Monthly Archives: November 2009

Harsh But Fair?

Glenn Greenwald labels Sen. Evan Bayh as The face of rotted Washington.

And not without reason.

Posted in Politics: US | 17 Comments

For the Sci-Fi Geek in Your Life

Via Cheerfully Demented, details of auctions in which winners get the right to be “Tuckerized” in novels by Cory Doctorow, Charlie Stross, Nalo Hopkinson, David Brin, Elizabeth Bear, Julie Czerneda and Mary Robinette Kowal.

Tuckerizing is the inclusion of a real person's name in a fictional piece (according to boingboing). Apparently the norm is to get a minor character who dies a horrible gruesome death.

The auctions benefit charity, which is nice, although the particular charity, The Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund (TAFF) — which funds a delegate(s) from North America to Europe or from Europe to N. America, to attend a science fiction convention — would probably not be in my personal top 100 choices for charitable giving, even though it is certainly appropriate for this auction.

Posted in Shopping | 4 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving

I have family here for the holidays, so blogging will be light at best.

Posted in Personal | 1 Comment

Ben Kuehne Vindicated!

Here's something to be grateful for: Feds drop money-laundering case against Miami lawyer Ben Kuehne.

Justice was done too slowly here. But at least it was done.

Posted in Law: Ethics | 2 Comments

Where’s Phil Agre?

I wrote the post below about Phil Agre seven weeks ago, but somehow never put it online. Now I read via the Great Grimmelmann that Phil Agre Is Missing and there is a web site dedicated to finding Phil Agre.


It seems I am not the only one wondering Where's Phil Agre?.

Phil was an incandescent presence in the early Internet studies world. He was a brilliant but erratic presenter. Mostly brilliant, once in a while just boring. But mostly brilliant. Scary brilliant. I remember being on a panel with Phil, we met for dinner or something the night before, he had a talk planned and written out. I saw him the next day carrying around a bound set of lined paper, like one uses for a diary, and writing in it, covering every line, page after page. Finally I asked him what he was writing. “I had a different idea for the talk.” And indeed the talk he gave was nothing like the one he'd told us about the day before, but it was brilliant.

Phil also ran RRE – the Red Rock Eater, a set of links and notes that had thousands of subscribers, back at a time when that was a lot of subscribers.

Where does the name Red Rock Eater come from?

Bennett Cerf's Book of Riddles.

Question: What is big and red and eats rocks?

Answer: A big red rock eater.

Why such a funny name?

I wanted something as un-computer-like as possible.

Does the word “red” in the list's name have a political meaning?

Absolutely not.

Then one day, some time in 2003, he stopped posting to RRE, and more or less around then vanished from the conference scene. I miss him. I hope you're OK, Phil. There's a folder in my inbox waiting for you.

Posted in Internet | Leave a comment

We Predicted This Would Happen: Man Jailed in UK for Failing to Disclose Passphrase

UK jails schizophrenic for refusal to decrypt files.

In the UK under the odious Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), if you are served with an order to disclose a passphrase to an encrypted file and you don't, you're guilty.

We saw this coming ten years ago,

Caspar Bowden, director of the Foundation for Information Policy Research, said ministers still had the power to reintroduce such “objectionable proposals” later as regulations. He said two new offences in the bill raised serious civil liberties concerns:

“The bill will give police the power to demand decryption keys from anyone they suspect of possessing them, and failure to hand keys over can lead to a two-year jail sentence.

“Defendants will be presumed guilty of withholding a key unless they can prove otherwise, a likely contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights, and decryption notices will be secret, so it will be impossible to complain effectively if they are used in an oppressive way.”

A “tipping-off” offence could prevent innocent associates from complaining publicly, with a penalty of five-years imprisonment, he added.

The National Council for Civil Liberties took a similar line. Liberty's Director, John Wadham, said :

“These powers are too sweeping, and in some respects problematic. It's difficult to discern quite how an individual could prove that they didn't have a key: you can't prove a negative. This reversal of the burden of proof may well infringe the right to a fair trial. The indefinite gagging order on any individual whose e-mail has been intercepted is extraordinary.”

A Home Office spokeswoman denied the bill would mean defendants being presumed guilty. “The bill doesn't reverse the onus of proof, the authorities still have to prove that an offence has been committed for it to get off the ground,” she said.

What Sir Humphrey didn't tell the reporter, of course, is that the relevant “offence” is not disclosing the passphrase, not some underlying crime — of which in this case there is no evidence, although the defendant certainly has issues. But there's evidence that he didn't disclose his passphrase, and that is all it takes to jail him for nine months.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Cryptography, UK | 3 Comments

Trouble at the Borders

Borders is having a bad time in the US – $39M Loss in Q3 – and seems to be going broke in the UK.

Which is a shame, as I find their book stores a lot nicer than Barnes & Noble, which always seem cloned and unfriendly. But I can't say I'm surprised: we used to go to the local Borders on US 1 in Kendall a couple times a month. Oddly, no matter what we bought, the bill was just about the same — and fairly high. (Then we looked to run out of wall space for bookcases.) In time, we started making aggressive use of the excellent Miami library system, filling in the gaps with Amazon. And Borders lost a lot of business.

So it's probably our fault.

Posted in Shopping | 9 Comments