A bad argument for surveillance

The Economist is worried that technology may put limits on how effective the government is at spying on people.

Western spooks say they are losing the technological edge that has enabled them to monitor the communications of potential terrorists. Tech companies are competing in their efforts to provide their customers with unbreachable privacy through sophisticated and sometimes “default” encryption. The heads of both America’s FBI and Britain’s MI5 have complained about their inability to prevent suspects from “going dark”—dropping off the radar screen of surveillance.

Their solution? Make encryption easier to break.

The tech firms must come to terms with the fact that every previous form of communication—from the conversation to the letter to the phone—has been open to some form of eavesdropping: they cannot claim their realm is so distinct and inviolate that it can imperil others’ lives, especially as the number of people who need to be monitored is in the thousands. And it is far better to agree to some form of standard now, rather that wait for an atrocity plotted behind impenetrable walls to be unleashed: if that happens the Dick Cheneys and Donald Rumsfelds of the future will be setting the rules.

Apparently, Economist writers have failed to notice that the Dicks and Donalds are already making these rules. And there are other problems with their argument.

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Solving climate change

Now that the Republicans are in complete control of Congress, what do you think their going to do about climate change (especially since 2014 is now the hottest year since climate measurements started)? They haven’t formally announced their strategy for dealing with climate change, but I have a feeling it’s going to involve trying to stop scientists from making accurate measurements of the average global temperature. After all, if there’s no statistics showing global warming, then there’s no global warming, right?

Ok, I confess: I’m not using a crystal ball here. I’m using Google.

An amendment from Representative Scott Perry (R–PA), adopted on a voice vote, would bar spending money on a number of government climate assessments and reports, including the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s National Climate Assessment (NCA). The president has used the most recent NCA, released last month, to bolster his Climate Action Plan to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

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Still not clear on the concept

France24.com is reporting a somewhat surprising and unfortunate trend in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo murders: a lot of French people are on the terrorists’ side when it comes to whether or not it should be legal to draw Mohammed.

The recent attack by Islamic extremists at the offices of Charlie Hebdo that killed 12 people in apparent revenge for publishing cartoons of Mohammed has led to a fierce defence of France’s freedom of speech laws by politicians, media and millions of French citizens – including at a huge unity march in Paris on January 11.

But an Ifop poll published in France’s Journal du Dimanche (Sunday Journal) paints a much more divided picture of French attitudes towards what is considered a key facet of the country’s republican values…

Half of those questioned also said they believed there should be “limitations on free speech online and on social networks”.

This is not just unclear on the concept, it is dangerously unclear on the concept.

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Lying about Heaven for fun and profit.

I bet this will come as a shock.

Nearly five years after it hit best-seller lists, a book that purported to be a 6-year-old boy’s story of visiting angels and heaven after being injured in a bad car crash is being pulled from shelves. The young man at the center of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, Alex Malarkey, said this week that the story was all made up.

Oh, you knew that already?

Pope flees from act of God

Pope Francis was in the Philippines, attempting to comfort victims of a catastrophic storm, but his visit (and his comfort) were cut short by what insurance companies like to call “an act of God.”

Pope Francis was forced Saturday to flee a fierce storm in the Philippines that killed a papal volunteer, cutting short a mercy mission to weeping survivors of a catastrophic super typhoon…

Francis delivered an emotional mass to about 200,000 people in the typhoon-ravaged central Philippine city of Tacloban.

However, plans to spend the entire day in Tacloban and nearby areas that were devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan 14 months ago were ruined by another storm, forcing him to fly back to Manila at lunchtime.

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That rules out the Gospel then

Pope Francis puts in his two denarius’ worth on Charlie Hebdo.

Pope Francis on Thursday condemned killing in God’s name but warned religion could not be insulted, weighing into a global debate on free speech ahead of a rapturous welcome in the Philippines…

“If a good friend speaks badly of my mother, he can expect to get punched, and that’s normal. You cannot provoke, you cannot insult other people’s faith, you cannot mock it,” he said.

If a man smite you on your right cheek, offer him your left also. But if he insults your mother, POW!

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Unclear on the concept

One of many things wrong with the Charlie Hebdo attack was the fact that it was an attempt, by terrorists, to impose censorship on a free press. Of course, that’s not surprising. You’d almost expect terrorists to be opposed to freedom of speech. If you’re not a cynic, though, you might not expect this:

French comedian Dieudonne was arrested on Wednesday for being an “apologist for terrorism” after writing a Facebook comment suggesting he sympathised with one of the Paris attacks gunmen, a judicial source said.

Which is worse than pursuing the same goals as the terrorists, right? [Read more…]

Women leaders? What women leaders?

Isn’t this charming.

Yesterday’s historic march across Paris included over 40 world leaders expressing solidarity for France after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, but if you read this Haredi newspaper, you’d believe that none of them were women.

The image that ran on the front page of the Israeli newspaper The Announcer edited two female world leaders out of the image, originally provided by wire service GPO…

Among those purged from the photograph were German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo. If God had meant for women to be leaders, he would have given them penises, eh?

Courage

A terrorist attack happens in America. America responds by installing machines that can see through your clothes and making all air travelers expose themselves to either that or a good groping. Then the government institutes a massive, unaccountable spy campaign against all its citizens. Plus it tortures helpless prisoners, regardless of whether or not they are in fact connected to terrorism in any way. And it establishes a policy of “state secrets” that essentially deny any possibility of democratic supervision of the government’s activities.

A terrorist attack happens in France. Millions of French citizens gather in the streets, without metal detectors, x-ray machines or frisking, declaring “Fear shall not rule.”

I think the land of the free and the home of the brave is now somewhere else.