Tuesday, October 07, 2014

When Surveillance Is Perfect

When surveillance is perfect and complete, then crime will be impossible.

Except for those who have made their peace with the Surveillance State.

What a product!  What a market!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Blue-on-Black Crime: Ferguson

Every police department in America needs to have a contest to decide which officers among them are most likely to cost their town big money. Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars are today being sought in lawsuits over police misconduct. Officers who tend to abuse their power are a liability that needs to be identified. They need to be retrained or removed.

At the same time, people of color are the most vulnerable victims of such abuse. They often living in poor neighborhoods where people are looked down on. White officers can see people in poor neighborhoods differently than black officers see them. An abusive attitude focused on minorities can, among whites, become habitual. It can become part of a shared culture.

When a mostly-white police department provides order in a mostly-black community, there is potential for major abuse. Blue-on-black crime.

So it was and so it happened, in Ferguson, MO.


On Saturday, August 9th, 2014, a Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, shot six bullets into unarmed teen Michael Brown, who had been walking down the middle of the street near his home. He first wounded Brown, then killed him with a shot to the head. Forty days later, Officer Wilson still has not filed a police incident report. Perhaps it would indict him. A grand jury has spent four hours talking to him to see if they should do just that.

Whether or not the grand jury takes Wilson to task for killing Michael Brown depends on what evidence the prosecutor brings before them. If the prosecutor omits salient material, then the federal government will have proof that Michael Brown's civil rights were violated. It may proceed against those who violated them. One can hope.

Multiple witnesses saw Brown's death:

In a video deposition before the court that is the world, Michael Brown's friend
   Dorian Johnson, who was walking with him, describes the shooting.

   “They didn’t even check to see if he was breathing.”---So says a witness interviewed by the NY Times

   Timeline for a Body: 4 Hours in the Middle of a Ferguson Street

   Witness: Michael Brown was 'walking dead guy,' not rushing Ferguson officer

   Video Of Michael Brown Shooting Scene: 'He Had His F**KING HANDS IN THE AIR!'

There was a recording of the gunshots...
    Video messaging service verifies timing of CNN audio recording


On that Saturday evening, there were simple vigils at the scene of the killing.

The police dispersed the mourners.

The community erupted in anger:

The next day, a Sunday, brought vigils and demonstrations:
   Community Angered After Police Fatally Shot Unarmed Missouri Teen 
   Michael Brown Shooting By Police Sparks Vigil, Protest, Looting And Calls For Federal Probe


On Monday the 11th, it was announced that the shooting was now being investigated by the FBI:
    Outrage Over Teenager’s Death Erupts on Social Media

Monday evening, police used massive force to disperse a crowd.
   Ferguson: behind police lines helmet-cam video of tactical team teargassing protesters

The police were now violently suppressing an anti-brutality protest.


By Wednesday the 13th, reporters were being arrested:
    Ferguson PD Embraces Equality by Arresting Reporters of All Races
    Huffington Post Reporter Arrested In Ferguson
    HuffPost Reporter: I Was Arrested By Guys Who 'Like Playing Dress Up'
    In Ferguson, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery gives account of his arrest
    "Egregious assault on freedom of the press" in Ferguson, Mo.
"According to the Los Angeles Times' Matt Pearce, when Ferguson Police Chief Tim Jackson learned of the arrests he responded, "Oh God," and later instructed his officers to release the two men."
          Well-managed, they were.

     Later, on August 26,  Ferguson cops claim they have no records of arrests of journalists


"Hands Up - Don't Shoot" became the chant. Holding one's hands up in surrender became a statement:
   PHOTO: Howard University Students Respond To Death Of Ferguson Teen

On the evening of Wednesday the 13th,
   Ferguson Police Descend on Protesters with Arrests, Tear Gas, and Martial Law
"Police in Ferguson, Missouri on Wednesday arrested reporters and activists, launched tear gas at protesters, and used armored tanks and helicopters to force media out as residents continued to demand answers about the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old who was shot to death by an officer last weekend. "
"Photos and videos from Wednesday night show chaotic scenes as protesters run from police firing rubber bullets through thick clouds of smoke from tear gas canisters. Police also fired tear gas directly at an Al Jazeera camera crew, who had set up equipment to film the protests; after they ran to escape the fumes, officers broke down their cameras" 
In Ferguson, the police implemented heavy military gear inherited from the Pentagon in an attempt to control the demonstrators:
   Ferguson's Police Got Free Military Gear Straight From The Pentagon
   Ferguson: Militarized police use force against protesters, arrest journalists
   Ferguson Police's Show of Force Highlights Militarization of America's Cops (ABC News)

Not that they knew how or when to use it...
   US veterans:  Ferguson Police Department’s response is a clusterfuck:
      “We went through some pretty bad areas of Afghanistan, but we didn’t wear that much gear,”

   Rep. John Lewis asks Obama to declare martial law in Ferguson
   Attorney General Holder: Situation in Ferguson 'cannot continue'



On Thursday the 14th, the Missouri Highway Patrol took over the policing...
   Cpt. Johnson WALKED in the Ferguson march tonight. "We're all in this together"
   Missouri Police Captain Meets With Protesters In Ferguson
 
The protest became national. On Thursday evening,
   Protestors snarl Times Square   (lots of pix)
   Thousands in Times Square snarl traffic, chanting, "hands up, don't shoot!"
   Anonymous calls for nationwide solidarity protests
   Rand Paul: Demilitarize Police

  The New York Times - and the demonstrators - complained that the name of the killer policeman had not yet been  released. The Police Department was protecting a killer.
   WATCH:  Ferguson Protests In Three Minutes


On Friday morning, August 15th, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, in one fell swoop of a press conference, made two announcements. He first released the name of the officer, Darren Wilson, who had killed Michael Brown.

He then implicated Brown, without naming him, in a petty theft of some cigars from a convenience store that had happened earlier in the day that he died. After making these two announcements, Chief Jackson departed without taking questions. He left behind documentation specifically naming Brown as a suspect in the cigar theft.

Demonizing the victim, he was...
    The demonization of a dead, unarmed teenager is well underway ...
    Michael Brown Family 'Beyond Outraged' at 'Devious' Police Conduct

Jackson released a security videotape of the cigar theft. He claimed that there had been many requests for the tape. It turns out that he was lying. There had been no requests.


"A credible-looking new report on a site called TheBlot by independent journalist Matthew Keys claims that the Ferguson PD cannot produce any record of a member of the media requesting the surveillance tape of the robbery."
Police Chief Jackson later disavowed any connection between the theft and Brown's killing, saying that Wilson did not know at the time of the killing that Brown was a suspect. Whether Jackson blushed or not is unreported.

A further attempt at demonizing the deceased victim was made by Fox News, who falsely reported that Wilson's face had been damaged:
CNN host Rips Fox for ‘sowing doubt’ with baseless report on officer’s fractured eye socket (video)


On Saturday, August 16th, a week after the killing of Michael Brown,
   US Rethinks Giving Surplus Military Gear To Police
 
On Sunday, August 17th,
   AG Holder Ordering Federal Autopsy Be Performed at Request of Michael Brown's Family

They found several shots to the body, and two to the head. He had been wounded, then killed. There was no gunpowder evidence that he had been close to his killer.

   Police Threaten To Shoot, Mace Reporters In Ferguson
"In the most chilling incident on Sunday, police threatened to shoot Mustafa Hussein, a reporter who was filming for local Argus Radio."
John Oliver sums up the whole story with grace, humor and more than a bit of anger:
   An uproarious, moving John Oliver is perfect on Ferguson


On Monday, August 18th,
   Missouri governor lifts Ferguson curfew as National Guard called in

   Not a good sign for media access tonight in Ferguson. . . Getty Images photographer just arrested
   Redskins show solidarity with Ferguson protests:''Hands up, don't shoot'' protest makes way to NFL
"The "Hands up, don't shoot" protest has made its way to the NFL.

The Washington Redskins secondary emerged from the stadium tunnel during pregame introductions Monday night with hands raised and palms forward.

It was a show of solidarity with the people in Ferguson, Missouri, who are protesting the shooting of teenager Michael Brown."

On August 23rd,
   Obama Orders Review Of Police Use Of Military Hardware

   Ferguson fallout: A call for police 'body cams'


On August 24th
    Ferguson Reporter Breaks Down Over Police Abuse: Listen!

On August 27th
   WATCH: The Jon Stewart Ferguson Segment You've Been Waiting For

On August 28th
    Missouri police sued for $40 million over actions in Ferguson protests

On August 29th
   Officers from St. Ann, Glendale no longer employed after actions during Ferguson protests

On August 31st
   Ferguson police are using body cameras
   National March on Ferguson - photos of protestors, lists of demands

On September 3rd
   Missouri governor lifts state of emergency in Ferguson

On September 6th
   Funny Or Die Satirizes Ferguson's Militarized Police In Disturbingly Realistic 'Cops' Parody

... and right on cue, the totally tone-deaf...
   St Louis police offer to fingerprint all the children in Ferguson

Two new witnesses appeared:
    Workers who were witnesses provide new perspective on Michael Brown shooting


September 8th,
   Ferguson Sets Broad Change for City Courts
     The NYT charts dramatically how the Ferguson city government runs on fines and judgements levied on the black community. The city is now announcing reforms intended to correct that injustice. 

September 9th,
   The willingness of the prosecutor to seriously pursue a case against a police officer has come into question:
      Why Civil Rights Groups Are Calling For The Ferguson Prosecutor To Step Down

   Ferguson reforms met with rancor at city meeting
"You've lost your authority to govern this community," said St. Louis activist John Chasnoff. "You're going to have to step aside peacefully if this community is going to heal."
   Ferguson council faces calls for reform at first meeting since teen's shooting
"Wild applause rang out from the crowd as people addressing the council called on Knowles to step down, and complained of ineffective city leadership, police harassment and racial profiling, among other grievances. Several also said that the police chief must be fired. Many warned that civil unrest would continue, and could expand if Wilson was not arrested."
   Cops Start Using Body Cameras [VIDEO]


September 10th,
   More protests in Ferguson over shooting
   - slide show, attempt to shut down Interstate 70

September 11th,
   What More Will It Take to Arrest Darren Wilson?

September 15th,
    Is the Man Tasked with Prosecuting Darren Wilson Actually Raising Money for Him?
    Ferguson protesters call anew to remove prosecutor

September 21st,
   This 11-Year-Old Perfectly Sums Up The Problems In Ferguson
     - an utter genius. With a future.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs1L8HTY_7o

September 24th,
    Justice Department Investigates Ferguson Police
"There was no public comment period but tables were set up for people to share their concerns privately with DOJ officials. And investigators got an earful.

Brandon Smith, 28, told investigators he moved away from Ferguson four years ago because he was constantly harassed. He said he was once cited for "manner of walking in roadway" and jailed on $1,000 bond for the misdemeanor. He said he posted bond and never got the money back."
Will the city of Ferguson be required to return all the money that has been improperly taken from its residents?

   DC Police to Start Wearing Body Cameras
   
September 25th,
   Ferguson police chief apologizes to Michael Brown's parents



Perspective...

Missouri was a slave state. St. Louis was a slave market. Racism is nothing new in Missouri:
   'Show Me' Missouri racism

Ferguson police have a police record:
   Report: Ferguson Police Beat Up Wrong Suspect Then Charged Him For Getting Blood On Uniforms In 2009
   The Day Ferguson Cops Were Caught in a Bloody Lie
   Ferguson Cop Accused Of Hog-Tying And Choking 12-Year-Old
   At least 5 Ferguson officers apart from Brown shooter have been named in lawsuits
   Cop Who Shot Michael Brown Began Career At Racist, Disbanded PD


Police body cams cost as little as $36 on Amazon.

Dashboard cams on police cars, body cams on police officers appear to be the coming solution for police abuse. The fruits of the information age are undoing the machine age's iron fist.


A solution for poverty is still in the works.
- - -

This story will continue. I may append updates now and then, to keep the history of it all together.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The CIA Confesses To Spying On Congress, Obama Admits Torture Happened

Two dramatic confessions this last month. Story lines are developing ever more rapidly.

First, the CIA has admitted that it spied on members of Congress:

07/31/14   "CIA, On Careful Reflection, Remembers It Hacked Senate Computers After All"

08/06/14   "CIA Admits to Spying on Senate but No Prosecutions to Follow"

   Congress is supposed to oversee the intelligence agencies, but they overlook instead. As the story of CIA torture prisons grew over the years, the specific details of the suffering we imposed made it hard for our representatives to continue their elective blindness. So they set up shop over at CIA headquarters with a computer kindly loaned to them by the CIA that they could use to examine the CIA records. Which, of course, was bugged. And they noticed.
 
US lawmakers say CIA censored torture report to avoid embarrassment.
"Several people who have read the full report, and who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss still-classified material, say it shows that the CIA interrogation program was far more brutal than previously understood, and that CIA officials repeatedly misled Congress and the Justice Department about what was being done to al-Qaida detainees. The report asserts that no unique, life-saving intelligence was gleaned for the harsh techniques."

   Then the President admitted, "We tortured," referring to actions taken before he came into office.

08/02/14  Obama steps up to call Bush-era CIA Torture “Torture,” Despite Legal Implications
 
08/25/14  Obama: 'We Tortured Some Folks'

   He broke with his long-held position of letting the past be the past so that we can all move forward together into the bright new world of the future. America's past now stands in front of us, between us and that bright new world. Casting a shadow.

 The Geneva Convention:  No Exceptional Circumstances Whatsoever... May Be Invoked as a Justification of Torture

The past must be reconciled. If our future is to be firm and sure, torture must not be allowed ever again to occur.

What action Congress will take to make its creations manageable, what action the President will take to make our country's actions honorable before the world - this is up to them and up to us.

Body Cams For Everyone In Ten Years

Wearing a body cam tends to ensures good behavior on the part of others. Why should their use be limited to the police?

Body cams are digital technology. Their cost will probably decline about as fast as the price of other computer technology, which drops in half about every two years.

In 2014, outfitting a policeman with a body cam costs about $1000. ($400 for the cam, $600 for the monitoring system.)

In 2016, two years later, the cost will be halved to $500. Four years later, in 2020, $125. In 2024, the cost to outfit a person will be $31.25.

Every school kid can wear a cam. Bullying will be ended. But so will spontaneity, unless special places can be set aside where people can be as they are and not need to play to all the cameras.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Crowd-Source Police Body Cams For Your Own Police Department?

Crowd-source body cams for your own police?

Suppose a community equips every police officer with a body cam? This will record their every move and also every move of someone they are talking to. Police are tamer, so are citizens. People can trust police when they know that the police know that the whole world is - or soon could be - watching.

A movement that provides free body-cams to police will cut down on crime. How can they resist it?

Suppose it goes global?

Thursday, July 03, 2014

"Just Gotta Be Me..."

The people who spy on the NSA have set heads twirling this July 4th with the news that the NSA is now "'targeting" anyone who is interested in maintaining their privacy.

Revealed: 'Collect It All' NSA Targets Those Seeking Web Privacy
"Merely visiting privacy-related websites is enough for a user's IP address to be logged into an NSA database,' says new report."
The counter-spies decoded the NSA's 'filter' apps that lets them identify people to be targeted, and they found that the rules are pretty general.

NSA targets the privacy-conscious
"The NSA tracks all connections to a server that hosts part of an anonymous email service at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It also records details about visits to a popular internet journal for Linux operating system users called "the Linux Journal - the Original Magazine of the Linux Community", and calls it an "extremist forum".
NSA even targets those too poor for computers. In some impoverished places, old desktops are stripped of their hard drives and set up for visitors to boot using a USB flash drive. For $5, this gives a person his own computer. 

"Another tool specifically named in the NSA’s code is Tails, a Linux-based operating system specially designed for privacy and security which filters all of its Internet traffic through Tor and can be run from a CD-ROM or USB stick."
Is the NSA going to track every privacy-loving poor person on the earth? If your government is less than democratic, would you not use Tails?


The findings also contradict NSA longstanding claims that its surveillance targets only those suspected of engaging in activity that threatens national security.

“They say ‘We’re not doing indiscriminate searches,’ but this is indiscriminate,” Opsahl notes. “It’s saying that anyone who is looking for those various [services] are suspicious persons.”
While the NSA states that they do not target U.S. citizens in the USA,
"In this example, under the NSA’s procedures, a U.S. citizen sending an email about Putin’s frequent, shirtless poses to another U.S. citizen could have their communications intercepted and analyzed by NSA under a variety of conditions:"
... which include the condition that when the NSA can't tell whether you are connecting to the internet from inside the US or not because your privacy program won't let them, then you are targetable.

 Cover your gonads, and the NSA will think that you're hiding something. Your very wish for privacy justifies their interest.

You don't even have to be actually interested in retaining your privacy. Just in the idea of retaining it - that's enough to make you a potential terrorist, in the NSA's view.

Boing-boing has a very good article about it, titled

   "If you read Boing Boing, the NSA considers you a target for deep surveillance"


How can a person avoid being targeted? To avoid being targeted you need to never visit a long list of sites. The NSA has the list. You don't. The list is always changing.

If you want to find out about not being targeted, you will need to visit sites that describe being targeted. Doing this will cause the NSA to target you. So to avoid being targeted, you need to be sure never to visit any of the sites that they won't tell you about and that you dare not try to find out about.

Good luck.

Eventually, anyone intelligent will be on their target list. Early arrivals get extra points.


So what does being targeted mean?

"Targeting" means that they think you are a potential terrorist. They will retain your records permanently.

Of course, the NSA is getting leakier and leakier. It doesn't take any special program to learn about the holes in their cheese:
"I do not believe that this came from the Snowden documents. I also don't believe the TAO catalog came from the Snowden documents. I think there's a second leaker out there."
Swiss.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Genius

"Greenhouse is a browser plugin created by Nicholas Rubin, a 16-year-old programmer. It seeks out the names of elected US officials on any web-page you load in your browser and adds a pop-up link to their names listing the major donors to their campaigns."    Full story...

This discovery thanks to boingboing.net, a wonderful site wanting to be bookmarked.

The Triple-Pot Latte

There's nothing quite like the vigor and vim that comes from a large cup of strong coffee loaded with sugar. The caffeine lights the fire, and the sugar feeds the flames. What previously was urgent is suddenly imperative, what was impossible is delightfully doable.

How, one wonders, might this be improved?

The other day I ordered a latte at a local espresso stand before going on into a theater to see "The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD". They had no interesting syrups to sweeten it with. No peppermint, no hazelnut, no chocolate or vanilla. Only agave syrup. I tried it. No flavor to speak of. Its flavor was subtle, as they say.

The next other day, I was browsing online the cannabis edibles I could enjoy if I were simply to move to Colorado and what did I see?  Agave syrup.

What was inconceivable became delightfully doable.  A medium latte contains two shots of espresso. Add three shots of cannabis agave, and what do you get?  How will you know?

It's time now for this blog's yearly April 20th look at how the holy weed of the ancient San Franciscans has been doing lately, a review delayed slightly this year for ahem personal  reasons.

For those in a hurry, Huffington Post hits the highlights with their yearly review.

 11/09/2012 - Counties in Washington State drop marijuana possession cases in response to vote.

 4/05/2013 - Seattle police return marijuana taken from street dealers

 4/20/2013 - Prohibition now costs the government $20 billion a year.
Imagine the improvements if that much money were spent on education.

 May 17th - The Organization of American States said that countries should consider decriminalizing drug use.

 May 24th - Marijuana cannabinoids slow brain degradation and aging, reverse dementia

 May 25th - 47 percent of Americans say pot should be legal to grow.

 Jul 21st - A new federally funded study proves that marijuana is safe and effective as a medicine.
Not what they planned to prove, but what can they do?
"The goal of the study was to disprove the many other studies that show cannabis to be safe and effective in treating symptoms, side-effects and diseases. Guess what? The CMCR came to the same conclusion as those other studies: marijuana is medically useful and effective. Oops. That’s rather inconvenient, isn’t it?"
Aug 7th - CNN's Sanjay Gupta says Americans terribly and systematically misled about marijuana. He stated that the DEA has no scientific basis for the claim that marijuana has no medical value.

Aug 12th - A Dr. Sanjay Gupta Special: WEED shows how kids sick with epilepsy are helped by cannabidiol.

Aug 12th - AG  Eric Holder presents new Justice Department drug sentencing reforms.

Aug 18th - A report from Hempfest in Seattle:
"I haven't been to it in a few years, but I had to go do THIS one... the first one where marijuana is legal!"

Aug 19th - 82% of Americans believe that the US is losing the war on drugs.

Aug 20th - White House won't say if federal position on medical marijuana will be swayed by the Sanjay Gupta video.

 Aug 21st - State officials say DOJ has given 'tacit approval' for legal marijuana

 Aug 26th - The Senate Judiciary Committee invites AG Holder to discuss clash between fed and state marijuana laws.

 Aug 29th - DOJ will let the Washington and Colorado marijuana laws go into effect.

 Aug 30 - Is the war on drugs coming to an end?
"The Justice Department's announcement that it would not block Colorado and Washington from implementing state laws legalizing marijuana marked a sea change."

 Aug 30 - Police groups furious about AG Eric Holder's mrijuana policy 

 Sep 05 - Republican John McCain says "Maybe we should legalize. We're certainly moving that way as far as marijuana is concerned. I respect the will of the people."

 Sep 12 - Even Neo-con Grover Norquist and the tea party favor equal government tax treatment for legal marijuana businesses.
"Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform, the group that pressed congressional Republicans to sign a strict anti-tax pledge, stood alongside Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a tea party favorite, at a Thursday press conference to advocate for the change."
At issue is a section of the federal tax code that prohibits businesses considered drug traffickers from taking basic tax deductions for business expenses.
 Sep 20th - NBC News reports that cannabidiol (CBD) turns off the cancer gene involved in metastasis findings.


 Sep 26 - Colorado marijuana industry gets $1 million from an investor group

 Oct 17 - California is poised to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016.

 Oct 31 - One in four Americans would buy pot if it were legal. This is not a trivial market.

 Nov 05 - Portland, Maine, legalizes recreational marijuana. Adults may possess up to 2.5 ounces legally.

 Nov 09 - The NAACP supports marijuana rights:  "the NAACP's Board of Directors passed a resolution last month in support of H.R. 1523 -- the Respect States Marijuana Laws Act."


 Nov 21 - Feds and the local police raid pot shops as they prep for January openings.
"Just weeks before shops are to start selling marijuana for recreational use in Colorado, federal and local law enforcement raided stores across the Metro area Thursday morning."

 Dec 29, 2013 - Colorado prepares for legal recreational sales.

 Jan 1st, 2014  - The nation's first legal recreational pot market opened in Colorado today.

 January 3rd - Bill to legalize pot introduced in Vermont.

 Jan  6th - Ad agencies prepare for the legal marijuana market. "Their goal is to make it not only acceptable, but hip..."   Uh...

 Jan 15th - The New Hampshire House just became the first state body to ok recreational use.

 Jan 19th - President Obama says that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol.

 Jan 27th - Bush holdover DEA chief slams Obama for saying marijuana less dangerous than alcohol.

 Feb 28th - Alaskans will be able to vote for recreational marijuana on their summer ballot

 March 9th - In California, the Democratic party platform backs legalization.

 March 10th - Colorado collects $2 million in recreational pot taxes in January alone.

 March 14th - Stephen Colbert  "The market has spoken and the market is toking."

 March 24th - A state lawmaker plans to introduce a bill to legalize recreational use in New Jersey

 April 1st - DC mayor signed a bill decriminalizing up to an ounce of marijuana.

 April 4th - Attorney General Eric Holder said that he would be glad to work with Congress to reschedule marijuana.  It isn't addictive, toxic, or lacking in medicinal uses, and it looks kind of funny up there at the top of the dangerous drug list.

 April 7th - Michelle Leonhart, Bush-holdover DEA chief, thinks marijuana legalization will kill puppies. After all, you only have to look at the dogs that have already died from the illegal usage.

 April 14th - Maryland has decriminalised marijuana. Under 10 grams is a civil offense, now.

 April 15th - Tourists flock to Colorado, where crime is down and marijuana is up.


 April 16th - Can smoking marijuana "change your brain?"   Bad science says "yes!"



 April 16th - The ZaZZZ cannabis-edibles vending machine from American Green will be installed in the Herbal Elements dispensary in Vail, Colorado. Very soon.


 April 24th - John Paul Stevens, retired Supreme Court Justice, thinks marijuana should be legalized.

 May 5th - The chief of the DEA, a Bush hold-over, refuses to support drug sentencing reforms, although her boss the Attorney General is all for them.

 May 5th - The federal government just ordered a thousand pounds of marijuana. They need to do research, so the DEA upped their yearly allotment from 21 kg to 650 kg.

 May 6th - Nobel Prize - winning economists say we should end the war on drugs.

 May 6th - An army base was broken into and covered in pot seeds. "A group of anti-war Italians opposed to a US Army base in their midst broke into said Army base last week, where they planted about 200,000 marijuana seeds, reports Stars and Stripes."

 May 8th - Oklahoma initiatives for the November ballot would make marijuana a legal, exportable cash crop.

  May 14th - Kentucky sues the DEA to free its impounded hemp seeds. They were intended for agricultural research.  The win could be big if the judge bases it on the following:
"The public interest is not served by allowing unaccountable federal agencies to exercise arbitrary and capricious powers, not rationally related to carrying out any legitimate governmental purpose."  says the Kentucky Department of Agriculture lawsuit.
 May 21st - Colorado will spend $10 million researching marijuana's medical benefits

June 3rd -  Denver Post's Marijuana Reviews are Smokin'  -  "I found my legs tethered to the ground with my head meandering in the sky.”

June 3rd - Obama signs farm bill which legalizes hemp growing.

 June 4th - NYT columnist Maureen Dowd over-ate pot candy in a lonely Colorado hotel room and lived to write about it.

June 4th - California weed industry worth $31 billion a year. "... more than the combined value of California’s ten largest agricultural commodities."

June 8th -  Denver crime falls over 10 percent in wake of pot legalization

June 8th - Mexican President open to legalization.

 June 11th - New report blasts DEA for spending 40 years obstructing marijuana science.

June 13th - Jamaica to decriminalize personal marijuana possession - less than 2 ounces in a public space is legal. In a private space...?

 June 19th - The Senate could follow the House in blocking DEA enforcement against medical marijuana use. A bill has been proposed. The House passed their version of it with surprising alacrity.

 June 19th - The Philadelphia City Council voted to decriminalize marijuana.  Up to an ounce, oh my... ...  . . . (I use www. realtor.com for all my re-location daydreams...)

 June 20th -  And finally, the pope, after cancelling his appointments for the next month, has declared recreational drugs bad. Doesn't lead to the desired results, he says. Patience, o holy one. Sometimes it takes a party or two to realize the jubilee that is going on inside you.

 Says this ancient former San Franciscan candlemaker.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tomorrow Today

Change is ever faster and faster.

News about our government's secret surveillance of American citizens sits near the top of the headlines. While the government hopes to learn everyone's most secret secret, so does the public hope to learn the government's secrets. The government's secrets are both much more vulnerable and much more interesting, as its crimes are much more blatant and more profound than the petty crimes of the average American.

Whistle-blower Chelsea Manning, who long ago released to the public a cockpit video of an American helicopter gunner shooting down newsmen who were filming the scene of a military action, and who followed that by passing on a veritable shipping pallet of incriminating documents to universal publicizer Wikileaks --- has just written an op ed piece for the New York Times, explaining how Americans have been continuously lied to since the start of the war. She called it  "The Fog Machine Of War".  Respectability has come to her while still in prison.

Another whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, is still in Russia, but...
"Edward Snowden routinely hangs around at the New York ACLU offices by means of a BEAM telepresence robot, through which he can meet with journalists for "face-to-face" interviews."
He recently gave aid, over the video, to a reporter who was having an epileptic seizure. (He himself has had epilepsy.)


Nationalization of our local police continues. The latest embarrassment has been the discovery that, using a CIA tool called Stingray, police cars can capture the cellphone calls of people in their houses. Stingray pretends to be the nearest cell tower, capturing a call because its signal is more powerful and then making an actual link to a real cell tower. It just inserts itself into the line.  "Hi, mom... "

What is even more embarrassing to the government, the feds are trying really hard to keep the states' open records laws from revealing publicly the police-to-CIA emails that let them set up this vast fishnet. These attempts to cover their very private secrets are very public.

When I was a little kid, it was very important to know if your barn door was open, and worse, if the horse was out of the barn. The federal government is now trapped in the spotlight, trying to pretend that its horse isn't really out of the barn. Popcorn, anyone?

From 'The Independent' - Trevor Paglen documents the hidden world of governmental surveillance, from drone bases to "black sites"   But everyone's doing that these days...

   On 6/5, 65 Things We Know About NSA Surveillance That We Didn't Know a Year Ago


Terrorism, defined as "the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims" has come to America. Two recent attacks on local government by anti-government gun-toting not-quite-sane people both fulfill the definition.

One chap had just about had it with his local courthouse. He was expected to enter a plea on June 6th to eleven felony drug charges. He had other plans:
"Dennis Marx wore body armor and a gas mask. He brandished an assault rifle, an assortment of grenades, "all kinds of ammunition" and even used his silver Nissan SUV as a weapon of sorts, according to authorities. The 48-year-old man toted his own water supply and flexible handcuffs, presumably to corral hostages once he got inside the north Georgia courthouse."
Within three minutes, he was dead on the lawn. Suicide by police. He was believed to be a supporter of the Sovereign Citizens movement, which denies government's right to enforce the laws. He also was a former government employee for much of his life.

Then in Nevada, a couple of days later, two young people who had been expelled from the Bundy ranch for being too radical, decided to start the next revolution by killing two policemen. They became trapped behind a barricade in a store. The young woman shot and killed the young man and then herself.

They were of pseudo-fascist leanings, laying a 'swastika-stamped manifesto' on the dead policemen.


For those whose lives have become desperate, desperation turns to anger, and anger to violence. When one's own life is worth nothing, then neither is anyone else's.

Drastic, shameful, desperate poverty is real in America. The courts are making poverty criminal, fining the poor, and then sending them prison when they can't pay the fine:

A poor lady died on the floor of a jail. A single mother, she couldn't always get her kids to school already fed, well-dressed and on time. She was fined for their truancy. And then sent to jail because she could not produce documentary evidence for not paying the fines. She had high blood pressure and needed medication. The jailor did not give it to her. She died on the floor of her cell.
"Thousands of people have been jailed over truancy fines in this county since 2000, and two in three of those jailed have been women, according to the AP. But the criminalization of poverty is a much broader national phenomenon, with court costs and fees magnifying the statutory penalties for a variety of minor infractions such that the financial penalty snowballs into an un-payable debt for low-income people.
The results, as catalogued in a year-long National Public Radio investigation, are staggering: a 19-year-old jailed for three days after catching a smallmouth bass during rock bass season, because he couldn’t pay the fine; a homeless man sentenced to a year in jail over $2,600 in penalties incurred by shoplifting a $2 can of beer; a recovering drug user sent to jail three times for being unable to make payments on nearly $10,000 in court costs."
The crime is that of being poor in a society with an economic system designed to move money upwards.

While the devotees of fascism described further above may have an unscrewed motto or two, their pain is economic, and they rightly recognize that the power of the government enforces the pain, as in Mrs. Dinino's case. The government is at war with them.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will be available for employment soon - he has been 'primaried' by a conservative far to his right, a rare tea-party intellectual. His upcoming departure will be "a blow to military spending."  More popcorn.

China has just demonstrated its unawareness of the world's hunger for news by arresting a very public, very popular civil rights lawyer on some very hazy, trumped-up charges:
"Police said Pu was arrested on suspicion of "creating a disturbance" and "illegally obtaining personal information." It did not provide details, but the former offense, a kind of public disorder crime, has been widely used to prosecute activists in recent months. Pu's friend said the accusations were groundless.
"Just half a year ago, civil rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang was earning accolades in the Chinese media for his work pushing for the abolition of labor camps."
The Chinese authoritarians must think that no one will ever know that they have made for him such a problem. Popcorn! We surely haven't heard the last of this.


The fascist kids who killed the cops thought they were starting a revolution, but it's been happening for a long time at a much lower level.

Low-Level Insurgencies: The Working-Class Mini-Revolts of the Twenty-First Century

In England, some chintzy folks put iron spikes in the sidewalk to prevent the homeless from sleeping nearby.  Activists recently poured concrete over those spikes, turning them back into sleeping spots.

Where government has been screwing up, it has been paying through the teeth:  New York City Agrees to Largest Occupy Wall Street Settlement Ever 

A Philadelphia school district has just paid $610,000 for taking 50,000 pictures of students for two years without their permission while they were at home, in some cases dressing and undressing, using laptops that had been loaned by the school to the students for free.

Remember the Nisour Square killings in Baghdad, in 2007?  Blackwater contractors shot their way through traffic when they got nervous.

"After years of delays, four former guards from the security firm Blackwater Worldwide are facing trial in the killings of 14 Iraqi civilians and the wounding of 18 others in bloodshed that inflamed anti-American sentiment around the globe."

Good news for the planet, as well - electric car manufacturer Tesla has just opened up its patents for use by others, adding them to the public domain. Now lots of companies can make electric cars. This will help guarantee that charging stations are available, and Tesla will still make the best electric on the market.

It all works out in the end.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

As you consider ways of bringing peaceful resolution to the Middle East, I hope you can remember that old U of C motto, "... and how many ways can this go wrong?" and ask it often.

May the infinite guide your footsteps, for they are ours, also.

Dan McIntyre

Saturday, June 07, 2014

On, Wisconsin

Wisconsin yesterday became the 27th state in this country to legalize gay marriage. Over half of the states now allow gay marriage. In all the other states, there are actions moving through the courts. 

The next big change coming may be an end to the war on drugs. Two states so far have made a real beginning in this. Colorado will be using its new income from pot taxes to research medical uses of cannabis - something the feds never got around to. A rolling snowball may soon become an avalanche.

Power to the people. To the extent people feel deprived of power, they will sooner or later obtain it.


Monday, May 26, 2014

A Better Global Warming Question

A couple of years ago, the global warming debate was about whether it was really happening. It has now been determined that global warming is happening.

The arguers have shifted their argument, saying that global warming is not caused by human burning of carbon fuels. It's just a natural variation in the weather. A seventh wave.

The question, though, is:  "If all energy generation were suddenly switched to non-carbon burning methods - to solar, wind and thermal - what would then happen to the global warming problem?"

Would global warming begin to go away?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Start Your Own Social Network?

How hard would it be these days to put together a simple "Start Your Own Social Network" software package?

The add-on market could be major. This would allow a low entry price for the starter package.

If the starter package were a groupware project, it could be delivered for free. Its authors could then go on to write add-ons as shareware and sell upgrades. Or sell the premium version independently.

Even attempting it would look good on the resume.
 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Is Mankind's Future Evolution Already Within Us?

Geneticists examining the differences between Neanderthal DNA and the DNA of modern man have discovered that for each species different parts of the overall design have been switched on and off. The difference between Neanderthal and Homo Sapiens is in the on-off pattern of the switches.

A program. 

Combinations of the switches appear to produce an effect like a volume control, making arms more or less longer, brains more or less larger.

One wonders... are there gene switches waiting to be toggled in modern man that can produce a post-modern individual? Does the next version of the genus lie within us?

Should mankind artfully become its future self?

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Gift To Progressives From The Ultra-Right

As equal marriage rights for all are instituted in state after state, and across the world in country after country, American gays have the Westboro Baptist Church to thank for making homophobia look totally ridiculous.

Similarly, the Koch brothers have managed to fund so many kooky ultra-right wing causes that parts of conservatism now look ridiculous to mainstream America. They have split the Republican Party.

Lately, the Supreme Court has allowed unlimited corporate funding of candidates for office. This may not work out well, either. Corporate funding of politicians will not be secret. A politician will be known by the bulges in his pocket. Crowd-funding, which his opponent may use, is growing by leaps and bounds.

The crowd of corporations that funds a candidate may be his halo. Or more likely his albatross.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Visibility Is Killing The Security State

 The security agencies - the FBI, CIA, NSA, DIA, DEA and others - have been benefited in recent years from the increasing visibility of the human population. But they never expected to become increasingly visible themselves. Eek. They just can't live that way.


 The idea that data wants to be free never occurred to them.

 Back around 1965, Gordon Moore of Intel noticed that every two years, the number of transistors that could be put in a chip doubled. Computing power was doubled. This two-year doubling rate has continued in a general way to this day. The recent fall in price of the USB flash drives (thumb), from two dollars a gigabyte to two gigabytes per dollar, was a stunning example, an adjustment where two doublings of efficiency occurred. What falls behind, catches up.

 This makes owning data easier and easier. Twice as easy every two years. Stuff gets passed around. Stuff of interest goes further. Hot stuff goes viral.

 Anything still secret in this world is a curiosity target. What are they hiding? The harder they hide it, the hotter it gets. The harder the security state hides what they're up to, the farther through the human world the knowledge of it moves.

 The better the security state becomes known, the more clearly its former mistakes and crimes are seen. Yet they make mistakes even now.

 In all probability, the security agencies are not yet preparing to adapt to the increasing visibility they will face over the next several decades. At five doublings a decade, visibility will increase 32 times over ten years. People I don't know will be emailing me, telling me to trim my toenails.

 Us and them. They have toenails, too. And their toenails really need clipping.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Is Mankind Itself Mentally Ill?

If mankind were one being, would it be sane?

Mental illness is of several kinds.  In one of them, schizophrenia, splitting occurs in the mind that sets it against itself. Does this describe mankind?

In an ill mind, passion and logic can be at war with one another. Passion can rule. Or logic can rule, producing a sociopathic society. Does this describe mankind?

In a healthy mind, the forces of passion and logic both work to the overall benefit. The mutual benefit. Does this describe mankind?  It could.

The being with a billion eyes and ears now has cellphones. Passion empowers logical shapes globally.

Does this idea feel reasonable?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Many-To-Many Era Begins

I bought a new computer a week ago. As I started it up, at some point it told me that it had been intentionally designed to be a TV provider. 

Apparently cable TV will soon be falling by the wayside, just as the old way of broadcasting from towers fell some years ago. The cable guys just might want to buy a new computer and see what they're up against.   

If ABC's web TV feed happens to be transmitted from a single tcp/ip address, then everyone on earth is potentially a TV broadcaster, as there are more than enough addresses for everyone. We can all be "one-to-many."

Even when a person may have had one too many... or can only count "One, two, many..."   One can speak to all, anyone can speak to one.

A time is near at hand when many people may wear eyepieces that broadcast their immediate visual experiences and receive video from others. Many to many.

A new world begins. Again.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Obama Leashes The NSA

On January 17th, 2014, the question of how the NSA should properly be governed entered formally into the  public discourse.  President Obama put the NSA on a leash.  

It's not a very short leash. It is a stretch leash, as  it lets the animal wander a bit, but it brings it back home in the end. It is a thin leash. It could break. It may need to be strengthened if the animal on the end grows larger or more independent.  

Obama spoke at the Department of Justice...

       First, he told his audience that their mission dates back to Paul Revere...

PRESIDENT OBAMA: "Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you so much, please have a seat. At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee, born out of the Sons of Liberty, was established in Boston. And the group’s members included Paul Revere. At night, they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America’s early patriots..."


       Then he spoke of the leash that intelligence agencies have always worn...
 
"Throughout this evolution, we benefited from both our Constitution and our traditions of limited government. U.S. intelligence agencies were anchored in a system of checks and balances, with oversight from elected leaders and protections for ordinary citizens. Meanwhile, totalitarian states like East Germany offered a cautionary tale of what could happen when vast unchecked surveillance turned citizens into informers and persecuted people for what they said in the privacy of their own homes..."


       He explained that abuse of the surveillance system for political gain has happened here before.

"In fact, even the United States proved not to be immune to the abuse of surveillance. In the 1960s government spied on civil rights leaders and critics of the Vietnam War. And probably in response to these revelations, additional laws were established in the 1970s to ensure that our intelligence capabilities could not be misused against our citizens."


       The struggle that keeps our services going has become a struggle against motivated individuals.

"Now, if the fall of the Soviet Union left America without a competing superpower, emerging threats from terrorist groups and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction place new and, in some ways, more complicated demands on our intelligence agencies.

Moreover, these new threats raised new legal and new policy questions, for while few doubted the legitimacy of spying on hostile states, our framework of laws was not fully adapted to prevent terrorist attacks by individuals acting on their own or acting in small ideological -- ideologically driven groups on behalf of a foreign power."


       To deal with threats from motivated individuals, we needed to become able to spy on everyone.

"The horror of September 11th brought all these issues to the fore. Across the political spectrum, Americans recognized that we had to adapt to a world in which a bomb could be built in a basement and our electric grid could be shut down by operators an ocean away.

So we demanded that our intelligence community improve its capabilities and that law enforcement change practices to focus more on preventing attacks before they happen than prosecuting terrorists after an attack."


       Spying on everyone enables agencies to focus on those who are most likely to cause problems and to stop them just before they do this:

"It is hard to overstate the transformation America’s intelligence community had to go through after 9/11. Our agencies suddenly needed to do far more than the traditional mission of monitoring hostile powers and gathering information for policymakers.
 
Instead, they were now asked to identify and target plotters in some of the most remote parts of the world and to anticipate the actions of networks that, by their very nature, could not be easily penetrated by spies or informants."


       The NSA's view of all people is shared with all law enforcement:

"Today, new capabilities allow intelligence agencies to track who a terrorist is in contact with and follow the trail of his travel or his funding. New laws allow information to be collected and shared more quickly and effectively between federal agencies and state and local law enforcement.


       But Obama has problems with torture, warrant-less wiretaps, and new "authorities" that were put into law without debate:

"And yet, in our rush to respond to a very real and novel set of threats, the risk of government overreach, the possibility that we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of security also became more pronounced. We saw in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 our government engage in enhanced interrogation techniques that contradicted our values. As a senator, I was critical of several practices, such as warrantless wiretaps. And all too often new authorities were instituted without adequate public debate."


       The problem persists:

"... some of the worst excesses that emerged after 9/11 were curbed by the time I took office. But a variety of factors have continued to complicate America’s efforts to both defend our nation and uphold our civil liberties.

First, the same technological advances that allow U.S. intelligence agencies to pinpoint an al-Qaida cell in Yemen or an email between two terrorists in the Sahel also mean that many routine communications around the world are within our reach. And at a time when more and more of our lives are digital, that prospect is disquieting for all of us.

Second, the combination of increased digital information and powerful supercomputers offers intelligence agencies the possibility of sifting through massive amounts of bulk data to identify patterns or pursue leads that may thwart impending threats. It’s a powerful tool. But the government collection and storage of such bulk data also creates a potential for abuse."


       As we get more and more powerful, we should watch what we do:

"But America’s capabilities are unique, and the power of new technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do.

That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do."


       All this light that's being shined on intelligence agencies messes them up, even as they do their best to over-collect information of decreasing relevance. Surveillance technology is evolving faster than the laws that govern it. The danger of overreach becomes more acute:

"And finally, intelligence agencies cannot function without secrecy, which makes their work less subject to public debate. Yet there is an inevitable bias, not only within the intelligence community but among all of us who are responsible for national security, to collect more information about the world, not less. So in the absence of institutional requirements for regular debate and oversight that is public as well as private or classified, the danger of government overreach becomes more acute. And this is particularly true when surveillance technology and our reliance on digital information is evolving much faster than our laws."


       Our new capabilities are outstripping the laws that guide us:

"... And while I was confident in the integrity of those who lead our intelligence community, it was clear to me in observing our intelligence operations on a regular basis that changes in our technological capabilities were raising new questions about the privacy safeguards currently in place.

Moreover, after an extended review in the use of drones in the fight against terrorist networks, I believe a fresh examination of our surveillance programs was a necessary next step in our effort to get off the open-ended war footing that we’ve maintained since 9/11."

       An end to the war on the world.


       Then he mentioned his War College speech last spring about the NSA and the use of drones:

"And for these reasons, I indicated in a speech at the National Defense University last May that we needed a more robust public discussion about the balance between security and liberty. Of course, what I did not know at the time is that within weeks of my speech an avalanche of unauthorized disclosures would spark controversies at home and abroad that have continued to this day."


       The solution to the Snowden issue is to uphold the civil liberties and privacy protections our ideals and our Constitution require:

"...  the task before us now is greater than simply repairing the damage done to our operations or preventing more disclosures from taking place in the future.

Instead we have to make some important decisions about how to protect ourselves and sustain our leadership in the world while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections our ideals and our Constitution require.

This effort will not be completed overnight, and given the pace of technological change, we shouldn’t expect this to be the last time America has this debate."


       There are going to be some changes:

"So before outlining specific changes that I’ve ordered, let me make a few broad observations that have emerged from this process."


       1) The need is real, abuse is possible, corporations do it too, we can't just say "trust us":

"First, everyone who has looked at these problems, including skeptics of existing programs, recognizes that we have real enemies and threats...

We cannot prevent terrorist attacks or cyberthreats without some capability to penetrate digital communications...

Moreover, we cannot unilaterally disarm our intelligence agencies...  We know that the intelligence services of other countries... are constantly probing our government and private sector networks and accelerating programs to listen to our conversations and intercept our emails and compromise our systems."


       2)  There is a potential for abuse.

"Second, just as our civil libertarians recognized the need for robust intelligence capabilities, those with responsibilities for our national security readily acknowledge the potential for abuse...

... they know, more than most of us, the vulnerabilities to privacy that exist in a world where transactions are recorded and email and text and messages are stored and even our movements can increasingly be tracked through the GPS on our phones."


       3) Corporations perform surveillance, too. They're part of the picture.

"Third...  Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data and use it for commercial purposes. That’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically.

But all of us understand that the standards for government surveillance must be higher. Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say: Trust us....  Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power."


       The changes, from he whose motto was "Change you can believe in..." :


"... And today I can announce a series of concrete and substantial reforms that my administration intends to adopt administratively or will seek to codify with Congress.


       A new directive will strengthen oversight and will take into account our commitment to privacy and basic liberties:

"First, I have approved a new presidential directive for our signals intelligence activities both at home and abroad. This guidance will strengthen executive branch oversight of our intelligence activities. It will ensure that we take into account our security requirements, but also our alliances, our trade and investment relationships, including the concerns of American companies, and our commitment to privacy and basic liberties. And we will review decisions about intelligence priorities and sensitive targets on an annual basis so that our actions are regularly scrutinized by my senior national security team."


       We will make programs more visible (or more transparent, depending on how you read this).


 "Second, we will reform programs and procedures in place to provide greater transparency to our surveillance activities and fortify the safeguards that protect the privacy of U.S. persons. Since we began this review, including information being released today, we’ve declassified over 40 opinions and orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court... "


       We will annually look to see if there are any secret FISA court decisions that we can declassify:

"And going forward, I’m directing the director of national intelligence, in consultation with the attorney general, to annually review for the purposes of declassification any future opinions of the court with broad privacy implications and to report to me and to Congress on these efforts."


       Privacy interests will be independently represented before the  FISA court:

"To ensure that the court hears a broader range of privacy perspectives, I’m also calling on Congress to authorize the establishment of a panel of advocates from outside government to provide an independent voice in significant cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court."


       We are placing more restrictions of some sort or other on using information in criminal cases that comes from in American-foreign communications: 
 
"Third...  Specifically, I’m asking the attorney general and DNI to institute reforms that place additional restrictions on government’s ability to retain, search and use in criminal cases communications between Americans and foreign citizens incidentally collected under Section 702."

 
       National security letters, which secretly tell companies to provide information to the government, will be secret for a limited time, and will be made public after their need is gone.

"Fourth, in investigating threats, the FBI also relies on what’s called national security letters, which can require companies to provide specific and limited information to the government without disclosing the orders to the subject of the investigation."
 

       Bulk metadata which describes telephone calls - who called who, when, and for how long - comes from the providers. Henceforth it can stay on their computers. We can create a data warehouse out of diverse provider databases that looks to us like one single database. It's the same data - it just sits on the provider's computers rather than ours.  (And a deft move, that!)      

"This brings me to the program that has generated the most controversy these past few months, the bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215.

The review group turned up no indication that this database has been intentionally abused, and I believe it is important that the capability that this program is designed to meet is preserved.

Having said that, I believe critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives and open the door to more intrusive bulk collection programs in the future.

I believe we need a new approach. I am therefore ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata program as it currently exists and establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata."


       We are going to limit the fineness of the fishnet with which we gather America's data:


"Effective immediately, we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization, instead of the current three..."


        Let Congress debate the shape we will take:

"I recognize that there are additional issues that require further debate.

I have concerns that we should not set a standard for terrorism investigations that is higher than those involved in investigating an ordinary crime.

But I agree that greater oversight ... may be appropriate. And I’m prepared to work with Congress on this issue.

 ... On all these issues, I’m open to working with Congress to ensure that we build a broad consensus for how to move forward. And I’m confident that we can shape an approach that meets our security needs while upholding the civil liberties of every American."


       On collection of intelligence from abroad:

"Let me now turn to ... intelligence collection abroad. Our capabilities help protect not only our nation but our friends and our allies as well.

But our efforts will only be effective if ordinary citizens in other countries have confidence that the United States respects their privacy too. And the leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to know what they think about an issue I’ll pick up the phone and call them rather than turning to surveillance.

..., the new presidential directive that I’ve issued today will clearly prescribe what we do and do not do when it comes to our overseas surveillance.

To begin with, the directive makes clear that the United States only uses signals intelligence for legitimate national security purposes and not for the purpose of indiscriminately reviewing the emails or phone calls of ordinary folks."


       Obama forgets how the national security apparatus was used to suppress the Occupy Movement:

"The United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent, nor do we collect intelligence to disadvantage people on the basis of their ethnicity or race or gender or sexual orientation or religious beliefs. We do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to U.S. companies or U.S. commercial sectors.

... people around the world, regardless of their nationality, should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security and that we take their privacy concerns into account in our policies and procedures.
This applies to foreign leaders as well. Given the understandable attention that this issue has received, I’ve made clear to the intelligence community that unless there is a compelling national security purpose, we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies."


       Obama is assigning staff to follow through:

"Finally, to make sure that we follow through on all these reforms... The State Department will designate a senior officer to coordinate diplomacy on issues related to technology and signals intelligence. We will appoint a senior official at the White House to implement the new privacy safeguards that I’ve announced today. I will devote the resources to centralize and improve the process we use to handle foreign requests for legal assistance, keeping our high standards for privacy while helping foreign partners fight crime and terrorism."


       More reforms will be needed:

"... So while the reforms that I’ve announced will point us in a new direction, I am mindful that more work will be needed in the future. On thing I’m certain of, this debate will make us stronger. And I also know that in this time of change, the United States of America will have to lead."


       Working together, Congress and the Executive can navigate the "privacy vs security" tight-rope:

"For more than two centuries, our Constitution has weathered every type of change because we’ve been willing to defend it and because we’ve been willing to question the actions that have been taken in its defense. Today is no different. I believe we can meet high expectations. Together, let us chart a way forward that secures the life of our nation while preserving the liberties that make our nation worth fighting for.

Thank you. God bless you. May God bless the United States of America.
Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you"


--- + * + --- + * + --- + * --- + * + --- + * + --- + * --- + * + --- + * + --- + * --- + * + --- + * + ---

Of course, there were objections. The Conservatives felt Obama did not do enough to preserve our freedom by suppressing surveillance. Progressives also felt he could have done more. 


The NSA is uncertain how much information Snowden took and how soon it will be released. One can guess that they have been cleaning house lately, burying old messes, preparing to be all spick and span for a visit by the preacher. As a creature on a leash, it behooves the NSA to become a "good dog."

As more and more bad news gets leaked by the Guardian about the NSA, the leash may be a more and more comfortable place for it to be.

Obama followed his NSA speech by saying, a day or two later, that marijuana causes less damage to a person than beer. This completely changed the subject, and the NSA was no longer in the news.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The World Is My War Zone

War used to take place on battlefields. In a war zone. Far away. Now, terrorism and the war against it take place everywhere. Everyone lives in a war zone in the war on terror.

In a war zone, rules change. Liberties are limited. Authority - of one side or the other - rules.

And now begins a war to regain our liberties from those who have managed to keep the world a war zone, to keep themselves in power by perpetual war.

Now begins a war against authority.

Whether seen from the left as a war against the Idi Amins of the world or from the right as a war against big government, it is a war against existing authority.

The goal of the war - as seen from my side - is to make the world something better than a war zone.

"Civic engagement" - a most innocent phrase - involves attending hearings on new laws. It involves going in buses to lobby your representative. And maybe a little picketing and rallying. It means making sure your elected representatives know you are out there and are watching them.

Mankind has got government surrounded.

We are the peace zone.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Week of Stunning Change

Saturday night, 8:34 PM 11/24/13.  Six minutes ago McClatchy News reported that "Iran has reached agreement with the West on an interim nuclear deal". This means that there will be no war with Iran, no matter how much Israel pouts and storms.


On Thursday November 21st, the Senate voted to eliminate filibusters on most presidential appointments. Too many appointments were being held up for petty political reasons. 50 "Yes" votes, not 60, are now required for an appointment to be accepted. The Senate now has 53 Democrats and two Independents who caucus with the Democrats. Republicans can no longer hobble the Obama administration by blocking his chosen leaders for the Executive branch from running their departments. They can no longer attach generic wish lists to appointments.

This rule change stands as a warning - other rules that require 60 votes can similarly be discarded if they are misused.  


On Wednesday November 20th, Vermont approved their own state level single-payer healthcare system.
"The slogan of the program: Everybody in, nobody out."   


On November 18th, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the Monroe Doctrine is dead. It has guided two centuries of American domination of South American countries. It died something of a natural death: it has been invoked less and less in recent years as a reason for our influence there. But once upon a time, it justified our converting democracies into banana republics. No more.

A bill that will ease the resettling elsewhere of the detainees at Guantanamo is before Congress.

A bill that will make public the level of civilian deaths due to drone strikes is before Congress.

And surely there will be more.

Hallelujah.