Invisible Laws, Our Privacy and a Deep Rabbit Hole

Rabbit HoleI know that some of you have… issues… with my seemingly rebellious nature. But rebellion is quite a different thing than questioning more deeply into matters. Past questioning, is action on what you discover. And that action is the truer test of one’s mettle.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette has an excellent article on John Gilmore, one of the first shaping people of Sun Microsystems, a large contributor to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the cracker of the government’s DES encryption algorithm.

Recently he has stopped giving airport personnel his ID when boarding a plane. He believes there is no security benefit gained when having to show ID at the airport with “magnetometers at the gates, guards with security wands, fortified cockpit doors and sky marshals abounding”.

But the airlines require it. He asked why, and they say it’s the law. He asks to see the law, and they cannot produce it. He asks government agencies, and they say there is no such law. He files suit and digs further and it turns out there actually is such a law, but we are not allowed to see it.

“That’s the problem. How it sounds,” Gilmore said. He waved his hands like some Cassandra: “They have all these secret laws! The UFOs are coming!”

He was arrested for not showing his ID. Subsequently, the charges were dropped by the District Attorney. Most charges are dropped related to this law – including charges against baggage handlers who steal from people’s baggage. They are dropped because it would force a discussion of the secret law in open court.

The Transportation Safety Administration, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, created the regulation, and this regulation is classified as “Sensitive Security Information”.

When Congress passes a law, it should be shown to the public so they can not only know about it (or be arrested, where the prevailing idiot-ude is “ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law”) or even challenge the Constitutionality of the law in the courts.

So how do we challenge the Constitutionality of a law that we are not even allowed to examine? This is what a representative of the Transportation Safety Administration has to say:

“I have no idea,” Davis said. “If a passenger doesn’t wish to show ID prior to getting a boarding pass, that’s something they’re going to have to take up with the air carrier. And the air carrier is required to obtain government-issued identification.”

Gilmore believes this is yet another way the government is trying to slip in national ID requirements for its citizens – an easy way to track more and more information about us. And as an IT person, I can certainly understand the potential horrors that might result from errors or purposeful abuse.

A few days ago Anthony asked me why I hadn’t written anything about the growing movement toward national ID cards within the government. This movement started some time ago, and various tactics have been taken. The most recent of which, can be read about from the link Anthony provided on News.com.

In the meantime, Gilmore, a multimillionare, rides the bus.

Rejecting People Who Would Defend Us

The military is comprised of men and women who devote their lives to protecting us. They achieve this not only through strength of arms, but through intelligence, strategy, management and research.

Since 1993, our armed services have discharged around 10,000 men and women from service to their country because it was discovered that they love members of their same sex.

According to the BBC, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) determined that 757 of these people expelled were in “critical occupations” such as interpreters and intelligence analysts.

They go on to say that “Some 322 had proficiency in strategically important languages that the Pentagon has said are in short supply”.

In terms of raw dollars, the Pentagon policy toward gay people has eaten into our defense budget by over $200 million – and that cost is only the cost to replace these personnel.

The Pentagon policy is justified because they claim that having gays serve can undermine the performance of the military.

In contrast, historically, societies have been known to encourage gays to serve in a military context because they would fight wholeheartedly and without fear to save and defend their comrade.

The BBC also reports that three high ranking military officers, after their retirement, have declared that they are gay, and are speaking out against the absurdities inherent in this Pentagon policy – not only logistically and economically, but within the very fabric of the military social context.

These admirable people are Brigadier General Virgil Richard, Rear Admiral Alan Steinman, and Brigadier General Keith Kerr.

“Neither Dr Steinman or General Richard fully realised they were gay when they joined up, and both said they had “struggled emotionally” as a result.”

There is no actual basis for the Pentagon’s justification of banning men and women from military service based upon whom they love. Gays are allowed to serve in the military in many countries, without adverse effect.

UKIn 1999, the UK lifted its ban on gays in the military after the European Court of Human Rights ruled it was unlawful. And since that time, the armed forces of the UK have demonstrated that no diminution in military combat effectiveness has resulted.

It is time that we stopped segregating, alienating and marginalizeing people. The military and sports are the last great bastions of male self doubt and insecurity left – these bastions of “masculinity” where self-hating men can run to and hide themselves away in bravado and the manifestation of self-loathing by attacking others.

Let the military be for military, sports be for the sport, and the love possible between people grow as much as possible.

T-Mobile and Sprint Customers’ Voicemail Crack

I just read on Kevin Rose’s site that T-Mobile and Sprint customers’ voice mail is not secure. He was mentioning the address books and voicemail of the Paris Hilton and Vin Diesel being compromised.

If someone can spoof the caller-ID of your cell phone number (which is not difficult at all) then this person can access your voice mail functions just as you would normally having called from your cell phone, if you have auto-retrieve enabled.

Just thought I’d post this to let anyone know who might not have known otherwise, and finds it important.

Microsoft: Of Course Safe Products Are More Important Than Our Profit

A few years ago when Microsoft announced it was “integrating” their Internet Explorer web browser into the operating system itself, many people who knew a bit about computer systems saw immediately the hand of Marketing dominating the actual computer science.

Processes in a computer system are discreet for a very good reason – one should effect another in predefined ways, limiting the scope of error and enhancing capabilities through standardized APIs.

But Microsoft needed to dominate the market further, even though it already was dominant.

Instead of focusing on creating a safer and widely standardized web browser product, they instead chose to blur its distinction from the operating system, making the web browser capable of effecting things at a very low level all by itself – a level that is normally managed by just the operating system, with all of its security features, and checks and balances.

This played nicely into their strategy of defending themselves against monopolistic practices rulings – by blurring the distinction of the web browser from the operating system, they could say that the web browser must remain or the whole computer system is broken. Of course, this perspective is more marketing/legal strategic than scientific.

Now that Mozilla’s Firefox web browser is being used by more and more people – a steadily growing user base – Microsoft has somehow discovered a way to separate Internet Explorer from Windows and still allow the computers to function. They’re planning a release of a new version of Internet Explorer that is separate from the operating system itself to help enchance security.

What a great discovery they have made!

Once again they have allowed their marketing people to dominate the science. They have created a product for people that they knew is globally used, making it vulnerable to theft, fraud and just pure destruction, to satisfy their marketing goals.

Now they say they are interested in security – now that more people are using Firefox.

And their solution is to go back to doing things the way that everyone knows it should be done. How much loss could have been prevented if the science prevailed over marketing?

And even speaking from the selfish business perspective – how much did Microsoft gain by listening to marketing over science in the long run, when their public trust becomes so tainted. Their only saving “grace” is that people are too lazy to change.

They will speak from the “positive”, portraying themselves as a company that cares about security and always has. They will never address their prior actions that demonstrate otherwise. It is the position of underlying corruption and duplicity.

But at least people should soon benefit from having some better security when using their products.

One of many articles:

CRN | Gates: Independent Browser, Free Spyware On Tap As Part Of Security Efforts

Ruled by Merchants

I play a lot of fantasy role-playing games. In fact, I’m a friend and I are building pretty large world right now.

You get to think a lot about the “order” of things when building your own worlds.

In none of them, are the lands ever ruled by the merchants.

It makes little sense to have merchants rule. The game we play, Neverwinter Nights has a thing called factions – characters are part of factional groups – and factions feel differently toward one another – hostile, friendly, willing to protect, or flee from. Two of the other factions are Defenders (military) and Commoners.

By default, this is how it’s set up:

Merchants like Merchants and they like Defenders. They are neutral to Commoners.

Defenders like Defenders, Merchants and Commoners.

Commoners like Commoners and are neutral to both Merchants and Defenders.

We are ever increasingly – in all parts of the world – being ruled by the Merchants.

Will this help us attain our utmost in the unfolding of our humanity on this planet? Can we trust that, as Merchants, their humanity will unfold for us all?

Ack… but anyway, here’s a little blurb I got about the Social Security privatization thang – where we take an enormous amount of public money and move it into the private financial sectors.

I am not an economist or accountant. But I do know that when someone brings me something cloaked in a deception, it’s hard to believe in the true benefit of it once uncloaked.

Dear MoveOn member,

Nearly 500,000 MoveOn members like you have signed our petition opposing Social Security privatization and benefit cuts. Recently, Bush has had to back away from his rhetoric about Social Security facing a “crisis.” Democratic Senators are united in opposing the plan. Now the battle for Social Security is coming to a town near you.

The next few weeks may be a pivotal moment in this fight, as members of Congress come home to face their constituents on this issue for the first time. While he’s home, Congressman McDermott is holding a town hall meeting on Social Security to hear from the people. If enough of us show up in opposition to Bush’s plan, the whole thing could die here.

Across the country, thousands of us will be going to these meetings. Can we count on you to join us?

http://action.moveon.org/socialsecurity/

This is our best chance to reach our members of Congress. Even those already opposed to privatization need a boost of confidence. Local news reporters will attend these meetings to see how they go — you can help prove that there’s a large constituency for staying the course.

Attending a town hall meeting is easy. You can speak from the heart about why Social Security is so important to your family or you can use the basic talking points we’ve provided below. It’s important for your representative in Congress to see people are paying attention to this issue and watching how he votes.

Town hall meetings are happening nationwide. Find one near you right now:

http://action.moveon.org/socialsecurity/

We’ve come a long way since Bush announced his plan for private accounts. Now let’s take it to our members of Congress, who will make or break his plan.

Thanks for all you do.

Sincerely,

–Tom Matzzie, Eli Pariser, Noah T. Winer, and the whole MoveOn.org team
Thursday, February 17th, 2005

P.S. If you like, here are some talking points on the Republican Social Security plan:

George Bush’s plan would make massive cuts in Social Security benefits for future retirees in order to pay for private accounts. Privatization diverts Social Security taxes used to pay current benefits into private accounts. Without that money, Social Security benefits will inevitably be cut — up to 46 percent for future retirees.
* Privatization means trillions of dollars of new national debt. Because current Social Security taxes are used to pay for private accounts taking that money out means huge deficits — as high as $15 trillion over the next 40 years.
* The Republican plan would turn a guaranteed benefit into a guaranteed gamble. The stock market is risky and can’t be predicted — that could means millions of people don’t have the money they need when they need it.
* Social Security is not going bankrupt, contrary to the president’s claims. That is a deception perpetrated in order to create the urgency for radical changes. Under conservative forecasts, the long-term challenges in Social Security do not manifest themselves until 2042. Even then Social Security has 70 percent of needed funds.
*
If you can only say one thing, say: Republicans want to cut benefits and privatize Social Security which would gut a sound program and burden future generations with trillions in debt.