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Richard Moyer

Richard Moyer

Richard is an engineer by day, and a political activist by night, fighting would-be totalitarians and government busybodies everywhere.

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John McCain has done it again, further sinking his party's fortunes with young people. Ever the statist apparatchik, he tells us his opinion on Ed Snowden:

"There is now a large percentage of Americans, particularly young Americans, who view Mr. Snowden as some kind of whistle blower when we know that he betrayed his oath of office...There's a young generation that believe he's some kind of Jason Bourne."

Let's translate:

"Young people have dumb opinions. We're right about everything. Next, I'll draw a parallel between my political enemy and an awesome action hero."

Regardless of whether you like him or not, watching someone nail their own coffin shut is riveting; like a reality TV starlet melting down in a torrent of purple eyeliner.

"You're so stupid, Ed! I hate you! Everybody hates you!"

McCain would scream, sitting on the curb in his party dress, strawberry margarita spilled across the front. As Snowden leaves with the admiring public, McCain would shriek again,

"You think he's some kind of hero!? He's a loser! He's a stupid loser!"

Such condemnation from bargain bucket uncool like McCain only confirms that Snowden is, in fact, pretty cool and rather like a real-life Jason Bourne.

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Prohibiting the NSA from spying on Americans is pointless, a Band-Aid for a larger problem. To wit, it was illegal to spy on Americans before the scandal, and making it doubly illegal will accomplish nothing. We won't find safety in the arms of the very government officials that betrayed our trust to begin with, and as free men and women, we need to find another way.

The core of the problem is privacy, and the lack thereof created by technology. A US government ban still leaves us open to any other government or organization that has the ever-decreasing amount of money necessary to build a similar spy network.

Souljaboy.pngProcessing power gets about half as cheap every 18 months, so in 20 years, the $1.5 billion NSA data center will only cost $180,000, making it available to essentially every tin-horn dictator and small-cap internet company on earth. In 30 years, the same processing power ought to only cost $1500. If we are to remain private, and therefore remain free, we need to find another way, because this power can eventually belong to everyone, even Souljaboy.

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If we pass a law, people may rest easy, imagining their communications are once again private (assuming that they ever were). But let's get real. The possibility of omniscience, awareness of everyone's thoughts and desires, every communication and transaction, the totalitarian dictator's dream and every powersexual's fantasy, is becoming real. As technology advances it only becomes cheaper, faster and easier.

What we need is a robust system.

A robust system has provisions for failure. Robust systems develop under stress, under extreme conditions.  In terms of privacy, the conditions existing today could be no more extreme. Multi-billion dollar budgets and brilliant minds are chipping away at every safeguard that we would like to think is protecting us, while brilliant minds fight back with ultra-encryption, proxy servers and spoofed IP addresses. Interesting as it may be, herein lies the problem.

On a tactical level, computer security is viewed as a computer issue. While an endless arms race of technological attack and defense is being waged, ultimately no decisive advantage can be gained by either side.

On a strategic level, it is a human issue. Decisive advantage is structural.

My father repeated these wise words to me, "Only risk what you are willing to lose." Perhaps it is clear then, we can only keep online that which we are willing to lose. With Facebook, online bank accounts, smartphones and RFID credit cards, we set ourselves up for compromise. Often, compromise is not a big deal, but in the extreme case where privacy is totally essential, in cases of life or death, compartmentalization is key. Security, rather than having a single point of failure, must be made robust.

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Oceangoing ships have water-tight compartments.  When the hull is compromised, only the punctured compartments can fill with water, allowing to stay afloat in all but the most severe cases. Without a single point of failure, the design is robust. Likewise, communication, banking and one's private life all need to be compartmentalized as well, if privacy is to be possible at all in the near future.

A complete conversation, via one form of communication, can be compromised most easily. If privacy is truly essential, the information must be broken up into non-critical pieces and transferred via multiple methods. A message transmitted half by letters disguised as junk mail and half by in-person meetings is nearly impossible to track, record and use in an all-digital system. Trade convenience for security, and security for convenience.

Banking, instead of being "convenient", must also be split up. Sure, keep some money in one account that you use all the time. Cashflow through a chief account can be high, while the total quantity of money can be kept as low as possible, keeping losses to a minimum. Holding in multiple bank accounts is the natural extension, while banking with multiple banks is next. Holding cash is another layer of security, while holding real assets like gold or canned tuna is the most secure, least convenient method.

Social media and real personal information should be compartmentalized as well. Fake birthdays, fake names and fake history can quickly cull legitimate communication from the real, even helping identify points of failure. For instance, I know for a fact that all the companies sending mail to "Richard Arcturus Moyer" got my information from US News & World Report. Don't put all your eggs in one  basket, and plant bits of false information to cull would-be fraudsters from legitimate communications and contacts.

In a totally connected, electronic world, the only safe data is the data that is not electronic at all. Even in a world dominated by tiny computers embedded into everything, there is still a place for a pen and paper. Instead of believing we can stop the march of progress with a simple law, we must learn to adapt to the world as we change it, because the NSA is only the beginning. They are the first and the best so far, but you ain't seen nothing yet.

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In hard times, one needs a friend, and in the toughest times, one needs man's best friend. So which dog will best help you weather the coming storm?

An Apocalypse-Dog should have the following characteristics:

  • Good Health - dogs that suffer genetic defects are a liability in a tough scenario.
  • Low food consumption - dogs that eat a giant sack of food every week will be penalized in this assessment.
  • Heightened Awareness - dimwitted or exceptionally friendly dogs are no help.
  • Intimidation - a Maltese named Princess Kisses is almost no help in a confrontation.
  • Intelligence and trainability - a dog that can adapt to circumstances is valuable in a changing world.
  • X-Factor - this is the characteristic that can be an advantage or disadvantage; a unique trait that sets a dog apart, for better or worse, and is highly dependent on your specific circumstances.

5. Rottweiler

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  • Health- 2
  • Food Consumption- 2
  • Awareness- 5
  • Intimidation- 5
  • Intelligence- 4
  • Total -18

Essentially a larger, more intimidating version of a German Shepherd, the Rottweiler is prone to suffer from hip and heart defects, and this 100 pound-plus dog consumes a lots of food. However, the intimidation factor is maxed out, and they are natural guard dogs that will give you the drop on any tomfoolery.

X-Factor: Blackness

Rottweilers have the advantage at night, being almost totally black. In snow, this is clearly a disadvantage, but in bad lighting, a black dog can run circles around a would-be attacker.

 

4. Miniature Pinscher

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  • Health- 3
  • Food Consumption- 5
  • Awareness- 5
  • Intimidation- 2
  • Intelligence- 4
  • Total -19

While lacking the intimidation factor, a miniature pinscher is a pocket guard dog. Like most toy dogs, they frequently have genetic defects that lead to hip and eye problems. However, since it is a burglar alarm instead of an attack dog, its mobility is not terribly important. This dog is light on food, and highly aware.

X-Factor: Tininess

The miniature pinscher, unlike the other dogs in this roundup, is tiny. It can be concealed in a coat, squeeze through tiny spaces and avoid capture by virtue of its small stature.

 

3. German Shepherd

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  • Health- 3
  • Food Consumption- 3
  • Awareness- 5
  • Intimidation- 4
  • Intelligence- 5
  • Total -20

With a tendency for hip dysplasia and relatively large size, this dog needs good genes and a large food source for its other remarkable traits to shine through. Shepherds are smart and aware, and there is a reason that police and military dogs are almost always German Shepherds.

X-Factor: Super Sense of Smell

German shepherds are often trained to use their noses to do their jobs, and a clever owner could use this to his or her advantage in a tough scenario.

 

2. Pit Bull

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  • Health- 5
  • Food Consumption- 4
  • Awareness- 4
  • Intimidation- 5
  • Intelligence- 3
  • Total -21

Since pit bulls come in all shapes and sizes, a 50-pound pit bull will be our benchmark. All "pit-bulls" are mutts, a mix of various terriers and bull dogs, lending them good health. Their terrible reputation pegs the meter on intimidation, and gives the illusion of a big dog without the food consumption.

X-Factor: Iron Will

Pit bulls are bred to ignore pain and hardship, have little or no fear, and never give up. When the chips are down, a pit bull won't scamper off.

 

1. Australian Cattle Dog

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  • Health- 5
  • Food Consumption- 4
  • Awareness- 5
  • Intimidation- 3
  • Intelligence- 5
  • Total -22

This big-headed dog is smart as a whip, smallish and its disproportionately large jaws are quite capable of putting the chomp on someone. They are furry and cute, which dings them pretty hard on the intimidation factor, but they are also very healthy dogs, frequently living into their mid-teens. Overall, the Australian cattle dog offers the best balance of capability and liability.

 X-Factor: Cuteness

While people will be inclined to overreact to a pit bull or rottweiler, people will underestimate cattle dogs, giving them a tactical edge.

 

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Justin Hanners, an Auburn, Alabama police officer, was fired in 2012 for trying to do the right thing.

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He'd been ordered by his supervising officer to make a needless arrest to help meet his monthly quota for tickets, arrests and other revenue-raising activities (anything with a fine attached). He filed a grievance with the department because of the immoral order, and was fired shortly thereafter. Generally, firing a police officer requires an act of Congress, but evidently questioning the extortion activities of a police department is more than enough.

Herein lies the problem of using the enforcement branch of government to raise revenue. Collecting fines, superficially, makes sense; instead of citizens paying to incarcerate one another, the person committing the crime pays the price directly. However, when police budgets get tight, cops feel a perverse incentive to create criminals.

The old police motto, "Serve and Protect" becomes terribly twisted when creating criminals becomes good business sense.

Eager to cash in on the state's monopoly of force, businesses are eying police departments' unique power to grab people's money in exchange for absolutely nothing. Traffic camera companies that mail tickets directly to people's houses are more than happy to split the revenues with police departments, all in the name of public safety. Studies have shown that traffic cameras actually increase accidents, but this doesn't seem to bother the recipients of the ill-gotten money.

After a little thought, it's clear that when police are repurposed into revenue collectors, harassing citizens over petty infractions like public drunkenness, speeding or burned out headlights becomes top priority.

While Detroit goes bankrupt, and places like Chicago and Cincinnati are inclined to follow, expect to see cities flailing in their death-throes, clawing for revenue anywhere they can find it. Since a police officer can pay his own salary with only one ticket per day, hiring additional cops to fine fellow citizens for non-crimes can help close a budget gap. In fact, the totally bankrupt city of Prichard, Alabama allocated four officers to grill the short stretch of interstate that passes over their city, despite Prichard's extremely high levels of crime.

Law enforcement should stick to law enforcement, while extorting money from fellow citizens should be left up to ordinary criminals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Apple, maker of the iPhone, iPod and all manner of iGadgetry, is in a pickle. While they've been in denial about the very nature of their company for about a year, their stock has dropped by about 40 percent.

While I can't hate on their success, and I would prefer that they continue to barrage the public with cool stuff, until they conquer their identity crisis and transcend the death of their visionary leader, Steve Jobs, they will fall farther and farther from their tree.

When Apple was at its peak in the third quarter of 2012, they were growing their iPhone market 28 percent year over year, selling 17 million iPads, just blowing up the world. They also made around 9 billion dollars profit in 3 months.

The "how" is simple; they made stuff that everyone wanted in China and sold it for a huge markup. The "why" is the crux of Apple's success, and something that they've obviously missed by appointing Tim Cook their CEO.

I'm going to throw three pictures at you, and we'll play the game from Sesame Street, "One of these things just doesn't belong here."

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Hint: It's the third one.

How about three more?

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Apple, moreso than technology, is selling image. Apple is a fashion tech company. They aren't on the cutting edge of technology, they don't make the world's fastest computers, or the best hardware or software. But, at one time, no one could touch their level of cool, and for this everyone paid a premium, and huge profits were the natural result. The coolest people bought Apple.

Easy question: does Brad Pitt listen to music on his Zune, or his iPod?

What Steve Jobs brought to the company was a chic, cool persona and thusly chic, cool products. The iPhone was like a bar of soap compared to the Blackberry, and MacBooks are almost obnoxiously thin. "Thin" and "smooth" are not technical features and specifications, but rather the product of a hard-driving visionary. One can be certain, if Apple released their equivalent of Google Glass, they would look like Cartiers from the future.

Jobs, no doubt, cussed his product designers if something "had ugly-shaped buttons" or if something wasn't "round enough". These are the kinds of critical inputs that an artistic, image-oriented mind can come up, and these are the kinds of things a new Apple CEO needs to be excellent at providing.

Necessarily, the technically competent people that have risen to the top at Apple are probably not the right people to have their hand on the tiller of what is ultimately a fashion company. While Tim Cook is no doubt a brilliant man with extraordinary drive, he is not a trusted avatar of fashion.

While it may seem completely bizarre, it's possible that someone like Karl Lagerfeld or Marc Jacobs would have been a better choice.

 

 

 

 

 

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