Letter to my Congressional Representatives

The Honorable Lynn Jenkins
1027 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Pat Roberts
109 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-1605

The Honorable Jerry Moran
Russell Senate Office Building
Room 361A
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Representative:

I am writing you as your constituent in order to urge you to form a committee to publicly and transparently investigate the NSA and FBI surveillance revelations revealed by the Guardian, the Washington Post, and CNET. These reports include secret court orders compelling cellular telephone companies, Verizon specifically named, to hand over all their customer call records, both domestic and foreign, on a daily basis. Other reports include interception of data transmissions to and from major U.S. Internet companies and the ability for the NSA to listen to domestic telephone calls without a warrant. All this data allows the
agencies to build profiles on all Americans using these services. This data will be abused, if it hasn’t been already.

In the years since September 11, 2001, more damage has been done to liberty and the United States in the name of protecting us from terrorism than terrorists would ever be able to achieve on their own. The President said shortly after these surveillance revelations that “you can’t have 100-percent security and also have 100-percent privacy and zero inconvenience.” That is a false choice as 100% security is an unobtainable goal. Even if it were possible, there are lines that cannot be crossed and still remain a free society.

I am not naive. I understand the need for some level of surveillance, but it must be under the rule of public law, not secret interpretations of laws by secret courts. It must also be overseen by a judiciary that is more than just a rubber stamp as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seems to be, having rejected only 11 of almost 34,000
requests in its 33 years.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has articulated the measures that they would like to see implemented and I agree with them. They are as follows.

— Immediately create a committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the American public the extent of this domestic spying;
— Demand an explanation from public officials about why and how innocent American are under surveillance;
–Create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;
— Hold public officials — including Attorney General Eric Holder — accountable for their role in these surveillance programs.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” but that should not include subverting the very liberty we are intending to defend.

Sincerely,

Nicholas Sanders

Lunatic Republicans

I wish someone could explain to me how any sane person can vote for the current crop of Republicans. It seems like more often than not, they are theocratic loons who have no problem legislating against people’s bodily autonomy all the while railing against Big Government. I hope I live to see the day when sane people are in the majority in the GOP.

SOPA/PIPA

I recently sent emails to my House and Senate representatives regarding these horrible pieces of legislation. I thought I would post the contents here for posterity.

Subject: Please oppose the PROTECT IP Act and SOPA

I urge you to reject the Internet Blacklist Bills (S.968 and H.R.3261). I am deeply concerned by the danger these bills pose to a free and open Internet and to the rights provided for by the Bill of Rights (1st & 5th Amendments specifically). Government blacklists are the tools of authoritarian regimes, not countries that pride themselves on personal freedom and due process of law.

While I do not support infringement on others’ intellectual property, those who do infringe still deserve the due process of law which these bills would deny them. These bills serve only the interests of large media companies that already abuse the rights granted to them by the DMCA. Passage of these bills will only lead to further abuses
and will not slow digital piracy in any meaningful way. The Internet and its citizens always route around these types of roadblocks.

Free speech and due process should not be subject to the whims of a few large corporations. These bills are dangerous and short-sighted, and, if passed, will be ineffective. I urge you to join Senator Wyden and other members of Congress, such as Representatives Lofgren, Eshoo and Issa, in opposing them.

Mutual Respect

A comment from Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s office during the recent flap over a Twitter post by a high school student has me rankled. According to Brownback spokesperson, Sherriene Jones-Sontag, it takes mutual respect to have a constructive dialog. While that is all well and good, the thing with respect is it is earned not just given. Governor Brownback has done nothing to earn my respect and much to lose any default level of respect I may have had. Maybe if he quit pandering to the Christian right and attempting to take away people’s rights, I could gain respect for him. Until those very unlikely events occur, my disrespect of him will continue unabated.

LG Optimus U Rooting Disappointment

I successfully temporarily rooted my phone (yay) using z4root, but discovered the rooted environment used over 20 MB of storage (boo). While having a rooted phone would be nice, it’s not worth giving up that much on a device that only has 140 MB of user accessible storage.

Other than this minor disappointment, I am really enjoying the LG Optimus. It’s not the flashiest device out there, but it serves my current needs well.

Bible Study

I am going to end my sporadic attempts at reading the Bible. I can’t seem to make it through the first few chapters of Genesis before realizing I just don’t care about this particular piece of poorly written fiction. There are so many more interesting and relevant books on my reading list to spend time with. Bon voyage dear Bible, I hardly knew ye and I am probably better off.

Thoughts on AMC’s “The Walking Dead”

I finally watched the final two episodes of “The Walking Dead“. I enjoyed season 1, but the final minutes of episode six seemed overly fatalistic. Sure, Dr. Jennings had plenty of reasons to be fatalistic. Offing your zombie wife and spending months underground without human contact in a futile attempt to save the entire human race doesn’t exactly paint a rosy picture. Almost anyone would welcome death under those conditions.

What I don’t understand is two other characters joining him (even if one eventually changed her mind). The human race has survived far worse conditions than a zombie apocalypse. Humanity will do what it has always done… adapt. It’s not as if humanity was suddenly thrust into the dark ages. While electrical power may be harder to come by, there is plenty equipment ripe for the taking to make life safer and even provide some modern conveniences. Civilization
isn’t over, it’s just experiencing a shift to a new “normal.”

Besides, a bullet to brain later on, doesn’t sound any more painful than vaporization by a fuel-air explosive.

Quick Programming Project

Since I have started using Xpenser to track my time and it exports data in CSV format, I threw together a small program to read the CSV file, calculate my time on various jobs, and output that time along with the amount owed for the individual job and total owed over all jobs. The only input required is the date to start the calculation from. I plan to add the ability to calculate a specific date range instead of just a given start date to the current date as well as make the output a bit nicer.

It took a little longer than I expected since I hadn’t programmed in a while, but it was fun nonetheless.

Download here.

Just a Niggle

I am usually more of a KDE person, but I have really been enjoying the Ubuntu Netbook Remix on my Dell Mini 9. Everything works great except for suspend when there is a mounted SD card in the card reader.

When there is a card mounted, closing the lid or suspending from the menu hangs the machine requiring a hard reboot to fix. There a bug report on Launchpad for this issue, but it seems that little progress is being made. I really hope this issue is resolved for 10.04 or before.

The 8GB internal SSD is sufficient for now, but it would be nice to have a card in the reader permanently for extra space.