THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 130, July 16, 2001
Locked, Loaded, & Lost To Us
In TLE #129, Jeff Elkins [email@example.com] wrote of a Clinton Executive Order calling for all federal web sites to be accessible to the disabled.
He's got a point that bringing federal web sites up to the new standards will be costly. However, maybe it's not as bad as he seems to imagine. Yes, the new standards call for any pictures to have associated descriptive text for the blind, and for any sounds to have associated descriptive text for the deaf. And I don't doubt that many federal web pages have been designed to bless us with pretty pictures and sounds. May I suggest that most of those pretty pictures and sounds should be removed, not because the blind or deaf are missing something substantial, but because they are wasting our bandwidth and annoying us curmudgeons who don't like slow downloads over our phone lines. But, this being the gubmint we're discussing, no doubt they'll merely add text descriptions to the trash. Sigh.
As for the other pictures (and sounds?), the ones that really do contribute to the web page, may I suggest that the disabled do indeed have a reasonable claim to reasonable access, and that in most cases these valuable pictures (and sounds?) could have suitable descriptive text added at reasonable cost.
In sum, perhaps the real insult here is not that the disabled demand reasonable access to the valuable elements of the web at some purportedly unreasonable cost but rather that we'll be paying for access to junk that ought -- for the benefit of all users -- to be removed.
TLE via e-mail is back in business. Yippee!
There is an old saying, "The man who pays the freight, writes the ticket." This means that once you take a man's money to provided a service, you have no privilege to gripe if he wants it done his way. Like it or not, there are blind and deaf taxpayers and, if taxes are being used to provide Internet services, then every taxpayer -- even if blind or deaf -- has a right to demand that service be accessible to him. The alternative is to stop collecting taxes ... Not a bad idea.
Steve Gibson is not too paranoid. If anything he is not paranoid enough. Windows security goes beyond sucks; it doesn't even rise to the level of pathetic. For all intents and purposes, security is non-existent in Microsoft's consumer operating systems. Combine this with widespread deployment and you have the first two ingredients for a disaster.
It was largely the rapid growth in Linux -- too often left insecure by clueless users -- that made possible the infamous DDoS attacks against Yahoo and Amazon. However, so far all operating systems that offer raw sockets restrict this to applications running with "root" privileges meaning that a "root exploit" was required to gain control of the target. A user operating without these privileges could not turn his machine over to a script kiddie just by opening an email attachment. Microsoft is, apparently, refusing to introduce even this basic layer of protection into XP. The possibility for using Visual Basic and Outlook for hijack are well demonstrated. Raw IP sockets add new opportunities for misuse.
Of course, ISP's and others involved in maintaining the Internet infrastructure will take measures to protect themselves. Techniques like egress filtering may help a little but cannot stop the advanced techniques such as SYN flooding that raw sockets make possible.
The Internet was once and, to a certain extent, is still based on trusting others. Microsoft in its wisdom seems to wants to undermine that trust. In doing so, it may be handing its biggest customer -- the US Government -- an desperately sought excuse to regulate the Internet. If I were a real paranoid I might wonder if the USGov's ability to pay the freight has convinced Microsoft to accept this ticket.
I have finished reading Aaron Zelman's and L. Neil Smith's new book Hope and I can sum up my reaction in one word: "Bravo!"
It features some of the cleanest and clearest libertarian writing that I have seen in a long time and if it's fundamental principles and philosophy were widely accepted it would scare the bejeebers out of everyone in government. This would be a good thing!
I also believie that it is more effective in conveying the libertarian philosophy than Neil's previous effort: Forge of the Elders.
James J Odle