Pay for play

I happened to be browsing a site, reading about an ironically expensive fountain pen, where an ad for Major League Soccer in Portland appeared, and was struck by the amusing and unfortunate illusion in the graphic that causes the S in MLS to appear as a dollar sign.



The good news is that it’s only $2011, not, you know, millions and millions.

Update 17oct2009 @ noon:

Ha! They’ve remixed the ad slightly now:


Maybe it turns out to cost more than $2011 after all?

Permission Revoked

I hereby formally, officially and categorically deny, refuse and repudiate the recent changes to the Facebook Terms of Use as they apply to the unilateral, unacceptable and unconscionable claim that Facebook owns my original content in perpetuity.

I have therefore removed all imported content from my personal site and I assert my personal prior and continuing claim of copyright on my content. I also revoke permission previously given temporarily to Facebook in regard to this now removed content.

I proclaim and testify there was never a meeting of minds over the ridiculous and reprehensible notion that Facebook has the right or reason to claim philosophical or practical ownership over my, or anyone else’s, original content.

By continuing to offer service to my account, Facebook indicates that it agrees with this declaration and that it will with all effort and faithfulness uphold, protect and defend my claim of copyright and my positive and affirmative right to revoke permission in regard to any and all use of my content as per the prior Terms of Use. If Facebook choses to end its offer of service, Facebook must then still remove all content covered by our prior agreement, as per the revocability of permission in the previous Terms of Use.

For those interested, my content can still be found on my own website and blog.

Update 26feb09 @ 2:02pm:

Well done, Facebook. I applaud the comeback [also]. And, check out the ‘good’ dialog in this quote about dialogue, perhaps missing a word or two:

“We believe that good dialogue we will get us to the right place… where everyone is more involved and happy.” [via]

As I wrote, about Facebook’s initial response [also], in the comments to WHAT’S GOOD FOR FACEBOOK IS GOOD FOR AMERICA:

The problem with the response from Facebook is that a “philosophy” isn’t worth much when compared to the word of the agreement. That’s tantamount to a verbal addendum to a written contract, which by the way states that it is the “entire” agreement. In other words, it doesn’t matter what they say, because what they do is the thing that matters. This is part of a continuing lesson for those still misled to believe that corporations have anyone’s interest at heart but their own.

They must be pushed back from over reaching or they will.

I have too much respect for the function of the law to dismiss the blatant overreaching of a terms of use that claims permanent permission. Even if it’s that the corporate lawyers were being lazy using boilerplate, and the people in charge were being lazy by not double checking the lawyers’ homework, they did put it in writing.

Take a look at the terms of use at Flickr or Twitter or Virb for examples of how things can be done. The kind of wording that Facebook used isn’t excusable.

And, moreover, until corporate lawyers and their corporate masters get a clue that they are not buying and selling people but rather offering a service to people that can chose to leave with their work and value intact, they deserve to have people freak out at them when they do something stupid.

These things are growing pains. I sincerely hope that Facebook does follow through. I sincerely hope that these incidents help continue to step up every social network’s game, raises awareness, and the level of discourse about privacy and copyright for everyone.

On the other hand, go watch The West Wing’s episode “The Short List” one more time and hash it out that the right to privacy is so important, but at the same time it was the breaking of an anonymous identity that revealed the weakness on the issue of privacy of the ‘home-run’ appointee; and, created the opportunity for the ‘right’ appointee.

Phishing goes local

In a post to TESC Crier, there’s a note about a phishing scam that targets Washington State Employee Credit Union members:

Two new email Phishing scams are targeting WSECU members.  The email appears to come from WSECU. In fact, it comes from an fraudulent source shown as ([email protected]) The two e-mail subject lines are: Enroll in “Challenge Questions” Authentication Now and Changes coming to online banking!

Phishing isn’t new. Banks being the target isn’t new. What strikes me about this is that the bank isn’t a national bank. It’s a smaller bank, on a more local scale. So, the scams are moving down the food chain toward the small banks, apparently.

This, to me, seems like a big deal because the smaller the scale of bank the more damage, overall, a service interruption could become. And, the smaller the bank, it seems to me, the less Internet fraud detection and recovery infrastructure there will be in place.

On the other hand, the smaller the bank the more likely there will be clues in the scam that give it away as not being genuine. At some level, the social engineering used by these scams requires that the individual not recognize there’s something wrong. So, the larger, more formal, more distant communication from the institution usually is, the easier that is to spoof. However, for smaller, more personal banks, one would think they would have more unique communication styles, perhaps more personal, that, if missing, would offer a clue to the individual that there’s a problem.

But, it’s still very interesting to see that a smaller, more local bank is being targetted by phishers. I suspect that the availability of e-mail addresses for the state colleges and universities, harvested from websites and list archives, makes state employee credit unions an easy target.

If the trend were to continue, I could imagine that Evil Personâ„¢ might harvest e-mail addresses off of local Olympia blogs, like Olyblog, and try phishing with fake e-mail from even more local banks, like South Sound or even Tulip. There’s a point where one might pass the point of diminishing returns, but then there’s also the fact that for every local bank here, there’s banks in other places on the same scale … so there’s an economy of scale to phishing lots of smaller banks, I suppose.

It will be interesting to see how the push of spam and phishing goes – if it goes more and more local, more and more targetted.

What if instead of random text, a spam tool used keywords or maybe even just the target e-mail to google up some related text and parsed that into the e-mail? It would be like being spammed by a million monkeys on typewriters, and could become a really surreal experience. It would be like personalized engrish, or a daily personalized message from Wm. S. Burroughs! Now, how cool would that be?

Welcome to a taste of post-abundance

The PSE outage line reports 700,000 estimated without power in their service area, and days if not a week to restore power to everyone.

… but, you know, at least that power generator you bought for Y2K is useful now … as long as your gas supply holds out. Get your syphon ready to pull gas out of your car’s tank!

Funny things:

  • I can’t go to the bathroom without a candle. Stupid design!
  • It took me 1/2 hour to get candles and search my old equipment for a phone that actually works without power.
  • My nifty camp stove that burns twigs, but requires a 9v battery seems a little oxymoronic to me now.
  • I have way more candles in this house than I realized.

And, best of all, the 3-4 hour battery life of this laptop I use … while awesome that it’s got a battery so I can use it at all … is really short when there’s no power main to plug into. Which is just insane that my computer is my main priority … you know, at least, until I get hungry and realize I can’t cook anything … Wait. What?

“The sword of Damocles is hangin’ over my head …”

Be careful what you wish for, the consequences may be more than you expected: “Isn’t that what you wanted all along – freedom of religion? That freedom means all religions – even ones you don’t happen to like.” [via]

In this article, an elementary school is forced to open up a system by which kids are used to distribute flyers to families so that one religious group in the community can distribute flyers. Then, other religious group in that community use it too.

The myopic view of the advocates is that they think the community is only like themselves, or at least that they have some privilege that makes them the only ones that matter in a community. But, it seems this disingenuous advocacy for privilege matched with hatred and intollerance for others is the point.

(This isn’t just about religious issues either. Just take, for example, the advocacy of line-item veto that was hated once Clinton started to use it. Or, think about the way the 109th used their power against the minority party, and now is scared they will face the same, or, you know, might have to work more than 3 days a week for their 6 figure incomes. Or, partisans pleading for bipartisanship once they’re on the outs.)

This turns out to be exactly reason why the debate over putting monuments, like the 10 commandments, in public places is so myopic and manipulated. The question about the 10 commandments was on the questionnaire sent out by the Christian Coalition of Washington to candidates for city council last year, and was worded in a way that showed absolutely no subtlety and allowed no nuance in response … in other words it was merely a doctrinal litmus test. But, getting religious monuments in public places is a sword of Damocles hanging over their ultimately intollerant heads while they complain of persecution.

Political surveys seem to fall in that category of thing that most resembles a catalog of indexical or symbolic links to an ideology. For example, the Christian Coalition of Washington includes, in a survey sent to candidates, the following “cultural diversity” question:

“Voluntary display of the Ten Commandments on public property? Support, Oppose, or Undecided?”

The sinister beauty of this question is beyond compare. There’s no context. There’s no subject to the verb in this sentence. In fact, it’s not a sentence at all. The nouns are general. The choices of response offer no room for thoughtful consideration. And, whether intended or not, none of the answers can be chosen. I am not undecided, except that I have an open mind to future contexts. I am opposed to some aspects of the issues, but I support others.

At a fundamental level, the question is a horrid distraction from seriously pressing issues of social inequity and injustice. At a more complex level, the question begs for an answer from the supporter of the Christian Coalition that is fantastically dangerous and self-defeating.

Historically, it has been possible for non-public entities to offer displays intended for public spaces. The distinction between whether the volunteering entity is itself a public or private entity is intentionally lost in this question.

If a society chooses to allow expressions of culture on public property, that society must be prepared for expression with which it disagrees. If a display of the Ten Commandments is given to the public by a public entity, like the Lyons Club, and allowed to be placed, then the Pastafarians are likely to follow with a display of their faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Logically, it follows that this is so and this is an unintended consequence of the answer that, I suspect, is expected. At least one double bind in this question is that it asks for a logical answer to a question based on non-logical reasoning. There are more than this one.

On reflection, it becomes clear the entire survey, which could appear to be completely straightforward, is of a similar nature.

In a section on “growth management” the survey asks another zinger.

“Eminent domain – U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London, 6/23/2005? Support, Oppose, or Undecided?”

Again, a simple question that is wildly suited to trip up, and trip out, the thoughtful person.

I do believe that the government should reserve the rights of eminent domain and the ability to escheat the land for the common, greater good. This ability has been steadily chipped away, so there is a value in the Kelo decision. However, the SCOTUS decision seems to implicitly link the common, greater good to economic interests, essentially extrinsic use of property. This tends to deny the intrinsic value of property, such as the value to future generations and other needs which are balanced in a triple bottom line. I have a concurring opinion on this issue. While I tend to agree with the overall decision, I do not follow the logic or reasoning that was used to get there. However, concurrence is not an option provided. Kelo does seem to lead down a road that parallels the misuse of the 14th amendment by the courts. It is a good outcome that will come to no good.

The fact that I have spent so long unpacking these questions is, in and of itself, a victory for the framers. I have been well and truly monkey-wrenched.

These are post-modern koans. Just try to not fall into the spiral. Witness the bumper sticker on a local car:

“Pray that President Bush keeps God’s promise to Israel.”

Lewis Black’s voice echoes in my head, “If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.”

I’m at the end, and I don’t even know where to begin. One can hardly imagine another, more concise welcoming message for those on a trip down the rabbit hole than this except, perhaps, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

Update 25feb09 @ 2:01pm:

Looks like there’s some more on the issue of monuments like the donated ten commandments in Pleasant Grove City v. Summum which moves the issue more firmly into the realm of establishment clause conflicts than first amendment by making monuments in public areas actually government’s speech. I’m not sure that’s better. I’m not sure it’s worse, but it seems worse to me. The whole issue is still wonderfully complex; which is too much for some people to be bothered with thinking about, but probably still useful for shallow and knee-jerk litmus tests.

Update 25feb09 @ 2:59pm:

Somewhat randomly, or maybe guided by forces beyond my knowing, I ran across an interesting article at h2g2: “The Ritual Decalogue versus the Ethical Decalogue“.

Rube Goldberg’s criminal sparrow

Via – Prosecution sought in death of domino-toppling sparrow:

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch animal protection agency demanded prosecution Tuesday for the shooting of a sparrow that knocked over 23,000 dominoes during an attempt to set a world record.

The ill-fated bird flew into an exposition center Monday in the northern city of Leeuwarden, where employees of TV company Endemol NV had worked for weeks setting up more than 4 million dominoes in an attempt to break the official Guinness World Record for falling dominoes.

The common house sparrow — of a species on the national endangered list — was chased into a corner and shot by an exterminator with an air rifle.

“Under Dutch law, you need a permit to kill this kind of bird, and a permit can only be granted when there’s a danger to public health or a crop,” said agency spokesman Niels Dorland. “That was not the case.”

They thought it was a domino demonstration, but they ended up creating a recreation of Mousetrap. The only way this sequence might have been better is if the sparrow had been a cyclone started by the moving wings of a butterfly.