Thursday, February 1, 2007

A Noble Gathering in Old Milwaukee

There's a lot to love about Amnesty International: it is an organization that is so deeply dedicated to justice, human rights, and truth, that everything it does seems to support and define its mission—including the site selection for its annual meetings.

So while the political and economic kings and pundits of this world are lavishing themselves in the Swiss resort of Davos for the World Economic Forum, AI is planning its 2007 annual meeting in...Milwaukee. That's in Wisconsin. You know, where Hank Aaron used to hit his home runs; where the Green Bay Packers still play football. It's famous for beer, cheese, and very cold weather. Not your shi-shi convention destination, that's for damned sure. But I'm betting the selection of Milwaukee leaves a lot more cash for AI to put into what it does best—defending human rights all around the world. So do yourself and the world a favor: click that graphic and become a member.

Now this isn't to say that nothing interesting or uplifting is happening in Davos, mind you. When Ms. Huffington's in the chalet, you know things will get lively. Check out her fiery exchange with John McCain:

During his response, McCain equated those opposing his position with "the far left."

"Do you consider Sam Brownback part of the far left?" I jumped in.

The Senator flared and told me that if I'd only let him finish his answer instead of interrupting, we could have "a civil discussion."

He then continued on about why he supports the escalation (see his speech to the AIE if you need a refresher). Along the way, he denied that he had used the phrase "the far left."

Ah, fer fun. By the way, Ms. H: when you're done holding the piggies of the powerful to the fire, I hope you can have a look at my job application. You see, I'm sort of unemployed right now, and I might have something to contribute...All right, never mind, it was just a thought.


Pass the Smucker's: our young friend Pepi in Ft. Lauderdale has turned 100 today. So the Philosopher's Stone was not destroyed after all: it appears Nicolas Flamel merely shipped it to the New World. Happy birthday, Pepi.

Anyway, we have a leftover link from Geek Wednesday. C-Net has a journalist working for them—and I do mean a real journalist—named Declan McCullagh, who stands out amid Washington scribes for his willingness to perform the tasks of journalism: you know, scratching the surface, finding the truth, and laying it out clearly before his readers, plain and uncensored. Amazing. Anyway, Mr. McCullagh's feature piece for C-Net yesterday was about some new tactics adopted by the FBI in its data mining activities. Here's an excerpt; but I recommend you read the entire article, if only to restore your trust in how journalism might be (and sometimes is) practiced:

The FBI appears to have adopted an invasive Internet surveillance technique that collects far more data on innocent Americans than previously has been disclosed.

Instead of recording only what a particular suspect is doing, agents conducting investigations appear to be assembling the activities of thousands of Internet users at a time into massive databases, according to current and former officials. That database can subsequently be queried for names, e-mail addresses or keywords.

Such a technique is broader and potentially more intrusive than the FBI's Carnivore surveillance system, later renamed DCS1000. It raises concerns similar to those stirred by widespread Internet monitoring that the National Security Agency is said to have done, according to documents that have surfaced in one federal lawsuit, and may stretch the bounds of what's legally permissible.


Finally, something that I just saw in the Times as I was about to upload this post. America has lost one of its sanest, clearest, funniest, and most challenging voices: Molly Ivins is dead at age 62. If you've read any of her stuff, you'll never forget her. There's a memorial piece about her at Alternet, with links to her marvelous writing. Molly Ivins was speaking truth to power in the most clarion tones back when most of us were sitting in our shit. Everyone in the blogosphere in particular (yeah, you guys on the right, too) owes her a debt of gratitude, for she brought much of the feistiness, much of the cut-the-crap sanity, the mayhem of democracy, as I call it, to the world of Internet journalism. We'll all miss you, Molly, and we won't forget what you gave us.

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