Daily Archive: 01/24/2014

Jan 24 2014

Snowden Answers Questions

Yesterday afternoon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden answered questions in s candid on line chat. He responded not only to questions about what he believes should be done about the massive NSA surveillance programs and the threats to his life but countered some of the spurious accusations that he acted in concert with the Russians and stole his co-workers passwords.

@mperkel #ASKSNOWDEN They say it’s a balance of privacy and safety. I think spying makes us less safe. do you agree?

Intelligence agencies do have a role to play, and the people at the working level at the NSA, CIA, or any other member of the IC are not out to get you. They’re good people trying to do the right thing, and I can tell you from personal experience that they were worried about the same things I was.

The people you need to watch out for are the unaccountable senior officials authorizing these unconstitutional programs, and unreliable mechanisms like the secret FISA court, a rubber-stamp authority that approves 99.97% of government requests (which denied only 11 requests out of 33,900 in 33 years http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/06/fisa-court-nsa-spying-opinion-reject-request. They’re the ones that get us into trouble with the Constitution by letting us go too far.

And even the President now agrees our surveillance programs are going too far, gathering massive amounts of private records on ordinary Americans who have never been suspected of any crime. This violates our constitutional protection against unlawful searches and seizure. Collecting phone and email records for every American is a waste of money, time and human resources that could be better spent pursuing those the government has reason to suspect are a serious threat.

I’m going to stop here. My deepest thanks to everyone who sent questions, and whether or not we agree on where the lines should be drawn, I encourage you to contact your members of congress and tell them how you feel about mass surveillance. This is a global problem, and the first step to tackling it is by working together to fix it at home.

If you’d like to more ideas on how to push back against unconstitutional surveillance, consider taking a look at the organizations working together to organize https://thedaywefightback.org/. [..]

@LukasReuter #AskSnowden How should the community of states react to the new information concerning surveillance? What actions have to be made?

We need to work together to agree on a reasonable international norm for the limitations on spying. Nobody should be hacking critical-to-life infrastructure like hospitals and power stations, and it’s fair to say that can be recognized in international law.

Additionally, we need to recognize that national laws are not going to solve the problem of indiscriminate surveillance. A prohibition in Burundi isn’t going to stop the spies in Greenland. We need a global forum, and global funding, committed to the development of security standards that enforce our right to privacy not through law, but through science and technology. The easiest way to ensure a country’s communications are secure is to secure them world-wide, and that means better standards, better crypto, and better research. [..]

@RagBagUSA #AskSnowden what (in your opinion) is the appropriate extent of US national security apparatus? Surely some spying is needed?

Not all spying is bad. The biggest problem we face right now is the new technique of indiscriminate mass surveillance, where governments are seizing billions and billions and billions of innocents’ communication every single day. This is done not because it’s necessary – after all, these programs are unprecedented in US history, and were begun in response to a threat that kills fewer Americans every year than bathtub falls and police officers – but because new technologies make it easy and cheap.

I think a person should be able to dial a number, make a purchase, send an SMS, write an email, or visit a website without having to think about what it’s going to look like on their permanent record. Particularly when we now have courts, reports from the federal government, and even statements from Congress making it clear these programs haven’t made us any more safe, we need to push back.

This is a global problem, and America needs to take the lead in fixing it. If our government decides our Constitution’s 4th Amendment prohibition against unreasonable seizures no longer applies simply because that’s a more efficient means of snooping, we’re setting a precedent that immunizes the government of every two-bit dictator to perform the same kind of indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance of entire populations that the NSA is doing.

It’s not good for our country, it’s not good for the world, and I wasn’t going to stand by and watch it happen, no matter how much it cost me. The NSA and the rest of the US Intelligence Community is exceptionally well positioned to meet our intelligence requirements through targeted surveillance – the same way we’ve always done it – without resorting to the mass surveillance of entire populations.

When we’re sophisticated enough to be able to break into any device in the world we want to (up to and including Angela Merkel’s phone, if reports are to be believed), there’s no excuse to be wasting our time collecting the call records of grandmothers in Missouri. [..]

@savagejen Do you think it is possible for our democracy to recover from the damage NSA spying has done to our liberties? #AskSnowden

Yes. What makes our country strong is our system of values, not a snapshot of the structure of our agencies or the framework of our laws. We can correct the laws, restrain the overreach of agencies, and hold the senior officials responsible for abusive programs to account.

The Russian government has extended Mr. Snowden’s asylum beyond next August, possibly indefinitely.

The lawmaker, Aleksei K. Pushkov, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of Parliament, hinted during a panel discussion that the extension of temporary refugee status for Mr. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, might be indefinite.

“He will not be sent out of Russia,” Mr. Pushkov said. “It will be up to Snowden.”

He added that Mr. Snowden’s father believes his son could not get a fair trial in the United States.

Mr. Pushkov made his comments came against a backdrop of broad criticism of the American spying programs that have come to light since the summer. He pointed to the sheer volume of information that American authorities are able to gather.

“The U.S. has created a Big Brother system,” Mr. Pushkov said.

Jan 24 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial: End the Phone Data Sweeps

Once again, a thorough and independent analysis of the government’s dragnet surveillance of Americans’ phone records has found the bulk data collection to be illegal and probably unconstitutional. Just as troubling, the program was found to be virtually useless at stopping terrorism, raising the obvious question: Why does President Obama insist on continuing a costly, legally dubious program when his own appointees repeatedly find that it doesn’t work? [..]

The growing agreement among those who have studied the program closely makes it imperative that the administration, along with the program’s defenders in Congress, explain why such intrusive mass surveillance is necessary at all. If Mr. Obama knows something that contradicts what he has now been told by two panels, a federal judge and multiple members of Congress, he should tell the American people now. Otherwise, he is in essence asking for their blind faith, which is precisely what he warned against during his speech last week on the future of government surveillance.

Paul Krugman: The Populist Imperative

“The outstanding faults of the economic society in which we live are its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes.”

John Maynard Keynes wrote that in 1936, but it applies to our own time, too. And, in a better world, our leaders would be doing all they could to address both faults.

Unfortunately, the world we actually live in falls far short of that ideal. In fact, we should count ourselves lucky when leaders confront even one of our two great economic failures. If, as has been widely reported, President Obama devotes much of his State of the Union address to inequality, everyone should be cheering him on.

They won’t, of course. Instead, he will face two kinds of sniping. The usual suspects on the right will, as always when questions of income distribution comes up, shriek “Class warfare!” But there will also be seemingly more sober voices arguing that he has picked the wrong target, that jobs, not inequality, should be at the top of his agenda.

John Nichols: The Infrastructure of American Democracy Is Dysfunctional

President Obama’s second inaugural address touched on the reality that the United States has a dysfunctional election system. Describing the nation’s progress, as well as the ways in which the nation needs to progress, the president declared, “Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.”

Obama drew knowing applause when he spoke that truth in January 2013, as he did in November 2012, when just hours after his re-election the president noted that millions of Americans had “waited in line for a very long time” to vote. Then, in an ad lib that got more attention that his prepared remark, the president added: “By the way we have to fix that.”

On Wednesday, the process of fixing the problem-and of moving America a few more steps toward democracy-accelerated. A little.

Ralph Nader: America’s Invisible and Costly Human Rights Crisis

When the news broke years ago that U.S. forces were using torture on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay detention camp, many politicians and the public expressed appropriate horror. There was shock and disappointment that our country would resort to such inhumane, abusive actions against our fellow human beings, most of whom then were innocent victims of bounty hunters in Afghanistan.

With this frame of reverence in mind, it is unfortunate that many Americans do not contemplate-or are simply unaware of-blatant torture occurring in prisons every day right here in the United States. This form of physical and psychological violence is called many things: “isolation”, “administrative segregation”, “control units”, “secure housing” and by its most well-known designation, solitary confinement. This practice of imprisonment is widely used across our nation with disturbingly little oversight and restriction. The full extent of the use of solitary confinement is truly alarming-it is most certainly a human rights abuse and a blight on our national character.

Tim White: Finding a Needle in a Digital Haystack

LAST year the private sector spent $67.2 billion on cybersecurity services. Nevertheless, according to a recent investigation by Verizon, 60 percent of successful hacks were not detected until months after the attacks began. In the wake of recent high-profile hacker attacks against Target, Neiman Marcus and other retailers, the obvious question is: Why hasn’t all that money done any good?

It’s not for lack of trying. Much of the money is well spent, paying for armies of technical engineers and state-of-the-art security applications.

The problem is not the resources, or the personnel, or the data. It’s that many organizations simply don’t know how to arrange the data to identify suspicious patterns and weaknesses, at least not fast enough. There’s too much data, and not enough perspective.

Dean Baker: France’s Hollande is completely out of touch with modern economics

There’s no economic reason for France to cut social spending at a point when its economy has enormous excess capacity

French President Fran├žois Hollande startled many of his supporters last week, along with fans of evidence-based economics everywhere, when he rejected modern economics in favor of the sayings of an early 19th-century French economist. After winning the election on a platform that the government needed to fill the gap in demand created by the collapse of asset bubbles, Hollande repeated the old line from Jean-Baptiste Say that “supply creates its own demand.”

While the appeal to French national pride may be touching, it is completely out of touch with modern economics. His plan to cut spending will have serious consequences. We should have known at least since Keynes that economies can be subject to prolonged periods of high unemployment due to inadequate demand. The problem is that the private sector does not necessarily generate enough demand to buy back everything it produces, leaving large numbers of workers unemployed and vast amounts of productive capacity sitting idle.

Jan 24 2014

On This Day In History January 24

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 24 is the 24th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 341 days remaining until the end of the year (342 in leap years).

On this day in 1848, A millwright named James Marshall discovers gold along the banks of Sutter’s Creek in California, forever changing the course of history in the American West.

The California Gold Rush began at Sutter’s Mill, near Coloma. On January 24, 1848 James W. Marshall, a foreman working for Sacramento pioneer John Sutter, found shiny metal in the tailrace of a lumber mill Marshall was building for Sutter on the American River. Marshall brought what he found to John Sutter, and the two privately tested the metal. After the tests showed that it was gold, Sutter expressed dismay: he wanted to keep the news quiet because he feared what would happen to his plans for an agricultural empire if there were a mass search for gold. However, rumors soon started to spread and were confirmed in March 1848 by San Francisco newspaper publisher and merchant Samuel Brannan. The most famous quote of the California Gold Rush was by Brannan; after he had hurriedly set up a store to sell gold prospecting supplies, Brannan strode through the streets of San Francisco, holding aloft a vial of gold, shouting “Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!” With the news of gold, local residents in California were among the first to head for the goldfields.

At the time gold was discovered, California was part of the Mexican territory of Alta California, which was ceded to the U.S. after the end of the Mexican-American War with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848.

On August 19, 1848, the New York Herald was the first major newspaper on the East Coast to report the discovery of gold. On December 5, 1848, President James Polk confirmed the discovery of gold in an address to Congress. Soon, waves of immigrants from around the world, later called the “forty-niners”, invaded the Gold Country of California or “Mother Lode”. As Sutter had feared, he was ruined; his workers left in search of gold, and squatters took over his land and stole his crops and cattle.

San Francisco had been a tiny settlement before the rush began. When residents learned about the discovery, it at first became a ghost town of abandoned ships and businesses whose owners joined the Gold Rush, but then boomed as merchants and new people arrived. The population of San Francisco exploded from perhaps 1,00 in 1848 to 25,000 full-time residents by 1850. The sudden massive influx into a remote area overwhelmed the infrastructure. Miners lived in tents, wood shanties, or deck cabins removed from abandoned ships.[13] Wherever gold was discovered, hundreds of miners would collaborate to put up a camp and stake their claims. With names like Rough and Ready and Hangtown, each camp often had its own saloon and gambling house.

Jan 24 2014

Why Curling is Such a Rugged Sport

Norway’s curling team has wild pants for Winter Olympics

By Cindy Boren, Washington Post

January 22 at 9:03 am

Luckily, curling isn’t a sport with a lot of fast, violent movement.

The Norwegian curling team has outdone itself with its latest duds for next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi. Norway’s team has become known for its pants and even has an unofficial Facebook page (The Norway Olympic Curling Team’s pants, natch, with well over 500,000 likes).

Encore, for the Norwegian Curlers and Their Pants

By MARY PILON, The New York Times

JAN. 21, 2014

The curlers have gotten used to people paying attention to their clothes. In 2010, at the Vancouver Games, where the Norwegians won a silver medal, they made a splash when they made the sheet of curling ice their runway, competing in pants of bright red, white and blue, the colors of their country’s flag.



Representatives of Loudmouth, the company in Foster City, Calif., that made the pants, said orders out of London went up tenfold, and the company’s servers crashed.

“It was enough to cause a stir in the curling world,” said Tony D’Orazio, a curler in Rochester, N.Y., who started the fan page and has chronicled the team’s fashion for the last four years. “For them to do what they did in 2010, it was revolutionary to curling. It took the traditions of the sport and re-energized it for a new generation.”



“These pants would be great to win in,” Vad Petersson said. “But they’d be terrible to lose in. We decided that when we wear them, we have to really try and win and go the whole way.”