Member since: Tue Jul 10, 2012, 05:40 AM
Number of posts: 512
Number of posts: 512
I write a blog of dark humor - Goblinbooks.com
In a free country, debate about our policies is crucial. We understand that in the US intelligence community. The American public have the right to question their government and demand answers. But as we discuss NSA surveillance programs, I want to make one thing perfectly clear to you: These efforts are necessary to our security, and they are working. They're the main reason the NSA has managed to stop or cover up countless terrorist attacks in the years since 9/11.
Other law enforcement techniques have played a role, sure. I'm not saying there's no way we would have stopped the second New York subway attack without gathering phone data. Or even have been able to suppress the existence of the first one without Prism. We're pretty determined. But I am telling you it would be difficult. The odds would be greater.
Do you want that? Do you really want to make it more likely that an al-Qaeda operative could successfully kill thousands of people without us stopping him or at least relocating all the witnesses to a facility in Utah? It seems right to stand up for freedom, but you need to think about the real-world choices here. Lives, and also professional reputations, are at stake.
These groups are not going to just go away. They're right here, planning to strike. Especially since last year's invasion of Syria (You'll hear more about it soon, but the short version is that things got out of hand, and now some other groups in that part of the world are feeling grumpy about the US. They particularly dislike port cities -- go figure.)
We have a job to prevent Americans from being injured, killed, or panicked with information by our enemies around the world. We can't do this without every citizen pitching in.
In some cases doing your part is as simple as closing your eyes.
READ THIS, ABOUT THE MONSTER SITTING NEXT TO YOU
Posted by paulbibeau | Tue Jun 18, 2013, 01:46 PM (11 replies)
The icy rain spots the sill, where a single upper window sits open in the station. A sparrow flies in out of the night. Startled by the warmth and light, he flies to the other side, lined with other windows, all of them closed.
Travelers below come from their trains. They don’t hear the desperate wet thing, sick with cold, scratching at the glass. By morning it’s dead, and B.D. the janitor climbs his ladder and collects it in a pan.
He idly spots the single vertical crack in the window. Facing the center of the pane, he can see how it lines up almost exactly with the tree across the street, the gas station two blocks further, and a brick tower far away.
He wipes the glass clean, and he doesn’t have reason to go back. Three weeks after, following another storm, he doesn’t see the spot where the lightning burned the tree down to a stump. He doesn’t think of the story in the paper later that year about how the gas station has been razed after the terrible accident. And as the first year passes he barely notices the dim roar one morning. A controlled implosion brings down that abandoned apartment where someone shouldn’t have played in the stairwell.
No one sees the crack, which now marks a clear line to the bay -- the gray water beneath the empty sky.
Posted by paulbibeau | Tue Jun 18, 2013, 07:28 AM (0 replies)
Or he's a traitor. A narcissist, maybe. He might be unbalanced, a political extremist, a misanthrope. And now he's about to help the Chinese government.
No matter what the truth, it's obvious we shouldn't believe what he says. Maybe we're even at war with guys like him.
Here's my problem with this line of argument: Only a few weeks ago Edward Snowden was a trusted intelligence professional with years of experience. And the people in the government and media who are maligning him now? Back then - back in that ancient, innocent world of mid-May, 2013 - these people wanted me to let Snowden have access to my private data so he could help fight al-Qaeda.
Have I got all this right? Okay, two questions...
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Posted by paulbibeau | Thu Jun 13, 2013, 02:23 PM (2 replies)
Dear Jordan, the financial lawyer who met the redhead reading House of Leaves on the C near Washington Square:
You need to let it go. The data behind this judgment is pretty solid. Let me walk you through it.
Look, the number "Julie" gave you last Tuesday at approximately 8:30 am EST was off by one digit. By itself this would not be conclusive. It happens, right? But then, later in the day, you got a hunch and called several permutations of the number. That was smart, Jordan. Very smart. You reached a few disconnected lines, a gas station, a hospital, and the voicemail of a "Steve" (He's a nice guy, actually. The kind who seems like a bro at first, but he's really not. And you have some interests in common! But let's return...) Anyway, that last number you called was in fact Julie's. Your feeling that her machine's message sounded familiar was confirmed by the best voice matching technology in the world. But here's the problem: She was home, man.
I know Julie said she was busy lately. And I know you thought she might have been in the bathroom or sleeping or something. But our photographic analysis of the building's architectural footprint combined with thermal and acoustic imaging indicates conclusively that when you called Julie was next to the phone listening to your message. She was reclining on the couch watching a Discovery Channel show about exotic pets which attack their owners, and she deleted you within three seconds of your hang-up. Also, she'd seen this episode before. Ouch.
Don't take it personally, Jordan. I know you've been on three first dates within the past month with no follow-through - obviously that can really damage a guy's confidence. But you'll find someone. Steve has a great sister, and she's also into rafting. Did you know that?
The fact is Julie was not being completely honest, when she said she'd "just gotten out of a complicated thing."...
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Posted by paulbibeau | Tue Jun 11, 2013, 09:40 AM (2 replies)
An article in the New York Times about how Barack Obama won the 2012 election through a revolution in collecting data about voters includes this quote:
With so much more time to prepare, Mr. Obama’s polling and “analytics” department collected so much information about the electorate that it knew far more about which sorts of voters were going to turn out — and where — than the Romney campaign and most public pollsters.
A piece on CNN said something similar:
But from the beginning, campaign manager Jim Messina had promised a totally different, metric-driven kind of campaign in which politics was the goal but political instincts might not be the means.
"We are going to measure every single thing in this campaign," he said after taking the job. He hired an analytics department five times as large as that of the 2008 operation...
Let's (sort of) switch subjects. An article in Popular Mechanics described how the data collected by the NSA can be used:
There are two basic ways to approach the data. First is a supervised learning approach, where you start with a target variable you are trying to predict for (in this case, you could isolate for a high-risk versus non-high-risk communication) and then separate the data by that variable. The second method, which is more useful for this type of request, is unsupervised learning, in which there's no target variable. You're simply searching for interesting patterns of behavior that occur in unexpected ways. This type of analysis can be used to create social networks of people of interest.
Now, back to the Times piece:
Culling never-before-used data about viewing habits, and combining it with more personal information about the voters the campaign was trying to reach and persuade than was ever before available, the system allowed Mr. Obama’s team to direct advertising with a previously unheard-of level of efficiency, strategists from both sides agree.
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Posted by paulbibeau | Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:34 AM (21 replies)
My fellow Americans:
Like many of you I was shocked and saddened to read the newspaper and learn about the intrusive surveillance on millions of... Ha! Just kidding there.
Anyway, I didn't intend to get like this. Honest I didn't. It's just at some point in in my first term I kinda realized you folks weren't really putting any pressure on me to dismantle the hideous security state we had. It was weird. I mean, we got flack from a few Kucinich types and the sort of people who sell gold on the internet. But who gives a fuck, right?
Then one day a really awful thought occurred to me: I wonder how far we could really take this? Sure, the guys who think I'm a Kenyan would oppose me. But at what point would middle America get mad? How close could we get to a third Bush term before your average Democrat grew a pair?
At first it was just the drones. We intensified the program, blew up a couple civilians... nothing big. And then we changed the rules so we could kill someone without even knowing who they were. Jesus, I thought everyone would stop that. Hillary and I were giggling about it in the Oval. I mean, it was insane. But you guys just... just let us keep going.
What the hell were you people thinking?
It became like a little game: Holder and Brennan were making noises like maybe we'll target people in the US. It's a global war, we said. We can go anywhere and do anything, and you just have to trust us. I mean, they did it during the last administration, but didn't everyone want something different? Wasn't I the guy who ran on a promise of changing all that? Then the atrocities started trickling in, and soon we just leaked the AP story ourselves.
Yes, we leaked that. And the reason is that this game is turning kind of weird. I mean, I get a nasty thrill humiliating all of you - God help me, I do. But I'm also beginning to feel desperate. Part of me wants to see how truly horribly we can act, but another part wants people in the country to stop me somehow. I want to see if there are enough people willing to show the kind of spine you expect of grownup citizens in a free republic. Ugh, it's just like when I get careless, because I want Michelle to catch me smoking.
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Posted by paulbibeau | Fri Jun 7, 2013, 11:24 AM (0 replies)
My fellow Americans: I wanted to be honest about why I'm not running for reelection. The truth is I'm tired. Tired of all of it. When I started this job I thought I'd found the purest form of kink possible, something that would never ever get boring. But it's time to admit it: It just doesn't ring Michele's joy-buzzer the way it used to.
Like a lot of you I started out pretty vanilla - one of those "safe, sane, consensual" BDSM clubs that advertise at a women's rec center and teach chubby middle-aged couples how to use a spreader bar. God I'm amazed I used to think that was daring! Anyway I wandered out of that pretty quickly: I toyed with different kinds of risk-aware stuff: a lot of humiliation and fear play. Then I did some suffocation, some punishment shaving, a little fire cupping... and a few kidnapping scenarios that got deep into some dark territory. But nothing, absolutely nothing, got my rocks off like being a socially conservative Republican. I thought the thrill would last forever. I really did.
Do you know what it's like to pass a law that straps a chastity belt around millions of people you don't even know? Or to start talking smack about how some random Muslim person might be part of a terrorist fifth column - and there's no way to prove he or she isn't of course, so they just have to live in a nightmare of paranoia you created? I choked out a whole roomful of sorority girls once and locked them in a storage unit. But what I did in Congress over these past few years was a thousand times more intense. I think rightwing politicians are exploring the last really shocking and unpredictable kind of dominance work in the whole world...
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Posted by paulbibeau | Tue Jun 4, 2013, 12:48 PM (6 replies)
I'm not judging Will.I.Am. Honestly. He wasn't particularly deluded. He wasn't even the only guy who did something like this. But I think it's important to take a look at his creation - It's useful to think about everyone's state of mind back then - given what we know today.
Because today it seems pretty fucking ridiculous.
I mean, people took a primary speech. By a politician. And they turned it into a "We Are The World" video. I pray to God that cocaine was involved. It's the only way I can make sense of it.
All those pretty people are smiling like cultists, and ScarJo looks as if she might start weeping with girlish joy. The gist of this is that a vote for the guy is the moral equivalent of saving a kitten from a fire on your way to drop a check for famine relief in the mail. To watch it, you'd think Barack Obama was Frodo, Neo, and the Last Unicorn, and that when he got to the White House, he'd rip Dick Cheney's iron heart from his chest and hurl it into the fires where it was forged, destroying its curse forever.
Many people thought this. Adults actually thought this. The clip is proof.
But there's nothing in there about flying killer robots, huh? Or having your Attorney General simultaneously hide from and spy on reporters. Or all the other nonsense.
Believe me, I'm not taking the Republican side. Those guys have very selective memories about government transparency and getting cavalier with the lives of our soldiers and diplomats. I am saying this: The guy I voted for isn't really a hero...
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Posted by paulbibeau | Fri May 31, 2013, 02:00 PM (11 replies)
You can sense it almost immediately, can't you? About half a minute into the speech, there's that disconnect familiar to any one who's sat through a commercial for antidepressants or allergy medicine or somesuch. The soaring music and the confident tone simply don't match any of the words, because lawyers cobbled all those together.
...rest assured, this decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff...
DUM! Duh, duh, da, DUMMMM!
Emotional piano. Shot of cheery, ruddy-cheeked old people pushing their granddaughter in a swing. Healthy. No one looks like they're going to code out if they try to tackle a flight of stairs.
Libercor is not for everyone. May cause shingles, dry mouth, rash, cold sweats, and night terrors. See your doctor if you develop persistent bleeding, as this may indicate a fatal condition...
Your brain doesn't wrap around everything the lawyers are saying. That's the point. The best you can manage is to realize dimly that Jesus, these guys have a lot of explaining to do. All this technical stuff is taking a long time, and those happy, corporate power chords are carrying an awful weight.
This is the perfect way for Michele Bachmann to end her Congressional career. She spent years trying to hide all that dark nonsense in the background behind a similar kind of feel-good theme...
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Posted by paulbibeau | Thu May 30, 2013, 08:22 AM (15 replies)
As you may know, the BSA recently addressed the ongoing issue of crazy people within its organization. I think it took an unsatisfying, halfway position on the subject - a position that solves nothing. Crazy people still exist in the BSA, but the group hasn't addressed their fundamental rights and concerns. It's essentially told them, "Yes, if you're the kind of whack-job who can't associate with gay adults, you still have a place here. But you can't go too far - you can't be the kind of absolute lunatic who'd discriminate against gay kids."
The problem is, many of them don't see the difference at all. And so, in order to fit in they have to hide who they are.
It's hard for the rest of us to understand their lifestyle or their beliefs. These are grounded in a three-thousand year-old collection of documents passed down through a group of nomadic tribal peoples, a message allegedly from some kind of powerful, inscrutable supernatural entity. Many people of course share beliefs of this kind. But this particular group adds a completely idiosyncratic set of alternate commands from a series of bizarre, supplementary visions received by their prophets. They basically allow them to ignore a large set of the ritual and dietary rules of their faith, while reinforcing sexual and gender norms - but only those which apply to the powerless members of their society. And at the same time, they will assert that these documents they follow are perfect, eternal, and completely consistent. Challenging them on any of this produces intense feelings of paranoia and rage. Coexisting with them is difficult. (Also, some of them believe in an additional text written by fantastical creatures on some golden plates, which were then lost. I know, I know. It gets weird.)
Do we want people like this teaching our kids? Do we want people using some Iron Age scrolls to talk with our young people about what makes a loving marriage? That seems extremely dubious. At the same time though, I think tolerance is vital. Children shouldn't ever abandon their natural skepticism, of course - if someone tells them they are receiving moral commands from invisible beings with super powers, it's always right to question that. But that doesn't mean it's okay to treat others unkindly.
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Posted by paulbibeau | Fri May 24, 2013, 11:05 AM (1 replies)