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Current Topic: Politics and Law

Congress doesn't care...
Topic: Politics and Law 1:02 pm EST, Jan  5, 2004

Ever since it passed the USA Patriot Act, Congress has stood by in an alarming silence while a fabric of new law governing the balance between liberty and security has been woven by the other two branches of government.

Many Democrats are happy to snipe from the sidelines but offer little in the way of constructive alternatives. They are content not to do their job ...

Alleged enemy combatants, after all, don't tend to be an organized constituency of campaign donors who can garner congressional attention.

This is quite an essay. The Washington Post is saying that we have a Congress that is completely ignoring it's responsibilities to the most critical Consititutional matters of our time, both because they are afraid of the Administration, and because they don't care: Constitutional issues are not important to the various special interests and lobby groups that make up their electoral support structure.

Congress doesn't care...

We Hate Spam, Congress Says (Except When It's Sent by Us)
Topic: Politics and Law 2:32 am EST, Dec 28, 2003

] Even as Congress was unanimously approving a law aimed at reducing
] the flow of junk e-mail, members were sending out hundreds of
] thousands of unsolicited messages to constituents.

] The new policy is fueling an e-mail arms race. Democrats say
] that the new policy, which was drawn up by the Republicans
] who control the House, took them somewhat by surprise, but
] they are catching up.
] "The Democrats are worried," said Roger A. Stone, the chief
] executive of Advocacy, who has been signing up Democratic
] offices at the rate of about five a week. "I'm dealing with
] people whose boss said, `Get me some of that Internet.' "

We Hate Spam, Congress Says (Except When It's Sent by Us)

E-Votes Must Leave a Paper Trail
Topic: Politics and Law 9:45 pm EST, Nov 21, 2003

California will become the first state requiring all electronic voting machines produce a voter-verifiable paper receipt.

The requirement, announced Friday by California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, applies to all electronic voting systems already in use as well as those currently being purchased. The machines must be retrofitted with printers to produce a receipt by 2006.

E-Votes Must Leave a Paper Trail

FCC to begin VoIP inquiry | CNET
Topic: Politics and Law 6:46 am EST, Nov  7, 2003

] The FCC will begin a yearlong inquiry into the
] "appropriate regulatory environment for these services"
] on Dec. 1, the commission said in an announcement.
] "The FCC has been studying VoIP issues for several years,
] but things have greatly accelerated over the past year,
] and, thus, so have the FCC's actions to address the
] complex issues that arise,"
] FCC Chairman Michael Powell wrote in an accompanying
] letter to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, who is sponsoring an
] Internet tax ban that could affect voice over Internet
] Protocol services.

Great, the FCC is really on a roll now.. No good can possibly come of this.

FCC to begin VoIP inquiry | CNET

Are PCs next in Hollywood piracy battle? | CNET
Topic: Politics and Law 2:17 am EST, Nov  6, 2003

] The Federal Communications Commission took a historic
] step this week toward limiting piracy of digital
] television signals, enacting regulations that will affect
] not only consumer-electronics manufacturers, but Silicon
] Valley companies as well.

Declan McCullagh's News.Com article on the broadcast flag.

] Three computer hardware makers contacted by CNET
] on Wednesday said that the FCC's order
] would require them to redesign or stop selling their
] current products.

] "This was designed to absolutely kill the computer," said
] Cliff Watson, a senior engineer at Digital Connection, a
] small business in Huntington Beach, Calif., that sells an
] HDTV PCI card. "It will kill the computer because the
] actual implementation of the ruling is so bloody restrictive."

Are PCs next in Hollywood piracy battle? | CNET

[Politech] Analysis of FCC's broadcast flag rules, from Ethan Ackerman
Topic: Politics and Law 8:32 pm EST, Nov  5, 2003

] The second way the FCC's claims are deceptive is the more
] troubling of the two, and that is the compatibility
] problem I spoke of above. Arguably right now a TiVO or a
] DVD recorder with no tuner might not be covered, but
] after 2005, that same TiVO or DVD probably won't be
] compatible with the new FCC-governed DTV television set.
] ***THIS is the REAL problem. Whiles the FCC says the
] device is not covered, after 2005, in many cases it just
] won't work. ***

[Politech] Analysis of FCC's broadcast flag rules, from Ethan Ackerman

Wired News: Spies Attack White House Secrecy
Topic: Politics and Law 6:31 am EDT, Oct 16, 2003

] But despite their cloak-and-dagger reputation, several of
] the country's leading spies, past and present, aren't
] happy about the rush to make things secret. To counter
] far-reaching, stealthy terrorist cabals, the country
] needs more openness, not less, they said Wednesday at
] Geo-Intel 2003, a first-of-its-kind conference here on
] the use of satellites in war, intelligence and homeland
] security.

] Case in point: The Center for Strategic and International
] Studies, a Washington think tank, prepared a report last
] year for firefighters and other so-called "first responders"
] on how to react to a chemical weapons attack. But when
] the paper was completed, the Defense Department classified
] it, CSIS analyst Jim Lewis noted. Now, the firefighters will
] never get the benefit of that information.

Wired News: Spies Attack White House Secrecy

Another case of electronic vote-tampering?
Topic: Politics and Law 3:29 am EDT, Oct  5, 2003

] On its own, Allen's experience seems easy to dismiss, but
] it's part of a pattern, the voting activists say, that
] reveals the voting industry's desire to keep people off.
] The worst transgression, one that almost everyone
] interviewed pointed to, occurred in a conference call on
] Sept. 16. The agenda for that meeting was sent to
] participants before the call, and it clearly states that
] the first order of business would be to approve new
] members, after which the committee would decide whether
] or not the draft standard was ready to be approved. The
] new members up for approval that day were Jim Adler,
] Alice Allen, Chuck Corry, David Dill, G.D. Miller, Ted
] Selker and Barbara Simons -- many of whom are in favor of
] verifiable audit trails in voting machines.
] But when people got on the phone that day, Vern Williams,
] a voting security expert at SAIC, an information
] technology consulting firm, suggested that the agenda be
] switched so that new members were approved after the
] committee voted on the draft standard -- a move that
] would ensure that the new members would have no say on
] the proposed standard. Williams' motion passed. Then the
] committee decided to open the draft standard for voting.
] And after that, the new members were approved.
] The activists were outraged at this maneuver. "I kept
] saying, 'We've been disenfranchised!'" says Simons, a
] computer scientist who worries about the security of
] electronic voting systems. Simons and others tried to
] reopen the vote on the standard, but one of the committee
] leaders then proposed a motion to adjourn the meeting.
] According to Roberts Rules of Order, an adjournment
] motion takes precedence over other motions. The motion
] won by one vote, and the meeting was adjourned.

This situation concerns me..

Another case of electronic vote-tampering?

George Bush News Feeds, Privacy, and Allegory
Topic: Politics and Law 6:18 am EDT, Aug 28, 2003

] Have a personal Web site or blog? If so, get the latest
] campaign headlines and inside scoop posted instantly to
] your site through a live news feed from!
] Just choose one of the two styles available, copy and
] paste the single line of code to put these news feeds
] anywhere on your site.

Its not an RSS feed, its a javascript thing you embed in a page. Its Bush after all, so it sucks, and is somehow more controlling then necessary. See, what's needed is some type of syndication format, so people could just display the press releases and crap on their site using whatever schema they desire.. Here, it looks simple, its just one line you put in your webpage, but you wind up with this ugly box that you can't do anything to control or tweak.. You have to like Bush's color scheme to support him on the web I guess. Also, it could say anything to anyone visiting your page, and you wouldn't know because its interpreted client side. It could also be used by the Bush team to monitor the readership of your site.

From the Privacy Policy posted:
] How we use log files to better serve you: We use log files
] to assess the aggregate level of traffic to
] including what pages people are visiting, and to diagnose
] any potential problems with the Web site.  This log file
] does contain an “Internet Protocol” or IP address that gives
] us insight on the general geographic area that visitors are
] coming from but not information on a specific individual.
]  We do not use log files to track a particular individual’s use
] of

I'm a paranoid libertarian conspiracy theorist. I admit that. So allow me to spin off on a tangent and start making connections.. They are clearly going to be looking at URL referral information. Thats a "duh". And here they say they are at least gaining "insight on the general geographic area that visitors are coming from", so they are looking up IPs against an IP/location lookup service like GeoIp, which is not cheap to do at scale, and not a "normal" thing to do. Ok, so that implies there is real effort going into data mining the logs. At the very least, your standard webstats + info on ip location. There is a real reason for them to want to know where users/votes are, thats not the thing.. I just _really_ don't like the idea of the _Bush People_, collecting and data mining stats across large numbers of websites using banner crap like this.. The aggregate vs. individual shit in the privacy policy does not do much to ease my sudden wave of paranoia. People are more dangerous in groups, and nothing about this statement does anything to make me think they are not looking at and/or tracking groups.. And possibly interested in what groups follow what websites, and the relationship between those website, for whatever evil goals.. In general, you don't care what any one person does, you care what more then N people are doing.

I mean, common.. The phrase "How we use log files to better serve you".. Doesn't that make a shiver crawl up your spine? Yes yes yes, I see the irony.. "Using log files to serve you better" sounds like a slogan for MemeStreams.. But its not me saying it, its Bush. Thats scary. Hmm.. I'm hung up on this phrase.. You wouldn't even have to paraphrase it to use it as a header in a RIAA FAQ. Heh..

So when you see one of these on a site, email the webmaster and tell them you don't want having the ability to track your visits to their site.

George Bush News Feeds, Privacy, and Allegory

The implications of DMCA subpoenas on privacy/stalking
Topic: Politics and Law 10:50 pm EDT, Aug  7, 2003

] An even greater risk is putting this subpoena power in
] the hands of anyone willing to pretend to have a copyright
] claim. These fraudulent requests will be impossible to
] distinguish from legitimate ones.

(Comments from Decius)

The EFF spoke of this at Defcon... That as these subpoenas become an established proceedure, which is almost the case now, they will be a powerfull tool for stalkers, batterers, and other kinds of predators. You don't really care about being in contempt of court if you are planning to assault someone. Predators will use these subpoenas to track down their victims. The internet will really become a very unsafe place unless you use an anonymizing proxy network.

Whether its the elminiation of judicial oversite for subpoenas or the approval of vigilanti computer hacking, Congress seems to be absolutely committed to the erosion of critical, fundamental pillars that underlie the very rule of law in the United States in an attempt to give their friends in the media industries what they want. Enabling predators is obviously far far worse then any amount of copyright infringement that might be going on, but thats just the beginning. If they continue down this road, Congress must eventually must conceed that by picking away at the rule of law they are in fact picking away at their own authority and their own reasons for existance. Do it here, and establish that its legal here, and it will pop up somewhere else, and then again, and again, until there are very serious threats to the stability of this system of goverment.

Of all possible ways to address this problem, these people have chosen a path that is dumber then any I had imagined... Between these actions, and the pressures they exert which will naturally lead to the development of extremely strong anonymizing proxy technology, Congress is breaking ground, at this moment, on a very, very ugly future for all of this. And they have absolutely, positively, no fucking clue about the implications of their actions. Tim May might just turn out to have been right all along.

The implications of DMCA subpoenas on privacy/stalking

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