Category Archives: Political

Time to end “Above Top Secret” ?

Radio intercept marked Top Secret UltraAt the start of World War II, Britain set up a large and highly secret codebreaking operation. Every document related to the project was “above top secret:” they were all marked “Top Secret Ultra” and handled by separate security teams from merely “Top Secret” military information. This strategy seems to have kept the activity secret, at least from the general public. Military adversaries seem to penetrate such measures more quickly.

The intelligence community’s arrogance about secrecy grew from the Cold War. Very few intelligence agency secrets leaked to the general public back then, regardless of whether they had leaked to adversaries or not. This has had a profound political impact.

No one discusses or questions the intelligence community’s value proposition.

Given the recent dumps of classified information into Wikileaks, newspapers, and everywhere else, I think it’s time to kill the “above top secret” idea. History shows it hasn’t really worked that well anyway. There are much easier and cheaper ways to restrict access and control sharing. We also need to share more information with the public so we can judge the true value of our intelligence community.

Continue reading Time to end “Above Top Secret” ?

Where is the “Trump national Alliance?”

Why Trump Isn’t Hitler

Many progressive voices fear that President Trump is moving America towards totalitarianism and/or fascism. Trump has brilliantly sold “America First” as a form of patriotism, while others say it’s really anti-American. Serious discussions may draw parallels between Trump and the history of Nazi Germany, even though it’s a conversation-stopper to call him the new Hitler. The hint is always there.

I don’t think Trump is a new Hitler for a fundamental reason: He doesn’t have an organized cadre of thugs to suppress dissenters. The early Nazi Party participated “hugely” in every counter-demonstration and politically-motivated street brawl it could find. That requires a giant organization Trump lacks.

Continue reading Where is the “Trump national Alliance?”

Candidate Roads not Taken

The first Clinton-Trump debate was last night. I think both candidates did about as well as I expected. Here are two arguments the candidates could have made but didn’t:

  • Clinton: when Trump said “we should have taken the oil” while in Iraq, Clinton should have called him on it. Such “taking” would require war and long-term occupation with lots of our own troops.
  • Trump: when Clinton called for an “intelligence surge” in the context of ISIS-inspired domestic terrorism, Trump should have called her on it. Her surge requires expanded spying on American citizens and weakens national cybersecurity.

I could not have done a tenth as well in the debates as either of them, but these are arguments I wanted to see.

Continue reading Candidate Roads not Taken

A PRIMER ON CANADIAN POLITICS (FOR AMERICANS) – PART 2

Thank you to Rick for inviting me to post this on the Smatters blog! I’m very happy to be guest blogging. The purpose of this series is to give my American friends a better understanding of the political system in Canada. Again, as with part one, this is all from memory, so please forgive me my lapses (and Canadians, please do correct me if I’m wrong).

Part the Second: Parliament and Parties

Canada’s federal legislative branch is the Parliament. It’s comprised of two houses – the House of Commons and the Senate. Unlike the US Senate, the Canadian Senate is appointed. Similar to the US Senate, it is rife with scandal (Google “Mike Duffy,” for example) and obstructionists (Google “Canadian bill C-279,” for example).

Continue reading A PRIMER ON CANADIAN POLITICS (FOR AMERICANS) – PART 2

My favorite meme from 2015

A neighbor has a variant of the Gadsden Flag flying under his American Flag. Instead of yellow, it’s black, but it has the snake and the “Don’t Tread On Me.”

I haven’t found anyone on the Internet who offers a Gadsden Flag with the “Send Snacks” motto. I’d buy one in a second.

This is also a “test posting” – WordPress has a “featured image” setting and “image post” format. I’m wondering what they do.

 

“Happy Birthday” Freed! Next should be Mickey Mouse

Original melodyYesterday, a federal judge summarily ruled that the infamous song, “Happy Birthday To You” is not copyrighted. Time-Warner bought the company that bought the company that bought the company that bought some rights to the song in the ’30s. The paperwork was vague, so the lawyers interpreted it to make lots of money for the alleged copyright holder.

The royalties currently add up to about $2 million a year. The plaintiffs in the copyright case are starting a class action suit to recover some of the royalties that Time Warner and its predecessors collected improperly.

The point of copyright and patents is to encourage people to create things. The copyright gives a legal monopoly over the work for some number of years. Modern patents last about 20 years. Copyrights used to last 28 years. Now they last 70 years past the death of the author. Clearly this has nothing to do with paying authors. It has everything to do with selling a DVD containing black-and-white Disney cartoons.

Continue reading “Happy Birthday” Freed! Next should be Mickey Mouse

A Primer on Canadian Politics (for Americans) – Part 1

Thank you to Rick for inviting me to post this on the Smatters blog!  I’m very happy to be guest blogging.  The purpose of this series is to give my American friends a better understanding of the political system in Canada.

Part the First: Head of State

Canada is a part of the British commonwealth; what this means (amongst other things) is that officially, the head of state is the reigning British monarch; ie, currently, the Queen. Her representative in Canada is the Governor General. This position was much more meaningful in the days when the monarchy was more deeply involved in administrative affairs, and communication technology involved slow, fallible wooden ships. Now the position seems a lot more ceremonial; however, the Governor General still does have to sign off on various official acts in Canada – calling an election, forming a new government, and proroguing parliament.

“Proroguing,” as I understand it, is when the prime minister decides to close shop on the sitting parliament for a while. There may be legitimate uses for it, but it can also be kind of a bullshit move. The current prime minister (Stephen Harper, Conservative Party) prorogued parliament in late 2009, ostensibly because he wanted Canada to focus on the winter Olympics in Vancouver, but immediately before the prorogue there was a lot of grumbling in parliament and the press about some shady dealings he’d supposedly been involved in; speculation (on the left, anyway) at the time was that he just didn’t want to answer questions and he hoped it would blow over. Anyway, the Governor General rubber stamped the prorogue, parliament went home for a few months, the Olympics were awesome, and the furor over the issues did quiet down.

So clearly, the Governor General’s position (and by extension, the Queen’s role) is still important in Canadian politics. If the Governor General hadn’t signed off on it, parliament could not have been prorogued, the prime minister would probably have been asked to answer some uncomfortable questions, and possibly there would have been a call for a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

Next installment:  Parliament!  (No, not George Clinton’s Funkadelic.)