Wednesday, September 29, 2010

FBI Wants to Read Your Facebook Messages

Being a programmer and not the biggest fan of government intervention in general due to the unintended consequences it usually delivers, I think this is an awful idea. Imagine that every app that is designed, every website that is built, and every tool that is used to allow people to communicate required additional features to allow the government to decrypt the messages it sends and receives. This would take valuable time to build for each developer, would be incredibly expensive overall and would create a barrier to entry for the little guy who wants to learn to program and release some software. Additionally, it could create new technical limitations for developers and could seriously stifle flexibility in some cases. This is the type of innovation inhibitor the country does not need, especially in our current economic climate.

Also, what's the point? What would stop a terrorist organization from writing their own program that didn't incorporate the government mandated decryption capabilities? How would they even know? The only software and websites that would comply with such a mandate would likely have no need for such a "protection".

Additionally, government already generally has access to this type of data via subpoena. They can already subpoena Verizon for example to get your text messages, or Google to get your chat messages or emails even if the government doesn't have the power to secretly decrypt the messages themselves. This bill would only force the terrorist communication away from mainstream communication methods and into the underground where subpoena power cannot find it.

All of that aside, opening a hole intended for use only by the government would almost inevitably lead to new security risks all over the place exposing personal and privater data to malicious eyes (A.K.A. domestic and international terrorists).

Where is this coming from?
Knowing this, why would the government want to implement such a bill? The only reason I can imagine would be to poke a foot in the door to something the government has wanted for quite some time, and has seen some success at achieving.

With the unique challenges that fighting "terror" (which is really a vague term for anyone who opposes the U.S. in its current form and could potentially do the country or its citizens harm), we have had to sacrifice some of our principles to be effective. Not only have we adopted a policy of "pre-emptive war" with other countries and groups (possibly Iran now too if we aren't careful), but the government has also expressed interest in identifying potential patterns in communication in order to identify 'terror' before it happens. The only problem is they are applying this pattern detection to political groups critical of the government, which happen to be the ones who fight for real change, protest, or push back at big brother at all. The term terrorism was redefined with the passing of the Patriot Act, and today it is quite easy to label a group of fed up citizens who protest government policy as domestic terrorists (see article from the ACLU). Knowing that any citizen who becomes politically involved can be easily labeled a domestic terrorist, passing of legislation like this means those individuals can be spied on legally not only over the phone, text message, email, etc but in private online communities as well. Don't believe the government would label a peaceful political activist as a terrorist? There are already over 1 million names on the terror watch list. What about mistakes?

And even if they pass legislation making it legal only when a warrant is issues, it's not like they haven't taken it too far before:

There are hundreds of videos, documentaries and articles like the ones I've posted here outlining details about how the government has taken their intelligence authority too far. Unfortunately it has often been to the detriment of the American people it is intended to protect.

Update: New related info out today. The EFF's FOIA request shows that internal government memos encourage agents to befriend people on facebook in an effort to receive information about them (without a warrant or even probable cause required of course). Source:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Great Tea Party Hijack of 2010 Chronicled in Video

I'm afraid the new Tea Party movement is a hybrid comprised of
- the powerful force of frustrated Americans who are tired of politics as usual in Washington
- political opportunists, neo-conservatives & career politicians who see these frustrated Americans as a free ticket to political power.

First let me say, I am one of those fed up Americans. I have followed the real roots of the Tea party since it began to gain traction a couple of years ago to its current state. I have seen the principles on which it is founded begin to resonate with the people as many as ten years ago. I want the Tea Party to be a legitimate representation of this, and to exemplify the incredible grass roots movement I have seen break out across the country since some time in 2007. Unfortunately, the only real tea party candidates who truly represent these ideals are not getting the exposure they need to win their races, or are having a tough time sealing the victory, unlike these new "tea party" candidates like Christine O'Donnell in Delaware and Joe Miller in Alaska. I am afraid these candidates are a compromise given to the people by the powers that be in order to calm the rough seas the GOP find themselves in. I'm afraid they may be designed to help the people feel as though they finally have a say in their government only to give them some of what they want while continuing the endless printing of money and distraction of tireless war. These are the principles neo-conservatives hold closest to their hearts.

Who Started the REAL Tea Party?
The Tea Party we see today is a hijacked version of the true Tea Party. To distinguish the two, I will refer to the movement of the real grassroots (the movement I myself identify with) as the Liberty Movement, and the current more mainstream movement as the Tea Party.

For a long time now, the Liberty movement has been festering like a south Atlantic low pressure system in hurricane season. George W. Bush was elected on a platform for non interventionism and no nation building in 2000. Cutting taxes, getting the government out of our hair, these were all things Bush campaigned on. Unfortunately, as we know, he did not follow through on these things (nation building wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, massive stimulus spending, erosion of civil liberties through the patriot act). We got more of the same. Politicians telling us what they knew we wanted to hear:

The Liberty Movement began to take real form during the race for President in 2008 with the grassroots following that swelled up underneath Texas congressman Ron Paul. The grass roots tidal wave was so strong that his supporters (not his official campaign) organized mass donations in large collectives called money bombs. On Dec 16th 2007 Ron Paul's campaign received an astounding $6 million and change ENTIRELY FROM THE GRASS ROOTS. To this day it is the largest single day haul from any campaign. They also rented a blimp that flew up and down the East coast, something that also had never been done in a presidential campaign, and something that was not organized by the campaign itself but by the grass roots supporters alone. This of course is impressive, but the incredible part is that this was done without the large donations from special interest groups and big corporations that the mainstream media's favorite candidates were receiving at the time. Possibly even more incredible is the fact that this was orchestrated at a time when Dr. Paul's campaign was entirely drowned out by a complete media blackout. In fact, even though Paul:
- defeated some front-runners in early primaries

- crushed every presidential internet poll

- earned record breaking support from individuals across the country (even though it was reported as just over 4 million in 24 hours instead of 6 million total)

- won numerous text polls hosted by the national media (which they publicly marginalized)

- and was by far the favorite of major information hubs like Youtube, Digg, and other community based websites
he was minimized by the media at every pass and received a fraction of a percentage of the media coverage given to their favorite candidates, and was not invited to some of the most important Republican primary debates like the one hosted by Fox News in New Hampshire in 2008

Naturally, his supporters became furious and vowed to continue fighting for the sake of the liberty message. When the time came for Paul to back out of the race he realized a movement had begun, and that he should stay involved and continue to stoke the fire that his campaign had started in America. He created the Campaign for Liberty, a political action committee designed to help his grass roots supporters to continue their mission of pushing for Limited government, less taxes, less spending, sound money, less regulation and government intervention in the affairs of Americans, strong national defense without engaging in entangling alliances and unending undeclared wars, and strict protection of our civil liberties granted by the constitution. These are the principles Paul has stood for since he was first elected to congress in 1978. These are the principles at the foundation of the Liberty movement, and they are also the principles adopted in part by the Tea Party in an effort to lure an existing grass roots movement into the fold of a few players seeking to advance their own political power.

The first Tea Parties began to organize. The grass roots recognized the similarities in their principles and began to accept the Tea Party as a route to further the liberty message. Some of the grass roots favorites began to attend Tea Parties. They would speak at these events and naturally the amount of skepticism held by the original grass roots members of the Liberty movement faded. At times, their differences would flare up, but mostly the Tea Party organizers stayed quiet on the topics that would discourage their new found grass roots members and chose instead to focus on their similarities.

Suddenly, the folks who bankrolled many of the tea party events began to fund new Tea Party candidates who were unknowns to the grass roots. When the mainstream media started to announce big upsets in the senate races and the uprising of the Tea Party, the grassroots communities that remained from Ron Paul's presidential campaign and worked tirelessly supporting their own liberty candidates were a bit confused. How is it that they have never heard of Christine O'Donnell?
How were they unfamiliar with Joe Miller?
It is simply because these are results of the 'Establishment' version of the Liberty movement, dubbed the Tea Party. The strategic hijacking had brought the Liberty movement grass roots into the fold and had tricked them into gaining attention for candidates that didn't necessarily agree with many of the core principles Ron Paul had ran on in 2008.

The difference between the two groups are not subtle so far, but with any luck the principles of the Liberty movement will overshadow those of the current Tea Party candidates who seem to be making it into the house and senate. The Tea Party seems more accepting of pre-emptive war under the banner of "National Defense". They generally support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and are open to war with Iran (or if they do not support these wars they certainly don't say so publicly).

These new Tea Party candidates tend to be very scant on details. Their websites and interviews proudly boast the easy things like "shrink government" and "cut taxes" but the devil is in the details... details that don't seem to be available to the tea party voters. The modern Tea Party candidates say they would like to cut taxes and shrink government, but they can never seem to articulate what departments would be cut, or where the shrinkage would occur. This has never been a problem for the Liberty movement. They have always been very specific in discussing the details of government waste and what departments we need to rid ourselves of. You certainly never hear them say "End the Fed", which has become a thunderous mantra of the Liberty movement grass roots. You will not hear them question any specific establishment. Instead the message is generalized and vague. To me, these are bright red flags.

The true liberty candidates are having a much tougher time, probably because that establishment money isn't flowing in like it is for the Tea Party candidates who are virtually unknown to the original grass roots community. There have been many grass roots candidates endorsed by Ron Paul. John Dennis is running against Nancy Pelosi in California. This race has had lots of attention from the grass roots because Dennis is a true Liberty candidate completely in line with the Ron Paul principles established during his campaign. Dennis, running in a large state like California, however has not receive anywhere near the campaign contributions that O'Donnell did, and that has everything to do with where the money is coming from. For John Dennis it is coming almost entirely from the grass roots Liberty movement. For O'Donnell it is coming from the wealthy hijackers looking to absorb the liberty movement into the Establishment GOP. Peter Schiff was running in the Connecticut Senate race and was beaten down by a WWE (Wrestling) Executive with boat loads of cash. Again a true Liberty candidate with tons of grass roots support, but just not enough money to make it all the way. Rand Paul having the most name recognition of any Liberty candidate so far managed to win his primary and he may just make it into the Senate, but even Paul has had to face a real uphill battle against Establishment candidates. Other true Liberty candidates include Jake Towne, Clint Didier, and B.J. Lawson, none of which have raised money like O'Donnell has. It goes to show you what kind of power is wielded by the tag team effort of the establishment GOP and the mainstream media.

I'm not saying that this movement as a whole is a horrible thing. I'm saying that we need to be very careful about unwittingly compromising our principles under the "safety" of the tea party flag. Ron Paul himself sums it up quite well:

Who is trying to ride the Liberty Coat Tails?
The candidates being elected under the Tea Party banner are only a small piece of the hijacked pie. The true orchestrators behind the hijack of one of the most revolutionary movements in American history to my knowledge are Dick Armey & Freedomworks, Newt Gingritch, Sarah Palin, and possibly even Mike Huckabee. Weather or not these people are planning a grand absorption of a strong political movement, they are certainly wide eyed with enthusiasm about the possibility of using the fired up masses to their advantage.

Which political philosophy will win in the end?
We have a Libertarian leaning movement that was born from the Ron Paul revolution and those neo-conservatives of the Washington Republican "brand" meeting in the middle to topple the existing Democratic leadership. The question remains, which philosophy will last in the long run and what will the confused mixture that is the Tea Party emerge as in its final form? Will we have a Republican party that returns to its roots of limited government and fiscal responsibility as well as being responsible international citizens? or will be continue the war mongering and quantitative easing loved so dearly by the neo-conservative republican establishment?

Thanks to the internet's role in politics I think the people are awake now, and I do not think we will be fooled. We are no longer forced to listen to what big media wants us to hear. We are no longer limited in what information we receive.

If you want to know what is happening with the true liberty movement, read The Daily Paul. Remember who Fox News is. Remember who MSNBC is. Remember who CNN is. Also Russia Today, BBC, and every other big media outlet. Take them with a grain of salt. Keep an open mind. Research on YouTube. Research on Wikipedia. Research on Wikileaks. Research on Google. Search for your questions and find your own answers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Net Neutrality - A Tougher Issue Thank You Think

Net Neutrality has been a hot topic for a while. The fear that corporations would bundle each and every website into 'packages' like cable TV is enough to scare most people into supporting net neutrality at face value, but is that the only side to the argument that the American people need be concerned with? Is this the only thing we have to be afraid of?


There are more than two sides to this story this time around. We have in one corner, the service providers who would love to squeeze every extra ounce of cash from the internet as possible (the blessing and curse of capitalism). In the next corner, you have the government. They tend to gradually grow, consuming private businesses and private interests "for our own good" in each industry they become involved. Then they waste a ton of money on them, use them as political weapons and ultimately siphon money from the American people into the hands of those who are in charge of programs via taxes and inflation. Then in yet another corner we have the American people.

What are we really asking for in net neutrality?

We are asking to be left alone. We are afraid of having a free and open internet dismantled, censored, ruined. We're afraid that the likes of companies like Comcast in all its wisdom will make deals with other companies and giving traffic priority and an unfair competitive advantage over the smaller mom and pop shop, or even personal blogs. We're afraid that these companies could give us access to only pieces of the internet, charging us more for each additional chunk we would like access to.

In normal free markets this is no real concern because competition will eliminate most bad practices, however in the internet service game, we have a country divided up into groups where companies like Time Warner Cable and Comcast enjoy regional monopolies. They have no REAL competition, and therefore not nearly as much of an incentive to give us what we really want instead of what would earn them the most money.

So our solution is to ask the government to step in to protect us.... but hold on just one second.

We are starting to realize that if the government steps in to rescue the people from the big bad companies, we will be following a trend that we have seen become all too real in recent months. I'm not going to argue the point, but I think most Americans agree that we should have reservations about government involvement in anything that we wish to remain free (as in freedom, not cost), open (as in everyone has equal access), and unrestricted (as in our first amendment right to freedom of speech). The government has imposed warrentless wiretapping on American citizens, demanded our personal information from Google and countless other companies (citing reasons other than court ordered subpoenas), and has even used any information it could get from the internet to go after citizens for additional taxes.

Barack has come out in support of Net Neutrality.

The things Obama mentions in this video are fantastic, and a sentiment that I think most people would generally agree with wholeheartedly. The problem is, what sort of slippery slope are we opening ourselves up to by allowing the government to regulate the internet in new ways? What sort of new regulations will they add on year after year? How can we be sure future regulations will always be in the true interest of the people and not of the spend happy politicians who need new sources of tax revenue? What happens when there is an incentive for government to ask for more, and then more again?

The question becomes "who do you trust more?" A company who has a regional monopoly and not grounded by the same capitalist forces that keep other companies in check (competition), OR the government, who has shown us that they do not care about your privacy, or about how they spend our money?

So what is the solution? If we can't trust big companies to look after us, and we cant trust big government, where do we turn?

I don't know the clear answer, but I believe it lies in the principles of our republic. When our founders constructed the constitution, they decided that a government could grow to become oppressive and unfair, and it needed the will of the people to provide the authority and keep it in check. It also realized that the people could band together and create a majority that could overpower the smaller less popular ideas unfairly, trampling the god given rights of the minority. This is why they designed the first ten amendments to the constitution. It was a document that took precedence over the will of the majority AND the will of the government. We need a bill of rights (of sorts) for the internet to protect us against both the government, the will of the majority, and the service providers. We also need a way to introduce true competition into the internet service provider market to stimulate competition and in turn produce a better end result for all internet users.

I imagine it would look something like this (extremely rough, and I'm sure some of this is entirely unfeasible, but it should get you thinking...).
Note: The following text is meant to serve individual persons using the internet. Corporations are not considered persons in the scope of the following text.

1. Extend the 1st amendment to specifically cover the internet as well. Each individual has an equal right to express and publish opinion in whatever manner they wish on the internet so long as it does not violate the inalienable rights of another.

2. A user has the right to use his service however he wishes, and should not be subject to any probe or investigation without a court order. This includes identifying the type of traffic that is being transmitted for any reason other than to gather information relevant to the sale of said service. Any data collected in this way must be private and not disclosed in any way that could identify the user without a court order.

3. Extend the 4th Amendment, specifically defining infringement on internet privacy without probable cause and a search warrant as an unreasonable search. This will still allow authorities to obtain a warrant, but aside from that any identifying data, even if identifiable by associative means, that is collected about an individual by a service provider cannot be sold, traded, or disclosed without the clear consent of that user. Any such request by the service provider must give the user an opportunity to opt out, and such option shall always be chosen by default.

4. At no time should any user's access be restricted or limited intentionally. All content should be delivered to the user with an equal priority.

5. A user cannot be charged for access to the internet on any basis other than the cost to deliver that access. Cost to deliver access should not be manipulated in order to change this cost.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Beware The Copyright Troll!

It turns out our grief stricken country is being slapped with yet another epidemic, and this one reeks of the immoral fungi that has grown on the corpse of traditional American values.

The law has yet to adapt to the information age apparently as ethically challenged lawyers like Steve Gibson of Righthaven LLC (a Copyright Holding Company) and greedy businessmen like Sherman Frederick of the Las Vegas Review Journal have partnered up to squeeze bloggers into forking over thousands of dollars for (get this) giving their website traffic! Now I can tell you that if I wrote an article, and a website picked it up and linked to it, I would be thrilled to have so many eyes on something that I had put together. These moral cripples however see dollar signs, and stab the very people who make their websites successful right in the face, all while spewing a misleading sob story of a company who is being taken advantage of by the evil bloggers of the world.

You see, the Las Vegas Review Journal (don't bother visiting their website, they apparently do not want you to visit, and I'd rather not be sued) among other companies have decided to launch lawsuits against tons of bloggers for quoting their articles on their blogs, and linking to them. Some of the websites being sued are developed from user submitted content, meaning the site owner is not even the one who posted the reference to the LVRJ article!

Trolling for intellectual property infringement in the digital space is nothing new. The RIAA, MPAA, and now the MAFIAA have heavy handily wielded their legal prowess against thousands of average Americans who are hardly in the position to pay the substantial damages the law currently demands for a conviction in such cases. They have even sued for the actions of children in the past. As a result, the fear of enormous damages and the promise of substantial legal fees is usually enough to scare John Doe into scraping together all the money he can afford in order to make the suit go away, likely leaving him in debt. This type of prosecution, although having serious morality issues, is not nearly as malicious as the "Righthaven Brand" of intellectual property trolling. The difference is, these people are clearly not interested in stopping the infringement. In fact, the several links scattered across each article to subscribe to an RSS feed, share, print and email the article could easily be construed as encouragement for the exact opposite.

In addition, traditional DMCA infringement cases begin with a cease and desist letter. Righthaven however has found a loophole in the DCMA requiring websites to be registered with the US copyright office in order to receive the safe harbor protections that require a letter to be sent demanding the removal of infringing content in order for the case to be heard by the court.

The fact that Righthaven specifically avoids sending notice to potential defendants further illustrates their true motive of extracting quick settlements from frightened and blindsided citizens.

In the copyright notice for Stephen's Media (parent company of LVRJ), you can see where they are trying to draw the line:

"Stephens Media welcomes hypertext links to its electronically-published textual content. The appropriate method for linking to Stephens Media content is to post only the headline and the first paragraph of a story and then a link to the original textual material."

Anyone living on this planet knows that posting only the headline of an article is unrealistic. To quote a sentence or two from an article to make a point or discussion about the facts contained within an article is common. We do it all the time in our everyday conversations. Take a look at and see how many thousands of articles were posted today in the very same way. It is considered bad form to steal someone's idea and rearrange the facts as if it were your own original research, but apparently, that's what Righthaven would rather? I seriously doubt that. To try and threaten someone with the draconian damages that are attached to copyright infringement for following a social norm is preposterous, especially when it poses no identifiable damage to the original publisher. Instead of damaging the publisher, being linked to from a successful blog or websites is among the most desirable outcomes of a successfully written article.

The Rumors:
The real entertainment in all of this comes into play when taking a look at the potential connection between the strategy of Righthaven LLC and the agenda of the Obama administration. Although there is no provable or documented relationship between the two, there certainly are some interesting ties.

A quick look at Steve Gibson's work history shows that he worked at Sidley Austin LLP. This is the same firm where Barack and Michelle Obama first met, and both worked as associates. Michelle Obama also worked in the same practice area as Gibson, Intellectual Property Law. The question becomes whether or not they crossed paths in some way? In all fairness the firm's Chicago office has over 500 attorneys now, who knows how many they had in 1990. Also a closer look seems to show that by the time Obama left Sidley Austin, Gibson was just finishing law school.

In addition to the Sidley Austin connection between these three, there is another major player who fits into this Chicago Law firm connection. Victoria Espinel was appointed by Barack Obama as the Copyright Czar. She also worked as an attorney specializing in Intellectual Property Law for Sidley Austin in Chicago. She is now tasked with enforcing the Intellectual Property Rights Act which was passed in 2008. Not surprisingly, she received several letters of recommendation, many of which were lobbying organizations for the RIAA and MPAA like The Copyright Alliance and the National Music Publishers' Association, as well as a letter from the MPAA itself.

To tie it all up, there are of course the numerous statements President Obama has made in regard to his feeling about the new age of widely published public opinion:

How can we act?

Weather or not you believe the story goes all the way to the Whitehouse, I would expect most would recognize the threat this sort of legal argument could pose to the voice of the people against the backdrop of a powerful media driven national viewpoint. The internet has been a conduit by which the voice of the people has been able to reach new levels of exposure. It has informed, educated, and exposed, and reminded us of people and ideas that have been traditionally placed into the shadows by the media's big decision makers. So, while the internet is still free, it is our greatest weapon.

- Do not link to any articles by the LVRJ or any of their sister websites. While you're at it, stay away from any of Righthaven's client websites too. This only increases their link popularity.
- Block companies that enjoy this sort of thing outright. You can do this by adding the lines of text from this post to your computer's hosts file. =)
- Right a message to the site's sponsors informing them of the misconduct of their advertiser.