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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 revenge of the lawn - Boing Boing
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:07 am EDT, May 11, 2014

Of course, the need to keep up with the Joneses played into Dad’s obsession: since the dawn of the ‘burbs, around 1870, the ornamental lawn, a democratized version of the rambling grounds that in Europe only nobility could afford and maintain, has been a status symbol in the States. Keeping the front yard, at least, in trim, as squared away as a marine’s high-and-tight haircut or the hospital corners on a boot-camp cot, brought out the competitive streak in Dad, a sublimated form of male threat-posturing and territory-marking.

The revenge of the lawn - Boing Boing

The Ideological Middle Is Dead in Congress | The Big Picture
Topic: Miscellaneous 4:16 pm EDT, Apr 15, 2014

The Ideological Middle Is Dead in Congress

The Ideological Middle Is Dead in Congress | The Big Picture

On Net Neutrality
Topic: Miscellaneous 12:48 pm EDT, Mar 24, 2014

Once upon a time there was one kingdom - the Kingdom of Bell. The Kingdom of Bell had many toll roads that connected the serf's homes together and allowed the serfs to travel to different marketplaces from which they could download content. Generally speaking, these roads were not as good for bringing goods to market as they were for downloading content from the marketplaces. No one seemed to care about that, because no one believed that the serfs had anything interesting to offer the marketplace anyway.

One day, a new Kingdom was born - the Kingdom of Google. The Kingdom of Google was once one of the marketplaces that the serfs downloaded content from, but it became very popular, and all the serfs wanted to travel there. In order to reach the Kingdom of Google, the serfs had to cross the Kingdom of Bell, and pay a toll. The King of Bell realized that many serfs wanted to travel to the Kingdom of Google, and decided to raise the toll on that trip.

The King of Google felt that this was unfair. He argued that all of the roads through the Kingdom of Bell should have the same price. This is referred to as Net Neutrality. The Kingdom of Google paid lawyers to extoll the virtues of net neutrality, arguing that all the different marketplaces ought to be able to compete on even footing for the interest of the serfs. If one marketplace was more expensive for the serfs to travel to than another, than the serfs might choose to do business at a less expensive marketplace because of the price, even if that marketplace was comparatively worse. The lawyers argued that it was in the best interest of all of the serfs to have access to the best marketplaces available.

The King of Bell disagreed with the King of Google. He argued that there was so much traffic on the road to Google that the road needed constant upgrade and repairs, and that the extra toll money could go toward making sure that traffic traveled along that road as fast as possible.

The King of Google didn't believe the King of Bell's explanations. The Knights of the Round Google handed pitchforks and torches to all of the serfs that visited their land and told them that the Kingdom of Bell was evil and their plans to disrupt Net Neutrality had to be stopped at all cost. Many of these serfs camped outside Bell Castle in protest of the new tolls.

Of course, it was impossible for any of the serfs to compete with the Kingdom of Google, because the roads through the Kingdom of Bell enabled the serfs to download content from the marketplaces, but they were not good for bringing new content to market or running new marketplaces. None of the lawyers paid by the Kingdom of Google to extoll the virtues of Net Neutrality ever bothered to mention the fact that the serfs were not on equal footing with the marketplaces.

In the end, neither the King of Bell nor the King of Google nor the any of the King's lawyers nor any of the King's men gave a damn about the legitimate interests of serfs. They all just want the serf's collective money. The King of Google has, nevertheless, managed to convince many of the serfs that those serfs are engaged in a revolution against the King of Bell, that this revolution is a grass roots fight against oppression, and victory is necessary to restore all that is right and good to the world.

Hence this fight over net neutrality is really no different from countless wars that have been fought for thousands of years in which serfs bled and died for the interest of Kings, believing all the while that they were defending honor, valor, good, and right, when in fact they were just defending some jerk's pile of gold.

The End.

To Major John Cartwrigt Monticello, June 5, 1824 - The Letters of Thomas Jefferson 1743-1826
Topic: Miscellaneous 10:06 pm EDT, Mar 11, 2014

And although this constitution was violated and set at naught by Norman force, yet force cannot change right. A perpetual claim was kept up by the nation, by their perpetual demand of a restoration of their Saxon laws; which shews they were never relinquished by the will of the nation. In the pullings and haulings for these antient rights, between the nation, and its kings of the races of Plantagenets, Tudors and Stuarts, there was sometimes gain, and sometimes loss, until the final re-conquest of their rights from the Stuarts. The destitution and expulsion of this race broke the thread of pretended inheritance, extinguished all regal usurpations, and the nation re-entered into all its rights; and although in their bill of rights they specifically reclaimed some only, yet the omission of the others was no renunciation of the right to assume their exercise also, whenever occasion should occur.

To Major John Cartwrigt Monticello, June 5, 1824 - The Letters of Thomas Jefferson 1743-1826

The self contradicting arguments used to support NSA meta-data surveillance.
Topic: Miscellaneous 9:00 am EST, Feb 23, 2014

In defending their mass domestic surveillance program the NSA is arguing, on the one hand, that the Fourth Amendment doesn't apply to their activities, while simultaneously arguing that the strict limits that the Fourth Amendment imposes on surveillance are sufficient to protect the First Amendment rights of citizens. They cannot have it both ways.

The domestic meta-data surveillance program collects everyone's call records. These records reveal who you communicate with, how often, and when - essentially, what your associations are with other people. Of course, you have a right to Freedom of Association, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Its obvious that if the government is keeping a record of all of your associations, which may be used against you in the future, this might deter your exercise of your First Amendment rights.

In court filings defending the meta-data program, the NSA responds to this concern by arguing that we don't need to worry about the negative impact that meta-data surveillance might have on our Right to Freedom of Association, because the Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable surveillance.

"The Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit have held... that when governmental investigative activities have an indirect impact on the exercise of First Amendment freedoms, those interests are safeguarded by scrupulous adherence to Fourth Amendment standards... Accordingly, “surveillance consistent with Fourth Amendment protections . . . does not violate First Amendment rights, even though it may be directed at communicative or associative activities.”

In other words, they are saying that even though spying can have a negative impact on our First Amendment rights, that impact is acceptable because spying is only authorized by the Fourth Amendment in the narrow circumstances where it is necessary. In the past, people have argued that government surveillance of their speech or political and religious activities can have a negative impact on their Constitutional rights, even when that surveillance was authorized by a warrant. The courts addressed this concern in holding that the Fourth Amendment's probable cause and warrant requirements create a framework that limits the impact that government surveillance has on First Amendment activities, and the remaining impact is acceptable.

The government is trying to reference this logic in a context where they are simultaneously arguing that the Fourth Amendment's probable cause and warrant requirements do not apply! The government has repeatedly asserted that Americans have "no legitimate expectation of privacy in telephony metadata" and that "even the 'collection of breathtaking amounts of information unprotected b... [ Read More (0.1k in body) ]

Preservation license plate | Historic Preservation Division -- Georgia Department of Natural Resources
Topic: Miscellaneous 9:56 am EST, Feb 20, 2014

Lots of people are expressing anger this morning about the updated Georgia Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate. If you live here, something positive you can do is get a Historic Preservation license plate, which puts money toward preserving the actual history of this place rather than the heavily rationalized one promoted by groups like Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The General Assembly has not funded their grant program for the preservation of historic sites since the economic downturn in 2008, so all of the funding comes from license plates. License plate revenues have funded 9 projects totaling $116,685. Thats not nearly enough.

Help preserve Georgia's actual heritage:

Preservation license plate | Historic Preservation Division -- Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Spy Chief: We Should’ve Told You We Track Your Calls - The Daily Beast
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:50 am EST, Feb 19, 2014

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Clapper said the problems facing the U.S. intelligence community over its collection of phone records could have been avoided. “I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will. Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11—which is the genesis of the 215 program—and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards… We wouldn’t have had the problem we had,” Clapper said.

“What did us in here, what worked against us was this shocking revelation,” he said, referring to the first disclosures from Snowden. If the program had been publicly introduced in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, most Americans would probably have supported it. “I don’t think it would be of any greater concern to most Americans than fingerprints. Well people kind of accept that because they know about it. But had we been transparent about it and say here’s one more thing we have to do as citizens for the common good, just like we have to go to airports two hours early and take our shoes off, all the other things we do for the common good, this is one more thing.”

This is the right conclusion - the mass meta-data surveillance program should not have been kept secret from the American people - but its the wrong reason to reach that conclusion. Clapper seems to reach this conclusion due to pragmatic, tactical reasons - that it would be easier to address the security problems that Snowden has created if the government wasn't simultaneously trying to defend the fact that they were operating a secret mass domestic surveillance program. That observations is certainly correct. The greatest threat Snowden presents to the institution of the military is the possibility that he might inspire others to do the same thing. Thats a moral argument, and the government is having trouble winning that moral argument because they were caught red handed - preventing a legitimate political and legal dialog about the program they were running. There are a few other nuggets in the Snowden revelations that have also caused concerns, such as the revelation that the NSA undermined public encryption standards, but none of it is as significant as the revelation about meta-data. If not for that revelation, perhaps, few would have sympathy for him.

However, the right reason to reach the conclusion that the government shouldn't have operated a secret mass domestic surveillance program isn't to avoid the consequences of getting caught doing that. The right reason is because the dialog about the policy and the Constitution that this program inspires is an important one and its valuable to have it. If the American people decided that they don't want this prog... [ Read More (0.2k in body) ]

Spy Chief: We Should’ve Told You We Track Your Calls - The Daily Beast

Closing the cyber security threat intelligence gap - SC Magazine
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:18 am EST, Feb 19, 2014

It's no secret that one of the effects of the Edward Snowden revelations has been a slowdown in the effort to pass new cyber security legislation that facilitates information sharing between the government and the private sector. However, the need for cyber threat intelligence sharing is still vital, and with Congress sidelined, it's going to take leadership from the nation's corporate executives to make progress on this issue within the framework of our current laws.

Closing the cyber security threat intelligence gap - SC Magazine

FISC Judge Reggie Walton Hesitantly Amends Latest Section 215 Order To Conform With Presidential Directive | Techdirt
Topic: Miscellaneous 9:28 pm EST, Feb 16, 2014

This Techdirt article on Walton's implementation of Obama's NSA reforms is worth a read.

Walton seems resistant to turning the court into an oversight entity, which it really isn't. That's supposed to be the legislative branch's role, but that has been undermined by cheerleaders masquerading as overseers who have withheld information from their fellow legislators. Walton also may not trust the agency enough at this point to feel comfortable approving RAS requests.

FISC Judge Reggie Walton Hesitantly Amends Latest Section 215 Order To Conform With Presidential Directive | Techdirt

Lawfare › Latest Batch of Declassified 215 Orders from the FISC
Topic: Miscellaneous 9:19 pm EST, Feb 16, 2014

We learned last week that the court—and to my eye quite unsurprisingly—had granted the Department of Justice’s request to tweak minimization procedures applicable to the 215 program, among other things by having the FISC pre-approve the NSA’s determinations of “reasonable and articulable suspicion” (“RAS”).  

This reform is probably the most important result of the meta-data debate.

Lawfare › Latest Batch of Declassified 215 Orders from the FISC

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