Short Note on Terrorism and Encryption



When the Paris attacks occurred, “security” agencies on both sides of the Atlantic jumped into the media spotlight to declare that encryption had helped the terrorist planning remain secret. Their spokespeople in the media (see NYTimes, etc…) were quick to jump in making unfounded claims based on secret sources. As time went on these early stories were retracted, or as the case of the NYTimes, simply pulled without comment.

Then a text was found on a terrorist’s phone in clear text. The tech privacy/security community was quick to jump out with their own claims that the terrorists did not use encryption.

Both sides are wrong and both of their arguments are red herrings, they both do a dis-service to those they claim to represent.

Let’s start with the privacy advocates’ arguments. All that we know is that the terrorists sent at least one message unencrypted, we do not know anything of the (probably many) messages sent previously. To focus on the fact that they did not use encryption (when logic tells us that they probably did) makes it seem that if they had used encryption then it would be alright to call for governmental back doors to its use. Refusing to enter the sty with the 3 letter agencies would have been the better course, for when it is eventually proven that the terrorists did in fact use encryption for some communications, the argument is lost.

The NSA/GCHQ/FBI arguments for back doors is based on a false dilemma. When these agencies make  claims that terrorists used encryption the correct response is not “did not”, but instead “so what!”. So what if they did use encryption? That does not lead to the conclusion that no one else can use secure communications.  Without privacy there can be no freedom, each is contingent upon the other. These terrorists traveled by train, should we make travel by train illegal? These terrorists had passports, they could not have accomplished their deed without these passports, should we outlaw passports? This is preposterous, it is as preposterous as the claims that secure communications should be banned because the terrorists used it.

I have a right to secure communication and privacy. If I choose to encrypt the data on my phone, my tablet, my computer; then that is my choice. The government does not have a right to a back door to that data. The privacy advocates argue that any governmental back door could be exploited by bad actors and should therefore not be mandated. I would take a different tack, and argue that the government has no right or authority to demand a back door, even if it could be proven that others could not exploit it. It is my nature endowed right to privacy to have my data secured and my communications private, period.

I recommend Wickr for secure communications. Wickr is encrypted messaging and is available for Windows, Linux, OSX, Android, and iOS. It is easy to use and free for personal use. You can message me at user “foggytown”

Favorite New Music, 2015 Edition


Welcome to my 7th annual list of favorite albums of the year. My musical taste tends towards alt-country, southern rock, and related genres; if that is not your thing then you may not enjoy this list. That’s fine, there are lots of other lists out there that you may enjoy.

This year I am going to do something differently, rather than attempting to put this list in order counting down to my favorite amongst favorites, I am going to list them in alphabetical order by artist name. To be up front, my far and away favorite album of 2015 is Blackberry Smoke’s Holding All the Roses. Click play and scroll down to see the list.

2015 was a great year for music, here are my favorite 10 albums from this year.

Anne McCue: Blue Sky Thinkin’. This singer songwriter from Australia channels Patsy Cline’s voice with the jazz instrumentation of Billy Holliday. Think smoke filled bar room and a sultry band with a sexy singer on a Saturday night maybe 70 years ago. Yes, it is that good.

Blackberry Smoke: Holding All the Roses. I’ve been following this southern rock outfit for a few years and finally got a chance to see them live last year in Missouri. They continue to impress with their tight lyrics and tighter instrumentation, I consider Blackberry Smoke to be the epitome of southern rock in the modern era.

The Bottle Rockets: South Broadway Athletic Club. Is this band really 23 years old? That means I’ve been listening to them for over 20 years and they have a sound that never grows stale. This is classic Bottle Rockets and an impressive release from Bloodshot Records.

Corb Lund: Things That Can’t Be Undone. Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertins are country from Canada’s hinterlands. This is their most accessible album to date, a vast array of music showing the bands versatility.

The Deslondes: The Deslondes. This debut album is a style that I am really appreciating these days, hardcore country with nary a hint of western. Looking forward to more from this band.

Ryan Bingham: Fear and Saturday Night. This cowboy is back with another Americana album that leaves you shaken. His raspy voice and erudite lyrics are some of the best currently being recorded.

Shakey Graves: Nobody’s Fool. This Americana band out of Austin continues to carry the torch for America’s music city.

Sugarcane Jane: Dirt Road’s End. This tight American band will leave you gasping for more, give a listen and you will see what I mean.

Turnpike Troubadours: The Turnpike Troubadours. Today’s preeminent red dirt band out of, where else, Oklahoma.

Wrinkle Neck Mules: I Never Thought it Would Go This Far. The 6th album from this Virginia based roots country band is well worth listening to…go check it out.

If you like this year end wrap up, you might be interested in one of the previous lists:  2009, 2010, 2011, 20122013, and 2014.

Presidential Election Turning Point


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Much has been made of big money in politics, the bigger the election the bigger the money. You get the backing of the biggest billionaires, he who has the most money wins, that’s politics in the good ol’ US of A.

This year, things are just a little bit different. This year big media is helping to eliminate candidates before a single ballot has been cast. Whether for political patronage or simply for a ratings boost, this is a major turning point in American presidential elections. During the second republican debates, CNN massaged the rules for entry to gain admittance to Carly Fiorina. For Fiorina it was like winning the lottery, for the one who was removed to make room for her, too bad. This isn’t limited to republicans. The DNC changed the debate rules to exclude Lessig from the debates, assumably to aid the Hillary in her march to confirmation.

What is up with big money and big media colluding with the parties to choose our president all without a single ballot being cast?

Still, folks will shake their head solemnly and wonder why it is that voting rates continue to drop.  Perhaps it is cynicism instigated by the knowledge that it is not the votes cast that choose our leaders, but the money spent.

Firefox 42, Major Improvements


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Firefox 42 was just released with major improvements for both Android and desktop. Firefox now has tracking blocking built in! By default it is only on during private browsing, to enable it for general use go to about:config and scroll down to privacy.trackingprotection.enabled and set the value to true. This works on both mobile and desktop. It will block many ads and most trackers and works similarly to Ghostery or Privacy Badger.

For desktop use, Firefox also now includes an icon to show which tab is playing audio and the ability to mute it without leaving the current tab. This is a catch up feature that has been available in Chrome for some time. Still a welcome addition.

Firefox usage is in decline and that is a shame. The one browser coded by a non-profit with keeping the web open as its stated goal. Safari, IE/Edge, and Chrome are all made by large corporations concerned more with molding the web to their own needs/profits that with the fate of their users. Even after Edward Snowden’s revelations, many still cling to these locked down proprietary browsers. I honestly do not understand it.

Windows 10…What’s Up With That?


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A couple of days ago I formatted Windows 10 and installed Kubuntu on my desktop. More on that in just a moment.

Anandtech has it’s comprehensive Windows 10 review up. If you are considering Win10, you should check out the review.

I took part in the Win10 Consumer Preview program from the day it was announced. I was more than happy to dump Windows 8.1…even for beta software. While some of the preview builds were a bit on the buggy side, my general impressions of Win10 were favorable. I knew the consumer preview was hovering up a fair amount of data by and about me, but I figured it was a beta and MS deserved all the telemetry they could get to make Win10 a solid release. My computer originally came with Win7, I upgraded it to Win8 and then to 8.1 and then installed the Win10 previews and the final release. I never once had a catastrophic failure. After Win10 final was released I did a clean install…hey I liked the OS and wanted the optimum experience. Shortly after that my problems started. First Windows Update installed a bad graphics driver and borked my system. I had to go back to a restore point to make my computer usable. Then MS pushed the faulty driver again, forcing me  to roll back the driver and disconnect from the internet while I figured out how to stop the automatic update. I finally found a setting to stop driver updates, it was in the old “System Settings” a leftover from Win95…you know the one that was re-labeled “Advanced System Settings” in XP or Vista. Talk about having to drill down. A pain in the behind to be sure and defensive computing should not be a requirement against your OS vendor.

And then the privacy hullabaloo broke. If you are unaware of the privacy controversy, let me Bing that for you.

Then the clincher happened. I use a tv as a second monitor and speakers, it is connected through hdmi. Every time the computer slept I would lose audio which required a reboot to fix. Once again, none of the preview releases had this problem…but there it was in the final.

So just as I was getting excited about the imminent release of Cortana for Android and the improved integration that would bring, I decided to bail on Windows once again. I still don’t know what made me go back to Windows last time…I am like the battered spouse returning to the abuser time and time again. I’d like to say that I learned my lesson for good this time…but…time will tell.

Computing’s Big Birthday


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Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of Windows 95. An operating system that changed the very fabric of society. Hyperbole? No. Pre-Win95, computers were for business, the elite, and a handful of geeks. Win95 along with (comparatively) cheap Intel processors introduced the era of the $1000 PC and began bringing to fruition Gates’ vision of a PC on every desktop.

A monumental release it was. However, today marks an even bigger anniversary in computing history. Today is the 24th anniversary of Linus Torvalds’ unveiling of his eponymous OS, Linux.

While Linux never gained traction on the desktop, it has taken the rest of the computing environment by storm. Powering most of the internet infrastructure, the vast majority of smart phones, it is running in everything from satellites to automobiles to air traffic control to nuclear submarines.

While most of us toil away on Windows PCs or iOS tablets, it is Linux which has become the foundation upon which our entire computing experience relies. Today each of us should raise a toast to the little OS that can did.

Windows 10 Release Imminent


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Tomorrow is the big day! The roll out of Microsoft’s newest flagship OS begins. Free for users of Windows 7, 8, and 8.1; it really is a no-brainer update. If you hated Windows 8 and stayed on Windows 7, it is time that you got the benefits of that OS as well as the new one…it is faster, boots quicker, the transparency has been removed, and it has a cleaner UI. If you are currently on 8 or 8.1, you get your start menu back!

For everyone, there is the personal assistant Cortana, a new web browser, improved multi-tasking, and updated Windows Snap and multi-monitor support. Windows 10 may be the achievement of Microsoft’s decade plus plan to have one Windows run everywhere.

There are plenty of good reviews out there (hint: use google), so I won’t do one here. The OS is solid with great backward support and is a must upgrade for anyone….and the price is right.

Reddit is Still Supporting the Rape of Dogs (and other animals)

Two years ago, I wrote an open letter to users of Reddit. I recommend reading that post to gain the context for this follow-up post.

Reddit has many subreddits on varying subjects, they range from the humorous to the informative to the gross and beyond. A couple of these subreddits glorify and promote the rape of animals.

A few days ago the new CEO of Reddit outlined new content guidelines for Reddit, those guidelines do not address, and do not ban, the subreddits glorifying and promoting animal abuse. These will continue to be allowed and to generate income for Conde Nast and its owner Advance Publications, Inc.

I would think that rational folks can agree that animal rape is not an innocent pastime? The ASPCA has taken a strong stance against this aberrant behavior:

The ASPCA is opposed to bestiality, defined as any sexual contact with an animal by a human. The ASPCA believes that any sexual practice or contact between humans and animals for the sexual gratification of any person is animal exploitation, regardless of the human perpetrators’ beliefs or intentions. (taken from ASPCA position statement.)

When I wrote the original blog post, I also sent 8 letters to advertisers advising them that their ads were appearing on a site that also hosted dog rape propaganda. Two bothered to respond and one of these agreed to re-evaluate their relationship with Reddit.

Today, with the publication of this post, I am also opening a new WordPress blog called Stop Dog Rape. The intent of this blog will be to publish the contact information of Reddit, Conde Nast, Advance Publications, and their advertisers  to promote people to contact them and put pressure on Reddit to reform its practices.

I request that you read the new blog, follow it, and occasionally write a Reddit advertiser to request that they end their relationship until such time as Reddit has taken steps to Stop Dog Rape.

How old is too old to be president?


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Earlier today, I posted on my micro blog about the Democratic party becoming the party of stodgy old people; here I want to expound on that idea.

Let’s start with a list of presidential candidates and their ages:

Democratic: Chafee 62, Clinton 67, O’Malley 52, and Sanders 73.

Republican: Bush 62, Carson 63, Christie 52, Cruz 44, Fiorina 60, Graham 59, Huckabee 59, Jindal 44, Pataki 70, Paul 52, Perry 65, Rubio 44, Santorum 57, and Trump 69.

As an aside, the FAA forces commercial airline pilots into retirement at the age of 60. Actually they can transfer to be a flight engineer or something similar, but they can not pilot a commercial airline. No Exceptions! No physical or mental check up to get a waiver, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Is not the most powerful position on the planed at least as important as a commercial pilot?

Of the 19 people currently running for president, 11 of them would be unfit to fly come inauguration day, January 2017. That is nearly 60% for those too lazy to pull up WolframAlpha. They are not qualified to fly a plane and they certainly have no business having the keys to the nuclear arsenal.

The democratic candidates have an average age of 63.5 and that will increase by a year and a half before they take office.  The republican candidate average age is 53.3. On average the republican candidates are a whopping 10+ years younger than their democratic counterparts. So, once again I inquire, when did the democratic party become the party of stodgy old people?

It took 3 generations to initiate global climate change, move the US from the largest creditor nation to the largest debtor the world has ever known, remove the nutrition from our food, begin the 6th great extinction, turn our planet into a giant waste dump,  virtually pave the entire planet and pollute our land, seas, and air. In the US we call those 3 generations the greatest generation, the silent generation, and the baby boomers. These people have had their chance to wield power and have proven themselves inadequate to the task, it is well past time to send them off to retirement. If we survive, it will take 100 generations to undo the damage they have done. None of them deserve to be president, the planet and her inhabitants can not bear it.

Edit: Jim Web just announced he is throwing his hat into the ring, at 69 he further raises the average democratic age.

30 Years Ago Today


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New Coke was introduced. There was an uproar, careers were ruined, the product was rolled back, and balance was restored to the universe. But that isn’t what I want to write about.
30 years ago today the Philadelphia PD with help from the FBI bombed the home of radical group MOVE. 60 houses were burned down, children were shot as they tried to escape the flames, Mayor Goode took full responsibility. There was no uproar, no careers were ruined, nobody was charged (let alone convicted), Goode was re-elected and balance has yet to be restored.
This same mentality latter led to the siege at Ruby Ridge and the massacre at Waco, among others. Murder under the color of authority leaves less of an impression than changing the formula of a soft drink. WTF? And I am supposed to be proud of my country? Yeah, I’ll get right on that.

–Posted from my mobile device


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