Miami Vices .
Nov 30th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Mia­mi Vices. Those in “awe” of the ACLU may expe­ri­ence “shock” in dis­cov­er­ing that organization’s limp response to the Mia­mi police department’s declared ter­ror­ist assault on Miami­ans. The city’s deputy police chief warned that police offi­cers might stop peo­ple to check their… By But­ler Shaf­fer. [ Blog]

bq. Such a tepid response is not sur­pris­ing. While the ACLU has been good on many issues, its actions tend to arise not out of any sense of the innate invi­o­la­bil­i­ty of the indi­vid­ual, but from a desire to pro­tect the state from polit­i­cal excess­es that might weak­en pop­u­lar sanc­tion for sta­tist rule. Flag-burning can be defend­ed as a form of free speech, because very few Amer­i­cans would choose to engage in such an act. The ACLU does, how­ev­er, sup­port “rea­son­able reg­u­la­tions of gun own­er­ship” — even though gun con­trol laws vio­late the Sec­ond Amend­ment. I sus­pect this group’s posi­tion on gun own­er­ship — like that of oth­er so-called “lib­er­als” — derives from a fear of hav­ing effec­tive pow­er in the hands of ordi­nary peo­ple, which might intrude on the state’s monop­oly on the use of force.

It is the ulti­mate pow­er and author­i­ty of the state that the ACLU is most inter­est­ed in pro­tect­ing. A few years ago, an ACLU rep­re­sen­ta­tive spoke at our law school. Dur­ing the ques­tion and answer ses­sion, I asked him about the ACLU’s posi­tion on the government’s slaugh­ter of inno­cents at the Branch David­i­an facil­i­ty in Waco. He adamant­ly con­demned the Branch David­i­ans for their mur­der­ous attacks on the police offi­cers! I don’t know if this man rep­re­sent­ed the ACLU party-line on Waco, but there was lit­tle doubt as to his sen­ti­ments, par­tic­u­lar­ly regard­ing a harm­less group that had gath­ered to express their First Amend­ment “free­dom of reli­gion.”

Giving the U.S.
Nov 28th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Giv­ing the U.S. Mil­i­tary the Pow­er to Con­duct Domes­tic Sur­veil­lance. More non­sense in the name of defend­ing our­selves from ter­ror­ism:

bq. The Defense Depart­ment has expand­ed its pro­grams aimed at gath­er­ing and ana­lyz­ing intel­li­gence with­in the Unit­ed States, cre­at­ing new agen­cies, adding per­son­nel and seek­ing addi­tion­al legal author­i­ty for domes­tic secu­ri­ty activ­i­ties in the post-9/11 world.

The moves have tak­en place on sev­er­al fronts. The White House is con­sid­er­ing expand­ing the pow­er of a little-known Pen­ta­gon agency called the Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence Field Activ­i­ty, or CIFA, which was cre­at­ed three years ago. The pro­pos­al, made by a pres­i­den­tial com­mis­sion, would trans­form CIFA from an office that coor­di­nates Pen­ta­gon secu­ri­ty efforts — includ­ing pro­tect­ing mil­i­tary facil­i­ties from attack — to one that also has author­i­ty to inves­ti­gate crimes with­in the Unit­ed States such as trea­son, for­eign or ter­ror­ist sab­o­tage or even eco­nom­ic espi­onage.

The Pen­ta­gon has pushed leg­is­la­tion on Capi­tol Hill that would cre­ate an intel­li­gence excep­tion to the Pri­va­cy Act, allow­ing the FBI and oth­ers to share infor­ma­tion gath­ered about U.S. cit­i­zens with the Pen­ta­gon, CIA and oth­er intel­li­gence agen­cies, as long as the data is deemed to be relat­ed to for­eign intel­li­gence. Back­ers say the mea­sure is need­ed to strength­en inves­ti­ga­tions into ter­ror­ism or weapons of mass destruc­tion.

The police and the mil­i­tary have fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent mis­sions. The police pro­tect cit­i­zens. The mil­i­tary attacks the ene­my. When you start giv­ing police pow­ers to the mil­i­tary, cit­i­zens start look­ing like the ene­my.

We gain a lot of secu­ri­ty because we sep­a­rate the func­tions of the police and the mil­i­tary, and we will all be much less safer if we allow those func­tions to blur. This kind of thing wor­ries me far more than ter­ror­ist threats. [Schneier on Secu­ri­ty]

Of course this sort of behav­ior by the mil­i­tary is exact­ly why the Found­ing Fathers opposed the exis­tence of a stand­ing army. In prac­tice, though, it’s too late, because the sep­a­ra­tion has already been destroyed from the oth­er side–by turn­ing the police into sol­diers.

Baltimore to Test Cell Phone Traffic Monitoring .
Nov 19th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Bal­ti­more to Test Cell Phone Traf­fic Mon­i­tor­ing. Momoru writes “The Bal­ti­more Sun is report­ing that a Cana­di­an com­pa­ny, Del­can NET, will begin test­ing a tech­nol­o­gy that deter­mines the flow of auto­mo­bile traf­fic by mon­i­tor­ing cell phone traf­fic. The com­pa­ny promis­es a rev­o­lu­tion­ary way to deter­mine back­ups, but pri­va­cy advo­cates fear the impli­ca­tions of a third par­ty track­ing users by their cell phones.” [Slash­dot]

The his­to­ry of gov­ern­ments putting up spy cam­eras at major inter­sec­tions and free­way over­pass­es sug­gests that the pri­va­cy advo­cates are right to be concerned–and that it won’t mat­ter, because very few peo­ple in Amer­i­ca actu­al­ly val­ue their pri­va­cy.

Outrageous Comparisons .
Nov 15th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Out­ra­geous Com­par­isons. Remem­ber the furor this sum­mer when Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) read off a descrip­tion of how pris­on­ers at Git­mo were… [Hit and Run]

It turns out that the Feds treat pris­on­ers of war like cap­tives in a Sovi­et gulag because the Feds made a delib­er­ate deci­sion to imi­tate Sovi­et tor­tur­ers.

Cold War Software Bugs .
Nov 14th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Cold War Soft­ware Bugs. Here’s a report that the CIA slipped soft­ware bugs to the Sovi­ets in the 1980s:

bq. In Jan­u­ary 1982, Pres­i­dent Ronald Rea­gan approved a CIA plan to sab­o­tage the econ­o­my of the Sovi­et Union through covert trans­fers of tech­nol­o­gy that con­tained hid­den mal­func­tions, includ­ing soft­ware that lat­er trig­gered a huge explo­sion in a Siber­ian nat­ur­al gas pipeline, accord­ing to a new mem­oir by a Rea­gan White House offi­cial.

A CIA arti­cle from 1996 also describes this.

EDITED TO ADD (11÷14): Mar­cus Ranum wrote about this. [Schneier on Secu­ri­ty]

The report men­tions that:

bq. “The result was the most mon­u­men­tal non-nuclear explo­sion and fire ever seen from space,” he recalls, adding that U.S. satel­lites picked up the explo­sion.

A claim like this makes me doubt the valid­i­ty of the sto­ry. The St. Helens explo­sion of 1980 was seen from space, and that was about 350 mega­tons. Are we real­ly expect­ed to believe that a nat­ur­al gas explo­sion was big­ger than that?

And that’s if we assume that the author meant “seen from space by Humans, which rules out all the real­ly big non-nuclear explo­sions. We can tell that it couldn’t have been as big as the largest Yel­low­stone explo­sion, for exam­ple, because the world didn’t end in 1982.

Army confirms use of white phosphorus for city combat .
Nov 10th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Army con­firms use of white phos­pho­rus for city com­bat. IT’S TRUE. THERE ARE CHEMICAL WEAPONS IN IRAQ. The U.S. Army con­firms it. And so do the Marines, who are hav­ing their big birth­day today (though his­tor­i­cal­ly the birth­day has been flex­i­ble). Where, or where, oh where, are the inter­na­tion­al war-crimes tri­bunals when you need them?

Of course white phos­pho­rus rounds are not actu­al­ly chem­i­cal weapons. Claim­ing they are is just like the tac­tic used by anti-freedom politi­cians of talk­ing about “assault weapons” to mis­lead the igno­rant. Using trick­ery and decep­tion doesn’t help those of us who are opposed to the war–it’s just sink­ing to the lev­el of our ene­mies.

Military Uses for Silly String .
Nov 10th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Mil­i­tary Uses for Sil­ly String. Real­ly:

bq. I’m a for­mer Marine I in Afghanistan. Sil­ly string has served me well in Com­bat espe­cial­ly in look­ing for IADs, sim­ply put, boo­by traps. When you spray the sil­ly string in dark areas, espe­cial­ly when you doing house to house fight­ing. On many occa­sions the sil­ly string has saved me and my men’s lives.


bq. When you spray the string it just spreads every­where and when it sets it lays right on the wire. Even in a dark room the string stands out reveal­ing the trip wire. [Schneier on Secu­ri­ty]

That’s a good trick to know. It can be used by rebels too–the mil­i­tary uses flares and mines with trip wires.

Ask John Smedley About Star Wars Galaxies .
Nov 10th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Ask John Smed­ley About Star Wars Galax­ies. Late last week, Sony Online Enter­tain­ment announced a fun­da­men­tal revamp in the way that the Star Wars Galax­ies MMORPG will be played. The Everquest-like autoat­tack­ing game­play and mul­ti­tudes of play­er class­es are being removed. This marks the most dra­mat­ic change ever made to a MMOG already live, and Sony Online Pres­i­dent John Smed­ley is will­ing to take ques­tions from the Slash­dot com­mu­ni­ty about the changes. One ques­tion per com­ment, and we’ll send the ten best ques­tions on to Mr. Smed­ley. We’ll post his answers as soon as they’re returned. More details are avail­able below, as are some pre­lim­i­nary respons­es from Mr. Smed­ley about the broad pic­ture they’re aim­ing for. [Slash­dot]

Appar­ent­ly Sony wasn’t sat­is­fied with dri­ving off many long-time play­ers (includ­ing me) with their pre­vi­ous redesign of the game. Now they’re get­ting rid of the last traces of the orig­i­nal sys­tem and mak­ing it just like every oth­er gener­ic level-based MMORPG. Nat­u­ral­ly this won’t prompt me to renew my sub­scrip­tion. In fact, Sony Online Enter­tain­ment has done such a good job of demon­strat­ing bad faith and incom­pe­tence that I dropped my Matrix Online sub­scrip­tion when SOE bought it.

Hate .
Nov 9th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Hate. Giv­en the recent events in France, I thought it might be worth call­ing atten­tion again to the film Hate on the Mis­es film list. Here is what I wrote about it a cou­ple years ago (also see my relat­ed review of Once Were War­riors):


to the inter­na­tion­al wel­fare cul­ture. Start­ing in a
gov­ern­ment hous­ing project in Paris, this black and white film fol­lows
three bored and angry youth around for twen­ty four hours. Said, Vinz
and Hubert, who are Arab, Jew­ish and African French respec­tive­ly, are
able to unite togeth­er despite racial dif­fer­ences in their hatred of
the life they feel trapped in. They are angry at the cops, the Sys­tem
or any­one they run across. They don’t know what pre­cise­ly is wrong or
who is to blame but they know they want to hit back and break free of
it some­how.

and com­pelling­ly told, the film presents no answers but
presents the ques­tions urgent­ly. This gov­ern­ment housed and gov­ern­ment
fund­ed cul­ture dots the urban land­scape of the devel­oped world, marked
by com­mon ele­ments that now tran­scend bor­ders like graf­fi­ti and rap,
(in fact much of the sound­track for this French film con­sists of
Amer­i­cans rap­ping in Eng­lish). The sys­tem has three mes­sages for these
young men: you are not use­ful, you are not respon­si­ble and you are a
vic­tim. It is not a sys­tem for humans. It must be stopped. In French
with Eng­lish sub­ti­tles. Rat­ed R for vio­lence and lan­guage. Read a

[Mis­es Eco­nom­ics Blog]

News: Man imprisoned for 24 hours for snapping photos of a balloon .
Nov 3rd, 2005 by Ken Hagler

News: Man impris­oned for 24 hours for snap­ping pho­tos of a bal­loon. In the con­tin­u­ing crim­i­nal­iza­tion of pho­tog­ra­phy, MSNBC reports on a man who was impris­oned for 24 hours and had his name and mug shot broad­cast on local news reports for.…. tak­ing “artis­tic pho­tographs” of a bal­loon and a table at a state fair in Texas.

bq. The pros­e­cu­tor said the sys­tem ulti­mate­ly worked because Vogel was nev­er for­mal­ly charged.

If the sys­tem real­ly worked, the cop who arrest­ed the pho­tog­ra­ph­er would have been charged.

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