For many years, I have been visiting the Library of Congress congressional records web site at thomas.loc.gov. It wasn’t a perfect web site. There were delays in publishing legislation, and the navigation was often labyrinthine. However, the site basically worked.
Going to thomas.loc.gov isn’t an option any more, though. Recently, that site was shut down, and replaced by congress.gov, even though congress.gov still insists that it is merely in development – a “beta” version.
Giving a beta web site full responsibility for representing an organization as huge as the U.S. Congress has its drawbacks. This morning, I found one of them. I was looking for information about what the U.S. House of Representatives got up to yesterday, and went to the Congressional Record. The link for yesterday’s Congressional Record took me to a page with a curiously titled speech: “Let’s Regain Control Of America’s Destiny”. What an absurd idea, I thought, to suppose that anyone could lose control of their destiny. The whole point of destiny is that it’s beyond control. It’s destined.
I wanted to see what kind of politician would give their speech such an absurd title, so I clicked on the link. The link took me to a speech by U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich… who is not a member of Congress any more. According to the Congressional Record, the speech was given on January 1 of this year. Every single link on the December 5, 2013 page of the Congressional Record for the House of Representatives linked to something that happened 11 months ago.
While the Republican members of the House of Representatives are right to complain about the malfunctions in the federal health care exchange web site, they would do well to deal with the malfunctioning government web site that is developed and maintain under their own roof.
1. Take the data.
2. Put it behind a door.
3. Put a “data” sign next to the door.
4. Lock the door.
I bet the plan works.
Republicans explain their support for big cuts to food stamps programs by saying that they want to reduce entitlement spending. Food, in their opinion, is a luxury that Americans shouldn’t be given unless they really need it. They worry that some Americans might be accepting food stamp assistance even when they retain a few thousand dollars of retirement benefits, or the titles to their homes. They want to see Americans truly desperate and starving before they’re given help buying food.
But then, if Americans aren’t entitled to food, why should they be entitled to roads? We can’t live without food, after all, but entire populations of human beings are known to have lived for tens of thousands of years without roads.
Right now, there are hundreds of millions of Americans who are accepting big government transportation handouts on a nearly daily basis, even though they have thousands, tens of thousands, and in some cases, millions of dollars in their bank accounts. The Department of Transportation keeps paying to create and maintain roads, and then allows people to simply use the roads for free.
U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer is taking on these big government asphalt entitlements with a pair of new bills, introduced yesterday. H.R. 3636 and H.R. 3638 would create methods for drivers to pay for the road benefits that they use, according to the amount that they use the benefits, by increasing a tax on fossil fuels and by creating a pilot program under which the people using government-constructed roads to pay per mile for the entitlement, rather than using the roads for free, as they do now.
Memento mori. Do what you can in the time that remains.
Tonight, I have discovered a gap in the poetic imagination of the English language. Children in the United States and United Kingdom are taught that poetry often uses analogy, a form of metaphor that likens one thing to another thing.
My love is like a boiled carrot…
But what’s the opposite of an analogy? People often say that one thing is not analogous to another thing, but what is that state of not being analogous?
Search thesauruses for words that are the opposite of “analogy”, and you won’t find an appropriate term. You’ll find
These words aren’t exact opposite, though. An analogy is not just a similarity or a likeness. It is a relationship between analogues, things that have parallels that are specifically conceptual in nature. An analogy certainly isn’t an agreement.
Why has the English language avoided the creation of a word meaning the opposite of the word “analogy”? What would such a word look like, and how would it change the way we talk and think about things?
It’s been 12 years that the United States has operated the Guantanamo center for indefinitely detaining people without charges or trials.
This January, it will have been 5 years since President Barack Obama took office, riding to the White House with the promise to close the Guantanamo center. What has President Barack Obama done to close Guantanamo? Nothing.
This January 11, Miami will protest this continued stain on due process and human rights.
This is not enough. Something else should happen. What?
We only provide data to our advertising partners or customers after we have removed your name and any other personally identifying information from it, or have combined it with other people’s data in a way that it no longer personally identifies you….
Your trust is important to us, which is why we don’t share information we receive about you with others unless we have:
- received your permission;
- given you notice, such as by telling you about it in this policy;
- or removed your name and any other personally identifying information from it.
Of course, for information others share about you, they control how it is shared…. When others share information about you, they can also choose to make it public.
Information that is always publicly available
The types of information listed below are always publicly available, and they are treated just like information you decided to make public:
This helps your friends and family find you. If you are uncomfortable sharing your real name, you can always delete your account.
- Profile Pictures and Cover Photos:
These help your friends and family recognize you. If you are uncomfortable making any of these photos public, you can always delete them. Unless you delete them, when you add a new profile picture or cover photo, the previous photo will remain public in your profile picture or cover photo album.
This helps you see who you will be sharing information with before you choose “Friends and Networks” as a custom audience. If you are uncomfortable making your network public, you can leave the network .
This allows us to refer to you properly.
Did you notice how the information that Facebook promises not to sell is the information it tells you will be always publicly available anyway? Conversely, the information Facebook hasn’t made available to everyone is the information that it intends to sell. It’s all going to be available one way or another… but don’t worry, says Facebook, most of it won’t be “personally identifying information.” It’ll be de-personalized, we’re told, not connected to us.
Some worrisome “accomplishments” by computer scientists in recent years cast doubt on the assurances by Facebook and other social media giants. Our nation’s best minds have figured out how to “de-anonymize” your data … how to take anonymous internet posts from various sources and, by putting them together, figure out just who you are. A tip of the pen to Jennifer Golbeck, whose recent book draws my attention to this 2010 study, in which University of Maryland researchers were able to unmask the identity of three “pseudonymous” bloggers writing under fake names. When the authors interviewed these bloggers, they found out that each had good reason to conceal his or her identity. “Quirky Slut,” one of the three bloggers, wrote about her active and varied sex life and worried about whether her activities would cause problems in her social life if her identity was revealed. By paying close attention to occasional odd pieces of information mentioned in Quirky Slut’s blog, and by purchasing information on Americans gathered from various sources by the Alesco Data Group, the UMD team was able to pin down the likely identity of this blogger, even though she had never revealed any names, contact information, phone numbers or other unique information about herself. It was only the combination of various general pieces information that nailed down the identity of Quirky Slut. A short passage from their paper:
In the FAQ page of her blog she wrote “I live in the Albuquerque, NM area.” No more specific geographic detail could be found. The greater Albuquerque metropolitan area is comprised of 44 different zip codes, so by living in a big city and being consistently vague, Quirky Slut is actually doing a pretty good job of protecting her anonymity.
On September 19, 2007 Quirky Slut wrote “My birthday is over. So long teenage years.” She had a previous post on September 17 in which she made no mention of her birthday, so September 18 is most likely the day. She most likely turned 20 that year, making her birth year 1987. Later, on March 25, 2009 she confirmed the year when she described an upcoming vacation. “We can really enjoy Las Vegas since we’re both 21 now,” she wrote.
In her entry on August 19, 2009, Quirky Slut disclosed her marital status when she wrote “I’m not married, nor am I attached to anyone.” She revealed her dwelling size on April 19, 2007 when she described her living arrangements, “Well, I sort of live with my parents but I live in an apartment above the garage they used to rent to students.” This will actually turn out to be the crucial piece of access enabling information that will yield a high
probability of uniquely identifying Quirky Slut.
The following criteria were used to create an Alesco leads list:
• Zip Code: 44 selected for the entire Albuquerque area
• Age: 20-21
• Gender: Female
• Marital Status: Single
• Dwelling Size: Single Family Home
The returned list included just 72 names.
Of those 72 names, just one name had a birthday of September 18, 1987. Quirky Slut’s blog has since been taken offline.
Other academics have developed bulk methods for discovering the names of large numbers of people hiding behind anonymous social media accounts. Take this pair from the University of Texas at Austin, who reveal a method for obtaining the identities of anonymous Twitter users who also use the photo-sharing service Flickr. By looking for similarities in the patterns of connections to others made in the Flickr and Twitter networks, they’re able to identify anonymous Twitter users with a success rate of 88%.
You may not use your name. You may not share your contact information. But people who are willing to work hard enough may be able to find you nonetheless.