Category Archives: Policy

What if you could be convicted with secret evidence you cannot see nor contest?

All defendants have a right to review the evidence before them. When software applications produce a conclusion, then the software source code must be re-viewable by the defense.

The government argues it can use secret software against a defendant – software that may very well be defective (think Neil Ferguson’s Imperial College London’s secret disease modeling code that ignores all modern software engineering practices).

Can secret software be used to generate key evidence against a criminal defendant?

Source: EFF and ACLU Tell Federal Court that Forensic Software Source Code Must Be Disclosed | Electronic Frontier Foundation

No: Should workers engage in political activism on the job?

There are news stories, at least in my state, of workers protesting or striking against their employer for not being permitted to wear political advocacy buttons or t-shirts or hats on the job. This applies to both customer facing and non-customer facing workers, all though most such workers are in customer facing positions.

At first glance, these activities seem innocuous. But there are numerous problems when companies begin staking out political positions.

First, and most obvious, is that many customers may disagree with the political positions – even to the point of being offended and taking their business elsewhere.

Second, not all employees may agree with the political positions – and the advocacy of politics in the work place may lead to not merely uncomfortable positions for those who may hold a minority position but may lead to a hostile work environment.

Third, is appropriate to use the brand name of your employer to promote your own political advocacy? How does this influence the buyer’s perception of the company’s brand? Note – some companies actively engage in “cause marketing” – think of outdoor equipment companies that promote environmental initiatives. Their goal is to specifically associate their brand with environmentalism. This is a managed process intended to deliver benefits to the brand. But consider if the employees decided, while on the job, to promote an initiative to develop a vacant plot of land – because it would increase the value of the employee’s homes in that neighborhood. This create a peculiar association with a brand associated with environmental stewardship and may damage the value of the brand.

Fourth, where do we draw a line? Is some politics okay but other politics is not okay? Does the employer get to decide which politics are “approved” and which are not – thereby effectively giving an “in kind” donation to one political party or advocacy group?

Is politics okay by upper management who have the ability to influence the future work opportunities of employees who may agree or disagree?

Here is an example of an extreme situation. But it is a real situation that occurred at a business I once worked at: the general manager of our division and his wife were co-owners of a major league sports team.

The team wanted the government to build them a 90+% publicly funded sports palace, otherwise known as a luxury stadium. An initiative to increase taxes to pay for this stadium, whose primary beneficiary was the team owners (which were granted monopoly on the sport in the metro area), was on the ballot.

It was not a secret that the general manager – who ultimately had hiring, firing, promotion and pay authority over everyone in the group – co-owned the sports team. Everyone knew that.

The problem was the email messages the day before the election reminding us to vote on the important ballot initiative the next day, and including something to the effect of “you will know how to vote!”

Gee, any pressure on how we were supposed to vote? (HR got involved after the election and said this was wrong but besides being too late, it is unclear that there were any consequences for the general manager.)

The question then becomes – if we allow some politicking on the job, where and how do we draw a line?

Is it okay for some employees to engage in politicking on the job but not others?

Is it okay for some employees provided their political message is politically correct or politically popular or approved by some other authority? Who gets to decide?

The best course of action is that politics stays out of the work place. Pursue political activities on your own time.

When was the last time the media hyped a “drone sighting”? I can’t even remember.

Reports to the FAA of “drone sightings”, used by Congress and the FAA to drive forth draconian remote identification and mandated national surveillance networks using drones, with the goal of pricing drone flying out of the public’s reach – were based on bad data and media hysterics, much of which was false reporting.

  • Remember the Aeromexico flight in late 2018 that had a collapsed nose cone? The media blamed that on a drone. Six months later the official investigation found it was due to a maintenance defect on the nose cone.
  • Remember the Gatwick Airport fiasco? The only confirmed drone sightings were of the fleet of surveillance drones operated by the Sussex Police over the airport.
  • Remember the temporary Newark Airport closure due to a “drone sighting”? That drone report was from 20 miles away from the airport and may not have even been a drone at all.

Take a look at this – drone sightings have magically disappeared: Drone Sightings: The Actual Non-Hyped Numbers Analyzed (Graphs, Trends, etc.)

After awhile, when the FAA isn’t stealing Youtube content, they seem to have been busy making up fake drone reports to justify a remote ID proposal that mandates all drones be connected to the Internet cloud, in real time, and used as part of a massive national surveillance program, collecting imagery and telemetry and potentially sending it to China. Brilliant. Not like any drones would so something like that.

The FAA’s primary goal is to make hobby flying of radio control model aircraft so expensive and cumbersome as to eliminate it entirely. The reason is to clear the low altitude airspace for AmazonGoogleUPS delivery drones. The FAA asserts that it and it alone owns the airspace in your front and backyards from the ground up. Literally, the airspace below your head when you stand outside is controlled by the FAA and they intend to use it for corporate delivery and surveillance networks. (See my comments to see how that works.)

Rite Aid used facial recognition in cameras in stores serving poor customers

Claims they’ve turned it off due to “industry conversation” about such technology. The tech is kinda useless when everyone is required to wear an airway restriction device over their face:)

In the hearts of New York and metro Los Angeles, Rite Aid deployed the technology in largely lower-income, non-white neighborhoods, according to a Reuters analysis. And for more than a year, the retailer used state-of-the-art facial recognition technology from a company with links to China and its authoritarian government.

Source: Rite Aid deployed facial recognition system in hundreds of U.S. stores

China government found to use mandatory tax malware to spy on all companies

This mandatory tax software (for tax filing) is required to be used by all companies doing business in China:

Three weeks ago, security researchers exposed a sinister piece of malware lurking inside tax software that the Chinese government requires companies to install. Now there’s evidence that the high-stealth spy campaign was preceded by a separate piece of malware that employed equally sophisticated means to infect taxpayers in China.

Source: Malware stashed in China-mandated software is more extensive than thought | Ars Technica

I’ve been slow to be suspicious of China-based tech – but this report has pushed me to be very suspicious of China-made tech including all types of electronics, computers and drones.

Related: Should news media being actively promoting political actions?

At the bottom of the news report is a series of questions related to the article. The questions then ended with this item:

What does it mean to use no fossil fuels for electricity generation by 2035?

2035 is 15 years from today. Presidential candidate Joe Biden unveiled his plan to eliminate all carbon-based fuels for electricity generation.

Most people have no idea how large the numbers are for producing energy. The scope is mind boggling.

Here is an analysis from Professor Roger Pielke, Jr:

To illustrate what this translate into in real world terms, we would have to bring online a new nuclear power plant every two weeks from now through 2035.

Or, build 1,700 two MW wind turbines every two weeks, or 121 new wind turbines every day. And since these do not produce power 24 x 7, additional power sources would be required.

Compare this to other large infrastructure projects:

  • It is taking ten years for Portland to update a major water line and water plant.
  • The California high speed rail project was launched in 2008, with construction starting in 2015. Phase 1 is to be completed by 2033. That’s 25 years. For a single railway. And it will not even be complete.
  • Think of other “big” projects and how many years – or decades – they’ve taken to complete. It took 2 1/2 years just replace a 100 yard, 4 lane roadway bridge over a local river.

Can we realistically build the equivalent of two large scale nuclear power plants every two weeks for the next 15 years? You can change the desired electrical power sources – bigger nuclear power plants, or bigger solar PV and grid-sized battery storage systems (using technology not yet in existence) – but no matter how you slice it, the enormity is mind boggling and there is no precedence to believe the scope of this undertaking is achievable. Do we even have enough workers to achieve this? We’d have to take workers out of other functions – such as building offices, homes, factories – meaning we disrupt everything else to focus on this one task.

Are Face Masks really just “making a political statement”?

Am making this a “sticky post” at the top for a few days. Below is a list of counties that made face masks mandatory as far back as early to mid-April. All of these counties, as of July, are seeing an out of control spread of Covid-19. It appears that mandatory face masks have not resulted in solving the problem.  Several of these counties are now re-closing businesses.  Why are face masks not working? (See below for a lengthy list.)

The media is spinning a controversy over face masks as a left versus right issue because the media is incapable of seeing other perspectives. In their spin, the left wears face masks and the right objects. And that is the end of the story. And they could not be more wrong.

Not everyone can wear a face mask, and if they can, it may depend on the type of face mask.

Recently published evidence for use of face masks was tortured by the media in to saying that “new study proves face masks work” when that was not the conclusion of the study – at all.  I summarize the full study here   and reproduce my summary conclusions here:

  • N95 respirators are valuable in reducing the spread of Covid-19
  • A 12-16 layer cotton mask appears to also be valuable.
  • No one is wearing 12-16 layer cotton masks. See if you can breath through 6-8 t-shirts placed in front of your face. Other studies found it is difficult to breathe using more than about 4 layers in a homemade face mask.
  • There is no current evidence to support the use of randomly designed, random materials, assembled by persons of unknown skill, home made face masks.
  • There is no evidence what so ever that wearing homemade face masks in outdoor setting has any impact what so ever on reducing the spread of Covid-19.
  • The study documents risks of wearing face masks (most studies did not have people wearing face masks full time, which is now required for many workers.)

The Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OHSA) has guidelines for evaluating an employees ability to use an N95 respirator type mask. These problems are already well known.

Employers are to take the following into consideration:

C. Medical Factors and Conditions

….

The medical evaluation is designed to identify general medical conditions that place employees who use respirators at risk of serious medical consequences. Medical conditions known to compromise an employee’s ability to tolerate respirator-, job-, and workplace-related physiological stress include: cardiovascular and respiratory diseases (e.g., a history of high blood pressure, angina, heart attack, cardiac arrhythmias, stroke, asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema); reduced pulmonary function caused by other factors (e.g., smoking or prior exposure to respiratory hazards); neurological or musculoskeletal disorders (e.g., ringing in the ears, epilepsy, lower back pain); impaired sensory function (e.g., perforated ear drums, reduced or absent ability to smell); and psychological disorders (e.g., claustrophobia and severe anxiety).

Source: OSHA Technical Manual (OTM) | Section VIII: Chapter 2: Respiratory Protection | Occupational Safety and Health Administration

As you can see, there are numerous medical and behavioral health conditions that make it difficult, if not dangerous, for many to cover their faces and airway. But from the media’s perspective, it comes down to left versus right politics … thus, if you have a medical or behavioral health condition that precludes mask wearing, the media insists you must be on the right. And if you are wearing a mask, you are obviously on the left.

The media’s spin translates to the world of social media insta-experts. Social media idiots publicly shame everyone who is not wearing a face mask, accusing them of everything from having the wrong politics to wanting to murder people.

Personal comments

I have suffered six traumatic brain injuries and experience “ringing in the ears” as well as generalized anxiety. I also have high blood pressure and exercise induced asthma since I was a teen. That’s 4 of the items on the OSHA list. Not until 2018 was the TBI connection recognized and I received treatment (over the years I experienced about a dozen and half effects of TBI).

Because of these personal challenges, I have been practicing – or training – to wear different types of masks while at home.

Continue reading Are Face Masks really just “making a political statement”?

Norwegian Institute of Public Health cancels their smart phone tracing app due to privacy issues

One of the first national coronavirus contacts tracing apps to be launched in Europe is being suspended in Norway after the country’s data protection authority raised concerns that the software, called ‘Smittestopp’, poses a disproportionate threat to user privacy — including by continuously uploading people’s location.

Source: Norway pulls its coronavirus contacts tracing app after privacy watchdog’s warning | TechCrunch

It had been downloaded by 16% of the population over the age of 16. That means it could detect .16 x .16 or about 2% of potential contacts. It appears their app was based on location data, centrally stored, plus used the ineffective Bluetooth RSSI method of detecting potential contacts.

It appears that public health enthusiasts had used the “laws don’t matter in a pandemic excuse” to justify violation of EU privacy laws.

Smartphone tracking apps lose favor: “What happened to all the coronavirus tracking apps? – CNN”

Last week, Singapore pulled the plug on its own Bluetooth-based smart phone contact tracing app:

Covid-19 tracking apps were hailed as a way to help countries out of lockdown. Instead many have been delayed, and those that are out are not being downloaded at the rates experts say are needed to have a major effect.

Source: What happened to all the coronavirus tracking apps? – CNN

The apps cannot work unless nearly everyone in the country has a smart phone and installs the app. Furthermore, they are incapable of tracking contacts across time (scenario: sit on bus, cough, get up, leave, next person sits in seat, contacts viral load – apps miss this completely).

Lots more here on why Bluetooth-based, smart phone tracking apps are very unlikely to work well.

The U.K. is testing their own Bluetooth-based app on the Isle of Wight and news reports suggest the test is not going well. The NHS is being secretive about what they are learning. The app was originally to have been rolled out nationwide about 3 weeks ago… but for now, there are no updates on the test. Another problem is the U.K.’s system is a privacy nightmare.