Archive for the 'Politics' Category

04 MarNew whitehouse.gov video requires proprietary Adobe Flash player

Privacy activists rightly complained about whitehouse.gov’s use of YouTube videos for President Obama’s weekly addresses, as it allowed a private third-party company to use cookies to track visitors to a government web site. The whitehouse.gov site appears to have responded to these complaints but in so doing has adopted a flash format that is not playable using free software. See below for how it renders on a Debian Lenny GNU/Linux system using Iceweasel and gnash: Whitehouse.gov Video Fail The whitehouse.gov site should take one more step towards openness and privacy-preservation by using an open audio-video format such as Ogg-Theora for all its weekly addresses.

14 SepU.N. agency eyes curbs on Internet anonymity

Interesting CNET article,

A United Nations agency is quietly drafting technical standards, proposed by the Chinese government, to define methods of tracing the original source of Internet communications and potentially curbing the ability of users to remain anonymous.

The U.S. National Security Agency is also participating in the “IP Traceback” drafting group, named Q6/17, which is meeting next week in Geneva to work on the traceback proposal. Members of Q6/17 have declined to release key documents, and meetings are closed to the public…

09 SepA Land Called Paradise

In December 2007, over 2,000 American Muslims were asked what they would wish to say to the rest of the world. This is what they said. A music video for Kareem Salama’s “A Land Called Paradise.” (Winner of LinkTV’s 2007 One Nation Contest’s Grand Prize):

30 JanStarbucks: Office Space for Pyramid Schemes?

I’ve been working from Starbucks today on the T-Mobile wireless, and I’m now, in less than four hours, sitting next to the second pyramid scheme pitch. The first one was amusing because it was incomprehensible what the product or service even being sold was. The entire discussion was motivational and about how much money could be made building your “team”. The current one at least has an identifiable product, but it makes me wonder just how prevalent this sort of thing is.

Perhaps high school (or at least some college course) should have a segment explaining why pyramid schemes always fail, because it appears they are alive and well in Starbucks, which is providing virtual office space to these hucksters.

14 Aprboalt.org Raises Awareness of RFID in Cal IDs

This nice work by Larisa, Alison, David, and other borgers gets a write-up in The Daily Californian entitled: Radio Tags in ID Cards Raise Privacy Issues.

07 AprHello world!

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

31 JanWhat’s Wrong With Google Aiding Chinese Censorship? Plenty.

Doug Tygar has pointed out that Google’s efforts to assist the Chinese government censor the web are not yet perfected. Tygar points to an example of a technological glitch that, to me, also illustrates why one should have moral qualms about Google’s actions to aid the Chinese government.

Tiananmen Protestor Stopping Line of Tanks (Thumbnail) When using Google.cn’s Image search for ‘Tiananmen’ (capitalized) one currently receives almost exclusively images of the lone student protestor halting a line of Chinese tanks as well other images of the Tiananmen square protest. Presumably this is not what the Chinese government wants.
The Tiananmen (Thumbnail) However, when one uses Google.cn’s Image search for ‘tiananmen’ (uncapitalized) one currently receives almost exclusively non-descript scenic images of The Tiananmen (the entrance to the Imperial Palace Grounds). Presumably this is what the Chinese government wants both searches to produce.

(I’ve archived both pages for when Google fixes this.)

If you take a look at both of those pages you get a graphic illustration of what censorship looks like. Information related to non-violent political dissent has vanished, as if it never happened, and as if we have nothing to learn from acknowledging, recalling, or studying it. Anyone is entitled to put their head in the sand if they so choose, that’s freedom. But when a government decides on behalf of all of its citizens that they must not be allowed access to such materials, that’s the opposite of freedom.

Given two questions put to Google recently by John Battelle, we should be even more concerned:

“Given a list of search terms, can Google produce a list of people who searched for that term, identified by IP address and/or Google cookie value?”

“Given an IP address or Google cookie value, can Google produce a list of the terms searched by the user of that IP address or cookie value?”

I put these to Google. To its credit, it rapidly replied that the answer in both cases is “yes.”

Combine that ability with the Chinese government’s desire to imprison people who search for the wrong sorts of things and Google agreeing to assist the Chinese government in its censorship efforts becomes all the more disconcerting. Will Google turn over this information about Chinese dissidents? Let’s hope not. Chinese prisons do not have a sterling reputation for humane treatment of prisoners.

But even if they don’t go that far, there is a fairly simple pair of arguments that explain the logic behind the outrage over Google’s censorship of google.cn. Maybe Google didn’t think it through like this, so I’d like to help them out with the following:

  1. If a government engages in a comprehensive campaign to censor information related to non-violent a) political dissent or b) religious expression then that government is engaged in a morally reprehensible course of action. (Premise)
  2. If a corporation willingly and knowingly provides essential assistance to a government in a morally reprehensible course of action, when refusing to provide that essential assistance produces no greater harm, then that corporation is itself engaged in a morally reprehensible course of action. (Premise)
  3. The Chinese government is engaged in a comprehensive campaign to censor information related to non-violent political dissent and religious expression. (Premise)
  4. Therefore, the Chinese government is engaged in a morally reprehensible course of action. (Follows from 1 and 3).
  5. By (among other things) implementing filtering technologies at google.cn that censor information related to non-violent political dissent and religious expression, Google is willingly and knowingly providing essential assistance to the Chinese government in a morally reprehensible course of action, when refusing to provide that essential assistance would produce no greater harm. (Premise)
  6. Therefore, Google is itself engaged in a morally reprehensible course of action. (Follows from 2, 4, and 5).

I welcome counter-arguments or challenges to any of these premises, but I currently believe all the premises are uncontrovertibly true, and consequently that the above argument is valid and sound. I hope Google comes to the same set of beliefs.

26 JanOur Omnipotent President

Oh my, this post from Fafblog on our omnipotent president is too funny.

A. Well if you want, the president can stop the illegal wiretapping just for you.
Q. Really? Well thanks, that’d be great!
A. And then the terrorists can come and eat you.
Q. Wait! What?
A. Cause without the wiretaps there’s nothin to stop the terrorists from eatin you, yknow. The terrorists and their army of bees.

via boing boing.

18 JanRemember Zork?

For those who recall text-based adventure games, check out defective yeti’s Iraqi Invasion: A Text Misadventure. Hilarious. An excerpt:

> STAY COURSE
The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

Some insurgents arrive. There is a large number of insurgents here.

> STAY COURSE
The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

> STAY COURSE
The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

Some insurgents arrive.
There is a huge number of insurgents here.

> STAY COURSE
The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

> STAY COURSE

The situation in Iraq deteriorates.

Some insurgents arrive.
There is an overwhelming number of insurgents here.

via lawgeek.

05 NovDiebold Machines: Out of Memory

I forgot to mention one other encouraging notice that poll Inspectors received regarding our Diebold TS voting machines. One machine is to be designated for disability access and the poll workers attach headphones and a numeric keypad. We received a notice with our supplies that indicated that

If more than four voters use the VIBS ballot (recorded ballot) on the same touchscreen machine, the TS may shut down and give an error message that says, “Out of Memory” the screen will go blank and will not allow voter to cast ballot.

The solution is to move the VIBS unit (headphones and keypad) to another unit and allow the voter to vote on the new unit. Then turn off and then turn back on the unit with the error message and it should work fine.

This situation with VIBS is due to the long ballot coupled with the large amount of memory needed for the recorded ballot.

Luckily, I did not have even one person request the recorded ballot, so I did not face this problem.