Monthly Archives: May 2008

fear of the day

part 1: the potential for 90% blockage in one or more of my coronary arteries.

part 2: the thought of giving up bacon double cheeseburgers.



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busy week

I’ve been out of town for the long weekend, and then this week took an interesting turn — so the good news is that I’ve had about 20 hours of travel time, mostly sitting in the backseat with babyJ, to think about things to write; the bad news is I think I’ve forgotten more topics than I compiled.  expect a torrent this weekend.

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why did I quote that?

No one likes $125 a barrel oil. Last year, we paid an average price of $64 a barrel for imports.

I’m not sure why I let that quote stand — it seems to imply that we pay different prices for imported oil vs. domestic oil.  or maybe he thinks we don’t pay for domestic oil at all.

I’m not sure about you, but I don’t buy barrels of crude oil very often.  but imagine that I did — do you think domestic oil producers would charge me significantly less than the world-market prices that a foreigner would charge?

OK, he didn’t explicitly state that there is a difference, but why would he use the word imports instead of oil?  combined with the anti-immigration bent at the end of his article, maybe he has another agenda — one I probably don’t endorse.

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ends, means, and justice

I had to sit through an hour of talk radio yesterday regarding the Drew case (I didn’t have my cell phone, so I couldn’t call in myself). the host was railing against the Los Angeles prosecutor going after a Missouri woman — “that’s not within his jurisdiction!”

I understand his concern about prosecutorial overreach, but the indictment charges Drew with illegally accessing MySpace’s computers, which are located in Los Angeles County. so the geographical aspect is legit.

the scary thing was the attitude of about half the callers — that it didn’t matter what legal maneuvering was used, as long as Lori Drew was found guilty and sent to jail then justice will have been served; the ends justifies the means, and these callers were ready to be judge, jury, and executioner.
that’s not the way things work in America.

the radio host’s biggest fear was that this prosecution would become legal precedent and open the flood gates to similar charges based not on the offensive act (in this case, the psychological manipulation) but the use of a service to commit the act — so if we’re in Virginia and I harass you with a Verizon phone, the New York attorney could prosecute you because Verizon is headquartered in New York. (he misunderstood the nature of the charges: “illegally accessing MySpace’s computers”). he used Elliott Spitzer as an example, who would charge firms if their financial transactions ever passed through New York (and most did pass through Wall Street).

I don’t see that being a problem — if this case makes it to trial, I don’t think they’ll succeed. and if it does, there are several levels of appeal before the case can be used as a precedent.

so what about justice? what would be a just outcome for this situation?

unfortunately, I don’t know what criminal charges would stick against Drew — if there were any, prosecutors would have come up with them over a year ago when this case initially flared up. I imagine the vicitm’s parents could bring a wrongful death lawsuit against Drew (even O.J. was found liable of ‘wrongful death’), but I can understand why the parents would not want to go through the ordeal when it won’t bring their daughter back.

locking up Drew on illegitimate charges isn’t justice — it’s injustice on top of injustice.

tomorrow: where I fear this case is leading us…

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I feel like I’d vote for this guy

unfortunately he’s a candidate we’ll never get a chance to vote for — he’s too honest.  here’s the highlights:

  • Fellow Americans, I know you worry about the economy. So do I. But, frankly, if you elect me, I won’t do much about it… [it’s too big; the President can’t really do anything to manage it]
  • What we can do is preserve an economic climate that favors long-term growth…
  • Of necessity, spending cuts should focus on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid…
  • We’ve also dawdled on energy. No one likes $125 a barrel oil. Last year, we paid an average price of $64 a barrel for imports. Some blame the oil companies, but the truth is that we’re all to blame. Americans like cheap gasoline and big vehicles…
  • “Energy independence” is a fraud… [amen.]

I’m not sure that I agree with his final point about poverty and immigration, but if it came down to one misguided policy out of a dozen (versus what we see already from the Republicans and Democrats), he’d get my vote.

of course, he wouldn’t get many other votes, because the voting populace doesn’t value sincerity and can’t handle complexity.  scratch that — they prefer emotionally satisfying explanations over logic and reason.  no surprise there, but it’s still disheartening to read such a clear explanation and know that 90% of your friends and neighbors could care less.  (“dey took ur jobs!”)

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have I been under a rock? or should I now take refuge under one?

maybe I’m the only person in the world that hadn’t heard of Lori Drew and the MySpace suicide, but her federal indictment for ‘bullying a young girl on the Internet’ was news to me.

I’m not going to comment on the nature of the bullying or the outcome — clearly tragic, bordering on horrific. I’m not going to argue against punishment in general, but I have to express concern over the origin of the charges.

“federal charges for fraudulently using an account on MySpace” — seriously? what constitutes fraudulent use of MySpace? if I overstate my hot-ness, is that fraud? what if I accept friend requests from people who aren’t really friends? if I LOLZ at things that aren’t really funny?

I know, the indictment focuses the three counts on “accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress”:

  • “accessing protected computers without authorization…” – this asserts that Drew wasn’t legally authorized because she gave false registration information, posing as a 16-year old boy. it’s not like she hacked into their system, she used their weak/unaudited registration system. and if accessing with falsified information is a crime, there are literally millions and millions of illegal logins everyday through MySpace, Hotmail, Yahoo, WordPress — you name the system.
  • “… to obtain information…” — I’m not a legal scholar, but this law sounds like it was written to address hacking: gaining unauthorized access to systems and obtaining stored data. Drew didn’t use her bogus account and it’s basic access to launch a more sophisticated hacking attack on MySpace. nor did she use that account to access stored data on her target, like accessing a database full of credit card numbers or SSNs. she used the platform (messages and IM) and social engineering — no different than if she had called the girl on the phone and pretended to be a young man. if she had done that, would she be facing this same indictment? how about if she got the phone service through bogus registration information? if she just attacked her verbally or through rumors would there be conspiracy charges, or are we to believe that the Internet somehow makes this different?

in the indictment, it spells out what an Internet Service Provider is (“provides access to the Internet”) and what a Social Network Service is (“building communities… [often] providing email and IM”) and then proceeds to incorrectly specify that MySpace is an ISP. ugh. hire a bit-head/packet-herder for an hour, get the technical details right.

did you know that it is an “Overt Act” to induce someone else to write something in an Instant Message? apparently Drew induced her victim to write, “aww sexi josh ur so sweet if u moved back u could see me up close and personal lol.” I can see how you might induce someone to agree with something you wrote, something simple like that, but how do you induce someone to write something unscripted?

“Anyone who engages in harassment and violates the law similar to Ms. Drew is subject to investigation and prosecution on the right facts.”

so millions and millions of people who knowingly use accounts with false registration data run the risk of prosecution “on the right facts” — what kind of Orwellian language is that? they didn’t charge her with Harassment, they charged her with Conspiracy.

in Do Something, for the children!, I said that Cyber-Bullying is “a problem that only affects losers.*” now, this may come as a shock to you, but my real name is not st4rbux and I am not a Ignignokt, as my avatar might suggest. I’m pretty sure the date of birth and zip code I entered in WordPress is also not legit. given this combination of facts — attacking losers and false registration information — could I be indicted? could you?

the thrust of the legal argument seems to be that violation of Terms of Service makes the system access “unauthorized”, and then you’re into potential legal trouble. so if I set up a web site and buried an obscure clause in the Terms (“use of the word ‘whatnot’ in any forum, private message, or instant message violates the Terms of Service”), then I could get the federal government to prosecute anyone who used that phrase? I thought Terms of Service were contractual agreements between service providers and customers, and violations would be a contractual matter and not criminal. oh who am I kidding, everything that is not expressly permitted is forbidden; isn’t that where we’re headed?

after all this, I found a follow up on Wired:
Experts Say MySpace Suicide Indictment Sets ‘Scary’ Legal Precedent. I’m not an expert, but it’s never too late to go back and get a law degree…

In their eagerness to visit justice on a 49-year-old woman involved in the Megan Meier MySpace suicide tragedy, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles are resorting to a novel and dangerous interpretation of a decades-old computer crime law — potentially making a felon out of anybody who violates the terms of service of any website, experts say.

“This is a novel and extreme reading of what [the law] prohibits,” says Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “To say that you’re violating a criminal law by registering to speak under a false name is highly problematic. It’s probably an unconstitutional reading of the statute.”


* I hadn’t heard about the Drew/suicide case at the time, and might have shown more tact if I had known. probably not, but it’s nice to think so.

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my problem with super-delegates

I don’t have a problem with the existence of super-delegates. there are no guarantees that party nominations need to be representationally democratic — despite the rising rhetoric.

here’s the thing I don’t get — what are these super-delegates waiting for? I can not believe that they are holding out for more information about the candidates to determine which one best represents their views. virtually everything about Clinton and Obama (well, short of the promised October Surprise) is known and, to use her term, vetted.

undeclared Hillary super-supporters benefit by leaking their numbers out slowly; as long as that count continues to climb, she can make a half-hearted claim that she has a chance to eventually swing the total in her favor. if she could convince everyone in her camp to pledge their vote tomorrow, and the number came up short of a clear win, then she would have to concede defeat.

undeclared Obama supporters gain nothing by holding their pledge back — unless anyone really believes that the delegate math won’t hold up in his favor. if they pledge support for him and she somehow wins — I’m sure that it would be a world-of-hurt to be a Democrat on the wrong side of the Clinton presidency.

by this logic, all the Obama super-supporters should pledge their votes as soon as possible, expecting that if it doesn’t put him over the top, it will at least solidify his position and the remaining primaries will make it official. I can’t imagine that an Obama surge would give Clinton any more ‘comeback’-firepower (you know, rally the troops with a last-ditch big push) in the remaining primary states… perhaps a bit, but again not enough to turn things around.

so here’s another prospect — Hillary supporters are holding back because they want to be able to vote for Hillary after they are sure Obama has the nomination. this may sound counter-intuitive, but it could work in their favor… if they aren’t likely to play a supporting role in an Obama administration, the vote for Clinton would gain them favor down the road (not a bad thing to have, especially if she makes a run in ’12).

three reasons why you might want Obama vs McCain, even though you’re a Hillary supporter:

  1. you fear McCain will beat Hillary this year (fulfilling Operation Chaos)
  2. you think Obama has a better chance to beat McCain, and being sure McCain loses is the most important thing for you right now
  3. you’re not confident Hillary will beat McCain, but you think Obama will certainly lose to McCain, who will make things worse in the next four years and Hillary will have a significantly stronger run in ’12 with Obama out of the way. destiny is delayed by 4 years, but her destiny is fulfilled. and maybe you get a cabinet position for your loyalty.

make no mistake — strategery abounds.

and for what it’s worth, I don’t understand Obama’s supporters claiming that the superdelegates should reflect the popular vote (percentage-wise, I presume) — how would you orchestrate them to do that? by revoking the privilege of choosing whichever candidate they desire and instructing them on how to vote (basically 50-50, at this point)? or do they mean that all the super-delegate votes should go to the popular vote winner (winner-takes-all of the national popular vote)? either way, sounds like a sure fire way to generate animosity within the party.


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