Necessity and Tyrants

I was reading a discussion related to a story about how soon every email in the UK will be monitored by the government, and someone brought up this quote:

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”

And I had to stop and think about that for a moment, because… well, it’s worth stopping and thinking about things like this. To think that every plea for taking away our freedoms because it’s “necessary” (whether to “combat terrorism” or “fight the war on drugs” or whatever) is the argument of a tyrant.

I suppose the lesson to take from this is to give us all pause whenever our leaders say that some new measure is “necessary.” Because, chances are that measure is taking away some of our freedom (whether we realize it or not), and we should always pause and reflect on such decisions before we allow them to proceed.

Of course, most of us are too busy watching TV, so I guess it’ll just be me sitting here and worrying about the state of things.

The Difference Between the Government and the Mafia

I saw this in a discussion over on Slashdot about New York sales/use tax – someone mentioned that “New York has always been a bit bizzare about taxes.” Someone else replied with:

They’re not bizarre; they’re just greedy for every dollar they can get their grubby little paws on. Just remember that the only difference between the government and the Mafia is that the government controls the schools.

Funny, yes, but there is an alarming amount of truth in that statement…

Microchip (RFID) Passport Cloned

In case there was any doubt that this whole digital passport / RFID passport thing was never about security (via Slashdot):

“New microchip passports designed to be foolproof against identity theft failed the test when a researcher was able to manipulate one in minutes. The cloned passports were accepted as genuine by the computer software recommended for use at international airports. According to the article: ‘A computer researcher cloned the chips on two British passports and implanted digital images of Osama bin Laden and a suicide bomber. The altered chips were then passed as genuine by passport reader software used by the UN agency that sets standards for e-passports.'”

Once again demonstrating that there is absolutely no reason to have RFID in our passports and that it does not in any way make us more safe or secure.

So let’s just drop the whole idea, huh? My passport’s due for renewal soon – and I do NOT want to get one with a chip in it.

Repeat after me:

  • RFID passports do not make us any safer.
  • RFID passports are not really any harder to counterfeit
  • RFID passports are not inherently more secure
  • RFID passports are a bad idea

Repeat that 600 more times. Then write it down 600 times. Then mail it to your representatives (all of them).

Well? What are you waiting for? Get to it!

Check-box reply

Found on Seen On Slash:

Your post advocates a

(x) technical ( ) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante

approach to fighting spam. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won’t work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal law was passed.)

( ) Spammers can easily use it to harvest email addresses
( ) Mailing lists and other legitimate email uses would be affected
( ) No one will be able to find the guy or collect the money
( ) It is defenseless against brute force attacks
(x) It will stop spam for two weeks and then we’ll be stuck with it
(x) Users of email will not put up with it
( ) Microsoft will not put up with it
( ) The police will not put up with it
(x) Requires too much cooperation from spammers
(x) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
( ) Many email users cannot afford to lose business or alienate potential employers
( ) Spammers don’t care about invalid addresses in their lists
( ) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else’s career or business

Specifically, your plan fails to account for

( ) Laws expressly prohibiting it
(x) Lack of centrally controlling authority for email
( ) Open relays in foreign countries
( ) Ease of searching tiny alphanumeric address space of all email addresses
( ) Asshats
( ) Jurisdictional problems
( ) Unpopularity of weird new taxes
( ) Public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
(x) Huge existing software investment in SMTP
(x) Susceptibility of protocols other than SMTP to attack
(x) Willingness of users to install OS patches received by email
(x) Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes
( ) Eternal arms race involved in all filtering approaches
( ) Extreme profitability of spam
(x) Joe jobs and/or identity theft
( ) Technically illiterate politicians
( ) Extreme stupidity on the part of people who do business with spammers
( ) Dishonesty on the part of spammers themselves
( ) Bandwidth costs that are unaffected by client filtering
( ) Outlook

and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

(x) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever been shown practical
( ) Any scheme based on opt-out is unacceptable
( ) SMTP headers should not be the subject of legislation
( ) Blacklists suck
( ) Whitelists suck
( ) We should be able to talk about Viagra without being censored
( ) Countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or credit card fraud
( ) Countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public networks
(x) Countermeasures must work if phased in gradually
( ) Sending email should be free
( ) Why should we have to trust you and your servers?
( ) Incompatiblity with open source or open source licenses
( ) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
( ) Temporary/one-time email addresses are cumbersome
( ) I don’t want the government reading my email
( ) Killing them that way is not slow and painful enough

Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

(x) Sorry dude, but I don’t think it would work.
( ) This is a stupid idea, and you’re a stupid person for suggesting it.
( ) Nice try, assh0le! I’m going to find out where you live and burn your house down!

I don’t know why I find these things funny, but I do.

News from the Not-To-Distant Future

From a Slashdot comment on the story “Big Six UK ISPs Capitulate To Music Industry“:

BBC News April 2nd 2010
ISPs have detected a massive spike in encrypted activity on the internet. Indecipherable “SSL” packets have increased in volume massively in recent months. This trend is seen as “disturbing” in the words of one child protection group.

Protests from expats living in Russia, China and Iran is more muted relative to earlier episodes. One comment received from an expat in Iran states “We used to get bothered by all this, but frankly, it’s so much better over here that we really don’t care anymore.”

“There could be anything being sent in these encrypted streams. Anything at all, and we have no way of knowing it”, said Angela Termagantine, spokesperson for Protecting the Innocent. “There’s little doubt that lurid, disgusting and atrocious images of naked children are being transmitted in these clandestine packets of information. Something Must Be Done.”

Police spokesman Robert Peeler warned the public that very sinister developments have given us cause to believe that a vast network of Terrorists are transmitting plans to bring terror and mayhem to Britain’s streets. “It is likely that this flood of inscruitible data is the precursor to an outright Terrorist assault, if not an invasion , on British citizens.” Police believe that ssl may be a code word for terrorist cells, possibly referring to a passage, or passages from the Koran. Peeler added, “We are working with leaders in the Muslim community to reach young people and other members of the community in an effort to identify the sources of these sinister “ssl” packets.”

When news broke of the recent surge and its potentially sinister meaning, traffic at Tabloid News and Gossip sites spiked as millions of Britons swarmed to read titillating speculation about what may be concealed in the encrypted traffic. “People love this stuff, right.” said editor of the Scandal on Sunday Andy Tartuffe. “I mean, you throw in a bit of nookie, bit of scandel, bit of how’s your father, people go right for it, know wha’ I mean? ” When it was suggested his publication by be sensationalizing the potential content of the traffic surge he retorted, ” Look, it’s all porn right! There’s dirty buggers out there doing dirty deeds and my readers what to hear all about it.” “Especially the kiddie stuff, right. Get’s ’em right rilled up! Big seller.” he added as he drove away in his BMW with an unidentified young woman.

The Home Office has dismissed protests from network and computer professionals that SSL is a much used and needed protocol on the internet, and has moved ahead with plans to outlaw encrypted data on British networks. “We have to stop this sort of thing”, said the Home Office Minister, “Saying that it has legitimate uses, or that only a small fraction of the transmitted material may be illegal is frankly a load of rubbish. If you have nothing to hide, you have no reason to be using these services. Any sensible person can see that.”

In addition to banning SSL traffic and previous legislation mandating the handover of encryption keys, the government plans to have monitoring software installed on all internet connected devices in the country. “When you think about it, it’s a small price to pay for the safety of you and your children.” said the Prime Minister this afternoon. “We have overwhelming public support on this”, he added, citing private party telephone polls.

Someone else responded immediately with:

It’s scary when one can barely tell satire from real world events. It’s too real.

Yes, it is scary.