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.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

The Queen Of The World's Mint Julep

Today is the Kentucky Derby, and so favored daughter of Kentucky (and Kentucky Colonel) The Queen Of The World's Mint Julep comes to mind.  Her recipe follows:

Open a nice bottle of wine.

She's not a Mint Julep fan, although she makes a fine one (as co-blogger and Brother-from-another-Mother ASM826 can attest).  But really - she says get you a nice bottle of wine instead. I think that's kind of funny - you might be able to get yourself deported from Kentucky for disliking the cocktail - but the number of things about her that I think are adorable is a long list indeed.

If you're betting, then the best of luck to you.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Movies VI - Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now is the best of the Vietnam movies. It works on several levels and has survived the test of the decades in ways that many of the other movies have not. It's an episodic story, tied together by the boat and the river. Based in part on Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, it is a series of events, each one more mad than the previous, as the boat moves through Vietnam and then over the border into Cambodia.

This is the opening, overlaid by the Doors. It is one of the most powerful opening scenes in any movie.

I watched it, as I mentioned, for the first time at the base theater in Iwakuni, Japan in 1983. I was young. The intervening years have given me a greater appreciation of what Coppola created. Captain Willard, played by Martin Sheen, seems like the protagonist. You meet him first, raging drunk in a Saigon hotel, and will seemingly follow him throughout the movie.

But Willard cannot be the protagonist because he is unchanged by the journey. His journey into darkness is already complete. He is the observer, we see the events through his eyes, but he is almost disengaged, unemotional, just passively going along to the end. I think it is Lance, the surfer, that is the protagonist, although it could be the entire crew, with Lance standing in for all of them as the survivor at the end. Each of of the crew is changed far more than Willard and each one dies in their turn by increasingly primitive means. At the beginning, Lance is the untouched young man, a surfer out of California, just a member of a small boat crew, looking to get high and unconcerned with the events of the war around him. He is transformed by his journey, his former life washed away.

The river serves as the river of time, they move upriver, away from the veneer of civilization. Each stop taking them further away. What are they moving toward? The lies of the generals and the politicians are also something they start with and they move away from that as well.

Each stop is more primitive, more violent, and in some ways more honest at the same time it is more insane.

Kurtz is honest and mad. He's even right about a number of key things and Willard recognizes both that honesty and the madness. The question of why Willard carries out the orders and kills Kurtz and also why Kurtz permitted him to do so remains ambiguous. The assumption must be that Kurtz saw something in Willard that he did not see in the others. But I am still not sure.

In the Redux version, there is only one scene I wish they had left in the original. That is the French rubber plantation scene. Willard gets off the boat and has an evening with the family at the plantation. I think it fits with the journey upriver and the unraveling of things. It is a window into a way of life whose time had passed. They should have left long ago and here they were, still pretending, as the war consumed the country. It connects and reinforces the scene with the USO show and the Playboy bunnies and how quickly the veneer comes off.

There is no reasoning with the darkness. There is only the journey into it. And it doesn't matter where you start from, just how far there is to go.

This movie plays in a series of loosely connected short chapters, almost like Pulp Fiction and I have thought that you could remix it the same way, cut it into scenes and splice it back together and make it only come together when you get to the last scene and you realize where you are. The opening scene of Willard punching the mirror as he dances ties directly to Lance dancing on the bow of the boat while tripping. The "never get out of the boat" scene with the tiger bookends with them getting out of the boat at Kurtz's compound.

I don't have any conclusions. Just the observation of the impact of the film.

This one goes on my personal top 10 war movies.

The futility of voter fraud

Peter has been on a roll lately (you do read him every day, don't you?)  Today he writes about the Democrat's rather transparent plans to commit massive voter fraud in November:

I must confess that from my perspective, looking at how the progressive left has warped and manipulated anything they could get their hands on in recent months, I'm inclined to agree with Bracken.  When postal votes are issued en masse, with few if any safeguards to ensure they reach those they're supposed to reach, and even fewer safeguards to prevent their manipulation and misuse before they're returned, that's far from a remote possibility.

Yup.  But it doesn't matter, this is just the latest in the Democratic Party's Wile E. Coyote campaign against Donald Trump.  It hasn't worked so far, and it won't work this time.  Let's just look at the current political situation as a proof point, shall we?

The Democratic Party unleashed a summer of riot, arson, and looting through their Antifa and Black Lives Matter street muscle.  The thought that they had Trump on the horns of a dilemma - that he had only two choices, both bad:

  1. Send in a military response resulting in a Kent State moment and convincing the American public that he was a dictator-in-waiting, or
  2. Sit back and watch the cities burn in which case the Democrats and the Media (but I repeat myself) will paint him as heartless to the plight of the cities.

Trump was smart enough to choose option 2, but things didn't play out like the Democrats had planned.  While the media pushed and pushed, and huffed and puffed to paint the rioting as Trump's fault that didn't stick.  People from sea to shining sea saw that it was Democratic politicians who were egging on the rioters, and Democratic Mayors and Governors who were forcing police to stand down in the face of street thugs.  Trump is now riding high in the polls on his consistent, strong Law And Order platform and the Wile E. Democrat has figured out that he ran out onto thin air ...

Oops.  So now it's on to ACME Plan #493, vote by mail fraud ...

This is the plan that Peter posts about.  Basically it's mail a ballot to every registered voter, have street muscle raid mailboxes and fill out the ballots, complain that Trump's "Landslide" is only because the mail hasn't arrived, and bingo - Slow Joe Biden becomes President as Trump fades quietly into the sunset.

As if Trump would fade quietly into anything.  The whole scheme relies on something that is absurdly unbelievable (Peter's quotes from the article he links to):

Journalists can also help people understand that voter fraud is extraordinarily rare, and, in particular, that there’s nothing nefarious about voting by mail.

Who believes this?  The only reason that these people even say this is that nobody has ever done a systematic nation wide search for voting fraud.  But Trump would have every reason to do that.  Remember, voting rolls are public records.  Let's look at the massive amount of data that would be easily discovered in a public records search:

  • Voters registered at the wrong address
  • Voters registered at clearly fraudulent addresses
  • Votes cast from the above voters
  • Voters who voted in person, but for which a ballot was also received by mail
  • Voters who voted in multiple States

This is only off the top of my head; there will be lots more here.  Within a month of starting this analysis, the Trump campaign will have identified and quantified the scale of the fraud and the Justice Department will have opened criminal investigations in all 50 States and the District of Columbia.  The election will be on hold.

And here is where we see things fall apart for the Democrats, just like they have in this Summer of Arson.  Even with the Media pushing, pushing, pushing that there's nothing to see here, nosiree, move along folks, people will absolutely see that there's something going on there.  The Democratic politicians will discredit themselves by claiming that nothing is going on (when something is clearly going on).  Some politicians will discredit themselves by refusing to release voting rolls and records.  Some politicians will be discredited when they are criminally charged by the Department of Justice.  Al of these politicians will be Democrats.  It will be worse if there are more riots by the Democrat's street muscle.

It's all exactly like the "peaceful protester" claims, and it will work out exactly the same for the Democrats.  And so their attempt to paint Trump as a Dictator-in-waiting will boomerang.  I'm not sure how this Republic will handle the upcoming political crisis, but a solid majority in this country will think that the Democrats tried to steal the election and got caught red handed.  I just don't see how the population will consent to being governed by the Democrats under those circumstances.

In all honesty, I think the result would be for the Democratic Party to fall apart like the Whig Party did - seen as unfit to govern.  Not that I'm keen on one-party government run by the GOP, but that's exactly where this will head.  Donald Trump knows all of this.  It's simply not credible that plans are not already going into place.  Unlike the milk toast Republicans of days past, Trump is out to save America and won't settle to being a graceful loser.

Beep beep!

Thursday, September 3, 2020

The inevitable failure of government programs

Peter points out the prolonged and sustained failure of a particular government program aiming to keep poor inner city kids out of trouble

America has a terrible problem in its obsession with "programs".  Do we have this, or that, or the other problem in society?  Let's start a program to address it!  Let's throw money and propaganda and activists at the problem!  Yet . . . so few of those programs produce any positive result.  All they appear to do is perpetuate the problem, while paying the salaries (usually rather nice salaries) of those who run the programs.  They almost never actually change lives, because they don't demand that lives should be changed.  Those they're trying to help are seldom, if ever, truly challenged - bluntly, directly, without compromise - to change their outlook on life, their attitudes, and their behavior.  The programs are "all hat and no cattle", to quote an idiom common here in Texas.

This is absolutely spot on, but reminded me of the comparison of "Rich People's Leftism vs. Poor People's Leftism" from ten years ago:

With this new approach in mind, let me contrast Rich People’s Leftism (RPL) with Poor People’s Leftism (PPL).

RPL thinks that its goal is to help poor people, while PPL thinks that RPL’s primary goal is to ensure that wealthy leftists dominate and get great jobs.

The whole post is worth reading in full, but these parts seem particularly prophetic:

RPL favors equality and so rejects upward mobility. PPL favors upward mobility via capitalism, since it sees that “egalitarian” schemes never work and are really disguised hierarchies with wealthy leftists at the top.

RPL respects wealthy liberals for wanting to help the poor. PPL observes that these wealthy liberals ensure that they are well paid for what they do and prefers to support wealthy conservatives, who at least are honest about where they are coming from.


RPL likes the idea of a revolution that would throw out the wealthy capitalists. PPL doesn’t like the idea of such a revolution because it would mean that (1) a lot of people would be murdered, and (2) wealthy conservatives at the top would be replaced by wealthy leftists, while the poor would remain poor.


RPL likes high taxes so that the government can form a lot of agencies to help the poor. PPL thinks that all those agencies will be staffed by wealthy liberals, and it is tired of paying taxes so that wealthy liberals can get great jobs.

RPL sees government as the solution, while PPL sees government as sometimes helpful, sometimes hurtful.


RPL is soft on crime, since it represents an attack on an immoral system, while PPL is hard on crime, since it generally just hurts the poor more than it hurts the system.

RPL thinks that “rebelling against the system” is wonderful. PPL thinks that this is a wonderful game for rich kids, but that it can severely hurt poor kids, making them unemployable and otherwise screwing up their lives.


Apocalypse Now -- Prelude

I don't write uberposts but for this movie I will have to make an exception. All of you you are at least aware of Apocalypse Now, some of you may remember seeing it, it's even possible that some of you didn't care for the movie. Nonetheless, this movie is one candidate for my all time top 10 list of films from any genre.

First a personal story.

I served in the Marines during an interesting time. It was late Cold War and there was tension with the Soviet Union but not a shooting war. Vietnam was over. It was before beginning of the hostilities in the Middle East. We were a peacetime military. I have no personal war stories, no experiences to share.

I worked electronics on fighters, F-4s, and on one deployment to Japan, I worked mids. Sleep in the day, go to chow at 2300, then report to the hanger at 2330 and work or perhaps just hang out if the planes were ready for the next day.

The Staff Sergeant that ran the mid crew had been in a lot longer. He probably should have been a rank higher, but there was some history, and anyway, there he was, running Maintenance Control. He had been in helicopters in Vietnam and reenlisted while overseas to get something better, safer,  and as he would later tell it, more likely to let him see his 21st birthday. We were friends. I was a Sergeant, E-5 and he was a Staff Sergeant, E-6, so it wasn't a huge divide. His name was Ira.

1983. Remember what the world was like back then. If I wrote my wife a letter, it was 7 to 10 days before she would get it.  Our mail passed each other and if I wrote regularly, I was responding to a letter at least a week old. We didn't speak to each other for 6 months.

No cell phones, internet, Facebook, movies on demand, YouTube, none of it. There was one TV channel that played on the screen in the common room. It ran the FEN broadcasts, mostly old inoffensive reruns like Bonanza and some sports programming. No VCRs yet. Laserdisks were coming out and it looked like they might be a big thing. There was a base movie theater and it got a different movie every week or so.

And in the winter of 1983, Apocalypse Now came to the base theater. Ira and I had a day off and we went to the movie. It's a long movie, epic in scope, hard to take it all in the first time you see it. I was blown away. Ira was quiet and we didn't talk as the film rolled. I have no reference for what war really is like, but this movie, whatever it's inaccuracies, hyperbole, or flaws, grabbed Ira and pulled him back in to a place he thought he had left behind.

When the movie was over and we got outside he started talking. About the movie, his life, his war, the things that happened, the effect it had on him, all of it. Stream of consciousness. He knew we were in Japan, knew what year it was, but it was the closest I have ever been to someone who is havng a full flashback experience. We had rain ponchos and winter coats on and we walked out the main gate and hiked up through dark streets, all the while with him talking, explaining, tying the movie into his experiences and events.

The rain stopped, and as it usually did, it got foggy. We walked and talked and finally returned to the base as the sky got light and morning came. We went to chow, then back to our respective barracks. The details of what he talked about are not something I am going to share, but in some way, it cemented our friendship. The movie and his story  became something he would occasionally revisit in conversation.

I didn't see the film again until at least the mid 1990s when I got a VHS player. I rented it and watched it twice before I returned it. I have seen it once since then, and watched the Redux version as well. I have read about the making of the movie and seen the documentary. I have read some critical commentary, some of which is interesting, and some is pure hogwash.

But I think Ira got the heart of it. The movie isn't so much about Vietnam as it is about the experience of Vietnam, the feel, the emotions, and the insanity. The next post will be about the movie itself.

The lockdown is far deadlier than the virus

 I've been saying this for quite some time, but in generalities.  Now comes a study which quantifies things:

A groundbreaking new study commissioned by Revolver News concludes that COVID-19 lockdowns are ten times more deadly than the actual COVID-19 virus in terms of years of life lost by American citizens.

Up until this point there had been no simple, rigorous analysis that accurately and definitively conveys the true costs of the COVID-19 lockdowns. Accordingly, Revolver News set out to commission a study to do precisely that: to finally quantify the net damage of the lockdowns in terms of a metric known as “life-years.” Simply put, we have drawn upon existing economic studies on the health effects of unemployment to calculate an estimate of how many years of life will have been lost due to the lockdowns in the United States, and have weighed this against an estimate of how many years of life will have been saved by the lockdowns. The results are nothing short of staggering, and suggest that the lockdowns will end up costing Americans over 10 times as many years of life as they will save from the virus itself.

Bold in original.  That's some medical response, right there.

In all honesty, this really isn't controversial at all.  We've studied the health effects of unemployment for decades and decades.  We know what happened to employment, and how many people lost their jobs.  Applying known health impacts to those people allows us to quantify mortality due to the lockdown.  It's just math.

What is interesting here is the analysis of age at death.  For virtually all (90%) of Covid deaths, the patient was very old.  This means that there were few "life years" left for that patient.  However, for unemployment caused mortality the age at death was much younger, and so there were many more years for each of these people.

The process of higher mathematics gives the result that is in boldface in the quote.

It's hard to see a more counter productive government response.  You might not be able to think up a more damaging response, in fact, even if you thought pretty hard.  But the lockdown sure did give a lot of power to a bunch of petty Napoleons so it's all good, amirite?

It was worse than a crime.  It was a blunder.

- Tallyrand, commenting on one of Napoleon's more blood soaked adventures.