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Snowden, Prism, and Us - Food for Thought

"I don't want public attention because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing."

-- Edward Snowden, June 9, 2013

 

Media References, June 9-30, 2013

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Prism 155,000 0 4 45
Edward Snowden 637,000,000 10 14 313
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Michael Wolraich's picture

Better Gun Control

Last February, I wrote what columnists like to call a "think piece" about an alternative approach to gun control (with the implication that most punditry does not involve thinking).

My proposal was to tax gun manufacturers and retailers based on the lethality of their merchandise, as measured by crime statistics. The hope was to incentivize companies to create their own safeguards against misuse, in essence to financially discourage them from making weapons that appeal to criminals and from selling to customers who are likely to use the guns for crime.

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Iran's Last Chance

Hassan Rouhani, Iran's newly elected president, will serve for four years. By the end of his term, Iran and the U.S. will either reach an agreement, or they will go to war.

Last March, Obama told an Israeli television station that it would take "over a year or so" for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, the first time an American president stated a timeframe on the record. The dates coincide with a U.S. intelligence estimate during George W. Bush's administration: "sometime during the 2010-2015 time-frame."

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Michael Wolraich's picture

I Don't Give a Damn About Privacy

Go ahead, collect my phone records, track my websurfing, analyze my email.  I don't give a damn.

I do not write this out of any loyalty to Obama or because I worry about the Terrorist Threat.  I simply do not care about my data privacy and never have.

Why should I? My buying habits are ordinary, my emails are pedestrian, my phone calls would bore any spy to tears, my political opinions are very public and published under my own name. As long as no one spams me or steals my identity, why should I care what they do with my data?

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Obama Scandals: The Quest for the Perfect "Gate"

At last! Republicans have been awaiting this moment for five long years, the day that Obama finally gets his gate. You see, every two-term president has a defining scandal that renders him permanently villainous and/or ridiculous. By hallowed convention, the scandal must end with word "gate."

Nixon started it with the gate to begin all gates, Watergate. Ronald Reagan followed up with Irangate. Bill Clinton enthralled us with Monicagate. George W. Bush gave us Plamegate.

And now Obama has got his own gate...or rather his own gates. Since no single scandal is big enough bring him down, Republicans and pundits are eagerly gathering them up in a big stinking pile of nefariousness: IRSBenghAPgate!

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Don't Cry For Background Checks

Supporters of gun control lost yesterday. It was not a terrible bill. Expanded background checks would have stopped some future killers from buying guns. It should have passed. But it would have done little to reduce gun violence in America.

"Fighting" Bob La Follette, a progressive senator from Wisconsin, once wrote, "In legislation no bread is often better than half a loaf. I believe it is usually better to be beaten and come right back at the next session and make a fight for a thoroughgoing law than to have written on the books a weak and indefinite statute."

La Follette became famous for championing "radical" legislation that had no chance of passing--corporate regulations, labor rights, lobbyist restrictions, and popular election of U.S. senators. He took up his colleagues' time with "pointless" filibusters. He ran three times for president and never even came close to winning.

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Spam War!

You may not know it, but war is blazing away on the Internet. Perhaps you've experienced some streaming delays on Netflix or Youtube recently. You may have been caught in the crossfire.

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A Real Death Tax: Let the Killers Choose, Let the Profiteers Pay

Premise 1: Killer Knows Best

What makes one gun more lethal than another? Ever since Sandy Hook, the media has bombarded us with gun jargon. We've learned about flash suppressors and high-capacity magazines, threaded barrels and pistol grips. We've heard that these features are bad features, dangerous to children and other living things. The expired federal assault weapons law used to ban any gun with two or more of them. The new New York law bans them all.

But we've also heard that gunmakers find ways to skirt these constraints. For instance, some manufacturers evaded California's quick-reload restriction with a "bullet button" that allows shooters to release a magazine with a bullet tip instead of a fingertip. It's hard for plodding legislatures to keep up with eager manufacturers, who have every incentive to invent the most lethal legal weapon possible.

So if not the legislators, who should determine which guns are too deadly? Who in America most appreciates a gun's killing potential?

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The Information Jacuzzi - Part II

This article continues from The Information Jacuzzi - Part I.

The Middle Ages was not a great era for budding writers. In those days, there was only one large publisher in all of Western Europe: the Catholic Church. Nearly every scribe on the continent worked in one of its affiliated monasteries or theological universities. Any writer who hoped to have his work duplicated and distributed had to win the sanction of Church leaders, and they were not known for permissive editing. Even writers who published outside the Church suffered from its monopoly on information, as the Pope routinely ordered heretical works banned and burned—usually along with the author.

That’s why the printing press, invented in the 1440s, was so significant. It bypassed Church scribes and produced books so quickly and cheaply that anyone with a little money or a wealthy patron could spread their ideas across the continent. Seventy years after its invention, Martin Luther published his famous 95 Theses criticizing Church practices. His ideas were not entirely new, but they spread far further than those of his predecessors, who lived before the printing press. As with previous heretics, the Pope excommunicated Luther and banned his writings, but his tracts had already flooded every corner of Europe. Thousands of people read and reacted to his ideas. The Protestant Reformation was born.

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The Information Jacuzzi - Part I

Back in 1996, when mobile phones looked like giant calculators, and a social network was a just group of friends, comedian Dave Barry published a book called Dave Barry in Cyberspace. He devoted a chapter to the newly popular “World Wide Web,” which he titled, “The Internet: transforming society and shaping the future through chat.”

Sometimes truth is stranger than comedy. Internet chat and its heirs—blogs and social networks—are in fact transforming society and shaping the future in ways that no one imagined in 1996.

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Biography

Michael Wolraich is a non-fiction writer in New York City. He co-founded dagblog and has contributed  to the Atlantic, the Daily Beast, New York Magazine, CNN.com, TalkingPointsMemo.com, Reuters, and Pando Daily.

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Wolraich is also the computer genius who maintains dagblog's state-of-the-art software, but he denies responsibility for technical glitches and advises users to "quit sniveling." In his spare time, Wolraich raises peach mold and performs live impressions of the law of gravity.

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