unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 12:31 pm

"SEC Says New FinReg Law Exempts It From Public Disclosure"

Under a little-noticed provision of the recently passed financial-reform legislation, the Securities and Exchange Commission no longer has to comply with virtually all requests for information releases from the public, including those filed under the Freedom of Information Act.

The law, signed last week by President Obama, exempts the SEC from disclosing records or information derived from "surveillance, risk assessments, or other regulatory and oversight activities."  Given that the SEC is a regulatory body, the provision covers almost every action by the agency, lawyers say.  Congress and federal agencies can request information, but the public cannot.

That argument comes despite the President saying that one of the cornerstones of the sweeping new legislation was more transparent financial markets.  Indeed, in touting the new law, Obama specifically said it would “increase transparency in financial dealings."

Well, yes.  Obama also declared that his administration would practise "historic levels of openness".  Instead, it has practiced historic levels of furtiveness.  So, the declaration appears to be entirely in keeping with the Obama administration's record thus far.

As far as I can see, no-one outside the SEC and Congress benefits from this provision.  As noted in the article, it allows the SEC to deny public access to virtually all SEC records, make its own rules about records disclosure without needing OMB approval, refuse to cooperate with ongoing investigations, and cover up its failures.

This is yet another reason why Congress should not be allowed to pass these monster two-thousand-page bills such as H.R. 4173.  It makes it WAY too easy to bury landmines like this a thousand or fifteen hundred pages in.

At what point do We, The People as a whole wake up and realize that our own government is at war against us?

unixronin: Cartoon pirate (Piratical)
Wednesday, December 19th, 2007 12:50 pm

Win:  Beat iRobot out of a $286 million US Army defense contract for three thousand ground robots.

Lose:  Steal your robot technology from your former employer iRobot, build almost identical robots, get caught, get sued, try to erase as much of the evidence as you can in violation of a court order to preserve everything, get served with an injunction, lose the contract, "you die, she dies, everybody dies..."¹

just goes to show, you don't have to be a genius to commit blatant intellectual property theft.  In fact, it looks like being dumb as a rock sort of helps.

[1]  Reference!  Be specific, please.  No fair Googling.  :)

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unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Tuesday, August 7th, 2007 12:55 pm

It is reported that the 9th Circuit Court has ruled vote-swapping sites are legal.  The decision refers to the voteswap.com and voteexchange.com sites that allowed Gore and Nader supporters to effectively "move their votes around" in the 2000 Presidential election to states where they might have more effect.

On the one hand, this is the Ninth Circus, the most-reversed circuit court in the United States.  On the other hand, this might be a first step towards actually electing national offices via the popular vote at the national level, instead of voters voting for electors who then do pretty much as they please (and whose votes are not allocated consistently from one state to another).

Not only do I think the electoral college, though well-intentioned, is an outmoded institution that no longer actually serves its original intended purpose, but here's a point to consider:  Maybe, just maybe, if the "winner takes all" electoral system went away, it might become more publicly visible that even in the states that are considered unshakeably solid red or blue strongholds, Presidential candidates usually win or lose only by relatively small margins.  If it was more visible to the public exactly how small those margins are — if it was clear that there are no "red" and "blue" states, just a collection of varying shades of purple — then maybe the victors might not be quite so quick to claim sweeping mandates from the people, and we might start to set aside the political divisiveness that is currently making the political climate of this nation "Us vs. Them".

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unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Tuesday, May 16th, 2006 11:35 am

... there's fire, and where there's politicians, sooner or later, there's intrusion into your life "for the children".

The latest development out of Congress is likely to be no different.  Under the excuse of controlling kiddie porn, AG Alberto Gonzales and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R., Wisconsin) are in lockstep on proposals that ISPs be required to gather and maintain logs of everything every American does online, "so that police can more easily conduct criminal investigations."

Speaking to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children last month, Gonzales warned of the dangers of pedophiles using the Internet anonymously and called for new laws from Congress. "At the most basic level, the Internet is used as a tool for sending and receiving large amounts of child pornography on a relatively anonymous basis," Gonzales said.

Back before the Internet hit public consciousness, the Great Evil Distribution Route for kiddie porn was the US Mail.  The US Postmaster General put extensive resources and effort into tracking down purveyors of kiddie porn.  So much, in fact, that the United States' largest purveyor of kiddie porn was ... the US Government.  It was estimated by several reasonably reliable sources that as much as 98% of kiddie porn circulating through the US postal system was actually put there by the Postmaster General as part of sting operations that went something like this:

  1. Someone, somewhere, decides that you might maybe have some involvement with kiddie porn, or maybe you have the same name as someone who might, or once had the same phone number, or maybe it's just your lucky day.  "Wojkowicz.  Sounds like a pervert name to me."
  2. The Postmaster General mails you a package containing kiddie porn in a plain brown wrapper.
  3. Federal agents stake out your house and wait for you to check your mailbox.
  4. You get the mail, get three steps inside your door, and the agents knock on your door.
  5. The agents take the unopened package out of your hands and open it, already knowing what it contains.
  6. Bam!  You're under arrest for possession of child pornography.  If you had a career, kiss it goodbye.  If you're lucky, you won't spend more than two years in a Federal penitentiary.

They couldn't do that on the Internet though, right...?

Sensenbrenner's legislation--expected to be announced as early as this week--also would create a federal felony targeted at bloggers, search engines, e-mail service providers and many other Web sites.  It's aimed at any site that might have "reason to believe" it facilitates access to child pornography--through hyperlinks or a discussion forum, for instance.

So, you have a blog.  Maybe you said something on it the government doesn't like, or maybe it's just your lucky day.  "Wojkowicz.  Sounds like a pervert name to me."  Some FBI shill posts a comment on your blog which contains a link to a site on which, buried somewhere obscure, is kiddie porn.

Bam, you're now an Internet child pornographer.  Welcome to Federal stir.

Sensenbrenner's proposal is likely to be controversial. It would substantially alter U.S. laws dealing with privacy protection of Americans' Web surfing habits and is sure to alarm Internet businesses that could be at risk for linking to illicit Web sites.

This affects more than just Internet businesses -- and more than just businesses, Internet or otherwise.  If the US government's past record in the War on Drugs and the War on Kiddie Porn is anything to go by, this should alarm everyone.  Even banks could be threatened: a provision of Sensenbrenner's draft would make it a crime for a bank to process a credit card payment that, unknown to them, is for the purchase of what some FBI administrator decides is underage porn.

There are already Federal laws requiring ISPs to report kiddie porn.  We don't need more, especially one as broad and vague as this one looks like it's going to be.

Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority.  It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions.  There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern.  They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.

-- Daniel Webster

Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.  It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

-- William Pitt

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unixronin: A somewhat Borg-ish high-tech avatar (Techno/geekdom)
Saturday, November 12th, 2005 02:12 pm

ALCEI files suit against Sony in Italy

Italian police say Sony violated Italian law, criminal charges likely

Class action lawsuit filed in California

Department of Homeland Security slams Sony

I wanted to raise one point of caution as we go forward, because we are also responsible for maintaining the security of the information infrastructure of the United States and making sure peoples' [and] businesses' computers are secure.  ... There's been a lot of publicity recently about tactics used in pursuing protection for music and DVD CDs in which questions have been raised about whether the protection measures install hidden files on peoples' computers that even the system administrators can’t find."

In a remark clearly aimed directly at Sony and other labels, Stewart continued: "It's very important to remember that it's your intellectual property -- it's not your computer.  And in the pursuit of protection of intellectual property, it's important not to defeat or undermine the security measures that people need to adopt in these days.

Comment seen in various places:  "This actually isn't about stopping people from copying Sony CDs.  It's about stopping them from copying the music to an iPod."

What the hell for, Sony?  If someone buys a CD and dumps it to their iPod, they still bought the CD, didn't they?  What do you care how they listen to it?  Far better they play it on an iPod than that they not buy it, surely.

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unixronin: Pissed-off avatar (Pissed off)
Thursday, October 13th, 2005 03:27 pm

Cast your mind back to Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and all the rain it dumped on the Northeast.  Sometime during that rainstorm, a two-year-old kid fell into a raging, flood-swollen stream, was washed away, and drowned.  A watching woman, who had already snagged the kid and taken him back to his father once, could do nothing but scream for the kid's father, because she could not swim.

A jury just convicted her for not jumping in to help ANYWAY, and she has been sentenced to up to 18 months in prison ... for not turning "Two-year-old drowns in flood" to "Two-year-old and would-be-rescuer drown in flood."

This is an utterly idiotic decision.  Even professional rescue swimmers are under no legal obligation to go into the water to rescue a drowning person if, in their judgement, their own lives would be forfeit in the attempt.  But the District Attorney in this case, asserting that she created a legal duty by saving the kid the firsttime, said:

"Common sense dictates someone in that close proximity to a child is obligated to do something," Mr. Gorman said.  "I think anybody in their right mind would jump in."

Someone who can't swim?  Jump into raging floodwaters?

"If the Law supposes that, then the Law, sir, is an ass." -- Samuel Pepys

And I suppose it would also be common sense for someone who'd just watched someone else fall off a cliff to jump off after them to try to catch them.  If this is what passes for "common sense", it's no wonder we, as a society, are in such sorry shape.

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unixronin: The kanji for "chugo" (Duty/loyalty)
Friday, September 16th, 2005 08:46 am

Bruce Schneier ([livejournal.com profile] schneier) reports on Seminole County, FL judges throwing out hundreds of DUI cases.  Why?  Because the breathalyzer manufacturer refuses to disclose how the machines work.

Prosecutors have said they do not know how many drunken drivers have been acquitted as a result. But Gino Feliciani, the misdemeanor division chief in the Seminole County State Attorney's Office, said the conviction rate has dropped to 50 percent or less.

That may sound bad ... but it's the right call.  The legal system should not convict people based on unsupported assertions of guilt -- no more, as Bruce points out, than we should accept the results of an election in which we're not told how the votes were collected and tallied.  If you're going to submit data as evidence, you'd better be prepared to explain how you derived the data and what it means, and if you can't or are unwilling to, then it should very rightly be inadmissable.

Note:  In this context, it is ENTIRELY appropriate to point fingers at the parts of the PATRIOT QUISLING Act that grant the government the power to try anyone accused of terrorism without revealing to the defendant the evidence against him or who is accusing him.  How can you defend yourself against an evidentiary claim when you don't know what it is?  Where terrorism is concerned, we are treading perilously close to "Guilty unless proven innocent" or even to "Accused, therefore guilty."

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unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Monday, September 12th, 2005 11:33 am

Dalton McGuinty, premier of the Canadian provice of Ontario, has ruled against a proposal to allow Moslems to use Shari'a law in family disputes.  "There should be one law for all Ontarians," says McGuinty.

Mr McGuinty said he would introduce "as soon as possible" a law banning all religious arbitration in the province.

Ontario has allowed Catholic and Jewish faith-based tribunals to resolve family disputes on a voluntary basis since 1991.

Mr McGuinty, who had been studying Ms Boyd's report since last December, said he was concerned religious family courts could "threaten our common ground".

He told the Canadian Press news agency: "There will be no Sharia law in Ontario.  There will be no religious arbitration in Ontario.  There will be one law for all Ontarians."

I have long maintained that, contrary to the proverb, when in Rome, you need not necessarily do as the Romans do; however, you're in a damned poor position to complain about the Romans doing as the Romans do.  This is a case where this principle does not apply; while you're not obligated to do as the Romans do when visiting Rome, if you decide to go to Rome to live, you'd damned well better be prepared to comply with their laws, and not expect to be allowed to bring your own with you and declare yourself to be a special case.

No, it's not religious discrimination.  It's the opposite of discrimination: it's called fairness.  Everyone gets to play by the same set of laws.  You don't get to pick and choose which ones you have to comply with based on your own personal religious affiliation.  If you want to choose to comply with additional laws imposed by your religion, so long as they don't conflict with the laws of the land, that's your free choice.