Saturday, December 24, 2005

Interesting Blog

Here with a hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

The Democrats have problems too. While things have been looking up for them recently, their ideological coalition has been losing strength for decades, leaving them in danger of long term minority status.The obvious solution to both sets of problems is for the Democrats to try to pull the libertarian faction out of the Republican party. How large that faction is is hard to judge, but it is clearly a lot larger than the vote of the Libertarian Party would suggest. The current administration's use of pro-market rhetoric suggests that it, at least, believes that a significant fraction of its base cares about such things. The conversion of a mere ten percent of current Republicans into Democrats would strikingly alter the current political balance.

Innumerable arguments with the Strawberry Woman years ago ended my blind faith in the DNC and pushed me to a Goldwater-esque republicanism which eventually ripened into a form of pragmatic libertarianism. Not the crazy anarcho-capitalist version which I file in the same folder as communism (both have a wildly unrealistic view of what motivates people, even if they are at polar extremes as to what those forces are), nor the wacky LaRouche kind where people in orange saffron robes try to sell flowers in the airport... wait... ... anyway, a more pragmatic, get the government out of my business but keep them for infrastrucutre purposes type of philosophy.

So I am looking forward to watching this blog.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Enough Bricks to Build the Pyramids

Thats how many GOP lawmakers must be shitting over this:

Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under indictment for fraud in South Florida, is expected to complete a plea agreement in the Miami criminal case, setting the stage for him to become a crucial witness in a broad federal corruption investigation, people with direct knowledge of the case said.

One participant in the case said the deal could be made final as early as next week.
The terms of the plea deal have not been completed, and the negotiations are especially complicated because they involve prosecutors both in Miami and in Washington, where Mr. Abramoff is being investigated in a separate influence-peddling inquiry, participants said. Details of what he feels comfortable pleading guilty to are "probably largely worked out," the participant said, while the details of the prison sentence are less resolved.

Yes, the DNC will have it's problems too, but as I understand it, Abramoff's "gifts" to DNC members were more of an insurance policy that anything else. In case this kindof theing ever happened, GOP folks would be able to defend themselves with the "they did it too" strategy.

And, FTR, if the DNC folks really did "do it too", hang 'um!

Was Dover about Science or Religion?

A number of friends have asked me about the Dover decision, and I am moderately positive about the whole thing. The judge is an educated man and cleanly saw through the bullshit to the core issue, that ID is religion not science.

I'm just gravely dissapointed that we've come to a point in the history of the country where sceintifc literacy is so low, we need to debate what is and is not science in courts. That is a clear shot across the bow for those who want to see it. We're (one of) the most scienifically advanced civilizations in the most technological times and yet we still want to run back into the caves and have the chief tell us scary stories of the ghost in the woods.

So while I am heartened that the judge was a clear, sober guy, I think the fact that we are here at all is pretty sad.

And, least you think the ID case was really a legitimate one of new, cutting edge science vs the heirarchy, this post-trial comment sums it all up for me:

In his opinion, Judge Jones traced the history of the intelligent design movement to what he said were its roots in Christian fundamentalism. He seemed especially convinced by the testimony of Barbara Forrest, a historian of science, that the authors of the "Pandas" textbook had removed the word "creationism" from an earlier draft and substituted it with "intelligent design" after the Supreme Court's ruling in 1987

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Entertainment I Will still Enjoy Long After I Am in the Bad Home

I could only enjoy it more if it were Pope Benedict XVI.


Domestic Spying Against a Credible Threat

FTR, I don't have a beef against the domestic surveillance of credible threats to national security when overseen by a court (even a ridiculous mockup like FISA).

I don't think this quite qualifies and now I have genuine questions about what the president was trying to accomplish with his off the books 'sneak and peek'

I mean... Quakers? Fucking Quakers?

A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. What they didn't know was that their meeting had come to the attention of the U.S. military.
A secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists the Lake Worth meeting as a “threat” and one of more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a recent 10-month period.
“This peaceful, educationally oriented group being a threat is incredible,” says Evy Grachow, a member of the Florida group called The Truth Project.
“This is incredible,” adds group member Rich Hersh. “It's an example of paranoia by our government,” he says. “We're not doing anything illegal.”

Jesus McFuck.


Change for a $1

Speaking of Microsoft, this is pretty funny.

Also, We Share Your Pain

As Google Turn into the Microsoft of the 21st Century

Can the anti-trust suits be far behind?

But since its debut last summer, Google Earth has received attention of an unexpected sort. Officials of several nations have expressed alarm over its detailed display of government buildings, military installations and other important sites within their borders.

India, whose laws sharply restrict satellite and aerial photography, has been particularly outspoken. "It could severely compromise a country's security," V. S. Ramamurthy, secretary in India's federal Department of Science and Technology, said of Google Earth. And India's surveyor general, Maj. Gen. M. Gopal Rao, said, "They ought to have asked us."

I will particularly relish the plight of my (emotionally) Anti-Microsoft (but philospophicall) Libertarian friends who while strictly anti-regulation quietly root for the fall of my company. All of them are big Google fans.

Terrorist Groups?

The FBI has been watching a lot of folks with no seeming ties to Al Queda or other islamofacist groups. Who? Well, according to the NYT:

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, John Ashcroft, who was then attorney general, loosened restrictions on the F.B.I.'s investigative powers, giving the bureau greater ability to visit and monitor Web sites, mosques and other public entities in developing terrorism leads. The bureau has used that authority to investigate not only groups with suspected ties to foreign terrorists, but also protest groups suspected of having links to violent or disruptive activities.

Violent groups like:
the Vegan Community Project
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur )

and, my personal favorite:
Catholic Workers (for, now get this, "semi-communistic ideology.")

While I'm no fan of the catholics and I have actually made the argument that they are communists, I have to object to the FBI investingating them, even though I disagree.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Fact or Fiction? You be the Judge

Is this real, or fake?

THOUGH he did not know it at the time, the idea came to Howard Stapleton when he was 12 and visiting a London factory with his father.
He could not bear the noise from high-frequency welding equipment, but the workers didn't hear a thing.

Now 39, Mr Stapleton has taken the lesson he learned that day — that children can hear sounds at higher frequencies than adults can — to make a device that he hopes will solve the problem of obstreperous teenagers who hang around outside shops and cause trouble.

The device, called the Mosquito ("It's small and annoying," Mr Stapleton said), emits a high-frequency pulsing sound that he claims can be heard by most people younger than 20 and almost no one older than 30. The sound is designed to so irritate young people that after several minutes, they cannot stand it and go away.

So far, the Mosquito has been road-tested in only one place, at the entrance to a convenience store in the town of Barry, South Wales. Surly teenagers used to plant themselves just outside the door, smoking, drinking, swearing at customers and making disruptive forays inside.

Robert Gough, who owns the store with his parents, said the youths would sometimes fight, steal and assault staff. Last month, Mr Stapleton gave him a Mosquito for a free trial. The results were almost instant. It was as if someone had used anti-teenager spray around the entrance. Where youths used to congregate, now there is no one.

At first, members of the usual crowd repeatedly went inside the store with their fingers in their ears and "begging me to turn it off", Mr Gough said. But he held firm and avoided possible confrontations: "I told them it was to keep birds away because of the bird flu epidemic."

Mr Stapleton, a security consultant, used his children as guinea pigs, trying different noise and frequency levels before settling on a pulsating tone he said was more unbearable, and which can be broadcast at 75 decibels, within government safety limits.

"I didn't want to make it hurt. It just has to nag at them," he said.

"It's very difficult to shoplift when you have your fingers in your ears."

Answer in the comments

New Computer Security Virus: Humans

This is also pretty good (yes, I am reading Cryptogram today).

H1.3 How to determine if you are at risk-
Ask yourself the question, "Who am I?" If answered, the system is at risk.

How to Avoid a Wiretap

Excellent piece of analysis:

In the most serious countermeasures we discovered, a wiretap subject superimposes a continuous low-amplitude "C-tone" audio signal over normal call audio on the monitored line. The tone is misinterpreted by the wiretap system as an "on-hook" signal, which mutes monitored call audio and suspends audio recording. Most loop extender systems, as well as at least some CALEA systems, appear to be vulnerable to this countermeasure. Audio examples (in MP3 format) of this countermeasure can be found below.

Loop extender systems are susceptible to other countermeasures as well. In particular, a subject can employ a simple computer-aided dialing procedure (which we call "confusion/evasion dialing") that prevents the dialed outgoing telephone numbers from being recorded accurately by the tap. Wiretap subjects can also falsely indicate the ending times for calls they make and receive and can inject false records of outgoing and incoming calls (appearing to be to or from any numbers they choose) into pen register logs.

Bill O'Reilly

Has lost his nuts. If you find them, please send them to FOX News where, in fact, all nuts should be sent.

And finally, it seems that the closer we get to Christmas, the closer Bill O'Reilly gets to a nervous breakdown. The Falafel Master was back in the news again last week after claiming that "In Plano, Texas, a school told students they couldn't wear red and green because they are Christmas colors."

Oh really? Turns out that's not quite true. In fact, it's not even remotely true. In fact, the school district's attorneys subsequently sent Bill a
letter requesting that "in the future, he ask his fact checkers to do a more thorough job of confirming the facts before he airs them." Oops.

But apparently Plano isn't the only town featured in O'Reilly's bizarre no-red-or-green-colors-for-you fantasy. Here's what he had to say about Saginaw, Michigan:

In Saginaw, Michigan, the township opposes red and green clothing on anyone. In Saginaw Township, they basically said, anybody, we don't want you to wear red or green. I would dress up head to toe in red to green if I were in Saginaw, Michigan.

According to "Mid-Michigan's News Leader" WNEM-TV5, "O'Reilly's comments are flat-out not true. [Township supervisor Tim] Braun goes on to say the township hall has red and green Christmas lights adorning the building at night."
Off his meds, I tell ya.

So I have an idea. I'm so sick of FOX news, idiots like O'Reilly, factfree commentary etc.
I'm going to send a bag of nuts to Bill and encourage you to do the same. I'm going to send out an email chain-letter kind of thing, please forward it as much as possible.

The Address for FOX News is:
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York City, New York, United States, 10036-8795

I'm ordering them from here.

Nuts to you Bill O'Reilly!