Monday, February 28, 2005

Once, in a Rare While, Somebody Does the Right Thing

"The court finds that the president has no power, neither express nor implied, neither constitutional nor statutory, to hold petitioner as an enemy combatant," Floyd wrote in a 23-page opinion that was a stern rebuke to the government. Floyd, appointed by Bush in 2003, gave the administration 45 days to take action.

The fact that it happened in my hometown makes me, for once, proud to have grown up there.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

If This Isn't the Thought Police in Action, I Don't Know What Is

Baby Jesus in a blender. He shoulda blogged it.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Department of Homeland Security - Your Malware Vendor of Choice

My friend Bravus caught this one on Salon. Good post about a very bad Department of Homeland Security hiring malware execs to run it's "privacy" program. I mean, really, it's as if they're trying to foment a torch and pitchfork wielding mob. Not that there's anything wrong with a good old fashion torch and pitchfork wielding mob.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Your Papers, Please

Spotted by Schneier on Security, this Economist article details exactly why the US' new passport protocols are not going to work; worse, why they're needlessly intrusive:
The third, and scariest problem, however, is one that is deliberately built into the technology, rather than being an accident of its present inefficiency. This is the remote-readability of the chip, combined with the lack of encryption of the data held on it. Passport chips are deliberately designed for clandestine remote reading. The ICAO specification refers quite openly to the idea of a “walk-through” inspection with the person concerned “possibly being unaware of the operation”. The lack of encryption is also deliberate—both to promote international interoperability and to encourage airlines, hotels and banks to join in. Big Brother, then, really will be watching you. And others, too, may be tempted to set up clandestine “walk-through inspections where the person is possibly unaware of the operation”. Criminals will have a useful tool for identity theft. Terrorists will be able to know the nationality of those they attack.
I feel more protected already.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

By Any Means Necessary, Again

Yesterday, reflecting upon Hunter S. Thompson’s suicide and it being the anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination, I wondered if there was anybody left with the balls to both tell the truth and do something about it. HST exposed the Nixon years for what the sitcoms and the nightly news wouldn’t – dirty, bloody and insane - and he did it in a voice that compelled us to not look away. Malcolm X realized that talk transmuted into change too slowly, over generations. He looked at the Civil Rights movement and said, “An old lady can sit; we need to stand up.”

What we need is a New Activism.

And by a New Activism I mean we need to get as dirty as HST and as menacing as Malcolm X. With all three branches of government and the machinery of enfranchisement in the hands of liars and killers, with the media castrated or complicit, we need to go asymmetrical, figuratively speaking. We need to be honest about our powerlessness to fight the Right conventionally. What we need to do is to expose the Neocons and the Dominionists for what they really are: bloodthirsty liars. We can’t pray a compliant press or rigged elections will do it for us. They clearly won’t. Forget about issues framing – I’m talking about reputation fragging.

Jeff Gannon’s filthy little life as a right wing shill exposed? Good but not enough. The members of the White House Press Corps surly had some idea about this guy and yet did nothing. Clean out your own house and quit crying about your precious, precarious access. What the hell kind of access have you had to this White House that you couldn’t have gotten from a press release? I see almost no interviews, no real questions from you journos. Organize, and then boycott all press briefings until the White House agrees to the give the American people some straight answers. Stand up to your editors, out them for not standing up to their corporate owners. Get some skin in the game.

Same to you in the gay community (uh, so to speak): stop protecting these closeted schizophrenics who kiss you at night then revile you by day. I don’t care if you’re sleeping with them – stop it, out them, and get your priorities in order before they take away even more of your dignity. Turn the Right’s homophobia into a weapon of your own wielding.

Along these lines… you escorts in New York during the RNC, indeed, sex workers of all stripes: We need a list of every Family Fucking Values Republican trick who made you dress like a little girl and call him daddy, and we need that list continuously updated up on the internet. There’s plenty of ways to use their hypocrisy against them without revealing your identity. Push comes to shove, they’d just as soon arrest you as fuck you, so do it to them now because they're going to do it to you sooner or later.

You hackers and crackers and script kiddies, stop wasting your talents on furtive schemes for a little fame within your closed community and start doing some good for the whole community. You think this government is ever going to support an open source anything? Ever not going to kowtow to the content “owners” who want to put you in jail for downloading a song you can hear for free on the goddamned radio? I think a little civil disobedience is in order. You have the skills - be our mouse army.

And to the bloggers: well done on Gannon, but it’s time to go after them all. Anybody even slightly exposed, start digging. Back taxes, past convictions, drug use, kinky sex – anything you can find, put it out there. I want every one of those hypocrites reaching for the xanax and a shot of Wild Turkey when they recall their lives and what’s out there to be found. We need 20 more mini-Gannons in the next two months. Even if it’s only slightly incriminating, even if it doesn’t stick, as long as it’s true, publish it. We want them afraid and making mistakes.

Infiltrate their media outlets, their online fora like Free Republic and Power Lines, and sow dissension, stir it up. Pretend to be a fundi berating the abortion agnostic neocons, or an neocon ridiculing the fundis as Luddites. Or become a tax hating libertarian that starts flame wars with security moms over federal spending for port protection. Write over-the-top letters to Rightwing rags, letters so extreme it’ll force fissures in happy-happy joy-joy unity. Tear their big tent apart from the inside. And imagine the paranoia once they realize they’ve been good and infiltrated.

If nothing else, pass the memes along in your blogs and email. My mainstream, suburban family down South had heard nothing at all about the Gannon story until I told them about it Friday, a good 10 days after it broke. My Republican-voting, Viet Nam vet father was incensed at the gay prostitute angle. Sure, he was infuriated for the wrong reasons, but in this way, chink by chink, we can erode the mindless faith folks like him have in the Right.

And remember we’re fighting not just for ourselves; this is not vindictiveness but effectiveness, perhaps the only effective methodology we have left. We're doing this for all Americans, including the vast majority of Republicans, most of whom are decent folk and all of whom are Americans, to spare us all the hell that will be our children’s tours in foreign wars and the shame and poverty of our retirements.

It’s time we all became our own Hunter S and our own Malcolm X because nobody else is going to do it for us.

Monday, February 21, 2005

RIP Hunter S Thompson

"The only thing that worried me was the ether."

He was an inspiration and a tonic. I feel sorry for St Peter if he gives him any gruff.

Friday, February 18, 2005

What You Don't Know About Your Privacy Can Bite You in the Ass

OK, back up on the privacy soapbox again.

While it's true that I tend to be a somewhat paranoid person when it comes to privacy, especially data privacy, it's equally true that there are real risks out there. The scariest part is often that one has no idea from which dark corner the hydra ill spring. Here are a couple of examples.

Today on Schneier on Security we face the Dread Loyalty Card in all its' fury:
A Tukwila, Washington firefighter, Philip Scott Lyons found out the hard way that supermarket loyalty cards come with a huge price. Lyons was arrested last August and charged with attempted arson. Police alleged at the time that Lyons tried to set fire to his own house while his wife and children were inside. According to the KOMO-TV and the Seattle Times, a major piece of evidence used against Lyons in his arrest was the record of his supermarket purchases that he made with his Safeway Club Card. Police investigators had discovered that his Club Card was used to buy fire starters of the same type used in the arson attempt.
He was eventually cleared when the real arsonist 'fessed up, but I bet not many folks realized that their shopping history can and will be used against them in a court of law (cue Law & Order "chung-CHUNG" sound)

Next, we have a piece from Regina Lynn in Wired News about the perils of doing anything personal - especially anything of a less-than-pure-as-the -driven-snow nature at the office. This includes email (even the web-based kind, i.e., yahoo!, gmail et al.), IM-ing and, god forbid, sending or viewing photos. What can sysadmins see?
Potentially, everybody. Your network administrator has a copy of every e-mail you've sent and received over the company network. Instant messaging is not the answer -- IT can view anything on your computer while it's on the network, including your chat logs and the window you have open on your screen. A web-mail message can't be intercepted, but that doesn't mean it can't be read while you're composing or reading it...

...Nothing goes unlogged, either. They know what port you used and what protocol, what websites you visited and how much time you spent there. Jerry says three full-time staffers doing nothing but reviewing log files still couldn't keep up with everything the logs track, but when the city gets subpoenaed, the data is there. (emphasis added, dp)
I think nowadays most people realize that very little they do at work enjoys any kind of privacy protection. Still, I doubt most folks take the whole thing very seriously. They should. Besides, the cashier is always willing to swipe her loyalty card when you "forget" yours.

Not that it should be this way at all.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

16:45 on Monday, February 7, 2005

This is what it looked like in Central Park on my birthday. It was about 14C with no wind. It was not very busy.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Half of bankruptcy due to medical bills

The new debtors prison, not just for po' folk anymore -
"Among those whose illnesses led to bankruptcy, out-of-pocket costs averaged $11,854 since the start of illness; 75.7 percent had insurance at the onset of illness." The average bankrupt person surveyed had spent $13,460 on co-payments, deductibles and uncovered services if they had private insurance. People with no insurance spent an average of $10,893 for such out-of-pocket expenses. "Even middle-class insured families often fall prey to financial catastrophe when sick," the researchers wrote.
Yeah. Great health care system we've got here. Who's making the money off of this? Not hospitals and physicians: insurance companies and financial services companies. Nice priorities our nation has.

Here's an idea that won't help much but maybe a little; make all health care costs fully tax deductible over a period of, say, five years. It won't save some folks, but it could make the difference for many.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

White House uses 'minders' to prevent journalists from doing their jobs

Well, I suppose it was really only a matter of time. I like the reporter's attitude:

I have a suggestion: As long as government officials are fixing up reporters with dates, I would be happy to be escorted by my wife. If they can't work that out, I wonder if they have any pull with Halle Berry.