Category Archives: Photo & Video

Surveillance State: What if the Government was a guy with a camera?

The people in this video are justifiably upset because a stranger with a camera is invading their personal space. It is our natural instinct to protect your own little “bubble” – sometime with violence (even if you aren’t doing anything wrong).

I find it strange, however, that we so readily allow the Government full access to our entire lives (email, video, phone records, bank statements, and video) without so much as a whimper. I wonder if we would react similarly (and violently) if all Government surveillance records suddenly became transparent?

Who cares about surveillance?

There are three basic reasons, that I can think of, why we should care about the Government’s mass surveillance program.

  1.  A surveillance infrastructure is already in place for future, potentially corrupted, political administrations.
  2. A mass surveillance program is a diplomatic nightmare. Leads to a loss of trust and bad-will.
  3. A mass surveillance program is against the people’s natural desire for privacy. This creates a natural and negative barrier between the people and government.
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Is there a silver lining to government regulation and bureaucracy?

Today I was doing some housework mulling over the US market system and our economy as a whole. Yeah, yeah… I know, sounds boring. I was thinking about conversations my co-blogger Atty and I have had in the past about our general belief that if the market doesn’t call for it, it probably shouldn’t exist.

But then I got to thinking, how many of us have jobs that exist solely because of government regulation, bureaucracy and red tape? If it weren’t for legislation like Sarbanes Oxley and Dodd-Frank, the entire industry Atty works in would largely not exist, and it might seriously hurt my industry (IT consulting) as well. If organizations weren’t required to meet certain standards in accounting, you might argue they’d be able to spend much less money on their IT systems that support their Accounting and Finance regulatory needs.

Then I started connecting the dots between even more industries and government dealings. In the Atlanta area, Lockheed Martin is a major employer. In fact, most of the upper-middle class families in the area probably have at least one engineer, lawyer, or some other white collar professional who is employed by Lockheed.

And what about all the lawyers, accountants, HR professionals, inspectors, environmental engineers and scientists, biologists, etc. that are employed in positions that exist solely to help companies stay compliant with various government regulations? Once upon a time I worked for an environmental consulting organization who saw easily 3/4ths of its revenue come from environmental remediation projects, brought to action be the various Environmental Protection Agencies.

The reality is manufacturing, factories and farming have all become increasingly efficient to the point that they work more and more independently of human intervention all the time. This requires fewer and fewer people to be employed, resulting in just a few specialists and support staff the keep the gears of the machine turning! This has resulted in an evolution in our economy as it has morphed from one where we produce things to one where we toil about as thought workers and service providers.

If we were suddenly free of our endless, mummy-like bandages of government red tape, would it seriously deflate our middle class as so many of these higher paying service jobs disappeared? Would the economy come up with new forms of demands and jobs on its own, given companies had so much more money to retain in the absence of government regulation? Or would all that extra cash simply stay in the corporate coffers?

Food for thought.

-Holden

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How to get from the Airport in Guatemala City to Antigua

If you are headed to Antigua, Guatemala you have to fly into Guatemala City. Guatemala City isn’t exactly a tourist oasis and most people find it a little dirty and mildly dangerous. My personal advice, if you aren’t familiar with Central America, is to avoid the city and head directly to Antigua upon arrive in Guatemala. Since there is no airport in Antigua you will have to catch a ride to Antigua. Not to worry though Antigua is less than an hour drive from Guatemala City.

Getting to Antigua

The best way to get to Antigua from Guatemala City is by pre-arranging transportation before you arrive. There are a variety of reputable tour companies that can set you up with transportation and will be waiting for you when you arrive in Guatemala City. At only $10 per person most people find this option the easiest, safest, and most hassle free. This is the option I use when I visit Antigua and see little reason (unless you are up for adventure) to use any other method.

I usually pre-arrange my ride to Antigua via the folks at Around Antigua. You have to communicate via email, but they are always very helpful in setting something up for me (including tours, transportation, advice about locations, etc.).

Chicken Buses

The cheapest and probably most dangerous (and perhaps most fun) way to get from Guatemala City to Antigua is via the Chicken Buses. The Chicken Buses are typical American style school buses that have been painted and decorated in true Central American style. The bus drivers are reckless, robberies have been known to occur, and you will be stuffed in with the locals – but if you want true Guatemalan culture – a chicken bus is it.

I do not recommend taking a chicken bus if you are afraid of getting lost in Guatemala or if you will be carrying a lot of luggage or valuables. Tourists with a lot of luggage and who aren’t fluent in Spanish are prime targets for jerks looking for someone to take advantage of. The chicken buses can be fun and they are pretty reliable, but use them at your own discretion.

Outside the Airport – What I wish I had Known

One thing you have to realize when you arrive in Guatemala City is that you are in the third world. People think you are rich and by their standards you probably are. They want to perform services for your for cash. Some people want to take advantage of you too, but most people just want to perform a service.

When you exit the airport – even if you are just waiting for your ride – you will encounter a variety of people. When my wife and I exited the airport there were kids begging to shine my shoes, there were men who looked like they worked for the airport (but didn’t) offering me their cell phone to call my ride (for a tip), and there were about 100 other folks standing around doing this and that.

I had been in Central America before so it didn’t bother me, but it was a first for my wife. I had warned her about what she might expect, but it still made her a little nervous so just be aware of what you might see. My advice is to just stick to yourself, politely decline offers, and catch your ride. I actually enjoy the experience as a reminder that I’m not in the States anymore.

Guatemala is AWESOME

If Guatemala City seems a little rough don’t worry because overall Guatemala is an amazing place. It is the only place my wife and I have ever traveled to where she literally begged me to move to. Honestly we both fell in love with Antigua. You will too. Some people have visited and literally never returned – it’s just that kind of place.

Resources:

Tours and Information

Liberty

Police State or State of Insanity?

Below is a video of a man in Texas who was arrested and disarmed by officers after someone called the police. Watch the video and let’s discuss.

Two Sides

In my attempt to remain level headed I want to examine both sides of the story here.

The Officer 

On one side we have the police officers. They received a call about a man carrying a rifle while walking down a Texas road. Their heart begins to pound because anytime you have to respond to a man with a gun your life could be in danger. Guns do have the potential to kill and when entering in a situation as such one must be prepared.

The police see the man and an intimidating weapon and a slight panic sets in. They ask the man to turn over his weapon and he gives them an attitude. This automatically makes the situation worse. The cops stop following protocol and act in self interest. Their first concern is disarming a man who seems aggressive – this isn’t by the book, but things are moving so fast that it’s easy to see why mistakes are made.

Gun violence has been all the talk on the news and in precincts everywhere. Tensions are high and protecting life is top priority.

The Armed Citizen

The man is a veteran and purposely chose rural Texas as a place to call home. He chose rural Texas because he believed that values he holds dear are upheld here. He has been desensitized by weapons after carrying one for several years in Afghanistan. He is a proud man and fought to defend the rights of all Americans and he wants to exerciser his to the utmost – that includes legally carrying a gun.

When the officer stops him he feels violated. This is America. This is Texas. He is just a man protecting himself and his son. The officer, who is a little panicked, tries to grab the citizen’s weapon away. This is it – unacceptable – this is exactly the kind of fascism and lawlessness the former soldier fought for to protect. It is inexcusable that any man try to take those rights away – the ones he was literally willing to die for.

The citizen is infuriated. This stamps on everything he believes in – and his son is there to watch.

Clarity

When you see it from both sides it kind of becomes obvious why there was so much conflict. Both sides had a good point, but both failed to realize the other had their own perspective. I would even go as far as to say that perhaps neither were wrong completely, but both failed to see the other person’s point of view. Both were hyper aware of the gun and less aware of the situation. The cop was trying to protect his own life (as far as he knew) and the citizen was trying to protect his rights and beliefs (which he was obviously very passionate about).

How the Media has distorted Judgement

When I first watched this video I felt a lot of emotion. Then as I contemplated it – I realized a lot of those emotions were not my own. They were implanted by the media. They were thoughts and ideas that someone else told me to think. Carefully formulated rhetoric designed by the anti-gun and pro-gun lobbies to persuade judgement. It seems like this has affected almost everyone’s ability to judge the situation without bias.

We know the ideas: Guns are bad. People with guns kill people. Universal background checks. Common-sense laws. The Government is bad. The Government wants to take guns away so they can control us. Blah blah blah.

Maybe what we need to do is sit down and rethink this whole issue. Forget the guns and think PEOPLE. We need to educate people. We need to change the culture. People are both the problem and solution.

Side Note: The New Vietnam?

I also see a frightening pattern regarding returning veterans. Will this be a new pattern? Returning vets realizing they fought in Iraq based on a lie the Government sold based on Nuclear weapons that didn’t exist. A war that was never declared and never ended? Will proud vets return home to a population that quickly dismissed their cause and doesn’t appreciate their sacrifice? In the end I can see nothing good from the kind of endless war we’re in. History forgotten is quickly repeated.

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Ireland: The Pub

I spent the last week exploring Ireland. It wasn’t a place too different from the United States – much of the culture I found almost indistinguishable from our own.  That’s not to say Ireland wasn’t unique though – not by a long shot.

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The Irish – more-so than any culture I’ve experienced – are a hard bunch to dissect. They have a soul of iron that is almost impossible to pierce. The hundreds of years of British occupation, the civil wars, the bad economy – but nothing about any of this is revealed too easily. The Irish are layered. They don’t live with the hearts on their sleeves – and to a tourist you almost miss entirely who the people. It’s complex and maybe that is the real distinction between Ireland and America – a thousand years of history have made things a little more complicated.

But if you want to understand any of this you have to understand the heartbeat of Irish culture – the pub. The pub isn’t a place to dance your ass off and fist pump until you puke all over your friend’s shoes – the pub is proper. It’s a meeting place where you discuss the goings on of the world: politics, religion, life, and love. If you can see the pub as more than just a place to grab a beer you can start to uncover what it means to be Irish.

Here are few bars I crossed paths with:

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Guatemala

That moment when you realize you might actually DIE in Guatemala

I remember touching down in Guatemala. My wife and I hustled through customs and walked out of the airport. That’s when we were bombarded with people – people trying to sell bulk produced bracelets, food I couldn’t eat without shitting myself for a week, and shoe shines for my damned tennis shoes. I mean people were literally begging to give you a ride or just help out a little for a modest tip. I didn’t know who to trust, so I just waited for my ride, and tried to ignore the pestering of the city folk.

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FINALLY my “shuttle” pulled up. By shuttle I mean a 1995 Honda Accord. Sure I thought it was a little sketchy, but the guy knew my name and had a very official “I’m a taxi” sticker on his car so I decided to hop in like a good little tourist. Anything to get me away from the guy with a scraggly beard who smelled like piss.

My wife and I hopped in the car and it wasn’t long before I realized we weren’t getting on the interstate. We were pulling into a neighborhood. A neighborhood in Guatemala City. A neighborhood with razor wire and busted glass bottles lining the top of cement barriers.

The driver, who looked like he had possibly murdered someone at some point, didn’t say anything. He just stopped the car and honked the horn. All the bad things and all of the warnings I had read and been told began to shout at me in my head. This was it – we were going to be robbed. My heart started to pound and I began shoving my I.D. and credit cards in my shoe. I thought I was going to have to leave my wife behind and make a break for it. If I was nervous I could only imagine the terror my wife must have been feeling.

Then it happened. The moment that changed everything. My stomach dropped and a guy opened the passenger door. “Sorry Guys! I’m Late” A lanky and clumsy guy from Azerbaijan hopped in the car. He was running late and was sharing the shuttle to Antigua.

We later found out that he even knew a mutual friend of ours. What a small world. Then on the radio, a sports program, Guatemala scored a goal. The driver screamed “GOOOOAAAAALLLLL!”

For the first time I saw him smile and I knew Guatemala was going to be alright.

Surveillance: How the average Citizen is giving away their power

I’ve often wondered if the type of surveillance the American people are subjected to (and somehow remain ignorant to or just blissfully ignore) will effect politics of the future. Think about it.

Most average people use Twitter, Facebook, and are probably writing on blogs. Their information has been mined, stored, sorted, and archived. They are trapped. We same people will be running for political office and may attempt to become leaders of free society.

What will the impact of the self-documentation and self-incrimination of our entire life result? The embarrassing pictures, the Facebook rants when you were 17, your changing political philosophy, etc. Think about it – even if you carefully monitor your own social network computers can automatically detect your face in photos friends upload.

Will an average citizen be able to run for and win public office or will this type of information surveillance lead to a self-eliminating elitist favored political system.

Elites in Political Office

This is an idea that concerns me. If in the near future the average American has forfeited enough personal information on the internet and via surveillance to incriminate themselves to the point of non-electablility will the “average Joe” eliminate themselves from the election pool?

What this my leave is elitist candidates who have been carefully groomed from birth to act as our political leaders. Chosen by the elites to act in their interest and elected by the people simply because a normal person has too much baggage floating around on the internet. Kind of an interesting thought.