Friday, September 24th, 2004

Sen. Russ Feingold, who cast the Senate’s only dissenting vote on the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001, has introduced a bill to tighten down the circumstances that would allow the FBI to employ electronic surveillance without a warrant.

Finally.  It’s a tiny, tiny step – not even a step, more of a flexing of the toes – but it’s something. (more…)

At the very least, it’s one of the signs of the end times:  I
agree with Alan Keyes about something.  Well, OK, I don’t actually
agree with him, I just arrive at the same conclusion he does. 
It’s been my opinion for a while now that political polls are
useless.  There’s a serious demographic shift happening in the
available sample – people being polled are getting skewed towards
older, more conservative demographics while younger, more liberal
voters are increasingly unavailable for polling. 

Don’t believe me?  Quick, name ten people you know who have
land-line telephones.  Those of us who are completely wireless are
unavailable for polling and will never be polled, ever.  We’re
right out of the mix, and that trend will simply continue. 

There is, frankly, very little to be done to reverse it.  As The
Boyf has pointed out, it doesn’t mean there are no 18-25 or 18-35 or
whatever voters available for polling, but it means pollsters have to
work a lot harder to find them and when they do they don’t necessarily
have anything much in common with the rest of their demographic group.

At any rate, here’s the deal:  Alan Keyes (the wingnut freak-show
who dares to challenge the deeply hot Barak Obama) has said he wants polls legally outlawed for a certain period prior to an election.

My favorite part of this particular episode in the Watch Keyes’ Brain
Implode Under Its Own Idiocy Show comes in his meeting with the
editorial board of Pantagraph.  At this meeting he told them, “All
of the polls taken at this stage of the game are phony anyway.” 
Why’d he tell this to Pantagraph?  Because Monday they published a poll they’d conducted with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showing Barak was beating him by 45 percentage points, 68% to 23%.

Yow!  Um, yeah, Alan – that’s just media bias.  Right.

At any rate, I don’t actually agree with Keyes – I don’t think they
should be “banned,” which is the word he actually used, but I do think
they’re growing increasingly unreliable (witness the current
Presidential polling, which is so contradictory as to erase their own
believability factor among voters, which is far too powerful to be
overcome by any sort of defense on mathematical or statistical
grounds).  But it feels very, very weird to even have him visible
on the horizon of my own views for once. (more…)

And in other geek news, UC-San Diego is going to run a study/experiment in which they attempt to track the spread of computer virii
using the same methods used to track the spread of human
epidemics.  Their stated goal is to develop a model for a
self-defending network that fights off attacks in the same way as the
human body.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, Duh.  We haven’t been calling them virii for years for no reason.

Snarkiness aside, very cool.  I won’t bore you with my opinions on
the technical side of things, but suffice to say, I think the day will
come when we have to have automated defenses – more automated than we
currently have, anyway – because human defenders already fail to notice
almost everything that happens.  Computer security is not a field
in which intrusions and attacks are prevented or eradicated, it’s an
industry in which, at best, risk is managed and responses are made more efficient, not obsolete. (more…)

A German tabloid is reporting it’s found one of the missing Soviet prototypes for a Shuttle-alike.  The story
has pictures accompanying it, and Slashdot is kind enough to provide a
link to the Google-translated (translation:  Google-mangled, but
mostly readable) English version.

If it’s true, dang, that’s cool – though as I read this, I hear echoes
of my Post-Soviet Politics professor saying, “Once the government
stopped paying the scientists and soldiers who guarded sensitive
technologies, those technologies and their caretakers had a tendency to
disappear – likely reappearing where they could find a steady paycheck,
technology in hand.”

Mainly I just think it’s neat. (more…)