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.
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.
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).

Friday, May 03, 2013

The last thing you want to do is increase the amount of hay you have to search through

Continually growing the "security-inustrial-complex" decreases safety. Bruce Schneier again explains the insecurity our leaders are creating with their poor understanding of how to make society safer.
Piling more data onto the mix makes it harder, not easier. The best way to think of it is a needle-in-a-haystack problem; the last thing you want to do is increase the amount of hay you have to search through. ... Before we start blaming agencies for failing to stop the Boston bombers, and before we push "intelligence reforms" that will shred civil liberties without making us any safer, we need to stop seeing the past as a bunch of obvious dots that need connecting.
Sadly it is not only security we sacrifice due to our leaders failures but also the core principles our nation supposedly stands for: "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

It also wastes huge amounts of money to create security theatre that we don't have to waste. That we allow so many billions to be used to deny our liberty and decrease our safety is disastrous.

Related: The TSA doesn’t give a hoot about security - Society is being shaped for us while we are busy making other plans - Liberty Again Denied, I am Sad at How Little We Seem to Care - Anti Liberty Sentiment in Congress