Loss of Privacy

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Free Speech

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Jacob Appelbaum’s keynote at LibrePlanet 2014. The talk was delivered remotely via Tor-anonymized, 100% free software videochat.

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Appearing by telepresence robot, Edward Snowden speaks at TED2014 about surveillance and Internet freedom. The right to data privacy, he suggests, is not a partisan issue, but requires a fundamental rethink of the role of the internet in our lives — and the laws that protect it. “Your rights matter,” he say, “because you never know when you’re going to need them.” Chris Anderson interviews, with special guest Tim Berners-Lee.

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TIME magazine generates plenty of buzz each year in rolling out their PERSON OF THE YEAR.

Not to be confused with a popularity contest, TIME is very clear in its criteria. It’s editors state: TIME’s Person of the Year is bestowed by the editors on the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year. Got it? Given those criteria, whom would you have chosen for 2013? Time chose Pope Francis. Even an atheist, like me, who has argued, as I have, that the Catholic Church has been running at a net moral deficit for a few hundred (or a few thousand, but who’s counting?) years can find much to admire in Pope Francis. He talks openly about the Tyranny of Capitalism, he sneaks out of the Vatican at night incognito to feed the poor., and all of that kissing of the feet? Amazing.

Person of the year? Come on now, Francis just took the job, and he heads an institution that still, let us not forget, relegates women to second class status, and protects pedophiles from the full punishment of the law. Could it be that Time magazine was acting in pre-emptive manner? In describing The People’s Pope, Time writes: “He took the name of a humble saint and then called for a church of healing. The first non-European pope in 1,200 years is POISED (emphasis mine) to transform a place that measures change by the century.”

Is another case of our times affinity for pre-emptive action? There was once a time when attacking a country that did not declare war on you and posed no threat to you, never mind shocking and awing it into the stone age, was considered a war crime. Now offense is the new defense and Pre-Emptive wars waged based on lies are now the standard foreign policy of the U.S. Empire. Barack Obama, for his part, has not (as promised) ended the war in Afghanistan. He has not scaled back the Drone Program started under Bush, rather he has escalated it. But before he got a chance to prove himself, the Nobel Peace Committee pre-emptivly gave a peace prize to a man who was and remains commander in chief of what Martin Luther King Jr correctly described as the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. And so it goes with TIME magazine, granting a title based on promise rather than actual impact.

And so it is with pride that I announce the Acronym TV person of the year is Edward Snowden. Edward Snowden opened up a Pandora’s box that cannot be closed. In the Christmas season, many parents of small children will find themselves humming the refrain “he see you when you’re sleeping and knows when your awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good…” to keeps kids in line with the promise of toys under the tree. Adults, however, are now confronted with a reality that can no longer be dismissed as conspiracy theory paranoia: The NSA, for all intents and purposes, sees us when we sleep, and wake. The data, we are learning is being collected pre-emotively. Just in case.

The list of things we know from the Snowden leaks are still evolving; more is said to come. Here is a quick rundown of what we know now:

The NSA is allowed direct access to Google, Apple, and Facebook.

Documents reveal that the NSA makes regular exceptions to only spying on foreign targets. In one-example NSA officials tried to excuse the revelation that they collected all phone data with the Washington DC 202 area code by saying it was a mix up with the “20″ country code of Egypt.

Oh and, by the way, the US spied on Presidents or leaders of what are considered countries friendly to us like Brazil, Mexico and Germany- and also hacked the United Nations video conference systems- the for those of you who are tech savvy enough to encrypt your communications, know that the NSA has been working to systematically influence encryption standards or insert backdoors in the code of commercial encryption software to enable it to access Internet users’ communications.

The list goes on and on. And more, we are told, is on the way. The impact on the world of Snowden’s leaks is real. Our allies don’t trust us, a growing number of citizens here is the U.S. no longer have faith in our government, and the U.S Empire is tottering like Humpty Dumpty on his wall. And so it is clear that the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, to say nothing of the future impact of the mounting Snowden revelations will have in 2014 and beyond is Edward Snowden, the Acronym TV 2013 person of the year.

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Sarah Palin was one of the first conservative voices to defend Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson’s controversial comments about homosexual sex. In a Facebook post, Palin declared that “free speech is an endangered species.” Monday night on Fox News, Greta Van Susteren attempted to explain why invoking the First Amendment in this case does not actually make any sense.

Palin said she would leave it to the lawyers to decide whether it’s a “free speech rule of law or not,” and would herself focus on the larger question of “whether we’re allowed to express our personal opinions without threats of intimidation and mockery and criticism and loss of jobs and revenue.”

“I think people loosely use the term ‘free speech,’” Van Susteren said, without saying which “people” she was referring to. She added that “if the market wants to be such that people don’t want to watch someone, so be it.”

Palin agreed, reiterating that attorneys can decide whether it’s a “legal free speech issue or not.”

As a former lawyer herself, Van Susteren appeared to be telling her guest that it’s not.

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