Attack On Human Rights

Gun Rights

So we’re sitting in the coffee shop and this guy near us has some books on the table. 


He’s reading three things:


– The Holy Bible


– Second Amendment Primer


– The Heller Case (the landmark decision by the Supreme Court in 2008 protecting an individual’s right to bear arms for self defense in “federal enclaves”). 


So somebody says jokingly, “You think he’s a Republican?”


It made me think how we get judged by not only our behaviors, but also by our apparent beliefs, politics, and associations. 


Even if we don’t necessary do anything wrong or controversial, people see us, sum us up, and place judgement upon us. 


Moreover, while we may have a legal right to do something, people may still look disparagingly on us for exercising our rights.


Speak you mind freely, practice your religion openly, stand firm on privacy, own a gun in a liberal part of town, and you may find yourself being stared, pointed, or sneered at, whispered about, threatened, harassed, or otherwise disapproved of in small and/or big ways. 


My question is how is something a right if people still can mistreat you for exercising it in appropriate ways?  


I’ve heard people say things like you’re eligible for X, Y, or Z, but your not entitled to it.


They confuse rights as eligibility, rather than entitlement. 


So some people water down our Bill of Rights that way–thinking, saying, and acting in way that you are eligible to do something, BUT only if you ask nicely or do it a certain way that the other person arbitrarily approves of, and not that you are entitled to it as a basic human right!


Yes, of course we all need to behave responsibility and not yell fire in a crowded theater, but that doesn’t mean that human rights are subject to the whim of people’s mood’s, tempers, personal views, and bullying behavior. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Freedom Is Worth It

Respect.jpeg

This was a photo I took of a sign in my daughter’s old high school.


It says, “Respect for Self, Others, and the Environment.”


That is a great principle, which I was reminded of today in sitting for an IT certification exam–how lucky we are to live in a country that affords us respect to be ourselves…to speak, write, and practice as we believe. 


In this case, the certification exam was typically given on Saturday, but as a Sabbath observer, I was able to provide a request for an accommodation, and was able to take the exam this morning, Sunday.


What was absolutely amazing to me though going for the exam at this designated fancy facility, in Washington, D.C.–and with two proctors–was that I was the only one taking the exam today.


This was not just some lip-service tolerance for differences, but rather true respect for diversity, even when it’s not convenient and it is costly. 


I have got to say, how grateful I am to be part of a society where we are free to be who we are–what can be more amazing than that?


I feel this all the more when we are at a time in history when still so many in the world are battling dictatorships, demagogues, terrorist and corrupt regimes that impose harsh restrictions, censorship, monitoring, and severe punishments on those who don’t follow the dictates of the authority holding power. 


When we fight those restrictive regimes–from ISIS to Communism–that are looking not just to hold, but to spread their clutches on power and abuses of freedom–we are really fighting to be who we are and that is a serious fight worth having. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

I Want It To Mean Something

We The People
So I took this photo in Starbucks–one of the Baristas in Washington, D.C showing his tattoo. 



Not that I am a tattoo guy myself (uh, I’m not!), but I thought this was really an interesting one. 



“We The People Of the United States” — our Constitution establishing our nation, freedom, democracy, and human rights here. 



Along with pictures of the Capitol, White House, Washington Monument, and Jefferson Memorial (maybe more around the arm…I don’t know). 



When I asked him what made him choose this?



He immediately said, “I wasn’t originally thinking of a tattoo, but when I did, I wanted it to mean something!”



So this one wasn’t just a vanity thing, but has meaning to him and I bet to many others–very cool! 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Is That Freedom?

Freedom
This was a funny (-sad) picture I took the other day.



“Freedom Septic”!!!



That’s what they name a port-o-potty?

Certainly a very strange and loose interpretation of what freedom means to some people 



(Uh, I prefer the Constitution/Bill of Rights version.)



Then again, check out this company’s website at the bottom of their signs–I won’t go there. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

March Of The Dangerous Penguins

March Of The Dangerous Penguins

This was a funny picture on the streets of Washington D.C.

Someone drew these “armed” and dangerous penguins on the back of a chair.

The chair is translucent, but with the snow coming down and covering it, you can see this crazy drawing.

Perhaps this is a message from the local NRA advocating for gun rights, who knows?

Anyway, these penguins are cute little fellows even carrying scoped rifles and staring down the everyday passerbys. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

2048–And The World Will Be As One

John Lennon sang the song Imagine—envisioning a time when everyone will be at peace “and the world will be as one.”

Perusing the bookstore, I came across a relatively new book that came out last year called 2048 by J. Kirk Boyd, Executive Director of the 2048 Project at the U.C. Berkeley Law School that carries a vision of peace, unity and human rights similar to the song.

By 2048, Boyd envisions a world with an “agreement to live together”—marked by an International Bill of Rights with five key freedoms:

1)   Freedom of Speech—includes freedoms of expression, media, assembly, and associations.

2)   Freedom of Religion—the right to worship in your own way and separation of church and state.

3)   Freedom from Want—everyone has a right to a useful and fairly paying job, a decent home, adequate medical care, and a good education.

4)   Freedom from Fear—freedom from repression, enabled by an independent judiciary and the enforcement of the rule of law.

5)   Freedom of the Environment—driven by preservation and sustainability for future generations.

I would see the freedoms in the U.S. Bill of Rights that are not explicitly mentioned here to be implicitly covered by the broad categories of Freedoms from Want and Fear.

For example, the right to bear arms and such could be covered under the Freedom of Want.  Similarly, the guarantees to a speedy, public trial and not to be put in double jeopardy or unreasonably searched etc. could be covered under Freedom from Fear. 

Boyd’s 2048 implementation of an International Bill of Rights carries forward the Declaration of Human Rights—that consists of 30 articles—by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948on it’s one hundred year anniversary—that has unfortunately not been fully realized yet. 

In a time when so much oppression, repression, and global poverty still exist, I am awed by this vision and call for human rights throughout the world.

I like the clarity and simplicity of Boyd’s five freedoms.  They can be easily understood and remembered.

The freedoms according to Boyd will enable us to focus together, think (and write) together, decide together, and move forward together. 

This is a far different world than the one we live in today that is driven by scarcity, power and politics and that keep people in seemingly perpetual fighting mode.

What will it take to reach a world architecture that brings peace, prosperity, and dignity to all?  A global catastrophe.  A common enemy.  A messianic fulfillment.  Or is it possible, with G-d’s help, to move today—incrementally—through our own planning, reason and devices to live in peace as one humankind?

>Architecture of Freedom

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In the United States, we have been blessed with tremendous freedom, and these freedoms are enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. However, in many countries around the world, people do not share these basic freedoms and human rights.

Now in many countries, the limitation and subjugation of people has extended from the physical to the virtual world of the Internet. People are prevented through filtering software from freely “surfing” the Internet for information, news, research and so forth. And they are prohibited from freely communicating their thoughts and feelings in email, instant messages, blogs, social networks and other communications media, and if are identified and caught, they are punished often through rehabilitation by hard prison labor or maybe just disappear altogether.

In fact, many countries are now insisting that technology companies build in filtering software so that the government can control or block their citizen’s ability to view information or ideas that are unwanted or undesirable.

Now however, new technology is helping defend human rights around the world—this is the architecture for anonymity and circumvention technologies.

MIT Technology Review (May/June 2009) has an article entitled “Dissent Made Safer—how anonymity technology could save free speech on the Internet.”

An open source non-profit project called TOR has developed a peer to peer technology that enables users to encrypt communications and route data through multiple hops on a network of proxies. “This combination of routing and encryption mask a computer’s actual location and circumvent government filters; to prying eyes, the Internet traffic seems to be coming from the proxies.”

This creates a safe environment for user to browse the Internet and communicate anonymously and safely—“without them, people in these [repressive] countries might be unable to speak or read freely online.”

The OpenNet Initiative in 2006 “discovered some form of filtering in 25 of 46 nations tested. A more current study by OpenNet found “more than 36 countries are filtering one or more kinds of speech to varying degrees…it is a practice growing in scope, scale, and sophistication.”

Generally, filtering is done with some combination of “blocking IP addresses, domain names… and even Web pages containing certain keywords.”

Violations of Internet usage can result in prison or death for treason.

Aside from TOR, there are other tools for “beating surveillance and censorship” such as Psiphon, UltraReach, Anonymizer, and Dynaweb Freegate.

While TOR and these other tools can be used to help free people from repression around the world, these tools can also be used, unfortunately, by criminals and terrorists to hide their online activities—and this is a challenge that law enforcement must now understand and contend with.

The architecture of TOR is fascinating and freeing, and as they say, “the genie is out of the bottle” and we cannot hide our heads in the sand. We must be able to help those around the world who need our help in achieving basic human rights and freedoms, and at the same time, we need to work with the providers of these tools to keep those who would do us harm from taking advantage of a good thing. 

>Choice Architecture and Enterprise Architecture

>In a free society like America, we are generally all strong believers in our rights and freedoms—like those often cited from the Bill of Rights– speech, press, religion, assembly, bearing arms, due process and so forth. More broadly, we cherish our right and freedom to choose.

According to an recent article in Harvard Business Review, December 2008, one way that enterprises can better architect their products and services is by “choice architecture.”

Choice Architecture is “design of environments to order to influence decisions.” By “covertly or overly guiding your choices,” enterprises “benefit both company and consumer by simplifying decision making, enhancing customer satisfaction, reducing risk, and driving profitable purchases.”

For example, companies set “defaults” for products and services that are “the basic form customers receive unless they take action to change it.”

“At a basic level, defaults can serve as manufacturer recommendations, and more often than not we’re happy with what we get by accepting them. [For example,] when we race through those software installation screens and click ‘next’ to accept the defaults, we’re acknowledging that the manufacturer knows what’s best for us.”

Of course, defaults can be nefarious as well. They have caused many of us to purchase unwanted extended warranties or to inadvertently subscribe to mailing lists.”

Given the power of defaults to influence decisions and behaviors both positively and negatively, organizations must consider ethics and strategy in equal measure in designing them.”

Here are some interesting defaults and how they affect decision making:

Mass defaults—“apply to all customers…without taking customers; individual preferences into account.” This architecture can result in suboptimal offerings and therefore some unhappy customers.

Some mass defaults have hidden options—“the default is presented as a customer’s only choice, although hard-to-find alternatives exist.” For example, computer industry vendors, such as Microsoft, often use hidden options to keep the base product simple, while at the same time having robust functionality available for power users.

Personalized defaults—“reflect individual differences and can be tailored to better meet customers’ needs.” For example, information about an individual’s demography or geography may be taken into account for product/service offerings.

One type of personalized default is adaptive defaults—which “are dynamic: they update themselves based on current (often real-time) decisions that a customer has made.” This is often used in online retailing, where customers make a series of choices.

There are other defaults types such as benign, forced, random, persistent, and smart: each limiting or granting greater amounts of choice to decision makers.

When we get defaults right (whether we are designing software, business processes, other end-user products, or supplying services), we can help companies and customers to make better, faster, and cheaper decisions, because there is “intelligent” design to guide the decision process. In essence, we are simplifying the decision making process for people, so they can generally get what they want in a logical, sequenced, well-presented way.

Of course, the flip side is that when choice architecture is done poorly, we unnecessarily limit options, drive people to poor decisions, and people are dissatisfied and will seek alternative suppliers and options in the future.

Certainly, we all love to choose what we want, how we want, when we want and so on. But like all of us have probably experienced at one time or another: when you have too many choices, unconstrained, not guided, not intelligently presented, then consumers/decision makers can be left dazed and confused. That is why we can benefit from choice architecture (when done well) to help make decision making simple, smarter, faster, and generally more user-centric.

>James Madison, the First “Federal Chief Enterprise Architect”

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James Madison, Jr. (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) was an American politician and the fourth President of the United States (1809–1817), and one of the most influential Founding Fathers of the United States. Considered to be the “Father of the Constitution“, he was the principal author of the document. In 1788, he wrote over a third of the Federalist Papers, still the most influential commentary on the Constitution. As a leader in the first Congresses, he drafted many basic laws and was responsible for the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and thus is also known as the “Father of the Bill of Rights“. James Madison also drafted the Virginia Plan, which “called for a national government of three branches—legislative, executive, and judicial…The concept of checks and balances was embodied in a provision that legislative acts could be vetoed by a council composed of the Executive and selected members of the judicial branch; their veto could be overridden by an unspecified legislative majority.” (Wikipedia)

As the Father of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Virginia Plan, James Madison was the original Chief Enterprise Architect (CEA) for the federal government. As the Federal CEA, Madison architected the performance, business, and information perspectives of the federal enterprise architecture (the information technology side of the equation—services, technology, and security—would come later with the post-industrial, technological revolution)

Performance—The mission execution and expected results are laid out in The Preamble to the Constitution, that states: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Additionally, the Bill of Rights ensures that the government performs its business functions all the while protecting the rights of its citizens.

Business—The functions, activities, and processes are detailed in the Articles of The Constitution, including the functioning of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government, as well as state and federal powers, and processes for amendments and ratification. Additionally, the checks and balances ensure that functions are well-defined and that limits are placed on each branch of the government to protect democracy and forestall tyrannical rule.

Information—The information requirements of the Federal government are provided for in the various branches of government. For example, the legislative branch, Article One provides for free debate (the archetype for information sharing and accessibility) in Congress. Additionally, the checks and balances between the branches, provides for information flow. For example, Congress enacts the laws, and these go to the Executive Branch to carry them out, and to the Judicial Branch to interpret them. Furthermore, the political value system, Republicanism, ensures that the people remain sovereign and that they not only elect their representatives and politicians, but also can provide information and lobby to affect the enactment of laws and regulations that will ultimately affect them. Citizens are asked to perform their civic duties and to participate in the political process, so there is a free-flow of ideas and information throughout the governing process.

James Madison is indeed the original federal chief enterprise architect and a very good one at that!