‘After an all-night session – Rand Paul [R-KY] and Ron Wyden [D-OR] tag-teamed majority leader Mitch McConnell [R-KY] – and beat him to the mat –
– he has abandoned the current legislative effort to extend section 215 of the Patriot Act – which authorizes mass surveillance – and is set to expire on June 1.
This was not what we expected – political handicappers had put safe money on some kind of compromise emerging from today’s session.
With no such compromise in sight – McConnell will have to start over – twisting arms and knocking heads to get Congress to re-authorize another long stretch of unaccountable – secret mass surveillance.
He’s got his work cut out for him as the Senate has adjourned until May 31 — 24 hours before the deadline.
Don’t forget: the FBI has admitted that Section 215 surveillance has never produced intelligence that led to them cracking a terrorism-related case-
– or preventing a single terrorist attack.
It’s not all good news: the better-than-nothing – still-not-great USA Freedom Act – which placed some limits on mass surveillance – also got beaten back in the Senate.
Tonight, the US Senate failed to move ahead with the USA Freedom Act – an NSA reform bill that would address phone record surveillance and FISA Court transparency and fairness. It also was unable to muster votes for a temporary reauthorization of Section 215 of the Patriot Act – the section of law used to justify the mass phone records surveillance program. That’s good news: if the Senate stalemate continues – the mass surveillance of everyone’s phone records will simply expire on June 1′.
The influence of geeks with guitars on culture – from DIY to social media.
‘Two decades before a bunch of geeky American boys messing around on computers created social media – an earlier generation of geeky kids (mostly boys) messing around on guitars created another sort of social network.
At its heart was the kind of music you wouldn’t hear on commercial radio or – except in the wee hours of Monday mornings – on MTV.
It came on the heels of 1970s punk rock – and while it owed something to punk’s velocity and sneer – the spirit was experimental – as if all the old rules had been swept away.
Ragged guitar riffs – ferocious decibel levels – and unpredictable song structures were its trademarks – but the sounds – from the percussively headlong to the distorted and depressive – proliferated as fast as the labels for them.
Under the various headings of punk – post-punk- hardcore – alt-rock – underground – noise rock – post-rock – and most generic – indie rock bands such as Mission of Burma – Minor Threat – Hüsker Dü- Sonic Youth – and Slint – laid down the soundtrack of an alternative culture.
If you were over the age of 30 when the Berlin Wall fell – this music probably seemed pretty much pointless.
If on the other hand, you were in your teens or 20s – especially if you were a skinny white male and wore glasses – it’s just possible that indie rock sounded like community – salvation even.
Unlike hip-hop – that other Gen X art form – which originated in New York – and later developed regional variants – indie got its start in emphatically local and often unlikely settings.
Its fertile crescent was provincial American cities and college towns.
Indie rock took off in places such as Athens Georgia – Olympia Washington – and my own hometown of Louisville Kentucky – though most big cities also had a scene – and each had its own distinctive ecosystem.
In Cleveland and New York City for instance – where thrashy – locomotive hardcore music had a long reign – white boys predominated – and girls were scarce.
In Olympia – as in Boston – there were sympathetic college radio stations – more women – and more of an art-school atmosphere to the enterprise’.
Lay historians will recall that not only did Truman defeat Dewey – he clobbered him.
Sorting out how the media got it so wrong – The New York Times’ James Reston concluded that he and his brethren had been a lot like the aloof Governor Dewey himself –
– who was said to be the only man who could strut sitting down.
Dewey played well with plutocrats and publishers.
‘]ust as he was too isolated with other politicians’ – Reston wrote – ‘so we were too isolated with other reporters – and we too – were far too impressed by the tidy statistics of the polls’.
This was true – but it fell to A. J. Liebling – the nonpareil of The New Yorker – to pick out the crucial vice that Reston and similarly minded colleagues overlooked.
‘A great wave of contrition hit the Washington newspaper world in the days immediately following the joyous catastrophe’- Liebling wrote – ‘and men swore that they would go out and dig for the real truths of politics as they never had dug before.
But few publishers encouraged them in their good resolutions – and most of them are back again running errands designed to bolster their bosses’ new illusions’.
Bad as insiderism – arrogance – and poll-worship were – Liebling knew the real peril was that those sins usually furthered the bosses’ agenda.
It is one reason Liebling’s most memorable bon mot is also his most eternal:
‘Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one’.
(ed:..funny how all of this just brings to mind the recent sidelining/sacking of john campbell..eh..?..)
‘We’re ridding the world of polytheism – and spreading monotheism across the planet’ – an ISIS preacher recently said in a video recording.
Behind him one could see the ISIS faithful using sledgehammers – bulldozers – and explosives – to destroy the eighth-century-BC citadel of the Assyrian king Sargon II at Khorsabad – ten miles northwest of Mosul in northern Iraq – and the colossal statues of human-headed winged bulls that had guarded it.
The full extent of the damage to these enormous and remote sites remains unclear.
But on March 18 2015 Iraq’s distraught archaeologists and antiquities experts gathered for a government-sponsored conference in Baghdad.
Iraq has 12,000 archaeological sites – too many to protect – I was told by Ahmed Kamel Mohammed – the director of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad – the country’s greatest collection of antiquities –
– which had been looted when the Americans took Baghdad in 2000.
Some of the experts proposed drafting a UN Security Council resolution to entrust the protection of the sites to the US-led coalition. Others advocated the creation of a national antiquities guard. Iraq’s national security adviser, Faleh Fayadh, promised to consider this and then nodded off during a presentation about the ancient temple to the sun god at Hatra, one of ISIS’s reported targets.
Islamic heritage has fared no better.
Some of the experts proposed drafting a UN Security Council resolution to entrust the protection of the sites to the US-led coalition.
Others advocated the creation of a national antiquities guard.
Iraq’s national security adviser – Faleh Fayadh – promised to consider this – and then nodded off during a presentation about the ancient temple to the sun god at Hatra, -one of ISIS’s reported targets.
Photographer Jim Marshall delivers the faces – the icons – and the vibe of a unique moment in music history.
‘Jim Marshall’s name is often accompanied by adjectives such as ‘indomitable – ‘legendary’ – ‘genius’ – or ‘whirlwind’.
And not without reason.
Apart from being in the right place at the right time – San Francisco’s music scene in the mid-1960s – Marshall had the right personality to get up close and personal with the bands who would provide the soundtrack to a generation.
More importantly – he was simply a great photographer.
As such Marshall created some of the most iconic images in rock and roll history.
You know that famous shot of Johnny Cash flipping off the camera?
The Allman Brothers cover where they’re all sitting in front of their road cases?
The Beatles running across the field at Candlestick Park for their last concert?
Just about any photo of Janis Joplin that comes to mind.
Jim Fucking Marshall.
Hendrix – The Dead – The Who – The Stones – Zepplin – Little Richard. Chuck Berry – Neil Young.
He shot ’em all – and many many more.
Marshall was there in the earliest days – when the Charlatans – the Great Society – the Warlocks/Grateful Dead – Big Brother & the Holding Company – Quicksilver Messenger Service – the Jefferson Airplane – and other bands – were just beginning to spin their wheels –
– and the SF acid/psych-rock scene was just getting rolling’.
‘On Wednesday – when President Barack Obama spoke at the US Coast Guard Academy’s commencement ceremony – he called climate change ‘an immediate risk to our national security’.
In recent months the Obama administration has repeatedly highlighted the international threats posed by global warming – and has emphasized the need for the country’s national security agencies to study and confront the issue.
So some national security experts were surprised to learn that an important component of that effort has been ended.
A CIA spokesperson confirmed to Climate Desk that the agency is shuttering its main climate research program.
Under the program – known as Medea – the CIA had allowed civilian scientists to access classified data -such as ocean temperature and tidal readings gathered by Navy submarines – and topography data collected by spy satellites –
– in an effort to glean insights about how global warming could create security threats around the world.
In theory the program benefited both sides: Scientists could study environmental data that was much higher-resolution than they would normally have access to – and the CIA received research insights about climate-related threats.
But now the program has come to a close.
‘Under the Medea program to examine the implications of climate change – CIA participated in various projects’ – a CIA spokesperson explained in a statement.
‘These projects have been completed and CIA will employ these research results – and engage external experts as it continues to evaluate the national security implications of climate change.”
‘There’s a growing gap between what we can currently get our hands on – and what we need to respond better’ – said security expert Marc Levy.
The program was originally launched in 1992 during the George H.W. Bush administration – and was later shut down during President George W. Bush’s term.
It was re-launched under the Obama administration in 2010′.
‘The man immortalized as St. Valentine would be shocked to discover that he has become the patron saint of romantic love.
His story is obscure – but he appears to have been a priest near Rome who was executed for his Christian beliefs in the third century.
A feast in his name was first held in 496 – and for most of the next millennium he was venerated for having the power to heal the sick and crippled.
By the late Middle Ages his fame rested on being the patron saint of epileptics – especially in Germany and Central Europe – where artworks from the period depict him curing children of their seizures.
He had nothing to do with romance until 1382 – when Chaucer wrote a poem describing Valentine’s Day – celebrated each February – as a time when birds – and people – would choose their mates.
From that moment on – his reputation as a healer started to fade – and his annual feast day turned into an occasion for lovers to send each other amorous verses – and village youths to play frolicsome love games.
Valentine’s Day was transformed again in the nineteenth century – when it became a commercial extravaganza fueled by the birth of the greetings card industry – and the arrival of mass marketing.
A Valentine craze broke out in the United States in the 1840s: within just two decades retailers were annually selling close to 3 million cards – chapbooks – and other love trinkets.
Today 141 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged worldwide each year – and 11 percent of courting couples in the U.S. choose to get engaged on February 14.
The way that St. Valentine has been converted from a herald of charitable Christian love – into a symbol of romantic passion – raises the larger question of how our attitudes towards love have changed over the centuries’.
Technically – Meet is a keyboard extension that’s part of the most recent update to Sunrise – a nifty calendar app for Android and iOS – that pulls in data from your various calendars and social media accounts – and presents them as an intuitive unified vision of your time schedule.
The gist is this: The Meet keyboard extension replaces the typical alphanumeric keys at the bottom of your touchscreen – with an interactive calendar.
Its main goal is to remove the hassle of scheduling meetings through an email or a text.
Using Meet – instead of toggling back to your calendar – you can schedule meetings directly from whatever app you’re using (text messaging – Outlook – Gmail – etc.) – by tapping an empty block of time and sending your availability through a link to the person with whom you’re doing the scheduling dance.
All that person has to do is tap on the best available time – and the meeting will automatically be added to both of your calendars.
So yes – Meet is a keyboard.
But it’s also a brilliant bit of UX design masquerading as a productivity tool.
Because really – the coolest part about Meet isn’t its functionality; it’s the fact that it’s turning a third-party keyboard into a fully-interactive second screen on your phone.
An Apple-sanctioned hack to give your phone split-screen functionality?
‘Those of us raised on the Internet- and adept at navigating god-awful social networks and e-commerce storefronts- may not be the best judge of a site’s usability and UX.
But your mom? She may perfect.
And if not her – then definitely Scotty Allen’s mom.
Allen is a entrepreneur and developer who joined Richard Littauer to create TheUserIsMyMom – which launched just over a week ago.
The service lets designers enlist Pam Allen – Allen’s 64-year-old mother – to test their website for $75.
The idea was inspired by TheUserIsDrunk – a similar conceit wherein Littauer – a UX designer and developer – tests a website while – you guessed it – drunk.
The point is to determine how easy your site is to navigate even when you’re hammered.
Or in this case – when you’re a mom’.
(ed:..i would like local web-developers to know that i wd be a perfect ‘mom’ for them –
– i fit the profile like a glove –
– and for a reasonable/modest-fee – i will take their creations out for a test drive.
the sort of questions i ask are:..if you want to just drive this aston martin – and have no interest in being an expert in how it works –
-you want simplicity of use for basic-functions..
and say – if a website has a comments-option – the most basic function/need for the driver in this case..
i really feel the comments on/off button should be visible to the naked eye – on the dashboard/control-panel – or at the very least should be visible when the word ‘comments’ in the sidebar is hovered over..
..not hidden behind a couple of dropdowns – hidden behind seemingly unconnected words/titles..
(this is the sort of insight web-designers need – and feel free to pass that one on to the wordpress people..eh..?
after umpteen redesigns/versions you’d think/hope they had that one sorted out – but no..i can’t bloody find that magic/hidden on/off button..
readers can feel free to advise..)
as you can see – all of this adds up to why web developers should hire me to test drive their websites.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies concludes that over the past five years ‘the 8 per cent to 9 per cent decrease in the UK military defence budget .?.?. has led to a 20 per cent to 30 per cent reduction in conventional capability’.
No wonder then that Britain has been a minor reluctant ally – in the air strikes against Isis.
Britain’s 30-year-old Tornado fleet of planes is a generation behind the American F-22s it flies alongside.
The Royal Navy – which once ruled the waves – operates without a single aircraft carrier (although two are under construction).
Nato members are supposed to maintain defence spending at 2 per cent of their gross domestic product.
Britain is hovering around that mark and has refused to commit to maintaining budgets at that level. (It should be said that most other European countries are worse, which means that the United States accounts for more than 70 per cent of Nato’s military spending.)
The same is true of other elements of Britain’s global influence.
In Cameron’s first term the Foreign Office budget was cut by more than a quarter – and further trims are likely.
The BBC World Service – perhaps the most influential arm of the country’s global public diplomacy – has shuttered five of its foreign-language broadcasts – and the organization’s entire budget has been slashed – with more cuts to come.
Finding the research harder to conduct than I had anticipated I felt a crushing loneliness – compounded by the fact that the majority of people I met were not travelling alone – in which I became the object of enquiry to myself.
Why didn’t I conform to the dress code – the enjoyment of racist and sexist jokes – the apparent need to go out every night and get drunk – and the enjoyment of seeing women – and particularly their bodies and bodily functions – exposed – mocked – or subjected to similar forms of exploitation as that described in the 2014 ‘mamading’ (sex-for-drinks) incident?
We should also not think that excess is the preserve of the young.
Indeed some of the most extreme use of expletives I witnessed came from a clearly inebriated elderly couple who verbally repelled advances of help from passers-by – when one of them took a tumble in the street.
This was not a place in which I felt at ease – and nor did all of the tourists – many of whom viewed with some distaste the world of allegedly easy sex and pools of vomit that resulted from many of the activities organised by the numerous mediators of the tourists’ experiences – or some of the tourists themselves.
So the Coen brothers and their fellow Cannes jurors retire to consider their verdict on the 2015 festival.
My own verdict is in right now – It’s been an excellent year.
I have been bemusing my fellow festivalgoers and even rather trying their patience – by bouncing around like Pollyanna – talking about the string of outstanding films: Todd Haynes’s Carol – the intense love affair between an older woman and a young shopgirl.
The day of civic action started with a prayer and a moment of silence on the sunny steps of the Texas capitol in Austin.
Flanked by cameramen and behind a dais – a biker led a prayer – asking that Texas’s lawmakers act with ‘righteous wisdom’ when considering his group’s legislation.
He then led the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem.
A Texas state representative then came out to court the bikers from behind the same dais.
‘You people epitomize the people that came out of the Reagan revolution’ – Republican state representative Bill Zedler told the black-leather- and blue-jean-clad crowd.
Milling casually among the members of motorcycle clubs and independent riders were Los Bandidos – the gang described as a fearsome criminal syndicate by law enforcement – and a major part of the violence in Waco Texas on 17 May – that left nine dead – 18 injured and 170 arrested and charged with conspiracy – most held on $1m bond.
All have been thrust into the spotlight by the violent events in Waco. The Sunday afternoon gathering at the Twin Peaks restaurant there was meant to update riders on legislation – but spiraled out of control just after midday.
Police describe the clubs involved – the Bandidos in particular – as criminals.
The syndicates launder money – sell drugs – and are perpetrators of 11% of the gang violence in the country – authorities say.
At an 18th-century mansion in England’s countryside last week – current and former spy chiefs from seven countries faced off with representatives from tech giants Apple and Google – to discuss government surveillance in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s leaks.
The three-day conference – which took place behind closed doors and under strict rules about confidentiality – was aimed at debating the line between privacy and security.
Among an extraordinary list of attendees were a host of current or former heads from spy agencies such as the CIA and British electronic surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters – or GCHQ.
Other current or former top spooks from Australia – Canada – France – Germany – and Sweden – were also in attendance.
Google – Apple – and telecommunications company Vodafone sent some of their senior policy and legal staff to the discussions.
And a handful of academics and journalists were also present.
NZ First leader Winston Peters has warned Labour leader Andrew Little introducing means testing will be politically fatal –
– after Mr Little raised the prospect of cutting super for people who continued to work after they turned 65 –
– only to backtrack hours later.
(ed:..i am looking askance at little after this brain meltdown he had..
how could he possibly think/advocate for such a thing..?
(for even a nano-second – let alone blurt it out to the media..)
how could he not know what election-poison such a policy would be..?
this following on from their raising the pension-age policy in ’14 election-
(a guaranteed vote-killer that one..but they seem to have learnt little from the experience..eh..?..to now come up with this even worse policy/idea..)
then their running away from a capital gains tax – only to watch national introduce it..
their election ‘ 14 policy of – like national – only raising benefit-rates at the rate of inflation – only to watch national give (some) child-poverty families a $25 dollar a week increase..
a measly pittance – nowhere near enough to actually address our shameful rates of poverty/inequality – but at least it is far more than labour was offering..
(the childrens’ commissioner noted that beneficiary families need $80-$100 per wk increase – that this would only bring their incomes up to 50% of the average-wage – yes..!..the ‘incentive’-gap long touted by key and little/neoliberal-labour as the reason to do nothing – for 42 yrs..really is that big..and shows what a sick/cynical-lie both labour and the tories have pushed for all those decades since their rightwing-revolution…)
(and just on that benefit-raise – what about the adult poor..?..are they bloody invisible..?..)
then there is littles’ support for increasing surveillance..
littles’ (mainly) warm mutterings about tpp (he’d ‘like to see what’s in it’)
then there was that brilliant-idea argued by the party secretary tim barnett – to withdraw state-support (benefits/w.f.f. etc.) from the small number of people who (for whatever (often valid) reason – don’t enrol to vote..
(the authoritarian-left in all its’ ugly-glory – that one..)
looking at this series of screw-ups – it’s not difficult to conclude that little/labour are refining wrong-footing-it into an art form.
Economic historians must often be disappointed when they look back at contemporary reaction to a seminal event.
If they dig up this week’s news they will see little sense of the significance of last Sunday’s announcement of a capital gains tax.
They will find a range of views on whether the tax will succeed in restraining the pace of Auckland house prices – but no excitement or foreboding- nothing that reflects how deeply the idea of taxing capital gains has been demonised in New Zealand.
Future generations may have no idea why this country was without an effective tax on unearned wealth for so long.
Algorithms developed by Google designed to encode thoughts – could lead to computers with ‘common sense’ within a decade – says leading AI scientist.
Professor Geoff Hinton, who was hired by Google two years ago to help develop intelligent operating systems -said that the company is on the brink of developing algorithms with the capacity for logic – natural conversation – and even flirtation.