Sunday, November 18, 2007

Not So Quite Hushmail

Maybe we just can't trust anyone anymore. Hushmail has long been considered one the most secure ways of communicating., They even advertise their service as a protection against government surveillance.

In some countries, government sponsored projects have been set up to collect massive amounts of data from the Internet, including emails, and store them away for future analysis. This data collection is done without any search warrant, court order, or subpoena. One example of such a program was the FBI's Carnivore project. By using Hushmail, you can be assured that your data will be protected from that kind of broad government surveillance.

There were some emails the U.S government wanted to look at and it looks like the Hushmail just turned it right over to them. Well, they turned it over to the Canadiens who then turned it over to the American DEA.

Hushmail claims to offer unreadable email as it uses PGP encryption technology and a company specific key management system that it says will ensure only the sender and recipient can read the emails. However it seems the Canadian company has been divulging keys to the American authorities.

The document describes the tracking of an anabolic steroid manufacturer who was being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The document alleges that the majority of those engaged in the trade in anabolic steroids use Hushmail to communicate.

The DEA agents received three CDs of decrypted emails which contained decrypted emails for the targets of the investigation that had been decrypted as part of a mutual legal assistance treaty between the United States and Canada.

Thats right, it wasn't about terrorist, or narcotics. It was about steroids. I got to wonder if there is any privacy over the net any more. My real concern though is if whether we've tipped off any Islamic Terrorist that might be using Hushmail. The government showing its hand over something petty like seems silly. It does confirm our belief that the government is more concerned about the war on drugs than they are about the war on folks who are trying to blow us up.

You can't trust anyone anymore.

Update: More details on how they did it can be found on Wired

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Free is a Good Price

Some of my favorite programs are free. I use and find Calc98 a requirement for any computer I use. Great for every day calculations and conversions. It is more sophisticated than I will ever be. It will convert just about Unit to just about anything Whether its Scientific or Engineering. It does a great job of keeping the the decimal multipliers to units divisible by 3 such as 12.6555E-6, or 724.98E12 so it is user friendly when dealing with mega, micro and Kilo prefixes. It even works on WindowsCE PDA's and cellphones.

Another essential program that I use every day is IrfanView. Most folks have an image viewer in their system, but IrfanView is different. Its a small fast loading program, and it allows quick resizing, It actually seems to do a more accurate job of resizing than Photoshop. And if course it is faster. Now this isn't a a full featured image editor, but it sure does a good job of basic viewing, and scanner interfacing. It does what it does well and the cost (free) is very hard to beat.

Another set of programs that I find I'm using more and more is the Suite. I have Windows Office both here and at work, I also have Open Office here at work and on my thumbdrive. It works and works well. Seems as though lately I'm drifting more and more to it. Now I'm not a poweruser, but it seems as though it does anything that the big expensive Msoft office does. But As I get more familiar with it Open Office just seems more intuitive. Today I upgraded my home installation from 2.02 to 2.3.0. While there are some functional changes that I haven't used yet. Graphing in Calc ,the spreadsheet program, is supposed to be improved., I thought it worked pretty decent in the old version. Then again my demands aren't that difficult. What I did notice during the upgrade process was that there was a lot more help and documentation to be found. Much of it can be found referenced from pages, and also in Wiki I have found it much easier to find help and figure out how to make things work for Open Office than for Office programs. Its about the community, and the Open office community is determined to make it work and support abounds. But perhaps the neatest thing is extentions. Extensions allow for customizing the programs to fit ones needs. Some of these might be simple Templates, other may be much more complex. Most are free. Others seem reasonably priced This article is posted using the WebLog Extension time will tell if its worth the 10 bucks.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Silence of the Blog

It amazes me that those whom are charged to educate our children could be so stupid. apparently the GISD thought they could silence the criticism aimed at them buy bullying a small grassroots site that has taken offense on the way GISD does things. The problem is that their technique almost always backfires and never works.

They don't like what has been said about them so they decide to threaten to to use the resources of the school district to sue the offending website. They probably thought a nasty letter from some bigshot lawyer would be enough to silence those who would dare criticize. Obviously they don't understand the web the blogosphere, or even the first amendment. Attempting to shut down criticism through lawyers never works. This is because the press, other bloggers and anyone else on the net will pick up the story. And even more folks will get to read the offending articles. Everyone tends to to forget about the offending article but all remember the bullys that tried to shut down dissenting speech. GISD Watch has this to say about it.

After careful consideration and extensive legal advice, I have decided that our First Amendment right to speak out and question a governmental entity and its individually elected officials and administrators is more important than the personal hardship that a lawsuit may place on my self and my family.
In response to the District’s Demand Letter, I have decided to retain Mr. Tony Buzbee and The Buzbee Law Firm who has enthusiastically agreed to vigorously defend our right to free speech granted to us in The United States Constitution. The children of Galveston and their right to a high quality education are worth fighting for.
GANS will continue to fight against what we believe to be the harmful reconfiguration and the irresponsible closures of elementary schools.
We will continue to examine the management of the district.
We will continue to be a voice for the children, parents and teachers of the Galveston Independent School District.

Today I noticed that Glenn Reynolds blogged about it. Thats a few hundred thousand viewers. GISD Watch is getting all this extra attention. This is not what GISD had in mind I'm sure. All this extra attention is about how stupid GISD trustees are. They just have to be feeling real proud of themselves. In fact they are being forced to do a tactical retreat.

It appeared late Friday that the district was backing down from its threat to sue a parent for defamation.

In a statement issued late Friday afternoon, Superintendent Lynne Cleveland recommended that the district drop all legal action against a Web site it has accused of defamation.

Cleveland said she’s recommending backing off the legal action because she did not want to pull the focus away from the education of children any longer.

“I think I’ve made it very, very clear the reason I’m here is for the students,” she said. “The students have already suffered enough because of other issues out there that don’t pertain to their education, and I’m not going to let that happen to them anymore.”

Tetley said though she’s glad Cleveland has “come to her senses,” the district’s abuse of power is not acceptable.

“They have tried to crush the voice of the parents of this district, and it is inexcusable and illustrates the lack of leadership at the top,” she wrote in a statement. “They have wasted tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money trying to silence honest concerns by the parents of the district. If we felt like the district truly listened to us, we would not have created this Web site.”

Board President David O’Neal said he was not aware of Cleveland’s recommendation late Friday. He said the board would make the final decision.

People in Galveston probably won't remember to much what the original complaints were all about, but they sure will remember that Superintendent Lynne Cleveland of GISD is a litigious censor that would use taxpayer money to shut down criticism. I bet it could cost her some votes. What could they have been thinking?

Maybe It will all be Worth It..

I claimed we won the the war months ago, The details are in the cleanup. While I don't know if our job will ever be finished there, Its all about progress. The most persuasive proof I've seen is photo posted on the InstaPundit.

Michael Yon emails: "I photographed men and women, both Christians and Muslims, placing a cross atop the St. John's Church in Baghdad. They had taken the cross from storage and a man washed it before carrying it up to the dome. A Muslim man had invited the American soldiers from 'Chosen' Company 2-12 Cavalry to the church, where I videotaped as Muslims and Christians worked and rejoiced at the reopening of St John's, an occasion all viewed as a sign of hope. The Iraqis asked me to convey a message of thanks to the American people. 'Thank you, thank you,' the people were saying. One man said, 'Thank you for peace.' Another man, a Muslim, said 'All the people, all the people in Iraq, Muslim and Christian, is brother.' The men and women were holding bells, and for the first time in memory freedom rang over the ravaged land between two rivers.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Fred Phelps and his Mery band of the Westboro Baptist Church have been slapped with a nearly $11 million verdict. While it first glance we find ourselves cheering. Greg though is troubled
So let's be clear about the goal of this suit -- it was to punish speech conducted in a public place, speech that is fully protected by the Constitution, on the grounds that it is hurtful, offensive, and outrageous. That troubles me very deeply, and it is my profound hope that the decision is thrown out on appeal as incompatible with the First Amendment.
Few will have any sympathy with these idiots, but Greg certainly makes a good point.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Language Cops Drop Charges.

A Clear Creek ISD teacher who happens to be the former mayor of LeagueCity was charged with disorderly conduct for telling an unruly student to "sit your ass down." Charges have been dropped. The Daily News Tells about it:

LEAGUE CITY, TX — Clear Creek Independent School District won’t pursue a disorderly conduct charge lodged against former Mayor Leonard Cruse after an Oct. 23 incident at Clear Creek High School, where Cruse was working as a substitute teacher.

A letter dated Thursday from Superintendent of Schools Sandra Mossman to Assistant Criminal District Attorney Ted Mora said the district did not “wish to pursue the charge.”

Calling the situation a personnel matter, district officials declined why they decided to drop the misdemeanor charges.

Cruse was accused of using profanity against a student to whom he said: “Sit your ass down.”

“We have no reason to believe he was provoked by any student,” district spokeswoman Elaina Polson said at the time.

Cruse, 66, a former attorney who was mayor in the 1970s, said the accusation was outrageous. He claims he was not escorted from the classroom by a sheriff’s deputy, as district officials said.

“The teacher next door went to bring a deputy back to assist me in getting control of a ‘rough’ class,” he said Friday in written statement.

Cruse has demanded apologies, but the district said none would be forthcoming.

He also claims that the district did not terminate his employment as substitute teacher, as the district claimed, but instead resigned.

Cruse noted that he continues to teach in Alvin, Friendswood, Dickinson and Texas City districts.
I lived in that district and sent my 2 boys to that same school.
They were inflexible then, It seems they still are. The first thing one might notice is that Mr. Cruse seems to have an impeccable background. He was mayor a lawyer, and in several school systems. It seems pretty outrageous to file charges against one of your own employees. Any teacher in the Clear Creek School District needs to know that not only will the district not be there for them, when the going gets tough, but they will lead the charge!! I can't imagine any employer pressing formal charges for over such pettiness.

Not much is said about the unruly class. It just seems that giving a classroom hell is more serious than a classroom running amuck.

Its also worth noting that the Galveston Daily News has no problem quoting the offending phrase.

Strange how the word 'ass' is deemed obscene. The word has 3 common meanings.
  1. Buttocks or Rear end
  2. Donkey
  3. A Buffoon
It seems that only in the 1st context that some folks would consider the usage of the word 'ass' obscene. However a list of synonyms from the Visual Thesaurus of synonyms using the buttocks definition is listed as:
  1. Backside
  2. Behind
  3. Bottom
  4. Bum
  5. Buns
  6. Can
  7. Butt
  8. Hindquarters
  9. Derriere
  10. Seat
  11. Rear
  12. Rear End
  13. Tush
  14. Stern
  15. Tail
  16. Prat
  17. Rump
  18. Buttocks
  19. Kiester
  20. Hind End
  21. Tooshie
  22. Tail End
For some reason none of these words will get anyone charged with a crime. This is not the first time I've had discussions about the word "ass" I went on about it in a Forum discussion when someone had the term "Cover Your Ass" censored. I suggested that covering ones donkey is not only appropriate but proper, and that the word they decided to censor is used in the King James version of The Bible. I don't think that many really understood my point, and couldn't get past the idea that 'ass' must be an evil word.

Back to Clear Creek Independent School District. I wonder if those that use the words v a g i n a and p e n i s ( sorry for the breakup but I don't mean to draw in googlers on these words) will be formally charged with disorderly conduct.