Taking A Swipe At Skype

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”



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.




First The Yanks, Now The Canucks! Where Will It All End?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”


First it was the Americans.

Now the Canadians want in on the act too.

What act?

The act of handing more powers to its intelligence agencies.

Canadian SIS

Yes, the Canadian government has passed a controversial anti-terrorism Bill, 183 votes to 93, to extend the powers of the country’s spy agencies.

It’s all in the interests of national security of course. The excuse or cover being used is the recent – and first ever – terrorist attack on Canadian soil last October, in which a gunman attacked the country’s parliament, shot a soldier on ceremonial guard duty and was subsequently killed himself.

The new legislation gives Canada’s spooks the ability to make preventative arrests. In other words, like America’s controversial ‘extraordinary rendition’, the Canadian Intelligence Service will be able to take “measures to reduce threats to the security of Canada, including measures that are authorized by the Federal Court”. And they can do it inside Canada as well as in other countries.

All well and good.

But tacked on to the legislation is the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, which hands government agencies “increased information disclosure powers”, which is a nice way of saying they can snoop on almost anyone and everyone as and when they want to.



They are going to keep Canadians safe by listening to their phone calls and reading their emails, just like they do in America.

Doesn’t it give you a nice warm feeling of security?

Nope, me neither!

What Is The German Word For Hypocrite?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”


hypocrite definition

Remember the big furor a while ago when Edward Snowden revealed that American intelligence agencies had been spying on their friends and allies as well as their enemies? I even commented on it myself here and there.

One of the politicians most outraged by the unwanted and unnecessary snooping was German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “Spying among friends, that’s not all right at all,” she said very publicly in 2013. And in July last year in an unprecedented move she expelled, from Germany the CIA station chief, who in plain language is the top American spy in the country.

The German media jumped all over it too, with heavy moralizing tones and whipping up the German public’s natural reaction against what America had been caught doing.

Angela Merkel with phone


That was good stuff.

At least it would have been, but for more recent revelations that Germany’s own spy agency, the BND, have for years been collaborating with America’s National Security Agency (NSA) in spying on Germany’s friends in Paris and Brussels.


Yes, you read it correctly.

While Merkel was whining on about privacy this, and privacy that, her spooks were operating hand in glove with the Americans to spy on supposed friends. And Merkel knew it. As Chancellor she is in charge of overseeing what the BND is up to.

German BND

And specifically what the NSA was up to was using the electronic eavesdropping facilities of the BND in Bad Aibling, a town in Bavaria, by giving the Germans phone numbers, search terms or internet addresses they wanted to monitor. The scale of the snooping was huge. In 2013 alone, the Americans snooped in on 690,000 phone numbers and 7.8m search terms.

As investigations and revelations continue we will no doubt hear phrases like “national security’ and ‘terrorist threats’ being cited as the reasons for all this snooping being necessary. That would be fine if it were true. But it isn’t.

The thing that negates all the good elements that those who have been caught red-handed and red-faced will try to emphasize now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag are revelations that the American snoops were also targeting certain commercial companies which, if true is industrial espionage and nothing to do with terrorism.

Airbus, the European aircraft maker and chief rival to America’s Boeing, has already filed a criminal suit with German prosecutors and demanded clarification from the German government.

Airbus logo

Of course that doesn’t mean they’ll get it. Since these revelations a lot of ass-covering has started. Several investigations are apparently underway, investigations that will find whatever the government wants them to find. In other words they will only reveal what they think they have to and little else.

So to answer the question posed in the title of today’s post, ‘Heuchler’ is apparently the German word for hypocrite. So ‘Heuchlers’ they are!

Auf Wiedersehen.

Until tomorrow.




Would You Buy An Expensive Lock If Someone Else Had The Key?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”




Apple and Google recently enabled full-device encryption by default on their mobile operating systems – and big brother doesn’t like it – not one bit. As always he talks about things like ‘National Security’, ‘terrorist threats’, etc., and that there will be total chaos in the streets if ordinary citizens are allowed their right to privacy.

Some of the stuff that has hit the media has been ridiculous and would be laughable except these idiots are actually intent on total control.

For example, the head of the FBI has issued dire warnings of children dying if ordinary people are allowed their privacy via encryption programs. The secretary of Homeland Security used the deaths of the 168 people killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing as ‘proof’ that, while privacy was important, encryption should not be allowed to stymie US law enforcement.

Big Brother wants to stick his nose into EVERYTHING. Anything that makes that harder to do frustrates the hell out of him.

big brother is watching poster


So he continues with the stupid excuse that the necessity to snoop on law abiding people is because criminals and terrorists might use encryption tools as well.

It’s a bit like saying that no one should be allowed to drive a car because someone, somewhere, sometime, might get drunk and cause a fatal accident.

Then there’s the EnnEssEhh director who wants mandatory “front doors” to be built into all cryptographic technology used in the U.S., so that you can’t have secrets it can’t spy on. His idea is for all encrypted software and hardware used in the U.S. to have one encryption key for the user (you) and another that would be made available to the government bureaucrat spooks any time they wanted it.

This is complete nonsense. And they know it. But still they persist.

They have already got the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which removed the right of a purchaser to use their goods as they see fit. This legislation means that digital products continue to be the property of the seller – not (you) the buyer who paid for them. And it makes it illegal for buyers of digital goods to circumvent any features that allow snooping.

Going back to my car analogy, that is like a car dealer selling you a car on the condition that you never open the hood to see how it works, or perform your own modifications.

In practical terms this means that if you buy a new phone or computer, the manufacturer can have a spy device pre-installed in its hard components or its software and you would be forbidden by law from finding out about it or fixing it.

If Big Brother thinks he can enforce stupidity like this then he is even crazier than I think he is – and I think he is completely crazy already!

Big Brother can legislate all he wants, but we all know that the only people who will abide by these new laws will be the law abiding people. The criminals and terrorists will find ways round it, through it, over it, or under it.

It’s the same flawed logic as in the continued cry from liberals to take legally registered guns away from law abiding people so that only the criminals are armed.

Neighbor Wants Guns Banned


Then there is, not the probability – but the FACT – that if a government spook friendly encryption system was created, it would immediately be attacked by hackers – including hackers employed by foreign governments, some of them friends of the terrorists that the legislation is supposed to be there to defeat.

And what about the practical commercial aspect to it all? When you think about it, who in their right mind is going to pay good money for an encryptiuon system that they know can be broken?

Would you buy an expensive lock if someone else had the key?

I think not.




Would You Take The Bubble Baba Challenge?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”


We’ll find out later whether or not you would take the Bubble Baba Challenge.

In the meantime have a look at this week’s selection of facts.



facts 02


Harry Potter shares the same birth day

as his creator J K Rowling,

his is July 31, 1980 and

Rowling’s July 31, 1966.

Harry Potter



A Yew tree located in the churchyard of

the village of Fortingall in Perthshire, Scotland,

is estimated to be 3,000 – 5,000 years old

which many believe makes it Europe´s oldest tree.

With its massive trunk of 52 feet (16 meters) in diameter,

the yew is still in good health and may last for many more centuries.

Yew tree located in the churchyard of the village of Fortingall in Perthshire, Scotland


Thames Town is a little town situated in the heart of China

that is an imitation of a classic British city

with traditional English architecture, cuisine,

and even those classic red phone booths

we all identify with London.

Thames Town, China


Still in China, “The Great Wall of China”

did not get that official name

until the end of the 19th Century.

Previously it had been known by names

such as “barrier”, “rampart”, “fortress”,  

“Purple Frontier” or “Earth Dragon”.

The Great Wall of China 5


The United States has had some remarkable successes

in the field of space flight and exploration.

However it wasn’t always that way.

The very first time they tried to launch a satellite into orbit,

on December 6, 1957 (Vanguard TV3),

the rocket lost thrust only 4 feet (1.2 m) above the launch pad

and fell back to the ground, its fuel tanks

rupturing and creating a massive fireball,

damaging the launch pad and destroying the rocket.

Due to limited data measurement methods in these early days,

though, the cause was never fully determined.

Vanguard TV3 failed launch


If you like Vodka then look out for a bottle of

“The Billionare Vodka“,

the world´s most expensive vodka.

It is first ice-filtered, then filtered through

Nordic birch charcoal and lastly passed

through sand made from crushed diamonds and gems.

It is sold in a platinum and rhodium encased,

diamond encrusted crystal bottle and

will set you back only $3.75 million dollars.


The Billionare Vodka


No more time in the joint for smoking a joint,

at least not in the U.S. state of Washington,

the first state to officially legalize cannabis

in a state law in December 2012,

with the state of Colorado following close behind.



Ant queens can live for up to 30 years,

about 100 times longer than solitary insects of a similar size.

Workers live from 1 to 3 years.

Ant queen


Eight US Presidents were born British subjects:

Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison,

Monroe, J. Q. Adams, Jackson, and W. Harrison.

Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J. Q. Adams


Jim the horse, a former milk wagon horse,

was responsible for curing diphtheria.

He was infected with diphtheria

but unlike other animals he didn’t die.

Doctors found that Jim’s immune system

was able to create antibodies to fight the disease

and this allowed doctors to make a serum for humans,

with great success, helping to save the lives

of millions of humans and animals around the world.

Jim the horse


Al ‘Wallpaper’ Wolff is best remembered

as having been the last surviving member

of the group of eleven federal law-enforcement agents,

led by Eliot Ness, known as the Untouchables.

Wolff was the fearless agent and a ferocious

persecutor of those who obtained illegal alcohol.

Strangely, once he retired from law enforcement

and alcohol was legal he got involved in

the cocktail lounge business in Chicago.

He died in March 1998 at the age of 95.

Al 'Wallpaper' Wolff


In 1827, world famous author Edgar Allan Poe

enlisted in the United States Army

using the false name “Edgar A. Perry”.

He claimed to be 22 years old

even though he was just 18.

Edgar Allan Poe young


James Dean’s silver Porsche 550 Spyder,

the car he died in following an accident in 1955,

was known as the “Little Bastard”

and said to be cursed.

After it was sold for parts,

the car fell and crushed a mechanic’s legs;

later, a doctor who bought the car’s engine

was killed in a car accident;

another victim who bought the transmission

was severely injured in a crash;

the tires sold from Little Bastard

blew out simultaneously,

sending their buyer to the hospital;

and lastly a truck carrying the car’s shell crashed,

killing the driver.


James Dean’s silver Porsche 550 Spyder


The Bird´s Nest Restaurant, located in

the Soneva Kiri Eco Resort in Thailand,

gives the customers privacy,

as well as the unique opportunity to

admire spectacular views while dining.

Tree nests hang 16 feet above the ground

and are served by waiters who use a zip line

to deliver the food and drinks.

A typical dinner for two costs about $450.



Finally, time for those of a nervous disposition to look away.

Officially known as the “Bubble Baba Challenge”,

this is an unusual (to say the least) sporting event

where participants float down a river

embracing a rubber woman.

The idea was apparently dreamt up

by a Russian, Dmitry Bulawinov,

initially as a joke at a party

where the men got drunk! 

(It could have been worse!)





Absolute Power Does Corrupt – Always!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”


You know, sometimes you just have to laugh at the stupidity and short-sightedness of politicians.

The latest idiot to hit the headlines is US House Representative Jim Sensenbrenner. You might remember him, he was the one who wrote the supposed anti-terror law now known as the Patriot Act.

Jim Sensenbrenner

Now he has asked the European Parliament for help in controlling the obviously completely out of control NSA who have decided this piece of ill thought out legislation gives them carte blanch permission to snoop into everybody’s business, friend and foe.

Apparently Congressman Sensenbrenner has belatedly seen the error of his ways and wants Europe to put pressure on the US to change its legislation to stop the spy agency’s mass communications data collecting activities.

Today Sensenbrenner says that the NSA has abused the trust placed in it by the American people. Powers that were designed to protect them, but powers that have been used to spy on them instead. And the Brits are at it too!


Big surprise Jim?

I think not!

Then there is the damage they have done to America’s standing throughout the world. The Merklegate scandal, where the German Chancellor’s cell phone was found to be bugged, is just one of many instances where America has treated its allies like enemies, creating suspicion and distrust where there used to be friendship and cooperation.

cartoon merkel

And the poor judgment continues, because Sensenbrenner’s solution to the problem he helped to create is not to get rid of this bad legislation, but instead to create even more bad legislation that purports to curtail the excesses of the former.

Won’t work Jimmy.

No point fitting a new lock on the stable door after the horse is already out and galloping roughshod over the privacy of the American people and their friends.

closing the stable door after the horse has bolted

All very well for Jim Sensenbrenner to say sorry now, but wasn’t it inevitable that the massive ill thought out powers handed to the spooks after 9-11 would be abused?

Absolute power does corrupt – always! That is why checks and balances are necessary, only they need to be put in place in time.




Things Your Grand-kids Will Probably Never Know

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”


We all happen to be living during a time when there are great advances and changes being made in the way we live our lives. Some of them are to our benefit, other not so much so.

Politically and financially the world is in turmoil. There is an accelerating and inevitable shift of power and influence towards the east, with former great powers like Britain and America declining in their influence and their economic might.

Perhaps that is a natural phenomenon, after all as they say “every dog has its day”, but I happen to believe that a lot of it is due to stupidity and mismanagement allied with a self-defeating philosophy that the west somehow has a duty to police the world and to create nanny states for its citizens where they will neither have to work nor want.

Technologically there have also been many changes and many more to come. During the past twenty years with the advent and growth of the internet everything has changed, from the way we interact socially, to how and where we work, and how we manage our affairs whether that be banking, shopping or whatever.

What a lot of these changes mean is that future generations will have no idea of how our lives used to be. Already many of us who have lived through the changes have forgotten how we used to have to do things. What would it be like trying to explain the ‘old days’ to a generation with absolutely no point of reference to the world we were born into?

To remind you of how it used to be here is a list of some of things we have known and lost, consigned to the rubbish bin of history. Feel free to add your own items to this list of things that your grand-kids will probably never know.



Libraries as a place to get books rather than a place to use the internet.

Dewey Decimal System

Finding books in a card catalog at the library.

A physical dictionary — either for spelling or definitions.

Reference books such as phone books, encyclopaedias

Finding out information from an encyclopedia.




Having to manually unlock a car door.

Looking out the window during a long drive.

Using a road atlas to get from A to B.

Getting lost in a world without GPS.




Being able to add and subtract without a calculator

Long division and multiplication

Trig tables and log tables.

Slide rules

Slide Rule



House phones

Phone books and Yellow Pages.

Rotary-dial telephones.

Pay phones.

Phones with actual bells in them.

Answering machines.

Fax machines.

Not knowing who was calling you on the phone.




Super-8 movies and cine film of all kinds.

Betamax tapes.

Video tapes and renting movies

Inserting a VHS tape into a VCR to watch a movie or to record something.


8-track cartridges.




Casette Tapes

Vinyl records. Even today’s DJs are going laptop or CD.

CDs and DVDs

Playing music on an audio tape using a personal stereo.

Taping songs off the radio

A Walkman.

cassette tape



Rotary tuners that scanned the radio dial and hearing static between stations as you went through the ether.

Shortwave radio.

CB radios.

Rotary dial televisions with no remote control. You know, the ones where the kids were the remote control.

Waiting for the television-network premiere to watch a movie after its run at the theater.





The buzz of a dot-matrix printer

5- and 3-inch floppies, Zip Discs and countless other forms of data storage.

Booting your computer off of a floppy disk.

Tweaking the volume setting on your tape deck to get a computer game to load, and waiting ages for it to actually do it.

Counting in kilobytes.


Having to delete something to make room on your hard drive.

Waiting several minutes (or even hours!) to download something.

When a ‘geek’ and a ‘nerd’ were one and the same.

NCSA Mosaic.


Alta Vista

Being able to get a domain name consisting of real words.

floppy disk




Writing a check.

Doing bank business only when the bank is open.

Shopping only during the day, Monday to Saturday.

Being able to buy something in Walmart that isn’t made in China





Being able to take a drive or walk down the street without being surveilled on numerous cameras

Not knowing exactly what all of your friends are doing and thinking at every moment.




Carrying on a correspondence with real letters, especially the handwritten kind.

Neat handwriting.



The fact that words generally don’t have num8er5 in them.





Putting film in your camera

Sending that film away to be processed.

Having physical prints of photographs come back to you.




Vacuum cleaners with bags in them.


Roller skates, as opposed to blades.