Tag Archives: politics

Not Using Computers is the Hack

John Siracusa is right about electronic voting. People have been trained for years to be skeptical about computers replacing our ancient paper ballot systems. It’s sad for me to hear otherwise intelligent people spew out all the various rote reasons why we could never vote via the Internet from our own laptops or phones.

“It’ll be the end of democracy!” “Hackers will steal elections with a single click!” “Paper systems are so much harder to manipulate!” 

Nonsense, plain and simple. Like fears of Terminator style artificially intelligent machines taking over the human race and enslaving us, fears of electronic voting are just plain illogical. 

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that computers are already involved in tabulating ballots. (You don’t think we add up all the votes from all the counties in all the states with an abacus, do you?) In fact, computers are involved with every part of the vote counting except the part where we actually vote. Eventually, all the numbers from all the little polling places everywhere get fed into a computer, which then is just as easy to “hack” as any other computer. So what we’re really talking about here is the one piece of the process that isn’t already electronic.

But what about those electronic voting machines? Another argument I often hear is “Every electronic voting machine we’ve ever deployed is a piece of crap and easily hackable.” True, but that doesn’t mean a good machine couldn’t be invented. It doesn’t mean that if we put the top computer scientists into a room for a week they couldn’t come up with something a billion times better.

We invented the Atom Bomb. I think we could figure this out.

I may not understand computer security nearly as well as John Siracusa, but I don’t need that knowledge to reason that if we wanted to, we could of course invent a system that was equal to or better than our current paper voting systems in security. A system that was fully transparent, verifiable by disinterested parties, and much harder to hack than the current system. A system where, as he said, individuals could actually log in and verify that their votes were indeed counted. The technology is there. We just need the will and some time.

But will the public ever trust what they don’t understand? 

Let me ask you this: Do you understand the technology behind securing your credit card number on Amazon?

If we trust computers with our money, we can trust computers with our voting. We can cry “democracy” all we want, talk about our inalienable rights until we’re blue in the face, but at the end of the day, nothing is more sacred to people than their money. And we’re doing our banking online, with systems that are frankly subpar when it comes to security and modern standards of transparency. So getting people to trust an electronic voting system is not going to be an obstacle for long. People will distrust, then they’ll talk to friends who had great experiences with it, and then they’ll realize it’s just a hell of a lot more convenient to vote from home than to wait in line for seven hours. Game over. Give it four or five election cycles, and most of the country will come around.

Now, Siracusa rightfully wanted to avoid being political in his discussion, but there is one obvious side effect of a fully-electronic, cryptographically secure system, at least here in the United States: Increased participation. If voting were as easy as ordering something on Amazon, we’d have much higher voter turnout in this country. And much higher voter turnout is definitely not in the best interest of the people in power (and one political party in particular, though I suspect both major parties would fear it). Thus, keeping people scared of electronic voting is paramount to the continuation of the status quo. 

Ironically, many of my smart friends who are most afraid that an electronic system would be “hacked” are in fact making it easier for those they want to keep out of office stay in office longer. Keeping computers out of our electoral process is the hack. It’s a clever form of voter suppression. 

It’ll probably be a few more generations before we see any real reform in this area. That’s unfortunate, because increased convenience in voting, which would cause increased participation, would ultimately make our elected representatives more accountable. Contrary to popular belief, electronic voting would very likely boost our democratic freedoms, and thus ensure a better future for democracy. Because democracy only works when people show up. And with the current system, very few are showing up. 

MIT Student attempts to create “Truth Goggles” for the news

Imagine the possibilities, not just for news consumers but producers. Enhanced spell check for journalists! A suspicious sentence is underlined, offering more factual alternatives. Or maybe Clippy chimes in: “It looks like you’re lying to your readers!” The software could even be extended to email clients to debunk those chain letters from your crazy uncle in Florida.

via Bull beware: Truth goggles sniff out suspicious sentences in news » Nieman Journalism Lab.

I don’t want to rain on this guy’s parade or anything, but the issue here isn’t that politicians lie and journalists often get their facts wrong. It’s that most readers don’t WANT the truth.

These aren’t mistakes that need to be corrected, in other words. The product contains these lies by design.

People who support Michele Bachmann don’t care that every other sentence coming out of her mouth is a complete fabrication, or at the very least, a strong exaggeration of the truth. They want validation for their mistaken beliefs at all costs. Truth is irrelevant. She’s handing them what they want to hear, and that’s far more powerful than the truth.

We’re not educating people here. We’re indoctrinating them.

The only people who want to know about her lies are the people on the Left, who aren’t interested in the truth either, really. They simply want validation for THEIR side of the story.

We all fall victim to this, though some to a larger degree than others.

The time when journalism’s job was to dispossess us of our mistaken beliefs is long gone.  Journalism is big business. They’re selling a product, and ultimately people buy bullshit more than the truth. That’s how it goes.

Politicians know this, which is why they keep spewing out the nonsense, even though they KNOW we have the resources at our fingertips to disprove every word they say. They’re completely comfortable lying about something they said yesterday, even after someone shows them the video of them saying it. Because while there’s always someone on the other side to call them on their lies, the people on their side will never see that. Rachael Maddow could scream her head off all day about Michele Bachmann, but not a single Fox News viewer will ever know. Rush Limbaugh can spend an entire day on a single incorrect statement from President Obama, and no one reading the Nation is going to know.

So while I respect what this guy is doing technologically, thinking it’s going to change anything is sort of silly.

AT&T, T-Mobile, and monopolies • Joshua Topolsky

But that seems unrealistic. I don’t think we can have our cake and eat it too. I don’t think the carriers will work together, and I don’t think we can let 25 different carriers have 25 different spectrums — that’s ultimately bad for business and the end user. I know this is a more complicated idea that requires bigger brains than mine to be tackled, but I also know (or at least strongly feel) that it’s something that needs to happen if we’re going to move forward from a technological standpoint. We need something better, something smarter. But is there any way we can remove politics and greed from this debate and actually do what’s best for human beings for once? I don’t see that on the horizon just yet.

I couldn’t agree with this article more. The current political climate in the US is going to cripple our ability to move forward technologically. We’re in serious danger of losing our ability to innovate, mostly because of low-level infrastructure that the government isn’t stepping in to build, and companies are unwilling to fund.

A company like Apple can’t continue to make the iPad and iPhone better if our connection to the Internet remains at the same speed and limited to the same places. As I’ve told many friends many times, until I can stream a full HD movie with no stuttering wirelessly while sitting in the middle of a corn field in Iowa, the true promise of the “cloud” won’t happen. Apple can’t fix that. AT&T can’t fix that.

There are simply too many situations where people don’t have access.

Some things are too big for any company to do. The government really does need to step in on the big necessities. And the Internet is surely one of those necessities at this point.

AT&T capping desktop Internet access. Cable companies will follow.

How does AT&T defend the move? The company explains it will only impact two percent of consumers who use “a disproportionate amount of bandwidth,” and poses the caps as an alternative to throttling transfer speeds or disconnecting excessive users from the service completely. Customers will be able to check their usage with an online tool, and get notifications when they reach 65 percent, 90 percent and 100 percent of their monthly rates.

This impacts two percent of customers today. What about five years from now? Once we all start streaming all of our television and movies through the Internet at 2160p, how many gigabytes will the average user be downloading a month?

Any sort of bandwidth cap is a huge step backwards for the Internet. It’s a step towards limiting access to only those who have the means to keep paying a premium. It creates, at best, a divided highway; one wide open five-lane autobahn with no speed limit for the rich, and one congested, two-lane, pot-holed mess for everyone else.

But our useless government won’t do anything to stop it.

Who wouldn’t want to visit the Baals Center?

Harry Baals is the runaway favorite in online voting to name the new building in Fort Wayne, about 120 miles northeast of Indianapolis. But Deputy Mayor Beth Malloy said that probably won’t be enough to put the name of the city’s longest-tenured mayor on the center.

The issue is pronunciation. The former mayor pronounced his last name “balls.” His descendants have since changed it to “bales.”

Supporters said it’s unfair that the former mayor can’t be recognized simply because his name makes some people snicker. But opponents fear that naming the center after Baals would make Fort Wayne the target of late-night television jokes.

“We realize that while Harry Baals was a respected mayor, not everyone outside of Fort Wayne will know that,” Malloy said Tuesday in a statement to The Associated Press. “We wanted to pick something that would reflect our pride in our community beyond the boundaries of Fort Wayne.”

These guys are missing the point. If the former mayor’s name sparks late night jokes, that’s tons of free advertising, and a guarantee that the new building will reach a national audience. They’d be stupid NOT to name the building after him.

It never hurts to show the world that you don’t take yourself too seriously, either. I say have a little fun with it.

Senator Al Franken understands the gravity of the Comcast merger

When it comes to the Comcast merger, Franken was even more vocal. “As you probably know, I hate this merger,” he told the group. Not only will it raise prices on TV subscriptions, it will give the combined entity incredible power to stifle competition from online sources like Netflix.

“I’m hearing that Comcast is already preparing to pull NBC Universal’s programming from Netflix when it’s next up for review,” Franken said. The cable industry is worried about the threat from cheaper options like Netflix; “they aren’t stupid and they want to shut it down.”

Franken even referenced the current controversy over Level 3’s peering arrangements with Comcast (Level 3 just won a major contract from Netflix to deliver its content). Comcast’s move to charge for this interconnection is, in Franken’s view, “a clear warning sign of what we can all expect if this deal goes through.”

As he was giving that speech, the merger did go through yesterday, signed off on by the FCC and the Department of Justice. As for what’s next, Franken just sees a new wave of mega-consolidation in which AT&T tries to buy ABC/Disney while Verizon goes after CBS.

“Now is the time to decide if we want four or five companies owning and delivering all of our information and entertainment,” he said.

I’m with Senator Franken on this. It’s no small matter. Not only are we going to see increased prices from less competition. Not only will good alternatives like Netflix get crushed under the weight of giant conglomerates; we’re also going to see even more stifling control over the media message in this country. It’s bad enough that stations like Fox News already have so much influence over a portion of our population. With mergers like the latest Comcast merger that went through yesterday, we may soon live in a country where ONLY stations like Fox News exist. All bias, all the time. Sort of a reverse of what England has with the BBC. Instead of the government running the networks, the networks will run our government.

Have no illusions. The 1% that have all the money in the U.S. have been working toward this goal for a very long time. Rather than controlling the population with an army, as you would in a dictatorship, they use the media to achieve the same goal in this democracy. They’ve owned radio for quite a while already. Television is the next frontier.

The Catholic Church understood in the days of the Holy Roman Empire that language was power. That’s why it never wanted the Bible translated into other languages. If only the priests knew latin, then only the priests could understand God’s word. And everyone else had to trust their interpretation. Control the message, and you control the population. Same basic principle here.

I fear it may already be too late to stop this.

Defiling Mark Twain should be a federal crime.

Mark Twain wrote that “the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter.” A new edition of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “Tom Sawyer” will try to find out if that holds true by replacing the N-word with “slave” in an effort not to offend readers.

Twain scholar Alan Gribben, who is working with NewSouth Books in Alabama to publish a combined volume of the books, said the N-word appears 219 times in “Huck Finn” and four times in “Tom Sawyer.” He said the word puts the books in danger of joining the list of literary classics that Twain once humorously defined as those “which people praise and don’t read.”

I don’t know whether to be sad, offended, or outraged about this. Maybe I’m all three.

Anyone who reads Mark Twain and doesn’t immediately get that he was way ahead of his time, MAKING FUN of racist ignorance in the deep South doesn’t deserve the gift of literacy. Seriously. Go home and shoot yourself. You’re not contributing anything positive to planet Earth.

This is the worst kind of Political Correctness gone berserk. We’re literally whitewashing our history and destroying one of the few truly worthy pieces of literature to come out of this country for what, exactly? To make some people feel better by pretending that no one ever used that word? Pretending that people still don’t use that word?

This has nothing whatsoever to do with not offending African Americans, by the way. This is about lying in order to diminish white guilt. Plain and simple. Turn a blind eye and pretend it never happened. Great way to ensure that it keeps happening.

Notice the guy publishing the book is white? Notice the parent groups who always want to ban Huck Finn are predominantly white? See a pattern here?

You don’t reduce racism by pretending it doesn’t exist. You diminish it by bringing it to the light, forcing people to face it, starting an uncomfortable conversation about what those words mean to different people and why they’re so offensive.

Huck Finn is the best tool we have in American Literature to teach about this incredibly important period in our history. It’s literature, history, politics, sociology, and child psychology, all rolled into one. It’s the thing you put into the space capsule and blast into the next universe as a symbol of what mankind is capable of producing. That’s exactly why the book has been a staple of public education for so long in this country.

And this dillweed gets to defile it? And no one is stopping him?

For God’s sake, why must America continue to run at full speed toward the biggest idiots on Earth prize? We won. A long time ago. No one is catching up anytime soon, believe me. We can stop now.

FIghting Terrorism in Wal-Mart

At least 200 Wal-Mart stores will roll out security
announcements within 24 hours, Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman
said. By month’s end, 588 stores in 27 states will be participating
in the program. A short video featuring Napolitano will appear on
TV screens at select checkout lanes, asking Wal-Mart shoppers to
contact local law enforcement to report suspicious activity.

“If you see something suspicious in the parking lot or in the
store, say something immediately,” Napolitano said in the video.
“Report suspicious activity to your local police or sheriff. If you
need help ask a Wal-Mart manager for assistance.”

Glad I never set foot in Wal-Mart.

So I guess I wasn’t wrong to suggest that our government might just want to expand the TSA’s reach beyond the airport. Give it a few years, if nut jobs like Napolitano get their way. We’ll be getting x-rayed and backscattered at the drive-thru at In-N-Out Burger.

Are we supposed to be stupid enough to think this has anything to do with stopping terrorism? Terrorists at Wal-Mart?

This is about driving us to stupidity with fear, plain and simple. Keep us looking at each other, and we stop looking at what they’re doing to us.

If you think it’s okay for your government to turn its citizens against one another in order to justify draconian, fascist nonsense like this, I seriously feel sorry for you.

Aaron Sorkin – In Her Defense, I’m Sure the Moose Had It Coming

I’m able to make a distinction between you and me without
feeling the least bit hypocritical. I don’t watch snuff films and
you make them. You weren’t killing that animal for food or shelter
or even fashion, you were killing it for fun. You enjoy killing
animals. I can make the distinction between the two of us but I’ve
tried and tried and for the life of me, I can’t make a distinction
between what you get paid to do and what Michael Vick went to
prison for doing. I’m able to make the distinction with no pangs of
hypocrisy even though I get happy every time one of you faux-macho
shitheads accidentally shoots another one of you in the face.

So I don’t think I will save my condemnation, you phony pioneer
girl. (I’m in film and television, Cruella, and there was an insert
close-up of your manicure while you were roughing it in God’s
country. I know exactly how many feet off camera your hair and
make-up trailer was.)

Couldn’t have written it better myself. Then again, I’m not a famous television and movie writer, so it only makes sense that I couldn’t have written it better myself.

Palin is not a candidate for President. She’s a media figure who gets paid to make everyone think she’s a presidential candidate. She’s the Paris Hilton of politics. Her goal is simple: continue to make millions of dollars fooling people into thinking she is of any significance to anyone. At this, I will admit, she is a master. At everything else, she’s a loser, plain and simple.

Anti-WikiLeaks lies and propaganda – from TNR, Lauer, Feinstein and more – Glenn Greenwald – Salon.com

Every line of pro-prosecution rationale cited by Feinstein applies equally to journalists — including especially the newspapers from around the world which are publishing all of the same diplomatic cables as WikiLeaks is, and which are publishing them before WikiLeaks even does.   How can it possibly be that WikiLeaks should be prosecuted for espionage, but not The New York Times, or The Guardian, or any other newspaper that publishes these cables? 

In 2006, Alberto Gonzales threatened to prosecute The New York Times for revealing Bush’s illegal NSA program, and The Weekly Standard ran numerous articles calling for the prosecution of NYT journalists and editors under the Espionage Act for having done so.  Bill Bennett demanded the prosecution of The Washington Post‘s Dana Priest for revealing the CIA black sites.  How can all the Good Democrats who condemned that mentality possibly not condemn Dianne Feinstein and those who think like her?  What’s the difference?

“I am… for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents.” –Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 1799. ME 10:78

That quote from Jefferson is most poignant to the Wikileaks discussion.

A disturbing number of people seem to think that journalists in this country should be legally obligated to hold back information at the behest of their government. That’s insane to me. The government can request that a story be held for “national security” reasons, but no journalist is legally bound to obey that request. It’s a professional courtesy, one that can be denied, if the journalist judges that people have a right to that information.

As far as I can tell, the New York Times, Guardian, and even Wikileaks itself made every effort to redact whatever information they may have felt could cause legitimate security issues. They requested help with that from their governments, but didn’t get it. So they used their best judgement.

Ultimately, if you think that your government should be able to arrest people for publishing information that was leaked in whatever fashion, then you are placing far too much trust in your government. A free press is a crucial part of the checks and balances system that has served us pretty well thus far. Start questioning whether or not the government can actually prosecute you for publishing something, no matter how sensitive, and you hand a tremendous amount of power over a very small group of individuals, who, let’s be honest, have not come close to proving themselves to have our best interests at heart.

What if one of our senators decided to murder someone in cold blood, just for spite? Then he or she declared it was a matter of national security. Are we no longer entitled to that information? Who gets to decide what constitutes a national secret, and who doesn’t? How do I know it’s in my own best interest not to know something?

It’s an awful lot of trust to put in another human being you don’t even know.

Put down the flag for a minute and use common sense. Particularly since 9/11, our government has been systematically usurping more and more power without a peep from us. Don’t fall for the patriotic nonsense that we should allow our government to do as it pleases without any consequences.

And to those in the government, you have two options: Plug the leaks in your boat, or STOP DOING EMBARRASSING, ILLEGAL, AND POTENTIALLY CATASTROPHIC THINGS. This stuff is leaking for a reason. Clearly, some people on the inside feel that you are doing some things you shouldn’t be doing. So much so that they are risking their lives to leak it.

We’re not all uneducated children. If you honestly think there’s a good reason why you have to break the rules every once in a while, level with us. Explain it to us. Because ultimately, no matter what you may think, YOU ANSWER TO US.