People love to talk about their problems, but none of us have real problems or needs.  About 60% of Americans own a computer, which is about the same percentage who are employed.  The median income in this country is $66,000/year, yet 13% of Americans fall below the poverty line.After watching “Why We Fight” and listening to Eisenhower’s speach about the millitary-industrial complex, I can’t help but hear his list in my head:

 Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

Instead of spending money on war we could have done so many other great things.  (Check out the National Priorities website to see what we could have done instead of spending money on the war in Iraq.)

Until now I thought that the TSA restrictions of what could be brought on a plane had sunk as low as they could get. What I would not have guessed was that a recent restriction on that ban would make matters worse.

I was flying out of Oakland (OAK) Airport last week and was stunned at the lunacy of the TSA policy on liquids. It appears that liquids can be brought aboard the plane as long as they “fit comfortably in ONE, QUART-SIZE, clear plastic, zip-top bag.” They were totally serious about the “zip-top” bag portion of the requirement.

I saw someone unable to pass through security because they had one small travel-sized shampoo container but no zip-top bag to put it in. I was stunned that somehow she was a security risk to the airline industry because of the LACK of a zip-top bag.

Let’s think about this for a minute. If she had a zip-top bag TSA would have allowed her through security where she could have taken the shampoo out of the bag… and then what? Was she now brandishing a weapon of mass destruction?

Another lady had her toiletries in a clear bag of the proper size, but the top was a zipper, not the government required “zip-top”. While technically the zipper constituted a “zip” they would not allow her through. When I protested on her behalf the TSA rep looked me in the eye and said, “It is not permitted. If you want to discuss this with my supervisor you can.” I was in a rush to my plane, and did not want to get arrested and branded a terrorist, so I let it go.

Again, let’s examine the security risk here. If her clear zipper-top bag was a security risk then I could take a zipper, plus Ziplock bag, and combine the two creating such a weapon after I passed through security. Maybe they should have people remove the zippers from their pants before passing through security.

So, I wonder if there is a Ziploc and “small toiletry” lobby group that helps create these rules. At least one other person seems to think so. They also talk about it over on FlyerTalk. Ziploc is a registered trademark owned by the SC Johnson company, a privately held company, so we have no way of knowing if their valuation rose as a result of the new TSA rules, but I can imagine they did OK.

According to the TSA web site:

  1. Travelers may now carry through security checkpoints travel-size toiletries (3 ounces or less) that fit comfortably in ONE, QUART-SIZE, clear plastic, zip-top bag.
  2. After clearing security, travelers can now bring beverages and other items purchased in the secure boarding area on-board aircraft.

Is this going to make a difference? We are still trying to balance security with convenience as we have been for years and years. I was traveling recently and waited in line with a commercial pilot. He said “security is good, but a determined attacker has a number of ways of smuggling things onto an airplane.

He gave an example saying that it’s much easier for an attacker to cut the fence late at night and smuggle things onto the airfield. He also said it’s rather easy for someone to become employed with an airline. Why are we taking such tyrannical actions against the passengers and not taking measures to protect the airfield or more stringent screening of employees.  Are employees permitted to take gels and liquids onto the airfield?

If most corporate security compromises originate from internal employees then why are we not focusing airline security measures on the airline and airport employees instead of the consumers?  I would like to see a more holistic security approach instead of just the reacionary emasures now in place.

I was very happy to receive my first gallery proof copy of Brave New Ballot last month from Morgan Road Books. I read it and was surprised at what I did not know about the electronic voting machine controversy. I was amazed at how easy and under the radar the e-voting machines have been pushed by politicians who don’t understand technology any more than to say “computers are the way of the future.” 

The book description is thus:

In 2003, Aviel Rubin touched off a national debate when he revealed that security glitches in the Diebold electronic voting machines could make it easier for election results to be compromised…

In Brave New Ballot, Rubin tells the story of his role as a whistle-blower (including the toll it took on his career and family) and recounts his observations as an election judge in Baltimore County, which gave him a full picture of electronic voting in action. Addressing both technical and legal problems, he shows how easy it is to rig an election. He describes the vulnerability of computerized systems to tampering, not only by insiders like poll workers but also by outsiders able to breach the system without detection.

Aviel Rubin and his research team have sat at the heart of the electronic voting controversy since 2003 and are one of the few that are fighting for the freedom of Americans.  It continually amazes me how people and politicians push for a technology that could very easily undermine the entire voting process and introduce scandals never seen before.

Imagine if one person or a team of people could not only affect who was president, but who was elected into any political position in the US.

Avi explains the important difference between retail fraud and wholesale fraud.  Something most people don’t understand and thus don’t understand the importance of his this struggle.

Do like this guy did and pre-order a copy of the book.  It’s a must read if you are interested in electronic voting, democracy, or freedom.

So I read the newbie guide to detecting if the NSA was monitoring your traffic. It says to traceroute to and see what routers your traffic is passing through. John Bartas has the 411 on how to do this.

The magic string you’re looking for is If it’s present immediately above or below a entry, then — by Klein’s allegations — our packets are being copied into room 641A, and from there, illegally, to the NSA. Of course, if Marcus is correct and AT&T has nstalled these secret rooms all around the country, then any entry in your route is a bad sign.

I tried this and found that my traffic is being monitored by the NSA! [] [] []

But, using the Tor web proxy none of my traffic traverses an AT&T link.  Horay for anonymity.

BoingBoing says, in a NYT story by Eric Lichtblau and James Risen:

Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States, according to government and industry officials.

The program is limited, government officials say, to tracing transactions of people suspected of ties to Al Qaeda by reviewing records from the nerve center of the global banking industry, a Belgian cooperative that routes about $6 trillion daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions. The records mostly involve wire transfers and other methods of moving money overseas or into and out of the United States. Most routine financial transactions confined to this country are not in the database.

Valleywag compares the two answers both BG and GWB give when asked about mistakes they have made.  I'm not sure which I would rather have run the country but Bill G. is much more eloquent.

resident George W. Bush, asked to name a mistake he'd made since 9/11:

You know, I just — I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet…I hope I — I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't — you just put me under the spot here…

Soon-to-retire Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates:

I would not change a thing. Sure, we've made mistakes along the way but every one of those has been a chance to learn and do things better.

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