Monday, October 31, 2016

Facebook "DDOS" set up to confound police disruption of pipeline at Standing Rock reservation, ND

I saw a curious plea to join a demonstration online on Facebook, as a kind of virtual “denial of service” to prevent sheriff’s department officers to use Facebook to see who is protesting at the Standing Rock, N.D. pipeline site.  The link on Snopes is here.

My reaction was to give the link in my own timeline, rather than cut-and-paste and pretend I was doing something I’m not.  I wondered if virtual protests could be a TOS violation.  Probably not. But the idea that the police depend on Facebook to disrupt the protests sounds facetious.

I don’t break the law to protest things – yet at one time I was willing to break sodomy laws.

I don’t join these mass movements, and the verdict is up in the air for me whether we “need” the pipeline or not.  We probably do.  But we need to get on to renewable energy sources much more quickly.

Wikipedia has consolidated all the information about the protests here.

CNN weighs in on the Facebook sit-in here. Vox weighs in also about the "viral check-in".
Wikipedia attribution link for Cannon Ball ND picture

Monday, October 24, 2016

TOS of Cloud backup services brings to mind issues like P2P illegal downloads, wireless security

I noticed today that Carbonite has updated its TOS (to conform to the EU-US Privacy Shield) and noticed also in the TOS under “conduct” that the terms do prohibit allowing illegal material to be backed up.  “Illegal” could include delivery vehicles for malware, or copies of illegally downloaded content and possibly classified information or materials related to terrorism planning or c.p.   It is probable that Apple and Microsoft and other backups (Mozy) have the same terms.

A few years ago there were a number of lawsuits against home users filed by media companies, mostly concerning materials downloaded and shared with others through P2P or possibly Bit-Torrent or maybe TOR.  One of the most notorious cases was Sony BMG v. Tenebaum (wiki reference;  law firm’s blog story).  In a few cases (one in Minnesota) people were sued and judged against for what they claimed they had not done, but for what others in their households might have done.

It’s possible to get a warning of copyright infringement from an ISP. This would usually happen from P2P, but there are some articles about the possibility of a hack or misuse of a router from outside one’s home (such as this on “six strikes”).  Most universities have policies on P2P (such as Washington).

Over time, the possibility could exist that the government could want to use automated tools, looking for digital footprints, to scan cloud backups.  I doubt, however, that the various evolutions of the US Patriot Act and Freedom Act pose much of an issue for most users.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

What is involved in assisting refugees and asylum seekers: overview of what I have found out so far

I wanted to share a few thoughts today on the whole subject of sponsorship of other people:  that is, possibly housing or hosting an asylum seeker (LGBTQ or not) or of participating in an assistance group for a refugee family, probably from Africa or an Islamic country.  I also wanted to mention “sponsorship” appeals by charities that happen on Facebook.

I’ve discussed the difference between “asylum seeker” and “refugee” on other blog postings.

In the United States, refugees are admitted after considerable screening by the US government (Homeland Security and the State Department), and are assisted by volunteer groups associated with non-profits or churches or faith groups (mosques or synagogues), supervised by large social service agencies approved by the government.  Typically it takes about twenty of so volunteers to assist a refugee family and most are settled in commercially run apartments or townhomes.  Benefits are paid to refugees for a limited time.  Besides commercial apartments, refugees generally are settled in private homes only of relatives or others who knew the person overseas.

In Canada, private agencies have much more responsibility. Private sponsorship groups are smaller.  Placement in private homes (especially of single individuals) seems more likely.  Libertarian organizations like Cato and Niskanen have been advocating that the U.S. allow a private sponsorship model.  It is relevant that in Canada health care expenses for refugees would be covered by the Canadian single payer system, which the U.S. does not have.

Asylum seekers, by contrast, are here legally only because of submitting an asylum request.  There is a variety of circumstances that have happened, including visa expiration, or illegal entry into the country.  For at least six months (maybe longer) or until asylum is approved, asylum seekers are not allowed to work or earn their own living.  Generally, the INS is likely to hold an asylum seeker in detention unless a private agency or individual or family agrees to support him or her.  This could actually be better for the seeker if he or she has health care issues.  The reasoning behind this approach is to prevent frivolous asylum claims after illegal entry; someone will get “freedom” only if private persons or groups are willing to vouch for them and take responsibility for them (with analogy to the Canadian model for refugees). Usually INS would expect those persons to include US relatives or others who know the asylee well.
In some larger metropolitan areas, non-profit groups try to assist asylum seekers, and in some cases ask for people to volunteer to house them.  In a few cities, group homes have been set up.  The INS always prefers to see relatives or people who actually know the person house him or her, if possible, but obviously this isn’t always possible.   In some cities, smaller non-profits are able to assist hosts who live in a relatively small or compact urban area with access to good public transportation (and with other infrastructure, like Internet access).  This seems to work out OK in practice.

However, it appears that someone who lives farther away from convenient assistance could find hosting very challenging.  To the best of my knowledge, it appears that the INS would require the host to provide an I-864 (an Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A) and accept full responsibility for support of the person as a dependent.  I don’t know how the tax code would work, but this obviously sounds risky (for example, health care expenses).  It sounds more analogous to foster care of an adult.  A development like this even brings up the idea (were I to participate as a host) that I might need a "real job" of sorts, actually selling things to other people rather than offering my "free" journalis,.

Generally, someone who is very consistently active in one or two, or a narrow range of groups (including faith-based) is more likely to be able to assist an asylum seeker directly than someone who remains “independent” and floats among a lot of different places, as I do.  Indeed, I have my reasons for my peripatetic behavior, but they could interfere with being of real assistance with this need.

Even so, I may be looking into this much further soon.

I also wanted to mention the appeals for “sponsorship” of overseas (mostly Africa) kids, which I sometimes find in my message box on Facebook.  Save the Children did this back in the 1970s (I don’t know if it does now), and you would get mail from the child, but then sponsored children would be changed.  I am fine with a reputable charity’s deciding whom to help, but I don’t like the idea of being connected to a specific child unless I really was prepared to spend a lot of time and follow through, perhaps be able to make overseas visits or consider adoption. Otherwise it doesn’t sound real.

There are other models for becoming directly involved with people overseas, like micro lending through Kiva.   Again, you have to be prepared to spend a lot of time and effort on narrow pragmatic interests overseas.  I do think there is said to be something for the “Give Direct” model that Vox likes  But in the end, the biggest need overseas I think is for real infrastructure.

Having a dependent means having your own skin the game, and accepting a certain place or “right size” that can depend on the success of others who need you.  It’s a heavy topic.  But it may confer “the privilege of being listened to.”

Friday, October 21, 2016

Airbnb seems to invoke Section 230 against part of NYC law

A CNN Money story Friday Oct. 22 implies that Airbnb is challenging a NYC law against many short temr rentals saying that holding Airbnb liable for violations by users (renting their condos or homes) violates Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

Airbnb says that even in NYC most users rent their homes infrequently.

I would wonder about sites like "Emergency BNB" which may be of use to people like asylum seekers and domestic violence victims (see Issues blog Oct. 1.

Monday, October 17, 2016

SLAPP lawsuit names a "doomsday prepper" blogger as a defendant for a "mere" hyperlink (and maybe characterization)

I’ve learned through Facebook about an apparent SLAPP lawsuit in which “Survival Blog” (apparently originating in Idaho) is (or its owner or authors) is named as a codefendant in a defamation suit for merely providing a hyperlink (and summary sentence) to a credible site that in turn reports about a particular attorney in Tennessee.  The suit is filed in Ohio.

The two posts by James Wesley Rawles explaining the litigation are here  and here.

It is rare for litigation to arise out of a mere hyperlink, although it has happened.  It might be riskier to characterize someone with your own words before giving the link.  I read the embedded link to the site  (Ross Elder) and simply found it complicated and bizarre.  (I say this invoking “The Opinion Rule”).

But sometimes litigation happens out of “turf” protection – the plaintiff’s “business model” (like with patent trolls) is based on the idea.  The plaintiff may be someone who depends on a very narrow idea for income stream.  We see this as bullying, but the plaintiff (following the behavior of Donald Trump) sees it as gatekeeping or “protecting and providing for his own”.
As for prepping, yes, I respect the view that every able bodied person should be able to defend the self and family and live in a simpler way if something happens.  If enough people “prep”, society becomes more resilient as a whole and is less vulnerable to attract asymmetric enemies.  As for the validity of the various threats – EMP, solar storms – an “amateur” can only dig through the literature, collate it, and try to connect the dots.  At some point, the established media need to do more thorough reporting than they have.  Inventor Taylor Wilson (who invented a fusion reactor as a teenager) may be onto something in saying that power plants could be designed with small fission reactors so they can become completely impervious to solar or man-made attacks on the transformers of the grid.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

FCC will strengthen privacy rules protecting consumers against data collection

The Federal Communications Commission will vote on Oct. 27 on measures that would refine the privacy rules, as to what telecommunications providers can disclose about customer usage as opposed to what publishing platforms (like YouTube or Blogger through Google) can disclose, the latter being stricter. But the narrative is a bit confusing

Telecommunications companies would need explicit consent to disclose browsing history, but not device identifiers.  Brian Fung has the detailed story in the Washington Post Friday here.

Microsoft has attracted controversy because the terms of use for Windows 10 seem to give Microsoft the ability to do what it wants. Preston Gralla writes “How Windows 10 became malware”. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

How can "bloggers" (like me) serve others in the real world? What about immigration?

I’ve had a couple of conversations with law firms in Virginia this week (one in person) about my possible future role in assisting with housing of asylum seekers, especially with LGBT concerns.
Some of this content is very sensitive and I can’t go into full detail right now.  But one idea is prevalent: some advocacy organizations will seek hosts who can house asylum seekers in “spare bedrooms”.  People should not host (or be expected by others) immigrants whom they do not know already (family) unless the advocacy organization can also provide some legal oversight (usually with the help of a separate law firm or a major, large social services group that works regularly with DHS and Customs).  Asylum seekers (who may have a huge variety of circumstances) are precluded from working for certain periods and precluded from receiving certain governments that “normal” refugees get, so they are more dependent on private support, possibly even as full dependents.  Libertarianism supports generous private sponsorship of immigrants (as happens in Canada) but it requires considerable support from the population by many groups and individuals.

 One possible organization is Ayuda.  I noticed on their volunteer page the invitation “Become a blogger.”  (That sounds like Blogtyrant!) Always had a hankering for writing? We are always looking for new writers.”

I “normally” cannot be enlisted as a “writer” to spread somebody else’s message, no matter how morally valid.  Yup, I can’t be hired as Donald Trump’s speechwriter, although I could probably cast some of his ideas in a way to make them much more mainstream and acceptable (that makes me dangerous!) I would like to work with established news groups (like Vox, OAN), and at least one of my photos from Chelsea the night of the “bombing” (Sept. 17) was used on televisions station WJLA.  But, I’ll stay ony my high horse (to the chagrin of Dr. Phil) and call myself a journalist.  I would be happy to have a group serving immigrants to contribute a piece to my Wordpress News Blog (or maybe to interview them and do it myself).
I have noticed that some non-profits, especially churches, seem to have difficulty maintaining their web pages.  A few have had security problems, and sometimes churches use packages that wind up taking a lot of time to keep content up, with current sermons and with up-to-date information on various activities, while sometimes keeping out-of-date stuff up (like youth) a long time.  But people (like me) spend more time on our own stuff than with organizations.  We put the effort on what we own.  Such is the free market and capitalism.  

Monday, October 03, 2016

DOJ seems to want to enforce criminal DMCA copyright sanctions on a university cryptography researcher

Apparently the DOJ is threatening to prosecute security researcher Matthew Green under a provision of the DMCA for criminal copyright violation that allegedly occurred in his “research” for his book “Practical Cryptographic Engineering”.  There is an excerpt from the book on this blog.

Green is a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a detailed post September 30, 2016, about the vagueness of provisions in the DMCA about indirect copyright infringement that occurs during security research.   This case is difficult to follow at first and will require more detailed study.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Even generosity sometimes has to be personal (we are not dolphins)

Pastor Julie Pennington-Russell gave a communion message at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, “What about the extra?” (Part 1).  Stan Hastey will deliver Part 2 next Sunday.
There was a youth message before, a “Generosity Story” (a little long, not quite admitting that sometimes generosity has to buck the “mind your own business” world and get personal, as in an earlier youth sermon  -- Drama blog Feb. 26, 2012).  These were based on the “Parable of the Rich Fool” in Luke 12:13-21 , where a farmer “in the dell” keeps storing up what he “doesn’t need” rather than sharing it with others.  Then one day the farmer is told “This night your life will be demanded of you.”  Pastor Julie says that can be interpreted two ways:  he will soon perish, and “you can’t take it with you” (just like you couldn’t when getting drafted into the Army in the 1960s).  Or, in Greek, his possessions, his collections, his attachments (in New Age, Rosicrucian language) held him captive.  He was a cold soul (a “chick pea”), not fully human any more, because he was disconnected from everyone else. He was like the Rich Young Ruler, not ready to step up to real need when necessary.

I cam imagine a third interpretation, more secular and political:  if you didn't really earn what you have, but just inherited it, and hoarded it, and if it's expropriated from you by a revolutionary act, you don't get it back.  It sounds like kids crying when someone takes their toys.

Yet, in the Old Testament, some sort of saving, evening “hoarding” (we hear a lot about that as a psychological illness, sometimes making homes into neightborhood fire traps) was applauded, as in Genesis, when Joseph had people save from seven years of plenty for the seven years of famine.
At Clarendon Presbyterian in Arlington, David Ensign has often talked about how the early Christian community was indeed like an incomes-sharing, currency-free intentional community (like Twin Oaks or Acorn in Virginia, maybe wgar the Ninth Street Center in the East Village in NYC wanted to be in the 1970s).  Dolphin society is like that (because dolphins enjoy access to Reid Ewing’s “Free Fish”) – to the point that our only intellectual equals on this planet have advanced into distributed consciousness.  At Trinity Presbyterian, Judy Fulp-Eickstaedt talks about “radical hospitality” (and then “scruffy hospitality”).

I get the point on being over-attached to possessions we don't "need" and have an "excess" of.  But some are hard to get rid of.  Some of these, others don't need as much as we think.

There’s an underbelly to all this.  We’re used to living in a asymmetric meritocracy.  As Malcolm, Gladwell points out, sometimes what look like disadvantages turn out to become a new source of leverage against others – scoring touchdowns on turnovers with your defense, or fighting with your fingernails.  It’s like winning chess games with Black (no pun on race intended), by letting White overextend himself with an attack.  (In Baseball, though, your offense has to score.)   Sometimes “directly helping people” doesn’t help them that much, as much as it provides learning experience for the giver (like disaster recovery work – with people already resilient, like in West Virginia after the floods).  We have a real controversy in our culture over how much we need to let our sense of personal identity become distributed.  We are not the same as orcas.