2011-02-19

US vetoes UNSC resolution on Israeli settlements

See, this right there is the reason for 9/11. The whole world condemns Israel, but the US turns a blind eye:
The US has vetoed an Arab resolution at the UN Security Council condemning Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories as an obstacle to peace.

All 14 other members of the Security Council backed the resolution, which had been endorsed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

It was the first veto exercised by the Obama administration which had promised better relations with the Muslim world.

"Better relations with the Muslim world." ... Right.

2011-02-11

Security "features" that hurt good guys more than bad

So, you're using Windows, and you want to enroll for a public key certificate.

You open up your Internet Explorer (because other browsers don't work), apply for the certificate, pay for it, receive it, and you think all is dandy.

Then, you want to export the certificate so that you can use it on another machine.

No go.

In their infinite wisdom, developers of Windows Vista made it so that private keys for certificates requested through the browser are automatically marked unexportable.

This is to "protect" the private key. You can't back it up or use it on another machine, but the bad guys also can't export it from your computer behind your back. Right?

Except the bad guys can. The private key is, obviously, stored on the machine. The operating system has to access the private key in order to ever use it. So the private key is there. All you need is a third party utility, such as Jailbreak, to work around the "protection", and there you go, you can export the key.

The only people actually hurt by this stupid design decision are people who want to be careful and responsible, and do not want to risk running an untrusted third party hack with administrative permissions.

Those people have to revoke their certificate, install Windows XP in a virtual machine, and request a new certificate from there, because Windows XP did actually allow the key to be exported.

Gah!

2011-02-08

You have two cows...

Reposted from an internet forum.

1. FEUDALISM: You have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk.

2. PURE SOCIALISM: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. You have to take care of all the cows. The government gives you as much milk as you need.

3. BUREAUCRATIC SOCIALISM: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. They are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and as many eggs as the regulations say you should need.

4. FASCISM: You have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to take care of them, and sells you the milk.

5. PURE COMMUNISM: You have two cows. You help to take care of them, and you all share the milk.

6. RUSSIAN COMMUNISM: You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk.

7. DICTATORSHIP: You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you.

8. SINGAPOREAN DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. The government fines you for keeping two unlicensed farm animals in an apartment.

9. MILITARIANISM: You have two cows. The government takes both and drafts you.

10. PURE DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. Your neighbours decide who gets the milk.

11. REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. Your neighbours pick someone to tell you who gets the milk.

12. AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: The government promises to give you two cows if you vote for it. After the election, the president is impeached for speculating in cow futures. The press dubs the affair "Cowgate".

13. BRITISH DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. You feed them sheep's brains and they go mad. The government doesn't do anything.

14. BUREAUCRACY: You have two cows. At first the government regulates what you can feed them and when you can milk them. Then it pays you not to milk them. After that it takes both, shoots one, milks the other and pours the milk down the drain. Then it requires you to fill out forms accounting for the missing cows.

15. ANARCHY: You have two cows. Either you sell the milk at a fair price or your neighbors try to kill you and take the cows.

16. CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

17. HONG KONG CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly-listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax deduction for keeping five cows. The milk rights of six cows are transferred via a Panamanian intermediary to a Cayman Islands company secretly owned by the majority shareholder, who sells the rights to all seven cows' milk back to the listed company. The annual report says that the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Meanwhile, you kill the two cows because the fung shui is bad.

18. ENVIRONMENTALISM: You have two cows. The government bans you from milking or killing them.

19. FEMINISM: You have two cows. They get married and adopt a veal calf.

20. TOTALITARIANISM: You have two cows. The government takes them and denies they ever existed. Milk is banned.

21. POLITICAL CORRECTNESS: You are associated with (the concept of "ownership" is a symbol of the phallo-centric, war-mongering, intolerant past) two differently-aged (but no less valuable to society) bovines of non-specified gender.

22. COUNTER CULTURE: Wow, dude, there's like... these two cows, man. You got to have some of this milk.

23. SURREALISM: You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

IQs and opinions

Many people seem to assume that those who disagree with them on something basic must be stupid.

I understand the frustration of fundamental disagreement. I used to fall into this trap, too.

Then, I got a fair amount of exposure to a group of very diverse high IQ people. My most striking experience was that they are as likely to agree with you, as to have a completely opposite mindset, arguing things you would never consider reasonable.

It is appealing to equate a person's disagreement with one's basic values with stupidity, but this is usually not the case.

I like to compare IQ to the horse power of a car engine. A stronger engine means you can reach your destination faster, but it doesn't dictate where you're going to go.

You're more likely to find yourself in the same destination - having similar opinions - with a bunch of people with large IQ variations. It is appealing to characterize a person as smart because they agree with you, but again, this is not necessarily the case.

2011-02-06

The baby-sitting parable for the economy

In 1998, Paul Krugman wrote this insightful article illustrating the Japanese recession, and the stagnation that followed, with an approachable and interesting parable.

2011-02-05

Rich envy

Robin Hanson posts this insightful observation based on Scott Adams's suggestions on what minor vanity perks could be given to the rich as a reward, and motivation, for paying more taxes:
Why do we tax the rich? If it is just because the rich have lots of money, and we need more money, then we should be pretty eager to take up something like Scott’s suggestions. Such policies could help us get lots more money at a relatively low cost to ourselves. But if we tax the rich more to lower the status of the rich, so they don’t loom as high above us, we are more likely to dislike Scott’s suggestions. Yes such policies lower the income status of the rich, but they might more than compensate via other very visible status markers.
Societies don't tax the rich because of fairness, or because of the economy. By far the main reason so many people are in favor of "progressive" taxation appears to be envy.

Not money envy, but status envy.

We are the aliens to some

While we contemplate with doubt the possibility that aliens might be observing us, eluding us, and not contacting us, we are doing much the same thing to tribes in South America's rainforests.

Look at these guys peering at the airplane, wondering "what the hell is that?"

The researcher in the video says we should leave them the decision about whether or not to contact us. Consider the ridiculousness of that statement. How can they ever make an educated decision about whether or not to contact us?

2011-02-02

Don't buy HTC

I like Android phones, but as far as specific manufacturers go, I wouldn't recommend HTC.

My HTC Desire, which cost about $700, worked fine for about 6 months, but then apparently overheated at one point from watching a video over Wi-Fi.

It then started having increasingly severe startup problems, rebooting constantly after turning it on, and now it won't start up and stay up at all.

Internet message boards are full of people reporting overheating and rebooting problems with this phone. In many cases, this is apparently fixed by sending the phone in and replacing its motherboard under warranty.

Unfortunately, my phone didn't come with warranty, so I'm out of luck. I'm back to my age-old Motorola which still works fine, without fancy technology.

Save yourself some trouble, and don't buy HTC.

2011-02-01

Why culling "alien" species?

Scottish conservationists are expending time and effort to hunt down American mink and shoot them.

Their intent is to protect local species such as water voles and moorhen, who apparently cannot compete with minks.

Why the favoritism? Why should we care whether one species is predominant, or another?

It's one thing if a species, foreign or domestic, is causing direct damage to humans. But if it's just displacing one set of species in the ecosystem with another, what's the problem?

The ecosystem will adapt.