The Spectacle Blog

Spy Cookies

By on 12.30.05 | 10:51AM

The issue to which Congressman Barr refers is detailed here. The National Security Agency immediately disabled the use of cookies, small files which are placed on a web user's computer by a web site to track their use, after being notified of the issue. These are the same cookies that cause a home page like Yahoo or your bank to recognize you. Web users can disable the use of cookies on their web browsers, thereby empowering them to choose whether or not any website, private or government, can track their usage. This hardly seems like an egregious invasion of privacy.

In the AP article linked above, a representative of the Center for Democracy and Technology, Ari Schwartz said,

Considering the surveillance power the NSA has, cookies are not exactly a major concern... But it does show a general lack of understanding about privacy rules when they are not even following the government's very basic rules for Web privacy.

In other words, the evidence indicates a dumb mistake.

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Hands Down

By on 12.30.05 | 10:36AM

I'd like to see a show of hands -- anyone who believes the NSA, the world's premier surveillance organization, which employs the top computer minds in the world, and enjoys a budget in the billions, left "cookies" on its website by "mistake." No hands? I thought so.

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Koizumi to Israel

By on 12.30.05 | 8:38AM

In case you missed it on the John Batchelor show last night, guest Malcolm Hoenline broke the news that Japanese prime minister Koizumi is making a trip to Israel in the early spring. He's expected to meet with Ariel Sharon and make several other stops in the region, including with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president. Koizumi will pressure Abbas to act more directly against terrorism and will condition Japanese aid to the PA on it. That's a very bold step by Koizumi, and will put Japan at odds with the EU and Russia.

This comes soon after Koizumi's government announced it would deploy a ballistic missile defense in cooperation with us. Japan's emergence is, as my next book will show, a direct result of China's massive military buildup. But instead of following in the EUnuchs' steps, Japan is responding in its own defense and in defense of freedom.

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Playing Hooky in Iraq

By on 12.30.05 | 7:59AM

Someone get this kid a job. Skipping high school to try your hand at journalism in Iraq... completely boneheaded, but I have to admire the grit.

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ABC’s Pope Joan

By on 12.29.05 | 1:40PM

Those naming the mainstream media as their Enemy of the Year (below) won't be dissuaded after learning about Primetime's segment tonight. Diane Sawyer will "report" (read: speculate) about a Pope Joan, a rumored female pope in the ninth century.

In a Video on Demand preview at the ABC News website, the anchorette asks the segment's producer, Ann Reynolds, what evidence exists of Pope Joan. Reynolds responds, "You're talking about the dark ages. t is almost impossible to prove anything. There's no sense of history as you or I would accept it. There's no sense of proof as a news person would accept it. But it's an amazing mystery." Hmmm... tabloids usually run their gossip yarns with more evidence than that.

But what do historians say? Reynolds answers, "They argue back and forth. There's so little hard evidence that I don't think anybody can say it's true. There are people who can say they believe it because of the preponderance of evidence. But we talked to all sorts of them and they have arguments back and forth."

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Judge Jones’ Uncivil Decision

By on 12.29.05 | 1:11PM

Something about the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board Decision didn't sit right with me. Okay, a few things: the huffy tone, the clumsy history and connections between the 1920s creationists and present-day intelligent design crowd.

But U of Chicago law prof Al Alschuler nails it:

If fundamentalism still means what it meant in the early twentieth century, however -- accepting the Bible as literal truth -- the champions of intelligent design are not fundamentalists. They uniformly disclaim reliance on the Book and focus only on where the biological evidence leads. The court's response -- "well, that's what they say, but we know what they mean" -- is uncivil, an illustration of the dismissive and contemptuous treatment that characterizes much contemporary discourse. Once we know who you are, we need not listen. We've heard it all already.

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Hart’s War

By on 12.28.05 | 5:54PM

There's an old story about three libertarians -- a historian, a philosopher, and an economist -- discussing how much they all admire Murray Rothbard. (I'm forgetting some of the details, but I think the economist was David Friedman.) The historian says he loves Rothbard on philosophy and economics, but that his understanding of history falls short. The philosopher says that, though he loves most of Rothbard's work, he has some problems with Rothbard's philosophical writings. The economist adds that, truth be told, he's not a big fan of Rothbard's economic writings.

There's been a multi-blog debate going on over Jeffery Hart's essay on American conservatism in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, and it's gone something like that. Hart gets so many things not-quite-right that the critiques of his essay make up a sort of mini-course in conservative political thought. Happily, Marc Comtois has collected most of them in one place.

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By on 12.28.05 | 3:21PM

Hugh Hewitt is on the case related to the dumping of Federal Circuit Court nominee in limbo Brett Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh was nominated to sit on the DC Circuit back in 2003 and has been held now in all that time. His name was intentionally excluded from the negotiations by the Gang of 14, though in private sessions, sources have told us that Sen. John McCain had offered up Kavanaugh's nomination for sacrifice in order to get other nominees through.

Hewitt points out what a number of other people have posited: that because of Kavanaugh's role in the investigation of former President Clinton's (he was a Ken Starr deputy), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has had a hold on the nomination.

Kavanaugh is but one of several important nominations that Democrats are holding. Sen. Arlen Specter could easily push ahead on Kavanaugh's, while other committee chairmen, Sens. Lugar and Stevens, to name two, could push the White House for more aggressive movement on other nominations they have dealt with, and which are now on "rolling holds" by the full Senate.

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John Batchelor Show: ABC Radio

By on 12.28.05 | 11:53AM

Forgive me if I don't blog much for the rest of the week. I'll be subbing for John Batchelor on his ABC Radio Network show tonight thru Friday night. John's hours are late: 9 pm - 1 am EST, so I'll be dragging in the early hours.

Hope you can catch the show. We'll be keeping John's usual fast pace, talking about the global news with people all around the world.

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