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      From a study by his officials: In the report, “The State of Homelessness in America,” even shelters get some of the blame for increasing the number of people who are homeless.The argument: Some people would be able to find their own housing if they were turned away from shelters. “While shelters play an extremely important role […]
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Save the Post Office: Make up for the drop in physical volume with digital services

Among the various depressing activities going on in Washington, DC this year, one of the most immediate is the plan to start the dismantling of United States Postal Service. I’ve followed this story mainly through updates from Senator Bernie Sanders:

Postal Service: Pressure mounted on the House to act on a Senate-passed bill to keep hundreds of postal facilities from closing and, at Sen. Bernard Sanders’ suggestion, find ways to make up for a drop in mail volume due to e-mail, the Vermont Press Bureau reported.

Sanders’ Role Credited: “The postal reform bill passed by the Senate this week averts the decimation of the Postal Service that had been proposed as a way to save it. Sen. Sanders took an active role in the Postal Service issue, and in Vermont the benefits will be real,” the Rutland Herald editorialized.

Well, I’ve got a suggestion for how to make up for “drop in mail volume due to e-mail” :

  1. I would like it if the US Post Office could set up an email server with the same privacy guarantees that we have with the US Mail.
  2. Require warrants to open and access messages, attachments and contact lists (for starters).
  3. Forbid harvesting messages, attachments and contact lists (for starters) for marketing research.
  4. I would pay a reasonable price for this service.

And this is just the start. They could provide VoIP, video & instant messaging. The Post Office could be the department that manages and maintains a high grade Public Internet. They could provide cell phone service.   They could provide printing and delivery services — messages or attachments could be printed on postcards or some kind of security stationary at the Post Office closest to destination and then delivered in hard copy to the recipient — bridging the distance between traditional mail and email.  And, hey! They already have the delivery part covered, don’t they?

The key element to all of these services is that just as with the physical documents delivered by the Post Office our digital documents would be protected by the sort of privacy we grew up expecting — and have been denied until now with our digital communication.

I never understood why public Internet services had to be delivered and controlled by private corporations — ESPECIALLY email. Now is the perfect time to start making our United States Postal Service relevant, useful AND profitable.

 

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FISA Unintended Consequences

FISA and businesThis past year, my PC at work has gotten slower. Muuucccchhh Slllooowwwerrr. It started happening when new firewalls went up. Then there were new encryption applications applied to all of the disks. Then there were severe restrictions placed on the size of data transfer. It went from gigabytes to tens of megabytes. Last week, my PC was migrated to a domain behind one of the new secure firewalls. One of my first attempts to download a patch for one of my department’s applications went from seconds to 22 minutes. The patch was 11 mb.

This was part of a new security initiative. Now, it could be that my company, notorious for over the top IT domination, was just doing what comes naturally. But it is also an international company with many European sites. We all share information between these sites. The information we share is literally worth *billions* of dollars. That’s Billions with a B. It can’t be understated. If there is a bad guy, ie, industrial spy out there listening to our transmissions, that bad guy could sell the stuff he intercepts to our competition and put us at a competitive disadvantage for decades.

What if that bad guy is our own government? Ha-ha-ha!, you laugh. GB is letting her paranoia get the best of her again. I’m serious. Does anyone doubt that the Bushies are capable of such iniquity? My company is based in a European country. The US facility is simply a branch. According to the way Bush has circumvented FISA, he’s had the ability to monitor every transmission we make over the internet and regular phone lines since 2001. Every patentable, proprietary discovery at all companies like mine has been in the hands of his droogs at the NSA for 7 years. He could sell this information to the highest bidder for campaign contributions or whatever. It could be used to extort cooperation. In short, it’s a fricking gold mine for anyone who has access to it. Now, I’m not saying the Bushies did it but would anyone really be shocked?

So, now, I’ve been told that I can no longer rsync information containing gigabytes of information over the net. If I need to transfer something, it will have to be copied onto CD’s or DVD’s and hand carried across the ocean on a plane. People don’t send CD’s like this by themselves in the mail. It’s going to have to wait for someone on a business trip to do the transfer. What might have taken minutes or hours will now take days and weeks.

Russ Feingold makes a good point about his phone transmissions. Everyone you call is vulnerable not just the people overseas. If your kid makes a stupid call about acquiring a joint from a friend, there’s a distinct possibility that the call could be intercepted leading to legal consequences and, poof!, there go the government backed student loans you needed for college. Your hidden lust for gay porn at home could be exposed to your church group or employer. Those saucy emails you’ve been sending to your wife’s best friend? The NSA’s been reading them with great intensity. Feingold points to the overseas transmissions but if the government thought they could get something on you, they’d come up with an excuse to eavesdrop.

Meanwhile, the slowing up at work continues with unintended consequences. In all of the migrations, I’ve lost some of my email with attachments as I scrambled to meet the new security measures before I was whisked to a new compartment between me and my colleages.

Progress marches backwards.

Here’s Feingold’s FISA in 30 seconds. Pass it around…