Strong opinions, weakly held

Month: May 2002 (page 2 of 11)

Aaron Straup Cope sent me a link to this Washington Times story that identifies the reporter Bush mocked as NBC White House correspondent David Gregory. The story even includes some special bonus right wing spin on Bush’s non-answer to Gregory’s question, just as you’d expect from that paper.

More Bush fun: here’s Dana Milbank’s recap of the President’s summer vacation.

Here’s the transcript of the press conference. I had forgotten about the part where President Bush chided President Chirac for calling on an American reporter (“I’ll call on the Americans”). Here’s the prize segment, though, where an American reporter asks a question in French, only to be mocked by Bush, who then goes on to utterly ignore the guy’s question:

PRESIDENT CHIRAC: Last question, for the American press, maybe?

Q You said in reaction to demonstrations against you and your administration during this trip in Europe that it’s simply a healthy democracy exercising its will, and that disputes are positive. But I wonder why it is you think there are strong — such strong sentiments in Europe against you and against this administration? Why, particularly, there’s a view that you and your administration are trying to impose America’s will on the rest of the world, particularly when it comes to the Middle East and where the war on terrorism goes next?

(Asked in French.) And, Mr. President, would you maybe comment on that?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Very good. The guy memorizes four words, and he plays like he’s intercontinental. (Laughter.)

Q I can go on.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I’m impressed. Que bueno. Now I’m literate in two languages. (Laughter.) So you go to a protest, and I drive through the streets of Berlin seeing hundreds of people lining the road, waving. And I’m — look, the only thing I know to do is speak my mind, to talk about my values, to talk about our mutual love for freedom and the willingness to defend freedom. And, David, I think a lot of people on the continent of Europe appreciate that. Appreciate the fact that we’re friends; appreciate the fact that we’ve got — we work together; that there’s a heck of a lot more that unites us than divides us. We share the same values; we trade $2 trillion a year. I mean, there’s — so I don’t view hostility here. I view the fact we’ve got a lot of friends here. And I’m grateful for the friendship. And the fact that protestors show up, that’s good. I mean, I’m in a democracy. I’m traveling to a country that respects other people’s points of view.

But I feel very comfortable coming to Europe; I feel very comfortable coming to France, I’ve got a lot of friends here.

Q Sir, if I could just follow —


If you know which journalist asked the questions in that series, please drop me a line.

Our President (yes, I shudder when I say that) put on one of his better ignorant frat boy performances at a press conference in France over the weekend. I’m still looking for a full transcript of the press conference, but the story filed by the AP’s White House correspondent will have to do for now. Insulting to reporters? Check. Insulting to French President Jacques Chirac? Check. Misstatements of fact? Check. Answering questions other than those he was asked? Check. Anti-intellectual? Check. He blames it on jet lag, but I don’t think anybody’s buying it.

There are going to be a ton of parties celebrating the release of Mozilla 1.0, but the coolest has to be the one at some dude’s house in Karachi, Pakistan.

A mammoth new mall opened here a few weeks ago, and I heard last week that there was an Apple Store in it, so I managed to make my way over there yesterday. I figured out why I keep buying PCs instead of Macs — because I don’t know anybody who has the latest Apple hardware. I mean, I’ve seen old-style iMacs all over the place and I’ve seen plenty of Apple ads, but you really have to behold Apple’s hardware to see how beautiful (and usable) it is.

The PowerBook and iBook are both marvels of design, and the new iMac is really nifty, but to me, the two most impressive things that I saw were the Cinema HD display and the iPod. I honestly didn’t think that a display as beautiful as Apple’s gigantic LCD existed. Even at an absurd price like $3499, I wanted one desperately. I had read plenty of reviews of the iPod’s controls, but you can’t really understand how sublime they are until you use one yourself. You just look at it and understand exactly what you’re supposed to do to make it do your bidding. It’s truly a wonderful toy.

So now my wish list includes a PowerBook G4, a beefy Apple desktop system, a Cinema HD display, and an iPod. Oh, and an iMac and second iPod for my wife. I may never buy another Windows PC again.

A test of the Visionics face recognition system in Palm Beach International Airport has been a failure. Not only did the system fail to flag the people it was supposed to, but it also generated a bunch of false positives. This outcome was totally predictable, and in fact, was predicted by Bruce Schneier last September. I quote:

Suppose this magically effective face-recognition software is 99.99 percent accurate. That is, if someone is a terrorist, there is a 99.99 percent chance that the software indicates “terrorist,” and if someone is not a terrorist, there is a 99.99 percent chance that the software indicates “non-terrorist.” Assume that one in ten million flyers, on average, is a terrorist. Is the software any good?

No. The software will generate 1000 false alarms for every one real terrorist. And every false alarm still means that all the security people go through all of their security procedures. Because the population of non-terrorists is so much larger than the number of terrorists, the test is useless. This result is counterintuitive and surprising, but it is correct. The false alarms in this kind of system render it mostly useless. It’s “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” increased 1000-fold.

Currently the system generates false positives about 1% of the time, so it’s much, much worse than the hypothetical scenario that Schneier describes.

Bad Thomas Friedman, Bad!
It looks like Thomas Friedman is <a href=”grousing about the Web again. I greatly respect Friedman’s writing on topics concerning foreign policy and the Middle East, but a tech journalist he is not.

He starts his column this week by noting that several of the highjackers on 9/11 made their travel arrangements online. Are we to assume that they would have been unsuccessful in making their arrangements had they made their arrangements by phoning the airline or a travel agent? Fortunately, he drops that point right there and digs into the meat of the issue, which is that many technologies (specifically, in this case, Internet technologies) can be used for both good and evil.

Unfortunately, not much light is shed in the remainder of the column. He discusses no specific problems, other than the problem that people with ill intent can use the same services as people with good intent. He manages to coax this quote out of Travelocity’s former chairman:

Our only responsibility was to authenticate your financial ability to pay. Did your name and credit card match your billing address? It was not our responsibility, nor did we have the ability, to authenticate your intent with that ticket, which requires a much deeper sense of identification. It may be, though, that this is where technology will have to go — to allow a deeper sense of identification.
How would such a system of identification work? Once again, is such identification possible outside the realm of online travel planning? Furthermore, is purchase time the right time to perform such identification? The Ryder truck used by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City and the other Ryder truck used by the first World Trade Center bombers were rented face to face, and that didn’t prevent the attacks.

The column sinks lowest when Friedman decides to resurrect the Clipper Chip:
Silicon Valley staunchly opposed the Clipper Chip, which would have given the government a back-door key to all U.S. encrypted data. Now some wonder whether they shouldn’t have opposed it. John Doerr, the venture capitalist, said, “Culturally, the Valley was already maturing before 9/11, but since then it’s definitely developed a deeper respect for leaders and government institutions.”
Friedman claims some people wonder whether they shouldn’t have opposed it, but then follows up with a quote that doesn’t express any such doubts. He also fails to mention the huge number of problems associated with the Clipper Chip, like the fact that terrorists could just use the back door free encryption software that already exists currently and avoid Clipperized software. Or they could use software from countries where such back doors aren’t required. As far as I know, we don’t even know whether terrorists are using encryption. Certainly the people opposed to encryption that already infest the government would be shouting from the rooftops if we had any proof that encryption prevented us from stopping terrorist attacks.

Finally, the fact that Internet technologies can be used by terrorists is nothing new. People were warning about these dangers long before 9/11, especially when it comes to encryption. The question we face is where we want to strike the balance between liberty and security, but before we can even answer that question, we have to determine how much additional security revoking certain liberties would provide.

Obviously Pakistan has to deal with a growing crisis with India, but there are plenty of domestic problems there as well. FEER has an article on Pervez Musharraf’s lack of public support since the fake election that was held at the end of April. Apparently the referendum held to elect Musharraf president for life has united all of the opposing political groups in Pakistan, Musharraf’s tough talk about dealing with Islamic militants seems to have been a sham, and the Pashtun tribes in western Pakistan are up in arms. Even if the conflict with India simmers down, the future isn’t looking too bright for Pakistan.

The truth is out there: posts on Yahoo’s message boards warned investors of Enron’s problems as early as 1999. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, nobody was able to separate the signal from the massive amounts of noise that clot the message boards every day.

Older posts Newer posts

© 2018 rc3.org

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑