Taking A Swipe At Skype

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

.

Skype_logo

No, it’s not me who is taking a swipe at Skype. I use Skype a lot for communicating with people. I find it particularly good for contacting friends in foreign lands, which you can do for free, but also for making paid telephone calls too.

I have been using it for over a decade, almost from it started, and long before it was bought by Microsoft. Although other flavors have arrived on the scene I stick with Skype.

It’s the comfort of familiarity, something I wish the nerds at WordPress would pay attention to instead of continually making smart-ass changes that no one has asked for or wants. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it guys!

But getting back to Skype, it has now become a victim of the snoopers – again!

This time it has been told it has to appear before a court in Belgium because it refused to hand over customer data following a request for assistance by the Federal Computer Crime Unit of the Federal Judicial Police (FCCU) in a ‘criminal investigation’.

Microsoft acquires Skype

Microsoft has been very sensitive to appearing to buckle under when requested to release information about its Skype users ever since it was alleged that it had changed the architecture of the communications software to make it more “wiretap friendly”, something which it has always denied.

Despite Microsoft releasing transparency reports stating that it had not handed over the content of any Skype conversations in response to regular law enforcement requests, privacy and security analysts remain unconvinced.

Unfortunately, as usually happens when the lawyers get to work, the fundamental importance of this case – which is government’s mania for trying to remove the right to privacy of its citizens – gets lost in spurious legal arguments.

cartoon lawyers

Now, instead of defending the right to privacy, the court’s time is being taken up with deciding whether or not a VoIP service like Skype should be treated as a telecoms operator in Belgium. If it is then it would have to comply with Belgian regulatory requirements for telecoms operators and release data to the snoopers.

I said earlier that the request by the Belgian snoopers is in regard to a ‘criminal investigation’ but the alleged crimes under investigation have not been specified, nor has the identity of the suspect or suspects.

It’s another one of those government catch-all phrases like ‘terrorist activity’ or ‘national security’ that are used as a cover for intrusions into people’s privacy whenever they feel like it.

government Snooping

The result of this Belgian case will be an interesting marker for future attacks on the privacy of Skype users. My guess is that if the snoopers win their case then Skype should brace itself for a multitude of similar requests from governments all over the world. If on the other hand the courts rules in favor of the privacy of Skype users then the government will simply put their hackers to work and try to get the information illegally as they have done and are doing.

So it’s another one of those ‘heads’ privacy loses and ‘tails’ the snoopers win.

.

=============================

.

A Round Of Applause For Ms Fleischmann, I Think.

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

.

Alayne Fleischmann

Alayne Fleischmann was someone who I though did not exist.

Yes, it’s a slightly odd name, but that’s not what I mean.

She’s a real person, she does exist, although many on Wall Street and in the government wish she did not.

You see Alayne Fleischmann is a an honest lawyer.

Not only an honest lawyer, but an honest securities lawyer.

And not only an honest securities lawyer, but an honest securities lawyer who worked for a bank.

I know, it’s hard to believe isn’t it?

But it’s true.

Eight years ago Ms Fleischmann was employed by J P Morgan Chase Bank as a deal manager, a position that allowed her to see the crooked activity, fraud in other words, that was going on at the bank, particularly in regard to mortgage securities.

jp-morgan-chase-bank-logo1

She has been effectively ‘gagged’ for many years by confidentiality agreements, hordes of lawyers acting for the banks, and by government organizations that were supposedly investigating the fraud but which were in fact just trying to get it pushed under the carpet as soon and as quietly as possible.

Now Alayne Fleischmann is blowing the whistle, not just on the fraudulent activity of the banks but on the massive cover-up that followed it.

In doing so she is just confirming what anyone who has been paying attention already knew to be true, namely that the government has allowed the banks to buy their way out of criminal charges and jail time by paying multi-billion and multi-million dollar fines, fines that may sound large to you and I but which to them are a small fraction of the money they stole.

Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report

The Department of Justice, Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, SEC, and more have been pretending to investigate and bring the culprits to book. In effect they have done very little.

So I think a round of applause is in order for Ms Fleischmann. She won’t make much of a dent in the corrupt system, the corruption is so ingrained that I doubt if anyone could do that. But at least she came through with her honesty intact and that is a hell of a lot more than can be said of the banksters or the politicians and political appointees who were supposed to be going to make things right.

 

===============================================

Playing With Statistics

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

.

It’s Sunday so time for another Sunday Sermon.

There’s a famous quote from US President Abraham Lincoln that goes something like, “you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time”.

On the face of it Lincoln’s words seem rather clever and profound – and true. And so they are.

Up to a point.

But what Lincoln didn’t say (and he was a politician after all) is that you don’t have to fool ALL of the people ALL of the time.

What you have to do is fool them long enough to do what you need to do – for example, in the case of a politician, to get yourself elected.  

 

graph Miss Universe

Which brings me to statistics.

Because the best people in the world at playing with statistics are politicians and governments.

Some people believe everything they are told. Others call the figures governments produce ‘disingenuous’ which is being very kind. And some don’t believe a word or a number that they produce. (Take a wild guess at which camp I am in.)

Government statistical results are in effect lies. You can’t call them that – although I just did – because they can find figures to back up what they say, it’s just that they choose the figures that tell the story they want to promote and ignore all the rest that tell a different story.

For example, to get on to one of my favorite rant subjects, there is a thing which I am sure most of you have never heard of called the ‘Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program’ or ‘SIGTARP’ for short.

When the government is challenged about what is has been doing to bring to justice the banksters, who stole and recklessly gambled away our money, they can quote you a statistic or two saying that over the last few years, SIGTARP has put over 100 senior bank executives in jail, each of whom was convicted of stealing from taxpayers.

Although that fact is ‘technically’ or ‘statistically’ true, what they don’t tell you is that the people they have gone after and convicted are all small time crooks, guilty of small time frauds that are seldom above $1m or $1.5 million in value.

All the super crooks who embezzled hundreds of $ billions and almost brought down the entire financial system aren’t even being seriously pursued. More than six years into the SIGTARP investigations there are literally still hundreds of billions of outstanding ‘loans’, from banks including Citi, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America.

They can quote figures all day long to try to mislead the people and make themselves look good, but a few small time crooks thrown in jail for stealing a million or two dollars here and there isn’t ever going to make much of a dent in the $ billions that were stolen. The politicians know that as well as anyone.

Perhaps Mark Twain’s “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics,” might have been a better quote!

.

.

================================================

.

I Don’t Believe It! – The Bureaucrats Have Done Something Sensible!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

.

It had to happen eventually.

Admittedly we’ve been waiting for a long, long, long time, but finally the bureaucrats seem to have done something sensible.

Sort of.

But hold on!

US citizens, fear not, your bureaucrats are standing firm. They are not included in this minor breakthrough.

It’s all about the snoopers.

In this case Google, who thinks it has the right to collect any and all information it can from people who use its search engine to find things on the internet.

But as a result of a recent European Union Court of Justice ruling, EU citizens have been given the ‘right to be forgotten’. Certain users can now ask search engines to remove results for queries that include their name, where those results are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.”

Google is complying, but reluctantly, making the whole process anything but straightforward and easy. It is launching a service that lets European users ask for personal information to be deleted from the search engine, but on its ‘right to forget’ form users will be asked to provide links to the material they want removed, their country of origin, a reason for their request, AND also attach a valid photo identity.

And keeping its options as open as it can, Google has also said, “In implementing this decision, we will assess each individual request and attempt to balance the privacy rights of the individual with the public’s right to know and distribute information. When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there’s a public interest in the information — for example, information about financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials.”

Who defines “the public’s right to know” has not yet been clarified, but I bet you if it is left up to Google what is in the public interest will be remarkably similar to what is in Google’s interest too.

It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Come on all you American bureaucrats, America used to lead the world, what are you waiting for?

.

.

==========================================

.

Don’t Call Me A Cannibal! – Oh, oh, We’re In Court Again!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

 .

It’s been a while since I raided the court archives. So here are a few more examples of the level of intelligence you can expect, not only from untrained Joe Public called to give evidence, but from the supposedly highly trained lawyers, supposedly!

Enjoy.

 

 

District Attorney: What happened next, Ma’am?

Witness: He unzipped his pants and pulled out his subpoena.

Judge: Any motions, counsel?

Counsel: I move to dismiss, Your Honor. All my client did was pull out a subpoena. There’s no law against that.

Judge: Counsel, if the witness doesn’t know the difference between a penis and a subpoena that’s her problem. Held to answer!

 

 

 

Judge: If that be your verdict, so say you all

2 Jurors:  “you all”

 

 

 

Judge: Any member of your immediate family or yourself ever been the victim of a crime or robbery?

Juror: My mother had her purse snatched

Judge: How long ago was that?

Juror: Ten, fifteen years ago

Judge: Was she hurt at all in the snatch?

 

 

 

Judge:  What made you bite the police officer?

Witness:  He stuck his arm in my mouth

 

 

 

Q: Were you the lone ranger on duty that night?

A: I was a park ranger on duty that night

Q: I mean the only one, the lone

A: You mean alone?

Q Alone

A: Yes, I was

 

 

 

Q: Do you speak Spanish, Officer?

A: Yes, I do

Q: Are you fluent in Spanish?

A: Yes, I do

 

 

 

Q: Are you being selective about what you remember and what you don’t remember as to the details of your previous record?

A: I don’t remember.

 

 

 

Q: Do you have any problem with the English language?

A: No, I speak very good English.

Q: Great. Do you know Andre?

A: That’s my cousin.

Q: Have you known him all your life?

A: Since we grewed up.

 

 

 

Q: Now, do you recall the date the accident occurred?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: What date was it?

A: It was a hot day in August.

Q: Did you drink any alcohol?

A: No, sir.

Q: Are you a teetotaler?

A: Not really. Just coffee once in a while, like in the morning.

 

 

 

Q: And y’all had a very intimate relationship, didn’t you, Ms. A?

A: We had sex two times. It wasn’t very intimate.

 

 

 

A: Yeah, I used to be around with him a lot. Me and his nephew run together.?

Q: Who is his nephew?

A: Pokey. I think he’s doing time now.

Q: Pokey is Kenny’s nephew and is doing time now? Are you saying Pokey is in the pokey?

A: Yeah.

 

 

 

District Attorney: Defense Counsel is accountable to you (the jury)

Counsel: Judge I object to that. I object to him referring to me as a cannibal, Judge

Judge:  He said accountable

Counsel: A what?

Judge: He said accountable, not a cannibal

Counsel:  It sounded like cannibal to me and I object

It Sounded like cannibal to me

=========================

 

Some More Witty Sayings, Inspired By George Carlin

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

 .

There was a lot of love for the short series of quotes from George Carlin. I was pleased that he is remembered well and still giving amusement to people, despite no longer being with us.

Today I have a selection of other witty sayings, not attributed to anyone in particular, but in the same spirit as last week’s post.

I hope you enjoy these too.

. 

 

Dickson’s Gardening Rule: When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.

 

The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement.

 

Sex is like air; it’s not important unless you aren’t getting any.

 

Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.

 

One good turn gets most of the blankets.

 

There are two kinds of pedestrians — the quick and the dead.

 

Life is sexually transmitted.

 

An unbreakable toy is useful for breaking other toys.

 

If quitters never win, and winners never quit, then who is the fool who said “Quit while you’re ahead”?

 

ASCII stupid question, get a stupid ANSI. (One for the nerds and geeks to LTAO.) 

 

Willie was a Chemist, But Willie is no more, What Willie thought was H2O Was H2SO4.

 

A closed mouth gathers no feet.

 

Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

 

It’s not hard to meet expenses, they’re everywhere.

 

Jury — Twelve people who determine which client has the better lawyer.

 

Never lick a gift horse in the mouth.

 

The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

 

Marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence. Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.

 

Before marriage, a man yearns for the woman he loves. After marriage, the ‘Y’ becomes silent.

 

If you want your spouse to listen and pay strict attention to every word you say, talk in your sleep.

 

=============================

 

The Terminal Man

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

 .

In case you were wondering, this post has nothing to do with Michael Crichton’s mind control novel with the same title. Rather it is about people with no minds trying to control the rest of us.

Strange, as well as stupid, people feature on the fasab blog.

None come stranger than Mehran Karimi Nasseri, also known as Sir, Alfred Mehran (yes, including the comma).

Nasseri is an Iranian refugee who was expelled from Iran in 1977 for protests against the Shah. After a long battle, involving applications in several countries, he was awarded refugee status by the United Nations High Commission for refugees in Belgium which permitted him residence in any European country.

He claimed to have one British parent, although he produced no evidence to support this, and decided to settle in the UK in 1986.  But en route to there, in 1988, he claimed that he was mugged and his shoulder bag stolen while waiting at the RER platform to go to Charles de Gaulle Airport to take a flight to Heathrow.

When he tried to go to the United Kingdom, Nasseri managed to board the plane, but when he arrived at Heathrow, London without the necessary documentation, immigration officials sent him back to Charles de Gaulle airport.

Unable to prove his identity, or his refugee status, to the French officials, he was initially arrested and moved to the Zone d’attente (waiting zone), a holding area for travelers who do not have papers. However, due to the fact that his entry to the airport was legal he was released, but, since he had no country of origin to be returned to, he began his residence in the departure lounge of Terminal One in Charles de Gaulle Airport on August 8, 1988.

Mr. Nasseri’s predicament was made into a movie in 1993 entitled ‘Tombes du Ciel’, starring Jean Rochefort, Ticky Holgado, and Marisa Paredes. And he was reportedly the inspiration behind the 2004 movie ‘The Terminal’, starring Tom Hanks.

However, unlike Hanks’ character in the movie, and since at least 1994, Nasseri did not live in the duty-free transit area, but simply in the departure hall, in the circular boutiques and restaurants passage on the lowest floor.

Theoretically he could leave the terminal at any moment, although, since everyone knew him, his departure might not remain unnoticed. He did not seem to speak with anyone normally.

With his cart and bags, he almost looked like a traveler, so people either did not notice him or ignored him as if he were a homeless person. Airport workers were kind enough to give him food.

In 1992, his case was taken on by French human rights lawyer Christian Bourget. However, in one of those absurd rulings that idiot bureaucrats and judges can only dream up, the French courts ruled that, having entered the country legally, he could not be expelled from the airport, but neither could it grant him permission to enter France.

Attempts were then made to have new documents issued from Belgium, but the authorities there would only do so if Nasseri presented himself in person. However, under Belgian law a refugee who voluntarily leaves a country that has accepted him cannot return.

In 1995, the Belgian authorities granted permission for him to return, but only if he agreed to live there under supervision of a social worker. Nasseri refused this on the grounds of wanting to enter the UK as originally intended.

In July 2006, eighteen years later (yes, that’s 18 years!) Nasseri’s stay at the Charles de Gaulle Airport ended when he was hospitalized and his sitting place dismantled.

Towards the end of January 2007, he left the hospital and was looked after by the airport’s branch of the French Red Cross. He was lodged for a few weeks in a hotel close to the airport.

On March 6, 2007, he transferred to an Emmaus charity reception centre in Paris’s twentieth arrondissement. As far as I know he may still be there.

And you thought US immigration took a long time!

The Terminal Man - Mehran Karimi Nasseri
The Terminal Man – Mehran Karimi Nasseri