Heart of the Matter

Obsidian Wings by quoting Glen Greewald gives laser focus to the heart of the domestic spying program,

Greenwald is laying out points that he thinks people should make when explaining the NSA program. His first is this:

(1) The President is now claiming, and is aggressively exercising, the right to use any and all war powers against American citizens even within the United States, and he insists that neither Congress nor the courts can do anything to stop him or even restrict him.

Greenwald begins by saying that he thinks the issue is best described in this way, rather than as an issue about the rule of law. If we make it about the rule of law, the administration will be able to trot out its legal justifications, everyone will get confused, and the whole thing will just seem like an arcane legal disagreement. Far better, he says, to explain clearly what their legal theory is, and why it is genuinely radical and frightening. He then does exactly that.

“The Administration’s position as articulated by Gonzales is not that the Administration has the power under the AUMF or under precepts of Article II “inherent authority” to engage in warrantless eavesdropping against Americans. Their argument is much, much broader — and much more radical — than that. Gonzales’ argument is that they have the right to use all war powers of which warrantless eavesdropping is but one of many examples against American citizens within the country. And not only do they have the right to use those war powers against us, they have the right to use them even if Congress makes it a crime to do so or the courts rule that doing so is illegal.

Put another way, the Administration has now baldly stated that whatever it is allowed to do against our enemies in a war, it is equally entitled to exercise all of the same powers against American citizens on American soil.

Anyone wishing to defend to me this program or even Bush in general has to start there.


Cringly on QoS

Cringly discusses the recent congressional lobbying over changes to telecom regulations and repeats one the basic lessons of QoS: Most things QoS tries to solve can be solved with overprovisioning, and the general rule with bandwidth is that is keeps doubling it’s price/performance. IMHO, some of the differences between the old QoS team at Microsoft and the current one is taking this type of lesson to heart.

W. Lewis Johnson on Tatical Iraqi

Tatical Iraqi In Game PhotoToday I watched a presentation by W. Lewis Johnson on Tactical Iraqi, which is language and culture training for the military.Coverage of this work was on NPR last year. They combined the Unreal engine, AI, modelling and voice recognition to create an addictive training tool. Between thinking ahead about Simeon’s education and my own trouble learning a foreign language in high school, this stuff is especially intresting.

Government Accountability Website

Expect More WebsiteI like the idea of ExpectMore.gov as setting yearly goals that the program is measured against. However there are many areas for improvements. I’m cautious about political motivations for claiming that a program has unclear goals (like the pell grants) or isn’t meeting expectations. This type of thing needs to partnered with outside the government organizations for developing metrics and the ratings. There is also a need for a full list of metrics and deeper analysis then what’s listed on the detail page for each program. Then there is granularity; Medicare and it’s drug benifit is one entry. If you roll up such a huge program into a single line item with no breakdown, then what’s the point? Ineffective programs will just get attached to giant effective ones. At least FEMA was broken out a bit. Next there is the lesson of a balanced scorecard. What is the organizational health and goals? I’ve heard about a number of people leaving the government in some form of protest, where is the good/bad attrition numbers? Last there is some design aspects of the site that aren’t great. The site doesn’t give me the summary line item views when organizaing by topic, instead using the search snipit view. When I look at a topic like ‘Foreign Affairs“, I want to see the same type of view that I get when see the list of “Adequate“. As a bonus, the data should be available with some XMLRPC/SOAP interfaces. You can see the schema right off the page, let some people build some cool tools on top of this.

Today The White House released a list of government programs that were deemed either effective or ineffective. Curt Nickisch browsed the site to figure out how the government’s doing.

[Via APM’s Marketplace]

Truck horns, The Musical

Ever thought that truck horns were annoying? Well, they have a musical side too, as NPR explains:

One musical act that didn’t make the halftime show at this past weekend’s Super Bowl was Alexander Pollack’s truck horn symphony. We spoke with Pollack in November about his plans for the National Anthem and other songs to be performed on the air horns. Now, we hear the results.