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Obama invites us to respond to Big Brother surveillance
Do we trust DC oversight or not, he asks?

NY Times reports on Obama's 14 minute response in his press conference, originally supposed to be devoted to health care:

Mr. Obama suggested that Congressional debate behind closed doors should offer the public some confidence that the surveillance is not being abused. He said that those members of Congress — and the judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court — were watching the process.

“If in fact there were abuses taking place, then presumably, those members of Congress could raise those issues.” Mr. Obama said. “They are empowered to do so.”

“If people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress and don’t trust federal judges to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution, due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here,” he said.  

The president also said he welcomed a more public debate over the future of such surveillance programs and what should be the appropriate balance between civil liberties and the need to maintain national security. But he said there “are some tradeoffs involved” in that debate.

We already have some problems here.  Haven't you noticed?  OMG, yes, Mr. President, we have some issues with trusting Congress' oversight.  Have you seen their approval numbers lately?  Or yours?

I hate it when my own folks play the voting public for fools.

Congressional approval ratings:
(for those who don't want to click through, it's hovering at about 15%, and is actually up a little bit since March)

Obama's approval ratings:
48% (which sounds good compared to Congress until you look at the comparisons -- deserves a click-through)

There's no metrics I know of for an approval rating for the federal court system where FISA "lives," although this is the first year that the Supreme Court ratings went negative.

Are we watching the death throes of a republic when the communication lines are either this disjunct or this cynical?

Here is the +Sunlight Foundation section on improving Congressional oversight:

Some  interesting observations from sfgate (h/t EFF):
The morning after secret surveillance programs were revealed, lawmakers sought to balance their public expressions of concern about privacy with the need to combat security threats.
Mary T's profile photoChristopher Camp's profile photoKaoru Shimitsu (The Heretic of Ethics)'s profile photoShava Nerad's profile photo
People don't trust the executive branch. don't trust judges. don't trust congress. And beyond that, we don't trust Verizon. or Facebook. or Apple. and sadly, even Google. Therefore, we do have a problem here. 

This problem also represents an opportunity: isn't it about time that, as consumers and citizens, we demanded a different arrangement here? Forget changing the laws, let's change the technology. Let them collect all the encrypted, onion-routed data they want.

Thanks to the wonders of crypto we don't need to trust any of these entities. Put your trust in crypto and then you won't have to worry about whether to trust congress. or google or whoever. 

That said, we still need more user friendly crypto solutions (and services), new business models, etc... but there is a choice here. And the pathway we've been going down opens us up to these kind of trust problems, but it needn't be that way... In some ways it feels like we're already a ways down the slippery slope here, but things could still get a lot worse - we're just on the verge of the age of the quantified self, personal genetics, google glass (monitoring eye movements, etc...) and even brain computer interfaces are within sight. There's still plenty of time to change course (and some profit could even be made while offering a secure alternative to every digital service in existence). 
I'm hearing people all around the net going "Oh noes!" about this, but mostly, they will all go back to "normal" in a couple weeks.

I can't tell you how many people since 9/11 have told me I have a tin hat because I've told them about this kind of thing.  And now several have essentially looked me in the face and  said, "I never dreamed it could be this bad."  /facepalm

Yes we need more friendly solutions.  We also need smarter people who will get out of their ergonomic chairs and be actively involved in overseeing government so we don't have to depend on government overseeing itself when we give Congress 15% approval ratings (up from 13% in March because 2% of us forgot we were more pissed off two months ago).

I am plotting out a possible partial solution.  A hybrid of geocaching,, and the Daily Show.  What if we had a news show that came with actionable items and civic education?  The hell with journalistic ideas of neutrality.  What if at the end of a news story, it said (as appropriate):


Here's the civic background on how the institutions involved work (building out a library over time).

Here's the independent social network for people interested in getting together to actually working for change on this issue in your geographical area.

Here is the linked list for the backgrounder on the issue.

Call your Congressional Delegation:   here's the tool to get the numbers

Here are the people in state government you need to know who are involved:  tool/article

Here's how to research the people at a regional, county, or local level. (article)

Here are the nonprofits working on this problem -- find your local chapter, volunteer or give money or both.


I couldn't do this completely neutrally (who could?), polished or perfectly, but I could do it, and by God I have a small video camera, and I'm inclined to at least start on the project and do something like a Kahn Academy level start on this.

I mean, screw it, I might as well go broke doing this as anything else, right?
Mary T
I don't trust any of them.  I've called all of my Senators and Rep, as well as the White House.  The WH was the least receptive to feedback.  Now, for decisions as to how to cope with the police state, which I will obviously keep to myself. 
I worry about complacency in the public, and the public's buying into government fear mongering.
Every citizen should be outraged.  I will say I have been placed on fairly long holds with each call that I made.
lol, well, let's hope the NSA has good compression algorithms then, or your tax dollars will be paying for extra disk storage...heh...<jk>
I like this idea. A key imo is finding a way to overcome cynicism by making it fun/interesting/entertaining - an emerging community and culture of action. Oh, and it has to have some hope of driving real change. So a full court press of action items - some focused on government (local/state/fed), some focused on NGOs, some profit based (existing corps to startups), etc... The full range of influence at our fingertips. Reminds me of a project I was working on (MassCiv) about a year ago that had the goal of 'making information actionable.' Turned out to be more difficult to do than I'd initially imagined bcs it wasn't issue focused, but your approach seems within reach.
I'll offer some time as a resource if you want a co-conspirator.

massciv link: 
All the freakin' help I can get! :)  Absolutely.
Chris, send me an email at shava23 at gmail -- your email at restartdemocracy seemed to bounce for me?  thx! :)  Liked massciv, and yes this seems coherent.  I have a format for the vlog  worked up at this point.  Not sure how we can fit talents bi-coastally but I'm sure we can do some tool building/research/production/various sorts of stuff virtually.  

Nearly all of Tor worked virtually.  Maybe this could be a restartdemocracy project?  (although, I'd hate to wait for a contest to run for it, I am a grantwriter in background though, we could talk about doing it under your c3 -- you aren't really a foundation are you? -- or fiscal sponsorship or somesuch).

But the state of my health, you'd be better having me as staff/consultant than project leader.  We should talk.  Really what I want MOST is to see this done rather that owning it.
Just posted this as a separate post:

Want to do something about Prism?  Have your company demand a full legal review of every privacy policy of every cloud provider you do business with.

They'll pay attention to government policy PDQ.
I am getting pushback that we need to repeal the whole USA PATRIOT bill but that is just not going to happen.  But showing displeasure around Prism could be a way to show that people are at least paying attention.

I don't know, I think people just don't get it.

Still, Chris and I are talking tomorrow, and I may FINALLY be getting organized around the howtosavetheworld curriculum.  

And I do think it's funny as hell I got two actual direct apologies from folks who told me  they had thought I'd been a bit "tin hat" the last few years, and they take that all back this week.  Nice to know I'm not paranoid.  Foucault would approve. ;)
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