Shavings

When you work with metal, what’s left when you’re done is shavings. Well, when you write a blog, a lot of interesting new stories end up on the floor because there’s just no time to really do them justice. Forthwith, this week’s shavings.

I was at the Voting Section of the Justice Department for over five years. This office is responsible for enforcing most federal election laws which do not involve criminal matters. My previous articles at Pajamas Media have spoken of the DOJ’s lawless abandonment of race-neutral enforcement of voting laws, and other outrageous conduct. … A lesser-known provision also obliged the states to ensure that no ineligible voters were on the rolls — including dead people, felons, and people who had moved. Our current Department of Justice is anxious to encourage the obligations to get everyone registered, but explicitly unwilling to enforce federal law requiring states to remove the dead or ineligible from the rolls. -PJM

One of the foundational stones of a republic is open and honest elections. If a centralized government, through some means, warp the electoral process so the government, itself, controls the outcome of elections, it doesn’t matter what the people at large might think, that country is no longer a republic. This is areal area of concern and danger; I don’t think enough people take this problem seriously enough. Make no mistake about it —many of these private organizations funded by the government itself to increase voter turnout, etc, are really based around trying to control the electoral process.

Have you lapped up any lemonade in Laramie? Downed a daiquiri in Denver? Knocked back a microbrew in Boston? New research suggests that your visits to such places can be tracked by analyzing chemical traces in your hair. That’s because water molecules differ slightly in their isotope ratios depending on the minerals at their source. -ScienceShot

Talk about loss of privacy —given a hair, someone can tell where you’ve been since that hair started growing. Makes you want to drink nothing but imported bottled water.

There’s a power struggle going on in the U.S. government right now. It’s about who is in charge of cyber security, and how much control the government will exert over civilian networks. And by beating the drums of war, the military is coming out on top. … We surely need to improve our cybersecurity. But words have meaning, and metaphors matter. There’s a power struggle going on for control of our nation’s cybersecurity strategy, and the NSA and DoD are winning. If we frame the debate in terms of war, if we accept the military’s expansive cyberspace definition of “war,” we feed our fears. We reinforce the notion that we’re helpless — what person or organization can defend itself in a war? — and others need to protect us. We invite the military to take over security, and to ignore the limits on power that often get jettisoned during wartime. If, on the other hand, we use the more measured language of cybercrime, we change the debate. Crime fighting requires both resolve and resources, but it’s done within the context of normal life. We willingly give our police extraordinary powers of investigation and arrest, but we temper these powers with a judicial system and legal protections for citizens. -Bruce Schneier

The only reason terror works is because we are willing to be terrorized. This constant stream of crisis in our lives, “nudging” us with an velvet gloved iron fist is leading us nowhere but to total control of everything, all the time.

Someone I’ve known for a long time who formerly didn’t follow current events or politics very closely used to ask me, “Are we still okay?” when particularly disturbing news items would make the headlines. My response until the late 1990s was usually a slightly overconfident, “Sure. This is a great country. We can handle this.” That person hasn’t asked me that question for many years. We both know, as do millions of other Americans, that we haven’t been okay for some time and that the foundations supporting what has made this country so exceptional for so very long are crumbling. We stopped being okay over a decade ago. In 1998, the country’s president repeatedly lied under oath in front of the American people. As George Will correctly asserted in January 2001: “There is no reasonable doubt that he committed and suborned perjury, tampered with witnesses and otherwise obstructed justice.” Additionally, credible allegations surfaced that, as Will noted, made it “reasonable to believe that he was a rapist 15 years before becoming president.” The failure of the United States Senate to remove Bill Clinton from office was a landmark defeat for the rule of law. Clinton himself didn’t merely survive impeachment; he has since thrived not in spite of it, but arguably because of it. From that point forward, those whose stated agenda is to undermine this country’s essence knew that if they could only achieve sufficient power, they could probably get away with just about anything. -PJM

When a country becomes immersed in the rule of people, rather than the rule of law, the slope has definitely turned downward.

On the subject of the role of games in disaster preparedness and response, an article, “Masters of Disaster” from the most recent Wharton Magazine, describes the computer simulation, Quake. It was designed by Howard Kunreuther and Robert Meyer of the Philadelphia school’s Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, to test ideas about how humans perceive risk. Amazingly, everyone who has played the game has ended up destroying themselves. This subject is even more relevant to current events as risk perception and management have become front and center topics in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. -In Case of Emergency

Humans are no good at assessing risk, which is why we do so terrible at running economies or anything remotely that complex. Even our cars have safety systems built in to prevent us from overcommitting to risk, and yet there are still thousands of single car accidents every year.

Electrical engineers from ETH Zurich have devised intelligent textiles that already have electronic components such as sensors and conductive filaments woven into them. The advantage: the fabric can be mass-produced on conventional ribbon looms – and washed! -ETH Life

Maybe we’ll not only be half computer in ten years, we’ll be wearing extra computers. Something about, “just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should…”

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