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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

Point, Click … Eavesdrop: How the FBI Wiretap Net Operates

Ryan Singel, Wired
The FBI has quietly built a sophisticated, point-and-click surveillance system that performs instant wiretaps on almost any communications device, according to nearly a thousand pages of restricted documents newly released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The surveillance system, called DCSNet, for Digital Collection System Network, connects FBI wiretapping rooms to switches controlled by traditional land-line operators, internet-telephony providers and cellular companies. It is far more intricately woven into the nation’s telecom infrastructure than observers suspected.

It’s a “comprehensive wiretap system that intercepts wire-line phones, cellular phones, SMS and push-to-talk systems,” says Steven Bellovin, a Columbia University computer science professor and longtime surveillance expert.
(29 August 2007)
Related (also recommended by Big Gav): The Freedom to Read Online (ACLU).

Public Domain eBook Submission How-To

Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg eBooks are created by volunteers. This How-To contains some of the basics to get started in becoming a volunteer.

…Turning a physical book into an eBook is a wonderful way to preserve the book, and to make it more widely available. Historically, eBook creation was accomplished by a single person typing in the physical book, a page at a time. This technique still works, of course, and is sometimes necessary (for example, if the book is damaged or extremely fragile).

A more likely scenario these days is for the physical book to be scanned.

…After scanning, OCR software (Optical Character Recognition) is used to turn the page images into text that you can edit. Scanners come with OCR software, and accuracy in excess of 99% is common. Fixing those 1% or so of errors is the most time consuming part. Proofreading is the process of comparing the OCR output to the physical book, fixing problems.

Once the OCR is proofread, it needs to be formatted as a completed eBook. Sometimes, formatting is ongoing during proofreading.

…There are many eBooks on the Internet and elsewhere that are not part of the Project Gutenberg collection. Submissions of these eBooks is welcome! The two main challenges, as mentioned above, are copyright and formatting.
(23 April 2007)

A Guide to Media Manipulation, Republican Style

Paul Waldman, The American Prospect
…in recent years the GOP has turned the technique of making hay from their opponents’ words into a reliable formula for success. Here’s how it works: First, find something your opponent said that might be open to multiple interpretations. Next, take it out of context. After that, distort it beyond all recognition (and don’t worry, the truth-seeking press will offer you no sanction for this deception). Express your consternation, your anger, your amazement that your opponent has revealed him/herself to be such a deplorable reprobate for whom no decent American could consider voting. Finally, repeat the offending statement over and over, from now until election day.

The technique will work against nearly any candidate. Imagine for a moment if a pack of reporters followed you around for a day, recording every word that came out of your mouth. No doubt there would be a few things you said that you didn’t really mean in the way they came out, and that certainly would be misunderstood if taken out of context – particularly if this was a day on which you did a lot of talking, as candidates do. Now imagine that that pack of reporters was following you around not for a day, but for a year.

Why does it work so well? It gives television news programs a piece of video they can play again and again, and newspapers something they can quote repeatedly. But more important, it takes an abstract argument and makes it concrete. “Al Gore is a liar” is a judgment that might be persuasively refuted; “Al Gore said he invented the internet” is a compelling piece of evidence leading one to the same conclusion. The fact that Gore never actually said he invented the internet is only marginally relevant, yet more evidence that facts don’t matter much to the journalists Republicans count on to do their work for them.
(30 August 2007)
Also at Common Dreams.

Although the article is couched in terms of Republicans versus Democrats, the same propaganda technique is used against peak oil, climate change and sustainability. Do you recognize these distortions?

  • Peak oilers predict that oil will run out in the next few years.
  • Peak oilers are doomers who gleefully predict die-off.
  • “They want us to live like 16th century peasants!”

The disadvantage of this technique is that it backfires. Eventually, people learn that those who use it are liars and not to be trusted.

Possible responses:

  • Firm, forceful, self-assured counterattack (not hysterical or mealy-mouthed).
  • Use the opportunity to put forward your point of view.
  • Aggressively discredit your opponenet, using their attack as evidence.