Where are the Borders in the Computing Cloud?

Nominally, the case (linked at the end) is about “privacy”, but the underlying questions are far deeper and far more relevant to anyone who is using any form of “cloud” service: Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Twitter, Microsoft, etc. The government insists that it can access data belonging to a suspect even if that data is stored on a server in another country, but the service company, Microsoft in this case, insists that it cannot provide that data because that act violates the terms under which it operates its servers in Ireland. The question is, therefore, where is the virtual border drawn? Is material belonging to an American subject but stored on a server in a foreign country under a foreign account that was created in that country subject to US law or the laws of the country in which the account was created. A question in the affirmative leads to the following conundrum.

“If U.S. law enforcement can obtain the emails of foreigners stored outside the United States, what’s to stop the government of another country from getting your emails even though they are located in the United States?” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, said in a blog post on Monday.

Where is the line drawn? Does the account belong to the person and, thus, subject to the laws of whichever country in which the person is residing, or is the data owned by the provider and, thus, subject to the laws of the country in which that provider is operating? If the former, then, indeed, foreign countries can have free access to data stored on American servers. This will please Chinese officials who want to identify dissidents. If the latter, then some country–perhaps Ireland–may well become a haven for data akin to the way Switzerland is a haven for money. Neither branch of the dilemma is particularly satisfying. Not solving this problem is an invitation to disaster in the not too distant future as our data slowly come to represent the totality of our existence.

What do we  want as users? Do we want our data to be ours, or do we want to relinquish control to technology companies in order to relieve ourselves of the responsibility of living with the consequences of the data? The breakneck pace of progress in technology doesn’t leave much time for the deep discussion that the subject demands. When the shit hits the fan, it’s going to get really messy. Wear your best virtual rubbers.

Source: U.S. Supreme Court to decide major Microsoft email privacy fight

Political Parties and Political Jokes

David Letterman’s Top Ten Lists were masterpieces of comedy. If he had a top ten list titled “Top Ten Signs Your Political Party is a Joke”, then the number one reason would almost certainly be “Your most popular candidate is Write-In”.  The results are still fresh, but that outcome is not likely to change for the American Independent “Party” in Ventura County. The screen grabs below show that candidate Write-In is the top vote getter for this political “party”.

As of this writing, the total votes cast in Ventura County were 81,991. This means the American Independent Party received 1.3% of the total votes cast, The Green Party 0.2%, and the Libertarian Party 0.5%. These statistics and the popularity of the respective write-in candidates overwhelmingly support the notion that the majority of the people in the AIP are the ones who erroneously confused its name with the unaffiliated voter designation. They likely wrote in Hilary Clinton or Bernie Sanders as a result. The math then means that the AIP chosen candidates garnered a mere 0.4% of the vote.

Does this make the Green Party a joke? After all, a hoax played on the public is attracting more votes than a party that has been active for over 20 years.

The strangest thing is that the Libertarians–people who are so obsessed with their own point of view–miraculously found enough consensus to support one candidate.

Of course, since none of these parties seems to have attracted more than 1% of the vote even statewide (results are all the way on the bottom, with 22% of precincts reporting), every single one is, frankly, a joke. We Americans like power and powerful parties. We seem to like it that way because we enjoy complaining about them. The fact that we distance ourselves from idealists who will undoubtedly irreparably disrupt the scantly orderly society we have  speaks volumes the wisdom of the American masses.

Unless there is a President Trump.

On second thought, maybe the greatest joke is a party that traces its roots to the abolition of slavery has managed to select a bigot as its leader.

Write-In is the most popular American Independent Party Candidate. The members are so independent that they can't reach consensus.
Write-In is the most popular American Independent Party Candidate. The members are so independent that they can’t reach consensus.
The Green Party is faring slightly better than AIP. Write-In candidate still registers, but it's the runner up.
The Green Party is faring slightly better than AIP. Write-In candidate still registers, but it’s the runner up.
Libertarians are almost looking like a bona fide party. The Write-In candidate is also the runner up but by a much larger margin than the Green Write-In candidate.
Libertarians are almost looking like a bona fide party. The Write-In candidate is also the runner up but by a much larger margin than the Green Write-In candidate.


Dem total



GOP total









Peace & Freedom






Shkreli is sued over his $2 million Wu-Tang Clan album

Marin Shkreli is proud of–even smug about–every single act that distinguishes him as a singularly depraved, morally bankrupt and rude human being. The fact that the governing boards of several large corporations have appointed this idiot to run their companies is probably even more shocking. When will the focus of the investigations shift to the incompetent or corrupt corporate boards that betray their shareholders’ interests by giving this imbecile employment?

$2 million for a Wu-Tang Clan album? Are you kidding me? Maybe corporate America should focus on eradicating such stupidity from its ranks before it starts complaining about federal government waste.

Or, maybe the SEC’s sluggish expurgation of such morons from corporate ranks should be the only Federal inefficiency that the corporate world should bemoan.

Martin Shkreli faces a new legal headache, a lawsuit claiming that his $2 million Wu-Tang Clan album contains illustrations ripped off from a New York artist, who now wants the former drug executive to pay for them.

Source: Shkreli is sued over his $2 million Wu-Tang Clan album

Teachers learn to shoot after Peshawar school attack | Video | Reuters.com

Teachers learn to shoot after Peshawar school attack | Video | Reuters.com

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, the official stance of the National Rifle Association, as stated by its leader, Wayne Lapierre, was

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Implied in the NRA claim is the notion that the United States is a nation as lawless and hopeless as Pakistan; so much so that teachers are being trained with firearms in order to prevent further massacres. The NRA implies that the US government is so inept and so corrupt that it is incumbent upon schools and private citizens to protect children from madmen. The NRA argument is that the United States is a third world country, like Pakistan, where lawlessness rules.

Given that the above video is the embodiment of what the NRA is advocating, it is unequivocal that the NRA is the hopelessly outdated organization that is impeding progress in the United States.

Freedom of the Press

Hong Kong democracy protesters defy tear gas, baton charge in historic standoff | Reuters

 Freedom of the press is taken for granted in the West, but one struggles to remember the last time the American press took a principled stand against the government. A striking example of this is cited in the above story.

Publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai, a key backer of the democracy movement, joined the protesters.

The New York Times famously buried a story about the NSA’s illegal exploits under pressure from the Federal government. The Times had every right to publish the story, and it had all the resources it needs to defend itself against any accusations the government might bring, but it caved to the government bullying. In Hong Kong, in contrast, in defiance of an autocratic government, the publishing magnate is willing to risk his own life, not just his fortunes. The New York Times and The Washington Post haven’t shown this kind of moxie since the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate scandal. The hippies were right, it seems. We should look east for leadership and inspiration.

Jimmy Lai’s participation in the Hong Kong protests should remind us that freedom of the press is worthless if the press has no balls.

The Capitalist Assault against Individuality

Google’s Brin: Individual car ownership needs to go | CNET

What’s the difference between Google and socialism? Not much.

A long time ago an excellent mathematician and member of the Southern California Federation of Scientists (whom I had the privilege of knowing very well) had made the shocking argument that by eliminating automobiles and levying a tax that is equivalent to approximately half the average of cost of individual car ownership, it is possible to fund a complete fare-free transit system that can pickup everyone within 100 yards of their residence and drop them off within 100 yards of their place of work with less than a few minutes of waiting time and use a lot less gas than having a million cars on the road daily.

In fact, he was not the only one. Numerous “idealists” had crunched the numbers and demonstrated expanded bus service could be a much more efficient transit system,

Continue reading “The Capitalist Assault against Individuality”

Why Do Texans Enjoy Stepping into This?

Texas governor says he stepped right in it on gay comments | Reuters

It’s difficult to pinpoint Rick Perry’s most revolting attribute, but the ersatz modesty he projects in defense the asinine notions he espouses may be the one. As the Reuters article cites, this comparison of homosexuality with alcoholism is his second assertion in nearly a decade. He really seems to believe it.

The “it” into which he seems to have stepped seems to be the hostility of the masses who lack the good sense to understand his apt analogy: how can anyone not understand that homosexuality is like addiction to a drug? It would be interesting to know what the gateway drug for this addiction is. The glory hole? Teletubbies? Organic tomatoes? The feather boa? If he could argue for such a gateway, then there would be nothing to step into.

Election results show that the man has received more than 50% of the vote on three elections. Why, oh, why do Texans insist on forcing the rest of the country step into this over, and over, and over?

I need to clean my browser while Perry cleans his boots.

Adios, Chris Christie

Christie Fires Aide in Bridge Scandal as U.S. Opens Inquiry – NYTimes.com.

The man always came off as as big talker, anyway. He never impressed me as a particularly edgy intellectual or an especially skilled manager who can delegate authority prudently towards the efficient accomplishment of tasks. His choice of operatives, however, is his undoing in my mind, and it should be his undoing in the minds of everyone else.

Given that a successful Presidency, even more so than a governorship, is vitally dependent on appointing the right people to the right positions, Christie’s career is now officially over. His apology today impugns him. In this very long mea culpa, he effectively is saying that he appointed idiots to the most important posts, and that it took him over three years to discover that they are idiots. (His specific words are “abject stupidity”.) In a presidency, three years is enough time for idiots to destroy the world.

The company one keeps, they say, says a lot about one, Mr. Christie’s company have said absolutely nothing good about the politician or the man. People should take note.

To Which Crime Will Rob Ford Confess Next?

Rob Ford, embattled Toronto mayor, admits he has bought illegal drugs | CBS News

“What is this man thinking? What was this man thinking?” Those are the questions that every human being on earth asks after each Rob Ford revelation. How could an avowed conservative and ostensibly scrupulous man commit the lowest of crimes and then confess to them? Worse yet for the man–but absolutely wonderful for the entertainment starved world–each crime confessed is more outrageous than the last: getting drunk too often, smoking crack cocaine, buying crack cocaine! To what will he confess to next? Here is a list submitted for consideration, in no apparent order.

  • Shooting heroin.
  • Speed balling every time one of his initiatives pass the city council.
  • Running over a hobo before every Canadian Thanksgiving.
  • Acting as a mule for free joint.

Somewhere in the United States, former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry is assuredly sitting, aghast, mouth open, and utterly incensed that a pasty Canadian honky is flourishing under the spotlight for the same acts for which Barry was jailed.

Marion Barry ultimately reclaimed his elected position, and Rob Ford’s appeal seems not to be waning. Yet, this feels decidedly different from the apparent maturity we ascribe to the French populace when they wisely ignore their politicians’ dalliances.

Marion Barry was indignant even after he was re-elected. Ford is repentant to the extent that he seems to be preparing to offer “I was on crack” as an excuse for any poor decisions he may make or may have made as mayor. He and Barry are the only two politicians in all of history who could use that excuse. This is rarefied company, indeed.

I extended my warmest thanks to the citizens of Toronto for having provided the distraction that I desperately needed, as did countless overworked Americans.

Seminal Act of Civil Disobedience

Artist nails his scrotum to the ground in Red Square | World news | theguardian.com

Picture of the act from The Guardian.

Pyotr Pavlensky, the artist in the photo, has a substantial history of employing self mutilation in performance pieces that protest the increasingly repressive nature of the Russian regime, according to The Guardian article above. About the man’s possession of boundless will power and tolerance for pain, no doubts can be harbored. One only hopes that this act is more successful than his previous protests. This writer certainly wishes that this extraordinary act of self mutilation inspires the tsunami of rebellion that the artist desires to incite against a political system that has indeed become a shadow of the Soviet autocracy against which so many people like the artist gave their lives.

The most unfortunate question thus arises. Is a mere scrotum enough of a sacrifice? Should he have gone as far as being incarcerated without due process like Pussy Riot, a cause for which he mutilated himself to no apparently productive ends? Should he have immolated himself like the many Tibetans who do so annually in a final, desperate expression of defiance and self determination against an omnipotent, malevolent government? Must roads to freedom and self determination be paved with entire corpses, not just limbs and valuable appendages like the scrotum?

The political artist’s expression will forever be deconstructed. The desire for attention will forever confound any legitimate expression he or she may have made. It will be a shame if Mr. Pavlensky’s remarkable act of defiance is dismissed as a shameless act of self promotion. It rings sincere, in this writer’s mind, in its desperate expression of a desire for rights and dignity for every citizen in Russia.

Should its impact and distribution be limited to the pages of odd news sections and blogs like this, then the inescapable conclusion is that it is more effective to stick one’s neck out than it is to go balls out in the quest for freedom. Given how extraordinary it is to see a man go balls out like Pyotr, it is hard to imagine that anyone will stick their necks out. This may be the ultimate sign of resignation in the western world and the ultimate assertion of the current price of progress.

It is, perhaps, time to contemplate Syria, Chechnya, Egypt, Iran, Indonesia and myriad other countries where necks are slashed in plain sight of western citizens far too apathetic to vote to protect their own interests. Political and military power are tools we developed to stroke our own balls, it seems, rather then to save necks.

Pyotr, may your balls be safe and your scrotum whole again someday.