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Archive for the ‘Politics and Local Topics’ Category

Apple’s iMessage encryption trips up feds’ surveillance | Politics and Law – CNET News

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

The DEA has figured out that getting a wiretap order for an iPhone, executed at the phone company, doesn’t get them iMessage content. It’s pretty obvious the various TLAs engaged in law enforcement will use this as a concrete example to push the “Going Dark” initiative to get CALEA reinterpreted (or legislated) to cover various internet based communication services. And designing a service to use end-to-end protection will be right out.

iMessage is a special case here, since it inserts itself into the normal text message user interface. It’s the phone’s preferred way to send messages, and from the user’s (and law enforcement’s) perspective, it’s a native feature of the phone rather than an app.

I’m worried this will bring up yet another concern–even if they get what they want with CALEA, they are going to discover that they have execute multiple, maybe even many, wire tap orders to track a single subject. How long until we require each ISP to be able to MiTM attach every TLS connection? Or another clipper chip initiative?

Apple’s iMessage encryption trips up feds’ surveillance | Politics and Law – CNET News

(Via MacRumors.)

Will we ever do anything like this again?

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Political Fallout

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

It’s started. We knew it would.

Japan current nuclear plant problem is real. I don’t want to take anything away from that.

But the anti-nuclear rhetoric is already starting. This big scary nuke plants must be a danger to us all. And I freely admit, there are dangers involved. The only rational response I can think of, is a quote from Wikipedia:

Comparing the historical safety record of civilian nuclear energy with other forms of electrical generation, Ball, Roberts, and Simpson, the IAEA, and the Paul Scherrer Institute found in separate studies that during the period from 1970 to 1992, there were just 39 on-the-job deaths of nuclear power plant workers worldwide, while during the same time period, there were 6,400 on-the-job deaths of coal power plant workers, 1,200 on-the-job deaths of natural gas power plant workers and members of the general public caused by natural gas power plants, and 4,000 deaths of members of the general public caused by hydroelectric power plants.In particular, coal power plants are estimated to kill 24,000 Americans per year, due to lung disease as well as causing 40,000 heart attacks per year in the United States. According to Scientific American, the average coal power plant emits more than 100 times as much radiation per year than a comparatively sized nuclear power plant in the form of toxic coal waste known as fly ash.

Now, don’t think for a minute that I believe nuclear plants are a good idea. No centralized, high-capital approach to energy is a good idea. But since we seem to be limited to centralized, high-capital approaches, nuclear power is about the best option we’ve got.

Here’s to hoping Japan can solve this problem with the least possible damage to life and property. And to hoping we can learn the lessons needed to make this sort of thing safer in the future. But any discussion about the risks of nuclear power must consider the relative risks of just about every other energy source we currently have.

More Clever AddWords

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

This landed in my RSS reader. If those whales would just learn to eat krill like their big blue cousins, they wouldn’t be in this predicament.

Screen shot 2010-03-11 at 11.27.07 PM.png

Cheesy Promotion

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Kraft Foods is now the official sponsor of the implosion of Texas Stadium.

Have we run out of new stadiums to promote, so we have to promote the demolition of old ones?

Update: Wow.

Texas May have Banned Marriage

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Texas passed an amendment in 2005 with the intent of banning gay-marriage. But they may have banned more than they intended.

The amendment contains the text:

This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

Logically, it seems like “marriage” is a member of the set of legal statuses “identical or similar to marriage”. Of course, there’s no telling how a judge would interpret the idea of something being “identical or similar” to itself.

Things (I Think) I Heard from Kitchens of Seattle Restaurants Last Weekend:

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Elliot’s Oyster House:

Voice 1: “First rock salt, and now this? No!”

Voice 2: [inaudible]

Voice 1: “I’m not telling you her name.”


“The zombies were good, but sometimes they fight.”

(Both restaurants were excellent, BTW)

Incandescent Lights: What EISA Really Means

Friday, September 4th, 2009

There’s been a lot of press coverage recently of the incandescent lighting provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, and it’s largely been of the form “The US Government is banning incandescent light bulbs.”

While this makes for good prime-time newsvertainment, it’s not really true.

The tungsten light bulb was invented in 1905 as a fairly radical improvement on the earlier carbon filament bulbs, which would generally last less than a week before burning out. The humble incandescent light bulb was pretty constantly improved — both in terms of lifetime and efficiency — until about 1964. At that point in time, a bulb that used 100 watts could put out between 1,300 and 1,700 lumens. And that’s where we are now. The most commonly used incandescent bulbs have seen no real improvements in the past 45 years.

Now, let’s look at what EISA actually says about incandescent bulbs. A careful reading shows that it doesn’t eliminate incandescent bulbs. Far from it. All it does is set minimum efficiency standards for them. The relevant information comes from Pub.L. 110-140, Subtitle B, Section 321 (a)(3)(A)(ii)(I)(cc); the important columns from the table are:

Lumens Maximum
1490 – 2600
1050 – 1489
750 – 1049
310 – 749

The four lines in the table correspond roughly to modern 100, 75, 60, and 40 watt bulbs respectively. So, those are certainly aggressive compared to the ’60’s technology that we’re using today. But it’s not a “ban on incandescent bulbs” any more than recent automobile efficiency regulations are a “ban on internal combustion engines.”

In fact, you can already buy, right now in 2009, a number of bulbs that meet these standards. Sure, they’re a bit pricey right now, but so were 13 SEER air conditioners five years ago. When regulations force minimum efficiency standards, economies of scale almost always kick in and drop the prices to be very close to those of the older, less efficient technologies.

On top of this, we’ve seen some extremely promising advances in incandescent technologies, including laser treatment of filaments and coatings that turn waste heat into visible light. Either of these alone would completely blow the EISA standards out of the water, beating them by a margin of more than 30%. And there’s no reason to believe that they can’t be combined with each other for additional efficiencies.

So, before you start writing your eulogies for the humble incandescent bulb, I’d give the industry some time to show us what they can do when given a challenge.

Edit: there are additional EISA provisions that kick in January 1st, 2020; these require an efficiency of 45 lumens per watt or better. This will be more difficult, but the kinds of advances I talk about above are already close to this standard — the laser technique gets you to 35 lumens per watt — so even that isn’t likely to be incandescent’s death knell.

Hit & Run > The Whole Foods Plan for Health Care Reform – Reason Magazine

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Reason’s Matt Welch points out what I consider the single biggest bang-for-the-buck health-care reform opportunity in his blog on Whole Foods CEO John Makey’s proposal:

“As someone who h-a-t-e-s the health care system, I’ve never understood why de-linking insurance from employment isn’t a central part of every serious crack at reform, given that a preponderance of analysts on all sides of the debate agree that the post-war linkage of health benefits to the workplace is one of the system’s Original Sins.”

Hit & Run > The Whole Foods Plan for Health Care Reform – Reason Magazine

Joe the Plumber to Become War Correspondent

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

No, really, I’m not kidding.

(Via Reason Magazine.)

For Fluffy

Monday, January 5th, 2009

(Credit to R. Stevens)

Rotten Brains

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

As the year draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on times past.

Back in September of 1997, when the media found out about the various transmissible spongiform encephalopathies that can arise from eating neural material of infected animals, CNN ran a story specifically about the eating of squirrel brains as a delicacy in certain southern US states.

The best part is the graphic they ran along with the story, which helpfully points out what part of the squirrel one should avoid eating:


Have a pleasant new year, and watch out for those squirrels.

We’re In Ur Bank…

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Laugh-Out-Loud Cats #950

(Via BoingBoing.)

Llama fetus ritual to help Bolivia’s Morales?

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

A “witch doctor” burns dried llama fetuses to support Morales in the Bolivian recall election. I boggle at the fact fact that there is a market for dried llama fetuses in the first place.

Stepping our way to the panopticon…

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

OK, I admit that I can no longer count the times I’ve been waiting for a green light, see the opposing traffic slow and stop, have my light turn green and then see a car whizz past me through the light that just turned red. It’s stupid and dangerous (not to mention definitely a moving violation).

Some cities have begun using automated Red Light Cameras. Some of them have notable misconfigurations enhancing the ideas that it is merely all about revenue rather than safety. There are other devices besides only red-light monitors, and I just have to wonder if there are better ways.


Texas “Body Farm” on Hold

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

Sometimes the news is breath-takingly weird.

It seems that Texas State University in San Marcos, TX, had to put their “body farm” project on hold. What’s a body farm, you ask? It’s a location to study the decomposition of, well, bodies. Human ones. For forensic research purposes. There are a couple of these in the USA already, but Texas has a different enough climate to warrant one of its own.

But that’s not the really weird part. The reason this is being put on hold is not the obvious “not in my backyard” argument. Rather, it is the concern that the resulting buzzard density might endanger traffic at a nearby community airport.

Oh, they’ve done it now.

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

I wonder if Disney will consider Hamas’ use of Mickey Mouse as an act of war? They should know better than to mess with the mouse! Now we’re going to have to save the world for democracycontent-owners.

This really isn’t funny [snicker]. No, really.


[okay, the strike-through font humor doesn’t translate to RSS…]

End of Internet Radio?

Monday, March 5th, 2007

The US Copyright Royalty board has approved a per-performance royalty regime for internet streaming. Per-performance means they pay royalties for every _listener_ for each song they play, retroactive to 2006. This puts a far greater burden on internet streaming radio than on conventional radio. In many (most?) cases, the new royalty requirements are greater than the revenue of the stations.

I am a big fan of Radio Paradise. I’ve listened to them for years, and contributed several times. They have posted an essay on the subject.

Of course, there is an easy fix for this. Move offshore. And laugh while our copyright regime completely collapses under its own greed and idiocy.

It’s hard to imagine that _no_ one at SoundExchange and the RIAA gets this.

Skilling Sentenced, Incoherent

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Jeff Skilling was sentenced to a smidgen more than 24 years today. Shortly before the sentencing, he addressed the judge with some of the most bizarre doublespeak I’ve ever seen published in a news article.

“In terms of remorse your honor, I can’t imagine more remorse. That being said your, your honor, I am innocent of these charges. I am innocent of every one of these charges.”

In other words: “I’m really, really sorry that I did all those horrible things which, I must point out, I did not do.”

Wright Amendment: An End in Sight

Sunday, June 18th, 2006

After decades of the Wright Amendment crippling Love Field in Dallas, it appears that an end may finally be in sight. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s plea for the involved parties to come up with a local solution instead of dragging the fight into the US Senate seems to have finally yielded fruit: last Thursday (June 15th), American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Dallas, Fort Worth, and the DFW Airport signed an agreement that represents a truce among the parties. Admittedly, this is just the first step in what will be a very long process (it needs to be okayed by Dallas and Fort Worth as well as the DFW Airport board, and then needs to pass through US Congress before December), but it is rather promising.

The good news is that, if everything goes well, the Wright Amendment is going away.

The bad news is that Southwest will still largely suffer under the same restrictions for another 8 years. Apparently, American Airlines, being unused to any sensible competition in the Dallas area, needs that long to plan a strategy that allows them to compete with an airline that can afford to charge about half as much.

Examining the finer details of the agreement: Southwest is immediately allowed to ticket connecting flights to non-Wright amendment states. In other words, you can now fly from DAL to SJC on a single ticket and check your luggage all the way through; but you’ll have to stop in an allowed destination (like El Paso) on the way.

Also, the City of Dallas will be forced, at taxpayers’ expense, to demolish 12 of the 32 gates at Love Field. Of the remaining 20 gates, Southwest will be allowed to use only 16. And if Southwest chooses to fly out of any airport other than Love in the DFW area, they lose those gates as well.

The important thing here is that American Airlines’ insistent and unattractive plea for the federal government to continue to save it from honest competition has failed. Within 8 years, there is significant promise that the cost of flights from Dallas will drop from 48% above the national average to something more in line with it. And really, that’s good news for everyone — at least, everyone who hasn’t been profiting from ridiculous, government-protected price gouging for the past 30 years.

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