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"I don't think the report is true, but these crises work for those who want to make fights between people." Kulam Dastagir, 28, a bird seller in Afghanistan

The Death of Expertise and the Disposition of the Millennial Generation
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:39 pm EST, Jan  8, 2014

This evening I stumbled upon two blog posts by Tom Nichols AKA @TheWarRoom_Tom that contain deeply insightful observations about the way that expertise has been devalued by our society its impact on the political disposition of the millennial generation. Reading both of these posts helped me better understand my own thoughts on these subjects, and I have an important follow on observation that I would like to add. Unfortunately, comments on these blog posts have been closed, so I am posting my observations here, on my own blog.

Expertise isn't truly dead. At the end of the day, getting things right matters, and as Mr. Nichols observes, "an expert is far more likely to be right than you are." Furthermore, as Mr. Nichols also observes, people who have PHDs deserve to be respected as experts in the domain in which they've been trained

The problem is that expertise no longer comes exclusively through the halls of academia, so its harder than it used to be to tell the experts from the laymen.

For example, I am a computer security expert. I did not gain that expertise from an educational institution, because when I was young there was no educational institution that taught it. I have a Bachelors of Science in Computer Engineering, which is largely about digital hardware design, but I do not presume to know half as much about digital hardware design as I do about computer security.

In my field I've had the pleasure of working with peers who have a variety of academic credentials. I've worked with colleagues who have no formal post-secondary education or who are educated in completely unrelated fields who are as good or better than I am at what I do. Fortunately, in my field there are no professional gatekeepers who tell you that you are lot allowed to practice if you don't have the "right" credential.

Today there are institutions out there who will grant formal academic credentials in my field, and in fact several colleagues have gone back to school to pursue these advanced degrees. I think these are valuable, but they simply are not determinative of expertise in my field. In fact, the academic institutions still have some work to do to demonstrate that formal training is a better route to proficiency in my field than self study.

Technological change has made self study increasingly possible across a variety of domains. While we might reasonably mock the University of Google, its far easier today for motivated people to access both raw information as well as the analytic insights of experts. If those people are disciplined in their study and intelligent, they can obtain for themselves a... [ Read More (0.2k in body) ]

Adam Magyar - Stainless, Alexanderplatz (excerpt)
Topic: Miscellaneous 5:17 pm EST, Jan  8, 2014

High speed video recording in Berlin at U2 Alexanderplatz station.

original footage: 24min. 48sec. 720p 50fps

Adam Magyar - Stainless, Alexanderplatz (excerpt)

Arlen Specter - Surveillance We Can Live With
Topic: Miscellaneous 1:26 pm EST, Jan  7, 2014

President Bush's record of seeking to expand Article II power has been a hallmark of his administration. The president and vice president have vociferously argued that the administration had the authority for the program without any judicial review. Bush's personal commitment to submit his program to FISC is therefore a major breakthrough.

Lots of old things seem different now.

Arlen Specter - Surveillance We Can Live With

Burglars Who Took On F.B.I. Abandon Shadows -
Topic: Miscellaneous 1:18 pm EST, Jan  7, 2014

The burglary was the idea of William C. Davidon, a professor of physics at Haverford College and a fixture of antiwar protests in Philadelphia, a city that by the early 1970s had become a white-hot center of the peace movement. Mr. Davidon was frustrated that years of organized demonstrations seemed to have had little impact.

Burglars Who Took On F.B.I. Abandon Shadows -

NSA history: How bureaucrats, leaks, and courts tamed government surveillance.
Topic: Miscellaneous 9:15 am EST, Jan  7, 2014

An ill-defined, unilaterally imposed, poorly supervised spying operation was gradually brought under control. The surveillance program didn’t just become domestic. It became domesticated.

NSA history: How bureaucrats, leaks, and courts tamed government surveillance.

NSA history: How bureaucrats, leaks, and courts tamed government surveillance.
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:44 am EST, Jan  7, 2014

in many ways, the story told in the report is really about the mellowing of the surveillance state. An ill-defined, unilaterally imposed, poorly supervised spying operation was gradually brought under control. The surveillance program didn’t just become domestic. It became domesticated.

NSA history: How bureaucrats, leaks, and courts tamed government surveillance. - Senators won't grill phone companies
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:33 am EST, Jan  7, 2014

The deal was announced by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the committee chairman, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. They said Cheney, who plays a key role supervising NSA counterterrorism efforts, promised that the Bush administration would consider legislation proposed by Specter that would place a domestic surveillance program under scrutiny of a special federal court.

In return, Specter agreed to postpone indefinitely asking executives from the nation's telecommunication companies to testify about another program in which the NSA collects records of domestic calls. - Senators won't grill phone companies

Letter from Sen. Specter to Vice President Cheney
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:26 am EST, Jan  7, 2014

When there were public disclosures about the telephone companies turning over millions of customer records involving allegedly billions of telephone calls, the Judiciary Committee scheduled a hearing of the chief executive officers of the four telephone companies involved. When some of the companies requested subpoenas so they would not be volunteers, we responded that we would honor that request. Later, the companies indicated that if the hearing were closed to the public, they would not need subpoenas.

I then sought Committee approval, which is necessary under our rules, to have a closed session to protect the confidentiality of any classified information and scheduled a Judiciary Committee Executive Session for 2:30 P.M. yesterday to get that approval.

I was advised yesterday that you had called Republican members of the Judiciary Committee lobbying them to oppose any Judiciary Committee hearing, even a closed one, with the telephone companies. I was further advised that you told those Republican members that the telephone companies had been instructed not to provide any information to the Committee as they were prohibited from disclosing classified information.

I was surprised, to say the least, that you sought to influence, really determine, the action of the Committee without calling me first, or at least calling me at some point. This was especially perplexing since we both attended the Republican Senators caucus lunch yesterday and I walked directly in front of you on at least two occasions enroute from the buffet to my table.

Letter from Sen. Specter to Vice President Cheney

FBI Drops Law Enforcement as 'Primary' Mission
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:35 am EST, Jan  7, 2014

"We rank our top 10 priorities and CT [counterterrorism] is first, counterintel is second, cyber is third," he said. "So it is certainly accurate to say our primary function is national security."

The FBI certainly plays an important role in Cyber, but I am surprised to hear that its a higher priority than organized crime, theft, and securities fraud. On the one hand, this could reflect the changing nature of crime - perhaps criminal gangs are making more money online than through traditional kinds of criminal activity. However, the statement I'm quoting here indicates that "cyber" is seen more as a national security issue than a law enforcement issue. Furthermore, even Foreign Policy seems to be concerned that a de-emphasis on financial crimes could be connected with the subprime mortgage crisis.

FBI Drops Law Enforcement as 'Primary' Mission

The domestic public policy of the United States is not a black bag job!
Topic: Miscellaneous 10:30 am EST, Jan  2, 2014

Another round of editorials about how Snowden should be judged has set off some discussion threads that touched a nerve with me. I'm cross posting my response to a series of comments that included this observation:

The only people who didn't know what they learned from Snowden are IDIOTS who didn't WANT to know. The general information that he released was already widely-known by anyone who cared to know. The specifics that he released, pose a very serious threat to our national security, by revealing delicate intelligence information, the presence of which on the internet, makes us all LESS SAFE.

There is a significant difference between THINKING that something is true and KNOWING that it is true. Many people thought the NSA was collecting all phone records, particularly after the USA Today published a story to this effect in 2006, but the President denied it and the phone companies denied it. As I'm sure you know, DNI Clapper was asked this question under oath in a Senate hearing in 2013 and he denied it.

Some people took the POTUS and the phone companies at their word, particularly when this word was given as testimony in public hearings where it is supposed to be illegal to lie. People who had faith in the integrity of our domestic political process should not be cast as "IDIOTS." Furthermore, everyone who wished to challenge the Constitutionality of this program in a court of law was denied standing to do so because they could not prove that their records were being collected. Therefore, you can count the federal court system among the "IDIOTS" who took the executive at its word.

There is no public policy that authorizes the program. The statutory argument here is that when Congress authorized the collection of only those business records that were "relevant" to a foreign intel or terrorism investigation, they really meant to authorize the collection of all business records everywhere all the time because everything is relevant. Several prominent experts in this policy area expressed surprise at this interpretation, including Orin Kerr, Benjamin Wittes, and Robert Chesney.

So why are we being told that everyone who paid attention to this policy area knew that this had been authorized all along? That is a lie and it is just as dishonest as Clapper's statements under oath in the Senate.

This meta-data collection program is not some targeted operation that should be kept secret from the American people. This is a major, domestic public policy matter that is far beyond the scope of the sort of things that government secrecy ought to encompass.

The American people have a right to decide whether or not we want all of this meta-data collection to happen, and we were robbed of that right through dishonesty on the part of this country's leadership. Furthermore, the American people have a right to expect that our public policy process should operate with integrity, and that the Pr... [ Read More (0.4k in body) ]

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