Friday, December 15, 2017

Why it's good that "Net Neutrality" is dead

Yes, it has a happy, fluffy, friendly name.  That hides a dark under belly of government control, and in fact a dark under belly that makes the 'net noticeably worse:
For example, one of the more common "net neutrality abuses" that people mention is AT&T's blocking of FaceTime. I've debunked this elsewhere on this blog, but the summary is this: there was no network blocking involved (not a "net neutrality" issue), and the FCC analyzed it and decided it was in the best interests of the consumer. It's disingenuous to claim it's an evil that justifies FCC actions when the FCC itself declared it not evil and took no action. It's disingenuous to cite the "net neutrality" principle that all network traffic must be treated when, in fact, the network did treat all the traffic equally. 
Another frequently cited abuse is Comcast's throttling of BitTorrent.Comcast did this because Netflix users were complaining. Like all streaming video, Netflix backs off to slower speed (and poorer quality) when it experiences congestion. BitTorrent, uniquely among applications, never backs off. As most applications become slower and slower, BitTorrent just speeds up, consuming all available bandwidth. This is especially problematic when there's limited upload bandwidth available. Thus, Comcast throttled BitTorrent during prime time TV viewing hours when the network was already overloaded by Netflix and other streams. BitTorrent users wouldn't mind this throttling, because it often took days to download a big file anyway.
If it's a good idea, you shouldn't need to lie to everyone to get it passed.  Now if they'd only get rid of the "USA PATRIOT" act ...

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Bon Jovi - Run Run Rudolph

The future is stupid

Because in the future, everything will have a Bluetooth interface, including gun safes.  What could possibly go wrong?
  • “The manufacturer’s Android application allows for unlimited pairing attempts with the safe. The pairing pin code is the same as the unlocking pin code. This allows for an attacker to identify the shared pincode by repeated brute force pairing attempts to the safe.”
  • “There is no encryption between the Android phone app and the safe. The application transmits the safe’s pin code in clear text after successfully pairing.”
  • “An attacker can remotely unlock any safe in this product line through specially formatted Bluetooth messages, even with no knowledge of the pin code…the safe does not verify the pin code, so an attacker can obtain authorization and unlock the safe using any arbitrary value as the pin code.”
You see, this is why we can't have nice things.

Dwight points out that the manufacturer is stepping up:
Somewhat to their credit, Vaultek says they are offering a patch, though it looks like you’ll have to send your safe back to get it. (Vaultek says they’ll cover shipping both ways, which can’t be cheap.)
I'll bet it's not.  Funny that there's never time or budget to do security right, but there is to fix it after you've cratered your company's reputation.

Election Meddling

No, not by the Russians. By the FBI.

It would tinfoil hat speculation except that it's being reported in the Wall Street Journal.

The soft peddling of the investigation into Hillary's criminal use of a private server, the late edits in the FBI report changing the characterization of her behavior from "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless", and now comments referring to a meeting that talks about "an insurance policy" to ensure that if Trump won, they would have a course of action. 

 Is the current investigation into Russian meddling that insurance policy? If so, which is worse, foreign governments influencing our elections or agencies inside our own government ?

 “FBI owes answers abt ‘insurance policy’ against Trump victory…& if nothing to hide, why would senior FBI leaders use secret phones that ‘cant be traced’ to talk Hillary? DOJ needs to give JudicComm full transparency/cooperation 2 restore public trust. FBI CANT BE POLITICAL.”
--Tweet from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Critical Thinking

 I am posting this speech in it's entirety. It pushes back against the tide.


Undoing the Dis-Education of Millennials

I teach in a law school. For several years now my students have been mostly Millennials. Contrary to stereotype, I have found that the vast majority of them want to learn. But true to stereotype, I increasingly find that most of them cannot think, don’t know very much, and are enslaved to their appetites and feelings. Their minds are held hostage in a prison fashioned by elite culture and their undergraduate professors.
They cannot learn until their minds are freed from that prison. This year in my Foundations of Law course for first-year law students, I found my students especially impervious to the ancient wisdom of foundational texts, such as Plato’s Crito and the Code of Hammurabi. Many of them were quick to dismiss unfamiliar ideas as “classist” and “racist,” and thus unable to engage with those ideas on the merits. So, a couple of weeks into the semester, I decided to lay down some ground rules. I gave them these rules just before beginning our annual unit on legal reasoning.
Here is the speech I gave them:
Before I can teach you how to reason, I must first teach you how to rid yourself of unreason. For many of you have not yet been educated. You have been dis-educated. To put it bluntly, you have been indoctrinated. Before you learn how to think you must first learn how to stop unthinking.
Reasoning requires you to understand truth claims, even truth claims that you think are false or bad or just icky. Most of you have been taught to label things with various “isms” which prevent you from understanding claims you find uncomfortable or difficult.
Reasoning requires correct judgment. Judgment involves making distinctions, discriminating. Most of you have been taught how to avoid critical, evaluative judgments by appealing to simplistic terms such as “diversity” and “equality.”
Reasoning requires you to understand the difference between true and false. And reasoning requires coherence and logic. Most of you have been taught to embrace incoherence and illogic. You have learned to associate truth with your subjective feelings, which are neither true nor false but only yours, and which are constantly changeful.
We will have to pull out all of the weeds in your mind as we come across them. Unfortunately, your mind is full of weeds, and this will be a very painful experience. But it is strictly necessary if anything useful, good, and fruitful is to be planted in your head.
There is no formula for this. Each of you has different weeds, and so we will need to take this on the case-by-case basis. But there are a few weeds that infect nearly all of your brains. So I am going to pull them out now.
First, except when describing an ideology, you are not to use a word that ends in “ism.” Communism, socialism, Nazism, and capitalism are established concepts in history and the social sciences, and those terms can often be used fruitfully to gain knowledge and promote understanding. “Classism,” “sexism,” “materialism,” “cisgenderism,” and (yes) even racism are generally not used as meaningful or productive terms, at least as you have been taught to use them. Most of the time, they do not promote understanding.
In fact, “isms” prevent you from learning. You have been taught to slap an “ism” on things that you do not understand, or that make you feel uncomfortable, or that make you uncomfortable because you do not understand them. But slapping a label on the box without first opening the box and examining its contents is a form of cheating. Worse, it prevents you from discovering the treasures hidden inside the box. For example, when we discussed the Code of Hammurabi, some of you wanted to slap labels on what you read which enabled you to convince yourself that you had nothing to learn from ancient Babylonians. But when we peeled off the labels and looked carefully inside the box, we discovered several surprising truths. In fact, we discovered that Hammurabi still has a lot to teach us today.
One of the falsehoods that has been stuffed into your brain and pounded into place is that moral knowledge progresses inevitably, such that later generations are morally and intellectually superior to earlier generations, and that the older the source the more morally suspect that source is. There is a term for that. It is called chronological snobbery. Or, to use a term that you might understand more easily, “ageism.”
Second, you have been taught to resort to two moral values above all others, diversity and equality. These are important values if properly understood. But the way most of you have been taught to understand them makes you irrational, unreasoning. For you have been taught that we must have as much diversity as possible and that equality means that everyone must be made equal. But equal simply means the same. To say that 2+2 equals 4 is to say that 2+2 is numerically the same as four. And diversity simply means difference. So when you say that we should have diversity and equality you are saying we should have difference and sameness. That is incoherent, by itself. Two things cannot be different and the same at the same time in the same way.
Furthermore, diversity and equality are not the most important values. In fact, neither diversity nor equality is valuable at all in its own right. Some diversity is bad. For example, if slavery is inherently wrong, as I suspect we all think it is, then a diversity of views about the morality of slavery is worse than complete agreement that slavery is wrong.
Similarly, equality is not to be desired for its own sake. Nobody is equal in all respects. We are all different, which is to say that we are all not the same, which is to say that we are unequal in many ways. And that is generally a good thing. But it is not always a good thing (see the previous remarks about diversity).
Related to this:  You do you not know what the word “fair” means. It does not just mean equality. Nor does it mean something you do not like. For now, you will have to take my word for this. But we will examine fairness from time to time throughout this semester.
Third, you should not bother to tell us how you feel about a topic. Tell us what you think about it. If you can’t think yet, that’s O.K.. Tell us what Aristotle thinks, or Hammurabi thinks, or H.L.A. Hart thinks. Borrow opinions from those whose opinions are worth considering. As Aristotle teaches us in the reading for today, men and women who are enslaved to the passions, who never rise above their animal natures by practicing the virtues, do not have worthwhile opinions. Only the person who exercises practical reason and attains practical wisdom knows how first to live his life, then to order his household, and finally, when he is sufficiently wise and mature, to venture opinions on how to bring order to the political community.
One of my goals for you this semester is that each of you will encounter at least one idea that you find disagreeable and that you will achieve genuine disagreement with that idea. I need to explain what I mean by that because many of you have never been taught how to disagree.
Disagreement is not expressing one’s disapproval of something or expressing that something makes you feel bad or icky. To really disagree with someone’s idea or opinion, you must first understand that idea or opinion. When Socrates tells you that a good life is better than a life in exile you can neither agree nor disagree with that claim without first understanding what he means by “good life” and why he thinks running away from Athens would be unjust. Similarly, if someone expresses a view about abortion, and you do not first take the time to understand what the view is and why the person thinks the view is true, then you cannot disagree with the view, much less reason with that person. You might take offense. You might feel bad that someone holds that view. But you are not reasoning unless you are engaging the merits of the argument, just as Socrates engaged with Crito’s argument that he should flee from Athens.
So, here are three ground rules for the rest of the semester.
1.  The only “ism” I ever want to come out your mouth is a syllogism. If I catch you using an “ism” or its analogous “ist” — racist, classist, etc. — then you will not be permitted to continue speaking until you have first identified which “ism” you are guilty of at that very moment. You are not allowed to fault others for being biased or privileged until you have first identified and examined your own biases and privileges.
2.  If I catch you this semester using the words “fair,” “diversity,” or “equality,” or a variation on those terms, and you do not stop immediately to explain what you mean, you will lose your privilege to express any further opinions in class until you first demonstrate that you understand three things about the view that you are criticizing.
3.  If you ever begin a statement with the words “I feel,” before continuing you must cluck like a chicken or make some other suitable animal sound.

To their credit, the students received the speech well. And so far this semester, only two students have been required to cluck like chickens. 

 --Adam J. MacLeod
Jones School of Law at Faulkner University 
Montgomery, Alabama

Sunday, December 10, 2017

For The Press

So often it seems that reporters try to talk about firearms without adequate knowledge. I offer this free of charge, just glad I can help.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Guest Recipe for the Holidays From Brigid

I got through the work week and too many meetings with the help of my favorite laser pointer (you have had to have seen the Austin Powers movies to appreciate) but I was SO glad it was Saturday.

Even better, we had our first real snow.  Abby the Labrador went out on the yard to roll in it twice, the bird feeder was filled and the water dish I put out for the critters (we live on the edge a very big city park system) was filled as I imagine the creek was icing over.

Since it is the Christmas season, it's eggnog pancakes, a recipe I make every December. They are almost pastry-like in texture and SO yummy.
click on photo to enlarge
Eggnog Pancakes

1 and 1/3 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Small pinch of nutmeg

Mix together and make a "well" in the center of it in the bowl.

Mix in separate small bowl:
1 cup plus 3 Tablespoons eggnog
1 large egg beaten
2 Tablespoons clarified butter

THIS is the secret, clarified butter is butter that's been heated in a skillet until the butterfat and liquid separate a bit, it makes the pancakes extra light and fluffy, just heat the butter until it just starts to bubble and brown and add it to the rest of the liquids and immediately pour the liquid ingredients into the well in the dry ingredients. Mix lightly and cook on an oiled skillet til golden. The batter is fairly thick. If it's too thick to work with, then add a couple tablespoons of milk. Do NOT overmix.

Cook on medium heat. They are thick and take a little longer to cook than regular pancakes so don't let the heat get too high or they will burn before they are done and aim for lots of smaller ones, rather than big ones. Serve with real maple syrup.

With a little practice, you can prepare the batter in less than 10 minutes. This makes about eight 3-4 inch pancakes, enough for 2 or 3 people.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Day That Will Live In Infamy

It's memorials, headstones, and a dwindling few elderly veterans now.

76 years ago, it was ships, planes, and young men as the United States entered WWII.

Here's the story of one, Navy Fireman 3rd Class Kenneth Holm, from the USS Oklahoma, finally identified by DNA testing and laid to rest earlier this year.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Couldn't Resist- Since I still have a Flip Phone This Probably Applies - Brigid

Santa' Alter Ego -- Krampus

Have you heard of Krampus?
Meet Krampus: a half-goat, half-demon, horrific beast who literally beats children into being nice and not naughty. Krampus isn't exactly the stuff of dreams: Bearing horns, dark hair, and fangs, the anti-St. Nicholas comes with a chain and bells that he lashes about, along with a bundle of birch sticks meant to swat naughty children. He then hauls the bad kids down to the underworld.

December 5th is Krampusnacht, the night before the feast of St. Nicholas. The modern traditions include parades of costumed Krampuses and parties.

The older stories of Krampus taking the bad children and the Krampus Cards from a century ago, make for some interesting, thought provoking, reading.