Pres. Obama Comments On Encryption

At music and film conference “South by Southwest” in Austin, Texas, President Obama was asked to comment on encryption and smartphone security.  His response was lengthy, detailed and unscripted.  Conspicuous by its absence was any mention of the primary objection to the argument that government should have the ability to penetrate any device: that if the government has that ability, anyone else can also have that ability.  Anyone from hostile governments, competing businesses to criminals in search of information which will expose people to the threat of identity theft or the exposure of intimate photographs or messages.

The tech communities message is not “you know what, either we have strong perfect encryption or else it’s big brother and orwellian world” as President Obama puts it, it is “if you don’t want any unauthorized person to access your smartphone, your only choice is to not build a weakness into its security”.  This is indeed one of the absolutes that Obama insists we mustn’t bring to this discussion but it is not the tech community that is taking an absolute perspective on this, it is reality that presents us with an absolute, to wit: you cannot teach a smartphone to distinguish between an FBI agent with a warrant and a malefactor who wants to post your intimate photos on your facebook page.

Once the weakness in the devices security has been introduced, anyone can use it.  Anyone at all.  FBI agents with warrants, police officers without warrants, agents of unfriendly nations, competing businessmen, identity thieves or garden variety pornographers with a financial incentive to expose your most intimate photographs and communications to complete strangers.

We use our smartphone for an ever increasing range of activities and carry the devices, usually with GPS tracking enabled, everywhere we go.  We do our banking, we chat with friends and acquaintances and flirt with our romantic interests.  This means that these devices contain information of interest not just to FBI agents with warrants, but to an array of far less lawful persons with considerably less oversight or constraints.

Even assuming our smartphones can be turned into black boxes without doors or any way in, information is vulnerable to intercept going into those black boxes and going out.  Our telecommunications provider can tell the government who we called, when and for how long we spoke with them and where we were when we did so.  The FBI has demonstrated the ability to penetrate the security even of persons using the strong encryption based web browser TOR and even technically savvy persons frequently make mistakes which can result in their communications being compromised.  The possibility of peoples communications “going dark” is a fantasy peddled by those with a vested interest in ease of access to those communications.  That’s the absolute that President Obama refuses to acknowledge in his own argument; that we must surrender the security of our smartphones or law enforcement will be powerless to disrupt terrorist attacks.


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What Does Ruby Hamad Have Against Muslim Men?

Ruby Hamad, in her article Confronting Our Anti Islam Backlash Asserts that there is a backlash against Islam as a result of the Martin Place siege. She laments that:

Muslims are often represented as a marauding horde, a grotesque collective that acts on nothing other than primitive, religious ideology.

and that:

the fact he was also Muslim means that, to many western audiences, his actions reflected on Islam and all Muslims

If true, I entirely agree with her, that is a repulsive way to treat individuals.

So why does she do exactly that?

But let’s back up for just one moment. Yes, it was a Muslim man who held those hostages, causing the death of two. What this should tell us is that our global society has a problem with violence. More specifically, we have a problem with widespread male violence (emphasis mine) and an unwillingness to even recognise, let alone confront it.

When she says that the actions of the muslim who took people hostage in Martin Place, resulting in the death of two innocents should not be laid at the feet of any other muslim, I agree. What I don’t understand is why she feels it is necessary to lay the violence of any man at the feet of any other man. If Ms Hamad does not see the Martin Place gunman’s violence reflected in other muslims, why does she see that same violence reflected in other men? What did any random man do to Ms Hamad that she hates them so? Does she not recognize that many muslims are also men? What did any random muslim man do to Ms Hamad that she wants to see the Martin Place gunman’s violence reflected in him?

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Pope Francis endorses continuing the war on drugs

June 20, 2014 — Updated 1327 GMT CNN reports:
Pope Francis said “Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise…”

According to the CNN report, Francis regards policies that support the legalization of marijuana “not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.”

“To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem,” he said.

Very well, Pope Francis, the floor is yours. Let’s hear your alternative to the police state nonsense that criminalizes and incarcerates countless millions of people worldwide over a plant; that leaves those peoples lives tainted by criminal convictions despite never having raised their hand in violence nor seized any person’s wealth by deception.

Put up or shut up, Pope Francis; should governments be sending law enforcement officers masquerading as soldiers into peoples homes screaming threats and brandishing fully automatic rifles at the inhabitants along with the concomitant risk of accidentally killing those inhabitants? How else should government set out to eradicate the scourge of burning a plant and getting all mellow?

Does Pope Francis truly find the violence involved in pointing law enforcement at wholly consensual activities preferable to offering the participants in those activities peaceful alternatives such as treatment or support?

Details, Pope Francis, Details. That’s where you’ll find the devil after all. What, exactly and in detail, practically speaking, should governments be doing to reign in the scourge of a plant?

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NSA Spying Is Shielded From Public Or Judicial Scrutiny By Smoke And Mirrors

In this video, Woolsey was given ample opportunity to respond to the concerns being raised and unlike his conduct on the subject of firearms laws, Peirs Morgan made no attempt to interrupt or badger Woolsey despite being plainly hostile to the nature of the answers Woolsey was giving him. I was pleasantly shocked by Morgan’s conduct, it being consistent with that of a responsible host of a talk show focusing on matters of political importance.

Woolsey twice refused to address the question posed to him regarding the constitutionality of the NSA intelligence gathering activities exposed by snowden preferring to talk about “Balancing these two very important interests” (Security and Liberty). His response focused on a number of factors;

  1. The NSA program was put together by America’s elected representatives
  2. It had been upheld by the courts
  3. It is monitored by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
  4. It is monitored by the Attorney General and officials in the Executive branch
  5. It has been “systematically supported” by the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Feinstein

These matters are, with the exception of point 2, completely irrelevant. The Constitution of the United States of America defines the limits of America’s elected representatives, of the Attorney General and any official in the executive branch and of members of the legislature such as Senator Feinstein. The fourth amendment specifies a boundary beyond which these people may not go regardless of any countervailing considerations. Put very simply, the federal government of the United States of America may not violate the fourth amendment. The balancing of interests referred to by former Director of Central Intelligence Woolsey is moot, the government of the United States may not balance the constitution against any other consideration. It is simultaneously the source of and the limit on, their authority.

Which brings us to point 2. As I mentioned earlier, this is the only cogent point in his entire response and his failure to focus on it, rather than raising an array of other, irrelevant considerations, illustrates the weakness of this argument. When he says that the intelligence gathering operations of the NSA have been upheld by the courts, this is smoke and mirrors. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is a body that conducts its deliberations in secret and the victims of NSA surveillence are unable to present arguments before this court; This means that the only persons or entities able to influence the outcome of this “courts” deliberations are those with interests that conflict with the subjects of that surveillance. This does not describe a court of law. In fact, the inability of the persons being deprived of liberties protected by the fourth amendment to make their case before this court is itself a clear violation of the fifth amendment.

The Supreme Court of the United States of America has ruled that the ACLU has no standing to challenge NSA surveillance as there is no evidence that the ACLU has been or is being monitored by the NSA. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court is therefore completely protected from review by higher courts by the inability of the subjects of it’s rulings to so much as be aware that there was to be a ruling at all.

Although Woolsey’s response suggests he is unaware of how the United States Constitution limits the power of the government, this would be an absurd assumption. It is impossible to imagine that he could be unaware that one cannot balance security against the supreme law of the land and that all federal law must be made pursuant to the Constitution of the United States of America. I can only conclude that his attempt to mislead the public is not a simple misunderstanding of the constitution, but malicious; an attempt to shield a program unauthorized by the constitution from public scrutiny.

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If you’ve nothing to hide?

So if you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear? This cop is plainly using her power to search as a threat, openly admitting that she can’t use anything she can find but she plainly regards the threat that “you can be pulled out of the car and I can search you if you really want” as a tool to compel compliance with her “voluntary” interrogation. If she’s using it as a threat, any claim that no harm is done by the search is entirely specious. She’s not threatening to search them so much as she’s threatening to humiliate and demean them under color of authority.

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Universities Boss Glyn Davis Thinks I’m Paid Too Much

Glyn Davis has called for higher taxes because teachers should get pay rises. The people who have to pay increased taxes apparently deserve pay cuts so he can be paid more. Charming.

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I Beg To Differ

When the George Zimmerman shooting of Trayvon Martin hit the public consciousness, many commentators remarked that if the skin color of shooter and victim were reversed, the shooter would immediately have been arrested.  I must respectfully beg to differ

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