How Can You Miss Me If I Won’t Go Away?

My urge to save the world one post at a time waxes and wanes. Lately, it’s waned.

Its waning could be a response to the daffodils blooming:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

                               — William Wordsworth

But did you know that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) strikes some of us in the spring or early summer, not in the dark days of winter?

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

                               — T. S. Eliot

Life in itself 
Is nothing 
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs, 
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, 
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

                              — Edna St. Vincent Millay

But first, these messages:

Gravity was nominated for seven Oscars and 97% of the critics on Rotten Tomatoes liked it, but it’s not a good movie. They spent millions and millions making it look great but seem to have thrown the script together over a long weekend. One miraculous escape after another eats away at the suspense. And that capsule should have landed on a giant heap of corn.

it’s a simple fact of arithmetic that one person’s vote hardly ever matters. How many elections are decided by one vote? Since voting makes no sense from a practical perspective, we need to stop thinking of voting in practical terms. Instead, we should view voting as a democratic ritual. Ritual behavior doesn’t have to be practical. If everyone in this country – at least those of us who don’t have to wait in line for hours to vote – treated voting as a symbolic celebration of democracy, something that every citizen just does as a matter of course, we in the majority (those of us who favor less military spending, for example) could make a difference. Accepting that voting is impractical but doing it anyway would be a very practical thing to do.

Glenn Greenwald is one of the journalists selected by Edward Snowden to receive those secret National Security Agency files. Greenwald now has a website called The Intercept. The site includes links to “top secret” documents. For example, there’s a set of slides from the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) called “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations”. It suggests ways to discredit people or organizations by applying “The 4 D’s: Deny / Disrupt / Degrade / Deceive” (apparently, the NSA and GCHQ don’t merely listen; they also manipulate). There are also some light-hearted internal blog posts, like this one from the NSA regarding SIGINT (Signals Intelligence):

So, SIGINT is downright cool! As much as we complain about our “Big Data Problem”, collection/processing issues, dismal infrastructure/outdated browsers/OS’s, our ability to pull bits out of random places of the Internet, bring them back to the mother-base to evaluate and build intelligence off of is just plain awesome!

In conclusion, please don’t expect too much from Gravity, remember to vote, and visit The Intercept. As for everything else, I’ve got nothing (as of now anyway).

Farndale Daffodil Field

After a Major Event, Life Goes On, But Surreptitiously

gnote1A major event? Yes, finally replacing my aging but handy Blackberry with a new Android smartphone (good-bye, Verizon, you bloodsuckers!).

Some might say it’s only a phone. It feels more like a lifestyle. You can’t do that anymore. Do this now. How do I do that? Guess! Or download an app. Which app? That app! Wait, what did I just do? I must have touched something. Oh, no!

Come on, why do you zoom in on Google Maps by pinching your fingers together instead of spreading them apart? Isn’t spreading them apart a more expansive gesture? And why can’t I spread my fingers apart in the prescribed way? It’s probably a genetic defect. Those of us who can easily carry out the correct two-finger spreading motion are now better-suited to getting around and finding mates. The rest of us will tend to stay put and die alone. If only I could remember the Alternate Zoom Technique:

In addition to pinching the screen to zoom, you can also double-tap on your map, hold, and then scroll down to zoom in, or scroll up to zoom out.

Coincidentally, the New York Times reported more from the Snowden Files today:

When a smartphone user opens Angry Birds, the popular game application, and starts slinging birds at chortling green pigs, spy agencies have plotted how to lurk in the background to snatch data revealing the player’s location, age, sex and other personal information, according to secret British intelligence documents.

In their globe-spanning surveillance for terrorism suspects and other targets, the National Security Agency and its British counterpart have been trying to exploit a basic byproduct of modern telecommunications: With each new generation of mobile phone technology, ever greater amounts of personal data pour onto networks where spies can pick it up….

[Among] the most valuable of those unintended intelligence tools are so-called leaky apps that spew everything from users’ smartphone identification codes to where they have been that day.

Fortunately, I don’t play with angry birds. But Google Maps is said to be one of the best sources of information for the intelligence agencies. The Times quotes a secret report from Britain’s G.C.H.Q. suggesting that “anyone using Google Maps on a smartphone is working in support of a G.C.H.Q. system”. Thank you. No problem.

We know that corporations collect whatever information they can about us. Now we know that the NSA and GCHQ are doing the same.

But assuming that we don’t want to stop using our phones or the internet and we can’t get our governments to stop this spying, we can take some solace in the fact that these people are collecting so much data, they don’t know what to do with it. Most of us will never stand out in the crowd.

However, if you happen to be planning a terrorist attack, or want to tell the President he or she is a jerk, you should definitely avoid Angry Birds. Or communicate the old-fashioned way:


Give the Nobel Peace Prize to Manning and Snowden

I don’t have anything to add to what other people have written about Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. They both leaked important information that our government desperately wanted to keep secret. Both of these young men put their own freedom at risk in order to help preserve ours. Neither one deserves the long prison sentence that Manning will receive and Snowden will apparently avoid (thanks to Vladimir Putin, of all people). Listening to Democrats, who should know better, defending our government’s bad behavior in these two cases has been sickening.

Meanwhile, an Irish woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 is nominating Private Manning for the same honor. She explains her thinking here:

Likewise, a Swedish professor is nominating Edward Snowden:

I learned about these efforts in this article by columnist Andrew O’Hehir. He thinks both whistleblowers deserve the prize, but doubts that the Nobel Prize committee has the courage to give it to them:

Let’s hope they do.



The Guardian reports on whether there were reprisals against anyone in Iraq or Afghanistan after Private Manning’s leaks:

The US counter-intelligence official who led the Pentagon’s review into the fallout from the WikiLeaks disclosures of state secrets told the Bradley Manning sentencing hearing on Wednesday that no instances were ever found of any individual killed by enemy forces as a result of having been named in the releases.

Brigadier general Robert Carr, a senior counter-intelligence officer who headed the Information Review Task Force that investigated the impact of WikiLeaks disclosures on behalf of the Defense Department, told a court at Fort Meade, Maryland, that they had uncovered no specific examples of anyone who had lost his or her life in reprisals that followed the publication of the disclosures on the internet. “I don’t have a specific example,” he said.

It has been one of the main criticisms of the WikiLeaks publications that they put lives at risk, particularly in Iran and Afghanistan. The admission by the Pentagon’s chief investigator into the fallout from WikiLeaks that no such casualties were identified marks a significant undermining of such arguments.

And they summarize what was learned from those leaks: