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Think small… or not at all!

The Pentagon seeks SMALL weapons to cut costs and minimize property damage…

… and the Patriot Act has been renewed for “four more years.”

Firstly, the nonthinking… The Patriot Act was renewed for four more years despite the warning of two senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee who actually KNOW how the law is being used: Senator Ron Wyden (D, Oregon) and Senator Mark Udall (D, Colorado). Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are briefed on classified activities and charged with overseeing the NSA, CIA, and the Justice Department‘s “intelligence :-) activities.” The warnings are highly unusual, perhaps unprecedented.

“I believe that when more of my colleagues and the American public come to understand how the Patriot Act has actually been interpreted in secret, they will insist on significant reforms too,” said Sen Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who tried to block the renewal.

The renewal of the Patriot Act followed a 250-153 vote in the House of Representatives. The bill was, I think significantly, signed into law by a machine, an autopen, machines first developed 200 years ago by British inventor John Isaac Hawkins, that trace engraved signatures and are often used to sign cards and letters sent by the White House. President Obama, who was in France at the time, authorized the signing, the first such use of the device to sign a bill into law. A 2005 Justice Department memo concluded that “the president need not personally perform the physical act of affixing his signature to a bill to sign it.” However, Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution states: “Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States, If he approve he shall sign it….” I somehow think that the Constitution might outweigh a Justice Department memo. :-)

Representative Tom Graves (R, Georgia) has questioned whether President Obama was PRESENTED with the legislation before he had the machine sign it and whether the signing was constitutional. He has asked for a “detailed, written explanation” of the legitimacy of using an autopen.

Historically, Thomas Jefferson (who has probably been “spinning in his grave” for quite some time :-) ) was a big fan of autopens. I am almost completely certain that he would not have been a fan of the Patriot Act.

There are two related news items today: a computer program, The Metaphor Program (1) that looks for subversive thoughts and beliefs :-) in foreign (domestic? :-) ) metaphors, since computers, like some Myers-Briggs “thinking-judging” types and many small children :-) are QUITE “literal.” The Metaphor Program is meant to “exploit the fact that metaphors are pervasive in everyday talk and reveal the underlying beliefs and worldviews of members of a culture.” The second item is that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has opened the first ever e-G8 forum in Paris. (Why not? The food is good. :-) ) Media commentator Jeff Jarvis said:

“At least Sarkozy acknowledged that he doesn’t own the internet and his government doesn’t own the internet. Nonetheless, he is claiming sovereignty here and so will the G8 and I have fear in that.

“Perhaps out of best intentions they will try to change the architecture of the internet and how it operates, but we don’t even know what it is yet. It is too soon to regulate the beast,” he said.

The LA Times editorial was more direct: “Leaders of the Group of 8 nations want to govern cyberspace. Good luck with that.” “The declaration reflects the wrongheaded wish of many foreign leader to tame the Net, particularly free-wheeling Web-based businesses and online speech.”

A possibly-related item: The PBS Web site was hacked and defaced after PBS aired a documentary on WikiLeaks. (Gee, I wonder who did THAT?)

All in all, I think that the Internet is too important to be governed by people in suits and ties.

Secondly, on thinking “small….”

“There are a lot of weapons in the military’s arsenal,” said Lt. Col. Brad Beach, an official who coordinates the Marines’ drone technology. “But what we don’t have is something small.”

(See my earlier blog entry about the Pentagon’s “Nano Hummingbird” surveillance drone.)

California businesses are among those working on a new generation of smaller weapons that would exact less of a toll on property and human lives… or “let’s be real,” on PROPERTY. L-3 Interstate Elecronics Corporation in Anaheim is working on a GPS guidance system for a 13-pound “smart bomb” that would be attached to a small, low-flying drone. Engineers in Simi Valley at AeroVironment Inc. (the “Nano Hummingbird” people :-) ) are developing a mini-cruise missile that will fit in a soldier’s rucksack, be fired from a mortar, and scout the battlefield for enemy targets.

The 13-pound “smart bomb” has been under development for three years by Raytheon Company. The 2-foot-long bomb is steared by a GPS-guided system made in Anaheim and called Small Tactical Munition, or STM (gotta have an acronym).

AeroVironment’s “Switchblade” mini-cruise missile unfolds its wings after being launched from a mortar and sends live video and GPS coordinates to the soldier who launched it. The battery-powered drone is tipped with a tiny warhead and operated by a handheld controller. Switchblade will fly above a war zone for at least five minutes and for more than a mile at a time.

Alice knew about thinking small:

“And so it was indeed: she was now only ten inches high, and her face brightened up at the thought that she was now the right size for going through the little door into that lovely garden. First, however, she waited for a few minutes to see if she was going to shrink any further: she felt a little nervous about this; ‘for it might end, you know,’ said Alice to herself, ‘in my going out altogether, like a candle. I wonder what I should be like then?’ And she tried to fancy what the flame of a candle is like after the candle is blown out, for she could not remember ever having seen such a thing.”

It is must be a lot like the extinguishing of freedoms and liberty.

-Bill at

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