What Civil Liberties do we have left?

I know my blog is long overdue for an update, so this issue really got me started again.

After the Senate's complete ignorance of anything remotely resembling the American Constitution, they voted 69-28 to grant telecom companies immunity for their role in illegal and unethical wiretaps.  Looks like it's now okay to monitor communications without a proper warrant.  (The lack of warrant, admittedly, has more to do with the USA Patriot act than the FISA amendment.)

Sen. Obama, the presumed Democratic nominee for President, voted for the amendment.  Looks like his campaign speeches about civil liberties in this country don't extend quite so far as the Senate floor.  Perhaps he thought that he would be labeled as un-patriotic for supporting the Constitution.  In any case, I had been prepared to support Sen. Obama, however his vote on this issue and changes in his speeches since Sen. Clinton dropped out of the race has made me significantly question that.  Maybe he'd like to use the Constitution for White House toilet paper, if he makes it there.

Also notable is that Sen. McCain couldn't even be bothered to vote.  I guess he had better things to do, like the never-ending presidential campaign.  Or, perhaps, it just escaped his elderly mind, as things like the Bill of Rights and your job as a United States Senator tend to do once you reach his age.

In any case, it's a shame that there's no Presidential candidate who wants to support the people.  Instead, we will continue to have a country driven by a fear of 3rd-world people hiding in caves and remote villages in the Middle East.

British Police Don't Know Difference Between MP3 Player and Gun

[Normally, I stay away from politics on this blog, but this one is just over the top]

It seems that the British were taking notes when they invaded Germany in the 1940s -- it's time to throw civil liberties to the wind and throw people in jail for nothing, just in case they might try something later.  A man was arrested, fingerprinted, and DNA tested because the police are too blind to tell the difference between a gun and an MP3 player.  Additionally, once they realized they had made fools of themselves, they couldn't even offer a proper apology.  Oh, and in case anyone was missing it, they tracked him on CCTV cameras the whole way.  It wouldn't quite be a police state if we couldn't watch everyone at every second, now would it?

A Case of the Mondays

It seems like I have been hit with a case of the mondays.  My job (end user tech support at my school) sucks.  I don't mind helping people -- I love it in fact -- but I feel like a trained monkey sometimes.  90% of my time is spent resetting passwords.

In any case,  I am usually able to combat this with some of my entertainment sites (see below for the curious), but lately I've been looking more for a project to work on.  My learning process is heavily tied to getting something done -- I can read a book on Python (or whatever), but for me to understand it, I need a real-world project using it to work on.  No "hello world" application can grab my interest enough.  Perhaps it's some form of ADD.

So what does this all mean?  I'm becoming restless.  I need a project.  I've tried looking into becoming a MOTU, but I'm not sure I fully understand the process (and it's hard to fix bugs in apps I don't even use).  Something practical and useful, but not so large as to stretch into months or years.  (At least, I'd like something I can make progress on before months or years.)

Any ideas on ways to combat this crappy boredom?

Mythbusters: Yes to Ubuntu, No to Vista

Jamie Hyneman of Discovery Channel's Mythbusters (an awesome show) occasionally writes a bit for Popular Mechanics.  This time he's talking about Technology Headaches.  One of those headaches, as most of the IT world has seen, is Windows Vista.  His solution? Ubuntu Linux.  Pretty awesome that one of the guys that can build ANYTHING chooses Ubuntu.  Now if only we could get a Ubuntu-powered robot out of him.  :)


FCC Comments on Network Neutrality

I just wanted to reiterate Michael Trausch's request that anyone concerned with their ability to use the internet freely should file a comment with the FCC on Network Neutrality (and Comcast's filtering, etc.)  See his post for directions on submitting a comment.

Here's what I had to say to the FCC:

Comments on FCC Docket 07-52:

Network neutrality has been a key part of the internet since its invention. Many technologies have originated from the ability to experiment and try new things on the internet. The most successful economic boom in our country's history directly derived from the ability to use the internet as one saw fit. Would we have had the economic growth of the late 90s without the ability to innovate new technologies like streaming media, web conferences, and open software development?

The idea that an Internet Service Provider can select what we, as consumers, are allowed to do without our consent is both harmful and insulting to the American spirit of exploration and innovation. ISPs are expected to provide end-to-end connectivity of a certain bandwidth without interference. Having an ISP perform filtering is akin to having roads that are only usable by people traveling to some destinations. Such filtering limits the ability of the individual to communicate and sets a precedent similar to the Internet filtering in countries like Iran and China.

The Internet was built on an open platform based on information exchange and sharing. It is important that the user be able to reap every possible benefit, especially since ISPs rely on the user for their economic lifeblood. In no other industry would such interference with the customer be permissible. The FCC must continue to uphold America's freedom to innovate, and the consumer's freedom of expression.


David Tomaschik