I make films. I'm also a nerd.

Posts in culture:

TSA Misconduct On the Rise


(CNN) – Let’s get this out of the way straight off: The Transportation Security Administration is probably not going to top anyone’s list of Favorite Federal Government Agencies.

And the stories of its failures spread faster than a speeding jetliner: TSA officers stealing money from luggage, taking bribes from drug dealers, sleeping on the job.

I find it generally to be a bad idea to give power and authority (but not a living wage) to people with GED’s and no skills, but hey, maybe that’s just me.

Obama Keeps Giving Republicans (Naked) Massages

The New York Times :

President Obama, in a bid to break a stalemate with the Republican-controlled House, will revive on Tuesday his proposal to cut corporate tax rates in return for a commitment from Republicans to invest more in programs spurring middle-class jobs.

Applause. If there’s one thing we need to do in order to repair this decomposing corpse of a country, it’s bending over even further for corporations.

Scientists Implant Fake Memories in Rats

The New York Times :

[S]cientists at the Riken-M.I.T. Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they have created a false memory in a mouse, providing detailed clues to how such memories may form in human brains.

Steve Ramirez, Xu Liu and other scientists, led by Susumu Tonegawa, reported Thursday in the journal Science that they caused mice to remember being shocked in one location, when in reality the electric shock was delivered in a completely different location.

It sounds like the first chapter of a dystopian novel. Why torture a fake confession out of a scapegoat when you can make him think he’s confessing truthfully?

Here’s hoping this research instead furthers the cause of all humankind. Yeah, right.

The NSA Can Reportedly Track the Location of Cell Phones Even When They’re Turned Off

Here’s some more insanity; Ryan Gallagher of Slate reveals stunning new details about the NSA’s ability to track us:

On Monday, the Washington Post published a story focusing on how massively the NSA has grown since the 9/11 attacks. Buried within it, there was a small but striking detail: By September 2004, the NSA had developed a technique that was dubbed “The Find” by special operations officers. The technique, the Post reports, was used in Iraq and “enabled the agency to find cellphones even when they were turned off.” This helped identify “thousands of new targets, including members of a burgeoning al-Qaeda-sponsored insurgency in Iraq,” according to members of the special operations unit interviewed by the Post.

The article goes on to speculate that perhaps these phones are being infected with malware, or maybe that the government injects tracking code into updates to a phone’s operating system. This whole thing just keeps getting creepier—who’d have thought that something like this could even be technically possible?

Judge Awards Chevron Access to Nine Years of Americans’ Email Metadata

Mike Masnick, reporting for TechDirt (the entire post is worth a read):

This seems like a pretty big problem, given the rationale of the judge initially. Beyond that, just the basic chilling effects from finding out that a giant company could get access like this to so much metadata on a large list of its critics is fairly incredible. As the article notes, while subpoenas on people who aren’t actually parties to a lawsuit are “routine,” they’re not supposed to be mass fishing expeditions, which they appear to be in this case.

So, we have more than just the NSA to worry about now. I find it pretty insane that a judge would just hand this kind of personal data over to a corporation. Insanity seems to be the new norm.

61 Tons of Silver Recovered From Shipwreck

Paul Toscano, CNBC:

On Monday, Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration announced that it had recovered over 61 tons (1.8 million ounces) of silver bullion this month from the wreck of a cargo ship torpedoed 300 miles off the coast of Ireland during World War II.

This is why I want my own submarine. If only I had $61 million in silver with which to buy one.

Rape Victim Imprisoned in Dubai

The BBC:

Interior designer Marte Deborah Dalelv was on a business trip in Dubai when she says she was raped.

The 24-year-old reported the March attack to the police but found herself charged with having extramarital sex, drinking alcohol, and perjury.

At least this hasn’t happened in Texas yet.

UPDATE, July 22, 2013 1:56 PM: Perhaps due to pressure from the media in the West, Dalelv has been pardoned. That’s good news, but I don’t think it’s the end of the story.

Jimmy Carter Supports Snowden, Decries Spying

The Huffington Post :

Former President Jimmy Carter announced support for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden this week, saying that his uncovering of the agency’s massive surveillance programs had proven "beneficial."

I’m surprised that any present or former American federal official would admit in public that the intelligence community has pushed too far into fascistic territory, but I suppose Carter would have to be the only guy who’d have enough of a soul left.

Here’s my favorite bit:

No American outlets covered Carter’s speech, given at an Atlantic Bridge meeting, which has reportedly led to some skepticism over Der Spiegel’s quotes.

Oh, really. Let’s not cover it, and then impugn those who do. Sounds a bit like what a totalitarian state’s propaganda wing might do, doesn’t it?

Your Work Is Worth Less Every Day

I’ve never been able to muster full agreement with a lot of Jaron Lanier’s arguments, but in his recent appearance on the IEEE Spectrum‘s "Techwise Conversations" podcast, he raises a number of incredibly pertinent and timely questions regarding the sinking of the Western economy amid the massive growth in efficiencies of production due to technological automation and/or creative decentralization. When our media is crowdsourced, and almost nobody pays for (or is payed for) any of it, how can we expect anything other than mass impoverishment? Why would anyone get paid when robots do all the work?

Ayn Rand, Eddie Lampert, Solipsism, and Sears

Lynn Stuart Parramore writes, for Slate, of how Eddie Lampert’s far-right approach might have a lot to do with the downfall of Sears:

Eddie Lampert, the legendary hedge fund manager, was once hailed as the “Steve Jobs of the investment world” and the second coming of Warren Buffett. These days, he claims the number 2 spot on Forbes’ list of America’s worst CEOs. He has destroyed Sears, the iconic retail giant founded in 1886, which used to be known as the place “Where America Shops."

I think it’s worth pointing out that corporate governance and political governance are wildly different things. Still, the article paints an effective and damning picture of the addled stupidity of Ayn Rand’s economic "philosophy."