February 2011

Politics22 Feb 2011 at 13:57 by Jean-Marc Liotier

The Economist’s Democracy Index 2010 ranks France as a “flawed democracy” with a score below South Africa and Italy.

“France — full democracy to flawed democracy

Various negative political trends in France in recent years have resulted in the country being downgraded to the flawed democracy category. Public confidence in political parties and the government is extremely low. Surveys also show that citizens’ engagement with politics has declined. The degree of popular support for democracy is among the lowest in the developed world. One in seven do not agree that democracy is better than any other form of government. The chasm between the country’s citizens and its political elites has widened. Outbreaks of violent rioting in recent years are another symptom of the country’s political malaise. Under the French political system, the president wields huge power. The autocratic and domineering style of the current president, Nicolas Sarkozy, threatens to undermine democratic traditions. There has been increasing anti-Muslim sentiment and emphasis on the country’s Christian roots during the Sarkozy presidency. Pressure on journalists and the electronic media have led to a decline in media freedoms”.

No need to comment – The Economist’s analysis speaks for itself and I believe it does reflect the situation of my country. What is a French citizen to do ?

Networking & telecommunications and Security and Systems administration07 Feb 2011 at 13:04 by Jean-Marc Liotier

I work for a very large corporation. That sort of companies is not inherently evil, but it is both powerful and soulless – a dangerous combination. Thus when dealing with it, better err on the side of caution. For that reason, all of my browsing from the obligatory corporate Microsoft Windows workstation is done trough a SSH tunnel established using Putty to a trusted host and used by Mozilla Firefox as a SOCKS proxy. If you do that, don’t forget to set network.proxy.socks remote DNS to true so that you don’t leak queries to the local DNS server.

In addition to the privacy benefits, a tunnel also gets you around the immensely annoying arbitrary filtering or throttling of perfectly reasonable sites which mysterious bureaucracies add to opaquely managed exclusion lists used by censorship systems. The site hosting the article you are currently reading is filtered by the brain-damaged Websense filtering gateway as part of the “violence” category – go figure !

Anyway, back on topic – this morning my browsing took me to Internode’s IPv6 site and to my great surprise I read “Congratulations! You’re viewing this page using IPv6 (  2001:470:1f12:425::2 ) !!!!!”. A quick visit to the KAME turtle confirmed : the turtle was dancing. The surprising part is that our office LAN is IPv4 only and the obligatory corporate Microsoft Windows workstation has no clue about IPv6 – how could those sites believe I was connecting through IPv6 ? A quick ‘dig -x 2001:470:1f12:425::2’ cleared the mystery : the reverse DNS record reminded me that this address is the one my trusted host gets from Hurricane Electric’s IPv6 tunnel server.

So browsing trough a SOCKS proxy backed by a SSH tunnel to a host with both IPv4 and IPv6 connectivity will use IPv6 by default and IPv4 if no AAAA record is available for the requested address. This behaviour has many implications – good or bad depending on how you look at it, and fun in any case. As we are all getting used to IPv6, we are going to encounter many more surprises such as this one. From a security point of view, surprises are of course not a good thing.

All that reminds me that I have not yet made this host available trough IPv6… I’ll get that done before the World IPv6 Day which will come on 8th June 2011 – a good motivating milestone !

Military and Politics and Social networking03 Feb 2011 at 19:03 by Jean-Marc Liotier

In troubled times and under pressure from a government with powerful social networking analysis capabilities, the mere preliminary act of searching for co-conspirators and linking with them carries a lot of risk. Care in maintaining a anonymity reduces that risk, but the proper use of secure online communication tools is cumbersome, their use itself hints at subversive activity and the anonymous procurement of devices and mobile telephony accounts is yet another drag on the enthusiastic would-be clandestine operator.

In summary, proper risk mitigation techniques are beyond the casual level acceptable for fomenting mass action. As a result, frustrated citizens rising up fall back on existing social networks that were not designed for that purpose. The use of family relationships is the archetypal example though a dangerous one: even  if your government does not emulate Stalin by deporting your entire family after suspecting a single member, it makes tracing very easy using genealogy software as was the case during the USian occupation of Iraq. What is needed is an organization which is more distributed and capable of achieving critical mass fast.

This week, Algeria’s Football Federation has called off a planned friendly with neighbours Tunisia under the rather difficult to believe pretext that “the only two stadiums capable of hosting the match are both unavailable”. The real reason is actually the wave of massive protests that is currently rocking the Middle East. But what does football have to do with it ?

Paul Woodward reports an interview by the prominent Egyptian blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah on Al Jazeera in which he made the interesting observation that the uprising’s most effective organizational strength comes from a quarter that has been ignored by most of the media: soccer fans known as ultras :

“The ultras — the football fan associations — have played a more significant role than any political group on the ground at this moment,” Alaa said. “Maybe we should get the ultras to rule the country,” he joked.

Cited by Paul Woodward, James M. Dorsey, an expert on soccer in the Middle East, writes:

Established in 2007, the ultras—modelled on Italy’s autonomous, often violent fan clubs—have proven their mettle in confrontations with the Egyptian police, who charge that criminals and terrorists populate their ranks.

“There is no competition in politics, so competition moved to the soccer pitch. We do what we have to do against the rules and regulations when we think they are wrong,” said an El Ahly ultra last year after his group overran a police barricade trying to prevent it from bringing flares, fireworks and banners into the stadium. “You don’t change things in Egypt talking about politics. We’re not political, the government knows that and has to deal with us,” he adds.

The involvement of organized soccer fans in Egypt’s anti-government protests constitutes every Arab government’s worst nightmare. Soccer, alongside Islam, offers a rare platform in the Middle East, a region populated by authoritarian regimes that control all public spaces, for the venting of pent-up anger and frustration.

This has not escaped Libya either, as this Google Translation excerpt of an Al Jazeera article mentioned by Zero Hedge attests : among other measures that are part of the state of emergency and security alert imposed since the outbreak of the revolution in Tunisia, the Libyan government abolished the league matches of Libyan Football Association which was to be organized during the following month.

When political organizations are crushed and political life driven underground and dispersed, only apolitical organizations remain – and they end up being politically involved because in the end, everything is political.