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The Morning Grumpy – 6/6/13

6 Jun

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


1. Every few weeks, as a public service, I like to post this article. News is bad for you and you should stop consuming it or, at a minimum, radically alter how you consume it.

News is irrelevant. Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business. The point is: the consumption of news is irrelevant to you. But people find it very difficult to recognise what’s relevant. It’s much easier to recognise what’s new. The relevant versus the new is the fundamental battle of the current age. Media organisations want you to believe that news offers you some sort of a competitive advantage. Many fall for that. We get anxious when we’re cut off from the flow of news. In reality, news consumption is a competitive disadvantage. The less news you consume, the bigger the advantage you have.

The daily flow of news distracts from the larger realities around us. The hourly/daily updates on internecine political war, crime updates, inaccurate weather forecasts, murders, robberies, and other issues the media prop up as “BREAKING!!@!$” News are simply a waste of your time. I truly believe that.

I know this seems counter-intuitive from a blogger who curates “news” for his readers. However, if you’re a regular reader of the Grumpy, you know that I try to not link to the daily bump and grind of local or even national news, but instead focus on underlying trends or articles that inform movements and larger shifts in ideology. Daily news is  noise that makes me decidedly less informed. I try to consume longer-form work and investigative articles that challenge my assumptions and spend the time to fill out an idea with persuasive evidence. When was the last time you read or watched a daily news story (most likely partially ghost-written by a press release and/or featuring pre-packaged comments from a press conference) and thought, “I’m glad I read/watched that.”? Not too often, I’ll bet.

My recommendation (take it for what it’s worth) is to focus on explainer articles, long reads, features, and investigative work. Buy a New York Times subscription, read The Atlantic, or The Economist. Smarten up your consumption habits

2. Using a federal court order, the United States government has been collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon since April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

The last sentence will be cited frequently tomorrow by defenders of the policy. I mean, they aren’t actually listening to our calls, right? And we aren’t doing anything wrong, so what’s the big deal, right? Well, wrong.  Last August, The New York Times interviewed NSA whistleblower William Binney and learned that all of our phone calls are being recorded and stored. While no one is actively listening to the content of your calls as they happen, the government can go back and listen to those recorded calls in the future if you are suspected of a crime and a FISA court grants permission.

Two weeks later, driving past the headquarters of the N.S.A. in Maryland, outside Washington, Mr. Binney described details about Stellar Wind, the N.S.A.’s top-secret domestic spying program begun after 9/11, which was so controversial that it nearly caused top Justice Department officials to resign in protest, in 2004.

“The decision must have been made in September 2001,” Mr. Binney told me and the cinematographer Kirsten Johnson. “That’s when the equipment started coming in.” In this Op-Doc, Mr. Binney explains how the program he created for foreign intelligence gathering was turned inward on this country. He resigned over this in 2001 and began speaking out publicly in the last year. He is among a group of N.S.A. whistle-blowers, including Thomas A. Drake, who have each risked everything — their freedom, livelihoods and personal relationships — to warn Americans about the dangers of N.S.A. domestic spying.

Watch the embedded clip in the New York Times story. It’s chilling. This story from Wired gives a little more background as well. This is not some conspiracy theory. It’s happening, and we need to give a shit.

3. All that security theater screening we do at the airport? It’s neither objective nor cost-effective.

The Transportation Security Administration has little evidence that an airport passenger screening program, which some employees believe is a magnet for racial profiling and has cost taxpayers nearly one billion dollars, screens passengers objectively, according to a report by the inspector general for the Homeland Security Department.

According to the report, the T.S.A. has not assessed the effectiveness of the program, which has 2,800 employees and does not have a comprehensive training program. The T.S.A. cannot “show that the program is cost-effective, or reasonably justify the program’s expansion,” the report said.

As a result of the T.S.A.’s ineffective oversight of the program, it “cannot ensure that passengers at U.S. airports are screened objectively,” the report said.

So, that’s all going pretty well, eh?

4.  The student loan debt crisis in nine revealing charts.

debt quadrupled[1]



5. Proof the IRS Didn’t Just Target Conservatives – Almost one third of the tax-exemption applications selected for additional scrutiny by the IRS were from groups that were not conservative.

Close to a third of the advocacy groups named by the Internal Revenue Service as recipients of special scrutiny during tax-exempt application reviews were liberal or neutral in political outlook, a leading nonpartisan tax newsletter reported after conducting an independent analysis of data released by the agency.


All told, around 470 groups were flagged as “potential political cases” between 2010 and 2012, including 298 whose experiences were analyzed in a Treasury Department inspector general’s report. Because the IRS by law must not name groups that have not yet been approved or which were rejected, only a subset of their names was made public in May by the agency — 176 cases.

Let’s just agree that it’s not right to target one specific type of group and also agree that obviously political groups are not “social welfare organizations” in need of non-profit status, ok?

Fact Of The Day: US Military Veterans can now choose the Hammer of Thor (Mjölnir) for their headstone emblem.

Quote Of The Day: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize” – Voltaire

Video Of The Day: Slo-Mo Videos are the heroin of the Video Rabbit Hole. This is my favorite.

Song Of The Day: “Kentucky Fried Flow” – Armand Van Helden

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