Thursday, December 28, 2006

President Ford, Rest In Peace

Gerald Ford was a bit of an enigma. He was elected as neither President nor Vice President, but served in both offices. Some of his policies were not great, but he served with dignity and honor.

He may very well be remembered as the caricature of a klutz as played by Chevy Chase on "Saturday Night Live." He was the president who "always fell down" or "beaned someone on the head with an arrant golf shot." In reality, he was quite the athlete in his day playing center for the University of Michigan which earned 2 National Championships. He was even courted by the Detroit Lions, though he turned down the offer to attend law school.

I believe President Ford will be remembered in history as the man who held the nation together during a time of extreme crisis. His tenure was born of two scandals which rocked the US, stepping in when others were forced to step aside. His mission was healing, and he carried that mission to its completion.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Potential RFID Privacy & Security Problems

A year ago this past May I blogged about some serious security and privacy concerns regarding Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). In the past year-and-a-half, I haven't seen any real public discussion of the concerns I have regarding the use of this technology.

A paper published by the University of Washington Department of Computer Science and Engineering entitled "Devices That Tell On You: The Nike+iPod Sport Kit", outlines a direct example of how an on-the-market RFID technology has the potential to be exploited for bad purposes. The paper is telling in the relatively simple way the RFID technology, used to make a very handy and convenient device, can be used can also be used by the "not so honest" out there with very little technical knowledge. It also demonstrates some possible ways the device could be changed in order to make it far more "privacy friendly."

I highly recommend folks read up on RFID and its potential problems. I hate to call for government action on a problem like this because then it'll just get messed up. I think it's better for everyone to educate themselves so they can make informed decisions about the technology they use, whether purchased or not.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"The Aviator"

Just to show you how far behind I am in today's pop culture, I just saw "The Aviator" for the first time yesterday evening. Among the biographical movies I've seen, this showing of the life of Howard Hughes is pretty good.

There were a few scenes which could have been cut to keep this film under 3 hours. I think, though, despite the length the movie did a fairly good job of capturing Hughes' genius and madness. I recommend this one, if for nothing else, to ponder the workings of a man who suffered greatly from mental illness yet was still able to carry on leading a huge business empire.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Sex Offender Email Registry

An E-Mail Registry for Sex Offenders?

Isn't this just another example of what Rush Limbaugh calls "Symbolism over Substance?" This is just political nonsense at its highest. Wanting to appear tough on crime, especially against those who are exploiting children, Charles Schumer and John McCain propose legislation to make sex offenders register their active email addresses. While this seems like a good idea at first glance, it lacks any real punch against those who are obviously flouting the law to do what they do in the first place. What's to stop someone from creating a new Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo! Mail account and hitting MySpace to troll for kids whom they can exploit? Nothing - since they're law-breakers already why would they care about a couple more charges if they get caught?

John Shehan, program manager of the CyberTipline, a project by the Center for Missing and Exploited Children has it right: it's the responsibility for parents to work to keep their kids safe on line. It has to be the parents because "Big Daddy" government isn't going to be able to throw someone in jail until it's too late and they've already gotten a hold of some unfortunate young person and exploited them for their perverted desires. Parents need to be involved in their kids' lives - they cannot rely on laws and technology alone. The more the parents talk and work with their kids to educate them about on line predators the better the kids will know when someone is trying to cultivate an improper relationship. Armed with that knowledge it's more likely the kids will tell their parents when something inappropriate is happening on line.

If the government wants to use technology to help prevent child exploitation on line, let them come up with something a little more effective than just registering email addresses. How about installing a tamper-proof filter on their computers to keep them off sites used by children? Or perhaps they could register their computer itself by it's hardware address and then web site operators could bounce incoming traffic against that list and reject connections from computers in the registry. Of course, there are ways around those methods, too, but I think it would be more difficult for someone to get around than simply making them register their email addresses. Again, technology alone won't solve the problem. It takes an eclectic approach led by parents.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sure, President Chavez, Sure

Chavez Promises to Eradicate Poverty Through Socialism

So, how does President Chavez think he can succeed where so many before him have failed? This is an extremely complicated issue, but one which bears some examination.

First, he fills government offices with his cronies. Second, he starts massive social programs aimed at eliminating poverty and want. Third, he attempts to have the Venezuelan constitution changed to eliminate term limits, which if successful will virtually assure him status as "President for Life." Looks to me like a recipe for a dictatorship.

Like so many countries where socialism and communism have been tried and failed, Venezuela appears to be headed down the same road to misery and more poverty. The anti-socialist revolution has been going on around the world since the mid-90s and "caretaker" governments have been overthrown or changed. This is because people finally realized that freedom, democracy and a free market are the best things to truly bring up a country's standard of living. Even in those countries which still have communist governments, like China, a limited free market is in place and the people who are able to participate enjoy a far better standard of living than the average.

Venezuela does have oil, and that has the potential to enrich the lives of all her citizens. My fear, though, is that power corrupts and Hugo Chavez is fallible just like the rest of us. If he is able to grab enough power, most of that money will go in his pockets and the pockets of his cronies before it has a chance to get down to the people. It's happened many times in the past, and history does have a habit of repeating itself.