Friday, February 26, 2016

Encryption Wars 2

Yes, there's much at stake with the Apple v. FBI judicial conflict.  We should be aware of what's going on, what it might mean.

First, here are some highlights of Apple's filing, the FBI's arguments, and some tech opinions.

The Intercept has a very thoughtful (and somewhat scary) analysis article by Froomkin and McLaughlin.

Then there was this at The Guardian: Could YOU be compelled to unlock your phone?

Folks, things are getting really scary.  It's getting late.  Everyone needs to wake up; we need to stand for our civil liberties.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Where Is Good Will?

A Prose Poem...

Where is Good Will?

Where is Good Will?  Did it get lost in a pea soup of fear-mongering?  Did hatred and bigotry send it on a detour? Or did denial and apathy steal its energy?  It used to be such an animating force.  It called for involvement in the struggle for rights for all.  A true assortment of dedicated individuals answered that call. There is a clear need today, right now, to reject divisiveness.  Is Good Will still calling?  Where is Good Will?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Any Eyes Focused?

Feeling a lot like this lately...

Any Eyes Focused?

Scanning for signs that signal hope,
Any beacons of awareness
Distracted eyes are everywhere
Am I the only one looking?

...   Is there any hope out there?  Really.  There is so much hate driving our politics.  It causes me GREAT concern that this mentality is percolating around; that ANYONE buys into it.  Not to mention feeling assaulted by the media's plastering of that dangerous nutjob all over the place.  Just checking the news or watching a news program is now a miserable task in many respects.

That's not even all, of course.  There continue to be attacks on civil liberties, such as that wrongheaded Apple-should-help-the FBI ruling.  And everyone still buys the next gadget or app that increases spying on us. Wealth inquality is still increasing. We still have to fight to even have something as simple as GMO labeling. There's still fighting around.  I keep asking, will it ever END?

By nature I'm an optimistic person, but the way things are going, I'm finding less and less to be optimistic about.  And it seems that everyone is ---- sleeping, apathetic, or worse.  So I ask again.  Is there any hope out there?


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Encryption Wars

I'm sure by now you've all heard of that awful ruling by a Judge Pym (shame on her!) that wants Apple to help the FBI guess passcodes - to access data of the San Bernardino suspect's phone.  There's an overview at The Intercept.

I barely have words.  This shows NO respect for privacy at all. Many, many civil liberties groups are howling about this.  I was also heartened that many commenters at the previous link and at The Intercept's follow up story get that this ruling, if let stand would set a very dangerous precedent.  It would possibly allow access to data sometime in the future for - fishing - or if TPTB decide the definition of some wrongdoing has changed.  The way it would undermine encryption would also leave users more open to malicious hackers.  And that's just for starters.  EVERYONE should protest against this.

Please follow the story and let it be known YOU feel this is totally unacceptable.

Also, think about your own data security.  Micah Lee at The Intercept has a fine article about making your iphone a bit more secure. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Open Questions to ALL Presidential Candidates (With Update)

Hello Readers -

I do see I have been getting page views - so how about some comments and conversation?  Can't be that hard, can it?  Would mean a LOT...

This was originally posted on 10/12/2015, but I thought as we're fully into Presidential primaries and there are debates all around, that I would put this back up top.  And with an update.  Thought you all might enjoy reading about what the American Friends' Service Committee is doing with training folks to ask tough questions of candidates.  Now back to the original post:

I don't usually post so quickly after another post, but I wanted to keep this one timely and I believe the first Democratic Debate is tomorrow.

I was again stunned by an article I saw in The Guardian (though I'm increasingly wondering why I'm not even more cynical than I am).  The latest:  Bernie Sanders on drones .

Bernie, how could you (or anyone with some sort of conscience)?  This amounts to justifying extrajudicial killing which should be abhorrent to those who value the rule of law and the tenants of our Constitution.  Here's an article from 2012 which lays out the problems.  And here's another article about the drone strike memo, authored by the odious David Barron.  And a bit more:  Then Attorney General Holder " previously summarized the justification, saying that targeted killings — whether by unmanned aerial vehicles or manned aircraft — can be carried out if the citizen in question poses an imminent threat, cannot be captured, and can be killed without violating the more general laws of war. So far, four Americans are known to have died through the targeted strike program, including al-Awlaki and his son. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has estimated that over 3,500 people in total have been killed under the program."  What's the problem ---- well, many have pointed out that "imminent threat" is way to broad for one thing.  Also, there is way to little concern for civilian deaths; often termed "collateral damage" (a euphemism that we should not accept the government-military-industrial complex hiding behind).  Any wonder why I would like to see all drones grounded and destroyed for scrap metal?

The Guardian is running a feature via their Guardian Witness (probably by the time you read this the deadline will have come and gone), asking for folks to send in questions for the Democratic Presidential candidates. One reader already sent in a question very close to what my feelings were after reading the first linked article above.  --- "Will you stop execution by drone?" Good question.  There was another good one about addressing Citizens United. So what about a few more?  I can propose a few - and not for just the Democratic candidates, but the Republican candidates and any others, as well.

  • What would you do to restore a respect for human rights, to put an end to torture once and for all, and to hold torturers accountable?
  • What would you do to end mass surveillance and to restore a respect for privacy?
  • What would you do to end police abuses and end overly-militaristic policing?
  • What would you do to bring hope to the poor and the working poor?  How would you support the middle class - what's left of it?
  • What would you do to help heal the environment?
  • What would you do to fight against GMO foods?
  • How would you work for world peace? 
  • What would you do to ensure the rights of free speech, dissent and protest?
  • What would you do to bring Americans together - besides fearmongering or hatemongering?
Please share your questions in comments!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

People, Get a Clue!

Yes, folks, we really need to wake up to what's going on.  There was talk years ago about the government spying on us through our (connected) home devices.  Well - now that despicable Clapper has admitted they might do EXACTLY that. 

First, check out this report from The Guardian.  Then carefully go through the excellent Trevor Timm column about it.  Oh, nothing to worry about, you say?  Guess what?  Timm notes:  "Police have already been asking Google-owned company Dropcam for footage from cameras inside people’s homes meant to keep an eye on their kids. Fitbit data has already been used in court against defendants multiple times."

 My own take is that I fail to understand WHY so many are so eager to buy the latest, even more intrusive gadget.  Do people really enjoy being tracked?  Do they not fail to see the dangers that can be posed by hackers, let alone government abuses?  It is stories such as this which are making me, usually an optimist, more cynical all the time.

In his conclusion, Timm says that this "internet of things" is certain to become more prevalent.  That's a scary thought.  He calls for end to end encryption for such devices and more and stricter privacy  rules.  Those are certainly good ideas,though I wish folks would stop buying into the "internet of things" and stop the trend of all this stuff being connected.

Music of the Spheres/Music From the Spheres

Greetings.   Is anyone actually reading?  Would love some actual comments - if only just to know someone is out there.  I'm moving this back to the top as I thought this one came out well and would love to have it read by a few more good folks. 

Sunday (1/24), while waiting to be dug out after the storm, I decided to watch a C-Span American History TV program on "Founding Era Music and Politics."  I know, I watch way too much tv, but... In this case I do like history; Colonial, Revolutionary, and early Federal History in particular. This program was really very good.  The presenter was Dr. Kirsten Wood, and with her were performers from SMU's Meadows School of the Arts.  They were excellent and the live music really added a extra dimension to Dr. Wood's fine talk.  Oh, you can watch the video here !

Along with some politics and quotes from members of our founding generation, Wood talked about how some scholars of the time saw music as a uniquely forceful means of communication. Centuries later I still concur with that.  Music can bring us together; express our dreams, hopes, fears; can move both mind and body; and as she noted late in the talk, can also stir up disharmony, too.

As far as politics, music has been linked to that closer to our time as well.  As we've noted elsewhere, where would the Twentieth Century have been without protest music?  I think it was Linda Ellerbee who noted in one of her books, "When the music stops, the Revolution is over."  So get with the program folks, we need some of that musical stimulus today!  Remember that protest song in Canada?  Let's take a cue.

She also talked about scholars during the founding era believing in "celestial harmony" and "music of the spheres."  Of course my ears REALLY pricked up on that.  One of my all time favorite bands, Argent, did a song, "Music From the Spheres."  I thought of that immediately!  She felt that we no longer seem to believe in celestial harmony nor music of the spheres.  Well, I don't know if there is celestial harmony, but I certainly pray for it. And music of/from the spheres? Well, isn't it true that objects ---- like planets and stars (any beings, objects, really) have vibrations?  From the Wikipedia article on 'Theory of Everything' :  "According to string theory, every particle in the universe, at its most microscopic level (Planck length), consists of varying combinations of vibrating strings (or strands) with preferred patterns of vibration."  YEAH, sounds like music of the spheres to me!

But it was Wood's conclusion that put the presentation over the top for me.  She noted the founding generation felt the nation must "find harmony in its diversity."  She went on to note that they didn't pay attention to all the diversity of the nation. and that for us today, the task is "far more complicated but as urgent as ever." [did the best I could with those quotes from listening; sorry c-span, but your transcripts are horribly poor!]

I have to say AMEN to that conclusion. This directly relates to unity, a theme I return to constantly.  And Wood is absolutely correct.  Somehow seeking harmony and unity in our diversity is critical for us with the challenges we face as a nation and as a Planet.  We must reject seeds of divisiveness and intolerance.  The current political climate here and abroad keeps bringing that home.  We must see and acknowledge the basic humanity of each of us, and build on that to work together to create a better nation and world for all.  Ok, how many times have I said that or something very similar?  Not enough, I guess.  Andre Gide once said: "Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens, we have to keep going back and beginning all over again." So ok, folks, time to listen up!

Related Posts:


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Reality Show Switch Up (Fiction)

Here's a little story to highlight the idea of being united.

Reality Show Switch Up

Fred, Susan, Laurel, Alan, and David were all dealing with sweaty palms as the cameras started to roll on “Find That Treasure,” a popular reality show by live stream which pitted five contestants against each other in a competition to find a hidden treasure of $500,000.
The host explained that each would be given a clue and that the first one to bring the gilt box containing it back to the studio would claim the prize. And so the hunt began.

Fred was given a coded message, Susan was given a photo, Laurel was given a list, Alan was given a printout of an internet page, and David was given a set of keys labeled in German.

The contestants were to be filmed confronting their challenge over a month.  They would be housed in a dorm, filmed as they tackled the challenged and watched for rule violations. Each set out on his or her own and began the hunt.  Fred labored over deciphering the coded message; Susan tried to figure out the significance of her picture, while Laurel and Alan tried to make sense of their clues as well.  And David puzzled over the German labels.  But with contest rules prohibiting any research on the Internet (in fact, no internet nor cell phones were allowed them), they each got nowhere.  Days wore on and sometimes they even tried to sabotage each other’s efforts.  Laurel would blare her radio at Fred as he tried to break the code, And Alan almost got his hands on David’s keys, but David was too fast. Alan just got wrist-slapped.  Two days were left to complete the challenge and the contestants were beginning to see that the time had just been wasted.

Susan passed a message in secret on to each of the others:  “Tired of wasting time? Maybe if we can ditch the cameras, we could work together?  Anyone interested, meet me for coffee right after dinner.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Poem for Bowie

I've been wondering about writing a poem dedicated to Bowie (I often think of him like that as years ago his songs used to be introduced as say, "Changes" - Bowie. (Note, do radio stations even introduce songs anymore? I sometimes have a hard time finding out just what an unfamiliar song is or who its artist might be.)

So the idea has been percolating for a while, and finally, I have been able to get a result.

Moonlit Resonance
Serious Moonlight tonight
Shooting stars overhead
Like pieces of time in flight
Starlights toggling on and off in tempo
Matching the vibrations of the music
Escaping gravity into the Universe’s flow
Does this night go on endlessly,
The rhythms, the lights, pulsing in the dark,
Floating around the planet unhurriedly?

But dark canopy slowly is withdrawn 
Waking daylight starts to claim the sky
Time to turn and face the dawn

 …….dedicated to David Bowie