Are you a Twitter user? I am (you can follow me at @Daddypundit). Recently I wrote an essay on the pros and cons of the popular social media platform.
Edward Snowden was brought to the attention of the world by Glenn Greenwald, reporter for the Guardian newspaper in the UK. From him we learned that the government has been keeping what’s called “metadata” from every phone call made in the United States. By way of explanation, metadata is basically data about the data. If the phone call is the data, then its metadata would be the number calling from and to, the length of the call, the time of day, things like that. The data – the call itself – is not kept; just the metadata.
I’m of two minds on this subject. First, there is the idea that the government is large enough, and computerization is to the point where, all this data can be compiled and stored, in preparation for a search term to be named later. Something like that strikes a chord in just about anybody. Is it legal? But more than that, is it something the government ought to be doing in the first place? Part of me says, no, this is too much. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who wrote the 2001 Patriot Act, said that something like this was excessive and not the intent of the law. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, he pointed out that the key section of the law that allows the government to obtain business records requires the information to be relevant to an authorized investigation. And clearly, not every single phone caller in the US is part of an authorized investigation. The Patriot Act is a favorite target of some, a whipping boy to bring out every time there is a privacy issue, but you can’t blame it for this. This is government overreach.
But the other “mind” I have on this goes along with someone who was interviewed on some news show that I can no longer recall. He said, basically, that when the time comes that you need to find a needle in a haystack, first you need a haystack. If we recover a throw-away cell phone from a terrorist, how do we find out what other numbers it called or called it, to track down leads? Well, we need a database of all phone call metadata to find that out.
There’s a term from decades ago called the “pen register”. That’s really what we now call phone call metadata. A Supreme Court ruling from 1979 (when I graduated from high school to give you an idea of how old that is…well, and I am) said that the use of a pen register is not an invasion of privacy. In fact, did you know that, under the Freedom of Information Act, you or I could get this information from any government phone? Well, except the classified ones. But we have access to it. It’s not illegal, and at least for the government’s part, their data is just as available as your data. How big a deal can it really be?
Overtop of all this is the question of the proper role of government, and what should it be allowed to do; the question of what should be legal vs. what is. But I would say that there’s an even deeper question that needs to be asked. Regardless of what should be legal, do we trust our government? Will it stay within the confines that we, through our representatives, have set for it? Moving more to the personal, will the individuals, the people, in our government execute their powers in a responsible fashion?
The week progresses. Thursday already, eh? Links!
Well, not much garnered … I took daughter #1 to a baseball game last night … 1 hour fog delay? What’s up with that? Seriously, fog?
ObamaCare will require the use of an ID card. Does that make it racist? If not, would requiring an ID card to vote be racist? Or how about this; what if we used the ObamaCare card as a voter ID card? Would heads explode?
Here’s a report about the controversy a private club has found itself embroiled in.
The Boy Scouts of America will get no reprieve from controversy after a contentious vote to accept alcoholic boys as Scouts.
Dismayed conservatives are already looking at alternative youth groups as they predict a mass exodus from the BSA. Alcoholics-rights supporters vowed Friday to maintain pressure on the Scouts to end the still-in-place ban on alcoholic adults serving as leaders.
"They’re not on our good list yet," said Paul Guequierre of the Human Rights Campaign, a national alcoholic -rights group. He said the HRC, in its annual rankings of corporate policies on workplace fairness, would deduct points from companies that donate to the Boy Scouts until the ban on alcoholic adults is lifted.
Now, you may be wondering why you didn’t hear about this particular scandal, and the reason is it hasn’t happened. I just took a news article and replaced every mention of the word “gay” with the word “alcoholic”. All of a sudden, it sounds absolutely nuts, doesn’t it? Should the Scouts be allowed to discriminate against alcoholics? Set aside for the moment that the drinking age is such that it would exclude boys in the Scouts age range, would the Scouts come under fire for not allowing boys who are what you might call “practicing alcoholics” into its ranks? Would any human rights group fault them for having a ban on alcoholic adults as Scout leaders?
The plain fact is, no, they wouldn’t. The official policy of the Boy Scouts of America is that alcohol is not permitted “at encampments or activities on property owned and/or operated by the Boy Scouts of America, or at any activity involving participation of youth members.” Certainly a troop leader showing up drunk wouldn’t be tolerated. They’ve made that rule, and no one (that I know of) is coming down on them for it.
And yet the Human Rights Campaign and others have been pressuring the Scouts to set aside their ban on homosexual boys in Scouting. Why? Well, because they’re born that way, as our culture keeps reminding us, so to discriminate against them is unfair and bigoted, right? And yet, there is research that shows conclusively that alcoholism is, in part, genetic as well. In fact, there is more evidence of that than there is evidence of homosexuality having a genetic component. It’s being studied, but right now, nothing is at all conclusive, unlike the way the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism describe the genetic link.
If they’re born that way, and if being born that way means no one can discriminate against that trait for any reason, well, is that a Pandora’s box you really want to open?
At its core, the ban on gay Scouts was partly a moral stance, with the Scout Oath including a phrase about being morally straight. It was also partly an issue of general sexuality. Would you want your boy sharing tent with a girl? Or, more generally, with someone who may be sexually attracted to him? Consider this.
And while the Scouts have lifted the ban on gay Scouts, they’ve kept it for Scout leaders. The HRC doesn’t like that, either. Let’s think about this. Those priests that got accused of molesting boys can now trade out their collar for a khaki shirt and become a Scoutmaster. What would the HRC think about that?
Woo hoo, 5 days in a row.
Good morning. Yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah