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User Journal

Journal: Replaced sig

Journal by shanen

Tired of bad moderation? Opt out of moderation. If enough of us opt out, maybe they'll fix it.
Ha.

Government

Journal: The messes in Afghanistan and Iraq

Journal by shanen

[A comment from elsewhere in response to Obama's statement that we should shift to Afghanistan.]

Well, I agree Obama should have rejected the label "surge" and he should have emphasized the international aspects--but he was speaking the ugly truth. Unless there are more troops deployed in Afghanistan and unless the country is meaningfully rebuilt, it is going to go back to the way it was. I'd say it could wind up worse, but I'm not sure that's possible--though I'm sure it could cause much larger international problems in the future. There really is a broad international consensus that Afghanistan needs to be fixed, and agreement that it is possible but difficult. However the Taliban have very deep roots. Obama understands the mess.

I'm not defending the Taliban, but I actually think there was a time when it might have been possible to disentangle them from Al Qaeda and deal with the two problems separately. The Taliban was originally a local band of religious lunatics with basically local interests and aspirations, and there are plenty of local nuisances that the world manages to tolerate. However, now that they are completely linked to Al Qaeda, the international threat must be dealt with. The rest of the world is trying, but they just don't have that much force to try with.

Meanwhile, back in the incredible mess that the Dick Cheney has made of Iraq, our troops cannot put Humpty Dumpty back together again. The rest of the world accepts that we've created a new little Iran. They don't particularly like that, but they didn't like Saddam much either, even before the puppet got uppity. The rest of the world accepts that Iran has won, but they've been able to deal with Iran in the past, and think that they can deal with Iraq in the future as a kind of junior Iran. Many countries would also be willing to accept the three-way division of the country, with the notable exception of Turkey. (By the way, I think that's the real reason the why many relatively rational Iranians want nuclear weapons. I still rate the Turks as militarily stronger than Iran, but Iranian nuclear weapons would at least help counteract that. Certainly a very strong deterrence against a Turkish invasion.)

I don't think America has any real influence in Iraq now, and it doesn't matter how many troops we keep there. We are just acting as an irritant while the various Iraqi factions squabble about how much autonomy they can have from Iran. Fortunately, there is agreement among most Iraqis that they also don't like Al Qaeda interference any more than they like American interference. It might be expensive to keep the Sunni's firmly against Al Qaeda--and we had better start paying those bribes more reliably--but we get the Shia hatred of Al Qaeda for free.

Actually,the only path to a greater loss in Iraq would be if we somehow pushed the Shia into supporting Al Qaeda, or even one of the major Shia factions. I want to believe that is fundamentally impossible, but George Dubya Bush has abundantly shown that you should never say any miserable failure is too impossible for him. Also, it is rather frightening that Al Qaeda understands the Shia much better than we do, so it is possible they could also change their pitch to them.

User Journal

Journal: another ex-sig

Journal by shanen

Negative mods let lazy cowards censor opinions and stifle discussions. Write well and disappear. Slashdot sickness.

(recording the demise of another sig)

User Journal

Journal: Problems with women?

Journal by shanen

Slashdot as a dating service? Well, if there are many female readers, they are certainly doing a good job of hiding themselves.

However, my speculation on the general topic is that most women are holding out for Mr Wonderful, whereas most men are only Mr Adequate. Many of the women hold out too long and wind up as old maids, even though they'd be happier married, even to Mr Adequate. Why do they make the mistake? Because the women are making false inferences about the availability of Mr Wonderful. Many women base their sampling on movies and television, where the large majority of 'featured' men are Mr Wonderful. How much camera time does Mr Adequate get?

Based on my real world sampling, I would say that there are very few men who actually qualify as Mr Wonderful, and they are all married at a young age. There is a much larger group of men who are skilled at pretending to be Mr Wonderful. Some of them are serial polygamists and the others are just pure cads.

If I'm so smart about these things, why didn't I ever get married? Simple. I'm just Mr Adequate and stupidly honest about it. Or as Popeye put it, "I yam what I yam, and that's all what I yam."

Oh yes, I should note that there's a statistical distortion working against me, too. The fake Mr Wonderfuls "use up" a lot of women. I don't blame them for being once bitten, twice shy--but it makes me think we'd have a very different and less frustrating world if the gender ratio was heavily in favor of the women...

Spam

Journal: Anti-spam idea for Gmail

Journal by shanen

How to make Gmail the spam target of absolute last resort.

The goal of this suggestion is to intelligently leverage and focus Google's expertise and credibility against the spammers and their accomplices. But where will the intelligence come from? From me, from you, from *ANYONE* who has a Gmail account and who wants to help oppose the annoying evil that is spam. Aggressively implemented, it could make Gmail into Spammer Heck--maybe to the point where only a fool would send spam to Gmail. (Yeah, there are plenty of fool spammers--but at least we'd get the laughs without the serious spammers.) Less spam = more value in Gmail.

So do you want to fight against spam? You, too, could become a WSF (wannabee spam fighter).

SpamSlam is my 'working draft' label. The idea is roughly based on other anti-spam systems--but with more smarts. Almost all email systems include one level of feedback in a Spam/NotSpam button. (For relative brevity and because it simplifies the draft implementation, I'm focusing on Web-based email here.) Think of SpamSlam as a report-spam-button on steroids. SpamSlam would report the spam, but also do much more. Essentially this Gmail feature would do some of the automatic analysis that any spam fighter has to do, get some intelligent feedback, and hopefully be able to act immediately against the spammer. Speed of action is actually crucial--cutting off the spammers' income is a key goal of this proposal.

Here is an approach to implementing it:

Clicking on SpamSlam would first trigger a low-cost automatic analysis of the email, including the headers. Let's call this Pass 0. Basically this is just using regular expressions to find things like email addresses, URLs, and phone numbers. The results would be used to generate a Pass 0 webform with comments and options (and explanations and links). This pass should also look for obfuscation and ask the wannabe spam fighter (WSF) to help break the spammers' attempts to evade the spam filters. (This is leveraging the spam's features against the spam--if a human can't figure out the spam, then the human can't send money to the spammer.) In many cases, this Pass 0 analysis may be able to suggest answers. If something like "drop@dead.com" appears in the header, then the WSF should just click the option 'fake email'. Perhaps the WSF would only need to click a check box to confirm that "V/1/A/6/R/A" is a drug and categorize the spam. Other times the WSF can actually type in the answer to the spammer's quasi-CAPTCHA, and then the SpamSlam function can do something. At the bottom of the 'exploded email' in Pass 0, there will be the usual submit button.

After the WSF submits that Pass 0 form, more analysis can begin. The data is no longer raw, but partly analyzed, and the system can start checking domains, registrars, relays, fancier types of header forgery, MX records, categories of crime, email routings, and even things like countries hosting the spammer. This kind of analysis will probably take a bit of time, but a new Pass 1 form will be prepared for the WSF to consider. Basically, this would mostly be a confirmation step for the obvious counteractions. That's stuff like complaining to identified senders and webhosts, but also things like reporting open relays and spambots. It also needs more flexibility and 'other' options in the responses at this point--we all know the spammers are constantly going to try to devise new tactics. Again there will be a submit option at the bottom for this Pass 1 form.

That will probably cover most of the responses, but in some cases there may still be a need for a Pass 2 form. I imagine that would be a kind of escalation system, mostly to address new forms of spam. There is no closure on spam, there will always be new kinds of spam, and the responses to spam need to be open and flexible, too--but fast. The spammer is trying to open millions of little windows of economic opportunity--and in an ideal world we should slam all of them before a nickel gets through.

Beyond that? I think Gmail should also rate the WSFs on their spam-fighting skills. Some people are going to be much better at fighting spam. I admit that I want to earn a "Spam Fighter First Class" merit badge. Come to think of it, I also want the system to keep records of the spam I've slammed and how it was dealt with. Maybe they'd even spot cases of lawsuits against "my" spammers? Gosh, I'd love to join in and personally help put a spammer in jail. I know we're supposed to hate the spam, not the spammers--but I confess. I hate the spammers, too.

An earlier version of this idea (SuperReport) had a somewhat different focus and more details, especially for the Pass 0 webform--but obviously none of this is set in stone. If you agree with these ideas--or have some better ones, I suggest you try to call them to Google's attention. Actually, in my pursuit of this idea, I have been surprised to encounter a lot of anti-Google sentiment--though not surprised that much of the ill will was spam-related. However, I think Google is still an innovative and responsive company--and they claim they want to fight evil, too. Will they try harder to fight spam if many people like you and I write to them? I hope so, but it doesn't really matter where ideas come from or who gets credit--what matters is annoying the spammers more than they annoy us.

By the way, thanks to the people who offered thoughtful comments on the earlier draft. I'd like to thank you more personally, but you basically got lost in the flood of hopeless fools and sock puppets. That's a separate SNR problem.

As SMTP exists, we can never eliminate spam or spammers--but we can give them heck. If this suggestion is aggressively implemented, then spam sent to Gmail would almost immediately result in a flood of highly focused and thoughtful complaints against the spammer--before the spammer can get *ANY* money from the spam. Hit the spammer in his wallet *BEFORE* he can pocket anything.

The summary: Do you hate spam? Do you want to help fight the spammers? Yes, we can. If Gmail was the spam target of last choice, then it should be our email service of first choice!

User Journal

Journal: Collection of old sigs

Journal by shanen

Old sig: The truth alone will not make you free, but it's a prerequisite.
Only by knowing the truth can you choose freedom.

We don't need no stinking bio! Seriously, mine is too confused for this possibly mixed company. Been there, done that, wound up in Japan? Dumbest hobby was probably the pilot's license. Almost all of the "real" stuff involves computers, however: programming, sales, technical editing, whatever.

Old sig: The thoughtful we write at once, but insightful takes a little longer... Too bad the moderators have already left.

Longhorn? But a steer has no balls! It takes REAL balls to claim Microsoft software "just works"! The modern BIG lie.

The thoughtful we write at once, but insightful takes a little longer... Too bad the moderators have already left.

Everyone's crazy save thee and I, and sometimes I wonder about thee.(Always a metamod, never a moderator (but once).

Microsoft presumes I am guilty of "non-registered" Windows after they rammed it down my throat! I refuse to REregister!

Everyone's crazy save thee and I, and sometimes I wonder about thee. OTOH, Microsoft is crazy, greedy, monopolistic,...

Insight here? Why would anyone put so much effort into Slashdot? The anonymous and elitist mod system is borken (sic).

User Journal

Journal: Other old sigs

Journal by shanen

Old sig: The truth alone will not make you free, but it's a prerequisite.
Only by knowing the truth can you choose freedom.

We don't need no stinking bio! Seriously, mine is too confused for this possibly mixed company. Been there, done that, wound up in Japan? Dumbest hobby was probably the pilot's license. Almost all of the "real" stuff involves computers, however: programming, sales, technical editing, whatever.

Old sig: The thoughtful we write at once, but insightful takes a little longer... Too bad the moderators have already left.

United States

Journal: The real killer and Karl Rove?

Journal by shanen
My favorite 'real reason' for Rove's departure? He has to stop his son from endorsing a Democratic candidate, hopefully Edwards or Obama. We should start a pool on the real killer... No wait, I meant the real reason that Rove resigned. Unfortunately, given Rove's penchant for secrecy and his cursed track record of success in hiding his lies, few of us are likely to live long enough to win the pool. I think historians will be unraveling this rats' nest for decades to come--though the real reason could be that someone deep in the quagmire is about to blow the whistle on the entire gang of thieves. In that case, we might live to see it unravel. Two reasons for optimism are possible. A true patriot might have had enough, and I think that some such people still exist within the GOP, if not within Rove's carefully purged neo-GOP wing of the GOP. Alternately, a true rat within the gang might have decided to sell the story while the value is very high. He's not stabbing all his buddies, in the back, he's just bowing to the inevitability of the truth coming out--but making sure he gets the most money possible for getting it out. The first few kiss and tell books are going to have a lot of sensationalist value, but the later ones are going to get boring and won't sell ones--and the last ones will probably be written from prison (as a result of the earlier ones).
Slashdot.org

Journal: /. still reeks like the big dog's m0e 2

Journal by shanen

I see that I wasn't on the system for 11 months there, but the system has not improved. (I returned for about two weeks in December.) In fact, I notice the moderation system and the actual moderation is still as awful as before, and new observations are that the humor seems much weaker than before, participation seems somewhat lower than before, and the system is still so stupid or buggy as to show last year's posts without any year indication. (The last one is probably an old problem that I never noticed.) As usual, they are promising improvements RSN.

Time to go away for another 11 months? Or maybe 11 years?

IBM

Journal: Final visit to /.? 2

Journal by shanen

The following comment was prepared in response to a new article about IBM. Then I was notified it could not be posted due to excessive bad posting. That is pure and simple BS. In fact, I have have not posted from this part of Japan for over a week. Not sure how it was done, but basically sure it was more moderation abuse by the anonymous Bushevik trolls. Being an effective spokesman for positions they dislike, their goal is to censor me if possible. My karma had just recovered to Excellent from the last round of BS moderation. So what the devil are the /. "editors" being paid for if they can't tell the difference between use and abuse of their own moderation system?

In response, I have already visited digg and kuro5hin, though I don't like either of them too much... The kuro5hin system is minor, and digg is technically narrow, though it runs very quickly.

The comment:

First I better include the disclaimer that I'm in the IBM 'food chain', and I also own some IBM stock (as well as shares of a number of high tech companies).

My own belief on this is that that IBM is an unusually ethical company, though (I feel) there has been an increasing focus on stock prices over the recent years. I think that is a mistake. Now they say 'shareholder value.' They used to say a company was in business to make money. Wrongo and again awrongo. A business is in business to STAY in business. Of course profits help, but that's not the purpose or objective.

If you buy my premise that IBM is unusually ethical, why are they getting so much rapid heat in comparison to the very slow boil on such totally unethical companies as Enron and SCO? I think it is actually a reverse version of political pandering, and the real reason is because IBM doesn't encourage any political donations. That sort of neutrality has become an issue.

I'm sure that some of the Busheviks out there are going to jump up with the official talking point that both parties are corrupt and money grubbing, Jack Abramoff and all the other evidence notwithstanding to prove the bias of the big money. I certainly agree that the Democrats are able to raise some money from companies, but I think there still a difference there. The Republican donors see their donations as investments. In the most extreme case, Dubya's largest donor was Enron, and they hoped that investment was going to keep them above water. In contrast, Democratic donors are sometimes principled, or they may see their donations as 'insurance'. Even when they do see those donations as investements, you can argue that long-term investments in the balance of powers are the best way to make the system work--especially when you see how quickly the system is breaking down as the balances are dismantled.

In conclusion, I think the focus on IBM is because they have been sitting on the political fence. This is becoming a big no-no.

Privacy

Journal: Republican ultra-hypocrisy in action 1

Journal by shanen

With regards to the NSA spying on Americans, I think the aspect that most disgusts me is not that they've been monitoring all this information. That sort of went without saying. I'm not even particularly amazed by Dubya's brazen disregard of the law. I think the aspect that most disgusts me is how quickly they decided they needed to have the criminal investigation of the disclosure. Something like investigating the security failures around 9/11 they were willing to stall for years. However, this one they need to ramp up as quickly as possible. Why? Bloody obvious. They want to intimidate various other people who have information about Dubya's impeachability. You don't think this is the last of their dirty secrets, do you?

Dubya's new 'atmosphere' of American politics:

"I don't want to obey that law, and you can't make me, you can't make me, you can't make me!"

"But you promised."

Yeah, the last part is the Democratic Party response whining about Dubya's little old presidential oath.

Censorship

Journal: More abuse of anonymous moderation:

Journal by shanen

Today's abuse of moderation:

Comment Moderation
sent by Slashdot Message System on Sunday January 01, @09:05AM

Re:There's some sort of joke...., posted to Wikipedia Semi-Protection Begins, has been moderated Troll (-1).

It is currently scored Troll (0).

Re:There's some sort of joke...., posted to Wikipedia Semi-Protection Begins, has been moderated Flamebait (-1).

It is currently scored Flamebait (-1).

Re:There's some sort of joke...., posted to Wikipedia Semi-Protection Begins, has been moderated Flamebait (-1).

It is currently scored Flamebait (1).

Re:great letter!, posted to What's wrong with the MSM newspapers, has been moderated Offtopic (-1).

It is currently scored Offtopic (-1).

Small world coincidence--sent last week, posted to Why Haven't Online Newspapers Gotten it Right?, has been moderated Overrated (-1).

It is currently scored Informative (1).

United States

Journal: Credit card without a limit?

Journal by shanen

[From another site, in response to a prediction of the government hitting the debt ceiling in February.]

Actually, it's been going on for many years. They just keep raising the debt limit--and then they continue right on borrowing more money until they "use up" the new credit limit.

Think of it in different terms. Imagine that a credit card holder was allowed to raise his credit limit whenever he wanted to. That's actually quite close to the situation we have here.

Some people might be able to raise their limits responsibly, but it's kind of hard to imagine. If you're living within your means in the first place, why do you need to borrow money? If there is some kind of special problem, maybe you need a little extra money to tide you over, but what happens when you've been living on credit for as long as you can remember? What's the difference if you owe a bit more?

Well, the situation with the federal government is that they've always lived on trust. It says "In God We Trust" on the money, but God doesn't have much to do with it, if you ask me. It's always been a matter of whether or not the recipient of the paper believes it's worth anything. We're back to 'any power will be abused' again. In this case, the government has said that HAVE to trust the money, and if you refuse payment in their official money, then they won't help you collect the debt.

Now the situation has been turned on its head. The government has become like the customer with a red hot credit card that keeps raising the limit. The situation is already beyond the point that our customer even imagines the debt can be paid off--but someone keeps accepting the IOUs. Excuse me, but this can't go on forever. At some point it's going to be obvious that the customer is broke, and further IOUs will not be useful.

Of course the amusing punchline is that this is being done in the name of the 'responsible spending' Republican Party.

The Media

Journal: What's wrong with the MSM newspapers 2

Journal by shanen

Email sent to a newspaper:

I understand that newspapers such as the Austin American-Statesman (AAS) are increasingly concerned about declining readership. Many years ago, I read the AAS frequently. Pretty sure I was a subscriber at least some of the time, though it's so long ago that I can't really remember for sure. Therefore, I write on behalf of your lost readers, though I think I write from the 'leading edge' of that trend. My main message to you is that I see no sign of increasing attraction, either in general or as a result of today's website visit (to be addressed below). If you're waiting for me to resubscribe, I have to resort to the cliché: "Don't hold your breath."

First I'll address the general issue. Why would I want to read your newspaper? As a media organization, I think you have only two real assets: integrity and credibility. Do you speak the truth? And are you believed when you speak it? As already noted, I don't have enough recent contact with the AAS to address these assets specifically in your case, but I do think I can say that if you were doing a better job, then the AAS would have emerged visibly from the morass that is the modern MainStream Media (MSM). Since the AAS has not 'emerged' in that sense, I'm just classifying you with all the other MSM newspapers that I sample at random via recommended links to articles on their websites. In summary, the MSM rarely tells the complete truth, they often repeat unfounded and usually partisan lies, and why would I pay them for 'information' that has to be cross-checked and verified? (By the way, that even includes indirect payment via advertisers. No click-throughs from me.)

These large issues go too far afield, though I could say much more on them. Today, I visited your website for a highly specific reason, and I was quite disappointed. I should have known, but optimistic to the last, eh? The specific public issue which is troubling me is American-government-sponsored torture. The specific information I sought was a list of the Texas Representatives who joined the loser Senator Cornyn in opposing Senator McCain's legislation against torture. I do know that some of the Representatives from Texas were among the 112 members of the House that voted futilely along with Cornyn, and I want to know if my Representative from North Austin was among them. If so, I would like to start now in supporting his political opponent, though there are only a few days left to make such a donation in 2005. Perhaps the information exists somewhere in the AAS website, but I think not. I think you simply ignored the issue. Typical MSM behavior--and that's why I didn't even bother to write a "letter to the editor" on the topic. (There's also the minor reason that I am in general only an accidental reader of the AAS these years.)

My own belief is that such torture is an extremely serious matter that ought to be receiving *MUCH* more coverage. When I first read about this issue (in non-MSM sources), I was greatly offended and ashamed. I felt that I should express my outrage to the 'Senator'--who is certainly failing to represent me. I do not know if I succeeded, though I do know that I never received any response from him or from his staff. I think it most likely he never got my message because it isn't the sort of thing he wants to hear, and he has no sincere interest in representing anyone who doesn't agree with him. Cornyn's only concern is with his *LARGE* campaign donors.

Following is a copy of the message I attempted to send to Cornyn:

Your name appeared on a list of the nine Senators who opposed Senator McCain's anti-torture amendment. If that is incorrect, then please provide me with the corrected list and I will apologize. However, I think my source was reliable, and that you did vote against this amendment. Speaking specifically as an honorably discharged veteran, I wish to express my strongest displeasure and outrage at your action.

Torture does *NOT* work. It does not produce reliable information, but merely encourages the victim to say or do anything that he or she believes will stop the torture. Even worse, it destroys the humanity of the torturer. On the other hand, it does work for our enemies, inspiring them to greater hatred for our evil actions and helping them to recruit more extremists to oppose that evil.

I do not see any basis for attempting to reason with you about this issue. If you think there are *ANY* cases where torture is justified, then I regard you as insane. As I started writing, I was going to suggest that I would consider your explanation for your action, but as writing clarified my thinking, I realized that would be a waste of our time. Instead, I simply strongly encourage you to withdraw from politics and from any form of public visibility. I will certainly vote against you, and do everything I can to encourage other people to vote against you. Though I can't vote against your eight torture-loving peers, I will donate money to their opponents--and of course to your opponent. I certainly hope that your political career is over. You make me feel shamed that such a madman can claim to be my political representative.

Not much point in sending this, is there? However, I've taken the time to compose it, and it's barely conceivable that you can send me some response that would convince me you have recovered your sanity.

For reference, I've left the list [of Senators advocating torture] here:

>> Wayne Allard, Colorado
>> Kit Bond, Missouri
>> Tom Coburn, Oklahoma
>> Thad Cochran, Mississippi
>> John Cornyn, Texas
>> James Inhofe, Oklahoma
>> Pat Roberts, Kansas
>> Jeff Sessions, Alabama
>> Ted Stevens, Alaska

Real computer scientists don't comment their code. The identifiers are so long they can't afford the disk space.

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