Thanks to The Agonist for pointing out the quiz!
He begins by asking if AT&T makes customer data available to third parties, including the federal government and law enforcement. When that question produces evasions, he narrows it down, reducing it from a question about AT&T's current policy and including 'third parties' to a simple historical question - one which must be answered 'yes' if AT&T has ever participated in a legally-sanctioned wiretap.
Since it is inconceivable (to me, admittedly) that AT&T has never participated in such an action - even one which everyone concerned would find completely proper, such as one with an open and registered warrant request - Whitacre's refusal to answer the question in the affirmative is a flat refusal to cooperate with the inquiries of Specter's committee.
Specter gives him that out - he says 'if you've been directed not to speak about this by the Federal Government, just say so.' That in no way commits Whitacre to admitting that information has been turned over. It makes his continued refusal the Federal Government's problem, rather than his - the only reason that he doesn't cooperate is that either he believes he has been instructed not to cooperate by an authority which supersedes Arlen Specter's, and/or he and his company have been threatened with punitive measures if he cooperates.
If the first is true, we have a problem. Senator Specter is asking him, as an empowered member of the U.S. Congress, to answer a direct question related to the oversight of intelligence activity by the U.S. Goverment. If he believes that his noncooperation has been instructed by a superseding authority, that means that both he and said authority believe it has the ability and right to stonewall Congress to the point of not admitting its existence, much less the information it is trying to protect. This is counter to all notions of checks and balances and to the freedom of American citizens; the ability to verify and examine the laws under which we live is a necessary right to the maintenance of any just enforcement of those laws.
If the second is true, then Mr. Whitacre is a pusillanimous bastard who puts his company's relationship with its profits ahead of the integrity of the United States - or thinks that the conflict in #1 above isn't a problem for the United States' system. Or, at best, it means that an unknown arm of the U.S. Government is not only exerting extreme pressure on its citizens and corporate entities, but doing so in a manner which it is reluctant to even admit is occuring - which should automatically bring into question its legality.
So which is it, Mr. Whitacre? If the only reason you were stonewalling is because that was your lawyers' advice, then both you and your lawyers are (as far as I am concerned) much less concerned about the health of the American civic and legal systems than your own corporate profits - and that needs to be rectified. If you honestly believe that this is information that can and should be kept from the U.S. Congress as it attempts to perform its duty of oversight with regards to government activity, then you don't believe in that system anyway and I think you need to be removed from any position of influence in this system.
This is all made especially ironic by the fact that at least one leg of AT&T's 'defense strategy' involving government-mandated wiretapping is that "even if it's deemed illegal, we've done it before."
You don't use a telecommunications service in order to provide the government with data. You don't even use it to provide the company with data. You use a telecommunications service for your own ends, in return for which you pay money. If AT&T wanted to grant me free service in return for this form of data-retention and sharing, that (in my opinion) would be a different story. If I was receiving a service without paying for it, I could understand if AT&T (especially if they notified me in advance) were going to utilize my calling pattern data for their own profit - and once the precedent of their retaining and selling that data had been set, the government is just another customer.
However, if I am paying AT&T for the privilege of using their network, I expect the details of my use to be between myself and AT&T. I don't suppose I can expect the fact that I am AT&T's customer to remain confidential, but the details of my purchases damn well should be.
If I had done this magnificent thing, I think the first thing I would do is make a high-quality loop of, say, the season two theme. Then I'd take off the T-Tops, crank that bad boy up to around 120 MPH on a good road and start yelling my ass off to the voiceover of the theme while grinning like a fool.
Computers have changed. Phrases like "It is important to keep the reservoir filled to the fill line. For best results, use distilled water (or another non-conductive cooling liquid)" emphasize this fact to me. Apparently, it's no longer EXTREME to have water lines drooping off the back of your 'puter.
I note that this is similar, if not identical, to the chip in my new iMac. I fantasize briefly about being able to write the following line in a HOWTO blog entry (with pictures) describing how to watercool an iMac: "Using this Dremel, I managed to route the water lines to the heatpipes inside the iMac...
...and the sounds of Apple fanboys everywhere screaming and fainting pervaded the blogosphere. DIY FTW!"
Of course, I'm one of those fanboys. I cringe at the thought of taking sharpness to the boo'ful white plazztic of my iMac. Yes. Yes. Oh, you smell good. What is that?
I'm The Doctor.
The United States has hairy-chested heroes (well, with their chest hair pomaded out) with Big Fucking Guns. In space. They split infinitives in the name of manifest destiny made steel, or duralloy, or transparent aluminum, or what-have-you, and they go as representatives of something Greater Than Themselves. They have rules that they are handed down by elders for the good of All, and they break them when needed - but it's a show when they do. Going places requires sturm und drang, and enough people to run a small town all fiercely concentrating on their jobs even if they have iron bananas sticking out of their ears, or blue light bulbs burning their retinae into their skulls.
Still, it's all great fun, of course. It's just that it's so...much. That's us all over though. Never do something simple like walk out the door. Make a plan, draw up a committee, have a budget, tax the nation, allow twenty percent for shrinkage, never buy one when you can have two for twice the price. Slip quietly out and have a peek at the endless reaches of the universe, maybe with a friend or two along? Naaaah. Better build a Dreadnought, Dick and Jane, because we're gonna damn will bring home along for the ride and damn the gas mileage.
Then, of course, there's the other method.
I have been a part- Whovian for many years, albeit not a very knowledgeable one due to my lack of consistant access to public-access television broadcasting here in the benighted colonies. As such, my experience with the first quarter-century of The Doctor is extremely fragmentary, made even more so by U.S. stations' tendency to show Who episodes in four half-hour slivers. Given that I didn't have a television in my home until I was of age to imbibe, much of my fascinated adoration of The Doctor's wanderings is hazy. It is part and parcel of a sort of muddled confusion of bad sets and costumes, inexplicable storylines made worse by interchangeable backdrops and planets which all looked like a Cornish countryside instead of southern California, and continuity errors which would cause Uwe Boll or Ed Wood to blush.
The Doctor represents an entirely different sort of approach to Out There (capital letters included free of charge). While many folks have lambasted the new Doctor Who series, as reincarnated by Russell T. Davies in 2005, I find it captures this alternate approach beautifully. While US-ians have had heros with beat up spacecraft of dubious reliability, and have had heros with no particular destination or home in mind, we've rarely had one with both. Add on top a delighted air of wonder at it all that (so far) both Christopher Ecclestone and David Tennant have managed to pull off with different emphases yet identical open-mouthed glee, and you have...something different.
"Either you're with those who love freedom...or you're with those who hate innocent life."
"All inferior creatures are to be considered the enemy of the Daleks and be destroyed!"
"Well either you're with us...or you're with the enemy."
"We obey The One...we are the superior beings!"
George W. Bush and the Daleks, Dr. Who on Holiday by Dean Grey
The Doctor isn't a representative of a steely-eyed collective. He's not the tax man. He's not your mom. He's not here to make everything nice and pretty and paint the picket fences white. He's here for a few reasons, likely only one or two of which he'll share with you (if you're lucky) and of course because he can be - so why the hell not?
The TARDIS, the most constant character on the show (it doesn't regenerate - at least, not nearly as frequently) exists solely to wander not just space but time. The Doctor, who doesn't own so much as have a relationship with it, picks destinations by looking up at the sky and pointing at a star before dashing off into the callbox with the sudden happiness of a ten-year-old who has been told there's an entire flock of penguins in his bedroom and they really want him to come teach them to rhumba. No battlecruisers for him. There are plenty of warships and empires and Federations and Evil Death Rays and monomaniacal baddies in the Whoverse, but they're all...them. The Doctor doesn't even carry a weapon. Nope.
See, The Doctor is a nerd. Yeh. He carries a screwdriver.
"Who has a sonic screwdriver?"
"Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks 'ooh, this could be a little more...sonic!?'"
"What, you've never been bored?"
Captain Jack Harkness and The Doctor
"Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks 'ooh, this could be a little more...sonic!?'"
"What, you've never been bored?"
Captain Jack Harkness and The Doctor( The Doctor Dances)
Well so okay, it's a sonic screwdriver, but that's another story.
Anyway, that's about it. Sure, there was a bad bit we won't talk about where he's involved with the military, and is exiled on Earth to save on scenery budgets, but really, let's move on. He traipses about the universe armed with the equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife and his wits. This makes...wait a minute...this makes MacGyver look like a fucking piker. He didn't have a time machine, fer cryin' out loud! Much less one that needed not only repair but psychotherapy once in a while, usually at critical moments.
Oh, yes, I was talking about music. See, there's a lot of it that talks about the Doctor. Why? Why so much about the Doctor, and so little of it (that's any good, really) about That Other Show with big primary-colored toy food and miniskirts? Well, That Other Show is great for namechecking. You have instant Geek Cred if you know enough about it to know your TOS from your TFF, or to know that the Impulse Drive has nothing to do with the word ' impulse' other than as a clever reference (Ha! Betcha didn't know that, didja?).
But the Doctor, now, that's different. The Doctor awakens an instant yearning in us all. At least, many of us. I think. I hope. Or I'm weirder than I know. But at least some of us, or there wouldn't be such a massively great response to music that is designed to make enormous crowds roar and sway and thrash their heads to the words of four-foot-tall Hoovers with terminal throat cancer. Nope nope. Try this: put on the theme to That Other Show. You can find it, of course. The one that has the pretty woman with the steel banana in her ear singing, even. See what it evokes in you.
Okay? I'll wait.
Great. Now go find a copy of Doctorin' the Tardis, by The JAMMs. Put that shit on. No? Okay, take the Dean Gray track mentioned above. Put that on crushingly loud. Crank it. Blare it. Listen to your head vibrate in tune. Now listen. Listen to the theme.
Maybe it only works if you've seen it, I don't know. But there's this appeal, which the new version of the show is perfectly positioned to proffer tantalizingly forward. BAM, here's the call box. Open the door. Walk inside. Keep your cool at the origamicybergeometric unfolding of spacetime inside, just to prove you're an openminded badass. Nod slightly, grin halfway, ask "what next?" and pray he grins back and points at an angle off into the sky without looking and says,
Walk the fuck out of your life and the planet's miserable stagger. Wander. Go Walkabout. Put footprints on a world that no human's ever seen. Hell, find a world that no living creature has ever seen, and dance a jig on the surface - let the next group of thinking protoplasm bags to come across it spend six months trying to figure out just what the hell your footprints mean.
Find wonders we haven't room for down here. Look at them. Swallow your tears and fears. Live the danger.
But don't wait for The Guv'mint to take you there, with its rules and regulations and small-town-starships. Fuck that.
Walk into the box.
If you've seen the movie you know what I'm talkin' about.
The Vanwall GPR V12.
Jaguar V-12. Aluminum body. Replica of 1958-ish F1 cars. Street legal. And for god's sake...
British Racing Green.