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.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Forgive all Student Debt

A basic assumption about debt is that it will be paid back with interest at some predictable time in the future. Debt increases the money supply without an immediate corresponding increase in total good and services. It is only because it is repaid that debt does not debase the currency. Canceling a debt without permission from the investors is no better than stealing it outright.

According to this petition 86% of the $1.3 trillion of student debt is owed to the United States government. The petition encourages that government to forgive all the debt. Not just the public part -- which is bad enough -- but also the 14% that is not public. No mention of consulting the taxpayers who finance it. No mention of how much more the taxpayers will have to cough up to make the lenders right. Just eliminate any possiblity of the debt ever being recovered.

It is no surprise to me that the list of sponsors include the American Federation of Teachers and the Daily Kos. Both of those groups seem to believe that feeding their sick, elitist egos somehow justifies stealing from the middle class. First by wasting our taxes then by inflating the currency so our incomes are worth less.

The cycle of inflation and debasement has ruined civilizations in the past. The rules for that haven't changed; only the names of the criminals varies.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The SPLC Could Just be Run by Stupid People

Frankly, though, I suspect the SPLC will welcome armed resistance by gun owners to a SWAT team. They need fresh blood to fuel their authoritarian (sometimes called "progressive") goals.

SPLC chatter predicts arrests of Spokane liberty activists

Saturday, February 21, 2015

I Don't Think it is Unintentional.

Less Economic Freedom Equals More Income Inequality

The author make some good points but I don't think the process is "unintentional" so much as natural outgrowth of reality in a controlled or managed economy.

Anyone whose livelihood depends on a business -- as an owner or employee -- has an incentive to protect that livelihood. In a country were the government has the power to make or break a business, political influence quickly becomes an essential part of survival. Those with money have greater access which gives them greater influence. It is only natural for a politician to favor his friends.

More-and-more, modern America is looking like an textbook example of Jerry Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy. In such a world, survival, means having influence over the bureaucracy or, as someone once said, "If you are not at the table, you are on the menu."

Friday, February 13, 2015

Get Your Stinking Ape Hands off of My Computer.

As my friend Christopher David once pointed out to me, hackers may be the most important of scumfucks as mankind heads into the future. For those who don't get why that may be true, this article may help you understand. In the process you may gain insight into how all the recent talk of "digital rights management" and "net neutrality" are really an attack on general purpose computing and the open networks -- such as the Internet -- they make possible.

Lockdown -- The coming war on general-purpose computing

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Walls have Ears.

Most of us have heard the above clause as a warning that, without adequate safeguards, a private conversation can be overheard. Samsung is now trying to upgrade that adage to, "The TV has ears."

Be Careful What You Say Around Your Samsung Smart TV

The "feature" can, supposedly, be turned off but the article implies that Samsung is being coy about whether the microphone can be turned back on without the owner's knowledge. Even with such an assurance, there is no protection from a future upgrade or a rogue update that allows the microphone to be turned on remotely.

I don't expect stored conversations will be used against the owner of a Samsung Smart TV (or other devices such as the Xbox which use similar technology) -- not at first. However, anytime digital voice data information is passed to a third party there is a possibility it will be stored. A vague reference to "industry standard encryption" does not assure that Samsung intends to prevent the stored data from being traceable to a particular location. In fact, the latest "privacy policy" specifically allows "device identifiers" to be transmitted with your voice data.

To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some interactive voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service provider (currently, Nuance Communications, Inc.) that converts your interactive voice commands to text and to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you. [emphasis added]

An interesting thing about this is that the data is already acknowledged as belonging to Samsung and/or Nuance so it can be accessed it for a fee instead of having to get a pesky warrant.

The American public accepted being leashed by their smart phones, it is unlikely they will object to being further leashed by their televisions. Make me wonder if a dog realizes he is not free just because he has a longer leash than the other dogs.

Here is another article in the same vein: Samsung changes Smart TV privacy policy in wake of spying fears

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Yes, There are Stupid Atheists

Sean Gangol outlines a few of the reasons I rarely associate with mainstream atheism. Too often they let their cognitive biases dictate their political opinions. In doing so they quickly turn politics into war and arguments into amoral soldiers. Victory for their side then becomes more important than accuracy. This attitude stands in opposition to general methods for good decision-making.

The Atheist Experience Folly

Friday, January 16, 2015

News of the Weird

This has to be one of the funniest things I've seen in a while. An all-women, liberal arts college decides to cancel the Vagina Monologues because it does not include women without a vagina. I can think of a few reasons to let the play slip into obscurity but to drop it by applying such sublimely leftist logic is unexpected.

Women's College Cancels 'Vagina Monologues' Because It Excludes Women Without Vaginas

Thursday, January 15, 2015

America Needs a Senator like This

A Australian Social Democrat named Gary Burns argued that multiculturalism is the law in Australia. Senator David Leyonjhelm replied with a simple and direct, "Go fuck yourself you communist turd."

"Go F**k Yourself You Communist Turd" Senator Says To Anti-Free Speech Democrat

Good for him.

Judging from the Wikipedia article on him, Leyonjhelm is a libertarian who supports decriminalizing marijuana, legalizing same sex marriage and charging a fee for permanent residency in Australia. He is also pro gun and supports legalizing assisted suicide *.

And he doesn't like communist turds.

* Suicide is legal in Australia but only by your own hand. Apparently, no one is permitted to assist in any way so those too weak to manage the deed alone are sentenced to whatever lingering death nature arranges for them.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ridicule is Still the Final Test of Truth

Today (Jan 8, 2015) USA Today's Opposing Views posed an article by Anjem Choudary entitled:

Why did France allow the tabloid to provoke Muslims?

Choudary is described as "...a radical Muslim cleric in London and a lecturer in sharia."

Read the editorial but the answer to that question should be obvious to everyone in the Western World: Freedom is an inherently offensive state of existence. No matter what you may believe, there will be someone who will ridicule it. Someone will burn a Koran, dip a Crucifix in urine or photoshop the Flying Spaghetti Monster into the creation image of the Sistine Chapel. However, as HL Mencken wrote, "..the razor edge of ridicule is turned by the tough hide of truth." If you really think what you believe is true then what is there to fear? Your pet theories or dogma will survive if truth is really on your side.

Muslims who cannot stand to have their peculiar neuroses ridiculed deserve to be shot by their intended victims.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Harvard Punished for Protecting Civil Rights

The US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently announced that, "... it has entered into a resolution agreement with Harvard University and its Law School after finding the Law School in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 for its response to sexual harassment, including sexual assault."

Harvard Law School Found in Violation of Title IX, Agrees to Remedy Sexual Harassment, including Sexual Assault of Students

Following its investigation, OCR determined that the Law School's current and prior sexual harassment policies and procedures failed to comply with Title IX's requirements for prompt and equitable response to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The Law School also did not appropriately respond to two student complaints of sexual assault. In one instance, the Law School took over a year to make its final determination and the complainant was not allowed to participate in this extended appeal process, which ultimately resulted in the reversal of the initial decision to dismiss the accused student and dismissal of the complainant's complaint.

During the course of OCR's investigation, the Law School adopted revised procedures that use the "preponderance of the evidence" standard for its sexual harassment investigations and afford appeal rights to both parties, in compliance with Title IX. The Law School also complied with the Title IX requirements relating to the designation of a Title IX Coordinator and publication of its non-discrimination notice.

In short, Harvard violated Title IX by respecting the legal principle of "beyond a reasonable doubt" for rape accusations. Think about that for a minute: The OCR is claiming that Title IX requires an administrator or "council" only need to be 50% plus a bit certain to expel a student. No more of that pesky beyond a reasonable doubt. I shudder to think what kind of lawyers an environment like that will produce.

Adding irony to stupidity, these policies only seem to be gender neutral but in fact are pure misandry in effect and probably in intent. That make them a violation of Title IX. I sincerely doubt that OCR will be investigating that anytime soon.