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Legislative grandstanding makes for “Sh*tty” TV
Apr 27th, 2010 by scaredpoet

A while back I ranted about the complete and utter usefulness of senate and congressional hearings, and how they just end up being a dog & pony show for polticians to try and look good to the public as they grill the Bad Guys in testimony, while in fact doing absolutely nothing of real use.

Well, they’re still grandstanding. As if we haven’t figured it out by now, after 2+ years of a crappy economy, the Senate is just now “getting to the bottom of” that Big Bad Financial Scandal. In particular, the Goldman Sachs thing.

My prediction: Next week, the Senate will open hearings on indecency and profane language on cable news networks. Because today during that Goldman Sachs Senate hearing, this went out over the airwaves, uttered by a senator. Into people’s homes, into workplaces and offices, in waiting rooms and airports, and certainly within earshot of children…

WARNING: AUDIO IS NSFW

No, I’m no prude. The profanities spill out of my mouth so often that sailors blush. But these lawmakers are the same people who get all in a huff over indecency in the media now and then. Shouldn’t they practice what they preach? We certainly could’ve gotten the gist of the message without the “s” bomb landing on TV at least 5 times in less than two minutes.

That was a shitty thing for Carl Levin to do, if you ask me.

Just sayin’...

The new police search battlefield: your cell phone
Feb 22nd, 2010 by scaredpoet

One thing that really annoys me about the tattered state of civil rights in the US is how technology is being used by law enforcement as a means to short-circuit basic privacy protections. Flying under the banner of things like “Homeland Security,” the common excuse seems to be made these newfangled desktop and mobile computer-machines don’t operate like the old, analog, physical things that used to replace them, and so somehow, this means the existing laws don’t apply. Sadly, it also seems like lawmakers are in no rush at all to make it clear that our Fourth Amendment Rights apply whether or not our belongings are stashed in a physical box, or whether they’re accessible via a keyboard or touch screen.

The latest arena for the battle for your privacy is your cell phone, and so far, law enforcement is on the offensive here.

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School laptop users beware!
Feb 20th, 2010 by scaredpoet

Quite a lot of school districts are experimenting with the idea of issuing laptops to their students to enhance learning initiatives. ?On the face of it, this seems all fine and good: parents don’t have to buy hardware for their kids, and the schools all know that their students have the technology they need to do their homework.

There’s just one little problem: naturally, kids – and even adults – will do a little more on their computers than just academics and serious work. ?It’s just a fact of life.

So, if you have a school or work-issued laptop, and haven’t figured this out already, let me warn you: you MIGHT be under surveillance. ?And if your school or work-issued laptop has a webcam? ?Consider investing in some electrical tape, and covering that bad boy up when you’re not actively using it.

The web is totally abuzz this weekend, after some kid in Pennsylvania recently found out the hard way that maybe the school-issued laptop program isn’t totally altruistic:

On November 11, an assistant principal at Harriton High School told the plaintiffs’ son that he was caught engaging in “improper behavior” in his home and it was captured in an image via the webcam.

According to the Robbinses’ complaint, neither they nor their son, Blake, were informed of the school’s ability to access the webcam remotely at any time. It is unclear what the boy was doing in his room when the webcam was activated or if any punishment was given out.


Now, let’s just let this sink in for a moment. It isn’t specified what kind of “improper behavior” the kid was engaging in, but it does leave one open to wonder. ?There’s a LOT of things teens will do in their rooms thinking no one else is watching (though granted, in the age of MySpace and Youtube, sometimes they do things totally knowing that people are watching, but let’s set that aside for a minute). ?In fact, if you really think about it, there’s lot of opportunities for very inappropriate things to be captured on a webcam that some creepy assistant principal in a high school is accessing without the kid’s knowledge. ?Voyeuristic tendencies, anyone?

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The terrorists might not win, but we’ve still lost.
Jan 10th, 2010 by scaredpoet


It’s over folks. ?The age of civilian air travel is coming to an abrupt end. ?It’s time to mothball our jets, shut the airlines, and go back to trains and ocean liners as our primary means of long distance travel. ?The United States as a country simply cannot fly anymore.

Why? Because of terrorism you ask? ?No, not because of terrorism. ?It’s because we’ve become a nation of panicky pussies. ?That’s why.

To be sure, on Christmas day 2009, a terrorist?did try – we think – to blow up a plane. ?Hiding a syringe with chemicals and incendiary devices in his underwear, he ignited his payload as the flight he was one prepared to land in Detroit. ?The only immediate casualties, fortunately, were his crotch and – we hope – his ability to procreate. In this case, Darwin may have?prevailed.

Shortly thereafter though, I realized that one other casualty resulted from this incident: our common sense. ?It started right away with Republicans and politicians in Washington. ?Rather than actually caring about the safety of the public and working towards learning from this experience to see how we can adapt reasonably and safely to this threat, if it IS a threat, they chose to pounce on this as a media stunt and politcal scare tactic. ?That’s right, because some silly Nigerian chose to roast his crotch on a flight, to them this clearly meant that Obama failed us.

So, while Washington was busy wrestling with that idea and preferring to focus on the potential political fallout of whether “the system” was working or not, the people who are allegedly tasked with protecting the public good and safety basically stopped focusing on protecting the public’s good and safety. ?Inevitably, this means “the system” that everyone was so busy arguing about has pretty much begun to break down all on its own anyway. That left the general public with the impression that they must now pretty much fend for themselves on the matter.

The result? ?Now we must get molested before we board an airplane, even though it probably won’t help the situation anyway. ?We now also have to deal with air travel being more erratic and unpredictable than before, ranging from the cut off of internet access and other in-flight amenities, to denying passengers the use of bathroom facilities. ?Because we all know that terrorists won’t possibly consider blowing up the plane if they will be denied those last couple minutes of facebook-time, or are unable to take a leak before the big moment, right?

Of course, none of these measures really add to the security of the flights. ?The hope, everyone agrees, is that maybe it’ll just help people feel a little safer, even though we’ve already told them, through the powers of twitter, cable TV news and the iReport, that these measures are fruitless and ineffective.

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Sprint knows where you are, and so does the feds.
Dec 2nd, 2009 by scaredpoet

sprint-family-locator-service1

Remember not too long ago, when there was a huge fervor over warrantless wiretapping?? Back in the bad old days of the Bush Administration (and maybe even today), Verizon and AT&T willingly participated in permitting the NSA to monitor communications traffic on their networks, without the need for silly little things like, oh, search warrants and due process.? And boy, everyone sure got all in a huff when they found out!? Despite it being an extension of legislation hurriedly rushed into law to appease a panicky public, the citizenry refused (as they often do) to look at themselves in the mirror for being panicky petes, and instead the “Big Two” carriers mentioned above got the brunt of the public’s ire.? Lawsuits were threatened and all kinds of punishments were dreamed up for the corporate actors in this conspiracy, all while the Bush administration pretty much got shrugged off by the general public for, well, doing what they always did.

Another company to get a pass was Sprint.? You just didn’t hear about what their involvement might’ve been.

But it looks like now more than ever, surveillance is alive and well, and Sprint is making it incredibly easy for Law Enforcement to find out where any use of their network might be.? So easy in fact, that Law Enforcement has tracked the wherabouts of Sprint users more than 8 million times in the past year alone!

Sprint Nextel provided law enforcement agencies with its customers’ (GPS) location information over 8 million times between September 2008 and October 2009. This massive disclosure of sensitive customer information was made possible due to the roll-out by Sprint of a new, special web portal for law enforcement officers.

The evidence documenting this surveillance program comes in the form of an audio recording of Sprint’s Manager of Electronic Surveillance, who described it during a panel discussion at a wiretapping and interception industry conference, held in Washington DC in October of 2009.


Consider that Sprint has about 49.3 million customers.? Even if you assume that some users were no doubt tracked more than once, that’s still a pretty astonishing number.? Are there really millions of sleeping terrorists chatting and texting on Sprint phones?? Or has the government continued to be way, way too willing to disregard the freedoms of its citizens in the name of homeland security, while Sprint passively sits by and allows it to happen?


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