Saturday, August 31, 2013

Does the NSA really want to ban this t-shirt?

My son-in-law Arne called this story on Business Insider to my attention. The gist of Jim Edwards' story was that gift site pulled the t-shirt shown here from its site in response to pressure from the National Security Agency. (Zazzle had been selling these shirts for Dan McCall, the shirt's designer.)

This evening, however, The Atlantic Wire reports, "The NSA Doesn't Mind Parody T-Shirts After All." According to Connor Simpson's article, Zazzle did receive a letter from the NSA... in 2011.

According to Simpson, the NSA advised The Daily Dot, the outlet that first broke this story, that "The NSA seal is protected by Public Law 86-36, which states that it is not permitted for '…any person to use the initials NSA, the words National Security Agency and the NSA seal without first acquiring written permission from the Director of NSA" (some internal quotation marks omitted). However, the NSA's letter to Zazzle, back in 2011 didn't concern this t-shirt (obviously, since it was designed after the Snowden revelations) but rather a mug which apparently used the NSA seal.

This is the real NSA logo.
Note that it says nothing about
peeping or sleeping.
Despite the careless language in the linked stories, the t-shirt in question was not using the actual NSA seal. The motto of the NSA isn't really "peeping while you're sleeping."

But that's OK. The NSA was also apparently careless in its use of language. The actual statute in question is 50 U.S.C. §3613 which provides, in subsection (a) (emphasis mine):
No person may, except with the written permission of the Director of the National Security Agency, knowingly use the words “National Security Agency”, the initials “NSA”, the seal of the National Security Agency, or any colorable imitation of such words, initials, or seal in connection with any merchandise, impersonation, solicitation, or commercial activity in a manner reasonably calculated to convey the impression that such use is approved, endorsed, or authorized by the National Security Agency.
I don't think anyone could possibly develop an impression that the t-shirt depicted in this post was in any way "approved, endorsed, or authorized" by the NSA.

Meanwhile, The Atlantic Wire says the shirt is now available for sale on Cafepress. Click over there and you'll be instantly persuaded that, if Mr. McCall didn't invent this entire controversy, he is certainly taking full, savvy-marketing advantage of it all. And he is certainly not trying to convey any impression that his shirts carry the NSA imprimatur.

Laughing about the NSA?

Screen capture from

I saw the reference to to the very funny site on someone's Facebook page. Given the subject matter thereof, I worried a little about mentioning my source... and finally didn't. They already know, I suppose, but why push it?

When Mr. Snowden made undeniably public what had so long been assumed (and feared) there were the inevitable editorial cartoons. Messrs. Luckovich and Oliphant, for example, weighed in before the end of July.

But editorial cartoonists are expected to have pungent opinions on any given day. They have new opinions, on different matters, just about every day.

But the revelations about the NSA weren't just any old story. It bothers a lot of us on a fundamental level. This can be illustrated in the way in which the story came up in far less political comics, like Dilbert and Dustin.

For those of us old enough to remember when the taking of an oath to preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States was a solemn promise to adhere to the letter and spirit of the document, this is one of those we-have-to-laugh-to-keep-from-crying stories. I thought this last cartoon, from a web comic called Doghouse Diaries, was particularly amusing.

But -- just in case someone in authority is thinking about it -- this sort of thing wouldn't make anything better as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Too busy right now, restauranteur tells would-be robbers -- come back in an hour

According to this UPI account, late Sunday night, Mario Garcia, 39, and Domingo Garcia-Hernandez, 28, went to a West Rogers Park restaurant, the Clifton Grill, brandishing a squirt gun, intent on robbing the place. (The Huffington Post account suggests that they merely demanded food on this first visit.)

Whatever they were after, they weren't willing to pay for it. Garcia and Garcia-Hernandez allegedly threatened the owner with grievous bodily harm if he did not accede to their demands.

The owner was nonplussed. He was just too busy to be robbed just now, he told them. Come back in an hour, he suggested, intimating that he'd be more amenable to a robbery then.

They left.

But an hour later, just as the owner recommended, the would-be robbers returned. The Huffington Post account says that, this time, Garcia and Garcia-Hernandez allegedly demanded $100 in addition to their takeout order.

The owner said, sure, but he needed to get his wife's checkbook. (Apparently the crooks didn't take MasterCard or Visa.) He excused himself, but he didn't look for a checkbook. He called the police instead.

The police came and collected Messrs. Garcia and Garcia-Hernandez, charging them with attempted aggravated robbery. Garcia-Hernandez was additionally charged with possession of a replica firearm; apparently he had the squirtgun.

Friday, August 2, 2013

I received this notice in my email recently

Repeating: I received this in my email.

So... Clerk Brown, am I registered or not? (And if I'm not, how did I get this?)

Well, I suppose I shall have to check. Somehow.