December 3, 2002

Brennen: Can we set this up on our server? It’s a way of setting up an e-mail server to query the Spamhaus Block List, which is a list of 90% of the spammers out there. That will only block e-mails from these spammers, should cut down massively on spam coming through our server, and won’t block legitimate e-mail.

And in a completely different vein, BackLight is a MacOS X tool that lets you set your screen saver as your desktop wallpaper. Requires a very powerful processor, though.

And here’s a reminder for me to download AnimationStand.

10:23 a.m.

…Huh. Michael J. Nelson (of MST3K) has written…I think a novel, called Death Rat, due out in April of 2003 (and available for pre-order from And it looks like the story is as bizarre as I’d expect from an ex-MST3K’er.

Okay, I’m really confused now.

Stephen posted an entry asking “will any good come of this, and will it out-weigh the bad?” and referred to a story on, which everybody’s read about and seems to be highly misinterpreted. But some of the text of the story seems to contradict the reported facts.

Here’s the context: Back in 1978, after Watergate, a law called FISA was enacted that gives police extremely broad authority to be highly intrusive. To quote the story: “The law, enacted as part of post-Watergate reforms, permits sweeping electronic surveillance, telephone eavesdropping and surreptitious searches of residences and offices.”

During the Clinton administration, Janet Reno decided that the information collected under this act was so dangerous that she set up a big brick wall between different branches of law enforcement (the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, etc.), effectively barring them from sharing this sort of information, or at least making it much more difficult to do so. As a result, the FBI may know of an active terrorist in Tampa, and the CIA may know that that man has just bought a kilo of plastic explosives, but neither agency is talking to each other and so the terrorist can go on his merry way.

Now, John Ashcroft, as part of his efforts to improve the efficiency of law enforcement, has asked that those barriers be removed. Now, those barriers are part of a potentially scary piece of legislation. But as far as I can tell, that law is already in place. This whole recent ruling is not about putting that law into practice (it already is); it’s specifically about allowing government agencies to share information that falls within this legislation, whereas before they’d have to keep their information to themselves.

Now, this has definite Big Brother potential, but that’s not what’s being reported. Here’s the headline: Secret U.S. court OKs electronic spying.

Say what? Um, yes, but they OK’ed electronic spying back in 1978, when the law was put into effect. This is a gross misrepresentation of what’s happening.

Or consider the summary paragraph for the article, written in nice big, bold letters (which, for many people, is all that they’ll read): “A secretive federal court on Monday granted police broad authority to monitor Internet use, record keystrokes and employ other surveillance methods against terror and espionage suspects.” Again, huh?

What really concerns me about this is that I’ve read several articles about this, and people seem to be massively misinformed about this important news story. (Or maybe I’m misinterpreting it.) And people are getting all frothed up about this when there are other facets to the real story that should be addressed.

The moral of the story? Don’t trust what you read. Get the facts.

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