Pluralistic: The real scandal is overclassification; The Australian Chokepoint Capitalism Tour (30 Jan 2023)

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A photograph of the Military Records Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Displayed are some captured German records waiting to be boxed.

The real scandal is overclassification (permalink)

The fact that every president and VP has a garage or filing cabinet or shoebox full of classified documents isn't (merely) evidence of political impunity – it's also the latest absurd turn in the long-running true scandal: the American epidemic of overclassification and excessive secrecy.

Thousands of American bureaucrats have unilaterally classified tens of millions of unremarkable documents without any legitimate basis for shielding them from public view. Meanwhile, millions of people have "Top Secret clearance" and can view these documents, making a mockery of their supposed secrecy.

Writing for The American Prospect, David Dayen crystallizes the incentives, problems and corruption that we should be paying to, and laments that instead, we're scoring cheap political points about the recklessness of presidents and ex-presidents, heavily salted with paranoid fantasies about the Danger to National Security (TM) posed by letting these docs escape the airless chambers of official secrecy:

Overclassification is a well-documented (ahem) problem, used by bureaucrats to cover up corruption, crimes and incompetence, as well as out of the lazy reflex to declare everything to be secret. This is abetted by members of the vast "Intelligence Community" who have rotated into the private sector and have a lucrative side-hustle as TV talking heads who spin spy-thriller fantasies about the risks of these paper broken arrows.

Dayen points to Senator Moynihan's 1997 report on "Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy," and its conclusion that if you declare everything secret, then nothing ends up being truly secret. It's a brilliant, readable, devastating critique of official secrecy. Nothing has been done about its recommendations:

In 2016, the House Oversight Committee concluded that 90% of classified documents should not be classified, the same figure that the DoD came up with in its own report, 60 years earlier:

Meanwhile, the Information Security Oversight Office – which oversees classification – keeps ringing alarm bells about overclassification, with 50m+ documents being classified in a typical year. Rather than listen to the ISOO, Congress has cut its staff in half over the past decade. 620 ISOO employees oversee the three million Americans empowered to classify documents:

In 2010, the Washington Post's Dana Priest and William Arkin took stock of the post-9/11 explosion in state secrets in their "Top Secret America" report: "No one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work."

Attempts to liberate classified docs using FOIA requests fail repeatedly, with US agencies returning heavily redacted documents, even blacking out a report on the plans of the "Group of the Martyr Ebenezer Scrooge [to hijack the Christmas Eve flight of] Prime Minister and Chief Courier S. Claus."

As Dayen says, the talking point from ex-spooks on TV that "overclassification is no excuse for bad document handling," is the equivalent of the old saw that "mass shootings are not the time to talk about gun control." And yet, the press keeps buying it.

Take the Politico op-ed by an ex-FBI spook, who turned the fact that "a foreign leader might like turnip-flavored ice cream into a classifiable scenario," proving that there is no overclassification excuse too absurd to get an airing:

The Australian flag. The Union Flag motif in the top left corner has been replaced with the word 'CHOKEPOINT' and hourglass motif from the cover of 'Chokepoint Capitalism.'

The Australian Chokepoint Capitalism Tour (permalink)

Last October, Scribe Books published the commonwealth edition of Chokepoint Capitalism, the book Rebecca Giblin and I wrote about how monopolistic labour markets are rigged, and how we need to think beyond copyright to get artists paid:

Now, I'm headed to Australia to tour the book there with Rebecca, with dates in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra (no Perth or NZ this time, alas). It's my first time back to Oz since the Walkaway tour in 2017 – the tour where Rebecca and I conceived of this book, as it happens!

First up is Brisbane, with a talk and signing at Avid Books on Feb 8 at 6PM, hosted by The Griffith Review's Carody Culver:

Next is Melbourne, where we'll be back at ACMI on Feb 14 at 630PM, in an event hosted by Esther Anatolitis:

Then we're in Sydney for a Feb 15 event at the State Library of NSW, starting at 6PM, hosted by Maddison Connaughton:

We close out the trip with two nights in Canberra. First, we're at the ANU Cultural Centre with Dr Andrew Leigh, Australia's assistant Competition Minister, on Feb 16 at 6PM (co-sponsored by the Canberra Times):

And finally, we're giving a keynote address for Australian Digital Alliance's Copyright Forum 2023 on Feb 17:

I hope you can make it! Australia is one of my favourite places in the world and I've never had a bad event there.

Hey look at this (permalink)

A Wayback Machine banner.

This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago Feral hippos haunt druglord’s estate

#20yrsago McDonald’s can award A-levels in UK

#20yrsago Category Management: retail trendiness or criminal anti-trust?,1643,46334,00.html

#20yrsago Finnish recording industry demands royalties for kindergarten singing

#15yrsago Tipping-point skeptic says that super-Influencers are overrated

#15yrsago SFWA European Hall of Fame: a chance to read sf from outside of the Anglo Bubble

#15yrsago Romanian manga — manga meets Metal Hurlant meets Marvel

#15yrsago Good As Lily — ass-kicking girl-positive graphic novel for young readers

#10yrsago Guy makes a game about his crappy job working for Canadian tax authority, loses his crappy job

#10yrsago Jonathan Coulton responds to Fox/Glee’s plagiarism of his song by “covering” it and making rival version available for sale

#10yrsago Aaron Swartz’s San Francisco memorial will make you stand up and salute

#10yrsago What the ban on unlocking phones means (worse than you think)

#10yrsago WTO gives Antigua the right to sell pirated American copyrighted goods

#10yrsago American insurers charge reckless rich drivers less than safe poor drivers

#5yrsago What Ken Thompson’s seminal (terrifying!) “On Trusting Trust” tells us about the Spectre and Meltdown bugs

#5yrsago Analysis of North America’s weeds reveal the crops, trade, and cuisine of early indigenous people

#5yrsago Fitness app releases data-set that reveals the location of sensitive military bases, patrol routes, aircrew flightpaths, and individual soldiers’ jogging routes

#5yrsago Apple’s long-awaited podcast data-transparency reveals an ad-listening audience with no clear format-preferences

#5yrsago Property developer caught using critic’s photo in promotional materials, demands an end to criticism as a condition of paying for the use

#5yrsago New York Times profiles a sleazy Twitter follower-farm, the sleazy serial liar who made millions on it, and the celebs, politicians, sports figures and “influencers” who paid him

#5yrsago One quarter of New Orleans’ catch-basins were clogged to uselessness with 93,000 lbs of plastic Mardi Gras beads

#5yrsago A 1×1 tracking pixel was used as evidence of treason against 30,000 Turks, sent tens of thousands to jail

#5yrsago Academic audit of HUD budget finds $351 million in unaccounted-for spending since 1998

#5yrsago Majority of Democrats now hold favorable views of mass-murdering simpleton George W Bush

#5yrsago Scott Walker is terrified that Democrats will win special elections to fill vacant seats, so he’s leaving thousands of Wisconsinites without state reps*/

#5yrsago Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase announce new health insurer ‘free from profit-making incentives and constraints’

#5yrsago After industry adopts open video standards, MPEG founder says the end is nigh

#5yrsago Meet Hereditary Congressman Dan Lipinski, an anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ Illinois “Machine Democrat” who opposes the $15 minimum wage

#5yrsago Convicted criminal Silvio Berlusconi returns to Italian politics as a kingmaker

#5yrsago Berlin regulates Airbnb and safely deflates its housing bubble while returning 8,000 rentals to the market

#5yrsago What youthquake? Jeremy Corbyn’s election surge was drawn from all age groups, not a mob of first-time young voters

#5yrsago Inside big tech’s last-minute scramble to comply with Europe’s new privacy rules

#5yrsago Starlings: razor-sharp stories and poems from Jo Walton

#5yrsago The in-depth tale of Bylock, the Turkish messenger app whose 1×1 tracking GIF was the basis for tens of thousands of treason accusations

#1yrago The battle for Ring Zero: The esoteric argument I have been having with myself since 2002

#1yrago California's chance for universal health care o

#1yrago The Right to Repair: A stupendous new book on a very urgent subject

#1yrago No, payday lenders aren't nice guys

Colophon (permalink)

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