I make films. I'm also a nerd.

Posts in culture:

Mandatory Blood Draws In Tennessee This Weekend

The Inquisitr:

Holidays are the only excuse most Americans need to get some alcohol in their system and party it up. This is all well and good, but the Tennessee police are demanding that you not drive in those cases. As faulty as breathalysers can be, they’re upping the ante, at least in Tennessee. Drunk or not, if you pass a DUI checkpoint this Labor Day in Tennessee and they suspect you’re impaired in any way, prepare to face the needle.

In this (and in other) piece(s), the cited reaction from John Q. Public is more or less: “I think this is good, because people die from drunks and stuff, so please flush all of my human rights down the shitter.”

America is dead.

Zuckerberg Wants To Help Poor People (By Selling Them)

In case you haven't heard, Mark Zuckerberg has a plan to put millions of cell phones in the hands of poverty-stricken individuals in “developing”1 nations. It sounds great, right? How could there possibly be a catch?

Oh, wait, there is a catch. Access to the Internet would be limited to only a few “key services.” Guess which giant Web service Zuckerberg considers to be “key.”

Bloomberg draws the correct conclusion:

The uncharitable way of looking at Zuckerberg’s charitable endeavor, in other words, is to see it as an effort to permanently entangle Facebook in the lives of the next wave of Internet consumers, and to attract a public subsidy at the same time.

Since what Facebook sells is “eyeballs”2, in some ways Zuckerberg's approach here is not too different from that of a logging baron who seeks a federal subsidy and access to federal land–we've all heard stories like that one for decades. What's different here—the bit that really makes my stomach turn—is the bullshit pretense of philanthropy in Zuckerberg's approach.

  1. As a politically correct term, “developing” stinks, and is hardly better than “third world.” It presumes that poorer nations in Africa and South America are striving with all of their might to arrive at a future in which Venezeula's Got Talent is the height of culture. After all, that's where “development” has led us. 
  2. Ugh, I can't believe I just wrote that. I've been in the Valley too long. 

Federal Judge Rules California Can Force-Feed Protesting Prisoners

Don Thompson (writing for the Associated Press or for the Huffington Post, or for some weirdly incestuous amalgam of the two) writes:

U.S. military officials came under heavy criticism from human rights advocates when they snaked feeding tubes through the noses and into the stomachs of terror suspects who refused to eat.

California prison officials won a court order Monday saying they could force-feed dozens of inmates who have been on a hunger strike for six weeks over solitary confinement conditions.

We've already decided not to give a rat's ass about the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, so why continue giving a shit about the Eighth? We need to keep our prisoners strong, so they can manufacture things for the good of the Republic.

Millions Living In Staggering Poverty

According to the National Poverty Center, millions of Americans are living in Third-World conditions:

Using the 1996-2008 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), we estimate that in mid-2011, 1.65 million households with 3.55 million children were living in extreme poverty in a given month, based on cash income.

How do they choose to define "extreme poverty?" The term describes a person living on $2 or less per day.

In America.

Ladar Levison May Be Arrested For Shutting Lavabit Down

NBC News:

The owner of an encrypted email service used by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden said he has been threatened with criminal charges for refusing to comply with a secret surveillance order to turn over information about his customers.

"I could be arrested for this action," Ladar Levison told NBC News about his decision to shut down his company, Lavabit LLC, in protest over a secret court order he had received from a federal court that is overseeing the investigation into Snowden.

Let’s take a minute to applaud the size of this guy’s balls. He’s willing to go to jail in order to protect his customers’ data. Henry David Thoreau would be proud.

Email Is Inherently Insecure

The recent shutdowns of Lavabit and Silent Circle—two supposedly "secure" email providers—demonstrate perfectly the limitations of the medium. MIT Technology Review notes:

When e-mail was created 40 years ago, security or anonymity wasn’t part of the design. The routing and labeling protocols plainly state what computer sent it or forwarded it, what computer received it, and what time all this happened. “There are far too many leaks of information and metadata intrinsically in the e-mail protocols themselves,” says Mike Janke, CEO of Silent Circle, whose customers include people in companies and government agencies with secrets to protect. “It doesn’t matter what you try to do with e-mail, there are these inherent weaknesses. So we got rid of Silent Mail [the company’s e-mail service]. We deleted all of it, burned it, and threw it in the ocean with locks and chains on it. People lost all their e-mail, but the response went from ‘Why would you do this?’ to ‘Thanks for doing this.’ “

Even if your email is encrypted by your provider, that provider will have to give the key(s) to any law-enforcement agency who cares enough to ask for it. Furthermore, the email protocol itself is exceedingly transparent about who sent the mail and who sent it. A lot of information about you is revealed even if you go to great lengths to encrypt your communications with the greatest crypto-nerd care.

This Gmail privacy kerfuffle is ridiculous. As soon as you hand your message to a third party, you lose any reasonable expectation of privacy. It’s not only the law, it’s just common sense. Remember trying to pass a "secret" note in elementary school, only to have it unfortunately intercepted by some dickhead middleman? It’s like that.

Turn Your Damned Gadgets Off and Watch the Movie

Hunter Walk has a really dumb / dicky idea he’d like to share with us:

In my 20s I went to a lot of movies. Now, not so much. Over the past two years becoming a parent has been the main cause but really my lack of interest in the theater experience started way before that. Some people dislike going to the movies because of price or crowds, but for me it was more of a lifestyle decision. Increasingly I wanted my media experiences plugged in and with the ability to multitask. Look up the cast list online, tweet out a comment, talk to others while watching or just work on something else while Superman played in the background. Of course these activities are discouraged and/or impossible in a movie theater.

Those activities are "discouraged and/or impossible" because: only giant, solipsistic, rude sacks of douche would wish to engage in them. If you can’t focus on a movie for 90 minutes, don’t ruin it for everyone else. Stay at home. Please.

TOR Browser Bundle Hacked to Send Your Identity to the Feds

One paragraph stands out in this piece at Wired:

“It just sends identifying information to some IP in Reston, Virginia,” says reverse-engineer Vlad Tsrklevich. “It’s pretty clear that it’s FBI or it’s some other law enforcement agency that’s U.S.-based.”

No matter what you do, the secret police are going to watch you do it.

Pigs and Trolls

Bruce Sterling has a brief laugh at the absurd ineffectualness displayed by the government in all of this Snowden business:

The pigs in Orwell’s “Animal Farm” have more suavity than the US government is demonstrating now. Their credibility is below zero.

[…] Even US Senators are decorative objects for the NSA. An American Senator knows as much about PRISM and XKeyScore as a troll-doll on the dashboard knows about internal combustion.

Nobody elected the NSA.

Police Dash Terror Threat Posed By Woman’s Quinoa

Adam Gabbatt relates this ridiculous tale of institutional idiocy for The Guardian:

A New York woman says her family’s interest in the purchase of pressure cookers and backpacks led to a home visit by six police investigators demanding information about her job, her husband’s ancestry and the preparation of quinoa.

[…] “What the hell is quinoa?” police asked when Catalano’s husband told them what pressure cookers were used for in their household.

It’s good to know that our fascist storm troopers are complete morons, right?