Friday, June 14, 2013

Why Does the NSA Need MetaData? To Kill People.


What does the NSA do with the metadata it collects? It looks for patterns, it matches those patterns with patterns of what it has determined as terrorist behavior, then it targets people to kill.


I Am Not A Terrorist


I am not a terrorist, and I don't want my government treating me like I am. But that is what it is doing when it collects the meta data from my phone calls and vacuums the servers of Yahoo, Google, Apple, Amazon etc. for my credit card transactions and gathers the digital detritus of my life.

It is disingenuous to the extreme to argue this is OK since no one is "listening" to my conversations. Voice communication is only a fraction of the communications we engage in and even more importantly someone can tell a lot about my life by looking at the digital exhaust I leave behind.

Why does the NSA need MY metadata. I am not a terrorist. Stop treating me like one.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Corrosive Impact of Money on Politics?


How corrosive is money on politics? This from the Washington Post today on a woman interrupting Michelle Obama at a fundraiser,

Some have said that the first lady wasn’t a proper target because she is not an elected official. However, time and again, the first lady has come to our community and asked us to “max out” on our contributions to the DNC. In fact, she had just made the same request of several hundred LGBT attendees, days after Senate Democrats had refused to include same-sex binational couples in their immigration reform bill. Despite the Democratic Party happily cashing LGBT checks, I have not seen the Obama administration “max out” on the myriad ways that the government could protect the LGBT community.
To be clear, I have no objections to any of this. Protesting a fund raiser is fine with me, as is asking donors for money, as is giving money to politicians in order to fund campaigns, as is giving money to politicians with the expectations they will vote a certain way. Clearly that's what this woman had in mind.

I've done the same. I contributed to the Scott Brown campaign when he advertised himself as the 41st vote against ObamaCare. And I stopped contributing when he voted for Dodd-Frank.

I often hear about the corrosive impact of money on politics. I don't see it. I see people, like myself, and like this woman, having an opinion on public policy and trying their best to influence it. Isn't that what representative democracy is all about?

Yet we twist ourselves into knots on who can give and how much and what they can say and when, and end up with the atrocity of the IRS attempting to silence political speech.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Pox on Comprehensive Legislation


This is from Ben Domenech's "The Transom," on the NSA's data capture program:

And why are we at this point? Because, in some sense, Congress never understood what it was authorizing in the first place when it came to the Protect America Act, which swept through Congress with bipartisan support.  “In reality, the PAA represented a sweeping change to American surveillance law. Before conducting surveillance, the PAA only required executive branch officials to “certify” that there were “reasonable procedures” in place for ensuring that surveillance “concerns” persons located outside the United States and that the foreign intelligence is a “significant purpose” of the program. A single certification could cover a broad program intercepting the communications of numerous individuals. And there was no requirement for judicial review of individual surveillance targets within a “certified” program. Civil liberties groups warned that the PAA’s vague requirements and lack of oversight would give the government a green light to seek indiscriminate access to the private communications of Americans. They predicted that the government would claim that they needed unfettered access to domestic communications to be sure they had gotten all relevant information about suspected terrorists.” 
I maintain Congress never really understood the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), nor Dodd-Frank, and probably doesn't understand the comprehensive immigration reform bill. It seems that much of the comprehensive legislation is more of a guideline for the regulatory state to fill in the details.

The result is the atrocity of the IRS targeting political speech,  HHS forcing the Catholic Church to violate its principles, hundreds of new regulations on banks, brokerages, and publicly traded companies and of course the NSA's collection of meta data on our phone calls and postings to the cloud.

Not to worry we are told, it's for our own good. Obama defends it saying this has caught terrorists, ignoring the point it violates our civil liberties. Comic relief can alway be found from the Burns and Allen of the Senate, McCain and Feinstein, who lecture us not to worry since the program has been ongoing for seven years.

The proponents of big government have a big challenge, in my opinion. Tell me again why I should favor these big programs when they appear to run amok in frightening ways.