Archive for October, 2013


Paranoia strikes deep

October 19, 2013

Via Reason, here’s the opening of an interesting article at the ACLU blog wondering whether Congressional representatives are being blackmailed by the NSA.

On the Prospect of Blackmail by the NSA

Sometimes when I hear public officials speaking out in defense of NSA spying, I can’t help thinking, even if just for a moment, “what if the NSA has something on that person and that’s why he or she is saying this?”

Of course it’s natural, when people disagree with you, to at least briefly think, “they couldn’t possibly really believe that, there must be some outside power forcing them to take that position.” Mostly I do not believe that anything like that is now going on.

But I cannot be 100% sure, and therein lies the problem. The breadth of the NSA’s newly revealed capabilities makes the emergence of such suspicions in our society inevitable. Especially given that we are far, far away from having the kinds of oversight mechanisms in place that would provide ironclad assurance that these vast powers won’t be abused. […]

There has already been prominent speculation about this threat. David Sirota explicitly mulled the subject in this (paywalled) piece, as have writers at Firedoglake and TechDirt. Whistleblower Russell Tice has also alleged that while at the agency he saw wiretap information for members of Congress and the judiciary firsthand. Such fears explain why it is considered an especially serious matter any time elected or judicial officials are eavesdropped upon. The New York Times reported in 2009 that some NSA officials had tried to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant. Members of Congress (and perhaps the judiciary) surely also noted a Washington Post report based on Snowden documents that the NSA had intercepted a “large number” of calls from the Washington DC area code due to a “programming error.”

For what it’s worth.


Uncle Sam wants you!

October 4, 2013

A little political humor from Reason.TV:


Close the parks first!

October 2, 2013

The always worth reading Coyote blog has an open letter from Warren Meyer (the blogger) to his Congressional representatives. Mr. Meyer runs Recreation Resource Management, a company that operates state and national parks on a private basis, replacing government management and staff. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that some states actually save money by letting a private company collect the fees and operate the park.

Meyer’s letter is about the National Park Service shutting down sites that cost it nothing to run. Seems purely punitive, doesn’t it? Naturally, that type of action doesn’t do Mr. Meyer’s business (or his competitors’) any good.

Read the letter My Plea to Stop the White House From Closing Privately-Funded, Privately-Operated Parks. Then scroll on for more recent posts about how the government is dealing with its shutdown and about how the mainstream media are describing it.

For years, Meyer has been pointing out that when government is publicly forced to make cuts, it starts by cutting the highly-visible, popular services like parks while avoiding little-known expenses that no one would care about.

Update: Coyote’s not the only unhappy park operator. From Reason’s blog:

Privately Run Park Director Again Calls Out Feds Over “Illegal” Closure

Anna Eberly, Managing Director of the privately run, funded and staffed Claude Moore Colonial Farm is taking no prisoners in her war with the National Park Service over the politicized closure of a park on which the federal government spends not a penny and with which it is involved in no way other than the ownership of the land. Eberly’s first email on the subject referred to the NPS’s position as “utter crap.” Her latest elaborates. It reads, in part:

[…] We are critical of the National Park Service because we think they have closed us down illegally according to the terms of the agreement we signed with them in 1981. The agreement states that we will operate the Farm and open it to the public and the only thing they will provide is police protection if needed. Many years ago, we decided that calling the Fairfax County Police if needed (they have joint jurisdiction) worked better for our situation. And because of our proximity to the Central Intelligence Agency, we have probably the best security on earth. The CIA has also treated us with great decency and respect and we value them highly as our neighbors.

The reason that it is so important that we remain open is because of the income we receive from Pavilion rentals, admissions, sales and program fees. We have had to cancel every event at the Farm this week so we have already lost more than $15,000 in operating income because October is the busiest month of the year for us. When the Federal government reopens, as it inevitably will, they will be funded by all of us. The Farm may never reopen again if we cannot open soon because we don’t have any other source of revenue except that which we earn for ourselves.


Misplaced priorities

October 2, 2013

Here’s a good video about the practical effects of the War On Drugs. It seems like a good argument to me, even for those who disagree with legalizing drugs on principle.

Via Carpe Diem

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