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By Any Other Name

March 31, 2010

At the University of Chicago, the bathroom graffiti consists of oodles of really bad philosophical puns, which of course I love.  E.g., “1. You, Kant, always get what you want / 2. But if Hume try sometime you get what you need.”  Who says U.C. is “where fun goes to die“?

Speaking of punny names, the top 10 best names of weathermen across the nation are fairly reminiscent of names for porn stars in their Dirk Diggler-esque artificiality (perfect, of course, for a contrived and manufactured expert persona such as a “meteorologist”):

10.  Rick Dickert–KTTV (Fox), Los Angeles

9. Ray Ban—The Weather Channel

8. Mish Michaels—CBS4, Boston

7. Dallas Raines—KABC, Los Angeles

6. Joe Bastardi—AccuWeather

5. Sam Champion—WABC, New York, N.Y.

4. Johnny Mountain—KCBS, Los Angeles

3. Topper Shutt—WUSA (CBS), Washington, D.C.

2. Storm Field—WWOR (UPN), Secaucus, N.J.

1. Flip Spiceland, NBC WXIA, Atlanta, Ga.

Speaking of things fantastically American, how about the best pun in consumer products I’ve seen in a while: the WineRack.  Take a guess at what that is before clicking.  Yep, you got it.  I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed for America on that one.

Finally, Google has decided to take a stand behind “digital due process,” by updating the only current legislation remotely dealing with intercepting internet communications: the Electronic Communications Protection Act (ECPA), which was originally passed in 1986 in response to wiretapping.

Specifically, we want to modernize ECPA in four ways:

  • Better protect your data stored online: The government must first get a search warrant before obtaining any private communications or documents stored online;
  • Better protect your location privacy: The government must first get a search warrant before it can track the location of your cell phone or other mobile communications device;
  • Better protect against monitoring of when and with whom you communicate: The government must demonstrate to a court that the data it seeks is relevant and material to a criminal investigation before monitoring when and with whom you communicate using email, instant messaging, text messaging, the telephone, etc.; and
  • Better protect against bulk data requests: The government must demonstrate to a court that the information it seeks is needed for a criminal investigation before it can obtain data about an entire class of users.

As you can gather from my use of scare quotes describing digital due process, I’m not sure that this is much more than a stance designed to recover some of its much-lost “don’t be evil” cred, while “conveniently” minimizing the costs of disclosing data to third-party requests.  Either way, it would be nice if government was willing to hamstring itself, and if Google has a financial stake in that outcome, it doesn’t matter what you call “the reason.”

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