Words of Advice:

"Never Feel Sorry For Anyone Who Owns an Airplane."-- Tina Marie

"
If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

"
Flying the Airplane is More Important than Radioing Your Plight to a Person on the Ground
Who is Incapable of Understanding or Doing Anything About It.
" -- Unknown

"There seems to be almost no problem that Congress cannot,
by diligent efforts and careful legislative drafting, make ten times worse.
" -- Me

"What the hell is an `Aluminum Falcon'?" -- Emperor Palpatine

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bangity; Hot, Hot, Hot

I shot a club PPC match today. Damn, it was hot out there.

I first went with a 9mm Taurus PT-92. I kind of suck with it.

Then it was my trusty Smith Model 19. I had two flyers for whatever reason, those were enough to kick me down from where I think I should be scoring (mid-level Masters) into another category (Expert). The LGS has one on consignment, the combat version with a 4" barrel. The consigner wants more that I'd be willing to pay, easy to resist.

Sometimes I think that I should sell my bottom-loading centerfire handguns. I just don't seem to shoot them very well any more.

Caturday; Shelter Kittens Edition

Two kittens from a feral mother. The mother had them under a dumpster; the mother was killed by a vehicle.


It will be a few months until they are old enough to be adopted out. Like most shelters, this one wouldn't survive on adoption fees. They rely on the kindness of animal lovers who donate and/or come to fundraisers.

Here's hoping you are one of them.

Friday, August 30, 2013

An Open Response to the Honorable Secretary of State John F. Kerry

Dear Secretary Kerry:

I just listened to most of your speech in which you laid out your case for doing something with regard to the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria.

This is my question to you: How many times, in your lifetime, has an American Secretary of State or President laid out the case for entering into a war, only for the American people to learn, years later, that the facts of that were not true?

How many times, in your lifetime, was this country lied to in order to justify a war?

How many times were the "facts" embellished? How many times was contradictory evidence overlooked, ignored, not reported, denigrated, or those pointing out the holes in the Administration's case called "weak-kneed" or worse? How many times has opponents of a war been castigated as lining up on the side of evil?

Here is a hint: The number is not "zero".

Do you understand that we will not be swayed by a nice speech?

Do you understand that evidence produced by our own intelligence community (and that of the Brits) will be regarded with skepticism, because they have been involved before with ginning up false grounds for war?

Do you understand that "trust me" is the wrong answer?

Because It's Friday

NKP 765 at Horseshoe Curve:

The "Black Budget"- How the Spies Spend Our Money

Both the WaPo and the Guardian have stories up about the 52 billion smackaroos that the spooks manage to spend each year.

Yes, they have a line item on anti-whistleblower activities.

I haven't had the time to peruse this stuff. I thought it better to pass the word along.

One thing did pop right out: When the DoD said that they didn't analyze bin Ladin's DNA, they were lying.

Springfield XD-S Recall

If you have one in either 9mm or .45 ACP, you should check out their recall notice, ASAP, if not faster.

They show the list of affected serial numbers, you can quickly determine if your heater is in the recall range..

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Stopping the Scourge of Those M-1 Garands

Obama is banning the importation of U.S.-made military weapons.

Because of the rash of crimes committed with those easily-concealable Garands? I haven't checked, but I'll wager that more people get killed with shoelaces than Garands.

It's just more inane feel-good political theater from an administration that seems to specialize in doing that.

Another Reason Not to Call 9-1-1; "Cops Have No Balls", Edition

Some precious snowflake of a deputy sheriff had his iddy biddy widdle nose broken on a 9-1-1 call (he killed the guy who did it).

Now, he is suing the homeowner and relative of the guy who broke his nose.


One might think the other deputies in that county might want to corner Mr. Snowflake and beat some sense into him, but I guess cops in Texas really are pansies these days.

As his boss, the county sheriff, pointed out, answering a 9-1-1 call involves an element of risk. But I guess Deputy Snowflake thought that they gave him a gun to accent his uniform, not because there was any gasp! danger in the job.

Rummy, Rummy: STFU, Please

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who along with President George W. Bush helped send the United States military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, said in an interview Wednesday the White House has yet to justify potential strikes in Syria.
Right. President Obama should heed unsolicited advice from one of the key men who lied this country into a costly war with in Iraq? A man who cannot travel abroad for fear of being arrested for various and sundry war crimes under the Yamashita Standard?

This poster should be on every wall of Rumsfeld's home and office:


If the Administration wants to know from Rumsfeld how to falsify evidence in order to justify a war, they can damn well waterboard it out of him.

Syria: The Onion Nails It

They have a "guest op-ed" by Bashar al-Assad asking: "So, what's it going to be?"

Damn good question.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

J. Edgar Hoover Plus 40 Years

You may recall hearing of J. Edgar Hoover. He ran both the FBI and its predecessor from 1924 until he finally died in 1972. He was pretty much a power-hungry fascist, who used his private files as a subtle blackmailing tool to keep Congress and the White House in line. Most of his private files were never found, his long-time companion and alleged lover Clyde Tolson supposedly destroyed every one that he could.

Hoover is why FBI directors are limited to ten-year terms.

And the example of the power amassed by Hoover may be instructive as to why Congress is so unwilling to take on the NSA.

Firebombing the Yosemite Rim Fire

Firebombing at Yosemite with a C-130:


If you click on the YouTube logo and watch it over there, you'll see links to similar videos.

Proud Parents; NSA and the Kiwis Edition

New Zealand is a country that has a Bill of Rights, which includes the right to be free from unreasonable searches of one's correspondence. Notwithstanding any of that, it came to light recently that New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau was illegally spying on New Zealanders.

The government's fix for that was to make such spying legal. The Prime Minister of NZ (some clown named "John Key") is mouthing the same sort of platitudes that we hear from our own President and politicians: Trust us, we'd never abuse these powers, we'll do the right thing, and the classic line of those who do no wrong have nothing to fear.

In NZ, search warrants are apparently issued by justices of the peace. After the NZ parliament passed the Big Brother Act of 2013, one of them resigned. He issued a statement that included these words:
I’ve spent my life studying what happens when a government acts without proper regard for fundamental rights and when it claims, and abuses, unreasonable powers. I cannot in conscience be party, however remotely, to such a process. So I have no choice but to resign.
I hope that the Kiwis come to their senses, throw Key's party out in their elections next year and repeal that law.

I also hope that some of our own judges have the stones of J.P. Gwynn and also resign in protest.

And I also would hope that our own politicians, or, failing that, our own electorate stands up against our growing national security state.

But of those three hopes, only the first may come to pass.

(H/T)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

This Administration's Amateur Hour

This was in a mass email yesterday from Doctors Without Borders:
Here is what we know: three hospitals in Syria's Damascus governorate that are supplied by Doctors Without Borders reported to us that they received approximately 3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms such as convulsions, excess saliva, pinpoint pupils, blurred vision and respiratory distress, in less than three hours on the morning of Wednesday, August 21.

These patients were treated using Doctors Without Borders-supplied atropine, a drug used to treat neurotoxic symptoms. So far 355 of those patients reportedly displaying neurotoxic symptoms have died. ... Unfortunately, when medical personnel treat patients exposed to a neurotoxic agent, they too are at risk of becoming ill. Sadly, the doctors in one of the hospitals reported that 70 out of 100 volunteers suffered symptoms after direct contact with patients and that one person has died.
However the President may have quibbled when he laid out his "red line" on chemical warfare, it was perceived around the world as "if you do this, we will attack you."

First off, he's faced with the point that support for another war in the Middle East has single-digit approval. He'd probably have more luck proposing to legalize child marriage.

Second, if we've learned anything from the last eleven years of combat in eastern and southern Asia, it has been that intervening in civil wars pretty much only has bad consequences. Neither side has clean hands and that is especially true in Syria, where among the rebels are hardline militant Islamists and al-Qaeda allied/inspired bands.

Third, it's a hell of a lot easier to get into such a war than it is to get out of it. Everyone seems to be more than eager to see us use force, but the same nations and groups calling for us to attack will be the first ones to criticize what comes next. Getting into another war in the Middle East is like wrestling with the proverbial tar-baby (and about as messy). That's a hard lesson that I thought this country had learned after two wars over there, a lesson that the President seemed to have heeded when he wisely let the French and the Brits take point on intervening in the Libyan Civil War.

Fourth, I don't know what our national interest is in Syria. If there ever was a conflict in which the better option was to wait for the noise to die down, this is one. Intervening in the Syrian Civil War will be as pointless as it was to intervene in the Lebanese Civil War thirty years ago.

But here's the real rub: Obama's red line has been crossed and something will have to be done. The United States cannot be perceived as running a bluff. If Obama is bluffing and the Syrians have called it, then what happens when a "red line" is later crossed by another nation? The answer to that, unfortunately, is that if they try to call a bluff and we weren't bluffing, then the chance of another war increases.

It is the wise thing is to never threaten the use of force without first thinking through the consequences of making such a threat. In other words, never bluff and cultivate that reputation.

But we're past that point. And now we're going to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a pointless war because yet another president engaged his mouth before engaging his brain.

We are so screwed.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Here's the Thing That Most Famously Talented People Should Keep in Mind

No matter how good you are at something, unless you're Stephen Fucking Hawking, there is somebody out there, living in obscurity, who is every bit as good as you are.

That point was made when Kristin Chenoweth brought up a member of the audience to sing a duet with her. That person, Sarah Horn was every bit as good a singer (and so, arguably, was the girl chosen the following night.)



Until Friday night, nobody knew of Horn.

To Chenoweth's eternal credit, she willingly runs the risk of being upstaged every time she invites someone from the audience to sing with her (they are trying to find people who have the chops to sing with her).

But it doesn't change the point I'm trying to make: Talent and hard work can take you only so far. A little bit of good fortune doesn't hurt. So does keeping in mind that no matter how good you are, there is somebody out there who is both unknown and better than you.

Unless, of course, you happen to be the Waco Kid.

NSA PSAs!




And this one:

Ah, Crap. Spam Filter

A couple of legit comments got vacuumed up by the spam filter, including one that's almost a week old (about TrueCrypt).

My apologies, folks.

The Banksters Win Again. Isn't that Always the Way It Goes; Motor City Edition

The banksters are going to be first in line to pick over the bones of the City of Detroit.

Individual investors who paid out hard cash for city bond, and pensioners, who spent their working lives trying to make Detroit a good place to live, will be at the bottom of the heap. The Emergency Overlord of Detroit, Kevyn Orr, is allegedly going to make sure that his Wall Street buddies are taken care of. For why else would he put forth a plan that fucks over everyone who had their lives and their cash wrapped up on Detroit and reward the banksters whose sole function was charging rapacious fees for their work?

The fingerprints of the Koch Brothers lackey state governor, Rick Snyder, are all over this little tongue-bath for the banksters.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Darwin Award Nominee

Sean Cole was among about 15 friends celebrating a 30th birthday on the banks of the Northern Territory's Mary River - home to the world's highest concentration of saltwater crocodiles - when he and a mate decided to plunge in for a swim.

They ignored the signs and verbal warnings from staff at the Mary River Wilderness Retreat and Caravan Park: this is no place to swim.

A five-metre crocodile was waiting for Mr. Cole, in his 20s, an IT worker from Darwin. His friends watched helplessly from the bank as the crocodile grabbed him between its jaws and dragged him under the surface of the muddy river about 4pm on Saturday. He hasn't been seen since.
The staff there warns everyone that they should not go swimming and to stay at least 5 meters from the water's edge, but oh, no, those two idiots had to go and test that. If it happened in this country, I'd wonder if some sort of libertarian attitude of "how dare the gummint tell me what to do" was at work, but given that this happened in Australia, I'd guess that copious amounts of alcohol was a factor.

When I was a kid, I saw a western movie in which one of the bad guys said something along the lines of: "There's only one way a man can enter this world, but there's a thousand ways he can leave it."

That gent in Australia was adding to the list.

(H/T)

NSA: Don't You Worry, DiFi is on the Case

Sen. Feinstein is looking into the incidents of NSA staffers spying on their loved ones and ex-lovers, and she is doing it "in detail."

Because she wants to make sure that anything bad is hushed up the NSA is held to account, ya sure, you betcha!

Feel safe, knowing that she's looking out for your civil liberties and freedoms?

(Yeah, me neither)

Tab Clearing; Ranting Edition

AG Holder may choose Leslie Caldwell to head the DoJ's criminal division. Caldwell has a track record of aggressively going after financial crimes.

Caldwell may do great, but my instinct is to throw the Bullshit Flag on this one. She, or someone like her, should have been on the job years ago. But no, Obama and Holder putzed around for over five years. Even Chimpy moved faster on such things, a lot faster. By the time the DoJ gets around to bringing charges, statutes of limitations may have run out.

Which, for all we know, might have been what Obama, Holder, and the outgoing head of the criminal division had in mind from the start.

*           *          *

It's now illegal to feed homeless people in Raleigh, NC. Apparently, the City Council equates homeless people with stray dogs. It's probably also illegal for them to sleep under bridges.

*           *          *

Drivers, if you'll look on the left side of the steering column of your cars and huge-ass SUVs, you'll see a little lever sticking out. That lever is called a "turn signal". If you intend to make a turn to the left, or change lanes to the left, push the lever down. If you are going to the right, lift it up.

It is the sign of a rude and inconsiderate asswipe of a driver to bang out a turn and lot use the turn signal to warn other vehicles, especially those traveling in the other direction, that one is going to turn.

And when you are done with a lane change, it's polite to move the turn signal lever to the center. That way, other drivers aren't wondering when you will turn and speculating on how somebody as oblivious as you ever got a license to drive.

*           *          *

Say you are flying into an uncontrolled field. You listen in on Unicom and everyone else is announcing that they're on a right downwind or a right base for runway 32. It is a real sign of incompetent airmanship to enter the traffic pattern on a left downwind. Maybe you should have looked at the frigging sectional chart, where it says "RP32" and has for many years.

Airports don't adopt right-hand traffic patterns. They do it generally because they are trying to keep peace with their neighbors. At that particular field, a right pattern for 32 has airplanes flying over fields, which a left-hand pattern has them flying over the town.

Everybody else could either read the chart and see that a right-hand pattern was in use, or at lest listen in on the radio and deduce that, but no, not one clueless clown yesterday. And because Bozo the Pilto just barged in wherever he felt like, the flow of traffic was nicely disrupted. (And it didn't help matters any that Bozo didn't try to clear the runway at a busy airport with any dispatch, no, he just had to roll down sedately to the next intersection.)

*           *          *

Can we have a law that holds that anyone who rolls down a residential street with the bass of their sound system turned up to "liquefy" can be fired upon by the residents?

*           *          *

Say there is a charity that accepts donations for a thrift shop. That doesn't mean that they accept garbage. You've got clothes that are filthy and probably not useable for shop rags? You've got books that are wet? You have wooden furniture that's been sitting outside and is now all warped and swollen? You have mugs or dishes that are chipped and cracked? Frying pans with a heavy layer of burned-in grease?

Throw that shit out. Or, if your local laws permit, pile it in your back yard and burn it. Please be somewhat thoughtful and don't use charities as your personal dumpsters.

Your Sunday Morning Jet Noise

A-10s training Stateside:

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Apropos of Nothing in Particular

Everything is going into the shitter.

We all know who is to blame for it.


Germans Say: Stay Away From Windows 8

They are claiming that Windows 8 and the chipset designed for it allow both Microsoft and the NSA to not only snoop on, but to exercise control over your computer.

I don't know if this is true, but given how far into bed with the NSA that American tech companies have climbed, it wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Caturday

Jake in one of the examining room at the vet's:


He's pretty good with them. Oh, he'll object to some of the poking and prodding, but he's a gentleman about it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Shorter Pentagon: "What'll It Take to Put Your Nation's Pilots Into the Seat of These Sweet F-35s?"

The pencil-whippers at Ft. Fumble have reduced their estimate for the operating cost of the F-35 from a pasta-gazillion dollars to four-fifths of that.

That's based on some pretty iffy assumptions, one of them being a 55 year service life for the F-35. And they are also, believe it or not, saying that the price in current dollars will drop from $200 million a copy to half of that or less. Of course, they don't acknowledge that the damn airplanes will cost $200 million, but that's the reality of it.

By their fuzzy math, that would make the F-35 cheaper than the latest models of the F-15, which would be damn near unheard of in aircraft procurement history.

Which is why I call bullshit.

OK, Maybe We Ought to Go Back to Strapping Juvies into Old Sparky

Police in Spokane, Wash., have arrested one of two teens suspected of fatally beating an 88-year-old veteran of World War II who had survived the battle for Okinawa.

Police contend that two 16-year-old boys approached Delbert Belton in his car at random Wednesday night outside an Eagles Lodge as he was waiting for a friend.

Belton was found by police with serious head injuries and died in the hospital Thursday.
This was Mr. Belton:


I don't know what sort of two-legged predator viciously beats and robs a short elderly man. I don't want to call them "animals", for that is defaming animals to compare them to those two thugs.

If we're going to have a death penalty in this country, the rule should be if you're old enough to kill, then you're old enough to die for it.

Question about the Ft. Hood Asswipe's Verdict

It took the jury six hours to find Maj. Asswipe guilty.

I'd like to know what did they do for the other five hours and fifty-seven minutes.

Totalitarianism: When the Germans are Warning Us About It, We Have a Problem.

No matter in what system or to what purpose: A monitored human being is not a free human being. ... A regime is ruling in the United States today that acts in totalitarian ways when it comes to its claim to total control. Soft totalitarianism is still totalitarianism.
It's not just Obama, but he's been in office long enough that he owns this problem. Governments at all levels in this "free country" have a long track record of tracking and trying to make life difficult for dissidents and treating peaceful protest as terrorism.


UPDATE: Seems that a hell of a lot of the NSA's "inadvertent" breaches of privacy rules were pretty goddamned intentional. Like all scum-sucking politicians, the NSA released news of that on a Friday.

Because It's Friday.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Obama's "Independent Review Panel"--"Insider Baseball" or "the Stockholm Syndrome"-- Pick One

The President's intelligence review panel, which was supposed to be made up of "outsiders" will be made up of people who worked in the White House or former intelligence staffers.

"Most Transparent and Open Administration in History", my ass.

There is not a single outsider on that panel. There is nobody who is versed in the issues of privacy. It's like Boss Tweed appointed a panel of his cronies to investigate his administration: You're not exactly going to be on tenterhooks wondering about the outcome of the panel's "investigation" and "deliberation".

Yep, this cake is going to be baked as predictably as if they bought a box mix from Duncan Hines.

Keep spitting in our face, Barry. Keep it up. Keep lying to us in ways that are discovered to be lies within a handful of days. We are getting to the point where more and more people are, to paraphrase Mary McCarthy, coming to regard every word you say to be a lie, including the words "the" and "and".

You need to throw your rudder over, come about and get back to the position that you took in 2007, when you were in favor or reining in the national security state, not expanding it. You need to go back to showing some deference to the Bill of Rights, instead of regarding the Fourth Amendment as a dead letter.

You are losing the trust of those who voted for you.

Sooner or later, the GOP is going to really come after you hard and you know something, Mr. President? We're not going to lay down on the rails for you when it happens. Maybe your advisers inside the White House Bubble and inside the Beltway are telling you that this issue of the Federal government photographing our mail and collecting our phone calls and emails and Internet searches will blow over, but guess what, sir?

That's not going to happen.

You've been the president now for four and a half years. This one can't be blamed on Chimpy and Darth. This one is on you. You are the Wiretapper in Chief. You are becoming a modern mixture of J.Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon-- secretive, paranoid and a threat to the idea of freedom and privacy.

For the two go hand in hand. If there is no privacy, there is no personal freedom. If there is no privacy, there is no economic freedom. People have their secrets. Companies have theirs. Nobody wants the default to be that everything is shared with the government.

Oh, hell. What this guy said.

This issue isn't going to go away.

As the editor of the Guardian said, we are bloody well not finished writing about it.

Not by a long shot.

UPDATE: More here, from the Atlantic, which points out that the goal of Obama's little panel is not to fix the NSA, but to get us to stop talking about it.

A Modern Oxymoron

The MTAHNS has announced that the spooks will have their own Internet propaganda outlet blog. Because they are all about transparency.

Right. "Transparency" in the intelligence world is about as rare as a unicorn in a meat-packing plant.

Since it's a pretty common slur among the high-and-mighty that bloggers are kids wearing pajamas, living in their mother's basements and subsisting mainly on stale pizza, you have to wonder who they have running this particular blog.

Note that the first post was by that noted fibber, Clapper the Perjurer.

Piffle. If I want to read propaganda from those folks, there's lots of "journalists" who are happily serving up the DNI's party line. Look for any article where Rep. Mike Rogers or Sen. Feinstein are quoted without any challenge whatsoever.

In Other States, This Would be a Hate Crime

One of the Oklahoma teenagers accused of killing 23-year-old Australian baseball player Christopher Lane had previously posted images online showing himself posing with guns and wads of cash.

And three days before what police call the indiscriminate shooting, the suspect, 15-year-old James Edwards Jr., tweeted, "With my n****s when it's time to start taken life's."

Back in April, he tweeted, "90% of white ppl (people) are nasty. #HATE THEM."
In some other states, a hate-motivated killing gets enhanced punishment. Not in Oklahoma.

But it probably doesn't matter much. It's not constitutional to fry juveniles, even if they get treated as adults for a horrible crime. So the state will go after them all for the top count of first-degree murder. This case is too high profile, there won't be much in the way of deals offered.

Pass the Popcorn; Rafael "Ted" Cruz Edition

Oh, this story just keeps getting better and better: Cruz held government positions that required background checks. Those checks begin with the subject of the check filling out a detailed questionnaire. Apparently, the forms in use ask about dual citizenship.

So did Cruz disclose that he was a dual, if not triple citizen?

On a similar note, you might remember that Liz Cheney applied for a resident fishing license in Wyoming, despite the fact that she had not resided in the state for a year (less than three months, in fact). The form that was filled out said that she had lived there for ten years. Of course, Cheney is taking the route of all high-and-mighty folks caught doing something wrong: She is blaming the clerk for filling it out wrong. She had to pay a $220 fine for lying on an official form.

The old Frank Burns line: "It's God's will or somebody else's fault" is the operating rule for the Cheney family.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Shorter ABC News: "Rah, Rah, NSA!"

You probably have heard, by now, that the NSA was collecting tens of thousands of emails illegally and then misrepresenting, time and again, what it had done to the FISA Court. The FISA Court found the NSA's actions unconstitutional, if not outright criminal.

That's not the flavor of the story that you'd get from ABC News, which lauds the NSA for finding a problem, disclosing it and heroically fixing it.

So, well done to the stenographers at ABC News, for putting the NSA's spin on this story.

More Bullshit From the MTAHNS

More jabber jabber:
Federal prosecutors will no longer seek long, "mandatory minimum" sentences for many low-level, nonviolent drug offenders, under a major shift in policy aimed at turning around decades of explosive growth in the federal prison population, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. planned to announce Monday.

"Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no good law enforcement reason," Holder planned to tell the American Bar Assn. meeting here, according to an advance text of his remarks. "While the aggressive enforcement of federal criminal statutes remains necessary, we cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation."
If the MTAHNS was really serious, the President has a tool sitting right on his desk to begin fixing it. It is his pen. All he has to do is sign commutation papers for the "low-level nonviolent drug offenders" who are already serving lengthy sentences in the Federal slam.

But you know that won't happen. Ol' Barry is the worst president in modern history when it comes to using his power to pardon or commute sentences. He is worse than being a DINO on this. You'd think that Sheriff Arpaio was running the pardon process.

Lying and hiding the ball is what this particular president is really skilled at.*
_____________________________________________
* And no, I don't regret voting for him. I believe things would be far worse under an administration run by either of his electoral opponents. But I am disappointed that on every call between ramping up the national security state or scaling it back, Obama has sided with the diminution of freedom and liberty

David Cameron is an Idiot of the First Rank

He is the PM. of Great Britain and he has absolutely no clue as to how digital data storage is done these days. For Cameron was the one who ordered the destruction of the Guardian's hard drives.

Even so destroying paper files might have been pointless, as really vital stuff would have been run through a copier and saved elsewhere. As everyone reading this post knows, it is a trivial matter to copy digital data and to have the exact same material on computers and memory devices around the globe. It was such a ham-handed move that even the MTAHNS is backing away.

At this point in the saga to date, the reporters and pundits who are still standing with Drooling Dave and Barry the Mendacious* should find other work. For they are betraying what it means to be a journalist in a free society.

(Or they should go to work for the People's Daily in Beijing.)
_____________________________________________
* He lied about not having a domestic spying program. Now it comes out that the NSA is capturing 75% of Americans' Internet traffic, not just 1.6%. Yes, I am taking the position that if the NSA has the capacity to vacuum up 75% of our Internet use, they are doing at least that.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ted Cruz: Naturally Born Commie

As you may know, Rafael "Ted" Cruz was born in Canada. His father was Cuban (at the time), his mother was American. Cruz claims to be an American because of his mother's citizenship.

He also would be a Cuban citizen through his father.

Which means that the good people of Texas elected an enemy alien to the Senate.

Good going, folks!

(Yes, I've mentioned this earlier today, but it's worth its own post.)

Become a Government Snitch or Go to Jail

The owner of Lavabit has been told by the Feds that they may prosecute him for refusing to become a covert government informant.

The owner of Groklaw has chosen to shut down her service. She can't see a way to work without email and, since the NSA is vacuuming it all up, she's quitting. (H/T) She's not the only one to conclude that and shut down.

Imagine that you are talking to a good friend over lunch. All of a sudden, a cop sits down at your table and says: "Don't mind me, please, continue on."

That, Gentle Readers, is where we are today. The Google has already declared that Gmail offers no privacy. Google claims that they are not like the Post Office, no, they are more like your secretary, so they read everything.

Meanwhile, the MTAHNS is now claiming that they should have the right to search your cell phone without a warrant. Because that part in the Fourth Amendment about being secure in your effects--
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
--only applies to those "effects" that you might have had in 1791, I gather. So as long as you write out your letter using a quill pen and then give it to a dispatch rider on horseback, you're still within the Fourth Amendment.

Of course, don't expect to hear anything objecting to it from the likes of Sen. Feinstein (D-DDR) or Rep. King (R-CCCP). Others, though, are objecting, especially to the part where Obama, in essence, claims that if you failed to object to his kicking you in the nuts, then kicking you in the nuts is legal. Which is pretty goddamned outrageous. Can you imagine a burglar telling the cops that because the property owner didn't file a police report, that it was legal to rob the place?

Oh, and if you're looking for a secure email service, these are the "Five Eyes" Countries: The United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. You would be well advised to not choose an email service based in any one of them. Regardless, make sure that you do the encryption on your system, not theirs. And if you want to be really safe, do the encryption and decryption on a comuter system that is "air-gapped" (not connected to the Internet). And use a very long passphrase.

On encryption programs, any thoughts on what's good?

Shorter Ted Cruz: "I'd Rather be President Than Prime Mister of Canada."

Ted Cruz has finally gotten around to promising that he'll renounce his Canadian citizenship.

Only took him 42 years.

What's going to be fun is watching the Birther-Teatards twist themselves into knots over this. Unlike Barack Obama, Cruz was born in another country. Like Obama, Cruz's father was not an American , but his mother is.

Here is the other tell about the Birthers: They like to consistently refer to Obama by his full name: Barack Hussein Obama. But they alway call Cruz by his middle name and not his full name: Rafael Edward Cruz.

If you measure Cruz by the yardstick that the Birthers have constructed for Obama, Cruz isn't eligible to run for President. But you won't hear diddlely-squat from the Birthers about this.

Whether it is an indicator of partisanship or racism (or both), I'll leave to you.

Updated to add:


"The Canadian Usurper".

Updated again to add: Cruz arguably is also a Cuban citizen, for the same reason that he claims to be an American citizen.


Before You Bubba-Up That Mosin-Nagant

...please do a bit of research to see whether or not it is a rare variant.

Yes, the total production was something north of ten million rifles and carbines. But that doesn't mean that there aren't some rarities out there. That rifle you bought could be worth a lot more than the $150 you just paid out for it at Herman's Bait and Booze.

But it won't be worth that once you take a saw to the stock and drill the receiver for mounting a scope.

Actually, this applies to all military rifles. Something like a couple of million Springfield M1903s were made, but there are some relatively rare ones out there. For example, there was a short period of time between when production was farmed out to Remington and when they started making the 03A3s. Some of the internal changes from the 03A1 to the 03A3 (besides the sights) were made during the last production of the 03A1 series. So while Grandpaw might have thought it was a good thing to shorten the stock and mount a scope on it, that rifle, unaltered, might be worth over two grand if he hadn't (rather than the $300 it's worth today).

A little bit of research before you go to town on your new milsurp rifle might be profitable.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Police States and Third World Shitholes (and Now, the U.S. and the U.K.).

It was once the province of police states and Third World shitholes to detain reporters and interrogate them because the government didn't like what they wrote. It was once only Soviet-style nations that showed up at a newspaper and destroyed things.

But now, in this amplified police state world that we live in, we do it and so do the Brits. And if they really don't like what you write, they will do what they can to make your life hell. Laura Poitras has found that out, for the government has made a special project of trying to silence her through intimidation.

The difference, still is only a matter of degree. Greenwald and Poitras are still alive. Unlike Anna Politkovskaya.

For now. Because you can bet that it won't bother either Sen. Feinstein or Rep. King if something were to happen to them. And now the insistence by DiFi that "real reporters" are ones who draw a paycheck begins to make sense.

Turn Off All Electronic Devices (and Read Your Fucking SkyMall)!

Shorter UK Security Establishment: "Lovely Partner You Have. Pity if Something Were to Happen to Him."

For that is pretty much what happened in the UK yesterday. Glenn Greenwald's partner, David Miranda, was changing planes at Heathrow Airport when the goons grabbed him and questioned him for the maximum of nine hours that they are allowed to hold someone without charges under the UK's Terrorism Act. They kept every pit of electronics that Miranda had before releasing him.

Of course, this had nothing to do with terrorism. It was retaliatory against Greenwald, the spooks signalling that "we can go after your family".

So-called anti-terror legislation, both here and in the UK, is mainly used for everything else. On a percentage basis of the number of cases that are investigated using the enhanced powers given to law enforcement after 9-11 and the number of terrorism cases so investigated, it's roughly equivalent to the percentage of World Series games with the Chicago Cubs. Maybe less.

But before we get our outrage going against the UK holding Mr. Miranda for nine hours without any reasonable justification, consider this: If he had changed planes at JFK, our badged-up thugs could have held him as a "material witness" for days, if not weeks.

Intimidating journalists, at least in First World countries, is a stupid tactic. It almost always backfires. For unlike lesser-developed shitholes like Mexico or Russia, the intimidators are not killing them.

UPDATE: The fingerprints of the MTAHNS are all over this one.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

F-35 Post and Update

..to this post.

I have heard from people involved in studying the F-35. This is the gist of it: John Boyd, who was one of the gurus of air combat[1] apparently did a hell of a lot of work in quantifying the performance of fighter and attack aircraft. As I understand it, an analyst can plug in the performance numbers for a proposed airplane and then out will come its known equivalents.

Apparently, if you do that for an F-35, what you get is an A-7. Which wasn't designed for air combat.

A second point, which has been lost in the uproar over the dogginess of the F-35: The F-35 will end up costing almost as much as the F-22, probably $200 million a copy or more. That level of cost has two disadvantages. First off, they cost so much that the inclination will be to not use them. You can see that play out in the employment of Air Force bombers, where it is the half-century old B-52s that do the heavy lifting when it comes to dropping shit on hostiles.[2], while the B-1s and B-2s play lesser roles.[3] The B-2 and the B-52 are instructive on this point. The Air Force built over 700 B-52s, almost 80 of which, all B-52Hs, are still in service. The Air Force could only afford to build 20 B-2s, all of which have to be pampered in air-conditioned hangars if they aren't actually flying about.

Second, if we do use them in combat, we will have so few of them that any combat losses will be crippling. Elsewhere, I've read that naval fighter squadrons will have between two and four fewer F-35s than they now have F-18s. The Navy's public rationale is that F-35s will be more capable, so they'll need fewer. The real reason is probably that the Navy won't be able to afford to buy enough.

This dynamic has played out on a smaller scale. The Navy developed the Mk-50 torpedo because the Mk-46 arguably couldn't do the job against modern (1970s/80s) Russian subs. But the Mk-50 ended up costing so much that the Navy couldn't buy enough of them, so they had to develop a new and cheaper torpedo that was sort of a kitbash of a Mk-46 and Mk-50 (and probably was also in-between its parents in capabilities). The Army's replacement for the M-16/M-4 rifle became so costly that the program was axed.

It is a supposedly Russian saying that "quantity has a quality of its own". For an adversary who is willing to take a punch (like China), they need only bring more airplanes to the fight than the United States's F-22/35s are able to deal with. Our potential adversaries are not stupid people, they can do the arithmetic as well as anyone else. And in such a situation, either we risk losing a large number of our expensive stealth fighters (and losing the fight) or withdraw without fighting the point.

Because hoping that things will turn out differently is not a plan. Neither is sending out pilots to be pointlessly slaughtered.
_________________________________
[1] Fighter guys seem to speak his name with the same sort of reverence that gun people have for John Moses Browning.
[2] The last B-52 was delivered to the Air Force in 1963.
[3] Going by Air Force plans, the B-52 will survive the B-1.


Your Sunday Morning Jet Noise

Gloster Meteor, the only Allied jet fighter to see service in the Second World War.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Voyager in Interstellar Space?


Yet there is another group of scientists who think that Voyager is out of the Solar System.

36 years in space and still on the job. What a marvelous machine!

"Paulsamic Vinegar"-- How Did I Ever Miss This One?

There is this video on YouTube (and it's not the only one) of a crazy person spraying vinegar with a hand-spray bottle to wipe out "chemtrails". Freep has a long story, full of snark, about the Ron Paulistas and "chemtrails".

In a rational world, one would point out that condensation trails form when water vapor in engine exhaust condenses at high altitudes, where it is bloody cold. Contrails have been around since the Second World War, when bombers began flying up high.


In a rational world, one would explain that contrails form about 25,000' and that the airliners which create them are usually flying at altitudes between 33,000 and 39,000 feet.


Trying to eliminate a "chemtrail" by spraying or boiling vinegar at ground level is like trying to put out a match by spraying a hose at it from five or six miles away. At least, that's the point that I'd make to a rational person. One could point out that the duration of any one set of contrails depends on the temperature and dewpoint of the altitude where it was formed, which is why some vanish in a minute and some persist for hours.

But the "chemtrail" people are nowhere near close to being rational. In point of fact, they're close to being certifiable.

And so, in an age-old tradition, we make fun of them.

Caturday, Wakey-Wakey Edition

Jake wakes up:


He's an old man. His routine involves sleeping, eating, sunning, gazing out the window, litterbox and petting. He still plays with his toys, but not as much ashe once did.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Dead Tree Sanity Taking Hold

The NY Times went behind a limited-access paywall; you can see a small number of articles a month for free, then you have to pay something like $15/month. The WaPo just did the same, for $10/month.

It's about fucking time, guys.

Suuuure, We Can Trust the NSA to Police Itself-- When Bison Can Dance the Ballet

If you've been paying attention to this story, you'll know that Emperor Alexander has been proclaiming all along that the NSA scrupulously follows the rules and the we can trust them, there's nothing to see and you can go back to watching Duluth Gots Talent.

Well, surprise, surprise, seems that the NSA doesn't follow the rules because it's too hard to obey the law. The NSA broke the law thousands of times a year, and that's just at their HQ alone. When they take the effort to report their violations of the law, they clean up the reports-- sort of like reducing a murder beef to disorderly conduct.

Meanwhile, the FISA Court has admitted that they are toothless. They depend on the intelligence agencies to self-report to the court when the agencies break the law. Riight, sort of like shutting off the alarm systems and requiring that bank robbers call the cops whenever they pull a job.

When is the pro-police state caucus in Congress going to get a clue and realize that they have to start doing their fucking jobs as an independent branch of government? Oh, they have no trouble engaging in symbolic vote after vote to repeal Obamacare, but when it comes to doing some heavy lifting and exercising oversight of the spooks-- not so much. The Chief Spooks lie to Congress without any consequences, but you try that and see what happens.

UPDATE: What he said:
[H]ere's what now should be taken as an operating procedure in any discussion of the NSA and/or the surveillance state. First, everything they say is a lie, or, at best, a quarter-truth. Second, any argument based on the fundamental premise of "Trust us," should cause the person making the argument to be laughed out of government service forever. Third, any defense based on the alleged safeguards of either the FISA Court, or the responsible committees of the Congress is prima facie worthless, whether it comes from your favorite pundit, your favorite congresscritter, or, especially, your favorite President of the United States. Fourth, Edward Snowden, International Man Of Luggage and flawed human being, has blown himself a helluva whistle here. (Emphasis mine)
UDPATE II: DiFi (D-NSA) has the NSA's back on this, which is about as surprising as it will be when the Sun sets this evening.

UPDATE III: I gather that NC State is going to change the name of its sports teams to "The Fighting Spooks." After all, the NSA goes together with academic freedom kind of like flourine and everything else.

Old Steam

GTWRR 4070 on the Cuyahoga Valley RR:



4070 was one of the locomotives saved from the scrapper by Richard Jensen. She ran in excursion service on the Grand Trunk and Western out of Chicago in the late 1960s. She then ran in excursion service in Ohio and on the Cuyahoga Valley Railroad until she needed a major overhaul in 1990. Now called the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, you won't find a mention of 4070 on their web site. The Midwest Railway Preservation Society owns 4070, they are slowly restoring her to operation.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cats, Idiot Politicians and the Vast Wasteland; Tab Clearing Edition

Did you know that cats can get acne? Jake did. Last month, he was scratching under his jaw hard enough to draw blood. The vet wasn't sure what it was, but it looked kind of infected. Antibiotics cleared that up, but yesterday, Jake was scratching at the same spot hard enough to draw blood. So in he went to the vet, who said it looked like a pimple and that if it was something else, it wouldn't have gone away so easy. So the vet "expressed" it with a pair of tweezers and out came a small white mass of crap that sure looked like it came from a pimple.

Behind Door #1, is an idiot politician is someone who is crammed inside the GOP Clown Car. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), thinks that if a gun isn't used to steal shit, then it's not a crime: "Well first of all, for a criminal practice, there has to be a gun. It's pretty simple." Somebody should ask Idiot #1 if Bernie Madoff should be released from his retirement home in FCC Butner.

Behind Door #2 is the soon-to-be-ex-Mayor of San Diego Bob Filner (a Democrat). One woman after another is stepping forward to tell how he sexually harassed them. The latest accuser is a 67-year old great-grandmother. The victim count is fifteen women and rising. Filner apparently thinks that harassing people is part of his job and he asked the City Council to pay his legal bill. They told him to fuck off. Filner has sexually harassed so many people that even Cardinal Bernie Law is saying "really?"

Now, over to the Vast Wasteland. I do like the show "Longmire", but c'mon guys, do a spot of research! Hell, hire the guy who wrote the goddamn books as a technical adviser or something. The latest episode, "Natural Order", opened with the murder of a game warden. It took about a nanosecond for the gun fora to point out that the game wardens in the show were wearing khaki shirts and Smokey hats and that everyone was referring to the "Department of Fish and Game" while in Wyoming, the game wardens wear red shirts and favor baseball caps (if not cowboy hats) and they work for the Department of Game and Fish. (OK, their full-dress uniform has striped trousers and a Smokeyish hat, but they don't wear that out in the field.) Shit, people making the show, do a better job. Sure, there is no Absaroka County but the show is set in a real state.

Finally, tonight is John Oliver's last night behind the anchor desk of the Daily Show. I think he's done a hell of a good job at it and, frankly, if Jon Stewart didn't come back, I don't think I'd miss him very much. If anything, as a Brit ex-pat, Oliver is better placed to call "bullshit" on American political fuckery.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Massive (and Failing) Government Jobs Progam

The F-35, which is shaping up to be an airplane that only does one thing well: Burns through our money.

For an airplane that is supposed to be a gunfighter, it has the worst rear-ward visibility of any active-duty fighter since the F-4. It can't out-turn, out-climb, or out-run other fighters.

Here is what I propose: Take the F-35 out to the aggressor training bases (NAS FAllon and Nellis AFB). And fly the damn thing off in scenarios ranging from long-range missile engagements to furball dogfights. The aggressor squadrons fly F-5s and Kfirs and they could bring in F-15s, F-16s and F-18s. It probably wouldn't be too hard to come up with some MiG-29s and hell, try them against some F-4 Rhinos for shits and grins.

And bring in some retired fighter pilots, ones who have no ties to LockMart, to oversee things. If we leave it to the active-duty blue-suiters and the brown-shoes to run it, odds are that they'll rig the game for the F-35.

My bet is that such an exercise will never happen, because both LockMart and the project managers at Ft. Fumble know that the F-35 would largely get its tail waxed time and again.

(More on this)

Questions That Needs to be Asked About the NSA

Do they do any good?

Are we getting good value for the billions of dollars they cost us?

How much do they cost us?

What do they really do?

NSA HQ is a black mirrored box, which is a pretty good analogy for how they operate. We, the American people, are supposed to open the top, pour in unknown billions of dollars, and trust that they are doing the right thing.

How do we know? For all we know, the Friday luncheon there might be hookers and blow.

What we get from them is "trust us, we know what's good for you, and we can police ourselves."

I call bullshit.

It's time to clean up that secret cesspool. And if they don't want to cooperate, then let's just drain it.

Another Day on the Surface of an Oblate Spheroid

I got nothing.

Except this, from Bent Objects:


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Barry the Mendacious Liar

Here are a couple of more things about the NSA.

First off, the President's speech and news conference last Friday were, arguably, a new low in his stumbling presidency. Far from treating us like adults, he showed contempt for the American people and reasserted that only he and the unseen professionals could evaluate what was proper with regard to the NSA snooping on all of us.

Second, the "outside and independent" review he promised on Friday will be nothing of the sort. The same clowns who have lied to us in the past will be the ones to review what the NSA is doing. It will be headed up by James Clapper, who has a track record of lying to Congress.

Feel comforted by that? It's sort of like Mayor Bloomberg asking the Police Commissioner to investigate his own department for civil rights violations: The results are pretty easy to foretell.

Congress needs to plow under its pro-police-state caucus and get to work exercising some serious oversight and conducting some detailed investigations, as the Church Committee did almost 40 years ago. And if the NSA won't cooperate, then defund the jackholes.

UPDATE: The White House is trying to walk back the involvement of Jimmy the Perjurer in the review. But since Clapper the Fibber is the one who will control the security clearances for the quote independent investigators unquote, he effectively will control who gets to investigate the NSA.

p.s. yes, I know about that asshole Christianist judge in Tennessee, but that's kind of small beer to me these days.

Feinstein: Pro-Police State All the Way!

DiFi is doing what she can to make sure that "reporters" are people who draw a salary.

So if you're a stringer for a newspaper, no dice. If you get paid for writing an online column, nope, not you. If you run a blog and you manage to make a living doing it, you're not a "reporter" in the eyes of Feinstein.

Maybe you have a blog or a web site and you run across some government shenanigans and you publish them. According to the Mighty DiFi, you're not a reporter and if the Feebies want to take you down, they can.

Jesus Effing, why doesn't she just go ahead and shift over to the GOP? She and Miss Lindsey could make the cutest conservative lesbian couple ever.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Federal Judge Recognizes Reality

This one almost falls into the "no fucking shit" file:
A New York judge ruled Monday that "stop-and-frisk" searches carried out by city police are unconstitutional – and ordered that a federal monitor be brought in to oversee their reform.

In a major victory for civil rights activists who have long contended that stop-and-frisk amounts to racial profiling, US district court judge Shira Scheindlin said the stops violated individuals' right to privacy and equal treatment under the law.

She added that testimony had led her to believe that the NYPD carries out more stops of black and Hispanic residents, "even when other relevant variables are held constant".
I haven't read the ruling and to be frank, unless somebody pays me to, I'm not about to dive into a 39-page order with an accompanying 195-page ruling, even if it is double-spaced.

The testilying of the NYPD on this matter is legendary. The cops routinely put down that they saw a "furtive movement" or some other bullshit as a justification for the stop.

Mayor Mikey "Rules are for Other People" Bloomberg and his stooge Police Commissioner tried to pressure the judge through public opinion, a tactic that rarely ever works. Federal judges have lifetime appointments, they don't give a fuck what some low-rent politician has to say, even if he has a gajillion dollars.

UPDATE: Short version of Bloomberg's reaction: Whaaa!

99 Years

99 years ago, the western front in the First World War was still in its brief maneuver phase, before settling into four years of trench warfare.

I suspect that the further that war recedes in time, the more incomprehensible the whole thing is. Imperial Europe destroyed itself over the question of who got to exercise influence in Serbia and the rest of the Balkans. Old Europe was at the height of its global power and influence at the beginning of 1914. But then some minor bit of royalty in central Europe was killed by a fanatic and they all went to war.

Once the western front was in trench warfare, the combatants fed troops and matériel into the fight as though they were feeding a perpetual meatgrinder. Two years into the war, the leaders of the British Army knew full well that assault tactics involving interlocking groups which charged and then dove for cover in No Man's Land offered a better chance for the troops. But the British officers could not be bothered to train their troops, so they slow-marched their soldiers into the teeth of German machine guns.

Nobody took a mental step back, contemplated the costs they were incurring and said: "Whoa. Can't we stop this thing?" The machinery of death cranked on, probably because every nation felt its honor was at stake. In particular, the French had their own butthurt to avenge from the Franco-Prussian War. (And, 21 years after the guns fell silent on Armistice Day, the Germans moved to avenge their butthurt from the Great War.)

Imperial Russia. The Second Reich. The Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Ottoman Empire, all of them, washed away in the tide of blood.  France, a first-rank world power for centuries, began its slide towards relative military irrelevance. (It took a second war to begin the bankruptcy of the British Empire.) The United States played its first act as "the Arsenal of Democracy", which involved a very large transfer of wealth from Great Britain and France to the US for armaments and supplies, which, as some have posited, made the United States the only real victor in the war.

It all seems so insane a century later. And yet, have we learned all that much since then? We still go to war with grandiose plans and when those plans fail, as they have for us in three wars over the last fifty years, there is no plan of what to do next other than gut it out, feed troops and matériel into the war in the hope the other side blinks first. The big lesson of the Great War wasn't "avoid trench warfare", it was "don't go to war over small shit, you morons. And don't go to war thinking that it'll be a lovely short four week or six month war."

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Quote of the Day, Relevant to the NSA

"If the law is upheld only by government officials, then all law is at an end." -- Herbert Hoover

Which is where we are with regard to the NSA. The NSA swears that it is obeying the law, but there is not a soul outside of the NSA watching them. Oh, they say that Congress has oversight, but whenever they try to exercise it, the NSA stiff-arms them.

Congress has the power to force them, they can just defund the cocksuckers.

Anyone care to bet how long it'll be before the Guardian is unavailable to U.S. based users for "technical reasons"?

Oh, the Perils of Socialism!

In Sweden, they have to import garbage from Norway in order to stoke the Swedish power plants that are designed to burn refuse.

And the Norwegians pay the Swedes to take their garbage. And the Norwegians take back the ash residue.

We're nowhere near that savvy in this country. Even small-sale recycling gets denounced by Republicans as being some sort of Commie plot.

(H/T)

Your Sunday Morning Jet Noise

An-225:

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Ingenuity; Gun Edition

Some gent down in Mississippi modified a Rossi M1892 to shoot 7.62x25mm Tokarev.

It took an impressive amount of work, for about the only things that he didn't have to modify were the stocks and the sights. It's reminiscent of something that an Englishman would have done, back when they were permitted to own such things.

Caturday

Jake is lying on one of the cat beds. He stirred a little when I began the camera shenanigans.


He's on one of the cat beds. I took the heating element out of them for the summer. Once Fall arrives, I'll plug in the other one and, when I see him start using it, I'll put the heating element back into this one.

Friday, August 9, 2013

NSA, Idiots and Suchlike

I wonder if the irony ever hits the MTAHNS: In 2007, Senator Obama wanted to rein in the NSA.

Now, of course, the only reason that any of this is on the table is because a whistleblower ratted out the NSA to the world. So now President Obama, who would rather quietly try said whistleblower for treason against the known universe, is being prodded into doing the very same things that he said that he wanted to do. Of course, back then, he hadn't donned the precious that is presidential power. He thinks that we shouldn't be so worried about terrorism, but then he turns around and argues that the NSA needs the tyrannical powers that it has glommed onto in order to fight terrorism?

Then there is this bit of multi-layered bullshit from the MTAHNS:
Emphasizing that NSA leaker Edward Snowden isn't a patriot, President Obama said he had called for a review of surveillance operations well before Snowden leaked any information. The new reforms will call for additional transparency and create a task force of private citizens to review the NSA's surveillance programs.
First off, yes, Snowden is a patriot. He's a patriot to the Constitution. Second, MSNBC, Snowden is a whistleblower, not a mere leaker. He didn't ooze out a few minor secrets for personal gain, like most leakers (who are politicians or bureaucrats) do. He blew the lid off the fucking edifice of lies. And third, anyone who seriously thinks that we, as a nation, would be having this conversation without Snowden having blown his whistle is on some really good drugs and they need to stop using, and yes, I'm looking at you, NBC News, and almost every other news outlet in this country.

Meanwhile, the drumbeat of NSA fuckery marches on. Two years ago, President Smeagol and the Congress gave the NSA the power to conduct searches of the data of Americans without even bothering to seek a warrant from those toothless lions of the FISA Court. All we have to keep us from government minions tromping through our online data is the assurance that "we're good people and we'd never do anything like that, honest injun!"

Are you comforted by that?

The NSA has identified the real problem: Humans have consciences. Humans might have grown up drinking the Kool-Aid of liberty, freedom and civil rights and they naturally rebel at having to do what the NSA does to our citizens. So Emperor Alexander is going to do what he can to get rid of humans. Because algorithms don't have such pesky things as morals.

One op-ed contributor thinks that we should trust in corporations to protect us from the government, which is beyond laughable. Because what would happen is that the NSA would then just buy it from them and, if they had to set up a fake company to do it, they'd do that in a heartbeat.

You've probably heard that Lavabit chose to go out of business rather than be transformed into government informers. They made this point:
This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.
No fucking shit. If you use a "cloud service" that has servers in the U.S., you might as well copy all of your shit in to the NSA or the FBI. The NSA's probably collecting it, anyway and if the FBI wants it, they'll just issue one of those sooper-seekrit National Security Letters, the data host will give them what they want and you'll never know about it.

One thing is clear: We cannot trust anyone in this Administration to fix this mess. If it hangs over past 2016, whoever the next president is won't fix it for the same reasons this one is resisting reining in the NSA. And so far, there have been enough bi-partisan pro-police state senators and congressmen to thwart reform. But those people, we can remove if we stick to our last on this issue.

Oh, and last but not least, was this bit of galling insincerity from Obama:
[President Obama said] that Snowden is welcome to a fair trial in the United States if he believes his actions were justified. "If in fact he believes that what he did was right, then like very American citizen, he can come here before the court with a lawyer and make his case."
Which is bullshit. Snowden probably wouldn't be allowed to plead justification, you can look to other trials to see that play out.

What Obama is really saying is that "we'll give the guilty bastard a fair trial before we hang him."

Which is an age-old American legal tradition.

Doing What She Was Made to Do; Steam Edition

UP 3985 hauls freight.



The Challengers were designed for fast freight. You probably won't see 3985 run for a few years, as the Union Pacific has apparently idled her while their steam maintenance shop gears up to put a Big Boy back in service. That may also be why UP has already ended steam operations for this year.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What is Real?

That was a question posed by an article in the August issue of Scientific American.

The issue seems to be whether subatomic particles are really particles, or are they some sort of wave or excitation of some sort of field or whether they are material at all, or they just have properties that are an illusion of mass.

And that's about as far as I could get with it. I read the full article twice; I think I would have had less trouble understanding the instructions on how to calibrate an antimatter injector in a warp drive.

If subatomic particles are not material things, then how is it that atoms can have mass or, the things that atoms make up?

My head hurts.

The Future Arrives in Baby Steps

Someone has made a hand-held railgun, also known as a Gauss rifle.


At this point in its development, it's less impressive than a 13th Century Chinese handgonne. No doubt that Alco and Baldwin weren't too impressed just over a century ago by the first few diesel locomotives. So for now, the gun manufacturers probably aren't too worried.

But the electric rifles are coming, nonetheless.

(H/T)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

USS Miami to be Scrapped

The Navy is giving up on repairing USS Miami and will scrap her.

According to The Day, the estimated repair costs went from $450 million to $700 million. Anyone somewhat familiar with ship repairs could add another 20% to that for repairs for stuff not yet known. And $700 million for repairing that boat would mean that a hell of a lot of other repairs to other ships would be deferred.

Also, although repair funds and new construction are two different pots of money, spending a billion dollars to repair a 23-year old sub is insane when, for twice that, the Navy can buy another new Virginia-class SSN that'll be serviceable for four times the projected remaining life of the Miami.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

One in a Thousand Still Flying

B-17:

and
One in a thousand still flying isn't that bad, when you consider that for the B-24, it's one in nine thousand. (For B-25s, it's about one in two hundred.)

If You Sup With the Devil, Use a Long-Handled Spoon

That would seem to also apply to doing business with the Chinese.
A Chinese energy firm offered big money and access to women to entice an engineer at a U.S. company to launch a cyber raid on his employer, stealing sensitive computer codes and “thereby cheating (the firm) … out of more than $800 million,” according to newly unsealed court documents and internal messages and emails obtained by NBC News.

Federal prosecutors call the alleged cyber theft from American Superconductor (AMSC) in Devens, Mass., one of the most brazen cases yet of Chinese economic espionage in the United States. The techniques the Chinese used to rob the company of three quarters of its revenue, half its workforce, and more than $1 billion in market value were straight out of a “spy novel,” the firm's CEO said in an interview with NBC News.
I don't know why this came as such a big surprise to AMSC. Intellectual property theft is what the Chinese do. Any business partnership with the Chinese government a Chinese company will last so long as it takes them to steal the crown jewels of the foreign company.

Why do you think that the Russians refused to sell their newest navalized fighter to China? They knew that the Chinese would take it apart, reverse engineer the thing and then make their own. If you google "Chinese theft", the first suggestion they have is "Chinese theft of intellectual property". They steal hundreds of billions of dollars worth of the stuff each year.

I feel bad for AMSC, but crimus, were they all chowderheads? Didn't they know that their Chinese "partners" would do whatever it took to rob them blind?

Sinovel should be banned from selling its products in this country. The Obama Administration should forget about Snowden and pressure other countries to ban them, as well.

Do You Need to Feebie-Proof Your Computer?

Apparently so, as the Feds can surreptitiously activate your webcam and microphone. If the Feds can do it, other people can, as well.

A long while back, I had a friend who worked at a law firm. Their office network was not connected to the Internet. If someone needed to use the Internet, they had separate computers for that, which were forbidden for use for anything else but e-mail and research. At the time, I thought that they were excessively paranoid. No longer do I think that.

One thing to do is, for your laptop, take a small square of white copying paper, stick it to some electrical tape, and then tape the paper over the hole for the web cam. You can then wad up a bit of tissue and do the same for the microphone. If you need to use them, you can take either off. The paper, besides inhibiting both of them, also protects them from the tape's goo.

Or just shut off your router when you don't need it. You'll also save a little on your power bill.

Hiroshima

My post from 2009 and, for Nagasaki, 2010.

My feeling is that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved far more lives than they cost. I hold that it is the height of revisionist history to claim that anything other than an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands would have ended the war, which would have cost a million or so Allied lives (mostly American) and tenfold or more Japanese lives.

Beyond that, the reality of what even a single low-yield atomic weapon could do to a large city was enough to cool the hot blood of most national leaders, especially once both sides of the Cold War possessed them. Even so, the world has come awfully close to seeing another nuclear war at least once or a few times.

The fear of widespread destruction if the Cold War went nuclear was eventually overtaken by the computer simulations of nuclear winter and later ones that showed that a climatic catastrophe would follow even a limited nuclear war.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Wise Investing, Dead Tree Edition

The Washington Post Company announced Monday it was selling its newspaper business, including the flagship Washington Post, to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos for $250 million.
Right, and next he'll buy up a buggy-whip factory.

I say that because the NY Times just sold the Boston Globe for $70 million. Compared to what they paid for it, they sold the paper for six cents on the dollar or, if you adjust for inflation, four cents on the dollar. On the other hand, they bought the Globe with stock and sold it for cash, so maybe it's not as bad a deal as it looks.

The only good note is that at least Rupert Murdoch didn't get his mitts on either paper, not that the WaPo has been any shining beacon of truth and liberty of late. As I remember it, they weren't as complicit in selling the Iraq War as their competition several Amtrak stops to the north, but they were not far behind.

The Post has done done decent work in the last several years; they ran the first articles on the gross and systemic neglect of wounded veterans at Walter Reed Army Hospital. They also ran a series on the rise of the American security state apparatus and the contractors who fueled it.

Still, I can't see Bezos, or anyone else, for that matter, shelling out a quarter-billion dollars in a quest to uphold a grand, if somewhat shabby, tradition of American journalism. Compared to Bezos's net worth, he paid what would roughly be several hundred bucks to an average family, but that's just going to be the initial payment in what'll probably cost him a lot more.

Other than gaining some control over one of the larger megaphones in D.C., I can't see what he has to gain from this deal.