Friday, December 20, 2013

Beatles' Bootleg 1963

For me, bootlegs became what I thought they should be when shady members of the "bootlegging community" were finally releasing multiple takes of very early Beatles songs. These were outtakes that were interesting regardless of whether the take was broken down or flawed. I prefer things presented one take after another in order of time recorded. I honestly felt I had listened to these things more times than would motivate me into a another listening session. Well, that was true, up until I was on my way to work today.

Last night I acquired what I suppose will be known as "Bootlegs 1963." These are some officially released studio outtakes and other performances that needed to be released for copyright purposes. Normally, I would be interested in that legal aspect but I guess I'll learn that later because the few early articles in the news are just interested in making an event out of it.

For people who follow the Beatles, this is a big event whether it is publicized or not. The anniversary of 50 years on 2013 of the year "1963" which is attached to the name probably means we may be in for more good stuff every year for a while. There is no release of these songs on any physical form and are available only through iTunes. Having no physical cd or vinyl album is not really new to people who want every last recording and variation of every song. What is new, is the willingness to release recordings in great, and I do mean great, sound quality without regard to the lowest common denominator tastes of the mass audience they usually shoot for.

It was really heaven listening to these things which are basically takes and recordings that were too inferior to appeal to a mass audience. I found myself singing a highly (newly learned) nuanced version of "There's a Place" to myself the rest of the morning. When you love something like The Beatles as much as I have in my life, it finally comes down to nuance.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Truthy Stuff

An entire month went by without any sandwich truth. I have mission creep from Facebook but hopefully I will be back here doing what I like to do best.

There is a possibility that I will be doing an annonymous sort of blog that you won't see, but I will be writing. I just got back from a cruise and I realized that writing is the missing part of my life. When I found out that I no longer had an off-line app for my Chromebook, I actually had to ask the cruiseline for some paper to use for all these thoughts floating by.

I want to effect the world through social media but Facebook is so frenetic. I feel like I am bouncing around all over the place with no deep passion.

So, without further ado, I will end this entry. :)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Not sure if....

I have been trying to figure out so many things this morning. It seems like I must take someone's word on pretty much everything I do. Written contracts are just not what they used to be. Trust us.

If there is every a time for mistrust... wouldn't you expect it now. But getting something precisely spelled out to you is an impossibility on paper. Why I would have to

I guess I could document it here that I have been told I am able to leave the City of Montgomery's health plan and come back to it if I needed it later, at any time, no less. You see, they just changed the contract amd this makes my current method economically silly.  Heck, if they can change the contract at the drop of a hat anyway, where am I?  It is so confusing and I feel lost in these transactions. Heaven forbid that I ever have to actually go back to coverage by the City of Montgomery to find out I have been lied to. Hell, they may not even be there. I have kind of have made my decision to work through to medicare, I guess, because, how can you rely on them to stick to a "contract."

At any rate, on a lighter note, I hear a bunch of stuff about bonds not being the go-to investment anymore. So I look up on USAA, my bank, to see my investments in bonds and come across this graphic under the allocation of my bond fund:

Sometimes it seems like a struggle to just successfully navigate life to get to the portion where they put you six feet under.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Deleted Comments on Libertarians

The interplay on Facebook can be fun but it is not the place for essays. :) While it is interesting trying to make one's comments succinct enough to be read, it is no place for long winded narratives, which you must know by now, are my specialty. I often hammer things out on facebook into a fine brass form only to delete them. After all, I am trying to hone my writing skills, I tell myself. Then I invariably delete, not just because my writing skills are bad, but because it doesn't belong on Facebook where the swift acerbic comment is king. Anyway, here is an example of the lost writings of me. The last two comments were deleted. The post being commented on was about Julian Assange's endorsement of Paul Rand as his brand of libertarianism. Here are my four comments. You can see there are no responses other than "likes" for my acerbic swift one, but then again, I deleted less than a minute after writing the last. A waste of time? You bet!!

  • Michael DeVore One of his "coworkers" at Wikileaks wrote a book about him... I don't believe everything I read (especially since this author was trying to distance himself from criminal prosecution) but what he wrote seemed logical. Assange is a strange bird. Both Assange and Snowden seem to have this need to be important in realms other than just publishing the documents, and the advantage they have is that official response to them cannot include evidence because their cases are ongoing plus both are dealing with state secrets, which, the less said, the better... for the agencies involved.

  • Michael DeVore But Rand Paul? That lunacy is beyond the practical into the absurd.
    32 minutes ago · Like · 2

  • Michael DeVore Libertarians in general, seem to like simplistic answers to intricate questions. Some of the things they say are perfectly legit because a simple answer can be the solution. They have, for instance, helped us rethink the war on drugs, However, the same simplistic underpinnings for their argument about drugs would have "buyer beware" capitalism, without government regs, to be the holy grail of economics. They would complicate this by having education purchased rather than available, which would make the buyer an easy mark. It isn't practical or workable.

  • Michael DeVore And college kids like this stuff. It is easy to understand and a simple world view that allows you to immediately come up with answers to questions based on a sort of utopian framework. Plus the two main parties look completely unresponsive to them. I just wish I could get the college students together with the lady who I knew to be a major player in Rand Paul campaign in this area. They could discuss her views on the world trade center being a demolition job by the government using demolition charges, the planes being a distraction.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

It's All Up to What You Value

"It's all up to what you value
Down to where you are.
It all swings on the pain you've gone through
Getting where you are... 
It's all up to what you value, in your motorcar
It all rests on what it cost you Getting where you are. It's what you value."
  - George Harrison "It's What You Value"

Self Indulgent Stuff

Things are rapidly changing in my life but they will all be for the better, in time, or I will modify as I go to make them better. It all started with a medical issue, which is not all that important as I really am an old guy and medical issues are the daily bread of one's later life. However, I started thinking of all the things I know I do wrong. Now it is almost a spiritual journey.

When one is young and has a belief in basically unlimited amount of moments in time, a person sometimes gets lax. I almost feel sorry for those who don't at least get somewhat lax. I remember my childhood summers between school as the best times of my life. I did try to use them somewhat wisely. One summer I learned about research, by researching topics in the Maxwell Air Force Base library. I was interested in mainly science fiction although I also researched POW accounts from World War II. Both interested me at the time. One summer I learned how to type on an electric typewriter. That effected my life as well. On yet another summer, I learned how to juggle 3 balls. This did not really come in handy in the rest of my life. It is not something you actually retain very well without practice. But the fact that I tried endlessly, with the barest of instructions, for at least a month to perfect this skill gave me a great sense of accomplishment and helped hone my tenacity. Otherwise, summers were spent playing, listening to music, reading, or watching television. It is good to learn the art of enjoying life.

I loved reading but I never enjoyed writing much. My standards were too high for myself. I wanted to be as good as the best without the steps in between. This is the whole story behind my blogs really. I wanted to finally begin the journey. Of course it is way too late but I am traveling.

The changes happening to me merely create the need for a new lifestyle. Habits are not easy to shift obviously, but the times I have met with success in the past all amounted to me rethinking everything I did in a new way. I have to keep my mind open for all sorts of possibilities. And I have to do tons of things I am not used to, and consequently do not relish doing being as resistant to change as ever. I might be the most liberal person in the world in politics, pushing for change at every step, but change really doesn't happen that fast in politics. One can control each moment of one's day much more effectively and drastically.

So I embark on a new adventure. What it means for the blogs and social networking, I do not know. Time is an issue. When one changes something, one needs to factor everything in. Take nothing for granted. There is always time in the future to modify.

I'd like to say I rarely write self indulgent entries but... all a blog is self indulgence.. come on, you know it's true. :)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Crescendo of Scandalous Crises Mode: Research Update

Now that there appears to be some willingness to reform the NSA to higher standards, my lack of an actual equal representation still hampers me from having pretty much any voice at all in the outcome.

I want to add this one graphic about my representation in the House of Representatives. I really got frustrated with this whole project so my research suffered. Here is an addendum which shows the extent of gerrymandering in the House, and so the dilution of my vote:

Before the 2010 election, conservatives launched a plan to win control of state legislatures before the census. The idea was to be in power when national congressional districts were redrawn in order to fix them so Republicans would win a majority of districts.
The Redistricting Majority Project was hugely successful. In 2012, Barack Obama was elected President by nearly 3.5 million votes. In Congressional races, Democrats drew nearly 1.4 million more votes than Republicans yet  Republicans won control of the House 234 seats to 201 seats.
How is this possible?
By pumping $30 million into state races to win the legislatures,  Republicans redrew state maps in states such as Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, Florida and Ohio to place all of the Democrats into just a few districts. 
In this manner, Democrats win heavily in a couple districts and lose the rest.

In North Carolina, the statewide vote was 51 percent Democrat and 49 percent Republican yet 9 Republicans won and only 4 Democrats.
Where is your coverage of this vote stealing, "liberal media"? You're willing to cover voter ID laws, why can't you cover real vote stealing?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Honey, The Garbage Disposal is Broken

Spent a great deal of my day putting in a new food disposal for the sink. I was kind of happy when the old one died as it was a cheapo they put in new construction houses. It's dying sound was HMMMM. So I reset it moved the blades around and it still sounded like a sick Mazda engine. I purchased a new one with the main concern of quiet in our fairly open plan house. I went by a video on the internet in removing the old one. Some things were more difficult than their "simply loosen the bolt" stuff, but basically it went fine. Then a second trip back to the store to buy plumbers putty... 1.97 for about 20 times what I needed... think they might have included 20 cents worth of putty in the kit?  Everything went well but it took a while. I turned it on and HMMMMMM....except....this hum is a sound of a correctly installed "quiet" working food disposal. I thought it was still broken.... I scrambled around for old food to dispose and magically, with almost no noise, it disappeared.

I feel very satisfied. Great day off starting with a note on the fridge that said, "Honey, the garbage disposal is broken."

The Crescendo of Scandalous Crises Mode: Epilogue

The Crescendo of Scandalous Crises Mode: Epilogue

The legitimate rebuttal. The none too lonely other side of the debate, as of today:

Major opinion shifts, in the US and Congress, on NSA surveillance and privacy:  Pew finds that, for the first time since 9/11, Americans are now more worried about civil liberties abuses than terrorism  The Guardian

Noam Chomsky "Snowden Should Be Honored for Telling Americans What the Government Was Doing"  clip from YouTube

Ron Paul: House leadership voted for ‘police state’ Washington Times

Greenwald: Low-level staff have access to ‘invasive’ surveillance Washington Post

So it goes. My vote didn't count for whatever happens...

The Crescendo of Scandalous Crises Mode: Part 5, The End

The last part of this series, as to why I think it is more important to worry about the loss of our right to vote than whatever the NSA is doing, is relatively easy. And I have really had it with the whole discussion so I will go as quickly as I can. I have come to terms, as I said in my last entry. My vote for the presidency is meaningless. While it has been pointed out that I may stretch an analogy once in a while, I am not exaggerating here. Odds are you do not live in a swing state where your vote has meaning either. A minority of citizens choose our executive AND our judicial branch of government, by extension.

Because of the winner take all method that most states choose in apportioning the electors in the electoral college, the election comes down to a few states and is not representative of the majority. Each state chooses it's election rules, purging of voting lists, and decided on the use and counting of those butterfly ballots upon which Pat Buchanan polled amazingly well among people intending to vote for Al Gore.

It is incredibly important that a democracy in which every person has one vote is not the method of the election of our highest office, but even at the primary level of selection we have very little voice. Iowans count a lot, for instance, and because of that we burn food to fuel our cars and muck up their engines.

Really, as this blog is only roughly truthy, as it was meant, with tongue in cheek, I want to say here and now that I am particularly pissed about my own lack of voting rights. Forget the recent supreme court decision encouraging voter suppression. My vote has never counted regardless of the length of line I stood in or whatever threats and hoops I had to bypass or jump thru. (I use the short version of "through" to hurry thru with this damnable blog entry that will change nothing.)

You see, I live in Alabama. While my presidential vote is completely meaningless because all the electors will vote GOP, I can look forward to the primary. But by the time it is our time to vote, the list of candidates has been winnowed out by such a strange process of money and influence, and states vying for television exposure by moving up dates, and really a complete anarchy of insanity.... that last year, I almost did not vote. It was not worth the 5 minutes it now takes me to vote. But there was Obama and if there is one president in my lifetime that I love on a personal level it is this man.

Attack him as you will, but I remain putty in his hands. I have even lost my respect for Jimmy Carter over him. Perhaps Jimmy was a twit after all and everyone was right after all.

What happened in my life was this: I actually started viewing African Americans, or whatever title they end up with, as my friends, true deep down total friends. I shook Barack Obama's hand once during the primaries but that did not come close to the day following the election. I have never been so affected by an event in history. I went to work the next day in a cloud. I was ten feet off the ground. I didn't really connect with African Americans that day as they seemed to be going about their daily business. Perhaps the younger folks knew the totality of what had just happened but I did not see the true boundless joy I felt. As I was closing the computer area of the library at about 9 pm, a lady about 10 years older than me was still in there. She was black. I walked by her doing my job but stopped and said "This was quite possibly the most extraordinary day I have ever had in my life."  She looked at me and said "Yes, yes it was."

I am not the one to criticize, say, the views of Noam Chomsky that I read today in support of what I feel is a rather rash rush to judgement. And by gosh, I realize the importance of treating Obama just like any other president.

I just like the guy. I trust the guy way more than I trust the folks who will benefit from the destruction of his second term and I decry the precedent setting war on presidential second terms, as it appears will always be the future strategy of the party not in power. OUR SYSTEM SUCKS.

I trust this guy more than any other president I have known.

I was never blinded so that I could not see the continuation of Gitmo, the near non-change in the Iraq war, the ramping up of the Afghanistan War, or the exponential increase in our use of drones to assassinate people from the sky without due process.  I voted for Obama the second time fully aware of these things and the industry building around security from terrorism and the spying that this would necessarily logically mean. I wasn't stupid. I watch Frontline, I do my research. What Snowden revealed with factual data was no surprise to me. What he probably makes up for the press would surprise a little, but I still would advocate very careful consideration before actually publically castrating our ability to stop terrorism

And what happened that day after Obama was elected completely changed my viewpoint on the world including African Americans. I see their kids are just like I was when I was a young man, more so than I do the kids of any other group of people. I lost a bit of my outsider status that day and my relationships with all people, whether on Facebook or in real life, have grown (I have to use a word twice) exponentially. That day was the most positive day of my life. The moon landing was beat solid.

I knew I would be here typing on my Chromebook till the wee hours of the morning. But at least I didn't run away with the boring details of the complete and utter failure of our electoral college system. This plus what I have outlined in the other four parts tells the story of what I feel outrage should address rather than our current system of security which after all was built by men we "voted" into office. I encourage you to prioritize your outrage.

I am happy I veered off into tangents at the end. I really am tired of arguing. Tangents make up my life. And this blog IS the bread of my life, after all.  2007 2011

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Crescendo of Scandalous Crises Mode: Part 4

I admit I have been delaying long enough about continuing this series. I really find it distasteful. Since it has been awhile, let's recap. The NSA thing bothered me because it came at the tale end of one scandal after another thrown at President Obama from the right wing. Then suddenly, I could not believe my eyes that liberals were climbing on the Anti-Obama "kill his second term" bandwagon. As I said, I am a pragmatic person. The Presidency controls a great deal of power and I don't want it in the hands of a party that has by observation been at their looniest moment since I have been alive. And yes I realize the Dems voted for the Iraq War, in a momentary hysteria of magnificent proportion. But again, that looney tune party were right there as the party that had all the fear factor to whip the dems in line. And honestly, all of them were doing what the American public wanted, in general.

So I have shown how totally messed up the Senate is. And as I said before, when confronted with a government that is trying to protect me from terrorists by whatever methods of surveillance, I really want a vote (and have it proportionate to the number one) to work with. I want my voice heard.  I hesitated a long time on the issue of the gerrymandering of the House, because, honestly, I just did not want to do the research.

I have come to terms with the fact that the American public (or at least the ones I frequently read, am in touch with, or am most familiar with) have decided that privacy concerns trump protection from terrorists for the time. They felt the opposite after 9/11. And terrorist attacks are massive movers of public opinion. Attacks can and will happen especially if we do not protect ourselves and the pendulum could and would swing back to the post 9/11 fear side of the equation if something catastrophic were to happen. Further, if it were to happen on Obama's watch, then all the things Cheney said about not voting for Obama because Obama would be weak on terrorism, all this crap would be perceived as true and well... you can see the ramifications.

Also, Snowden is a twit. Have I said that? :)

Anyway, for your reading pleasure, here is an article (in the format of Elroy's Homework, one other blog of mine) that shows how my representation in the House is obscenely lacking:

Fix Congress: Overturn Vieth v. Jubelirer!

Photo by Mike Licht

OK House Republicans—I give up. Since you've been the majority the only thing you've accomplished is naming things after Reagan and voting to repeal Obamacare an unprecedented—let alone unreasonable—38 times. Seriously, you've done nothing. Even Congresses that set out to do nothing and were dubbed “Do-Nothing,” look like overachievers by comparison.

Last Sunday on “Face the Nation,” Speaker Boehner said, “We should not be judged by how many new laws we create, we ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal.”

Well, you haven’t repealed any laws either. So even when you throw out the measurements by which we usually judge the merits of Congress and just make up your own—you’re still a national disgrace.
Why is Congress so horrible? Why is the Ebola virus held in higher esteem in most polls than the Legislative Branch? One word: Gerrymandering.

Basically, through a solidly and proudly partisan process our representatives have carved out districts to protect incumbency. So your congressperson doesn't have to work, be effective or listen to constituents—they just have to be a congressperson.

In 2011, when the dysfunction of Congress was noted as the primary reason Standard & Poors downgraded the United States' credit rating for the first time in history, gerrymandering was the reason nobody got voted out. The fix is in and Congress gets to cash their government paychecks.

“The concept of equal justice under law requires the State to govern impartially,” wrote Justice John Paul Stevens in his dissenting opinion in the 2004 landmark 5-4 decision, Vieth v. Jubelirer.

Norma Jean, Richard Vieth and Susan Furey were plaintiff-appellants in the case. These Pennsylvania Democrats claimed that the Pennsylvania General Assembly (specifically Robert C. Jubelirer, President of the Pennsylvania Senate) had unconstitutionally gerrymandered their districts, violated Article I of the U.S. Constitution (one-person, one-vote) and denied them protection under the Eighteenth Amendment.
The case hinged on whether gerrymandering was justiciable (able to be decided by the courts). Five justices said it was not. No one penned a majority opinion.

In the minority, Justice Stevens wrote, “Today’s plurality opinion would exempt governing officials from that duty in the context of legislative redistricting and would give license, for the first time, to partisan gerrymanders that are devoid of any rational justification.”

Justice Stevens wins for the most prescient statement about our current, self-quagmired Congress.
Stevens also cited the 1964 decision Reynolds v. Sims, which forced state legislative districts to have equal populations: “Legislatures...should be bodies which are collectively responsive to the popular will.”
After Reynolds there was a Republicans-led fight to pass a constitutional amendment allowing unequal legislative districts. Their amendment failed. But their goal has been realized: Voter disenfranchisement through manipulated districts.

Since Congress doesn't have to adhere to popular will—it’s no shock they don’t. A majority of Americans want them to work together. A majority of Americans want health insurance regardless of preexisting conditions (as in Obamacare). A majority of Americans want infrastructure spending. A majority of Americans want the government to not nationalize women’s bodies. A majority of Americans want a higher minimum wage. A majority of Americans want comprehensive immigration reform. And clean air. And affordable higher education. And regulated banks.

A majority of Americans (1.4 million more) voted for Democrats and yet we still have an anarcho-Republican majority whose sole pastime is to play chicken with the general welfare of the country.
Congress is disincentivized from compromising, working together, or really working period. Congress can cynically put party before country to the detriment of us all as much as they please. And they clearly, under the “leadership” of John Andrew Boehner, have done just that.

Americans are the ones without jobs, pensions and savings. Congress is safe. See? They really don’t represent Americans.

Overturn Vieth v. Jubelirer. Kill the Gerrymander. Fix Congress.
 See more at:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ponsonby Britt; or, A Matter of Perspective

Narrator: Well, today we find our heroes flying along smoothly...
Rocket J. Squirrel: Flying along smoothly?
Bullwinkle J. Moose: You're just looking at the picture sideways!
Rocket J. Squirrel: Actually it's like this! [screen turns 90 degrees]
Narrator: Oh... OH GOOD HEAVENS! Today we find our heroes plunging straight down toward disaster at supersonic speed!
Bullwinkle J. Moose: That's better.

Here is a current headline and subhead from CNET:

Microsoft: U.S. Constitution is 'suffering' from NSA secrecy

A strongly worded letter from Microsoft's general counsel to Attorney General Eric Holder says secrecy about National Security Agency surveillance is harming fundamental "constitutional principles."   link

The "news" in this headline should be obvious if you have read any of the Microsoft articles of the past week. They were all like this.

Yet this week is somehow different and CNET has the distinction of showing both sides of the story in their article while at the same time putting both sides under an attention grabbing statement that shows only one side of the story.

Before today, most of the media's Microsoft headlines and articles simply told the "evil" NSA side of the story, just like this CNET headline does. Actually, I don't think the media had the second side of the story yet. All of last week there were articles with headlines just like the one above, with Rocky and Bullwinkle plunging to their death!

Yet, here is today's "business" version of events from PC World (emphasis mine):

Microsoft: We don't give NSA direct access to email

Microsoft does not give the National Security Agency direct access to its customers’ email or instant messages, contrary to previous news reports, a company executive said.

News reports last week suggested that Microsoft has helped the NSA circumvent the company’s own encryption in order to conduct surveillance on email accounts through, but company General Counsel Brad Smith said Tuesday that’s not true.
“We do not provide any government with direct access to emails or instant messages,” Smith wrote in a blog post. “Full stop.”

The company does not help government agencies circumvent its encryption, he added. “To be clear, we do not provide any government with the ability to break the encryption, nor do we provide the government with the encryption keys,” he wrote. “When we are legally obligated to comply with [government] demands, we pull the specified content from our servers where it sits in an unencrypted state, and then we provide it to the government agency.”

Microsoft on Tuesday asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to permit Microsoft and other communications providers to share “more complete information” about how they handle national security requests for customer information, Smith added.

“We believe the U.S. Constitution guarantees our freedom to share more information with the public, yet the government is stopping us,” he said. The U.S. government has not responded to a June 19 request Microsoft made to publish the number of national security requests it receives, and the company hopes Holder will step in, Smith said.

Microsoft provides government access to data stored in its SkyDrive service and to Skype calls when presented with a legal order to do so, such as a search warrant or national security letter, Smith said. If asked for customer data in enterprise email or document storage, Microsoft attempts to redirect the requesting government agency back to the customer, he said, “and we notify the customer unless we are legally prohibited from doing so.”

Microsoft has never provided any government with customer data from any business or government customers for national security purposes, he said. In 2012, the company complied with four law enforcement requests related to business or government customers, he added.   link

All of the things Microsoft says it does not do are actually things we assumed they did after reading the articles last week. The secret that Microsoft was pulling out all of the plugs to reveal was that all communication is NOT being monitored. All along, Microsoft only wanted to communicate THIS to it's business customers. Microsoft wanted them to know that Microsoft was not looking in on their business goodies or sharing their secrets. 

It is probably tough running an email/search service (where the public probably matters a little) while at the same time selling secure data services to businesses (where the public matters very little.)

So, last week there were headlines and stories that reported Microsoft to be jumping on the bandwagon against secrecy in government. Yippee, even Microsoft agrees with us that the NSA is too secretive and spying on all of us. Everyone assumed that meant Microsoft was criticizing the NSA in the same way we have heard ad nauseum from the far left. Violating our rights, they were! Reading all of our emails at will, tapping our phones at will.

Today, a quick screenshot of Google News stories now shows only CNET still going with the Rocky and Bullwinkle plunging to their death scenario.

Well actually no... of course, the Guardian walks that middle path of insinuation. The Guardian is not one to give up on the plotline of the great service their Snowden scoop has done for us. They have done us a great favor by revealing the ways we find terrorists, regardless of the consequences to possible future victims of terrorist attacks.

Just to summarize: last week Microsoft was using heavy weaponry to attack the administration over secrecy. They were saying the Constitution was the issue! They sounded like Fox News in reverse. (Incidentally, the far left is beginning to have a penchant for going with their gut instead of facts these days as well.) However, in fact, all Microsoft wanted to tell us about was that there is no grand conspiracy to tap our phones and read our email. Obviously, there was a concern among their business customers and Microsoft risked losing the big bucks. 

I can see a few potential things to consider:

1. Edward Snowden has been exaggerating to upvote his creds. I have been saying this all along. I'm sure there might be some unpleasant moments at the NSA over the need for secrecy and the need for constitutionally warranted search. But I'm guessing their activity is nothing near the scale of what Edward Snowden has been orally describing. I'm sure there are problems when confronting congress with secrets, but I also think congress is a sieve with the sad lot that are in there. I hold to this idea. Snowden looks like a little pissant, going with my gut. :)

2. Perhaps Microsoft has schizophrenia. Microsoft is possibly lying about the conspiracy it has with the NSA and at the same time is risking everything by actually accusing the NSA of being too secretive about said conspiracy....maybe to throw us off track?  (cough, cough, I had to note this possibility.)

3. Secrecy is important to catching criminals and terrorists. It hardly works if you tell Al Capone "We are tapping your phone and we are going to do a search of your house this coming Wednesday. Be prepared. We will be looking in the drawers and behind the sofa."

4. Keeping secret things the NSA is not doing is just as important as keeping secret the things they are doing. For instance, in wartime, the first thing we now do is take down communications with bombs. We can can also guess that it is extremely difficult to take aggregate data (which the NSA admits to doing) and deduce who the terrorist is. Sharing any methods our nation uses will show our limits and venerability.

 I can really only show this by example: Let's say that you want to communicate from terrorist headquarters to terrorist cell. Well, you could call them on the cell phone (oh yes I love puns) or use a land line. But if you believed that every call was being monitored you might have to nix the phone idea and send someone in person to relay the message. Satellites can actually see people traveling from here to there. Despite the fact that we did not monitor their phone, terrorists believing that we were monitoring it had to limit their communication and thus possibly causing them just enough trouble to force their hand. I just made that scenario up but you can see that sharing information of our methods and the limitations of our methods only helps the bad guys.

And the bad guys are quite possibly capable of doing far more than we have so far experienced. The risks are virtually astronomical with the weapons that might be used. This fact, though you may have thought Bush Jr. overplayed it to become king, is logically correct.

5. I also guess that the silence of the Obama administration (which makes them look weak) must be there to protect our safety. Historically, I have hated hearing words like  "it is a matter of national security" especially when those words were coming out of the mouths of Nixon and Bush Jr. Yet, I don't hear these words from the Obama administration. I just hear silence. To me, this is kind of like Obama taking it on the chin for the gipper, our security.

6. A totally off the wall guess is that Microsoft had the corporate power to break the wall of silence. The story about how the NSA does not have direct access to emails must have been recently vetted by the NSA. While this hard won angelic Microsoft image wasn't going to effect Microsoft's long lost battle with Google over public emails and public searches, it WAS going to help the business enterprise side of Microsoft's fading empire. 

7. And it is possible that the NSA can read every email and tap any phone call without the help of any telecommunications company. For phone calls, I know very little about the process, but there are a lot of telephone lines. For emails, somehow they can track all those bits of data following multiple paths and decrypt them without knowing the decryption key. They are possibly hacking Microsoft, I cannot quite imagine them doing this and am sure they do not likely have the staff necessary to make listening to all of this traffic viable. Still, what do I know...and thankfully, what do the terrorists know? 

Microsoft has no intention of taking it on the chin and remaining quiet like the people who actually care about our security. The first shots across the bows of the Obama administration were designed to intimidate and threaten. The media did their part in "misinterpreting" the story. Will Microsoft be given permission to say all the things about what the NSA is secretly NOT doing. Stay tuned next week for Full Court Press Assured; or, Microsoft Gets Hacked Into Micro Pieces.


Friday, June 14, 2013

The Crescendo of Scandalous Crises Mode: Part 3, Anonymity as a Disease

I have given a lot of thought to this installment (well a good half hour anyway) and I have decided that it is time to roll out the argument of the constancy, because it is important to be constant, of my position on the subject of security. Keep in mind I was appalled by how my patriotism after 9/11 was twisted to become a war with Iraq. I rapidly threw any feelings of patriotism I held out the door. And my view of my country and my place in it was clouded beyond hope. Yes, I am definately a liberal.

Nevertheless, I decided, in the weeks that followed, that anonymity was the problem here. Being in a field closely associated with computers, I had run across the bad aspects of anonymity too many times for me to really enjoy it. Anonymity was in the spam that crammed my email box, it was in the scams from anonymous people sending emails, or even in the people in chat rooms becoming rude and just bewildering as they felt the power in taking a cheap shot at someone from their hidey-hidey place. Anonymity was really the big problem in pretty much any crime, I guessed, because if we knew who did the crime, well, we would arrest them.

Yes, I realized that bank robbers wear masks to their jobs.

In coming up with analogies for the anonymity of the Internet I would think of people walking down the street with masks on so that their identity was not known. That was what the Internet felt like in the early days and still smacked of around 9/11. It was like everyone were driving cars around with heavily tinted windows and no license plates.  There just might be more hit and runs with automobiles when there was little risk of being caught. People walking down the street with masks on would surely not act near as friendly when there was no reason to act that way. And most importantly, at least in the society I was familiar with, crime statistics would surely jump astronomically.

Modern society had created a world that was foreign to the world I grew up with. Anonymity was not as profound when I was young. To illustrate the freedom in not being anonymous: kids played outside with parents barely watching.  I roamed around unattended, miles from home, on my bike. No one thought my parents to be inadequate. Nothing ever really happened to me, at least not in the sense of a worst parent's fears. I guess I got a dog bite, here and there. But "evildoers" did not feel as free to grab a kid anonymously. I had freedom because people were more aware of their place in society. Or to put it another way, they were afraid they would get caught. Without today's perceived advantages of anonimity,  my wanderings were more like learning experiences, rather than truly dangerous situations. People seemed to know other people. One's identity in society was just more important.

One can trace the breakdown of trust in our society to other factors besides anonymity, but I still have this feeling etched in my being that focus on the individual, and anonymity were basically the factors of substance. No longer were people concerned about the welfare of society but upon their own selves.  And further, only if done in secret, with privacy, can bad acts have the desired effects in favor of the individual, instead of incurring the possibly undesirable societal effects on the individual, like say, incarceration.

Trust of the government is different thing entirely for me. I certainly want to trust my government with information about me. I want to elect people who will provide me with the protector when I need him/her as I am being attacked, and I want my elected representatives to stop the protector from nosing into my business for no reason. I want the best of both worlds. In my neighborhood from the 60's analogy, there were parents all up in other parents' business and there were parents who looked after other parents' children as if they were their own.

There is an interesting interplay of anonymity when it comes to police officers. The police, since forever, have had that anonymous feel to them. Certainly there is a reason for that badge number. It is to knock down the anonymity of a police officer who commits bad acts. But police have ways around that, and one method is the notorious "Blue Code of Silence."  Yet, still courts tend to defer to the police officer in decisions. It gives a lot of leeway for bad behavior.

We may be upset about constant surveillance when it comes to our individual desires up until the point when that surveillance does something in our favor (never mind society's favor.) For instance, if a police officer begins beating on an individual, there is not a great deal that the person can do. The officer has the gun, the officer has the backup, the officer is usually in better shape, but the officer cannot control someone with a cellphone recording the incident. There have been interesting moments that should make everyone aware of the need to film the police in secret, every chance they get, and to secure one's footage personally before the police officer can "secure" it for  "evidence."  But, in general, surveillance would be a big bonus in stopping the policeman from ever wanting to do a bad act in public.

To show you just how illiberal I can be on this subject, I had a discussion with my wife after Obama was elected. I said something completely naive and utopian but it serves to illustrate my feelings. I said, in my post election elation: "What would really be great at this exact juncture, would be to begin the process of redefining anonymity. For instance, it would be awesome to have security cameras on every street corner, watched by no one, to be watched only when someone has a really important reason (and warrant) to access the information like tracking a bank robber, or monitoring a terrorist. What this would take would be a grand leap in trust for our government." And I certainly trusted Obama this much. And yes, my wife doesn't listen to such crap. But that was my perfect world scenario. A perfect government that would use surveillance to protect us WITHOUT getting into our business. Honestly, this is why I am totally against using cameras at intersections for petty things like someone running a stoplight. Sure, it is something that is highly dangerous and can kill people BUT the technology has far more use if we trust it as our friend than hate it as our enemy. It has far more power when used with the greatest degree of restraint that is within us. Petty crimes out the window, focus on the important. Focus on the time someone IS killed and everyone agrees on looking at the tape.

I feel the same utopian thoughts about surveillance of telephones and computer communications. Record everything there is to record, but don't use the information for anything except those crimes that deserve the highest level of attention. Yes it is naive. But I DO want to be protected against nuclear terrorism.

And there is the rub. I must trust my government yet I haven't a vote that means a spit on the pavement (see other parts of this series.)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Crescendo of Scandalous Crises Mode: Part 2, A New Beginning.

5/16/13:  These guys are awfully frustrated right now,” Carville told MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, referring to the GOP. “They’re taking the anger out, and I understand that. I think the White House has just got to live with this for 30 days, get the truth out and you know, just roll with the punches here. They’re down to swinging pretty wildly here.”[1]

I’m still kind of hoping to stick to the time table but I have a feeling Carville was not expecting the left wing to be led into the “mud against the wall to see if it sticks” strategy. Regardless, a lot of educating is going on here, apparently. In this second part of my opus, I really want to lay the framework for terrifying things that I guess might suddenly come up to surprise people at the oddest times considering their vast hysterical importance.
Someone actually suggested I might be a Nihilist from my rantings in part 1 of this series, a term which before I generally thought to mean that one believed in basically nothing. I get the finer points now but still. Let me disabuse you of that notion. I see a great deal that is wrong, I have very strong political views but… alas, somehow I am outnumbered because no one does anything about the problems that seem all but obvious to me and incredibly important.

Let me begin with the first thing that bothers me to the point of wanting to abandon our country and move elsewhere. The Senate is not representational. We do not have a democracy nor even a fair representative republic in this body (and I will get to the other bodies in later musings. A good murder mystery always has more and more bodies.) When numbers are bantered about that a party has a majority in the Senate, there are logical reasons this should not make any sense at all in any policy perspective, despite the numbers that seem to be obvious.

First is the most obvious: there are two Senators from each state. This one factor alone disqualifies us as a democracy and please let’s not get our powdered wigs in a twist when this all comes up in a smear campaign.

# of US Citizens Being Represented.
Percentage of US Citizens in State Represented
Number of Senators with completely equal power

Ok, somehow I guess you were expecting more. No, this disqualifies our country on a basic right that we all assume: “equality.”  It disqualifies us from fair representation.  To me, my privacy is important yes, my ability to vote to affect laws that affect my privacy and countless other issues: more important.

How do I put this in sandwich terms? The guy in front of you in line gets a bigger sandwich for the same price. In fact he can’t carry it out. You, from California, get 1 sandwich for every 66 the guy in front of you from Wyoming gets for the same price. You stand there, watch him take his sacks out in multiple trips, olive oil dribbling down the aisle, as you wait for your turn to order your one sandwich.


This vast inequity of power has also been noted by people in the business of buying off politicians. So, I pay 5 dollars and get 66 footlongs here, and 5 dollars gets me one there. An  international company doesn’t care if the person that is helping block legislation is in your particular region, or is your particular representative. They care about the bottom line, and your bottom line is close to meaningless.


So why couldn’t the President with a majority in the Senate get your left wing cause off the ground? Seriously, you think that a President can convince a majority of folks getting campaign funds and other goodies from International companies?  While the news reporters are owned by the rich… etc etc?   Majority is just not possible in the Senate except with the most basic of issues. And hey, even if you have a majority, the minority can have a filibuster without actually having one. Each member has a virtual veto on every other member that together represent vast amounts of the population.

Tell me you get it, please.  Tell me I am not a Nihilist for thinking the whole thing is laughable.

But it is just a few more days to go before overload and implosion of scandals if James Carville's prediction is right. However, at least give his prediction another month. I think he ordered Swiss Cheese on the left side of his sandwich and got extra Amurican instead.


[2] Essentially, this is just a table of population with Senate representation added. I guess I understand why the table in Wikipedia has the House representation figures but not the Senate. I guess, I understand. But it only takes a very thin column to do show the other representatives, so why not include it? It is subtle, but this chart is incomplete in just totally ignoring the hypocrisy.