Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Google, putting Itself on The Line

We have been harsh on Google for giving in to China's censorious ways. Google is proving to have charactor and Google is stepping up to the plate in the name of freedom.
Google Inc. will stop censoring its search results in China and may pull out of the country completely after discovering that computer hackers had tricked human-rights activists into exposing their e-mail accounts to outsiders.

The change of heart announced Tuesday heralds a major shift for the Internet's search leader, which has repeatedly said it will obey Chinese laws requiring some politically and socially sensitive issues to be blocked from search results available in other countries. The acquiescence had outraged free-speech advocates and even some shareholders, who argued Google's cooperation with China violated the company's ''don't be evil'' motto.

The criticism had started to sway Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who openly expressed his misgivings about the company's presence in China.

But the tipping point didn't come until Google recently uncovered hacking attacks launched from within China. The apparent goals: breaking into the computers of at least 20 major U.S. companies and gathering personal information about dozens of human rights activists trying to shine a light on China's alleged abuses.

We congratulate Google for doing the right thing, and present a tip of the hat to Sodahead who lays out a clear explanation of what this all really means.

What’s more, the AP story cites a Google blog post stating that the company “is no longer willing to continue censoring our [search] results.” This would mark a dramatic about face from Google’s previous policy of complying with the Chinese government’s insistence that they omit certain objectionable search results.

Finally, it seems, a corporation has learned a much needed lesson from doing business in China: playing by the “law of the land” isn’t always a guarantee of safe passage. Google thought that by being above-board in accommodating China’s “Great Firewall” it would be spared clandestine observation and manipulation by China’s Brobdingnagian internet censorship regime.

What this shows us is that no amount of appeasement is enough to satisfy the paranoia of China’s Internet Mandarins. Google’s getting burned so pointedly, and its equally pointed response, will hopefully serve as a rejoinder to corporations around the world that do business over Chinese servers.
Hopefully China backs down and maybe the good people in China will be free to explore what other folks think and believe around the world.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Health Care, Whether we want it or not.

The senate presses forward with the new healthcare bill, whether the citizens want it or not. The problem is that no one seems to know what it it is. The whole idea of healthcare reform is supposed to be making it more available to the people. What we are hearing is that it will cause our insurance to go up. That some health care insurance is going to be taxed. If prices are driven up doesn't it make it less accessible?
"Voting 'no' and hiding from the vote are the same result. Those of us on the floor see it. It was clear the three of them who did not cast their yes votes until all 60 Senate votes had been tallied and it was clear that the result was a foregone conclusion. And why? Why all this discord and discourtesy, all this unprecedented destructive action? All to break the momentum of our new young president.
They are desperate to break this president. They have ardent supporters who are nearly hysterical at the very election of President Barack Obama. The birthers, the fanatics, the people running around in right-wing militia and Aryan support groups, it is unbearable to them that President Barack Obama should exist. That is one powerful reason. It is not the only one."
Senators and Reps are being bought off for hundreds of millions. Harry Ried tells us that such deals are a normal and expected way of doing business.
Senate Democrats said the payoffs are nothing unusual, and in fact typical.
"People figaht for their own states. That's the nature of a democracy," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnt., said on "Fox News Sunday," defending Nelson against withering attacks from the GOP.
"This is just part of the normal legislative process," said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
As a measure of just how typical they are, a slew of payoffs and concessions have been struck over the past several months.
-- Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., won between $100 million and $300 million in additional federal aid for her state's Medicaid population. The deal, secured before she cast her critical vote in favor of bringing the health bill to the floor, was immediately dubbed the "Louisiana Purchase," though the actual Louisiana Purchase was considerably cheaper.
-- Vermont and Massachusetts got $1.2 billion in Medicaid money -- a change that was described as a correction to the current system which exempts those two states because they have robust health care systems. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders also boasted Saturday that he requested and won an investment worth between $10 and $14 billion for community health centers.
Apparently the Democrats find nothing wrong with buying votes. Maybe reid really does stand a chance in 2010, if he can only buy enough votes. Conservatives Republicans and libertarians who dare criticize or question, and not fall in line with the the "Beloved Leaders" are attacked fiercely. As Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) speech on the Senate floor
"Voting 'no' and hiding from the vote are the same result. Those of us on the floor see it. It was clear the three of them who did not cast their yes votes until all 60 Senate votes had been tallied and it was clear that the result was a foregone conclusion. And why? Why all this discord and discourtesy, all this unprecedented destructive action? All to break the momentum of our new young president.
They are desperate to break this president. They have ardent supporters who are nearly hysterical at the very election of President Barack Obama. The birthers, the fanatics, the people running around in right-wing militia and Aryan support groups, it is unbearable to them that President Barack Obama should exist. That is one powerful reason. It is not the only one."
The Bill is projected to cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Who is going to pay for it? Probably not the Chinese, but even Obama seems to understand this.
"In the long run we can't continue to spend as if deficits don't have consequences, as if waste doesn't matter, as if the hard earned tax dollars of the American people can be treated like monopoly money, that's what we've seen time and time again, Washington has become more concerned about the next election than the next generation."
I wonder why he doesn't suggest to the Senators to give up the bill? Hmmmm ..

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Going Galt

Maryland increases income taxes on the rich. The rich leave. Maryland collects fewer taxes on the Rich. Students of Reaganomics an Ayne Rand aren't surprised.

Maryland couldn't balance its budget last year, so the state tried to close the shortfall by fleecing the wealthy. Politicians in Annapolis created a millionaire tax bracket, raising the top marginal income-tax rate to 6.25%. And because cities such as Baltimore and Bethesda also impose income taxes, the state-local tax rate can go as high as 9.45%. Governor Martin O'Malley, a dedicated class warrior, declared that these richest 0.3% of filers were "willing and able to pay their fair share." The Baltimore Sun predicted the rich would "grin and bear it."

One year later, nobody's grinning. One-third of the millionaires have disappeared from Maryland tax rolls. In 2008 roughly 3,000 million-dollar income tax returns were filed by the end of April. This year there were 2,000, which the state comptroller's office concedes is a "substantial decline." On those missing returns, the government collects 6.25% of nothing. Instead of the state coffers gaining the extra $106 million the politicians predicted, millionaires paid $100 million less in taxes than they did last year -- even at higher rates.

Could this happen on a national level?

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Congress Goes After Hostile Bloggers

They would like to toss into the clink for a couple of years any of us who “coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person.” Isn't that the whole idea of those who political blog, or blog on social commentary. Wired expounds:

Proposed congressional legislation would demand up to two years in prison for those whose electronic speech is meant to “coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person.”

Instead of prison, perhaps we should say gulag.

The proposal by Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Los Angeles, would never pass First Amendment muster, unless the U.S. Constitution was altered without us knowing. So Sanchez, and the 14 other lawmakers who signed on to the proposal, are grandstanding to show the public they care about children and are opposed to cyberbullying.

The meaasure, H.R. 1966, is labeled the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act. It’s designed to target the behavior that led to last year’s suicide of the 13-year-old Meier.

Yeah, it was wrong what they did to Megan Mier, but it is traitorous what Linda Sanchez is attempting to do with the first amendment

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Gustav Arrives.

Gustav has made landfall and while the New Orleans levys are being topped by the tidal surges and there is sure to be lots and lots of damages. Biloxi seems to be holding out well so far. The wind has picked up here in Galveston and as you can see the surf in Galveston is magnificent. The storm still blows and its still to early know what the full damages will be, but I think its pretty clear this isn't any Katrina nor even a Rita. Perhaps the biggest casualty of all of this is the Republican Party Convention. I can't help but wonder if they haven't just given away the Presidency by giving up on politicking at this time.

We will want to keep an eye on how fast the refineries come up. If they all come online quickly oil prices won't take to big of a hit.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In the town of Marlboro Massachusetts Victor Deeb has has his home raided.
Victor Deeb, a retired chemist who lives in Marlboro, has finally been allowed to return to his Fremont Street home, after Massachusetts authorities spent three days ransacking his basement lab and making off with its contents.

Deeb is not accused of making methamphetamine or other illegal drugs. He's not accused of aiding terrorists, synthesizing explosives, nor even of making illegal fireworks. Deeb fell afoul of the Massachusetts authorities for ... doing experiments.

Authorities concede that the chemicals found in Deeb's basement lab were no more hazardous than typical household cleaning products. Despite that, authorities confiscated "all potentially hazardous chemicals" (which is to say the chemicals in Deeb's lab) from his home, and called in a hazardous waste cleanup company to test the chemicals and clean up the lab.

Are there any property rights left any more? Where does ones right to privacy start and the neighborhood nannyness end. From the Worcestor Telegram reports:

Pamela A. Wilderman, Marlboro’s code enforcement officer, said Mr. Deeb was doing scientific research and development in a residential area, which is a violation of zoning laws.

“It is a residential home in a residential neighborhood,” she said. “This is Mr. Deeb’s hobby. He’s still got bunches of ideas. I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation. … There are regulations about how much you’re supposed to have, how it’s detained, how it’s disposed of.

Mr. Deeb’s home lab likely violated the regulations of many state and local departments, although officials have not yet announced any penalties.
Emphasis of the money quote is mine. Apparently they aren't quit sure about rules or laws Mr. Deeb broke, but their must be some. I wonder what the zoning cops would have thought about Thomas Edison, and Alexander Graham Bell? I wonder where we would be today if these zone cops had been around in the days of Dr. Goddard.

While all this happened in the Peoples Republic of Massachusetts. Heavy handed code enforcement thugs isn't unique to the liberal leftest states. Here in Galveston, Texas I've had my own run in with the Galvestons backyard Gestapo.

I have a backyard with a pool. I hate my pool and it requires a lot of work and money to keep it up. I had been pretty busy and had been on the road a lot. So I backslid on the maintainance on the pool and my mowing dutys. The pump was circulating and we were tossing in massive loads of Chlorine every other day. I had a busy body neighbor take ofeence when he stepped up and peeked over the 6 ft stockade fence. A visit and nasty letter followed. Yeah, I compied like the good sheep, and chpped down the weeds got the pool into shape, but I wonder what right does the the City of Galveston have over what goes on in my fenced in Backyard. There was circulation and chlorine so it wasn't a mosquito issue.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Texas City Police Detain Reporter

Galveston Daily News reporter was detained Monday for 45 minutes after he refused to show police the pictures he had taken of workers tending to an oil spill. Most of the pictures were taken from a street corner.
Cpl. Tom Robison of the Texas City Police Department, who is also the city’s contact with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, said the police department’s policy is to detain anyone photographing the city’s chemical plants. Police then review photos to see if they pose any threat but do not confiscate cameras or photographs.

“There’s no law that says you can’t take pictures from a public roadway, but the issue becomes: Are any of the shots compromising security measures?” Robison said.

Daily News photographer Kevin M. Cox said he took all but nine of his 36 photos of the oil leak on Marathon Oil Co. property while standing near 14th Street at Eighth Avenue. The remainder he shot a couple feet within an unsecured grassy field, he said.
There is no law because the pictures were taken from a public place, and we have a constitution that is supposed to provide freedom of the press, and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. Perhaps what was really going on is that the Texas City Police were working harder protect the embarrassment of the big refinery, at the expense of the rights of the photographer.

One might be curious how these things are handled in nearby communities:
Steve Gonzales, director of photography for the Houston Chronicle for the past three years, said his staff has never been stopped by law enforcement asking to see pictures of breaking news events, including the recent crane collapse at a Pasadena plant.

Officials with Houston affiliates NBC, CBS and ABC said police haven’t asked to review video footage and they haven’t shown raw video to police before broadcast.

“We’re pretty strict about that in the newsroom,” said Rick McFarland, assistant news director for KPRC Local 2, the Houston NBC affiliate. “No one from law enforcement can see it without a subpoena, and even with a subpoena, we’ll have our First Amendment attorney fight it in court.”
But the Galveston daily news is a small local paper and can't put up the same big fight that the Houston media can. The Texas City Police know this.

To protect and to Serve? Yeah sure, as long as your a big refiner they will do all they can to protect their privacy in an embarrassing moment.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Censorship in Memphis

Memphis police have a leak in their department. Someone is blogging about the family department secrets and the department doesn't like it at all.

Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin and the city of Memphis have filed a lawsuit to learn who operates a blog harshly critical of Godwin and his department.

The lawsuit asks AOL to produce all information related to the identity of an e-mail address linked to MPD Enforcer 2.0, a blog popular with police officers that has been extremely critical of police leadership at 201 Poplar.

These things typically don't turn out to well for the government agencies. The suits give the blogs more attention, and the departments just look like they have something to hide. Perhaps Larry Godwin should have paid attention to the GISD watch fiasco .

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Does Martha Find this Funny?

Anyone want to make a bet that Eliot Spitzer doesn't get any jail time? Yet he insisted that there should be no deals for Martha Stuart.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Obama Flying the Chavez Banner in Houston

I have been thinking that nothing could be worse than the Billerys as President. I've spoke to a few people who were thinking the same. They were of the belief that we know how horrible the Clintons are and that Obama can't possibly be worse. Maybe they are wrong.

The Houston campaign Headquarters is flying high and proud a Cuban Flag with an image of Marxist Revolutionary Che Guevara emboldened upon it.

This isn't the first time Obama has had flag issues. He refused to wear the flag lapel pin, and he refused to salute the flag in another incident. Apparently he has now found a flag that he can respect.

Could this be the type of change he has been talking about?

Update: 2/18/08
The Lone Star Times has more. Pictures and everything.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Alvarado not the Poster Child

Not long ago Carol Alvarado was ensconced in a huge bonus scandal, as Mayor Protem she was handing out illegal payroll bonuses like they were candy.
Houston Mayor Pro Tem Carol Alvarado temporarily stepped down Monday pending the outcome of a grand jury investigation on four of her office employees who were suspended in a bonus scandal, KPRC Local 2 reported. She will remain on City Council.Alvarado's announcement came the same day a report was released that said employees Rosie Hernandez, Florence Watkins, Christopher May and Teresa Orta improperly received more than $130,000 in bonuses in 2005.The Office of Inspector General said its investigation revealed "sufficient evidence to conclude that the four employees, in fact, received incentive bonuses and/or salary increases that were not approved or obtained in accordance with existing city policy and rules." The matter has been referred to the Harris County District Attorney's Office for review."The OIG (found) violations of city law. Those employees violated laws of the city, ordinances of the city, which prohibit employees of the city from using their official position to advantage themselves or others," Houston Mayor Bill White said.
White said that there are actions under way to prevent similar abuses in the future. Administrative functions of the mayor pro tem's office will be reduced, he said.
Typically in Houston City politics, getting caught red handed isn't enough to keep from getting re-elected. This is why cities like Houston have term limits and Alvarado is a poster child on why cities have enacted term limits. Ms Alverado doesn't like it much. While Anne Linehan comments on seems to think Alvarado's legacy and service.

No one can say Ms. Alvarado lacks self-esteem. But she should look on the bright side -- Houston's loss is the state's gain. And she left a lasting mark on Houston, since the mayor pro tem's office will never be the same. That's called a legacy!

Unclear is how Ms. Edwards' stances on HPD (increasing manpower = police state!) and the homeless (they should be allowed to bathe in the libraries!) will enhance Houston's quality of life.

Anne also notes a Houston Chronical op-ed piece authored by Ms. Alverado where she whines about losing her job. I've never been a been a big fan of term limits, but the service of Carol Alvarado does present a good example of why they might be a good idea.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Say it ain't so.

ClemensWhile, I wrote earlier about my thoughts on this. GaryVarvel expresses our sentiments well


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Not So Quite Hushmail

Maybe we just can't trust anyone anymore. Hushmail has long been considered one the most secure ways of communicating., They even advertise their service as a protection against government surveillance.

In some countries, government sponsored projects have been set up to collect massive amounts of data from the Internet, including emails, and store them away for future analysis. This data collection is done without any search warrant, court order, or subpoena. One example of such a program was the FBI's Carnivore project. By using Hushmail, you can be assured that your data will be protected from that kind of broad government surveillance.

There were some emails the U.S government wanted to look at and it looks like the Hushmail just turned it right over to them. Well, they turned it over to the Canadiens who then turned it over to the American DEA.

Hushmail claims to offer unreadable email as it uses PGP encryption technology and a company specific key management system that it says will ensure only the sender and recipient can read the emails. However it seems the Canadian company has been divulging keys to the American authorities.

The document describes the tracking of an anabolic steroid manufacturer who was being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The document alleges that the majority of those engaged in the trade in anabolic steroids use Hushmail to communicate.

The DEA agents received three CDs of decrypted emails which contained decrypted emails for the targets of the investigation that had been decrypted as part of a mutual legal assistance treaty between the United States and Canada.

Thats right, it wasn't about terrorist, or narcotics. It was about steroids. I got to wonder if there is any privacy over the net any more. My real concern though is if whether we've tipped off any Islamic Terrorist that might be using Hushmail. The government showing its hand over something petty like seems silly. It does confirm our belief that the government is more concerned about the war on drugs than they are about the war on folks who are trying to blow us up.

You can't trust anyone anymore.

Update: More details on how they did it can be found on Wired

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Paper Trails

We were promised the paperless office, maybe even a paperless society. Our utopian world would leave the trees for the huggers. It sounds good, but humans like the ability to be able to personally hand off and recieve information. To hold it in our hands to peruse over it is somehow comforting. The most important thing about paper is that it is physical. It can be altered annotated and signed, and it can be stored and examined years later without relying on any equipment more sophisticated than a candle or reading lamp.

It looks like Congress is making a move to require a real paper trail for federal elections. Sounds like a good idea.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

10% of Texans have Warrants out on Them

!0% percent of all Texans have outstanding warrants out on them. Is it that Texans are so prone to criminal behavior. Grits for Breakfast explains how traffic fines that folks can't afford can get some not so bad folks arrested.
That's not just overcriminalized, that's the kind of bizarro figures one expects to hear in true totalitarian states.
I agree.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

What isn't in the News.

I've been watching the news over th last couple of days. and the coverage of the English bombings or at least the attempts have been nonstop. Like many folks I'm looking to here the latest details. Here is one detail that Fox news didn't see fit to cover:
By Karen Bale

A HERO cabbie who took on the Glasgow Airport terror suspects told yesterday how he booted one of them in the privates.

Alex McIlveen, 45, kicked the man, whose body was in flames, so hard that he tore a tendon in his foot.

But he said last night: "He didn't even flinch. I couldn't believe he didn't go down.

"A doctor told me later I'd damaged a tendon in my foot."

The burned suspect was named last night as Khalid Ahmed, a Lebanese doctor.

He is critically ill with burns at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, where he is believed to have worked.

I hope that Khalid Ahmed actually survives this. And that those burns cause him much pain while he spends the rest of life in prison. Living in this one case might be the most suitable punishment Khalid. Maybe those who are in charge of giving him his meds will just flush them away. As a doctor he will surely understand what he is in for.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Clouds Silver Lining

Behind ever cloud is a silver lining.

Hamas has taken over Gaza the last few day. Looting and destruction is pretty much what we would expect from them. There are reports they raided Arafat's home and that they stole his Nobel Peace Prize.

Enraged Fatah leaders on Saturday accused Hamas militiamen of looting the home of former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat in Gaza City.

"They stole almost everything inside the house, including Arafat's Nobel Peace Prize medal," said Ramallah-based Fatah spokesman Ahmed Abdel Rahman. "Hamas militiamen and gangsters blew up the main entrance to the house before storming it. They stole many of Arafat's documents and files, gifts he had received from world leaders and even his military outfits."

Abdel Rahman said the attackers also raided the second floor of the house and stole the personal belongings of his widow, Suha, and daughter, Zahwa. "They stole all the widow's clothes and shoes," he added. "They also took Arafat's pictures with his daughter."

I hope this makes Yitzhak Rabin's and Shimon Perez's prize all the more precious to their familys.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Chinese calling the US Irresponsible

Whether it's poisoned cat food, tainted fish, or contaminated toothpaste, it should be obvious that to any Chicom supporter that the Chicoms have shoddy manufacturing practices. Instead of shutting down the plants and investigating the Chinese are calling fowl. If an American company were poison Americans they would get shut immediately. The Chicoms apparently believe they have a right to distribute tothpaste tainted with diethylene glycol in the United States. Maybe they believe if they have a right to torture and kill their own people poisoning our people just a little bit should be OK.
China has branded a U.S. warning against using its toothpaste as irresponsible, saying low levels of diethylene glycol (DEG) were not harmful.

"So far we have not received any report of death resulting from using the toothpaste. The U.S. handling (of this case) is neither scientific nor responsible," China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in a statement posted on its Web site over the weekend.

"All the toothpaste exported to the United States had been registered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for marketing in the States."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued the warning on Friday after toothpaste containing DEG was detected in a shipment seized at the border.

The seizure was the most recent in a series of scares over the safety of locally made products which have put China's food and drug exports under scrutiny around the world.

Similarly contaminated toothpaste has been seized across Latin America, and in Panama, the government says at least 100 people died after taking cough syrup that contained DEG, an industrial solvent used in paint and antifreeze.

The FDA identified products by Goldcredit International Enterprises Ltd., Goldcredit International Trading Co. Ltd., and Suzhou City Jinmao Daily Chemicals Co. Ltd as containing DEG. Brands include Cooldent, Clean Rite and Oralmax and are usually found at discount retailers, the FDA said.

"It is not allowed. There are restrictions limiting its use," said an employee at Suzhou City Jinmao Daily Chemicals on Saturday, when asked about DEG.

Over 100 people died from Chinese cough syrup, and we are accused of overreacting by taking contaminated product off the market. Perhaps just the fact that they believe its an overreaction is cause to embargo any petfoods, foodstuffs, medicines or such. We are perfectly capable of getting by without these toxic Chicom goods.

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