Let me sum things up….


This crop is from today’s Dilbert comic strip. While it may seem like I am ripping that frame out of context, if you think about most casual conversations on theology, politics, philosophy, science, the environment, global warming, price of gasoline, ad infinitum, you will realize that most people do not like context, and become disagreeable if you attempt to add some.

The Glue Holding America Together | National Review Online


As long as the sea was free of pirates, thieves were cleared from the roads, and merchants were allowed to profit, few cared whether the lawless Caracalla or the unhinged Elagabalus was emperor in distant Rome.

Something likewise both depressing and encouraging is happening to the United States. Few Americans seem to worry that our present leaders have lied to or misled Congress and the American people without consequences.

Most young people cannot distinguish the First Amendment from the Fourth Amendment — and do not worry about the fact that they cannot. Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln are mere names of grammar schools, otherwise unidentifiable to most.

Separatism is believed to bring dividends. Here in California, universities conduct separate graduation ceremonies predicated on race — sometimes difficult given the increasingly mixed ancestry of Americans.

Read the rest.

tertullus | Don’t Stop Believing

Mike Whitmer posted this morning:

Last night our family read Acts 24, in which the lawyer Tertullus brought this charge against Paul:  “We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him” (v. 5-6).

I thought this was particularly poignant given the events of the day, and when I told my kids that the Supreme Court had in so many words ruled that we’re being hateful if we say marriage is only between a man and a woman, my oldest said, “That’s not true.”

Exactly. There does seem to be some hate on the other side though, so much that some are losing their minds. Last night I watched The Daily Show to see what they would say about the ruling, and I cringed at the godless insanity that permeated its opening two segments. They did a bit on Wendy Davis’ filibuster in Texas in which they made light of abortion, referring to it as a way to “clean up the mess after the accident that comes from a one-night stand,” so “the woman doesn’t have to live with the consequences of her action” (this is my paraphrase from memory, but it’s roughly a direct quote). They thought it was funny because while they were speaking directly of the Texas legislature’s attempt to change the official record of their vote, it was also a double entendre about abortion.


It takes a special kind of mind to make fun of killing babies, but according to one of the leading voices in our culture, that is apparently where we are today. God help us.

from: tertullus | Don’t Stop Believing.

Jim Carry is the new Jimmy Carter

Jim Carrey may have violated his ‘Kick Ass 2’ contract

“The studio system minds know that the current PG-13/R crowd has no idea who Jim is or the movies and TV shows that he is famous for. There is nothing he could say publicly that could sway the crowds – the entire publicity is built on Chloe Moretz, her ‘Hit Girl’ character and the ‘Kick Ass’ title,” a movie insider added. “The studio could cut Jim’s scenes from the film entirely and the audience wouldn’t know the difference. I don’t think anyone respects his voice anymore because Hollywood knows his Hollywood stock has dropped tremendously.”

So, Jim Carry, the actor who could only ever play one role, has been reduced to  making lots of noise and being an ass, in hopes of being noticed while he desperately scrambles to invent some kind of legacy for himself.


Watch “Surf Without Surveillance: Tor’s Karen Reilly” on YouTube

I have known about the Tor Project for years. I used it a couple of times years ago – and found it to be cripplingly slow. It is one of those things that you are going to use by choice, and understand the trade that you are making (convenience and speed for privacy).

The question I have been wrestling with for a long time is, “when do I shell out the cash to host a Tor bridge (and pay for bandwidth), regardless of whether I will be using the network or not?”

It is on my list of things that I intend to support, “when I get rich,” but something I should be supporting when I am able.

Your logical fallacy is the gambler’s fallacy

the gambler’s fallacy

Your logical fallacy is the gambler's fallacy

You said that ‘runs’ occur to statistically independent phenomena such as roulette wheel spins.

This commonly believed fallacy can be said to have helped create an entire city in the desert of Nevada USA. Though the overall odds of a ‘big run’ happening may be low, each spin of the wheel is itself entirely independent from the last. So whilst there may be a very small chance that heads will come up 20 times in a row if you flip a coin, the chances of heads coming up on each individual flip remain 50/50, and aren’t influenced by what happened before.

Example: Red had come up six times in a row on the roulette wheel, so Greg knew that it was close to certain that black would be next up. Suffering an economic form of natural selection with this thinking, he soon lost all of his savings.

via Your logical fallacy is the gambler’s fallacy.

Thou shalt not commit logical fallacies!

The most important reason to understand logical fallacies is to keep them out of our own arguments.

A whole boatload of commentary on NSA, PRISM, Snowden

Evidence that the NSA Is Storing Voice Content, Not Just Metadata

Interesting speculation that the NSA is storing everyone’s phone calls, and not just metadata. Definitely worth reading.

expressed skepticism about this just a month ago. My assumption had always been that everyone’s compressed voice calls is just too much data to move around and store. Now, I don’t know.

There’s a bit of a conspiracy-theory air to all of this speculation, but underestimating what the NSA will do is a mistake. General Alexander has told members of Congress that they can record the contents of phone calls. And they have the technical capability.

NSA Secrecy and Personal Privacy

In an excellent essay about privacy and secrecy, law professor Daniel Solove makes an important point. There are two types of NSA secrecy being discussed. It’s easy to confuse them, but they’re very different.

Of course, if the government is trying to gather data about a particular suspect, keeping the specifics of surveillance efforts secret will decrease the likelihood of that suspect altering his or her behavior.

But secrecy at the level of an individual suspect is different from keeping the very existence of massive surveillance programs secret. The public must know about the general outlines of surveillance activities in order to evaluate whether the government is achieving the appropriate balance between privacy and security. What kind of information is gathered? How is it used? How securely is it kept? What kind of oversight is there? Are these activities even legal? These questions can’t be answered, and the government can’t be held accountable, if surveillance programs are completely classified.

5 Alarming Things We Should Have Already Known About the NSA, Surveillance, and Privacy Before Ed Snowden

 When former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on NSA spying, the story had bracing and wonderful effects. But alert Americans should have already known at least five reasons to be alarmed at the agency and its activities, and the general state of surveillance and privacy in the U.S.A.

1. Whistleblowers have warned us about an out-of-control NSA before.

Before Snowden became a household name, there was Thomas Drake, indicted in 2010 under the Espionage Act after he said publicly that an NSA data collection program might be being used illegally to gather data on Americans. (Drake pled guilty to one small charge. The bigger ones were ultimately dropped.)

And don’t forget William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe. Each had their homes raided by the FBI in 2007, when they were suspected of being the sources of a 2005 NSA data-collection scandal broken by the New York Times. That scandal circled around the NSA’s Bush-era warrantless wiretapping program.

Details of NSA Data Requests from US Corporations

Facebook (here), Apple (here), and Yahoo (here) have all released details of US government requests for data. They each say that they’ve turned over user data for about 10,000 people, although the time frames are different. The exact number isn’t important; what’s important is that it’s much lower than the millions implied by the PRISM document.

Now the big question: do we believe them? If we don’t, what would it take before we did believe them?

Cost/Benefit Questions NSA Surveillance

John Mueller and Mark Stewart ask the important questions about the NSA surveillance programs: why were they secret, what have they accomplished, and what do they cost?

This essay attempts to figure out if they accomplished anything, and this essay attempts to figure out if they can be effective at all.

Finding Sociopaths on Facebook

On his blog, Scott Adams suggests that it might be possible to identify sociopaths based on their interactions on social media.

My hypothesis is that science will someday be able to identify sociopaths and terrorists by their patterns of Facebook and Internet use. I’ll bet normal people interact with Facebook in ways that sociopaths and terrorists couldn’t duplicate.Anyone can post fake photos and acquire lots of friends who are actually acquaintances. But I’ll bet there are so many patterns and tendencies of “normal” use on Facebook that a terrorist wouldn’t be able to successfully fake it.

Okay, but so what? Imagine you had such an amazingly accurate test…then what? Do we investigate those who test positive, even though there’s no suspicion that they’ve actually done anything? Do we follow them around? Subject them to additional screening at airports? Throw them in jail because we know the streets will be safer because of it? Do we want to live in a Minority Report world?

Petition the NSA to Subject its Surveillance Program to Public Comment

I have signed a petition calling on the NSA to “suspend its domestic surveillance program pending public comment.” This is what’s going on:

In a request today to National Security Agency director Keith Alexander and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the group argues that the NSA’s recently revealed domestic surveillance program is “unlawful” because the agency neglected to request public comments first. A federal appeals court previously ruled that was necessary in a lawsuit involving airport body scanners.”In simple terms, a line has been crossed,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told CNET. “The agency’s function has been transformed, and we think the public should have an opportunity to say something about that.”


Love Letter to an NSA Agent

A fine piece: “A Love Letter to the NSA Agent who is Monitoring my Online Activity.”

A similar sentiment is expressed in this video.

New Details on Skype Eavesdropping

This article, on the cozy relationship between the commercial personal-data industry and the intelligence industry, has new information on the security of Skype.

Skype, the Internet-based calling service, began its own secret program, Project Chess, to explore the legal and technical issues in making Skype calls readily available to intelligence agencies and law enforcement officials, according to people briefed on the program who asked not to be named to avoid trouble with the intelligence agencies.Project Chess, which has never been previously disclosed, was small, limited to fewer than a dozen people inside Skype, and was developed as the company had sometimes contentious talks with the government over legal issues, said one of the people briefed on the project. The project began about five years ago, before most of the company was sold by its parent, eBay, to outside investors in 2009. Microsoft acquired Skype in an $8.5 billion deal that was completed in October 2011.

US Offensive Cyberwar Policy

Today, the United States is conducting offensive cyberwar actions around the world.

More than passively eavesdropping, we’re penetrating and damaging foreign networks for both espionage and to ready them for attack. We’re creating custom-designed Internet weapons, pretargeted and ready to be “fired” against some piece of another country’s electronic infrastructure on a moment’s notice.

This is much worse than what we’re accusing China of doing to us. We’re pursuing policies that are both expensive and destabilizing and aren’t making the Internet any safer. We’re reacting from fear, and causing other countries to counter-react from fear. We’re ignoring resilience in favor of offense.

Motives Aside, the NSA Should Not Spy on Us

You need not suspect the motives of those responsible for NSA surveillance to detest what they are doing. In fact, we may have more to fear from spies acting out of patriotic zeal than those acting out of power lust or economic interest: Zealots are more likely to eschew restraints that might compromise their righteous cause.

For the sake of argument, we may assume that from President Obama on down, government officials sincerely believe that gathering Americans’ telephone and Internet data is vital to the people’s security. Does that make government spying okay?

No, it doesn’t.

Spying’s the Real Story, Not Edward Snowden

I promised myself to stay away from Orwell metaphors for the duration of the latest surveillance-state controversy. But the punditocracy’s recent “two-minutes hate” against National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has me backsliding already.

Judging by the vicious — and irrelevant — attacks on Snowden’s character, all too many leading pundits and journalists love nothing more than a ritual ragegasm against an alleged enemy of the state.

The Washington Post‘s Richard Cohen calls Snowden a “cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood”; he’s a “total slacker” with “all the qualifications to become a grocery bagger” jeers Politico‘s Roger Simon. Snowden’s “a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison” offers The New Yorker‘s Jeffrey Toobin; Fox News’s Ralph Peters raises the stakes: a “narcissistic traitor” who belongs on death row.

Can the Budget Ever Be Cut? – Reason.com

Can the Budget Ever Be Cut? – Reason.com.

Portrayed in the press as a great compromise between the austere budget of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the excessive spending and high taxes proposed by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the president’s budget is actually neither conciliatory nor moderate.

When evaluating budget proposals, don’t be hoodwinked by the long-term projections. Those figures are clouded by rosy assumptions and wishful thinking. The real deal is in the outlays for the coming year. In fiscal year 2014 (which begins on October 1, 2013, and ends on September 30, 2014), the president wants to spend a spectacular $3.77 trillion, up from $3.6 trillion this fiscal year. That’s higher than the Ryan plan’s proposed $3.53 trillion, and it’s even higher than the Murray plan’s $3.71 trillion. In other words, the president outspends all comers.

Grand Canyon Vacation – JPEG vs PNG exports

I will be working on pics from our vacation, but I wanted to give a better copy of the first image that I quickly posted yesterday.

I all of my years shooting digital photography, this is the first batch of images that I have shot that cannot be exported to JPEG for presentation. JPEG not only cannot do justice to the images, it actually ruins them.

Grand CanyonThe obvious downside is that, instead of being able to post a 300 kilobyte JPEG, I have to post a 4+ Megabyte PNG image…. I think it is worth the bandwidth, but I am sure some people will not be able to tell the difference.

I have just discovered that the open source software darktable will do a much better JPEG export than Google’s Picasa will, but the PNG export is still significantly better.