Where are the Protesters?

All Muslims around the world are commanded to be on the lookout for the pagan woman Isioma Daniel, so that she may be beheaded. Her pursuers have already murdered hundreds of innocent Nigerians. The Islamistorganization who has ordered these murders is demanding that her crime, exercise of freedom of speech, never again be repeated. This is, of course, no surprise to people who know of Salman Rushdie.

Kidstoday are pretty sophisticated, travelling the globe to ruckus in favor of Tibet’s “God King”, French cow farmers, and Falun Gong. So one wonders where are the protesters? And where are the calls to bring the facists to trial in the Hague for crimes against humanity?

I wrote last year about the strange way that the western elite ostracized Camus when he spoke out against similar facism in Algeria. But it is still curious to me that those who claim to stand for something seem to be absent when given such an unambiguous example of everything they claim to oppose.

Information Awareness

Here is a good joke. This Thanksgiving, be thankful that the government is cracking down on identity fraud. At least, that is what the Washington Post would have you believe. If you read into the details, you’ll find that:

  • 30,000 people had their lives destroyed. Nothing is being done to help them. They are screwed
  • Most of the people who benefitted will escape detection.
  • The companies who lent money to fraudulent people are not bearing responsibility (although the Post seems eager to point out that “ultimately” these companies get hurt)
  • Nothing is being done legislativelyto protect current and future victimsof identity fraud
  • Nothing is being to limit individual liability in identity fraud cases
  • Nothing is being done to force companies to better protect individuals’ private data

The punch line comes at the end of the article, where the reader is admonished to “visit the FTC website to learn how to protect yourself from identity fraud.” Strangely, the article does not mention that these guidelines would have done nothing to protect any of the aforementioned 30,000 victims.

This article should have been an indictment of how the government has failed to protect the voters from identity fraud, and instead protects only the banks and government bureaucrats. In fact, the government is completely impotent to prevent similar and ongoing fraud — the problems with identity security across the entire economic infrastructure are so systemic and deep that it will take work on many fronts to patch them all. The paper shouldjust say, “Governmentsurrenders inwar on identity fraud. Three poor people jailed; 30,000 screwed. You’re next and there’s nothing you can do about it. Government war against people who copy lame Courtney Love music progressing nicely.”

No doubt the government is puzzled about all of the outrage prompted by the “Homeland Security” provisions for “Information Awareness” that so riled William Safire. Tom Ridge is probably scratching his head, thinking “Safeway already has all of this information in their database, so why don’t people want us to query it?” The problem with Safire’s outrage is that he fails to mention that all of this data is already in the hands of corporations and other organizations, and worse yet in the handsevildoers like the three people who were selling Ford Motor credit reports. Maybe Ridge should just hire these three people to do homeland security, since they seem to have no trouble getting at personal information. The public can’t count on much cooperation from Safeway, since FOIA doesn’t apply to Safeway and Safeway officials aren’t publicly elected.

Corporations have for years been doing the sort of data-mining that IAO wants to do, and have developed all sorts of sophisticated profiles that accurately target potential customers based on things like ethnicity,sex, financial “class”, religious/philisophical preferences, and shopping history. Did you know that people who buy diapers are more likely to also buy beer in the same transaction? It’s old news to most retailers. Any competent retailer or bankertoday will know things about you that you probably don’t know about yourself. And this information is remarkably mobile, ending up in the most surprising places.

Considering that people like Safire focus on IAO, Congress is more interested in serving RIAA,and the Washington Post considers the arrest of three poor people to be a “success” in the war on identity fraud, it is clear that the sheer magnitude of the systemic identity leakage is not a problem that anyone is willing to acknowledge. And since acknowledgement is only the first step toward fixing a problem, it is safe to assume that this one will get much, much worse before it gets better.

Code Talks

Today I have been spending too much timeworking withencoding issues in utf-8, utf-16, base64, binHex, etc. Encoding is like metadata, in the sense that one person’s encoded stream is another’s decoded stream. Anyway, Dave’s comments today about “shut up and code” (paraphrased), made me think of the great yEnc debate. When yEnc first appeared, the purists freaked out, warning “YOUR CHILDREN ARE IN TERRIBLE DANGER!” But it took only six months for yEnc to become a defacto standard, and now a whole generation of kids will never know what UUENCODE was. The reason was implementation; the spec was aimed at coders rather than purists, and several quality implementations appeared almost overnight. And it worked! And nobody died!

Spam Assassin?

Joel Spolsky ruminates about charging a penny per e-mail, as a way to kill spam. The most interesting implication of this proposal is that it would allow spam recipients to track down spam senders (same place you send the bill). Unfortunately, that means it would never get implemented. One imagines a scene where the toady spam king waddles out onto his front porch to pick up the paper, and from the shadows leaps a spam recipient, strangle cord extended…

Or maybe I have just been playing Hit Man 2 on my Xbox too much. I hate myself when I waste time playing games, but I love this game. There is something right about a game where you have to drag the bodies out of sight, steal people’s clothes to disguise yourself, and get past guards byluring them apart and knocking them out with chloroform (then drag them somewhere quiet and shoot them with the 9mm suppressed, although I wouldn’t know about that).

The artificial intelligence of the game is amazing to me. It feels like Iam trying to outsmart real people, and not simply learning to adapt to the computer’s patterns. I suppose it is a side-effect of the game’s design more than anything: a few well-placed computer characters with relatively simpleindividual behaviors can combine into some really interesting patterns that test one’s ability to scheme and plot. After all, in real life the bouncers aren’t always that sophisticated, but still a challenge to get past.

And there are many ways to accomplish your objective on any level. I replay the levels multiple times to exercise new and craftier techniques, and I find myself dreaming about evil deeds. In the middle of reading my “Windows Shell Programming” book, an epiphany: “You couldplant a car bomb without having to kill the guards if you are dressed as the driver!” In a few minutes, I’ve fired up the Xbox and am proving my theory. They never suspected a thing…

Clean Underpants with that Book?

Amazon.com’s CRM system just mailed me an invitation to try out their new apparel store. In fact, while shopping for “Essential .NET” yesterday, Amazon also suggested that I buy clean underwear to go with the book. One wonders who is in charge of coming up with this recommendation, but fortunately today we also have a news article about Amazon’s Chief Algorithms Officer. According to an Amazon spokesperson, “Algorithms are what make our site run, (and) such a unique place to shop. It’s through algorithms that we’re able to do things like make recommendations and tell you what customers who bought this item also bought”.

Seattle Trasportation Politics

There is only one major political issue bombing the television and radio ads in Seattle this year. The local Republicans and Democrats are pushing voters to approve a 9 billion dollar tax increase, ostensibly to fund transportation.

Local transportation projectshave been plagued with scandal, cost overruns, and lack of results. It is fair to say that nobody in the area trusts the local government to actually produce anything with the money, since the money from all of the previous tax increases seems to have disappeared with nobody to blame. This has led to the peculiar situation where R-51 supporters are advertising that “it has accountability built in!” The typical TV spot shows some policewoman standing against a backdrop of gridlocked traffic, saying “R-51 won’t solve all of our traffic problems, but it will be a start, and IT HAS ACCOUNTABILITY BUILT RIGHT IN!” The dominantstrategy of the TVads (andallof them are in favor of R-51) is to say “if you give us your money, we won’t screw you over this time; we promise!” I’ve never seen anything like it; it’s rather funny.

Critics have pointed out that the referendum texthas no specifics about what will get done with the money, and no specifics about how accountability is built-in. There are many pages of specifics about which taxes will be increased. However, Washington has the nation’s highest unemployment rate at the moment, so I think most voters won’t worry about the specifics. What’s another 9 billion, anyway?