Putin Aide Mocks U.S. Sanctions

“The only things that interest me in the US are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.” – Vladislav Surkov, top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, mocking U.S. sanctions against him after Russia announces plans to annex Crimea

Vladimir Putin’s top aide Vladislav Surkov mocks US sanctions.” (The Independent, 2014/03/18)

The Reduction Of The U.S. Military Budget

"The Pentagon, headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, taken from an airplane in January 2008." Picture by David B. Gleason, Wikimedia Commons (CC_BY-SA_2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en
“The Pentagon, headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, taken from an airplane in January 2008.” Picture by David B. Gleason, Wikimedia Commons (CC_BY-SA_2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

In late February 2014, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that the Pentagon would reduce the size of the United States Army “to its smallest force since before the World War II buildup and eliminate an entire class of Air Force attack jets,” according to the New York Times. The current spending proposal, Pentagon officials say, seeks to “aggressively push the military off the war footing adopted after the terror attacks of 2001.” In other words, there will be a reduction of the military budget.

However, there are two areas given special attention: Special Operations forces and cyberwarfare. The latter point has been unmistakably underscored through the Snowden leaks since last summer. U.S. aircraft carriers will remain at 11.

As it seems, the future of war will continue to involve special forces, drones, and hacking, not the mass armies of World War Two.

But any reduction of the military budget will prompt those working in the interest of the military-industrial complex to cry wolf.

For instance, war criminal former Vice President Dick Cheney. In an interview with Fox News, Cheney claimed that the real reason President Barack Obama wanted to cut the defense budget was because “he would rather spend money on food stamps.”

Do you remember the phrase “food stamp president”? It was used by Newt Gingrich in 2012. Some explanations from the Christian Science Monitor, NPR, CNNMoney, and the Economist.

Here is a quick reminder about the U.S. military budget:

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS),

[t]he United States remained by far the world’s biggest defence spender in 2013, with a budget of $600.4 billion, [. . .] followed by China ($112.2 billion), Russia ($68.2 billion) and Saudi Arabia ($59.6 billion).

Infographic from the AFP (2014) (via Digital Journal)

Here is an older infographic from 2010 (via the Guardian)

If you look at the data, you cannot help but think that the notion that cutting back on the military budget to some extent would render the U.S. militarily incapable is pure propaganda. The magnitude by which U.S. military spending currently trumps all other states in the world is just so vast.

Finally, another point why it might be worth considering to reduce some military spending is that there is some serious waste going on in the Pentagon.

Read more:

President Obama and the defense budget: a factoid that falls short.” (, Washington Post, 2012/01/12)  – Comparing military spending is fuzzy, but nevertheless the U.S. leads, Glenn Kessler shows.

Does America Spend More Than Next 10 Nations Combined on Defense?” (James Joyner, Outside the Beltway, 2012/01/12) – Joyner comments on Kessler’s criticism and concludes that “[the U.S.] and our allies absolutely dwarf and potential foe in military power.”

 

 

 

Catholic Fundamentalist Wants To Take Out And Shoot Left-Wing University Professors

“‘[T]he hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities,’ especially the women’s studies departments, ‘should all be taken out and shot.'” – Austin Ruse of the ultraconservative Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-Fam) expressing his violent fantasies on American Family Association talk radio

 

Where to start with this? I do not share the assessment that most American universities are in the business of promoting “human-hating” or that ‘the hard left’ runs them. There are certainly many who are not Christian fundamentalists and socially liberal in higher education. But the idea of a communist takeover of American universities is insane.

 

And then there is the obvious: Fantasizing about murdering people you disagree with is clearly not the best way to show your own love of humanity. Take note, Catholic fundamentalists!

 

http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/austin-ruse-says-left-wing-university-professors-should-all-be-taken-out-and-shot

The NSA Disguises Itself As Facebook To Spread Malware

“In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer.” – The Intercept

Read more:

How the NSA Plans to Infect ‘Millions’ of Computers with Malware.” – (Ryan Gallagher and Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, 2013/03/12)

Studie: Nach Snowden-Leaks Nutzen Mehr Menschen DuckDuckGo

Eine neue Studie von statista zeigt, dass seit den Snowden-Enthüllungen im vergangenen Sommer die Anzahl der Suchanfragen in der Suchmaschine DuckDuckGo deutlich angestiegen ist:

Hier ist die Infografik dazu:

Statista-Studie: Snowden-Enthüllungen pushen DuckDuckGo
Statista-Studie: Snowden-Enthüllungen pushen DuckDuckGo

 

http://de.statista.com/infografik/1262/taegliche-suchanfragen-auf-duckduckgocom/

 

New Study: Political Polarization In American Presidental Elections Is Indeed Fueled By The Culture War

New study: political polarization in American presidental elections is indeed fueled by the Culture War

"Democratic Donkey & Republican Elephant" by DonkeyHotel, flickr (CC BY 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
“Democratic Donkey & Republican Elephant” by DonkeyHotey, flickr (CC BY 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ ## If you can, hire DonkeyHotey for caricature work! ##

 

As an interested student of American politics, it almost seems like a truism to me that the culture war is driving the current political polarization in American elections. Social liberals usually vote for Democrats while social conservatives usually vote Republican. Yes, there are of course also libertarians who are economically conservative and socially liberal. But they fall somewhere in between the two camps on the simplified left-right one-axis model of the political spectrum.

The wedge issues are well-known: the separation of church and state and the connected conflicts around abortion and LGBTI rights, regulation of firearms, taxes and how they should be spent (healthcare, social safety net in general), but also civil rights and immigration. Or, to put it bluntly, ‘god, guns, and gays’.

But now there is more empirical evidence for this wide-spread assumption of the culture war’s influence on electoral politics. In a recent study, economist Stefan Krasa and economist/political scientist Mattias Polborn—both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, examined voter behavior since the late 1970s “by combining a theoretical model of voters’ decisions with data from the American National Election Survey.

Their research confirms that cultural issues are of greater significance in American politics today than they were back in the late 1970s, when Carter campaigned against Ford in 1976.

In fact,

[i]n 1976 [. . .], a voter’s social liberalism or conservatism played only a minor role for his vote choice [. . .].

Three decades later, a very different picture would emerge:

In 2004, however, [. . .] social and economic preferences play an approximately equal role in determining the vote [emphasis mine].

Krasa and Polborn are also able to assign a number to the growing importance of cultural issues in American electoral politics. And is it quite staggering:

The cultural policy differences between Democratic and Republican are about 300 percent larger for the elections in the 2000s than they were in 1976. In contrast, economic policy differences in the 2000s increased only by between 15 and 45 percent relative to 1976 [emphasis mine].

Who went from voting Democrat to voting Republican since 1980? The Reagan Democrats—”disproportionately white, low-to medium skilled workers, and considerably more religious than the average.”

Vice versa, those who went from voting GOP to voting Democrat were “disproportionately well-educated, secular and non-white.”

Read more:

“Party realignment on cultural issues is responsible for increased political polarization in presidential elections.” (Stefan Krasa and Mattias Polborn, USAPP Blog, London School of Economics and Political Science, 2014/03/03)

Reporter ohne Grenzen erklären #NSA und #GCHQ zu “…

Reporter ohne Grenzen erklären #NSA und #GCHQ zu “Feinden des Internets” SpOn buff.ly/1ew4FOV #Überwachung #Geheimdienste

Neil deGrasse Tyson On Covering Science

“You don’t talk about the spherical Earth with NASA, and then say let’s give equal time to the flat Earthers. [. . .] Plus, science is not there for you to cherry pick.” – Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on the false balance in American media when covering science

 

Neil deGrasse Tyson tells CNN: Stop giving ‘equal time to the flat Earthers.’” (David Edwards, The Raw Story, 2014/03/09)

Senator Dianne Feinstein accuses CIA of spying on and intimidating staff

Dianne Feinstein is outraged by the CIA spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee because of a torture probe

Senator Dianne Feinstein of the Senate Intelligence Committee recently accused the CIA of intimidating Senate staff over investigations of CIA involvement in torture.

Her outrage about the alleged violations of privacy and unconstitutional spying on Senate staff is nonetheless a bit surprising. Mind you, throughout the revelations of the Snowden leaks about NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens, not to speak of everybody else on the planet, Feinstein has been one of the chief defenders of the NSA, never seeing anything wrong with the apparent blanket surveillance, or “full take,” as the spooks like to call it.

Here is a clip from progressive news show The Young Turks with a montage of Feinstein’s pro-NSA statements:

But now that the spying hits closer to home, this time by the CIA against the Senate Intelligence Committee, surveillance is all of a sudden an outrage.

Here is a clip from DemocracyNow!:

I smell hypocrisy.

Read more:

Dianne Feinstein’s CIA charge scrambles Senate.” (Burgess Everett and Manu Raju, POLITICO.com, 2014/03/11)  http://ow.ly/uwOlD

Massachusetts Court Declares ‘Upskirt’ Photographs Legal, Lawmakers React Quickly

Massachusetts High Court declares ‘upskirt’ photographs legal, lawmakers react quickly

Image: Maxens M. Finch, flickr (CC_BY_2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/, filtered
Image: Maxens M. Finch, flickr (CC_BY_2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/, filtered

In what looks like an insane victory for creepy peeping tom types, the Massachusetts High Court has recently ruled that it is not illegal to secretly take pictures up a woman’s skirt, according to a report by Think Progress.

But why in the world would they decide like this, you may ask yourself?

According to the report, the court concluded that

[a] female passenger on a MBTA [Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority] trolley who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering these parts of her body is not a person who is `partially nude,’ no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing,

It seems that current laws are not keeping up with developments in technology, above all the ubiquity of camera-equipped smartphones.

Current “Peeping Tom” laws in Massachusetts “only protect women from being photographed in dressing rooms or bathrooms when they are undressed.” And because “upskirt photos are taken of fully clothed women in public, they don’t count,” reasons the Massachusetts court.

I think that it is not ok to take such pictures. I do think that this is a form of sexual harassment.

Update: Massachusetts lawmakers thought so, too, and passed a bill outlawing taking unconsensual upskirt pictures, including people of all genders.

Adolph Reed Junior On The Surrender Of America’s Liberals

Adolph Reed Junior on the surrender of America’s liberals

If we understand the left to be anchored to our convictions that society can be made better than it actually is, and a commitment to combating economic inequality as a primary one, the left is just gone. – Adolph Reed

 

The western front of the United States Capitol. The Neoclassical style building is located in Washington, D.C., on top of Capitol Hill at the east end of the National Mall. The Capitol was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. By United_States_Capitol_-_west_front.jpg: Architect of the Capitol derivative work: O.J. (United_States_Capitol_-_west_front.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AUnited_States_Capitol_west_front_edit2.jpg
The western front of the United States Capitol. The Neoclassical style building is located in Washington, D.C., on top of Capitol Hill at the east end of the National Mall. The Capitol was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. By United_States_Capitol_-_west_front.jpg: Architect of the Capitol derivative work: O.J. (United_States_Capitol_-_west_front.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AUnited_States_Capitol_west_front_edit2.jpg
There is an interesting recent article (paid subscription at Harper’s magazine) by political scientist Adolph Reed Jr. about the decline of the American Left and the Democratic Party’s embrace of neoliberalism.

Bill Moyers interviewed him on his show and has a video on his website. In the interview, Moyers points out as an example of this trend the Obama administration’s fast-tracking of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.

Reed argues that the Democratic Party is too fixated on winning elections and appeasing Wall Street and the Right—the Clinton campaign’s triangulation comes to mind.

Reed sees in American politics today a “bipartisan neoliberalism [. . .] at the center of gravity of the American government.” And as its two core components, he identifies two things: a “free market, utopian ideology [a]nd [. . .] a concrete program for intensified upward redistribution.”

The interview is well worth watching, I think.

 

New Pictures Of NSA Buildings

New Pictures Of NSA Buildings

The Intercept has new pictures of NSA buildings from artist Trevor Paglen, who has released them into the public domain. I am tempted to say that this is the most beautiful face of a most unpleasant beast.

The NSA Headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland:

NSA Headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. NSA photo by Trevor Paglen (public domain) http://bit.ly/1nr2UGY
NSA Headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. NSA photo by Trevor Paglen (public domain) http://bit.ly/1nr2UGY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) Headquarters at Chantilly, Virginia.

National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) Headquarters, Chantilly, Virginia. NRO photo by Trevor Paglen (public domain) http://bit.ly/1nr2UGY
National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) Headquarters, Chantilly, Virginia. NRO photo by Trevor Paglen (public domain) http://bit.ly/1nr2UGY

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Headquarters at Springfield, Virginia

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Headquarters, Springfield, Virginia. NGA photo by Trevor Paglen (public domain) http://bit.ly/1nr2UGY
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Headquarters, Springfield, Virginia. NGA photo by Trevor Paglen (public domain) http://bit.ly/1nr2UGY

 

Hipster Beard Hilarity: Facial Hair Transplants In NYC

Hipster beard hilarity: facial hair transplants in NYC

Image:
Image: “Moustache !”, marlenedd, flickr (CC BY 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

There is a new trend in plastic surgery, facial hair transplants, to be precise. Among the hipster population of NYC (and probably elsewhere, too!), men in their thirties and forties are getting them to grow “fuller beards,” according to a report by abc News. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons have noticed an increase of four percent in the demand for such procedures since 2012.

Quote: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Russia, Ukraine

You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Russia’s flexing of its military on Crimea

While I also find the events in Ukraine, particularly on Crimea, in the last days quite disturbing, there is nonetheless a certain hypocrisy in Kerry’s grandiose statement. The twenty-four hours news cycle may cater to short attention spans, but I still remember the fallacious rationale for the 2003 Invasion of Iraq: Saddam Hussein’s imaginary mobile laboratories for biological weapons. This arguably “completely trumped up pre-text” for war was based on faulty intelligence by Iraqi informant “Curveball”—interestingly passed on to the U.S. by the German BND—and propagated by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in his infamous presentation before the UN Security Council on February 2, 2003.

You might say that I am not fond of any state’s war propaganda. The amoral nature of such deceptions lies in the fact that it is almost never the decision-makers who bear the consequences of their warmongering. Those who die in these wars die in vain, for lies, as pawns in geopolitical games, and for the profits of the military-industrial-complex. It is just horrible.

New Documentary Covers Infiltration of Civil Rights Movement By Mississippi State Government

A new documentary covers the infiltration of the Civil Rights Movement by the Mississippi state government in the 1950s and 1960s

The new documentary Spies of Mississippi, which airs on PBS, covers the clandestine activities of the little-known Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. During the 1950s and 60s, the group sought to subvert and destroy the Civil Rights Movement and efforts at desegregation by using espionage tactics, including employing black informants and agents provocateurs to discredit Civil Rights activism.

Here is a clip from DemocracyNow! featuring an interview with producer/director Dawn Porter and investigative journalist Jerry Mitchell:

Read more:

http://www.spiesofmississippithefilm.com/

 

Stranger Than Fiction: Serpent-Handling Pastor Dies Of Snakebite

Stranger than fiction: serpent-handling pastor dies of snakebite

A zeal for the Holy Spirit, reality TV, and venomous snakes. What could go wrong if these three ingredients are combined? As it turns out, it is a recipe for disaster.

A venomous copperhead snake. "Agkistrodon contortrix taken at the Cincinnati Zoo." Photo by Greg Hume, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en
A venomous copperhead snake. “Agkistrodon contortrix taken at the Cincinnati Zoo.” Photo by Greg Hume, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

As CNN reports, a snake-handling pastor of a Kentucky Pentecostal church, who had lately been the star of National Geographic reality TV show Snake Salvation, has died after being bitten by a snake and then refusing treatment at a hospital.

Despite earlier accidents including

‘losing half of his finger to a snake bite and seeing others die from bites during services,’ Coots ‘still believe[d] he must take up serpents and follow the Holiness faith [emphasis mine],’

according to National Geographic’s channel website.

A religious tradition of rural southern Appalachia

Snake handling as a test of faith is a tradition among some Pentecostal churches across the Appalachian region, mostly in the rural South.

The origins of the practice lie in “a passage in the Bible [that] suggests poisonous snakebites will not harm believers as long as they are anointed by God.

In the Gospel of Mark (Mark 16:17-18), it says

And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover [emphasis mine].

And thus, the faithful not only take up deadly snakes, but also

ingest a mixture of strychnine – a highly toxic powder often used as a pesticide – and water, often from a Mason jar.

That, however, is still not enough for some, who also

will bring Coke bottles with oil-soaked wicks to the church so they can hold flames to their skin.

A deadly faith for over a century

But despite the unwavering faith of its practitioners, the tradition, which started “in the east Tennessee hills in 1909,” has repeatedly claimed its victims, thus far around a hundred “serpent handlers.”

For instance, in 2012, pastor Mack Wolford of West Virginia died of a snakebite. His father, also a Pentecostal serpent handler, had suffered the same fate before him in 1983.

According to CNN, experts estimate the number of “serpent handlers” at several thousand people.

 

 

 

 

Poll: Americans Are Divided About The Afghanistan War in 2014

Poll: Americans are divided about the Afghanistan War in 2014

Image: "Afghanistan on the globe (Afro-Eurasia centered)" by TUBS, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.de
Image: “Afghanistan on the globe (Afro-Eurasia centered)” by TUBS, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.de

A new Gallup poll found that in 2014, Americans are approximately evenly divided on the Afghanistan War.

49 percent now think that it was a mistake to send troops, 48 percent think it was not a mistake.

This is a significant shift in popular opinion after twelve years of war.

In 2001, when Gallup asked the same question, only 9 percent thought sending troops to Afghanistan was a mistake while 89 percent did not.

Despite popular opinion, the Obama administration attempted to pressure Afghan President Karzai to sign an agreement allowing U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan much longer and now considers waiting until Karzai leaves office to find a successor more friendly to U.S. plans of keeping a military presence in the country.

 

Horrible Politicians: Texas Democrat Downplays Domestic Violence

Horrible Politicians: Texas Democrat Downplays Domestic Violence

Alternate Texas flag map. Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en
Alternate Texas flag map. Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

When I read about reactionary politicians in America, these days it is almost a sure bet that the latest horrible thing uttered about women, LGBTI people, non-white Americans, poor people, foreigners, or anyone who is not of their particular brand of fundamentalist Christianity, comes straight outta GOP. But not this time!

As the Huffington Post reports, Lloyd Oliver, a candidate for District Attorney in Harris County, Texas, frequently says absolutely terrible things when it comes to the issue of domestic abuse.

For instance, he thinks that domestic violence is “overrated” and that it should be prosecuted less.

To that effect, he gave ‘helpful’ advice to victims of domestic abuse during a call-in show in 2012, encouraging them to “maybe learn how to box a little better.”

In that same show, he also downplayed domestic violence as a problem, claiming that it was a part of “some couple’s sexual routine.”

Statistics see serious domestic violence problem

Be that as it may in a tiny fraction of cases, but as the HuffPo article notes,

Harris County has the highest rate of domestic violence homicides in the state. According to a report by the Texas Council on Family Violence, 30 women were murdered by intimate partners in 2012.

Taking this into consideration, domestic violence is certainly not a non-issue, something that maybe a few kinky BDSM afficionados engage in consensually. It is, instead, a serious social problem.

But Mr. Oliver seems quite ignorant of that fact.

Here’s a clip from the progressive news show The Young Turks with some more details:

Over A Quarter Of U.S. Presidents Were Involved In Slavery

Over a quarter of U.S. presidents were involved in slavery

“Slave sale, Charleston, South Carolina,” wood engraving, by an unknown engraver, page taken from the Illustrated London News, 1856. Courtesy of the British Museum, London. Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

President Obama recently invited French President Francois Hollande on a tour of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s plantation estate in Virginia.

Jefferson—No. 3—was not the only slaveowning president.

As Clarence Lusane, professor of political science at American University writes in his book The Black History of the White House and talks about in this interview with Amy Goodman on DemocracyNow!, six of twelve slave-owning presidents kept slaves in the White House.

Read more:

Missing From Presidents Day: The People They Enslaved.” (Clarence Lusane, The Zinn Education Project, Huffington Post, 2014/02/13)

NSA Created “Manhunt Timeline” To Get Julian Assange And WikiLeaks Supporters

The NSA created a “manhunt timeline” to get Julian Assange and destroy WikiLeaks and its supporters.

New revelations from The Intercept, the new publishing venture of Glenn Greenwald:

Headquarters of the NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland. Image: NSA, Wikimedia Commons (public domain)
Headquarters of the NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland. Image: NSA, Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

The NSA apparently planned a covert action campaign together with the British GCHQ to destroy Assange and the network of supporters around WikiLeaks.

As part of the effort, the GCHQ tracked in real-time any visitors to wikileaks.org, monitoring what they were searching for on the website.

The NSA also considered to designate WikiLeaks and other websites such as thepiratebay.org as “malicious foreign actors,” which would lift restrictions on spying on institutions and individuals inside the U.S that work with them. This might include international press agencies working in the U.S.

Watch an interview with Assange’s legal council Michael Ratner on DemocracyNow! here (it is the correct video, despite the image of Assange in the first frame):

In Ratner’s view, the persecution of whistleblowers and journalists parallels the U.S. government’s COINTELPRO program targeting radicals and “subversives” (such as Martin Luther King) between the late 1950s and the 1970s.

And here is Assange, from the same broadcast on DemocracyNow!:

Germany’s U-Turn On Tuition Fees

Germany reverses tuition fees

Reichstagsgebäude (Berlin) kurz vor herbstlichem Sonnenuntergang. Jürgen Matern / Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0 http://www.juergen-matern.de/ | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reichstag_building_Berlin_view_from_west_before_sunset.jpg?uselang=de
Reichstagsgebäude (Berlin) kurz vor herbstlichem Sonnenuntergang. Jürgen Matern / Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0 http://www.juergen-matern.de/ | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reichstag_building_Berlin_view_from_west_before_sunset.jpg?uselang=de

Interesting article in the Times of Higher Education about Germany’s reversal on introducing tuition fees for attending university.

Germany’s great tuition fees U-turn.” (Times Higher Education, 2014/02/14)

Apple Drops Objections To App Visualizing U.S. Drone Strikes

Apple drops objections to app visualizing U.S. drone strikes

CREECH AFB, Nev. -- A MQ-9 Reaper flies above Creech AFB during a local training mission here. The 42nd Attack Squadron currently operates the MQ-9. 7 August 2008. http://www.af.mil/shared/media/photodb/photos/090609-F-0000M-777.JPG | U.S. Air Force photo by Paul Ridgeway. This image or file is a work of a U.S. Air Force Airman or employee, taken or made as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image or file is in the public domain. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MQ-9_Reaper_-_090609-F-0000M-777.JPG
CREECH AFB, Nev. — A MQ-9 Reaper flies above Creech AFB during a local training mission here. The 42nd Attack Squadron currently operates the MQ-9. 7 August 2008. http://www.af.mil/shared/media/photodb/photos/090609-F-0000M-777.JPG | U.S. Air Force photo by Paul Ridgeway. This image or file is a work of a U.S. Air Force Airman or employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image or file is in the public domain. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MQ-9_Reaper_-_090609-F-0000M-777.JPG

via DemocracyNow!

Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) Wants Heroin Users To Die

Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) Wants Heroin Users To Die

Image:
Image: “A photo I took at an event honoring the Maine National Guard at the Collins Center at the University of Maine on 1/7/11.” Matt Gagnon, Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

How can heroin addicts be helped, according to Maine Governor Paul LePage (R)? By cutting funding for medication that can reverse fatal overdoses. As the Huffington Post reports, fatal heroin overdoses in his state have quadrupled between 2011 and 2012. But LePage, who wants to be seen as tough on drugs, has taken the approach of

cut[ting] funds for substance abuse treatment, limit[ing] the amount of time Mainers can spend on heroin replacement therapies [. . .] , and requested money to add 14 agents to the state Drug Enforcement Agency.

Such replacement drug programs, claims LePage, would not help addicts and give them a “feeling of invincibility.”

Darn you, facts, I am the Governor!

Never mind that public health experts have the following to say, according to the article:

LePage’s assertions are not supported by current medical research.

So instead of relying on research-based medical experts’ suggestions for useful treatments, LePage rather wants to punish drug addicts.

Die, junkie, die!

What a Christian thing to do of him.

Pope Francis Recognizes The Problem Of The Filter Bubble

Pope Francis recognizes the problem of the filter bubble

Image: “Papa Francisco en marzo del año 2013.” presidencia.gov.ar, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

The current spiritual leader of the Catholic Church is aware of the Internet, at least he does not sound as if he considers it to be ‘a series of tubes.’ He recently called for a “culture of encounter” which would be facilitated by the Internet. In his view, the opportunities for communication on the Internet are “something truly good, a gift from God.”

More worldly scholars of Internet history would surely add that engineers and scientists had a bit of a hand in this, too. But he’s the Pope, so I should probably not be too nitpicky, after all. I agree that the Internet has that positive potential.

But he also recognizes to important problems or challenges of the flow of information as we know it online.

Real-time news makes reflection more difficult

First, a flood of information is rushing at us so quickly that it is difficult to pause and reflect on a complex topic. Twitter, so to speak, is the anti-book. There is something to that, I believe. The experience of picking up a monograph at a university library and taking meticulous notes is very different from the constant flows of information we expose ourselves to on social networking sites. One mode of information consumption is for gaining a deeper understanding, the other is rather a way to keep up-to-date with current events.

Filter bubbles narrow our thought

Second, the Pope recognizes what Eli Pariser has described at length in his book by the same name as the “filter bubble.”

“The variety of opinions being aired can be seen as helpful, but it also enables people to barricade themselves behind sources of information which only confirm their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests [emphasis mine].”

I think that he is right there, too. Everyone taking in a lot of information has to filter sources to some degree. You can never read the whole Internet. Not even on one single day. Because the next day, there are a gazillion new articles to read and updates to check. It is just impossible.

But of course there is also the phenomenon he is talking about. People tend to screen out opinions which they disagree with quite often. And except for professional news and politics junkies, we are probably all more or less guilty of this.

If, in the American context, you are a person who agrees with the outlook on the world put forward by the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Fox News as a whole, you are unlikely to be also an avid follower of commentators who tend to disagree strongly with almost anything they say.

And this is understandable to some degree. On the one hand, dispute and disagreement can be fun. On the other hand, being outraged all day long can also be quite exhausting.

On the Internet, you can often just delete people or websites from your news feeds and they seem to magically disappear.

This is all fair and well to get rid of people who are verbally abusive online. There is not exactly a scarcity of those on the Internet.  But regarding discourse on any number of subjects, just having one (fact-based) opinion to draw conclusions from, is really risking intellectual poverty.

On the positive potential of the Internet and the challenge of filter bubbles, I find myself agreeing with the Pope for once.

Read more:

Pope Francis tells the Internet to chill out.” (Audra Schroeder, The Daily Dot, 2014/01/23)

Flappy Bird Ist Geschichte

Flappy Bird ist Geschichte (und ich habe es nicht mitbekommen)

Ich gebe zu, das Thema hier ist komplett an mir vorbei gegangen: Ein leicht bescheuertes, extrem frustrierendes Spiel mit einem Vogel, der durch Super Mario-Röhren fliegen muss. Wahrscheinlich habe ich in den letzten Wochen einfach zu wenig Spiele auf meinem Telefon gezockt.

Für alle Süchtigen gibt es jetzt aber FlappyBird-Alternativen. via Stern buff.ly/1cv5qH6

MOOC-Trend: Hasso-Plattner-Institut Öffnet Plattform für Unis

MOOC-Trend: Hasso-Plattner-Institut öffnet Plattform für Unis

Das Hasso-Plattner-Institut betreibt eine MOOC-Plattform namens openHPI, bei der sich bislang ca. 100.000 Leute eingeschrieben haben, was am Ende zu 10.000 Abschlüssen führte—also ein Verhältnis von 10:1. Die Plattform wird jetzt anderen Unis für ihre MOOCs zugänglich gemacht.

http://idw-online.de/de/news572213

Bald könnte Twitter wie Facebook aussehen

Bald könnte Twitter wie Facebook aussehen:

Ich glaube, ich halte das eher für eine schlechte Idee. Mir gefällt die unterschiedliche Nutzung der beiden Plattformen. Mal schauen, was da noch so kommt.

Twitter Testing Major Profile Redesign That Looks a Lot Like Facebook.” (Mashable, 2014/02/11)

 

International Protests Against Mass Surveillance

International Protests Against Mass Surveillance

TODAY, February 11, 2014:

International Community Unites to Protest Big Brother.” (Katitza Rodriguez, Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2014/02/11)

Protesters rally for ‘the day we fight back’ against mass surveillance.” (Adam Gabbatt, Guardian, 2014/02/11)

Yes We Scan by walt74, used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, "Yes we scan. Deal with it. United we progress toward a perfectly monitored society. Obey us. Control. Trust us. Trust us. Trust us. Repeat. We are watching you." ,Source: https://secure.flickr.com/photos/nerdcoreblog/8989863112/
Yes We Scan by walt74, used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, “Yes we scan. Deal with it. United we progress toward a perfectly monitored society. Obey us. Control. Trust us. Trust us. Trust us. Repeat. We are watching you.” Source: https://secure.flickr.com/photos/nerdcoreblog/8989863112/
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The Day the Internet Didn’t Fight Back.” (Nicole Perlroth, NYTimes.com, 2014/02/11) – Major web sites did not participate. But I think the effort is still worth it.

U.S. State Life Expectancy Compared To Countries Around The World [Map]

U.S. state life expectancy compared to countries around the world [map]

A compass of the United States, with state names. The original was edited by User:Andrew c to include Nova Scotia, PEI, Bahamas, and scale key. It was originally uploaded to the English Wikipedia with the same title by w:User:Wapcaplet: This file is licensed under the (CC BY-SA 3.0) license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en
A compass of the United States, with state names. The original was edited by User:Andrew c to include Nova Scotia, PEI, Bahamas, and scale key. It was originally uploaded to the English Wikipedia with the same title by w:User:Wapcaplet: This file is licensed under the (CC BY-SA 3.0) license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Over at the Atlantic, there is an interesting map [not the one to the right in this article]. It compares the life expectancy in U.S. states and imposes the the names of countries around the world with a similar life expectancy onto the respective state. Thus, Mississippi becomes Syria (75 years and I am not sure whether this takes into account the ongoing bloody civil there) and California becomes Liechtenstein (81 years).

The best thing about the map: You can go to http://www.measureofamerica.org/maps/, a project of the Social Science Research Council, and see how well individual states fare by a variety of measures, such as the Human Development Index (HDI), education, health, or income.

http://www.measureofamerica.org/maps/

Suchmaschinen: Yahoo Zielt Mit Bewertungsportal Yelp Gegen Google

Suchmaschinen: Yahoo zielt mit Bewertungsportal Yelp gegen Google

Social Media Tag Cloud by daniel_iversen, used under the https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ license, Source: http://bit.ly/1eyH8xv
Social Media Tag Cloud by daniel_iversen, used under the https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ license, Source: http://bit.ly/1eyH8xv

Die Suchmaschine Yahoo arbeitet jetzt mit dem Bewertungsportal Yelp zusammen, um Konkurrent Google das Fürchten zu lehren. Hauptsächlich soll es wohl darum gehen, in den Suchergebnissen von Yahoo lokale Geschäfte zu präsentieren. via Spiegel Online

George Zimmerman – Trayvon Martin Case Devolving Even More Into Absurd Media Spectacle

The George Zimmerman – Trayvon Martin case is devolving even more into an absurd media spectacle

Picture: "Why don't you just switch off the television set?," id-iom, flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0), changes made: cropping, caption, color adjustments, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/
Picture: “Why don’t you just switch off the television set?,” id-iom, flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0), changes made: cropping, caption, color adjustments, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

Just when I thought that the tragic case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin could not become any more bizarre, I am proven wrong again.

After we saw Zimmerman posing at a gun manufacturer shortly after being acquitted of murder charges for shooting and killing Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman selling ‘patriotic art’ of dubious originality, and Zimmerman being arrested for threatening his ex-wife and her father with a gun, there is now this: a boxing match in the making between rapper/actor DMX and George Zimmerman.

The aggressive politicization, the racial circling of wagons stoked by polemic media in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s death now seems to culminate in the ultimate absurdity–a celebrity boxing match based on the premise of symbolically pitting black America in the form a (former) gangsta rapper against Zimmerman, the light-skinned Hispanic defended by a large swathe of trigger-happy conservative white males.

All of the above merely adds insult to injury.

Whereas Zimmerman, now walking as a free man, clearly lacks any tact and tries to make a quick buck off his new-found celebrity paid for by the death of an unarmed black teenager, boxing promoters are circling like vultures over the tragedy in order get theirs, too.

And does rapper DMX think that if he were to knock out Zimmerman, in reality, but at the same time symbolically, like in the cartoonish heroes and villains portrayed in American wrestling, that would counter the black thug stereotype that was at the heart of the developments leading to Trayvon Martin’s death?

I think that this celebrity boxing match, if it actually take place, is death-sploitation of the worst kind.

Check out this clip from TheLipTV:

Facebook Ist 10 Jahre Alt

Facebook ist 10 Jahre alt

Social Media Tag Cloud by daniel_iversen, used under the https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ license, Source: http://bit.ly/1eyH8xv
Social Media Tag Cloud by daniel_iversen, used under the https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ license, Source: http://bit.ly/1eyH8xv

Ist die Zeit wieder einmal so schnell vergangen? Irgendwie scheint es der Fall zu sein, denn die wohl bekannteste Social Networking Site Facebook ist eine Dekade alt geworden.

Hier sind ein paar Links zum Thema:

Facebook, 10 years after.” (Christina Pazzanese, Harvard Gazette, 2014/02/03)

Facebook As An Online Dating Site.” (Caroline Moss, Business Insider, 2014/02/05)

Mark Zuckerberg’s Secret IMs From College.” (Nicholas Carlson, Business Insider, 2014/02/04)

Most Germans Oppose More Military Interventions

Reichstagsgebäude (Berlin) kurz vor herbstlichem Sonnenuntergang. Jürgen Matern / Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0 http://www.juergen-matern.de/ | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reichstag_building_Berlin_view_from_west_before_sunset.jpg?uselang=de
Reichstagsgebäude (Berlin) kurz vor herbstlichem Sonnenuntergang. Jürgen Matern / Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0 http://www.juergen-matern.de/ | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reichstag_building_Berlin_view_from_west_before_sunset.jpg?uselang=de

Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s new Minister of Defense under Chancellor Angela Merkel, recently argued in favor of more frequent military interventions by the German armed forces in the world. A demand to that regard has repeatedly been made by governments of other allied countries in military alliances like NATO, for instance the U.S.

However, the German population as a whole is not so keen on participating in more wars. According to a recent poll by German public TV network ARD, 61% are against sending German troops to crisis-stricken regions around the world, while 30% are for more such involvement.

Read more:

Germany to play bigger military role.” (The Local Germany, 2014/01/27)

CCC, digitalcourage, Internationale Liga für Menschenrechte verklagen Bundesregierung wegen Untätigkeit nach Snowden-Leaks

Reichstagsgebäude (Berlin) kurz vor herbstlichem Sonnenuntergang. Jürgen Matern / Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0 http://www.juergen-matern.de/ | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reichstag_building_Berlin_view_from_west_before_sunset.jpg?uselang=de
Reichstagsgebäude (Berlin) kurz vor herbstlichem Sonnenuntergang. Jürgen Matern / Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0 http://www.juergen-matern.de/ | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reichstag_building_Berlin_view_from_west_before_sunset.jpg?uselang=de

Der Chaos Computer Club, die Internationale Liga für Menschenrechte, digitalcourage e.V. und weitere Personen haben Strafanzeige gegen die Bundesregierung wegen Untätigkeit nach der Veröffentlichung der Snowden-Leaks erstattet. via netzpolitik.org

Insane Nazi Comparisons, Delusional Billionaire Edition

Insane Nazi comparisons, delusional billionaire edition

“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” – Godwin’s Law, 1990

And now to one of my favorite subjects: inappropriate comparisons of something one does not like to the horrors of the Nazi regime (Hint: They are inappropriate almost all of the time). When a person claims that something they experience is “just like in Nazi Germany” or that politician X is “just like Hitler,” it is a sure recipe for disaster.

This time it is American billionaire Thomas Perkins, who whines in a letter to the Wall Street Journal about the treatment of his class, the “one percent” or super-rich, by “progressive radical[s].”

On planet Perkins, criticism and calls for tax increases are just like antisemitic pogroms

Notably disgusted by the idea of being surrounded by a leftish counter-culture vibe, he starts his rant with this:

Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its “one percent,” namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the “rich.”

In all seriousness, Perkins writes:

Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?

First of all, the claim about a direct connection between Nazism and what he calls “progressive radicalism” seems quite dubious to me.

Mind you, he compares criticisms of the financial industry and demands for a higher marginal tax rate to the eliminatory antisemitism of the Nazis. And this guy went to Harvard and MIT. I do not know if this is more embarrassing for these institutions or the man himself. Assuming that he actually believes what he is saying, Perkins must suffer from a serious persecution complex.

There might be valuable things to be said about a regressive strain of anti-capitalism, but Mr. Perkins has none of these to offer.

In ‘communist America,’ you can still own $150 million yachts

Second, the last time I checked, radical progressivism/fascism/communism—these are interchangeably thrown around— had not exactly taken over America. To claim otherwise is either pure propaganda or plain delusional.

Consider this: In the imagined country that is supposedly as hostile towards the wealthy as the Nazis were towards the Jews, Perkins is still able to enjoy his extravagant $150 million yacht without being dragged from it and murdered by jackbooted thugs or pitchfork-wielding peasant mobs. Being a billionaire in today’s America is not exactly the same experience as being a Jew in Nazi Germany, after all.

You might dislike the idea of having to pay slightly higher taxes (even though it certainly would not hurt you), but if you seriously claim that this is in any way comparable to the suffering caused by the Nazis, then you, Sir, are an idiot.

 

Social Publishing Für eBooks Mit ‘Page Pusher’

Social Publishing für eBooks mit ‘Page Pusher’

Die Social Publishing Plattform Page Pusher hat sich vorgenommen, Autor*innen mithilfe

Book fountain outside Cincinnati Public Library, Cincinnati, Ohio by OZinOH (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/
Book fountain outside Cincinnati Public Library, Cincinnati, Ohio by OZinOH (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

Sozialer Medien zu einer zahlungsbereiten Leser*innenschaft für ihre eBooks zu verhelfen. Man lädt sein Werk als eBook hoch, dann werden alle Fans auf Sozialen Netzwerken über die Neuerscheinung benachrichtigt. Das Ganze finanziert sich über eine Provision. via Matthias Matting, netzpiloten.de

Snowden: U.S. Officials Want Me Killed

Snowden: U.S. officials want me killed

In an interview with German public TV network NDR, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has said that U.S. officials want him dead.

In the same interview, Snowden accuses the U.S. of industrial espionage.

Here is the interview:

Steile These aus Princeton: Facebook wird 2017 80% Seiner Nutzer*innen Verlieren

Steile These aus Princeton: Facebook wird 2017 80% seiner Nutzer*innen verlieren

Zwei Doktoranden der Ingenierswissenschaften haben kürzlich in einem Artikel die Ausbreitung des sozialen Netzwerks Facebook mit Modellen der Ausbreitung von Infektionskrankheiten verglichen. Ihre Vorhersage lautet: 2015 wird der steile Abstieg des populärsten sozialen Netzwerks beginnen. Ich bin mal sehr gespannt, aber es wäre nicht das erste mal in der Geschichte des Internets, dass eine extrem populäre Seite untergeht.

Update: Facebook schlägt zurück

Und zwar hier, mit eigenen Grafiken und der Kritik, dass die Studie im Wesentlichen darauf basierte, die Google-Anfragen nach “Facebook” zu zählen, nicht das Engagement auf der Seite. Und dann haben sie noch eins obendrauf gesetzt und die Aktivität auf Facebook mit der auf der Princeton-Website verglichen. Das sah im Vergleich nicht so gut für Princeton aus.

Mehr lesen:

Princeton researchers say Facebook will lose 80 percent of its users by 2017.” (The Daily Dot, 2014/01/21)

 

A Quarter Of Americans Did Not Read A Book In 2013, Study Finds

A quarter of Americans did not read a book in 2013, study finds

A new study by the Pew Research Center found that in 2013, almost a quarter of Americans

Book fountain outside Cincinnati Public Library, Cincinnati, Ohio by OZinOH (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/
Book fountain outside Cincinnati Public Library, Cincinnati, Ohio by OZinOH, flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

did not read a book. And this included e-books and audiobooks.

I wondered how bad it is over here, in Germany. Well, not much better, actually. According to a study by statista.de (in German), it was around fifteen percent in 2013.

As a general advice for life, I would recommend picking up a book from time to time.

 

Facebook Jetzt Mit Spenden-Button Für Nonprofits

Facebook jetzt mit Spenden-Button für Nonprofits

Das dürfte Nonprofits, die Facebook nutzen, freuen. Seit kurzem gibt es nämlich einen Button, mit dem man direkt auf Facebook für die jeweilige Organisation spenden kann. via Mashable

Facebook Adds ‘Donate Now’ Button for Non-Profits.” (Kurt Wagner, Mashable, 16.12.2013)

Neue Studie Zu Social Media Nutzertypen In Der Wissenschaft

Neue Studie zu Social Media Nutzertypen in der Wissenschaft

Nutzertypen in Wissenschaft 2.0 aus der goportis-Studie - eigenes Bild
Nutzertypen in Wissenschaft 2.0 aus der goportis-Studie – eigenes Bild

Der Bibliotheksverbund goportis hat eine neue Studie zur Nutzung sozialer Medien in der Wissenschaft veröffentlicht.

Dabei kamen vier Nutzertypen heraus, die sich in Ihrem Verhalten deutlich unterscheiden.

Was sich hinter exemplarischen Charakteren wie “Mr. Nerd”, “Ms. Maker”, “Mr. Tech” oder “Mr. Classic” verbirgt, kann man in der Studie nachlesen.

Obama’s NSA Reform Speech: Don’t Believe The Hype

Obama’s great NSA reform speech of 2014: Don’t Believe The Hype

Last Friday (January 17, 2014), Barack Obama gave a speech that was designed to appear as if he actually took into consideration the global outrage over the NSA’s mass surveillance practices.

Here is the full speech, from the Wall Street Journal’s YouTube channel:

A transcript from the Washington Post can be found here.

From my point of view, as a strong advocate for civil liberties, it was not at all satisfactory.

What did Obama actually say?

  1. He used to be skeptical of US surveillance programs, but now he generally he sees nothing wrong with them. The logic of the national security state prevails.
  2. He wants more control of the gathered information—inside the US. No blanket surveillance but warrants by a judge of the FISA court.
  3. Close allied leaders (such as Angela Merkel) are not to be spied on, except for “compelling national security purpose[s]”—whatever that means. But nonetheless the US will continue to spy on even allied governments.
  4. We, the U.S. government, are not going after you everyday foreigners, but we will still vacuum up all your data, just in case. – Note how Obama does not say anything about the exposed NSA programs in his speech.
  5. The FiSA court gets one voice for civil liberties.
  6. IT companies who are forced to hand over customer data to US intelligence will get temporary gag orders through National Security Letters instead of indefinite gag orders.
  7. The NSA will continue to weaken cryptographic standards on the Internet – Obama did not say a word about this important reform point proposed by a panel of experts.

There are many issues with Obama’s views on American surveillance, even if we assume that this speech actually reflects his genuine views.

First, Obama seems to have bought into the idea that the American surveillance bureaucracy is different from any other comparable institution in the history of the world. He sounds as if he believes that by the virtue of character of the people working for it, the NSA is free from all the deformities that have been known to exist in other times and places in similar settings.

He wants us to believe that American spooks are so exceptional that they can defy human nature. But the point of the revelations about the NSA’s mass surveillance is not that its employees are evil as individuals. The mere fact that the NSA as an institution has the structural potential for “turnkey totalitarianism,” as one commenter put it, is the alarming fact.

Second, the FISA court has been known to be a rubber stamp court. So far, the U.S. government has almost never been denied a request there.

Third, the term “national security” is so vague that almost anything can be connected to it and hence spying can be justified almost all of the time.

 Read more:

Global Privacy Leaders React to Obama’s NSA Reform Proposals.” (Katitza Rodriguez, Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2014/01/17)

Obama bans spying on leaders of U.S. allies, scales back NSA program.” (Steve Holland, Mark Hosenball and Jeff Mason, Reuters, 2014/01/17)

auf deutsch:

Sicherheitsexperte: “Jeder Überwachungsapparat kann leicht missbraucht werden”. (, ZEIT ONLINE, 15.01.2014) – Ein Interview mit dem Google-Softwareingenieur Morgan Marquis-Boire über das Missbrauchspotenzial staatlicher Überwachungsapparate.

Obamas NSA-Vorschläge – Viele Worte, ein wenig Reform.” (Johannes Kuhn, Süddeutsche, 17.01.2014)

ZDF-Interview zur NSA: Wie Obama die Maßstäbe verschiebt.” (Johannes Kuhn, Süddeutsche, 19.01.2014).

Sachsen Will Dienstliches Facebook-Verbot

Sachsen will dienstliches Facebook-Verbot für Lehrer*innen

Es ist ein nicht enden wollendes Thema: der Umgang mit sozialen Medien im öffentlichen Dienst in Deutschland, speziell an Schulen.

Wie golem.de berichtet, will Sachsen es nun Bayern und Baden-Württemberg nachtun und zunächst die dienstliche Kommunikation zwischen Lehrer*innen und Schüler*innen auf Facebook, Google+ und anderen beliebten Plattformen aus datenschutzrechtlichen Gründen verbieten.

What Happens If Someone Tries To Delete Their Facebook Activity

What happens if someone actually tries to delete their past facebook activity to hide it from friends, colleagues, and employers?

Social Media Tag Cloud by daniel_iversen, used under the https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ license, Source: http://bit.ly/1eyH8xv
Social Media Tag Cloud by daniel_iversen, used under the https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ license, Source: http://bit.ly/1eyH8xv

How tiresome is it do delete your facebook activity? In short: very tiresome! Jennifer Golbeck from Slate magazine tried that experiment and found it very exhausting to do it by hand. But there are also scripts for your webbrowser that can do the job.

Note that this will only hide old posts from your ‘audience’ but neither from Facebook nor the NSA.

The NSA Tries To Secure Most Surveillance Powers Before Obama Makes A Statement About Surveillance

The NSA tries to secure most surveillance powers before Obama makes a statement about the future of American surveillance

Headquarters of the NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland. This article or image contains materials that originally came from a National Security Agency (NSA) website or publication. It is believed that this information is not classified, and is in the public domain. Source: Wikimedia Commons https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:National_Security_Agency_headquarters,_Fort_Meade,_Maryland.jpg
Headquarters of the NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland. This article or image contains materials that originally came from a National Security Agency (NSA) website or publication. It is believed that this information is not classified, and is in the public domain. Source: Wikimedia Commons https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:National_Security_Agency_headquarters,_Fort_Meade,_Maryland.jpg

As the Guardian reports, the Obama White House wants to (or at least pretends that it does) reform the NSA’s surveillance apparatus.

Obama recently met with privacy advocates, among them the ACLU, to discuss American mass surveillance.

Guess who is launching a charm offensive targeted at the American public against limiting the scope of mass surveillance in any substantial manner.

If you do not let us spy on all of you at all times, then the terrorists win

The NSA recently argued in an interview on NPR that if they do not continue indiscriminate mass surveillance, then, loosely paraphrased, the terrorists win.

Speaking about the surveillance of the phone records of all Americans (non-Americans are fair game anyway for the NSA), outgoing NSA deputy director John C. Inglis said that one money transfer from San Diego to militant islamists al-Shabaab in Somalia had been prevented. Note that he talked about a money transfer that might have financed that group’s activities, but not a specific terrorist attack.

Let that sink in for a while. To prevent one unspecific terrorism-related activity, the private communication of all Americans (not to mention everybody else on the planet) has to be destroyed, according to the NSA. I think that the price Americans and other citizens of the world have to pay for this illusion of security is too high.

Freedom and absolute security are mutually exclusive

It is a truism that in a free society, there can never be one hundred percent security against all risks of life, including terrorism. Attempting to watch and predict every individual’s next move at all times inescapably leads towards an authoritarian dystopia.

It would be a shame if the country whose national imagination prides itself to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave” would end up as ‘democratic’ as the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was.

One Stasi was enough. Please America, stop this madness.