James Clapper’s ‘Least Untruthful’ Statement to Congress

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s ‘least untruthful’ formulation of an answer to Ron Wyden made clear that the volume of information stored by the federal government about Americans’ communications has been dramatically understated. Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute, argues that an honest debate about the supposed tradeoffs between liberty and security is one that can be had in public without giving over essential information to bad actors.

The NSA: Future Crime Unit

The country that would become the United States fought a revolution to turn back the kinds of abuses that had made King George so despised. One of those abuses was the use of “general warrants,” a kind of police authorization that required no specific goal or purpose. The National Security Agency, in vacuuming up so much of Americans’ communications, has effectively recreated the general warrant. Here’s Jim Harper discussing the implications of maintaining vast databases of Americans’ communications without cause.

Thanks, Verizon!

Yesterday I got this handy reminder from Verizon to update my phone so I can more easily send everything up into their cloud. Thanks, guys! Talk about bad timing.


The End (of the Free Ride) Is Near

The fiscal crises facing governments at both the federal and state level offers an opportunity to throw off many unsustainable government institutions like massive transfer programs and unsustainable state pensions. Kevin D. Williamson makes his case in The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier and More Secure.

It’s possible that Mr. Williamson and I agree on what’s to come after governments go broke, start breaking contracts (like in Rhode Island) and otherwise throw up their hands and admit that the party’s over. Perhaps I’m just more ill-at-ease over the thought that these agreements with public sector workers and retirees were so ill-conceived and stupid that promises will soon have to be broken.

Jacob Grier May Well Not Be As Bad As I’ve Made Him Out to Be

For those of you who are aware of my longstanding distaste for the beer/food/tobacco/marrow snobbery of Jacob Grier, you may be surprised to learn that I recently chatted with him on the subject of the FDA’s relatively new powers to regulate tobacco and related products. Enjoy.

Virtually identical audio-only podcast here.

As a guilt-ridden occasional smoker of tobacco products, I find it pretty insulting that the FDA’s rules might drive occasional smokers to indulge in more dangerous products by keeping potentially safer products off the market. For example, I have a hard time believing that the e-cigarette is more harmful than Marlboro Lights.

Full Disclosure: Jacob Grier is an underemployed magician/barfly/boozologist who has crafted among the best cocktails I’ve ever had. Buy his book. Read his blog.

An Evening with Karl Hess and Robert Anton Wilson

Robert Anton Wilson is among my favorite writers. Karl Hess was among the first libertarians (er, well, anarchists) I read in high school. As a former speechwriter for Barry Goldwater, it’s quite likely many of Goldwater’s written words were infused with Hess’s influence. This video is an evening discussion between the two of them. Special bonus: They appear to be sharing a cigarette (of sorts) during the discussion.