Reforming Surveillance Authorities

The President’s press conference last week was a disaster by most measures. Conor Friedersdorf has a good tit-for-tat followup. The President essentially denied the patriotism of a man who threw his life away to tell his fellow Americans about how their rights are being systematically violated, then seemed to strongly imply that a rigorous and responsible debate about surveillance was about to spring forth before NSA leaks ruined it. Tough sell, to say the least.

I chatted with Jim Harper about avenues for reforming these broad surveillance powers and a new brief filed by the Cato Institute in support of the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s case against the feds.

NSA’s Bulk Data Collection on the Defensive

I chatted with Justin Amash today about NSA bulk surveillance of Americans and the reaction to his struggle to rein in the agency. Here’s the video.

Spoilers below:

  • He thinks James Clapper should be prosecuted for lying to Congress in March.
  • He thinks Chris Christie’s hamfisted (couldn’t resist) attack on libertarian Republicans is pointless.
  • He doesn’t necessarily agree that the NSA leaker shouldn’t be prosecuted, which his colleague Thomas Massie has suggested.
  • 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.

    ‘Please express your opinion with kindness …’

    Jeremy Drew saw a police officer parked illegally outside a market, so he recorded the officer and asked for his badge number. The officer refused, fired up his motorcycle and then spoke (mostly unintelligibly) to Jeremy. But what impresses me most is that the kid asserted himself to the officer without being disrespectful. It’s a valuable lesson for all of us when we engage with abusers of power, however large the abuse.

    The video went viral. Jeremy then posted a followup, entitled, “My Response to My Viral Video.” It’s damn near the most precious thing I’ve seen in a long time. He asks YouTube commenters to be nicer to him and the police officer involved. I hope that kid doesn’t lose his strong regard for his fellow man and his willingness to directly, assertively and respectfully engage with people. It’s sorely needed … especially on YouTube.