This is the farewell shoe, you dog

Bloomberg is reporting that “Shoe Hurled at Bush Flies Off Turkish Maker’s Shelves :

Baydan has received orders for 300,000 pairs of the shoes since the attack, more than four times the number his company sold each year since the model was introduced in 1999. The company plans to employ 100 more staff to meet demand, he said.

You can visit Baydan Shoes, and try to find them. Warning: Site plays bad music when you arrive, without an obvious off button.

Via Marginal Revolution.

Thoughts on the Somali Pirates

Stratfor’s podcast on the seizure of that Saudi oil tanker contained a fascinating tidbit: merchant ships are no longer allowed to carry arms at all, which, of course, makes piracy far easier. This is a dramatic transformation of the rights of merchant ships. Historically, private ships carried weapons when sailing far out of their own waters, and such weapons were an important deterrent to piracy.

As the nation state has claimed primacy over other entities, and exclusivity on the use of force, it has also worked an inter-national system based on the idea that only the state may employ violence. Entities which aren’t governments, say shipping conglomerates, don’t get a vote.

I didn’t realize that extended as far as officers of ships being unable to carry sidearms. I had wondered why ships sailing the Gulf of Eden didn’t convoy for mutual protection, and apparently the answer is that they can’t offer each other any. A few small machine guns would dramatically alter the payoff choices that pirates make. As is, they’re restricted to non-lethal means like water cannon.

Of course, to maintain it’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force, the state cannot allow even sidearms on ships. It also seems that it’s become hard to capture pirates. The Royal Navy has gone from hanging them to not capturing them to avoid claims of asylum in the UK. (Hanging pirates was in part a practical measure, given the lack of a secure brig on a smaller naval vessel, and the risk that the pirates would escape and capture their captors.) Of course, cheers for the Indian Navy have subsided somewhat, given that the pirate mothership they destroyed was a Thai ship with its crew held hostage inside.)

The fundamental trade, where the state has a monopoly on violence in exchange for preventing everyone else from employing violence, is a pretty good one when it works. (Assuming that rights including self-defense are not abrogated.)

But Somali pirates are only one of the ways in which the Westphillian system of national primacy is breaking down. Terrorism is another, as are the failure to deal with genocides in the Sudan or Congo.

Citizens, Juries and other Balances

the farewell kiss you dog.jpgFollowing on my post on Parliaments, Dukes and Queens, I’d like to talk about other checks on the power of government, besides throwing tea into the harbor.

In Britian, “a jury has failed to clear police in the death of Jean Charles de Menezes.” The jury is the first group who, frankly, has not whitewashed the death. Investigations by Scotland Yard, The Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Crown Prosecution Service all failed to find any form of punishable fault by the armed police or their leadership.

In New York, a police officer who wrongfully arrested a bike rider and lied about what happened has been indicted, “Officer Is Indicted in Toppling of Cyclist.” Charges have not yet been revealed, but I’m hoping for perjury and assault. The interesting thing about this case, which I’ve followed a little, is what changed everything was video of the incident.

Meanwhile, one of the illegal wiretap (2005 variant) whistleblowers, Thomas Tamm, has come forward. In “The Fed Who Blew the Whistle,” Michael Isikoff writes:

At one point, Tamm says, he approached Lisa Farabee, a senior counsel in OIPR who reviewed his work, and asked her directly, “Do you know what the program is?” According to Tamm, she replied: “Don’t even go there,” and then added, “I assume what they are doing is illegal.” Tamm says his immediate thought was, “I’m a law-enforcement officer and I’m participating in something that is illegal?” A few weeks later Tamm bumped into Mark Bradley, the deputy OIPR counsel, who told him the office had run into trouble with Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the chief judge on the FISA court. Bradley seemed nervous, Tamm says. Kollar-Kotelly had raised objections to the special program wiretaps, and “the A.G.-only cases are being shut down,” Bradley told Tamm. He then added, “This may be [a time] the attorney general gets indicted,” according to Tamm. (Told of Tamm’s account, Justice spokesman Boyd said that Farabee and Bradley “have no comment for your story.”)

By now its obvious that individuals, empowered by technology are increasingly able to act as a counter-balance to some of the power of the state. This is relatively new and still nascent. The ability of random passers-by to video events is only a few decades old. The ability to get stories out there and draw attention to them has increased tremendously with the rise of Usenet, blogs, Facebook, etc. Of course, people have always stood up to the state, but I think the addition of video and networking make it easier and a more interesting balance than it has been.

This, of course, requires citizens to be active, engaged, and united. All the outrage over illegal wiretapping was effectively countered with propaganda alleging that illegal was the only way to wiretap, or that the law was outdated. It also requires the citizenry to be jealous guardians of their precious liberties.

I’ve been going back and forth on this post, in part because Muntazer al-Zaidi was beaten by jailers, and is facing a 7-15 year jail sentence for ‘offending the head of a foreign state.’

In unrelated news, the Obama transition team has done an internal review, which, shockingly, “Finds No ‘Inappropriate’ Contacts With Blagojevich

Evidence of Time Travel Found in China

The twain meeting

According to Ananova, a Swiss watch-ring has been found covered in dirt in a four-hundred year old Ming dynasty tomb. The watch was found, covered in dirt. It was stopped at the time 10:06 and has the word, “Swiss” engraved on the back.

The archaeologists on the dig have requested archaeologists from Beijing to help them unravel the mystery.

Emergent Chaos contacted the Hong Kong representatives of Allied Epochs, a time-travel law enforcement agency, who told us that an investigation into the matter is already ongoing, but no report on the incident is available yet.

Of Parliaments, Dukes and Queens

map.jpgFour interesting stories recently, all having to do with the ancient relationship between a sovereign and a parliament, or the relationship of hereditary rulership to democracy. I secretly admire the emergent forms of government which have proven stable despite their chaotic origins. I’m fascinated by these imperfectly republican nations like Canada and the United Kingdom, where the assent of the Queen to legislation is still required. And for our Canadian and UK readers who think that isn’t really relevant…well, take note of what happened in Luxembourg.

The Grand Duke of Luxembourg had the termity to not rubber-stamp a bill (on euthenasia). Radio Netherlands is reporting that a mere parliamentary committee has written him out of the process entirely. It’s not clear to me who the Prime Minister of Luxembourg is now prime minister to, but that’s the problem of the Luxembourgers.

Meanwhile, on December 4th, the Canadian “Governor General agrees to suspend Parliament until January.” Formally, prorouging them. I sort of like the idea that someone in a position of authority has declared all of Canada’s parliament to be rouges, but the G.G. is usually understood to be a ceremonial role. It turns out that that’s not entirely the case, although her action was unprecedented. (The Wikipedia article on Governor General is unsurprisingly good – enjoy the section on controverseys — the one on the “2008 Canadian parliamentary dispute,” is not yet well organized.) Still, the G.G. took decisive action to prevent the government from falling.

I’m a little disappointed that Stéphan Dion didn’t call for a meeting of Parliament regardless of the prorougement, and vote Harper out. That would have been quite the republican act and given Americans some fine, and highly confusing chaos to observe. (I’m using republican in the sense of republicans versus monarchists, of course.)

At just about the same time, on Sark, the Chief Pleas have been pleased to replace membership by land ownership with democracy, which promptly elected them back into office.

Finally, in Britian, the Crown has arrested a member of Parliament to nary a whisper. As the Economist mentions, such acts once led to civil war in England. (“England had a civil war?“)

Despite my dislike of monarchies, I don’t want to forget that historically, legislatures wrested power from those monarchs. There’s a value and risk to such a balance, which is that (as Madison wrote):

In a government where numerous and extensive prerogatives are placed in the hands of an hereditary monarch, the executive department is very justly regarded as the source of danger, and watched with all the jealousy which a zeal for liberty ought to inspire. In a democracy, where a multitude of people exercise in person the legislative functions, and are continually exposed, by their incapacity for regular deliberation and concerted measures, to the ambitious intrigues of their executive magistrates, tyranny may well be apprehended, on some favorable emergency, to start up in the same quarter. But in a representative republic, where the executive magistracy is carefully limited; both in the extent and the duration of its power; and where the legislative power is exercised by an assembly, which is inspired, by a supposed influence over the people, with an intrepid confidence in its own strength; which is sufficiently numerous to feel all the passions which actuate a multitude, yet not so numerous as to be incapable of pursuing the objects of its passions, by means which reason prescribes; it is against the enterprising ambition of this department that the people ought to indulge all their jealousy and exhaust all their precautions.

I’ll have a little more to say about the indulgence of that jealousy shortly.

In the map, Sark is marked by the pin. Canada is not shown.

As easy as dialing a phone

People often make the claim that something is “as intuitive as dialing the phone.”

As I was listening to “Dave Birch interviewing Ben Laurie,” I was reminded of this 1927 silent film:

how to dial the telephone.jpg

Ben commented on people having difficulty with the CardSpace user interface, and it not being as intuitive as having your email address being a login identifier.

Anyway, fascinating interview. Worth a listen, even if takes twice as long as learning what a dial tone is.

Working Through Screens

Jacob Burghardt has a very interesting new ebook, “Working Through Screens.”

If one was to summarize the status quo, it might sound something like this: when it comes to interactive applications for knowledge work, products that are considered essential are not always satisfactory. In fact, they may be deeply flawed in ways that we commonly do not recognize given our current expectations of these tools. With our collective sights set low, we overlook many faults.

Unless knowledge workers are highly motivated early adopters that are willing and able to make use of most anything, their experiences as users of interactive applications can vary drastically. These differences in experience can largely depend on the overall alignment of an individual’s intentions and understandings with the specifics of a tool’s design.

Poorly envisioned knowledge work applications can … present workers with confusing data structures and representations of information that do not correlate to the artifacts that they are used to thinking about in their own work practices.

I’m only a little ways into the book, but a great deal of what he says resonates with me. Much of the problem I saw with previous generation threat modeling tools were that they were created by and for those ‘highly motivated early adopters,’ and then delivered to people who were not used to thinking about their software from the perspective of assets and entry points. (Thus the third excerpt.) In creating the v3 SDL Threat Modeling Tool, I struggled with a lot of these issues.

If you encounter problems like this, there’s no reason to not invest some time in “Working Through Screens.”

Via Information Aesthetics.

Do Security Breaches Cost Customers?

Adam Dodge, building on research by Ponemon and Debix, says “Breaches Cost Companies Customers,” and Alan Shimel dissents in “Do data breaches really cost companies customers?”

Me, I think it’s time we get deeper into what this means.

First, the customers. Should they abandon a relationship because the organization has a security problem? To answer this, we first need to look at the type of organization. For governmental organizations, it’s very hard. They won’t let you go, and if they do, they won’t destroy your dossier the dossier about you.

For regulated entities, they generally may not delete the information they collected for some number of years (varies, but always sufficient for them to lose control of the data again).

For unregulated entities, you can’t (in the US) ask them to delete the database record either.

So for most breaches, the only value to abandoning the relationship is to stop paying the company. Which is a reasonable bit of retribution, but doesn’t actually add to security, and may subtract from it. It could subtract because (assuming you replace the service you were getting) there’s now an additional dossier about you.

Second, what’s the discrepancy? Why do 30% of customers report having closed a relationship, but Ponemon’s own numbers show a range of 2-7%? There are three hypothesis which spring to mind.

  1. Consumers are confused or lying. This would only make sense if you think the American people are idiots. The sort of folks who would think Iraq had chemical weapons in 2002 buy books titled “neurosurgery for dummies.”
  2. Consumers are right, and closing one of several relationships. All those numbers could be right, if consumers are getting more notices than we think. This would be one of many problems with our volunteer based systems for tracking breaches.
  3. The discrepancy is really notices sent versus notices received. That is, people are not opening the “Dear John Doe” letters.