May 11th, 2006


NSA bugs yo' ass.

USA Today is reporting that the NSA has a massive database of Americans' phone call records for tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth.

USA Today has found the other shoe -- the partner to the EFF lawsuit against the NSA which the government has been trying to throw out for national security reasons -- and have dropped it with a loud thud. Ars Technica has a good article on the legal arguments involved in such warrantless wiretapping, and let's just say that the government's position looks pretty shaky.

Basically, the White House bases its right to do what they are doing on:
1> The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) enacted shortly after 9-11, which they claim implicitly authorized such warrantless wiretaps, and,

2> Constitutional powers as the Nation’s Commander in Chief to monitor communication links between
persons in the U.S. and persons in enemy territory during times of war.

Unfortunately for them:

1> Members of Congress have clearly indicated that they did not intend to grant the authority asserted by the Administration. In fact, the Bush Administration sought to have the resolution broadened to apply to warrantless monitoring inside the US, but Congress specifically refused.

2> Congress passed clear restrictions on these powers when they enacted FISA, which includes a provision allowing warrantless searches for up to 15 days after the declaration of war. If a formal declaration of war had this limited effect, it is difficult to see how a resolution authorizing the use of force could be viewed as having more sweeping, unlimited, unmonitored powers.

3> The President's powers were designed specifically for monitoring enemy communications during a time of war... not all communication made by tens of millions of Americans.

Yes, I recommend a boycott of AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth. They gave the NSA direct pipes of all of their customer's data, allowing the government to search through the records of your phone calls without any kind of warrant or judicial oversight. The least you can do is call them up and complain loudly, asking them when they're going to cut off the "secret" data pipelines they have running straight to the NSA's headquarters. Or would you rather wait around until you discover what other personal information they can permanently store in their databases about you too?

The NSA's current "wide net" warrantless surveilance is just the tip of the iceberg, based on what they can technically deal with at this time. As computers get faster and more powerful and data storage becomes increasingly less expensive, expect more intensive data mining, voice recognition scanning, and computer-based warrantless monitoring of the US public, unless this behavior is nipped in the bud.

Note to self:
Need to look at other mobile phone providers.
Need to look into canceling AT&T broadband.
Need to look into an independent voice-over-broadband provider that doesn't go through AT&T's network. (i.e. no DSL.)

Bush hits an all-time low.


The latest Harris Poll puts George W. Bush's popularity at just 29%. The poll data came from the time period before the most recent news of widespread NSA surveilance of US citizens.

This puts Bush's popularity lower than any two-term president at this point of his administration. Only two presidents have ever scored lower approval ratings: Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. Bush Jr.'s approval rating now ties the lowest approval rating of his father, George Herbert Walker Bush.

No sitting president whose popularity has fallen below 30% has ever had his popularity rise back above 35%.

Some advice I gave recently.

You may find it relevant to you one day. It sums up many of my beliefs.

Seems to me that you're a free spirit and an idealist. (Not bad things, mind you...)

As a result, you tend to think that you can be yourself, do what you want to do, and at the same time expect that everything will turn out okay with everyone. Unfortunately, that's not likely / realistic. Things are sometimes going to suck, and sometimes the things you want, need, or have always depended upon will fail you.

Life isn't just about caring. It's about letting go. You have to care, or you wouldn't be you, and wouldn't be half as valuable to the world... but it's all fleeting, too.

That means that you'll have to get used to caring, and then losing those things that you care about. You'll have to love like crazy, and then feel extreme pain. You'll have to depend upon and trust others -- and often even yourself -- only to find that they've let you down.

That's life. It may seem like a horrible joke to gradually lose most everything in life that is important to you, but that doesn't mean that it's horrible most of the time. Sometimes, however, it is almost unbearable. Almost. There is nothing that life can take from you that you cannot live without, except for life itself, and, if you look hard and earnestly for it, you'll find that the joy of life outweighs the pain.

That doesn't mean that you can -- or should -- necessarily be happy most of the time, but it only takes a small amount of joy to make a hard day worth living for. Sometimes, you just need to look harder. You can only love the life you have, and must find a way to love it, flaws, failings, and all. Sometimes, imperfection is more endearing than perfection, for in imperfection, we see something of ourselves.

The rational thing to do when you lose something you care about isn't to give up on everything else you care about. It's to truely value what you have when you have it, never taking it for granted, and being aware that it is all utterly beautiful in its fleeting imperfection, in an overflowing and bittersweet way.

Or as the song goes...

"You've got to give a little, take a little
And let your poor heart break a little
That's the story of,
That's the glory of love

You've got to laugh a little, cry a little
Until the clouds roll by a little
That's the story of,
That's the glory of love

As long as there's the two of us
We've got the world and all its charms
And when the world is through with us
We've got each other's arms

You've got to win a little, lose a little
And always have the blues a little
That's the story of,
That's the glory of love."