Food for thought: Checks and Balances
Mar 14, 2002

Here's some food for thought: In our civics classes in the US, we are all taught that one of the key differences of our government is that all three major branches of the government have checks and balances on each other.

While true, this obscures the true point, which is that all three branches of government are accountable to the other two. Accountability is the real key. The genius of 1776 was in the creation of a government where nobody occupied a position where they were not accountable to anyone else.

Note it is not enough to simply be accountable to the nebulous "people"... too easy to get around that.

Consider this in light of many recent political proposals, most of which involving giving more power to unaccountable, or extremely-indirectly-accountable, people. How might this affect the country in the long term? Is it worth it? Is anybody even considering the question? The primary message of The Transpart Society is the observation that accountability goes both ways.

It is unAmerican to increase indefinately the accountability of "the people" to ill-defined governmental entities without a corresponding increase in accountability to the people.

Checks and balances are merely the means through which we fulfill the far more importent primary principle of accountability.

Not quite worth writing a whole essay on, but worth saying.

DOJ's Dot-Narc Rave Strategy
Mar 14, 2002

'The NDIC said five types of people should be targeted, including previous drug offenders, legalization advocates, anarchists and people promoting "an expanded freedom of expression" that pushes the boundaries of the First Amendment.'

Assuming you read the article (so you have the context)... I wonder what exactly "an expanded freedom of expression" is supposed to mean? Not sarcastic.

I also question the legitimacy of targeting legalization advocates. I am not one myself, but saying a currently illegal activity should be legal is the exact same act as claiming a currently legal activity should be illegal, which the NDIC does all the time, in their never-ending quest to eliminate second-order causes like "raves". Punishing or marking someone because they are participating in the governmental process is not something that should be done in a democracy.

The World Outline
Mar 13, 2002

Dave's resuming a serious pitch for what he calls the World Outline. While we don't know exactly where he's going with the idea, it's more interesting then you might think on the first cut. Or at least what I've thought of the idea is more interesting then you might think.

Read the rest (1267 words)

Mar 13, 2002

I just flipped by Dateline:NBC, where they are smashing cars into barriers and rating the cars on how expensive the repair bills are. It seems that cars have gotten so safe today that the tabloid magazine news shows have to make up tests for cars to fail.

That's about how meaningful those tests are. You can always generate failure by making up arbitrarily wierd and useless criteria.

Disclaimer: My dad is a testing engineer for one of the Big Three car companies, so I have some familiarity with the other side of the story. ;-)

Slashdot Comment - Software Liability
Mar 13, 2002

The market has created clear categories of software that range from the rather unreliable (Windows, piddly silly games, etc) to the extremely reliable (commerical Unices, VxWorks, QNX, etc). Interjecting liability laws into this arena will only throw that balance off and eliminate the lower-cost alernatives (including maybe boxed Linux distros!).

This comment is more interesting then the Slashot story it's a part of, but that's interesting too. The Slashdot article discusses a Security Focus article about a recently proposed IETF draft regarding a formal statement of best practice regarding reporting new vulnerabilities.

An excessively rigid formalization could hurt more then it helps; across the spectrum of vulnerability levels (anything from "basically a glorified bug" up to "allows outsider to completely control system") and exposure levels (from "user has to wait an extra millisecond" to "complete destruction of civilization", though we've been mercifully short of the extreme on the high end), there's a lot of nuances to consider in what the finder and the vendor are responsible for.

My biggest concern with this sort of thing is enforcement; once the standard is in place, someone's going to sue someone else and point to the IETF document as evidence for them, be it customer or vendor. I would not like to be on either end of that suit. Judges routinely deal in technical domains they are unfamiliar with, but software is unusual in that everybody thinks they understand computers, and the knowlege they think they have gets in the way of them learning anything. (This is probably about fifty percent of why things like the SSSCA can pass Congress.)

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