Monday, September 27, 2010


I am not the most technologically savvy person, even in my own family. I have never

tweeted, don't have a face for Facebook, and MySpace is quite limited at the moment.

However, I love cookies. My wife makes the most delectable chocolate chip cookies and

snickerdoodles from scratch. I am fond of vanilla wafers and Oreos and I love oatmeal-

raisin cookies. Now, I discover "cookies" can violate my privacy and allow companies to track

my activities online. Couldn't we change the name of these cyber-creations to Brussels sprouts

or liver?

Privacy is an endangered species. In the past, I have written about how your cell phone

can be used to track you; your OnStar car system can follow you; rental car companies have

put devices in the car to track your speed and other driving habits as well as location; and the

Fast Pass you use to cross the Bay Area bridges tracks you and the records can be subpoenaed.

On Facebook, you can click on "places" to let every burglar in the city know you aren't home

and now it turns out companies are using "cookies" to track you and even if you delete the

"cookie", a new version saves a small file on your computer to re-create the "cookie" and thus

your activities can be continuously tracked.

"Cookies" are supposed to be a convenience. They allow a site to remember you so you

don't have to log in information each time you visit. Courts have ruled websites can place

"cookies" on your computer. It turns out, they can also be used to track you across websites

producing a dossier of your preferences, where you window shop, what you purchase, and what

subjects interest you. This information is then sold to advertisers who can target you with ads

and special offers. It is also available to lots of other interested parties including the

government. The Wall Street Journal estimates "cookies" are the basis for a $23 billion online

advertising industry.

If this is not intrusive enough, mobile tracking is picking up steam aimed at people who

use smartphones. One company assigns a unique I.D. number similar to a "cookie" and if the

user deletes the number, it re-creates itself moments later. All your activity on the phone can

then be tracked and the information sold or used for other purposes.

We don't have a lot of privacy left. Between the Patriot Act, telecom spying, "cookies",

ID numbers, GPS systems, and the promise of cameras everywhere you go in your city or town,

there are few places left to be free from prying eyes. There are still a few hideouts; and

corporate America seems to want to eliminate these as well. The Fourth Amendment is almost

useless and so many people today don't seem to care. They argue if you haven't done anything

wrong, why should you care if you are being tracked or watched? The problem with this line of

reasoning is that the government determines the rules and what is acceptable now may not be

acceptable tomorrow. Even worse is a government which in the past has spied on and acted

against Americans engaging in legal conduct in order to intimidate and find ways to stop them

and move against them.

The Federal Trade Commission is supposed to issue new privacy guidelines soon. There

is also talk of creating a Do-Not-Track registry similar to the Do-Not-Call registry system used

against telemarketers. You need to be aware of these developments. You need to protect your

privacy. We need to oppose those who speak of national ID cards as a solution to the illegal

immigration problem (the Social Security card is already too much of a de facto national ID


Imagine all of this information, technology, and tracking systems in the hands of a

tyrannical government. Imagine a president who would use all of this to track political enemies

and crush dissent. Imagine a corporation which could use all of this to intimidate and trap

environmental or other activist groups opposed to their policies or actions. Is there anyone,

anyone reading this who believes this information would not be used against us?

Many times I have been advised to avoid cookies for health reasons. It turns out these

new "cookies" could be even more dangerous to our health and welfare. It's 10 o'clock, do you

know where your smartphone is? Does it know where you are? What do you think?

I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to


  1. 2 World Trade Center

    The September 11th Attack

    WTC 2, or the South Tower, was the second of the Twin Towers to be completed, the second to be hit by a plane on September 11th, and the first to be destroyed.

    See photographs.
    Jet Impact

    At 9:03 AM, a jet, apparently Flight 175, slammed into the southwest face of the tower, creating an impact hole that extended from the 78th to 84th floors. Upon impact, large fireballs emerged from the southwest, southeast, and northeast faces, and east corner. The impact rocked the tower, causing it to sway several feet. The jet hit the right side of the face at an oblique angle, and much of the fuselage emerged from the east corner. It appears that a large portion of the estimated 10,000 gallons of fuel Flight 175 was carrying at the time of impact exited the southeast and northeast faces of the building in the spectacular fireballs. Seventeen minutes after the North Tower impact, a number of photographers were able to capture the South Tower fireballs on film.


    See photographs.
    Immediately after the impact, flames were visible around the region of the impact. Unlike the North Tower, in which some fires were visible well above the impact zone, the fires in the South Tower never spread beyond the impact zone. In fact there is no evidence that the fires on the floors at the impact zone even spread to the opposite side of the building. By the time the building collapsed, the fires appeared to be suffocating, as no flames were visible, and only black smoke was emerging. At that time the vast majority of smoke was coming from the North Tower. New York firefighters reached the crash zone before the building broke up, and described "two pockets of fire". 1

    Evacuation and Rescue

    Evacuation of the South Tower started after the 8:46 jet collision with the North Tower. Since the elevators were still working fully between 8:46 and 9:03, evacuation proceeded more efficiently than in the North Tower. However there was confusion, such as that caused by the announcements over the PA system saying that the building was secure and people could return to their offices. Heeding that advice might have cost the lives of hundreds of people. 2

    When the jet hit the South Tower, it cut off several routes of evacuating the 30 floors above the impact zone. It did leave at least one of the stairwells passable, and the New York Times found at least 18 people who escaped through that stairwell. Most people above the crash zone were not aware of the escape route, and at least 200 climbed toward the roof in hopes of being rescued there, only to find the doors to the roof locked. No one had told them that roof top rescue, which had been used in the 1993 bombing, was no longer an option. 3


    See photographs.
    The South Tower began its precipitous collapse at 9:59 AM. At first the portion of the tower above the crash zone began to tilt to the southeast, while the first explosions of dust began at the crash zone. Then, at about 2.5 seconds the top began to fall, and its rotation decelerated. At about the 6.5-second mark, the top was completely swallowed up by the huge growing dust cloud.

    In apparently spontaneous commentary, Peter Jennings indicated that the event looked like a controlled demolition by pointing out that access to the "underlying infrastructure" is required to bring down such a building.

    The sequences of destruction in WTC 1 and 2 looked very similar once the tops disappeared. The nature of those events is described in more detail in the features section of the collapse analysis, based on the surviving evidence.

  2. Good stuff Bernie. Why are people so enamored of cell phones? Are they really necessary? One can easily communicate by email. As for the cookies, restrictive browser settings and regular deletions of cookies are helpful. It's nice to hear you are nearer the coast. Perhaps you will encounter Marc Emery, a Canadian political prisoner who was renditioned to the American gulag by our useless Prime Minister. Apparently Marc is being transferred to some place in California.