Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Liberty and Support or Control and Hate

I hold these truths as worthy of support
  • all people have the right to life and liberty
  • we are better led by those that aspire to love than those that feed on hate and fear
  • we are better led by those that seek to support than those that seek to control
  • people that can abuse power far too often do so, creating systems that ignore this is dangerous
  • societies are built and held together by communities cooperating and being bound by social conventions
  • those with authority should have that authority limited, challenges to those in authority should be supported and encouraged
  • communities that are built on fear and hate are dangerous and should be challenged
Those granted wisdom, health and/or wealth should seek to help others wherever those people live.

National boundaries matter, we are still having a great deal of trouble building nations that are not corrupted by those abusing authority to control others and enrich themselves. But the worth of people is not defined by their passport. Those that seek to gain support through promoting the hate and fear of others should be challenged and rejected.

Those of us in rich countries are far too concerned with our own material wealth and far too unconcerned with corrupt leaders (politicians, business leaders and others with power) and those less fortunate than us.

We should expect that people everywhere have the right to food, clean water and basic health care.

Implementing solutions based on broad principle is very hard. It isn't surprising that we struggle doing so. But that we fail so utterly far before we get to such difficulties disappointing.

Related: Society is being shaped for us while we are busy making other plans - Preaching False Ideas to Men Known to be Idiots - Living Through Your Society Becoming a Police State - Security Theatre Thinking is Damaging the USA - The Anti Liberty Sentiment in Congress

Friday, December 13, 2013

Quick Thoughts on the Risks of Violence while Traveling

Just a quick response I posted on Reddit that I am also sharing here (to Defending yourself abroad):

Not getting drunk at bars likely proactively addresses a significant portion of issues.

Second, if you are coming from the USA or many other fairly high personal crime countries there are many places you are much safer while traveling. If you are coming from Japan, Singapore, Scandinavia you probably are much more likely to be the victim of crime than at home.

If you are not drunk the most likely crime is theft, while not good, it is much better than being attacked in my opinion (at least much better than being attacked by someone who is the equivalent of your still ineffective kid brother :-)

The biggest concern in a new environment is that you don't pick up on the clues of danger that you would in your home environment. This means to be safe you are wise to try and develop the ability to be more skeptical and more attuned to what is going on around you. You may also be the target as you may be more visible, may be seen as rich, may be seen as a jerk (often being drunk helps boost this impression).

There is danger everywhere. But we often exaggerate the danger of new place (new to us). Being careful makes sense, but the dangers away from home are often statistically less though are unfamiliarity may lead us to be less aware and able to avoid situations we find in unfamiliar surroundings. Also, being on your own (instead of in a city with lots of friends that help keep you in line, give you protection in numbers in some situations...) can increase the risk to you, especially again in unfamiliar surroundings.

I doubt learning fighting skills makes much sense. Outside of drunken brawls most places are not that violet and if they are many times it is guns and such things (though most often that level of violence is aimed at other criminals or family and friends).

There is other violence (between people) of course and it is sad and something to avoid. I would be amazed if car and bus deaths (of travelers) and injury don't exceed by a long way any person on person violence against travelers.

Related: Curious Cat Travel Destinations - Travel Photos blog - A Tourist in Singapore - Curious Cat Australia Travel -

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Historic PageRank and MozPageAuthority for Various Sites - Updated December 2013

Google pagerank is a measure of the number and importance of pages that are linking to the page (with the public page rank lowered by Google if they don't like some things the site/page does). One measure obviously has huge limitations for capture the nature or value of any page (for more info see previous post). Even with the limitation I still find it fun to look at the pagerank values - except when they go down for my sites :-(  Now I also track the similar Moz Page Authority and can take some solace if the MozPA goes up :-)
Google is downplaying pagerank and only updated the public rankings twice this year (they update the real page rank that they use themselves in real time). The only reason they updated it now (they say) is because they needed to make another coding change and it was easiest to update the public pagerank view rather than keep the old values during the code update.
** [5.0]
SiteDec 2013
[MozPA]
Feb 2013Oct 2011 Dec 2010Dec 2008
PageRank 5 and MozPA > 4
Curious Cat Management Blog5 [6.1] 5 [6.3] 5 [5.5] 43
Curious Cat Engineering and Science Blog5 [5.8]5 [6.1]6 [5.3]45
The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog5 [5.5]4 [5.2]---
John Hunter5 [5.0]5 [5.3]4 [5.4]44
CSS 4 Free5 [4.7]4 [4.9]4 [5.4]45

PageRank 4 and MozPA > 5
Curious Cat Investing and Economics Blog4 [5.7]4 [5.9]4 [5.3]34
Curious Cat Management Improvement Connections*** [3.3]4 [5.4]5 [5.5]43
Curious Cat Travel Photo Blog4 [5.0]4 [5.1]3 [4.9]-

PageRank 4 and MozPA > 4
The Future is Engineering*4 [4.3]4 [4.6]4 [4.7]
The Engineer That Made Your Cat a Photographer*3 [4.1]4 [4.4]4 [4.7]43
Curious Cat Code (programming)4 [4.1]4 [4.3]4 [4.2]-
Curious Cat Gadgets4 [4.1]4 [4.3]
Living in Singapore4 [4.1]4 [4.3]3 [4.0]
Multi Site PageRank Checker4 [4.1]3 [4.1]3 [4.7]21

PageRank 4 and MozPA > 3
externs.com - internship directory4 [4.0]4 [4.4]4 [5.2]44
Life and Legacy of William Hunter (my father)4 [4.0]4 [4.1]4 [4.5]44
Living in Malaysia 4 [4.0]4 [4.2]3 [4.1]
Statistics for Experimenters4 [3.9]4 [3.9]3 [4.5]34
Hexawise Software Testing Blog4 [3.8]3 [4.0]
Management Matters (my book)*4 [3.8]4 [3.5]--
Management and Leadership Quotes4 [3.7]4 [4.0]2 [5.2]2

PageRank 3 and MozRank > 3
Good Process Improvement Practices*3 [4.0]3 [4.1]3 [4.1]
Architecture and home design inspiration3 [4.0]4 [4.2]-
Management Articles*3 [3.9]4 [4.3]
Curious Cat Management Comments3 [3.9]3 [4.3]3 [4.5]
Curious Cat Comments (this blog) 3 [3.9]3 [4.0]- [3.8]33
Curious Cat Travel Destinations3 [3.4]3 [3.2]---
Management Improvement Resources3 [3.1]3 [3.4]3 [3.8]33

PageRank 2 and MozRank > 2
Curious Cat Web Directory2 [3.3]4 [3.6]4 [4.7]34
Johor Bahru Real Estate2 [3.0]2 [3.2]-
Curious Cat Travel Destinations: Marina Bay Sands (Singapore)2 [2.9]2 [3.0]--
Hexawise.tv2 [2.8]2 [2.9]--

PageRank 1 and MozRank > 3
CuriousCat Wordpress1 [3.5]u [3.6]---

urls changed since the old data Google is using, so no pagerank
Curiouscat.com**4 [5.4]4 [5.6]33
Management Dictionary*** [2.6]5 [5.2]5 [5.4]43
Public Sector Continuous Improvement Site*4 [5.1]5 [5.0]4
Deming's Management Method*** [4.9]3 [5.0]4 [4.5]4
Six Sigma Management Resources*** [4.9]4 [5.0]4
Investment Dictionary*** [4.8]4 [5.0]4 [5.2]

No PageRank
My Kiva pageu [5.8]u [6.2]u [4.0]3
Economic Strength Through Technology Leadership***u [4.2]u [4.5]4 [4.7]44
Justin Hunter (my brother)u [3.4]u [3.4]2 [2.9]22
Curious Cat Travel Destinations: Franceu [1.3]u [1.9]---
Curious Cat Travel Destinations: Australiau [1.3]u [1.8]---


* internal pages
** new url, old url forwarded
- didn't exist yet
u unranked
[blank] I don't know what the pagerank was, sometimes the site didn't exist yet.

***I have noticed my high pagerank blog posts can be at PR of 4 for years and then have no page rank at all. Meanwhile MozPA doesn't seem to disappear the authority of those page. The PageRank can often reappear in another update (I even think they may come back in between updates but I might be mistaken).

Related: PageRank Moz PageAuthority for Various Sites (February 2013) - Google Page Rank Updates for November 2012 - Google Toolbar PageRank Update December 2008

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It Seems to be Confirmed That the USA Government Has Been Ignoring the Rule of Law

I figured the USA had abandoned the practice of concern for the rule of law when it wasn't convent for the government. Of course, choosing to support the rule of law only when you find the laws personally useful and ignoring it otherwise pretty much makes the rule of a law a farce.

update: it appears Norway did the spying on its own citizens that is then shared with the USA. That would appear to satisfy the legal requirements in this example. I still question the legality of many actions by the USA - it just seems likely violations of laws of other countries are frequent. We can't violate other's laws and they expect them to obey the laws we want them to. NSA logged 33m calls in Nato ally Norway
Torstein Olsen, head of Norway's telecoms regulator, said that it was illegal for anyone apart from telecommunications companies to collect such data. "If Dagbladet's information is correct that 33 million mobile phone calls in Norway were registered by someone other than the telecommunication companies, that would be a crime under Norwegian law," he said.
Also the USA government was I believe successful in preventing USA citizens and companies from using encryption that was safe while knowingly encouraging other governments to spy using the advantage of poor encryption. Given the continuing stream of evidence on bad practices the USA government tried to hide from public condemnation the USA government has effectively given cart blanche to every sovereign state to spy electronically as much as they want to.

So it seems the USA government has sold out the ability of its citizens to protect themselves from not just spying from its own government but all other governments spying on all personal, business and political activities in the USA (based on the actions the USA has taken they certainly can't expect other governments to be less intrusive than the USA has been to their citizens and political leaders - and at this point we would certainly have to assume businesses also).

The repeated, crushing blows to the rule of law, respect for the right of people and honorable behavior by the USA the last 15 years is extremely disheartening. The USA it seems to me fell far short of the standards it should have set the last 50 years but at least the USA seemed to have some credibility when attempting to encourage others to behave in accordance with the rule of law which would make the world a better place. Now I can't imagine what country is more consistently and aggressively flaunting their disrespect for the rule of law. The USA currently seems to have only one justification for their actions: might makes right. We can do whatever we want because you can't stop us militarily and we can crush you economically if you don't do whatever we tell you to do.

Choosing to follow some laws and then expecting other countries to follow all the laws you care about is not sensible behavior.

I seriously hope we can recover from the disastrous behavior of our government the last 15 years. We recovered from McCarthyism and Watergate but this behavior seems much worse to me (and those were very bad).

It has gotten so some of the most far fetched "conspiracy theory" claims are superseded by what the USA government actually does. That is a very bad state of affairs.

Related: I Can Spy on You, But You Can't Spy on Me (isn't a sensible expectation) - Watching the Watchmen - Librarians Standing Up to the Madness - Freedom Increasingly at Risk

Monday, November 18, 2013

Two Time Zones for the USA

I agreed with this post a read a little while back suggesting the USA get rid of "daylight savings time" and adopt just 2 time zones (for the continental USA). I never thought of reducing the time zones before but it seems like a good idea. I doubt we will do it before I die anyway (but it is possible - heck we might even adopt the metric system).

I saw this today showing China has only 1 time zone.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

TPP Transparency Confirms the Worst: USA Government Still Trying to Strip Away Rights of Citizens in USA and Elsewhere

TPP Leak Confirms the Worst: US Negotiators Still Trying to Trade Away Internet Freedoms by the EFF

The leaked text, from August 2013, confirms long-standing suspicions about the harm the agreement could do to users’ rights and a free and open Internet. From locking in excessive copyright term limits to further entrenching failed policies that give legal teeth to Digital Rights Management (DRM) tools, the TPP text we’ve seen today reflects a terrible but unsurprising truth: an agreement negotiated in near-total secrecy, including corporations but excluding the public, comes out as an anti-user wish list of industry-friendly policies.
The anti-liberty policies of those we elect continues. They continue to sell out basic rights to provide favors for those giving them lots of cash. The extent to which our elected officials go to hide their actions from public scrutiny is despicable. But the real damage is the consistent march to reduce liberty while providing favors for those providing politicians cash. The damage to society by this consistent pattern is enormous.

It was easy to predict the massive effort to stop SOPA would only temporarily delay the politicians anti-liberty policies. And sadly that prediction has proven accurate (not just TPP but many attempts, some successful already, to pass SOPA's provisions when the public isn't shining the light on the terrible actions congress and the administration are pursuing). They merely keep trying to implement SOPA, SOPA-like and even much worse policies than even were in SOPA over and over. TPP is just one of the most egregious examples of anti-liberty policies and the governments attempts to hide their actions from the public.

Related: Society is being shaped for us while we are busy making other plans - We Continue to Vote for Those that Sell Out the Country for Cash Gifts - Good Journalism Aids Society by Shining the Light on Corruption (and government trying to hide their policies from public debate) - Cash for votes subreddit (links to politicians sellout out their country for cash)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Continued Refusal to Address Abuse of the Constitution by Government

McCain: If you believe that Mr. Snowden didn't give the Russians information that he has, then you believe that pigs can fly.
From: UK spies continue “quantum insert” attack via LinkedIn, Slashdot pages

If you believe the political and government administration leadership in the USA are not abusing the constitution and making false statements to cover up that behavior and ignoring evidence that has been made public of such abuses then you believe pigs can fly.

It is pitiful how far our political leaders and talking heads have fallen (the exceptions are few, sadly). They would have been cheering on the House committee on un-American activities. It is so incredibly sad what is happening to our country.

Related: Disregard for the Rule of Law by Government - The People We Elect Recently Are Dramatically Falling Us - Living Through Your Society Becoming a Police State - Security Theatre Thinking is Damaging the USA - Freedom Increasingly at Risk (2008), the abuses have been apparent for quite a long time

Monday, November 04, 2013

Disregard for the Rule of Law by Government

I have trouble with the violation of international and other country's laws when it suits your purpose while claiming to support the rule of law.

The USA has done many things wrong in spying on its citizens and others around the world. The main defense seems to be to

1) make people fearful (essentially they are copying what the house committee on "un-american activities" did)

2) lie

3) hide extremely bad policy (and most likely lots of illegal activity) behind claims of "national security"

4) say we are no worse at breaking laws than others are

One is bad, but at least not illegal. Still it is the type of behavior we shouldn't tolerate but we have been. Openly debating policy is what should be done. When we allow government to hide their bad policy from even being debated the extremes to which that bad policy goes very quickly becomes horrible (based on our past, and current, experience).

I don't know of an exception to following laws that amounts to -- lots of people kill people so what if I do. But that is the USA spying defense. Yes, we tapped the phones or leaders of Western democracies (and did an unbelievably long list of other violation of laws) but all countries violate laws all the time, so don't worry about it. Why do we bother having laws if the USA doesn't believe they should be followed whenever the USA government doesn't feel like following them?

The whole idea of the rule of law is that everyone has to follow the law not just those who are less powerful than those enforcing the law. The USA government seems to think it is perfectly ok to break laws if other people do (well about every single law is broken by other people) and you are more powerful than the law enforcer - this seems like a bad idea, and it certainly isn't the "rule of law" it is just "might makes right."

It seems like the last 2 adminstrations have just decided laws dont' matter for them. They can jsut do whatever they want because of fear and might makes right. I think the trampling of liberty that has been apparent for a decade and we get a worse and worse picture of as the attempts to hide extremely bad policy from the public view is reduced.

We need people shedding the light on behaviors of the government that are shredding the liberty of people across the globe and shredding the concept of the rule of law. Using the types of tactics that fit only with an organization like the House Un-American Activities Committee is something we should have stopped accepted over half a century ago.

I am very surprised and disappointed to be living through the type of behavior by our government I thought had disappeared with my Grandparents. I realized we would have small type corruption, scandals of very bad behavior by senior government officials, etc.. But the long term commitment to suppress the truth and using extra legal force of government to attack those seeking to expose government wrong doing is extremely disappointing.

Playing games with "classification" to hide the policies that are extremely anti-constitutional and then "un-classifying" (or even just leaking without un-classifying) little bits to attack those that seek to expose the un-constitutional behavior of government is despicable. Never addressing any of the illegal behavior the government has, and continues to pursue, while attacking those that seek to expose government abuse with extra legal might of the federal government is something that shouldn't be tolerated.

A government has the power to take away liberty from individuals. Hopefully that is done when it is necessary for the best interests of society (imprisoning murders etc.). That power however is enormous. The rule of law much protect the people. When the government decides it doesn't need to obey the rule of law that is a very dangerous situation. We have been living through it for more than a decade now and things seem to just be getting worse and worse. That isn't surprising as the abuse of the the rule of law is tolerated those who get away with doing so will likely keep increasing how far from the rule of law they will go.

We have seen over and over how this works in countries. And we are seeing it the last decade plus in the USA. The path we are on, is very scary.

I have always known the USA government did plenty of stuff wrong. But I also did believe we were helping make the world a better place. I am very disappointed now. I think we are not making the world a better place. And sadly, there are not good options to counteract the abandonment of advocacy for the rule of law and liberty that the USA used to promote. We never were perfect at doing so, but we did push those causes more than we pushed against them. Now we clearly are pushing against them much more than we are aiding efforts to promote liberty and the rule of law; both in the USA and globally.

Related: Living Through Your Society Becoming a Police State - The People We Elect Recently Are Dramatically Falling Us - Freedom Increasingly at Risk (2008) - Security Theatre Thinking is Damaging the USA

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The People We Elect Recently Are Dramatically Falling Us

Bill Moyers is a great journalist. He has done a great job, for decades, doing what great journalists do to help a country - shining the light on our society and what our politicians are doing. We desperately need more people like him and more institutions that promote real journalism.

Sadly we elect politicians that then let special interest and crazy extremists in their party dictate everything that is done. And sadly we watch special interest produced pabulum like Fox. As Bill Moyers states this stuff is consistently so full of lies and falsehoods no sensible person could consider it even up to the standard worthy of contempt. It isn't good enough to even be contemptible. It is a very sad commentary on how foolish many of our are that Fox is actually tolerated. The other mainstream news is bad but Fox isn't even in the same galaxy. That a country has a news source with more than 1% market share (having crazy extremists is normal and isn't a bad commentary on a country) even remotely as bad as Fox is an extremely bad commentary on that country.

I find both parties very disappointing. But the Republicans have become so bad so apposed to debate, discourse, thought, solutions, science, liberty, society, working together... that I am close to losing faith in the entire party.

None of them seem willing to stand up for the country. They are all either the fools pumping what some lobbyist tells them or the cynical politician unwilling to stand up for their country because they care more about pleasing their most extreme elements in their party than the country. I understand that standing up to extremists can be challenging. It is one of those traits that is necessary for political leaders though. They need to be willing to stand up for the country even if that means making their friends and colleagues unhappy. Even if those people threaten to make their lives difficult if they stand up for what they believe.

I understand most politicians will just take the easy way out. We don't elect many thoughtful, courageous, leaders. We can't expect thoughtful, courage, actions from most of them. But for a party to be completely missing any of them who have any clout is a serious problem, as I see it. The Republicans have let extremists dictate so much for so long that they created a much more difficult climate. To stand up to the crazy extremist actions now requires much more than would be required if you hadn't let them run wild for more than a decade.

I think the extreme elements can play a vital role when the sensible center is called out for just implementing what the lobbyists pay both parties for. But the extreme on the Republican side for about the last 15 years has been dictating policy and implementing whatever the lobbyists tell them to.

A few years of cowardly behavior by an entire party is frustrating but, given the low quality of leaders we elect, isn't surprising. Over a decade of such behavior though is very close to an unforgivable sin.

The Democrats are not doing well, in fact they are doing horribly. But compared to the Republicans for the last 15 years the Democrats look almost tolerable. The overriding problem, as I have seen it, has been that both parties together have been doing an extremely lousy job for the last 30 years. But the Republicans have become so unhinged from reality and unwilling to govern that it is getting close to the point where the main problem is going to be them, if that hasn't already happened.

It is a very sad state of affairs.

Related: We Continue to Vote for Those that Sell Out the Country for Cash Gifts - Living Through Your Society Becoming a Police State - Security Theatre Thinking is Damaging the USA - Real Journalism Exposes Bail Bond Corruption - Lobbyists Keep Tax Off Billion Dollar Private Equities Deals and On For Our Grandchildren - Money Is Corrupting Our Political Process - Anti Liberty Sentiment in Congress

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Poor Web Site User Experience (Ux)

Financial website universally (at least those I use) do a very poor job at some very simple things. It is confusing for non-professional investors to keep track of what markets are open when.

It is really lame that huge sites (Bloomberg, Yahoo Finance, CNBC, CNN, Marketwatch...) can't easily show what markets are closed. Instead they show changes (which imply changes today) that are often for the previous day. So half an hour before a market opens the display indicates it has returned whatever it returned yesterday. And if the market is closed that day, all day long the display acts as though it has the return it did that last day it was open.

Display on Bloomberg. But actually the Hong Kong market is closed today, bad Ux :-(

This feeble usability failure should have been fixed years ago. Yet as far as I can tell all the sites continue to fail to take sensible steps to make it clear what the real data for today is.

From Marketwatch, you have to look at the graph, see it isn't yet 2 PM in Hong Kong and then deduce the Hong Kong market isn't open today, bad Ux

On a much more minor point, eliminating tiny decimal places is better (as Marketwatch does but Bloomberg doesn't). 100% (99.999% rounded up :-) of users don't want to see the Nikkei is at 14,788.80 it is better to display 14,789. Similarly don't display fractions of a cent for stock quotes.

Related: Bad Visual Controls, Software - Customer Focus and Internet Travel Search - 6 years Later Goolge Acts To Let Me Block Sites I don't want to see (2011, then Google removed this useful feature so again lots of lousy sites clutter the results) - Understanding Technology and Programing is Vital - Gobbledygook (bad password usability)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

We Continue to Vote for Those that Sell Out the Country for Cash Gifts

We continue to re-elect the bums that give favors for cash gifts (and those favors in turn harm our society). Sadly, I don't see us as likely to start throwing people out that sell out the state or country given our track record. Too bad.

At the federal level the cash for votes problem is bad (probably not quite as bad as at the state level). Cash buys votes but within some constraints. Issues take a bit different shape at the federal level.

At the federal level lots more cash is needed to pay for for trade barriers at the state level (which is what auto dealers have bought from those supposedly meant to represent the citizens) and likely the issue (of laws meant to transfer cash from the public to dealers) would fall the other way (over time) at the federal level. Another issue that is very similar (restraint of trade to benefit those giving politicians cash at the expense of the citizens) - is funeral services.

Trying to get a federal band aid for the auto dealers having bought state legislators may work (it will be a huge struggle with lots of cash given to politicians to buy them for each side). The system fix is to stop voting for people that sell you out to those giving them cash. But we have shown no interest in doing so. Both parties do it and barely even have a tilt in the way they do it.

Republicans don't do much for unions so don't get that cash (but that is the exception, not the rule). Most special interest groups have bought both parties - it is just a matter of which benefits they have bought that will be push stronger depending on which party has the power. The huge benefits the special interest buy are actions not words. The words of parties and politicians may well lead you to think they stand against the corruptions special interest want. The words don't matter.

What matters is the benefits granted to the special interests most of which are done with full cooperation of both parties leadership. The verbal sparing on most issues special interests care about are a side show that have little to do with what matters. Votes rarely matter. The behind the scenes favors to special interests are many multiples more important (killing any votes, putting in often incomprehensible language that lavishes favors on those giving cash, stopping regulations, creating regulations...).

Democrats get tons of cash from most any financial special interest you can name (including any people think the Democrats appose in some way). Look at things like too big to fail institutions. Those huge companies that broke the global economy were allowed to do so by Democrats and Republicans that were bought by the too big to fail crowd. As can be seen those elected officials are still bought and paid for and we continue to put them back in office to sell out the USA for those that give them the most cash.

Neither party has any philosophical reason to support the too big to fail crowd. Some can argue the big business Republicans may (that may be true but the big business Republicans really are just a descriptions of bought and paid for Republicans there isn't a philosophy that supports creating anti-competitives monopolistic companies to reap monopoly rents from the favors granted by congress). Both parties have just been bought and paid for by the too big to fail crowd and until we dump those that are bought and paid for they will continue to undermine the country. Even when the parties are bought and paid for individuals hold out. Elizabeth Warren (D) and Rand Paul (R) for example are not bought and paid for by the too big to fail crowd.

Related: Anti Competitive Lobbying (2006) - Lobbyists Keep Tax Off Billion Dollar Private Equities Deals and On For Our Grandchildren (2007) - Fed Continues Wall Street Welfare (2008) - Congress Eases Bank Laws in 1999 at the request of their sponsors (setting the stage for too big too fail disaster) - Ethanol: Science Based Solution or Special Interest Welfare (2007) - Sugar Industry Taxes Consumers via Their Bought and Paid for Politicians (2005)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Appreciating Health

I agree that your health is at the very top of what is most important (perhaps the health of a loved one and the like can vie for the top spot) factors in your life. However, it gets old saying to yourself that you should appreciate what you have instead of being frustrated by events.

I am extremely lucky health-wise. I have always been very healthy, had next to no problems really my whole life. And not just avoiding really bad stuff, actually being healthy all the time. And I do appreciate it. I do try to eat fairly decently and exercise but even so much of my health is due to luck (probably pretty good genes, maybe some nice contributing bacteria, either avoiding bad breaks or diseases or my immune system fighting off those that tried to take hold, etc.).

But the last 18 months I have had a couple big, long running, bothersome problems that end up getting me very frustrated for long periods of time. The current one is big problems with my rental properties. First I had all sorts of trouble with property managers. Then I had what I thought I had bad runs of expenses (worst in 15 years by far). Then I had those followed by much worse run of larger expenses, while the problems with property managers continued.

The rental mess isn't fixed yet, expenses continue. And the house is actually not rented for what is about to be the second month (in 15 years) I have had a total of 1 month vacant until now. The location is very good, the property is nice...

I am not very good at coping with ongoing problems that I don't solve. I am good at solving them so I don't have to put up with them any longer. And good at designing around those I can't solve to avoid dealing with them. But those that I can't avoid bother me and I have trouble just accepting that I have to sit and accept it. It is better if you can do this, I know this, but still am lousy at doing so.

I know that while this situation is super annoying for me it really isn't horrible. I had a few other financial setbacks which made me count more psychologically (financially too, but really that is secondary, I am confident, having examined everything now) on the rental income. Huge numbers of people have many worse problems to deal with. And I have tried the last couple of months to stop being so annoyed by appreciating what I have, including health. I do appreciate it but it doesn't do much to make it less annoying.

And when I examine my situation I have to say I am super lucky. I have a great situation. The problems are really fairly minor compared to what billions of people have had to deal with the whole time I am bothered by my issues.

I finally decided I just needed to nearly completely remove myself and just pay someone else to deal with the properties (I would have hoped hiring a property manager should do that but it has been a succession of that not working the last couple years). It seems you need to pay someone to deal with the property manager (and get them to do their job) or just not be a bozo, like I seem to be and avoid letting it bug you. I managed the rental myself for years and then had 2 others do so for me for about 8 years without any real problems (I always think things should be better but essentially without big problems).

It isn't quick to get out from the current mess, and it will again reduce the income but I have decided (given how much hassle it is for me - others I think could deal with it fine, I just get very annoyed by things that are not done well... and can't stop trying to fix what should be fixed). And when that fails (rare, but sometimes the case) it is best to just reorder things so I don't have to keep being reminded about the poor results.


John Hunter - Thailand


I do hope once I can get the current mess fixed and off my plate (hopefully in a month or so) I will be better off. I will appreciate what I have, more. And I will have a better sense of what I need to be doing now. For me a big objective is travel in SE Asia. The last year I have failed to do nearly as much as I should while I live in Malaysia. I have let other distractions stop me from doing what I want to be near the top of my priority list. I hope that I will make a change.

As I tried to explore why I was letting frustration take much more control of my emotional state than it should that I think part of that is due to my failure to focus on travel. It is also related to some of my other attempts not turning out as well as I would like, but I am really not that worried about it. Looking back, I am much more annoyed that I used the excuse of those efforts to push my travel efforts down my priority list. I hope I will now appreciate what I have and put a better focus onto making sure I actually am doing what I want to be doing with my time (instead of getting distracted by what is seemingly urgent and seemingly items I could just clear away and then get to...).

Part of appreciating health to me, is valuing life. We don't have that long to take advantage of being healthy to do what we want. I have to make sure I am doing that, and not letting distractions sidetrack me.

Related: Curious Cat Travel Destinations - Curious Cat Travel Photo Blog

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Economy: Business is Looking Good, Employment Prospect Fairly Poor and Economy Overall Mediocre at Best

comments on: Very interesting charts. What story do you think they tell?

A misleading one by and large.

I don't believe "Fewer Americans" are working today - I believe a lower percentage of working age people are employed.

A significant portion of the wage issue is due to economic conditions and the market. Productivity increases are wonderful but, at a point they can make hiring labor less appealing (especially when combined with things like a hugely burdensome health care system that has been broken for decades).

There is a portion of the wage issue that has to do with executives today acting like the robber barons of old. That behavior was despicable and is today. A portion of the wage problem is due to the ethical and business failures of these executives.

Business profits are due mainly to lots of good things (higher productivity, better management of inventory and cash, innovation...) but is also due to some financial games (the huge bailouts to the still too big to fail institutions has created massive distortions including artificially low interest rates which juice corporate profits by artificially reducing borrowing costs).

If the message is regular wage earners (and hopeful wage earners) don't have things as great as they did in the 1960's USA - that is correct (and not as good as 1970s - even with the oil problems - or the 1980s - even with stagflation...). The prospects for workers are worse than prospects for the economy in my opinion - for the next year, 5 years, 20 years... The prospects for businesses may well be even better than for the economy.

It is definitely true people have failed to see how well business has been doing in the last 5 years - the story has mainly been about how bad the economy was. To the extent the message is business is doing very well, that is also a correct message. There is a large risk for those businesses that have foolishly leveraged themselves to try and justify ever increasing payments to executives that do juice results when things go well but have very bad consequences otherwise.

They also distort things using fake "special items charges" to take huge losses that they claim are "special causes" when they are "common causes." This serves to make gains seem part of the business and huge losses some mysterious act of god or something outside the executives responsibilities. leverage exacerbates this practice.

Related: The Economy is Weak and Prospects May be Grim, But Many Companies Have Rosy Prospects (2011) from my investing blog - Where are Profit Margins Headed? - Uncertain Economic Times

Friday, August 02, 2013

Blog commenting options

I agree evolving the comments is good. I like the promise of disquss but it haven't gained enough traction. I don't trust a commenting system that exists outside my blog. The unreliability of services others provide isn't acceptable to me (look at how many services Google has abandoned - trusting that things will exist doesn't seem wise).

The ability to comment on a blog and have that comment shared (say via Google+ or Disqus or something) seems like it would be nice (but leave the comment in the blog itself so if Google pulls a Google and shutters their commenting everything isn't lost). It would also be great to be able to track comments for a specific person. I find it so annoying I post some of my comments on an old blogger blog I had so I can find them later, if I wanted.

Comments sparked by: How WordPress Comments are Evolving

Related: Your Online Presence and Social Networks for Managers - John Hunter online

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Living Through Your Society Becoming a Police State

I don't like the USA government hiding its actions from the citizens of the USA. I don't believe claims that most of what is hidden is for national security reasons. It is hidden for the simple reason that it is politically unacceptable to admit what they are doing and so they seek to hide what they are doing. Doing so is extremely damaging as it will force us to distrust the government's claims on national security. When you abuse national security for political expediency it is exactly like the children's story of crying wolf. When you hide your politically unpopular decisions behind a fake cry of wolf eventually people won't believe your claims - even when they are true. If you care about national security you cannot allow it to be sacrificed for political expediency.

Governing is hard. When you give in to political expediency instead of dealing with the hard challenges you sacrifice the future of the country so you can avoid having to confront the challenges. It is easy to see why people would make this choice. But it does great damage to the country.

I fear we are entering a phase where the government will move to more and more McCarthyist tactics to hide their actions: using threats against those seeking to hold the government accountable, deploying the police powers of the state against those who find their policies unconstitutional but for which the government has no right to investigate (until you accept the police state arguments that we can do whatever we want because we have police state powers that we granted ourselves secretly and no one is allowed to talk about it, character assassination of those that question the powers that be, granting powers to those that will support the policies...).

We don't have a great track record in the last 100 years. So most likely we will once again allow government to do horrendous stuff that a few decades later we say "oh boy that was bad, but it was a long time ago" (look at all the people we used the FBI to spy on and intimidate in the last 100 years including the only person we named a national holiday in honor of in the last 100 years - Martin Luther King). I always wondered how those people could sit by and watch Japanese Internment, McCarthyism, massive FBI abuses...

Now I am living through it and I see how easy it is for those with power to seize control of a society and make it into something anyone looking back on would be thinking "how could they allow such things to happen."

Related: Society is being shaped for us while we are busy making other plans - NSA and the Pandora’s box of surveillance by Jack Shafer - Security Theatre Thinking is Damaging the USA - The TSA doesn’t give a hoot about security

Saturday, July 20, 2013

SWAT Culture

Too Many Cops Are Told They’re Soldiers Fighting a War. How Did We Get Here?
The numbers are staggering. In the early 1980s, there were about 3,000 SWAT "call-outs" per year across the entire country. By 2005, there were an estimated 50,000. In New York City alone, there were 1,447 drug raids 1994. By 2002, eight years later, there were 5,117 -- a 350 percent increase. In 1984, about a fourth of towns between 25,000-50,000 people had a SWAT team. By 2005, it was 80 percent.

Today, the use of this sort of force is in too many jurisdictions the first option for serving search warrants instead of the last. SWAT teams today are used to break up poker games and massage parlors, for immigration enforcement, even to perform regulatory inspections.
This is a very sad state of affairs. Our police departments have lost a view of themselves as members of society aimed at promoting peace and liberty. The SWAT militarization is one outcome of this cultural mindset. Infringing on photographers rights (even violently at times) and destroying evidence of criminal action in doing so is all too common. There are still a majority of police that have not adopted the burnt earth mentality of enforcement but the overwhelming reliance on militaristic thinking has damaged the good will that good efforts provide. This cultural change is extreme and very damaging to society.

We need police to return to the thinking that makes them an important aid to society. The best work in this area that I know of is: Improving Police by the former police chief of Madison, Wisconsin.

Related: The System is Broken: SWAT Raids - Failure to Address Systemic SWAT Raid Failures - More SWAT Failures - Tired of Incompetent Government Harassment - Police Failing to Enforce Law If Lawbreaker is a Police Officer - Security Theatre Thinking is Damaging the USA

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

USA Universities Are Poorly Managed - Due to a Failure to Focus on the Value Stream

The cost of education in the USA has exploded over the last few decades. Has this been due to spending on improving the quality of education? No. Huge expenditures go to trophy buildings, huge paychecks to administrators, football coaches and other non-educators. Most large schools pay more to multiple assistant football coaches than anyone involved in educating students.

The ballooning expenses are extremely poor management of the value chain. The schools are spending millions because administrators like the boondoggles and couldn't care less about education (actions matter far more to me that words, I don't' care that you say you care about education if you spend money of non-education and pile that burden on those seeking education you are anti-education).

What's Really 'Immoral' About Student Loans
According to a recent study by Mark Perry, a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan at Flint, between 1978 and 2011 college tuition in the U.S. increased at an annual rate of 7.45%, vastly exceeding the rate of inflation and the almost-stagnant rate of growth in family incomes.

Colleges have responded to the availability of easy federal money by doing what subsidized industries generally do: Raising prices to capture the subsidy.

If we want to solve the very real problem of excessive student-loan debt, college costs need to be brought under control. A 2010 study by the Goldwater Institute identified "administrative bloat" as a leading reason for higher costs. The study found that many American universities now have more salaried administrators than teaching faculty.
Related: The Poor Paying for Vocational High School Education - Looking at the Value of Different College Degrees - Penn State Scandal is Horrendous and Points to the Very Deep Corruption of Our Leaders - Ackoff: Schools Are Not Led By Those Most Concerned with Education (they are led by those most concerned with themselves.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Thursday, July 04, 2013

I Can Spy on You, But You Can't Spy on Me

It seems to me there are numerous essentially vassal states of the USA that adopt largely whatever measures the USA really presses them on - for security or enforcing extremely long and counterproductive copyrights (the system doesn't do what it was suppose to do - instead has been turned into a system to help a few big business copyright cartel companies that give USA politicians lots of cash) but he USA has pretty much dictated legislation to numerous other nations that have capitulated.

I don't have much info but my impression is that states like Canada, UK, Germany and Australia are pretty much going to let the USA have whatever it wants. If they seek to avoid being vassal states to the USA it seems to me you have to chose a legal system and government that have shown some ability to stand up to USA pressure. I have thought this would be a smart thing for some countries to do for years but I haven't noticed any countries interested in taking on this role.

Germans accuse U.S. of Stasi tactics before Obama visit. My guess is Germany does nothing, other than making a few harmless noises. Pretty much Europe has been limited to voicing a bit of displeasure occasionally but for anything that requires action they act like a vassal state and go along with the USA (which often means big USA campaign contributors). Maybe Germany, or others, will want to step out from the shadow they have been in basically since the end of World War II, but I doubt it. There just haven't been any significant examples.

My guess is eventually some nations will, but my guess it will be nations that are not so tied to the USA and that can play the USA and China against each other to refuse to be a vassal to either one (but that is just a wild guess). How much longer it will take is the question. Or maybe people will just end up choosing between which police state policies they want to accept USA, China or some other one. Maybe countries like Canada will be like flavors of Linux so Canada is USA vassal but actually refuses to go along with a couple minor points here or there (and if you care most about those minor points you chose Canada).

It will be interesting to see if any nation stands up to the USA spying on their citizens. It doesn't seem too likely - other than a few oddballs that don't expect the USA the USA could do anything more to them, short to attacking the country militarily, and figure that isn't likely. It is odd to hear the USA talk about China tech companies facilitating Chinese government spying and then give secret order that the USA tech companies (or librarians) are not allowed to disclose that result in spying on citizens of other countries (and citizens of the USA).

Other than might makes right I don't exactly understand the philosophical system the idea that "you can't spy on us but we of spy on whoever we want"?

Here is one example of the perniciousness of the spying: U.S. officials sent back to German Facebook-mails. If you want to argue that we have to ignore Jefferson, Franklin, Patrick Henry, etc. due to big huge scary risks you must not abuse the spying for trivial matters. Yes, government agencies get caught up in their own fear mongering and grabs for power (which is one reason most sensible people and bright people don't trust government to gain absolute power to spy on citizens) and start to believe silly things like their security theatre is related to what they said the constitution needed to be abandoned to protect us from big scary things. If you use the abdication of liberty to block people from violating minor rules (such as working without a permit - the link above) in my mind you forfeit the right to claim your constitution defying actions are needed for a more important purpose.

Related: Governments Shouldn't Prevent Citizens from Having Secure Software Solutions - Freedom Increasingly at Risk - Liberty Again Denied, It is Sad How Little We Seem to Care - Security Theatre Thinking is Damaging the USA (May 2013)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Blog Readers (for Reading RSS Feeds)

RSS feed readers are the best way to keep up with blogs you want to read, in my opinion. You subscribe to those blogs you want to follow and can group them into categories (management, engineering, travel, investing, funny, etc.). Google Reader become the most popular way to manage your subscriptions. But Google is closing down reader this week.

If you read blogs and are not using a RSS feed reader you really should try using a reader. It something I can't imagine doing without.

Thankfully one of the things Google does well is to let you retrieve the data you put into there various products. So you can download your subscriptions (which you should do). But now you are left to go find a replacement.

Last year I got Reeder to improve the experience of reading my feeds. But Reeder used Google Reader as the database for blogs you subscribe. I still like them, but they have done a pretty horrible job of providing details on what you are suppose to do given the imminent demise of Google Reader. I might just drop using Reeder.

The best option I found for me, is The Old Reader (which is super easy to setup and import your Google Reader setting from). I would make sure whatever option you chose has an export option (to get your subscriptions out). Some companies do not support good export options - I would pass on those companies products (for readers and other things).

Options include:
    Top choices:
  • Update (2014): I now use inoreader.
  • The Old Reader - easy import, provides export, free, web based
  • Feedly - easy import, web based (and plugins), also has Android and iOS apps, can integrate with Reeder (and other front ends), I think it is free but am not sure
  • Feedbin - $2 a month, integrates with numerous front ends Including Reeder)
  • More choices:
  • NewsBlur - $1 a month, web based and iOS and Android apps.
  • Digg Reader - free, web based
  • AOL Reader - free, web based
  • Netvibes
  • Reeder - iOS and Mac front end to access your feeds (looks like they are going to allow some backend options but the information is sparse (Feedly is one option)
  • Pulse is a magazine type interface which I don't really like but some people might. Free, iOS, Android and web.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Separated Bike Lanes Reduced Injuries by 45% and Increased Retail Sales 49% (for nearby stores)

Urban planning can greatly increase our quality of life. This report has some good ideas and shares results of tests of improvements - Measuring the Street: New Metrics for 21st Century Streets.

Results from first protected bicycle lane in the US: 8th and 9th Avenues (Manhattan):
  • Injuries reduced 45%
  • Retail sales increased 49% (near the new lane, compared to 3% increase for the whole "borough" - essentially the large surrounding area)
Related: The Case for Physically Separated Bike Lanes (2007) - The Rebirth of Cities - Designing Cities for People, Rather than Cars - The Economic Benefits of Walkable Communities

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Police State

The USA (and maybe other countries) seem to think that police states are only police states if the police are consciously, actively, only interested in evil. Most of those creating and maintaining police states are not evil. They are just doing what they can within the system. The individual actions make sense to someone trying to do good. They just neglect liberty a bit in order to get things done and then a bit more and then a bit more but don't see themselves as creating a new police state.

The USA constitution has fairly good protections in place. McCarthyism gives a extremely clear example of the dangers when those with power allow a few to abuse the system. And we have many more than a few abusing the system now.

I doubt most of those in the KGB wanted the KGB to have more and more power to be evil. They wanted the KGB to have more and more power because they saw challenges to what the KGB wanted to accomplish and giving the KGB more power would help. And they really believed that this would be good for people. If they could just stop the troublemakers then thing would be better.

I believe most of those required to carry out the security theatre of the TSA are repulsed by what they have to do. They need a job though. And so they do what people do in those situations they justify the behavior to themselves. They attempt to justify their behavior to themselves in order to make it tolerable to participate in such behavior. Many will suffer as the attempts to mask their true feelings are far from perfect. A few will actually enjoy mistreating others. And some will not see a problem - there are plenty of people that happily go along with things many others believe they have to be corrupt to go along with (but that assumption is wrong, they see things differently and most often have overly simplistic world views that work pretty well for keeping them happy, I just do what the TSA tells me and whatever they tell me must be good because they are in charge).

Not that this is 100% of what everyone thought that everyday, but this is the main model of those police states. Sure you have a few deranged people that see a system ripe for abuse and they have power and take advantage of it. And sure, authoritarian police state administration will attract more power hungry psychopaths that don't have much respect for individual liberty. But I still think the main force is just people trying to get by and if the rules are such that authoritarianism and disrespect for individual liberty are allowed they go along because such thinking has been made acceptable (not because they think they are being evil and they like it).

The police state apparatus builds an ethos that freedom is risky and must be monitored - not to be evil - but to help. Those in the USA perpetuating the police state are not doing so to promote big brother government. They just got trapped into a system where they see the dangers of freedom and they believe they are on the site of right and good.

The danger of authoritarian government was understood. The constitution puts barriers in place to protect society. But those with power see the barriers are mere inconviences to avoid. In the last 10 years the extent of our slip into a police state has been dramatic and is critically dangerous to our society. But the most important point is once you reach a point where this is beyond all reasonable debate it is far far far too late. Corruption of liberty must be addressed early on. If the police state is allowed to grow it becomes nearly impossible to turn back. I fear we are already too late in the USA. But who knows where that fulcrum really is. Maybe we are not too late.

Totalitarian thinkers don't like freedom of citizens, so they are likely to outlaw using tech that doesn't allow the police state full access. So the most totalitarian states won't allow citizens legal access to protection from the state. My guess is many states are going to take extreme totalitarian views on this. It sure seems the USA couldn't be more totalitarianism in their current stance on this issue. It appears to be that you have no rights to freedom if technology is involved.

It is hard to separate that thinking from evil-big-brother-thinking but I think it is a mistake to think that those wanting big brother style government intrusion think they are trying to create the big-brother-government from Orwell's 1984. They have convinced themselves that really we are just trying to get a bit of information why can't you just trust us to be different than all those warnings you have that actions such as ours (police state) are bad. We are not like all those others that did it for bad reasons (either in history of literature) we are doing so because how else can we control dangerous risks. This is true for the SWAT team members crashing into innocent people's houses over and over and over. And it is true for the politicians that really seem unable to both appeal to voters and think effectively about policy.

And is probably most true for leaders of those at the DHS, NSA, FBI, CIA, NSC and in the White House. They are so fearful of all the risk and they have so much trust of their government organizations that they can't see the obvious comparison of what they have created and a police state. They know they will be blamed if catastrophes happen. Eliminating the risks of those events in the short term is nearly 100% of their focus. Concerns about individual liberty just don't enter their thoughts. They don't see themselves as big brother. They see that as ludicrous, not worthy of consideration. Certainly not something to moderate their behavior. That is the risk. That is the danger. And we have already created such a powerful police state that dialing back the big brother thinking is going to be extremely difficult, if it is possible at all.

The recent news on the NSA has sparked outrage and fear but this doesn't seem like much news to me. The police state mentality of the last 10+ years has carried with it this type of thinking. I find many of the previous revelations much more troubling than this latest one.

Related: Librarians Standing Up to the Madness (2009) - Freedom Increasingly at Risk (2008) - Security Theatre Thinking is Damaging the USA - Watching the Watchmen (2008) - Tired of Incompetent Government Harassment (2007) - Failure to Address Systemic SWAT Raid Failures (2007) - Lawmakers now use so much 1984 Orwellian speak you can't trust what they say (2005) (check them with trustworthy authorities EFF and others)

Saturday, June 08, 2013

We Should Build Secure Software Systems

Once again Bruce Schneier is insightful and provides much more sensible advice than that given by the homeland-security-complex that spends billions to provide massively inconvenient and ineffective security theatre.

It's impossible to build a communications system that allows the FBI surreptitious access but doesn't allow similar access by others.
The FBI wants a new law that will make it easier to wiretap the Internet. Although its claim is that the new law will only maintain the status quo, it's really much worse than that. This law will result in less-secure Internet products and create a foreign industry in more-secure alternatives. It will impose costly burdens on affected companies. It will assist totalitarian governments in spying on their own citizens. And it won't do much to hinder actual criminals and terrorists.
...
When it comes to security, we have two options: We can build our systems to be as secure as possible from eavesdropping, or we can deliberately weaken their security. We have to choose one or the other.


Related: Governments Shouldn't Prevent Citizens from Having Secure Software Solutions - The last thing you want to do is increase the amount of hay you have to search through - Bad Security on Government Required RFID e-passports

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Security Theatre Thinking is Damaging the USA

The simplistic security theatre thinking that pervades USA actions for "homeland security" is damaging to society and ineffective at providing security. Two extremely important aspects are the trumping of liberty by bureaucrats focused on theatre and their own power and control over those they are suppose to serve and disrespect for evidence based thinking.

The high school girl arrested for an school experiment gone wrong wrote a great article: Why a Science Experiment Gone Bad Doesn't Make Me a Criminal

I was really hurt and scared. I was crying. They didn't read me any rights. They arrested me after sitting in the office for a couple minutes. They handcuffed me. It cut my wrist, and really hurt sitting on my hands behind my back. They took me to a juvenile assessment center. I was sitting in this room with no clock so it felt like years of me sitting there. When my mom came, she didn't say anything. She just had this really disappointed look, and told me I lost privileges. But she's really been supportive of me. I don't know what would have happened if I didn't have my mom.
We need our watchman to care about our society. We need them to see themselves as servants of society. We don't need bullies. We need to stop accepting horrible practices from proponents of security theatre and we need to find watchmen in the vein of Sheriff Taylor not those that see SWAT teams as a sensible reaction thousands of times a year.

The security theatre and SWAT team thinking pervades our policing today. We desperately need to learn from those like former Madison, Wisconsin chief of Police, David Couper a much better way of thinking for policing society.

Related: Freedom Increasingly at Risk - Tired of Incompetent Government Harassment - The last thing you want to do is increase the amount of hay you have to search through - Exposing Bad Behavior

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Governments Shouldn't Prevent Citizens from Having Secure Software Solutions

It has always seen obvious to me if you force a system to be designed to have a backdoor (to allow spying) that you have created a security hole. It seems to me these security holes are being misused all over the world by governments and others. How the FBI’s online wiretapping plan could get your computer hacked
They make it easier for the U.S. government to spy on the bad guys. But they also make it easier for the bad guys to hack our computers and spy on us. And, the researchers say, the Internet’s decentralized architecture makes it particularly hard to build effective and secure wiretapping capabilities online.
The track record of governments worldwide using these backdoors properly seems very poor to me. They make up tiny exceptions for when they will supposedly spy and then use the backdoor they created far more often. Then you have funny situations where the different governments expect their spying to be respected by everyone but don't like it if other governments want to have backdoors to allow spying themselves.

Certainly in the USA I can't see any reason why we should accept insecure software solutions because the government wants to be able to spy more readily. If they governments track record showed a respect for citizens rights maybe I would consider the tradeoff worth debating but given the realities of how poorly the government has explained their spying so far I don't see any reason to even consider crippling the security of USA citizens.

I am not as familiar with other countries - if their constitution have liberty as secondary and authoritarianism is accepted then sure crippling citizens security to make the state have an easier time of spying would be consistent. I don't see how it is arguably consistent with the US constitution.

I said, after 9-11, that if the government actually believes terrorism is a critical threat they had to extremely careful to not use fear as an excuse for non-terrorist related restrictions on liberty. Human history has shown governments abuse power. The US Constitution was created with this in mind. If you want to have citizens except restrictions on liberty their is an huge duty to provide evidence you are not just going to be like almost every other instance where government abused the power. Failing to do so, would mean people have to restrict government abuse, even at the risk of security.

The obligation was on government to show how seriously they took the risk to behave differently and not abuse the power they had. Instead the last two administration have been worse than any other (with the possible exception of the Nixon administration) with respect to abusing the liberty of citizens. This is a very sad state of affairs. They have chosen to rely on the ability of fear mongering, hiding behind false claims of "necessary secrecy" and the ability so many previous governments have had to take away liberty and get away with it (McCarthyism, KGB, all sorts of dictators that either the USA supported or apposed over the last 50 years and many many more). The problem with this option is that the citizens suffer while the bureaucracies get what they want. This isn't a good model. And it means thinking people should appose the government as they attempt to impose such models on their country.

Both administrations have done an absolutely atrocious job of making the case they would avoid political and authoritarian abuse while claiming terrorist justify the governments actions (Orwellian "Free Speech Zones" violate the constitution, Systemic SWAT RAID Failures, Watching the Watchmen, 2/3rd of USA Population Lives in Limited Constitutional Rights Zone According the Obama Administration - the DoJ is secretly enabling AT&T and others to evade wiretapping laws, Bikinis For Liberty, Our Internet Surveillance State, Justice Department Subpoena of AP Journalists Shows Need to Protect Calling Records). They consistently abuse liberty, using fear mongering and have lost any reasonable claim that their claims should treated as trust-worthly without much more evidence than they have been providing. Sadly it is not surprising that neither administration could put the security of the country before their personal interests, but the evidence is clear that they did not do so.

That evidence means we risk further losses to liberty without any evidence that security (rather than politics and the frequent tendency for bureaucracies to desire absolute power) will be enhanced.

I do think lots of great things are done to fight real threats. And those had been done for decades prior to 9-11. Some of the additional measures after 9-11 were wise. Huge amounts of the efforts are mainly about security theatre and gaining bureaucrats power at the expense of the liberty of citizens. This path is not one we should continue to reward. Sadly we currently are mainly going along with the politicians who have a long track record of being anti-liberty.

Relying on demagoguery and people accepting the government taking away their liberty does have a long history of working for governments. Relying on that risks the citizens getting so tired of government abuse of liberty that the citizens react by not only taking away the governments power to judiciously use power but take away significant sensible powers from government also. I fear that is where we are headed. This is the result of two administrations failing to take security seriously and instead just behaving as so many governments have in the past to amass bureaucratic power at the expense of citizens and the country.

It is a lot to ask those in government to put the well being of the country above the human nature to abuse power. It has certainly been far too much for the last two administrations to make it a priority to prevent abuse because the risks of doing so were so high.

The anti-liberty side is definitely winning. I hope we turn it around before I have to see how people must have felt as they experienced similar failures of will in the past (such as McCarthyism). But I think we may well have already past that point. It is just a matter of time before we have the distance of time to acknowledge and accept how horribly we have failed yet again to prevent abuse of power to go to extremes that are nearly incomprehensible looking back on them later. I remember thinking how unbelievably pitiful it was that the USA allowed McCarthyism to take place, yet not much later we are well on our way to repeating the same types of failures (though, as always, the exact clothing the abuse of power takes is somewhat different).

Related: Librarians Standing Up to the Madness - Preaching False Ideas to Men Known to be Idiots - Freedom Increasingly at Risk - Liberty Again Denied, It is Sad How Little We Seem to Care

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Universities Again Abandon Fans/Mission to Increase Pay to Administrative Staff/Coaches

If a business wants to limit access in order to increase revenue that is their choice.  When a university wants to limit access to their sports teams to increase revenue that is their choice.  But what really happens with all the millions of increased revenue schools get from football and basketball?  Essentially it goes to pay coaches and staff more money.  And they can spend more on fancy weight rooms and the like.  That is it.  

The schools don't use the millions to lower the ever increasing costs students must pay.  They don't tell donors to stop giving money because they have gotten so much by selling rights to athletics.  They don't lower the price of tickets to the games - in fact they mainly have raised them.

So the tradeoff for schools in deciding to remove March Madness games (including in the NCAA final four) and bowl games from broadcast television to massively overpriced cable TV is the tradeoff between fans and paying coaches and administrators even more than the extremely large salaries they get now (many university football programs have many assistant coaches paid more than any professors at the school).

Blocking alumni and fans from watching on broadcast TV by limiting those who can watch to those paying massively inflated cable TV bill makes perfect sense for a business trying to maximize the income they can take from fans.  I have enjoyed college basketball and put up with the greedy behavior by the administrators and coaches of these programs but I think it is time to give up and focus on other sources of recreation.

I have given up on others who seek to maximize their income to such an extent it destroys the experience.  I think the level of greed from the coaches and staff that have gotten the schools to put huge payments to those people above alumni and fans has risen to such a level as to make even college basketball (which I really liked) not worth the time.  It is a sad state of affairs.

TBS will now air national semifinals in 2014, ’15

CBS and Turner announced Tuesday that the 2014 and 2015 national semifinals would be aired on TBS rather than CBS.
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Cable subscription fees, which over-the-air networks don’t collect, are a driving factor in who can afford these rights and why prices for them keep climbing. As long as all cable viewers, regardless of interest in sports, continue to subsidize sports watchers, this is how things are going to work.
Related: Penn State Scandal is Horrendous and Points to the Very Deep Corruption of Our Leaders - Many schools continue on the ego driven spiraling costs - Harvard Steps Up Defense Against Abusive Journal Publishers

Monday, May 06, 2013

It is Refreshing to See Our Government Protecting Us

I have been very disappointed for at least 2 decades in how little interest our attorneys general and judges have in protecting citizens for abuse by those using fraud and abusing the legal system to harm people and society.

One judge has done a great job investigating abuse he suspected.  His suggestion that those responsible be tried criminally might get action due to the publicity involved.  But I wouldn't be amazed to see once again the abuse ignored by those who are tasked with protecting society from such abuse.  I hope my fears prove to be un-warrented.

Prenda hammered: Judge sends porn-trolling lawyers to criminal investigators

In today's order, Wright finds that:
  • Prenda shell companies like AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13 were created "for the sole purpose of litigating copyright-infringement lawsuits." They have no assets other than the pornographic movies they sue over. And despite their legal trickery using offshore vehicles, "the Principals [Steele, Hansmeier, and Paul Duffy] are the de facto owners and officers."
  • Their strategy of identifying IP numbers, issuing subpoenas to ISPs, and sending demand letters offering to settle for about $4,000 "was highly successful because of statutory-copyright damages, the pornographic subject matter, and the high cost of litigation." Steele, Hansmeier and Duffy got "proceeds of millions of dollars due to the numerosity of Defendants." And Wright added, "No taxes have been paid on this income."
  • The Prenda lawyers engaged in "vexatious litigation designed to coerce settlement." They showed little desire to actually fight when a "determined defendant" showed up. "Instead of litigating, they dismiss the case," notes Wright. "When pressed for discovery, the Principals offer only disinformation—even to the Court."
  • ...
  • Wright concludes: "Plaintiffs’ representations about their operations, relationships, and financial interests have varied from feigned ignorance to misstatements to outright lies. But this deception was calculated so that the Court would grant Plaintiffs’ early-discovery requests, thereby allowing Plaintiffs to identify defendants and exact settlement proceeds from them. With these granted requests, Plaintiffs borrow the authority of the Court to pressure settlement."
The harshest penalties are saved for last. First, Judge Wright suggests the Prenda lawyers should be disbarred, writing "there is little doubt that Steele, Hansmeier, Duffy, [and] Gibbs suffer from a form of moral turpitude unbecoming an officer of the court." In many states, including California, crimes reaching the standard of "moral turpitude" lead to automatic disbarment. Wright will be referring the four lawyers to every state bar in which they are admitted to practice.
Related: Police Failing to Enforce Law If Lawbreaker is a Police Officer - Watching the Watchmen - Capital One Bank Agrees to Refund $150 Million to 2 Million Customers and Pay $60 Million in Fines - Don't Excuse Immoral Looters - Disregard for Society by FedEX and UPS - Businesses Tell the IRS They Are Not American but Executives Stay in USA

Blind justice - Why have so few bankers gone to jail for their part in the crisis?, The Economist magazine

For better or worse, many people would love to see more bankers behind bars for their role in blowing up the West’s financial system. In Britain not one senior banker has faced criminal charges relating to the failure of his institution. A handful have faced the lesser sanction of being barred from running another bank or company, or agreeing in settlements with regulators not to do so.
The prosecutorial coyness of British and American authorities contrasts with the harder-charging approach taken by their predecessors and by authorities elsewhere. During America’s savings-and-loans (S&L) crisis in the 1980s more than 800 bankers were jailed. A decade later directors of Barings, a British bank that was felled by the rogue trader Nick Leeson, were barred from holding directorships despite having no direct connection to his wrongdoing. Other countries, such as Iceland and Germany, have taken a more muscular approach in this crisis.
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But if locking people up for incompetence goes too far, regulators could still get a lot tougher. Summary justice isn’t desirable. Some justice is.
Like so many instances the connection between those giving large amounts of cash to politicians and favorable treatment seems to indicate the obvious - that people are buying favors for all the cash they give. Some times that amounts to favorable tax treatment, subsidizing mansions built in dangerous areas (flood plains or in the path of hurricanes). Sometimes that amounts to using the justice system as an arm of corporate policy. Sometimes that amounts to not prosecuting, or even seriously investigating, illegal acts committed by those that give lots of cash while prosecuting plenty of others (the USA has over 2 million people, .7% of the population, in prison and jail - far more than anywhere else - also nearly 5 million more are on probation or parole).