EFF’s Master plan on GMS

Here Is EFF’s Master Plan for Ending Global Mass Surveillance

Rainey Reitman, Electronic Frontier Foundation – Jan. 2015

Here Is EFF's Master Plan for Ending Global Mass Surveillance

We have a problem when it comes to stopping mass surveillance.

The entity that’s conducting the most extreme and far-reaching surveillance against most of the world’s communications—the National Security Agency—is bound by United States law.

That’s good news for Americans. U.S. law and the Constitution protect American citizens and legal residents from warrantless surveillance. That means we have a very strong legal case to challenge mass surveillance conducted domestically or that sweeps in Americans’ communications.

Similarly, the United States Congress is elected by American voters. That means Congressional representatives are beholden to the American people for their jobs, so public pressure from constituents can help influence future laws that might check some of the NSA’s most egregious practices.

But what about everyone else? What about the 96% of the world’s population who are citizens of other countries, living outside U.S. borders. They don’t get a vote in Congress. And current American legal protections generally only protect citizens, legal residents, or those physically located within the United States. So what can EFF do to protect the billions of people outside the United States who are victims of the NSA’s spying?

For years, we’ve been working on a strategy to end mass surveillance of digital communications of innocent people worldwide. Today we’re laying out the plan, so you can understand how all the pieces fit together—that is, how U.S. advocacy and policy efforts connect to the international fight and vice versa. Decide for yourself where you can get involved to make the biggest difference.

Continue reading EFF’s Master plan on GMS

Do you know why there are so many potential “candidates” for public office

Simple: they can solicit funds all day long from anyone who will donate to their potential candidacy, and they do not have to declare (account for income/expenses) UNLESS THEY ACTUALLY RUN for office.

* * * * *from the Federal Election Commission – Jan. 2015*****

Individual Tests the Waters

Before deciding to run for federal office, an individual may first want to “test the waters” — explore the feasibility of becoming a candidate. For example, the individual may want to travel around the state to see if there is sufficient support for a possible Senate candidacy.

An individual who spends money only to test the waters (but not to campaign for office) does not have to register as a candidate under the election law. (The threshold that triggers candidate status is discussed below.) Nevertheless, funds received and spent to test the waters are subject to the Act’s limits and prohibitions.2 Furthermore, financial records of testing-the-waters activities should be kept because, if the individual later becomes a candidate, the funds received and spent to test the waters will be considered contributions and expenditures. They will be reportable when the campaign files its first report. 11 CFR 100.72(a); 100.131(a); 101.3.

For example, Mr. Jones is interested in running for Congress but is unsure whether he has enough support within his district to make a successful bid. He therefore accepts up to $2,600 from each of several friends to pay for an opinion poll. The results of the poll indicate good name recognition in the community, and Jones decides to run. On the first report Jones files after he becomes a candidate (i.e., after he either receives contributions or makes expenditures which exceed $5,000), his committee must report the donations from his friends as “contributions” and the costs of the poll as “expenditures.” Had Jones not become a candidate, there would have been no obligation to report these financial transactions, and the donations made to help pay for the poll would not have counted as contributions.

An individual may conduct a variety of testing-the-waters activities. Certain activities, however, indicate that an individual has decided to become a candidate and is no longer merely testing the waters. Under these circumstances, the testing-the-waters exemption would no longer apply. For example, the exemption does not apply if the individual:

  • Raises funds in excess of amounts reasonably required for exploratory activity or amasses funds to be used after candidacy is established;
  • Conducts activities over a protracted period of time or shortly before the election;
  • Uses public political advertising to publicize his or her intention to campaign;
  • Makes or authorizes statements that refer to him or her as a candidate; or
  • Seeks ballot access. 11 CFR 100.72(b) and 100.131(b).


On beer drinking

AsapSCIENCE's photo.

A brief historical look at the police function in America

The invasion of America

The story of Native American dispossession is too easily swept aside, but new visualisations should make it unforgettable

by  in Digg – Jan. 2015

USA. Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. August 1, 2012. US Presidents plus nine Sioux leaders (l to r): Sitting Bull, One Bull, Rain-in-the-Face, Crow King, Gall, Red Horse, Fool Bull, Low Dog, Spotted Eagle and Red Cloud. Photo by Larry Towell/Magnum Photos

USA. Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. August 1, 2012. US Presidents plus nine Sioux leaders (l to r): Sitting Bull, One Bull, Rain-in-the-Face, Crow King, Gall, Red Horse, Fool Bull, Low Dog, Spotted Eagle and Red Cloud. Photo by Larry Towell/Magnum Photos

Claudio Saunt is the Richard B Russell professor in American history and the associate director of the Institute of Native American Studies at the University of Georgia. He is the author most recently of West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776 (2014). He lives in Athens, Georgia

* * * * * * *

Between 1776 and the present, the United States seized some 1.5 billion acres from North America’s native peoples, an area 25 times the size of the United Kingdom. Many Americans are only vaguely familiar with the story of how this happened. They perhaps recognise Wounded Knee and the Trail of Tears, but few can recall the details and even fewer think that those events are central to US history.

Their tenuous grasp of the subject is regrettable if unsurprising, given that the conquest of the continent is both essential to understanding the rise of the United States and deplorable. Acre by acre, the dispossession of native peoples made the United States a transcontinental power. To visualise this story, I created ‘The Invasion of America’, an interactive time-lapse map of the nearly 500 cessions that the United States carved out of native lands on its westward march to the shores of the Pacific.

Why do conservatives hate government?:

Hating Good Government, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times:

It’s now official: 2014 was the warmest year on record. You might expect this to be a politically important milestone. … So will the deniers now concede that climate change is real?

Of course not. Evidence doesn’t matter for the “debate” over climate policy… And this situation is by no means unique. Indeed,… it’s hard to think of a major policy dispute where facts actually do matter; it’s unshakable dogma, across the board. And the real question is why.

Before I get into that, let me remind you of some other news that won’t matter.

First, consider the Kansas experiment. Back in 2012 Sam Brownback, the state’s Republican governor, went all in on supply-side economics: He drastically cut taxes, assuring everyone that the resulting boom would make up for the initial loss in revenues. Unfortunately…, his experiment has been a resounding failure. … So will we see conservatives scaling back their claims about the magical efficacy of tax cuts…? Of course not. …

Meanwhile, the news on health reform keeps … being more favorable than even the supporters expected. …
All this is utterly at odds with dire predictions that reform would lead to declining coverage and soaring costs. So will we see any of the people claiming that Obamacare is doomed … revising their position? You know the answer.
And the list goes on…, a big chunk of America’s body politic holds views that are completely at odds with, and completely unmovable by, actual experience. …

The question, as I said at the beginning, is why. Why the dogmatism? Why the rage…,why this hatred of government in the public interest? Well, the political scientist Corey Robin argues that most self-proclaimed conservatives are actually reactionaries. That is, they’re defenders of traditional hierarchy — the kind of hierarchy that is threatened by any expansion of government, even (or perhaps especially) when that expansion makes the lives of ordinary citizens better and more secure. I’m partial to that story, partly because it helps explain why climate science and health economics inspire so much rage.

Whether this is the right explanation or not, the fact is that we’re living in a political era in which facts don’t matter. This doesn’t mean that those of us who care about evidence should stop seeking it out. But we should be realistic in our expectations, and not expect even the most decisive evidence to make much difference.

Don’t put the blame where it doesn’t belong

Don’t Blame Poor People for the Housing Crisis

by Tyler Cowen – Jan. 19th, 2015

Were poor people to blame for the housing crisis?, by Tyler Cowen:

When we break out the volume of mortgage origination from 2002 to 2006 by income deciles across the US population, we see that the distribution of mortgage debt is concentrated in middle and high income borrowers, not the poor. Middle and high income borrowers also contributed most significantly to the increase in defaults after 2007.

…That is from the new NBER working paper by Adelino, Schoar, and Severino. In other words, poor people (or various ethnic groups, in some accounts) were not primarily at fault for the wave of mortgage defaults precipitating the financial crisis. The biggest problems came in zip codes where home prices were having large run-ups. …

About the ultimate mystery

by Paul P. Mealing – Jan. 12th, 2015

I read an interesting article in the latest issue of Philsophy Now (Issue 105, Nov/Dec 2014) by Toni Vogel Cary titled, That Mystery of Mysteries, about the 2 centuries old debate regarding the theory of evolution and God-manipulated speciation. Toni Vogel Carey is introduced as ‘a philosophy professor in a former life, has written for twenty years… and serves on the US advisory board of Philosophy Now.’

She presents some interesting statistics that suggest ignorance in science this century is increasing rather than decreasing. For example: ‘In Great Britain, few besides evangelicals paid attention to creationism before 2002. But by 2006, a BBC poll showed that 4 out of 10 in the UK thought religious alternatives to Darwin’s theory should be taught as science in schools.’

She then gives equally scary anecdotes for the former Eastern European block countries, where, for example: ‘In 2006, Poland’s minister for education repudiated the theory of evolution, and his deputy dismissed it as “a lie”.’

She gives other examples, from various countries and educational institutions that should ring alarm bells for anyone interested in providing scientific tuition to future generations. Towards the end of her lengthy discussion that goes back to Herschel, Lyell and Darwin (of course), she cites a recent publication by Thomas Nagel, titled Mind & Cosmos (2012) (which I haven’t read, it must be stated) where ‘Nagel argues for “natural teleology”, a view of nature as forward-looking and purposeful, yet secular rather than deistic or theistic.’ And herein lies the rub: it is very difficult for us to believe that something like us (humans) could not be the consequence of some ‘cosmic plan’ (That Mystery of Mysteries), the why and wherefore we have speculated about ever since we gained the ability to think and imagine in a way that no other species can even cognise.
Continue reading About the ultimate mystery

Update on Iraq War #3

America Is Open for Business in Iraq

(Psst… Wanna Buy an M1 Tank?)
By Peter Van Buren – AEP – Jan. 15th, 2015

The current American war in Iraq is a struggle in search of a goal. It began in August as a humanitarian intervention, morphed into a campaign to protect Americans in-country, became a plan to defend the Kurds, followed by a full-on crusade to defeat the new Islamic State (IS, aka ISIS, aka ISIL), and then… well, something in Syria to be determined at a later date.

At the moment, Iraq War 3.0 simply drones on, part bombing campaign, part mission to train the collapsed army the U.S. military created for Iraq War 2.0, all amid a miasma of incoherent mainstream media coverage. American troops are tiptoeing closer to combat (assuming you don’t count defensive operations, getting mortared, and flying ground attack helicopters as “combat”), even as they act like archaeologists of America’s warring past, exploring the ruins of abandoned U.S. bases. Meanwhile, Shia militias are using the conflict for the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis and Iran has become an ever-more significant player in Iraq’s affairs. Key issues of the previous American occupation of the country — corruption, representative government, oil revenue-sharing — remain largely unresolved. The Kurds still keep “winning” against the militants of IS in the city of Kobani on the Turkish border without having “won.”

In the meantime, Washington’s rallying cry now seems to be: “Wait for the spring offensive!” In translation that means: wait for the Iraqi army to get enough newly American-trained and -armed troops into action to make a move on Mosul. That city is, of course, the country’s second largest and still ruled by the new “caliphate” proclaimed by Islamic State head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. All in all, not exactly inspiring stuff.

You can’t have victory if you have no idea where the finish line is. But there is one bright side to the situation. If you can’t create Victory in Iraq for future VI Day parades, you can at least make a profit from the disintegrating situation there.
Continue reading Update on Iraq War #3

Windows 10 as a Service

Microsoft Says Windows 10 Will Be the Last OS Upgrade You’ll Ever Need

via eWeek – By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2015-01-21  b

NEWS ANALYSIS: Once the next version of Windows is installed, Microsoft plans to begin a process of continuous updates that will eliminate the concept of next versions.

There’s no question that Microsoft has learned from the pain of getting customers to upgrade from Windows XP and later from Windows 7 to 8. From now on, it never wants to be in the position of having to convince people to buy the next version of Windows.While Microsoft Vice President for Operating Systems Terry Myerson didn’t exactly say that when he kicked off the Jan. 21 presentation of the company’s plans for Windows 10, that message was still clear.The first indication of Microsoft’s resolution was that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for most users of Windows 7 and Windows 8 or 8.1. But it was what Myerson said next that really gave things away.That’s when Myerson started talking about “Windows as a Service.” The plans for Windows 10 include a continuous series of upgrades performed automatically. The idea goes far beyond the Windows Updates that are in place today.

Windows as a Service will include new features, new capabilities and new Windows apps, all created for the universal Windows platform, which will encompass everything from phones to desktop computers. Myerson said that the questions about what version of Windows you’re running will become meaningless because everyone will have the same version as universal upgrades progress.

Or at least that’s the idea. Myerson did not address the question of what happens when a user isn’t connected to the Internet constantly, which can occur under a variety of circumstances, such as in enterprises where the IT department wants to tightly control the upgrade cycle.But assuming that all the connections are running smoothly, Microsoft will no longer have to worry about decades-old operating systems floating around in the cyber-world causing trouble. Ultimately, it will probably save Microsoft a lot of money by minimizing support costs.To make all of its plans come to fruition, Myerson said in his blog entry that in addition to making the upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10 free, the ongoing upgrade process will also be free.

Ultimately, this means Microsoft will eventually be free of the necessity to maintain vast numbers of staffers that have the responsibility of updating old operating systems and can instead focus on the very real need to continue adding new features so that Windows can stay relevant for as long as possible in the face of unprecedented competition in the operating system world.


Do Weak/Strong Gun Laws affect death rates

Do Gun Laws Really Prevent Deaths? New Study Dissected

Netanyahu invited by John Boehner to give an address at a joint session of Congress in February

John Boehner’s outrageous plan to help a foreign leader undermine Obama

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lambasts Obama during his 2011 address to Congress
House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress in February, on the topic of Iran. On the surface, this might seem innocent enough. Israel is a close American ally. Surely he should be welcome in Congress, particularly to discuss an issue that concerns his country. 

On the surface, Netanyahu’s speech will be about opposing Obama’s nuclear talks with Iran and supporting Republican-led sanctions meant to blow up those talks.

But there’s more than meets the eye here. Netanyahu is playing a game with US domestic politics to try to undermine and pressure Obama — and thus steer US foreign policy. Boehner wants to help him out. By reaching out to Netanyahu directly and setting up a visit without the knowledge of the White House, he is undermining not just Obama’s policies but his very leadership of US foreign policy. The fact that Netanyahu is once again meddling in American politics, and that a US political party is siding with a foreign country over their own president, is extremely unusual, and a major break with the way that foreign relations usually work.

“A Joint Session of Congress has been used almost exclusively to receive the President’s State of the Union Address (prior to 1942 called the Annual Message), other presidential addresses, and the counting of electoral votes for the President and Vice President of the U.S. Both chambers follow a formal procedure to establish these occasions by adopting a concurrent resolution. Only twice have foreign dignitaries addressed a Joint Session of Congress: French Ambassador Andre de Laboulaye (20 May 1934), to mark the centennial of the death of the Marquis de Lafayette, and Cuban Ambassador Guillermo Belt (19 April 1948), to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Cuban independence after the Spanish-American War in 1898.”

Every movie rewrites history. What American Sniper did is much, much worse.

Every movie rewrites history; but what American Sniper did is much, much worse.

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle Warner Bros
American Sniper has a problem. It’s a movie about a black-and-white distinction between good and evil, but it is set almost entirely in the Iraq War, which can only be honestly portrayed in shades of gray.

Faced with a choice between altering its narrative to account for that gray versus altering the facts of history, the film chose the latter. It adopted an “honesty shmonesty” approach to the war: in its retelling, Iraq was a fight of Good Americans against Bad Terrorists, led by Chris Kyle, the Good-est American of them all.

The result is a sort of Hezbollah martyr video for the Fox News set; that is recruitment propaganda for culture-war extremists. In the world of this movie, the Iraq war is an extension of the war on terror; heroes with guns are our only hope of salvation; and anyone who doubts that is part of the problem. And if the film’s historic box office success and many award nominations are anything to go by, that propaganda is frighteningly effective.
Continue reading Every movie rewrites history. What American Sniper did is much, much worse.

Five year anniversary of ‘Citizens United’ reveals its huge flaw

The Supreme Court’s Billion-Dollar Mistake

David Cole  – Jan. 19th, 2015 – N.Y. Review of Books
Thomas Nast



Five years ago this week, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court decided to allow unlimited amounts of corporate spending in political campaigns. How important was that decision? At the time, some said criticism of the decision was overblown, and that fears that it would give outsize influence to powerful interests were unfounded. Now, the evidence is in, and the results are devastating.

To coincide with the decision’s fifth anniversary, eight public interest organizations—the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Public Citizen, Demos, U.S. PIRG, Public Campaign, Justice at Stake, and the Center for Media and Democracy—have simultaneously issued reports that demonstrate the steadily growing influence of money on elections since the Court’s decision. Their findings show that the case opened the spigot to well more than a billion dollars in unrestricted outside spending on political campaigns, by corporations and individuals alike. It has done so at a time when wealth and income disparities in the United States are at their highest levels since 1928. Increasingly, it’s not clear that your vote matters unless you’re also willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to support your preferences.

Some of this money has come directly from the kind of corporate money at issue in Citizens United. But much more of it has come from other kinds of funding made possible by the Court’s decision, whose rationale undermined expenditure limits across the board, not just for corporations. Take the 2014 midterm elections. Just eleven closely contested Senate races tipped the balance and allowed the Republicans to regain control of the Senate for the first time since 2006. In eight of the ten states for which data is available, outside groups outspent the candidates themselves, by many millions of dollars. In North Carolina, for example, outside groups spent $26 million more than the candidates did. With these kinds of numbers, elected politicians may feel as beholden to such groups as to the people who actually voted for them.

Much of the newly unrestricted funding came from so-called “super PACs,” political action committees that raise money exclusively for “independent expenditures,” usually television and radio advertisements. Citizens United did not itself involve super PACs, but the decision had the effect of freeing super PACs from any meaningful constraints. The Court ruled that the government has no legitimate interest in restricting “independent expenditures”—as opposed to contributions to candidates—because in its view, only contributions have the potential to corrupt candidates. Two months later, in March 2010, a federal court of appeals relied on that rationale to strike down all limits on how much individuals may give to super PACs, since they are organized exclusively for the purpose of “independent expenditures.”
Continue reading Five year anniversary of ‘Citizens United’ reveals its huge flaw

An ongoing discussion about “incitement to murder”

  • Richard Pressl
     And then there is Turkey…(not the bird which should be our national emblem), but rather the country where a teen was arrested and put in jail for calling the Turkish leader a thief. It is a crime in Turkey to insult the president and others have been aSee More
    11 hrs · Edited · Like
  • Stephen Wade Let’s just give up the Bill of Rights in surrender to the forces of darkness. Bah! Love you Rick, but not this. What we need is adequate psychiatric care in this country…not surrender.
  • Richard Pressl Yes, but a psychiatric care solution makes an unwarranted assumption: namely that murderers are mentally ill and can be “turned around” by pharma or shrinks. The solution set obviously didn’t work with Chapman, Hinckley, or Loughner, and does not account for J.E. Ray, L.H. Oswald, T. Kaczynski, S.Sirhan, S. Roeder, D. White, and countless others who had no history of mental illness.
  • Richard Pressl ‘Ordinary’ humans can be influenced to conduct barbaric actions, such as murder, torture, lynching, etc if given essential feedback that what they are doing is approved conduct. That is the core of my comment.
  • Richard Pressl Many other countries in the developed World have State policies that specifically criminalize incitement to murder, yet have as strong a commitment to “Civil Rights” as America. I point to New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Canada, and Switzerland among others.
    1 min · Like

A short story for the modern temper


On a dreary afternoon in late January my neighbor Mike was hard at work at his favorite pastime: recombinant DNA sequencing. All the rooms in his modest home at Lake Geneva were full to overflowing with elaborate equipment, a huge variety of cases, injection pumps, slings, high powered optics, and an oversize plaque in his den which held a single test tube of what appeared to be some kind of slime covered in hair.

In a spotless lab coat Mike roamed his domain, pausing occasionally to take a furtive glance over his shoulder at the driveway to his house. “They don’t understand how important my work really is”, Mike said. “If it weren’t for me, and thousands like me the Government would make it illegal to have this equipment, even in the privacy of my own house.” I asked Mike about the potential for hazardous or life-threatening developments arising from his use of DNA sequencing equipment, which Mike brushed aside with a phrase I had encountered with others engaged in activity that most people found disturbing: “Only the careless, unskilled, and sinister people do not treat this with the utmost care.”
Continue reading A short story for the modern temper

Internet and social media misinform thousands daily regarding fluoridation

Note: it’s not just the political issues, it’s also about topics that are answerable by scientific enquiry.

Internet and social media misinformation regarding fluoridation 

A recent analysis of the internet and social media illustrates the up-hill battle science and health professionals, and pro-science lay people, often face with misinformation and outright distortion of science. The authors show the problem for the case of community water fluoridation and concluded:

“The Internet and social media are misinforming thousands of people daily about the safety, health, and economic benefits of community water fluoridation. The leading anti-fluoridation website had 5 to 60 times more traffic than the two leading profluoridation health organizations. All Groups and Pages analyzed on Facebook were against fluoridation, while 99 percent of the videos searched on YouTube and the majority (70 percent) of fluoridation tweets on Twitter were anti-CWF fluoridation.”

This study drew important lessons for science and health professions:

Pro-fluoridation organizations need to have a better presence on the Internet and utilize social media to educate the American people about the facts on fluoridation. Individual dental and health practitioners need to educate their patients about fluoridation, so their patients will not be easily misguided by misinformation on the Internet and social media.

And, of course, these lessons are just as applicable to New Zealand.

The study is reported in the paper:

Mertz & Allukian (2014). Community Water Fluoridation on the Internet and Social Media. Journal of the Massachusetts Dental Society, 63(2), 32–36. (You can download a pdf here.)
Continue reading Internet and social media misinform thousands daily regarding fluoridation

Gun buy-back programs

Researcher: U.S. could learn from Aussie gun buyback – The law enacted after a 1996 mass killing has led to a 59% drop in firearm homicide


The author of a report on Australia’s sweeping gun reform program that was instituted after a mass killing in 1996 says the United States would have many fewer deaths by dramatically decreasing the number of households with guns, the Sydney Morning-Herald reported.

The National Firearms Agreement — reached among the political parties less than two weeks after a gunman killed 35 people and injured 23 at a Tasmanian seaside resort — cut firearm homicide by 59% over the next two decades and firearms suicide by 74%, the report showed.

The law banned semiautomatic and automatic rifles and shotguns and put in place a mandatory buy-back program for newly banned weapons.

The buyback led to the destruction of 650,000 guns, the Sunshine Coast Dailyreported.

In August, following the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who instituted the NFA, wrote in the Melbourne daily The Age that the United States should follow in Australia’s footsteps.

“Australia is a safer country as a result of what was done in 1996,” he wrote. “It will be the continuing responsibility of current and future federal and state governments to ensure the effectiveness of those anti-gun laws is never weakened. The U.S. is a country for which I have much affection. There are many American traits which we Australians could well emulate to our great benefit. But when it comes to guns we have been right to take a radically different path.”

Andrew Leigh, as an academic at the Australian National University, published research in 2010 on the NFA and found that the gun buyback program lowered the proportion of Australian homes with guns from 15% to 8%.

”Our gun buyback took about a fifth of our guns out of circulation but it approximately halved the number of gun-owning households,” Leigh, who is also a Labor party MP, said, the Morning-Herald reported. ‘If the U.S. could dramatically decrease the number of households with guns, it would have many fewer deaths.”

A 2011 study by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center of the Australian program noted that while 13 gun massacres (involving the death of 4 or more people at one time) occurred in Australia in the 18 years before the NFA, resulting in more than one hundred deaths, there had been no massacres since.
Continue reading Gun buy-back programs

Pro/Con: the gun controversy

Should Adults Have the Right to Carry a Concealed Handgun?Concealed Handguns

Carrying a concealed handgun in public is permitted in all 50 states as of 2013, when Illinois became the last state to enact concealed carry legislation. Some states require gun owners to obtain permits while others have “unrestricted carry” and do not require permits.

Proponents of concealed carry say that criminals are less likely to attack someone they believe to be armed. They cite the 2nd Amendment’s “right of the people to keep and bear arms,” and argue that most adults who legally carry a concealed gun are law-abiding and do not misuse their firearms.

Opponents of concealed carry argue that increased gun ownership leads to more gun crime and unintended gun injuries. They contend that concealed handguns increase the chances of arguments becoming lethal, and that society would be safer with fewer guns on the street, not more. 

Concealed Guns ProCon.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit website that presents research, studies, and pro and con statements on questions related to whether or not adults should have the right to carry a concealed handgun.
Continue reading Pro/Con: the gun controversy

Five words that needed to be added to the 2nd Amendment

The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment

April 11, 2014

John Paul Stevens served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court from 1975 to 2010. This essay is excerpted from his new book, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.”

* * * * * * * *

Following the massacre of grammar-school children in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012, high-powered weapons have been used to kill innocent victims in more senseless public incidents. Those killings, however, are only a fragment of the total harm caused by the misuse of firearms. Each year, more than 30,000 people die in the United States in firearm-related incidents. Many of those deaths involve handguns.

The adoption of rules that will lessen the number of those incidents should be a matter of primary concern to both federal and state legislators. Legislatures are in a far better position than judges to assess the wisdom of such rules and to evaluate the costs and benefits that rule changes can be expected to produce. It is those legislators, rather than federal judges, who should make the decisions that will determine what kinds of firearms should be available to private citizens, and when and how they may be used. Constitutional provisions that curtail the legislative power to govern in this area unquestionably do more harm than good.

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution placed limits on the powers of the new federal government. Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of the Second Amendment, which provides that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

For more than 200 years following the adoption of that amendment, federal judges uniformly understood that the right protected by that text was limited in two ways: First, it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, and second, while it limited the power of the federal government, it did not impose any limit whatsoever on the power of states or local governments to regulate the ownership or use of firearms. Thus, in United States v. Miller, decided in 1939, the court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that sort of weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a “well regulated Militia.”

Continue reading Five words that needed to be added to the 2nd Amendment

You do not have to be passive when confronted with telephone harassment

Telephone Harassment


Obscene or harassing phone calls are an unwelcome intrusion on your privacy and can be a frightening experience. The Federal Communications Act and many state laws prohibit telephone harassment.

When Does a Phone Call Rise to the Level of Harassment?

Telephone harassment occurs when someone intends to annoy, harass or threaten you by:

  • Making a telephone continually ring
  • Making lewd, indecent, or obscene comments, suggestions or requests over the telephone
  • Making a telephone call where the caller does not identify himself
  • Making repeated telephone calls where the conversation consists only of harassment
  • Making a telephone call and using heavy breathing or silence with an intent to intimidate

Just one unwelcome call can be harassing, though a single misdial or “wrong number” call may not rise to the level of harassment. It’s a good idea to tell the recipient of such a call that you accidentally misdialed their number. People who commit telephone harassment are subject to fines, prison or both. In many states, telephone harassment is a criminal misdemeanor and can be more serious when a defendant in a criminal case is harassing the victim.

What Other Factors Should I Consider?

  • The timing the calls, i.e. calls made in the middle of the night are more likely to be harassing
  • The frequency of the calls
  • Whether the calls include threats to injure or kidnap
  • Whether the calls include lewd or obscene language

Are There any Exceptions?

Telephone calls arising out of family disputes, political squabbles and business matters are less likely to be made into criminal matters. A restraining order might be a more appropriate remedy in these situations.

What Should I Do if I Am Receiving Harassing Phone Calls?

If you are a victim of harassment, you should contact the police. You should make a note of the gender of the caller, the description of the caller’s voice, the time and date of the call(s), what was said in the call(s), and an estimate of the caller’s age. If the police can identify the caller and find sufficient evidence, they will forward the case to the District Attorney’s office to prosecute the caller.

Your phone company might be able to assist by tracking down the caller. Phone companies have different policies on the course of action to take when a customer reports that they are receiving harassing phone calls. You should contact the business office of your phone company to find out its policy.

You should contact a lawyer to help determine if the caller’s words or actions are obscene or otherwise unlawful. A lawyer can also tell you if you may be entitled to any civil damages for emotional distress.

If you receive a harassing phone call, don’t engage in a conversation with the caller or divulge any personal information. Sometimes the caller is seeking a response from you, and not giving a response to the caller can discourage future harassing calls.

Call Me, Pay Fee

Proposal to charge a fee to nuisance phone callers

WITH the fall elections looming, you may be reconsidering your relationship with your telephone. In states with intensely fought races during the primary season, phone subscribers have complained of receiving as many as 20 election-related calls — mostly automated “robocalls” — per week. These entreaties add to the already heavy load of unwanted commercial calls for everything from credit cards to weight-loss programs.

Enabling these calls are vast industries devoted to collecting personal data about us and selling it to parties seeking to commandeer our attention, our dollars or our votes. Just as fortunes are made by “renting the eyeballs” of Internet users, entrepreneurs prosper by leasing eardrums.

Officially, some limits are in place, most notably the National Do Not Call Registry, created by Congress in 2003. By one count, nearly three-quarters of American phone subscribers have enrolled on this list. But the exceptions and loopholes written into this legislation are revealing. Political candidates and organizations are exempted. So are nonprofit organizations, those conducting surveys or polls, and companies with whom the person called has an “established business relationship” — all notions inviting elastic interpretation.

Worse, determined robocallers now overwhelm even these flexible limits, cheaply placing millions of calls from beyond American borders using decentralizing technologies like voice-over-Internet protocol. Complaints to the Federal Trade Commission bring no relief.

There is no reason to tolerate these incivilities. A simple, low-tech regulatory change could shift the advantage decisively back in the direction of privacy.

All telephone service providers should be required to offer every subscriber the option of accepting only “bonded” calls. To complete a call to a subscriber electing this option, the caller would have to show willingness and ability to compensate the recipient — should the latter designate the call a nuisance. Before calls to these numbers could be completed, a message would state the amount of the potential charge. A few seconds after the connection is established, the recipient would have the option of terminating the call and charging the caller by pressing a keypad button.

Phone customers choosing this option could specify the amount that callers would place at risk. And they could maintain lists of favored callers, from whom calls would be accepted without risk of penalty. These might include relatives, friends, organizations from which communications are particularly welcome or parties from whom a callback has been specifically requested.

Technologies and management practices to support such an option already exist. The pay-per-call 900 number system has long been available to businesses seeking to charge callers for their time. This measure would extend the same benefits of communication technology to ordinary citizens and consumers.
Continue reading Call Me, Pay Fee

Gun nuts loose again…


Note: Gun violence by Americans in the recent few weeks shown below point to a very specific problem which we came in on due to an incident here at Lake Arrowhead. Specifically it is based on the evidence that gun nuts love to use their guns – frequently as a machismo display, or against unarmed, innocent people, including parents, and other family members. And it’s generally not a casual interest: they orient their entire lives around guns, guts, vengeance, and glory.

The “incident” I refer to occurred here at Lake Arrowhead, with multiple instigators identified who put up a rifle target on Lake Arrowhead property, sent bogus messages to our online websites, created a hoax on Craigslist, and urged others to carpet bomb our company phone lines. I sent a note to a LA resident saying the discharge of guns was not permitted by the Lake Arrowhead covenants, and that there was no meaningful “back stop” to the target so that fired rounds could travel into the LA Park area and hit someone. He took exception to the note, and empowered electronic hacking of my business accounts, and spoof postings on Craigslist.

In my opinion, anyone who makes a BIG THING out of their 2nd Amendment “Rights” while touting their expertise and gun collection is to be considered armed and dangerous! One perpetrator is just such a person – bragging about his ‘sharpshooter’ credentials, he is also a principle in an organization at Kennesaw University that advocates for  ‘concealed carry’ – as if the campus was over-run with perps attacking wimps to steal their lunch money.

As a reference point it can be seen by making a Google search for gun deaths in America, which today yielded about 1,170,00 results (0.55 seconds) on Google:
Continue reading Gun nuts loose again…

Warning about bots

Prominent Scientists Sign Letter of Warning About AI Risks

George Dvorsky – Jan. 12th, 2015

Prominent Scientists Sign Letter of Warning About AI Risks 1

Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and many other prominent figures have signed an open letter pushing for responsible AI oversight in order to mitigate risks and ensure the “societal benefit” of the technology.

The open letter was put together by the Future of Life Institute, a group mobilized by Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, MIT’s Max Tegmark, Harvard’s Viktoriya Krakovna, Boston University’s Meia Chita-Tegmark, and UC Santa Cruz professor Anthony Aguirre. Its scientific advisory board boasts such figures as Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Sir Martin Rees, George Church, and Nick Bostrom.

The signatories of the open letter are not calling for a ban on AI research and development. Rather, they’re calling for responsible oversight to ensure that it works with humanity’s best interests in mind. They write:

There is now a broad consensus that AI research is progressing steadily, and that its impact on society is likely to increase. The potential benefits are huge, since everything that civilization has to offer is a product of human intelligence; we cannot predict what we might achieve when this intelligence is magnified by the tools AI may provide, but the eradication of disease and poverty are not unfathomable. Because of the great potential of AI, it is important to research how to reap its benefits while avoiding potential pitfalls.

Consequently, the authors say we need to “focus research not only on making AI more capable, but also on maximizing the societal benefit of AI.” They have compiled a research priorities document which gives many examples of research directions that could contribute to the realization of these goals.

“In summary,” the authors write, “we believe that research on how to make AI systems robust and beneficial is both important and timely, and that there are concrete research directions that can be pursued today.”

Since the open letter was posted a few days ago, hundreds of people (myself included) have put their names on the list. I took a screen grab to show some of the more prominent signatories:

Continue reading Warning about bots

Senator Warren’s Remarks at AFL-CIO National Summit on Raising Wages

Senator Warren’s Remarks at AFL-CIO National Summit on Raising Wages

JAN 7, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke at the AFL-CIO National Summit on Raising Wages. The text of Senator Warren’s remarks as prepared for delivery follows, and a PDF copy of her remarks is available here:

* * * *

Good morning, and thank you MaryBe for the introduction, and for your work with the North Carolina AFL-CIO. Your efforts make a real difference for our families.

I want to start by thanking Rich Trumka and Damon Silvers for your leadership on economic issues, for your good counsel, and, for a long time now, your friendship. I also want to give special thanks to my good friends from the Massachusetts AFL-CIO who are here today, Steve Tolman and Lou Mandarini.

I love being with my labor friends, and I’m especially glad to join you today for the AFL’s first-ever National Summit on Wages.  You follow in the best tradition of the American labor movement for more than a century-always fighting for working people, both union and non-union.  Today you’ve spotlighted an economic issue that is central to understanding what’s happening to people all over this country.

I recently read an article in Politico called “Everything is Awesome.” The article detailed the good news about the economy: 5% GDP growth in the third quarter of 2014, unemployment under 6%, a new all-time high for the Dow, low inflation.(i)

Despite the headline, the author recognized that not everything is awesome, but his point has been repeated several times:  On many different statistical measures, the economy has improved and is continuing to improve. I think the President and his team deserve credit for the steps they’ve taken to get us here. In particular, job growth is a big deal, and we celebrate it.

I’ve spent most of my career studying what’s happening to America’s middle class, and I know that these four widely-cited statistics give an important snapshot of the success of the overall economy. But the overall picture doesn’t tell us much about what’s happening at ground level to tens of millions of Americans.  Despite these cheery numbers, America’s middle class is in deep trouble.

Think about it this way:  The stock market is soaring, and that’s great if you have a pension or money in a mutual fund. But if you and your husband or wife are both working full time, with kids in school, and you are among the half or so of all Americans who don’t have any money in stocks,(ii) how does a booming stock market help you?

Corporate profits(iii) and GDP are up. But if you work at Walmart, and you are paid so little that you still need food stamps to put groceries on the table, what does more money in stockholders’ pockets and an uptick in GDP do for you?

Unemployment numbers are dropping. But if you’ve got a part-time job and still can’t find full-time work — or if you’ve just given up because you can’t find a good job to replace the one you had — you are counted as part of that drop in unemployment,(iv)  but how much is your economic situation improving?

Inflation rates are still low. But if you are young and starting out life with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt locked into high interest rates by Congress, unable to find a good job or save to buy a house, how are you benefiting from low inflation?

A lot of broad national economic statistics say our economy is getting better, and it is true that the economy overall is recovering from the terrible crash of 2008.  But there have been deep structural changes in this economy, changes that have gone on for more than thirty years, changes that have cut out hard-working, middle class families from sharing in this overall growth.

It wasn’t always this way.
Continue reading Senator Warren’s Remarks at AFL-CIO National Summit on Raising Wages

The “Gish Gallop” explained

5 Things WingNuts Lie Shamelessly About

WingNuts have figured out a neat rhetorical trick: tell lies so fast your opponents can’t keep up.

Mark Twain once famously said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Twain wasn’t praising lies with this comment, of course, but modern-day conservatives seem to think he was dishing out advice instead of damning the practice of dishonesty. WingNuts have figured out a neat little rhetorical trick: One lie is easy for your opponents to debunk. Tell one lie after another, however, and your opponent’s debunkings will never catch up. By the time the liberal opposition has debunked one lie, there are a dozen more to take its place.

Science educator Eugenie Scott deemed the technique the “Gish Gallop,” named for a notoriously sleazy creationist named Duane Gish. The Urban Dictionary defines the Gish Gallop as a technique that “involves spewing so much bullshit in such a short span that your opponent can’t address let alone counter all of it.” Often users of the Gish Gallop know their arguments are nonsense or made in bad faith, but don’t particularly care because they are so dead set on advancing their agenda. Unfortunately, the strategy is so effective that it’s been expanding rapidly in right-wing circles. Here are just a few of the most disturbing examples of the Gish Gallop in action.

Continue reading The “Gish Gallop” explained

Edward R. Murrow – a man like no other

Edward R. Murrow – Wikiquote

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Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices — just recognize them.

Edward Roscoe Murrow (25 April 190827 April 1965) was an American journalist; born Egbert Roscoe Murrow. He first came to prominence with a series of radio news broadcasts during World War II, which were followed by millions of listeners in the United States and Canada. Many journalists consider Murrow one of journalism’s greatest figures, noting his honesty and integrity in delivering the news. A pioneer of television news broadcasting, Murrow produced a series of TV news reports that helped lead to the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Continue reading Edward R. Murrow – a man like no other

Jim Webb for President?

Note: The following is an article published in the Wall Street Journal – written by Sen. Jim Webb (D), Virginia in 2006

* * * * * * * *

Jim Webb | Class Struggle

Tuesday, 21 November 2006 04:56by: Anonymous

    Class Struggle
By Jim Webb
The Wall Street Journal

Wednesday 15 November 2006

The most important-and unfortunately the least debated-issue in politics today is our society’s steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America’s top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

Incestuous corporate boards regularly approve compensation packages for chief executives and others that are out of logic’s range. As this newspaper has reported, the average CEO of a sizeable corporation makes more than $10 million a year, while the minimum wage for workers amounts to about $10,000 a year, and has not been raised in nearly a decade. When I graduated from college in the 1960s, the average CEO made 20 times what the average worker made. Today, that CEO makes 400 times as much.

In the age of globalization and outsourcing, and with a vast underground labor pool from illegal immigration, the average American worker is seeing a different life and a troubling future. Trickle-down economics didn’t happen. Despite the vaunted all-time highs of the stock market, wages and salaries are at all-time lows as a percentage of the national wealth. At the same time, medical costs have risen 73% in the last six years alone. Half of that increase comes from wage-earners’ pockets rather than from insurance, and 47 million Americans have no medical insurance at all.

Manufacturing jobs are disappearing. Many earned pension programs have collapsed in the wake of corporate “reorganization.” And workers’ ability to negotiate their futures has been eviscerated by the twin threats of modern corporate America: If they complain too loudly, their jobs might either be outsourced overseas or given to illegal immigrants.

This ever-widening divide is too often ignored or downplayed by its beneficiaries. A sense of entitlement has set in among elites, bordering on hubris. When I raised this issue with corporate leaders during the recent political campaign, I was met repeatedly with denials, and, from some, an overt lack of concern for those who are falling behind.

A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation’s most fortunate. Some shrug off large-scale economic and social dislocations as the inevitable byproducts of the “rough road of capitalism.” Others claim that it’s the fault of the worker or the public education system, that the average American is simply not up to the international challenge, that our education system fails us, or that our workers have become spoiled by old notions of corporate paternalism.

Still others have gone so far as to argue that these divisions are the natural results of a competitive society. Furthermore, an unspoken insinuation seems to be inundating our national debate: Certain immigrant groups have the “right genetics” and thus are natural entrants to the “overclass,” while others, as well as those who come from stock that has been here for 200 years and have not made it to the top, simply don’t possess the necessary attributes.

Most Americans reject such notions. But the true challenge is for everyone to understand that the current economic divisions in society are harmful to our future. It should be the first order of business for the new Congress to begin addressing these divisions, and to work to bring true fairness back to economic life. Workers already understand this, as they see stagnant wages and disappearing jobs.

America’s elites need to understand this reality in terms of their own self-interest. A recent survey in the Economist warned that globalization was affecting the U.S. differently than other “First World” nations, and that white-collar jobs were in as much danger as the blue-collar positions which have thus far been ravaged by outsourcing and illegal immigration. That survey then warned that “unless a solution is found to sluggish real wages and rising inequality, there is a serious risk of a protectionist backlash” in America that would take us away from what they view to be the “biggest economic stimulus in world history.”

More troubling is this: If it remains unchecked, this bifurcation of opportunities and advantages along class lines has the potential to bring a period of political unrest. Up to now, most American workers have simply been worried about their job prospects. Once they understand that there are (and were) clear alternatives to the policies that have dislocated careers and altered futures, they will demand more accountability from the leaders who have failed to protect their interests. The “Wal-Marting” of cheap consumer products brought in from places like China, and the easy money from low-interest home mortgage refinancing, have softened the blows in recent years. But the balance point is tipping in both cases, away from the consumer and away from our national interest.

The politics of the Karl Rove era were designed to distract and divide the very people who would ordinarily be rebelling against the deterioration of their way of life. Working Americans have been repeatedly seduced at the polls by emotional issues such as the predictable mantra of “God, guns, gays, abortion and the flag” while their way of life shifted ineluctably beneath their feet. But this election cycle showed an electorate that intends to hold government leaders accountable for allowing every American a fair opportunity to succeed.

With this new Congress, and heading into an important presidential election in 2008, American workers have a chance to be heard in ways that have eluded them for more than a decade. Nothing is more important for the health of our society than to grant them the validity of their concerns. And our government leaders have no greater duty than to confront the growing unfairness in this age of globalization.


Mr. Webb is the Democratic senator-elect from Virginia.

Pow !


“No blasphemy could be more heinous than this crime,” Ansary wrote in an email, “no matter what the magazine published or whom it offended. Judgment belongs to God. Those who claim to defend Islam with violence and horror are essentially asserting that God is incapable of carrying out His will and so they must act in His stead: that’s blasphemy.” – Richard Easterbrook

Europe Is Under Siege

The Charlie Hebdo massacre represents a direct attack on perhaps the most crucial Western ideal.

Oona Räisänen/Flickr

The European Parliament complex in Brussels, where I happen to be sitting at the moment, is meant to be a monument to post-World War II continental ideals of peaceable integration, tolerance, free speech, and openness. All of these notions seem to be under attack at once, and what is striking to me, as a relatively frequent visitor to Europe over the past year, is that not many people—until a few hours ago, at least—seem to believe that their union, and their basic freedoms, are under threat.

The massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo falls into the category of events that are shocking in their intensity and brutality, but not at all surprising. This attack, which killed at least 12 people, including journalists and two police officers, was utterly, completely predictable. The brittle, peevish, and often-violent campaign to defend the honor of Allah and his prophet (both of whom, one might think, are capable of defending themselves with lightning bolts and cataclysmic floods and such, should they choose to be offended by cartoons) has been pursued in earnest since the 1989 Iranian-led crusade (I use the word advisedly) to have Salman Rushdie murdered for writing a book. In 2011, of course, the offices ofCharlie Hebdo were firebombed—the equivalent of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, an attack that should have told us more about long-term jihadist intentions than it unfortunately did.
Continue reading Europe Is Under Siege