Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sotomayor and 1984

Recently on Reddit, someone asked which SciFi universe was most likely in our future.

I responded 1984 - and was severely downvoted (go figure).

I am somewhat vindicated by recent statements by Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor:
"We are in that brave new world, and we are capable of being in that Orwellian world, too."
It's good that the is someone on the Supreme Court who has this problem in view.

But it's not all good news:
"And when the high court got its first chance to look at one aspect of the program, it declined to do so and let stand the government's bulk metadata phone collection program Snowden disclosed."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Overreach at the NSA

An excellent article at Ars, detailing some of the overreach at NSA:
"NSA had been routinely running queries of the metadata using querying terms that did not meet the required standard for querying. The Court concluded that this requirement had been 'so frequently and systematically violated that it can fairly be said that this critical element of the overall…regime has never functioned effectively'"
So, this is violations of their own standard (which is arguably built on top of an unconstitutional system).  There is no discussion as to whether the system is itself a violation.

I actually agree with one of the caveats of the system administrator:
"'This is not an egregious overreaching by a greedy agency seeking to spy on Americans,' he said. 'It's an inadvertent collection of a relatively small number of US person communications.'"
My argument is not that the NSA is a greedy agency seeking to spy on Americans.

My argument is that the NSA has lost sight of its purpose, and is letting the (dubious) ends justify their (atrocious) means.

From the judges:
"the third instance in less than three years in which the government has disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program"
"neither the NSA nor the Court has the ability to know with certainty how many Americans’ rights have been violated"
Any system will be abused.  And systems grow and become perverted from the original intent.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Population Management and Climate Change

If you think I'm crazy because I draw a line between climate change proponents and those who love death - read this article at CNN:
"Last, however, if we can't control consumption, we can control the number of consumers."
The author points to the same open secret I did four years ago:
"According to the World Resources Institute, to stay on the safe side of a 2-degree Celsius increase, we'd have to go back to the amount we were expelling in 1990 -- and then cut that in half."

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Knowing God

"Knowing God" (J. I. Packer) (audio) - I don't like doing heavy books via audio, but this book was very comforting to listen to in crazy traffic.  I will need to do it again, because I'm sure I missed stuff.

It is an overview and surface introduction to theology proper (the study of God).

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Power Generation and Water

An interesting article at Ars:
"In the US, fully half of the water withdrawn from sources such as lakes and aquifers ends up being used for generating electricity."
This creates a wrinkle when looking at using nuclear power to replace carbon dioxide producing plants - nuclear uses a lot of water.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Waste and Oppression

I don't know what is the worst part of all the NSA revelations: the rampant violation and disregard of the Constitution and the rights of the people, the cover-ups, the arrogance of those in charge, or the waste of money.

A number of articles on Wikipedia reveal this is not all new to Edward Snowden.

According to the Baltimore Sun (link is now dead, but available on the Wayback machine), there was a program called ThinThread which might have been the beginning of the panopticon.  It was not as egregious as the current systems, although I would not say it is legal.

ThinThread was discontinued, in favor of a more aggressive program (Trailblazer).  It continued to monitor everyone, and eliminated any attempt at privacy protection:
"'They basically just disabled the [privacy] safeguards,' said one intelligence official."
"In 2003, the NSA IG (not the DoD IG) had declared Trailblazer an expensive failure. It had cost more than $1 billion."
Also of interest is the man Thomas Andrews Drake.  He was concerned about privacy violations, and sought to protest the Trailblazer program.  He eventually discussed non-classified information with a reporter.  The result?  FBI agents broke into his home and pointed guns at his family.  He was pressured into pleading guilty, and to reveal other potential whistle-blowers.  He was charged, and eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Secret Government Crackdown on the People Having Secrets

A chilling story from Ars:
"'I was faced with the choice of watching it suffer or putting it to sleep quietly... it was very difficult,' he told Democracy Now. 'I had to pick between the lesser of two evils.'
What was that other choice? 'Unfortunately, I can't talk about that,'"
For those not familiar with Lavabit, it was a mail service (like Yahoo or GMail) that used encryption.  You could be reasonably sure that your email was read only by the intended recipient (normal mail is totally open - it can be read by any party on the network between you and your recipient).

The appearance here is that the government ordered Lavabit to share the encrypted mails - or shutdown.  And they chose to shutdown rather than participate in fraud against their customers.

The most shocking thing is that no one can discuss what the government has done.

So, we have secret laws, secret courts, with secret decisions, issuing secret orders which must be kept secret by those targeted.

And all to unravel any attempt by private citizens to keep secrets.