On Powerline, Steve Hayward mentions Postmodern Conservative as a “Blog to Log”.
The other blogs to log are interesting and worth looking at. Hey, Carl! Hayward notes Acculturated.com, too.
Someone recently told me that he was going to Detroit. I felt sorry for him, knowing that last trips to Detroit, driving form the Cleveland area, had been through areas that looked as devastated as anything seen in post WWII photos. I had not read of improvement, in fact of deterioration, saying, “I read that the city is selling off the art from the city museum, the art that had been donated by the men who began the auto factories in Detroit from their collections. The money goes to city programs. I wonder what they’ll do when they run out of art? “ What I had recently read was this. The collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts was being treated as a municipal asset. This is a collection built from the donations of philanthropists and benefactors from the auto industry, the Fords, Dodges, and Firestones; it seems appropriate that the collection be plundered for political purposes.
Today brought the news of Detroit’s bankruptcy. This news made me pity Detroit. Then I thought, think how hard it is to govern as a Democrat. Their constituency demands so much of them. When the money is simply not there, what are they supposed to do? They have to pretend that the world is full of unlimited resources for government programs, for “the people”. When economic reality catches up with them, does their constituency say, “Oh well, we were all wrong. We’d better find another way.” No, they never do. They turn to the federal government for help. In this case, even with federal support through a variety of programs (Google “federal funds – Detroit” and see) the city could not stay afloat and accusations of the misuse of funds cannot help their present situation.
John Hinderaker on Powerline, offered this photo gallery of images as a fitting tribute to Detroit. For example:
Yes, here is the great question that has gripped me about the Egyptian coup; would there have been democracy tomorrow if not a coup of the democratically elected Islamists yesterday? Ken Masugi asks, “Was the anti-Morsi coup in Egypt justified on liberal and democratic grounds?”He look at the arguments of Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address to understand what is happening in Egypt and the implications for our own democracy.
Confused reaction to the Egyptian coup (or attempted re-refounding) reveals that it is we Americans who are Egyptians, in an older sense. It is as though we were Jews who have become assimilated to Egypt (cf. Genesis 49-50) and lost our faith and our identity in foundational American political documents. Democracy cannot be identified with elections, but neither is it reducible to a set of classical liberal values.
This is good. Read the whole thing.
Coursera woos me to MOOC through my college email. I haven’t succumbed yet, but only because they haven’t offered anything interesting enough. I signed up for one course on logic, but backed out after clarification over the goal of the course which was to prove through logic that God does not exist. Having been to college and teaching at a college, even just a community, I’ve been through that argument informally many times. God or not-God is a choice of premise, an unsettled enthymeme, by which I mean that for some the matter is settled through faith in God and for others it is settled by — I am told I cannot call it faith in science, so I don’t know what to term the unstated assumption of their logic, except God-is-not. Some atheists talk about God more than most believers do. Anyway, I wasn’t in the mood for the argument at the time, which is how I have resisted the siren call of the MOOC.
Peter Lawler’s current discussion of the economics of MOOCs is on the money. Save for this, that apparently students are reluctant to go for the credit offered by colleges for MOOC courses. James Ceaser insists on the preferability of books for the mass transmission of knowledge; there follows that post an argument about the need for teachers, which Jim incited with “True, a few of the BOOKs might produce courses that would prove a too difficult for students to pursue on their own.” That might be true, but might be more about giving a context to any original work. I am writing this as a confessed autodidact. Most of the books I was instructed to read in college I had already read. Through reason a reader might get the main point or instead get a main point which might not be the main point by conventional wisdom. There’s a lot to be said for conventional wisdom.
I might also argue that any tool that enables the spread of knowledge is worthwhile. My preference has been books, though the Internet and the graphical user interfaces that preceded it have been great sources for information that made the computer user in the hinterland feel like part of the modern conversation in a more immediate way. The MOOC might be a useful means for those merely interested in learning to be able to do so. And at far less expense than the college classroom, which we also deplore.
Just a brief note to start a conversation about the case of the baker, Jack Phillips, who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple who had been married in Massachusetts and wanted to celebrate with a party in Colorado. Phillips is a Christian. He does not refuse service to gays in any general way, but did refuse to create a cake for a gay wedding as a matter of conscience. The couple is suing because of the discrimination against them.
Here is the question, can person refuse service to anyone for any reason? Does Phillips have right to deny the service of the baking of a wedding cake simply because of his religious principles and his opposition to gay marriage? He has the right, according to the Colorado constitution, Section 4 on religious freedom:
The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination, shall forever hereafter be guaranteed; and no person shall be denied any civil or political right, privilege or capacity, on account of his opinions concerning religion; but the liberty of conscience hereby secured shall not be construed to dispense with oaths or affirmations, excuse acts of licentiousness or justify practices inconsistent with the good order, peace or safety of the state. No person shall be required to attend or support any ministry or place of worship, religious sect or denomination against his consent. Nor shall any preference be given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship.
Here is another thing, the Colorado constitution bans same sex marriage, though not civil unions since March of this year. No gay marriage in Colorado. Does this mean that state can discriminate in favor of traditional marriage, but an individual like Phillips cannot?
The state can levy a $500 fine and Mr. Phillips can go to jail for a year. Here is another question. What is the state’s interest in whether or not someone bakes a cake for a wedding reception? Whose civil rights are being trampled in this case?
Somebody explain this to me.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
If we would believe that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with those rights, then if man abandons his creator, does he still have those rights? Or can he deserve those rights, if he denies that creator? Our rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are only self-evident and unalienable if they have a source beyond man.
Here’s the thing, if man is the source of his own rights, then they are alienable by man. That was the problem with other evolutions that insisted that man had somewhat similar rights, the French and the Russian, for example. There was no external authority to appeal to for the justice of those rights. People can claim all sorts of rights, but if those rights are humanly endowed and not innate to our natures because we were created with them, then they are alienable, because they are trappings.
So we cannot expect to have rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness if there is no God, no creator. So that if we are evolved with animals from proteins-made-life in some Shazzam! of biology, then we deserve no more rights than animals have. Heck, even animals only deserve any respect if they are made by a creator who has endowed them with that which we find sympathetic. Created life has value, otherwise, they, the animals, are merely animated meat, as are we, and therefore deserving of the same consideration man or animal gives to meat.
We cannot truly celebrate those liberties of the Declaration of Independence without acknowledging the Creator who made us willful through those rights, so we are not animal. We consent to be governed, which is also a matter of being willful. That’s all in our nature and is part of nature’s law, so let’s thank God.
A little note about happiness: Happiness can be entailed in property, but it can be more than property, too. And God evidently does not always endow each human being with happiness, whatever form it takes. But he certainly allows man, probably requires man, to aim for happiness and a happy, which means a good, state of being. Without the effort of pursuit, we suffer from nature’s entropy; things fall apart.
I bumped into this piece, “Polygamists Celebrate Supreme Court’s Marriage Rulings” and thought, well, of course they do. Anything goes now. Who is to judge? Marriage means what we want it to mean. What we could discuss, since the morality argument is apparently now irrelevant and argument about children has been deemed insufficient and we are all about equality, are the practical effects of letting anyone marry in any configuration, without discrimination or judgement.
Here is a practical consideration: currently, if a man dies and he has had more than one wife, each of whom was married to him for more than a few years, maybe 7, then said wives can collect survivor benefits from the Social Security Administration on his behalf and fully. So even if divorced for thirty years, the “widow”, former spouse, sorry, spouses, can collect full benefits owed for the rest of her/ his/their lives. If married frequently, then you should choose the dead spouse with the best survivor benefits and collect them. What a deal. Isn’t there incentive to marriage in that?
Let’s play this out, ignoring the weight of homosexual marriage on the program. Let’s look at the polygamist with twenty wives who has worked to the age of 70 and will have maximum benefits accrued to him over a lifetime of work. He will be able to endow all of his widows with full benefits. Each will get a check for the rest of her life equivalent to what your wife gets, though I am assuming you have been married to one woman all your life in that statement. Polygamy, polyandry, even homosexual marital groupings, whatever we end up calling that — won’t Social Secuity be like a tontine then? Men who have bountiful incomes — what am I saying? In today’s economy women are as likely to be high earners, putting plenty into Social Security. People with expectations of good Social Security benefits should do the charitable thing and marry frequently. “With all my earthly good I thee endow, including my Social Security Survivor Benefits.”
What will this do to an already financially tottery national retirement system? Maybe it can pull subsidies from Obamacare?
Last night my husband asked me the question I only briefly touched on in my last post; how does the tech support contracted to our government have so much access to national security data that it could do what Edward Snowden did? This morning, John Hinderaker is asking the same question in “How Could a Goofy Techie Expose Our Government’s Incompetence?“, but therein he is going after the Obama administration for incompetence. But it is nothing new, nor is this limited to government. He who runs the computers runs the world these days. My husband’s question was really about how any young person can be in a position wherein if he says to himself, “I can change the course of world events.” then he can really do it.
Consider Bradley Manning, currently in court-martial for passing classified material to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks. He is in the military, but had the same kind of power as Snowden. Do you know that he has a support website? The usual suspects, Daniel Ellsburg, among others, are part of his support “network” or fan club, depending on how you look at it. I have not really been following his trial. Why would we? Is his guilt much suspect? No, and people died because of the information that he leaked, which has to be an aspect of the depth of his guilt. So far, Snowden seems to have been more careful about what he has leaked to the press, or else Glenn Greenwald is a more responsible character than Julian Assange.
But how do these young fellows come to be in such a position that they have access to our nation’s secrets? This seems like a massive bureaucratic problem which is partly the case because we have a massive bureaucracy and “somebody” or rather thousands of somebodies must be hired to handle all the work. Hence, techies in various positions in government run our world. If some of them are idealists, young and manly, how do they resist the temptation to “change the course of world events” if they can? Their access to information is like a little lever that moves the Earth. How do we give them that kind of power? Given the complexities of modern data maintenance, how do we not?
Here is something from the Manning fansite that I found interesting, “Programs that Bradley Manning used weren’t prohibited: trial report, day 4″.
He also talked about the program Wget, which automates downloading from the internet. Shaver said the program wasn’t specifically authorized with a Certificate of Net Worthiness (CON), but that it wasn’t prohibited either, and not having a CON didn’t mean it wasn’t allowed….Madaras testified that everyone else in their Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) used mIRC, a chat program Bradley said he used. Madaras also confirmed that music, movies, and video games were on the shared drive that all analysts could access. They weren’t explicitly allowed, but they weren’t banned either…. He also confirmed that it wasn’t prohibited to explore the SIPRNet, the Secret-level, military-wide internet, for other regions of the world beyond mission scope. Bradley perused the State Department diplomatic database, and while others may not have done so, it hasn’t been established that this was a violation.
Certainly this doesn’t mean that these young men did nothing wrong, but all of that was available to them, “not prohibited” surely says something about the state of our governmental state, maybe a destruction of republican virtues on various levels and how that plays out. Our commenting friend, Bob Cheeks, sums up the moral of the citizen in judging this neatly with, “Snowden revealed the degree to which the state is collecting data on all Americans. I should think the word ‘treason’ is used more appropriately defining the state’s egregious acts.” Which feels right, but we asked government to do this to or for us through the Patriot Act. It is not illegal because we gave our government a free hand to do what it could to protect us from the terror threat. Silly us.
I seem to be conflicted about the Edward Snowden case. I have been trying to figure out how to write about it for many days. Today, I decided to write about how and why I seem to be conflicted, hoping to elicit responses that help me figure out the national dilemma on this topic. Should we be incensed that an employee of an NSA contractor has the power to disrupt our nation’s security arrangements? Or should we be incensed that our nation’s security arrangements include secret government surveillance of citizens? In the latter perspective, Edward Snowden committed a noble act of civil disobedience to let his fellow citizens know what was going on. In the former, he is a traitor and has betrayed us to all of our enemies in the world.
We have really known since 2006, that as provision of the Patriot Act, the NSA monitored our communications, looking for terrorist activity. So, in a sense, what is the fuss? We knew. Did everyone forget? Perhaps there was a presumption that since Obama & Co. denounced such surrveilance in the the 2008 election that they would “do something about it”? I had no such presumption. Did you? That raises the question of how he is a traitor, if he is merely revealing what we already know about what the NSA does. If this is no revelation, then what is all the fuss about? Is he a traitor for reminding everyone about what is already known? That question raises another about what other information Snowden might have taken and what has he been doing with it while in China and Russia? There, that is an awkward question for those with the “noble defender of civil liberties” point of view.
Well, but officially, they are friends of ours, trading partners, and our president bows to them, or whispers friendly assurances to their leaders or shakes their hands very publicly. (At least he doesn’t kiss them, Carter-style.) Since this is an aspect of our national defense against terrorism, as long as Snowden is visiting Hong Kong and Moscow and not Tehran or some secret headquarters of Al Qaeda, then what is the big deal? Then, is it news that the US also watches what they can of China’s and Russia’s security communications? We know that they watch us and their outrage over any spying by anyone of the West is laughably hypocritical. We watch each other, and that is all about national defense.
But in that, the matter of where Snowden runs to for protection, some folks point out that he has no choice. America has influence everywhere. Who else can protect our freedom-fighter? Well, the sense that Russia and China have been enjoying sticking Snowden in the collective U.S. eye is unavoidable. Now even the execrable Julian Assange is in the game. The good news of the last couple of days, in a sense, is that Snowden seems to be avoiding going to Havana, maybe hoping to avoid a celebrity appearance in that more obvious U.S. enemy nation.
The latest news says that Snowden will go to Ecuador. The good news, bad news for him is that Ecuador’s national currency is the U.S. dollar. Good news? He won’t have to convert his currency and a dollar goes a long way there. We did nothing much when Ecuador put up Julian Assange and their newly re-elected President Correa is noted for making public anti-American statements, as those are popular there, although we can read all over the Googled place that the Ecuadorian government does all it can to promote U.S./Ecuador relations. The Obama Administration must be having one heck of a political time coping with complaints from its left-leaning supporters about protecting the “whistle-blower”. Maybe it would be as well to let Mr. Snowden spend the rest of his days on a Pacific coast beach, unmolested, save by the locals.
Then here is this, what if the media to-do, the “Where’s Edward” game of the current news cycle, is really all beside the point for U.S. citizens. The revelation or reminder about NSA monitoring of our communications is an argument, for some of us, that big government can do what it likes to us. Do we have to like it because national security is cited as a reason for it? Did Edward Snowden break the law? Yes he did. Did he break his oath? Yes, he did. We must do something, I suppose, to the law breaker as an example to the others. But I cannot help be a little grateful to him for the reminder that points out how big and how invasive our security apparatus has become, as regards citizen privacy.
Do we really need to have as much of this surveillance as our government says we must have in order to be safe? Certainly, those instruments of surveillance can be used for political purposes, against citizens, as desired, by those in authority over us, elected and unelected. In a good argument from Angelo Codevilla, “The Ruling Class Consensus On Domestic Spying“, he asks, “against whom, in the broad American public, is the US government likely to turn its animus?” I give you a bit of what he says, but suggest you read the whole thing.
Since our Intelligence agencies have an unbroken history of crowing about even tiny successes, using finely parsed assertions with zero evidence to impute multiple triumphs to programs publicized by a leak is prima facie evidence of insincerity. When (rarely) independent persons look behind such claims, they almost invariably find the Wizard of Oz. More important, anyone who has followed telecommunication technology and intelligence during the past three decades can only scoff at the claim that universal collection of telephone externals and access to internet traffic can thwart serious criminals or terrorists.
In fact, the expansion of the US government’s capacity to intrude on innocent communications happened just as technology enabled competent persons who intend to hide their communications to do so without fail. This means that the US government’s vast apparatus is almost completely useless against serious terrorists or criminals, and useful primarily to do whatever the government might choose to innocent persons…
It is not speculation to expect that these powers will be used for what they are indeed useful. To recapitulate: “Constant Informant” can find patterns of communication between people who are not trying to mask them, while PRISM makes everyone’s cyber activity accessible. This allows the US government to pick and choose and build cases for any reason against any person on whom it has such data. From Obama to Rove, our ruling class denies any intention of doing that. They cite the fact that focusing all that data onto on individuals is subject to approval by the FISA court.
But that court acts not just in secret, but ex parte – hearing only one side. FISA was intended to be a rubber stamp, and has been one. To anyone’s knowledge, it has never turned down any of the government’s thousands of applications. It will continue to be a rubber stamp because there are no judicial criteria for what is and is not a legitimate national security concern.
Do read the whole thing and then, please, have at it.
We give ourselves to BIG DATA with every trackable transaction and communication. “Corporate competition to accumulate information about consumers is intensifying even as concerns about government surveillance grow, pushing down the market price for intimate personal details to fractions of a cent.“ Financial Times knows I cut and pasted the preceding quote and may even know that you, my reader, read the article I quoted from. The BIG DATA industry is so big and data is so common, the supply beginning to outstrip demand, perhaps, that the per person price of data is dropping. The FT article linked to includes a data price calculator that tells me my data is worth $0.1265. We could, these days, speak not of giving our two cents of influence on events of the day, but have a number more precise, because we know what our data is worth and we can give it without opening our mouths or writing a word.
The very young will take this for granted, I suppose, having always lived with the technology that tracks us. I find it very satisfying that young people, like Edward Snowden, can be outraged about government “systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data”. We have known since 2006 that the NSA could track our telephone communications. I have been wondering why the Snowden revelations were really revelatory, except that the young might have presumed from the president’s protestations and promises that such government invasion of privacy would stop. Then I read that “Most Americans back NSA tracking phone records, prioritize probes over privacy.”
Sixty-nine percent of Democrats say terrorism investigations, not privacy, should be the government’s main concern, an 18-percentage-point jump from early January 2006, when the NSA activity under the George W. Bush administration was first reported. Compared with that time, Republicans’ focus on privacy has increased 22 points.
This produces the almost but not quite amusing idea that worries about privacy depend on who the presidents is or what political party he represents. Unless it reflects what Pete has been insisting on, that the young are all leaning to the Democrats. This might mean that many of the Republicans who were in favor of government surveillance of citizens in 2006 were young people. Perhaps they, the young, are the Republican holdouts for surveillance today? I have my doubts based on empirical evidence from my circle of friends. Among those, there is an inclination to see Edward Snowden as a hero, though there is some confusion about whether or not that is a good conservative position to take. I see their dilemma. If someone like Michael Mukasey says, “Leaking Secrets Empowers Terrorists: The NSA’s surveillance program doesn’t do damage. Revealing it does” then maybe we are at greater risk as a nation because of the news. But as I said, we, and presumably terrorists, have known about such surrvellance since 2006 and there has not been such concern about secrecy about protecting America from terror activities since.
Further, the current administration’s promiscuous treatment of national secrets suggests that the current disclosures will beget others. Recall the president’s startling boast in May 2011 that Osama bin Laden‘s hideout had yielded a trove of valuable intelligence, which alerted anyone who had dealt with bin Laden and thereby rendered much of that material useless. Recall the June 2012 newspaper stories describing U.S. participation in implanting a malware worm called Stuxnet in Iran’s nuclear facilities, reports that even described White House Situation Room deliberations. And summon to mind also the president’s obvious discomfort as he defended—sort of—the programs now in question. There is little doubt that we will be treated to further disclosures to prove that these programs were successful.
I would like to read those disclosures, since the terror attacks we do know about do not appear to have been preventable by such surveillance. We do know that government collection of data has been put to political use. You will all have read plenty of revelations about individuals persecuted by bureaucrats who didn’t like their politics, the IRS scandal about that being just the current big story. George Will gives us a little of Lois Lerner’s history in government in “Scowling Face of the State“. “Lerner, it is prudent to assume, is one among thousands like her who infest the regulatory state. She is not just a bureaucratic bully and a slithering partisan. Now she also is a national security problem because she is contributing to a comprehensive distrust of government.”
But that this is systemic is something the young seem to take for granted. Data about them is collected not only by government but by everyone who is trying to sell them something or persuade them of something. Daniel Henninger this morning quotes Sun Microsystems’ former CEO Scott McNealy, “You have zero privacy. Get over it.” I suppose that either we will have to get over it or figure out some way to combat it and right now I haven’t got a clue how to do that. Do you? We may have some protections under the Constitution, but if our elected representatives are going to see that document as an obstacle to progress, then those protections become moot.
Also from Henninger,
Consider what people are asked to absorb in the news flow now—some of it political, some not. Beyond the IRS audits and NSA surveillance we have a Department of Justice penetrating press activity protected by the First Amendment, stories about Iran’s hackers accessing the control-room software of U.S. energy firms, China hacking into everything, reports last month of cyberthieves siphoning millions of dollars from ATMs, rivers of email spam that fill inboxes alongside constant warnings to protect yourself against phishing and malware by storing industrial-strength passwords on encrypted flash drives, stories in this newspaper about social-media apps that exist mainly to collect your personal data for sale to advertisers.
Yes, that is a lot to take in and I think we must protest this form of progress as not propelling us to a future that we want to live in. If we do not or cannot explain why, then the young will take such things as the collection of BIG DATA, which is partly our own small data, for granted and we will all have to “get over it”.