Posted by Rojas @ 11:33 pm on September 30th 2013

Just to be clear

When I wake up in the morning tomorrow, the United States Federal Government will have ceased to be, and there will be no more laws, correct?

Posted by Rojas @ 12:05 pm on September 27th 2013

“Fire Me”

An employee of a federal commission designed to funnel pork to Alaska writes the Senate and House appropriations committees, begging at length for his agency to be de-funded. Early signs are that it won’t work, but you’ve got to admire the principle of the thing.

Posted by Rojas @ 6:13 pm on September 19th 2013

Finally, an online petition worth signing

When it was initially posted, I sort of chortled and moved on; I assumed it would gain no traction outside of my own narrow little thrash-metally sphere of the social media. Twenty thousand signatures later, even ESPN’s Keith Olbermann is talking about the attempt to make my favorite band the halftime entertainment at next year’s Super Bowl…

So, yeah. Sign here. Or they’ll show up at your house and sodomize you. If you’re lucky. If you’re NOT lucky, they’ll do something like this instead. Or this. Or even this.

Posted by Adam @ 9:20 am on September 16th 2013

Hidden Shallows

It was once said of Jeffrey Archer — British politician, author and convicted perjurer — that he had hidden shallows. America’s are not so hidden at present, as the vacuity of the Miss America pageant — a trivial but multi-staged quest to find who judges believe is the most beautiful from amongst the tiny fraction of women who enter, an honour only comparable to that of being the most self-adoring pseud in MENSA — has drawn both the obligatory CNN article and the tweeted reactions upon which the article purports to be reporting.

There’s almost something predestined about this snarky blog post on a predictable CNN article about the tweeted reactions to the crowning of a Indian-descended woman from upstate New York as this year’s Miss America. Like an infinite series representation of Pi, it could be the gift that keeps on giving, in incrementally smaller amounts before the grand-niece of the sister-in-law of someone who once read this post is crowned as Miss America and the world eats its tail.

Posted by Brad @ 10:49 pm on September 13th 2013

Music Video of the Week

You know what, F you, I like this song and I liked this movie. I will cut you, bro.

Anna Kendrick – When I’m Gone

Posted by Brad @ 2:26 pm on September 12th 2013

Best Photobomb Ever

“The NASA photo team confirms the frog is real and was captured in a single frame by one of the remote cameras used to photograph the launch. The condition of the frog, however, is uncertain.”

Posted by Rojas @ 11:18 pm on September 10th 2013

So that we’re clear.

What a “red line” on chemical weapons use means is that you get one free attack on your civilian population with sarin gas, after which you must faithfully promise never to do it again, or you will suffer a “very small” attack by the US.

I remember with fondness the days when I believed that foreign policy was the saving grace of this administration.

Posted by Brad @ 2:01 pm on September 9th 2013

Gaffing Your Way Into a Breakthrough

So John Kerry gives a hyperbolic ultimatum that the only way Assad could possibly avoid a United States attack is if in some theoretical universe he did something he’d obviously never do like get rid of all his chemical weapons. That statement was meant as a hypothetical bit of rhetoric – i.e. the paraphrase would have been, in Kerry’s mind, “yeah if hell freezes over”. But Russia and now Syria, I have to say, wound up playing a masterstroke, saying “yeah, cool, we can totally do that”.

I find myself both hugely amused, detachedly impressed, and vaguely uneasy about all of this, but it’s a pretty remarkable turn of events and, as I said, well played by Russia. I can’t really think of any bit of diplomatic turn-of-events quite like it.

Posted by Brad @ 11:27 am on September 9th 2013

How Much Control Does the President Have Over the NSA Anyway

(also, sorry for three Reason links in a row – you should be reading Hit and Run anyway if you’re not already).

The President had an interesting answer this week in a Q & A at the G20 conference. He was asked about revelations of pretty intrusive and targeted NSA spying on Mexican and Brazilian presidents.

His answer:

I said that I would look into the allegations. I mean, part of the problem here is we get these through the press and then I’ve got to go back and find out whatís going on with respect to these particular allegations — I donít subscribe to all these newspapers, although I think the NSA does — now at least.

I think that’s an important thing to remember. At this point, the NSA is pretty much running itself. And the fact that they’re wiretapping allied president, embassies, UN meetings, etc, and that the president is finding out about a lot of this stuff with the rest of us, tells you all you need to know about why we civil libertarians are concerned regardless of whose in power.

Posted by Brad @ 10:51 am on September 9th 2013

Are Anti-War Libertarians Now Setting the Terms of Our Foreign Policy Debates?

My how far we have come since March 2007 when some crank named Ron Paul had the audacity to suggest in a Republican debate that our foreign policy actions have implications and blowback. It seemed almost shockingly brazen at the time, and was widely derided, mocked, and treated with outrage by most mainstream political commentators or politicians at the time. Now, six years later, it looks like that crank’s son, along with Justin Amash, are now setting the terms for the entire national debate on Syria, and it’s the interventionists who are on the outside trying to wiggle their way in.

Posted by Brad @ 10:47 am on September 9th 2013

Obama: Worse than Bush, by far, on Domestic Surveillance

While it’s certainly true that the presidency of George W. Bush was the one that first poked a hole in the centuries-old dam of privacy expectations, in light of all the revelations of the NSA under Obama, Bush’s violations, certainly grave and certainly worth extra derision for being the game-changer for its novelty, have almost come to seem quaint. And while Bush got the ball rolling, I think it is at this point inarguable that Obama then stepped in and generalized, systematized, normalized and then crystallized the complete and near-total breakdown of remaining government respect for privacy or 4th amendment protections in government. If Bush was the one who sauntered up to the dam and drilled a hole in it with a hand crank, it was Obama who then followed up with the bulldozers.

Case in point – Bush’s administration was the one that first raised the possibility of permissible work-arounds for fourth amendment protections, but even his administration was fairly limited (more from simply lacking the vision that the Obama administration does than for any real respect for civil rights) – hell, I find myself pining for John Ashcroft at this point. And, towards the end of his presidency, perhaps sensing that maybe he’d opened up a door, the Bush administration quietly put in place some restrictions on the scope and ability of the NSA in terms of surveilling Americans.

In new leaks, it turns out the Obama administration then came in and, in 2011, worked to overturn all those restrictions that Bush had thrown up before leaving office in 2008.

The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agencyís use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americansí communications in its massive databases, according to interviews with government officials and recently declassified material.

In addition, the court extended the length of time that the NSA is allowed to retain intercepted U.S. communications from five years to six years ó and more under special circumstances, according to the documents, which include a recently released 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Posted by Brad @ 1:31 pm on September 5th 2013

Music Video of the Ever. Just Ever.

Ylvis – The Fox

Posted by Brad @ 10:50 am on September 5th 2013

You Only Need to Worry About NSA Surveillance if You’re Three Hops Away from Being Connected to a Terrorist

According to NSA chief John Inglisí testimony to the House Judiciary Committee in July, NSA surveillance is narrow in scope and not targeting regular Americans.

The agency can only look at the communications of the person itís targeting, plus the communications of that personís contacts (one hop), plus the communications of those peopleís contacts (two hops), plus the communications of those peopleís contacts (three hops).

In a handy .gif, the ACLU shows you what that looks like. Namely, if the average person has 40 contacts in their phone, that amounts to 2.5 million people. Also, the NSA considers upwards of 117,000 people to be “active suspects” worthy of hop-starting. So, um, I think that’s everybody.