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Patriotism -- Good For Your Health

Freedom, Patriotism, and Holidays

Miscellaneous ramblings going through my head this morning, as I was driving up I-25 on my way back from Castle Rock. I had just had a conversation with Steve about gun rights and privacy. So, I was thinking about why it was that right now, I'm feeling like privacy is a more important issue.

I'm still a little uncertain about whether one is more important than the other. One thing I am certain about though, is that privacy rights need more attention. It came to me, while driving, that gun control is a pretty overt issue. There are many groups, on either side of it, who are vocal and highly visible. It's also very much a political issue. The erosion of our privacy, however, has been much more insidious. By that I mean that it really has just crept up on us. And, I suspect that far fewer people pay attention to the issue of privacy. Privacy winds up being both a governmental and a commercial issue as well.

It started out just being a record-keeping thing. Your doctor keeps records, because medical history is an important part of health care. Banks keep records, because we expect them to be able to provide a proper accounting for our money, and earnings on it. Credit card companies have to keep records, in order to properly account for and bill charges. All simple enough. Until you thow in the capabilities to store massive quantities of these records, in a manner which allows them to be cross-referenced, sold, and mined for information and trends.

I worked for a short while on a project for a large database being maintained by a bank in Canada. It contained a four-year history of credit card transactions. This particular database was used to gauge the effectiveness of various advertising methods, referenced by various demographic factors. It could just as easily have been used to see just where a particular person was spending money. Is that important? I suppose each person has to answer that question for themselves.

In the area of medical records, there's a lot I don't know, but HIPAA is a program I need to find out more about. Part of their mission is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the nation's health care system by encouraging the widespread use of electronic data interchange in health care. The website mentions addressing privacy issues.

But what happens when appropriate safeguards and security aren't in place? Already, your insurance information and your financial information are accessible using the same key, your Social Security number. I could go on about that, but I'll just note for now that your SSN is hardly a secret number, and many organizations will permit phone transctions using only that, and a couple very easily acquired pieces of information, as proof of identity. Do a web search for identity theft and find the stories about how the numbers are rising.

So, what does all this have to do with freedom and patriotism? Maybe it's a tenuous link, but my brain made this association that a free people shouldn't be living in a surveillance society. And surveillance is exactly the sort of thing which is on the rise. Think about all the places where you're on camera. Then think about financial surveillance.

So, the whole freedom track got me to wondering how many people really appreciate it. And that got me onto my national holiday rant, by way of Independence Day.

So, now that I'm finally here, the thing I was thinking about was a report I'd heard of where Pres. Bush declared September 11th to be "Patriots Day", or "Heroes Day". I guess it must have been Patriots Day, because I found this.

Well, we already have a Patriots Day. And as that web page mentions, almost nobody celebrates it anymore. I admit, I hadn't even heard of it. Is it even an officially recognized holiday? I don't know.

But, anyway, getting around to my point, I don't think we need yet another national holiday. Already, Independence Day has become little more than just another day off and barbecue holiday. I think that it's indicative of just how little regard people have for our state of independence, that most people don't even call this day by its official name. Nope, to them it's Theforthajuly. Newspeople, politicians, celebrities, advertisers; they all call it that. In print, newspapers write it "the Fourth of July". Well, that isn't even grammatically correct, because ordinal numbers aren't capitalized. Proper names are, but the name of the holiday is not the "Fourth of July". It's Independence Day. Imagine the protestations which would occur should people start referring to Christmas as "The25thofdecember", or Memorial Day as "The30thofmay", or even (more realistically) "Bigsalediscountday".

Not to in any way disparage or diminish the significance of September 11th, but if you think you are, or want to be, a patriot, then just do something patriotic. Patriotism shouldn't be a couple of new verses for the Star Spangled Banner, and a U.S. flag baseball hat or halter top to go with your hot dogs and beer.

To try to tie all this together, then, patriotism is also looking at issues like your rights, which include the right to keep and bear arms, and the right to be secure in your persons, houses, papers, and effects. Yes I know, the Bill of Rights is specifically about restrictions against the U.S Government with respect to the citizenry. But should we allow corporations to just blithely collect and distribute whatever information about us they can get their hands on? No. And ask yourself just how much more government you're willing to live with as well.

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