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  • stewartm commented on the diary post Finally, Charles Krauthammer Discredited by echochamberlain.

    2014-07-25 06:10:19View | Delete

    Charles Krauthammer is an intelligent, Pulitzer Prize winning contributor to civic discourse

    LOL, that was a good ‘un. Now I’ll have to think of one.


  • As to young Yalies, they are either super rich or just plain-vanilla rich overachievers.

    I’d even qualify the “overachiever” bit. Our whole educational system is as gamed as the financial system; it’s all about being able to think conventionally and regurgitate information and the “right” answers to standardized test questions–a highly derived form of rote learning. Actually *understanding* the subject matter, let alone original thinking or questioning, is not required.

    I have attended the commencement ceremony of an elite school where a student was praised to the sky for being a top medical student, an accomplished pianist, and other things all at once. I couldn’t help but think of a TV game show analogy when listening to this, where the contestants race through an obstacle course and try to complete tasks to win prizes. It really doesn’t matter how well they do the tasks, mind you, just that they can mark them off. It’s all about resume building, to be able to put down that “I did this”, no matter how poorly you did it or how elementary the task you did was.

    Knowledge is more diversified than ever. You can spend a lifetime in a discipline and even be an acknowledged expert at it and still not know it all. So why does our education system reward people who do a lot of things half-assed as “brilliant”? I have interviewed people who put down that they had such-and-such competencies on their resume and a brief conversation revealed that they really at most had done trivial stuff.

    And related to this, this does not begin to bring up the fact we don’t develop students to be knowledgeable human beings able to converse intelligently on the social sciences and humanities and on music and the arts.


  • Those, if the open source development process worked as it should, would never have existed. I worry about that a whole lot more than I do about Apple’s services on my iPhone.

    Not to defend OpenSSL’s decisions, but you’re worried more about a weakness which is more “theoretical” than practical in being exploitable, than you are about a deliberate covert “feature” that *IS* expressly designed to compromise your security and privacy and which may be being exploited on your machine every day?


  • Everyone who uses has known that because it’s open source. It took Heartbleed to scare people into doing something about it.

    But because it was open source, Heartbleed’s flaw was discovered. And most websites I’m aware of have issued fixes.

    But even acknowledging your Heartbleed example–when this bug was first discovered, confirming it was not trivial. Even if you knew the bug was there and how to attack it, retrieving a private key proved not easy. No one may have been hurt by this; people didn’t report that their bank accounts were being drained, This is in keeping with several other security flaws I know of which were exposed in open-source software (PGP, Truecrypt, etc); they weren’t perfect by any means, but in the cases I know these were patched before any “bad guys” exploited them.

    But finally–there’s really no comparison between a security bug which might be problematic to exploit, vs a security backdoor expressly designed to compromise security and designed to work reliably every time. The latter is more akin to malware.


  • As to having to go all the way back to the compiler – yep, it’s true. And you know what, I trust Richard Stallman and the gcc compiler more than I trust Apple and the NSA.

    When you’re getting down to that level, what you’re really doing is comparing the possible *bugs* in OS-software to the covert “features” in closed-source software, “features” which are explicitly designed to work reliably every time.

    By analogy, most food we eat contains chemicals known to be carcinogens (even “natural” and “organic” foods) at trace concentrations. Comparing the possible lapses and bugs in FOSS to the “features” of proprietary systems is like comparing the cancer risks of broccoli to that of tobacco smoke. We’re talking at least one order of magnitude risk between the two, probably far more.


  • But keep in mind, all the open source in the world didn’t prevent Heartbleed.

    But it also makes it easier to find such things and fix them. Besides, Heartbleed was not a trivial bug to exploit (were there any actual exploits?), and certainly wasn’t deliberate, like this probably was.

    It has always been a computer security given that gaining physical control of a computer (or a phone) is enough to bypass security.

    The ultimate goal is to even prevent that. At least with OS-software you’ve eliminated everything but the hardware (comprised hardware being the biggest issue with OS-computing, IMHO, that’s the way I’d suspect the NSA would take). I’d also say to your observation about compilation, that OS-software is distributed compiled by OS-compilers.

    And I think everyone should worry about these things, and not just for principle.


  • Is Apple legally liable if they put in the back door that lets Hackers steal your ID and charge stuff on your credit card?

    Insofar as I know, that’s the poor merchant who gets stuck with the bill–not Apple, and not the banks.

    Funny how it’s only the players in the ‘real economy’ that’s held liable, ain’t it?


  • I want these services off my phone. They don’t belong there.

    But that’s *their* decision to make, not yours, and hence the problem.

    That is the problem inherent in any model where you’re just the ‘dumb user’ and don’t really have admin rights. They control your device, not you.


  • Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 which requires tech companies to have back doors available for law enforcement.

    That tidbit was an interesting thing that our habitually gridlocked Congress slipped under the door that I did not know. Anyone remember hearing about this? A program like GnPG would be automatically out-of-compliance; so would any other open-source encryption program.

    “Does this extend to hardware vendors?” is my next question.

    “There is no way to disable these mechanisms,” Zdziarski writes on his personal blog. “This makes it much harder to believe that Apple is actually telling the truth here.”…The backdoors reportedly cover a range of hidden tools and protocols that activate with “paired” computers — machines connected to an iPhone or iPad via USB that the user has granted security access to.

    Yeah, but think of all that “seamless experience”!


  • stewartm commented on the blog post The Undying Filibuster Myth

    2014-07-22 14:45:23View | Delete

    Drum’s argument only works if you take the filibuster myth as fact. I can almost guarantee in the future once the filibuster is fully eliminated

    But it won’t be. If the Republicans will eliminated it to pass some gawd-awful stuff, the first thing that the Dems will do when in the majority is to put it back. Gotta be bipartisan-y, after all.


  • stewartm commented on the blog post The Undying Filibuster Myth

    2014-07-22 14:41:38View | Delete

    The public option never got voted on in the Senate, despite a majority of Senators claiming to be in favor of it.

    52, in fact, on record. Blame that one on “good soldier” Pelosi who refused to allow a vote on it.

    But Dems must be spared a “put up or shut up” moment at all costs, ya know?


  • stewartm commented on the blog post The Undying Filibuster Myth

    2014-07-22 14:40:02View | Delete

    Thus, Card Check could have been easily accomplished

    Plus a higher minimum wage, immigration reform, infrastructure rebuilding, ending LGBT employment discrimination and all the things Dems say they’re for once they can’t possibly pass them.

    -stewartm, coincidence?

  • here. Native Americans

    A friend (alas, recently deceased) who was part Cherokee contended that the situation between Europeans/Americans and Native Americans was an very good analogy for Israel-Palestine. Yes, the Native Americans might attack and “massacre” a relatively few white settlers and/or soldiers in very nasty ways, causing great outcry by whites about “savages” and such, and which would inevitably be followed by retaliation by the whites sending soldiers to slaughter thousands of Native American men, women, and children. But as said latter slaughter was being done by people wearing the color-coordinated garments, it was deemed “civilized” and thus a-ok.

    Then there was the discrimination of ‘good Indian/bad Indian’; the former willing to be in the pay of whites and/or accommodate white wishes and/or fight with whites, while the latter was “unreasonable” and “intractable” and wasn’t.

    All of this of course ignoring the fact of (ahem) who the land originally belonged to, and (ahem) who was dispossessing whom.


  • It is really worse than the above.

    What can you say about the morality of a country where a good portion of the citizenry wants thinks that children fleeing for their lives from violence is a “threat” to be turned away at gunpoint?


  • How many times do you have to be reminded that terrierism only goes in one direction?

    Remember the ole conservative objection about ‘moral equivalency’ when comparing our murders vs those of [fill-in-the-blank-bad-guys]? Apparently those “moral absolutes” they’re so fond of espousing cut in only one direction too.


  • But I thought they supported the Bush/Cheney ticket.

    The leaders with “blood on their hands” bit also aptly describes Israel, and thus undercuts Rosenbaum’s entire “argument” (‘sneer quotes’ fully intended).


  • stewartm commented on the blog post Cigarette Taxes and What They Mean for Legal Marijuana

    2014-07-22 07:07:46View | Delete

    The Native American Indian tribes considered tobacco sacred and used it regularly.

    I would counter that they used it *ceremonially* and *medically*, but less so *habitually*. The truth is, inhaling any kind of smoke–tobacco, cannabis, campfire, you name it–means you inhable a witches brew of toxins.

    As for its health effects, what we see with tobacco use is that its histogram of death vs age reaches a broad maximum c. 60-75 years old. While Native Americans could live to be that old, from statistics with (by and large) healthier hunter-gatherers observed, that’s at the edge of their expected life expectancy at age 19. So any tobacco use would be competing with other causes of death.


  • stewartm commented on the blog post Cigarette Taxes and What They Mean for Legal Marijuana

    2014-07-22 06:47:35View | Delete

    Alcohol prohibition had very little to do with drinking.

    Simply factually untrue. According to the deaths from cirrhosis, drinking fell by a factor of three. People by and large *did* stop drinking during Prohibition, and it was popular at first (after all, it did take a Constitutional Amendment to pass!!). In fact Prohibition depressed US drinking rates such that per-capita consumption did not reach pre-Prohibition levels until 1960. Finally, Prohibition was the work more of long-time liberals/progressives than of reactionaries; there was a considerable overlap in the campaign for Prohibition and the women’s suffrage, the anti-child labor, the civil rights, the “better government” and other progressive movements.

    Drinking rates fell despite the fact that Prohibition was in no way comparable to today’s drug prohibition. It was never illegal to possess or consume alcohol, just to sell or distribute it…when the police raided a speakeasy, the customers could just go home unmolested. Compared to cannabis today, alcohol was already “decriminalized”–people could brew their own (up to 200 gallons a year!) and buy it with doctor’s prescription, so there was “medical alcohol”. You could wave to a cop while drinking a beer all quite legally; there really is no comparison with today.

    The UCLA professor Mark Klieman (himself a cannabis legalization advocate) has written about the myths of Prohibition, repeated all-too often by drug law reform advocates) and its implications for people advocating drug law reform. Klieman shows that while Prohibition was a failure, Repeal was not a success insofar as eliminating or even mitigating the problems that alcohol cause. These are questions I believe that reform advocates really need to tackle honestly.

    Back to the article: everything I’ve read is that taxes on both cigarettes and alcohol lower consumption; though I suspect more with alcohol than with cigarettes (because cigarettes are universally addictive, while alcohol is selectively so). One thing the article left out is that the “sin” industries fight them tooth-and-nail because they know this; with alcohol very successfully in that inflation-adjusted taxation has actually substantially declined due to industry lobbying. If we end up with mega-corporate Cannabis, Inc.s from legalization they will likely do likewise, for good or ill.


  • stewartm commented on the diary post If Iraq Were in Central America by David Swanson.

    2014-07-16 17:51:32View | Delete

    I just don’t understand myself why America doesn’t sometimes blunder into doing actions where the good far outweighs the bad. How come our actions in the Americas south of the US have had so many awful results?

    Well, *somebody’s* got to make the world safe for United Fruit and Exxon, right?? /s


  • People complain about Reagan but Obama exceeds Reagan. Obama is a radical. Reagan never tried repeatedly to cut social security. Reagan did not privatize public schools as ruthlessly and radically as Obama. Reagan did not institute those draconian attacks on “freedom and democracy” (NSA, net neutrality through appointment of Wheeler etc.)

    Don’t cut Reagan any slack. [...]

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