Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Gas Tax Insanity

It seems that the Utah Taxpayers association has gone insane. They've proposed a gas tax hike to help improve roads and public transportation in Utah. I'm all for better public transportation. Lord knows we need it. What I'm not in favor of is paying insanely high gas prices.

The proposed increase is 25 cents per gallon. If we add that to what I'm already paying for a gallon of gas in Tooele, I'd end up paying $3.40 a gallon for regular gasoline, and my car really should be given mid-grade or better.

It would also give Utah the highest gas prices in the nation. Sure, we'd be able to raise quite a bit of money, but it would also hurt tourism - something that also brings a large some of money into our state coffers. People aren't going to want to drive through Zion's Canyon or Bryce Canyon to see the sights if it's going to cost them an arm and a leg.

It will also hurt people who live in outlying areas (like myself) who commute into the larger cities for work. Sure, we chose to live where we do, but many of us (like myself) live where we do because it's where we could afford to live. Housing prices in Utah, let alone Salt Lake City, aren't exactly cheap.

In some cases, it may actually force people to quit there jobs. This will ultimately drain our total state tax dollars, not increase them, and it will do so on the backs of those who can least afford it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

What State Do I Live In, Again?

The world turned upside down for me today. I'm not sure what state I'm living in anymore.

How weird is this:

Al Sharpton visits Utah to have a friendly visit with some of the top leaders of the LDS Church, and broadcasts his radio show from KSL, a Bonneville Media station. (Boneville Media is own and operated by the LDS Church).

Two state governers, Arnold Schwarzenegger (CA) and Jon Huntsman (Ut) pledge to fight global warming. They're both Republicans. When did the Republicans start getting serious about the environment?

Maybe I'm dreaming, but it seems like it was a good day for Utah.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Death of Privacy

I used to laugh at the old guys wearing signs that said "the end of the world is near" but thanks to the FDA, Applied Digital Systems, and the VeriChip, I just quit laughing.

According to this 2002 Wired magazine article (by way of CAM Law):

The Food and Drug Administration has ruled that an implantable microchip used for ID purposes is not a regulated device, paving the way for the chip's immediate sale in the United States....
They inquired about the use of the product for non-medical, identification purposes," said FDA spokeswoman Sharon Snider. "If it's a non-medical use, the FDA doesn't regulate it."

This is the worst idea I've seen in decades come to life. The ramifications scare me to death. I can't believe it took me 5 years to find out about it.

In the United States, the VeriChip has been marketed as a medical aid which would allow hospital workers to access patients' health records with a simple wave of the wand, or reader. While the FDA has not approved storing medical information on the chip, the device's ID could be cross-referenced with a computer database holding the patient's records.

And because it uses RFID technology, anyone with the wherewithal to cobble together a reader can get it at a distance. Forget the potential security issues we're going to be facing with the new passports. If its use becomes ubiquitous, we can ditch the passport altogether. Want to know who's coming into, or leaving the nation? Just walk them through an RFID reader.

Think I'm being paranoid? Read this from the company's website. It goes right along with this idea. It's all about tracking people. Where they are, where they've been, where they're going.

The supporters say it's all about saving lives. Okay. I admit I can see those benefits, but can you see the problems? What if you're in the vicinity of a criminal act? The police will know you were there. You've just become a suspect of the investigation whether you witnessed it or not. The police will start digging through the GPS records to see where else you went. They don't even have to notify you. They just need to get a judge to sign off on it.

Wow. Look at this. You drive by a lot of elementary schools. Three times a day you hang out at the same elementary school for a couple of hours a day. Does this make you a pedophile? Now the police have further evidence that you might be a criminal. Maybe they need to investigate you further.

None of this will show, however, that the reason you go and hang out a school three times a day is because you're crossing guard at the school. Eventually they may find that out, but until then, they've got an open ticket to look into every aspect of your life, good or bad, and your privacy just died. You've not been formally charged with anything, yet. You're just part of an "ongoing investigation." What's that flying out the window? Hmmm. It looks like the Constitution.

Want to get into further abuses? Police have already been prosecuted for the misuse of public cameras. They were aiming them in peoples windows to watch young women exercise and undress.

What happens when the police become the stalkers? "She's really cute, and her VeriChip shows that she just entered her bedroom." You're a smart person. You can figure out the rest.

Even worse, what happens when the bad guys can get that information?
Maybe I am being paranoid, but are you beginning to see why privacy isn't just a problem for criminals?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sadness and Hope

My father has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. As bad as that is, it didn't come as a surprise. He's been losing his memory, and ability to stay focused, for a while. Some days he's more lucid that others. The bottom line is he's going down hill.

Watching my father's health fail reminds me of just how fragile our lives really are. Every week I continue to steel myself for the time when I will finally get the call that he has passed away.

My father has always led an active life. He enjoys the outdoors: hunting, fishing, camping, and so on. He's a retired carpenter, building hundreds of homes for families to live in, for most of his adult life. As he got older, he couldn't keep up with the younger carpenters, and eventually had to retire. I don't think he liked the idea.

Because of his age, he's not able to do many of these things like he used to. He still goes fishing once in a while, but then only when one of his friends takes him with. Mostly he sleeps, reads, or watches old westerns on TV.

It’s sad to me that he can't participate in life more fully, and his ultimate demise cannot be denied. I understand, however, that his death will not be the end. I believe in an afterlife. When my father dies, he won't be burdened any longer by pain, a failing body, and a failing mind. He'll be able to go to the spirit world and participate fully in the activities there. I think they’ll put him to work.

I also believe that, some time after Christ returns to the earth, all who have died will be resurrected, the spirit joined once again to a physical body. This new body will be perfect. It won't be subject to the thousands of problems that time is now ravaging on my father. He'll be whole, once again.

I'm not looking forward to day my father dies. It's going to be hardest on my mother, who isn't getting any younger, either. But I take comfort in knowing that, while his family will miss him terribly for a time, we'll be together again at a future time, whole, healthy, and complete.

How do I know this truth? My Dad taught it to me. Thanks, Dad.