June 11, 2008

Blog Retirement and Rebirth

I don't know if anyone comes here anymore, but I suspect a few people may have this in their RSS reader or whatever. I'll make this short and sweet: I'm consolidating the three blogs that I have into one blog: I Push Buttons. If you care to follow me over there, I'd be happy to have you. The new blog should be a lot more interesting and active than any of my other ones, as it won't be content-specific. Basically, you get whatever crap that decides to come out of my head. Whether or not that is something of interest is up to you. If you don't want to come along, no hard feelings.

February 15, 2008

Congress Is Pissing Me Off

Author's note: I am a registered independent. I support no political party financially or in any other way. I support people, and I support my rights and the rights of everyone else as American citizens. If it were up to me, there would be no political parties, but such is the current nature of the beast.


Why does Congress continuously bend to whatever Bush says? Why are they so incredibly weak? When the Democrats gained control of Congress, I thought that they were going to reign the Bush Administration in a bit, especially in terms of the civil liberties of our own citizens. Instead, the Senate has passed a FISA bill that grants immunity to the telecommunications companies who complied with illegal wiretaps on this country's citizens.

How in the world can this possibly make sense to anyone in Congress? The only thing I can think of is that the people who are voting for this have something to lose, like campaign dollars. Although the amounts donated to campaigns have significantly decreased since 2000, both the Democrats and the Republicans have received similar amounts in campaign donations from the telecom industry for the last 20 years.

You can see who in the Senate voted to keep telecom immunity in the bill by going here. A couple of notes: YEA means they voted to REMOVE immunity and NAY means they voted to KEEP immunity. For those of you keeping score at home, Obama doesn't want to let the telecoms off the hook, McCain thinks they are entitled to a Get Out of Jail Free card, and Clinton is conspicuously absent from this vote (???).

If that wasn't bad enough, the Republicans stormed out of the House yesterday when the Democrats wouldn't immediately schedule a vote on this disgraceful piece of legislation. The Democrats instead wanted to vote on whether or not Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten should be held in contempt for refusing to respond to a subpoena to testify regarding the attorney firings. Seriously, what are you people, like five years old? You are the lawmakers of the United States of America. This is your job. Grow up. If you were at any other job, you would be fired for just walking out of work. If it were up to me, you would be fired. You don't get to take your ball and go home just because you don't agree with the way things are being scheduled. You accuse the Democrats of grandstanding and then turn around and do the exact thing that you are decrying. Instead of making some kind of point, you just end up looking like immature children.

On the plus side, it looks like the FISA bill in it's current state will die, and I'm all for that. As much as the Bush Administration may whine about this endangering the US, that is simply not true. In fact, this bill is not even necessary. Paraphrased from the House Intelligence Chair:

  1. The NSA can invoke Executive Order 12333 to conduct surveillance of any known (or suspected) terrorist overseas. They don't need a warrant, and they don't even have to have probable cause. This is how they get most of their data anyway.

  2. The NSA can use powers granted under the Protect America Act to conduct surveillance here in the U.S of any foreign target. This will not "expire" on February 16th, as Bush would have you believe. Any orders authorizing surveillance under this act are valid for a year until at least August of 2008. These orders cover any terrorist group, and if a new member of such a group is discovered, the NSA may add that person's email, phone, etc to the existing orders and continue with surveillance. These orders will not suddenly and magically cease to exist.

  3. In the remote situation where a completely new terrorist organization is discovered that hasn't been previously identified by the government, the NSA could still use existing authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor them. Yes, this does require getting a warrant through the FISA court, but in an emergency, the NSA or FBI can start surveillance immediately as long as they get the warrant within three days. These warrants can be issued in a matter of minutes.

Basically, the bill as it stands is NOT about National Security and/or Protecting The Children. It is about consolidating power. It is about the Bush administration trying to cover its ass. And it is about further deceiving the American public with more scare tactics. (You're not safe if this bill doesn't pass!) I can't for the life of me understand how this bill passed a Senate controlled by Democrats. This is just further proof that, for the most part, there is no difference between these two parties when it comes to things that really matter. If you think we actually have a two party system, you are incredibly naive. The way things are turning out this election season, it looks like Obama may be this country's only hope for real change. I just hope he's not all talk. I fear that if he turns out to be just another politician that this country may never recover.

Of course, I don't think the majority of the American public is even aware that this is going on. Get this boring political stuff off my TV! Britney's in the hospital!

Random Parting Thought:
I will be visiting my family in South Carolina until Wednesday of next week. I will try and post on Monday and Wednesday, but if I don't, now you know why.

February 13, 2008

Social Networking Or Data Mining?

I don't think that anyone who reads this needs to be told that you need to be careful what you put online. In today's world of search engines and other web crawling software, the internet has become the world's largest copying machine. But Google archiving isn't the only problem; take Facebook for example. If you want to delete your account from that site, be prepared for the long haul.

The main option that Facebook offers is to deactivate your account, not delete it. They keep an archive of all of your information so that, just in case you didn't really seriously truly want to delete your account, it can be restored with a minimal hassle. At least, that's one reason they keep it; who knows what else they do with the information in terms of deals with their advertising partners. So what do you have to do in order to permanently delete it? You have to go through and manually delete all of the information that you've put up there. Every photo, every comment, every crazy little application you added to your profile. Then, and only then it seems, can you delete your account permanently. (Note: This does not affect any information that any third party applications that you added may have already collected on you.)

Apparently sometimes even that doesn't work. Some other tactics that I've read to protect your information are to start flooding your profile with false things. Un-friend your actual friends. Invite people you don't even know. Change location and personal information. Enough of this and no one will be able to separate fact from fiction; it also has the benefit of looking like your account has been hacked. Another way is to violate as many of the terms of service as possible without doing anything illegal. Start spamming groups and walls and pretty much attempt to be as annoying as possible. Send emails to Facebook mocking their inability to stop you. Account deletion is sure to follow pretty quickly.

Of course, all of this may be a moot point. I think my generation is probably the last generation that will even care about this. The next generation has been raised on the internet. They are not only fully aware that social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace are storing all of this information about their personal lives, but they fully expect it. It's going to be pretty interesting in a few years when my generation is interviewing the next generation for job positions and their entire personal lives for the past ten years will be online for anyone to see.

February 11, 2008

What Would You Do For An HDTV?

Apparently, according to a recent survey of 2000 men in the UK, almost half of them would give up sex for six months in exchange for a free 50-inch plasma television. Of course, the article fails to mention whether these men were having sex on a regular basis in the first place. It would be a pretty trivial decision to give up something you don't have in exchange for a free HDTV. As for myself, it would certainly be a tempting offer, but I think it's one of those things where it's fairly easy to say that you'd do it when you don't have to actually make the decision.

What my wife (and subsequently myself) found surprising was the lower rate of women (around 33%) who would make the same sacrifice. Does this speak more for women's enjoyment of sex or for their indifference to technology? Judging by my wife's reactions to my current hunt for a high definition television, I think it's more the latter. However, when asked to choose between chocolate and sex, British women favored chocolate by more than half.

I guess this could be summed up as (Men => HDTV) AS (Women => Chocolate). This just further shows the differences between men and women: men would rather get fat sitting on their butts watching the game and women would rather get fat by ingesting tons of candy. The clincher in that last article, though, is that some of these women chose chocolate instead of sex because "chocolate provides guaranteed pleasure." Ouch. Luckily it was an anonymous survey, or that guy would be in serious therapy.

February 8, 2008

If You're Going To Ban Something, At Least Make Sense!

As almost everyone is aware, carrying more than 3oz of a liquid in an individual bottle (one quart-sized bag total allowed) onto an airplane has been forbidden for a while now. While I applaud the TSA for putting up a blog to open up a dialog with the people (or at least make the appearance of it), I have to laugh at their pathetic attempts to continue to try and rationalize this inane policy. I would go into more details about why their tactics are stupid, but it would just piss me off and raise my blood pressure. Plus, others have done a much better and more thorough job of it. So instead of reading a rant by me, read the article for yourself, and then continue on and read the comments and watch how every point is eviscerated by a knowledgeable public. Educate yourself and don't be deceived by the constant fear-mongering that this agency perpetuates.