The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

The word is out – well, it must be.  I’ve heard it – and like the proverbial mother (using that term in its genealogical sense) – I’m always the last to know.

Apparently Apple, Inc. has been working on yet another “upgrade” to its line of iPhones.  This time they are trying to improve the security of the devices, by installing within each a unit a fingerprint reader which can identify the person who is using the phone as the actual owner.  Now that sounds pretty good – at least on the surface.

And actually, the surface is proving to be a bit of an impediment.  Apparently the delay in releasing this new device has revolved around the fact that the glass or the protective film laid over it have a tendency to smudge – thus making the scanner’s job more difficult and the results less accurate.

That, of course, might prove to be a blessing in disguise for the owner – who might be prevented by his own phone from making a call because he just ate a whole slab of ribs and didn’t get all the barbeque sauce off his fingers, potentially getting some foreign substance on this device which might damage it.

And a further unexpected positive consequence might be that we would have to start paying better attention to personal hygiene, using our lavatories more often after eating and performing other bodily functions to wash up.  That would indeed be a blessing to all.

But, of course, the greatest unintended benefit might be that if the device failed to secure a positive match with the owner’s print, he or she might well be prevented from making a call that the  NSA was monitoring.  (This would be particularly good if he had figured out how to disable the GPS chip inside the phone).

You know, with the revelation that the NSA (Not So American) is monitoring not only potential terrorists here and abroad (something I think most of us would favor) but almost everyone else as well, it makes you wonder if any reasonably intelligent person would even want to own a “smart phone.”  Think about it for a moment.

Okay, the NSA can monitor calls whether our phone calls are made from either a smart or traditional phone (I guess that traditional = dumb).  So there may be no getting around that, other than filing a law suit to require them to stop on Constitutional grounds.

But consider all these apps and GPS data and all the other gizmos that these phones include which enable the NSA (or a clever hoodlum phone hacker) to acquire so much personal information which we unwittingly give out in the process of the simple task of trying to communicate with business associates, family  and friends.

Now add to that the fact that we will be publishing an outgrowth of our personal DNA in the guise of a thumbprint for all who wish to hack in and take a peek.

I guess it will save the government money in the long run (and in theory us taxpayers) when it decides that for our safety we all need to be fingerprinted.  But this strikes me as an incredible intrusion (or is the word collusion) between private industry (Apple, Inc.) and our government over lords all being done in the name of security.

I was thinking about the value my smart phone has for me.  I realize that I am not one of the “with it” generation for whom a smart phone is as necessary a part of life as thinking for ourselves is for others of us.  What are the benefits that I really get from this phone?

Well, I don’t pay bills using it – that just seemed too risky long before the NSA scandal broke and certainly nothing has changed for me.

I do occasionally access the weather – but I can do that by looking out the window.  Besides, from July through August I know that Las Vegas weather will be “hot”.  If it’s 102 or 109 doesn’t really make much of a difference.

I don’t use the GPS feature on either my phone or the car (it doesn’t have one) because I generally know where I am and if I get lost (which rarely happens) I can call someone at my destination and ask for directions.

I seldom use texts – although I did send one the other day that read, “Yo bro – say dude awesome.”  Surprisingly the recipient found this to be a complete and meaningful message.

I do have one of those old-fashioned dumb flip phones which has been acting up lately and which I have thought about exchanging for a newer and more reliable model.  (How strange that these phones only last a couple of years – and the ones that Bell invented were good for a lifetime).

Now as I was thinking about which new smart phone I would trade this two year old relic in for, I began questioning myself.  Do I want another smart phone – or will dumb do for me?

So I thought, let’s see – the dumb phone let’s me list phone numbers for friends, family and businesses –  just like the smart phone.  If the name is in memory, when the caller buzzes me it shows who’s calling – just like the smart phone.  If I want to ignore the call it will send it to voice mail – just like the smart phone.  Golly, this dumb phone does just about everything that a smart phone does in the way of handling conversations – which is, to my old-fashioned way of thinking – the precise reason that phones exist.

And then I had a scary vision.  I had just won an all expense paid trip for one to the heart of Alaska – a Christmas getaway (or as they put it “an Xmas trip not to be forgotten”).  While the donor preferred to remain anonymous, I couldn’t help notice that there was government franking on the announcement envelope.  Well, who could turn this down?  It would be ungrateful to do so as I live in the land of the Freebie and the home of the Bewildered.

So I’m flown to my destination and on parachuting from the plane am told by the robo-pilot that there is a settlement of Inuits only about 10 klicks or so from my campground.  Of course, it’s bitterly cold but I have my smart phone to keep me company.  But in order to play a game (I hear that’s one of their features) I have to turn it on.

I pull off the heavy fur-lined glove on my right hand – immediately feeling the blast of Arctic winter weather as my extremity starts to succumb to frost bite and try to turn on my phone, applying my right thumb to it.  Lo and behold it actually powers up – even in the inclement weather.

But I am unable to loosen my thumb from the face of the phone.  And with my thumb thoroughly attached I cannot access any of the phone’s features – including getting help from the nearby natives.  So I wander aimlessly, trying to find assistance but there is none to be had.  And so I freeze to death and my remains are consumed by a Kodiak bear and her family after the spring thaw.

I have to stop reading Jack London late at night.

Well, as you may have guessed, I’m going to replace my old “dumb phone” with one that is equally stupid but that works a bit more dependably – at least it should for about the next two years.  And I’m going to try my hand at writing some poetry.  I think my first work will be entitled “An Ode To J. Edgar Hoover”.

If only he were alive today – he would be having a blast.

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