Wednesday, September 30, 2020

What are the Debates for?

The debate last night: meh.

The Queen Of The World and I went to some friend's house last night for a "Debate Party".  This is Trump land and so the atmosphere was a whole lot different than back in Maryland.  Trump threw lots of red meat to the home crowd, which everyone enjoyed.  But Biden did the same for his supporters, which they no doubt enjoyed, too.  Overall, I don't think that either candidate changed any minds at all.

This made me wonder what debates are all about.  Way back in the day, it was really the only way for citizens to size up the candidates.  The Lincoln-Douglas debates are justly famous for this, where the debate would go on for hours.  It was really the only time that the crowd could get direct, unfiltered access in a pre mass-market media marketplace.

That's changed, but the debates continue.  Why?  What do we get out of this whole brouhaha?

Partly this gives us a chance to see the two candidates in a highly stressful situation.  It may be the only time we see them in a highly stressful situation.  Neither candidate has any control over the other and needs to react to unanticipated circumstances.  Quite frankly, this is a pretty helpful insight into how someone ticks - especially someone who will have his finger on the Doomsday Button.

I'm not sure how many people realize how important this is, or pay attention to it.  Certainly there are a lot of political analysts who are talking about how Biden didn't react well to Trump, and even asked moderator Chris Wallace for help controlling the President.  There may be a lot of people who didn't consciously pick up on this but who got a bad vibe about "leadership" and "strength", but this is pure speculation on my part.  As far as I can tell nobody is polling or focus grouping this so all we have is conjecture.

My scoring is that Trump did much better than Biden did on this point last night.  He had to react not only to Slow Joe but also to Chris Wallace who was clearly trying to help Biden.  His reaction is in stark contrast to Mitt Romney who rolled over to Candy Crowley in 2012.  Now it didn't really tell us anything we didn't know - that Trump is much more adaptable and thinks better on his feet in unpredictable situations - but this is confirmation that we saw with our own eyes.

Anyway, I can't see anything else that comes from the debates, but this seems pretty valuable.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Blogshoot location: Manatee Gun Club?

 OK, people have been saying they might come to a blogshoot depending on where it is.  So let me open the discussion with my gun club: Manatee Gun and Archery Club in Myakka City, FL.

It looks to be about an hour from Sarasota, Tampa, and a little more to Orlando.  It has 25, 100, 200, 300, and 600 yard ranges.  It's $15 for a half day (afternoon, 1:00 - 5:00).  It also has a (small) campground if people want to bring their campers/RVs/5th Wheels.

If someone has a different venue please drop it in the comments.  If you'd be willing to go to a blogshoot at Manatee, please leave a comment.

Movies X - Car Chases

 This post isn't about a single movie, it's about car chase scenes. There are a lot of movies that include great car chases and some movies that are nothing more than a car chase from start to finish.

I will be looking in the comments for your favorites and understand that I many not mention some that I know and like just because I don't think of them as I write this. So no cheating, no searching, what follows is a list of great car chase scenes or movies off the top of my head.

1. The French Connection

2. Bullitt

3. Vanishing Point  

4. Gone in 60 Seconds (the original)

5. Mad Max 2

6. Baby Driver

And after I looked up some scenes on YouTube, let's add Ronin, To Live and Die in L.A., The Blues Brothers, The Seven-Ups, and just because it's John Wayne there's McQ.

I saw the original Gone in 60 Seconds at a drive-in. It was the second half of a double feature. I don't remember what the other movie was, but the over the top chase sequence with that Mustang stuck with me. I only saw it once and it wasn't until YouTube that I got to see it again. It's pretty cheesy by today's standards, but I still like that Mustang.

Vanishing Point is another one of my favorites and I think it stood the test of time better. Here's some scenes.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Who is up for a West/Central Florida Blogshoot?

 The weather is cooling off (soon now - real soon) and so who would be interested in a blogshoot in the Tampa/Orlando/Ft. Myers area?  Some weekend in the next 6 weeks or so.

Vincent Youmans - Overture to No, No, Nanette

Every Red Sox fan recognizes the name of this musical.  The Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees to finance this musical leading, triggering 86 years of baseball humiliation at the hands of the Bronx Bombers.

Except it seems that this isn't actually true.  Ruth was sold to finance a forgettable musical "My Lady Friends", not No No Nanette.  Presumably the latter was included in the "Curse of the Bambino" because it was one of the most successful musicals of the 1920s (Ruth's glory days in pinstripes).

Vincent Youmans was a young man whose plans of becoming an engineer were derailed when he was drafted into the Navy in World War I.  Rather than seeing combat, he found himself in charge of putting on entertainments for the sailors.  After the War, he became one of the "Tin Pan Alley" composers, penning this song along with collaborations with Ira Gershwin and Oscar Hammerstein among others.  He became one of the most successful composers for Broadway - and wrote all the music for Fred Astaire's and Ginger Rogers' first film, Flying Down To Rio.

Sadly, his career was cut short.  After only 13 years he came down with tuberculous and died at the age of 47.  You wonder what other music he might have written if he had been spared that fate.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Kenny Chesney - It's That Time of Day

Even here in Florida it's getting clear that summer is coming to an end.  Days are getting shorter and nighttime temperatures are dropping into the (gasp!) 60s.  You can (almost) feel the chill of autumn.


This is a song for Summer's end, if you listen.

It's That Time of Day (songwriter: Kenny Chesney)

It's that time of day
That we all knew would come
To pay for all the rum
And pull up anchor cause we're done
It's that time of day
I see a cotton candy sky
So many colors in my eyes
Proof again God's alive

This ain't a goodbye
It's a "till I see you again"
What a wonderful time
We've all shared my friends
Another day at sea
Has come and gone away
So adios to Jost
Adios to Jost
Adios to Jost
It's that time of day

It's that time of day
When we bottle up the sun
Let our inhibitions run
Feeling courageous and numb
It's that time of day
When we take a leap of faith
Hand in hand as we pray
In this moment we could stay

This ain't a goodbye
It's a "till I see you again"
What a wonderful time
We've all shared my friends
Another day at sea
Has come and gone away
So adios to Jost
Adios to Jost
Adios to Jost
It's that time of day

Adios to Jost
Adios to Jost
Adios to Jost
It's that time of day

I see sails in silhouette
A sailor's sky turning red
So many I love you's said
Toasts are made
It's that time of day
It's that time of day
It's that time of day

Adios to Jost
Adios to Jost
Adios to Jost
It's that time of day

"Jost" is a reference to Jost Van Dyke island in the British Virgin Islands.  Jost is a small island with only 298 inhabitants, but they seem like good folks.  Hurricane Irma hit them hard but they took things in hand:

With little aid from the British or territorial governments during the week following the storm, Jost Van Dyke's 298 residents set up a recovery and command center Foxy’s Tamarind Bar and Restaurant.[4]Food from other restaurants and residences were brought to Foxy's, which housed the island's only major, surviving refrigerator and generators before others were repaired by the Royal Marines later that month.[4] Residents used a salvaged chainsaw to clear roads and connect remote parts of the islands.[4]

Chesney filmed an earlier music video there.  It sounds like a fun place:

Included in the video were several scenes at One Love Bar and Ivan's Stress-Free Bar where it is common for patrons to mix their own drinks and leave their payment in the register.


Friday, September 25, 2020

More Boeing 737 MAX problems

 The British Airline Pilot's Association does not like Boeing's proposed fix to the MCAS system, and I don't blame them:

The NPRM, published here, proposes various fixes to the 737 Max design, its software and procedures for pilots to follow in the event of a problem. One of those procedures includes disabling the airliner's automatic trim system, operated by MCAS when the software kicks in, and having the two pilots use a manual backup trim wheel instead of the aircraft's powerful electric motors.

BALPA said: "Requiring both crew members to turn the trim wheel simultaneously in a non-normal scenario is extremely undesirable and goes against all philosophies of having one pilot fly and one run the QRH[quick reference handbook: reading out the emergency checklist]. No flight control system should require both pilots to operate it at any stage, let alone in an emergency."

Holy cow, Boeing looks like they're trying to get an automated system as confusing and likely-to-kill-everybody-on-board as Airbus.  Making both pilots do an emergency synchronized swim to keep from crashing sure seems suboptimal to me.  And if you click through and read the whole article, it looks like the pilots tried something a lot like that in one of the crashes that did kill everyone.

Damn, I'm starting to think that I never want to fly on one of the damn things.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Why the polls are wrong, part CCXIII

 The polls show a tight election race.  It won't be close I still stand by my prediction that Donald Trump will get 354 electoral votes to easily win the White House.  The argument is that polling at this point is driven by the organizations that are funding the pollsters, so there's a lot of Democratic Party cash flowing and the pollsters take the attitude that the customer is always right.  This statement is testable - as we get within 2 weeks of the election the polls should swing to a Trump lead as the pollsters shift focus from cash intake to a desire to be close to the actual results (to maintain their reputations).  We'll see in a month.

But there's also a lot of evidence of a Trump lead all over the place, if you look.  Here are a set of links and data points for your consideration - all of which point to support for Trump.  None of them make you think that the polls show Biden to be ahead.

Item the first: here in Sunny west coast Florida the TV airways are bombarded daily with dozens of adverts for Joe Biden.  I think I've only seen *one* ad for Trump in the last 3 months.  Now, we live in deep red Trump country, but you'd think if Trump were tied with Slow Joe that you'd see a more aggressive advertising schedule.  You don't.

Item the Second: Linda Fox (writing at Bastion of Liberty) points out that people who didn't vote for Trump in 2016 look like they're going to vote for him this time:

How have ordinary citizens reacted [to Trump's achievements since 2017]?

With support. With a willingness to consider voting for him. With increasingly suspicious of media 'narratives' (which will come in HUGELY when the inevitable October 'surprise' is released). With lessened hostility.

The tepid and sparse crowds for Joe Biden are a reflection of his weak appeal (as well as disinclination to vote for an obviously addled candidate).

Harris was a surprise to me. I didn't really like her, but I thought others might.

Surprise, surprise. People DON'T warm up to her. She looks like a lightweight, who got their the old-fashioned Leftist way - on her knees.

Even my husband, a man with an eye for hot women, and a reliable Dem vote, doesn't like her - at all.

Black men don't like her. At least, the ones I've talked to.

The Democrats say that people don't like Donald Trump but they don't seem to recognize that this applies to their candidates as well.

Item the Third: People are sick of the riots and want a crack down on rioters:

The post about the [Florida Legislature's] future bill to deal with rioters is getting all the attention while other posts are getting the usual amount of traffic, And I am going to opine that the reason is not because I am cute or popular or even know how to write pretty. The reason is simple: People are sick of protests and somehow the post reflected what they were feeling and they shared their frustration among their friends with links to the post. It became a lightning rod.

Look again at the screen cap: That is over 400,000 pissed off people who agreed on a set of measures aimed at the stupid dancing the Democrats have been supporting for the past months,

Miguel - don't sell yourself short: of course you're cute and popular.  But you hit the nail on the head.  Boy, howdy.

Item the Fourth: Republicans have basically eliminated the Democrat's advantage in voter registration in Florida.  Remember, this is supposed to be a "battleground" State, and it's probably not possible for Biden to win if he loses here.  But the Democrat's 300,000+ advantage in registered voters here is basically gone.  And this is a very telling data point from someone who is paid to pay very close attention:

Ryan Tyson, a Republican pollster and strategist, said that an electorate with more Republicans could have an effect on polls, some of which model a far-higher Democratic voter base than exists and therefore run the risk of making Trump appear to be farther behind Biden. In an analysis, Tyson's data analytics team found that 119,000 more Democratic voters have switched their registration to Republican or independent than Republicans Party switchers since 2016.

“When we manage to get 57,000 new registrants in a month, It’s historic. And a lot of that is just organic,” he said. “Something’s in the water and with 41 days out of the election, we find ourselves beating the Democrats at their own game.”

I added the key emphasis in the quoted text.  The Democrats are bleeding voters - and for every voter who is so fed up that they go to the Town Office and change their registration, there are more who don't bother - but who will vote for Trump and down ticket Republicans.  Who can say how many, but this is a very, very bad sign for the Democrats.  This is hard data backing up Linda Fox' and Miguel's commentary.

Item the Fifth: Back up at Castle Borepatch (located in deep blue Maryland) we saw lots of Trump signs.  There was hardly a Biden sign to be found.  Now this was back in May but by then everybody knew that Joe was going to be the nominee, and you would have expected to see yard signs going up outside the doors of the Democratic Party faithful.  You didn't.  As Spinal Tap might have said, it looks like Joe's appeal is getting more selective.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

How to read Pravda

Back during the Cold War when I was a newly minted engineer (Electrical, thanks for asking!) I took a job at Three Letter Intelligence Agency.  Everything there was burn-before-reading Top Secret, and the security clearances for some of the new hires hadn't been completed yet.  So what does a big agency do with these folks?  

Well, they sent us to training.  One of the things that the taught us about was Traffic Analysis which is absolutely terrifying in today's Internet Age.  However, some of the things were less techie.  One of these were techniques on how to read Pravda.

Pravda, of course, was the official newspaper of the Soviet Union's Communist Party.  It was well known to basically everybody that it was a propaganda sheet.  Indeed, there was an old joke from the time about Pravda and its sibling newspaper Isvestia, playing on the meanings of both names.  "Pravda" means "truth" in Russian, and "Isvestia" means "news".  The joke went "There's no news in Pravda and no truth in Isvestia".  Good times, good times.

As it turns out, that joke was wrong - at least according to the trainer at Three Letter Agency.  We were taught that there's quite a lot of actual information that you can get from Pravda, if you know how to read it.  Here from memory are some of the techniques for gleaning what is actually going on from the most famous propaganda rag in history:
  1. The Front Page belongs to the Party.  Everything you see on the front page is the Party's most important messaging.  The more prominent the article, the more you can assume that it is pure propaganda.  Front Page above-the-fold articles are nothing but propaganda.
  2. Most of the time there will be actual journalistic facts reported in the story.  You know, the Who/What/Where/When stuff.  This will in general be in articles buried inside the newspapers, and/or buried in paragraph 25 (under the assumption that most people will scan the front page and maybe the first 2 or 3 paragraphs).  Our trainer essentially taught us to read Pravda backwards, starting from the end and working our way back towards the front.
  3. Things that really, really bother the Party will be prominently displayed.  Things that really really bother the Party will be on the front page, above the fold.  While this seems to contradict item #1 above, it really doesn't.  Sure, the actual contents of the article are nothing but propaganda, the information to be gleaned is that the subject is something that the Party hates.
An example of #3 from the 1980s was the Strategic Defense Initiative ("Star Wars").  The Party hated this with the fire of a million suns.  It made frequent appearances on page 1 of Pravda, talking about how awful it was.  Duly noted - SDI got under the skin of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

As it turns out, this skill has turned out to be handy in getting actual information out of today's New York Times (and other, lesser news outlets).  There's a lot that you can get from the news today if you ignore the front page.  Lawrence has a great example of this - skipping past the Supreme Court stories (item #3 above - this really bugs the Great and the Good) to things from page A29 - like what's going on with China?  Quite a bit as it turns out, but you need to read our newspapers backwards just like you would read Pravda.

Monday, September 21, 2020

15th Blogiversary

No, not here.  Flares Into Darkness has been cranking out high quality content for 15 years now.  While that may not be the Pleistocene Era of the Blogosphere, it sure has to be the Neolithic Age ....


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Beethoven - Symphony no. 5 in C Minor

 The Social Justice Warriors have come for the heads of the Global Elite.  The Elite sure didn't plan it that way, but here it is anyway.  

Beethoven's 5th Symphony is sometimes referred to as the "Fate symphony" - the famous four opening notes is said to symbolize Fate knocking on the door.  That seems fitting; perhaps we should call this music the "Irony symphony" because it's sibling symphony number 9 is the (inter)national anthem of the Global Elite but is being rejected by the street muscle that the Elite has been funding for decades.

You would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh.  Rather than being deep thinkers playing 4 Dimensional Chess, they're Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer's Apprentice, unwittingly creating a monster beyond their control. 

You see, the street muscle (and the intellectual movement that gave rise to them) were supposed to tear down American Bourgeois culture, leading the way for the Global Elite to impose a benign and (dare I use the word?) paternalistic World Government.  For everybody's own good, 'natch.  Never mind the vast opportunities for graft by the Global Elite ...

Instead, the river of Culture War burst its banks and now looks fair to engulf the Global Elite itself.  No Beethoven for you, you icky White Male, you!  The only Good White Male is a dead White Male, and all that.  The irony is pure, distilled, 100 proof.

But the music is really, really good - and is justly famous for that.  Heck, it was included on the gold record sent on the Voyager space probe.  That's how famous it is.

So enjoy the music, at least while you can.  Ask not for whom Fate knocks; it knocks for you.  At least if the Social Justice Warriors get their way.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Movies IX - Zulu

It's 1879. The British are the British Empire, in possession of a modern army, and they think themselves insurmountable, especially by native peoples armed with spears and cow hide shields. One of the British territories is South Africa and they are engaged in taking control. They instigate a fight with the Zulus on a pretext and then invade the Zulu territory with 16,000 troops. The British are armed with Martini-Henry breech loading single shot rifles, 7 pound artillery pieces, and an early kind of rocket propelled grenades. 

The Zulu impi are armed with assegai and cow hide shields. They are a culture of warriors. The Spartans would recognize the Zulu. With training starting at the age of six, every man trained to battle. In the century before the arrival of the British, the Zulu had centralized power and either overwhelmed or displaced neighboring tribes to become the dominant power in the southern tip of Africa.

The British split their forces, confident in their tactics and firepower. The details of this are available and interesting, but I am trying to get somewhere, so suffice it to say they are not one large unit when things get pear shaped. Lord Chelmsford, the Commander-in-Chief, retains about 4,000 men, approximately half of them British regulars, the rest native auxillaries. They are in a forward encampment at Isandlwana when the Zulus found them. 21,000 Zulus.

The Zulus used a fighting tactic they called the horns of the buffalo. They would strike hard in the center and then "the horns" would encircle both flanks. They took heavy casualties but they closed with the British and the right flank was successfully breached. From there it became a slaughter. Essentially all the uniformed British troops were killed fighting or executed, along with several hundred of the native auxiliaries. They lost a thousand rifles, their artillery, and all the food and wagons.

Word of this loss reached a small contingent of British at a field hospital located at Rorke's Drift, located on the Buffalo River, near the Zulu border. 139 British, 30 of which were ill or wounded, were garrisoned there. The officers made a decision that trying to retreat with wagons filled with wounded was a recipe for disaster and decided to stay. They build up their defenses, sandbagged where they could, used wagons and boxes to build barricades. They broke out ammunition and prepared a plan.

The Zulu attacked with approximately 4,000 men, some of them armed with rifles recently acquired at Isandlwana, most of them carrying their traditional spears  and clubs. 

It should have been another Zulu victory. It was not. The British maintained discipline, used volley fire to effectively break up the Zulu attacks, and held out through a battle that lasted from mid-afternoon throughout a very long night. It was hand to hand much of the time, or firing at very close range. It continued until the Zulus could see a British relief column approaching the next morning and they broke contact and retreated. 

Of the 139 British, 17 were killed and 10 wounded. They had started the battle with 20,000 rounds of ammunition. Reports vary, but one I read said they just over 300 rounds remaining. It becomes part of the lore of the British army. An incredible stand against overwhelming odds. It resulted in the awarding of 11 Victoria Crosses. It also is likely that all the survivors had what we would now call PTSD, the lives of many of them were short, several were plagued by nightmares of Zulu attacks, and there were at least 2 suicides.

The Battle of Rorke's Drift is the subject of the 1964 movie Zulu. It is a great movie, one of the best British films of all time. It holds to the story fairly well, although it take poetic license in some places. It is respectful of both sides, showing the humanity and bravery, of both the Zulu and the British. 

Filmed on location, the battle scenes were carefully planned and shot as both the rifle bayonets and the assegai were real. The Zulus are real, as well, although there were only 400 Zulu actors, making the attack scenes much smaller than having 4,000 men in three wings charging in at the barricades. The wounds shown are not realistic, as a true rendering would never have gotten past the censors. There was no sing off before the battle. Some of the rifles in the background are Lee-Enfields, you can see the actors work the bolts. None of this matters.

If you haven't seen this one lately, here's a taste.

FloridaMan does something right

 You go, FloridaMan!

A group of anti-mask demonstrators marched through a Florida Target to Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” encouraging others to liberate their faces by removing their masks.

The group reportedly marched through a Target in Ft. Lauderdale on Tuesday, encouraging shoppers around them to take off their masks as well

There's video, which is awesome.  And I love this:

“Breathe. Breathe. You’re Americans. Breathe,” one woman said as she marched through the store.

Sure are.  The Authorities should stop and think about that.

Thursday, September 17, 2020


 Department of Education is investigating Princeton University for Civil Rights violations:

The Department of Education has informed Princeton University that it is under investigation following the school president's declaration that racism was "embedded" in the institution.

President Christopher L. Eisgruber published an open letter earlier this month claiming that "[r]acism and the damage it does to people of color persist at Princeton" and that "racist assumptions" are "embedded in structures of the University itself." 

According to a letter the Department of Education sent to Princeton that was obtained by the Washington Examiner, such an admission from Eisgruber raises concerns that Princeton has been receiving tens of millions of dollars of federal funds in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which declares that "no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."


So some stuffed shirt University Prez goes full Social Justice Warrior.  Dude, never go full Social Justice Warrior.  You're looking at felony fraud and tons of violations of the Civil Rights Act.  Oh, and this is delicious:

"Based on its admitted racism, the U.S. Department of Education (“Department”) is concerned Princeton’s nondiscrimination and equal opportunity assurances in its Program Participation Agreements from at least 2013 to the present may have been false," the letter reads. "The Department is further concerned Princeton perhaps knew, or should have known, these assurances were false at the time they were made. Finally, the Department is further concerned Princeton’s many nondiscrimination and equal opportunity claims to students, parents, and consumers in the market for education certificates may have been false, misleading, and actionable substantial misrepresentations in violation of 20 U.S.C. § 1094(c)(3)(B) and 34 CFR 668.71(c). Therefore, the Department’s Office of Postsecondary Education, in consultation with the Department’s Office of the General Counsel, is opening this investigation."

This is how you do it.  They say it's about the principle, but it's really about the money.  Take that away and this nonsense will stop.  President Eisgruber will have to testify about all this under oath.  What's the over/under on how long before the Board of Trustees fires him?

Well done, Dept of Education.


Quote of the Day, blogging edition

 It's been a while since Tam has gotten QotD, but this is classic:

What kind of loser still writes a blog in 2020, anyway?

Made me laugh out loud, that did.  This one, too.

Trivia time!

 Here are some music trivia questions that really surprised me.  Answers in the comments.

1. Which artist/group had the most Billboard 200 #1 albums in a single year (extra credit: what year was it?)?

2. Which artist/group had the most albums in the Billboard 200 Top 10 simultaneously?  Who were #2 and #3 on this list?

3. Which album spent the most number of weeks at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart?

Like all good trivia, these are obscure and unexpected (at least they were to me).

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

You may be guilty of hacking

I've been working in computer and network security for literally decades.  During this career I've been at companies that did security research.  We did a lot to help improve the sorry state of Internet Security and you are better off for it.  Now that may about to become illegal, depending on how the Supreme Court rules on an upcoming case:

A US Supreme Court case that could expand the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) to include prosecuting "improper" uses of technology not specifically allowed by software makers will chill security research and could be used to punish other fair uses of technology, a group of nearly 70 vulnerability researchers and security firms said in a letter published on September 14. 

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is a 1980s era statute passed right around when I got into computer security.  It was passed to criminalize computer hacking - you know, breaking into someone's computer.  Simples, amirite?

Except nothing is simple, at least when the Legislature is in session.  Or when a District Attorney is prosecuting a case:

The original case that ended up at the US Supreme Court seemingly has little to do with election systems or even hacking. The case originates in the prosecution of Nathan Van Buren, a police sergeant in Cumming, Georgia, who had accessed the state records system to get information on a license plate in exchange for money. In addition to being found guilty of honest services wire-fraud in May 2018, the court also found him guilty of a single charge of violating the CFAA for accessing state and government databases for an improper use.

Now there's no doubt that Mr. Van Buren is a scumbag and a dirty cop.  But it's hard to see him as a computer hacker - he had a legitimate account on the computer system and he accessed it with his legitimate username and password.  Sure, he abused it once he was logged in, but this isn't at all what we think of when someone mentions the word "hacker".  Fraud, sure.  Probably other charges but hacking seems to be a category error.

But here's where Internet Security could be fatally crippled - legitimate security research by legitimate organizations could be made a criminal offense if the Supremes uphold the hacking charge:

A US Supreme Court case that could expand the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) to include prosecuting "improper" uses of technology not specifically allowed by software makers will chill security research and could be used to punish other fair uses of technology, a group of nearly 70 vulnerability researchers and security firms said in a letter published on September 14. 

This letter didn't come out of the blue.  It came in response to an Amicus brief filed to the court by Voatz, a manufacturer of voting machines and software.  Voatz has a, ahem, checkered reputation when it comes to security:

The letter — signed by computer scientists from the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University, as well as security firms Bugcrowd, HackerOne, and Trail of Bits, among others — is a response to a legal filing by e-voting firm Voatz in a case that could expand the definition of "exceeds authorized access" under the CFAA to include violations of user agreements and software licenses. While Voatz has participated in bug bounty programs granting participants legal protections, the firm also has reported a student researcher to state officials, dismissed serious vulnerabilities found by three researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and even downplayed a third-party audit of their entire systems by security firm Trail of Bits that both confirmed the MIT findings and also found even more critical vulnerabilities. 

It's like a car company threatening criminal prosecution of Consumer Reports for publishing repair statistics they collected.  Sure, it may be embarrassing to the company, but is it criminal?  According to Voatz, the answer is "yes:

The letter took shape following a September 3 legal filing, known as an amicus or friend-of-the-court brief, in which Voatz argued that testing laboratories, security reviews, and bug bounties are all authorized forms of security testing and should be enough to guarantee security. Independent code reviews and penetration tests, the company claims, are not authorized and the CFAA's language "exceeds authorized access" should apply.

So this is the point that you should start wondering if you yourself are guilty of hacking*.  After all, you just merrily click "I Accept" without reading any of those boring old License Agreement notices, don't you?  That agreement specifies what is permissible use according to the software maker.  If you go beyond that, does that make you a criminal?  According to Voatz, the answer is "yes".  Especially if you publish security information that embarrass the company.

Know your place, peon.  Or do the time.

I've posted often about "Regulatory Capture", where large companies try to use government regulations to stymie dangerous competitive startups.  I've written at length about how this is very damaging to the economy, although it is financially advantageous to the company.  This is worse.  Not only will it stifle legitimate security research that makes companies (sometimes reluctantly or unwillingly) improve their security, but it will stifle security improvement in an area that is critically important for the health of the Republic - voting.

And besides, it might make you guilty of hacking.  I wish I had more faith in the intelligence and wisdom of the SCOTUS.

* Yes, yes - you only use your Powers for good.  I know that, but does the District Attorney?

Monday, September 14, 2020

The breakup of the Democratic Party coalition

The Democratic Party is made up of various groups that do not have much in common.  Blacks are not hispanics, and vice versa.  Private sector unions are not public sector unions.  A lot of effort has gone into trying to convince suburban women that it's mean to vote Republican.  Meanwhile, there is a set of elite power brokers pulling everyone's strings.

One problem with this is that the hypocrisy has gotten too blatant, opening the door to Bernie Sanders and AOC and the radical left of the Party.  The other problem with this cozy arrangement is that the power brokers have essentially gone insane in their attempts to get rid of OrangeManBad.  Now consider what actions the Elite has taken and what they have done to the members of their coalition:

  • The Elite has stiffed Bernie (twice), alienating his supporters.
  • The Elite has sent their (white) radical street muscle into Black neighborhoods, burning and looting black businesses.
  • The Elite hasn't really done anything at all for the hispanic community.  Their support for communists has hurt them in Florida where Donald Trump is outpolling Joe Biden among hispanics (!).
  • The Elite has pushed outsourcing (most recently the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty which Trump killed).  Private sector unions have noticed.
  • The Elite has pushed the virus lockdown which has thrown millions of restaurant employees out of work.  Many of these folks belong to SEIU.  Now that emergency unemployment benefits have run out - and restaurants are going out of business because of the continuing lockdown - you have to wonder if these people will start to wonder why they support the Democrats.
  • Public Sector employees have done well, but the areas that locked down hardest are the areas where the government budgets are most in trouble.  New York City is going to lay off 40,000 employees.  The Elite has hoped that Biden will win and bail out the states and cities.  Good luck with that.
  • Lastly, suburban women are hit with a Democratic Party double whammy: schools remain closed in many (especially Blue) areas.  Women see their family lifestyles massively disrupted, and potentially are forced to consider giving up their own job to home school their kids.  At the same time they see radical rioters entering suburban towns.  Rioters are filmed telling people to get out of their homes which will be taken as "reparations".
Good job, Democratic Elites!  It looks like you've angered every single constituency that makes up your party, six weeks before the election.

These ideas are shamelessly stolen from an outstanding post at William Briggs (Statistician to the Stars!). I'm not entirely sure I agree with the conclusions but maybe that's just me.  Go read the whole thing.  It proves that sometimes Monday mornings get off to a good start.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Observe the power of this fully operational MiniTru

 George Orwell's prophetic 1984 had a dystopian future where everything was controlled by the government.  The agency charged with rewriting history was called the Ministry of Truth, or MiniTru.  Lawrence has discovered that Orwell wasn't a novel, but rather an instruction manual.

Mozart - Piano Concerto No 3 in D major, played by 5 year old Elisha Mysin

 Classical music is filled with child prodigies - heck, Mozart was writing symphonies by the time he was five.  But the greatest names in classical music were almost all child prodigies: Camille Saint-Saëns, Claud DebussyGabriel Fauré, and many others (as a search of the archives here will show).  A more recently prodigy was pianist Van Cliburn who won the very first Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow back in 1958 - the judges had to ask Khrushchev himself for approval.  The response: "Is he the best?  Then give him the prize".  Cliburn started playing piano at age 3.

We may need to add to this list.  Elisha Mysin is a Russian prodigy.  Now six (there is some question about this), this performance of his was recorded when he was five.  It is, as you'd imagine, quite impressive.

The Queen Of The World spotted this on the Book of Faces and brought it up, along with the idea of talking about child prodigies.  She's pretty dang sharp (not to mention pretty as a picture).

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Movies VIII - The Dirty Dozen

I watched this one last night. I hadn't seen it since the 1980s.

Lee Marvin is the main star, but Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, George Kennedy, Telly Savalas, Jim Brown, and Donald Sutherland, along with a number of other stars are in the cast. 

It tells the story of a group of convicted soldiers, many of them awaiting execution, that are given a reprieve to participate in a covert mission behind enemy lines. The interaction between the stars, the role played by Lee Marvin, and the mission they undertake come together to make a classic movie that is better than the sum of it's parts.

What they do to the Nazis at the climax is as over the top as anything Tarantino could come up with.

 This is the official trailer. It is so 1960s it looks contrived.

Friday, September 11, 2020

September 11th

Christine Lee Hanson

Today I hold Christine Lee Hanson in my memory. She is the youngest person to die as a result of the terror attacks of 9-11-01.

She was flying to Disney World with her parents on United 175. Her father, Peter, was on the phone with his father, Lee, and holding Christine in his arms, as the plane impacted the World Trade Center. Lee was watching the television news from New York at the same time. The phone call abruptly ended and he saw the fireball erupt from the impact.

Christine was 3.

Christine would be 22 now. Graduating from college this year, thinking about her plans for her life and career, maybe hanging out with friends and taking risks breaking quarantine. 

Christine's grandfather Lee Hanson passed away a couple of years ago.

Christine's grandmother Eunice donated Christine's stuffed Peter Rabbit doll to the 9/11 museum. You can view it there if you take the tour.

Don't worry, Dad. If it happens, it will be quick.
--Peter Hanson calling from United Flight 175

Thursday, September 10, 2020

It's September 10 all over again

 Co-blogger ASM826 posts about the last day that was normal.  Then Al Qaeda flew the jets into the buildings.
We were asleep that day, and had a rude awakening.  In a sense, it seems the same thing is happening now with Antifa and how people keep underestimating them.  Adam Piggott has a must-read post telling us to stop all that:
Every Antifa member that has been killed or unmasked in the past couple of weeks has been revealed as a convicted criminal, some with quite disturbing rap sheets. In other words, they have nothing to lose. They are highly trained to reach demonstrable objectives on the ground of their own choosing. These guys are not the cartoon idiots that we were encouraged to believe. They are far from it.
Most disturbing is his discussion of the local government authorities actively working to support Antifa, specifically in the courts.  This is quite disturbing.  Really disturbing.  It makes me glad that The Queen Of The World and I got out of Maryland.

Read the whole thing.  It feels like September 10, 2001 all over again.

September 10th, 2001

This is a repost. A lot of things have happened since. This day still stands out.

I remember September 10th, 2001. 

It was a Monday. I had scheduled a day off a couple of weeks in advance, and we had made plans to go canoeing. The perfection of the day was breathtaking.

A Carolina blue sky, a light breeze, afternoon temperature in the low 80s. We put in at the landing in the primitive camping area in Goose Creek State Park. The marsh grass and trees were showing some signs of fall. The creek runs up through the park becoming narrower as it goes. We slowly picked our way along, stopping to look at birds and wildflowers. When we got to a point where all we could do was turn around, we paddled back out.

 Going past the landing, we paddled out into the Pamlico Sound. The breeze was in our faces, so it was slow going, but the water was calm enough for the canoe. We paddled almost all the way across, enjoying the exertion. When we turned around it was a fast run back to the creek, 20 minutes to cover what had taken a couple of hours going out.

We sat in the sun on the landing and ate and talked. After we loaded the canoe on the truck and started home, she fell asleep. I remember it so clearly because it was the last day of the old world. A carefree, gentle day on the water, shared with a fine woman. There will never be another day like it in my lifetime.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Save the planet: clearcut the forest

"Green" energy causes forest to be cut down:

The ARD’s “Das Erste” reports how satellite images show deforestation has risen 49% since 2016 in Sweden, Finland and the Baltic countries. The reason: “Because of the CO2 targets. That sounds totally crazy but precisely because of the trend to renewable energies is in part responsible for deforestation in Estonia,” says the Das Erste moderator.

Having spent some time working for the EU, Liiana Steinberg explains in the report how she recently returned to her native Estonia and was shocked to see how much deforestation had taken place over the recent years (2:25). “I discovered how the forests no longer exists here left and right.”

You grind up the trees to make wood pellets which count as a "green" "carbon-neutral" energy source.  Except the forest is gone (hey, it will grow back in 30 or 40 years, although it will be fast growing pine and fir rather than old growth hardwood - but eggs, omlets, amirite?).

It seems that wildlife has declined by 25%.  Yay, environmentalists!

What's funny is that this keeps happening.  It seems that this has been going on for years.  Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence.  Third time is, well, you know.

Movies VII - Caddyshack

Finally a comedy makes the list. Caddyshack is a good example of what an ensemble cast can deliver. Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray, and Ted Knight all have great performances. It's a pretty stupid premise done pretty well.

It's a golf movie, maybe, sort of, with several stories loosely tied to events at a country club. If you haven't seen this, or even if you have, it's still a funny movie. I watched it a couple of weeks ago. It holds up pretty well.

Here's a couple of clips.

And a solo scene with Bill Murray. This was improvised. They just put him in the scene and told him to act like a child.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Very cool story about Jerry Pournelle

 I knew that he was the most interesting man in the world, but didn't know just how interesting he was.  Like "Plan the overthrow of the Communist government of Albania" interesting.

The Iron Law of Bureaucracy and the Democratic Party

 I've posted frequently about The Iron Law of Bureaucracy here:

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.

So how does the Iron Law apply to the Democratic Party?  Just like to every organization:

I had an interesting discussion over the weekend with an acquaintance of mine, a building contractor.  He's Black, and he and his family have voted in lock-step with the Democratic Party not just for years, but for decades.  Now?  Not so much.  He's so angry at this latest nonsense that he told me openly he's going to vote Republican in November.  He believes the Democratic Party is trying to manipulate him and "his people", deliberately lying to them in the expectation that they'll respond in blind obedience.  "They want me to jump when they say 'Frog'.  Well, this frog ain't gonna jump for a lie!"

He's not a veteran of military service, but he has some (of all races) among his workforce.  He told me their discussions about the matter on job sites have been really angry, with almost nobody believing the talking points being circulated in the mass media.  They're such obvious, blatant propaganda that they can't pass the "smell test".  Anyone with half a brain knows they're contrived.  They're such a clumsy smear attempt, with no evidence whatsoever to prove them except unsubstantiated, anonymous allegations, that it's almost embarrassing.

This made me think of Theodore Dalrymple's famous quote:

In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. 

Now think on today's Democratic Party, withered by the Clintons and then the Obamas and now Slow Joe Biden.  Think about the obvious lies.  Think about how loyalty uber alles has shaved off bits of their partisans' souls, burned as offerings on the altar of someone else's political ambitions.  Think of the small death that takes place each day among those (supposedly) most fervent partisans.

It's no wonder that the Democratic Party is being taken over by Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Black Lives Matter, and Antifa rioters.  The Iron Law says that they're the ones who will rise to the top.

You see, all paths other than radical revolution are closed, at least for advancement.  Who even talks about John Kerry anymore?  And the media covers for all of these people so there is no possible correction.  The result is over determined, as Peter points out:

When even its long-term supporters can see that, and openly resent that they're expected to believe such brazen fabrications, then the Democratic Party has a major, major problem on its hands.

Sure does.  It's fixin' to go the way of the Whig Party.  Even with the industrial-scale cheating they're going to do.  It won't help them - not when even their "base" is leaving them en masse.

 It's going to be a blowout, but the Democratic Party apparachicks can't allow themselves to see that.  Not if they have hopes for advancement in the Democrat Party Apparat.  Instead, they have to repeat the most obvious lies about this election.  Crude lies.  Lies that everyone knows are lies.

But lies that they cannot allow themselves to recognize as lies.

The Left used to call itself "the reality-based party".  That's quite funny, given how crude their propaganda is.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Unknown - The World Turned Upside Down


I'm re-listening to the episodes on the American Revolution from the excellent Revolutions podcast (highly recommended; the American Revolution is season 2, episodes 2.1 - 2.15).  In the episode about Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown, the story was told about how the band played "The World Turned Upside Down" and it occurred to me that I had never listened to that song.  That's not unusual for someone who grew up in the 1960s - our school didn't even have a listening library until the 1970s, but heck - this is the Youtube Age and so it was off to the song.

It's an interesting song.  It dates to 1640, and so was old in 1781.  It was written to protest the British Parliament's policies towards Christmas.  You see, the Puritans had taken over and Christmas was considered to be Double Plus Ungood and so Parliament passed some laws restricting the traditional celebrations.  Interestingly, Revolutions podcast season 1 covers the English Civil War from this time and goes into this very topic.  It's really interesting, and so when you're over there getting your George Washington fix, check out the Puritans too.

And so to the song.  It was published - anonymously - as a protest.

The lyrics are interesting:

Listen to me and you shall hear, news hath not been this thousand year:
Since Herod, Caesar, and many more, you never heard the like before.
Holy-dayes are despis'd, new fashions are devis'd.
Old Christmas is kickt out of Town.
Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn'd upside down.

The wise men did rejoyce to see our Savior Christs Nativity:
The Angels did good tidings bring, the Sheepheards did rejoyce and sing.
Let all honest men, take example by them.
Why should we from good Laws be bound?
Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn'd upside down.
Command is given, we must obey, and quite forget old Christmas day:
Kill a thousand men, or a Town regain, we will give thanks and praise amain.
The wine pot shall clinke, we will feast and drinke.
And then strange motions will abound.
Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn'd upside down.
Our Lords and Knights, and Gentry too, doe mean old fashions to forgoe:
They set a porter at the gate, that none must enter in thereat.
They count it a sin, when poor people come in.
Hospitality it selfe is drown'd.
Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn'd upside down.
The serving men doe sit and whine, and thinke it long ere dinner time:
The Butler's still out of the way, or else my Lady keeps the key,
The poor old cook, in the larder doth look,
Where is no goodnesse to be found,
Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn'd upside down.
To conclude, I'le tell you news that's right, Christmas was kil'd at Naseby fight:
Charity was slain at that same time, Jack Tell troth too, a friend of mine,
Likewise then did die, rost beef and shred pie,
Pig, Goose and Capon no quarter found.
Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn'd upside down.

So there you have it: the British surrendered to the Americans (and French) to the tune of a song protesting a crackdown on Christmas.  Now you've heard it, too.