Saturday, April 19, 2014

Congratulations to those we've championed!

Congratulations Weev!

This has been a great week for those who believe in a more open world, freedom of speech (the kind that actually gets prosecuted) and our freedom to explore and learn about the tools we use.

A few days ago, Andrew "weev" Auernheimer, who I wrote about as an example of a hacker unjustly punished by a system he was an embarassment to, was released from Federal Prison after his conviction was overturned by the Third District Court of Appeals (on a technicality of jurisdiction, but whatever).

Congratulations to weev, congratulations to his legal team, congratulations to the E.F.F. and everyone that donated to the legal fund. Congratulations even to GoatSec. This is a big deal, even on a technicality, and ESPECIALLY if new charges are not brought. Andrew is out and reportedly enjoying himself, attending a party in NYC with Glenn Greenwald and associated freedom advocates. The young man is fully nerded back up, on twitter and such.

This is truly a good thing as there is no reason that man should be in prison.

Speaking of Greenwald, he has such been awarded The Pulitzer Prize, shortly after being officially given his Polk Award for his reporting (which he stated should rightly belong to Edward Snowden, still in Russia). This means the Edward Snowden revelations and how they have been released to the public have won the most prestigious awards in journalism. Making this known to the public has been validated by press experts as a tremendous accomplishment and something to be celebrated (and not a crime). Mr. Greenwald felt free to come home to the United States after months of hesitation regarding just how "free" journalists are.

And based on statements our heads of National Security have publicly made, he was understandable in being hesitant to come home. It is likely a little harder to imprison a Pulitzer Prize winner than just another journalist.

This has been a very educating week for a bunch of folks about rights, privacy, deep state, and freedom to speak. The Heartbleed exploit was make public... AND the fact that the NSA kept this exploit secret for years so it could use it. Those actions made EVERYONE'S systems less secure just to enable ease of access. Honoring the work the Guardian did with Snowden, the release of weev, the publicity of the exploits in the code that can be used on any of us... these are all pushing things in the right direction.

I am going to embed Andrew's interview with RT. He is very much in the spotlight now and is using that to raise awareness of others targeted by a malicious culture of prosecuting hackers and an unjust law that allows it to happen. He mentions Schwarz and Keys and what they went though and how he isn't pleading or backing down (even though he still may be prosecuted).

Feel free to watch weev's interview, I am just very happy:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Snooping Diminishes Our Lives.

Not as funny as Chase and Aykroyd

One of the most annoying statements made defense of privacy is this:

"What do you have to worry about if you don't have anything to hide?"

And sometimes that shuts down the discussion. It shouldn't. I have come across many good rebuttals, such as "Okay, may I go through your wallet, bank statements, and cell phone right now?" and "Diaries have locks for a reason." and "I want my house key back." But those are not the complete answer.

The deeper, though not most snappy, answer is as such:

People always being watched live diminished lives.

USA Today reported on a Harris Poll recently done that stated 47% of Americans changed their online habits because of revelations regarding the NSA and online spying. Any time you take what a secret agency may or may not think of your actions into account before making a joke or commentary or even having contact with an individual... you are living a diminished life.

In my work overseas, something I have struggled with is trying to relate to the mind set of people who have lived their life in a totalitarian state. There are societies were it is assumed (and certainly legal) for the state to intercept any and all communications you may have. There are societies where a letter the the editor of the local paper or a campaign sign in your yard can land you in secret detention facility or cause you to be disappeared. This impacts people's minds and culture and gradually goes from being perceived as a crime against human rights as just a thing that happens. Of COURSE the agents of our sovereign leader disappeared Uncle Dave, did you see those letters he wrote about the leader? What did he expect?. People normalize this state of affairs and self-censorship becomes the norm.

Totalitarians NEED that self-censorship in order to maintain and grow their power. The police state cannot detain, execute, or even attend to everyone who has a disagreement with those in power. Most of the potential dissidents and activists out there have to be defeated before they ever put a pen to paper or clear their throat.

Our current leaders are by no means dictators.... The two hundred misleading, derogatory and semi-racists JPEGS in your Facebook feed attacking our president without reprisals are a pretty good sign of that. (In addition to an entire news network doing the same, with a thriving bumper sticker industry and the occasional billboard)

A real dictator would not allow this shit

But despite the relative freedom of our dumbest citizens to make fools of themselves, there IS a chilling of free speech that is even more necessary to our republic than racist JPEG files.

Edward Snowden has no plans to return to his home nation. Neither does Julian Assange. Chelsea Manning will be imprisoned for decades. Jeremy Hammond, who let us know what a bunch of crooked bunch of right-wing loons Statfor was (while still soaking up tax dollars) and how they were spying on private citizens at home and abroad... He has been sentenced to ten years in Federal Prison. Barret Brown, who wrote about and shared revelations that security and intelligence firm HB Gary was also generally incompetent in their field and full of paranoid delusions and willing to act outside of the law to target Americans, that poor soul sits in prison awaiting a sentence of up to 100 years in Federal Prison. Aaron Schwarz, who had created the RSS system that we all love, committed suicide at the young age of 26 after being persecuted by the Feds over sharing Academic Journals.. Heck, even little fish like Andrew "Weev" Aurenheimer is serving nearly four years in the Federal pen for finding a security vulnerability in AT&T services for the iPad and then, instead of using or selling this, sharing it openly so AT&T could fix it. He left us with this:

"[The Feds] worry a lot more about civil disobedience than my grandma getting robbed. They worry about the social integrity of their people staying in power...”

-Interview with Forbes

(Disclaimer, Weev is a friend-of-a-friend, so I might have a soft spot for his case)

How can you not love someone who has a profile pic from SNES Shadowrun?

Since their revelations, The President has addressed the NSA's over-reach, Stratfor is taken a little less seriously in some circles, HB Gary's CEO resigned after being exposed as petty and incompetent and some of HB Gary's partners in illegal activities have been exposed. Heck, AT&T even responded to Weev's warnings and fixed their security holes (and then pressed charges.)

The world we live in is a better place for what they have exposed.
That's true.

Others are afraid to contribute because of how these men have suffered.
That's true too.

I have written before that you can tell what information actually threatens an institution by what kind of response it brings. It should tell us something that you can rant all day about FEMA Camps and Gun Confiscation and the New World Order without any fear of reprisal... but if you show that those getting rich off of the Security State are useless, petty, incompetent and violating our constitutional and personal rights, if you demonstrate that the emperor has no clothes... you will end up in Jail.

Most of us will never be prosecuted like these gentlemen have. But 47% of us will change SOMETHING we are doing because of how we are being watched. People behave differently when they know they are being observed. This is not a new idea by any means, as Jeremy Bentham wrote in the 1700s as he conceived the Panopticon Prison:

"It is obvious that, in all these instances, the more constantly the persons to be inspected are under the eyes of the persons who should inspect them, the more perfectly will the purpose X of the establishment have been attained. Ideal perfection, if that were the object, would require that each person should actually be in that predicament, during every instant of time. This being impossible, the next thing to be wished for is, that, at every instant, seeing reason to believe as much, and not being able to satisfy himself to the contrary, he should conceive himself to be so"

The purpose of the Panopticon wasn't to observe everyone in it all the time, but to lead people to change their behavior as if they were. Does this same ability to see into our online lives make us change our behavior? For about half of us the answer is yes, and that number is likely to increase as more revelations come to light.

We are in a once-in-a-generation discussion about how far secretive government agencies and their attached secret corporations should be peering broadly into our lives despite the fact that they cannot prove doing so has ever stopped a terrorist attack.. If we do not limit this beast, it will continue to change our culture and diminish the choices we feel free to make further.

Our culture should not be a prison

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Everyone is a socialist come April 15th

When April 15th rolls around, everybody become a socialist.

From January to April of each year have been working as a tax preparer at a little kiosk in the Midwest. In that time I have done taxes for people doing rather well, people barely scraping by, hourly employees, landlords, small business owners, tipped employees, salaried employees and people in other situations it takes longer to explain.

One thing is true about every single client I prepared taxes for: Not ONE of them has turned down a tax deduction or tax credit they have qualified for. Every single person - when it comes time to pay taxes - has preferred I choose every legal option on their return to owe the minimum amount possible or to get back as large of a refund as possible. Not ONE person has said "Can I pay in an extra 100 or so to help lower the national debt?" or such, or refused to take an energy/home loan interest/student loan interest/higher education/child care tax credit based on some principle of "I don't believe the government should be paying for X."

The rest of the year we all might be fiscal libertarians or such, but come April 15th, everybody's a socialist.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A sincere apology to my Conservative friends.

You wisened fellows deserve my respect

I have been wrong about so very much, and you have been so very right... It's about time I offer a heartfelt apology to my conservative friends and praise their prescience on so many things. Looking back, if only we had listened to them in these past few years we would be so much wiser.

I offer my sincere apologies

Years ago you told me the Federal Budget Deficit would explode and grow each year under the stewardship of President Obama, and you guys were pretty much on the mark. You looked over the numbers and trusted your guts and sure called that one right.

You told America that allowing gays to openly serve in the United States Military was a horrible mistake, that it would destroy morale, dissolve unit cohesion, and hollow out our forces as our service people would leave in droves, and you were absolutely on point with that one. Clearly our military has never had a more devastating issue or difficult problem than allowing its gay members to openly serve.

You warned us that legalizing pot would have a devastating impact on the health, saftey, and livilihood of the residents of those states who had decriminalized it. You told me that the "Tough" approach on drugs was our only hope against this plague, and now that we can see the fallout we know that there has been an unambiguous explosion in violent crime in Colorado and Washington have taught us all not to ignore your warnings, and the hellish smoldering remains of Colorado after the "Last Bag of Cheetos" war of 2014 stands as a reminder of just how necessary the war on drugs is.

4/20, Never Forget

You predicted that the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare was going to result in everything from a doubling of unemployment to Government Death Panels. You told me that the kids wouldn't sign up and that the efforts to provide affordable health insurance to millions would fail. Boy, were you guys ever right on that one. We should have just given up on that goal since it took some effort and the goal of helping several million Americans get access to health care was just silly.

You gave dire warning about the slippery slope of Gay Marriage, and you pointed to your most prominent moral think tanks showing how it would lead to everything from bigamy to marrying horses. You claimed it would destroy traditional marriage. You guys were certainly right. In the states that have recognized gay marriage, straight marriage is no longer a thing. Polyamorous human-animal marriages are common, dogs and cats living together, the whole bit. If only we had listened to you.

You informed us that President Obama would conspire with his environmentalist cronies to destroy the United States' oil production, that it would be impossible to explore and drill for oil unless we had a leader who embraced the "Drill, baby, Drill" ethos - and looking at the state of the Oil Production in the US today, you sure were right.

Our economy was one place where you were perhaps the most right of all. The stock market since President Obama was re-elected has been devastated.

Perhaps your greatest concern, and perhaps the place were we liberals were the most wrong was in the area of Gun Control. You guys were quick to predict that President Obama was going to utilize the massacres in the past few years in Newton and Aurora to seize firearms in this nation and disarm us all. Some of you even speculated that these were "false flag attacks" to create a grab our guns pretense. If only we had listened to you, the "Total Firearms Seizure Act of 2013" wouldn't have happened, the Second Ammendment wouldn't have been repealed, and U.N. Troops wouldn't have gone house to house seizing every single legally owned American Firearm. It was tragic and unfolded exactly as you have been predicting for the last thirty years. Why, last year no guns at all were sold in the United States and Obama has left us unarmed as never before.

Mr. Heston's casket was opened, his fingers pried open, and his rifle seized

I apologize for ignoring your sage advice. From letting me know that Gold was the safest investment, to letting me know I should really have really gotten in on Bitcoin about six months ago. To even letting me know that I should invest in assault rifles, as they would continue to increase in value during the impending bans.

I should have learned my lesson ever since the Conservatives were so bravely right about the necessity of our military intervention to seize WMDs in Iraq and the ease of which that military operation would be carried out... these are some of the smartest, best informed, open minded and prescient people our nation has ever known and I apologize for ever doubting you guys. I am sure your NEXT prediction will be as right as your track record over the last few years.