Monday, November 20, 2017

How Bitcoin really works

It's funny because it's true.

20 Years Late

The New York Times, 20 years later, considers the possibility that Ken Starr was right. Bill Clinton was a serial sexual abuser, possibly a rapist, who lied about it under oath.

And in the aftermath, the Democratic Party became his enabler, protecting him and voting to keep him in office. But they can't say they didn't know.

Newspapers don't care about printing the truth

They care about printing a story:
Every November, the FBI releases its hate-crime statistics for the previous year. They've been doing this every year for a long time. When they do so, various news organizations grab the data and write a quick story around it.

By "story" I mean a story. Raw numbers don't interest people, so the writer instead has to wrap it in a narrative that does interest people. That's what the writer has done in the above story, leading with the fact that hate crimes have increased.

But is this increase meaningful? What do the numbers actually say?

To answer this, I went to the FBI's website, the source of this data, and grabbed the numbers for the last 20 years, and graphed them in Excel, producing the following graph:

As you can see, there is no significant rise in hate-crimes. Indeed, the latest numbers are about 20% below the average for the last two decades, despite a tiny increase in the last couple years. Statistically/scientifically, there is no change, but you'll never read that in a news article, because it's boring and readers won't pay attention. You'll only get a "news story" that weaves a narrative that interests the reader.
In this case, the narrative was "Hate crimes increase".

Really, the only thing to add to this analysis is that certain narratives are more pleasing to the progressives that populate the News Room than others.  Those pleasing narratives will get pushed to the front page, while less pleasing narratives will get "fact checked" to death.

As Mark Twain said, if you don't read the newspaper you're uninformed.  If you do read the newspaper you're misinformed.

Layers and layers of fact checkers

Polifact awards "Four Pinocchios" to Duffle Blog.

Layers on layers on layers.  You know, onions have layers.  I wonder if Polifact this that The Onion has layers, too.  And "Bowe Bergdahl wanders off during Court Martial" is hilarious.

Hat tip: Don Surber.

Fun fact: autocorrect wants to substitute "polecat" for "Polifact".  Heh.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thanksgiving cooking pro tip

It seems that you don't even need to know how to cook.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

In Dog Beers I've Had One - A Brigid Holiday Shopping Guest Post

Grocery shopping in a snowstorm the weekend before Thanksgiving is never fun.  But with my husband being in charge of spiders, dead possums in the yard, and home repairs the grocery shopping is my weekly chore.  I HAVE learned some things, however.

500 carts in the store and I will get the one with the front wheel that pirouettes like a ballerina on crack.

I always make a list.  Sometimes I remember to bring it with me.

Always eat something before shopping.  I once went on an empty stomach and came home as the proud owner of Aisle 5.

You can go to the store for "just" milk, and spend $125.
Pork chop in homemade fig molasses with grist mill cornbread.  Forget the Kraft Dinner.

You know you need "me" time when a stroll down the detergent aisle feels like a spa day.

My husband once asked me to pick up some oil  There were like 87 different kinds.  I now know what men feel like in the tampon aisle.

If someone is standing directly in front of the item I need I will pretend to look for something else until they move.

I once lost my Mom in the store.  I was 51.  They gave me a balloon and paged her.

I do not object to telling the millennial who has 37 items in the Express Aisle "that I know all the lyrics to FROZEN and I am NOT afraid to use them".

I have, on more than one occasion of many years, turned the Betty Crocker Upside Down Cake box in the aisle - upside down.

I realize that I get excited that I can now buy the unhealthy cereal my Mom usually didn't let us have.

Someday they will say about me "she died doing what she loved, carrying 87 plastic bags of groceries from the car to the house, rather than make 2 trips.".

That being said - happy to have survived and made it home for a cold one.

And a frozen pizza - as I was tired out from all the shopping.

Breaking the Four Rules

At a Thanksgiving supper at a church in Tellico Plains, Tennessee, some elders were discussing the recent shooting in Texas. One elder unholstered his concealed carry piece, unloaded it, and passed it around. When he got it back, he loaded it, rechambered a round, and then...wait for it.

That's right! He went for it, broke all Four Rules, with the predictable results.

He took a loaded gun, pointed it at other people at a church supper, put his finger on the trigger, and shot two people.

All Guns are always loaded. He couldn't even say he thought it was unloaded. He knew it was loaded. He had just loaded it.

Never point the gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. He pointed it at a couple from his congregation.

Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target (and you have made the decision to shoot).His finger was definitely on the trigger.

Be sure of your target and what is beyond it. He not only shot one person in the hand, he hit the next person in the abdomen.

If he had just pointed the gun away from the people into a corner as he loaded it, most of this stupid would have been reduced to embarrassment and sheet rock repairs. If he had left it in the holster, all of it would have been eliminated.

As Tam would say, "Just stop touching it."

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thoughts on Sen. Franken

The dog that hasn't barked in this situation is Donald Trump - he hasn't taken to Twitter to stir the pot.  That's interesting.  Why not?

The last week has been wall to wall media coverage about Roy Moore in Alabama.  Whether you believe Moore or his accusers, the coverage has been relentless.  It's been quite a bi-partisan display, as politicians from both parties have condemned Moore.  And now along comes the Franken accusations, which seem much more credible.  Again, ignoring whether you believe More or his accusers, Franken has admitted it - he really didn't have much choice, as there's photographic evidence.

But silence from @RealDonaldTrump.  Again: why?

Assumption #1: both parties would like to impeach Trump.  The Republicans are increasingly willing to openly oppose him, and it's clear that the GOP establishment would like to see Trump and his supporters just go away.  Some Democrats actually introduced a bill of impeachment, which seems to be "Trump is a boor".  The pile on of Roy Moore is this same desire in a minor key.

Assumption #2: I believe that the Democratic party would throw Franken under the bus in a New York minute if they thought it set the stage for an impeachment of Trump.  After all, the (Democrat) Governor of Minnesota would appoint another Democrat, so there's no change there.  And yet, there have been precisely zero calls for Franken to resign.

Again, the interesting question is why.

I believe that there's another show waiting to drop, and that shoe is the secret payments made to victims of Congressional sexual abuse - payments that it is said run to the millions of dollars.  This is bubbling just under public consciousness, with brief mentions in the media but no real attention being  given to it.  If the Democrats were to try to force Franken to resign, this might break the dam on the broader Congressional corruption issue.  Nobody on Capitol Hill wants to go here.

I believe that if Congress decides to get serious about impeaching Trump for moral turpitude, you'll see Trump's tweets push  this issue front and center - his argument will be that if he is so bad that he has to go, why don't they go?  Since Congress is about as popular as herpes, this argument might have some legs.

The whole situation is breathlessly cynical all around, so much so that Trump looks like the guy who's clean.  Pretty wild - every time I think that my assessment of Congress can't be any lower than it is, they up and say "hold my beer".

Poor security in "Connected" toys

I've been posting about this for some time, so it's good to see other folks chiming in:
A consumer group is urging major retailers to withdraw a number of “connected” or “intelligent” toys likely to be popular at Christmas, after finding security failures that it warns could put children’s safety at risk.  
Tests carried out by Which? with the German consumer group Stiftung Warentest, and other security research experts, found flaws in Bluetooth and wifi-enabled toys that could enable a stranger to talk to a child.  
The investigation found that four out of seven of the tested toys could be used to communicate with the children playing with them. Security failures were discovered in the Furby Connect, i-Que Intelligent Robot, Toy-Fi Teddy and CloudPets.
A lot of this is basic no-security-on-bluetooth, limiting the range that someone could exploit this to 100 feet or so.  But some is a lot more worrying:
With the i-Que Intelligent Robot, available from Argos and Hamleys, the investigation discovered that anyone could download the app, find an i-Que within their Bluetooth range and start using the robot’s voice by typing into a text field. The toy is made by Genesis, which also manufactures the My Friend Cayla doll, recently banned in Germany owing to security and hacking concerns. Both toys are distributed in the UK by Vivid.

The link at the top of this post is from a year ago, and talks about most of these toys.  A year later, the manufacturer has done nothing to improve the security holes - that tells you everything you need to know about whether you can trust them with your little bundle of joy.

Let me just say that the Northeast Gunbloggers know how to deal with Furbys.  Just sayin'.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Hack the friendly skys

Well, this isn't good news:
At least some commercial aircraft are vulnerable to wireless hacking, a US Department of Homeland Security official has admitted. 
A plane was compromised as it sat on the tarmac at a New Jersey airport by a team of boffins from the worlds of government, industry and academia, we're told. During the hack – the details of which are classified – experts accessed systems on the Boeing 757 via radio-frequency communications. 
“We got the airplane on September 19, 2016. Two days later, I was successful in accomplishing a remote, non-cooperative, penetration,” said Robert Hickey, aviation program manager within the cyber-security division of the DHS's science and technology directorate, while speaking at the CyberSat Summit in Virginia earlier this month.
It seems that security guys have known about this problem for a while but this info hasn't gotten out to pilots until now.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

With A Chainsaw

The USAToday has been roundly mocked for suggesting that chainsaw bayonets were a problem.

I don't know how common they are, or how practical, but apparently, if you can think of it, Bubba will build it.

Climate change: which is cheaper, adapting or preventing?

If you're wondering, you haven't been reading here very long.  It appears that the proposed spending to "prevent climate change" will cost the USA $7 Trillion more than the "damage" caused by the climate change.

Numbers are from GAO and IEA.  Warning: there's math here, although it's basic Net Present Value analysis.

Bottom line: under typical planning assumptions, it's far more costly to implement climate change programs than it is to let things run their course.

Implication: Environmentalism makes poor people poorer.  $7 Trillion could fun a lot of programs for poor people.  "Being Green" is just more Rich People's Leftism.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Condolences to Paul, Dammit

His mother passed away.

Et lux perpetua luceat eis, amen.

Apple FaceID cracked

That didn't take long:
When Apple released the iPhone X on November 3, it touched off an immediate race among hackers around the world to be the first to fool the company's futuristic new form of authentication. A week later, hackers on the actual other side of the world claim to have successfully duplicated someone's face to unlock his iPhone X—with what looks like a simpler technique than some security researchers believed possible. 
On Friday, Vietnamese security firm Bkav released a blog post and video showing that—by all appearances—they'd cracked Face ID with a composite mask of 3-D-printed plastic, silicone, makeup, and simple paper cutouts, which in combination tricked an iPhone X into unlocking. That demonstration, which has yet to be confirmed publicly by other security researchers, could poke a hole in the expensive security of the iPhone X, particularly given that the researchers say their mask cost just $150 to make.
From a security perspective, FaceID (and fingerprint recognition) is a terrible idea.  The problem is that it's used for the wrong purpose.  Both would be fine as a username replacement - after all, you are you.  But they're really, really, really bad ideas as passwords, which is how they're used.  They can't be changed if they get compromised (and believe me, that is what hackers world wide are working on because it's the Holy Grail of pwnage).  They can be used against your will, by Bad Guys or by Governments.

If you use either of these two things, you should turn them off.