Sunday, March 31, 2019

Ride as if everyone on the road is trying to kill you

The Queen Of The World and I rode the bike up to Gettysburg yesterday with  some friends.  The weather was perfect - sunny and 74° and we were all itching for a ride.  On the way back we were reminded that life is sometimes defined by moments and inches.

A truck pulling a flatbed trailer was stopped on the side of the road.  The trailer's ramp was down, and a couple of older guys had just unloaded some sort of farm equipment.  I was fairly far back from a line of cars, because I like to ride *very* defensively.  The pickup truck at the back of the line drifted to the right, its passenger side wheel went up the ramp, and it was launched across the road.  It almost - almost - flipped, but ran on the two driver's side wheels until it pitched into a ditch.  A fair amount of debris scattered across the road.

Being pretty far back I was pretty easily able to avoid the wreck and the debris.  We pulled over and parked, as did everyone going in both directions.  One of the guys who  had unloaded the gear off the trailer and I ran over to the truck.  A young guy who seemed pretty dazed got out.  We told him to kill the engine since there was some smoke coming from under the hood, although it might have been steam from the cooling system.

The older guy was calmer than I would have been in his place.  If the truck had been a foot or two more to the right it would have killed him and his friend.  It didn't seem like anyone was hurt which seems a bit of a minor miracle - the truck was completely smashed up.  I'd never seen a wheel twisted 90° but the axel was snapped off.

We think that the kid was looking at his phone (maybe texting) because there was no last minute jerk to the left or sudden brake lights to avoid the trailer.  He just ran on autopilot into what was almost his last moment on this good earth.

Moments and inches.

Which is exactly why I ride so cautiously.  Giving room between me and whoever is in front of me gives me more inches and moments.  Fortunately most people are not as moronic as yesterday's kid, but you can't tell when you run across them.

And I should have taken a picture.  The wreck was pretty spectacular.

Johann Abraham Peter Schulz - Piano Sonatina in G major

Sometimes the difference of a day makes a difference.  I find a lot of composers to post about because they're listed in Wikipedia's birthday section.  Johann Abraham Peter Schulz had the misfortune of sharing a birthday with no less than J. S. Bach and Josef Haydn.  I've posted multiple times about each and so poor Schulz never got much attention.

But he's interesting.  He composed traditionally classical pieces in a variety of formats: operas, church music, lieder, and (today's selection) piano sonatas.  But he remains obscure, his traditionally classical talents overshadowed by Bach and Haydn.  But happy birthday Herr Schulz.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Not a recommended approach for carrying on your motorcycle


That does look like my Road Glide (well, it looks like a Road Glide from a similar year as mine), but I wouldn't recommend the leather tank cover holsters.  You'd have to move the guns to your actual holsters if you parked and had to go to the Little Harley Room, if you know what I mean.  That'd be violating Tam's "Stop Touching Them" rule.

And you'd definitely have to be in an Open Carry State, and one where the PoPo takes Open Carry laws seriously.

Go Sox!

People ask me what I do in the winter when there's no baseball.  I'll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for spring.
- Rogers Hornsby

Today is Opening Day.  There's no a better sign of the end of the long, cold winter.  I do believe that snow can be melted by shouting Play Ball! at it.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Marketing doesn't change the Truth

It just makes it "better":
The advertising industry's self-regulatory division has urged Verizon to stop claiming that it has America's first 5G network, but Verizon claims that its "first to 5G" commercials are not misleading and is appealing the decision. 
The National Advertising Division (NAD), an investigative unit managed by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, announced its recommendation to Verizon last week. The NAD investigated after a challenge lodged by AT&T, which has been misleading customers itself by renaming large portions of its 4G network to "5G E." But AT&T's challenge of Verizon's 5G ads was "the first case involving advertising for 5G" to come before the self-regulatory body, the NAD said.
You're going to see a boatload of these adverts over the next couple of years.  Take them with a big grain of salt.

Kind of like Tesla's "autopilot".  Maybe a bit more important, there.  After all, crappy "5G" won't kill you.

That was fun

As you'd expect, a meeting with readers of this blog led to a discussion of things techie: security and fault analysis, self-driving car failure modes, microbiology and genetics, software and coding, and, well, a lively discussion of cabbages and kings.  It was a blast.

I'd feel bad about all the geekery except that long time readers know what to expect.  If you're new here then that's one thing, but if you've been reading for years than that's on you.  ;-)

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Hitler hears about the Mueller Report


It's all there - donations to Hillary, CNN and Chuck Schumer saying for two years that Trump was toast, James Comey and the FBI musketeers, Joe Biden as the Last Great Hope of the Democrats.  A lot of these parody videos have been funny, but this one is right up near the top.


Reminder: Dallas area meet up tonight

Any readers in Dallas are invited to a meet-up on Tuesday  evening at the Addison Flying Saucer Draught Emporium, 14999 Montfort Drive.  I'll get there around 7:30 and get a table for the "Borepatch party".

The Mueller report was seemingly written in the stars

This is the weirdest thing I've seen in a long time.

Why the Media will not reform itself

Co-blogger ASM826 is right: the Media won't ever apologize for the last two years of politically motivated disinformation and propaganda.  They don't want to; they see themselves as warriors for the Left, and have been for decades.  I ran across this sort of by accident, but it is from all the way back in 1999 - Charlie Rose interviewing Christopher Hitchens about Bill Clinton.  Hitchens goes on a eloquent length about just how nasty a piece of work Clinton is, and Rose spends most of an hour not exactly defending Clinton but trying everything he could think of to paint Clinton as a politician like any other.  Excuses are made, then more excuses, then more.

There's no "gotcha" moment, just a long exchange of what can only be described as intellectual trench warfare on Rose's part.  Even twenty years ago he would go to the mat defending the indefensible.  Clinton may have been an SOB, but he was Rose's SOB.

Hitchens even points out the difference between how the Press treated Clinton vs. how they treated Reagan or Bush the elder.  This interview is from decades ago, and the arguments are as fresh as today.  The Media is happy doing what it does, which is shilling for Democrats and smearing Republicans.

And remember, Hitchens was very much a man of the Left in 1999.  He wrote a regular column for the far left The Nation.  It's probably why Rose was so respectful to him - courtesy extended to a fellow leftie.

And so to the Media's declining power.  As they have become increasingly and more visibly partisan over the decades they have shed viewers and readers.  First the conservatives, then the moderates, and now liberals.  It's clear that the Media's "product" is an increasingly obvious drivel, and so the question is how many people they will be able to keep on the Progressive Reservation.  It will be some - those who want to stay.  Call it 20% of the population, that's their market.

It's enough to keep them in business, as long as leftist billionaires keep a few Media outlets afloat.  Between these sugar daddies and the 20% core market for propaganda that's a stable enough financial foundation for the machine to keep running.  The only danger for them - and we will have to see how this plays out - is if the concept of "Fake News" becomes so embedded throughout the voting public that the billionaires decide that it's a waste of money (i.e. the investment doesn't produce results at the polls).  Next year's election may prove instructive, or may not.

But I don't see any change coming.  The Media doesn't want to change.  They're happy doing what they do, even when caught out in as transparent a scam as this Russia Collusion mess.  Their financial patrons are likely disappointed in the outcome but it's hard to see the money drying up.  The remaining hard core 20% of Media's market wants drool-worthy propaganda.

For now, the situation looks stable.  Why would we expect any change?

Monday, March 25, 2019

Greg Benford on Robert Heinlein

Aaron emails to point out a very interesting interview at Wired.  It seems that Greg Benford knew everyone.

It seems that Heinlein was a good shot.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Tuesday evening Dallas meet-up

I fly out today for Dallas for a week.  Any readers in Dallas are invited to a meet-up on Tuesday  evening at the Addison Flying Saucer Draught Emporium, 14999 Montfort Drive.  I'll get there around 7:30 and get a table for the "Borepatch party".

Reader William says they have more beers than you can shake a stick at, which sounds fun.

Johann Sebastian Bach - the Brandenburg concerti

298 years ago today, J.S. Bach dedicated these six concerti to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt.  And there begins a rather amazing tale.

The Margrave was a Prince of the house of Hohenzollern, half-brother of King Frederick of Prussia.  But Margrave was a title that came with no land, and so in 1721 Christian Ludwig was basically a hanger-onat the court of his nephew King Frederick William I.  The new King was a military martinet, creating the army that Frederick der Große would use to fight off most of Europe, and had fired all the court musicians to fund the army.  Bach was looking for a patron.

But the search was futile, at least with the Margrave.  There weren't enough musicians in Berlin to perform the new works, and so the scores were filed away in the Margrave's desk.  There they stayed - unperformed - until his death more than a decade later.  His heirs sold the score (containing Bach's handwritten dedication) for 25 silver Groschen  (groats: about $22 in today's money).  Then they descended into historical shadow - we simply don't know where they were for the next century or more, only being discovered in the Brandenburg archives in 1849.

This is astonishing because these concerti are quite simply the apex of baroque music.  Other compositions may approach them, but none surpass them.  And they were unperformed for the first 129 years after they were written.

But unperformed no more.  Here's 90 minutes of the greatest of the baroque, thanks to Youtube, Bach, and a simply amazing sequence of lucky breaks that kept these from being lost forever.

Concerto No. 1 BWV 1046 In F Major0:00:00 1-01 (No Tempo Indication)0:04:04 1-02 Adagio0:07:48 1-03 Allegro0:12:01 1-04 Menuetto - Trio 1 - Polacca - Trio 2 Concerto No. 2 BWV 1047 In F Major0:19:35 1-05 (No Tempo Indication)0:24:40 1-06 Andante0:28:23 1-07 Allegro Assai Concerto No. 3 BWV 1048 In G Major0:31:04 1-08 (No Tempo Indication)0:36:40 1-09 Adagio - Allegro Concerto No. 4 BWV 1049 In G Major0:41:33 2-01 Allegro0:48:52 2-02 Andante0:52:34 2-03 Presto Concerto No. 5 BWV 1050 In D Major0:57:02 2-04 Allegro1:06:21 2-05 Affettuoso1:12:30 2-06 Allegro Concerto No. 6 BWV 1051 In B Flat Major1:17:33 2-07 (No Tempo Indication)1:22:55 2-08 Adagio Ma Non Tanto1:27:28 2-09 Allegro
Bootnote: Bach is often described as "mathematical" in his composition style, and the workings of the music have since his day been compared to clockwork.  Today turns out to also be the birthday of John Harrison, the discoverer of the Longitude and the most important clockmaker who ever lived - born this day in 1693.  In a stroke of coincidence no less astonishing than the circuitous route that Bach's concerti took on their way to the concert hall, and perhaps appropriate for a man who ordered and measured time as none before, Harrison also died on this day in 1776.

(Originally posted March 24, 2013)

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Offered without comment

Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans - Hurtin' Albertan

Al_in_Ottawa emails to point out this gem from the north, which he said probably hasn't aired south of the border.  Corb Lund is a Canadian country singer/songwriter, one who is a breath of fresh air in today's desert of over-produced Country Pop.  They have a bunch of albums, several of which have gone gold - a testament to its appeal given they seem mostly to sell in the Canadian market.

This song is a throwback to a simpler time in country music, but with a dash of rockabilly.  I like it a lot.  Thanks to Al for cluing me in.

Hurtin' Albertan (Songwriters: Corb Lund, Tim Hus)
A dually diesel pullin' hard with a horse trailer in tow
Montana side of sweet grass and I'm headed home
Trophy buckles and whiskey bottles and a worn out saddle horn
Bareback riders and team ropers, huskin' Taber corn
The roads get better every time I cross north of forty nine
Well I tip my hat and it's good to be back across the medicine line 
Hurtin' albertan with nothing more to lose
Too much oil money, not enough booze
East of the rockies and west of the rest
Do my best to do my damnedest and that's just about all I guess 
Them windy BC mountain passes finally flatten out
Hairpin turns and pst got my heart up in my throat
It's hairy haulin' horses up across the great divide
And them wild Chilcotin buckaroos, they sure know how to ride
The roads get better every time I cross that british columbia line
I tip my hat and it's good to back across the kickin horse line 
Well Saskabush is pretty, yup she's pretty flat
And lord knows I'm a prairie boy so I'm pretty used to that
But farmers facin off with gophers, man it ain't the same
As bein' home at the saddledome for the oilers at the flames
The roads get better every time I cross that saskatchewan line
I tip my hat and it's good to be back on mountain standard time

Friday, March 22, 2019

Lissa is back blogging

Long time readers here will remember a number of links to Lissa, a fellow member of the Northeast Gunbloggers.  She posted a lot about how she came to be a shooter.  She's back blogging now after a hiatus.  You might want to go check her place out.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Anyone want to meet up next week in Dallas?

I'll be in Dallas/Richardson next Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday (including evenings).  Anyone want to meet up for beer and conversation?  Ping me by email (borepatch at gmail) or leave a comment.

Missouri Senate tells Feds to bug off about gun control

This is interesting:
Like it’s predecessor, SB613, Bill SB367 and it’s companion, House Bill HB786, would prevent all state agencies and their employees from enforcing any federal law that infringes the Second Amendment in any way, including gun registrations, fees, fines, licenses and bans. Originally authored in 2014, a former version of the bill was also passed, but vetoed by then Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.
The bill prohibits Missouri agencies from cooperating in the enforcement of those laws.  It's exactly what states like California are doing regarding immigration enforcement, which is a little shadenfreudalistic.   It goes further, though, into territory that seems perhaps a legal bridge too far:
All federal acts, laws, executive orders, administrative orders, court orders, rules, and regulations, whether past, present, or future, which infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States I and Section 23 of the Missouri Constitution shall be invalid in this state, shall not be recognized by this state, shall be specifically rejected by this state, and shall be considered null and void and of no effect in this state.”
Now I am not a lawyer, so don't know how this would play out regarding, say, NFA tax stamps for automatic weapons built and sold within the state.  Interesting times, as the provinces increasingly are rejecting the authority of the Capital.

Win gunnie stuff

Jamie emails to say that Bulk Munitions is giving away a new .50 cal steel ammo can with stuff.  The contest is open to people in the lower 48 states only (Sorry, Rev Paul and Glen).

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Spring has sprung

And if you ask me, not a moment too soon.  To celebrate, here's the canonical Spring Has Sprung song:

I hope the owner of Peter's $1.5M pigeon has hidden it for the day ...

Something BREXIT this way comes

It is looking like the UK will leave the EU at the end of this month, despite a frantic effort by the elites to stop it.  I find this event fascinating and here are three views of what's happening.

First up, E.M. Smith:
I find it funny how frantic folks are being over the notion of a “no deal” joining the rest of the world. One reporter is saying that there are a bunch of drugs now on the “hard to get” list “due to Brexit” (that hasn’t happened yet…) Do they think drugs and food are not available in the rest of the world? That ONLY the EU has medicines, markets for products, cars to sell, food? The absolute LACK of any mention at all of New Zealand lamb, Australian Wheat, Canadian beef, and both Indian and US medicine producers is just stunning. 
I really wonder if folks are that disconnected from reality.
If you are really lucky, Hungary or Italy or Poland or … will refuse to extend Article 50 and the Speaker will refuse to alow a re-vote (the 3rd time now?) on T. May’s “deal” and in 10 days the UK will rejoin the rest of the world as a free nation in charge of their own fate.
The similarities to ZOMGTHERMAGEDDON!!! are striking.  And it's also striking that the EU's constitution has the exact same flaw as the United States' Articles of Confederation had: a single State can gum up the works, resulting in paralysis.  After how they've been treated by the EU, it's entirely plausible that Italy would vote not to extend and everything is basically done.  I wonder if Angela Merkel regrets throwing her weight around against EU member states?

Next up, Natalie Solent on Prime Minister Theresa May's prospects and options:
Whatever she does will make many people angry. The question is which set of people’s anger would it be the best strategy for her to avoid? 
If she revokes Article 50 the fact of doing it will delight Remainers. But the sort of people for whom that matters most now are also the sort of people who are committed anti-Tories. They won’t be delighted with her – nor with her party. They will judiciously register their opinion that at least the sorry cow did the right thing in the end and then vote Labour or Lib Dem or for the Independent Group if it stands. 
The same goes in diluted form if she goes for more extensions and delaying tactics. They may frustrate Brexit in the end, or result in Brexit in name only, but the sort of people who will be happy about that won’t thank Theresa May or switch to voting Tory. But the sort of people who will be utterly infuriated by either the revocation of Article 50 or the death of Brexit by a thousand cuts very much will blame Theresa May and very much will switch from voting Tory. A substantial majority of Conservative voters are pro-Leave. Members of local Conservative Parties are overwhelmingly pro-Leave. Potential Labour-to-Conservative swing voters are also very much pro-Leave and are swing voters because of that very issue. 
I do not know if May has any last scraps of ambition to continue as an MP. I would guess that all that matters to her now is her legacy. But whether she sticks around for the voters of Maidenhead or not, if she fails to deliver Brexit her legacy will be the destruction of the Conservative party. Its most committed supporters are exactly the group who care about Brexit most. If she does deliver it these people will still not think much of her but they will judiciously register their opinion that at least the sorry cow did the right thing in the end and then continue to vote Conservative.
And we wrap up with Perry DeHavilland and a graphic that explains the mess the "Elites" find themselves in:

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Run your own Enigma machine

The Enigma was Nazi German's super secret cipher machine in World War II.  The Brits cracked it (with a little help from the Royal Navy who seized one from a sinking U-Boat) at Bletchley Park.  This was so secret that very few - Churchill and just a handful of others - got briefed on this "ULTRA" intelligence.

Now there is an online Enigma emulator, and another one for the Bombe device that cracked it.  There's just one little hitch: the emulator is from GCHQ - the British NSA:
UK signals intelligence agency GCHQ, celebrating its centenary, has released emulators for famed World War II-era cipher machines that can be run within its web-based educational encryption app CyberChef. 
"We've brought technology from our past into the present by creating emulators for Enigma, Typex and the Bombe in #CyberChef," GCHQ said Thursday via Twitter. "We even tested them against the real thing! Try them out for yourself!"
Is it all above board?  Who knows?  It seems like using this to try to surveil budding cipherpunks is risky.   But if you want to walk on the crypto wild side, here's your chance.

Monday, March 18, 2019


RIP, Dick Dale.  I don't know that this is the most famous guitar intro to a song, but I don't know that it isn't.

He also did a one-of-a-kind cover of Ghost Riders In The Sky.

Thanks for all the great music, Dick.  Hope you're jamming once again with Stevie Ray, in the sky.

The most 31337 candidate in history

It seems that Beto O'Rourke was a computer hacker.  Not just a hacker, but a member of the Cult Of The Dead Cow hacking group.  They are supposedly the ones who popularized the term "31337" (meaning "elite") way back in the '90s.

 _   _
[ x x ]
 \   /
 (` ')


As a politician he may be a good call goof ball, but it seems he has considerable H4X0r cred.

UPDATE: Fixed a very annoying autocorrect barf in the last sentence.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Turlough O'Carolan - various Irish classical tunes

What is the "Classical Music" of Ireland? It's not (Italian) Opera, or (German) symphonies, or even an (English) homage to Ralph Vaughan Williams (who studied under an Irish music professor) "countryside music" in the concert hall. Instead, we find something ancient

Image via Wik féin
We find something that easily might not have been.  Turlough O'Carolan (1670 – 25 March 1738) was the son of a blacksmith.  His father took a job for the MacDermot Roe family; Mrs. MacDermot Roe gave the young lad some basic schooling and saw in him a talent for poetry; when a few years later the 18 year old Turlough went blind after a bout of smallpox, she had him apprenticed to a harpist.  He soon was travelling the land, composing and singing.

This tradition was already ancient by the early 1700s.  it was undeniably Celtic, dating back through the Middle Ages, through the Dark Ages, through Roman times to a barbarous Gaul.  There bards travelled the lands playing for their supper on the harp.

This was O'Carolan's stock in trade.  He rapidly became the most famous singer in the Emerald Isle.  It is said that weddings and funerals were delayed until he was in the vicinity.  One of his most famous compositions - if you have spent any time at all listening to Irish music, you know this tune - was considered too "new fangled" by the other harpists of his day.  Fortunately, he didn't listen to their criticisms.

He married very late, at 50, and had many children.  But his first love was Brigid, daughter of the Schoolmaster at a school for the blind.  He always seemed to have carried a torch for her.

So why is this post in the normal slot reserved for Classical Music?  Listen to this composition of his, and you see the bridge from the archaic Celts to Baroque harpsichord.

And keep in mind how this brilliance might never have blazed, had Mrs. MacDermot Roe not seen the talent in a blind Irish boy and set him upon a path trod by many equally unexpected geniuses, all the way back to St. Patrick.  It is truly said that we never know what our own path will be until we set our foot down on it.

But his was an ancient path and he inherited much from those who trod it before him.  His "Farewell to Music" is said to be more in the traditional mold, and might have been appreciated at a feast held by Vercingetorix before the battle of Alesia.

This music is a bridge between modern and the ancient that disappears into the mists of legend.  Perhaps more importantly, it is a music that is still alive today, after a run of perhaps two and a half millenia.  You don't get more classical than that.

And it is a music where you still hear the yearning of a young blind man for his muse, Brigid.  That is a vitality that should not be exiled to a single day of celebration, even if it is for as illustrious a Saint as Patrick.  On this Feast Day, remember just how deep the roots of our civilization run.

(Originally posted March 16, 2014)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Nathan Carter - Temple Bar

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, which calls for Irish music.  Interestingly, Ireland has a pretty thriving country music scene, one where American country themes are mixed with Irish ones called (sensibly enough) "Country and Irish".  There's even a television show called Opry an Iúir.  It's an interesting mix, not exactly country and not really traditional Irish.  It seems like a good choice for the Feast of Patrick.

Nathan Carter is one of the biggest stars of this scene.  This song is from his 2016 album, Stayin' Up All Night.

Temple Bar (Songwriters)
There's a busker playin' on the street
Watching all the people meet
The boys and girls are back in Dublin town
There's young ones there from everywhere
From America to God knows where
It's just another night in Temple Bar 
So come on down, out on the town
Cause' this is where a good time can be found
So bring along the old squeeze box, the fiddle and guitar
Let's have a good old night in Temple Bar 
There's a stag do here from Liverpool
Chasing hens and on the boat
Old Barney's lashing out the 'Rare Auld Times'
Ah the Glasgow girls are on the floor
And a round of shots have just been poured
It's another crazy night in Temple Bar 
So come on down, out on the town
Cause' this is where a good time can be found
So bring along the old squeeze box, the fiddle and guitar
Let's have a good old night in Temple Bar 
There is no better place to be than this old town tonight
Nobody's going home till' they turn out the lights 
So come on down, out on the town
Cause' this is where a good time can be found
So bring along the old squeeze box, the fiddle and guitar
Let's have a good old night in Temple Bar 
So come on down, out on the town
Cause' this is where a good time can be found
So bring along the old squeeze box, the fiddle and guitar
Let's have a good old night in Temple Bar
Let's have a good old night in Temple Bar 
There's a busker playing on the street
Watching all the people meet

Friday, March 15, 2019

D-plus 75 years parachute drop

The 75th anniversary of D-Day is shaping up to be quite an event.  Part of this is an entire squadron of DC-3/C-47s called Daks Over Normandy.  40 aircraft are currently signed up from a bunch of countries; a bunch will fly to the rendezvous from North America via Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, and Scotland.  The reenactment will be complete:
At approximately 13.40pm on Wednesday 5 June, more than 35 Douglas DC-3/C-47s will take to the skies from Imperial War Museum Duxford. 
Escorted by a number of World War II fighters, they will set course for Caen-Carpiquet Airport in Normandy. The planned flight will pass Colchester, Southend-on-Sea, Maidstone and Eastbourne before heading out over The Channel. 
They will pass Le Havre and then the historic UK Drop Zone at Ranville, where the skies will be filled with paratroopers jumping round military parachutes, as they descend in honour of the troops who did the same 75 years ago.

If you're planning on being in the area then, you can pick up tickets here.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

In other Civil War 2.0 news

Related to my last post, this shows later stage Progressivism.

Slouching towards Civil War 2.0

It's long been said that Republicans think that Democrats are stupid, while Democrats think that Republicans are evil.  So what happens when you combine stupid with evil?

Act the first: The Stupid, it burns!
Dugas works as a retail security manager, so he went back into the mall to look at surveillance footage of the parking lot. 
At 12:40 p.m., a car parked next to his SUV. Four women got out. Two of them peered into his vehicle — where there was a red "Make America Great Again" hat on the console.
The women went into a store, reappeared seven minutes later and got into their car. But a minute later, the driver and front passenger got out again.
There's a special type of stupid in slashing someone's tire because they have a MAGA hat on their dashboard.  It's a double dose of stupid when it's in a place where there's pretty ubiquitous surveillance. Nick Dugas worked for Mall security and so he had access to the camera footage, but any customer who was victim of a crime would have had Mall Security's full cooperation.  The perp was going to get caught, and caught easily.  Over a MAGA hat and a hair trigger temper.

Like I said, stupid.  But there's more.

Act the second: Evil is as evil does.
Dugas saw this kid sleeping on his belly and the 6-foot-6 man bent down to help him. He fed him, gained his confidence, and learned the truth. 
Bland wrote, "The boy began to talk. His mom took off when he was 2. He lived with his dad. But he had run away a week ago. He told him why. 
"Dugas listened in silence. He had grown up in Portland, Oregon, with attentive parents and a big sister in a nice house. They had taken family vacations and camped every summer. While he might not have had everything he wanted, he had everything he needed.
"Sitting at the table, the boy had inched up his shirt to show Dugas his back. There were lash marks, 63 of them, where he had been hit with a broken car antenna." 
Dugas took the kid in. This required filing paperwork, getting cleared by the state as a foster parent, and getting permission from the father to take the kid in. Dugas and eventually adopted him. Last June was his first Father's Day as a father.
That was the man who was seen as so evil (for having a MAGA hat) that someone slashed his tire.

This is the sort of story that makes me wonder if this Republic can survive.  Democrats have seen Republicans as evil for a long time, but now they're acting stupidly.  Violently and stupidly.  And that is perhaps causing Republicans - who have long seen Democrats as stupid - to now see them as evil as well.

The middle ground of shared "we're all in this together" that has been a core of political life in this Republic as long as I can remember is fraying.  Once those bonds snap, it will get very ugly.  Plausibly you could make the argument that we're already in a shooting war, although I don't think that I'd go that far.

Not yet.  But going into next year's election campaign we can expect things to get worse, not better.

But it doesn't matter whether you're a good citizen or a good neighbor.  Not if you have a MAGA hat on your dashboard.  This will not end well.

Decoding BREXIT

Man, the BREXIT mess is, well, getting messier:
Theresa May's voice cracked today as she warned MPs that Brexit 'could be lost' forever as her hopes of winning tonight's 'last chance' vote were devastated by Tory Brexiteers and the DUP abandoning her renegotiated deal. 
The Prime Minister was supported in the Commons by her husband Philip, who was watching his wife from the public gallery, as her deal appeared on the verge of a fatal collapse despite her warning rebels that Britain may never leave the EU. 
Mrs May, who is losing her voice after her late night rescue mission to Strasbourg last night, said: 'A lot of focus has been on the legal changes - but if this vote does not pass Brexit could be lost'.
This last bit made me sit up.  Legal challenges?  What's the deal there?

You see, unlike here in the US of A, Great Britain has an unwritten constitution.  Steven den Beste wrote about this almost twenty years ago:
Part of the difference in opinion, especially between the US and the UK, comes from the difference of having a real constitution, set out directly in words, which describes how the game is played. We've got that and it's served us damned well for more than 200 years. It's been amended many times (and it is a tribute to the wisdom of the Framers that they included an amendment process) but at its deepest level there was a great deal of wisdom in it. It's written on paper but it has power in this country as if it were etched in steel. We have things like our right of free expression not merely because the government sees fit to let us use it, but because it's written in that steel and the government cannot take it away even if it wants to try to do so. 
In the UK, there is no constitution as such. No-one in the UK actually has any rights, in the sense that we in the US use the term. There's centuries of common practice and precedent, but Parliament can override that at any time. We have a hard right of free press; in the UK, Parliament can revoke that (and has, in fact, partially done so in the last fifteen years). We have a constitutional right to not be held in jail without being charged for a crime; in the UK the government has the ability to lock up anyone it wants any time it wants for as long as it wants without even saying why. 
It doesn't do so; the government in the UK doesn't generally abuse this. But it could and would be completely legal doing so.
So why the "legal problem"?  British Subjects don't have any rights other than those which Parliament chooses to recognize at the time.  Why not just pass the thing and damn the torpedoes?  And here we get to the heart of the matter: we're not talking about the citizen's rights, we're talking about Parliament's rights.

Parliamentary Supremacy is really the heart of the matter, and is at the core of how the UK political system works:
The doctrine of parliamentary supremacy may be summarized in three points:
  • Parliament can make laws concerning anything.
  • No Parliament can bind a future parliament (that is, it cannot pass a law that cannot be changed or reversed by a future Parliament).
  • A valid Act of Parliament cannot be questioned by the court. Parliament is the supreme lawmaker.
It's that second bullet point that matters here.  Unlike in the good ol' US of A where a treaty becomes essentially on the same legal standing as part of our Constitution (once signed by the President and ratified by the Senate), a treaty in the UK is just another act of Parliament (remember, there isn't a separation of powers there, not like here).  If you can vote for it today, a future Parliament can vote it away.

The EU seems to be asking the UK for something that Parliament simply can't (or won't) do.  Suddenly, the UK finds itself in the position that the US has been in for a long time.  As den Beste explained:
There is a perception in the US that Europe takes the concept of "team player" to an extreme, where it becomes an end in itself instead of a means to an end.
But more to the point is that Europe has been using pressure on the US to be a "team player" as a way of subverting the Constitution. Most of the treaties and agreements that the Bush Administration has rejected (and been castigated for) could not have been enforced in the US without infringing our constitutional rights. 
For example, the biological warfare convention required that inspectors be able to go anywhere and look at anything they wanted without warning. That's a violation of the Fourth Amendment; the government of the US does NOT have the right to make speculative searches. No way, no how. With that provision, the US could not sign that agreement.
Welcome to the party, pal.  No UK government is going to do what the EU is demanding.  And so the smart money seems to be betting that Prime Minister May will ask the EU for an extension, which the EU will refuse.  The reason for that is that the UK is going to leave the EU, and EU elections are coming up next month or so - the last thing that the EU wants is a bunch of Euro-skeptic MPs voting against, well, everything in Strasbourg.

And so the "hard BREXIT" date will hit next week or the week after, and things will be a mess for a while until everyone sorts things out.  It would be too damaging on both the UK and EU economies to not sort things out, even if the politicians hate each other.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

I saw it on the internet so it has to be true

A man from Waterbury in Connecticut faces divorce after his wife found out that he was not actually deaf and had been faking it for more than 62 years to avoid having to listen to her. 
According to the divorce papers, 84-year old Barry Dawson never spoke a single word in front of his 80-year old wife Dorothy during the decades they lived together.
Seems that this is making the rounds on the 'net - it's a funny story and so it's popping up all over.  The only problem?  It's not true.

Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page in the link.  You'll find this:
World News Daily Report assumes all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and for the fictional nature of their content. All characters appearing in the articles in this website – even those based on real people – are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any person, living, dead or undead, is purely a miracle.
Entirely fictional.  The site does satire.  This is pretty funny satire, but satire it remains.

People don't listen to Green Hypocrites

It's Science! telling us that:

Abstract Would you follow advice about personal energy conservation from a climate specialist with a large carbon footprint? Many climate researchers report anecdotes in which their sincerity was challenged based on their alleged failure to reduce carbon emissions. Here, we report the results of two large online surveys that measure the perceived credibility of a climate researcher who provides advice on how to reduce energy use (by flying less, conserving home energy, and taking public transportation), as a function of that researcher’s personal carbon footprint description. Across the two studies, we randomly assigned partici- pants to one of 18 vignettes about a climate scientist. We show that alleged large carbon footprints can greatly reduce the researcher’s credibility compared to low footprints.
Gee, ya think?

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Quote of the Day: Blowing things up edition

Miguel is simply unimprovable here:
If I ever have enough money to go back to school and get another degree, I am going go to New Mexico Tech and get a Masters in Explosives Engineering in association with the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center. 
I cannot imagine anything cooler than saying “I have an advanced degree in slowing shit up.”
But then he rolls up his sleeves, spits on his hands, and methodically blows up the new Democratic Party.

Why do American Jews vote Democrat?

Frequent commenter NITZAKHON asks over at his place.  He's Jewish, and is as mystified as I am.

But to me it seems like they're voting against their interest.  Perhaps cultural identity trumps religious identity for many, but it sure looks like the crocodile isn't going to eat them last.

UPDATE 12 March 2019 11:52: About sums it up:

Monday, March 11, 2019

Good news for power grid security?

While it doesn't look to be a panacea, this seems like a good step:
Can emerging technologies improve the way the American electrical grid operates? 
The Department of Energy is seeking ideas for such technologies through a $1 million challenge posted to The agency wants concepts for new technologies that could be used by the energy sector to improve the efficiency, safety and cybersecurity of the country’s electricity system.
This does seem like progress is a traditionally neglected area.

Now this is how you measure the temperature of the planet

Hat tip: buddy Rod via email.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Damned Daylight Savings Time

Everything is so inconvenient ...

Pablo de Sarasate - Navarra Op. 33

Image from Wikipedia
In the eight years (and several hundred) classical music posts, it seems that I've never featured a Spanish composer.  That's odd, because the late 19th century saw a flowering of music containing classical themes.  Sibelius, Grieg, Smetana, Musorgski, Vaughan Williams: all embodied the music of their lands.  And so with Sarasate.

He was the son of an Army band leader, and (like many of the composers we've seen here) showed musical aptitude at a very young age.  He gave his first concert at age 8 and impressed a wealthy patron who financed his musical education which culminated at the Paris Conservatory.  He was influential early on, as the Spanish flavor of his works quickly became popular.

Interestingly, he was quite famous in his day: Arthur Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson attend a concert by him, and Edith Wharton's The Age Of Innocence includes a scene with the main character being invited to a private recital by Sarasate.

This performance is by Julian Rachlin, Nikolaj Znaider, and Sophie Rachlin at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Moscow.

Happy birthday, Pablo!  Born this day in 1844.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Cumberland River - Justified

What makes our writing different is the way we were raised and grew up in the mountains. 
- Joey Jones, Cumberland River Basist
The problem that I have with the "New" Nashville is that the music is basically produced by computer algorithm.  Desperate for crossover hits (c.f. Taylor Swift), the music is homogenized and pasteurized and pureed until there's no country left in the music.  Then a banjo is added back in.

No thanks.  What's stripped out in that process is all traces of authenticity.  It's gotten a lot harder over the last ten years to find interesting authentic country music.  Fortunately, some of you pitch in to help out.  A comment a couple months back from Miguel GFZ led me to this group which has authenticity like nothing I've heard in a long time.

Harlan, Kentucky is a little town in a valley between mountains.  It's no stranger to country music - Steve Earle wrote "Harlan Man", Emmylou Harris sang "Goin' Back To Harlan", and more recently Brad Paisley covered "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive".  Like a lot of small towns in those mountains the town has seen hard times - the population was never big, and has dropped by 10% in the last ten years.  It's the seat of Harlan County but there are only 1700 people or so who live there.  But the people have their hopes and dreams, and their pride.  That was on full display in 1973 strike against the Eastover Mining Company when shots were fired and blood flowed in the town.

The Queen Of The World is a Kentucky girl and said that Harlan used to be a place that you wouldn't go if you didn't know someone.  It was rough back then, and folk stuck to themselves.  She says it's changed a lot since then.

In 2011 the FX Network was producing a television show called Justified, set in Appalachia.  The producers were in town and invited a local band to audition.  In 24 hours, Cumberland River wrote this song which was featured on the show.  It's not exactly country, and not exactly bluegrass, but it sounds entirely true to itself.  That's a long way from Nashville, at least these days: 300 miles and a world apart.

Miguel, thanks for pointing these guys out.

Justified (Songwriters: Cumberland River)
They called this town bloody at one time in its life.
Just because that the simple man would not give up without a fight.
My mamma, she raised me and taught me wrong from right.
Daddy was a no count dog, done nothing but steal, cheat and lie.
Ain't it funny how destiny works out things in life like how I became a Law man.
I think thats Justified

Some people call me reckless but I dont give a damn.
They just see that im the law and forget ima Harlan man.
There was a time I worked down in the mine.
I got caluses on my hands.
Most people dont like my way----they just dont understand.
So if you got a problem with the way i live my life.
I can help you close your eyes.I think thats Justified

Before you cross that county line and break the law in my town.
Theres a few things you might wanna know before the deal goes down.
You may be in a hollar where you think you cant be found.
But dont you ever doubt it son cause ill always be around.
I wear a star on my chest and a 6 gun on my side.
Look out boy you just might be staring down the barrel of a 45.

Theres not a judge in this town that'll help you now.And I think thats Justified

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Top shelf mockery

This is a damned funny commentary on BREXIT:

Via Chris Lynch, who you do read every day, right?  Thought so.

KGB Stooges

Real live ones.  I stumbled across something pretty interesting: a book using KGB archives to call out who in Western Europe was a KGB rat:
When KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin (1922-2004) moved to the U.K. in 1992, he took with him 25,000 pages crammed with information about Soviet espionage activities going back to the 1930s. This trove, known as the Mitrokhin Archive, has provided the material for several books, beginning with The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB (1999) by Mitrokhin and historian Christopher Andrew. 
In 2001, Norway’s largest newspaper, VG, reported on a forthcoming book that would divulge previously unreported information about Labor Party politicians’ Cold War-era KGB ties; ten years later, in 2011, another major daily, Dagbladet, reported that the book’s publication had been stopped by Labor Party leaders – and that some former KGB spies were still employed in both the Foreign Ministry and Labor Party. The media establishment responded to this revelation, too, by trying to discredit it. The book was reportedly suppressed by Thorbjørn Jagland, a Labor Party pol and former Prime Minister who in 2001 was Minister of Foreign Affairs – and who was, as it happens, one of those named in the book as KGB informants. (Jagland, famous in the U.S. mainly as the man behind Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, is currently Secretary-General of the Council of Europe.)
(Bold is my emphasis - Borepatch)

Look, I don't have a problem with people who are leftist - that's most of my family, actually.  But there's a difference when you take coin on the sly from your country's adversary, and maybe even suppress publication of that fact because you're a powerful politician who wants to avoid some embarrassment.

And how cool is a site called Useful Stooges?

More climate data manipulations

Yes, I'm beating this drum again, but it's the key point in the debate: the raw data (data as recorded) do not show much or any warming, but after the data are adjusted the record shows considerable warming. Interestingly, the primary way this is done is not by adjusting current temperatures upward, but by adjusting old temperatures downwards.  This is a good overview of how that sausage is made:
The hubris of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology is on full display with its most recent remodelling of the historic temperature record for Darwin. The Bureau has further dramatically increased the rate of global warming at Darwin by further artificially lowering historic temperatures. 
This begins by shortening the historical temperature record so that it begins just after the very hot years of the Federation drought. Then by changing the daily values: that is changing the observed measured temperatures to something else. 
For example, on 1st January 1910 the maximum temperature recorded at the Darwin post office was 34.2 degrees Celsius. 
A few years ago, the Bureau changed this to 33.8 degrees Celsius, cooling the recorded temperature by 0.4 degrees. In its most recent re-revision of Darwin’s climate history the temperature on this day has been further reduced, and is now just 32.8.
Remember, the scientific consensus is that the global average temperature increased by about a degree celsius during the 20th Century.  Here we see that one degree celsius created out of thin air.  And this happens repeatedly over the years for the same site, with the adjustments changing over time:
Environmental reporter for the Australian newspaper, Graham Lloyd, asked the Bureau why it had made such changes earlier in the week. A spokesperson is quoted in The Weekend Australian as follows:
“For the case of Darwin, a downward adjustment to older records is applied to account for differences between the older sites and the current site, and difference¬s between older thermometers and the current automated sensor. 
“In other words, the adjustments estimate what historical temperatures would look like if they were recorded with today’s equipment at the current site.” 
Yet this is a version of exactly the same reason given by the Bureau just six years ago for reducing the temperature on 1 January 1910 by ‘only’ 0.4 degrees. 
Neither the equipment, nor the site has changed since ACORN-SAT Version 1 was published in 2012.
Nothing has changed at the weather site for a long time.  Adjustments are almost always done because of station changes - different equipment or siting, for example.  Doesn't apply here:
To be clear, the weather station has been at the airport since February 1941, and an automatic weather station was installed on 1 October 1990. A Stevenson screen was first installed at the post office site in 1894, and has always been used at the airport site. 
So, why was the temperature dropped down by a further one degree for 1 January 1910 in the most recent revision – undertaken just a few months ago? There is no logical or reasonable explanation.
Nope.  The gap between raw and adjusted data is striking.  The green and blue lines on the graph are the raw data (note that the station was moved to the airport in 1941 which is the shift from green to blue).  The red are the adjusted data.

Hard to get much of a warming signal there - there doesn't seem to be any increase during the green period and not much at all during the blue.

Let me say again: the 20th Century supposedly say 1° warming over the entire 100 years, and yet downward adjustments to old years add that or more.  My opinion is that the data simply do not show much - or perhaps even any - warming.

I would love the Trump administration to conduct a serious audit of the data adjustment process, requiring site-by-site justification for adjustments.  And then fire any scientist who makes changes once the adjustments are all approved.  I'd also like to see Trump make NOAA publish unadjusted (raw) data as well, i.e. "20th Century temperatures increased by 1°C (adjusted); temperature increased by 0.1° (unadjusted)".  At least then we would have a more honest discussion on the subject.

Remember, the ClimateGate emails contained exchanges between the scientists talking about how to reduce the hot "blip" in the 1940s.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

We need more common sense pencil control

Maybe licensing?  I mean, c'mon - you can just walk up and buy these at the store!

Link Dump

Here are some things that are all interesting, but none of which tipped the scales for a stand alone post.

Uber will not face criminal charges for Elaine Herzberg's death.  The DA is still deciding about charges for the driver, who seems to have been streaming TV to her phone instead of looking at the road when the fatal crash happened.  Uber has already settled for an undisclosed sum with Herzberg's family.

The pull quote from that article?  An email from an Uber developer: "We shouldn't be hitting things every 15,000 miles."  Gee, ya think?

I'm not a prepper but I now that some of you are.  This is an interesting post on someone starting a garden with a view to long term SHTF survivability.  Seed storage lifetime and time from planting to harvest are covered, along with how squash will cross into new types that may or may not be long term productive.  It's probably not a lot of new info for hard core preppers but is a good quick introduction.

Did you ever wonder how the Internet works?  How do messages get delivered?  This is a quite accessible (although slightly technical) overview.

The great unpublished story about how oil exploration has been revolutionized (and killed "peak oil") has an unlikely angle: gravity.  This is simply fascinating.  It appears that we can "see" oil deposits wherever they are on the planet.  Now this is the 21st Century that I had been promised.

And an update to yesterday's post about NSA discontinuing its mass surveillance program (maybe):

In which I make Slashdot

It's in the comments, so you know that it isn't flattering.  Or very intelligent.  This is my favorite comment:
I believe these figures [] more than the nonsense from that Borepatch site, a site that's keen to list externalities like the cost of food when power goes up, but not when we burn the Earth's densest carbon sinks.
I'm entirely mystified as to what this means.  It's formed similarly to English language grammar, but has no coherent content.  "Externalities like the cost of food"?  Huh?  But I guess I'm keen to list this, though.  Good tip.

Forget it,  Jake.  It's Slashdot.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Has NSA stopped mass collection of metadata?

The National Security Agency has quietly discontinued a controversial program put in place after the September 11 terrorist attacks that collected and analyzed millions of Americans' domestic calls and texts, according to a senior Republican congressional aide. 
The NSA hasn't used the system in months, and the Trump administration might not seek to renew its legal authority, Luke Murray, the national security advisor for House minority leader Kevin McCarty (R-Calif.), said in a podcast Saturday.

Under a controversial national security policy put in place by the Patriot Act in 2001, the NSA had been collecting large amounts of metadata, the digital information that accompanies electronic communications. That information included what phone numbers were on the call, when the call was placed and how long it lasted, which was then saved in a database.
Right now this seems to be nothing but word of mouth, so I'm curbing my enthusiasm.  However, if it's true then this is a big step forward for privacy.

Bad initial assumptions lead to bad pubic policy in the War On Drugs

We see this all the time with gun control - what possible justification can there be for "assault weapons" bans when these are used in one or two percent of gun crimes?  And yet there's the never ending drumbeat of "Assault weapons are BAD, mkay?"

You cannot solve a problem if you don't understand the problem.

Silicon Graybeard has a long and information rich post about how the war on drugs is simultaneously keeping patients from being able to control chronic pain while making no headway at all in reducing opioid overdose deaths:
The problem, as usual, is that the Government regulators are starting from a bad assumption.  They assumed today's junkie shooting contaminated fentanyl is yesterday's patient who started out on prescription drugs and got addicted that way.  Only about 8% of people who receive prescription opioids develop addictions.  80% of addicts get started in other, less legal, ways.
As the Journal of Pain Research points out, the government’s campaign is based on a false premise: “Today’s non-medical opioid users are not yesterday’s patients.” Medical users usually do not become addicts.
Wrong assumptions lead to wrong law, and doctors are being threatened with their livelihoods by new regulations. 
In my field of computer security there's a saying: sometimes its easier not to do something stupid than it is to do something smart.  Issues are complicated, and data are often sparse.  Fortunately, there's still a sense here that we don't know as much as we'd like to.

But not in the realm of public policy:
A study by Harvard’s Jeffrey Miron and others shows the government’s anti-opioid crusade has backfired and actually increased opioid addiction and overdose deaths:
Opioid overdose deaths have risen dramatically in the United States over the past two decades.… The opioid epidemic has resulted from too many restrictions on prescribing, not too few. Rather than decreasing opioid overdose deaths, restrictions push users from prescription opioids toward diverted or illicit opioids, which increase the risk of overdose because consumers cannot easily assess drug potency or quality in underground markets. The implication of this “more restrictions, more deaths” explanation is that the United States should scale back restrictions on opioid prescribing, perhaps to the point of legalization.
Again, issues are complicated and data are sparse.  It is, once again, easier not to do something stupid than it is to do something smart.  And yet here we are, mired up to our necks in stupid.

What SiGraybeard does not venture into is motivations.  How is it possible for all of the Organs of the State to have produced a result that is not just worse than doing nothing, but probably worse than any other policy conceivable?  After all, overdose deaths are skyrocketing, opioids are for sale on ever street corner in the land, the prisons are packed to overflowing, and patients are forced to live in excruciating pain for years.  It's hard to come up with an outcome worse than this, and yet the War on Drugs persists.

I think that the explanation is summed up in Jerry Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy:
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people":
 First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration. 
Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has a bunch of folks who are trying to keep people from killing themselves with narcotics.  They're in the first group.  But the Iron Law says that they will not be the ones who end up running the Agency.  Those will be from the second group - those who work to increase the power, scope, and budget of the DEA.

Note that keeping patients out of excruciating pain is not going to increase the power, scope, or budget of the DEA.  And so it does not happen.

The idea that really smart policy, implemented by smart and dedicated public servants is one that we scoff at when it is proposed for gun control.  It's right that we scoff, because it's no more plausible than Unicorns.  It's a tale to comfort small children.

And so with the stupid War On Drugs.  We're not going to get smart policy implemented by smart and dedicated public servants.  The Iron Law explains everything that you need to know about why.  It's long past time to declare victory and bring the troops home.