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Sunday, December 18, 2011 4:35 PM

9 Things to Say Goodbye To, Including Privacy and Free Speech

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Changes are coming. Many things we know and love will soon be gone, just as happened to the 8-track player, the buggy whip, and MS DOS. Unfortunately, we are also losing some things we cannot afford to.

In an article written about a year ago, Rense says Changes Are Coming - Things We'll Be Saying Goodbye To. I added one key item to the list.

Things We'll Be Saying Goodbye To

1. The Post Office. Get ready to imagine a world without the post office. They are so deeply in financial trouble that there is probably no way to sustain it long term. Email, Fed Ex, and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive. Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.

2. The Check. Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with checks by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process checks. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the check. This plays right into the death of the post office. If you never paid your bills by mail and never received them by mail, the post office would absolutely go out of business.

3. The Newspaper. The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper. They certainly don't subscribe to a daily delivered print edition. That may go the way of the milkman and the laundry man. As for reading the paper online, get ready to pay for it. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services.

4. The Book. You say you will never give up the physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes. I wanted my hard copy CD. But I quickly changed my mind when I discovered that I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music. The same thing will happen with books. You can browse a bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before you buy. And the price is less than half that of a real book. And think of the convenience! Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead of the book, you find that you are lost in the story, can't wait to see what happens next, and you forget that you're holding a gadget instead of a book.

5. The Land Line Telephone. Unless you have a large family and make a lot of local calls, you don't need it anymore. Most people keep it simply because they've always had it. But you are paying double charges for that extra service. All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes.

6. Music. This is one of the saddest parts of the change story. The music industry is dying a slow death. Not just because of illegal downloading. It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it. Greed and corruption is the problem. The record labels and the radio conglomerates are simply self-destructing. Over 40% of the music purchased today is "catalog items," meaning traditional music that the public is familiar with. Older established artists. This is also true on the live concert circuit. To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies."

7. Television. Revenues to the networks are down dramatically. Not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. And they're playing games and doing lots of other things that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV. Prime time shows have degenerated down to lower than the lowest common denominator. Cable rates are skyrocketing and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds. I say good riddance to most of it. It's time for the cable companies to be put out of our misery. Let the people choose what they want to watch online and through Netflix.

8. The "Things" That You Own. Many of the very possessions that we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future. They may simply reside in "the cloud." Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of that is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services." That means that when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system. So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider.

In this virtual world, you can access your music or your books, or your whatever from any laptop or handheld device. That's the good news. But, will you actually own any of this "stuff" or will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big "Poof?" Will most of the things in our lives be disposable and whimsical? It makes you want to run to the closet and pull out that photo album, grab a book from the shelf, or open up a CD case and pull out the insert.

9. Privacy. If there ever was a concept that we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy. That's gone. It's been gone for a long time anyway. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone. But you can be sure that 24/7, "They" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View. If you buy something, your habit is put into a zillion profiles, and your ads will change to reflect those habits. And "They" will try to get you to buy something else. Again and again. All we will have that can't be changed are memories.
Point-by-Point Comments

1. Delivery will not go away, but the post office as we know it today will. Look for delivery to be privatized and for a big push to pay bills online. Here are a couple of links to consider: Facing Bankruptcy, US Postal Service Plans Unprecedented Cuts To First Class Mail. Also consider Do We Need the Postal Service.

2. Good riddance to the check, and to the penny as well. But it may be a number of years before check-writing goes on the ash-heap of history.

3. Newspapers are surely dieing a slow death, but will they go away totally?

4. The bookstore dies before printed books, but both have had it. It's difficult to see how brick-and-mortar bookstores with all their overhead can compete with Amazon. Eventually, physical printing and all the overhead and costs will give way to cheaper and easier to read media. Those who try Kindle, love it.

5. Land lines do not make sense for most people. I have one because they offer a better connection for podcasts than mobile phones or skype.

6. Music itself will not die even though its distribution mechanism continues to evolve.

7. Television will not die either even though television as we know it will certainly evolve in seen and unseen ways.  3D projection TVs and other innovations will be more than enough to keep the media alive and well for decades. The idea the laptop computers and gaming will replace TVs is silliness.

8. I look forward to the time that much of the software I run is not on my computer but rather in the cloud. It will happen.

9. Loss of privacy with cameras everywhere is sad and frightening.

Predator Drone Spying

The Mail Online reports Local cops using Predator drones to spy on Americans in their own backyards
The same unmanned drones that the CIA and the American military uses to kill terrorists in Pakistan and gather intelligence on militants in Afghanistan are being deployed by local cops to spy on US citizens at home.

Increasingly, the federal government and local police agencies are using those drones to spy criminal suspects in America with sophisticated high-resolution cameras, heat sensors and radar. All of it comes without a warrant.

'There is no question that this could become something that people will regret,' former Rep Jane Harman, a Democrat, told the Los Angles Times.
Loss of Free Speech

A bill in Congress with an innocuous title - Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) - threatens to do much more.
An extremely technical, low-profile bill that isn't being covered by cable news, but has nearly 1,000 registered lobbyists officially working on it: the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA -- a bill with the power to fundamentally reshape the laws governing the Internet.

SOPA would imbue the federal government with broad powers to shut down whole web domains on the basis that it believes them to be associated with piracy -- without a trial or even a traditional hearing. It would provide Hollywood with powerful new legal tools to stifle transactions with websites whose existence worries the movie industry.

The bill's supporters, which also include major record labels, trial lawyers and pharmaceutical giants, call SOPA a robust effort to curb piracy of American goods online.

Opponents, however, have castigated it as an unparalleled attack on free speech online. Civil liberties advocates say SOPA would give the U.S. government the same censorship tools used in China. Those in the technology sector warn that the bill creates enormous new barriers to entry for web startups, threatening innovation and job creation. Farther afield, librarians say that under the letter of the proposed anti-piracy law, they could be jailed for simply doing their jobs.

Leahy's bill would also empower corporations to demand that payment processors, advertisers and search engines stop doing business with sites the companies believe to be dedicated to infringement. A Hollywood studio could claim a website is "dedicated to infringement," and tell Google to stop registering the website in its search results. If Google protested, the company could haul Google into court.

This new set of corporate liabilities -- known as a "private right of action" -- prompted resistance from Wall Street. Both JPMorgan Chase, which operates a major global payment processing business, and the Financial Services Roundtable, a lobbying group representing the nation's biggest banks, began pressing Congress to reject the bill, arguing that it was unfair to hold banks accountable for the sins of others. Banks and payment processors didn't want to have Hollywood telling them who to do business with.

The government's ability to shut down sites would involve federal tampering with the domestic Domain Name System -- a basic Internet building block that links numerical addresses where Internet data is stored to alphabetical URL addresses that people actually type into web browsers. The Chinese government censors the Internet for its citizens by engaging in DNS blocking, restricting access to certain domains.

Tech experts warn that giving the U.S. government such powers could hinder the functionality of many web applications, severing the connection between domain URLs and numerical data addresses that many programs rely on. It would also hamper efforts to introduce a new security system known as DNSSEC, which national security programmers have been developing for years.

"The Act would allow the government to break the Internet addressing system," wrote 108 law professors in a July letter to Congress. "The Internet's Domain Name System ("DNS") is a foundational building block upon which the Internet has been built and on which its continued functioning critically depends. The Act will have potentially catastrophic consequences for the stability and security of the DNS."

Leahy's bill has whipped Internet advocacy groups into a frenzy. Dozens of nonprofits, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and The Center for Democracy and Technology, issued strong statements condemning the bill. Fifty venture capitalists sent a letter to the Hill warning lawmakers that Leahy's bill could cripple tech startups with absurd legal fees prompted by Hollywood. ...

Americans pay higher prescription drug prices than the citizens of any other nation, a product of strict intellectual property rules for prescription drugs. So many among the elderly and the uninsured import the same drugs at lower prices from Canada to avoid the sticker shock, a strategy advocated by both Consumer Reports
and AARP.

Though buying prescription drugs from Canada is technically illegal, the Food and Drug Administration has informally tolerated the purchases for years, provided the medicine is approved by prescription and is only for personal use.

SOPA includes a host of provisions designed to crack down on counterfeit medicine that are written broadly enough to encumber the importation of safe medicine from legitimate Canadian pharmacies. Provisions that bar the importation of "mislabeled" drugs would block a great deal of unsafe pills from making their way to the U.S., but they would also block all Canadian prescription drugs, because Canada's drug warnings don't exactly match FDA warnings.

"Our primary concerns are with the fact that non-infringing content is going to be taken down in the process of taking down infringing content," says Michael MacLeod-Ball, First Amendment counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "The way the bill is set up, if a site has infringing content on it ... their default reaction is going to be to take down the whole site."

While a judge has to review the Attorney General's request to take down a site, nobody from the site being targeted must be given a chance to defend themselves before the judge grants the AG's request. The AG doesn't ask a judge for a search warrant under SOPA, it requests to take down an entire website without a trial -- or even a hearing.

Under current law, any U.S. website posting infringing content has to take the song or movie down at the request of whatever company owns the copyright. But under SOPA, companies could go directly to web hosting companies and require them to take down the entire website -- not just individual songs and videos.

As a result, SOPA creates a new opening for corporate command of the Internet. Under SOPA, web hosting companies that take down legitimate websites at the behest of copyright holders would be granted blanket immunity from any liability for losses caused to those legitimate sites.

"Congress is on the verge of wrecking the greatest engine of innovation and greatest platform for democracy ever known to human kind," says David Segal, Executive Director of Demand Progress. "And for what? For the sake of propping up an ossified industry that refuses to change with the times, but happens to make a lot of campaign contributions."

My site, ZeroHedge, Calculated Risk can all be shut down if a newspaper or other cite thinks we went beyond fair use in quoting an article. Drug imports from Canada (something that ought to be legal), will be shut down as well.

This bill's real intent is not to stop piracy, but rather to hand over control of the internet to corporations.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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