Monthly Archives: June 2013

Dear Justice Scalia

Things have been a bit crazy this week, so I won’t take up too much of your time. I would like to point out that you seem a little unclear on the concept of “rights.” Rights are not something that are granted selectively by legislation. Those are “privileges.” Rights are for everyone, and a big part of your job is to prevent legislation from selectively denying them to certain targeted groups.

What this means is that the “will of the people” means squat when discussing rights. In a democracy, it’s easy for the majority to pass laws that discriminate against everyone else. That’s the one of the big structural problems with democracy and it’s why we have a constitution and a judiciary to prevent legislative abuses. You’re supposed to be a big part of this system. Checks. Balances. I’m sure you know the drill.

Seeing you react like a petulant child when five of your colleagues did their job properly and struck down openly-discriminatory legislation was disappointing. I would say it was “ironic” because, you know, you’d exercised precisely the powers you claimed the court didn’t have earlier in the week in when you neutered the Voting Rights Act.  But it wasn’t really “ironic.” The only consistent legal principle one can discern from your voting record is a partisan one, and lord knows your team will benefit from making it harder for certain demographics to vote.

I understand that, thanks to the lifetime appointment, you’re not accountable to anyone and you’ve been taking advantage of that a lot recently. You’ve been coasting, and that’s Thomas’ job. I’m not asking that you resign; merely hoping that you’ll start taking your job a little more seriously and stop the “obvious troll is obvious” routine. You used to be better than that.

Somewhat Respectfully,

WTF Pancakes

 

 

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This one’s going to get me added to a list or two…

“Why did you lock the door to your house? Do you have something to hide? The fact that you locked it is probable cause for a search.”

“Hey, this envelope was sealed before it was dropped into the mailbox. There must be something suspicious about it. Let’s take a look.”
So, yeah, the mere fact that electronic communication is encrypted is apparently adequately suspicious to warrant an the NSA unencrypting it and taking a look at the contents. I’m sure this doesn’t come as a big surprise to anyone, but that doesn’t make the justification any less specious.
Fortunately, there’s a cultural fix for this. Just like a single locked door in a city without locks would raise eyebrows, a single encrypted message gets put aside for investigation. But, if every message were encrypted (really encrypted, don’t give me that SSL nonsense), then you’ve changed the game.
Continuing with what is going to be an extremely strained analogy, one of the reasons that strong encryption isn’t widespread is that it’s perceived and clunky for the users. If it were as easy as, say, turning the key on your front door when you leave the house, you’d have a much higher adoption rate.
Call me cynical, but I’m not holding my breath for the government or the established industry players to come up with a solution. I’m not sure exactly what the solution will be, but we can probably guess the shape of it. It will be open source, it perform the encryption operations on your device, and it will be trivially difficult for the non-technical end user. It will operate in the same fashion on all platforms, and different flavors implemented by different developers will work together without kludgy workarounds.
This needs to happen. Locking up your communications needs to be as automatic and effortless as locking up your house. Once encryption is universally adopted, encrypted communication is no longer a prima fascie indicator of suspicious activity.
And, as for the “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” canard, I’ll just point out that the United States government obviously doesn’t believe it. I’m not the first one to point this out, but still…it bears repeating. If the TPP is so friggin’ great, why aren’t its contents public?It’s because the government believes that privacy is a privilege, not a right. We need to prove them wrong.

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What Do The NSA Revelations Mean?

To me? Not a lot. Sure, I’m appalled that the United States government would do this, but I’m not even a little bit surprised. I’ve always assumed that, if the technology and the will existed (and there was strong reason to think that they did), then it was extremely likely that we’d find ourselves here. CNet has a nice piece on some of the hints we’d receive earlier, if you’re interested.

This isn’t an Obama problem; this is a systemic problem that has existed for a very long time and has spread to all branches of the government. The legislature has left an ambiguous authorization of wartime powers against “terrorism” in place for over a decade now, and the judicial oversight that is supposed to provide a check against abuse has been utterly toothless.

Then again, this IS an Obama problem. Now that this is out in the open, there’s no longer even-implausible deniability. This on the watch of a President who promised change and transparency? It’s like his idea of “change” is to be even Bush-ier than Bush. 

It is, I think, important that the backlash against the administration is severe. They were caught with their hand in the cookie jar and to let it go unpunished sets exactly the sort of precedent we don’t want to set. 

I would wager that most of the people who read this post already suspected that this sort of program existed. The only difference is that now, there is proof. There’s no more benefit of the doubt. What’s the next move?

 

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This would explain a lot about Lindsay, huh?

Image

That strapping young man with the killer ‘stache is Jeffrey Tambor on the set of “Max Headroom.” 

If you’re an Arrested Development fan and you’re anything like me, you may have felt that one of the weakest links in Season 4 was the casting of the younger George Bluth. I like Seth Rogan just fine, but he never struck me as anything other than Seth Rogan with weirder hair. It was just jarring enough that it took me out of the show.

But, looking at photos of Tambor on Max Headroom gave me a couple of ideas. One of them is interesting and impractical; the other one is inspired.

It would be sort of funny to have the young George portrayed by a digitized version of himself using the images from the old TV show. Since, you know, that’s what the whole Max Headroom show was about. Maybe even throw a “20 minutes in to the future” gag in there. That feels reasonably “Arrested Development” to me, but it might be even more jarring than the Rogan version of George.

Much better, I think, would be to have the younger version of the Bluth patriarch played by…David Cross. Not only does he look the part (at least, more so than Rogan), but it would make the Tobias/Lindsay marriage just that much creepier and at the same time more understandable.

What do ya think?  It feels very much in keeping with the spirit of the show and I think it’d be a hoot to see David Cross do a Jeffrey Tambor impression. This would work.

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