Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Court Probes Smartphones, Crime and Privacy

The arguments Tuesday before the U.S. Supreme Court present very tough problems to resolve - should smartphones/cellphones/tablets always be searchable items by law enforcement with no warrant, or what, if any, restrictions, should be established.

The tech is way ahead of the law. And the court only has a few months to make a ruling - a ruling which I bet will get amended as laws and precedents start being created.

Via SCOTUSblog, some suggested reading:


"But, as the discussion went on, it seemed that there were two lines that would have to be drawn:  one, to define the kind of cellphone contents that were so private that they would be insulated from search; and, second, to define the limits of a search warrant so that the police stayed away from what was private.
The Justices seemed well aware that, even if they somehow were able to craft some Fourth Amendment limitations on searching cellphones, they still would have real difficulty in implementing those limits by telling a magistrate how to write a search warrant to guide the police.  “A warrant for what?” Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia both asked. “What would police have to show [to get a warrant]?” Ginsburg added. 'Although there was a lot of talk about how to figure out what most cellphone users believed should be private among the contents on their devices, there did seem to be a rough consensus that they do believe that, to some hard-to-define degree."

Plain English:

"Going into the oral argument, both California and the federal government told the Court that, whenever police make an arrest, cellphones should be fair game for a search for all of the same reasons that police can search, for example, the arrestee’s wallet without a warrant.  But it’s hard to see five Justices voting in support of that rule, given the widespread skepticism that the argument met on the Court.  Justice Elena Kagan was one of the most vocal opponents of such a rule, telling California Solicitor General Edward DuMont that, following his logic, an arrest for a minor offense like driving without a seatbelt would allow police to look at every single e-mail on the arrestee’s phone, along with his bank records, medical data, calendar, and GPS data.  That, she suggested, “strikes me as a very different kind of world” from looking at someone’s billfold, given that “people carry their entire lives on cellphones.”  Justice Antonin Scalia later echoed this idea, calling it “absurd” that police should be able to search someone’s iPhone for that kind of minor offense.  Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom many often regard as a key vote on the Court, expressed concerns as well, telling Deputy U.S. Solicitor General Michael Dreeben (who argued on behalf of the federal government in both cases today) that “we are living in a new world,” in which someone arrested for a minor crime has her “whole life on [her] phone” and asking whether Dreeben could suggest some limits on the potentially broad sweep of the government’s rule.

'But even if California and the federal government seem unlikely to win outright, the chances that the Court will require police officers to get a warrant whenever they want to search an arrestee’s phone appear even slimmer.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mr. Tiggles - The New Face of the NSA

We really don't  have much choice other than humor to challenge the status quo of constant surveillance. John Oliver interviews Keith Alexander of the NSA, and unveils the cuteification of secret data mining:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Prime Selection of Long Reads

The "long read" nature of my writing style and my general slow, sometimes oh-so-slow, process could - to some readers- appear contrary to the popular binary wave patterns digital lifestyle blurring past us and around us. But hang in there kiddo, it's worth it.

So while I apologize for making you wait for a new post, I bring gifts, a prime selection of long reads - first up is an artist using photography and digital tech to create powerful images. Via Medium, their profile of Adam Maygur begins:

"Adam Maygar is a computer geek, a college dropout, a self-taught photographer, a high-tech Rube Goldberg, a world traveler, and a conceptual artist of growing global acclaim. But nobody had ever suggested that he might also be a terrorist until the morning that he descended into the Union Square subway station in New York.

At the time, Magyar was immersed in a long-running techno-art project called Stainless, creating high-resolution images of speeding subway trains and their passengers, using sophisticated software he created and hardware that he retrofitted himself. The scanning technique he developed—combining thousands of pixel-wide slices into a single image—allows him to catch passengers unawares as they hurtle through dark subway tunnels, fixing them in haunting images filled with detail no ordinary camera can capture."

Please oh reader, explore his images on Medium, as my humble but lovable blog cannot convey how fantastic Maygur's work is:

Maygur says at one point: These moments I capture are meaningless, there is no story in them, and if you can catch the core, the essence of being, you capture probably everything." A constant element in the my own writing/pondering about writing is about the nature of Art itself. By which I mean, what prompts the creation and execution? That leads us to an interview with Phillip Roth, the now-retired Phillip Roth, whose the hands down winner of, if not the long read, the long answer to press questions. And his mastery of language is impeccable. Below, Roth gives an assessment of America:

"Very little truthfulness anywhere, antagonism everywhere, so much calculated to disgust, the gigantic hypocrisies, no holding fierce passions at bay, the ordinary viciousness you can see just by pressing the remote, explosive weapons in the hands of creeps, the gloomy tabulation of unspeakable violent events, the unceasing despoliation of the biosphere for profit, surveillance overkill that will come back to haunt us, great concentrations of wealth financing the most undemocratic malevolence around, science illiterates still fighting the Scopes trial 89 years on, economic inequities the size of the Ritz, indebtedness on everyone’s tail, families not knowing how bad things can get, money being squeezed out of every last thing — that frenzy — and (by no means new) government hardly by the people through representative democracy but rather by the great financial interests, the old American plutocracy worse than ever. You have 300 million people on a continent 3,000 miles wide doing the best they can with their inexhaustible troubles. We are witnessing a new and benign admixture of races on a scale unknown since the malignancy of slavery. I could go on and on. It’s hard not to feel close to existence here. This is not some quiet little corner of the world."

I was deeply grateful to discover a 1999 essay om Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut" by Tim Kreider - grateful because it was a brilliant piece about why EWS is great and critics of the day so very wrong. Ignoring all of Kubrick's previous work is idiotic as he was likely the most thoughtful composer of film images ever to wield  a movie camera. I  too read the movie as a scathing critique of greed and corrupt depravity at the cusp of the 21st century, especially among the mega wealthy, and a critique of those who see themselves as above such lowdown behavior. At heart, their is a murder mystery in the movie and the resolution so typically Kubrickian - intriguing spaces for audiences to ponder on meanings and conclusions:

"The open-ended narrative forces us to ask ourselves what we’re really seeing; is Eyes Wide Shut a movie about marriage, sex, and jealousy, or about money, whores, and murder? Before you make up your own mind, consider this: has there ever been even one Stanley Kubrick film in which someone didn't get killed?"

Let's follow the questions about creating home to Tennessee, or at least the South. Located on the Tennessee River, the music recorded in the wee studios of Muscle Shoals are the very foundations of rock and roll and soul music. The 2013 documentary "Muscle Shoals" has been airing on PBS recently and its a solid 2 hours of artistic collaborations that made history,

Yes, I know, a movie is not a read. How about reading movies? Would that work? Actors in Hollywood have been staging live readings of movies, most recently the notorious script for Quentin Tarantino's western The Hateful Eight" - notorious because it got leaked online, which pissed him off so much he decided to not make the movie and sued Gawker for linking to the script. But actors are doing more scripts with all new casts:

"We started with The Breakfast Club," says Elvis Mitchell, the former New York Times critic who now curates film at LACMA. ... Imagine The Graduate without Dustin Hoffman or Anne Bancroft. Now imagine those roles being filled by Jay Baruchel and Sharon Stone (that was April's other live read),  all in a stripped-down environment with the actors sitting in a row at a table facing the crowd, with their character names on a card in front of them, like the US supreme court in session. The approach has produced some happy moments of inspired casting, such as Paul Rudd and Mindy Kaling in The Princess Bride, Seth Rogen as The Big Lebowski, The Usual Suspects with Dexter's Michael C Hall, and the pilot episode of Breaking Bad, which was vigorously rejigged with Rainn Wilson as Walter White and Mae Whitman an absolute riot as Jesse Pinkman (Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul were among those cheering from the stalls). Other productions have included Ghostbusters, with Rogen, Jack Black and more Rainn Wilson, and a Boogie Nights do-over that was especially well received, with Taylor Lautner as Dirk Diggler and Don Johnson in Burt Reynolds' porn-impresario role."