now!” rang the chant.

Okay, okay, shhhhhhhhh! Hush now, hush, hushhhh. I’ll tell you my babies, I’ll tell you. But only if you insist . . .

“We do! We do!” we insisted.

And you have to remember that it was you who asked . . .

“We will! We will!” we shouted.

And so, along with the colors and fonts and information that was standardized across the board, the fingerprint ID was replaced with a micro-thin radio frequency tag that was embedded into the laminate of the card.

Excerpt from Associated Press article, 28 July 2008:

It is the size of a credit card or driver's license, and has a photo and identification information printed on it, like a driver's license. It also contains a chip with a random number that allows border officials to instantly retrieve your data.

"When you come to the border, hold your card up to your window, and on the border patrol screen, up will pop your name, your picture, the fact that you are a U.S. citizen, and the number of your card. They'll peek in to see if you're the same person, and speed you on your way."

Read full AP article here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Pure Genius

I know that God gave Solomon the gift of wisdom, but sometimes I think He must’ve had a little left over that He threw my way. I don't think it would be boasting to call myself a genius. I mean, who would know that better than me, right? But sometimes my genius is so intense it scares me. Like today for instance. Let me explain.

I was visiting a local business and heard them talking about what to do with their old “display” cell phones. They had a whole basket of them, and since they were just going to go in the trash anyway, I asked if I could have one. I picked out a really cool looking silver flip-phone; it has that “faux-executive” look.

A display phone looks & feels just like the real thing, the only difference - and I do mean the only difference - is that it doesn’t actually work. That may sound like it would defeat the whole purpose of having a cell phone, but I beg to differ. Having a cell phone that doesn’t actually work is actually better than one that does, for a whole host of reasons.

Don’t believe me? Think your “real” phone is better than mine? Let’s compare, shall we?

Just like you, I can use my phone to get out of meetings or annoying face-to-face conversations. I just pretend I feel it vibrating in my back pocket, and the next thing you know I’m walking away to answer “that important call that just can’t wait”. Scott free & no hurt feelings.

Just like you I can look cool driving down the road with my phone to my ear, but with the added advantage of not getting distracted by having to actually concentrate on having a conversation.

And just like you I can pretend to take pictures of suspicious people for the Department of Homeland Security.

But it doesn’t stop there. Oh, no. Here’s just a few of the other features of my non-functional phone. Read ‘em and weep, baby. Read ‘em and weep:

* No long-term contracts; just pay $0 for the first 6 months, and No Charge thereafter. Cancel anytime. No penalty.

* Unlimited minutes.

* Water-proof. In fact, it’s completely submersible with no loss of functionality. Guaranteed.

* Batteries never need charging.

* So easy to use it doesn’t even come with a manual.

* No harmful microwave radiation to my head.

* No dropped calls.

* “5-bar” service everywhere. I can even pretend to take a call while diving at a depth of 60 feet somewhere off the Florida Keys.

* Only “works” when I need it to. No annoying interruptions to my day (unless I want one).

* No roaming charges, FCC fees, or interstate surcharges.

* Built-in GPS; if I have it in my hand, I know that’s exactly where I’m at.

* Nobody gets upset if I don’t answer their calls.

* Won’t interfere with airplane navigation systems.

* Completely impervious to any illegal NSA wiretapping attempts.

* And as if that’s not enough, I NEVER have to actually listen to someone’s inane blathering in my ear.

Shocking, isn't it? I guess it's all how you look at things, of course, but the way I see it, I just can't think of a single benefit of a working cell phone that outweighs the benefits of a non-working one. In fact, I am so happy with my non-functional phone that I picked up some extras for Catherine and the kids.

We’re all on the same plan.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

12 Babies Die During Vaccine Trials in Argentina

The headline for this entry was the title of a lovely piece of news that I ran across the other day. Here are some quotes from the article:

The study was sponsored by global drug giant GlaxoSmithKline and uses children from poor families, who are "pressured and forced into signing consent forms," the Argentine Federation of Health Professionals, or Fesprosa, said.

Since 2007, 15,000 children under the age of one from the Argentine provinces of Mendoza, San Juan and Santiago del Estero have been included in the research protocol, a statement of what the study is trying to achieve.

"Only 12 have died throughout the country, which is a very low figure if we compare it with the deaths produced by respiratory illnesses caused by the pneumococcal bacteria," pediatrician Enrique Smith, one of the lead investigators, said.

I love that last quote, and statistically speaking it’s very true - 12 dead babies out of 15,000 is less than 1/10 of one percent - but I wonder if that number seems “low” to the parents of one of the 12 dead babies that died as a result of being used as a human lab rat? And I wonder how many would have to die before the number would seem “excessive?”

How many other pharmaceutical companies are currently conducting human drug trials? How many total drugs are there in these trials? How many other people have died in these “other” trials, and, if we counted all of the dead together in one statistic, would that number seem excessive?

We’ll never know. Here’s what we do know however:

* “For-profit” companies are conducting drug trials with poor people from other countries.

* Some deaths are expected, and indeed, acceptable.

* The Nazis used to conduct testing on humans too (but that was different, right?)

* No animals were injured during these drug tests.

Oh, and there’s one other thing we know. We know where this news story was originally reported; on a stock market investment site. That’s right, this article wasn’t printed to inform the public at large of a travesty being committed by yet another global corporation trying to hit its quarterly revenue targets, it was printed to give investors the information they need to decide whether to “buy” or “sell”.

And that may be the most obscene thing about it.

You can read the entire article here; it is, of course, not very long: http://www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/1750553/
(If link does not work, type “12 Babies Die During Vaccine Trials in Argentina” into your search engine.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Nice Review

Note: The following review was published in The Casey County News Arts & Entertainment section on Wednesday, June 18, 2008. They don't currently post the A&E section of the paper on their website, so I took the liberty of reprinting it here in its entirety. I apologize for the self-promotional aspect of doing so, but I'm fighting for mindshare in a world that publishes around 200,000 books each year; WSPWH is - at the risk of sounding boastful - one of the better of those, and, in my mind at least, one of the more important. In addition to the below, you can read another review of WSPWH here as well.

The Book Corner: What So Proudly We Hailed
by guest reviewer Penelope Wesley

Blaine Staat dedicates his newest book, “What So Proudly We Hailed” to all the U.S. servicemen and women who died in defense of our country. They paid the high price for our freedom. He presents a story with a thought-provoking question – “Can freedom cost too much?”

I was “hooked” immediately as tension mounted to the very end. I had to know where the story would take me.

It is a fictitious story, dated in 2027, with subtle truths that awaken the reader to how a government that once served the people becomes a master over them. This slow development moves the people to a point of no turning back. The reader is swept into a wild journey – a nightmare of the future as the main character has a chance to restore liberty to the American people.

Events like the senseless terroristic attacks of the World Trade Center and Pan Am 707 have changed our country forever. We continue to seek and punish those responsible. We have given our government more power and control.

Read how the author weaves this fact and takes it a step further by forming the most powerful agency that can track every detail of our lives. Follow his story of how the events and the advancement of technology bring forth both good and evil. Then ask yourself, “Can this come true?”

Will you agree with the author’s words, “Hindsight is a strange thing; so vividly clear, and yet so utterly worthless”?

Staat emphasizes that this piece of work is solely fictitious, but be prepared as you read of characters with familiar last names – Pierce, Miller, Porter and Weddle – or places like “Gateway Park” or “behind the IGA”. He writes of a little town in Central Kentucky called “Mission Creek”. Could it possibly be our Liberty [KY] in 2027?

For those who enjoy adventure and excitement, this book is a must. There is information on Homeland Security and modern technology that I don’t want to believe to be true. Thanks, Mr. Staat, for your in-depth research that has educated me and stimulated me to want to know more. You have broadened my understanding about the work of government agencies and given me a new appreciation for science fiction.

I have revisited those first pages many times. This is a powerful, thought-provoking story – one that has created a lingering eeriness that will remain with me for a long time.

Editor’s Note: Penelope Wesley is a member of the non-fiction writing group at Carnegie Center in Lexington. She is a volunteer with KET, a member of the KET Literature Task Force, and a KET Book Club panelist.

Copyright © 2008 The Casey County News, Liberty, Kentucky. Used with permission.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy Birthday America

Just a quick post to direct anyone who cares to an article that all Americans should read. Dr. Paul is one of the few elected officials in Washington who not only understands what is going on in the United States, but is also unafraid to say so:

Something Big is Going On