Alaska’s Republican senator Ted Stevens got all technical in the course of discussing net neutrality on the floor of the senate a couple of weeks ago. The original text of his hooey is an amusing read, but the techno remix is even more fun.

(via William Gibson)

 

War Room – Salon.com:

“The letter Rep. Jo Ann Emerson sent to one of her constituents read like any other a 20-year-old legislative correspondent might prepare for a member of Congress: Thank you for writing, your concerns are important to me, blah, blah, blah. Then came the kicker: ‘I think you’re an asshole.'”

Following this rather unpolitic sentiment, the representative signed the letter and added a personalized post-script conveying her regrets for the response’s delay! Bwahahahaha… that letter belongs on ebay, or at least a campaign office’s wall.

Blogthings have been quiet here lately, as A and I get settled back into regular life after our long-delayed honeymoon (almost 5 years late is better than never). We had a great two weeks in Italy, and will have photos, etc. – we’re actually hoping to do a travelogue via google earth – up as soon as we can.

 

Drudge reports that Honeywell is developing an unmanned aerial drone for domestic law enforcement use.

Robot helicopters have been mentioned here before, and in an admittedly positive light. Those were cool robot helicopters, though; using them for law enforcement raises entirely different questions … 🙂

 

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That man in the white house used his Veteran’s Day speech to yet again suggest that those bold enough to question his unilaterally-imposed foreign policy are aiding the enemy (happy birthday, G!):

While it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. (Applause.) Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war….

The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges. (Applause.) These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America’s will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them. (Applause.) Our troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough. (Applause.) And our troops deserve to know that whatever our differences in Washington, our will is strong, our nation is united, and we will settle for nothing less than victory. (Applause.)

There is plenty about that quote and the speech in general with which an informed observer of any news more involved than Fox sound-bites might choose to quibble, but that’s not my purpose today. This administration has often made the democracy-averse implication that questioning their policy is somehow un-american, contrary to some unquestionable objective, or an aid to our real or purported enemies.

I saw Good Night, and Good Luck last night. It was generally a very good film about Edward R. Murrow‘s rhetorical struggle against McCarthyism. The parallels to our current situation – especially as highlighted by Mr. Bush’s comments today – are striking and chilling.

Most troubling of all, I thought, was that the movie showed a 1950’s U.S. that was much better equipped to resist – at least in the media – the dangerous ideology of McCarthy and his ilk than we are today to struggle with the neo-con worldview. The closest our mainstream media comes consistently and intelligently noting the emperor’s lack of clothing has to hide as comedy!

Of course, the intarweb provides a critical counterbalance, but at best, its current incarnation lets a small single-digit percentage of relatively like-minded folks stay in touch and informed. I can’t imagine the horrors of our current state without it — we’d certainly have already completed the transition to Oceania. But still, there is no way the net is (yet?) equivalent to broadcast TV in its ability to counter the prevailing message – look no further than last year’s election for proof.

The scene in the movie which shows Murrow and producer Fred Friendly agreeing to pay for the sponsor’s ads during their McCarthy-focused episode is described in further detail in the wikipedia entry:

Murrow and his See It Now co-producer, Fred Friendly, paid for their own newspaper advertisement for the program; they were not allowed to use CBS’ money for the publicity campaign or even use the CBS logo. Nonetheless, this 30-minute TV episode contributed to a nationwide backlash against McCarthy and against the Red Scare in general, and it is seen as a turning point in the history of television.

The broadcast provoked tens of thousands of letters, telegrams and phone calls to CBS headquarters, running 10 to 1 in favor of Murrow. In a Murrow retrospective produced by CBS for the A&E Network series Biography, Friendly noted how truck drivers pulled up to Murrow on the street in subsequent days and shouted “Good show, Ed. Good show, Ed.”

Can you imagine this happening now? I’m reminded, in the opposite extreme, of the part of The Corporation which profiles the Florida journalists who were driven out of their jobs for accurate, documented reporting on rBGH dangers, or of any of countless stories told in Outfoxed.

It certainly isn’t news that our watchdogs have swallowed a sedative of historic magnitude and impact. It’s terrifying, none the less. Murrow was prescient with regard to the overall trajectory TV was/is on as a media force, as well. From his 1958 speed to the Radio and Television News Directors Association:

We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.

Imagine what Mr. Murrow might have said about “Who’s Your Daddy?” or “The Simple Life”.

Good luck, indeed.

 

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There is a portion of GWB’s Veterans’ day speech with which I think we can all agree:

…the civilized world knows very well that other fanatics in history, from Hitler to Stalin to Pol Pot, consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history. Evil men, obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience, must be taken very seriously — and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply.

If the shoe fits, Mr. “President”…

 

I’m astounded that JB hasn’t posted this yet. From Zogby International:

“President Bush’s televised address to the nation produced no noticeable bounce in his approval numbers, with his job approval rating slipping a point from a week ago, to 43%, in the latest Zogby International poll. And, in a sign of continuing polarization, more than two-in-five voters (42%) say they would favor impeachment proceedings if it is found the President misled the nation about his reasons for going to war with Iraq.”

 

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I’ll admit to being a bit of a weather junkie, but this should be of interest to anyone with a political sensibility generally to the left of, say, those who would advocate privatizing roads and sewers and such.

Apparently Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) — yes, Savage Love readers, that Rick Santorum — has introduced a bill that would prohibit the National Weather Service from providing “a product or service…that is or could be provided by the private sector”, with the exception of severe weather alerts. In other words, services like the Weather Underground would no longer be possible, since they ‘compete’ with commercial interests including what has to be one of the most boring cable TV channels around (and that’s saying a lot!).

In the course of his great analysis of the proposed bill, Dr. Jeff Masters of the WUnderground points out that, in order to fulfill its purported core mission of providing severe weather alerts and information to the public, the National Weather Service has to monitor and forecast continually. In other words, their costs are going to be pretty much the same whether the public has access to the day-to-day weather information or not.

This bill is described as a way to use the more efficient private sector to provide a service that the public sector doesn’t need to provide. If the public sector costs are more or less fixed, however, that argument doesn’t work, and the result is simply to force us to pay for the same thing twice — once to the government, and again to Santorum’s campaign donors.

The bill is still in committee — please take a moment to sign this petition, and if you live in a state with a Senator on the Commerce Committee (and I know at least some of you do, Floridians…), give them a call to urge them to oppose this shameless ploy.

 

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Police in the UK have successfully tested a 160 MPH helicopter that can read license plates from as much as 2,000 feet in the air. The Eurocopter EC135 is equipped with a camera capable of scanning 5 cars every second…

The use of Automated Plate Number Recognition (ANPR) is growing. ANPR devices photograph vehicles and then use optical character recognition to extract license plate numbers and match them with any selected databases. The devices use infrared sensors to avoid the need for a flash and to operate in all weather conditions.

The stated intent of the system is, predictably, “denying criminals the use of the road”. Just as predictably, other uses are already in the works:

Within the U.S., two cities are using the technology in a device called “Bootfinder” to identify and tow vehicles with unpaid parking tickets or even overdue library books. One woman’s car in Connecticut was towed out of her driveway because she had $85 in unpaid parking tickets.

and even more insidiously:

One of the companies that sells the camera scanning equipment touts it’s potential for marketing applications. “Once the number plate has been successfully ‘captured’ applications for it’s use are limited only by imagination and almost anything is possible,” Westminister International says on its website. UK police also envision a national database that holds time and location data on every vehicle scanned. “This data warehouse would also hold ANPR reads and hits as a further source of vehicle intelligence, providing great benefits to major crime and terrorism enquiries,” a Home Office proposal explains.

<sigh>

I wonder if things like this or this work against such a system. (If they do, presumably it will then become illegal to obscure the overhead view of your license plate…)

(Via Schneier.)

 

Thanks to “Homeland Security funds”, Montgomery County, PA is creating a 3-D map of the entire county intended to aid in public safety efforts:

The images will be joined to form a three-dimensional map to help police, firefighters and 911 operators.

“First responders would automatically know the size, shape and location of every building and every square mile of the county,” Sullivan said. “We’re visualizing every police car being able to bring up a picture of the building they are responding to and look at every side of it.”

I’m not going to pretend to have thoughtfully assessed the privacy vs. safety/security tradeoffs of this plan – I just came across a news blurb in my morning review of security news. Two aspects seem notable: one, it’s yet another step in the creep of ubiquitous surveillance; two, it seems like the public benefits of the plan pertain more to safety than security.

In general, there is a useful distinction between safety as those measures that control or manage the risk of bad things simply happening (fire, natural disaster, accidents, etc.), and security as the countermeasures to more narrowly defined set of risks driven by an adversary with an intention of causing harm. While they are often related, safety and security are different, and should be addressed separately. Even if we decide as a society that we’re willing to make sacrifices in privacy or convenience for the sake of security, we might have a different sacrifice threshold as it regards safety. It is troubling that this distinction seems completely absent from this policy.

On a completely different note, and with a seasonally appropriate nod to the Irish, I’m listening to the Pogues and Joey Ramone sing “I Fought the Law”. Well, at least that’s how the ID3 tag attributes it. To be honest, I have no idea where I got this track, and neither do Amazon or Google. Any thoughts?

 

Kansans (is that what people from Kansas are called) are going to be trained to spot terrorism:

Average folks will play ‘a vital part’ in keeping the nation safe from terrorist attacks, said Andra Bannister, director of the Regional Community Policing Training Institute at Wichita State University.

To help that along, the institute is hosting two free programs this week to train residents in counterterrorism.

The first will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday at WSU, and the second will be at the same time Thursday at Kansas State University in Manhattan. The Wichita class will be held in Room 231 of Hubbard Hall; the K-State class will be in Room 108 of Edwards Hall. Registration at both sites will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Participants will learn the basics of counterterrorism, Bannister said.”

The program will show residents what to watch for and what to report to police. Participants will also learn more about the Patriot Act, the motivations and tools of terrorists, and what “homeland security” involves.

© 2011 Joshua Heling Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha