Category Archives: Culture

The Private Sector Reigns Supreme…Again

Good news for Apple fans: the company’s mobile operating system, iOS, as well as its new iPhone 6 devices, feature beefed-up levels of default encryption and–to the horror of our federal government’s “Justice” department–no “back door.” Zack Whittaker of ZDNet argues that the “feds only have themselves to blame” for Apple (and also Google) beefing up their smartphone encryption, because the federal government has failed to scale back the NSA’s bulk metadata collection in any significant fashion. I agree, and I also agree with Whittaker’s (and others’) disappointment in the Washington Post editorials echoing “Justice”‘s call for a “back door” and arguing for a “compromise” on encryption.

Yes, government should be able to compel the production of evidence when it has probable cause and particularized suspicion (and follows procedures appropriate for the context). But government should not be able to compel manufacturers of devices to do its job, to make it unnecessary for the government to approach the device owner directly with the warrant. As Yaron Brook alluded to on Facebook yesterday, it is great to see the profit motive encouraging companies to cater to customers’ privacy preferences.

[Also notable: this story about Twitter suing the U.S. government over limits on its ability to disclose surveillance orders, something about which Apple has also complained.]

Now, if only Apple could figure out a simple and elegant solution to the threats posed by ISIS and Ebola…

The news on Ebola is getting worse, as we learn that a nurse in Spain–who presumably knows what precautions to take and has the materials necessary to take them–contracted the disease while treating two patients who had been brought to Spain for treatment. The nurse’s husband and two others have reportedly now also been placed in quarantine. The Los Angeles Times published a speculative piece, in which one expert opined that “We just don’t have the data to exclude [the possibility of Ebola spreading by air in close quarters].” While it’s natural to worry about a disease that seems to be killing more than half of those who contract it, we need to keep in mind that the assertion about the possibility of airborne Ebola is arbitrary–there is no evidence to support it and therefore it should be dismissed–unless and until such evidence materializes.

While we wait for more information on the transmission of Ebola, it is heartening to read of the Firestone plantation in Liberia, where the tire manufacturer has applied determination and common sense to the task of containing the Ebola outbreak, with great success. “[E]ven as the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded rages all around them, Firestone appears to have blocked the virus from spreading inside its territory.”

It is not surprising to me that a private company has outperformed governments in containing Ebola. In fact, while our own government should likely be doing more–temporary travel restrictions or enhanced screening–to combat the current outbreak, preventing the spread of disease is not a routine government function. Firestone realizes that it is crucial for the success of their plantation in Liberia effectively to contain the virus, and they have acted accordingly. (HT Rick Wilmes, who brought the Firestone story to my attention.)

What is a proper government function, however, is defending citizens against threats of physical force from enemies foreign and domestic. And it is here that the Obama administration’s default is most concerning. ISIS continues to behead western journalists and threaten the beheading of veterans and active members of the military. They are harassing military members and their families via social media. ISIS supporters have even managed to place their graffiti in Washington, D.C. And yet our President and his Secretary of State continue to evade the nature of the threat, or its origin, saying it has nothing to do with Islam and, apparently, everything to do with Syrian rebels needing our assistance.

Thankfully we have some Americans who are willing to speak the truth about the nature of the threat we face. The most unapologetic and outspoken critic of ISIS and Islam of late is, surprisingly, a liberal who most likely would not want to be included in a post praising the private sector: Bill Maher. Here’s the latest in a long series of Maher’s excellent commentary on Islam and the danger it poses:

Check the Real Time account on YouTube for more commentary by Maher, and join me in thanking him for speaking out and telling the truth when no one in our government seems to be able to.

You might also enjoy this from a few years ago: Maher’s “Muslim Dior” fashion show:

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Filed under Business, Culture, Foreign Policy, Medicine, Technology

An Oscars News Sandwich

Finding the task of creating a News Sandwich out of foreign policy news entirely too daunting this morning, I decided to write an Oscars News Sandwich instead. Perhaps it will help create the momentum I’ll need to tackle the foreign policy — or even Apple — news that is so worrisome.

Good:

This gown, worn by actress Amy Adams, and designed by Gucci. I love the color, the fabric, the clean lines, the fact that it actually fits her body instead of looking like it has an agenda of its own.*

This gown, worn by actress Amy Adams, and designed by Gucci. I love the color, the fabric, the clean lines, the fact that it actually fits her body instead of looking like it has an agenda of its own.*

Bad:

Here's Brad Pitt who is, as Perez Hilton says, "Seriously chow[ing] down on free pizza at the 2014 Oscars!"

Here’s Brad Pitt who is, as Perez Hilton says, “Seriously chow[ing] down on free pizza at the 2014 Oscars!”

Am I just old fashioned, or is seriously chowing down on pizza something that is beneath the dignity of the Oscars?

Good:

This acceptance speech from Matthew McConaughey. (Sorry, but I could not find a video of acceptable quality that I could embed here on my blog. I also enjoy the fact that Time, to whom I am linking here, found the speech “confounding.”)

While I don’t share McConaughey’s belief in God, I loved that he was so matter-of-fact in stating (1) the importance of his mother teaching him self-respect, (2) that the people he most hoped to make proud were his wife and three kids, and (3) that his “hero,” the one who he is always “chasing,” is an idealized version of himself (as he imagines himself in ten years). Although he’s religious, McConaughey seems to understand to a significant extent what Ayn Rand described as the virtue of Pride. It’s not surprising that in a recent interview with GQ, he embraced the word “selfish”:

β€œI’m a fan of the word selfish. Self. Ish,” he repeats, drawing it out. β€œWhen I say I have gotten a lot more self-ish, I mean I am less concerned with what people think of me. I’m not worried about how I’m perceived. Selfish has always gotten a bad rap. You should do for you. I wanted new experiences.”

It is good to see someone embrace the term “selfish”—and even better to see him go on to win an Oscar.

*If you happen to run across this dress, contact me for shipping instructions πŸ™‚
*Photo credit: Getty/Steve Granitz/WireImage via sheknows.com.

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A Three-Video News Sandwich

Last night Jimmy Kimmel criticized Obamacare in his monologue, and even aired a fake ad that told the truth about the program: Obamacare is designed so that young and healthy Americans subsidize the health care costs of older and sicker Americans. Check out the video. Yes, it would have been better if Kimmel had named altruism as the root cause of Obamacare getting passed by Congress (the video says it’s because only older people vote), but in today’s context this is relatively bold.

What I’d love is for Kimmel and other popular talk show hosts to start taking Obama to task for his liberal use of executive orders. Obama held a press conference yesterday in which he announced his intention to use executive orders, along with his power to “convene Americans from all walks of life” in order to “move the ball forward” on his egalitarian agenda. He said he’ll be meeting with his cabinet members to see how far he can push the envelope to, in effect, legislate without any legislation being passed. Check out the video of Obama’s statement (if you can stomach it) here at The Right Scoop.

If you watched that video and are thoroughly disgustipated, you could use the lift you’ll get from watching the next video, Senator Ted Cruz’s Q & A with President Obama’s advisory panel on privacy. Cruz does a decent job pressing the panel on NSA overreach, but I think he could have gone further and pointed out the problems that would exist even if the telephone companies are compelled to retain Americans’ telephone metadata, as a substitute for the current NSA bulk metadata collection program. One of the panel members even suggested that a single private company, as opposed to the NSA, could be hired to store all the data, if there were concerns about the efficiency of having each telephone company store the data separately. That arrangement would likely be even worse than what we have now, and yet Cruz didn’t object when the idea was raised.

My nitpicky criticisms aside, what is also commendable about Cruz’s questioning of the panel is the language he uses with respect to the jihadists who have committed terrorist attacks on our soil in the years since 9/11/01. He repeatedly refers to the massacres in Fort Hood and Boston as “terrorist attacks,” and blames “Jihad” for them. This is important because the Obama Administration calls the Ft. Hood massacre an instance of “workplace violence,” and has scrubbed references to Islam from various counter-terrorism training materials. Cruz argues that these attacks might have been prevented if Hassan and the Tsarnaev brothers had been given appropriate scrutiny and surveillance.

Check it out:

Cruz continues to be the politician in Washington who gives me the most hope. Now only if he would read my piece on the third-party doctrine πŸ™‚

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Filed under Culture, Politics