Those running against Hillary Clinton need an ad like this one from eight years ago.
Those running against Hillary Clinton need an ad like this one from eight years ago.
I have been critical of Hillary Clinton for her secrecy and poor history on government transparency, her neoconservative foreign policy views, her conservative views on social issues, her mismanagement of health care reform, and her overall poor judgement. I am not going to defend her just because she has a D after her name, or because she is a female candidate.
There are plenty of attacks from the right which Clinton does deserve defending on, even if Clinton does often deflect from liberal criticism with all the bat-shit crazy attacks coming from the right. Conservatives have spoken of being taken off to FIMA Camps since that Muslim, Socialist, Marxist (in their view) Barack Obama took office. It didn’t come to pass, but now watch them twist a speech given by Clinton to actual camp owners into something equally menacing.
The Daily Caller wrote:
As I have gotten older, I have decided we really need camps for adults,” she said to laughter. “And we need the kind of camps you all run.”
“None of the serious stuff, not of the life-challenging stuff; more fun!” Clinton continued. “I think we have a huge fun deficit in America. And we need to figure it out how to fill that fun deficit, certainly for our kids, but also for the rest.” (RELATED: RNC Releases Satirical Emails From Hillary Clinton)
In these camps, Clinton wants Americans to really concentrate on the important things. “We need some reminder about life skills from time to time, maybe some enrichment, certainly some time outdoors.”
On an entirely unrelated note, “joycamp” was the Newspeak term for forced labor camps in George Orwell’s “1984.”
Hopefully this was written tongue in cheek, but I bet it won’t be long until your crazy Republican uncle cites this speech in their anti-Clinton email.
Several news reports also predict this will be her last paid speech, anticipating that Clinton will announce her candidacy in early April. Federal campaign finance laws to provide incentives to declare early in a quarter, to maximize reports of fund raising for each quarter. Clinton would be smart to formally get in the race and speak out on issues. Lying about her email didn’t help her, but speaking out on issues might result in the media devoting more coverage to this and less to her scandals.
Earlier this year, Edward Snowden released information on NSA surveillance, including the accumulation of information on American citizens which appears to be far in excess of either what is necessary or what is allowed under the Constitution. A federal judge agreed with this criticism today:
A Federal District Court judge ruled on Monday that the National Security Agency program that is systematically keeping records of all Americans’ phone calls most likely violates the Constitution, and he ordered the government to stop collecting data on two plaintiffs’ personal calls and destroy the records of their calling history.
In a 68-page ruling, Judge Richard J. Leon of the District of Columbia called the program’s technology “almost Orwellian” and suggested that James Madison, the author of the Constitution, would be “aghast” to learn that the government was encroaching on liberty in such a way.
“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary’ invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval,” Judge Leon wrote. “Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.”
Leon wrote that old judicial decisions with regards to privacy rights need to be reevaluated in light of modern technology with previous cases (such as Smith vs. Maryland) not necessarily remaining relevant:
[T]he almost-Orwellian technology that enables the Government to store and analyse the phone metadata of every telephone user in the United States is unlike anything that could have been conceived in 1979. In Smith, the Supreme Court was actually considering whether local police could collect one person’s phone records for calls made after the pen register was installed and for the limited purpose of a small-scale investigation of harassing phone calls. The notion that the Government could collect similar data on hundreds of millions of people and retain that data for a five-year period, updating it with new data in perpetuity, was at best, in 1979, the stuff of science fiction.
More on the decision at SCOTUS Blog.
This decision will most likely be appealed and ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.
When material leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that NSA surveillance is far greater than previously known, and greater than authorized under current laws, I had quipped that the next revelation would be that the machine on Person of Interest is real. We haven’t reached quite that point yet, but two new reports demonstrates that intelligence-gathering capabilities are getting quite close.
The Wall Street Journal reports on how the NSA’s surveillance systems can penetrate 75 percent of the internet traffic in the country, including content as well as metadata, using algorithms and filtering techniques to sift through the data.
Previous reports have indicated that the NSA’s surveillance of telecommunications lines in the U.S. focuses on international gateways and landing points. Other reports have indicated that surveillance of the U.S. telecom network was used to gather only metadata under a program that the NSA says ended in 2011.
The Journal reporting demonstrates that the NSA, in conjunction with telecommunications companies, has built a system that can reach deep into the U.S. Internet backbone and cover 75% of traffic in the country, including not only metadata but the content of online communications. The report also explains how the NSA relies on probabilities, algorithms and filtering techniques to sift through the data and find information related to foreign intelligence investigations.
The New York Times reports on facial recognition to scan crowds:
The federal government is making progress on developing a surveillance system that would pair computers with video cameras to scan crowds and automatically identify people by their faces, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with researchers working on the project.
The Department of Homeland Security tested a crowd-scanning project called the Biometric Optical Surveillance System — or BOSS — last fall after two years of government-financed development. Although the system is not ready for use, researchers say they are making significant advances. That alarms privacy advocates, who say that now is the time for the government to establish oversight rules and limits on how it will someday be used.
There have been stabs for over a decade at building a system that would help match faces in a crowd with names on a watch list — whether in searching for terrorism suspects at high-profile events like a presidential inaugural parade, looking for criminal fugitives in places like Times Square or identifying card cheats in crowded casinos.
The automated matching of close-up photographs has improved greatly in recent years, and companies like Facebook have experimented with it using still pictures.
But even with advances in computer power, the technical hurdles involving crowd scans from a distance have proved to be far more challenging. Despite occasional much-hyped tests, including one as far back as the 2001 Super Bowl, technical specialists say crowd scanning is still too slow and unreliable.
This facial recognition technology appears to be five years off from being fully workable. Of course the real fear of the misuse of these programs doesn’t come from technology reminiscent of Person of Interest but the potential misuse of the technology more reminiscent of works by George Orwell and Franz Kafka.
The revelations regarding NSA surveillance has led to a boom in sales of 1984. Further exposure to Orwell’s work is one good outcome of the recent leaks, showing the ultimate results of a totalitarian surveillance state. As I’ve pointed out before, to actually compare our current situation to 1984 is a tremendous act of hyperbole. The problem is not that we are experiencing anything as severe as the society portrayed in 1984 but that the NSA surveillance program is one step on the road towards developing the infrastructure which might make such a society possible. Those who run the intelligence programs should remain servants of the people in a free society, not masters. While we expect accept a certain degree of secrecy, this does not justify outright lies by leaders of the intelligence community such as James Clapper,director of national intelligence, in speeches and testimony before Congress.
Orwell provides many things to think about beyond surveillance. Consider his concepts of “War is Peace, ” “Freedom is Slavery,” or facts disappearing down the memory hole. The NSA surveillance program poses a serious threat to liberty, but to keep things in perspective, there are far more Orwellian threats to liberty which we face, such as Fox News. Promoting such propaganda as news is quite hazardous to a free society where we want self-rule by people who vote based upon facts, while living in a free society prevents any action against such anti-freedom propagandists beyond aggressively exposing their tactics. To the right wing, “Ignorance is Strength.”
1984 is the obvious classic to read when considering the risks of slipping into totalitarianism. There are many others worth reading, such as Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here. There might also be novels which are more pertinent to what we are facing. Yesterday Rebecca Rosen quoted Daniel J. Solove in describing why another novel might be more applicable:
I suggested a different metaphor to capture the problems: Franz Kafka’s The Trial, which depicts a bureaucracy with inscrutable purposes that uses people’s information to make important decisions about them, yet denies the people the ability to participate in how their information is used. The problems captured by the Kafka metaphor are of a different sort than the problems caused by surveillance. They often do not result in inhibition or chilling. Instead, they are problems of information processing–the storage, use, or analysis of data–rather than information collection. They affect the power relationships between people and the institutions of the modern state. They not only frustrate the individual by creating a sense of helplessness and powerlessness, but they also affect social structure by altering the kind of relationships people have with the institutions that make important decisions about their lives.
The surveillance can certainly be called Orwellian. The laws which try to hide the very existence of surveillance are more Kafkaesque.
This debate over security versus privacy and liberty has been needed since September 12, 2001 but I suspect that most of the country was not ready for it until now. The first poll taken on this subject by Pew showed that 56 percent supported the NSA program of tracking phone records. Gallup now has slightly more recent poll out, which includes the revelations regarding both telephone data and the more recently revealed inclusion of internet communications. Gallup found that fifty-three percent disapprove and only thirty-seven percent approve of these programs.
Barack Obama has been quiet on this subject, frustrating many of his supporters. I hope that this means that another debate is going on, between the views of candidate Obama and those of President Obama. We have seen Obama’s views evolve on other issues, such as support for same sex marriage. Obama discussed the issue of privacy rights versus security before the recent leaks. I am hoping that the current public debate prompts further evolution on this issue, or devolution back to the views he expressed as a candidate.
This week’s episode of Fringe appeared to be a stand-alone story until late in the episode. I was surprised to find that it tied into the ongoing mythology of the show by having the results of Alan Ruck’s experiments, which never should have worked, become successful in making people lighter than air due to the laws of physics breaking down as a result of the rift between the universes.
The story also featured Walter obsessing about bringing William Bell back to live, along with getting high with Jorge Garcia of Lost, at Massive Dynamic. There was a lot of Peter and Olivia. Somehow seeing our Olivia smiling this much just didn’t look right. It looked more natural in Fauxlivia. The episode ended with another surprise as Anna Torv now has a third charter to play–William Bell possessing the poor Olivia’s body. One can just imagine what that would do should Peter get Olivia into bed again. There’s no doubt that this will lead to the return of William Bell’s physical body with Leonard Nimoy confirming on Twitter that he has already come out of retirement.
BBC America has announced that the upcoming season of Doctor Who will premier April 23 at 9:00 p.m. There’s no official date from the BBC, but there are rumors that they are also airing the first episode on April 23 and the second of the two-parter on April 24. If true, hopefully BBC America will also air both parts the first week and not fall a week behind.
Among last week’s television shows, V appears to be ending the season with more enjoyable shows, despite the numerous plot holes which persist. The Event returned, but it remains questionable as to how long they can drag out this storyline. The Cape’s final unaired episode has been posted on line. Terra Nova, a Steven Spielberg produced show about people escaping to the prehistoric past, has been moved back from May until next fall.
Michael Crowley has an article at Slate noting L. Ron Hubbard’s 100th birthday, noting “how truly strange Scientology is.” If we were going to have a science fiction writer devise a religion which has as many followers as Scientology, why couldn’t it be one more along the lines of the freer religions devised in novels by Robert A. Heinlein?
Benjamin Kerstein at Pajamas Media questions how a leftist such as Stieg Larsson managed “to create a libertarian parable for the ages” with Lisbeth Salander in his Millennium Trilogy:
Lisbeth Salander explodes like a grenade tossed into an ammunition dump. Ferociously individualist, incorruptible, disdainful, and suspicious of all forms of social organization, and dedicated to her own personal moral code, Salander often seems to have stepped into Larsson’s world from out of an Ayn Rand novel. She despises all institutions, whether they are business corporations, government agencies, or the Stockholm police. Rejecting all forms of ideology, she is dedicated only to her own individual sense of justice. Relentlessly cerebral, she trusts only what she can ascertain with her own mind and her own formidable talents. She considers Blomquist a naïve fool because of his belief that social conditions cause people to commit the horrible crimes he investigates. At one point, as Blomquist ponders the motivations of a brutal serial killer, Salander erupts, “He’s just a pig who hates women!” Salander believes there are no excuses, everyone is responsible for their own actions, including herself, and must answer for them accordingly.
In short, Salander is as close to an avenging angel libertarianism is ever likely to get, and her presence in the novels throws the books’ politics into a bizarre contradiction. Far from the left-wing bromide in favor of democratic socialism it appears to be, the Millennium trilogy, as Ian MacDougall has pointed out in the leftist journal n+1, often appears on second glance like a calculated and relentless evisceration of the Swedish welfare state. Indeed, not only is Salander a walking rebuke to the myths of Scandinavian socialism, but she is usually portrayed by Larsson as being absolutely correct in her attitude toward it. “In this Sweden,” MacDougall writes:
The country’s well-polished façade belies a broken apparatus of government whose rusty flywheels are little more than the playthings of crooks. The doctors are crooked. The bureaucrats are crooked. The newspapermen are crooked. The industrialists and businessmen, laid bare by merciless transparency laws, are nevertheless crooked. The police and the prosecutors are crooked.
In Larsson’s world, it is only the individual — usually Salander — with their own personal sense of right and wrong and the courage to act on it, who can save the day.
It is, perhaps, telling that millions of readers around the world, whatever their political orientation, have become fans of the Millennium series and especially of Lisbeth Salander. Indeed, it appears that Steig Larsson, though he himself might have been horrified at the prospect, gave birth to one of the great literary ironies of our time: for reasons that will likely forever remain unknown, a Scandinavian leftist managed to create a libertarian parable for the ages.
I find this far less ironic than Kerstein, who sees far too much of the right wing stereotype of the left as opposed to the actual views of those on the left. The left actually contains people of a variety of view points, and many do not support the big-government stereotype which the right commonly uses. Many on us on the left are far closer to individualist anarchists at heart, opposing the right wing as the actual supporters of big government and authoritarianism.
While I don’t know terribly much about Stieg Larsson, from what I have read about him, Larsson’s “leftism” appeared to have concentrated on opposing the authoritarian threat from the far right. As sometimes happens, Larsson also appears to have bee to quick to see his enemy’s enemies as his friends, which has led to far too many people on the left to become overly sympathetic to aspects to the left which are better off avoided.
To see Lisbeth Salander as supporting libertarianism is overly simplistic (analogous to how libertarianism itself is an overly simplistic view of the world). Salander appeals to both libertarians and to those on the left who I referred to above as are far closer to individualist anarchists at heart. Such people on the left are attracted to such anarchism and disrespect for authority but also see the limitations to such a philosophy in the real world which libertarians do not.
Larrson both made Salander an appealing character on one level while also showing as the trilogy progressed how her attitudes were shaped by her troubled youth. Salander’s world view is appealing to part of us, but most people have grown up to understand the limitations in such a world view. Libertarians, along with Lisbeth Salander, have ideas and attitudes we can respect, but ultimately both libertarians and Salander are flawed people who have not grown up to understand the real world.
At Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen was asked to name the ultimate left wing novel. His answer is quite different from mine, showing the differences in views and emphasis on the left which I noted above. Cowen’s answer:
What jumps to mind is Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, but if you read the request carefully it does not qualify. Here is a list of thirty famous left-wing novels, heavy on the mid- to late nineteenth century. There is Bronte, Dickens, Hugo, Sinclair, Zola, Gorky, Jack London, and Edward Bellamy. None of these books is as analytically or philosophically comprehensive as the novels of Ayn Rand.
I would say that the story per se is usually left-wing, in both good and bad ways. It elevates the seen over the unseen, can easily portray a struggle for justice, focuses on the anecdote, and encourages us to judge social institutions by the intentions of the people who work in them, rather than looking at their deeper and longer-term outcomes. Precisely because the story is itself so left-wing, there won’t be a definitive example of the left-wing novel. Story-telling encourages context-dependent thinking, although not necessarily in an accurate manner. One notable feature of Atlas Shrugged is how frequently the story-telling stops for a long speech or an extended dialogue, in order to explain some first principles to the reader.
Grapes of Wrath was an excellent work, and is one which I might expect from the branch of the left more concerned with economics. With my concerns more centered around opposing right wing encroachments on civil liberties, my answer would be quite different. Three books immediately came to mind, with only one book making the list in the link above–It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis.
The other two which I immediately thought of were both by George Orwell: 1984 and Animal Farm. I’d pick 1984 as the answer to the question of picking the one ultimate book. Besides the messages of the book it remains even better known than Atlas Shrugged, and also stopped the story-telling for extended periods to make political points.
1984, while always an excellent choice for its opposition to totalitarianism, is even more significant today in light of the Orwellian distortions commonly used by the right wing. “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” One might almost think that Orwell was aware of the current American right wing in writing this.
To the right wing freedom often means the “freedom” to impose their views upon others. Their support for the perpetual warfare state has clear parallels to Orwell’s work. Most disturbing of all is the manner in which the right wing supports Sarah Palin/Tea Party style ignorance as it opposes science, reason, and factual sources of information which do not follow the distortions they spread.
The Texas Board of Education has been trying to rewrite history and spread right wing views with their proposed curriculum standards. This extends even beyond the expected attacks on science from the right. As the right wing opposes separation of church and state they are using their guidelines to rewrite history, including ignoring the writings of the founding fathers regarding the meaning of the First Amendment, along with rewriting history in several other areas:
New changes a Texas State Board of Education member wants to make to proposed curriculum standards represent a stunning rewrite of American history on issues ranging from religious freedom to civil rights and would politicize public school classrooms, the president of the Texas Freedom Network said today.
“Even at the eleventh hour, board members are trying to rewrite history and promote political agendas in our kids’ classrooms,” TFN President Kathy Miller said. “The education of our schoolchildren should be based on the work of academic experts and scholars, not the political biases and fringe ideas of dentists, realtors and other politicians on the state board.”
Don McLeroy, a Republican board member from College Station, has circulated to board colleagues changes he plans to recommend next week when the board resumes debate over proposed new curriculum standards for social studies. Among the changes McLeroy wants to make:
· Add a standard to the eighth-grade U.S. history course that maintains separation of church and state was not the intent of the Founders who drafted the Constitution and Bill of Rights: “Contrast the Founders’ intent relative to the wording of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause, with the popular term ‘Separation of church and state.’”
· Strike from a standard in the high school U.S. history course a 1948 court decision, Delgado v. Bastrop ISD, that barred segregation of students of Mexican descent in Texas public schools. McLeroy proposes replacing that decision with 2009 Supreme Court employment discrimination decision involving white firefighters in Connecticut (Ricci v. DeStefano) and a 2005 decision dealing with the government’s powers of eminent domain (Kelo v. City of New London).
· Change a high school U.S. history standard to downplay the positive impact of Progressive Era reforms and suggest that the work of the era’s reformers like Upton Sinclair, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells and W.E.B. DuBois created a negative portrayal of America.
· Add a standard to high school U.S. history requiring students to “evaluate efforts by global organizations to undermine U.S. sovereignty.”
· Add a standard to high school U.S. history having students “discuss alternatives regarding long term entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, given the decreasing worker to retiree ratio.”
George Orwell couldn’t have described a more scary scenario in 1984.
Remember reading in George Orwell’s classic 1984 how television might be watching you? In reality televisions have not been adapted in such a manner but this is not needed with webcams. BoingBoing reports on how a school used webcams to spy on students in their own home:
According to the filings in Blake J Robbins v Lower Merion School District (PA) et al, the laptops issued to high-school students in the well-heeled Philly suburb have webcams that can be covertly activated by the schools’ administrators, who have used this facility to spy on students and even their families. The issue came to light when the Robbins’s child was disciplined for “improper behavior in his home” and the Vice Principal used a photo taken by the webcam as evidence. The suit is a class action, brought on behalf of all students issued with these machines.
If true, these allegations are about as creepy as they come. I don’t know about you, but I often have the laptop in the room while I’m getting dressed, having private discussions with my family, and so on. The idea that a school district would not only spy on its students’ clickstreams and emails (bad enough), but also use these machines as AV bugs is purely horrifying.
What is amazing, beyond the invasion of privacy, is that the school officials apparently did not even think they were doing anything wrong as they demonstrated their actions in using the webcam pictures as evidence.
Amazon is trying to compensate those who had copies of George Orwell’s 1984 deleted from their Kindle in July. It might be too late as the harm was already done in showing the problem of having books which people believed they had purchased under the control of others:
The troubles began when the novels were added to the Kindle’s online store by an outside company that did not have rights to them. After the rights holder alerted Amazon, it removed the unauthorized versions from its systems and from customers’ devices, distributing refunds.
But neither the refunds nor the subsequent apology were enough for some critics, who said the incident underscored the depth of the restrictions built into the Kindle. Digital books for the Kindle are sold with so-called digital rights management software, which allows Amazon to maintain strict control over the copies of electronic books on its reader and prevents other companies from selling books for the device.
Consumer advocates and civil libertarians say the system could allow courts or governments to force Amazon to recall, and in essence censor, books that they deem politically dangerous or embarrassing.
The critics say the problem arises not just with Amazon, but also with other services offered online, like Google’s planned digital library or streaming music and video sites, that replace tangible products like books, CDs or DVDs.
Being someone who spends lots of money on both books and electronic gadgets I have considered ebook readers. While there are some I might purchase, I have rejected the Kindle and cannot imagine why it is so popular beyond excellent marketing. It does have some advantages over other ebook readers such as the ability to purchase many books from Amazon wirelessly, the advantages ultimately are more for the benefit of Amazon than the consumer.
Despite its popularity, the Kindle looks like one of the weaker ebook readers on the market with the ability to read very few ebook formats. My biggest complaint is that it primarily uses its own format and that books one purchases cannot be stored and read on computers and a wide variety of other devices. My primary concern was in not being locked into a single company’s device forever but today another reason to desire a more open format came up:
This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned.
This is ugly for all kinds of reasons. Amazon says that this sort of thing is “rare,” but that it can happen at all is unsettling; we’ve been taught to believe that e-books are, you know, just like books, only better. Already, we’ve learned that they’re not really like books, in that once we’re finished reading them, we can’t resell or even donate them. But now we learn that all sales may not even be final.
As one of my readers noted, it’s like Barnes & Noble sneaking into our homes in the middle of the night, taking some books that we’ve been reading off our nightstands, and leaving us a check on the coffee table.
The real irony here is that the books were 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell. In 1984 the protagonist had a job dumping newspaper stories which the government found inconvenient down the memory hole. Imagine if the Kindle was the only form the book was available on. Fortunately, my copies of these books are still safe on my book shelf. I wonder if Amazon has the ability to make copies they have sold of Ray Bradbury’s book Fahrenheit 451 burn up in people’s homes.
Update: I’m not sure why people are spending money on Orwell’s books when they are available for download in many formats on line. Boing Boing gives one such example. Under Australian copyright law the work of authors who died before 1955 are in the public domain and are easily available for download at sites such as here. Another example is here, and I was amused to find that Amazon has an ad for the Kindle on this page.