Posts tagged NSA

Change You Can Believe In (Vol. VII, No. 6). Wiretaps and War.

Hey, remember back when we elected that progressive President who was going to close Guantanamo, get rid of warrantless wiretapping and end the war in Iraq? Boy howdy, that was a time.

In the U.S., President Barack Obama has been pleading with Congress to never, ever let the PATRIOT Act’s surveillance powers lapse, even for a day. Heaven forbid:

Shared Article from TheHill

Obama pleads that Senate act on NSA reform

Obama is asking McConnell to move legislation approved by the House.

thehill.com


President Obama on Friday made a last-minute push to urge Congress to renew key provisions of the Patriot Act before a Sunday deadline, arguing that failing to do so could put the nation at greater risk of terrorist threats.

The president called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to pass a bipartisan reform bill approved in a 338-88 House vote.

“Heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who was engaged in dangerous activity but we didn’t do so simply because of inaction in the Senate,” Obama said in the Oval Office alongside Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Senators will return to Washington for a rare Sunday session to try and break the impasse over a series of measures, including language authorizing the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk phone records collection program.

The Senate failed to move forward with the House bill late last week when a procedural motion won only 57 votes — three short of the number needed to proceed.

“We’ve only got a few days,” Obama said. “Authorities expire Sunday at midnight and I don’t want us to be in a situation where for a certain period of time those authorities go away. … I’ve indicated to Leader McConnell and other senators, I expect them to take action and take action swiftly.”

–Jordan Fabian, Obama pleads that Senate act on NSA reform
The Hill (29 May 2015)

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the U.S. government is sinking another 500-1,000 soldiers into the Third Iraq War. Oh, but they’re Just Military Advisors, natch:

Shared Article from CNN

White House OKs up to 450 additional troops in Iraq - CNNPolitic…

President Barack Obama's administration is considering sending about 500 additional forces to Iraq, with many of them focused on training Iraqi troops…

cnn.com


Washington (CNN) — President Barack Obama’s administration is planning to train Sunni tribes’ fighters as part of its move to send up to 450 additional U.S. forces to Iraq, the White House said Wednesday.

The United States is also sending weapons to Sunni tribes, as well as the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, who are operating under Iraqi command, in order to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

. . . The additional U.S. military personnel will train and advise Iraqi and tribal troops at the Taqaddum military base in eastern Anbar province.

. . . The Associated Press was the first to report earlier Tuesday that the administration was considering sending up to 1,000 U.S. forces to the country.

. . . There are currently 3,050 U.S. forces in Iraq — with 2,250 of them devoted to supporting Iraqi security forces, 800 protecting U.S. personnel and facilities, 450 training Iraqi troops and 200 in advising and assisting roles.

–Eric Bradner, Barbara Starr and Jim Acosta. White House authorizes up to 450 additional troops in Iraq
CNN (10 June 2015)

#EndTheWar #USOut #AbolishTheNSA #AbolishThePATRIOTAct #AbolishThePresidency

Change You Can Believe In (Vol. V, Nos. 6–8). Wiretaps, Journalists and Drugs.

I know in the past I’ve been down on electoral politics and maverick candidates as a means to political change. But man, this guy sounds pretty awesome. I hope he runs for President in the next election, so we can have a chance to change this Administration’s increasingly repressive policies.

Barack Obama (2007)

. . . This Administration also puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide. I will provide our intelligence and law-enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists, without undermining our Constitution and our freedom. That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens, no more National Security letters to spy on American citizens who are not suspected of a crime. No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. No more ignoring the law when it is convenient. . . .

Here is a story for July. From Jennifer Epstein, at Politico.com:

White House opposes defense funding bill amendment.

The White House opposes an amendment to the defense funding bill that would restrict the National Security Agency’s ability to collect communications data, press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement Tuesday evening.

We oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our intelligence community’s counterterrorism tools, Carney said, referring to the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act put forward by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and backed by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), among others.

This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process, Carney said, with no hint to the irony of speaking about a secretive program in such terms. We urge the House to reject the Amash amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.

–Jennifer Epstein, White House opposes defense funding bill amendment
Politico.com (July 23, 2013)

Of course the President opposes this attempt at a minor restriction on unbridled Executive power. He is the President.

And when you elect a progressive President, you’re going to find that the fact that he is President is always of much greater practical significance than the fact that he claims to be progressive.

Here’s a story for August. One of the things that the progressive President does with the NSA surveillance apparatus that he does not want to hastily dismantle is to target, monitor, and retaliate against dissident journalists.

Leaker Edward Snowden accused the National Security Agency of targeting reporters who wrote critically about the government after the 9/11 attacks and warned it was unforgivably reckless for journalists to use unencrypted email messages when discussing sensitive matters.

Snowden said in an interview with the New York Times Magazine published Tuesday that he came to trust Laura Poitras, the documentary filmmaker who, along with Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, helped report his disclosure of secret surveillance programs, because she herself had been targeted by the NSA.

“Laura and [Guardian reporter] Glenn [Greenwald] are among the few who reported fearlessly on controversial topics throughout this period, even in the face of withering personal criticism, and resulted in Laura specifically becoming targeted by the very programs involved in the recent disclosures,” Snowden said for the article, a profile of Poitras.

Snowden didn’t detail how Poitras was targeted by the NSA surveillance programs he disclosed, but suggested the agency tracked her emails and cautioned other journalists that they could be under surveillance.

–Jonathan Easley, NSA targeted journalists critical of government after 9/11
Qtd. by J.D. Tuccile, in Reason (August 14, 2013)

Another thing they do with that, as you may recall, is to use it to provide secret leads and evidence for the DEA to double down on the U.S. government’s insane war on drugs

A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial.

–John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke, U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans
Reuters news wire, quoted by Matt Welch at Reason (August 5, 2013)

. . . Which brings us back around to our story for June. From Jacob Sullum, at Reason:

Judging From Prosecutions, Obama is 80 Percent Worse Than Bush on Medical Marijuana

According to a new report from California NORML, over 335 defendants have been charged with federal crimes related to medical marijuana in states with medical marijuana laws. Despite Barack Obama’s promises of prosecutorial restraint in this area, 153 medical marijuana cases have been brought in the 4¼ years of the Obama administration, nearly as many as under the 8 years of the Bush administration (163). In other words, Obama is averaging 36 medical marijuana prosecutions a year, compared to 20 a year under his predecessor. And although Attorney General Eric Holder has repeatedly claimed the Justice Department is not targeting suppliers who comply with state law, the DOJ has targeted many facilities that were in full compliance with local laws and regulations.

The overwhelming majority of these cases, 259, involve California dispensaries. California NORML also counts at least 31 cases in Montana, 15 in Nevada, 12 in Michigan, 10 in Washington, six in Oregon, and two in Colorado. Nine out of 10 cases concluded so far have resulted in convictions, with 158 defendants receiving prison sentences totaling more than 480 years. About 50 are in federal prison right now, while others await sentencing or have been sentenced but have not begun serving their time yet.

–Jacob Sullum, Judging from Prosecutions, Obama Is 80 Percent Worse Than Bush on Medical Marijuana
Reason (June 14, 2013)

I had a joke that I used to run in these features that played off our Progressive Peace President’s 2008 campaign slogan, which was to close off these posts with some variation on The more things Change…. It seemed funny to me at the time. It’s not as funny to me anymore. Because in fact things have not stayed the same, at least not on this front. While campaigning as an alleged supporter of civil liberties — while promising to roll back the abuses of the Bush Administration’s war cabinet — while promising to dial down the rampant drug war and the criminalization of young men of color — and while making one grandstanding lie after another, Obama’s government has spent the last five years actively making the situation worse for civil liberties, and for drug war targets, than it was when he entered office. This Progressive administration’s wholehearted embrace of an authoritarian security state, and expansion of the very policies and programs that they had condemned in the Bush administration, has been aided and abetted by many professional-class Progressive voters and commentators, who have excused this Administration’s policies, vilified its critics, and pragmatically embraced its institutionalization of unchecked executive power. By any standard of individual liberty, social equality, or plain old humanitarian compassion, his record in office has been appalling, and those who promoted this Presidency as a means of improving political conditions ought to be embarrassed and apologetic in light of the practical outcome.

There is no such thing as a limited police state

Use of sneak-and-peek secret search warrants in federal investigations 2006-2009.

A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial.

–John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke, U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans
Reuters news wire, quoted by Matt Welch at Reason (August 5, 2013)

Well of course the NSA’s secret data-gathering, spying and warrantless wiretaps have been used to prosecute American drug cases. Every single fascist National Security monitoring program, secret search and seizure method, surveillance policy, financial regulation, foreign-aid slush fund, paramilitary police program and executive power that has been created over the last 20 years in the name of counter-terrorism — including large sections of Clinton’s AEDPA and large sections of Bush Jr.’s PATRIOT Act — has been utilized, over and over again, by federal prosecutors and the DEA in order to gather evidence and coerce testimony in drug cases. Every single National Security state program, regardless of its alleged purpose, has been used to strengthen the narcs’ hand, and to double down on the federal government’s insane and destructive prosecution of a War on Drugs. This one is just as outrageous; but it’s no different, and no more surprising.

Now, even if there were such a thing as a limited National Security state — even if there were some way to create a counter-terrorism-only police state, which would focus on a single threat without creating a general, all-powerful police state in the process — it would still mean shredding civil liberties, targeting people and activities which ought to be presumed innocent, and it would still be destructive and wrong.

But, in any case, there is no such thing. There is no way to focus a police state on only one group of people or one part of life; there are no partial or limited police states. There is only a police state — one which will come for you sooner, or later.

Progressive Politics: Send in all your private phone records to me, Al Franken, Washington, DC.

Via Sheldon Richman on Facebook, comes this story about political Progressivism.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) emerged as one of the most notable progressive defenders of the National Security Agency’s sweeping surveillance programs on Monday when he expressed a “high level of confidence” that the federal government’s collection of phone and Internet data has been effective in thwarting terrorism.

I can assure you, this is not about spying on the American people, Franken told Minneapolis-based CBS affiliate WCCO. The junior Minnesota senator, who’s only been in the Senate since 2009, said he was was very well aware of the surveillance programs and was not surprised by a recent slate of bombshell reports by both The Guardian and The Washington Post.

I have a high level of confidence that this is used to protect us and I know that it has been successful in preventing terrorism, Franken said.

–Tom Kludt, Al Franken Defends NSA Surveillance: It’s Not Spying, They’re Protecting Us
in TPMLiveWire (Tuesday, June 11, 2013)

Of course he has. Because he is privileged to be part of the us that is being protected, not the us that is being spied on. The reactions of many political Progressives to this scandal — including many political Progressives who had presented themselves for years as civil libertarians — are outrageous; but they should not be even a little bit surprising. They are yet another illustration of why serious social change can never come about through electoral politics; because the only mechanism that electoral politics has for change is to make a different party into the governing party. But when a party becomes the governing party, the party that they belong to has always proved to be of far less practical significance than the fact that they are, or see themselves as, governing. Their first and last loyalty will never be to a professed set of principles or a party platform, but rather to the uninterrupted continuity of government, and the successful management of the core structures of state power. The first and last loyalty of the party in power in America will always be to power, both for their party and for the American government — not to the causes or the principles or the people that they claim to speak for.

Also.

Tuesday Lazy Linking

Around the web in the past couple weeks. Some of the news that’s fit to link.

  • Hopelessly Midwestern (2006-02-03): Petting =/= Popularity: A Shocking Look At The Sex Lives Of Our Children takes on professional anti-feminist Caitlin Flanagan (for background reading, see the profile in Ms.) and her latest foray into the teensploitation genre — a hand-wringing and voyeuristic article about a non-existent teenage oral sex craze amongst our Troubled Suburban Youth, and touches on feminism, amnesiac nostalgia, privileged suburban angst, and Judy Blume in the process.

    Thinking back on my own privileged adolescence, I can remember girls who performed oral sex on boys on a more or less casual basis, girls who denied rumors that they did the above, girls who did it with their boyfriends and related the experience the next morning with a mix of panic and excitement, girls who didn’t think it was a big deal, girls who thought it was a big deal, girls who talked about it loudly at lunchtime and did seductive poses with every potentially phallic food product in sight (including CapriSun straws and granola bars) but had no more than a vague idea what it actually involved, girls who thought it was the grossest thing ever, EVER, oh my God, girls who had no qualms about doing it (it in italics) but thought oral sex was unnatural, girls who tried to freak out self-consciously innocent girls like me by saying, Luke Lepinski is SO CUTE. Don’t you just want to put his DICK in your MOUTH? and then laughing like maniacs at my genuine bafflement, Christian girls who plugged their ears and shrieked if you tried to talk about any kind of genital-related program activity, even in the most abstract and theoretical language, girls who had heard you could get pregnant that way (and might have a cousin who knew someone who did,) and myself. My opinions on the matter were all based on my strong and growing aversion to boys, and were not particularly well-formed, nor did I have occasion to put them into practice. I recite this autobiographical litany as a way of illustrating the complex nature of that steady decline in morals called growing up, and to suggest that gnashing one’s teeth about the unexpected depravities of our formerly delicate rosebud-like daughters may not be the best response thereto. What is the best response? I don’t know, but Caitlin Flanagan is a bit too eager to put down Planned Parenthood for its attempts to give sane and sensible advice on the matter ….

    — Hopelessly Midwestern (2006-02-03): Petting =/= Popularity: A Shocking Look At The Sex Lives Of Our Children

    … and don’t miss the response to Flanagan’s closing remarks — an employment of the old Double Standard so overt and so uncritical that it leaves no avenues of criticism open other than something stodgy like rank sexism:

    Frankly, I’d rather have a daughter who gives out a few undeserved blowjobs of her own volition than a son who thinks sex is his right and privilege as a Hot-Blooded American Male. Oops, there I go slandering men with my insane expectation that they take responsibility for their own desires! Damn insidious radical feminist influence! What won’t it disfigure with its toxic fumes of seething, sulfurous hatred?

    — Hopelessly Midwestern (2006-02-03): Petting =/= Popularity: A Shocking Look At The Sex Lives Of Our Children

    Read the whole thing

  • Sarah Goldstein at Broadsheet (2006-02-03): New hope in the fight against domestic violence gives a shout-out to a new program for rehabilitating men who batter women, called Resolve to Abolish Violence Everywhere. The plan? Stop focusing on anger management, and start tackling male entitlement:

    What’s exciting about this approach to combating domestic abuse is that it tackles the institutionalization of male dominance, looking at the offender’s action within a larger system of violence. Women’s eNews reports, Staffers [in Austin] say this program assumes that violence arises from a decision based on deeply-held beliefs of male dominance, not a flash of uncontrollable emotion. Whereas most anger management classes are just three or four weeks long, this program works with the offender for an entire year after his release.

    — Sarah Goldstein at Broadsheet (2006-02-03): New hope in the fight against domestic violence

    Of course, there’s no magic bullet for ending battery, and this program, like any others, has limitations to worry about (like the institutional limitations imposed on any program run by cops, or the fact that it only catches men once they’ve already tortured one or more women to the point that it reached the criminal justice system). But insofar as there are going to be court-mandated rehabilitation programs, this is certainly a step forward, and I wish them the best.

    Read the whole thing.

  • Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy (2006-02-07): To Be Hot And Nuts points out a story from this month’s Prospect that will make you want to tear your hair out and then run out in a blind rage and bury the entire psychiatric-pharmaceutical complex under a library of Women and Madness and the collected works of Thomas Szasz.

    But then tragedy strikes. The drug that works also makes her fat. This a horror the doctors find intolerable. Her beauty is destroyed. So they take her off that drug because in a patriarchy a hot girl cannot be fat. So Nia immediately goes nuts again because the new drug, though it does not make her fat, also doesn’t work. She is nuts again, but at least she’s still a babe. Whew. That was close.

    But she is so nuts that, after a month of hell, doctors reluctantly put her back on the fat drug. The crazy part is that Nia doesn’t give a crap about being fat. She’s happy as a clam to get rid of the voices. Yet the doctors assume that, because she isn’t crying herself to sleep every night over her lost beauty, she isn’t really getting well at all. Any 17-year-old in her right mind would be bulimic and wanna slice herself up with razors under these circumstances, right?

    — Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy (2006-02-07): To Be Hot And Nuts

    Selections from the first five or six comments: Oh give me a fucking break, I don’t know what to do besides shout obscenities. Good fucking god, This makes me so mad I can’t see straight. That last paragraph … is insulting in about 10 THOUSAND different ways and makes me want to slap the authors and Nia’s dr’s repeatedly about the head and face, etc. That’s just about right.

    Read the whole damn thing. But only on an empty stomach. Then write a letter to the editor.

  • Amanda at Pandagon (2006-02-02): Vacuums, internalized sexism and yes, that invisibility of privilege looks at the politics of housework, as one of the arenas of in which anti-feminists love to point out how women themselves are deputized as the primary enforcers of sexist standards. Shockingly, she finds that this looks more like classic male privilege than it does some kind of self-imposed drudgery that women have ended up with by being naturally the Fairer Sex.

    You see this sort of thing a lot, where women are judged by a different standard than men, but the appointed judges are technically other women, so the whole thing can be written off as women being weird instead of women trying to adapt to a patriarchal system. That way, not only can men benefit from the thing women are supposed to do to fit into a standard, they have the added bonus of acting like they are simply above such female nonsense. In the case of housework, men can benefit from having a clean home without either working or appearing so uncool as to care if the house is clean, since the work is done by invisible female hands.

    … It’s true–make-up, shoes, exercise, dieting, the whole routine is developed by and enforced by women while being sneered at all too often by the very men the entire routine is developed to benefit. The complaint is not so much that women do all these things, of course. It’s that men might accidentally be exposed to these things; in the good old days, I suppose, women worked harder at the conspiracy to shield men from having to perceive their own privilege. (For a really great example of this, read Pink Think by Lynn Peril–she excerpts an advice book to women that suggests that women should rise before their husbands to do their make-up and preserve the illusion that they never look any different.)

    … That’s the basic argument behind choice feminism, and it’s whipped out to explain away every instance of women’s second class status, from breast implants to domestic service. And that’s the argument that EricP is resorting to when explaining away the difference between expectations on men and women for level of cleanliness. It’s easy to look at how women are expected to police ourselves for adhering to a patriachal standard and say that it’s our fault. But it’s not the cops that are the ones to look at when the laws themselves are suspect.

    — Amanda at Pandagon (2006-02-02): Vacuums, internalized sexism and yes, that invisibility of privilege

    Read the whole thing. I’d also like to add a note from Andrea Dworkin that I came across the same day that I read Amanda’s post. This is from In Memory of Nicole Brown Simpson, in Life and Death (41–50):

    While race-hate is expressed through forced segregation, woman-hate is expressed through forced closeness, which makes punishment swift, easy, and sure. In private, women often empathize with one another, across race and class, because their experiences with men are so much the same. But in public, including on juries, women rarely dare.

    –Andrea Dworkin, Life and Death, pp. 49–50

    Maybe one way to gloss the essential goal of feminism is to create a platform from which that private empathy can erupt into public solidarity and action.

  • BB at Den of the Biting Beaver (2006-02-10): Friday Fun with Sitemeter offers a guided tour to the kind of Google searches that you get when you run a radical feminist anti-pornography website.

  • Roderick at Austro-Athenian Empire (2006-02-03): Tarzan’s Burden mentions Hollywood popcult’s mutilation of the character of Tarzan, and points to an interesting four-part essay by F. X. Blisard on race relations in the Tarzan novels and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ work in general — fairly enlightened for Burroughs’ era, it turns out, and far superior to Hollywood’s treatment. Read the whole thing.

  • Ken Gregg (2006-02-08) at CLASSical Liberalism: It Usually Begins With… takes another look at Jules Verne, his literary accomplishments, his prescience, the way his politics have been excised from bowdlerized English translations until very recently, and what those politics were (in short, a mixed bag):

    Verne’s novels have contrary trends: support for national liberation movements such as the Irish and Polish, but also a strong pacifist streak; paternalism toward colonial peoples, but a hatred of slavery and imperialism (especially British); sympathy for utopian experiments, but resentment toward state power; affirmation of free enterprise, but assaults on big capitalism (especially American); a celebration of loyalty and community, but sympathy for militant individualism.

    — Ken Gregg (2006-02-08) at CLASSical Liberalism: It Usually Begins With…

    Read the whole thing.

  • media girl (2006-02-10): Spying on Americans is for kids! takes a look at the NSA’s ongoing attempts at cute, furry cartoon outreach to children, which is either a very funny comment on bureaucratic rationality or else a daring new form of avant-garde surrealist theater.

  • The Dominion (2006-01-16): CBC’s true colors discovers that the government-owned CBC is solicitous of the party in power in the government to the point of altering their logo to match the party color scheme. Surprised?

  • Paganarchy (2006-02-04): Serious Organised Crime? Ha Ha Ha! — a squad of clowns takes to the street to protest restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly around Parliament, and a copper stops them from entering Parliament to talk with their MPs:

    Our first port of call was to visit our MPs in the House Of Commons. Just through the security gate and whoa — the duty sergeant stopped us from going in. Alas, we were deemed not dignified enough by a copper calling himself the chief arbiter of style.

    As opposed to the grave dignity of a copper who has appointed himself the chief arbiter of style for the House of Commons and taken it upon himself to make sure the dress of visitors is up to his sartorial standards.

    Read the whole thing.

  • The North Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists posts links to left-anarchist debate over the iterative Five Year Plan participatory economics.

  • Kevin Carson at the UnCapitalist Journal (2005-09-22): What Can Bosses Know? looks at mutualist anarchism, worker self-management, and the knowledge problems that afflict corporate as well as government bureaucracies. (Yeah, I know it’s from last September. But it’s good, and I just found it in the past couple weeks. Also, you may find it relevant in connection with the debate over Five Year Planning by iterated collective bargaining between the deputies of several massive federations in an appropriately participatory bureaucratic forum.)

    As Samuel Edward Konkin III (SEK3) of the Movement of the Libertarian Left said somewhere (I can’t find it–little help?) organizational inefficiency starts when you have one supervisor taking orders from another supervisor: that is, the point at which hierarchy replaces market contracting.

    … The central problem is that, since the costs of tracking the results of individual decisions becomes prohibitively expensive in a large organization, market incentives must be replaced by administrative ones. Milton Friedman pointed out long ago that people do a better job of spending money on themselves than on other people, and do better spending their own money than other people’s money. That’s the standard, and correct, libertarian argument for why government is so inefficient. It’s spending other people’s money on other people; and unlike a private firm not only can it not go out of business for inefficiency, it gets rewarded with more money. Well, the very same incentive problems apply to the decision-maker in a corporate hierarchy. He’s a steward of other people’s money, and the costs and benefits of any decision he makes can be determined only badly, if at all. Unlike a self-employed actor whose relations with others are mediated by the market, he is motivated by purely administrative incentives.

    — Kevin Carson at the UnCapitalist Journal (2005-09-22): What Can Bosses Know?

  • Russell Roberts at Cafe Hayek (2006-02-09): We Don’t Make Anything Anymore takes on the factory protectionists over the state of industry in America. The worriers like to complain that we don’t make anything anymore. America is being hollowed out. Soon we’re going to be left doing one another’s laundry. Boy, will we be poor then. The problem is an old one: the heavy-industry hand-wringers are measuring the inputs, not the outputs. When you look at the stuff actually being produced, rather than the number of people employed or the size of the pile of resources invested in producing it, you’ll find that we’re making more stuff than ever. (I’d add that there are lots of reasons to worry about what happens to heavy-industry workers as they lose their jobs. And that Roberts’ summary and selective swipes at the unions are unwarranted. But the basic point is well-taken. Our aims should not be to prop up an elaborate industrial make-work program.)

  • David Friedman, Ideas (2006-02-09): Unschooling: The Advantage of the Real World: One point raised in comments on my recent unschooling post was that you sometimes have to do things you don’t like, a lesson we can teach our children by making them study things they are not currently interested in studying. It is an interesting point, and I think reflects a serious error. Friedman challenges would-be educators to help students expose themselves to the natural consequences of effort and fortitude, rather than imposing make-work punishments and rewards on them in order to teach them a lesson where the incentives bear no natural relation to the task at hand. Read the whole thing.

  • Tim Bray, ongoing (2006-02-10) asks, What Do GNU and Linux Mean? in a free software world where the user experience is (praise the Good) further and further removed from the technical wotsits of the kernel, where Firefox, OpenOffice, and GNU software provide an increasingly standard software environment, and where the choice between GNU/OpenSolaris and GNU/Linux is going to be a strictly technical choice with basically no impact on the end-user environment? What should you even call what’s emerging? Tim suggests some deliberate provocations: So you’ve got the combination of a Solaris or Linux kernel with a mish-mosh of GNU, Mozilla, OpenOffice and other random software, and calling it Linux or Solaris is misleading. I think Sun could legally ship something like this under the name GNU/Unix. Which would be concise, descriptive, accurate, and funny. (Because GNU stands for Gnu’s Not Unix and Solaris, after all, is.) I think maybe we should just call it GNU, and encourage ordinary users to leave the worries about what comes after the slash to people who have reasons to care about kernels.

  • August Pollak (2006-02-08): As a white guy, did you just throw up right now? and Mikhaela Reed (2006-02-09): The so-called conservative Doonesbury mention Chris Muir’s imaginary Black friend and the excellent opportunity that having one provides white cartoonists to lecture African-Americans about how they should think of themselves in early 21st century America. A Touch of Ego offers some background context on Muir and Day By Day. Amanda at Pandagon (2006-02-08) calls for fixes to help Chris Muir write a funny strip. My favorite repair job is from Ampersand at Alas (2006-02-09).

  • Claire Wolfe (2006-02-13): Back from the meditation workshop reviews the good, the bad, and the ugly of her two-week long meditation retreat in silence. One of the good things about the retreat was the distance it allowed from the hot air of professional blowhards that passes for News and Views these days: The omnipresent Information Flow also became irrelevant. I worried at times about what was happening to Steve Kubby and Cory Maye, but could have cared less about the monotonous, inevitable sturm und drang that passes for Vital News. Funny, too. They call it news, but the same rot was being broadcast and podcast and web-posted when I left and when I returned. Nothing new about the news. … Time to live. Time to think deeply, rather than think in quick brain bytes between rushed emails and frequent checks of LewRockwell.com, Rational Review, Google News, and TCF. Read the whole thing.

  • Carnival is two weeks from today. In honor of the liturgical occasion, be sure to read up on the latest weblog Carnivals. In particular, the inaugural editions of the Radical Women of Color Carnival and the Big Fat Carnival are up at Reappropriate and Alas, A Blog respectively. Not to mention the eighth Carnival of the Feminists at Gendergeek. Enjoy!