Never Talk

So, Roger Clemens is going to be indicted for perjury over his testimony to the feds. This comes on the heels of the news that former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich (D-Hairhelmet) was convicted of exactly 1 of the 24 counts against him. Coincidentally, the charge he got stuck with was lying to the feds.

I'm no great legal theorist, but the feds have cleverly managed to make talking to them seem like the worst possible option. If they're bound and determined to get you, they simply parse through every statement you've made to them, find one where they have plausible (but not necessarily dispositive) evidence to the contrary, and bingo! Time in a federal penitentiary for you, bucko.

What's more pathetic, in my opinion, is that perjury has become the fall back prosecution when they can't pin anything else on an otherwise innocent victim. No insider trading occurred? Perjury! Can't get the conviction on corruption charges? Perjury! Not enough evidence for steroid charges? Perjury!

Let us also not forget the feds are completely free to lie to you if they think doing so will help them convict you or others. You have a statutory duty not to lie, but they have no such corresponding obligation. You can also be prosecuted for lying, but federal agents won't get sanctioned for anything up to and including accidentally killing you. There's a pretty severe imbalance on the consequences scale going on here.

Given the well-publicized cases lately, I just don't see why anybody talks to the feds at all, let alone voluntarily. Anybody having any contact with the feds should smile cheerfully and invoke their 5th amendment rights. Alternatively, you can pull the "I do not recall at this time" routine. Either way seems preferable to later being prosecuted for perjury.

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Late and The Pot

So, yesterday was National Airborne Day. I simply neglected to mention it, as I was drinking Jack & Cokes much like I did when I was a young paratrooper. Unlike that time, I stopped after two. Anyhow, fire up the Wayback Machine, set it for yesterday, and say something nice to anyone you know who threw themselves from an aircraft in flight for the benefit of the US military. A drink might not be amiss, either.

Now that I have once again demonstrated conclusively that I am a lazy bastard, (I mean seriously, I couldn't get off my dead ass and post three sentences about National Airborne day yesterday? Slacker. How on earth did I ever finish, well, anything?) , let's move on to today's topic: rice. Roger Ebert wrote a post some time ago on the glories of using a rice cooker for rice and so much more. There is a subset of the populace, to which Roger apparently belongs, which thinks a rice cooker is some magical creation that can cook everything under the sun. I don't have any serious argument with this on the face of things, except maybe the magic part. A rice cooker is not complicated. At the most basic form it's a heater, a pot, and a thermostat. It works thusly: heat pot until temperature in pot rises past 212 degrees F, then turn heat off (or down). Not much magic involved. Basically, though, it's pot with a built-in heating element. I'm sure you can do lots of things with this, just like you can with a crock pot.

I don't have any personal experience with a rice cooker for one simple reason: I can cook rice. I don't see much need for a dedicated appliance, even if can do all the wonderful things Roger claims. I've failed at rice once in recent memory, and that was trying to cook rice for 100. That didn't go so well, but I don't think a rice cooker would have helped. The quantities got a bit too large, and scaling took over with a vengeance. Other than that, though, it's not usually difficult. Pot, rice, water, boil, turn down, simmer 25 minutes, serve. It's worked pretty well for me for a number of years now, and only requires minor tweaking for the stovetop involved.

I'm currently trying to scale back the number of things in my house, not add more. So no matter how useful Mr. Ebert thinks a rice cooker is, it ain't going on the wish list any time soon.

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Withholding Consent

Today, upon browsing through my news links, I was greeted by an op-ed (thanks, matt2) where a former deputy homeland security adviser to President Bush was arguing that governments, of all stripes, must be allowed back doors into communications systems. It included this lovely quote:
governments should not be timid about using their full powers to ensure that their law enforcement and intelligence agencies are able to keep their citizens safe.
Nowhere in the piece does Mr. Falkenrath acknowledge any right of the citizen to keep information from the state. Instead, he makes charming statements like “no provider of information services is exempt from the power of the state” and “governmental intrusion into ostensibly private communications offends liberal sensibilities”.

Mr Falkenrath’s piece would not be so troubling if it weren’t symptomatic of a larger problem. We have long passed the point where public officials recognize any legitimate restraints on the ability of government to do whatever the hell they think is necessary. Falkenrath is applauding the actions of a repressive monarchy in forcing a Canadian company to bow to demands for data access irrespective of any sort of due process or safeguards. He also points out how many in the US government, and I’m guessing himself included, wish similar actions could be taken here. Moreover, he’s not doing this in a backroom conversation with his intel buddies. He’s doing it on the op-ed page of the New York Times. What the hell, who needs the 4th Amendment and the idea that our government is one of limited powers? Not Kenneth Falkenrath. The danger of terrorism and smugglers and human traffickers is so great and so over-whelming we must use any means at our disposal to fight them! The idea that putative public servants who swore an oath to defend the Constitution feel free to advertise publicly their open disdain for same should cause some reevaluation.

However, he’s not alone, or by any means the most severe symptom of the problem. He’s just the guy I happened upon this morning. Examples are numerous and well-documented. We go from congressmen who believe there are no meaningful limits to federal power to courts who agree and to an executive who then acts with impunity, secure in the knowledge no one else in the .gov will disagree with the means even if they object to the ends. Taken all together, I’m led to an inescapable conclusion: the government of the United States is no longer acting in my interests. In fact, most of the actions the federal government takes are detrimental to me and mine.

So, what to do? My first instincts trend towards the simple and bloody. However, absent the willingness towards same from a substantial amount of the populace, any attempt is doomed to failure. It is infeasible, for a number of reasons, to simply pack up and move elsewhere. Another glaring issue with voting with the feet is that everywhere else is worse on many significant issues. Dropping off the grid entirely poses a number of practical problems as well. I firmly maintain the belief that the best way to hide from the government in this day and age is to get lost in the noise. If your data trail looks like every other data trail, you’re not going to get noticed. A lack of a data trail is just as noticeable, in some aspects, as an unusual data trail. So far the only answer I’ve reached is to hide in plain sight and figure out how to avoid getting the grosser excesses of the state aimed in my general direction.

I don’t have answers for some questions, like how little can you comply with the government and still stay off the radar. I also don’t know if the situation yet warrants something more active than civil disobedience and general non-compliance. I’m still working through some of the issues and practicalities, but in general terms, I’m withholding my consent. The government is illegitimate and can piss off.

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Lightning Returns

So, in a bizarre coincidence, lightning hit the tree in front of our neighbor's house, jumped to his house, and from there the magic of telecommunications took over with a vengeance. Loyal readers will recall we faced a similar situation two years ago.

We fared much better this time. Two computers, the X-Box 360 NIC, a NAS power supply, and various and sundry pieces of AT&T hardware went out. Unfortunately, the two computers that fried were my primary desktop and the music server. So instead of thinking up deathless prose to post on the Internet, I've been shopping PC parts.

I'm making some possibly unfounded assumptions about which parts of the two boxes are bad. I have, arguendo, assumed death on the part of the motherboard and processor. The music server is a cheap box running a old AMD chip and mobo combo. I've had no problems with it, so I went with a cheap combo deal from Newegg. A mini ITX board and single core Sempron should do what I need that box to do. Sadly, the initial board had problems with the onboard video, so I RMA'd it and am eagerly awaiting the new board as we speak. If it works well, I may get a small ITX case and stick it downstairs to run a media client on, but that may be asking a bit too much out of it. I'll just have to see.

My primary desktop was more difficult. I don't mind using old stuff for the music server, because it's not doing a lot of processor intensive grunt. I'm enough of a geek that I need a bit more for my primary computer. So I had one simple requirement: go up in specifications. I figured that shouldn't be too difficult with a 2 year old box.

Of course, what I learned is that Intel has gotten awfully proud of their chips. I've been using Intel in my main boxes forever, since when I started doing this AMD wasn't an option. Replacing my old Intel processor with a comparable low-end quad-core Intel ended up being more than I was prepared to spend right now. Hmm. Let's see what AMD has to offer.

Long story short, for about what I would pay for a comparable Intel chip, I can get a faster AMD and a mobo. Of course, this requires a memory upgrade, but other than that, I should be golden. I'm assuming my hard and optical drives aren't fried, which is usually a pretty safe bet. They're more robust pieces of kit, I've found. In any event, I should be up and running as soon as parts get here. Yay me. Boo lightning.

Now all I need is a wireless NIC for the X-Box. I'm just not sufficiently motivated to go digging in the hardware guts of that particular equipment, since all my sources tell me the NIC is part of the board and requires board replacement.

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65 years ago today, we unleashed the power of the atom. We remain the only country to have turned our enemies into radioactive ash.

So much for all the post-apocalyptic sci-fi. Piggy's a middle manager at a bank, Heiro is probably taking his ass down to the Quickie Mart for a slushie, Leibowitz toils away dutifully on his military engineering, Vault-Tec went bankrupt back in the 60s, and here we all are.

Doesn't mean it still can't happen, though.

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