Nov 232009

Over the past few months, there has been a lot of debate about health care in the United States. Here are a couple of pieces I found interesting. I certainly didn’t agree with what everyone wrote below, but I found the pieces thought-provoking.

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Nov 022008

A few years ago, I wrote about the difference between the Kerry and Bush 2004 campaign websites. I noted that the Bush site had a significant amount of negative campaigning compared to a lack of any negative advertisements on the Kerry web site.

Last week, I went to the websites of the Obama and McCain websites to compare the two candidates’ sites again.

The first significant difference between the two sites was the use of an interstitial page prior to the main web site. The Obama web site had a large plea for money, while the McCain web site had a continuous stream of videos from his campaign. I found the Obama plea for money to be fairly obnoxious. However, it was probably successful based on the amount of money he has raised from small Internet donations. The advertisements on the McCain interstitial were positive and focused on McCain’s prior service.
Obama web site McCain web site

I was pleasantly surprised after the interstitial: both campaign web sites contained a significant lack of negative advertising. The Obama web site seemed more focused on general feelings and optimism, while the McCain site seemed more focused on contrasting the two candidates. However, there was none of the invective found four years ago on the Bush web site.
Obama web site McCain  web site

Both sites this year were focused much more on individual participation than the previous election. Major elements of the McCain and Obama web sites are focused on volunteering and grass-root efforts.

As vicious as this year’s campaign with racism, sexism, ageism, and bigotry, I believe incidents like the swift-boating of Kerry or the Killian document controversy regarding Bush were a low point in American politics. In particular, the swift-boating of Kerry was a disgusting and heavily financed effort to impugn his military career that was made with the full support of the Republican establishment.

For the record, I believe Barack Obama is the best person to lead the country, and I recommend that everyone go out and vote for him.

 Posted by at 11:22 pm
Jul 132008

Don’t believe water-boarding is torture? Read Christoper Hitchen’s piece on undergoing waterboarding, Believe Me, it’s Torture from the August Vanity Fair.

You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure. The “board” is the instrument, not the method.

 Posted by at 10:44 am
Jan 292008

Last week, I wrote about the Mike McConnell profile in The New Yorker. In the profile, Ed Giorgio characterized security and privacy as a zero-sum game. This week, Bruce Schneier wrote an eloquent rebuttal to Giorgio’s assertion. Schneier’s thesis is concisely stated: “The debate isn’t security versus privacy. It’s liberty versus control.” His points are on the money, and I wish more people in the United States heeded his words.

[Schneier’s essay was also posted to]

 Posted by at 9:07 am
Jan 162008

The New Yorker cover of 1/22/2008The January 22nd issue of The New Yorker (last week) has an in-depth profile by Lawrence Wright on the Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell. All executive-branch intelligence departments report to McConnell in one way or another. “The Spymaster” discusses many topics including: the use of torture, defending the U.S. infrastructure against cyber-attacks from foreign countries, FISA, security screening, the state of IT in our intelligence agencies, and the balance of privacy versus spying. I was not able to find an online version, but it is worth picking up a copy at your local newsstand or visiting the library. (If you decide to read this issue, also check out article on the MySpace hoax and subsequent suicide.

Some quotes from the McConnell profile include:

  • The fantasy worlds that Disney creates have a surprising amount in common with the ideal universe envisaged by the intelligence community[…]
  • [McConnell said] “If the 9/11 perpetrators had focussed on a single U.S. bank through cyber-attack and it had been successful, it would have an order-of-magnitude greater impact on the U.S. economy”
  • [Ed Giorgio, a security consultant who ran both the code-breaking and code-making departments at the N.S.A., said] “There are forty thousand Chinese hackers who are collecting intelligence off U.S. information systems[…] We should never get into a hacking war with the Chinese.”
  • [On the definition of waterboarding as torture] The reason that he couldn’t be more specific, McConnell said, is that “if it ever is determined to be torture, there will be a huge penalty to be paid for anyone engaging in it.”
  • [On being asked if Al Qaeda was America’s greatest threat] “No, no, no, not at all” [McConnell] said. “Terrorism can kill a lot of people, but it can’t fundamentally challenge the ability of the nation to exist.”

Wright also briefly discusses his own experience of being tapped by the U.S. government and visited by the FBI. McConnell’s response, while noncommittal, is quite interesting.

The article is 18 pages and required reading for anyone interested in U.S. policies regarding spying and privacy, and the agencies responsible for implementing those policies. It’s thought provoking and provides valuable insights into the man most responsible for spying in the world.

I originally submitted this to Slashdot, but they didn’t run the piece. Today they ran a one paragraph story on a one screen response on to a single quote from the 18-page New Yorker article. Not surprisingly, The New Yorker article is better than either the Slashdot or ArsTechnica pieces. It has better writing, more sources, a higher quality of analysis, and a broader scope.

[Update: included link to article abstract. Thanks, Faisal!]

 Posted by at 11:20 am
Dec 172007

From the New York Times Magazine profile on Mike Huckabee by Zev Chafets:

Six weeks ago, I met Huckabee for lunch at an Olive Garden restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. (I had offered to take him anywhere he wanted and then vetoed his first choice, T.G.I. Friday’s.)

It’s not a matter of elitism or cost. In a city with over 18,000 restaurants with tasty and affordable food, many of them small businesses, it’s sad that a presidential candidate would choose to visit a large Florida-based chain restaurant with mediocre food that promotes overeating and homogeneity. At the very least, he could have chosen to dine at a restaurant owned by a company whose core values mention food beyond becoming “the best casual dining company.” (Check out Darden Restaurant’s core values; they are a cookie-cutter set of values that could describe almost any business.) Given the level of imagination and innovation Huckabee has in his restaurant selection, can you trust him to lead the country?

Link via Ed Levine

 Posted by at 12:22 pm
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