Archive for July, 2005

Oh, the Outrage

And here I was, thinking the SAT and ACT were actually useful. It would appear otherwise.

And, two days late for cat blogging, let me point out that longhair kittens are notoriously difficult to sex correctly, thank you very much. :)

Published in: General | on July 31st, 2005 | No Comments »

Oi, you!

Apparently, according to the news, commuters in New York City will now be facing random searches on the subway, in an apparrent attempt to deter attacks of some sort which they have no information or reason to believe are actually going to happen.
So, thanks to some suspicious and highly convenient acts of possible terrorism in London, New Yorkers, and quite likely soon people in the rest of the country, will have their liberties and rights even further curtailed, restricted, and abused. Does it sound like we’re winning the GWOT to you? For that matter, what ever happened to the whole bit about denying terrorists victory by going about one’s life as normal?
Worse yet, in response to allegations that these new measures are, quite correctly, illegal, the NYPD has said that they’re going to make an extra-special super-honest attempt to make the searches well and truly one-hundred-percent random. Why is this important? If it’s true, it means the police will be – in a futile effort to make us all somehow feel safer while not appearing to be profiling – hassling, say, old white guys, young Puerto Ricans… and women of all ages and ethnic backgrounds.

And I’m proud to be an American, and recall when I was free;
and I shan’t forget the men who lied, and took my rights from me…

Published in: General | on July 21st, 2005 | No Comments »

AfterDowningStreet.org and People-Link.org : Clueless

I don’t really even know where to begin; the start, I suppose. Though it’s since been resolved, and appears to have been a “false positiveâ€? catch on a spam-filtering system used by Comcast, the paranoid egotists at afterdowningstreet.org managed to generate a quite unresonable amount of hysterical drama out of, quite frankly, nothing much. As if that weren’t bad enough, they infected a number of otherwise sane and sensible bloggers with their rather virulent strain of arrogance and idiocy. While most of the victims can be expected to make a full recovery in time, it’s crap like this that, at times, makes me embarassed to admit I’m a liberal. Behold, another great victory for ignorance and stupidity:

The BRAD BLOG has learned that cable company and Internet service provider, Comcast Corporation has been automatically deleting email sent to Comcast customers with the text “www.afterdowningstreet.org” in the body of the email.
The discovery that email was being secretly filtered was made after an investigation conducted by ADS co-founder, David Swanson who reported that many coalition members did not seem to be receiving email alerts and others messages being sent by the group.
“Over the past week we have been having problems reaching our members,” Swanson said. “Yesterday we had a conference call scheduled that we’d announced by email and two thirds of the people didn’t even know about it.”
Eventually Swanson was able to determine that it was only those members of the group who receive email via the cable monolith’s Comcast.net domain who were not receiving such notices.

If you peruse the liberal blogosphere, you probably heard about this yesterday. And, yes, The BRAD BLOG always refers to itself that way. Always a capital “T� on “the�, then the rest in full caps. Your guess why is as good as mine.

Swanson says he was told that “there were spam complaints and that content filters automatically blocked the content of our URL, but that looked into it and know that we don’t spam.”
When he asked why Comcast hadn’t looked into the matter before adding ADS to their spam filter, Swanson says he was told “Because it’s automatic.”
When he asked why ADS was not informed about the matter when it occured, the answer was the same, “Because it’s automatic,” said Swanson.

Okay, now, Swanson is a political activist; nobody really expects him to have a clue about the internet or how email, and email filtering, works. So his apparently expecting to be notified that ADS’s emails were being filtered is an excusable piece of absolute idiocy. However:

Alfredo Lopez, a director of People-Link.org, the Internet Service Provider which hosts the AfterDowningStreet.org domain and website, was able to confirm that Swanson’s email left the People-Link mail servers correctly but did not reach their Comcast destinations.
“We do know that all of the email about which talking was mailed out from the server, and we do know that people on Comcast were not receiving it. That much we know,” said Lopez.

And that’s pretty much the only think Lopez and People-Link seems to know.

He said that People-Link, who identify themselves as “part of the progressive Internet movement” received no notice from Comcast about the apparent filtering.
“That is typical of a very serious spam block,” Lopez said today, “because they don’t want to tip off the spammer that they’ve been blocked.”

No, this is typical of virtually every “spam blockâ€?, everywhere. Rather than cause collateral damage by bouncing messages whose sender’s addresses are probably spoofed, or giving spammers a clue on how to bypass your filters, you just silently drop the spam. Trying to read something into this is just silly. Maybe it would be better if they worked to become part of the “clueful Internet movementâ€?.

A statement given to The BRAD BLOG by People-Link’s directors suggests that there is a political motivation behind this matter. Their statement charges that Comcast is blocking “constitutionally protected expression and the fundamental right to organize and act politically on issues of concern.”

All I can really say is “avoid People-Link at all costsâ€?. They’re clueless. “Political motivationâ€?? “Blocking constitutionally protected expressionâ€?? I’m sorry, as much as I’d like it to be true, it isn’t.

It’s well established in U.S. Law that ISPs are under no legal obligation to accept email, or other forms of communication, from or on behalf of any specific party. If Comcast doesn’t want to deliver mail containing www.afterdowningstreet.org, that’s their business. It’s not a free-speech issue at all. Go find the former owners of Experian and Exactis, who went bankrupt attempting unsuccessfully to argue virtually identical points in court.

Most spam blocking measures focus on the email address or the IP address of the suspected spammer. While there are anti-spam measures directed at the body of the email, these usually target attachments that could contain virus programs.

Au contraire, O ignorant one. Tests against the text of an email are widespread; I’d even go so far as to say they’re universal. It’s one of the most effective ways to stop porn spam, penile-enhancement spam, Nigerian 409 scam spam, pyramid-scheme spam, and hundreds of other types of spam. SpamCop and others filter email messages against thousands of known-spammed URLs. Also, Lopez here displays his ignorance; anti-spam measures target spam; anti-virus measures target virii, and always scan the body of a message, since you can’t include a virus in the headers of an email. Dumbass.

Targeting the inclusion of a website url can only have one outcome: that communications about that website and the issue it is presenting will be blocked from large numbers of people and that the communications from that site’s administrators and the campaign’s organizers will not reach their full constituency.
Whether comcast’s intention or not, this is effectively political and unconstitutional.

Sorry, have to take issue with this, too. Targeting the inclusion of a website’s URL blocks the delivery of email containing that URL, and, yes, prevents communication about that URL. It’s a long-established, widely-used, popular, and effective tool against spammers. It does not block communication about the issue, just the website. It’s not political, it’s technical, and automated, at that. It’s not unconstitutional, despite what some activist kooks would like you to believe.

It keeps people from getting valuable information about a campaign that is, in the opinion of many, critical to the future of this country’s political system.
It disrupts the organizing of this campaign and cripples the campaign’s ability to use its most effective communications tool: the Internet.
It damages people’s confidence in this campaign since many people who write the campaign can’t receive the response they expect and that the campaign has sent.

No. Would you like to know what disrupts the organizing of a campaign, cripples it’s ability to use email (which is but one very small part of the internet), and absolutely destroys the confidence in and credibility of the campaign? Being hosted with a company so clueless that the campaign’s website and server have a screwed-up DNS setup, no PTR record, and no SPF record. These are mistakes most 16-year-olds don’t make… and ones People-Link made.

Perhaps the worst part of this development is that Comcast has been reportedly doing this without the knowledge of the managers of this website or anyone affiliated with this campaign. In fact, no Comcast customer has received any indication that email to him or her containing this url was blocked.

Again, this is a huge display of ignorance. No ISP anywhere informs spammers when they’re blocked, nor tells their customers every time they receive email that was blocked. Either People-Host and ADS are clueless about all things internet-related, or they think that they’re “specialâ€? and the normal rules shouldn’t apply because of the great and enormous importance of what they’re doing.

And for their closing act:

Many of us in the progressive Internet movement have long been warning about the intrusive, arrogant, disruptive, inconsiderate and effectively reactionary “access blocking” measures being taken by large Internet service providers. They take many forms and we have argued that, in the end, they lead to the same future: providers blocking access because of its content.
That future, apparently, has arrived and it is essential that everyone interested in free speech and a free Internet call or email Comcast to let it know how we feel and to warn it not to do this again.

“Intrusive, arrogant, disruptive, inconsiderate, and reactionary�.

Intrusive? Hardly.
Arrogant? Nope.
Disruptive? Arguable.
Inconsiderate? Well-meaning, I’d say. No spam filter is perfect, and an imperfect spam filter is far, far better than none.
Reactionary? Not at all.

What is disruptive is clueless dumbasses who can neither correctly identify and diagnose a routine, everyday email issue, nor figure out the correct steps to resolve it on their own. What is reactionary is seeing political conspiracies everywhere you turn. Most people assume technical problems are technical problems, because they usually are; Occam’s Razor, and all that. But People-Link and afterdowningstreet immediately concluded that it was intentional and politically-motivated. Says a lot about them, doesn’t it? What is arrogant is believing that your chosen cause is of such huge, earth-shattering importance that anyone would bother to conspire against you, and that an inability to email people at one ISP is damaging to your cause. What is inconsiderate and intrusive is sounding the rallying cry, issuing a call-to-arms for people to besiege a company by phone, fax, and email, demanding a resolution to a problem you’ve failed to correctly identify, yet alone solve on your own, and then blown way, way out of proportion.

Even though accidental blacklistings happen quite literally all the time, I don’t expect the idealistic activists at ADS to have a clue about that kind of thing. That’s what their webhost is supposed to be for. Clearly, in this case, however attractive that host’s politics might be, their actual abilities and knowledge of all things internet are greatly lacking.

What I do expect is that prominent and highly-visible liberal activists should be at least a little bit grounded in reality. This is supposed to be the “reality-based community�, after all. Tinfoil hattery of this sort is embarassing. Not as embarassing as, say, the rabidly anti-semitic Xymphora blog, or PrisonPlanet, who seem able to find a conspiracy and two cover-ups in pretty much every event that takes place anywhere in the world, but still embarassing.

It’s important to remember that the Democratic blogosphere is not a fair reflection of the Democratic party and progressive politics as a whole, any more than the right-wing blogosphere is an accurate reflection of Republican politics. In both cases, the blogosphere is dominated by extremists from both parties.

Right-wing blogs are FAR right, and as a whole significantly underrepresent moderate conservative viewpoints. Yet there’s an growing trend for liberal blogs to represent increasingly radical voices.

I don’t really care that ADS had trouble sending email to a few thousand people for a week; it’s probably their own damned fault, quite frankly. I don’t really care that they’re grossly exaggerating the effect it had on them – if people really care that much about the Downing Street Minutes and what ADS is doing, they’ll return to the website on their own, eager for news and updates. That they apparently have to rely on supporters so apathetic that they need their information spoon-fed to them thru their inbox is sad. What pisses me off, though, is their living up to Republican stereotypes of the Left by bandying around baseless conspiracy theories, levelling unfounded accusations before doing even the slightest bit of fact-checking, and then issuing a call-to-action for everyone to try and help them achieve “victoryâ€? over their windmill of an enemy.

As publicity stunts go, this one was not just especially stupid, but especially embarassing. Hopefully a lot of people learned a lesson yesterday…

Published in: Geekiness, General | on July 16th, 2005 | 1 Comment »

Photographing Cats Can be Dangerous

Even cute little housecats can be dangerous…

And, yes, I know it’s a day early for cat blogging. Just have to be different and beat the rush. :D

Published in: General | on July 14th, 2005 | No Comments »

TCUEC swag

The guys and gals over at the TCUEC – that’s Twin Cities Urban Exploration Cabal – are now offering a mighty fine deal on urban exploration t-shirts. Dare to be different, eh?

Published in: Geekiness, General, Urban Exploration | on July 14th, 2005 | No Comments »