Archive for the ‘Politics’ 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?

Radar gun inaccuracies

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

The innacuracies are in the new guns and their “pop” mode. Basically it is an ultrafast start and shutdown mode for the gun. The reason is, of course, RADAR detectors. They’ve gotten quite good. They don’t necessarily need the gun to be on and transmitting to pick it up. When the gun is in standby (with it’s electronics operating but not transmitting a beam) they can still be picked up. Same sort of way RADAR counterdetectors work. Even though the detector itself isn’t trying to emit anything, it does anyhow (as does any superheterodyne device).

Ok, great, however you might pause to wonder about the ability to electronics operating in the 30GHz range to quickly come on and stabilise and, well, you’d be right. Guns in “pop” mode aren’t accurate. In part due to the fast start, in part due to less data points, they can produce unreliable readings. The gun manufacturers say that pop mode isn’t to be used as a final speed measurement, but that doesn’t stop police forces from doing so anyhow.

Or it could be even more simple: The gun wasn’t calibrated. Like any precision device, they need periodic recalibration. Had this been allowed to happen, it is entirely possible the gun was producing inaccurate readings.

It is a good idea for all drivers to take a little time to educate themselves about various speed measurement technologies and such. While I’d say the majority of police departments use their equipment right and the tickets are legit, they aren’t always. If you get nailed with a bogus ticket, you don’t necessarily need GPS to fight it. Tell the department you want the calibration records for the gun in question, find out if it was in pop mode, etc, etc. If they screwed up, let the judge know and they’ll most likely drop the ticket.

Vote NO for the 850 billion bailout – alternate solution

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

Here’s another idea to throw around to fix some of the financial problems this nation is running into. If you divide 850 billion by 301 million citizens in the U.S. (man, woman, child), you end up with $2,823.92 per person. How about giving that money to each family and let THEM decide whether or not to “donate” it to the banks? Honestly, the banks will end up with most of it anyways. If you have a family of 4 in a household, that household would get $11,295.68. Chances are, they’d pay off quite a bit of debt with that money as they did with the “stimulus” package handed out a few months ago. So, the banks get those bad debts paid for as well as a boost in their finances. Consumers win because they get some debt paid off and the banks win because they’ll be getting their billions, but in a more LEGITIMATE way. Taxpayers win because then they’ll feel a LOT better by getting THEIR money back to pay off their debt rather than hand the money to the banks…and still have their debt. See? Everyone wins – ESPECIALLY the taxpayer who contributed the money to begin with.

How to communicate with the “business” side

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

As IT people, we look at the world logically; we know that if A follows B and B follows C then A must also follow C. We know that if the user wants to view the balance on an account, they better have the account number before viewing it. However, business people don’t seem to have that same view. We assume they aren’t interested, or that they’re illogical when they say “why do I have to enter the account number to view the account balance?”

The problem I find is usually one of language. For example, in the question above I figured out the business person wasn’t being ignorant of the need for an account number. They simply wanted to *scan* it, not *enter* it. To us IT people, there’s absolutely no difference how the number gets into the system, but to them that difference seemed so great they had to point it out that they never wanted to *enter* it again.

Yes, there are obstinate and stupid people out there, but not everyone with those questions is either. And the moment we respond to a question like the one above with a groan or a “duh!” comment, we do become condescending and anti-business. The best way to deal with these questions is to keep the dialog from degenerating. Rephrase the question, restate your problem with their assertion, and get them to confirm it again. Something such as “well, we need the account number before we can show the account balance, so where do you want us to get the account number from?”

Keep the discussion friendly, don’t get patronizing or condescending. Try hard to discover the real root of their issue. It’s critical to treat them like peers, and not talk down to them. Remember that they must bring some value to someone in the business, so try to respect that. And yes, sometimes it’s harder than others, and sometimes it’s just never, ever going to sink in. Try bringing in other people to moderate the discussion, or to bring alternate suggestions.

“Think of the Children” legislation

Monday, September 8th, 2008

And why am I not surprised when the public buys the “think of the children” pitch hook, line and sinker; when previous measures passed on this logic have done little to anything to address the problems they’ve supposed to have fixed while at the same time introducing new issues?

If only people would seriously think of the children when they consider legislation that would sacrifice liberties: what kind of society do you want to leave to you’re children after you’re gone? Already I hear parents reminiscing about a time when they could play pickup baseball or hang out by the lake until well after sunset without a care in the world. Even though the activities may be different (e.g. playing Madden 2008 instead of touch football on the street), why can’t children today get to enjoy the broad freedom to play that their parents enjoyed? And more directly on this topic, a generation who grew up with a rite of passage of driving around with friends and boyfriends/girlfriends at 16 years (and younger in certain areas) is increasingly pushing to raise the driving age to 18. The hazards of our society haven’t changed that dramatically in the past 40 years; on average in the U.S. violent crime rates are signifcantly lower than they were in the early 1970s, a time considered to be the “good old days” by many Baby Boomer parents. Child abduction and pedophila have existed for much longer than the past few decades, and I’m curious to see whether there’s really been an increase in incidence of these problems or just an increase of coverage of them.

While some measures like educating children about not getting into a car with strangers and our present Amber Alert system are good, imposing a surveillance society does little to improve actual safety from the ostensible hazards that prompt such measures and at the same time creates new hazards of abuse by government and corporations.

It amazes me that so many a generation that grew up in a time where the defeat of Nazism and fascism were fresh in our collective minds (their parents experienced World War II firsthand) and our freedoms were cherished as our distinguishing feature from totalitarian Communism can turn its back on the values they were raised with and build an increasingly restrictive society for their children. The same holds true of our fiscal values; a generation raised on thrift is now building an unimaginable amount of public and private debt to leave to their heirs.

While not every Baby Boomer is guilty of this type of convenient thinking, apparently there are enough who do to cause these measures to take effect. When someone says to you “think of the children,” you really should think of the next generation. I’ll accept a 1-in-1000 chance that my children would be abused by a teacher, priest or any other adult over a much higher chance of being abused by a know-it-all government any day of the week.

Obama gives OK to FISA Bill

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

It’s not a tough call at all. There’s no grey area here. A bill is either good or evil. Period. Allowing telecom immunity is tantamount to saying that a guy who raped and murdered a child but spends every weekend volunteering at the homeless shelter and helping underprivileged kids is a great choice for a babysitter because he knows how to watch kids. A bad rider on a good bill makes it a bad bill. One bad apple spoils the barrel and all that.

More to the point, not only is Obama a hypocrite, everyone who did not vote against this bill voted AGAINST the will of the American people – against the voters who elected them – and voted against the U.S. Constitution. Thus, they are twice hypocrites to the oath they swore before Congress:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”.

Can someone explain how any bill that retroactively grants permission for companies to conspire with illegal actions by the federal government to spy on its citizens and subvert the fourth amendment can possibly be interpreted in any way other than as a direct attack on the U.S. Constitution? Seriously? Anyone?

Everyone who voted in favor of the FISA legislation is also, IMHO, a traitor against the United States and is guilty of treason:

“whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

Their actions are directly aiding and abetting terrorists by reducing the freedoms that those terrorists despise, thus effectively winning the terrorists’ war from within our own government without the bad guys having to lift a finger. The whole lot of those Senators and Representatives should have their citizenship revoked and be ejected from this country for their disloyalty to the Constitution and to the American people.

Do your part. Vote to impeach Congress. Whoever the incumbent is, regardless of your party affiliation, vote for the other candidate. We have to send a message to our government that the public will not roll over and allow our rights to be trampled upon. We must do it NOW before it is too late. And elect an independent for President.

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.

Windows vs. Linux – security and privacy

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

Germany is a place that knows what wiretaps and domestic spying is all about. Everyone’s grandfather can tell them what the Nazis did to friend and foe alike. Public display of Nazi symbols is still against the law because it outrages so many. People who lived through the East German Police state have more recent and personal reasons to fear this kind of monitoring. Domestic spying is about eliminating political opposition and the only way to save yourself from that is to run away. Eventually, even those who manage to keep out of sight by doing nothing are destroyed by the schemes of those in power. States that do this are out of control.

If you understand these things and how computers work, you have no choice but to use and advocate free software. Non free software has the ability to end freedom of press and every other right. We are well down that path, with newspapers raided, citizens spyed on, an unpopular war of aggression, torture and other evil things. You can have your privacy with free software and should demand it.

If you have complete control over your software, as free (as in freedom) software guarantees by definition, you can enforce your own privacy and security. If you have a solution you cannot modify, you are completely restricted to its ideas of privacy and security.

Human freedom has to extend to freedom of information and freedom of control over our own tools, including software and hardware. If we allow our corporations and governments to control our tools, they move on to controlling our media (DRM’s already here) and eventually our legal freedom (DMCA raids?!)

The vast majority of people have no way to verify that their software is secure, even if it’s open source. And even the people who do have the ability aren’t going to. Are you really going to read through every line of code in the Linux kernel looking for backdoors? Well, of course not, however, freedom means that you can do all of that and teams of people do for both cooperative and competitive reasons. All of the usual guards for non free software apply. People are watching their computers and will report suspicious communication. Then come all of the free software checks. The code gets checked upstream by the team that creates it and then downstream by many distributions that use it before finally being checked by the much larger number of users. The free software community is able to verify code from creation to desktop use and it’s a fairly competitive place. For every kind of check you have in the non free world, you have more and better in the free world as well as greater competition and willingness to report wrongdoing. This makes it unlikely you will be caught by malicious code.

White House emails destroyed with hard drives? What?!

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Most admins in most companies, including the white house, follow their orders from pointy-haired bosses. I bet the admins in place are rather competent and following orders rather well. As in most things, follow the money and you find the culprit.

Given that so much of the current administration is involved in cover ups and lies to the American public, how could this be viewed as surprising. These guys are very good at what they really do, and no, running a country is not it. The Presidency and the houses are merely tools for these people to get what they want accomplished. Be it laws that benefit them or an ego trip. I am not talking about Republicans or Democrats. Think about where the money comes from. Who backs these people?

I know people who have gotten into politics because they wanted to serve their communities. I do not know anyone who has progressed beyond the local level without becoming tainted. As they go higher up into politics, they tend to pick up more debts. They make compromises. Name the last independent President.

Politics is dirty. Power abuse is dirty. They go hand in hand for a very good reason. Most people who want power want it for a personal reason. They believe they are right, they are better, they can do better. Whatever the reason, they in their heart know they deserve it and are normally unwilling to accept hindrances they can secretly get past. They understand that to get what they want, they have to break the rules and lie sometimes. They become very good at getting away with it, or they never make it to the top. If you doubt this, take a look back at all of the politicians who have made it to the houses or the presidency.

Look at work. Who makes it to the top without doing something along the way? Not to the first or second level, but to the top. Many people who want the job bad enough do what it takes to get the job and do unsavory things along the way. They like to keep those things secret. They get very good at it. Period. Or they would not be at the top.

That is why transparency in politics is critical. That is why no communication or meeting in the government should ever be unrecorded. Maybe kept classified in a very few cases, but always permanently recorded. Let them sweat with the fear of impropriety as opposed to the fear of discovery. There will always be people who can go back in time to read or listen to transcripts. It is much more difficult to uncover hidden secrets.

In case you can not tell, I inherently do not trust officials. Even those I know well. I know all too well about the hidden lives and deals many of them have. Even those with a golden heart get trapped. It is inevitable for most. They are trying to accomplish things they believe in (assuming they are of a good hear tin the first place) and little compromises are needed to get the job done. Little compromises beget bigger compromises. It is how politics works. Compromise. Unfortunately, some of these compromises are nasty little secrets, and they cause more nasty little secrets and bigger nasty secrets. Like a snowball. You can not tell the difference until they are discovered. It is what they do. Like actors, they put on a face and do not show their true will or fear. Most would never be elected if they did.

So, the current group destroyed the evidence before it was asked for. They knew what was there. They knew what it could cause and they knew how to manipulate the rules to cover it up. Makes them pretty damn good at what they do. Yeah, the bosses knew what they were asking for. Did they break any laws? I do not know, but rest assured, this activity is completely in line with the rest of the actions of this administration and many other administrations. Secrets are the name of the power game.