Category Archives: Bongos

How to Read Tech News

News should be read with global context and broad perspective. When you blend Techmeme headlines with Voice Of America it’s hard to get so excited about rounded corners and iPads. Try it:

Techmeme & Voice Of America

Too often we configure our news experience to focus on the safe and the comfortable. Blinders are fine until you forget that you put them on yourself. Remember to take them off sometimes and look around.

With Which to Psychoanalyse Julian Assange

Selections from Rubberhose.

Our journey begins with example code from the style guide showing a preoccupation with sex, drugs, and jail time:

	enum myheadhurts {lsd, mda, mdma, thc, peyote, women};

[...]

	if (foo1 &&
	    boo1 &&
	    (sex1 && sex2))

[...]

	if (chdir("/home/lolita" == 0)
		lolitastuff();

[...]

		struct hurricane
		{
			int years;
			char sex;
			int parole;
		}

current/src/doc/proff.style

This instructional snippet encodes a government conspiracy:

	== frazer.c ==

	bool CIA_support = TRUE;

	static int campaign_fund;
	static int frazer_dollars:
	static char *frazer_mental_state = "hopeful";

	void
	frazer(void)
	{
		frazer_dollars -= bribe_kerr(frazer_dollars);
		campaign_find -= frazer_dollars/2;
		if (dismiss_govenment &&
		    strcasecmp(dismiss_action, "care-taker"))
			frazer_mental_state = "hot doggarty dog";
	}

current/src/doc/HACKING

Before we dive into a colorful autobiographical narrative, two brief fantasies:

		onion routed block-device! yeah!
		  nb. time to lay off the weed

current/src/TODO

The story of naming the program is an entertaining read. These highlights shed light on the character of the author:

Guards. Guardians. The Greeks didn't have many with bite and I'm
loosing patience with the whole culture. Euphrosyne, Aglaia, and
Thalia do not grace me.  What I need is something that evokes
passion within my cryptographic domain. And when you come down to
it, that means something which produces copious amounts of gore
and blood, at will, from those who would dare to pass its demesne
of protection.

[...]

You had to hand it to Sigmund. He was nothing if not authoritative,
and after reading his inspiring words on the terrific serpent haired
woman, two things became clear to me. One, _Proffs_ and the Gorgon had
certain unresolved metaphorical incompatibilities and two, Sigmund was
clinically insane. I didn't want my software giving anyone a
castration complex, but I didn't want to give up snorting coke either.

[...]

If MARUTUKKU was my exquisite cryptographic good, of wit, effusive
joy, ravishing pleasure and flattering hope; then where was the
counter point? The figure to its ground - the sharper evil, the
madness, the melancholy, the most cruel lassitudes, disgusts and the
severest disappointments. Was Hume right? Because if he was, there was
only one organisation this string of hellish adjectives could
represent. The cryptographic devil with its 500,000 sq feet of office
space in Maryland. But surely there could be no reference to such an
organisation in the 4,000 year old Babylonian tablets.  The idea was
preposterous. Wasn't it?

TABLET VII OF THE ENUMA ELISH:

ESIZKUR shall sit aloft in the house of prayer;
   May the gods bring their presents before him, that from
   him they may receive their assignments; none can without
   him create artful works.  Four black-headed ones are
   among his creatures; aside from him no god knows the
   answer as to their days.

It's a cold and wintry night here in Melbourne and the gusts of wind
and rain seem to be unusually chilling. What had I, in my search for a
cryptographic mythology, stumbled onto?

I look hard at the seven letters E-S-I-Z-K-U-R. A frown turns to
a smile and then a dead pan stare. I write down:

			  IRK ZEUS

current/src/MYTHOLOGY

Finally, the quip that inspired me to compile these excerpts:

Some possible alternatives to passphrase based keying (we have some more
notes on these ideas, but no code or concrete design documentation):

[...]

	6) Colour contrast discrimination. It has been shown that individuals see
	   slightly different hues due to visual cortex and cone cell / retina
	   variation. It maybe possible to design moire or 
	   other tests on 24 bit displays which are recognisable by
	   one party but not another. Just hope no-one runs a magnet
	   over your monitor. Interestingly, one drug that this method is
	   highly likely to detect is Viagra, which intereacts with the retinal
	   environment to produce hue distortions. Rubberhose is naturally
	   arousing so we don't see this as being an issue.

current/src/ideas/keying

Here ends an incomplete and unrepresentative picture intended for entertainment only. Cheers to you, Julian, for making life on Earth more entertaining. I wish you liberty.

p.s. I wonder how many encrypted aspects exist in the insurance file. You wouldn’t let one key unlock the whole file, spending all of your insurance at once. The first key must expose a little bit of data while leaving the bulk of it encrypted. If it contains anything as clever as a Rubberhose extent, one can never be certain whether the insurance policy has been exhausted.

p.p.s. Love the sig':

-- 
Prof. Julian Assange  |If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people
                      |together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks
proff@iq.org          |and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless
proff@gnu.ai.mit.edu  |immensity of the sea. -- Antoine de Saint Exupery

Ketchup Calculus

Recently Heinz announced they have reformulated their tomato ketchup with about 15% less salt. Because they hold six tenths of the ketchup market, and because their recipe has not changed in nearly 40 years, this must have been a hard decision to make. They probably predicted some negative reactions. Why did they proceed?

Heinz altered their flagship product under pressure from politicians, but not yet under force of law. Here is an oversimplified economical argument for reformulating ketchup with less salt. Continue reading Ketchup Calculus

Interstate Commerce Abuse

Let’s make a deal. I am a private entity and you are a private entity. Can our transaction ever be called Commerce among States? Am I a State? Are you a State? No. We are private entities conducting a private transaction. Then what gives the Federal government the power to regulate our transactions? They claim that power derives from this clause:

[The Congress shall have the power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;

Regardless of our communication or trading across State borders, this clause does not refer to us. It refers to recognized bodies of government: Nations, States, and Indian tribes. We are not governments. We are private entities.

If the United States Congress has the power to regulate my Commerce then I’m a State and I demand my own Representative and two Senators.

Nowhere does the Constitution give Congress the power to regulate our transaction. To quote the Tenth Amendment, that power is “reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” If there exists a State law respecting our transaction then we must obey that law. No Federal law can apply to our transaction because we never gave Congress that power.

The only reason the State government should get involved is if one of the parties to a transaction (you or I) accuses the other of a wrong and seeks recourse. The Federal government has no power to regulate our private Commerce until one of us seeks recourse and there is a dispute among the States of jurisdiction, or until we seek recourse from the Federal government against the States.

I recognize that I have to share this great country with people who disagree with me. I’m just floating some ideas here. I am not a lawyer, a legislator, nor a legal scholar, but I sure disagree with a lot of Supreme Court decisions. At least a few Supreme Court justices have believed as I do. Sadly they were too few.

Omitted from this writing is any suggestion of how our Federal politicians could reform the current apparatus into one which operates correctly. That is a trick question because no politician would ever lift a finger to reduce their own power. Politicians are also incapable of that transgression against their brethren. And by “politicians” I mean the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial. All branches are complicit in the tendency to accumulate powers.

The only way to trim the Federal powers is by amending the Constitution. Such reform would be contrary to the interests of the majority of Federal politicians. Adversarial action must be done by adversaries. It can’t be done through Congress; it must be done to Congress by the States. The Constitution lights the way in Article Five:

The Congress, […] on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which […] shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof…

This is the only lawful and peaceful way to compel Congress. Every other road is slick with blood.

I welcome your opinion.

Islamophobia is bad but it is a good step

A national ban on an architectural element seems silly but the vote to stop the construction of minarets in Switzerland is a real accomplishment. The people of a mature country have peacefully expressed a strong collective feeling against what they perceive as a grave threat. The tragedy is that they identified the threat as the Islamic religion.

The real threat is more general, more widespread, and more dangerous than Islam. It took something as extreme as Islamic extremism to trigger a cultural awareness of it. Unfortunately, like the ringing of an alarm clock, the first thing to awaken consciousness is for a time the only piece of reality about which we are aware. Islamic extremism is the alarm clock.

The supporters of the minaret ban see the growth of the Muslim population as an aggressive cultural invasion. They don’t see an immigrant minority that deserves state protection. They see settlers from a destructive culture claiming their country. They feel vilified within their homeland by outsiders and they are afraid that their politicians will continue to insist on irrational “religious tolerance” despite the intolerant attitudes spread through Islam.

National Islamophobia is a phase whose time has come. It is extreme, prejudiced, and wrong, but it is the natural reaction against the wrong actions of extremists trying to universalize Islam. Two wrongs do make a right when everyone learns a lesson. The lesson here is that no protection for status, be it religion, race, sex, or what have you, is deserved when it is used for harm.

Religions have been invoked to excuse atrocious behavior since ages before the life of Muhammad. So have other statuses such as race, color, nationality, and sex. The world tends to absolve these harmful trends after a reform and some generations. And the human race eventually learns a lesson.

I see the minaret ban as a sign that the world is just beginning to reject religion as an excuse for bad behavior. Peaceful Muslims will work with non-Muslims to prevail over the radical perversion of Islam. This time will pass into history and be replaced by a time of rational discrimination and careful tolerance. I hope I’m right, the sooner the better.