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Privacy Violation

Mid 2006 AT&T, Bell South (soon to be part of AT&T), and Verizon all turned over their phone call database to the National Security Agency just because they ask.  Qwest refused, indicating to the NSA that they were required to obtain a subpoena before such information could be release.

Section 2702 of Title 18, part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, provides that “a provider of … electronic communication service [including telephone service] to the public shall not knowingly divulge a record or other information pertaining to a subscriber to or customer of such service … to any governmental entity” without the customer’s consent or a subpoena or court order. Under section 2707, carriers face civil liability, including minimum damages of $1,000 per violation, punitive damages, and attorneys fees. Government employees who participated in a violation also may face administrative discipline.

My questions is, since the NSA obtained such information illegally, why haven’t the telcos been fined, the information obtained by the NSA been destroyed, and the NSA employees who requested (and authorized the requests) been terminated?

I personally am tired of waiting for the restoration of my civil rights; the new administration has been in the White House for a year now, the honey moon is over — let’s stop hearing rhetoric, and start seeing action.

Originally posted 2009-12-31 02:00:15.

Microsoft Office 2007

Today a new version of Microsoft Office 2007 should be available.

One 22 December 2009 Microsoft got an early Christmas present; and injunction on the sale of Microsoft Office 2007 went into effect with the loss of a patent case involving a company named i4i located in Toronto, ON, CA.

The patent in this case, No. 5,787,449, was issued in July 1998.

i4i alleged, and successfully defended the assertion that Microsoft infringed on a patent by including a custom XML feature in Word 2007 which allowed it to open .XML, .DOCX, or .DOCM files.

An injunction issued in August 2009 was delayed until the ruling was issued on 22 December 2009.

Reuters estimated that Microsoft will have to pay about $290 million US ($200 million awarded in damages by the jury, and about $90 million in fees and interest).

Microsoft responded to the court ruling in a public statement:

While we are moving quickly to address the injunction issue, we are also considering our legal options, which could include a request for a rehearing by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals en banc or a request for a writ of certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kevin Kurtz, director of public affairs for Microsoft

In separate announcements, Microsoft confirmed that the code used in Microsoft Word 2007 would be changed, and a new version would be available on 10 January 2010.

Ruling

Originally posted 2010-01-10 01:00:27.

Obsolete

ob·so·lete [ob-suh-leet, ob-suh-leet] adjective, verb,-let·ed, -let·ing.

  1. [adj] no longer in general use; fallen into disuse: an obsolete expression.
  2. [adj] of a discarded or outmoded type; out of date: an obsolete battleship.
  3. [adj] (of a linguistic form) no longer in use, esp., out of use for at least the past century. [archaic]
  4. [adj] effaced by wearing down or away.
  5. [adj] Biology. imperfectly developed or rudimentary in comparison with the corresponding character in other individuals, as of the opposite sex or of a related species.
  6. [v] to make obsolete by replacing with something newer or better; antiquate: Automation has obsoleted many factory workers.

Origin:
1570–80; < L obsolētus, ptp. of obsolēscere to fall into disuse, perh. equiv. to ob- ob- + sol(ēre) to be accustomed to + -ēscere -esce

As it pertains to occupations, have a look at an NPR photo story of endangered professions…

The Jobs Of Yesteryear: Obsolete Occupations

Originally posted 2010-04-02 02:00:46.

Religious Intolerance or Insensitivity?

One has to ask the question, why would a US Congressman choose to use a facility with a religious affiliation when a public facility is only a few blocks from the chosen site and many public facilities exist within a short distance from the chosen structure?

While this is not a violation of the US Constitution (Establishment Clause of the First Amendment or Article VI) it is an extremely poor choice and one can only conclude that the intent is for it to be a public endorsement of a single religious belief and a rejection of the beliefs of those whose are different.  My guess is the congressman would never ask a christian to step foot into a mosque (there is a mosque not far from the church that was chosen — perhaps he might decide to hold another meeting there soon).

It’s easy to see how hate is promoted in American society when elected official either actively feed it or are just insensitive to the differences that once made this country strong…

I object to any pandering of intolerance.


Congressman Miller Townhall Meeting
Tuesday, August 16
7:00 p.m. CT

Marcus Pointe Baptist Church
Main Worship Center
6205 North W Street
Pensacola, FL 32505

 

Original Link: http://jeffmiller.house.gov/news/email/show.aspx?ID=KV2BK2PRUC2HK6XTHVVK6ONOY4

Originally posted 2011-08-12 02:00:36.

As Kagan Joins, Federal Courts’ Roles Rise In Importance

by Ron Elving

This weekend, Elena Kagan was sworn into the elite club of 112 who have served on the U.S. Supreme Court. The moment was duly noted across all news media, in large part because Kagan is just the fourth woman in the club.

But journalists also pounce on new appointments to the High Court in part to correct our perennial neglect of the judicial system. By far the preponderance of political journalism spilling out of Washington is devoted to the White House and Capitol Hill. As a rule, we pay attention to the courts when they interfere with something the other branches are trying to do.

This summer, federal judges have once again been horning in on issues of great interest and high stakes. Gay marriage. Immigration. The health care law. The post-BP moratorium on deepwater drilling. Each of these decisions will be reviewed by federal courts of appeal and ultimately by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But for that reason alone they will be generating news, inflaming public opinion and determining the direction of our politics, economics and culture.

Although most of the federal judiciary labors in lofty obscurity, at moments such as these one man or woman in a black robe can make an incalculable difference. Governors and senators and others in public life can only dream of such moments of influence.

Consider that on one day last week, one federal judge in San Francisco issued an opinion that invalidated the best known voter initiative of recent years: Proposition 8 on the 2008 California ballot, which overturned the state’s recognition of gay marriage.

Presenting extensive findings of fact from the trial before him, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker noted that defenders of Proposition 8 had scarcely attempted to refute these findings. In fact, the Prop 8 defense in its entirety was so cursory as to suggest its attorneys scarcely thought the trial court level was important. Their eye was on the friendlier venues of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.

But if liberals and libertarians were heartened by Walker, they were equally gratified one week earlier by the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton, who kicked out the key pillars of an Arizona law attempting to crack down on illegal immigration. Bolton found fault in that law’s provisions allowing state and local officials to question the immigration status of people they deemed suspicious — for whatever reason. The requirement that residents who ran afoul of such suspicion produce papers proving their immigration status was also spiked by the judge.

Bolton, like Walker, knew well how every word she put to paper would be scrutinized, analyzed and politicized. No doubt the same could be said for other judges bringing a more conservative viewpoint to bear on equally significant issues in recent days.

First of these was federal District Court Judge Martin Feldman of Houston, who spiked the administration’s six-month moratorium on oil-and-gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The administration may well have thought the argument for shutting down new explorations in the Gulf was open and shut in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon debacle. But if the shutdown was a no-brainer for environmentalists and industry critics, business folks in the Gulf states seemed to see it primarily as a short-term job killer and a long-term cloud over the economic future of the region.

Liberals were swift to note that Judge Feldman had a portfolio of stock holdings in the oil and gas sector, one that might well suffer in the event of a long-term slowdown in Gulf energy production. They also noted that the relevant federal appeals court, the 5th Circuit in New Orleans, was dominated by judges with business interests much like Feldman’s.

But the judge’s ruling stands, and is likely to stand longer than the Obama administration stands behind its six-month moratorium.

Similarly, in the same week as the Prop 8 ruling, supporters of the Obama health care law were incensed that U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond had approved Virginia’s standing to sue the federal government over the enforcement of provisions in that law. Defenders of the new health law had hoped that Hudson might uphold the historic principle of federal pre-eminence, a central issue since the founding of the Republic.

Many have noted the symbolic power of having this challenge emanate from Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy in the 1860s and the epicenter of “massive resistance” to the school integration decision of the Supreme Court in the 1950s. State’s rights may be a heading in a history textbook for some parts of the country, but they remain a mainstay of current events in the South.

Talk of nullification — the asserted right of states to ignore federal laws as they choose — has re-emerged as President Obama has pursued an activist agenda. In Texas and Tennessee, candidates for statewide office have allowed references to secession to enter their campaign vocabularies.

While no one expects another Civil War, we are clearly heading into the most significant round of state-federal confrontations we have seen since the 1960s. And that struggle has already been joined in courtrooms around the country, where it will largely be fought.

Small wonder then that Republicans in the Senate have made resistance to the judicial nominees of the new president such a salient element of their mission in these past 18 months.

To be sure, the president has seen both his nominees to the Supreme Court approved with little suspense. But the Senate has yet to allow a vote on most of the 85 nominees he has sent up for federal judgeships at the district and appeals court levels.

Same old partisan story? Not quite. The last five presidents, three of them Republicans, have seen four out of five of their appointments confirmed.

Democrats under Majority Leader Harry Reid have not been willing to call the minority’s bluff on this tactic by demanding real-time filibusters with all-night sessions and cots in the lobbies. No one wants the delay, the drama or the indignity.

But as the number of Democrats in the Senate shrinks in the November election, those who remain will need to reconsider what means are necessary to install their president’s choices in the increasingly powerful job of judge.

Original Story on NPR.org

Originally posted 2010-08-21 02:00:48.

Consumer Cellular

Consumer Cellular is a “discount” cellular provider (apparently a Verizon Wireless MVNO) that offers no-nonsense plans with no contract and low rates for users who only occasionally use their cell phones and the ability to change your plan at will.

Let me underscore that I don’t have any personal experience with Consumer Cellular, so I can’t vouch for their service — so my recommendation is keep a copy of the information from their web page in a PDF and pay with a credit card; that way if you find they don’t live up to their end of the “bargain” just work with your credit card company.

http://www.consumercellular.com/

Originally posted 2010-04-28 02:00:11.

Motorola Xoom MZ604 and Vizio VTAB1008

I picked up a Motorola Xoom MZ604 (US WiFi only) several months ago when the prices dropped (actually a package with a few accessories), and another a week or so ago when Target put the Xoom and portfolio case on sale for $399…  The Xoom runs Honeycomb (Android 3.2).

I also picked up two of the Vizio VTAB 1008 about the same time I purchased the second Xoom at Sam’s Club when they dropped the price to $194 (I got the Vizio cases at Walmart for $19 each since I didn’t care for the accessory package Sam’s Club had — or the price).  The VTAB runs Gingerbread (Android 2.3).

And yes, I have two Motorola Droid A855 handsets as well — so I currently have six Android devices; and I’ll consider a quad-core running Ice Cream Sandwidth (aka ICS, Android 4) when those come out.  My Droid is running Gingerbreak (Android 2.3) — and, no, it’s not an official release; the official release for a Droid is Froyo (Android 2.2),

I’ve rooted the Droid, the Xoom as well as the VTAB; and I’ll write up a review for each of the Xoom and the VTAB in the next several days and get them posted (if you really want a solid, reasonably priced Android handset with a slide out keyboard, the Droid, or the Droid 2, or the Droid 2 Global are great alternatives; but I see no need to review devices that are not currently produced or nearing end-of-life).

There are a lot of tablets out there on the market; but the Xoom is a great dual core 10.1″ tablet, and the VTAB is a pretty good buy for a single core 8″ tablet.

Now keep in mind that all 8″ (and 7″) tablets aren’t the same.  Many do not have GPS or Bluetooth.  Not only does the Vizio have that, but it also has IR (Infrared) and will act as an entertainment remote control (which I’ll probably toss the Neo Pronto I have aside in favor of just keeping the Vizio handy).

Like I said, I’ll do a complete review on each of the devices; and with the Xoom I’ll contrast and compare it to the other devices I considered.

The bottom line — if you’re looking for a tablet, this is the year of the tablet; there are going to be lots of them offered at very attractive prices over the holiday season, and I suspect you’ll find quite a few even better deals once the CES show announcements hit the press after the first of the year.

Do your homework, and know what you want, and determine what you’re willing to pay.

Originally posted 2011-11-23 02:00:50.

All over the map…

Yep, that’s a good description of my BLOG — and it’s intended to be that way.

While most of the time I focus on posting articles that convey information on technology, I certainly don’t shy away from the opportunity to rant or rave on something that’s on my mind.

That’s really the great thing about a personal BLOG; it allows you to share who you are, and what’s important to you.

Be assured that most of my posts are focused on technology and sharing what I know and learn… but from time to time you’re going to find a quote or some biting political or social commentary (I’ll try and hold my personal views to a minimum and just hope for getting you to think — but I do have my convictions, and they are strong).

Let me close this post by encouraging each and everyone to start a BLOG — there’s tons of places where you can get a BLOG for free, and it’s a wonderful place to record the thoughts and ideas that make you who you are and share them with the world if they choose to look!

Self awareness and open sharing may well be the foundation for a much brighter future — and certainly free though and free speach are values that we should not only fight to protect, but take advantage of every moment of our lives.

Originally posted 2010-01-03 01:00:03.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Thus far the collapse of the US housing market and [near] failure of Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac have cost US tax payers $145B… and it’s far from over.

The New York Stock Exchange have announced that the two companies will be delisted from the exchange next month (the stocks had been trading at the $1 per share mark — the minimum threshold to remain on the exchange — for over two years (since before the federal government took control of the companies).

The Federal Housing Finance Agency states that the delisting “does not constitute any reflection on either [company’s] current performance or future direction.”

Right…

Fannie and Freddie were created by an act of Congress decades ago… as private companies.  They buy mortgages from banks, re-sell them to investors, and guarantee to pay off the loans if borrowers default.

And, of course, for the last decade they’ve been buying junk mortgages that banks irresponsibly made to people who couldn’t possible afford them on vastly over-valued property.

Of course, the bank’s weren’t the losers; the shareholders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac largely lost their proverbial shirts — but the tax payers bailed out the banks (and continue to fund Fannie and Freddie — and they continue to lose money).

Congress will have to decide how to handle this mess.  A GAO report last fall included these points.

  1. Create a government agency to buy mortgages and re-sell them to investors. This would eliminate the profit motive that, some critics say, drove Fannie and Freddie to take the risks that led to their demise. It would also continue to subsidize the mortgage market, making it easier for Americans to buy homes. On the other hand, the government would still be putting lots of taxpayer money at risk to subsidize the housing market.
  2. Reconstitute Fannie and Freddie as government-sponsored enterprises, similar to the way they were before. This might be accompanied by new rules limiting the risks the companies can take. Still, this would bring back the problematic ambiguities of having private, government-sponsored companies.
  3. Dramatically reduce the government’s role in the mortgage business. In this model, there would essentially be no replacement for Fannie and Freddie. But the government might still take some role, such as selling insurance to cover mortgage default. This would reduce (but not eliminate) the risk to taxpayers, but it might also make it more difficult for people to get mortgages.

Originally posted 2010-06-18 02:00:20.

Vocabulary Lesson: Utopia

Utopia or Eutopia; homophones and a double entendre for sure…

  • Utopia is a term for an ideal society.
  • Dystopia is a negative utopia: a totalitarian and repressive world.
  • Eutopia is a positive utopia, different in that it means “perfect” but not “fictional”.
  • Outopia derived from the Greek ‘ou’ for “no” and ‘-topos’ for “place,” a fictional, this means unrealistic or directly translated “Nothing, Nowhere” This is the other half from Eutopia, and the two together combine to Utopia.
  • Heterotopia, the “other place”, with its real and imagined possibilities (a mix of “utopian” escapism and turning virtual possibilities into reality).

__________

  • Utopia: from Greek: οὐ, “not”, and τόπος, “place”.
  • Eutopis: derived from the Greek εὖ, “good” or “well”, and τόπος, “place”.

Most modern usage of the term “Utopia” incorrectly assumes the latter meaning, that of a place of perfection rather than nonexistence.  You can thank Sir Thomas Moore for this.

Originally posted 2011-10-14 02:00:45.