Monday, February 26, 2007

Vigilante Hacker's Evidence Puts Judge Behind Bars - Technology News by InformationWeek

Read the story, but here's a short summary: A judge in Cali was sentenced for possession of child pornography.  The prime mover in this case was a hacker who let loose a Trojan on the judge's computers and found the evidence that was used to garner the guilty plea.

I'm not sure whether to be scared or not here.  Vigilantes with time on their hands, an axe to grind, and some coding skills rooting around in my machine for contraband?  While I agree that the hacker was not acting on behalf of the government and therefore did not violate the Fourth Amendment, that line can get really blurry really quick.  Let's say the evidence found pointed to a victimless crime (drug usage, prostitution, etc), something that is defined as illegal, but has no victim other than the amorphous "society".  At what point can any hacker-vigilante say he's not an agent of the government?  If you drink the government Kool-Aid, decide to be a vigilante P-I, and follow only your muse to the criminals that turn you on, the only thing missing from a Fourth Amendment violation is a prior government blessing.

And by not prosecuting the hacker (they've already found and ID'd him - Brian Willman in Canada), they're setting a very bad precedent.  As mentioned in the article, the tacit approval given opens the door for anyone to do the same thing for any reason as long as the evidence found leads to a conviction.  And while a U.S. Attorney has admonished people with a variation of "Don't try this at home, kids", that carries zero weight - we've already erased the old line and now have to figure out where to draw it again.  Until the new line is drawn, there will be people trying to push it further and further away from due process and privacy concerns, and closer to a Machiavellian "ends-justifies-the-means" interpretation of illegal activity.

Brad Willman, the hacker in this case, needs to be brought up on charges - let him argue and negotiate and plea-bargain, but he needs to be charged and go through the process he set the judge up for.  We go after hackers and pirates in other countries all the time - why can't we go to Canada to get this guy?  And no, I don't care that he did us all a service (I agree he did, but that's not the point) - the next guy caught in this kind of net may be only a political subversive, or maybe just unpopular.  Why does Willman get to decide who has fingers pointed at them?

And in case you're still on the fence, let me pose the question differently - what if Willman had broken into your home, rummaged around while you weren't home looking for "contraband", and then setup hidden cameras so he could do so whenever he wanted to?  His Trojan did exactly that in the judge's computer.  Now ask yourself if you want your busy-body neighbor to be able to do the same, and it's all OK as long as they find something to charge you with.

OK, now I'm scared.

Link to Vigilante Hacker's Evidence Puts Judge Behind Bars - Technology News by InformationWeek

Friday, February 23, 2007

White House opposes war authority limits - Politics -

I'll have more to say on this later - gut reaction is that everyone wants power, red or blue, and neither side will give it up willingly.

Link to White House opposes war authority limits - Politics -

UPDATE: OK, I lied here - I don't have much more to say.  It's a power stuggle, plain and simple, and should have a net result of zero on the rank and file soldier in Iraq.

Disturbing state lawmaking news

I'll comment more later, but here's some disturbing state lawmaking news.

Arizona Lawmaker Tries To Ban Naked Lady Mudflaps

No Bull: Lawmaker Wants Testicles Tossed

UPDATE: OK, both of these should be filed in the "all-other-more-important-problems-solved" department.

Rep. Ed Ableser in Arizona is the worst kind of politician - a busy-body who wants all of America to be as clean and sanitized as the Hallmark channel.  One of his supporters, Rep. Theresa Ulmer, obviously needs to take her son to a doctor, as he's either mentally retarded or partially deaf if she continually needs to explain the difference between idealized art and reality.  Has her son never seen a Barbie doll?  Why doesn't that idealized depiction of female anatomy confuse him.  And if it does confuse him, shall we try to pass a law banning them too, or just force stores to put them behind the counter next to the lighter fluid and cold medicine?

As for the bull balls story, Maryland State Delegate LeRoy Myers is a coward, hiding behind the standard statist shield of "we're protecting hte children".  How does Delegate Myers propose to keep children from seeing real animal testicles, say, on an un-neutered dog walking down the street?  There's an age at which kids don't need a full and complete explanation - a simple "they're decoration" should work on most any kid under 10.  I'll leave the explanation for kids over 10 as an exercise to the parent.

For both of these stories, take one lesson - life cannot be sanitized to protect anyone, especially your children.  You can either lock your kids in a Skinner box to keep them safe, or prepare them for life in the real world.  The loss of innocence is tragic, true, but necessary, and you as the parent have to be in control.  In other words: grow up, so your kids can too. tags: ,

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Darkness Falls

We've all heard about the overreaction of the city of Boston to a guerilla marketing campaign for a cartoon show.  Today, we learn that the head of Cartoon Network is resigning over it.  And today, I'm going to comment on it.

Boston should slip into the sea.  Cleanse the idiocy with cold salt water and lobsters.  I'm sorry to say I lived there for a time, went to school there for a time, and enjoyed it - I'll certainly never go back now.

What happened to our collective common sense, people?  Ever since 9/11, were' so afraid of our own shadows that anyone walking down the street with a boxcutter in his back pocket, or two turbaned and robed men talking to one another quietly in the subway, or a Lite Brite on a street corner, is now considered a terrorist threat that demands some sort of response.  I guess we're lucky that the response was just a bunch of paranoid morons calling the authorities, and not some whack-job rounding up a vigilante posse.  Funny, I don't feel lucky - I feel dirty.

Turner Broadcasting, owner of Cartoon Network, apologized and has paid US$2 million to Boston to compensate them for the emergency response they took.  I'm sorry, but if I overreact to a situation and incur personal costs, why should anyone else but me be responsible for my actions?  Oh, that's right, I forgot - this is the New America, where personal responsibility is neither taught nor practiced.  Those few of us with this rare commodity are sitting back, shaking our heads, and wondering where the hell our country got off to.

Our elected leaders have paid lip service for five years that we should not lose the American Way of Life (tm) because of terrorism.  All this time, however, the American Way of Life has been slowly slipping away, slowly boiling to death like a frog in a pot of cool water over a Bunsen burner, as we submit to random searches and pat down on subways, invasive searches of our bags and limits on our speech as we try to board airplanes, and compilation of our personal data into lists that tell us where and how we can't travel.  We've lost our common sense to fear-based irrationality wrapped in the blanket of "security concerns".  We've lost our rational thought and replaced with jingoism.  We've lost our sense of humour and replaced it with self-importance as a cog in the great machine.

In my opinion, the head of Cartoon Network should still be in his role, and the head of Turner Broadcasting shouldn't be writing checks.  They should both be looking at the knee-jerkers and bureaucrats in Boston and asking them, "Why is your stupidity our problem?  Why should we pay for your actions?  Stupidity should be painful - more correctly, your stupidity should be painful to you."  And the people of Boston should be looking hard and asking hard questions at these mental midgets come next election day.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New York, The Nanny State (East)

New York State Senator Carl Kruger is planning to propose legislation that would make it illegal to cross the street in New York City and Buffalo while using an electronic device, like a cell phone, Blackberry, iPod, or Zune.  Apparently, Sen. Kruger is very concerned that two recent fatal accidents involving people in his district who were using said devices are an epidemic and needs some sort of government response.  No word on whether his district (District 27 in Brooklyn) has been gerrymandered to include Buffalo.

For a sensible alternative, check out the Nanny State from the Cato Institute.  And while your at it, take a look at some of the legislation Sen. Kruger is working on...  An informed citizen is a politician's worst nightmare.

And if you live in Sen. Kruger's district, use your feet, go to a poll next election day, and send him a message that he's not your freaking mother, you're a responsible adult, you resent being treated like a pre-schooler, and he can stay out out of your personal life as you vote him out of the public life, thankyouverymuch.

Just for kicks, ride the bike you work on to the voting booth, and make sure you carry a boxcutter and a copy of the Constitution with you (highlight the Second, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments).

Ad hominem comments follow: Doesn't the phrase "plans to propose legislation" make your butt pucker?

New York and Masschussetts are now, officially, the East Coast cells of the Soviet State of California.  Remember folks, when the pain of the Nanny State spanking your ass gets too much, the porcupines are moving to New Hampshire.

UPDATE: ECanadaNow is reporting that three Brooklyn-ites were killed crossing the street with iPods, not one in Brooklyn and one in Buffalo as reported by WNBC.  Not sure who to believe or listen to, but now I'm wondering if Kruger will start handing out $100 fines for running with scissors or swimming within 30 minutes of eating as well...

UPDATE #2: Reuters has the story now, along with some more "nanny state" quotes from Comrade Senator Kruger:

Government has an obligation to protect its citizenry

Maybe in New York, it does, but in America as a whole, the Preamble to the Constitution defines what government should do - protecting its citizenry isn't one of those things.

It's becoming a nationwide problem.

This electronic gadgetry is ... becoming ... endemic...

Endemic?  Nationwide problem?  Where are the scores of reports of others suffering as three Brooklynites have?  I haven't seen them - tell me, if this is such an endemic problem, Senator, are there more people dying from other problems in Brooklyn, or is this numero uno on the list?

Then there's the problem I have with the sympathetic Reuters reporter, who is uncreditted in this story - this paragraph is editorializing, not reporting (emphasis mine).

Tech-consuming New Yorkers trudge to work on sidewalks and subways like an army of drones, appearing to talk to themselves on wireless devices or swaying to seemingly silent tunes.

If he was the only reporter to bias his reporting, it wouldn't be an issue, but he and the Senator are just two examples of an endemic nationwide problem.

Friday, February 02, 2007

New Toyota Commercials - WTF?

I wasn't sure where else to put this idea, but I've been really pissed at the new Toyota commercials.  Despite the fact that I'll most likely never buy a Toyota for my own use (my daughter has one I bought her when she graduated high school), these commercials ensure that I'll never buy one for anyone.

The commercials start innocuous enough - a few pics of scenery and people enjoying themselves, with a song-over with the lyrics, "This is the place I want to live... And the

way I want to drive..."  I can only presume they're tailored for different parts of the country - I live in Seattle, so it's tailored for the Pacific Northwest.

Anyway, after the song lyric, a voice-over comes on, in a gentle masculine voice, "There's something special about this part of the country," followed by different phrases, such as, "we care about the environment," and, "we care about family values."


My first response to these was simple: Unlike those yahoo's in Montana.

Really, think about it - as if people in other parts of the country don't care about the environment, or have family values, or can respond to jingoistic marketing catch-phrases.  Give me a break.

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Do you know the primary way you can tell if someone is a responsible adult?  Watch them drive.  If they drive responsibly (in other words, with purpose, on purpose, and predictably), most likely they act responsibly as well.  Case in point - one small episode from one day of my morning commute this week.

Normally, I ride a motorcycle - a 1996 Harley Davidson Dyna Wide Glide to me exact.  However, since the wind storm and freak snow storms Washington had since December, I've been driving my 2003 Mercury Sable to work.  This necessitates a change in my route, and my introduction to non-HOV travel on our fine state highways.

I found myself behind a large SUV on the I-90 floating bridge.  The time was about 8:30am, and we were heading east into the sun.  the sun wasn't too high, but it wasn't that low either - I personally had no problems seeing (at least seeing the SUV, but that's another rant).

The driver in the SUV, however, was having no end of trouble, from what I could see - first the left hand came up to shield their eyes, then the right (apparently, they got tired easily).  At one point, I thought the driver had their eyes closed and head down to avoid the bright light - from the movements the SUV was making, it appeared that way.  The SUV finally moved out of the left hand lane into the center lane, and I passed on the right.

When I did, I looked over to see who was driving - it turned out to be a very small woman.  Her head topped out at only halfway up the window, just about over the steering wheel.  Even with the visor down the she sat so low in the vehicle, the sun had no choice but to hit her in the eyes.

And here's where the responsibility comes in - don't buy a vehicle that's too big for you.  If you pull the visor down and sun still hits you in the eyes, either buy some sunglasses or drive a freakin' Miata.  I'm tired of the desire for a big expensive status symbol outweighing the need to act responsibly.  Sure, you can buy it, but if you can't drive it, you're no longer an important person - now you're one overcorrection away from being the "earlier accident that has traffic snarled."

Yes, I hate SUV's.  And No, there oughtn't be a law against them.

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