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.


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?


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.” []

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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