Friday, January 30, 2004

E-Vote Still Flawed, Experts Say: "William Arbaugh, a University of Maryland assistant professor of computer science who participated in the test, graded the system an 'F,' 'with the possibility of raising it to a 'C' with extra credit -- that is, if they follow the recommendations we gave them.' "

They're beinning to do realistic testing, but they can't agree on what the dismal results really mean. This test addressed the systems as a whole after an earlier test where SAIC evaluated the software and proposed a number of changes. The changes had not been made to the systems being evaluated, and other previous recommendations had not yet been implemented. So a number of things that were found are being discounted as old news already addressed. No explanation why the second round of tests didn't include the remediation recommended in the first round, though. Diebold insists all is wonderful, and the state thinks they just need to stick some tape over the locks.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

See You on the Darknet - Why we don't really want Internet security. : "Totalitarian governments (you know, like the one in 1984) will clamp down on the Net by instituting a digital Mark of the Beast, a personally assigned crypto-certificate that tags every online transaction, letting authorities track exactly who did what, where, and when. But Walker also argues that the rest of us (the ones who aren't yet peons in Orwellian regimes) will voluntarily sign up for similar surveillance when the certificate system is marketed to us as a cure for spam, fraud, and other Internet annoyances. He's right that we'll be sold this stuff. The question is, will we buy it?"

A better question is whether we'll be given a choice. For most, the implications will never be explained, and opt-out options will seldom be presented. When they are, they'll usually take the form of "to use this program, you must enable this feature." The biggest implication is that there will be more freedom for those who understand their rights and technology, and less freedom for sheep and idiots. We are, however, a nation of sheep and idiots.
Now, These Commercials: "'We're not concerned about getting new members,' Short said of the campaign. 'We're making sure the people we're serving aren't interested in getting anybody else.'"

That's Len Short, AOL's executive vice president of Brand Marketing. AOL now takes a page from Corel -- don't attract new customers, but try to keep your existing customers deluded into staying. When you stop trying to grow your business, you're in decline. Period. If you're already going over the cliff, why not try to fly?

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Indians pitcher: Gay porn video was mistake: "Kazuhito Tadano never got a second chance in Japan, where the pitcher was shunned by pro baseball teams after he appeared in a gay pornographic video. However, the Cleveland Indians have accepted Tadano, who may make their club this season."

At the same time Ohio is about to outlaw gay marriage, the Indians are out recruiting gay porn stars for their baseball team. Actually, while he confirms his appearance in a gay porn video, he insists he's not gay. I guess we'll have to wait for the highlight reel.
Flower Power Takes on Land Mines: "The genetically modified weed has been coded to change color when its roots come in contact with nitrogen dioxide evaporating from explosives buried in soil. "

Ok, so it's really Thale Cress, but my first thought was "Poppies, Poppies, Poppies." As Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, it just seems amusing to think of combining this with their number one cash crop. Could carpet bombing give way to carpet seeding? If so, could super-accurate Predator-style drones target the red-flowered cress plants?

Friday, January 23, 2004

Students disciplined for posters on King Day: "A small group of Westside High School students plastered the school Monday with posters advocating that a white student from South Africa receive the 'Distinguished African American Student Award' next year. "

In a school with fewer than 70 blacks out of 1,843 students, he may have been the most qualified candidate. Another example of racism in reverse -- it's OK to single out a black student for an award because they're black, but try recognizing a white guy who's more african than they are, and all hell breaks loose.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Gay Marriage Poll Gets Annulled: "'We're very concerned that the traditional state of marriage is under threat in our country by homosexual activists,' said AFA representative Buddy Smith. 'It just so happens that homosexual activist groups around the country got a hold of the poll -- it was forwarded to them -- and they decided to have a little fun, and turn their organizations around the country (onto) the poll to try to cause it to represent something other than what we wanted it to. And so far, they succeeded with that.' "

So, they post a poll on the Internet, expecting that only righteous homophobes will vote, and when they find that the public doesn't share their view, they blame "homosexual activists." Obviously, everyone who understands that the separation of church and state will eventually force the courts to force the state to get out of the "sanctification" business is a homosexual activist. If you want to save marriage, or the "sanctity" of marriage, you need to get the government out of the marriage business. If you let the churches sanctify what they want, and let the government stop discriminating in which relationships they recognize, you'll save the sanctity of marriage. If not, the courts will eventually force the government to recognize gay marriages. Of course, you'll also find churches that sanctify gay marriages, whether the state does or not.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Nicked for doing 406mph: "The Peugeot 406 Sport has a top speed of 129mph. But when he saw the letter it confirmed that he had been exceeding the 60mph limit in Runcorn, Cheshire at 406mph."

Despite the impossible cited speed, they're still moving to prosecute, applying to magistrates for a summons. Here in DC, they ended up tossing out thousands of traffic camera tickets when the cameras were found to be miscalibrated, off by as much as 10-15 mph. No explanation for how the UK system can still be enforced when it appears to be off by about 300 mph if not more.

It should be noted that the British hold the world land speed record, although it was set in a jet-powered car in the Black Rock Desert, not in a Peugeot 406 Sport in Runcorn, Cheshire.
Microsoft backpedals on MikeRoweSoft threats: "Microsoft has admitted it took things 'too seriously' when its lawyers threatened a 17-year-old student called Mike Rowe over his domain name.

"Microsoft has admitted it may have made a mistake in threatening Mike Rowe for using his website,"

The crux of the biscuit appears to be that, insulted by their $10 offer to buy the domain (refunding his "out of pocket expenses" consisting solely of the domain registration fee), he made an equally irrational counter-offer. Microsoft's lawyers immediately asserted that this demonstrated his intention to offer the domain for sale for a profit. That's a common lawyer trick, but it appears to have backfired this time.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Craving brain food, mad cow or no: "Cecelia Coan of Evansville, Ind., looks over the deep-fried cow brain sandwich she ordered to go at the Hilltop Inn in Evansville, Ind. The brains, battered with egg, seasoning and flour, puff up when cooked and trace back to a time when southern Indiana newcomers from Germany and Holland were frugal with their slaughtered cattle."
How to Deconstruct Almost Anything: "The essential paradigm of cyberspace is creating partially situated identities out of actual or potential social reality in terms of canonical forms of human contact, thus renormalizing the phenomenology of narrative space and requiring the naturalization of the intersubjective cognitive strategy, and thereby resolving the dialectics of metaphorical thoughts, each problematic to the other, collectively redefining and reifying the paradigm of the parable of the model of the metaphor."

As an aside, "The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon; the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true."

OK, so I'm teasing the most convoluted part. The article goes on to actually explain the literary style of deconstruction in simple terms, separating the style from the frequent lack of substance. Now I understand the objections to deconstruction -- I had been confusing the simple, practical method of "parsing the language" from the complex and slightly deranged literary metaphysics exercise.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

MSNBC - What Party Elders Overlook in Dean: "Former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley, himself a past Democratic Presidential candidate who recently endorsed Dean, has figured out what party insiders haven't. With turnout below 50% in Presidential elections, millions of potential voters are up for grabs. It's the Democratic Party that has the best chance to win them over. But without that infusion of new blood, the party will be trapped like a hamster on treadmill, frantically running in place to hang on to those seniors, minorities, and women who form the old party base.

"Yes, Dean may be the riskiest of the Democratic hopefuls. But he also offers the party its best chance of breaking through the red state/blue state, 50/50 split in the popular vote that has thrown modern-day Presidential elections into gridlock. "

I've been saying since 2000 that what the Democrats need is a charismatic firebrand populist who is willing to return to core Democratic values, speak his mind and take positions even if they are at odds with the polls and discard the strategy of "triangulation", and re-invigorate the party witn an influx of new (young) voters. In Vermont, 80% of the voters polled were against civil unions when Dean signed the measure, yet Dean ran his re-election campaign on the issue and won. If he can sell the message in the Bible Belt that the only way to save the religious institution of marriage is to institute the civil instituion of civil unions -- the whole separation-of-church-and-state issue -- he may be able to persuade many religious moderates to support him. If he can convince religious moderates that civil unions will guarantee religious freedom, he can splinter the Republican religious right. And win? Maybe -- call it a bank shot.
Carnival Booth: An Algorithm for Defeating the Computer-Assisted Passenger Screening System: "To improve the efficiency of airport security screening, the FAA deployed the Computer Assisted Passenger Screening system (CAPS) in 1999. CAPS attempts to identify potential terrorists through the use of profiles so that security personnel can focus the bulk of their attention on high-risk individuals. In this paper, we show that since CAPS uses profiles to select passengers for increased scrutiny, it is actually less secure than systems that employ random searches. In particular, we present an algorithm called Carnival Booth that demonstrates how a terrorist cell can defeat the CAPS system. Using a combination of statistical analysis and computer simulation, we evaluate the efficacy of Carnival Booth and illustrate that CAPS is an ineffective security measure. Based on these findings, we argue that CAPS should not be legally permissible since it does not satisfy court-interpreted exemptions to the Fourth Amendment. Finally, based both on our analysis of CAPS and historical case studies, we provide policy recommendations on how to improve air security."

It's sad when college students can knock holes in your security system before you deploy it, demonstrate how to game the system, and recommend something better. It's refreshing when the something better is simpler and less invasive and presents no new privacy concerns. It's maddening to know that common sense and civil liberties will be trounced by clueless polititians anyway.
McCormick & Schmick condom girl previously sued Taco Bell over spilt coffee: "The California woman who sued a restaurant after allegedly finding a condom in her chowder agreed yesterday to a confidential settlement of her legal claim. Amazingly, if Laila Sultan is to be believed, the condom episode was the second time she was forced to sue over an injurious incident at a chain restaurant. In December 1996, Sultan sued a Long Beach Taco Bell after she was burned by some spilled coffee (Sultan claimed her tray was bumped into by some rambunctious young customers). A Taco Bell lawyer told TSG that Sultan's claim was 'a b.s. case,' but that the fast food firm settled the matter for about $2000 to avoid hefty legal fees. Before settling in the condom case, a lawyer for McCormick & Schmick's seafood restaurant ridiculed Sultan's claim, saying there was 'absolutely no evidence to suggest the restaurant was the source of the condom' found in her grub in February 2002. Along with the restaurant lawsuits, Sultan's tort history includes two other lawsuits, both of which she filed after allegedly being injured in auto mishaps. Below you'll find Sultan's Taco Bell lawsuit. (5 pages) "

Friday, January 09, 2004

Dell in front line of War on Terror™: "Being an honest terrorist organisation, we frankly stated that the PDA was for export to Chad (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Syria being unavailable as options), that the intended use was government/military and that the product would indeed be used in connection with weapons of mass destruction. "

Of course, it then invited them to pay and offered immediate shipment. They theorize "Of course, it's likely that Dell's cunning plan involves taking the credit card payment for intelligence-gathering purposes and then sending in the helicopter gunships."

Wait a minute -- Dell has helicopter gunships?
New system no easy touch for 134 voters in Broward: "Bogdanoff had a ready explanation for the mystery. She theorized that some of the people who cast nonvotes were among the county's true-blue Democrats who were appalled to find a ballot with only Republicans.

''That would make a heck of a lot of sense if you were looking for a Democrat on the ballot,'' she said."

It may be a valid explanation, but we'll never know, because the system produces no independant audit trail. Why is it that when these things happen, they always seem to break in favor of the same party? Also, why was only one party represented?
Treasury breaks word on e-mail anonymity : "Jim Harper, editor of the privacy advocacy site, says 'Treasury's privacy promise included an important unwritten caveat: 'Unless keeping this promise is inconvenient.'' "

Sue them for violating their posted privacy policy, and fine them for each element improperly disclosed. The bastards.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Citing 'security concerns,' Tom Ridge pulls the plug on 'Yes, Dear': "Countering critics who have charged that the cancellation of 'Yes, Dear' might be an overreaction on the government's part, Mr. Ridge said, 'Whether or not 'Yes, Dear' was going to be used as part of a plot to destroy the world, I think we can all agree that we're better off without it.'"

"Mr. Ridge added that, effective Monday, CBS would replace "Yes, Dear" with repeated airings of Ed Bradley's "60 Minutes" interview with Michael Jackson "until the end of time."

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Reuters AlertNet - German government builds 225,000 euro frog tunnel: "Germany's cash-strapped government is paying 225,000 euros ($285,200) to build a tunnel to help frogs avoid the perils of a busy road, officials said on Monday.

"Germany's government is expected to breach European Union budget deficit limits for a third year in a row in 2004."

Monday, January 05, 2004

Slate reads another Dean book so you don't have to.: "Dean's Kentucky campaign begins poorly: Letters received by Dean after he signed Vermont's civil-unions bill: 'I was really sorry to read where you have allowed the passage of a bill recognizing queers to marry,' wrote someone from Kentucky, 'who vowed never to vacation in Vermont again.' 'I have been a Democrat all my life, but now that the Democrats are turning into queers, I am switching to the Republican Party. I hope you and all your queer buddies rot in hell.'

"Another said, 'Dean Is a Faggot Lover. All Homosexuals, Go to Vermont, Dean Loves You. All Normal People, Stay Away From Vermont. A State Full Of Perverts—Run By Perverts. Boycott Fag Run Vermont.' On one fund-raising walk after the bill-signing, an elderly woman walked up to Dean and said, 'You fucking, queer-loving son of a bitch.'"

Unfortunately, we aren't told who was really living in Howard Dean's room at Yale -- Brother Jim Dean (who now works for the campaign) describes his brother's 1971 graduation from Yale: "We get to Howard's room, and he isn't there, but there are a bunch of people apparently living there who aren't Yale students but are kind of street people with tattoos and all."
What You Can't Say: "You have to take that extra step if you want to think clearly. But it's harder, because now you're working against social customs instead of with them. Everyone encourages you to grow up to the point where you can discount your own bad moods. Few encourage you to continue to the point where you can discount society's bad moods."

"(This essay is about heresy: how to think forbidden thoughts, and what to do with them. The latter was till recently something only a small elite had to think about. Now we all have to, because the Web has made us all publishers.)"
Despite Best Efforts, Doughnut Makers Must Fry, Fry Again: "In the summer of 1997, the FDA, armed with search warrants, raided Mr. Ligon's office and packaging facilities in Kentucky and Illinois, seizing 18,720 doughnuts, along with cinnamon rolls and labels. Mr. Ligon shut down the business, but the FDA pursued a criminal case."

Doughnut fraud is serious, and shall incur the full weight of law enforcement. I wonder how long the doughnuts lasted in the evidence room?

Friday, January 02, 2004

TSA Chief At Dulles Is Charged With DWI: "On a night considered at particular risk of terrorism, with extraordinary security actions in place across the country, Brady was supposed to be at his airport post until 2 a.m. TSA spokeswoman Jennifer Marty said that Brady should have been participating in a security exercise to ensure the safety of air travelers at that hour."

Thank you. I feel safer now.
'Queer Eye' Questions Code Orange: "But even as he attacked Ridge’s choice of orange, Kressley did not recommend that the government step back down to a yellow alert, pronouncing that color “yucky beyond Thunderdome.” For his part, Kressley unveiled a new “Queer Eye” terror alert chart, featuring such colors as raspberry sherbet, scarlet and blizzard."

White, off white, antique white, ivory, cream.