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The Morning Grumpy – 4/30/12

30 Apr

All the news, views, and filtered excellence that’s fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

1. Ten things you need to know about Sen. Marco Rubio, the current leader in the clubhouse in the race to be named the Republican Vice Presidential nominee.

He is not the son of Cuban exiles. He thinks. Maybe? Up until last year, Marco Rubio described his parents as exiles from Fidel Castro’s communist regime in Cuba: “In 1971, Marco was born in Miami to Cuban-born parents who came to America following Fidel Castro’s takeover,” his Senate biography stated. But it turns out his parents actually arrived in the US in 1956, before the revolution, and even made multiple trips back to the communist island.

Turns out, he can’t keep his story straight on any issue, which makes him the perfect running mate for Mitt Romney. Wafflepalooza 2012!

2. The FBI…saving us from, the FBI?

When an Oregon college student, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, thought of using a car bomb to attack a festive Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in Portland, the F.B.I. provided a van loaded with six 55-gallon drums of “inert material,” harmless blasting caps, a detonator cord and a gallon of diesel fuel to make the van smell flammable. An undercover F.B.I. agent even did the driving, with Mr. Mohamud in the passenger seat. To trigger the bomb the student punched a number into a cellphone and got no boom, only a bust.

This is legal, but is it legitimate? Without the F.B.I., would the culprits commit violence on their own?

A good question, one to which we don’t have an answer.

3. The death of facts and the emergence of truthiness as a virtue.

Bill Adair is the editor of PolitiFact, a website run by a team of seasoned journalists that checks facts made by members of Congress, the White House and interest groups. Despite Huppke’s obituary, he tells NPR’s Raz that the market for fact-checking remains strong.

“Whether the fact has actually died or is just on its death bed, I think it means it’s a great time to be in the fact-checking business,” Adair says, “because there are just so many questions about what’s accurate and what’s not.”

“We are in a time when there’s more political discourse than ever … and when you hear somebody say your team is wrong, almost like a referee, you’re going to argue with the ref. You’re going to say the ref is biased.”

I miss facts. Although there has never been a time when we all agreed on everything, I miss when most of us shared the same set of facts.

4. With its non-descript name, the Utah Data Center sounds like the kind of place one would find nerds working on computers and backing up data to tape or disk for long term storage. However, it’s not that kind of place. It’s much more sinister. Yes, sinister.

The blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks.

The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

This dovetails nicely with a bill that just passed in the House of Representatives. It’s called CISPA, and boy oh boy, is this a beauty. If you don’t know what CISPA is, here’s a great infographic that boils it down to the basics and another.

Essentially, CISPA will allow any private company to share vast amounts of sensitive, private data about its customers with the government.  The bill will also override all other federal and state privacy laws, and allow a private company to share nearly anything—from the contents of private emails and Internet browsing history to medical, educational and financial records—as long as it “directly pertains to” a “cyber threat,” which is broadly defined.

CISPA would empower the military and the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect information about domestic Internet users. Other information sharing bills would direct private information from domestic sources to civilian agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security. CISPA contains no such limitation. Instead, the Department of Defense and the NSA could solicit and receive information directly from American companies, about users and systems inside the United States.

All of this without a warrant. Locally, Reps. Higgins and Slaughter voted “NO” on this bill while Rep. Hochul voted “AYE”.  This bill still has a way to go before it becomes law; the Senate version must pass, then pass through conference committee and make it past a potential veto from President Obama who does not support the House version of the bill. Keep an eye on this bill, it’s a big one and no one seems to be paying much attention. I mean, there are big issues like dog eating, sluts, and other fauxrage to be concerned about, but let’s try and keep our eye on the ball this time.

5. What are you worth to Facebook?

Facebook’s amended IPO filing shows that it did $1.058 billion in revenue in the first quarter of this year. If that revenue stays steady, Techcrunch notes, Facebook will make between $4.69 and $4.81 from each of its 901 million monthly active users.

We give Facebook everything. We tell the blue box in the sky about all of our consumer preferences, our location and travel patterns, our favorite music, and our sleep and eating schedules. We entrust it with ownership of our memories, photos (that’s right, once you upload it, your information is owned by Facebook, not you), our history and our “now”. We provide the greatest treasure trove of marketing data ever assembled by mankind and it’s worth barely exceeds the price of a McDonald’s value meal.

Maybe the value proposition is skewed a bit. Most people who use Facebook frequently don’t understand that THEY are the product, not the technology or the website. And that is what is skewed.

Fact Of The Day: The Internet version of the “1% “.  The “90–9–1” version of this rule states that 1% of people create content, 9% edit or modify that content, and 90% view the content without contributing.

Quote Of The Day: “Know what’s weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change. But pretty soon, everything’s different.” -Bill Watterson

Video Of The Day: I’m pretty psyched for the new “Avengers” movie, aren’t you? Amazing what they can do with CGI nowadays…I mean, they brought back Paul Lynde!

Cartoon Of The Day: “The Flea Circus” – Tex Avery

Song Of The Day: “Bonnie & Clyde” – Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot

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