Why I’m actively buying a bottle of Stoli

I don’t drink vodka. I’m not a fan of it at all. I’m also not a fan of Dan Savage.

And, yet.. today, I’m going to stop by the liquor store and pick up a bottle of Stoli vodka. Maybe I’ll pick up one of those funky fruit-flavored ones so I can actually maybe drink the stuff someday.  No, I’m not going to start listening or reading Savage anytime soon.

Yes, I’m aware of the fact that there’s a popular #dumpstoli campaign right now. But this campaign (like a lot of things that comes out of the piehole of Mr. Savage) is not only misguided, it’s very much quite wrong.

First off, the Stoli we buy on the shelves here in the United States doesn’t even come from Russia, it comes from.. well, depending on some different factors most likely Latvia (although supposedly some Stoli is actually distilled in one of a handful of countries including even Canada). The brand is owned by a Eurozone corporation with it’s HQ in Luxembourg.  And, yes, it’s majority owned by a wealthy Russian businessman (who I understand spends most of his time in Paris nowadays anyway).. but one that has few, if any, ties to Pooty Poot.. and one that has been critical of his government in the past.

But more importantly: Stoli has a long history of actually SUPPORTING the LGBT community before this.  I won’t go down the laundry list, but this BusinessWeek article pretty much sums it up.

I have my suspicions that this has nothing to do with “gay rights”. Maybe somebody just needs a new sponsor for one of his media properties, and maybe this is an excellent way of browbeating one of the importers or producers into sponsoring his show.

It’s certainly not because Stoli did anything wrong. At best, this looks more like spousal abuse 1 than a campaign for change.

Stoli, I stand with you, even if I think the rocket fuel you sell is way too astringent to actually drink.  Будем здоровы!

Show 1 footnote

  1. Not to discount spousal abuse, but it is a similar pattern to one form of abuse I’m familiar with: be all lovey-dovey one minute, and then lashing out for some minor perceived slight that may not have even been intended

It doesn’t mean shit.

You want to stop the RIAA and MPAA? It’s really this simple.

Stop buying RIAA-produced music. Stop buying movie tickets to MPAA-produced movies. Stop supporting the content industry in general, who produces vapid mind-rotting “culture” and abuses artists and technical people alike.

10% of us doing this would do more to hurt the industry than if every website opposing SOPA/PIPA went dark for a month.

Occupy? My ass.

I really want to be wrong with where I’m going with this entry.  However, I fear that I am more correct than even I realize.

Let me start by saying I in principal agree with most of the points that seem to be proffered by many of those protesting in our nation’s cities.  I’m heartened to see many of the younger generation finally starting to “get it”: that corporations have too much power, and that the cornerstone of our Republic has been so compromised that change is needed.

That change needed to happen before September 11, 2001.  It just can’t happen now.

This war you are fighting was lost a century ago when corporations were declared “persons” not by an act of Congress, nor by Presidential decree, but by a series of court decisions and even more centuries of legal precedent.  Our entire society has been based upon this bit of legal wrangling.  It’s not just as simple as declaring it “not to be true.”  Corporations exist for a reason, and many corporations use their legal “personhood” to do much public good.

Case in point.  Occupy Portland began their march today in the shadow of MercyCorps “corporate headquarters”, on the site of the old Skidmore Fountain Market.  As I look at the live feed of the video, I wonder how many people.. many of whom are literally LEANING on this very building, are aware of how much “corporate personhood” allows MercyCorps to do what they do.   I don’t even understand many of the legal implications, let alone understand what I do know well enough to explain them to someone else.

Do you really want this corporation to cease to exist?

The American Red Cross provides much in humanitarian aid to not only those affected by large-scale natural disasters, but small personal ones as well.  The blood services they provide alone have saved countless lives.  I have my disagreements with how the Red Cross is often run, but that does not stop me from acknowledging the greater good they do to society as a whole.

Do you really want this corporation to cease to exist?

For good or bad, much public infrastructure depends on the legal infrastructure of the corporation.  There isn’t a communications technology invented in the past 200 years that could have existed WITHOUT the corporation.  The Pony Express (the United States Postal Service is, in actuality, a corporation owned by the US Government), the telegraph and the railroads that it was built along side of, the telephone (and the telegraph network it supplanted), cellular telephones (which by their very nature requires a very tightly integrated network that would be financially impossible to build by a private individual on the scale required for blanket coverage [Side note that ties this together: Did you know that Sprint was, at one point, part of the Southern Pacific Railroad?]), and the Internet (which requires some of the same infrastructure as much of the above).  All of these very “democratizing” forms of communication REQUIRE a corporation to make happen.

Do you really think the government (who is likely the only entity who could effectively manage and control all these resources effectively) would do any better?

Banks exist for a reason.  We can argue that reason until we’re blue in the face, but the reality is we could no more switch off the Federal Reserve System tomorrow if we wanted to.  Even if we decided, as a nation, that the short term economic destruction was worth it.. it just couldn’t happen.  Small-scale reforms?  Maybe.  But even then, any significant changes to our financial system would likely have huge repercussions that nobody would understand.  Nobody. Anybody who says otherwise is either lying, mentally deranged, or just simply an idiot.

We can all shift our money to Credit Unions.  There are implications to that.  Also, as auxiliary members of the Federal Reserve System, you  aren’t really changing much.  The money you deposit into a credit union will often find it’s way right back into Bank of America, Citibank, Chase, or any one of the Big Banks We All Hate.  As an example, did you know that if your credit union is a member of the CU Service Center network, when you deposit at a CU Service Center the transaction is actually “cleared” via accounts held at Citibank?  (CLUE: Why do you think VCOM machines at Seven-11 are both Citibank ATMs and CU Service Center locations?)

There’s no wonder that conspiracy theories abound in this environment.  Everybody has blood on their hands.


Which is why nothing will change.  Here’s a fact that many of you who are protesting don’t understand.  That 99% vs. 1% dichotomy you keep parroting?  It isn’t that simple.  Most of us in that 99% depend on that 1% for our paychecks.  Most of us in that 99% depend on that 1% to keep our money, our streets, and our homes safe through insurance and bank accounts.  Most of us in that 99% depend on that 1% for what little heath care one can get without the aforementioned job and/or insurance.

At the end of the day, most of that 99% lives in relative comfort.  Most of us live in peace.  Some of us are old, frail, and/or sick and would quite literally die if society were to collapse tomorrow.  A few of us fear for the Republic if things continue the way they are.

But if there’s one thing I’m sure of, if tomorrow the corporation ceased to exist, I’d be dead within a week.


Is that what you really want?

Why Steve Jobs does not matter.

Steve Jobs is stepping down from Apple as CEO. He will be continuing on as Chairman. The news media has gone crazy over “OMG, what will happen now?”

Very little, in reality.  And it shows just how stupid a lot of people are about how all companies, even Apple, are run.

Yes, unlike most CEOs, Steve Jobs had a lot of input into design decisions.  More than any other tech company executive, Jobs seemed particularly prescient in determining high-level designs and even some low-level features.  But in the end, he had as much to do with the actual end product as the CEO of ExxonMobile has to do with the formulation of the gasoline you buy at the pump.

To be sure, Jobs made sure Apple hired the best, and set the overall tone for how the company is (micro-)managed.  And I have no doubt that for high-profile products he was in many of the design meetings ensuring that his vision was the one that was getting pushed.

But in the end, it’s more about the people Steve Jobs HIRED than about Steve himself.  Tim Cook is one of the people that Jobs has had a strong influence over.

As long as nobody panics and the Board of Directors stays out of everybody’s way, there’s no reason why Apple can’t continue for the next ten years being the same company they have been the last 10.

As above, so below.

I really don’t have much of a developed opinion over the verbal free-for-all presently going on in the pagan comminity over PantheaCon.  But, I do have this observation.

Any group that excludes based upon factors that do not take into account the holistic individual are doomed to exactly this sort of failure.  If, as Z. Budapest has had a quote regarding this attributed to her along these lines, one must have a period to be “female”, does that mean that a woman born female but had her uterus removed surgically before puberty (due to disease or injury) isn’t a woman?  What if medicine were to provide a way for genetically born men to have a uterus “grown” for them and implanted?

Where does one draw the line?  Sex and gender are rarely black and white.  I thought the whole point of this exercise was that we don’t have to be defined by stereotypical gender roles because we may have been born with one particular set of genitalia.  We are all capable of being divine, both feminine and masculine.

Oh, and other genders as well.

And now back to our regularly scheduled inanity…

This is a slightly edited comment I made on a friend’s LJ about people who edit themselves on Facebook, so they won’t offend people. I felt it was a bit insightful, and stands alone as an interesting commentary.

I tend to tweet a lot regardless of the appropriateness of my comments. For me, that’s part of the fun: rarely are you going to really say anything that can truly offend in ~160 characters, and it will often be a good trigger for later reminding you of a particular state of mind or emotional outburst. And those who are in on whatever joke it is also get the joys of a good lulz.

However, more than once something I tweeted was taken out of context and offended someone. Example: I have a habit of tweeting “I’M POOPIN'” whenever somebody on Twitter (or maybe even in meatspace) overshares something. Most of my friends are familiar with the concept of a “Twitter-shitter” [somebody who tweets on the toilet about being on the toilet] and would never mistake me for one. But, many “Facebook friends” are people who don’t interact with me on a daily basis, and aren’t in on the joke. And one got offended (I only later found out some months later that they blocked all my friends posts for a period of months over the incident).

My response? I was actually offended myself. You would block me over a cheesy one-line post, and not have the nerve to tell me about it until months later? And not talk to me about it?

Since that time, I’ve decided I don’t give a load of Dingo’s Kidneys what people on Facebook think. If they’re truly my friends, they won’t be offended: they know that in real life I’m crass, uncouth, and anything but urbane. I belch in public and fart in elevators. Why would I be any different online?

Yes, folks, it literally is this bad.

This is so completely asinine that I have to pass this along unedited. I’m quite literally.. gobsmacked

This item is from a mailing list I subscribe to regarding privacy issues.  For those who have some interest in the subject, it’s a great list to be on, and you should subscribe posthaste.  Lauren is quite a sensible fellow, and rarely is one to “cry wolf”, so the insights he posts to his mailing lists and other forums are always informative.

White House Tour Cybersecurity: Send In Your SSN
– Via Unencrypted, Unprotected Email!


Greetings.  Before the U.S. government proceeds at all with their
controversial and risky Trusted Identities in Cyberspace Internet ID
scheme ( http://bit.ly/eZug4M ), perhaps they should demonstrate their
ability to follow for themselves the most basic of Internet security

Very large numbers of persons tour the White House every year.  All
prospective tour guests 14 years of age and older are required to
pre-submit their Social Security Numbers (SSN) for security checks
(apparently it is common for children under the age 14 to have their
SSNs submitted as well).

One might assume that information as sensitive as SSNs would be
handled by the associated authorities with the same care and diligence
as, say, a typical bank Web site — using SSL/TLS encryption for the
protection of this data that is so often abused for identity fraud.

But that assumption would apparently be false.  An array of
Congressional Web sites instruct would-be White House tour guests to
submit their personal information (names, dates of birth, *social
security numbers*, etc.) via *standard unencrypted e-mail* to
(for example) various addresses @mail.house.gov!

Here are just a few randomly selected examples where (apparently
customized by Congressional district in these cases) White House Tour
“XLS” Security Forms are provided for download along with instructions
for emailing them in for processing —

( Form: http://bit.ly/frTSn4 [house.gov] ):

Congressman Steve King: http://bit.ly/gqPG5L [house.gov]

Congressman Raul M. Grijalva: http://bit.ly/gQbUyV [house.gov]

Congressman John Kline: http://bit.ly/dUT4YY [house.gov]

And so on.  Search around a bit for yourself — you’ll easily find
others.  In fact, it appears that emailing back the Security Forms —
with absolutely no Internet transit protection for the personal
information included such as SSNs, is the standard mechanism that
Congress is mostly using — and presumably the White House has
approved — for White House tour requests.

If an insurance company, bank, or even a local school were caught
telling persons to submit required personal information such as Social
Security Numbers via easily diverted, observed, and otherwise abused
unencrypted email channels, there would likely be investigations and
hell to pay.

But Congress and the White House — the same entities who presumably
wish to play such important “Cybersecurity” roles, apparently can’t
even handle this basic aspect of Internet security correctly.  Yet
we’re supposed to trust their judgment relating to the creation of a
vast and complex Internet Trusted Identities infrastructure.

It would actually be quite funny — if it weren’t so utterly frightening.

Lauren Weinstein (lauren@vortex.com)
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800
Co-Founder, PFIR (People For Internet Responsibility): http://www.pfir.org
Founder, NNSquad (Network Neutrality Squad): http://www.nnsquad.org
Founder, GCTIP (Global Coalition for Transparent Internet Performance):
Founder, PRIVACY Forum: http://www.vortex.com
Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren’s Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenweinstein
Google Buzz: http://bit.ly/lauren-buzz


I have only one question for people who feel WikiLeaks is doing a disservice and is “dangerous.”

If “Democracy” is defined as a free and open society, by which every member of society has a voice, how can a “Democracy” have secrets it keeps from its citizenry? How can Truth ever be harmful to a free and open society that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people?”

The terrorists are not the ones who open our eyes to the destruction our idiotic foreign policy has wrought. The terrorists are the traitors who seek to squelch the Truth because it is incompatible with their beliefs, irreconcilable with their theories, or simply inconvenient.

“One of the amendments to the Constitution… expressly declares that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,’ thereby guarding in the same sentence and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press; insomuch that whatever violates either throws down the sanctuary which covers the others.”

Those words were penned by one of the biggest Terrorists of them all: Thomas Jefferson.  He had the brass balls to help start a war over injustices he saw, including the suspension of the free press.

More on airport security

Security expert (and all around good guy) Bruce Schneier has posted a laundry list of complaints and such regarding the TSA nonsense. One thing that struck me on his analysis was the following quote:

A typical dental X-ray exposes the patient to about 2 millirems of radiation. According to one widely cited estimate, exposing each of 10,000 people to one rem (that is, 1,000 millirems) of radiation will likely lead to 8 excess cancer deaths. Using our assumption of linearity, that means that exposure to the 2 millirems of a typical dental X-ray would lead an individual to have an increased risk of dying from cancer of 16 hundred-thousandths of one percent. Given that very small risk, it is easy to see why most rational people would choose to undergo dental X-rays every few years to protect their teeth.

More importantly for our purposes, assuming that the radiation in a backscatter X-ray is about a hundredth the dose of a dental X-ray, we find that a backscatter X-ray increases the odds of dying from cancer by about 16 ten millionths of one percent. That suggests that for every billion passengers screened with backscatter radiation, about 16 will die from cancer as a result.

Given that there will be 600 million airplane passengers per year, that makes the machines deadlier than the terrorists.

The fact I had to ask is even scarier.

Official statement from my MD after consulting a radiological medicine specialist about backscatter X-ray scanners and my … um … “previous exposure”:

“Next time you travel, we’d like you to carry a dosimeter and record daily exposure both on days you travel and days you don’t. A single trip’s exposure probably won’t make much of a difference, but it would be nice to establish a baseline so we can monitor your total exposure.”

While I appreciate my doctor’s ability to make decisions based solely on evidence, this does not make me feel more comfortable. Now I have to fire off a letter to the TSA and find out if I’m going to be able to carry an X-ray dosimeter through a backscatter checkpoint, under the guises of a “medically necessary device.”