I tend to like covers of songs that change or interpret it in some way, and tend not to like to covers that redo a song much in the way of the original. And I don’t mind a little weirdness if it makes you see a song in a new way.
Thus, for example, I’ve enjoyed some strange and wonderful covers of Eleanor Rigby (although many attempts are certainly very weird, and others intentionally awful), but didn’t much like Elton John’s very popular cover of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, which I thought was too much like the original without adding anything or even being as good.
These are just tendencies. I’ve loved a number of covers of Al Green’s stunning Take Me to The River. I’m still not sure whether I prefer the original, the Talking Heads’ version, or Bryan Ferry’s even-more strangled-pop cool version. I think I heard the Talking Heads version first, but they each have something great.
All this is preamble and possibly apology for my enthusiasm for this cover of Lorde’s Royals. I like the original — I like the whole album — and I’m prepared to argue that one of the measures of great pop today is that it spawns great covers. Well, as far as I’m concerned, case closed. (Spotted via Crooked Timber; At the risk of undermining myself, I will add I was underwhelmed by the also CT-endorsed Royals cover by Mayer Hawthorne.)
Care to share your favorite cover?
This story seems like a Smoking Gun-sized Big Deal. The NYT version, C.I.A. Employees Face New Inquiry Amid Clashes on Detention Program and the less namby-pamby McClatchy version, Probe sought of CIA conduct in Senate study of secret detention program paint a pretty damming picture of an agency totally out of control, and of a potentially massive separation of powers conflict arising out of the Senate’s report on CIA torture.
Compare McClatchy’s leed:
The CIA Inspector General’s Office has asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations of malfeasance at the spy agency in connection with a yet-to-be released Senate Intelligence Committee report into the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program, McClatchy has learned.
The criminal referral may be related to what several knowledgeable people said was CIA monitoring of computers used by Senate aides to prepare the study. The monitoring may have violated an agreement between the committee and the agency.
to the NYT leed:
The Central Intelligence Agency’s attempt to keep secret the details of a defunct detention and interrogation program has escalated a battle between the agency and members of Congress and led to an investigation by the C.I.A.’s internal watchdog into the conduct of agency employees.
The agency’s inspector general began the inquiry partly as a response to complaints from members of Congress that C.I.A. employees were improperly monitoring the work of staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to government officials with knowledge of the investigation.
McClatchy also says this:
The committee determined earlier this year that the CIA monitored computers – in possible violation of an agreement against doing so – that the agency had provided to intelligence committee staff in a secure room at CIA headquarters that the agency insisted they use to review millions of pages of top-secret reports, cables and other documents, according to people with knowledge.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, a panel member, apparently was referring to the monitoring when he asked CIA Director John Brennan at a Jan. 9 hearing if provisions of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act “apply to the CIA? Seems to me that’s a yes or no answer.”
Brennan replied that he’d have to get back to Wyden after looking into “what the act actually calls for and it’s applicability to CIA’s authorities.”
None of that is in the NYT version, although the NYT (like McClatchy) does have these details:
Then, in December, Mr. Udall revealed that the Intelligence Committee had become aware of an internal C.I.A. study that he said was “consistent with the Intelligence Committee’s report” and “conflicts with the official C.I.A. response to the committee’s report.”
It appears that Mr. Udall’s revelation is what set off the current fight, with C.I.A. officials accusing the Intelligence Committee of learning about the internal review by gaining unauthorized access to agency databases.
In a letter to President Obama on Tuesday, Mr. Udall made a vague reference to the dispute over the C.I.A.’s internal report.
“As you are aware, the C.I.A. has recently taken unprecedented action against the committee in relation to the internal C.I.A. review, and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy,” he wrote.
Fearing that Comcast might show up without warning, I arranged my day so that I could spend most of it at home. But there was an 11am meeting I really needed go to to. Fortunately, we got done by 11:20, and then I rushed home again.
And, wouldn’t you guess, there were two trucks in front of my house when I got home. The guys said they had been trying to call me – on my home number (although they didn’t leave a message).
We agreed what they would do, namely run the new cable but leave the old one in place for the next Comcast guy to do the hookup. This was consistent with what everyone else who had come here or discussed it with me had said. So I went to my study and started working away.
Then the Internet went dead.
When I went outside I discovered the guys had pulled down the cable. Don’t worry, they told me, we’ll put in a new one and reconnect it so you won’t need to have another appointment. While being threatened with not having another Comcast appointment is like being told you may not need to have that root canal after all, I still worried. Does the contractor know how to connect up a cable? It’s not rocket science, but still, everyone else had been adamant that this was a task for a Comcast tech, not a Comcast contractor.
Meanwhile, I had a look a the trench which the team seemed to be digging with its hands. It seemed very shallow. How deep is it, I ask? Four to six inches, I’m told. So much for Comcast shovel technology not being adequate to dig a trench.
How long to make the new connection? I asked. A few minutes they say.
And indeed, in less than 10 minutes they said they were done.
So I tested it. Google strained to come up. Things were sloooow.
I ran a speed test. Ping was great: 5ms. Download was awful, 0.13 Mb when I’m paying for “Blast+” that promises 50Mb in burst mode. Upload was great, 11Mb. The last time I saw this combination of slow download fast upload it was a modem sync issue, so I power cycled the modem. Meanwhile, the contractors call in for a tech who they cheerfully promise will arrive sometime later today, undoubtedly, think I, while I’m going to fetch my son from school. That next Comcaster, the contractors said, is going to make some sort of more direct connection on the pole.
Don’t worry, it’s all outdoor work, you don’t need to be home.
I shuddered. I’d heard this before.
The modem finished its power cycle but there was no change on the download number. I ran a 50′ cable direct from the modem to a desktop, cutting out the router and the network from the circuit. This raised the download speed to 0.43 Mb, which while a vast improvement in percentage terms was still not anything like the speeds I had been getting yesterday. I ran the test several times, and managed to get over 1Mb downstream once. It still felt like a modem issue to me, and I wondered if maybe we just had to ask Comcast to resynch on their end. The tech says he’d try reinstalling the connection, just in case.
And, yes, whatever he did made a difference. Now with the PC directly connected to the modem I get about 10Mb down, and 11.75Mb up, about 20% of the download speed I previously enjoyed. And the contractor goes away, satisfied his work is done.
On the theory that this might be a modem issue, I called Comcast tech support (I get the Philippines call center), and the tech sends a refresh code down the line to the modem. This has no discernible effect. We try several different things including multiple reboots of the modem and one of the router, direct connections, network connections. The only thing I learn of interest is that one of my 50′ Cat 5e cables has a bad clip.1 All in all, we spent a good 45 minutes doing things that maybe ought to have worked, but don’t. The only thing I don’t manage to do is unscrew and reattach the coax connection to the modem, which I’m told might help somehow. I can’t do it because the original installer screwed it on so tightly that it is un-moveable. I hope the next team will have the right tools.
The phone tech tells me to tell the repair guy – who she tells me is scheduled to come between 2-6, a window that includes the school run – the following: “Modem is active and online, but it is not showing a stable connection from the server. Have the tech disconnect the coax to reset the connection. Ask them to call tech support so they can monitor connection.”
And there it sits for a couple of hours when, miraculously, a Comcast tech and his assistant show up at about 3:15, that is before I’ve left to do the school run. I explain the problem. I show them the above quote from the phone tech, which they say makes no sense to them. Surveying the back of the house, they note that the previous crew did not in fact take down the old cable so much as cut it, leaving a big piece hanging precariously, one that they then tied my new line into. The new crew brings out a giant ladder to climb up and attach the coiled up part of the new cable directly to the Comcast line high on the pole. This is no mean feat given that there is a small jungle around the base of the pole, including several trees, making it tough to get the ladder into place.
And after about 20 minutes they’re done. They test the signal at the house, and again at the modem, and its strong. Sure enough, speedtest (via the network) is now at 43.24 Mb down and 9.7Mb up; ping is up to 9, but who’s counting? Some of that speed may be illusory due to burst mode, but it’s still good. Looking at my modem diagnostics, I discover I now have IPv6 — which I didn’t have in December — and after tweaking my Tomato settings on my router to DHCPv6 with prefix delegation — I confirm this via test-ipv6.com.
So it’s all good. Well, all good except for one thing. During all this excitement, the air conditioner stopped working.2 The a/c repair guys are busy today but say they will come tomorrow.
- A Report From Comcast Hell
- Comcast Discovers that Burying a Cable Requires Digging a Trench
- A Quick Comcast Update
- What? You don’t have a second 50′ Cat 5e cable in your house? What do you do when the first one goes bad?
- Those of you mired in snow may not grasp the seriousness of this in Miami even in early March. It hit 81°F today, and was hotter upstairs.
Not only is DRM is the root of all evil but it’s coming to the coffeepot. Keurig Will Use DRM In New Coffee Maker To Lock Out Refill Market:
In a lawsuit (pdf) filed against Keurig by TreeHouse Foods, they claim Keurig has been busy striking exclusionary agreements with suppliers and distributors to lock competing products out of the market. What’s more, TreeHouse points out that Keurig is now developing a new version of their coffee maker that will incorporate the java-bean equivalent of DRM — so that only Keurig’s own coffee pods can be used in it
Spotted via techdirt, More Evidence People Don’t Learn from the Past
Faith just called. She hadn’t seen my email, but her boss had either seen it and/or seen my blog posting, and she’s been tasked with sorting things.
The contractor is coming on Tuesday some time between 8am and 8pm. As it happens I have several meetings on Tuesday but no classes, so I ask if maybe the contractor could call me before starting work and I’ll rush home. Faith says she is going to try to make this happen.
If so, I say, it would be the first pre-visit phone call I’d gotten from Comcast in this process. Faith explains that they call before in-house visits, but not for visits that involve only outdoor work, since you don’t need to be there. (Except, I think to myself, when you are needed to open the invisible immaterial fence, but I don’t say that; Faith is too nice to snark to.)
What do people without blogs do?
I got up at 8am in case a Comcast person turned up at our door without phoning. I felt for some reason that I ought to be fully dressed for such an occasion.
No one turned up from 8-10, of course, and no one called either.
But some time not long after 10am, a Comcast cable moving person appeared at our door. Unfortunately by then we’d given up and gone out to forage for the week’s food. I left my son to hold down the fort, and what follows is based on his report.
It seems our work order is in the system as “low hanging cable” and therefore Comcast has not yet gotten its collective mind around the idea that it should be buried rather than moved. The guy we got today had equipment for burying a cable – to wit, a shovel – but looking over our yard he decided that the cable would have to be buried more than six inches deep. That means the trench is beyond the capabilities of shovel technology, and requires some actual mechanical digging equipment. This, alas, he did not have. As a result he is passing the buck to one of Comcast’s contractors, people who have the equipment that will dig a trench. (Why the cable needs to be buried more than six inches and/or why this fact was not evident to last week’s guy, is opaque to me … unless it was that last week’s guy, being unequipped with shovel technology, was himself in no danger of having to dig a quite long trench.) Today’s guy took some photos and assured my son that the contractor would turn up at some unspecified date and time this week, but not to worry as it was all outside work and we didn’t need to be home. The way it works is that the contractor digs the trench, lays the wire and fills up the hole, but doesn’t actually connect the wire to the house. That job is reserved for true Comcast people who come at some later time to disconnect the old wire (and, I hope, remove it) and connect up the new one.
The idea of some contractor turning up at a random time and digging trenches in my back yard based on photos doesn’t fill me with glee, especially given that there are sprinkler lines and the AT&T phone wire buried down there just waiting to be severed. I’d like to be here when the contractor comes, but for that to happen (1) I’d have to know when he was scheduled for, and (2) be free then, and not least, (3) he’d actually have to turn up more or less when promised. None of these seem like high-probability events, and if you multiply the three probabilities together you get the sort of small numbers usually associated with the resolution of an electron microscope.
Faith, the lady from “we can help,” told me that her hours were 8-5, Sun-Thursday, so I tried calling her to see if she could tell me when the contractor might be scheduled to turn up. She didn’t answer her phone, but the message tells me that I’ve reached her desk and can leave a message. I guess I’ll try again tomorrow.
[Update: I emailed instead.]
Previously: A Report From Comcast Hell
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, I had AT&T DSL. It did what it promised, but it wasn’t fast enough to keep up with the multimedia demands of my internet-media-gulping family (especially when both kids were home), plus the upload speed was capped too low to permit us to take advantage of DISH Anywhere – a service that would let me watch local basketball on my laptop on the road, and to route saved movies to any computer in the house. AT&T doesn’t offer FIOS here. There’s Xfinity, but that wasn’t much faster than what I had, and it cost more unless you bundled with video, which I didn’t want to do since we are happy with Dish and, more to the point, are locked in by the DRM encryption they put on all the movies we’ve saved to watch some day that will in most cases probably never come. Yes, DRM is the root of all evil. But that’s a different story.
So, despite everything bad I’d ever heard about it, and yes I read quite a lot of awful, I got Comcast (for internet only) right before the Xmas holidays. The price was right – even after the first six months of big discount I’d be paying about the same as I paid AT&T – and the speed was more than four times faster down and six times faster up. A good deal.
Except for one thing. Our AT&T cable is buried. I asked Comcast if they would bury the cable, and all the sales guy would say is to ask the installer. The installer didn’t have the equipment to bury cable, and he was in a hurry. He hung a low slung line from the pole to my house, right along the line of palm trees our neighbor has running on the property line. Those trees have big big fronds, and they fall. The line was clearly tree bait. So I decided I had to either persuade Comcast to bury the line, or go back to AT&T, as my service would never survive even a medium-sized storm, much less a tropical storm (which we get with some frequency) or a hurricane (two big ones so far in my time in Miami).
Thanks to the internet, I found the email address of the Comcast people you write to in order to explain you want your line buried. I sent the following email (I’m quoting it because this will be relevant later):
From: Michael Froomkin
Subject: Burying the cable
I recently ordered comcast service for the first time. I asked on the phone if they would bury the cable, they said that was up to the installer. The installer seemed to be in a great hurry, and just ran a very low-hanging line from the pole to my house. This thing is tree bait.
It won’t survive a big storm, much less anything serious. Do I have to go back to AT&T — which is buried — or is there some way you can run this line in a more safe manner?
I live at xxxxxxxx, Coral Gables, FL 33146. Account number is **** ***** ******* .
This email resulted in a phone call in which “Faith,” a friendly and helpful and as it proved aptly-named Comcast rep, first called to say she would take care of it, and then called a second time to set up an appointment for the following week. I basked in my Google-fu, the value of the DSL Reports web site, and looked at the I thought soon-to-be-buried line sagging its way to my house with less worry.
Oh, the hubris.
The first appointment had an eight-hour window, on a work day, but “Faith,” the Comcast “we can help” rep who set it up, assured us that since all the work was outside, we didn’t need to be home for it. This is good, as we have jobs, and an offspring who requires our chauffeur service to and from school. When I got back around 4pm from that school run, there was a message on the answering machine: the Comcast guy had come to the house but had not been able to gain access to the yard. This seemed somewhat odd, as there is no gate to our yard. I called the 800 number in the message, which proved to be a different department from the one that had left the message, and the best they could offer me was a new appointment for the coming Saturday. The slightly odd thing about that appointment was that the window would be 8am to 11pm. Yes, 15 hours during which one of us would have to be home in order to ensure that the Comcast guy didn’t come, ring the bell, find no one home, and run off without checking to see where the cable was. The lady on the phone promised the workers would call before they came. She also took full notes – made me repeat some things a few times – of my complaint that the previous Comcast rep had (1) not called before he came (no message on the machine) and (2) been stymied by the invisible, immaterial, gate.1
Saturday came and went. The Comcast guy (gal?) didn’t. Needless to say, no one called us to explain.
But, on Sunday, with no warning, mid-day, Presto! a Comcast truck disgorges a tech, who rings the bell and asks where the line is that he’s supposed to move. Move? Bury, I say. Oh, no, he explains, that is a different truck with different equipment. He moves lines, he doesn’t bury them. We take a tour of the route of the sagging cable, and the guy offered to take it down and route it on the ground to make it easier for the next team. I demurred, imagining that maybe just maybe there might be some delay before that team actually appeared (little did I know) and that it might not be a good idea to have a naked cable on the ground where the lawn guy might chew it up with his lawn mower.
This Comcast tech seemed to know what he was talking about. He agreed there was no plausible way to move the cable in the air so that it would be away from the trees and still get from the pole to my house. He said he could make me a new appointment with the right guys for the next Saturday, and I could have a two-hour window of my choice. So I picked 10-noon, thanked him, and he drove off.
Later that week, “Faith,” the Comcast lady who set up the initial appointment, called back to find out why it was we had another appointment – and a different one at that – scheduled when she’d already set up a perfectly fine appointment for us. Caroline explained that the first appointment had been the wrong kind – move-the-cable instead of bury-the-cable – and why we needed it to be buried. This, despite my original email (see above), appeared to be a revelation. But “Faith” accepted it, and gave us $20 off our bill for Comcast not turning up on Saturday. Assuming only one of us had to stay home, that values our time at $1.33 hour, which on the one hand is sort of insulting, but on the other hand suggests a somewhat higher valuation of its customers by Comcast than I was coming to suspect.
That brings us to today – Saturday – when we expected someone between 10am and noon, a prime example of hope overcoming experience. Of course no one came. Shortly after noon I rang Comcast at 1 800 COMCAST. The computer recognized the number I was calling from as one associated with an appointment between 8 and 11. Eh? I thought, that’s odd. And indeed, when I spoke with Patricia, who was the soul of courtesy and script-reading, she informed me that my appointment was not for 10-12, but showed as from 8am to 11pm, so that the Comcast people were not in fact late, and I should expect them later. (We will pass over the fact that Miami-Dade (and no doubt Coral Gables too) has various noise and other regulations that would make it an offense to run any machinery after 8pm, so that the latter part of this time frame seems risible.) When I asked to speak to a supervisor, she told me they were all busy, but that “Sergio” would call me back. Alas, I neglected to ask where the call center was located. I was not yet experienced in the Ways of Comcast.
“Sergio” never called. And by shortly before dusk, no one had shown up.
I called the 800 COMCAST number again in the evening, around 5:30, for a status check. This time the computer told me that my appointment was for Sunday, from 8am to 11pm. Faced with the choice of confirming, rescheduling, or cancelling it, I confirmed it. And at this point, I knew I was deep in Sears Can’t Deliver territory. The computer responded to my confirmation with a cheery “OK Your appointment is confirmed. Thanks!” followed by “Main menu…”
But wait, it gets worse. After I hit zero and made my way to a human being, I spoke to the first-line tech, explained the problem, and asked if there was any way I could deal directly with dispatch. Only supervisors could do that he said, so I agreed to be put on hold to wait for one of these empowered employees.
And I held.
And I held.
And I held.
Fortunately, I had recently changed the battery in my wireless phone, so it was up to the 30-40 minute wait.
And, in the end “Wendy” came on the line, and asked what the problem might be. I asked if she wanted the short version or the long version. This proved to be a serious tactical error.
“What?” asked “Wendy”.
I repeated the question (long version or short version), doubling down on my mistake.
“All I want is your phone number,” “Wendy” said.
I gave it to her. The line went “BEEP”. Then I heard a phone ring. And I was starting all over again at the beginning of a different Comcast phone tree.
This time I got “Lou” in the Panama call center. Lou was very friendly and seemed to be helpful. He had a number for “national dispatch” which he gladly gave me: 877 790-1970. Although that is national dispatch, Lou said, they will find a supervisor for my area and contact him. Sounded great.
Of course it was all a lie.
Calling 877 790-1970 repeatedly produced a fast busy every time. Looking on line informed me that this wasn’t Comcast national dispatch, likely there is no such thing, but rather a technical support number. And other people have trouble reaching it too.
(I had also asked “Lou” where I could file a complaint against “Sergio” for not calling me back as promised and “Wendy” for disconnecting me. Lou said I had to call 1 877 424 2028, the complaints line, during regular business hours Monday to Friday. In the unlikely event that this number works, I will have plenty to talk about.)
So, relentless fool that I am, I dialed 1 800 COMCAST yet again. (Spoiler alert: this would not be for the last time.) The computer recognized that I had an appointment scheduled for tomorrow, neglecting to note this was a re-scheduling. I confirmed it, again to recorded delight. (“OK Your appointment is confirmed. Thanks! Main menu…”) This time in the end I got “Rafael” in the Mexico call center. We had a somewhat poor connection, and Rafael had a thick accent that, combined with the low volume, made him hard for me to understand (I’m used to Hispanic accents, living in Miami, but his nonetheless defeated me). As a result, it’s possible I may have misunderstood the first reason he gave for why he couldn’t connect me to “Wendy” who was, after all, also in “the” (?) Mexico call center. But what I understood Rafael to say was that he couldn’t connect me because it was quitting time and all the Supervisors were leaving.
‘AHA!’ I thought, that’s why “Wendy” hung up on me! She saw a long complex file and decided to go home instead! But like I said, maybe I didn’t understand “Rafael” quite right, because when I asked him to switch me to some other supervisor instead, he told me – and I repeated it back to him to make sure I’d gotten it right, word for word, “my system doesn’t have an extension on for the supervisor.” And “I can’t transfer you.” Instead Rafael said that I shall call back the main Comcast number and pick option 4 and that would take me straight to a supervisor.
Of course it was all a lie.
Worse, by this time I knew it was a lie because I had heard the voice mail options for Comcast several times, and I knew there was no such option. But Rafael was adamant, and eventually I gave up.
Again I called 1 800 COMCAST, vaguely hoping that a magical extension 4 might appear like British Rail platform 9 3/4.
Again, the computer recognized that I had an appointment (re)scheduled for tomorrow. Here were my choices: 1-Confirm the appointment; 2-Reschedule the appointment; 3-Cancel the appointment. But, ever hopeful, and dreaming of a secret ‘option 4′ that opened the magic passageway to helpful supervisors, I tried 4 anyway.
The computer repeated my three original options.
So I (re)(re)confirmed the Sunday appointment. That took me to the “Main Menu” and gave me six, count ‘em six, choices: 1- trouble w/ service; 2- balances and payments; 3- moving; 4 – add new services; 5 – remove service; 6 – questions about appointments. I decided I was a six. I certainly had some questions about my appointment, like, “Why does Comcast bother to make appointments it can’t keep?” and “Do all Comcast Saturday appointments become Sunday appointments without telling the customer, and does everyone else in the USA just know this without being told?” and “Does Comcast seriously expect me to spend 30 hours of my weekend trapped in the house waiting for
Godot the Comcast crew, and if so, when do I do my food shopping?”
This time, my first-line rep was “Raven”. We had a clear connection and Raven spoke excellent English. She had a tiny accent that I found it impossible to place. But Raven wasn’t able to help me either. As regards connections with dispatch, it’s by email. But not email they can give me, it’s “internal,” on their system, ditto for chat. She could “escalate” my request but that would not do anything, since the most that could be done for me was to schedule me for tomorrow, and I was already scheduled for tomorrow.
Slightly incredulous, I asked if none of the people I had talked to already “escalated” me. No, said Raven they had not. But my appointment is already a “special request”; thus there is really no point in escalation. I asked her if she couldn’t escalate me anyway, on the what-harm-can-it-do theory. I also asked about “Wendy” who disconnected me. But apparently while there’s a notation in the file that “Sergio” will call me, and no sign that he failed to, the subsequent record is silent as to any other supervisor speaking to me at any time; it’s even silent as to my asking to speak to one. So basically, from the record’s point of view – these are my words, not the polite “Raven”‘s – the record says I’m making it all up.
We compromised on my speaking to a Supervisor. Before being abandoned, I asked “Raven” where her call center was located. “Asia” was all the reply I got; it seemed a rather large area for a single call center.
After only a brief wait, I get “Francis” who is not only courteous but willing to admit that his call center is not just in “Asia” but in the Philippines. I tell Francis the entire saga as I’ve learned by now not to even offer to give the short version. “Francis” is very apologetic. I asked him to stop apologizing, it’s not his fault and instead to tell me what he can do to help me. “Francis” says he’s going to write to the dispatch right away, and says he can give me a two hour time window. And he offers me another $25 credit for the aggravation. We agree on 8 am – 10am on Sunday, he has me hold a few minutes while he transmits this to whoever it is that only Supervisors are allowed to message to, and then “Francis” comes back and says that please will I keep the phone line clear because someone will be getting in touch with me to confirm my new appointment – either late tonight or early tomorrow morning.2
Want to bet?
- My son later suggested that the worker might have been a mime, since they are commonly blocked by invisible and immaterial objects. Although seemingly a fanciful explanation, that would account for why at no relevant time was I ever able to contact anyone from that department on the phone.
- Yes, for Comcast you not only have to stay home for hours, you have to stay off the phone!
I just uploaded a draft of my new paper, Regulating Mass Surveillance as Privacy Pollution: Learning from Environmental Impact Statements to SSRN. Be the first on your block to read it!
US law has remarkably little to say about mass surveillance in public, a failure which has allowed the surveillance to grow at an alarming rate – a rate that is only set to increase. This article proposes ‘Privacy Impact Notices’ (PINs) — modeled on Environmental Impact Statements — as an initial solution to this problem.
Data collection in public (and in the home via public spaces) resembles an externality imposed on the person whose privacy is reduced involuntarily; it can also be seen as a market failure caused by an information asymmetry. Current doctrinal legal tools available to respond to the deployment of mass surveillance technologies are limited and inadequate. The article proposes that — as a first step towards figuring out how to understand, value, and ultimately regulate this mass-privacy-destroying behavior — we should borrow from the environmental movement and require anyone planning a large-scale public data collection program to file a Privacy Impact Notice (PIN). The PIN proposal is contrasted to the existing much more limited federal privacy analysis requirement, known as Privacy Impact Assessments. The bulk of the article then explains how PINs would work and defends the idea against three predictable critiques (the claim that there is a First Amendment right to data collection, the claim that EISs are a poor policy tool not worthy of emulation, and the claim that notice-based regimes are in general worthless). It argues that PINs have applications to surveillance and data-collection in online public spaces such as Facebook, Twitter, and other virtual spaces. It also considers what the PINs proposal would have to offer towards addressing the now-notorious problem of the NSA’s drift-net surveillance of telephone conversations, emails, and web-based communications.
Modeling mass surveillance disclosure regulations on an updated form of environmental impact statement will help protect everyone’s privacy: Mandating disclosure and impact analysis by those proposing to watch us in and through public spaces will enable an informed conversation about privacy in public. Additionally, the need to build consideration of the consequences of surveillance into project planning, as well as the danger of bad publicity arising from excessive surveillance proposals, will act as a counterweight to the adoption of mass data collection projects, just as it did in the environmental context. In the long run, well-crafted disclosure and analysis rules could pave the way for more systematic protection for privacy – as it did in the environmental context. Effective US regulation of mass surveillance will require that we know a great deal about who and what is being recorded and about the costs and benefits of personal information acquisition and uses. At present we know relatively little about how to measure these; a privacy equivalent of environmental impact statements will not only provide case studies, but occasions to grow expertise.
I welcome your comments. I really mean that.
And if you are a law review editor, I’ll be sending it out soon…
The right gut bacteria can make you more or less stressful, and perhaps more or less clever too:
And now evidence is emerging that these tiny organisms may also have a profound impact on the brain too. They are a living augmentation of your body – and like any enhancement, this means they could, in principle, be upgraded.
His team tested the effects of two strains of bacteria, finding that one improved cognition in mice. His team is now embarking on human trials, to see if healthy volunteers can have their cognitive abilities enhanced or modulated by tweaking the gut microbiome.
– BBC, Body bacteria: Can your gut bugs make you smarter?, via Slashdot, Gut Bacteria Affect the Brain.
Apparently a very monotonous diet reduces the variety of gut bacteria. I’m just waiting to hear that processed food was a long-term Communist plot to make us dumber.
iodine by Kryo
iodine lets you tunnel IPv4 data through a DNS server. This can be usable in different situations where internet access is firewalled, but DNS queries are allowed.
It runs on Linux, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD and Windows and needs a TUN/TAP device. The bandwidth is asymmetrical with limited upstream and up to 1 Mbit/s downstream.
Compared to other DNS tunnel implementations, iodine offers:
- Higher performance
- iodine uses the NULL type that allows the downstream data to be sent without encoding. Each DNS reply can contain over a kilobyte of compressed payload data.
- iodine runs on many different UNIX-like systems as well as on Win32. Tunnels can be set up between two hosts no matter their endianness or operating system.
- iodine uses challenge-response login secured by MD5 hash. It also filters out any packets not coming from the IP used when logging in.
- Less setup
- iodine handles setting IP number on interfaces automatically, and up to 16 users can share one server at the same time. Packet size is automatically probed for maximum downstream throughput.
Wiki, bug tracker, source browser and more is available at our trac page. iodine is released under the ISC license.
Test your DNS setup here: http://code.kryo.se/iodine/check-it/
Free wifi in hostile environments like some other universities? And airports and cafes?
I nominate this for second-silliest US political ad to make reference to a turtle:
The candidate, Dwayne Stovall, is a Tea Party guy trying to unseat Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx) in a primary…although the ad seems to be as much about someone and something else.
The holder of the turtle-reference championship, of course, remains the wonderful and bizarre ad by Mike Gravel in 2007 as part of his quixotic campaign for the Presidency.
TLDR: FF27.0.x + FEBE 184.108.40.206 causes text (but not icons) in FF tabs in additional FF windows to vanish after FF restart. Solution: upgrade to FEBE 8.0 beta. Do not blame Tab Mix Plus. Update: see below.
Long version: After upgrading to Firefox 27.0 (and FF 27.0.1) I began to experience an annoying bug. I am in the habit of having a lot of tabs open at once. Thanks to Tab Mix Plus, one of my very favorite addons, I can have the tabs arranged in multiple rows and they stay big enough to have an idea of which is which.
I also tend to have at least two firefox windows open, one for each monitor. I also use the session manager in TM+ to restore my tabs when I close and re-open firefox.
After the upgrade to FF 27.0, I found that the text was vanishing from the tabs when I did a re-open. The icons were there, but the rest was blank. This didn’t happen in the first window I opened, but it was happening in the second window, and every new window. The problem didn’t happen if I closed all the tabs before shutting down firefox. It did happen whether I used TM+’s session manager of FF’s native session manager (yes, I even if I unchecked the setting the in FF privacy manager that tells it to forget my browsing history).
I figured this was a Tab Mix Plus issue. The extension is so powerful that it regularly has issues when I update Firefox. But his time, disabling TM+ didn’t solve the problem.
So it was time to start disabling all my many other extensions in the hope of finding the culprit. This is tedious, even doing half at at time, but it did reveal that the source of my problem was FEBE, the Firefox Environment Backup Extension. Upgrading to FEBE version 8.0beta solved the problem. The beta actually looks a lot better than the old version (the author says it is a complete rewrite and I believe it). It seems noticeably faster, and (hooray!) it allows you to add incompatible add-ons to the ignore list from an interactive dialog as the backup is happening, rather than having to go to the preferences after the backup is over.
If you are updating FEBE from an old version be sure to delete existing FEBE preferences before the update. Tools > FEBE > FEBE Options > Advanced > Clear FEBE preferences.
After the install, whether or not this a new install, you MUST go to Tools > FEBE > FEBE Options. The only option that absolutely must be set is your Backup destination directory under the Where to backup tab. Without this it will not work.
Update: Having tried to fix this on a second computer, I have to agree with commentator parabel that in fact TM+ is involved in some way. With FEBE updated to the beta, I was only able to get a second window to open properly — but not a third. Disabling TM+ solves the problem, but I lose all the TM+ functionality.
Update 2: As noted by commentator John, installing Tab Mix Plus version 220.127.116.11 seems to fix the problem. Yay!
David Kravitz’s Wired article, How Obama Officials Cried ‘Terrorism’ to Cover Up a Paperwork Error begins like this:
After seven years of litigation, two trips to a federal appeals court and $3.8 million worth of lawyer time, the public has finally learned why a wheelchair-bound Stanford University scholar was cuffed, detained and denied a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii: FBI human error.
FBI agent Kevin Kelley was investigating Muslims in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2004 when he checked the wrong box on a terrorism form, erroneously placing Rahinah Ibrahim on the no-fly list.
What happened next was the real shame. Instead of admitting to the error, high-ranking President Barack Obama administration officials spent years covering it up. Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and a litany of other government officials claimed repeatedly that disclosing the reason Ibrahim was detained, or even acknowledging that she’d been placed on a watch list, would cause serious damage to the U.S. national security. Again and again they asserted the so-called “state secrets privilege” to block the 48-year-old woman’s lawsuit, which sought only to clear her name.
The article includes a link to Attorney General Eric Holder’s declaration in Ibrahim v. DHS. It’s pretty awful — even worse than the article makes it sound. Here are the last two paragraphs (emphasis added):
16. On September 23, 2009, I announced a new Executive Branch policy governing the assertion and defense of the state secrets privilege in litigation. Under this policy, the Department of Justice will defend an assertion of the state secrets privilege in litigation, and seek dismissal of a claim on that basis, only when necessary to protect against the risk of significant hann to national security. See Exhibit 1 (State Secrets Policy),§ l(A). The policy provides further that an application of a privilege assertion must be narrowly tailored and that dismissal be sought pursuant to the privilege assertion only when necessary to prevent significant harm to national security. !d. § 1(B). Moreover, “[t]he Department will not defend an invocation of the privilege in order to: (i) conceal violations of the law, inefficiency, or administrative error; (ii) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency of the United States Government; (iii) restrain competition; or (iv) prevent or delay the release of information the release of which would not reasonably be expected to cause significant harm to national security.” !d. § 1(C). The policy also establishes detailed procedures for review of a proposed assertion of the state secrets privilege in a particular case. !d. § 2. Those procedures require submissions by the relevant Government departments or agencies specifying “(i) the nature of the information that must be protected from unauthorized disclosure; (ii) the significant harm to national security that disclosure can reasonably be expected to cause; [and] (iii) the reason why unauthorized disclosure is reasonably likely to cause such harm.” ld § 2(A). Based on my personal consideration of the matter, I have determined that the requirements for an assertion and defense of the state secrets privilege have been met in this case in accord with the September 2009 State Secrets Policy.
I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.
I think someone should lose their job over this. Perhaps that someone is the person who misinformed the Attorney General as to the facts of the case, perhaps not. In any event, Attorney General Eric Holder owes us all an explanation as to why that someone is not him.
As part of the “Today We Fight Back” initiative I clicked the “call your legislator” button on the pop-up I’ve installed here for the day. The way it works is you give your phone number, then their bot calls your phone, asks for your zip code, and connects you to your representatives.
I was duly connected to Sen. Nelson’s office, where they answered on the second ring, and a polite gentleman noted my concerns and promised “to pass it along to the Senator” (uh-huh).
Then the app connected me to Senator Rubio’s office. The phone rang eight times and no one answered. Is no one home? Do they have caller ID and not bother answering calls that come in via the EFF’s app?
Then it was on to Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s office, where it barely rang twice, and another nice gentleman, this time with an Australian accent, took down my info.
Back when I did politics, I used to only half-jokingly say that one indication of a struggling political outfit was if the phone ever rang more than three times. By that standard Rubio is tanking.
Not answering the phone is no way to treat constituents, even if you know they don’t agree with you. Lame. Very lame.
An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say, and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year.
The CIA drones watching him cannot strike because he’s a U.S. citizen and the Justice Department must build a case against him, a task it hasn’t completed.
Four U.S. officials said the American suspected terrorist is in a country that refuses U.S. military action on its soil and that has proved unable to go after him. And President Barack Obama’s new policy says American suspected terrorists overseas can only be killed by the military, not the CIA, creating a policy conundrum for the White House.
Two of the officials described the man as an al-Qaida facilitator who has been directly responsible for deadly attacks against U.S. citizens overseas and who continues to plan attacks against them that would use improvised explosive devices.
But one U.S. official said the Defense Department was divided over whether the man is dangerous enough to merit the potential domestic fallout of killing an American without charging him with a crime or trying him, and the potential international fallout of such an operation in a country that has been resistant to U.S. action.
Another of the U.S. officials said the Pentagon did ultimately decide to recommend lethal action.
and more from AP via Huffington, Drone Attack Controversy: Obama Administration Wrestling With Whether To Target U.S. Terror Suspect.
Shorter version: our government has a kill list for its own citizens. There is no indictment, no judicial review, no trial. Someone in the government signs an order and the execution proceeds.
Pierre Omidyar’s new venture, First Look Media, has its first online ‘magazine’ up and running. It’s called The Intercept. First big story is The NSA’s Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program.
It does go a little beyond what we already knew–that the US can use voice recognition to ID a cell phone user, then use geo-targeting to send a drone strike aimed at the phone–to discuss how the program works in practice (hint: not so great, especially once targets started adopting counter-measures).
The leading candidate for the Florida Democratic Party’s nomination for the Governorship just said that Jeb Bush was a ‘great’ governor and would make a good President. And the Democratic party wants me to vote for Crist?
Of course, Crist himself was a Republican governor not so long ago. And before that, he was ‘chain-gang Charlie’, the Florida Attorney General who, in addition to wanting endless harsh sentences, personally argued before an appeals court that a high school girl who sent a naked picture of herself to a boy who then shared it around should have to register as a sex offender.
Vote for Nan Rich in the primary on August 26, 2014.
I’ll be presenting my latest draft paper, now entitled Regulating Mass Surveillance as Privacy Pollution: Learning from Environmental Impact Statements at a faculty workshop at the American University Washington College of Law at lunch time on Friday. So I’m off to DC early Thursday morning.
This will likely be my last chance to learn what I may need to do to punch up the paper before I send it out to law reviews, which I plan to do very soon. I’ll post a link to a draft of it here once I’ve incorporated the next round of comments.
As far as sending papers to law reviews is concerned, I’ve actually been very spoiled: almost all my work for the past decade has been book chapters or conference papers, so I have not had to send them out en mass to law reviews the way most law professors do most of the time. In fact, the last time I sent a paper out to law reviews seems to be … in 2003. (Has it really been that long?) And in that case, I was even luckier, as that paper was picked up by the Harvard Law Review.
I really think this is the best paper I’ve written in many years; that of course doesn’t necessarily tell one much about where it will end up. It isn’t short (23,000 words and counting), which is unfashionable. And I think it has two ideas, which could make it unwieldy. The political feasibility of what I propose is certainly open to question. But I think it might be somewhat original.
After this, there’s another paper in the pipeline on a very different topic. It’s good to think that I’m over the productivity hiccup caused by my aortic dissection almost exactly four years ago. Coincidentally, I had been scheduled to fly to DC on Feb. 12, 2010, the day I collapsed, but the conference I was planning to attend was snowed out. Had I gone, my aorta likely would have burst in the air, or I would have likely not gone to a hospital quickly enough had it happened in DC. In either scenario, I’d be dead as once it bursts you have less than an hour to be treated or it’s curtains.
So I guess I’m hoping it is the 2003 history, and not the 2010 history, that repeats itself.
I was interviewed on the Takeaway recently, and they played the sequence today. The subject was ICANN’s expansion of the gTLD space. The other speaker was Cyrus Namazi, vice president of Domain Name System Services at ICANN.
For some reason I sounded really hoarse….