Tuesday, December 30, 2008

MD5 demonstrated very broken; but worse, some CAs were still using it

Now, a proof-of-concept showing that the long-known MD5 vulnerabilities can be actually used to fake a CA certificate.  This could be really bad if done by a bad guy.  And it has long been known that to hedge your bets, your certs should use either both MD5 and SHA-1 or just SHA and drop MD5 altogether.  But apparently some ridiculous CAs didn't get that message and should not be in the business they are in IMO because of such a collossal error.  Equifax Secure Global eBusiness CA-1 is one of the certificates shown to use md5rsa.  From the slashdot discussion, here is a reposting of other CAs still using MD5:
RSA Data Security (!)
Thawte (!)
I expect this kind of thing from Equifax because they seem to do everything but the right thing in any interaction I've had with them online (e.g. why would they decide it a good idea to direct people to http://consumerinfo.com as an Equifax property? That seems like the phishiest thing I've come across. Seriously?) But RSA? Thawte?

I'll repeat again my analogy I have used in the past for those who don't get the implications:
"If you used a daycare for your child that you found to have strewn about broken glass, hypodermic needles, frayed electrical cords, etc. would you not switch to a new daycare?"

"Okay, now assume for example, that the bad daycare in the above example cleaned all of that up and pleaded that they would never be so careless again.  Would you bring your child back to that daycare?  If so, why?  If they were so careless in the past, and there are so many other better daycare facilities, why should you risk your child's security on someone so careless and clueless?"
Now, there is a caveat that is possible and I call it the Jack-in-the-box caveat.  In the aftermath of the E-coli illnesses attributed to Jack-in-the-Box restaurants many, many years ago, when they reopened I was not hesitant to have a burger there.  Why?  Because it was clear that they were under very tight scrutiny from the government and health agencies due to what they went through.  But, other restaurants were potential ticking timebombs.  It's the devil you know vs. the devil you don't.

Emergent Chaos: Now will you believe MD5 is broken?

BPA safety in plastics for your baby

I've heard lots of information about BPA in plastics (aka Bisphenol-A), and a little misinformation. So I figured that it was time to crosscheck these concerns against the other chain-email-brand hysteria about plastics that I have debunked before.

Turns out that there is some right to be concerned about BPA in plastics. BPA was used as a synthetic hormone replacement and is combined with other ingredients to create many of the clear plastics used today. However, not all of the BPA is locked into chemical bonds and so some of it can leech out, especially when heated.

The question then becomes, what level of human safety is there for BPA and what should you do about it? Well, there is a recent rebuke of the FDA methodology that seems to be the most arresting information to date.

Panel Rebukes F.D.A. on Plastic Safety - Well Blog - NYTimes.com  With a link to the PDF written by the panel of scientists.  They found several problems with the FDA methodology.

Bottom line: Infants should not directly use BPA plastics but whether there are effects in larger, more developed adults, is unknown.

Myth #1: Avoid all plastics that have #7 on the bottom. As this note on the Nalgene website points out, the reality is a bit more complex than that:

What does the #7 represent?

The #7 recycling label is a catchall indicator for plastics made with a resin other than those in the #1 to #6 designations, or made of more than one resin. The #7 category not only includes polycarbonate, but also includes compostable plastics made of organic material and other types of plastic that do not necessarily contain BPA (Bisphenol-A). For example, our new Everyday™ line manufactured with Eastman's Tritan™ copolyester is a #7, but does not include BPA.

So, you should be cautious of older plastics with #7, but most likely, new plastics will be specifically marketed as "BPA free" so that you will know if that bottle is okay.

Recent information from a trusted scientific publication, Scientific American:
Just How Harmful Are Bisphenol-A Plastics?: Scientific American

Information from a blog that has a great name:


Some older information from earlier in the year, but lots of timelines from around April 2008 when things started happening, including Nalgene reluctantly pulling their BPA products. Canada was on the verge of declaring BPA a toxin.

Bisphenol A (BPA) information

But beware of the plastics council and other misinformation out there, as this blog posting points out:

Dept. of Propaganda: BPA Facts.org | SierraDescents Blog

Monday, December 22, 2008

Trouble selling your home? St. Joseph to the rescue!

But you have to be a believer or it won't work.  Well, even then it won't work. 

I wonder what kind of anti-scientific process that lead someone to postulate that it isn't enough to just _pray_ to St. Joseph -- no -- you have to a) make a mini-me version of him
b) bury him in your yard
c) Oh, don't forget the most important part -- bury him _upside down_.

Funny how products you buy on TV from hacks have a supposed "Guaranteed to work or your money back" promise, yet religious cruft from the local "Christan Supply" store doesn't...  Think about it...

Some homeowners resort to outside help to sell their property: Consumer Reports Home & Garden Blog

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Quackery in Seattle

I often listen to AM 1090 Seattle (upstart progressive talk radio station and Air America / Nova M radio
affiliate).  What irks me are the many fringe/quack commercials and infomercials that air on the station.  I don't see many of the vendors listed on their sponsor pages so I'm not sure if they are just forwarding commercials from the networks, but I wish they would take a little more editorial control.

What doesn't help is that one of their prominent talk show hosts (that I actually like for his political acumen and rational take on issues) Thom Hartman tends to shill for many questionable products.  He seems fairly
gullible outside of the political sphere.  And this seems to only be reinforced now that I found that he owns his own company producing ADHD herbal treatments:  Enzymatic Therapy, Inc. - North America's leading manufacturer and distributor of dietary supplements and natural medicines. Seriously -- if there was something to what he discovered, it should result in a pharmaceutical product regulated by the FDA and controlled in dosage with well-done and documented trials to prove efficacy. Products that go the "natural" route don't have that kind of rigor and actual evidence backing them.

Some of the products featured that are total quackery (not science-based medicine):

which claims to rid you of "the five to twenty five pounds of waste that some experts say is trapped on the colon walls like spackle or paste"  This is a typical quack claim.  Anyone who has gotten a colonoscopy can tell you that you actually don't have "pounds" of stuff on your colon walls.  Your body expels solid waste fairly well, unless you have an obstructed bowel.  Then you would need serious medical attention, not some supplement that is not even regulated by the FDA. See How Clean Should Your Colon Be? (The American Council on Science and Health)

Super Beta Prostate,
formulated by Roger Mason, who has the book quackishly-titled, "The Natural Prostate Cure" and even one entitled "The Natural Diabetes Cure".  Do you think if someone had a "cure" for these diseases, especially one that was over-the-counter, that this would be HUGE news that the scientific and lay press would take a big interest in.  Not to mention the pharmaceutical companies that would love to synthesize a
cancer treatment.

I found this review from amazon.ca funny and to-the-point:

Roger Mason's little pamphlet has some serious flaws in it. He proclaims that the way to beat prostate
cancer is to eliminate meat and dairy in favor of whole grains and
vegetables. His authority for this is that a grain based diet is what
mankind has been consuming throughout recorded history.
This is
falacious reasoning at best. Archaeologists can tell him that they can
determine the eating habits from ancient skeletal remains by
examination of the teeth. Healthy, undecayed teeth are indicative of
someone whose diet was primarily meat; while teeth that demonstrate
considerable deterioration proves that their diet was primarily grains.
Why is it that grains do that and meat doesn't?! In addition, they
might also reveal that the natural
mode of human biology is for a mother to nurse for up to three years
and remain infertile throughout that time; while a grain based diet
interferes with the natural
biological cycle and returns a woman to fertility in as little as three
months despite nursing an extant child. Mason should also explain why
humans have incisors...

The Atkins diet plan is juxtaposed to Mason's views. It emphasizes the more natural
diet of meat and de-emphasizes grains and starches as the heaviest
carbohydrates. The results are startling - reduced weight and
cholesterol despite eating MORE red meat! Carbs get stored in fat cells
when there is an overabunbance. That leads to disease. The human body
can't store extra protein. It's the extra carbs that cause an
oversupply of estrogen in men, not the consumption of protein as Mason

Mason just doesn't know what he's talking about. Try
reading instead Drs. Eades & Eades' Protein Power, in which real
medical doctors give real medical evidence about estrogen, insulin and
how the body manages protein, carbohydrates and fats.

Regardless, the main ingredients in SBP are Beta-sitosterols and the
website claims that one capsule is equivalent to 100 typical Saw
Palmetto capsules for the amount of Beta-sitosterols.  So, one could
look at the efficacy (or lack thereof) of Saw Palmetto then to help
determine whether SBP could conceivably have any benefit.  As recently
as 2006 there was a large study that seemed to show (as is typical when
the effect is not real) the larger, well-done study tends not to show
an effect.  Meaning, that it is unlikely that saw palmetto and its
ingredients would be a good anti-cancer therapy. 
Study Casts Doubt on Saw Palmetto as Prostate Remedy : NPR
new study in The New England Journal of Medicine indicates "saw
palmetto" does not work to shrink enlarged prostates. At least 2
million men take the supplements, often on the advice of doctors.
Smaller studies have shown that saw palmetto does work, but this is the
largest study to date.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

There's a sucker born every 12,500,000 emails

I can believe this given how gullible relatives forward out obviously-false chain emails all the time.  There's a fine line between that behaviour and responding to these.

Spam gets 1 response per 12,500,000 emails | News | TechRadar UK
A new study details how spammers – the bane of our email inboxes – still make pots of money, despite only receiving a response to one in every 12,500,000 emails they spam out.

The study, by a team of seven computer scientists from University of California, Berkeley and UC, San Diego (UCSD) infiltrated the Storm network, which uses hijacked home PCs to relay much of the junk email you spend your days wading through while wondering 'who the hell responds to this stuff?'

Well. Now you know. One gullible idiot in 12,500,000 recipients. Or thereabouts.

Vote demographics 2008

I'm sure this will come in handy in future debates. Not to mention it is very interesting to see where the votes fell.

Daily Kos: The Poll That Counts: Obama 52 McCain 46

Deregulation behind the massive financial crisis

No, it wasn't Fannie and Freddie.  Alan Greenspan (who owns a lot of blame for the mess), the SEC chairman and John Snow agree it wasn't them.  Fannie and Freddie weren't even securitizing those mortgages in large numbers until 2005.

Wonk Room » The Perino Challenge: ‘What Specific Regulation Did We Eliminate?’  Lists several key ones.
Think Progress » Cox, Greenspan, Snow Agree: Freddie Mac And Fannie Mae Did Not Cause The Financial Crisis

GOP rebirth: Focus on new fundamentals (instead of fundamentalist views)

We can only hope.  You can't keep campaigning on social issues but falling down when in office on the other issues that should be more important (the economy, the war, veterans benefits, etc.)

Think Progress » Ensign: GOP shouldn’t focus on abortion or gay rights.
Although Ensign was not ready to call for a break from socially conservative ideologies, he said issues such as abortion or gay rights should not be at the core of the party.

“I think we lost our way on our fundamentals” in recent years, Ensign said, adding that “those are the issue that we can disagree on as a party.”

Cool site with newspaper headlines of Obama win from around the world

VERY cool.  Especially for those who couldn't get their hands on a paper copy the day-after.

Newspaper headlines of Obama election win, Nov. 5 2008 - Boing Boing

Healthy skepticism of court "tools" of the trade

A skeptic should be aware of the fallibility of eyewitness identification. This excellent 5-part series discusses 19 case studies and the specific techniques you may be familiar with from CSI and Law & Order that result in erroneous convictions if there isn't adequate corroborating evidence. Hopefully some municipalities will read this and change procedures as a result to prevent more wrongful convictions. It would be nice if the writers of the popular shows would feature these issues prominently...

"Eyewitness testimony is the crack cocaine of the criminal justice system."
Misidentifications have been cited as a key factor in an estimated 75 percent of the 220 wrongful convictions exposed by DNA testing nationwide since 1989

Eyewitness ID: A Primary Cause of Wrongful Convictions - TalkLeft: The Politics Of Crime
police and prosecutors view them as a useful "tool" of law enforcement precisely because they lead to convictions, even if the convictions are sometimes erroneous. Police and prosecutors too often value convictions more than they value the truth.

Most wrongful convictions that are based on eyewitness identifications will never be corrected, because no DNA is available to provide the certain proof that courts seem to want before admitting that a mistake was made.
Speaking of DNA evidence, there's a very technical book examining the state-of-the-art of DNA profiling. I watch a lot of CSI so just might have to pick up a copy of this.

Esp. pp 14-15

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Underwriter's knot -- safe wiring

I just repaired my 1940s-era radio that I thought had blown a tube.  Turns out that the stupid plug (does not appear to be original) was not wired safely so the soldered wire got pulled out due to strain on the cord over time.  Sure enough, when I opened it up, there was no Underwriter's knot aka UL knot to be found.  I made sure to tie one before re-soldering the wire so that it wouldn't happen again.

This site has great graphics for tying your own if you happen to be wiring a light fixture or fixing the plug on a cord.  Not only will it save your cord, it could save your life.

Electricity Lab Graphics

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Boy sent home from school for dressing as Jesus for Halloween

This is truly ridiculous.  The constitutional prohibitions against schools endorsing religion do not extend to what the students choose to do.  This is the wrong move from a first amendment standpoint.  So before the religulous get in a huff about how the government is trying to get religion out of our schools, etc., I agree with you that they should not have done this.  But, this was not an issue of state-sponsored-religion.

I still want to dress as Jesus on the bus to work one of these years...

wcbstv.com - Boy Sent Home From School For Dressing As Jesus

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Funniest nonprofit

They do sound like they are doing good work. But sounded like a joke at first mention. Don't miss the 2008 World Toilet Summit.

World Toilet Organization|WTO|Global Voice for Toilets & Sanitation
World Toilet Organization (WTO) is a global non- profit organization committed to improving toilet and sanitation conditions worldwide.

And the funniest icon:

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vatican doesn't invite anti-evolution pseudoscientists

Heh.  Gotta hand it to the Catholics for their ability to not deny fundamental scientific advances to save face with their religious dogma.  The Vatican astronomer was great in Bill Maher's Religulous too.

Little Green Footballs - Pope Benedict Meets Stephen Hawking, Sans Creationists
Pope Benedict met Stephen Hawking at a Vatican-sponsored conference on evolution yesterday, and the pseudo-scientific shills of the Discovery Institute were not invited.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Be careful hanging decorations in space

This is amazing.  X-rays from ordinary adhesive tape.  The cool thing is they expect to be able to come up with a way to make an inexpensive, low-power x-ray machine for use in poor areas or areas without reliable power.  This would be an interesting project for Seattle University's Engineers Without Borders program

X-rays emitted from ordinary Scotch tape - Innovation- msnbc.com
It turns out that if you peel the popular adhesive tape off its roll in a vacuum chamber, it emits X-rays. The researchers even made an X-ray image of one of their fingers.

Who knew? Actually, more than 50 years ago, some Russian scientists reported evidence of X-rays from peeling sticky tape off glass. But the new work demonstrates that you can get a lot of X-rays, a study co-author says.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Experience, Education and Judgment

This is a very stark comparison.  I am sickened by the Dumbfuckistan residents of this country who wear lack of education and lack of reliance on sound data for decisions as a badge of honor.

We need smart people, who know smart people for their cabinet, who will have the smarts and creativity to get us out of these messes we are in.  For all the talk of "experience" as the #1 factor for a president or VP, what about _not being a dumbass like Sarah Palin_?  Doesn't that count for something?  And further, wouldn't you say that pretty much any Harvard law grad would be a reasonable choice for President -- especially one toward the top of his class??

Pharyngula: Elitism is not a four-letter word

Educational Background:

Barack Obama:

Columbia University - B.A.
Political Science with a Specialization in
International Relations.

Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

Joseph Biden:

University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.

Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)


John McCain:

United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899

Sarah Palin:

Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester

North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study

University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism

Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester

University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism

My newfound links to fame.

So, I was on myspace inviting other members of my mentoring group to our myspace group when I noticed a posting by Death Cab For Cutie,
I thought, "Wait a minute.  There can't be more than one Chris Walla."  Well, there may be, but I know this one.  I googled him to find a photo and more information -- sure enough, he's a friend of mine from Bothell High School that I used to play guitar with in a couple bands.  And now, he is the producer and guitarist for Death Cab For Cutie.  How did I not know this?  His Wikipedia entry also mentions his stint with a band, The Wallflowers (no, not the famous one of the same name).  I was in that band myself for a short time.  It was in the days before I had truly discovered Indie rock though so was not a good fit at the time.  He has also done lots of work with another favorite band of mine, The Decemberists, from Portland, OR.  Insane!

I also found out that he's still in touch with another High School friend, Nathan Goode, who was one of the best drummers I had ever seen.  Chris, Nate, my friend Mike, Jerod and I used to all play together at Nate's house or in my backyard shed -- it was a lot of fun.

Crazy!  Well, maybe there is still hope of quitting my job and being a rockstar after all...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Social Security privatization would have been disastrous.

And when most 401ks have dropped 20-30% of late.  Yet at the same time Social Security just announce the largest cost-of-living benefit increase ever, of 5.8%.  Don't buy the hype about Social Security being in trouble!

Open Thread | Crooks and Liars

TSA stupidity: Peanut Butter is now a liquid/Gel

My sister (who is pregnant) just found out what is seemingly nonintuitive to anyone -- Peanut Butter is a controlled substance (by the TSA).  You can bring it on board, but it can only be in a 3 oz container or smaller.  What???  This kind of insanity has to stop.

TSA: What To Know Before You Go
Canned or jarred goods such as soup, sauces, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables and jellies Yes - 3 oz. or smaller container

Bruce Schneier wrote recently about how this kind of thing (no consequences for trying and failing to bring such contraband on board) is actually harmful to the stated goals of airport security.

Security Matters: Airport Pasta-Sauce Interdiction Considered Harmful

Friday, October 17, 2008

Make a difference: Become a mentor!

I am now a third-year mentor with Community For Youth (CFY), a wonderful non-profit organization that works with youth in the three lowest-performing Seattle public high schools:  Chief Sealth, Rainier Beach, and Cleveland.  The program "transforms high school students who are struggling - with school, with family, with their direction in life - into young adults who have confidence, determination and self-awareness."

It has been one of the most rewarding things that I have ever done.  I love the energy of the kids; the creativity; the possibilities. 

The most important quality of a mentor is that you be dedicated -- to the youth, to the program, to the community.  As we say, "Put on the program!"  If you have that, the skills and the rest will fall into place as you go along.  Many of these kids have been abandoned by everyone else.  Sometimes all it takes is for that life-line to just be there.

I also think about my life in high school and how great it would have been to have someone there just for me -- someone who may be in a position in life that I would like to be in one day (or maybe one beyond my capability to imagine at the time).  Serendipitously, I made it on my own, but many of these kids just need to get a little boost in the right direction (or help figuring out what that direction is).
"Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted"  -- Garrison Keillor

  • Why CFY as an organization is more deserving of your time than other volunteer organizations:

    • There is a structure and a program to guide you through the year.  Other programs may just throw you together with a kid and you're left to your own devices.

    • You get mentor training.  You are certainly not expected to know how to interact with youth or how to help them with their goals. You get on the job training!

    • You have and entire community of staff, volunteers, other volunteer mentors and of course the kids themselves to help you.  That's what the Community in Community For Youth is all about.  Nobody should have to go it alone.

  • A little bit about what it means to be a mentor:

    • Being a "Relentless Commitment" to a youth.  Others may leave them, but you will stick by them.

    • Providing encouragement, coaching and supporting them; being an advocate for them to get what they want out of life

    • Being their friend; having fun!

    • Help guide them away from trouble or get them help if they are ever in danger or at risk
  • Being a mentor, changes your life.  I didn't know what that could possibly mean at the time, but I was intrigued to find out.  And it is absolutely true.  You may actually gain so much more than the students.

  • Mentors truly look forward to their nights with their students, the community, their family groups.  Three hours a week is all it takes to make a difference.  But once you're involved, you find yourself wanting to give even more.

  • The other mentors are such great, quality people.  And you get to meet them, support each other, and have fun too.

  • You get the opportunity to do something new that will take you out of your comfort zone and help you grow as a person

  • Oh, and did I mention -- you get to go to camp!

Contact me with any questions!  But go to their website and sign up for an orientation!  Only two left for 2008/2009:

October 29, 2008 @ 5:30pm

November 3, 2008 @ 5:30pm

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Obamica

We saw two guys at Home Depot wearing similar Yarmulkes emblazoned with Obama's logo.  They call these the Obamica (I thought it would be called the Obamlke though)

Obamica, the Barack Obama Kippah

Monday, October 13, 2008

AC/DC pulls the plug on their new album being sold on iTunes

Well, after talking with many kids who rarely buy albums, I can see their point.  But eventually they will come to an end.  AC/DC is delaying the inevitable.

AC/DC refuses to sell album through iTunes | NEWS.com.au
FOR those about to rock, AC/DC salutes you — unless, that is, you want to buy the heavy metal group's newest album Black Ice on iTunes.

"Maybe I'm just being old-fashioned, but this iTunes, God bless 'em, it's going to kill music if they're not careful," said lead singer Brian Johnson, 61.

AC/DC, formed by brothers Angus and Malcolm Young in 1973, is among only a handful of bands to refuse to put their music on the popular download service.

Johnson said the decision was a bid to protect the album format from the internet's emphasis on buying and selling single tracks.

CQ exposes Ayers allegations: "Pants on Fire" Wrong

CQ Politics | Fact-Checking the Ayers Allegations: So Wrong, It’s “Pants on Fire” Wrong

Why does disagreement have to lead to hatred and divisiveness?

It is very disturbing to me -- and embarrassing to be an American -- to see all of the hatred being sown and reaped by the supporters of McCain and Palin.  This whole "you're with me or against me" line of reasoning is leading to excessively hateful division and smears.

I can't understand why people cannot be content to just say "you know, that guy has weighed the facts and has come to different conclusions on the issues than I have." and have it be alright to disagree on values or policy issues.  But instead, there is this fervor to take it to an insane level and actually demonize those who disagree with you as if they were the worst person in the world.  Seriously?  People should check their hatred and save it for people who truly deserve it, not those who just happen to hold different positions than you do.

The Palin-McCain Mob | Crooks and Liars  Watch these videos to see the kinds of unabashed hatred that is being stirred up at these rallies.

Here is a list of some of the best quotes -- from conservatives -- about the lines of discourse and how harmful they.  My friend Pete had a great list as well that some of these are from.

McCain's Supposed Adviser John Lewis Calls Him Out | Crooks and Liars
"As one who was a victim of violence and hate during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I am deeply disturbed by the negative tone of the McCain-Palin campaign. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.

During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate. George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.

As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better."  -- John Lewis

"We conservatives are sending a powerful, inadvertent message with this negative campaign against Barack Obama's associations and former associations: that we lack a positive agenda of our own and that we don’t care about the economic issues that are worrying American voters." -- David Frum, National Review

"Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama....  Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either." -- George Will

"This is my concern: I think this hate and fear that comes out of the crowd isn't necessarily something that the McCain people have consciously tried to put out there, but that's all that McCain has left. You know, that the wing nuts are the only people left to come to these rallies. In fact some colleagues of mine went out into the crowd today and I can tell you after covering McCain for a year and a half, usually there are *some* crazy people -- there are always crazy people at rallies. That's what they do, right? They go to rallies. But you'd only find a few of them. And today every single person that I talked to, and the majority of people that my friends and colleagues in the press talked to, were of the belief that, you know, Barack Obama is a muslim, Barack Obama is not American." --- Ana Maria Cox, Time Magazine

... the negative tone of these rallies is "incendiary" and could lead to violence.

"There is this free floating sort of whipping around anger that could really lead to some violence. I think we're not far from that," he said. "I think it's really imperative that the candidates try to calm people down." -- David Gergen, advisor to Nixon and Reagan

"He is not the McCain I endorsed," said Milliken, reached at his Traverse City home Thursday. "He keeps saying, 'Who is Barack Obama?' I would ask the question, 'Who is John McCain?' because his campaign has become rather disappointing to me.

"I'm disappointed in the tenor and the personal attacks on the part of the McCain campaign, when he ought to be talking about the issues." -- former Republican Gov. William Milliken

McCain's attacks fuel dangerous hatred -- baltimoresun.com

John McCain, you're walking a perilous line. If you do not stand up for all that is good in America and declare that Senator Obama is a patriot, fit for office, and denounce your hate-filled supporters when they scream out "Terrorist" or "Kill him," history will hold you responsible for all that follows.

John McCain and Sarah Palin, you are playing with fire, and you know it. You are unleashing the monster of American hatred and prejudice, to the peril of all of us. You are doing this in wartime. You are doing this as our economy collapses. You are doing this in a country with a history of assassinations.  -- Frank Schaeffer (lifelong Republican)
David Brooks: Sarah Palin "Represents A Fatal Cancer To The Republican Party"
And the other thing that does separate Obama from just a pure intellectual: he has tremendous powers of social perception. And this is why he's a politician, not an academic. A couple of years ago, I was writing columns attacking the Republican congress for spending too much money. And I throw in a few sentences attacking the Democrats to make myself feel better. And one morning I get an email from Obama saying, 'David, if you wanna attack us, fine, but you're only throwing in those sentences to make yourself feel better.' And it was a perfect description of what was going through my mind. And everybody who knows Obama all have these stories to tell about his capacity for social perception. -- David Brooks
How John McCain lost me - Politico.com Print View
McCain’s recent conduct of his campaign – his willingness to lie repeatedly (including in his acceptance speech) and to play Russian roulette with the vice-presidency, in order to fulfill his long-held ambition – has reinforced my earlier, and growing, sense that John McCain is not a principled man.
In fact, it’s not clear who he is. -- Elizabeth Drew
Panic attacks: Voters unload at GOP rallies - Jonathan Martin - Politico.com
“People need to understand, for moral reasons and the protection of our civil society, the differences with Sen. Obama are ideological, based on clear differences on policy and a lack of experience compared to Sen. McCain,” Weaver said. “And from a purely practical political vantage point, please find me a swing voter, an undecided independent, or a torn female voter that finds an angry mob mentality attractive.”

“Sen. Obama is a classic liberal with an outdated economic agenda. We should take that agenda on in a robust manner. As a party we should not and must not stand by as the small amount of haters in our society question whether he is as American as the rest of us. Shame on them and shame on us if we allow this to take hold.” -- John Weaver, McCain's former top strategist
WBBM 780 - Chicago's #1 source for local news, traffic and weather - LaHood: Palin Should Stop It
"Look it. This doesn't befit the office that she's running for. And frankly, people don't like it."

Congressman LaHood says it could backfire on the Republican ticket.

He says the names that Obama is being called, "Certainly don't reflect the character of the man." -- Ray LaHood, congressman R-IL
The Raw Story | GOP insiders predicting Obama victory
"They have send this young, naive -- very confident, perhaps in Alaska -- young woman out with the most incendiary talking points, the most dangerous racist talking points and I think they should be ashamed of themselves," -- Michelle Laxalt, Republican consultant

Permitting same-sex marriage is more moral than prohibiting it

I think it is immoral to deny people who love each other the rights and privileges that come with marriage (as a civil, contractual union -- a license granted by the State, not in a religious context).  Changing a state or federal constitution to ban same-sex marriage is, in fact, writing bigotry and hatred into those documents.  Substitute "black" or "african american" or "mixed-race marriage" into any rationale for banning same-sex marriage and you will see how bigoted such claims really are.

There is no reason to prohibit this activity other than hatred and bigotry.  I still have yet to hear evidence of how they will be or have been harmed by other people engaging in relationships that have nothing to do with you.  Scriptural rationales are ridiculous on their face because that just shows that the intent is to entice the government to endorse one particular religious viewpoint over others (in violation of the US Constitution).

You would think that if the institution of marriage was so sacred, that the people fighting same-sex marriage would spend at least as much energy into banning divorce as a way to uphold the sanctity of marriage. 

This essay puts a finer point on this than I could:

Atheist Ethicist: The Immorality of Homosexual Marriage
Yet, none of that is relevant to the point of this essay – that a society that permits homosexual marriage is more moral than a society that does not.

It is a mistake not to put it in these terms, and to allow those who like morality to religion or to scripture to make their assertions unchallenged. In this sense, silence implies consent. In this case, refusing to challenge claims that link morality to scripture means that most people only hear that they are linked. If that is all they hear, then that is what they will believe, which will perpetuate the myth, much to our disadvantage.

I would like to hear the fact that reported that those who wish to prohibit homosexual marriage and who defend it through scripture are no different in principle than those who wrote into the U.S. Constitution that black slavery was permissible and defended it with references to scripture.
Some reasoned answers to the common illogical rationales:
Americans United: The Federal Marriage Amendment: Some Questions and Answers

And for those who seek to ban same-sex marriage, here is a list of several things that same-sex couples are not granted _by the State_ that heterosexual couples benefit from.  Therefore, it is immoral to deny these rights, especially without justification.

HRC | Questions about Same-Sex Marriage
  • Hospital visitation. Married couples have the automatic right to visit each other in the hospital and make medical decisions. Same-sex couples can be denied the right to visit a sick or injured loved one in the hospital.
  • Social Security benefits. Married people receive Social Security payments upon the death of a spouse. Despite paying payroll taxes, gay and lesbian workers receive no Social Security survivor benefits – resulting in an average annual income loss of $5,528 upon the death of a partner.
  • Health insurance. Many public and private employers provide medical coverage to the spouses of their employees, but most employers do not provide coverage to the life partners of gay and lesbian employees. Gay employees who do receive health coverage for their partners must pay federal income taxes on the value of the insurance.
  • Estate taxes. A married person automatically inherits all the property of his or her deceased spouse without paying estate taxes. A gay or lesbian taxpayer is forced to pay estate taxes on property inherited from a deceased partner.
  • Retirement savings. While a married person can roll a deceased spouse’s 401(k) funds into an IRA without paying taxes, a gay or lesbian American who inherits a 401(k) can end up paying up to 70 percent of it in taxes and penalties.
  • Family leave. Married workers are legally entitled to unpaid leave from their jobs to care for an ill spouse. Gay and lesbian workers are not entitled to family leave to care for their partners.
  • Immigration rights. Bi-national families are commonly broken up or forced to leave the country to stay together. The reason: U.S. immigration law does not permit American citizens to petition for their same-sex partners to immigrate.
  • Nursing homes. Married couples have a legal right to live together in nursing homes. Because they are not legal spouses, elderly gay or lesbian couples do not have the right to spend their last days living together in nursing homes.
  • Home protection. Laws protect married seniors from being forced to sell their homes to pay high nursing home bills; gay and lesbian seniors have no such protection.
  • Pensions. After the death of a worker, most pension plans pay survivor benefits only to a legal spouse of the participant. Gay and lesbian partners are excluded from such pension benefits.
This site also has a very succinct treatment of why civil unions are not equivalent to marriage.

What I think should happen is that marriage licenses should all be renamed as civil union licenses. So that the word "marriage" is taken out of the debate. Marriage can continue to be a religious ceremony and commitment. Then, there would be no difference between same-sex unions from heterosexual unions. And it would be made apparent that any attempt to make these dissimilar benefits would be without merit.

Open letter: The Guilt By Association Game -- Okay McCain, let's play.

This is an edited response to the desperate hate-mongering and lies and guilt-by-association game that McCain/Palin are trying to gin-up.  I wanted to have a nice list of McCain/Palin's associations.  Of course, Guilt by association isn't.  So I am not arguing that their associations make them guilty -- just that there are lots of associations to go around if you want to play that game.  But if you're going to play, you've got to show your cards as well.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

McCain fact-check from last debate: planetarium projector != overhead projector

Note to McCain: Overhead projector is not a planetarium projector - Boing Boing
My friends, during last night's presidential debate, McCain took That One to task for approving funding for an "overhead projector." Howard Covitz, who used to work at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, prepared this helpful graphic for McCain to show the difference between an overhead projector and a planetarium projector.

Warning: This email has been known to cause stupidity by the State of California

I feel it is my moral duty to not let emails full of lies, mischaracterizations, and known misleading or untrue information go by without pointing this out. 

When 61% of the country believes in the Noah's Ark flood story _literally_, between 45% and 70% believe that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9-11 attacks, and 12% of Americans still think that Barack Obama is a muslim, it is clear that when things get written down and repeated over and over again, it has an effect of changing people's minds so that they believe things that never happened or are clearly or demonstrably untrue.

I have recently become rather frustrated with people who insist on sending out these kinds of propaganda and lies -- even without fact-checking or providing some kind of warning if they know that some, or all, of it is untrue or suspect.  And I have been searching for a less time-consuming, more clear and humorous and less crass way (other than doing all of their fact-checking for them -- which takes quite a long time and I don't think they read it anyway) of getting the message out that the email is worth about as much as the stuff I scrape off of my shoe.

My solution?  A warning message.  Feel free to copy and use with your next fallacious, vile, malicious, lying, hate-filled, widely-debunked, email that comes your way. 

WARNING!!  This email contains information that is known to be fallacious, demonstrably false, misleading, lies, slanted propaganda, or a mixture of these.  It should never have been sent out in its current state without this warning to the unsuspecting recipients.  While it may contain some factual information, any redeeming value it may have had is poisoned by its proximity to such noxious information.

Continuing to propagate this information is contributing to the precipitous decline of the level of civil discourse and of our entire modern civilization.

Everyone on the recipient list is now likely dumber for having read it.  Consider yourself warned.

More evidence against data-mining as an anti-terrorist tool

There have been a number of studies saying the same thing (search Bruce Schneier's blog for plenty of other examples)

It's kind of like trying to determine if someone is going to rob a bank by looking at their phone calls, etc.  How do you know _beforehand_ what kinds of "patterns" and "data" are indicative of a bank robbery?  And even if you see one bank robbery, not all are created equally, so why would you be able to infer that you could predict the next one based on previous data?

Scientists question terrorist-hunting techniques - CNN.com
The 352-page report by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, does not evaluate the TSA or any other specific government program. Instead, it explores issues related to data mining and behavior detection techniques and attempts to advise lawmakers how to appropriately balance security with privacy.

The report recommends the government be required to systematically evaluate the effectiveness and lawfulness of data-mining and behavior-detection programs before implementing them, and at regular intervals thereafter.

The programs also should be subjected to robust, independent oversight, the group recommends.

Election hi-jinx begins: 'Osama' on NY ballot

Yeah, "Oops".  "Honest mistake"

TROY, N.Y. - Who is running for president? In an upstate New York county, hundreds of voters have been sent absentee ballots in which they could vote for "Barack Osama."

The absentee ballots sent to voters in Rensselaer County identified the two presidential candidates as "Barack Osama" and "John McCain." In the United States, the best-known person named Osama is Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaida terrorist group.

Commissioners for the Rensselaer County Board of Elections say they regret the error but do not acknowledge in a statement exactly what the error is.

The botched ballots were first reported by the Times-Union of Albany.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sam Harris on Palin

This is one of my favorite parts of this article for Newsweek.  The scary thing is that you could see her answering a question just like this.

Sam Harris on Sarah Palin and Elitism | Newsweek Politics: Campaign 2008 | Newsweek.com
What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. Watching her deny to Gibson that she had ever harbored the slightest doubt about her readiness to take command of the world's only superpower, one got the feeling that Palin would gladly assume any responsibility on earth:

"Governor Palin, are you ready at this moment to perform surgery on this child's brain?"

"Of course, Charlie. I have several boys of my own, and I'm an avid hunter."

"But governor, this is neurosurgery, and you have no training as a surgeon of any kind."

"That's just the point, Charlie. The American people want change in how we make medical decisions in this country. And when faced with a challenge, you cannot blink."


A couple of cool sites that I've come across recently

- Science Facts, science trivia, science info

Science news and loads of interesting facts, like this one:
Each King in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history. Spades - King David; Clubs - Alexander the Great; Hearts - Charlemagne; and Diamonds - Julius Caesar.
Wordle - Beautiful Word Clouds
Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

Very interesting tool to create word clouds. I may throw resumes through this to see what kinds of patterns emerge about the person. I saw this used to compare the VP debate transcripts for each candidate.

Annoyance: TV football graphics without persistent down and yardage

I can't believe that I would be the only one to notice this, but I find it so annoying that it seems universal across College and NFL football coverage and universal on every network I've seen that the statistics that are persistent on the screen throughout the game only consist of:

Network, current score (plus possession), time remaining, period, (blank space for down and yards) and other scores.

I find the most interesting information at any given moment though is what the Down and Yards to go are.  Why are they not always listed?  They are only displayed _when they change_, and then they are hidden.  Why, oh why?  What reason could there be for not showing this during the play?

Police don't have to pay for damage during raids...in Washington.

I often think of this when I watch CSI and see them busting down doors, cutting people's carpet, etc. to obtain evidence or apprehend suspects.

This is a terrible ruling.  I can't believe that this couldn't be considered negligence for a mistake that they would need to pay for.

WA: Police don’t have to pay for damage during raids » Rational Review
“In a split decision Thursday, the state Supreme Court rejected a plea by a Kent property owner seeking compensation for damage done during a drug raid. Affirming lower court decisions, five of the court’s nine justices found the city of Kent was not required to pay $5,000 for damage to buildings owned by Leo Brutsche during a failed 2004 anti-methamphetamine operation. During the raid, narcotics officers used battering rams to knock down doors in buildings owned by Brutsche while searching for a meth lab they believed Brutsche’s son to be operating on the property, according to court records. No drugs were found, and Brutsche contends he offered officers keys to the doors before they began knocking them down.” (10/02/08)

New research: lack of control increases seeing patterns where none exist

This is very interesting research.  May explain why people turn to religion in those instances too.

See a Pattern on Wall Street? - TierneyLab Blog - NYTimes.com
These questions are not unrelated, according to a report in the new issue of Science by Jennifer Whitson and Adam Galinsky. The researchers found that when people were primed to feel out of control, they were more likely to see patterns where none exist. They would spot an object in each of the images above, even though only the image on the right contains one (the outline of Saturn and its rings). If you thought you saw something in the image on the left, don’t be too hard on yourself — your feeling may be perfectly understandable given the chaos on Wall Street.

The researchers say that their experiments, which also tested people’s tendency to detect conspiracies and see superstitious lessons in stories, help explain why conspiracy theories and superstitions flourish when people are feeling out of control. Previous researchers have reported, for instance, that first-year business-school students are more prone to imagine conspiracies than are second-year students, and that deep-sea fishermen have more elaborate rituals and superstitions than ones who fish in more predictable conditions near shore.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

WaMu failure editorial

A salient quote.

And Alan Fishman seems to be the most overpaid, underwhelming executive to come along since...Kerry Killinger.  Nice going board and Fishman.  Nice.

Editorials & Opinion | WaMu: Seattle's big bank bites the dust | Seattle Times Newspaper
How many of Washington Mutual's 43,200 employees should be deemed personally responsible for this? Very few. The directors, to be sure. A more useless board of directors would be difficult to find. Former CEO Kerry Killinger, absolutely. A few others.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Don't believe the polls

Hot off the presses.  The nonpartisan Pew Research Center finds that the previous assumptions that cell phone users thought similarly to landline phone users who are able to be polled are likely not valid.  In fact, 62% of young cell phone-only users preferred democrats and Obama specifically. 

Therefore, any polls that are head-to-head national and do not include cell phone users are very, very suspect.

The Associated Press: Study: Omitting cell phone users may affect polls
Earlier studies — including a joint Pew-AP report two years ago — concluded that cell and landline users had similar enough views that not calling cell users had no major impact on poll findings. The new report concludes that "this assumption is increasingly questionable," especially for young people, who use cells heavily.

Combining polls it conducted in August and September, Pew found that of people under age 30 with only cell phones, 62 percent were Democrats and 28 percent Republicans. Among landline users the same age that gap was narrower: 54 percent Democrats, 36 percent GOP.

Similarly, young cell users preferred Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama over Republican nominee John McCain by 35 percentage points. For young landline users, it was a smaller 13-point Obama edge.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bush & Paulson: Just making sh*t up

Hat tip to Chuck Schumer who asked a real question of Paulson earlier this week about why $700 billion, and why all the money now?  Why not $150 billion and come ask for more so we can see whether it is working?

Think Progress » Treasury explains how it came up with $700 billion: We just wanted ‘a really large number.’
In fact, some of the most basic details, including the $700 billion figure Treasury would use to buy up bad debt, are fuzzy.

“It’s not based on any particular data point,” a Treasury spokeswoman told Forbes.com Tuesday. “We just wanted to choose a really large number.”

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Insiders steal data from Countrywide

I got my letter this week that my data appeared to be affected.  They are taking serious measures though and offered 2 years of free credit monitoring services to those affected.

Although I can't help but think about how phishy it looks when I was directed to go to not experian.com, but consumerinfo.com/countrywide.  And I'm supposed to know that consumerinfo.com is Experian??

Insider arrested in relation to Countrywide data theft - Security

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sex for oil scandal

Sheesh.  Everyone knows you should be using water-based lubes for that.

Think Progress » Bush administration officials exchanged sex for oil.
The Interior Department’s inspector general revealed today that 13 government officials “handling billions of dollars in oil royalties improperly engaged in sex with employees of energy companies they were dealing with and received numerous gifts from them.” As the AP reports, the investigation revealed a “culture of substance abuse and promiscuity“:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Evidence that Democratic adminnistrations bring more economic prosperity to America


"The stark contrast between the whiz-bang Clinton years and the dreary Bush years is familiar because it is so recent. But while it is extreme, it is not atypical. Data for the whole period from 1948 to 2007, during which Republicans occupied the White House for 34 years and Democrats for 26, show average annual growth of real gross national product of 1.64 percent per capita under Republican presidents versus 2.78 percent under Democrats.

That 1.14-point difference, if maintained for eight years, would yield 9.33 percent more income per person, which is a lot more than almost anyone can expect from a tax cut.

Such a large historical gap in economic performance between the two parties is rather surprising, because presidents have limited leverage over the nation’s economy. Most economists will tell you that Federal Reserve policy and oil prices, to name just two influences, are far more powerful than fiscal policy. Furthermore, as those mutual fund prospectuses constantly warn us, past results are no guarantee of future performance. But statistical regularities, like facts, are stubborn things. You bet against them at your peril."

Open letter response to "Dear Mr. Obama" video.

I was surprised to find recently that these kinds of propaganda videos/emails seem to stay almost entirely within right-wing circles of discussion. I have googled and either nobody who is a progressive or skeptic is examining the claims or having a balanced discussion about these or they are so drowned out by the same kinds of passive-aggressive postings with little to no added value. Even the right-wing sites that are discussing this are not discussing any salient ideas. It seems like the ultimate "bumper sticker" mentality -- i.e. bumper stickers aren't going to change anyone's mind and really only serve as membership cards in a particular mindset.

So, I figured that this would be a good response to make open to add to the fray and maybe open up some lines of communication about the premises of these kinds of thoughts.

YouTube - Dear Mr. Obama

Anecdote is not plural for data. This, of course, is an anecdote. There are certainly many more military personnel who do not believe as this gentleman does: Take this Zogby poll as some actual data. http://www.zogby.com/news/readnews.dbm?id=1075 Here's a choice example:

  • Le Moyne College/Zogby Poll shows just one in five troops want to heed Bush call to stay “as long as they are needed”
  • While 58% say mission is clear, 42% say U.S. role is hazy
  • Plurality believes Iraqi insurgents are mostly homegrown
  • Almost 90% think war is retaliation for Saddam’s role in 9/11, most don’t blame Iraqi public for insurgent attacks

  • The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58% of those serving in country say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.”

    “Ninety-three percent said that removing weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for U.S. troops being there,” said Pollster John Zogby, President and CEO of Zogby International. “Instead, that initial rationale went by the wayside and, in the minds of 68% of the troops, the real mission became to remove Saddam Hussein.” Just 24% said that “establishing a democracy that can be a model for the Arab World" was the main or a major reason for the war. Only small percentages see the mission there as securing oil supplies (11%) or to provide long-term bases for US troops in the region (6%).
    This shows that many in the military are actually
    a) not very clear on the whole as to our mission (not surprising since the rationale was based on lies and has morphed many times as the previous reasons turned out to be bunk or lies)

    But, I think it's more likely that he is like many Americans who look at some outcomes of our involvement in the war and conclude that the end justifies the means. Additionally, none of these people seem to be looking at the cost, and the opportunity cost, of the resources we have expended in Iraq. I'm not saying that Sadaam was not a bad guy, but is it worth the estimated $3 Trillion dollars it will cost? I find it hard to believe that there wasn't something better for our grandchildren to spend that money on than a war of convenience that was sold to us by a bunch of lies. We were never in Iraq to "spread freedom". The original intent was (as the lies go) because we _knew_ that Iraq had WMDs and that they would not hesitate to use them on us. Oh, and then sprinkle in 9-11 over and over until even our troops think that we were going in there because of some link to 9-11. The troops were lied to (probably still are) just as the American people were so it is not surprising to see some make these claims based on their experiences on the ground.

    Here is some more data -- from actually asking Iraqis if they feel they are better off. This one from 2007. 90% think they were better off under Sadaam. http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/view/14282 It's no wonder since many go without electricity, water, etc. for hours or days at a time. They've been force from their houses. It is very dangerous in many parts still.

    The following two statements were made by the gentleman in the video:

    "Iraq was not a mistake" and "Those sacrifices were not mistakes"
    "When you call the Iraqi war a mistake, you disrespect the service of everyone who has died promoting freedom."

    As to the first, the gentleman appears to be making this claim primarily because of the freedom we have given the Iraqis. Although that was a noble outcome, the price in human life to do this and the $3 Trillion dollar pricetag that we are _borrowing_ to pay for, as well as the fact that we diverted our attention and resources away from Afghanistan and Al Qaeda (the _real_ people who attacked us on 9-11) are all evidence that it was a mistake of Vietnam proportions. In addition, we were not prepared for the aftermath of the war and didn't understand the region and the issues so that it was not even the right time for doing this even if it were the best use of our resources.

    As to the second, that is just not true. It is often put out there that any criticism of the mission is "bad" and "disrespectful" to the troops. But this seems to be based on a fallacy that if the war was a mistake, then those who died are no longer respected which is absolutely not the case and a non sequitur. This is a corollary to the "Love it or leave it" fallacy. There are other alternatives, such as the more correct understanding that the sanity of the mission is a completely distinct cognitive and emotional issue from our respect for those who have served the mission. I don't know anyone (and I doubt that people holding this belief could even point me to one person) who believes otherwise and impugns the military for the mission. Everyone knows that they did not make the mission or decide to do it-- that was the "decider". I believe that it is the ultimate support of our troops to criticize them being put in harm's way for purposes that are really not necessary for our national security (a war of convenience like Iraq). And for them to be put on stop-loss to do it is even more abhorrent to me.


    Redacted wrote:

    From: Sender redacted
    To: Undisclosed-Recipient:;
    Sent: 9/7/2008 7:48:18 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
    Subj: Fw: must see...

    Every American should see this,,,pass it on,,,,,,,,,,

    'This commercial was done by a local kid. You have to watch the whole thing.. When he finishes talking and walks away, you get a sense of how this could be the commercial of the campaign season.

    Bob Cook and I were on the Lake County Republican Central Committee together.
    His son Joe returned from Iraq last year and I was at the celebration to welcome him home.'

    Hi, My son Joe just did a commercial for John McCain.
    Please pass this on.


    Excessive SQL logging in Zogby website

    Zogby website backed by...MS Access...yuk.

    Got this gem of an error message this evening trying to bring up a link from google. It's not a good idea to expose this kind of information to the Internet as it makes it easier for someone to attack your application, perhaps with SQL injection.

    Error Diagnostic Information

    ODBC Error Code = S1001 (Memory allocation error)

    [Microsoft][ODBC Microsoft Access Driver] Not enough space on temporary disk.

    The error occurred while processing an element with a general identifier of (CFQUERY), occupying document position (7:1) to (7:43).

    Date/Time: 09/10/08 01:42:35
    Browser: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv: Gecko/2008070208 Firefox/3.0.1
    Remote Address:
    HTTP Referer: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=survey+troops+iraq&btnG=Search
    Template: c:\inetpub\wwwroot\news\readnews.dbm
    Query String: id=1075

    Sunday, September 7, 2008

    Nvidia driver breaks remode desktop on windows XP: SOLUTION

    Gotta love Google.

    I added this key, rebooted and now I'm back in business!

    NVIDIA Forums -> WHQL 175.16 - remote desktop fails
    This problem is not specific to any one graphics company. It can probably happen with printer drivers too.

    The root of the problem is that the session image space is too small and it can't load any more drivers into it. The session image space is shared for the display driver drivers and printer drivers. rdpdd = remote desktop protocol display driver.

    You can fix this bug by increasing the size of the session image space via a registry key. Add the following key:
    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management]


    0x20 == 32 MB works on my system anyway.

    Sunday, August 24, 2008

    Security and Politics: Spoofing Obama VP TXT messages

    Reports are that people are getting fake TXT messages claiming to announce Obama's VP pick. I've certainly gotten lots of spam claiming that Hillary is the VP pick for example.

    But to bring in the security angle, Verizon's website makes it easy to spoof the return address of text addresses to perpetrate these messages.

    Wonkette: The D.C. Gossip » Blog Archive » Freak Out Your Friends With Fake Obama VP TXT

    Preaching to the choir: Fake-news viewers more informed than mainstream news viewers

    A recent Pew research study shows that viewers of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are more informed about current events than "average consumers of NBC, ABC, Fox News, CNN, C-SPAN and daily newspapers." Pathetic.

    Thirty percent of Daily Show and 34 percent of Colbert viewers correctly identified Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives
    Think Progress » Colbert, Stewart viewers more well-informed than those watching O’Reilly, Dobbs.

    Sad, Cynical reaction from Yglesias about op-eds

    Again, nothing annoys me more than unadulterated lies and distortions that go out unchallenged. More evidence that we cannot rely on the mainstream media for fair and accurate reporting. It's a shame.

    Matthew Yglesias (July 27, 2008) - Facts Are Hard (Media)
    Of course if being accurate were a requirement for op-ed pieces, then more than one national newspaper columnist might be out of a job. So given the current economic downturn, I think it's important to keep letting people make stuff up.

    McCain cites urban legend as evidence of Al Qaeda evil

    Nothing annoys me more than someone using debunked, false, misleading, distorted information to support a position. And who decides to do this with a straight face, but John McCain. You know, we really should require our officials to not only be honest but to be well-informed on what they are talking about. McCain just falls down again with this gaffe showing how he is not only out of touch on the economy, but also on foreign policy -- a supposed strong point of his.

    I was reminded of a great quote recently from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts."

    Ben Smith's Blog: McCain cites questionable story on 'evil' - Politico.com
    "Not long ago in Baghdad, Al Qaeda took two young women who were mentally disabled and put suicide vests on them, sent them into a marketplace, and by remote control, detonated those suicide vests," McCain told Rick Warren. "If that isn't evil, you have to tell me what is."

    The horrifying story that terrorists used two women with Down Syndrome to carry bombs was a sensation in February, but The New York Times later suggested it hadn't happened that way:

    Carbs attack appetite-suppressing cells over time

    Fascinating that we now know that the very mechanism of how our brain determines that we are full (satiety) relies on free radicals, but it is these same free radicals that actually negatively affect our very ability to detect satiety long-term! But carbs are soooo good.

    Killer Carbs: Scientist Finds Key To Overeating As We Age
    Dr Andrews found that appetite-suppressing cells are attacked by free radicals after eating and said the degeneration is more significant following meals rich in carbohydrates and sugars.

    "The more carbs and sugars you eat, the more your appetite-control cells are damaged, and potentially you consume more," Dr Andrews said.

    Dr Andrews said the attack on appetite suppressing cells creates a cellular imbalance between our need to eat and the message to the brain to stop eating.

    "People in the age group of 25 to 50 are most at risk. The neurons that tell people in the crucial age range not to over-eat are being killed-off.

    "When the stomach is empty, it triggers the ghrelin hormone that notifies the brain that we are hungry. When we are full, a set of neurons known as POMC's kick in.

    "However, free radicals created naturally in the body attack the POMC neurons. This process causes the neurons to degenerate overtime, affecting our judgement as to when our hunger is satisfied," Dr Andrews said.

    News from Seattle: Former police chief is anti-drug-prohibition

    Kudos to Norm Stamper for the courage to speak his mind and use his experiences to go against the grain. Sounds like an interesting book as well.

    I can't help but think of how much resources are wasted on the war on drugs as I watch episodes of "The Wire". All that would go away. And the hypocrisy of alcohol being legal while marijuana is not is asinine.

    Former Seattle Police Chief on the high costs of the drug war - Boing Boing
    Stamper is the author of the Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing (2005) and now works with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a nonprofit created by former cops to "reduce the multitude of unintended harmful consequences resulting from fighting the war on drugs and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime, and addiction by ultimately ending drug prohibition."

    Taxpayers making up for corporations shirking responsibilities

    This is enough to make you vomit in your mouth. Yes, we are all having to pay more _individual_ taxes to make up for US corporations that use kickbacks and loopholes to avoid paying federal taxes. This should make the anti-tax people irate, especially since we live in a world where corporations are equivalent to individuals from a legal standpoint. How anyone can claim that they pay their fair share is beyond me.

    Crooks and Liars » GAO Study: Most US corporations avoid income tax
    The Government Accountability Office said 72 percent of all foreign corporations and about 57 percent of U.S. companies doing business in the United States paid no federal income taxes for at least one year between 1998 and 2005.

    Tips for buying a new car video

    This is an entertaining 6 minute video (out of Seattle no less) I documented many of the salient points here.

    1. Plan. Give at least 2 weekends
    2. Get financing _before_ you go to your dealership so you know how much you can afford in advance.
    3. Don't sell your car to the dealership. Sell it on craigslist
    4. Get down to top 3 cars you are interested in.
    5. Test drive them. Don't buy it then. Choose all of your options
    6. Don't use the invoice as a guide for price. You want the competitive bid. Call 8-10 dealerships.
    7. Get the "drive it off the lot" price
    8. Come back a second time. Stick to your guns. Walk out when the deal changes.
    9. Don't sign until you are done with everything and all is in writing.
    10. Don't buy any of the add-on stuff (high-margin stuff). Akin to stocking up on candy "at the movie theater" to bring home.
    How to buy a new car and not get screwed - Boing Boing

    Flying without ID

    Legally, there is no requirement that you must have an ID to fly in the US. However, you may encounter lots of resistance. That's why I, as a security professional, have not yet attempted to do so. My wife would probably not be as interested as I am in the answer...

    Seems as if the TSA may even have different procedures for those who _forget_ their IDs than for those who _refuse to show_ ID. Funny. It is also noted that if they write SSSS on your boarding pass for "special screening", if you were to have another copy of your boarding pass without the SSSS you may be able to bypass the extra screening.

    philosecurity » Blog Archive » Flying Without a Wallet
    I was curious to learn more about the TSA’s new practices for ID-less travelers. As a security professional, I decided to research TSA’s latest security screening procedures.

    Medeco hacked at DefCon 2008

    Ahh, the holy grail. Basically, if anyone gets to photograph your medeco keys, any hacker can whittle a blank from that photo and bypass these "high security" locks.

    Add "Obtain photograph of building keys" as a node in your physical security threat models ;-)

    Working Medeco high-security keys can be whittled out of plastic - Boing Boing
    Researchers at DefCon in Vegas have demonstrated that they can make "high security" Medeco key-blanks out of the plastic used in credit-cards, and then whittle them into working keys by referring to low-resolution photos of original keys.

    Saturday, August 23, 2008

    Terrorist watch list false positives have real consequences to real people

    Really? An honorably-discharged American soldier is on the Terrorist watch list? Seems like there is definitely some cruft in the list of 400,000 - 1MM names. Here is a personal story of how this kind of system has consequences somewhat as bad as what the terrorists could hope to accomplish themselves--loss of freedom and unjust treatment.

    Name on government watch list threatens pilot's career - CNN.com
    In April, Colgan informed Scherfen that he was on a government list and would be suspended from his job. He was told he faced termination on September 1 unless he was able to clear his name.

    But Scherfen, of Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania, has been unable to do so and said he fears that it could mean he has no future as a pilot.

    "My entire career depends on me getting off this list," he said. "I probably won't be able to get a job anywhere else in the world having this mark that I'm on this list."

    Witold Walczak, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney representing Scherfen and his wife in a lawsuit, calls the government actions "unfair" and "unjust."
    Bruce Schneier recently pointed out how absurd this list is, especially when it is publically known how many times the _actual_ people on the list were encountered -- but nothing happened to them. If they are so dangerous, why were they not detained?

    Schneier on Security: Congratulations to our Millionth Terrorist!
    Screening and law enforcement agencies encountered the actual people on the watch list (not false matches) more than 53,000 times from December 2003 to May 2007, according to a Government Accountability Office report last fall.

    Okay, so I have a question. How many of those 53,000 were arrested? Of those who were not, why not? How many have we taken off the list after we've investigated them?

    Weekly spam files

    I got some seriously choice spam messages this week. Here are some of the outstanding ones. The first one was hilarious -- but even more hilarious that it decided to include the TV show "The View" in the list of the "earth's ills" for a double punch line.

    Former Astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell - a veteran of the Apollo 14 mission - claims aliens are gay and that they are responsible for many of the earth's ills including global warming, war, disease and The View.

    The House of Representatives ethics committee has passed a new set of Republican backed rules which reduce the Ten Commandments down to nine "suggestions".
    Paris Hilton Gives Birth To Twins...Aliens
    Paris Hilton Becomes Mormon -- Marries Paparazzi

    Friday, August 22, 2008

    Diebold admits coding but that causes vote loss

    Diebold originally blamed a glitch that lost votes on anti-virus software but it turns out it was due to a flaw causing votes to not be recorded to memory when uploading votes from the external cards. It's a wonder how something as simple as counting votes could have so many bugs in core functionality...

    Note to US Bank customers: Diebold makes many of their ATMs! Let's hope the accounting is better there.

    Premier (f/k/a Diebold) Confesses Error - TalkLeft: The Politics Of Crime
    Slashdot | Diebold Admits Ohio Machines May Lose Votes

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    Anonymous Company ratings, reviews and salaries online

    Wow, what a cool site. They even have ratings of CEOs but this can be an invaluable site when negotiating salary for a job, or deciding which field you want to get into.

    Glassdoor.com - Company Ratings, Reviews, and Salaries.

    Insider at WaMu embezzles $1.6MM

    And who thinks businesses don't need to worry about insiders? Harden your soft-chewy center. The most puzzling thing is that she was let out on $100k bail, yet she is from Mexico and that's where she wired the dinero...

    SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Metro -- Bank teller arrested in $1.6 million theft
    SOUTH COUNTY: A 22-year-old bank teller was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of embezzling more than $1.6 million from Washington Mutual Bank and wiring the money to a bank in Mexico, a sheriff's investigator said.

    Some assistance for your 2008 WA primary voting

    A couple of great resources to help out with your last-minute voting.

    Show My Elections | 2008 Primary
    Fuse Primary Voter's Guide (great summaries of endorsements for judges, which can be difficult at times to know who's better)

    And, the voter's guides are online: http://www.vote.wa.gov

    Security holes can get you into trouble

    Oops. Remember kids, disable directory indexing on your porn server! Or better yet, don't mix shared data with stuff you wouldn't want people to find on accident.

    Judge Alex Kozinski's porn stash - Boing Boing
    Kozinski had sent a link to a file (unrelated to the stuff being reported about) that was stored on a file server maintained by Kozinski's son, Yale. From that link (and a mistake in how the server was configured), it was possible to determine the directory structure for the server. From that directory structure, it was possible to see likely interesting places to peer. The disgruntled sort did that, and shopped some of what he found to the news sources that are now spreading it...

    His son set up a server to make it easy for friends and family to share stuff -- family pictures, documents he wanted to share, videos, etc.

    Washington's Top 2 primary system: death knell for the major parties?

    This is a great article, with some choice quotes from some of the folks on the ballot for this country's first top-2 primary system. I have long hated the 2-party system, especially as gerrymandering has allowed the parties to artificially remain entrenched in government. And especially as the issues are more and more complex yet the parties try to divide the country evenly into two camps. I think the rise of independent and "swing" voters has shown that our views can't be so easily divided along party lines. Although there are many of the "swing" voters who just seem to be lazy or noncommittal (as I saw during the caucuses when many had not even researched the candidates. No wonder they couldn't decide! They wanted others to do the deciding/persuading for them).

    I pride myself on being a truly independent voter. Although I often prefer candidates of a progressive democratic nature since many of my values match theirs in general, I can't stand party-line votes just for the sake of voting party line. I would prefer to have a parliamentary system as that would allow for more shifting coalitions rather than just two giant parties trying to please everyone but pleasing no-one (is it any wonder the congressional ratings are worse than GW Bush?).

    I just cast my ballot for the top-2 primary and am excited to think that Oregon and other states could follow our lead.

    Lights out for parties? Tuesday’s top two primary could signal a new political era for Washington state- Columbian.com, Clark County, Washington, Vancouver, Breaking News, U.S., World, Entertainment, Video, Weather, Sports

    I did laugh when I read Clarence Thomas' quote from this article but I at least agree with him on principle; not sure where that sentiment falls in relation to the constitution though.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Panoramic Aerial photography using a kite

    Got this link courtesy of Credo Mobile. Very cool. I was intrigued by the San Francisco shots since I just got back from there, but they are photos from nearby, not of the city.

    Kite Aerial Photography by Scott Haefner | 360° Panoramas