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P.J. O’Rourke on China
May 30th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

The Cleveland of Asia: A Journey Through China’s Rust Belt [World Affairs Journal]

A lengthy account of a trip through China two years ago. There’s some interesting things that we don’t usually see in the US.

On politics:

Not that the Chinese I talked to were taciturn. They were forthcoming enough about their government, but they didn’t care much about the political theory of it. Tom said, “Their attitude is, ‘Shhh, politics is sleeping, don’t wake it up.’”

On the rule of law:

“Here’s where one guy threw a wrench at me,” Tom said as we climbed the tower to the blast furnace.

“What’d you do?”

“I tossed him down the stairs,” Tom said. “Rule of law is the cornerstone of capitalism.”

(When was the last time you heard an American use the phrase “rule of law?”)

On the secret police:

Mr. Feng, sitting next to me, spoke better English than I do anyway. He went to the London School of Economics. He was full of jokes about the government in Beijing, its muddles and its meddling. These sent the local Party functionaries into helpless laughter. Mr. Feng proposed ganbei after ganbei, pouring and emptying glasses of scotch. He had the kind of personality—both engaging and disarming—that could get you talking to him about anything, if you could get a word in edgewise.

[snip]

“Who is Mr. Feng?” I asked Tom. I examined the business card Mr. Feng had given me, printed with his vague title at a vaguely named trading firm.

“I don’t know,” Tom said. “But when there’s trouble with the government, with regulation, bureaucracy, or courts, you go to him. The problem disappears. I think he’s secret police.”

Pretty much the opposite of the usual role of secret police. Ever hear of the FBI getting the government to leave someone alone?

On Tiananmen Square:

When Mai and I were back in Hong Kong, I mentioned to Tom that the whole time we’d been on the mainland I’d hardly heard the Tiananmen massacre of 1989 mentioned.

“That’s no surprise,” Tom said. “Tiananmen Square is where the abdication of the last emperor was proclaimed in 1912. It’s where the student demonstrations, which led to the formation of the Chinese Communist Party, were held in 1919. It’s where the Japanese occupation government announced its East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, where Mao declared victory over the Kuomintang in 1949, and where a million Red Guards swore loyalty to Mao during the Cultural Revolution. When the Chinese see a bunch of people gathering in Tiananmen Square, they don’t go all warm and fuzzy the way we do. The Chinese think, ‘Here we go again.’”

An opinion that the Busheviks wouldn’t want you to read
May 29th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

Why Arab and Muslim American should Support Ron Paul [Abu Hatem]

A very interesting perspective that is pretty thoroughly buried by the mainstream media.

New: Check Point Full Disk Encryption for Mac OS X
May 29th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

New: Check Point Full Disk Encryption for Mac OS X. Check Point Software Technologies released its first Mac OS X version of Check Point Full Disk Encryption, with pre-boot authentication, centralized management for enterprise setup and administration, and other features. [MacInTouch]

This sounds nice in theory, and I would like some full disk encryption for OS X, but the company’s website is lacking in specifics. They don’t even say what algorithm(s) they use! I guess I’ll just have to keep waiting for the Mac version of TrueCrypt to add whole disk encryption. That’s what I use on my PC laptop, and it works great.

On the moral superiority of clown suits
May 29th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

The clown suit defense, and the excuses of symbols. If I were to break down the door to my neighbor’s home, push a gun in the face of the family that lives there, announce that they had offended me, or my masters, for some behavior of theirs which was proscribed by the scrawlings of blind yet dutiful scribes in some mysterious set of holy books that they had neither read nor subscribed to, and then demand that they comply with my instantaneous orders or be subject to the instantaneous power of death which issues from the barrel of my gun — would they or would they not be justified in defending themselves? Would they or would they not be justified in attempting to escape? Would they or would they not act morally by exerting every possible influence, by applying every possible force, to stop me enforcing whatever arbitrary proscription I found in my holy book?

[snip]

Oh, but… the objection is raised, as was done by that listserv contributor and fellow human being whose name I have long forgotten, “What if I’m wearing a clown suit when I do this?”

“Oh! A clown suit!” all proclaim, prostrating themselves and genuflecting before the one true God. “Why, if he’s wearing a clown suit, it must be all right! We know that clowns want only the best things for our children, and of course clowns must go through rigorous training and certification in order to be granted, by the powers that be, that most sacred privilege of wearing the clown suit! Surely, if he’s wearing a clown suit, he is in the right, and they are the evil doers, they are the ones who have transgressed, and, indeed, they must be punished.” [nostate.com]

Flash is hazardous to your computer’s health
May 28th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

Symantec: Flash exploit in widespread use. Hundreds of thousands of webpages have been affected by a vulnerability in Adobe’s Flash Player, says security vendor Symantec. Since at least Monday, approximately 220,000 pages have been been hacked to add redirection scripts, which send Flash users to some 57 servers that attempt to deliver malware, including botnet code and apps that steal Wor… [The Macintosh News Network]

Another good reason to use the Flashblock extension for Firefox.

More from Soviet America
May 24th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

Habeas, Schmabeas.

Maybe Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri really is a bad man. Or maybe he’s another Jose Padilla, and guilty of far less than what the government is claiming. What’s clear, is that what the government is arguing is some scary, scary stuff:

Al-Marri’s capture six years ago might be the Bush administration’s biggest domestic counterterrorism success story. Authorities say he was an al Qaeda sleeper agent living in middle America, researching poisonous gases and plotting a cyberattack.

To justify holding him, the government claimed a broad interpretation of the president’s wartime powers, one that goes beyond warrantless wiretapping or monitoring banking transactions. Government lawyers told federal judges that the president can send the military into any U.S. neighborhood, capture a resident and hold him in prison without charge, indefinitely.

If the president gets these powers, it’s the end, gang. The writ of habeas corpus is 400 years old. The Bush administration is, rather incredibly, arguing that the “commander in chief” power of the U.S. Constitution authorizes them to vaporize it. Even if you subscribe to a Hinderaker-esque view of the current president, just remember, every future president will have this power, too. Think about the asinine process by which we chose our presidents. Think about what sorts of character traits it takes to want to go through all of the bullshit we’ve seen already this campaign season, and what traits it takes not only to endure all of that, but to win. Now think about giving those people these kinds of powers.

The Bush administration has defined “terrorism” in broad, vague terms. As Charlie Savage points out in his book Takeover, it includes not only Islamic terrorism, but domestic terrorism, and the Bush administration claims these powers not just against terrorists, but against the people who “aid” them. Savage explains that, for example, a more liberal president could claim these same powers against the farmers in the mountains of North Carolina who are suspected of helping Olympic Park and abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph evade the police.

Keep in mind, this isn’t a question of whether such people, or whether such people as al-Marri, should be prosecuted. We’re talking about whether we should give the president the authority to arrest and detain such people—American residents (and, the Bush administration has argued, American citizens)—without giving them a trial . . . forever.

The Bush administration is claiming its wartime powers give it this broad authority. But the war the administration says we’re fighting isn’t against Iraq or Afghanistan. It isn’t a war for which there will ever be a peace accord or the signing of a treaty. It’s a war against “terrorism.” It’s a war that quite literally is never going to end. And so any “wartime” powers we grant the executive, are powers we’re granting to the executive permanently.

It’ll take decades to figure out just how much damage this president has done to the Constitution. And it’s really almost impossible to overstate just how serious this is.

[The Agitator]

The Busheviks aren’t subtle. They come right out and tell everyone, publicly, that as far as they’re concerned the US is and should be just like the Soviet Union.

False sense of security removed in India
May 21st, 2008 by Ken Hagler

BlackBerry Giving Encryption Keys to Indian Government.

RIM encrypts e-mail between BlackBerry devices and the server the server with 236-bit AES encryption. The Indian government doesn’t like this at all; they want to snoop on the data. RIM’s response was basically: that’s not possible. The Indian government’s counter was: Then we’ll ban BlackBerries. After months of threats, it looks like RIM is giving in to Indian demands and handing over the encryption keys.

[Schneier on Security]

This means that the “encryption” is just a worthless marketing gimmick anyway. If it wasn’t, it would be impossible for RIM to compromise it because they wouldn’t have the keys to hand over.

The Balko Paradox
May 20th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

An analogue of the Fermi Paradox, proposed by Brian Courts in the Reason Magazine weblog’s comments section:

The Balko paradox is the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of good cops and the lack of evidence for, or contact with, such cops.

A government-granted monopoly is not enough
May 20th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

VoIP joins cellular in eating away at telecom landlines.

A new study reveals just how many users are leaving traditional phone service for VoIP. New VoIP users don’t just want voice service, though; the real action lies in bundled services.

Read More…

[Ars Technica]

Over 80 percent of new VoIP subscribers take advantage of the “triple play” offerings from companies that bundle TV, Internet, and now VoIP services.

The cable company in my area, Time Warner, has been advertising their VoIP service quite a bit. It’s ridiculously overpriced at $29.95/month–I don’t see why anyone would want to replace a landline with something just as expensive when they could switch to Skype or Gizmo for a fraction of the cost.

New laptop
May 17th, 2008 by Ken Hagler

I finally bought a new Mac laptop to replace my ailing six year old TiBook. Thanks to Migration Assistant, I was able to move everything over from my Photoshop machine minimal difficulty. It’s very fast, and comparable to the four year old Micron Transport T2200 I use for work in hardware design (and much better than the Thinkpad T61 my boss got for me last year).

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