Sometime in 2012, I will begin the ninth year of my life under an FBI gag order, which began when I received what is known as a national security letter at the small Internet service provider I owned. On that day in 2004 (the exact date is redacted from court papers, so I can’t reveal it), an FBI agent came to my office and handed me a letter. It demanded that I turn over information about one of my clients and forbade me from telling “any person” that the government had approached me.
National security letters are issued by the FBI, not a judge, to obtain phone, computer, and banking information. Instead of complying, I spoke with a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union and filed a constitutional challenge against the NSL provision of the Patriot Act, which was signed into law 10 years ago Wednesday.
A decade later, much of the government’s surveillance policy remains shrouded in secrecy, making it impossible for the American public to engage in a meaningful debate on the effectiveness or wisdom of various practices. The government has used NSLs to collect private information on hundreds of thousands of people. I am the only person from the telecommunications industry who received one to ever challenge in court the legality of the warrantless NSL searches and the associated gag order and to be subsequently (partially) un-gagged.
Makes me worried that I am on some sort of watch list.
“The report, based on Census and National Science Foundation data analyzed by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, shows that professions that depend heavily on skills learned in these fields are the second-fastest growing occupational group in the United States, after health care …
Compared with many other fields outside of these disciplines, STEM workers can earn higher wages. On average, 65 percent of those who hold a bachelor’s degree in such fields will earn more than those who hold master’s degrees in other subjects. Among those with associate’s degrees in the science and technical fields, 63 percent earn more than those who hold bachelor’s degrees in other subjects.”
Not sure I buy this. Sure wages are higher, but what about the total number of degree holders produced per year compared with the total number of jobs open per year? Maybe it is a geographical thing. Maybe it is just my own anecdotal experience, but I am still skeptical.
Are you a gamer? Are you a game designer? Are you currently designing bullshit badges for users that don’t give a fuck, or worse, that they care so much they’re ignoring real life? In that case, I have a clarion call I hope you will hear.
Stop trying to make games better. They are fine. It’s life that is broken. Start fixing that.
Our schools are broken. They churn out people with little initiative who can’t find jobs anyway. The system is no longer levelling people up properly.
Rewards are being disproportionately placed in the wrong hands. Our smartest people go into banking because they receive massive compensation and no downside. They are the min-maxers, the munchkins of our world; they have found the loopholes and been led down the wrong path because of it.
Occupy Wall Street is full of people who want the game world to work better. But no one is fixing it because they’re too busy on their own personal World of Warcraft. This is bullshit and it’s killing us.
Our games are rigged in the wrong direction. This is so obvious is needs no further argument, so I will move on to people that are doing it correctly, and what further steps we can take to solve this.
“I believe it was Lyndon Johnson that said, ‘Don’t these people realize if they push me over to an extreme position I’ll lose the election? And I’m the one who will be supporting what they want but they’re going to make it so I can’t win.’ Those people in the Republican primary have got to lay off of this stuff. They’re forcing their leaders, the frontrunners, into positions that will mean they lose the general election. Now whether this did it to Cain I don’t know, but nevertheless, you appeal to the narrow base and they’ll applaud the daylights out of what you’re saying and then you hit the general election and they say ‘no way’ and then the Democrat, whoever it is, is going to just play these statements to the hilt. They’ve got to stop this! It’s just so counterproductive!
Well, if they want to lose, this is the game for losers.”—
Pat Robertson, claiming the GOP has become too extreme. Yes, that Pat Robertson who thought 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina were punishment for gay people and debauchery.
I’m going to give some free advice: When Pat “Grampa Simpson” Robertson thinks you’re just a little far to the right, GOP, you may actually be slightly to the right of Attila the Hun.
In the present instance, however, there’s an undercurrent moving in the opposite direction, a careful manipulation of participants by a deeply non-democratic band. Behind the current Occupy Wall Street protests is a “red army” of…
Where do I go to pick up my fuzzy hat and copy of the Communist manifesto? But seriously, I find the attempts to discredit and marginalize this movement to be very surprising. Was there this sort reaction to the social movements of the 60’s at the time ?
According to Starbucks’ sustainability director Jim Hanna, the coffeehouse chain may soon be unable to sell its principal product due to the detrimental impact of climate change on coffee bean production.
“What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road – if conditions continue as they are – is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain, which is the Arabica coffee bean,” Hanna told theGuardian in a phone interview.
Hanna is set to speak before members of Congress today on the issue of climate change and how it’s real and how someone should do something about it before we run out of coffee and chocolate and a whole bunch of other foodstuffs “many people can’t live without.”
Starbucks has already put Plan B in motion, announcing yesterday it plans to enter the juice-bar market — news that freaked out Jamba Juice stockholders, causing the price of JMBA to drop 3.5%.
Do you see what that is? That is a data retrieval device which police use to extract all the data off your phone. Every e-mail. Every text message. Every app you’ve ever downloaded. Every preference checked. Every picture stored. Every video file, potentially extending back for years, depending on the user, the phone, and the nature of their cell phone service.
I suspect that many people from older generations (i.e. those likely to be judges) don’t fully comprehend how much personal, private information can be accessed via your cellphone these days. It’s virtually the equivalent of having a living transcript of every personal letter you’ve ever written and every brief phone call you’ve ever made (often the form of a text message that might’ve taken place by voice 10-20 years ago). In other words, these are records of things that no sane individual would keep in their car. This is precisely the type of private information that the 4th Amendment is supposed to protect private citizens from being delivered to government without a warrant signed by a magistrate pursuant to a sworn affidavit from police which particularly describes the place to be searched, and the thing being searched for.
In some sense, the CA court of appeals’ hands may have been tied by the Supreme Court’s 4th Amendment jurisprudence; so I understand why they may have felt compelled to rule in this fashion. But I feel that the analogy to private papers here is an important one. Cell phones didn’t exist when the 4th Amendment was written. It is precisely the job of the Courts to interpret the Constitution in light of social, cultural, and technological changes that the Founding Fathers could not possibly have accounted for. Even with the Supreme Court’s awful 4th Amendment jurisprudence, I believe that there was room for the CA court of appeals to rule this search unconstitutional. The sort of information accessible on a cell phone is exactly the sort of intimate, private information that police should not be able to get without a warrant.
“…when some fool starts making crazy attacks on science, find the most SPECIFIC of his statements and then… demand that he put money on it! Seriously. Bets. Wagers. Like that doctor who offered $10,000 if Bachmann could find ONE child made retarded by the gardasil vaccine. One.”—
I’ve been a bit silent on the blogging front recently. I have been busy and struggling with a lot of things.
Those who have read this blog for a while know that my passion is physics. I think learning about our world is ennobling by itself and that even some of the most esoteric research can have very tangible benefits to our entire species. Recently, though I have become a bit disillusioned. Throughout my schooling I have been told that if I studied enough math and science that I could get a good job. I was told I should go to graduate school and do research and create new knowledge to disseminate to the world…
But I didn’t get into a physics graduate program when I applied a year ago, not even one. Maybe I placed my mark too high. They weren’t Ivy League schools or anything, just good state schools. Though my GRE scores weren’t great and my GPA was just “good” I had over two years of independent research experience with a publication, a senior thesis and a few conference presentations. For the past year and a half I have worked in retail for $9 per hour. Now that my fiance is almost done with her Master’s degree, I have started to look at graduate programs again. What I see isn’t great.
Supposing I got into a PhD program this time around, by the time I graduate my chances of finding a research position are very slim; even slimmer if I limit myself to the surrounding region. Even if I could find a position it would likely be a temporary post-doc position where I would work for two to three years before I had to pick up the stakes and move again. During the five to six years it would take to get my degree interest would accumulate on my students loans, putting the total I owe close to $30,000 dollars.
My point though is not to bemoan my own lot in life. I will probably do a master’s in engineering and switch fields a bit. Even there though the job market is scarce. The point I want to make is that we should dissolve this myth that our country has a shortage of those skilled in math and science. Our country produces many more PhD scientists than there are job openings. PhD scientists end up taking jobs that used to be held by those with bachelor’s degrees. It is hard to get a job in the sciences. Perhaps now it is only as hard as it is to get a job in any other field. Perhaps my story only reflects a trend in certain areas like math and physics and perhaps the grass is indeed greener for the biologists and chemists. I will make the anecdotal note though, that I have worked in retail with three people who hold bachelor’s degrees in biology over the past year. All three are very bright and two have good research experience. All three are still in retail and one moonlights as a DJ.
Uncritically endorsing the administration’s authority to kill Awlaki on the basis that he was likely guilty, or an obviously terrible human being, is short-sighted. Because what we’re talking about here is not whether Awlaki in particular deserved to die. What we’re talking about is trusting the president with the authority to decide, with the minor bureaucratic burden of asking “specific permission,” whether an American citizen is or isn’t a terrorist and then quietly rendering a lethal sanction against them.
The question is not whether or not you trust that President Obama made the right decision here. It’s whether or not you trust him, and all future presidents, to do so—and to do so in complete secrecy.