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"The future masters of technology will have to be lighthearted and intelligent. The machine easily masters the grim and the dumb." -- Marshall McLuhan, 1969

Supremes Mull Whether Bad Databases Make for Illegal Searches | Threat Level
Topic: Civil Liberties 3:39 pm EDT, Oct  5, 2008

If a false entry in a database leads to a unconstitutional police search that reveals illegal drugs, does the government get to hold it against you?

That's the question the Supreme Court will tackle on Tuesday in a case civil liberties groups such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center argue will have broad implications in a world where we are constantly being evaluated against databases and watch lists that are riddled with frustratingly persistent errors.

"In these interlinked databases, one error can spread like a disease, infecting every system it touches and condemning the individual to whom this error refers to suffer substantial delay, harassment, and improper arrest," EPIC director Marc Rotenberg argued in a friend of the court brief (.pdf).

Supremes Mull Whether Bad Databases Make for Illegal Searches | Threat Level


Think Progress » Palin gives only ’silence’ when asked to name a SCOTUS decision besides Roe v. Wade.
Topic: Politics and Law 12:16 pm EDT, Sep 30, 2008

An aide to Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) told Politico’s Jonathan Martin that a yet-to-be-released portion of Katie Couric’s interview with Palin contains yet another embarrassing gaffe, this time about the Supreme Court:

palin1.gifThe Palin aide, after first noting how “infuriating” it was for CBS to purportedly leak word about the gaffe, revealed that it came in response to a question about Supreme Court decisions. After noting Roe vs. Wade, Palin was apparently unable to discuss any major court cases. There was no verbal fumbling with this particular question as there was with some others, the aide said, but rather silence.

Palin also offered little more than silence when asked to name specific examples of times Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) pushed for more Wall Street regulation.

Unbelievable.

Think Progress » Palin gives only ’silence’ when asked to name a SCOTUS decision besides Roe v. Wade.


Stratfor Presidential Debate Foreign Policy Series
Topic: International Relations 4:41 pm EDT, Sep 25, 2008

StratFor is running a free series of article running up to the presidential debate taking place on Friday (after McCain finishes his nap).

We have no wish to advise you how to vote. That’s your decision. What we want to do is try to describe what the world will look like to the new president and consider how each candidate is likely to respond to the world. In trying to consider whether to vote for John McCain or Barack Obama, it is obviously necessary to consider their stands on foreign policy issues. But we have to be cautious about campaign assertions. Kennedy claimed that the Soviets had achieved superiority in missiles over the United States, knowing full well that there was no missile gap. Johnson attacked Barry Goldwater for wanting to escalate the war in Vietnam at the same time he was planning an escalation. Nixon won the 1968 presidential election by claiming that he had a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam. What a candidate says is not always an indicator of what the candidate is thinking.

In order to try to draw this presidential campaign into some degree of focus on foreign policy, we will proceed in three steps. First, we will try to outline the foreign policy issues that we think will confront the new president, with the understanding that history might well throw in a surprise. Second, we will sketch the traditions and positions of both Obama and McCain to try to predict how they would respond to these events. Finally, after the foreign policy debate is over, we will try to analyze what they actually said within the framework we created.

The first part lays out the issues facing the next president:

* The Post 9/11 World
* A Stabilized Iraq and the U.S. Troop Dilemma
* The Nuclear Chip and a Stable U.S.-Iranian Understanding
* Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Taliban
* The Russian Resurgence
* European Disunity and Military Weakness
* Israel, Turkey, China, and Latin America
* The U.S. Defense Budget

Part two focuses on Obama.

Part three focuses on McCain.

These were the questions they suggested posing to the canidates:

1. If the United States removes its forces from Iraq slowly as both of you advocate, where will the troops come from to deal with Afghanistan and protect allies in the former Soviet Union?
2. The Russians sent 120,000 troops to Afghanistan and failed to pacify the country. How many troops do you think are necessary?
3. Do you believe al Qaeda prime is still active and worth pursuing?
4. Do you believe the Iranians are capable of producing a deliverable nuclear weapon during your term in office?
5. How do you plan to persuade the Pakistani government to go after the Taliban, and what support can you provide them if they do?
6. Do you believe the United States should station troops in the Baltic states, in Ukraine and Georgia as well as in other friendly countries to protect them from Russia?
7. Do you feel that NATO remains a viable alliance, and are the Europeans carrying enough of the burden?
8. Do you believe that Mexico represents a national security issue for the United States?
9. Do you believe that China represents a strategic challenge to the United States?
10. Do you feel that there has been tension between the United States and Israel over the Georgia issue?


The site social network is working again
Topic: MemeStreams 9:36 am EDT, Sep 19, 2008

The social network section of the site had not been updating properly for about two months. It's fixed now.


EFF sues Cheney, Bush, and the NSA to stop illegal wiretapping - Boing Boing
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:34 am EDT, Sep 19, 2008

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed suit against the NSA, President Bush and Vice President Cheney on behalf of AT&T's customers to fight illegal wiretapping.

I know this is totally beside the point, but don't you wish that this actually was the NSA logo?

EFF sues Cheney, Bush, and the NSA to stop illegal wiretapping - Boing Boing


Group Posts E-Mail Hacked From Palin Account | Threat Level
Topic: Computer Security 8:44 am EDT, Sep 18, 2008

Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's private Yahoo e-mail account was hacked, and some of its contents posted on the internet Wednesday.

The internet griefers known as Anonymous took credit for the intrusion, and screenshots of e-mail messages and photos belonging to the Alaska governor have been published by WikiLeaks. Threat Level has confirmed the authenticity of at least one of the e-mails.

"This is a shocking invasion of the Governor's privacy and a violation of law," Rick Davis, McCain-Palin campaign manager said in a statement. "The matter has been turned over to the appropriate authorities and we hope that anyone in possession of these e-mails will destroy them. We will have no further comment."

FBI spokesman Brian Hale said, "The FBI is aware of the alleged hacking incident involving Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and is coordinating with the United States Secret Service on the matter."

A fourth screenshot shows an e-mail sent to Ivy Frye, a Palin aide, from someone claiming to belong to the group Anonymous advising that the person has changed the password to Palin's Yahoo account to prevent other members of Anonymous from accessing it again. The e-mail includes the new password.

Palin has come under fire for using private e-mail accounts to conduct state business. Critics allege that she uses the account to get around public records laws, as the Bush administration has also been charged with doing.

Group Posts E-Mail Hacked From Palin Account | Threat Level


New bill would tighten rules for DHS border laptop searches
Topic: Civil Liberties 9:04 am EDT, Sep 17, 2008

Customs and Border Patrol agents can grab your laptop, BlackBerry, or external hard drive without needing so much as a reason, but a new bill introduced last week to Congress would at least put some limits on how border searches could be done.

"I was deeply concerned to learn about the lack of protections individuals' have when their electronic equipment is randomly seized," said Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), who introduced the bill. "With the passage of the Border Search Accountability Act of 2008, Americans will be able to travel with more peace of mind knowing that their data will be further protected and that there are stringent accountability measures in place for safeguarding their personal information."

Note what her bill will not do—make searches more difficult.

This isn't what we really want, as it doesn't attempt to set any limits on searches. It does add more transparency to the process, and that is a good thing. It should be supported.

Sanchez's bill would bring more routine to the search process. The bill requires the government to draft additional rules regarding information security, the number of days a device can be retained, receipts that must be issued when devices are taken, ways to report abuses, and it requires the completion of both a privacy impact study and a civil liberties impact study. Travelers would also have the explicit right to watch as the search is conducted.

Sanchez also wants data about the searches, which would have to be turned over to Congress once per quarter. Specifically, she wants to know how many searches are being done, where they take place, and the race and nationality of those being searched.

The Department of Homeland Security actually issued search rules over the summer; while they were the first rules made public on the process, which had started to look quite ad-hoc, they still came in for criticism from groups like the Association of Corporate Travel Executives. ACTE, which doesn't like have executive laptops pinched whenever someone travels overseas, complained in early August that devices could basically be kept indefinitely, the data could be shared with foreign governments, and no data destruction procedures were spelled out.

This is unlikely to make it out of committee in any form before the end of the current congress. The situation is getting much needed attention though.

New bill would tighten rules for DHS border laptop searches


Has the Large Hadron Collider destroyed the world yet?
Topic: Science 3:53 pm EDT, Sep 10, 2008

Stay current on the issue. More here.

Has the Large Hadron Collider destroyed the world yet?


CAP Economic Snapshot for September 2008
Topic: Economics 3:50 pm EDT, Sep 10, 2008

6. The housing crisis deepens. New home sales in July 2008 were 35.3% lower than a year earlier, and existing home sales were 13.2% lower. The median price for existing homes had fallen by 7.1% and prices for new homes by 6.3% from July 2007 to July 2008.

7. Homeowners lose wealth. The values of all homes fell by 2.5%, or $417 billion, in the first quarter of 2007 after accounting for inflation—the largest drop since the second quarter of 1974. Home equity as share of home values also fell to a record low of 46.2% in the first quarter of 2008.

9. Mortgage troubles mount. One in 11 mortgages is delinquent or in foreclosure. In the second quarter of 2008, the share of mortgages that were delinquent was 6.4%, and the share of mortgages that were in foreclosure was 2.7%. The share of new mortgages going into foreclosure continues to reach new record highs with 1.1% in the second quarter.

That graph is scary.

CAP Economic Snapshot for September 2008


Official American Sadism
Topic: Politics and Law 1:18 pm EDT, Sep 10, 2008

At the convention, Sarah Palin quipped:

"Al-Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America and [Obama]'s worried that someone won't read them their rights."

Decius wrote:

This is the road to despotism. This is the fevered dream of theocracy. This is America.

Initially I thought Palin just hadn't been paying attention [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8] and didn't know what she was saying. But as her comment continues to reverberate, her intention becomes increasingly clear: this was not just an offhand or ignorant remark, but rather a big Fuck You to the Supreme Court and its decisions over the last four years. And in this she stands in league with McCain [and Yoo and Addington et al], echoing his disdain for the foundation of democracy.

Anthony Lewis writes:

Three times in the last four years the Supreme Court has rejected the Bush administration's legal defenses of its program for detention of alleged "enemy combatants."

Each of these decisions brought an outcry from the political right. Senator John McCain, a survivor of torture as a prisoner in North Vietnam who was once a critic of the Bush detention practices, called Boumediene "one of the worst decisions in the history of the country."

Opening the federal courts to habeas corpus applications from the detainees hardly promises them a swift ticket to freedom. But it marks at least a first step toward accountability—a forum where the treatment of a detainee and the asserted reasons for his imprisonment can be examined. As George Will wrote in a column blasting Senator McCain for the ignorance of his comments on habeas corpus, "the Supreme Court's ruling only begins marking a boundary against government's otherwise boundless power to detain people indefinitely."

A striking example of the importance of having courts check official decisions that someone is an "enemy combatant" is the case of Huzaifa Parhat, one of a number of Uighur Muslims from China who are in Guantánamo. Parhat, who the US military claimed was at a Uighur training camp in Afghanistan in 2001, was captured in Pakistan in the fall of 2001. A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found in June that there was no persuasive evidence to support the government's labeling of him as an enemy combatant. The panel included the court's chief judge, David Sentelle, one of the most conservative federal judges in the country. Its opinion ridiculed the government argument, comparing it to the statement of a Lewis Carroll character: "I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true."

Official American Sadism


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