Sunday, November 22, 2015

Gavin Newsom wants me dead

I cannot say I am surprised at this. Wanting most people vulnerable to the depredation of criminals is entirely in keeping with the Left's attitude toward the hoi polloi. The endgame for the Left has always been the firing squad and the gulag.

On HBO, Gavin Newsom Defends Being a Sitting Duck at a Mass Shooting

Thursday, November 19, 2015

In Response to a Stupid Meme

There is no Christianity in the modern world. In its place is a bunch of squabbling sects; each with it's own vision of the Truth. The only real danger these little "c" christianities pose is when one or an alliance of a few powerful ones gains ascendancy within a government. That situation helped drive much of the warfare in post-Reformation Europe. The US avoided that problem largely -- and probably accidentally -- by mandating religious freedom so people no longer had to fight over stupid stuff. If you disagreed with your church, join another or make up your own.

The adherence to Scriptures is highly selective in modern Christianity and different sects emphasize different parts. God may hate fags but He loves bacon! In a real sense, Christians have gone from believing their religion to believing in their religion.

Maybe Islam is in a transitional state analogous to the Reformation. I don't think so but it may just be too early to tell. More likely, IMO, is that most Muslims really believe their religion is big "T" Truth and internalize its principles. All of them. That is not remotely like the situation in Christianity since the 19th Century.

Anyway, here is the Stupid Meme of the title.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Ends and Means

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Suppose you are down a mine and five people are standing on the track. You see a trolley laden with coal coming down the track, you cannot warn the people, but you can flip a switch that will divert the trolley onto a side line. Unfortunately one person is standing on this line. What should you do (morally, that is).

You have probably heard of this or some similar "thought experiment" in ethics. They are generically called a Trolly Problem after a moral dilemma devised by the late Philippa Foote.

One thing about philosophers is they get to present only one side of the story and do so in any way they like. Setting up a scenario which stipulates that the only possible way to save the five lives is to kill one person at first seems seem unfair so I was tempted to just dismiss the scenario as unrealistic. However, after further thought I decided the Universe really is perverse enough that similar moral dilemmas will arise.

At various times, I tried two basic approaches to solve the dilemma. First was the utilitarian approach. This is an attractive solution because it is simple arithmetic: Five lives are greater than one life. So the utilitarian answer is to divert the train thus killing the one to save five.

The other approach is based on obedience to rules (deontological) and always seemed to devolve to some version of the Doctrine of Double Effect which I first encountered reading Thomas Aquinas in my misspent High School days. To justify an act, there are four criteria which must be met:

  1. The action must be either morally good or morally indifferent.
  2. The bad effect must not be a proximate cause of the good effect.
  3. The intention must be the achieving of only the good effect, with the bad effect being only an unintended side effect.
  4. The good effect must be at least equivalent in importance to the bad effect.

OK, so analyzing the question according to Aquinas:

  1. Pulling the switch is an indifferent act. Check
  2. The killing of the one person is not the proximate cause of the other five surviving. Check
  3. Saving the five is the intent. This is a bit if a push but I give it a check
  4. Arithmetic again: Five lives are greater than one life. Check.

So both approaches yield the same answer. When I understood that, my first inclination was to think "Wow! It must be the correct action!" However, the answer did not seem right to me. I know that a feeling of wrongness does not necessarily translate into an objective wrong but I believe there is value in letting my feelings serve my intellect. Feelings evolved alongside intelligence for a darned good reason -- It helped my ancestors survive and produce the next generation of my ancestors. If emotion and intellect are in disharmony then intellect can be used to sort out the controversy.

There is an unspoken assumption in the Trolley Problem that all six lives are essentially of equal value but that is not necessarily true. I suspect the arithmetic for a God (or a sufficiently advanced AGI) would be a little different. A God will have information about the people involved which can affect the decision. Perhaps the one is a brilliant medical doctor and the five are murders and rapists. Would that change the moral balance? If it does then some lives are less valuable than others and both of the above approaches are severely crippled.

If there was a God (or AGI) lacking any innate tendency to be corrupted by power, it could be right for She/He/It to deliberately kill the one innocent person to save the other five. However, human being are not Gods with perfect knowledge nor are we immune to the temptations of power.

Friday, July 31, 2015

A Backdoor is Pretty Much Useless for Law Enforcement

Here is a good article from Bruce Schneier discussing why, even if a "law enforcement backdoor" could be made hacker proof, it will not solve the problem it is intended for.

Back Doors Won't Solve Comey's Going Dark Problem

A "backdoor" is a deliberately introduced security hole that, in this case, allows anyone with the relevant knowledge to eavesdrop on communication. This does more than introduce wiretapping capabilities into private communications. It increases the complexity of the system which decreases reliability. It makes patching bugs more difficult because the wiretap functions will have to be validated. Additionally, if anyone really thinks that a mandated backdoor will remain "law enforcement only" he needs to look up the Athens Affair.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dem Bones

JERUSALEM — Hailed by some as the most significant of all Christian relics but dismissed by skeptics amid accusations of forgery, misinterpretation and reckless speculation, two ancient artifacts found here have set off a fierce archaeological and theological debate in recent decades.

At the heart of the quarrel is an assortment of inscriptions that led some to suggest Jesus of Nazareth was married and fathered a child, and that the Resurrection could never have happened.

Now, the earth may have yielded new secrets about these disputed antiquities. A Jerusalem-based geologist believes he has established a common bond between them that strengthens the case for their authenticity and importance.

Findings Reignite Debate on Claim of Jesus’ Bones

If true this would offer serious evidence that the tradition of Jesus as the unmarried, only child of a virgin mother is wrong. On the other hand, it would also be solid evidence that Jesus actually existed. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

What it will not do is cause any crisis of faith in followers of the various flavors of Christianity. Some will reject it out of hand. Some will ignore it as irrelevant. Some will just adapt their theology. Mormonism survived the revelation that much of its holy book doesn't correspond to New World archeology so I suspect few Christians will have much of a problem with this.

In the end, I doubt many minds will be changed. Still, it would be pretty neat to know the truth.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Warrant Canary is Illegal in Australia

For those who don't know, a warrant canary is the periodic transmission of a statement along the lines of, "We have not received any warrant demanding your data." If the message stops being sent then the recipient(s) can assume such a warrant has been served. The idea behind this is that the gag-order that often accompanies such demands from law enforcement cannot prevent a person from not speaking.

Until now. In Australia.

Australian government minister: Dodge new data retention law like this

Warrant canaries can't be used in this context either. Section 182A of the new law says that a person commits an offense if he or she discloses or uses information about "the existence or non-existence of such a [journalist information] warrant." The penalty upon conviction is two years imprisonment.

In truth the warrant canaries were unlikely to work for long. In the current, fear driven environment there is little reason for law enforcement to restrain itself from coercing the target of a warrant into sending false canary messages. By outlawing even the attempt to use a warrant canary, the Australians are just being more honest about being a bunch of progressive schmucks.

I anticipate similar wording will be added to US law.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Quebec: Stuck on Stupid?

Generally, I try to understand the peculiarities of other cultures and I get that firearms may scare people who learn about them from television and video games. However, this out of Quebec strike me as just plain stupid. The Canadian government already wasted over $1 billion on a registry that, allegedly, lists less than half the legal firearms in the country. Now, in a classic example of the Sunk Cost Fallacy, Quebec wants to throw good money after bad.

Update: Quebec will create its own long-gun registry.

The article includes this little gem:

Thériault was careful to add that a provincial registry wouldn’t be designed to limit hunting activities or to crack down on lawful gun owners.

Only "lawful gun owners" will register their firearms making them the only people a registry can be used against.

There have been credible allegations of corruption in the administration of the registry so maybe some Quebec politicans just want to keep the gravy train rolling. OTOH, maybe it is Global Warming causing a brain eating bacteria to proliferate in the province.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Security Theater in the Air?

In truth, I encounter a similar problem in network security all the time though one has died yet. For some reason, management doesn't want to talk about the nuts-and-bolts of security when we have time to do it with careful and considered planning. However, when something happens, management goes into a panic and demands an immediate fix. If that was not bad enough, the definition of a "fix" is: If we can check it off on a customer's checklist, everything is fine.

Security Theater can be played by anyone but it kills more people when governments do it.

Andreas Lubitz: Knee-jerk reaction to 9/11 enabled mass murder

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ninth Circus Order En Banc Rehearing in two Important Cases

This just in:

BREAKING: Ninth Circuit Orders En Banc Rehearing in Peruta v. San Diego CCW Lawsuit

History has no side. That is just anthropogenic nonsense from people who have no clue that history is neither inevitable nor self-guided. However, if history did have a side, the Ninth Circuit would probably not be on it.

Stockholders Are Also Owners

Wal-Mart fights bid to curb gun sales

The dispute concerns Wal-Mart’s sales of assault rifles with high-capacity magazines. New York’s Trinity Wall Street church wants shareholders to vote on a resolution calling on Wal-Mart’s board to review management decisions to sell the weapons, as well as other products that could harm the company’s reputation.

A district court sided with Trinity in November and said that Wal-Mart has to include the proposal on the corporate ballots it will send out this spring. Wal-Mart appealed, arguing that the shareholder resolution meddles in regular business decisions and is at odds with decades of guidance from the Securities and Exchange Commission that such affairs are off limits.

I strongly suspect this proposal has little chance of success. If for no other reason than the Walton family owns about 50% of the company stock. This is just some more feel good BS from part of the Christian Collectivist contingent. Nevertheless, they absolutely have the right to try and influence Wal-Mart policies.

When I buy stock in a corporation I become a part owner. As such, I have the right to question how that corporation is run. I never bother because I only own a few hundred shares in anything nor do I have much motivation as a SJW. As long as there are no live boys or dead girls involved, I pretty much ignore corporate behavior as long as the stock makes me money. Still, being a part owner means I have the right to ask other part owners to ally with me to effect a change in policy. Over the years, boards, legislatures and regulatory bureaucracies have tried to limit stockholder influence but that does not change the immutable fact that a stockholder owns a piece of the company.

My advice to Wal-Mart is: If you don't want the owners -- aka stockholders -- of your company trying to tell you what to do then buy back all the stock and become a private company again. Otherwise, suck it up and, for god's sake, stop whining to the government.