Congressman Wants To Shutdown Twitter, Facebook, and Every Other Social Media Site

You’re being ruled by idiots. They attempt to dictate policy on things they know nothing about. This is especially true when it comes to technology, which most of the rulers know next to nothing about. Ranking up there with Ted Stevens calling the Internet “a series of tubes,” we have a gem from Joe Barton:

Barton today asked Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler if the commission can shut down websites used by ISIS and other terrorist groups. Barton didn’t name any specific sites but said that “we need to do something” because of the terrorist attack in Paris.

“ISIS and the terrorist networks can’t beat us militarily, but they are really trying to use the Internet and all of the social media to try to intimidate and beat us psychologically,” Barton said. Addressing Wheeler during an FCC oversight hearing held by the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, Barton continued:

Isn’t there something we can do under existing law to shut those Internet sites down, and I know they pop up like weeds, but once they do pop up, shut them down and then turn those Internet addresses over to the appropriate law enforcement agencies to try to track them down? I would think that even in an open society, when there is a clear threat, they’ve declared war against us, our way of life, they’ve threatened to attack this very city our capital is in, that we could do something about the Internet and social media side of the equation.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) isn’t creating a bunch of random self-hosted websites. It’s using popular social media sites such as Twitter. What Barton is asking for is the shutdown of major social media sites. And while sites like Twitter are trying to shutdown accounts used by ISIS it’s not easy because, at the article I just linked to points out, ISIS is gaming the system.

If you want to recruit new members you go to where the people are. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites are where the people are so it’s what ISIS uses. The only way you can shutdown its Internet presence is to shutdown the Internet itself, which isn’t something the United States government can do because the Internet is a collection of interconnected servers spread throughout the world.

Jumping To Conclusions

Before any facts about the perpetrators of the Paris attacks could be discovered many politicians here were already jumping to conclusions. The governors of 17 states jumped to the conclusion that the perpetrators were Syrian refugees and used that to declare their states closed to any refugees from Syria. But an investigation into the attackers turned up evidence that they were European nationals:

“Let me underline, the profile of the terrorists so far identified tells us this is an internal threat,” Federica Mogherini, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, said after a meeting with EU foreign ministers. “It is all EU citizens so far. This can change with the hours, but so far it is quite clear it is an issue of internal domestic security.”

My point isn’t that the attackers were carried out by European nationals. The investigation has just begun so other evidence could indicate the attackers were indeed Syrian refugees or trained members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) who snuck into France or shapeshifting lizard people from another dimension.

My point is that jumping to conclusions before an investigation has come to a conclusion supported by solid evidence is foolish. Be smart. Wait for evidence to be discovered before telling everybody what you think happened.

Freedom Is Slavery

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. — George Orwell

Doublespeak, the political use of language to say one thing but mean another, was a subject George Orwell spent a great deal of time writing about. Although the term is generally associated with Nineteen Eighty-Four the excerpt above was taken from Politics and the English Language, a nonfiction work penned by Orwell on the use of language as it pertains to politics.

Although doublespeak is used by politicians at all times it is most heavily used during times of emergency. France is now under a state of emergency and its president is employing doublespeak to convince his subjects that what he’s doing is for their benefit:

“We will eradicate terrorism because we are committed to freedom and the influence of France throughout the world,” Mr. Hollande.

What does Mr. Hollande mean by freedom? Slavery:

The president said he wants parliament to update and potentially expand his powers under France’s state of emergency statute while extending the current state of emergency for three months.

Created during the Algerian war in 1955, the state of emergency gives authorities far-reaching powers including banning travel in certain areas, shutting shops and concert halls.

The interior minister can ban people from leaving their homes, and the state can take “all measures” to control the press and radio. Searches can be undertaken without sign-off from a judge, and those who refuse to comply can be fined and held in custody for up to two months.

To account for technological advances since the 1950s, Mr. Hollande asked lawmakers to update the state of emergency law on confining individuals to their homes and search seizure. Faced with a war on terror, constitutional laws relating to wars on foreign soil should be updated so the president can take exceptional measures without resorting to a state of emergency, he said.

Imprisoning people in their homes, censoring the press, and performing searches without so much as permission from a judge are powers people tend to associate with tyranny. But Mr. Hollande isn’t satisfied with just those measures, he wants even more power. It’s rather ironic that he, a self-declared socialist, is so open about wanting a return to overt serfdom.

What we’re seeing in France isn’t some kind of exception to the rule. States are nothing more than gangs of thieves and like all thieves they become greedier over time. The State might start small, asking only for a small percentage of the profits you make on your whisky, but it will exploit every “emergency” to increase its plunder. A war may justify a “temporary” taking of a percent of your profits on tobacco. Another war may justify a “temporary” taking of a percentage of your profits on everything you sell. Some minor scuffle with a foreign nation may lead to a “temporary” import fee on goods you buy in that nation. An economic failure may lead to a “temporary” taking of a percent of all of your income for “recovery” programs. Temporary is doublespeak for permanent and it’s always related to the transference of wealth from the people to the State.

Emergency powers are merely another tool in the State’s toolbox. It allows it to steal from anybody is can label a counter-revolutionary, enemy of the state, or terrorist. By simply declaring a state of emergency a government can justify searching houses for valuables, stealing any discovered valuables, and imprisoning the rightful owners all by applying a simple label to them.

This is why emergency powers always target citizens. War serves the purpose of stealing from foreign nations but doublespeak must be used to steal from the citizenry because if they become too unhappy a neighboring gang could decided to “liberate” them and enjoy popular support instead of resistance.

Better Check That Deoxyribonucleic Acid

Has anybody done a DNA test on John Brennan? With the way he’s swooping down on the corpses of those killed in Paris to argue for more surveillance I’m beginning to think he’s a vulture that developed language skills:

John O. Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, appeared to be speaking in part about the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance of phone and Internet communications that were disclosed by Edward J. Snowden in 2013. Those disclosures prompted sharp criticism and new restrictions on electronic spying both in the United States and in Europe.

Mr. Brennan also seemed to be pushing back against complaints from privacy advocates in light of a growing threat from the Islamic State against Western countries, exemplified by the gun and bomb assaults in Paris that killed 129 people on Friday night.

“In the past several years, because of a number of unauthorized disclosures, and a lot of hand-wringing over the government’s role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists, there have been some policy and legal and other actions that have been taken that make our ability collectively, internationally, to find these terrorists much more challenging,” Mr. Brennan said after a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington research organization.

As I noted yesterday, not a single terrorist attack was thwarted by the United States’ surveillance apparatus before the Snowden leak. When you have over a decade to show results and don’t there is no reason for anybody to take your program seriously.

This is the exact same shit we’re told whenever there’s a mass shooting. People must be disarmed to protect the people! The only difference is the word “gun” is replaced with the word “encryption.” But disarming people creates soft targets. When you take their guns you put them at the mercy of armed assailants. When you take their encryption you put them at the mercy of both state and non-state malicious hackers.

The “unauthorized disclosures” Brennan mentioned lead to a major overall increase in computer security. Everybody who uses a computer benefited from those disclosures. Common cryptographic libraries were studied under a new level of scrutiny and the result was a lot of bad crypto, which put people at risk, was replaced by better crypto. Political dissidents who lived under repressive regimes that relied on tools that often relied on bad crypto to identify them became safer. Searching for potentially embarrassing medical information became more confidential. Transmitting your credit card number to online retailers became less risky. Thieves who stole mobile devices found it much harder to harvest personal information about the rightful owner from them. Defense as a whole improved.

Considering that tradeoff, zero change in an ineffective program versus improve security for everybody, it’s hard to take Brennan seriously.

War Is Good For Business

I feel like a fool. Why? Because I didn’t buy Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, or any other politically connected weapons manufacturer’s stock when the market opened on Monday! Proving the 34th Ferengi Rule of Acquisition true, war is good for business:

The Paris attacks took place on Friday night. Since then, France’s president has vowed “war” on ISIS and today significantly escalated the country’s bombing campaign in Syria (France has been bombing ISIS in Iraq since last January, and began bombing them in Syria in September).

Already this morning, as Aaron Cantú noticed, the stocks of the leading weapons manufacturers – what is usually referred to as the “defense industry” – have soared:

I should have sought a job at one of these companies. They’re profitable so long as there’s war and there’s always war!

Baseless Finger Pointing

You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before. — Rahm Emanuel

Emanuel laid bare for us the way in which people descend like vultures on tragedies in order to push their personal agendas. Soon after the attacks in Paris hit the headlines people were descending on the crisis. Most were using it call for the dead of Muslims, even before any details of who perpetrated the attacker were known. But some used the crisis to call for the head of Edward Snowden:

In the years since Snowden revealed the vast surveillance and spying done by Western governments, strong encryption has become an increasingly popular way for people to shield their Internet activity from prying eyes. Encryption is used by everyone from e-commerce websites and human rights activists to American soldiers and Islamist terrorists.

It’s the latter group’s adoption of strong encryption in particular that has attracted so much fiery rhetoric.

Fox News hosts Greg Gutfeld and Dana Perino, George W. Bush’s former press secretary, took to Twitter to directly blame and even curse at Snowden.

How did Snowden’s act of leaking slides from National Security Agency (NSA) presentations allow the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to thwart surveillance to successfully pull off the attacks in Paris? It didn’t. Those who think it did are making to incorrect assumptions.

First, they are assuming a massive surveillance apparatus would have thwarted these attacks. Even before the Snowden leaks the NSA’s surveillance programs failed to thwart a single terrorist attack. How could this be? Easy. Massive untargeted surveillance isn’t an effective means of discovering planned future events. When you collect everything you end up with far more noise than signal. In fact the amount of noise is so large it drowns out the signal. The only thing pervasive surveillance is useful for is gathering evidence post facto when you have a target.

Second, they are assuming ISIS is the Middle Eastern version of the three percenters, which is to say they are assuming ISIS is an uncoordinated ragtag group. This is a notion everybody needs to get over. ISIS didn’t rise to prominence through luck. It rose to prominence by waging a successful war against rival nations. Waging that war required military tactics, equipment, and coordination that is only possible with a lot of very capable people working together. People need to stop looking at ISIS as a loose terrorist group and acknowledge it as a fully fledged nation state. And it didn’t become a nation state by letting its enemies read its communications. It became a nation state by utilize effective means of concealing communications. That requires experts, which isn’t something somebody can become by reading the slides Snowden leaked.

Mass surveillance was useless before Snowden leaked the NSA’s dirty laundry so there are no grounds to claim it would have thwarted these attacks had Snowden not blown the whistle.

An Incompetent Government Is The Best Government

I’m going to quote a comment I came across on Facebook and I want you to guess what it reminds me of:

It is a shame that he isn’t perfect in his support for human rights issues, but the reality is that he is the only major candidate that would work proactively to drastically address climate change, fraudulent corporate financial activity, worker’s rights, education, single payer health care, mitigating the surveillance state, implementing Keynesian economic programs that actually target the middle class and the impoverished, and restoring balance to corporate and individual taxation.

We need an educated society in order to aim for utopia, and Bernie’s policies are the best of the realistic candidates in this election cycle to move towards that goal. Sucks that he isn’t perfect, but then, who is?

If you guessed it reminds me of Rand Paul supporters you are correct! This quote was in response to somebody who pointed out that Bernie Sanders, like Hillary Clinton, wants to put Edward Snowden on trial, which is inexcusable. But this loyal Bernie supporter had to swoop in and explain how Bernie, even if he isn’t perfect, is still the best choice available.

What amuses me about this is that the “left” and “right” think they’re the opposite of each other. If you put them together in a room they’ll heatedly debate one another because they believe they’re on opposite sides. But when you boil it all down both sides are mirror imagines of each other.

Each side focuses on different details but their prescription is the same: absolute control by the “best” people is the only way to “save” this nation. I’m not entirely sure why anybody would want to save this nation, or any nation for that matter. What value is there is continuing a system where a handful of people hold absolute power over everybody else? Even if we pretend this nation is worth saving, how does giving the best people absolute power assume to accomplish that? Rand Paul supporters believe giving Rand Paul absolute power would save this nation because they believe he is the best candidate. Ditto for Bernie Sanders supporters. But the only way one can really save a nation is to have the most incompetent government possible, which requires having the worse people in positions of power.

Because the presidency comes with executive orders the holder of that position actually enjoys some modicum of power. That being the case the best person to appoint would be somebody who is illiterate, uncharismatic, and is entirely without drive. Rand and Bernie, as hard as it may be to believe, are both literate, charismatic enough to have followings, and driven to push their agenda down the throats of Americans. So they’re both capable of writing executive orders, have a big enough following where their executive orders will enjoy at least some praise, and driven to issue executive orders.

Only under an incompetent government will the people of a nation get along well enough to properly call them a nation. This is because having a competent government means everybody will try to use it to force their beliefs on everybody else. So long as the threat exits fear will divide the people. But having an incompetent government means few will see it as an effective means of forcing their beliefs on everybody else and therefore won’t try. The handful of people who still do view it as an effective means will try to utilize it but it will be a futile effort. In other words people will be able to go on with their lives and not live under constant fear of their neighbor’s agenda.

Let’s Encrypt To Enter Public Beta On December 3rd

Unfortunately there are a lot of websites that still aren’t utilizing HTTPS to ensure confidential and unaltered communications between them and their users. One of the excuses often given by website administrators for not using HTTPS is that certificates cost money. Another excuse is that managing certificates is a huge pain in the ass.

StartSSL has been providing free certificates for years but administrators still have to manually manage them. A while ago a group of people decided to kill both birds with a single stone and began work on Let’s Encrypt. Let’s Encrypt is a certificate authority and software package that work together to provide automatically managed certificate to websites. It’s been in closed beta for a while and starting December 3rd it will be making the beta test available to the public.

This means anybody wanting a certificate will be able to request one. It also means there will no longer be any excuses for websites not to implement HTTPS. And with the ever more pervasive surveillance state it’s absolutely necessary to make HTTPS the default.

Men In Magic Robes Ruining Lives

I’ve heard people claim that the courts act as a check and balance against law makers. Who, pray tell, acts as a check and balance against courts:

Last year, Utah couple Beckie Peirce and April Hoagland decided to get married. Last summer, in a decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, the Supreme Court confirmed that this was okay. Then, Peirce and Hoagland wanted to take in a foster child. So, because the Supreme Court had signed off on gay marriage, Utah child services officials licensed the couple earlier this year. And, in August, Peirce and Hoagland welcomed a 1-year-old girl into their home, where she joined the couple’s two biological children. Plans for adoption, approved by the baby’s biological mother, were in place — soon, this would be a family of five.

But on Wednesday, a Utah judge decided to end this plan, ordering the girl removed from her foster home because he said she would be better off with heterosexual parents.


A copy of the court order by Judge Scott Johansen, a juvenile court judge in Utah’s Seventh District, was not immediately available, but the Salt Lake Tribune confirmed its contents. Hoagland told KUTV that Johansen said that “through his research he had found out that kids in homosexual homes don’t do as well as they do in heterosexual homes.”

Some may argue that the law makers can act as a check and balance here by writing and passing a law allowing same-sex couples to adopt children. But such a process could take years if it would pass at all. Others may argue that higher courts can act as a check and balance but there’s no guarantee a higher court would overturn this ruling. In other words a man in a magic robe ruined a family and they have no recourse.

This is the problem with handing people power over others. Even though the couple, who are already raising children, and the biological mother (the child, being only one year-old, is unable to voice her opinion) agreed to the adoption it hasn’t been allowed to take place because it offends the delicate sensibilities of a single man who wouldn’t have a say in the matter if it wasn’t for his position of power.