Stone Patrolmen Podcast

20 Sep 2009

We have published the first episode of the Stone Patrolmen podcast. The website is at [ http://stonepatrolmen.com/ ].



Petrov Day

26 Sep 2007

I’ll thank Tene for pointing me at this one:

Take a look at http://www.overcomingbias.com/2007/09/926-is-petrov-d.html. This was probably one of the most important moments and one of the best decisions anyone ever made in the entirety of the 20th century.

Petrov decided to not destroy the world just because a bunch of flashing lights told him that five (that’s right only five) US missiles might be heading towards the USSR.



New U.S. Wiretapping Law

19 Aug 2007

On August 5th, 2007, President Bush signed S.1927 into law, after it passed a Senate vote (60 for, 28 against, 12 present but not voting) on the 3rd, and a House vote (227 for, 183 against, 23 present but not voting).

The new law amends the “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to provide additional procedures for authorizing certain acquisitions of foreign intelligence information and for other purposes.” It was sponsored by Sen. Mitch McConnell [R-KY] and Sen. Christopher Bond [R-MO].

I haven’t had time, yet, to fully read the resulting text of the bill (there are always amendments to bills as they pass through Congress), so I will reserve any specific commentary for a latter time. However, it appears that this new law could seriously affect privacy under certain circumstances in the United States.



Post Election Auditing Report

17 Aug 2007

The Brennan Center for Justice has published a report titled, “Post-Election Audits: Restoring Trust in Elections,” which is well worth a read to anyone who cares about liberty and election security.



Commercial eVoting Security Problems Abound

15 Aug 2007

Recently, California’s Secretary of State was required to perform a security screening of the eVoting systems that the State of California is thinking of/planning to use. The California Secretary of State appears to have been highly opposed to this outside audit process, according to information found within the official reports (the site has lots of links to very interresting documents, most of which are well worth the reading).

Matt Bishop’s comments on the nearly total lack of cooperation from the California Secretary of State’s office gave to the review process are utterly amazing. It’s good to see that Debra Bowen (California’s Secretary of State), has now taken the step of decertifying, dis-approving all previously approved eVoting systems.

Avi Rubin has some excellent comments on the whole eVoting situation.

The State of Florida is getting into the act, reporting on their own security reviews of commercial eVoting systems (PDF). In this letter to Diebold (PDF) which the State of Florida has published, they give Diebold an ultimatum:

Based on the report, the Bureau of Voting systems Certification has determined that certain vulnerabilities outlined must be corrected by August 17, 2007, to continue this certification. Failure to do so will result in a denial of certification.

There’s 3 pages of required fixes attached to that letter.

The U.K. Electoral Commission recently released their report detailing serious security flaws in eVoting systems.

Electronic voting is a hard problem, but that doesn’t excuse Diebold Election systems, Inc., Hart InterCivic, Sequoia Voting Systems and Elections Systems and Software, Inc. from their demonstrated complete lack of fundamental understanding of how to secure … well, anything and in particular, they’ve all shown that they have no one with even the first clue of how to either implement nor apply cryptography correctly.

Applause go to both Florida and the U.K. for recognizing bad vendor crap in the first place. An extra-hearty ‘atta-girl’ goes out to Debra Bowen in California for throwing out approvals and certifications of these seriously flawed systems.

This topic is far too important to leave in the hads of the proprietary, closed-systems mindset crowd. It must be open. The code must be open and available to everyone. All systems must be thoroughly tested by reputable, recognized, outside authorities. I hope we’ll see an open source/free software implementation of an eVoting system that could be used for governmental elections. Such a system wouldn’t be limited to only government use, either, but I believe it would find place in many corporations and other institutions.



Why Terrorism Doesn’t Work

12 Jul 2007

This article is in reference to “Correspondent Inference Theory” by Bruce Schneier.

I have previously written about terrorism and the true goals & motivations of terrorists (see my article, “What the Terrorists Want“). This latest article on the subject from Bruce takes the discussion a very important and valuable step further. I recommend you read that article.

In my past writings on the subject of terrorism, I’ve always stressed how terrorist attacks are not about the target of the particular attack, but are instead about inducing terror, typically in a large population. The point being that we need to not focus on the tactics used and we need to refuse to be terrorized.

Bruce’s new article talks about the reasons why the psychological impact of terrorist activities (especially attacks on innocents) lead us to infer and then associate the tactical target with the motivation and reason for the attack. We think, “Terrorists attack in order to kill as many of us as they can or disrupt as many of our lives as they can.” This isn’t necessarily incorrect, as the tactical plan a terrorist chooses to employ really is about just such goals, but those goals are also not the true motivator. The point of a terrorist attack isn’t to disrupt our lives or even as simple as inducing terror in the population; almost all terrorists actually have other, larger goals in mind.

We defeat terrorism by refusing to be terrorized, but we do not defeat the terrorists in that way. This is because they will still have their primary goals, and they will not have gotten any closer to them whether or not we refuse to be terrorized. Here are six of Bin Laden and al Qaeda’s goals (from former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer’s book “Imperial Hubris“):

  1. End U.S. support of Israel
  2. Force American troops out of the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia
  3. End the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and (subsequently) Iraq
  4. End U.S. support of other countries’ anti-Muslim policies
  5. End U.S. pressure on Arab oil companies to keep prices low
  6. End U.S. support for “illegitimate” (i.e. moderate) Arab governments, like Pakistan

Terrorism is about terrorizing people. That terror is meant to be a political lever to induce changes desired by the terrorist(s). But terrorism just doesn’t work. In his article “Why Terrorism Does Not Work, published in International Security, Max Abrams analized terrorist attacks and concluded that they are successful at achieving the goals of the terrorists only 7% of the time. Abrams seems to have been rather generous in his measurement of success and failure, giving the benefit of the doubt to the terrorists, so in reality, the number might be closer to 3%.

To defeat terrorism is a very hard problem. It would be much easier if the terrorists realized that terrorism doesn’t work. The vast majority of the time, it does not bring them closer to their true goals. The best thing each of us can do is refuse to be terrorized and to not overreact.



On Global Warming

4 Feb 2007

I have to agree with Fozz in his recent post about global warming.

I remember (vaguely) when Mt. St. Hellens blew its top (we even have a jar of ash from our front yard that we kept). That one event released more “greenhouse gases” than all industrial and automotive emissions since man started industrializing. Yet, the environment overcame it (and fairly quickly, too). I read an article about a year ago about how man didn’t clean up all the ash (and the environment is still “self-cleaning”) in one valley.

Reading Fozz’s comments, the thought returned to me that any attempt to state that the quantity of greenhouse gases that man produces are responsible would require hard numbers on the total amount of energies across the spectrum that reach the Earth (reaching the upper atmosphere, penetrate partway and reach the surface). I’ve never heard or read about any good continuous measurements being taken on an ongoing basis. Maybe you have; if so, I’d love to hear about them.

In all the reading that I’ve done, I find it highly unlikely that the puny quantity of gases we produce could account for the observed changes. We just don’t have numbers going back long enough to determine whather this is just part of a normal cycle or not. We have some evidence that goes back a few hundred years that let us make some guesses, but not enough to really extrapolate a pattern with enough certainty to begin answering such questions.

In the 50′s & 60′s, there was a significant concern around the world about global cooling. It wasn’t until the mid 70′s and early 80′s that we reached the point where those fears were gone, only to be replaced with the current global warming concern.

Here’s my theory about man’s activities and global warming: I think that direct heating, thermal-punping and surfacing account for the vast majority of man’s contribution to global temperatures. Burning fuel to produce heat for the home, energy to move a car and so forth produce a lot of heat. Covering large areas with concrete drastically alters the thermodynamics of the Earth’s surface.

Another thing to remember is that almost all the data is about surface temperatures, as it should be. The temperatures at the surface are responsible for the climate that we have to live with. That’s the part we experience. Again, if there’s been a study with correlating data about temperatures aloft.

Overall, I just don’t think we have enough data or enough understanding of how the planet works to be able to properly asses the state of the Earth nor the true impact man has upon it. Scientists want to take the numbers and produce an equation that explains it all, but we can’t. We don’t have the data and even when we finally do, I think the equations will be far more complex than anyone today would ever conceive.

It seems that “global warming” is poised to become the next warm-n-fuzzy (no pun intended) political issue. I believe that we will be hearing a lot of politicians glom onto this “issue” over the next couple of years.



Election Day

7 Nov 2006

I am not a very overtly political person. Take a look at the list of categories on this blog and you’ll notice how little I write about politics. Sure, some of the subjects I broach here are politically charged topics (like Privacy issues, for example.

Today is Election Day throughout the United States. It is our duty and right to vote for those whom we select as our best representation to run our local, state and federal governments. The most important thing to do is to get out and vote.

However, you have to be very careful this year to ensure that your vote counts the way you want it to. Here are a few more references about the massive security problems within the commercially produced electronic voting systems being used around the country:

This is a list of the 133 articles (at the time of this writing) by Bruce Schneier, one of the world’s most recognized and well regarded security experts, published regarding voting machine insecurities.

So, what are you waiting for? If you haven’t done it already, get out there and cast your vote.



Vote Pete Ashdown for Utah’s U.S. Senator

6 Nov 2006

The gist of the Salt Lake Tribune’s endorsement of incumbant U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch is that seniority overrides all.

Among Utah politicians, Orrin Hatch is a towering evergreen who, every six years since his election to the U.S. Senate in 1976, has been returned to Congress by voters who have seen what his conservative principles and growing seniority have brought to them and to the Beehive State.

With the choice committee assignments that come with that seniority, and the head-of-the-trough position he enjoys in bringing home federal pork…

Here we see what drives the Salt Lake Tribune: money. Why shouldn’t it? After all, newspapers are in business to make money. But the pork is a big part of the problem. By it’s very definition, it should not be happening. Pork is when taxpayer money goes to projects that line the pockets of those who make the largest contributions to the campaigns of those who bring them the pork. This is not a good practice and it isn’t good for Utah; only for a very select few individuals.

…to fund Utah projects, the 72-year-old Hatch…

72!? Isn’t it time for retirement, yet? Think about how old he would be if Hatch wins this election when it comes time to run again. 78. I personally know several people in this age bracket (and one gentleman who is 105) who are quite vital and who continue to contribute, but Orrin Hatch hasn’t been working for his constituents. In fact, he’s been working to make sure that the music and movie industries can seize control of everything you do with your equipment. He has advocated and fought for legislation designed to strip us of our civil liberties. He has consistently voted for measures that have increased government spending waste by nearly 10 times what it used to be.

…is right when he says he is well-positioned to keep helping the state prosper.

Yes, he is well positioned to help, there is no denying that. After all, his seniority in the U.S. Senate does give him extra powers. But, despite being “well positioned” for the past 3 terms, Orrin Hatch has not used that “positioning” to benefit Utahns.

That position would be further enhanced in January when a re-elected Hatch would be chairman, or vice-chairman, of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

Perhaps. Still, there are no guarantees that he would make it into this committee. Even if he did get the chairmanship, how would it benefit the masses of Utah? It wouldn’t. Instead, he would be able to funnel more money into pork, instead of it going where it could do real good.

In short, replacing Hatch with his Democratic challenger, Pete Ashdown, would sharply and unacceptably reduce the effectiveness of the state’s congressional delegation in advancing Utah’s interests in Congress.

I entirely disagree. After all, how could anyone who replaces Hatch do less than he for Utah? It’s hard to less than nothing.

For that reason alone, voters should return the incumbent for a sixth term.

Oh, what a dangerous thought, as this Salt Lake Tribune editorial points out itself!

Regular readers of this newspaper’s editorials know that The Tribune Editorial Board is often critical of Utah’s senior senator over issues ranging from his pro-administration positions on Iraq, tax cuts and Big Pharma-friendly Medicare reform, to blocking FDA oversight of the nutritional supplement industry, to changing the Constitution to criminalize flag-burning, to rank partisanship in vetting nominees to the federal judiciary, etc., etc.

Did you catch that? The “Tribune Editorial Board” routinely criticizes Orrin Hatch on a huge range of issues.

Suffice to say that a complete list of Hatch’s negatives might exceed this space,

In other words, there are a lot more negative items about Hatch that they just don’t have room to mention. Sounds like a very long list.

…especially if it included some of Hatch’s more outrageous statements on public policy issues such as citing author Michael Crichton as an authority on the science of global warming, …

What!? They even include in their endorsement a reference that could be construed to say they think he’s a bit off his rocker?

…or suggesting that House Republicans’ failure to act on former Rep. Mark Foley’s sexually explicit e-mails to congressional pages may be attributable to their desire not to appear homophobic.

Now this I can understand. Read it closely, Senator Hatch suggested that some elected officials might have hesitated in reacting to the Mark Foley scandal because they didn’t want to come across as homophobic, or in other words, they didn’t want to appear “politically incorrect” because they were not prepared and/or in shock that this happened.

Sorry, but I have to agree that this could be possible.

That is not to say, however, that the conservative Republican hasn’t received the board’s well-earned praise for his efforts to block storage of high-level nuclear waste near the Wasatch Front, to remove radioactive tailings threatening the Colorado River, to expand the missions performed by Hill Air Force Base, to gain federal compensation for Utahns exposed to radiation from nuclear testing, and, perhaps most important, his unstinting support for biomedical and stem-cell research.

Mostly, I feel that these are good things. But is that all there is to show for 30 years work? Especially considering that the list of negatives couldn’t even fit in their newspaper.

There have been other good works, but this space would probably be ample to enumerate them.

Ah, did you pay careful attention there. They are saying that they didn’t list all the positives, either, but that it wouldn’t have been very hard to do so and to fit in all within this space, too.

Again, is that all Orrin Hatch has to show for 30 years work?

Yet, for all its many reservations, the Editorial Board believes Hatch’s seniority in the Senate is of overriding importance to a state that needs all the clout it can get in Washington, D.C.

This is a very, very hard pill to swallow. Do they honestly think that the fact that they feel that Hatch is bad for Utah is not important enough to merit his replacement? He’s had 30 years to prove that he is a danger to Utah and to the United States as a whole.

But, let’s just take this argument by itself for a second. If seniority were actually of any real value at all, then we should replace a failed 72-year old so that the next Senator can build up potential seniority as soon as possible. If we wait it will be just that much longer before Utah that “… needs all the clout it can get in Washington, D.C.” will start to get any. It certainly sounds like the editorial board is very short-sighted, here.

Ashdown is a bright, articulate voice for many sound solutions to the pressing problems facing the country.

I understand that much of bureaucracy exists to justify it’s own existence. But we have real problems in this world and we all need real solutions. Many of these solutions are so simple, if only someone would stand up and say, “Here is a good solution; let’s do it.” This is something that Pete Ashdown can do.

But on matters pertaining to Utah, Hatch’s voice is the one that would be heard.

Perhaps that is true. Perhaps Pete’s voice would be the whisper of a church mouse in Washington in his first years in the U.S. Senate. But, Hatch’s voice does not speak for Utah. This editorial even says so and says that they believe that Pete Ashdown would.

To wrap up, I will be voting for Pete Ashdown. I am a registered Republican, though mostly a Libertarian at heart.

I will be voting for Pete despite the fact that I vehemently disagree with his position on a couple of points that are very important to me. I do this with a clear conscience knowing that there will never be a candidate (probably not even if I ran) that will ever match my views 100%.

I would encourage you to take a real look at both candidates and ask yourself, “How does this candidate measure up to my needs?” Then, go and vote. To help you, here are the websites for both candidates that enumerate their respective positions on the issues (Hatch’s website requires flash, so many web browsers will not work with it):

Orrin Hatch
Pete Ashdown

I’ve made my choice and I’m voting for Pete Ashdown.



Electronic Voting Machines “Malfunction”

1 Nov 2006

No surprise here.

Since the electronic voting equipment manufacturers are completely incompetent when it comes to security, I and any other person with a working brain (when it comes to security, that is) have been expecting that we would be hearing an awful lot about machines “malfunctioning” in this year’s election.

If you haven’t caught any of the stories yet, check out Pete Ashdown‘s recent post on some voting experiences that have been sent in to him, as well as this story on KFDM‘s website.

There are other stories surfacing already.

Pay very close attention to your voting. Make sure the machine shows what you really wanted to vote for before you commit your vote. Double-check the printout from the voting machine and make sure that every one of the items marked is what you really wanted to vote for.

It’s your responsibility to ensure that your vote was recorded as you want it. The electronic voting systems adopted in the state of Utah are so insecure that it doesn’t matter how good the elections officials and workers are at their jobs; votes are going to be stolen this year and with greater ease than in any past year.

It’s up to you, the voter, to protect yourself and your vote.