Archive for the ‘WTF’ Category

Dept of Homeland Security believes blogs are for terrorists

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

Slashdot submission:

An article at USA Today shows The Department of Homeland Security believes that “Blogging and message boards have played a substantial role in allowing communication among those who would do the United States harm,” the department said in a recent notice. “I just can’t envision a scenario where somebody posts to a message board, ‘I’m getting ready to launch an IED at this location,’ and the government will find that,” said terrorism analyst Matt Devost. This combined with the U.S. preparing itself for massive civil disorder makes me wonder how much longer until we are completely a police state?

Flaws with the Federal Do Not Call list

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Why is this limited to just telemarketers? Debt collectors, campaigners, and non-profits need included.

I kept getting hammered by an automated call only leaving a number to call back.. A Google search turned up the number belonged to a collection agency in Chicago. They were hammering stale cases and my new number from a move just happend to be one of the numbers they had. I even had it happen after I moved since my number was associated with the address of the house I USED to live in two years ago. The call was for the owner who lived there before me!

I called them and told them to put me on their DNC list. They informed me that they were exempt as they were not telemarketers. I have had the same thing happen to me many times and to friends and family as well. Here is the 411 for you:

1) They ARE exempt from all telemarketing laws. Everyone likes to bring that up on the phone, but they are actually right.

2) So what now? They are still not exempt from basic laws governing harassment. You could deal with your phone company or talk to a supervisor of the debt collection agency and threaten a lawsuit if they keep calling you, or you could just go to….

3) Deal with them under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. They MUST inform of you their mailing address and the appropriate department. Send them a typed letter explaining that you are not the person they keep asking for, you have no knowledge of this person any debts this person has. Demand that all communications to that number cease immediately or you will seek remedies under the FDCPA.

Believe it or not, this works every time under the FDCPA. The reason why is that 99.9% of the people complain on the phone where the debt collection agency is not liable. Hardly anyone ever writes a letter. Write the letter, it will stop. If it does not.. you have a $5,000 dollar insta-claim in a small claims court of your choice.

People are absolutely wrong about somebody deserving to be harassed by debt collectors. Nobody EVER deserves to be harassed under any circumstances. That is why there are large awards in civil court cases for collection agencies with too much “zeal”.

I had clearly indicated I was not the party they were looking for (does my name even sound like “Susan”?). Any calls that occur after this are, by definition, harassment. Now this harassment is not necessarily fully written out under the aforementioned FDCPA, but it does not have to be. This is no different than any other person or company repeatedly calling a random person after being asked to stop.

As you can see from the FDCPA, even IF the debt collection agency is calling the right person there are still rules governing their ability to call them after being asked to stop. You might want to look at:

Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.

Except as provided in section 804, the placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller's identity

Furthermore, at any time a person may send a letter to the collection agency asking that all telephone communications cease. Afterwards, the collection agency may only send letters to the person updating them on any actions being taken towards the debt.

CEASING COMMUNICATION. If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further with the consumer with respect to such debt, except-- (1) to advise the consumer that the debt collector's further efforts are being terminated; (2) to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor may invoke specified remedies which are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector or creditor; or (3) where applicable, to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor intends to invoke a specified remedy.

If all else fails, fix it yourself with Asterisk. Numbers not on the white list are dumped into recorded phone tree maze with endless loops of meaningless choices and no way out except to hang up. It would be even better with a plugin that could try and string them on for a while without actually divulging any meaningful information by responding at pauses with phrases like “that sounds interesting”, “uh-huh”, and “I’m not sure” the goal being to waste as much of the telemarketer’s time as possible on a dead end call (i.e. no sale) before they hang up in frustration.

Punished for a fake identity on the net

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

From Slashdot: “Recently a MySpace user, Lori Drew, was charged with a felony for the heinous crime of pretending to be someone else on the Internet. Using the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Lori was charged for signing up for MySpace using a fake name.”

I have used fake identities and fake information to sign up for user accounts since I have been on the internet. Thanks, but I don’t like spam in my inbox or my snail mailbox giving me “offers” from your business associates. You can continue sending it to Howie Feltersnatch at 1313 Mockingbird Lane somewhere in Ohio.

I really don’t give a flying fuck if IMDB wants to sell my personal info in order to allow me the privilege of posting a review saying that some movie sucked.

I really don’t give a flying fuck if Myspace or Youtube or Facebook want me to provide personal info they can use or sell in return for the privilege of showing me advertisements.

If Meijer’s required me to let them photocopy my driver’s license for the privilege of buying groceries from them, I’d give them a fake ID just out of principal. When stores want me to sign up for a “shoppers card” so they can track me just for the privilege of being able to pay normal prices instead of the inflated ones, I sign up with a fake address and the name Seymoure Butts. Out of principal.

If they don’t like that and don’t want my business and want to ban me – fine, I’ll shop somewhere else. If they don’t ban me, then I’ll patronize them and continue to flout their bullshit and intrusive policies.

But if they want to have me arrested, then we have a serious problem.

Privacy argument – “I have nothing to hide”

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

I had never questioned my privacy over telephones or online until I started hearing rumors about Echelon all over the internet years ago. Then Carnivore was announced and basically confirmed all the suspicions. Everything that’s happened since is just in the wake. There’s more than that though. Even if you have nothing to hide, you can still be mistakenly thought to have something to hide. All it takes is one false positive to ruin your day.

People who say “I have nothing to hide” realize they have already lost the argument and so try to turn it into a veiled personal attack to change the discussion. A good counter to it is “so why would you tolerate someone spying on you if you have done nothing wrong?”

Another argument I use against “I have nothing to hide” is “so when do I come to your house and install a webcam in your bedroom?” It’s shut quite a few mouths. Bedroom is good. Toilet is even better. If they have no modesty, ask them to hand over the account numbers and passwords to their bank accounts. Also ask for their full medical history. If that doesn’t shut them up, ask for the same for their entire extended family.

In light of the people deciding that people don’t have anything to hide, I ask that everyone answer the following questionnaire:

1) What is your bank account PIN number?
2) What is your annual salary?
3) What is your Significant Other’s phone number?
4) What are your passwords to various email and web accounts?

Some people believe that the government does (or could) know my bank account information, my medical history, my cell phone calls, etc etc. The problem is you’re seeing “government” is a single abstract entity. But government is made up of all those petty civil servants at the local council, policemen, judges and so on. Would you be happy to have a file with full details of your children sent to every policeman in your city? Presumably only if policemen were incorruptible, absolutely trusted, and none of them were themselves abusers. If you believe that about the police, well…

So this is why it’s not a question about should “the government” have access to this data. It’s about should all these random people have access to it? Is it really necessary for anyone but one person (my family doctor alone) to have access to my medical history? Or should that be shared with every single snooper at the local council? Should I give the firemen plans to my house, when it’s possible that one of them has a sideline in burglary?

Sure, criminal behavior has changed because of the government’s newfound monitoring power. Instead of using regular cell phones, professional bad guys now use nice untraceable prepaid cell phones…and discard them regularly. So, the data retention has indeed brought on a change – but the change makes the data retention useless.

What the data retention does do is to trip up the only-vaguely-criminal acts of the amateur. For instance, it is now much easier to track down the affairs of an unfaithful spouse, and to win a nice fat divorce settlement. Somehow I doubt that was the original aim of the data retention.

The thing to remember is privacy is not just about moral or immoral behavior. Privacy is the right to control the personal aspects of your life and who you share them with. Privacy just is.

Tech speak vs. corp speak

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

If someone doesn’t know what TCP/IP means or what a CNAME record is, I can direct him to appropriate RFCs that define them.

Now, I wouldn’t actually direct an MBA to an RFC, because his eyes would glaze over about the time he got to “this memo has unlimited distribution.” But what matters is that I can direct him to such a document, because such a document exists. Tech-speak is done with well-defined terms that have standardized meaning, and it is used to clarify how we talk to each other.

If you can point me to a document or documents standardizing terms like “Web 2.0”, “enterprise”, “solution”, “mission-critical”, “partner”, etc., then I will admit my criticism of corporate speak is wrong. However, I don’t think you will be able to, because those documents don’t exist. Because these words’ meanings are not standardized. They mean to the speaker what he imagines he means, and they mean to the listener what he imagines he hears. That, I think, is what business types don’t understand when they compare themselves to techs: what we say means something, because we had to learn something objective, verifiable, and repeatable to get where we are, while they didn’t.

REAL ID – what’s in it for me?

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

First you get an ID.

Then you need that ID to fly.

Then you need that ID to leave the country.

Then you need that ID to get into the country.

Then you need that ID to vote.

Then you need that ID to cross state borders.

Then you need that ID to buy gas.

Then you need that ID to be a legal citizen.

Slowly but surely, it will become a ‘Show me your papers’ issue. Imagine just walking down the street, a cop sees you, maybe he’s having a bad day, maybe you roughly match the description of a wanted criminal, he approaches you and asks for you national ID. You don’t have it though, because you were just going for a walk. Next thing you know, you’re heading down town, handcuffed in the back of a crown vic. Sure, they’ll let you out, once you can get a friend to bring your ID in, or go through the red tape to get the State to produce the paper work, but by that point you’ve been printed, your arrest has been recorded, and you’re out a few hours to a few days getting everything straightened out.

Fear mongers will use it as a tool against illegal immigrants first. By requiring the national ID to be able to do the most mundane of things, they’ll push aliens further out of the legal realm. Then all it would take is another attack to spur off a series of knee jerk reactions that lead to certain racial/ethnic groups having their cards pulled, leaving them as 2nd class citizens, virtually outlaws because they have no ID to prove their legitimacy in the US.

Yes, it’s a paranoid delusion. But so was the idea that the US would use black site prisons, suspend habeas corpus, and invade a sovereign nation on manufactured intelligence. Given enough time, the system will be abused, and civil liberties will be eroded. And the whole time, this card will do nothing to make our country more secure.

There are several things wrong with this:

– Adds another layer of unnecessary bureaucracy to the monstrosity that is the US federal government.
– 10 years down the road the Federal government (needing health care funds) will sell/lease the database to the highest bidder.
– The database is subject to abuse by Federal employees.
– The war on the Islamic radicals is supposed to be temporary. Why restrict what your citizens can do permanently?
– The Government workers will somehow screw up the identities of John Smith in Oregon and John Smith in Georgia. And neither John Smith will be able to clear his name.

I was born here, I pay taxes (property, sales, federal), I own a home, I have kids. I think thats proof enough that I’m not a radical bent on destroying the United States. I should be able to go/do what I God dammed like without further proof. The Feds can kiss my ass.

Department of Homeland Security mandates REAL IDs in drivers licenses

Friday, January 11th, 2008

Article here.

An argument I’ve seen in favor of the REAL ID is “How is this any different than without Real ID? What does Real ID change?”

Because this now will be tracked on a national database. Now…all your movements will be tracked starting with air travel. Where you went, how long, etc.

Next, who is to say what information is tracked? National healthcare? Maybe you are penalized in healthcare since they now know you go to a bar 3 times a week. Cashing checks? Well, they can now associate what you buy each time…tsk tsk…you’re still smoking, eh?

Do you now have to swipe it each time you use a credit card? Why not…it’s not an infringement…it just ‘proves’ you are the person on the credit card. Heck, why bother with a separate card at all? The credit card companies just start using your swipe to associate it with an account with them. Then all the databases are hooked together nicely, and a great picture of your life can then be assembled.

But, what problems would that cause? I mean, we’ve known the government doesn’t make mistakes. Especially ones that are near impossible to get cleared up in a reasonable amount of time, if at all. We all know there hasn’t been anyone misuse their government powers to personally screw with someone life before…so no worries there, right?

I guess think of it this way. Have there been many laws passed for one reason, that haven’t been used for other things? RICO laws used to be just for gangsters. Now they’re being used in creative ways these days for numerous other prosecutions. Patriot act laws were just for terrorists, right? Haven’t we seen articles already alluding to them now being used for less dangerous domestic infractions?

Sure, I paint a slippery slope picture with what the REAL ID could lead to, with its national database, but is it THAT far fetched? Who is to stop the next administration from adding a “little more” functionality to the system?

So what’s going on in America today (why you should vote)

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

Lets’ see…

There’s no money for fixing schools. My property taxes have gone way up due to the fact the current Administration is cutting school aid nationwide. Lucky for my kids we are in a “rich” area so the parents can still pay.

We are pissing away cubic dollars in Iraq on a scheme to keep Iraqi oil off the market, protect OPEC, and keep prices high.

But, we can set up an entire law enforcement apparatus to protect the richest industry on the planet ? Oops, almost forgot, that industry also owns the media outlets (thank you FCC for allowing mass ownership of media) which the assclowns rely upon to be re-elected.

Corporate America has gotten just about every Christmas Present it wanted under the Bush Administration. The Bankruptcy Bill was the first shot. Next, continue to subsidize Oil and Gas companies. Make sure that all worker protections, or public protection, is de-fanged, or given to the person who used to lobby against it. Flat top mountains in West Virginia. Allow utilities to continue to build 1950’s era generation plants.

Meanwhile, block stem cell research, push “abstinence”, and raise the prices of contraception for poor women while making abortion less available.

Bush was honest, once, when he stood before a gathering of huge corporate benefactors, and said “Some call you the elite…I call you my base”.

Next up – roadside execution for speeding.

Hillary Clinton is trying to tell you how to raise your children

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

An article over at tells of Hillary Clinton taking a public stand in favor of shielding children from game and other animation content that she deems inappropriate. Quote: “When I am president, I will work to protect children from inappropriate video game content.”

Her question to the public would be “why on earth should all kids be allowed to go and buy GTA IV, Soldier of Fortune or any similar game?”

Why not if the parents approve?

If your legal guardian feels that you are old enough and responsible to enjoy said entertainment then it should be their right. It should also be their right to prevent their child from playing such things if they so desire by not giving the money to their kids in the first place and/or monitoring their internet activities.

If you bring up tobacco and alcohol, those things are of course dangerous and have been scientifically proven to cause harm. That said, once you are 18 then I believe you should be able to put whatever into your body you feel like, but a parent giving his kids cigarettes is about as negligent as giving them some mercury or cyanide to play with.

Video games and even content of pornographic nature has never been conclusively shown to cause physical or mental harm to the average human. Yes, there are cases where people play a video game and flip out (like kids jumping out of windows because they thought they could fly like in Pokemon), but the same thing could be said about a psycho who reads the Bible or Koran and kills someone because he claims god told him to do it.

Again, if a parent feels their child can handle it or just don’t care, they’ll buy it for them anyways. Its kind of just stupid to have more laws on an issue that in reality is a moot point.

Yet another reason why I’m voting for Ron Paul. I am so tired of the “think of the children!” legislation going through our political branches. Here’s an idea – let the PARENTS decide what’s best for OUR children rather than the GOVERNMENT. We don’t need a nanny state telling us what’s best for us or our children. I can decide what’s best for me and my children on my own thank you very much.

Pennsylvania mother fights RIAA

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

From Slashdot:

A Pennsylvania mom is fighting back, suing Universal Music Publishing Group for having a home movie taken down off of YouTube. The movie, featuring her 18-month old bouncing to Prince’s song, ‘Let’s Go Crazy,’ was cited for removal by the Group for copyright infringement. Mom Stephanie Lenz was first afraid they’d come after her — then she got angry. She got YouTube to put the video back up, she’s enlisted the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and she’s filed a civil lawsuit (pdf). ‘I thought even though I didn’t do anything wrong that they might want to file some kind of suit against me, take my house, come after me. And I didn’t like feeling afraid … I didn’t like feeling that I could get in trouble for something as simple as posting a home video for my friends and family to see.'”

If you read the story then it seems as if this mother went to the EFF and they are representing her. The EFF isn’t a commercial organization, this isn’t a lawyer who is going to get his money wether he wins or loses.

Yet many will spout that she doesn’t stand a chance. Yeah, because the EFF lawyers are NOT leaders in their field with a long history of winning.

This is a video with music playing in the background. Imagine if that was illegal, does the same go for images? Well, you just destroyed all visual media taken in say Disneyland. Disney owns the image rights to their park. Hell, simply picture on the street is likely to have lots of copyrighted advertising signs. Your clothes? Owned by the designer. Could you only make home movies in a sterile white room with naked people? Might get a bit boring.

You could barely film/photograph anything without showing something that infringes on a copyright.

I am not going to watch a video of a baby, but the music was playing in the background, it was NOT a soundtrack added to the video. If we make it illegal to film normal life, we have really bent over to far to the music industry.

But hey, don’t take my word for it. Talk to a lawyer. A good one. Who does his work because he believes in a cause and does it without saying “win or lose, you owe me”.