Friday, June 20, 2008

Privacy rights and the rule of law took a serious blow today when the House of Representatives passed blanket retroactive immunity for phone companies

Washington, D.C. - Privacy rights and the rule of law took a serious blow today when the House of Representatives passed blanket retroactive immunity for phone companies that participated in the president's warrantless surveillance program. The FISA Amendments Act, H.R. 6304, which House Leadership rushed to the floor today after its introduction yesterday, passed by a vote of 293 to 129. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week.

The bill was touted as a bipartisan "compromise" on the issues of electronic surveillance and immunity. But in fact it requires dismissal of lawsuits against companies like AT&T that participated in the program as long as the companies received a piece of paper from the government indicating that the surveillance had been authorized by the president and was determined to be lawful.

"Immunity for telecom giants that secretly assisted in the NSA's warrantless surveillance undermines the rule of law and the privacy of every American," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "Congress should let the courts do their job instead of helping the administration and the phone companies avoid accountability for a half decade of illegal domestic spying. If this legislation passes the Senate and is signed into law, the American people will have lost their last best chance to discover the true scope of the president's wiretapping program and to determine whether or not the law was broken."

"We are deeply disappointed that the House Leadership, which was so courageous in its previous opposition to telecom immunity, caved to the Administration's fear-mongering and put this seriously flawed legislation on the floor for a vote," said Bankston. "We look to leaders in the Senate who value the rule of law to stand up and strongly oppose this blanket immunity for telecom lawbreakers, and in particular urge Senator Barack Obama to lead his party in rejecting this false compromise."

EFF is representing the plaintiffs in Hepting v. AT&T, a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of the millions of AT&T customers whose private domestic communications and communications records were illegally handed over to the National Security Agency (NSA). EFF has been appointed co-coordinating counsel for all 47 of the outstanding lawsuits concerning the government's warrantless surveillance program.

Additional coverage at MSNBC.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Help my church buy a new sound board

So... I want your money. Not all of it; just some of it. Many of you who read my blog have been blessed by me in various ways... so much so that every Christmas I hear my close friends moan about how hard I am to buy for. We'll here's your chance to give me a Christmas blessing in June. Yeah a little early, I know... but those of you who know me personally know I celebrate my own personal - and very non-commercial - Christmas in July. So not really that early.

Here's the scoop. If you've spent any time around me, you've heard our worship team's music and we continue to expand and enhance our musical capabilities. To that end, our intrepid sound director, Bill Sanders, found a killer deal on a soundboard that fits what we need quite well. The problem is our church runs on a really tight budget and we don't have any money budgeted for a new board. Bill and I both have already committed financially to the project but we can only fund ~1/4 of it out of our own pockets.

That's where you come in. I want some of your money. Nothing drastic - just your Starbucks money for the week. Or if you're feeling generous, your gas money for the week. (Hmm... strange turn of events, gas is finally more expensive than Starbucks... but I digress.) Or if you're just in a crazy generous mood, whatever you feel like parting with.

Below is a fancy little donation button. Donations to Integrity Church are tax deductible and Integrity is a real 501.3(c) tax exempt organization. Due to credit card processing costs, I've set the minimum donation at $10. (Otherwise Visa and Mastercard get their money and we don't see much.) You don't get anything in return for your donation except a tax receipt, a big smile on my face and a LOLCat Thank You posted to your MySpace, Facebook or Email.

And without further ado, that donate now button I promised (scroll down a little):


Saturday, June 07, 2008

Teach your teens to make money at home this summer... instead of flipping burgers.

Ok, so summer is here and schools across America are getting out for the summer. The question on the mind of every teenager right now (and most parents of teenagers) is - How can I make money this summer?

Of course there are the old standbys - retail, foodservice, babysitting, life guarding. I'm not going to knock any of those since our economy needs those kinds of positions filled but I would like to expand your horizons of thinking a bit before you settle for one of those.

What would I like you to think about is - residual income. A 15 year old has, on average, 3 years left before they have to head off to college or graduate high school and join the "real world". Those 3 years are perfect for building an online ecommerce business or engaging in any number of residual building enterprises.

First, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the world of residual income, let me give you some pointers and warnings. Residual income is slow money - i.e. income that comes in over a period of time based on continual sales efforts. Anyone who talks about making money fast is just going to end up taking money out of your pocket and putting it in theirs. The beauty of residual sales is the additive effects of previous efforts. So while the first few months might leave you with little to show for your efforts, the combined effects of continued effort plus the passage of time will yield tremendous rewards.

Some of the greatest examples of residual income in today's market come from the blogging world. A popular blog with Simple Google Ads plus the occasional sponsored post can yield can yield several thousands of dollars a month in free cash flow.

What most people forget when they're embarking on the journey of residual income is the fact that it takes time to build a base from which you can start generating the level of income you might want. For a mom or dad with starving kids who need to eat right now, this can be a challenge mentally. For a teenager, however, this is perfect since they're still within their parent's grace zone and don't have the pressure of a mortgage looming every month. This breathing room means they can start now and be well in their way to fully supporting themselves through college once they get there (instead of needing to dip back into mommy and daddy's wallets for laundry money).

Now, once they have decided to start blogging, creating commerce websites or promoting products they will need something to promote and someone who will actually pay them when they make a sale. There are quite a few agent/commission programs out there such as Commission Junction, Element 5, etc. Personally, I favor Commission River.

Commission River was created by the same guys who launched Telarus back in 1999. They have a known track record of success and some of the Telarus agents make high-six figure incomes every year from their sales efforts. Commission River charges no fees to join their program and pays out commission on a monthly basis as it is accrued.

Don't get swayed by the big dollar figures just yet. Those large incomes require a lot of work - and something more akin to a full-time job than a summer internship with a part-time job during the school year. That said, there is no reason a student can't be making a couple hundred or a couple thousand dollars a month on the side with little effort compared to a traditional part-time job. Even better, they can earn that money working from home - where their parents can keep an eye on exactly what they're getting into.

So what are the steps you need to take to get going with Commission River (or any other type of residual program)?
  1. Sign up for the program. Here's the link to sign up for Commission River.

  2. Get a blog. I personally like Blogger but there are lots of others.

  3. Find products that you can promote. Things like DSL, credit cards, home security, cell phones, wireless data cards, enterprise T1s, etc. Chose 1 fast sell product (like cell phones or credit cards) and 1 slow sell product (like T1s). (Fast sell products pay fast cash but less of it. Slow sell products take longer to sell one of but pay much more money over time.)

  4. Start blogging. Talk about personal stories, friends, things you've seen. Comment on the news, current events, local interest items. Anything you can write about, someone will want to read. In the midst of your blogging, when appropriate within context, mention on the of the products of services you have in your bucket for promotions. For example, if you get a new cell phone, link to the cell phone sale page that matches what you bought. That way others can get what you have or compare it to what they might have been looking for.

  5. Create a website. Start small... it doesn't have to be fancy. Use something like Google Pages, SquareSpace or 1&1 Webbuilder. Your goal is not to out do all the professional web designers out there. Instead your goal is to start providing a repository of useful information you have collected, cross promote your blog postings, and give you more space to write feature articles about things you're interested in.

  6. Market, market, market. Become active on Facebook, MySpace, Pownce, Twitter, etc. And be sure your profiles and pages link to your blog and website. Make up some simple business cards for yourself with your URLs on them. Put your URLs in your email signature. Your goal is to be the person someone thinks of when they need something so instead of going to Google they go to your website first.

  7. Have patience. Remember this is slow money. It builds over time. You are running a marathon here, not a sprint. So don't wear yourself out at the beginning. Allocate a certain number of hours each week and stick to it. If you have 20 hours a week to work on it, always put in your 20 hours. Treat it just as if you were clocking in and out at a "real" job. Keep in mind your goal is 2 years down the road... that's when you start getting those bigger checks and laughing to yourself about how little work it took to make that much money.
Good luck and happy promoting!