Category Archives: Politics


Call Your Congresspeople

As another blogger I know recently stated, this is not really a political blog. Nonetheless, this important enough that I need to bring attention to it.

The senate recently passed a new version of the Protect America Act that gives retroactive legal immunity to companies like AT&T for the illegal wiretapping of Americans that they have done in the past several years. The White House is pushing really hard for this to pass in the House now, because it grants immunity for their past illegal activity and that of their ‘friends’ at AT&T et al. However, if they were so desperate for continuous coverage, they would have accepted congress’ offer to extend the current PAA by three weeks, which they did not. Why? The extension did not provide immunity for the telecoms.

The EFF (to whom I donate regularly) has been pushing hard for over a year to get AT&T in the courts over this. This bill would totally halt their progress.

The Republicans in congress have walked out in protest, and are trying to say that the Democrats are compromising national security. This is nonsense. There are plenty of legal mechanisms for wiretapping with a warrant.

Please, take the time to call your representative’s office and let his or her staff know that you support their efforts to stop this bill. Or, if he or she is a Republican, a little chastisement might be in order. The list of representatives is here. It took me all of five minutes to find William Jefferson’s phone number and call his office.

As a guideline to help you, here’s a good basic framework of what to tell them, keeping it short and sweet:

  • You support delays and even a stop in passing the new telecom act on the grounds that it includes immunity for illegal wiretapping.
  • You don’t think that your representative will be endangering national security by not passing the bill.

Happy Darwin Day!

Charles Darwin was born 199 years ago today. From the Darwin Day press release,

Recent Gallup polls show that 43 percent of Americans reject the theory of evolution and instead believe that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.” And at least four 2008 presidential candidates have said they do not believe the theory of evolution.

“There is a continuous threat to evolutionary biology and to science in general that has been posed by fundamentalists who reject entirely a Darwinian worldview because they feel it threatens their religious beliefs,” said Massimo Pigliucci, Ph.D., a professor of evolutionary biology at the State University of New York-Stony Brook.

43% — Keep in mind that while these people think God created humans in the last 10,000 years, we have evidence that dogs were domesticated by humans some 4000-7000 years before that.

“Blink” Technology in my Credit Card – No Thanks

UPDATE 2007-11-11:
De-Blinked Chase Freedom Card
Card de-Blinked. Original post below:

My wife and I recently signed up for our first joint credit card. This will allow us to do things like buying plane tickets to see each other and dinners out without having to constantly update our Karma spreadsheet. The Karma spreadsheet (thanks Google) will remain in use for non-credit purchases.

That’s not what this post is about.

What it is about is the plastic cards that come with the account. When I arrived here in New Orleans today, I opened up the envelope and dutifully read the documentation that came with the credit cards. I noticed a mention of the cards having “Blink” contact-less checkout ability. I felt a lurch in my stomach. Sure enough, a quick inspection of the card and some googling revealed that this “Blink” thing is nothing more than a nice name for RFID.

RFID is insecure as used in this application. Your credit card number can be read from afar (up to 69 feet) while sitting in your wallet in your pocket or purse, without your knowledge. As detailed in the linked article, it is then trivial to create a duplicate card.

Of course, our government is also keen on RFID in passports. In the case of Chase, it turns out you can simply request new cards or get creative with a drill. I was going to do the latter, but ended up doing the former, because I want it to register with Chase that I don’t want RFID in my credit cards. It was no problem getting new cards ordered — for all my quibbles with Chase, their customer service on the phone is generally both helpful and English-speaking.

If you want to de-RFID your passport, I believe the recommended method is by hammer blow, but here are instructions for making an RFID-fryer from a disposable camera. Apparently tampering with passports is punishable by up to 25 years in prison, so tamper at your own risk.