Saturday, July 20, 2019

The best reading on the Internet

It's over at Aesop's place.  And it's over at Aesop's place again.

Smart, funny, topical.  It's a trifecta of bloggy goodness.

Why we never went back to the Moon

Ten years ago I wrote about this, on the 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing.  The ten years since have seen the flowering of private space travel, which bodes well for the future.

Jack Kennedy's Treasure Fleet

I was 11 years old, and it was late. We simply weren't allowed to stay up that late - after 11:00. But this was no normal day. We all huddled around that old Black-and-White television set, watching a terrible picture that showed the first man on the moon. Dad was in Paris finishing his PhD research, and watched it projected on a huge screen at the Place de la Concorde. This was maybe the last time that an American's money was no good in Paris.

We haven't been back, since Gene Cernan climbed back aboard the LEM in December, 1972. Some folks think this is a crying shame. I used to be one of them. Now I recognize that there could not have been any other outcome. We've seen this before.

Between 1405 and 1433, the Chinese Ming dynasty sent a series of exploration voyages to southeast Asia, India, and even Africa. While the Portuguese under Prince Henry struggled down the western coast of Africa in their tiny caravels, huge Chinese treasure ships sailed to Calicut and Mogadishu.

And then they were gone, as if they had never existed. Why?

The historian David Landes spends considerable time on this question in his indispensable The Wealth And Poverty Of Nations. The Chinese voyages differed in one critical way from those of Diaz and Columbus: the Chinese voyages were motivated by a desire to glorify the Middle Kingdom, while the European ones were motivated by the desire for filthy lucre:
In the 1430s a new emperor reigned in Peking, one who "knew not Joseph." A new, Confucian crowd completed for influence, mandarins who scorned and distrusted commerce (for them, the only true source of wealth was agriculture) and detested the eunuchs who had planned and carried out the great voyages. For some decades, the two groups vied for influence, the balance shifting now one way, not the other. But fiscality and the higher Chinese morality were on the Confucian side. The maritime campaign had strained the empire's finances and weakened its authority over a population bled white by taxes and corvee levies.


So, after some decades of tugging and hauling, of alternating celebration and commemoration on the one hand, of contumely and repudiation on the other, the decision was taken not only to cease from maritime exploration but to erase the very memory of what had gone before lest later generations be tempted to renew the folly.


At the same time, [the Chinese] desire to overawe meant that costs far exceeded returns. These voyages reeked of extravagance. Whereas the first profits (the first whiff of pepper) and the promise of even greater ones to come were a powerful incentive to Western venturers, in China the pecuniary calculus said no.


The vulnerability of the program - here today, gone tomorrow - was reinforced by its official character. In Europe, the opportunity of private initiative that characterized even such royal projects as the search for a sea route to the Indies was a source of participatory funding and an assurance of rationality. Nothing like that in China, where the Confucian state abhorred merchantile success.
So why did we leave the Moon, never to return? Why is NASA wandering in the wilderness? Let's update Landes, shall we?  In Europe America, the opportunity of private initiative that characterized even such royal Government projects as the search for a sea route to the Indies low-cost way to orbit was a source of participatory funding and an assurance of rationality. OK, then.

The heroism of the Astronaut corps doesn't change the fact that NASA will not - and can not - ever do what Columbus did. If they want to make a difference, to make it possible for people to live in Space, they should declare that they will purchase X kilograms of orbital launch delivery at $Y per kilo, and get out of the way. Unlike the X-Prize and Spaceship-One, NASA's pecuniary calculus will always be a football game, played between the Johnson Center Eunuchs and the HHS Mandarins.

But hey, this is all crazy talk, right? I mean, NASA would never skew things because of politics, right?  Right?

Brad Paisley - American Flag on the Moon

My gravest secret is that I really did fake the moon landing. On Venus!
- Richard Nixon
Half a century ago, we landed on the moon.  Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took a plaque saying that we came in peace for all mankind, but the planted the US flag.  When the astronauts blasted off from the moon, Buzz Aldrin noted that the rocket exhaust knocked the flag over.  In 2012 NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter took photos confirming that while flags are still standing at the Apollo 12, 16, and 17 sites, there's no Apollo 11 flag still standing.  The flag and pole cast a shadow at the right time of day; no shadow, no flag.

The other three flags are likely in very bad shape by now, after five decades of massive temperature swings, micro meteorite bombardment, and unfiltered ultraviolet radiation.  But looking at it this way, while scientific, misses the point.  Going to the moon was a triumph of the spirit, and the flags are perhaps the most vivid symbol of this.

Yes, there's a country music song about this, one written five years ago for the 45th anniversary of the landing and first released to the astronauts on the International Space Station.

American Flag on the Moon (Songwriter: Brad Paisley)
How do we honor
Those who have fallen
And died for this dream
Im sure of one thing
Its not with gridlock
Or bickering

Were the children of explorers
We came here from every corner
The adventurers that settled this land
Lead the world, fought tyranny
Touched the stars, brought liberty
Lets do that again

Tonight I dare you to dream
Go on believe impossible things
Whenever anybody says
Theres anything we cant do
I mean after all
Theres an american flag on the moon

Outside the other night
You shouldve seen the moonlight
It was enough to make you squint your eyes
So my five year old had learned about
The lunar landing and he walked out
And started staring at the sky

Stood there for a while
Got a great big smile and said
"dad I think I can see it, can you
I bowed my head
Closed my eyes and said
Yeah, son, I think I do"

Tonight I dare you to dream
Go on believe impossible things
Whenever anybody says
Theres anything we cant do
Cause after all
Theres an american flag on the moon

Oh, in two hundred years
Think about all weve done so far
I dont see any reason why tomorrow cant be ours

Tonight I dare you to dream
Go on believe impossible things
Whenever anybody says
Theres anything we cant do
Cause after all, after all
Theres an american flag on the moon

Friday, July 19, 2019


I know I've posted this before, but it's the weekend so here's a cute puppy.

Ten years ago on this blog

There were still veterans from World War I.  Now they are all gone.  Rest in peace.

Cigarettes, whiskey and wild, wild women

That's what Henry Allingham said was the secret to his longevity. The oldest World War I veteran has passed on at age 113.

But rather than end on such a somber note, let me point this out about (via the Daily Telegraph):
His life has spanned three centuries and six monarchs, has five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, 14 great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild.
And anyone who is a founding member of the Royal Airforce but can still quote Buck Owens correctly in context is all right with me. As you reach out and touch the face of God, let us give you a proper musical sendoff.

Carnival time

There are many things about Maryland political structures that annoy me, but the prevalence of local volunteer fire departments is one that I find charming.  It's summertime, which means it's time for the local VFD carnival.  They do this as a fund raiser each year, and it's a ton of fun.  We went last night.

It's a fund raiser, so everything costs more.  But it's for guys who will run into burning buildings to rescue us, so what's not to like?  I even won another stuffed thing (it was shooting corks from a Daisy air rifle at solo cups, not the full automatic assault BB gun like last time).  But some friends have a brand new grandson who will be needing that rainbow polka dot stuffed elephant.  Win!

After fried chicken, snow cones, and ice cream there was a band playing 80s music (Guys In Thin Ties, recommended) and then fireworks.  I didn't bring my camera, but it looked exactly like the pictures in the link.

It was a ton of fun, and how many times can you combine Date Night with libertarian local government structures?

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Ten years ago on this blog

It seems that I posted six times that day.  Woof.  Of course, this is the fifth post today ...

The reason for smaller government, parts CXLIV and CXLV

From Her Britannic Majesty's realm comes this:
Riot police raided a 30th birthday barbecue because they thought the organiser, who had invited his friends via Facebook, was staging a rave.
Four police cars, a riot van and a helicopter moved in on Andrew Poole's gathering which was taking place in a field owned by a friend.
Guests show up at 3:00 in the afternoon, they hadn't started playing music, and were just lighting the grill when Police Constable Plod shut things down. When asked for comment, a Police flackspokesperson said:
'Had it gone ahead, it is likely that far more of our resources would have been used to police the event and there would have been considerable disruption to neighbouring properties.'
A party on private property, not causing a nuisance, shut down because it would have caused disruption if it had, well, started causing disruption. Or something.

And from the Land Down Under, we see that Police Constable Plod is working overtime on, well, something:

The Queensland Police plans to conduct a 'wardriving' mission around select Queensland towns in an effort to educate its citizens to secure their wireless networks.
'Wardriving' refers to the technique of searching for unsecured wireless networks by driving the streets armed simply with a laptop or smartphone seeking network connections.
So let's see: if you have an old WiFi device that doesn't grok security, or if it's complicated to set it up, or if you simply don't mind J. Random Visitor using your Intertubez for free, you can expect a visit from Officer Friendly. Because someone might use your Intertubez for free. Or something.

The common thread in both of these is a very poor ability to prioritize by the local police departments. The only way for a free people to interpret this is that police budgets are bloated, and adjust them correspondingly downwards in future.

Of course, we're talking about the UK and Australia, where "free" no longer meaningfully applies to the population, in some fundamental respects. Not that things are so great here, but we still have these, at least for a while:

The current "record breaking" heat wave isn't

Isn't breaking records, that is - at least not any interesting records  Sure, it's being reported that way:
Tens of millions of Americans will swelter through the hottest weather of the summer over the next few days as a record-breaking heat wave builds across much of the central and eastern U.S.

"A dangerous and widespread summer heat wave is expected through this upcoming weekend across much of the central and eastern U.S.," the National Weather Servicesaid. "A large dome of high pressure will allow high temperatures to surge into the 90s and 100s in many locations, while heat indices will top 100 and approach 110 degrees or higher."
Oh, hum.  Here's a prediction: not a single US State will register a record high temperature during this heat wave.  None.

You want to see a real heat wave?  Look at July 1936.  Eleven States set high temperature records that stand to this day.  That Wikipedia page is a little shifty on this, trying to hide the decline in record temperatures.  You'll see an asterisk next to South Dakota, which the Wiki page says means Also on earlier date or dates in that state.  So what was that earlier date for South Dakota?  July 1936.

Oh, and three more States set high temperature records the next month, August 1936.  That makes 14 out of the 50 States suffered record high temperatures in the summer of 1936.  That's almost 30% of the States.

There's a reason that this period is called the "Dust Bowl".  Droughts came in 1934, 1936, and 1939.  That's what Thermageddon looks like.

So why don't we hear that 1936 was the "Hottest Year Evah!!!!11!!eleventy!!!"?  Because the data is "adjusted":
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration may have a boring name, but it has a very important job: It measures U.S. temperatures. Unfortunately, it seems to be a captive of the global warming religion. Its data are fraudulent.

What do we mean by fraudulent? How about this: NOAA has made repeated "adjustments" to its data, for the presumed scientific reason of making the data sets more accurate.

Nothing wrong with that. Except, all their changes point to one thing — lowering previously measured temperatures to show cooler weather in the past, and raising more recent temperatures to show warming in the recent present.
(thanks to Aretae for pinging me with that link)

I've posted repeatedly about this, for over a decade.  This seems worth repeating:
You read in the press about how much the temperature has risen in the last 100 years. There's an interesting story in the data, but the press doesn't know it.

The data has two components: the raw measurements themselves, and a set of adjustments.

Adjustments are made for a bunch of reasons: time of observation adjustments (you didn't take a reading at exactly the same time each day), environmental changes, weather station site relocations, urbanization, etc.

An interesting question is how much of the 20th century's temperature change is due to adjustments? As it turns out, the answer is all of it.

This chart shows the before-adjustment and after-adjustment temperatures for the 20th century, super imposed. All of the warming is due to adjustments, rather than raw data.  Almost all of the adjustments are for readings after 1970.

Oh, and the title of that post was pretty funny: Global Warming Caused By Lousy Data.

But look at the read peak in the middle of the chart.  1936.

The only thing to add to this after ten years is that the adjustments have become even more aggressive in that time period, with older temperatures adjusted further downwards than you see here and recent temperatures adjusted even further upwards.  That's how the Usual Suspects® are able to keep coming out with "ZOMG IT'S THE HOTTEST YEAR EVAH!!!11!!!!!eleventy!!!" headlines each year.  The raw data isn't changing, but the adjustments are continually in flux.

And the adjustments are manufactured in industrial quantities:
The scope of the data adjustment issue is really astounding:
An interesting question is how much of the 20th Century's warming came from adjustments, rather than from raw data? A picture is worth a thousand words:
What you're looking at is the annual adjustment made to the raw temperature, for each year in the 20th Century. You'll notice that almost no adjustments are made to years up to 1960, and then a very interesting shape appears in the graph.

A hockey Stick.
And what Science®-denying Tea-Bagging place did I get that?  From the Fed.Gov's weathermen, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Sharp eyed readers will note that over 80% of the 20th Century's reported warming came from adjustments to the data, not to the data itself.  The raw data simply doesn't show this at all.  That's one righteous Thermageddon, right there.

Except ...

The adjustments are not applied to the record temperatures, of course.  About all the fiddling they can do is what Wikipedia did, trying to sell you the fact that South Dakota set a record high in 2006 (it didn't - the record was set in July 1936).  USA Today is doing the same thing: the only way this is "record breaking" is because Podunk saw a record high; the State that Podunk is in sure won't, and a dozen other States sure won't, either.

So remember: fourteen of the fifty States say that today's weather is nothing new.  Not only is it not new, it's over 80 years old.

'Tis devoutly to be wished

Daddy Bear has a proposal to relocate government agencies closer to where their mission is:
So, taking a cue from the “You don’t want to do it my way? Really? Then we can get crazy!” school of leadership, here are my proposals for where to put several federal agencies that makes more sense than Gehenna on the Potomac.
  1. Army Corps of Engineers – 9th Ward, New Orleans. Maybe we’ll finally have to stop worrying about those damned flood walls failing every time it sprinkles.
  2. Department of the Air Force – Minot, North Dakota, because only the best go north.
Sing it, brother.

I'd add USDA moved to the Nebraska corn fields, Energy moved to the Permian Basin (or maybe Tulsa), and Transportation to Atlanta (home of both the world's busiest airport and the east coast's worst traffic).

Your thought for the day

In which I am a bit slow

I hadn't realized that frequent commenter HMSDefiant has a blog.  I mean he's only been commenting here since forever, but I hadn't known that he has been blogging for almost ten years!

Sigh.  Well, better late than never.  Welcome to the blogroll, Defiant!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The legal aftermath of a self defense situation

So you used your heater - and didn't even pull the trigger - in a self defense situation.  Now what?

A lawyer and shooter explains what happens next.  It doesn't sound fun, but there are things you can do (starting now) to make it less unpleasant.  Proper prior planning prevents poor performance, and all that.

In other news from the useful, Zach shows how to comply with state laws when you travel with firearms.

198 years of Florida Man

On this day in 1821, the Kingdom of Spain ceded Florida to the United States.  The rest is history.

Just a reminder

Clarity is a virtue when it comes to language.

An Apollo 11 controversy

A DC news radio station retracted a story about Apollo 11, not because it was false but because it seems to have contained double plus ungood truths:
Washington radio station WTOP apologized Tuesday after pulling a story that commended Nazi aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

The story removal and apology came after the news outlet described von Braun as a "brilliant German-American rocket scientist."
It's always fun to see the dumbing down of America on full display in the media.  What, these idiots had never heard about World War II or the Cold War?  It seems not.  And so, the groveling apology.

The children who write these news stories think they're ever so clever and smarter than us knuckle dragging Deplorables, even though they don't know half of what we do.  For example, how von Braun was satirized at the time of the Apollo program itself.*

Note to the children writing these stories at WTOP: this song opens with a tune that would be familiar to you if you had studied World War II.  The satire is actually pretty delicious.  Go ask your parents.

* This song was written in 1964 and recorded on video in 1967, years before the moon landing.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Area 51

There is a whimsical plan for a million or so people to visit Area 51 and "see dem aliens." The Air Force, lacking in humor as most governmental agencies are, is warning what a bad idea it would be.

It's not clear what the Air Force response would be to an invasion of a million man FaceBook flash mob onto one of it's more secret facilities. A-10s on strafing runs seem unlikely but a million people is a sizable invasion. However, I am watching with interest.

Because if the Air Force successfully defends it's base perimeter, I have a suggestion. Let's make a long narrow Air Force base from the Gulf of Mexico in Texas to the Pacific Ocean. We could call it Area 52 and task the Air Force with keeping people out of it from both sides.


This is delicious:

Borepatch: purveyors of the finest Climate Denial® since 2009!


Trump is playing the Democrats like a fiddle.  He is forcing the spotlight of public attention on their most extreme members who are poisoning the public's view of the entire party.  And until a clear nominee emerges as a front runner they will all have to grit their teeth and let him do this, because they can't afford to risk alienating the left wing - that's where all the energy is now.  By the time the election shifts into high gear a year from now the party will be radioactive to voters.  Even moderate democrats will have an uphill battle against this perception.

I'm actually almost speechless about this.  Almost.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Art is as Art does

The Amsterdam Rijksmuseum has, as you would expect, one of the best collections of Rembrandt paintings in the world.  Among this collection is "The Night Watch" which has to be Rembrandt's most famous work.  Restoration work on the painting has begun, but with a twist:
The Rijksmuseum has started Operation Night Watch, a project to evaluate and eventually restore Rembrandt's painting The Night Watch. Rather than remove the painting to a lab for the process, a glass enclosure has been built around the painting and the process will the viewable by the public. The Operation Night Watch website also has numerous videos detailing the work.
I recall going to that Museum with the baby #2 Son.  For some reason, the paintings freaked him out and he started screaming - so much so that I had to take him out of the room.  I never did get back to see all the Rembrandts.

What do you do with empty beer cans?

Silicon Graybeard shows you how to melt them down and cast them into an AR lower.  So you've got alcohol and firearms - the only way you could make this better is by lighting the smelter flame with a cigar.  'Murica!

Ten years ago - why government provided services are always more expensive

Why Government-provided services are always more expensive

The Gormogons provide what may be the Grand Unified Theory of Safer Browsers and Government Healthcare service. Essentially, it boils down to the Fed.Gov procurement system being completely, utterly, irredeemably broken:
Follow me here: pressure mounts from savvy end users for an alternative web browser (since Microsoft STILL can't get a web browser right even after trying to claim that it was integral to the Windows operating system and couldn't be separated). In response to the pressure, some government program manager gets up the guts to propose adding Firefox to the baseline applications on the network. The contractor running the IT support desk waves their hands claiming that this is a change in scope to the contract and demands an ECP (Engineering Change Proposal). After the government spends thousands of dollars authoring a terrible RFP (Request For Proposal) for this change, the contractor spends thousands of dollars authoring a response to the RFP. The government contracting office then spends some more money evaluating the technical and cost aspects of the response. The proposal contains management reserve, engineering SWAGs (Seriously Wild Ass Guesses) as to the extent of the effort required, etc. And let's be honest, there are security issues identified periodically with Firefox and upgrades to apply, so some amount of work needs to be accounted for somewhere. So the evaluators (who mostly didn't know about Firefox or think about putting it on the network in the first place) think, "hey, this proposal is pretty good." Bam. Firefox 5.3 shows up on the State Department's network in 2012.
That's really how it works. No joke.

After I left Three Letter Intelligence Agency (since all the cool work was done by contractors, why not become a contractor?), I worked on a big DoD project that was run precisely this way. No work could be done without a Charge Number to account for what type of work you were doing. No work could be done that was not in the Statement Of Work. Half of my time was spent evaluating Engineering Change Proposals.

The project ended up $200 Million over budget and in Congressional hearings. Not my fault, of course, but why I've stayed away from any sort of work like that since.

Now I'm sure that there are all sorts of Really Smart Ivy League types out there who can explain - mathematically, no doubt - that with Government healthcare it'll be different. Really. The plan seems to revolve around having the Right Sort of People in charge this time, which - strangely - nobody has ever thought of doing before.

The Gormogons' posts are worth your time: both part 1 and part 2.

So Healthcare will be run by beancounters who are all about making it easy for the beancounters, instead of delivering service, and irrespective of the cost. However, it will be a great success, because it will be defined to be so. That project I worked on? It was delivered "in a shopping cart" - all the code, whether working or not. Someone scavenged the bits that worked, delivered it to the DoD Agency users, and everyone celebrated the "great new system".

Everyone celebrated except the users.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle - La Marseillaise

It is a little surprising just how recent is the concept of National Anthems.  The idea really only got off the ground in the 1830s, and even the United States didn't have a formal anthem until the 1930s.  Ten years or so ago Dad emailed me on this, which was the first time I had ever heard of it:
When I was a grade schooler, Armistice Day was an occasion to have a covered dish supper at the American Legion Hall. There was always a program with children of the veterans performing music or recitations. One girl always recited, by heart, In Flanders Fields. No one recited Wilfred Owen. Those attending rarely sang The Star Spangled Banner. In those days, it was not yet the national anthem. There were competing national anthems. We were more likely to sing America to the tune of God Save the Queen or America the Beautiful. Earlier in the day, we children would be on the downtown streets selling paper (not plastic) poppies with the proceeds going to needy veterans. In the 1930s, there were lots of them.
As far as I can tell, La Marseillaise is the world's oldest national anthem, having been born in the French Revolution.  Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle entered the revolutionary Army as a Captain in the Engineers, but he was a Monarchist (supporting the idea of a constitutional Monarchy, similar to what the UK has).  Because of this he was imprisoned and sentenced to the guillotine but the Thermidor revolution caused the downfall of Robespierre, ended the terror, and saved his life.

You'd think that the revolutionary government would have been a little grateful to de Lisle, who had written this the previous year.  But Robespierre preferred an alternative song, La Chant du Départ which became the anthem under Napoleon.  The restored Bourbon monarchs of course detested the song, and Napoleon II of the Second Empire had no use for it, but it was re-adopted in 1879 in the aftermath of the disastrous Franco-Prussian War as a patriotic rallying call.

Those who think that the Star Spangled Banner is overly militaristic will get the vapors from the lyrics of La Marseillaise, which was originally written for the Army in which de Lisle served: Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin, War song for the Army of the Rhine.  A quick scan of the lyrics shows such anti-passifist writings as:
Do you hear, in the countryside,
The roar of those ferocious soldiers?
They're coming right into your arms
To cut the throats of your sons, your women!

To arms, citizens,
Form your battalions,
Let's march, let's march!
Let an impure blood
Water our furrows!
Good stuff, right there.  Ferocious stuff.  So the next time someone complains to you that the Star Spangled Banner is too warlike, tell them to come back after they've dealt with the French.

And no performance of La Marseillaise is as inspiring (to me, at least) as the scene from Casablanca.  Enjoy.  Happy Bastille Day, everyone.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Willie Nelson - Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die

Folks seem to think that (a) legalizing drugs will make them more prevalent even though they are for sale on every street corner in the land, and (b) somehow there's a way to win this stupid War On Drugs if we really, really try harder, for real you guys.

Ooooooh kaaaaay.

I really like ASM826's solution - the government should give it away for free.  Hard for the cartels to compete against free, and hard to see why anyone would commit a crime to get cash for their next fix.  Sure, you'd still have people ODing and driving under the influence.  We can probably do something about that last one.

But the fly in the ointment, sadly, is that the government has gotten a taste of that sweet, sweet money and power that comes from the idiotic WoD.  One hit was all it took to get them hopelessly addicted, and so there's no chance at all that the WoD will ever end.  May as well lie back and think of England.  Willie has a strategy to make it less unpleasant.

Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die (songwriters: Willie Nelson, Buddy Cannon, Rich Alves, John Colgin, Mike McQuerry)
Roll me up and smoke me when I die
And if anyone don't like it, just look 'em in the eye
I didn't come here, and I ain't leavin'
So don't sit around and cry
Just roll me up and smoke me when I die.

Now, you won't see no sad and teary eyes
When I get my wings and it's my time to fly
Call my friends and tell 'em
There's a party, come on by
Now just roll me up and smoke me when I die.

Roll me up and smoke me when I die
And if anyone don't like it, just look 'em in the eye
I didn't come here, and I ain't leavin'
So don't sit around and cry
Just roll me up and smoke me when I die.

When I'd go I've been here long enough
So you'll sing and tell more jokes and dance and stuff
Just keep the music playin',
That'll be a good goodbye
Roll me up and smoke me when I die.

Roll me up and smoke me when I die
And if anyone don't like it, just look 'em in the eye
I didn't come here, and I ain't leavin'
So don't sit around and cry
Just roll me up and smoke me when I die.

Hey, take me out and build a roaring fire
Roll me in the flames for about an hour
Then take me out and twist me up
And point me towards the sky
And roll me up and smoke me when I die.

Roll me up and smoke me when I die
And if anyone don't like it, just look 'em in the eye
I didn't come here, and I ain't leavin'
So don't sit around and cry
Just roll me up and smoke me when I die.
Just roll me up and smoke me when I die.

Friday, July 12, 2019

I Don't Want to Legalize and Tax

Legalize and tax? Not my idea, except for pot. All the harder stuff, I want to legalize it and give it away.

What we have now is a system. There are addicts. They won't work so they commit crimes. Rob people, commit burglary, strip copper out of vacant buildings, whatever they can do to get the money for their drugs. There is so much of this crime that if your house or car is broken into, all the police do is give you a report for the insurance claim.

This results in high insurance rates, unsafe neighborhoods, homelessness, and as you mention, cartels and drug gangs and all the evil associated therein. It also costs for the prisons, the police, and the courts that are all the big beneficiaries of this whole process. We pay for that, too. It's called taxes.

Nothing we have done and nothing practical that we could do is going to even put a dent in it. This war is as lost as Hitler's war was when he and Eva retired to the bunker.

Nope, I want to legalize it all the way to the coca and poppy fields. And give it away. You can not undercut my price. It's free. Just line up and we'll give it to you. No need to rob, to commit property crime, that's too much like work. Here, take it.

No need to arrest anyone, no drug courts, no one going to jail for the crimes committed to get the drug, the crime of possessing or selling, or the violence associated with protecting turf   their markets. The money the gangs and cartels have been raking in? Gone. They're broke. I read recently that pharmaceutical grade cocaine costs about the same as sugar to produce. Let's put some Yankee ingenuity into bringing that price down.

The attacks on the 4th and 6th Amendment? The militarization of the police? The fact that we incarcerate a higher percentage of our population than any other country in world? No need.

The terrible part of this is people are going to use till they die. Like those lab rats that keep hitting that lever. But that's happening now. Just like alcohol, we are going to have accept we can't fix it for individuals that are going to use, we have to try to save what we can of the society.

All the ways that we are losing the War On Drugs

This is an update to an older post, but given the discussion on the stupid WoD, it's time to roll it out again.

This is what losing looks like:
Coroner Kent Harshbarger estimates that ... the state [of Ohio] will see 10,000 overdoses by the end of 2017 — more than were recorded in the entire United States in 1990.
Peter has an excellent and in-depth post of the utter idiocy of the "War on Drugs"and you should RTWT.

This would normally trigger an epic Borepatchian uberpost.  Instead, I will merely summarize the costs of this idiotic program:

40 year cost of War on Drugs is $1 Trillion
Half of all Federal prison inmates are serving time for drug offenses (same link as above)
$100 B black market in drugs shows no sign of going away

A single ship was seized, carrying $1B of cocaine.
Remember, after all of this treasure we are looking at an epidemic of overdose deaths.

Now add in the corruption of Law Enforcement:
The proliferation of SWAT teams
The proliferation of "No Knock" raids
The unaccountability of police (warning: autoplay video)
Billions of dollars taken via "Civil Asset Forfeiture" without charges, trial, or conviction
Police selling seized narcotics on the side

Now add in the corruption of the Intelligence Agencies:
DEA covers up program to collect information on all Americans

Now add in the corruption of the medical community:
A "Civil War" over pain medication is tearing the medical community apart
Patients can't get pain medication and so turn to heroin
How the War On Drugs fuels the Opioid epidemic

I could go on, but let me sum up: The war on drugs has made us less free, has fueled the growth of the Police/Surveillance State that targets us, has corrupted Law Enforcement and driven a wedge between them and the citizenry.  It has done this while drugs have become both more prevalent and more deadly, and while legitimate patients are forced to turn to illegal drugs because their doctors can't prescribe them the pharmaceuticals that would ease their chronic pain.

And let's return to what started this rant.  Consider the death toll: Ohio expects 10,000 overdose deaths this year, from a population of 11.6 M.  Nationwide overdose deaths are over 70,000 each year.  That's more than the war dead we suffered in Vietnam.  And that entirely ignores the fact that most murders in this country are over drug turf battles.

Think about that: all the treasure, all the lost freedom, and we are suffering a Vietnam War each year, every year, with no end in sight.

The War on Drugs is futile, stupid, and evil.  It should end immediately.  This is a stupid game, we're losing, and we shouldn't play.

To Protect and Serve

A Sheriff's deputy in Florida has been arrested and charged with 52 cases of making traffic stops and then planting drugs in the cars to create a pretext for arrests.

"The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) announced yesterday that, following a months-long investigation, former Jackson County sheriff's deputy Zach Wester had been arrested and charged with 52 felony crimes, including racketeering, false imprisonment, fabricating evidence, and drug possession.
In a stunning 30-page affidavit, the FDLE laid out how Wester kept unmarked bags of marijuana and methamphetamines in the trunk of his patrol car, manipulated his body cam footage, planted drugs in people's cars, and falsified arrest reports to railroad innocent people under the color of law. His victims, many of whom had prior records or were working to stay sober, had their lives upended. One man lost custody of his daughter.
"There is no question that Wester's crimes were deliberate and that his actions put innocent people in jail," Chris Williams, the FDLE's assistant special agent in charge, said in a press release."

His victims will live with the effects of this for the rest of their lives. There will be no way to completely clear their records. There will be arrest records, lost jobs and job opportunities and the financial fallout at the very least.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The World Has Changed

You can't cover up anymore. If you make a defective product, own it at the first opportunity, fix it, buy it back, make it right.

What you should not do is spend a decade lying to your dealers, your customers, and the governments of the countries you sell your product in.

Like Ford.

It's the internal Ford documents and emails that will bring the heat on this. It's been going on for 10 years. A senior Ford engineer was warning about this since the car was being developed. Ford has already paid the Australian government $10 million (AU) as a result of the way they treated the car owners.

This is expected to cost Ford $3 Billion (US) before it's over.

Here's the news report.

 And here's an absolutely wonderful and hilarious review of the issue and the outcome in Australia.

Portugal's experience decriminalizing drugs

There seems to be quite a brouhaha over my post about the War on Drugs being stupid.  Opinions are running high, particularly from those on the ER front lines.  I'd like to shift the discussion from the realm of opinion to the realm of fact, specifically Portugal's experience when the decriminalized all drugs in 2001.

This is interesting because it is a long-term experiment on an alternative approach to the current War on Drugs.  There are some unanticipated consequences of their approach:

  • Addiction rates have dropped
  • HIV infection rates are way down
  • Drug related crime is down
  • The voting public has come around from strongly opposed to strongly in favor of decriminalization

This article from a couple years ago is interesting, because it highlights what doctors in Portugal have experienced from all of this.  It's a long read, but worthwhile to show what almost two decades of an alternative to our idiotic War On Drugs has done.

Quite frankly, it looks like not only are they spending a lot less than we are, jailing a lot fewer people than we are, suffering a lot fewer no-knock raids and property seizures than we are, but it seems that medical outcomes are better for drug users.

Sure, they haven't eliminated drugs or addiction - but after a trillion dollars, hundreds of thousands of dead and millions in prison we have narcotics for sale on every street corner in the land.  As I said before:
I could go on, but let me sum up: The war on drugs has made us less free, has fueled the growth of the Police/Surveillance State that targets us, has corrupted Law Enforcement and driven a wedge between them and the citizenry.  It has done this while drugs have become both more prevalent and more deadly, and while legitimate patients are forced to turn to illegal drugs because their doctors can't prescribe them the pharmaceuticals that would ease their chronic pain.

And let's return to what started this rant.  Consider the death toll: Ohio expects 10,000 overdose deaths this year, from a population of 11.6 M.  Normalizing this to a US population of 320M gives us an expected overdose death total of almost 300,000 a year nationwide.  That's more than the war dead we suffered in World War II.  And that entirely ignores the fact that most murders in this country are over drug turf battles.

Think about that: all the treasure, all the lost freedom, and we are suffering a World War II each year, every year, with no end in sight.

The War on Drugs is futile, stupid, and evil.  It should end immediately.  This is a stupid game, we're losing, and we shouldn't play.
Maybe Portugal can show us a different approach to the problem.  It sure can't be any worse than the nonsense we're trying right now.

Lone Star Parson had a fall

He went riding on a horse with a mind of its own, and the horse won.  I can sympathize, having been through some of the same - although my horse was an iron one.  Sometimes it seems like it has a mind of its own, too.

If y'all would go leave him a get well soon comment, I'd be mighty obliged.


Recommended reading from ten years ago

I posted this ten years ago, and it's still current.  This is probably the best introduction to computer security for non-technical readers.  It's really a spy whodunnit story, with literal KGB operatives and valiant defenders of freedom (really!).  It also has a pretty good brownie recipe.  Along the way, you'll pick up some real computer security knowledge.

And this is a good time to remind folks that I have a Recommended Reading category.

Recommended Reading - The Cuckoo's Egg

Security is always excessive until it's not enough. 
— Robbie Sinclair
Head of Security, Country Energy, NSW Australia

Cliff Stoll has written what is absolutely the best book on computer security, ever. If you're interested in a riveting introduction to the maddening challenges of protecting computers from honest-to-goodness Bad Guys, this should be your first stop.

Stoll would know - as a systems administrator at UC Berkeley in 1986, he caught a German hacker breaking into his computers.
The lecturer on galactic structure droned on about gravitational waves. I was suddenly awake, aware of what was happening in our computer. I waited around for the question period, asked one token question, then grabbed my bike and started up the hill to Lawrence Berkeley Labs.

A super-user hacker. Someone breaks into our system, finds the master keys, grants himself privileges, and becomes a super-user hacker. Who? How? From where?

And, mostly, why?
The hacker was from Germany, and was using Stoll's computers to attack US Military computers. The intruder was looking for information on the Strategic Defense Initiative to sell to the KGB. You couldn't make this up.

That began a long, strange journey for a long haired hippy from Berkeley, who finds to his surprise that it was pretty hard to get The Man to sit up and take notice:
It took only one phone call to find out that the FBI wasn't policing the Internet. "Look, kid, did you lose more than a half million dollars?"
"Uh, no."
"Any classified information?"
"Uh, no."
"Then go away, kid." Another attempt at rousing the feds had failed.
So what elite hacking skills did the Bad Guy use? Ninja moves? Ninth-level black belt exploits? No - guessing bad passwords:
He was a burglar, patiently visiting each house. He'd twist the front doorknob to see if it was unlocked, then walk around and try the back door. Maybe try lifting a window or two.

Most of the time, he found the doors and windows locked. After a minute pushing them, he'd move on to the next place. Nothing sophisticated: he wasn't picking locks or digging under foundations. Just taking advantage of people who left their doors open.

One after another, he tried military computers: Army Ballistics Research Lab; U.S. Naval Academy; Naval Research Lab; Air Force Information Services Group; and places with bizarre acronyms, like WWMCCS and Cincusnaveur. (Cincus? Or was it Circus? I never found out.)


Is it easy to break into computers?
Elementary, my dear Watson. Elementary, and tediously dull.
But they were his computers, and he gathered evidence until he was able to get the CIA, NSA, FBI, and German Bundespost interested. And suddenly found himself seemingly on the other side of the counter-culture divide:
This experiment, and a lot of more subtle things about his way of operating, convinced me that he was no idealist. This hacker was a spy.

But I couldn't exactly prove that, and even after I explained my experiment to Laurie, she wasn't convinced. She still thought of anyone working against the military as one of "us," and in her eyes I was persecuting someone on "our own" side.

How do I explain that, having been mixed up in this thing so long, I had stopped seeing clear political boundaries? All of us had common interests: myself, my lab, the FBI, the CIA, NSA, military groups, and yes, even Laurie. Each of us desired security and privacy.
I remember when I was back at Three Letter Intelligence Agency, and he came to talk in Friedman Auditorium. The entire front row was nothing but uniformed Generals, there to see the long-haired anarchist from Berkeley. I remember the room being so quiet you could hear a pin drop when he pointed to the generals and said (paraphrasing from memory after 20 years):
You know why I hated working with you guys? You'd always talk about "the adversary". "The adversary did this," "the adversary is doing that." He's not the adversary - he's breaking into my computers! He's a bastard!
The generals gave him a standing ovation at the end. They didn't care that he didn't own socks. They cheered his passion for protecting security and privacy. Strange bedfellows, indeed.

Stoll set things up so he could monitor every move the hacker made. What he learned was that almost nobody detected the intrusions:
The hacker had tried to chisel into eighty computers. Two system managers had detected him.


A few of his targets weren't sleeping. The day after he tried to pry their doors open, two of them called me. Grant Kerr, of the Hill Air Force Base in Utah, phoned. He was annoyed that one of my users, Sventek, had tried to break into his computer over the past weekend. And Chris McDonald of White Sands Missile Range reported the same.

Super! Some of our military bases keep their eyes open. Thirty-nine in forty are asleep. But there are a few system managers who vigilantly analyze their audit trails.
A few, but not many. Audit trails (or logs, as they're more often called) are boring, with nothing interesting to see - until there's something interesting.  Marcus Ranum sums the situation up with his typical wit:

And it wasn't just the military, who you'd think would be interested in security. Other folks were hit - folks you'd think were best positioned to defend themselves:
Wait a second. What other defense contractors had been hit? I scribbled a list on a pad of paper:

Unisys. Makers of secure computers.

TRW. They make military and space computers.

SRI. They've got military contracts to design computer security systems.

Mitre. They design high-security computers for the military. They're the people that test NSA's secure computers.

BBN. The builders of the Milnet.

What's wrong with this picture? These are the very people that are designing, building, and testing secure systems. Yet hackers traipse freely through their computers.
Finally, Stoll's evidence was overwhelming, and his new-found friends in the Defense Department started to close in on the hacker. But he was still in the thick of things:
"I just got a message from Wolfgang Hoffman at the German Bundespost. He says that there'll be a full-time policeman outside the hacker's apartment on Monday through Wednesday of next week. They'll keep watch continually, and they'll rush in to make an arrest as soon as he connects to Berkeley."

"How will the cop know when to bust in?"

"You'll give the signal, Cliff."
The book reads like a spy novel, and in a sense it is - only this really happened. It's an entertaining read, and along the way you'll pick up some solid Unix security tips. Painlessly.

I gave this to mom to read, in the 1990s, to give her a better idea of the sort of work I do. She liked it. I also gave it to #1 Son when he was 13, for the same reason. He liked it, too. If you're remotely interested in computer security, you'll like it, too.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Prisons are denying books on programming to inmates

I'm not sure how many inmates want a life of grinding code, but this seems a bit cruel to deny them the chance of getting a high-skill job when they get out:
The Oregon Department of Corrections has banned prisoners from reading a number of books related to technology and programming, citing concerns about security.

According to public records obtained by the Salem Reporter, the Oregon Department of Corrections has banned dozens of books related to programming and technology as they come through the mail room, ensuring that they don’t get to the hands of prisoners.

At least in official department code, there is no blanket ban on technology-related books. Instead, each book is individually evaluated to assess potential threats. Many programming-related books are cited as “material that threatens,” often including the subject matter (“computer programming”) as justification.

Rejected books that are geared towards hacking, such as Justin Seitz’s Black Hat Python, may represent a clearer threat to the Department of Corrections, which fears that prisoners could use those tools to compromise their systems. But how did books such as Windows 10 for Dummies, Microsoft Excel 2016 for Dummies, and Google Adsense for Dummies (marked as posing "clear and present danger"), fail the prison’s security test?
The Iron Law of Bureaucracy is in full force here, I see.  But it will be totes different when the Democrats ram their "Democratic Socialism" down our throats ...

Yeah, we had it hard when we were kids

I still remember watching the Walt Disney's Wonderful World Color of show (on our black and white TV; I was probably 7 at the time) and the power went out.  When it came back on, the show was over.  Kids these days have it easy.

The War On Drugs is stupid

We've spent a trillion dollars on this boondoggle, we've sacrificed more freedom than you can describe (had to burn the village to save it, and all that), and you still see this:
Federal prosecutors in Philadelphia have seized a container ship operated by the Mediterranean Shipping Co., weeks after authorities found more than $1 billion worth of cocaine on the vessel in what was one of the largest drug busts in American history.


On June 17, border agents found 39,525 pounds of cocaine stashed in several containers on the MSC Gayane at the Philadelphia seaport. The street value of the drugs was estimated at about $1.3 billion, making it the largest cocaine seizure by the agency.
One ship, 20 tons of cocaine.  A billion bucks of drugs on a single ship.

It's way past time to declare victory and brings the troops home.  Legalize it all, tax it (use some of the revenue to fund treatment centers) and be done with it.  This sure isn't working.  It's  a stupid game and we shouldn't play.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Just how quiet do "silencers" make guns?

Still as loud as chain saws.  Ammunition To Go has an excellent article where they tested sound levels.

The takeaway is that I would still want ear protection even when shooting suppressed.  Highly recommended, information rich article.

Thanks to Dave who emailed me the link.

Are things abut to get spicy?

In ten years the Ruling Class has learned precisely nothing

Well, they've learned to lose a lot in the era of Trump.  But the way they talk about people "beneath" them entering the corridors of power hasn't changed at all.  The focus on style rather than substance is quite striking in this post from ten years ago on Sarah Palin vs. the Ruling Class.  Just substitute the words "Donald Trump" for "Sarah Palin" and it's really astonishing how it describes what we still see today.
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War


I apologize in advance, because this is going to be a rant. Actually two rants, about two related punks. If this isn't your thing, skip down the page. Otherwise, get the popcorn - these guys have put me in A Mood.

Punk #1 is Ted Diadiun of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Full disclosure: I was a paperboy for them, back a million years ago. Still doesn't keep me from recognizing an arrogant punk when I see one. King Kaufman lays out the situation, where Diadiun goes after Jeff Jarvis:
But why, representative of us readers, is it kind of unfortunate that Schultz gave Jarvis a lot of ink? Back to Diadiun: 
"... which I thought was kind of unfortunate because Connie's column is read by 25- or 30,000 people a month, which has to be many times more than this guy gets on his blog, and she gave him more publicity through that column than he would get on his own anytime."
Thirty thousand readers a month "has to be many times" what Jarvis gets on his blog? Wait, that sounds like one of those unsourced, unreported assumptions you might get from ... from ... A BLOGGER! Diadiun actually started to say "is," but than corrected himself and phrased it "has to be." That was an admission, however subconscious, that he didn't have any idea what he was talking about. He was guessing to make his point. 
So point one is that Mr. Diadiun has no idea what he's talking about. Point two is that he doesn't let this stop him from shooting off his piehole. But that's not the worst of it.

25,000 hits a month simply isn't very impressive, especially when you consider that those hits run off the branding established by the army of writers, editors, ad salesmen, and yes, paperboys that have built that paper. Kaufman compares that to Jeff Jarvis' traffic, which is several times greater without any branding other than Jarvis. Jarvis - all by himself - kicks the Plain Dealer's butt.

But that's not why Mr. Diadiun is a punk. He's about beat by my traffic. Dude, if a nowheresville blog like Borepatch is in the same ballpark as your paper, with all the branding and marketing of the paper's machine, you're a punk. A little humility would be in order.

Consider yourself punked. Your 15 minutes of fame will include the creation of a new category here - punks.

The second rant is like the first. Steve Chapman gives us the secret of Sarah Palin's staying power:
But it's really not hard to see why Palin inspires such devotion. And I do mean "see." She has one obvious thing going for her that [Harriett] Miers didn't: She's a babe, and she doesn't try to hide it.
Well, now. Let's look at what Mrs. Palin has done that might attract admiration, shall we?
  • Took on a famously corrupt political machine, and beat them at their own game.
  • Balanced family and a high-powered job.
  • Governed pragmatically, not ideologically.
  • Handled the most vicious public attacks that I've seen in 40 years of watching politics, with remarkable grace.
  • Didn't let herself get pulled into the Washington-Intellectual/Chattering-Class bubble world, but remained refreshingly normal.
Any of that appear in Chapman's article? Hello? Buehler?

Nope - she's babalicious:
Wayne: Cassandra. She's a fox. In French she would be called "la renarde" and she would be hunted with only her cunning to protect her.

Garth: She's a babe.

Wayne: She's a robo-babe. In Latin she would be called "babia majora".

Garth: If she were a president she would be Baberaham Lincoln. 


Sheesh. What is present in Chapman's article? Let's run down the checklist, shall we?
  • Blaming her for John McCain's miserable campaign? Check. ("For all her alleged star power, she did nothing to improve the GOP ticket's fortunes on Election Day.") 
  • Not part of the intellectual elite class? Check. ("She showed no gift for articulating conservative themes, beyond ridiculing liberals as overeducated, big-city elitists")
  • Mystification at why the rubes like her? Check ("When people remain ardent fans of Palin no matter how badly she performs, it's reasonable to wonder what they are thinking. But thinking has nothing to do with it.")
There's no nice way to say this: Chapman is an overeducated, big-city elitist. He recognizes someone who's not of his class, and will ignore all accomplishments, exagerate all failures, and descend into Middle School (SCHWIIIINNNGGG!!!) "humor", all to protect his class.

Dude, if you're so danged smart, explain why so many people think Mrs. Palin is pretty interesting. Go ahead, dazzle me.


Chapman, you've been punked. And your attempt at Middle School humor? It's been done better. Way better.

So much for thinking about subscribing to Reason.