The Devout Rationalist Despite a decade of Catholic school, I have never been a believer. I guess I was just born without the gene! Nevertheless, I've always tried to explore others' ideas and practices, on the theory that just because you can't use one part of a product, it doesn't mean you have to throw the whole thing away.   I spent over a decade traveling the world, and I've lived in both Europe and the US. I've read the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Koran. I've studied engineering, yoga, martial arts, shooting sports, and ballroom dancing. What I've discovered is that a) spirituality is just a spooky sounding word for any of a number of methods for learning about yourself and your mind, and b) whatever word you use, doing so is the single most important thing in learning to be happy.   My blog, The Passionate Rationalist ( is dedicated to my thoughts both on gaining self-knowledge and using your mind to eliminate misunderstanding and delusion. en “C” Players <p><img src="" alt="" width="250" align=right />On a professional level, I try very hard to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and reject categorizations of people&#8217;s competence in their jobs unless there is literally no way to characterize someone as anything other than incompetent. Then again, there are simply some people you encounter whose continued presence among the living constitutes a negative net benefit to the continued existence of the human race. </p> <p>Today, I had the unavoidable need to enter the following comment into code I was writing that interacts with someone else&#8217;s system. I had to really consider the fact that this person might one day read this comment, so I did not make it lightly or without forethought. In the end, I chose to leave it in the code as a necessary explanation for the mentally deranged-seeming coding choices I was forced to make, so that future engineers could maintain the code without losing their minds&#8230;</p> <dl> <dd> &#8216;Prtcnt table definition formatting, naming convention, and numbering are all<br /> &#8216;hosed, because someone doesn&#8217;t understand what a standard is. Fixing this<br /> &#8216;in code would require manipulating the msREGEX object from Basic Control<br /> &#8216;Language (cimBasic), which is a massive task not worth the effort.<br /> &#8216;Therefore, in this case, we have to hard-code column names to get<br /> &#8216;access to the data.<br /> &#8216;[Addendum]Oh, also, as it turns out, defective coder forgot to even<br /> &#8216;specify the identifiers for the last three columns of the table in the<br /> &#8216;table definition, so code couldn&#8217;t fix it anyway! Divining column functions<br /> &#8216;via labor-intensive iterative process henceforth known as &#8220;plug and pray&#8221;&#8230;<br /> &#8216;[Addendum &#8211; 2]On further analysis, it seems that defective coder added one<br /> &#8216;record to the table that has different column names and purposes from the<br /> &#8216;rest of the rows in the table, effectively shoehorning two tables into one<br /> &#8216;file with no table definition or schema at all provided for one of them.<br /> &#8216;Divining secondary table purpose and definition via &#8220;plug and pray&#8221; methodology&#8230;<br /> </dd> </dl> <div class="field field-type-link field-field-source-url"> <div class="field-label">Original Post:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="" target="_blank"></a> </div> </div> </div> Mon, 02 Oct 2017 16:09:49 +0000 Blaise 2276 at Moments of Joy <p>It occurs to me that all the meditative and religious traditions of the world, at their core, are about finding a way, despite all the terrible, stressful, depressing things in the average person&#8217;s life, to find some joy.</p> <p>I&#8217;ve spent my entire life studying martial arts, physics, religions, philosophies, yoga, dance, etc., and in retrospect, my interest in each has always boiled down to that search. I&#8217;ve always just known, at some level, that happiness is a lot more about who you are than about where you are in life. I&#8217;ve succeeded, from time to time. After an intense meditation session, a day-long dance competition, lost in contemplation of the universe&#8217;s deepest rules, there have come moments of deep, consciousness-pervading peace. </p> <p>Surprisingly, those moments come more often the older I get, and from much more surprising places. Despite life accelerating, despite the bad and good things coming more frequently and more unexpectedly, despite my body&#8217;s mounting failures and pervasive pain, I&#8217;m happier than I have ever been more often than I have ever been. I sometimes wonder if those religions and philosophies all started with some very old person who just lived long enough to find peace naturally trying to trick the young&#8217;ns into finding some relief from their suffering&#8230;</p> <p>Anyway, today, I shaved. Nothing I haven&#8217;t done a million times before, but one thing was different. For the first time in perhaps two years, I was completely alone in the house this morning, with no job to go to, no activities scheduled, no diapers to change, no immediate chores to do or projects to plan, just at loose ends for the first time in so long I can&#8217;t remember. Since I had time, I did it right.</p> <p>I shaved with a blade. Slowly, carefully, and with copious, well prepared lather, I carried out what I&#8217;ve always considered an utterly pedestrian pursuit with a studious attention to detail. I let the blade slide across my skin at whatever speed it seemed to desire. I reapplied lather whenever there was the remotest chance it was thinning. I didn&#8217;t think about what I was doing, I just did. It was utterly blissful. It was a precious moment of quiet, ecstatic peace.</p> <p>This is my yoga&#8230;..</p> <div class="field field-type-link field-field-source-url"> <div class="field-label">Original Post:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="" target="_blank"></a> </div> </div> </div> Sat, 15 Apr 2017 17:54:52 +0000 Blaise 2275 at Yes. “Happy Holidays”, you schmuck! <p><img src="" alt="joy" width="300" height="300" class="alignright size-medium wp-image-1270" srcset=" 300w, <a href="" title="" /> 150w, <a href="" title=""></a> 450w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />No, I&#8217;m not Jewish. Or Christian. Or Muslim/Hindu/Buddist/Jain/whatever! I did, however, grow up Catholic in a Jewish neighborhood. Maybe that gives me a little more perspective than most. Maybe not. But you know what&#8217;s most important to the discussion of &#8220;Happy Holidays&#8221;? I can <strong>fucking count!</strong> The people continuously posting stupid things like &#8220;It&#8217;s not &#8216;Happy Holidays&#8217;, it&#8217;s &#8216;Merry Christmas&#8217;!&#8221; apparently cannot. </p> <p>Let&#8217;s say, for a moment, that I were a poorly educated, small-minded idiot that was only capable of recognizing holidays from my own Christian religion because the other ones &#8220;aren&#8217;t real&#8221;. If I could count, I&#8217;d still know that Christians alone have <em>fifteen</em> holidays just in December, and another <em>seven</em> in the first week of January. So even if I were this hypothetical idiot with the crudest of math skills, I&#8217;d &#8220;know&#8221; that everyone I greeted in the holiday season had multiple holidays coming soon, and all were church mandated holy days. Given all that, why <em>wouldn&#8217;t</em> I say &#8220;Happy Holidays&#8221;?</p> <p>But let&#8217;s say I was a <em>really</em> ignorant idiot, who only knew about one of the holidays my own religion had in this season. Even then, I&#8217;d know that the secular holidays of New Year&#8217;s Eve/Day were one week afterward. So even my utter-idiot-self with the crudest of math skills would know that everyone I greeted in the holiday season had multiple holidays coming soon. Yet again, why <em>wouldn&#8217;t</em> I say &#8220;Happy Holidays&#8221;?</p> <p>Now let&#8217;s say I had average intelligence and maybe read books, so I was aware I lived with countrymen of not only secular backgrounds, but even of <em>other religions</em>? Well then, in that case, I&#8217;d know about The Jews&#8217; Hanukkah, the Buddists&#8217; Bhodhi Day, the Hindus&#8217; Pancha Ganapati, the Pagans&#8217; Yule, etc. Maybe I&#8217;d even consider that sometimes, the people to whom I was talking didn&#8217;t know for certain that I was Christian, and wanted to wish me well without offending/confusing me.</p> <p>Still confused? You can look this all up for yourself <a href=>here</a>.</p> <p><strong>In other words:</strong> Get a fucking grip. Take everyone&#8217;s well-wishes at face value, and stop being such a fucking schmuck! You&#8217;ll have lower blood-pressure&#8230;</p> <div class="field field-type-link field-field-source-url"> <div class="field-label">Original Post:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="" target="_blank"></a> </div> </div> </div> Wed, 14 Dec 2016 02:31:45 +0000 Blaise 2271 at Oh, Hell… <p>I just need to put this out there, for what it&#8217;s worth. Our two-year-old went out for his first real trick-or-treating in our neighborhood this Halloween. He came back with a giant load of candy, a huge, exhausted smile, and an odd little plastic bag that held a couple of pieces of what as kids we called &#8220;weak candy&#8221; and a tiny book.</p> <p><img src="" alt="Hell" width="300" height="300" class="alignright size-medium wp-image-1256" srcset=" 300w, <a href="" title="" /> 150w, <a href="" title=""></a> 480w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />Fortunately for my family, I vaguely recognized the tiny book from pictures I&#8217;d seen online years ago, and intercepted the bag as it came out of the pile. It was what&#8217;s known as a &#8220;Chick Tract&#8221;, one of a few-thousand little religious propaganda cartoon books published by a fervid, puritanical nutjob named Jack Chick. I gave it a quick read to confirm.</p> <p>This hateful little tome tells the story of a child being beaten and sexually molested in a foster home by filthy, evil atheists, and how he is saved by a crusading cop and a foster home full of Jesus freaks (with a weird side trip into how the UN tacitly approved the rape and murder of millions in Rwanda, because they&#8217;re filthy *European* atheists, of course), who teach the boy he&#8217;ll only stop feeling guilty for being molested if he prays for his molester&#8217;s soul, but it&#8217;s OK, because once he&#8217;s forgiven them, God will make sure they have a terrible accident or heart attack, die young, and go to hell.</p> <p>Needless to say, I first threw away the candy, lest my child discover it was laced with something by the detestable purveyors of this monstrosity, then spent the rest of the evening keeping my rage from showing to my family. All I could think was, what if he were five, and gave it read it on the way home before I saw it? What if I never caught it, and this poison were poured into my impressionable child&#8217;s head with no counter-information from us? How many children <em>actually</em> saw and read this poison that night, and how many were mentally mature enough to filter out the hatred and perverse sex-obsession and see it for what it was?</p> <p>I&#8217;ve been sick with seething hatred of these loathesome creeps for days, and needed to say it here to get it out of me. In one sense, I&#8217;m glad I have only a vague idea of the block it might have come from, as I really don&#8217;t know how I&#8217;d handle myself if I could go bang on their door. In another sense, I hate that I don&#8217;t know, because I can&#8217;t do anything to prevent my child from being exposed to their depravity in the future!</p> <p>I suppose at least, in the unlikely event there <em><strong>IS</strong></em> an afterlife, I can take some comfort in the fantasy that wherever I end it up, it won&#8217;t be wherever <em>they</em> are!</p> <div class="field field-type-link field-field-source-url"> <div class="field-label">Original Post:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="" target="_blank"></a> </div> </div> </div> Thu, 03 Nov 2016 18:35:02 +0000 Blaise 2267 at Yes, I’m voting minor party. No, it isn’t a vote for Trump/Clinton. No, it’s not a wasted vote. <p><img src="" alt="The Candidates" width="300" />This has been a hell of an election cycle, hasn&#8217;t it? We&#8217;ve got an outsider(read: utterly inexperienced and temperamentally unsuited), racist, sexist &#8216;conservative&#8217; who loves the idea of building giant government programs and eliminating civil liberties, and a corporate-owned machine &#8216;liberal&#8217; with a war-hawk record who loves the idea of building giant government programs and eliminating civil liberties. Well, there&#8217;s nothing to do about it, right? If you don&#8217;t vote for the bad one, the worse one might win!</p> <p>Well no, actually, that couldn&#8217;t be more wrong&#8230;</p> <p><strong>A trick of the math</strong></p> <p>The reason we have such poor choices in the first place is the fact that Americans have been using that same short-sighted, tactical thinking for the last forty years. It&#8217;s not really surprising. Due to the plurality/winner-takes-all voting system we use, the math shows that over time, our system will tend to move toward a stable, two party system, which is exactly what it has done. There have been several arrangements over the last two and a half centuries, but for the last 150 years, those two parties are the Republicans and the Democrats. The thing is, that &#8220;stable&#8221; system inherently under-represents the actual will of the people, because there are vastly more than two positions on every issue. It can be mitigated by active participation in the political process by those who disagree with the two parties, and there <em>are</em> voting systems, like range voting and ranked-choice voting, <a href=>that would eliminate this effect</a>, but there are entrenched interests who would not benefit from those improvements&#8230;</p> <p><strong>The entrenched interests</strong></p> <p>Of course, once two parties have edged out all the other options, they work together to retain that advantage, so they can split up the entire political and financial pie without worry of anyone upsetting their nice, cozy arrangement with each other or with the corporations who fund them. While publicly they represent each other as the enemy, in private, they are best buds. This is why, no matter which one is elected president in any given election, no matter who &#8220;controls&#8221; Congress, we virtually always end up with the same results, constantly growing government, constantly decreasing personal freedom, constant war, constantly growing influence for corporations and other moneyed interests, all at the expense of the citizenry. </p> <p>Sure, you see a few superficial differences on the social policy front, playing to voting bases. The Republicans land a &#8220;Defense of Marriage Act&#8221; with much social-conservative fanfare, making life much harder for married gay couples, and then its worst parts almost immediately get thrown out by the courts. The Democrats get through &#8220;socialized&#8221; medicine, and (<em>surprise!</em>), it actually involves forcing citizens under the threat of financial penalty to <strong>buy</strong> health insurance from a collection of corporations who conveniently donate millions to the campaigns of both Democrats and Republicans. Ultimately, however, these are window dressing. They rarely fulfill what they were sold to do by one side or the other, and ignore the big issues, where despite opposing rhetoric, they always follow mostly the same policies. The two major parties have formed a duopoly that has a stranglehold on our democracy.</p> <p><strong>Tactics versus strategy</strong></p> <p>They really can&#8217;t lose, though. In the media, they fight like cats and dogs, portraying each others&#8217; candidates as apocalyptic harbingers of doom. They breed fear in the public, selling the idea that each is the only possible salvation from the other. They manipulate us into thinking tactically (&#8220;What&#8217;s the best of these two bad options right now&#8221;) rather than strategically (&#8220;What&#8217;s the best choice for our nation in the long run&#8221;). We see article after article in the media telling us that we <em>must</em> vote to defeat the evil one, even if we are certain the less evil one does not represent our interests well. In the rare years there <em>are</em> other practical options available, they say things like, &#8220;<a href=>Voting minor party is a vote for Trump/Clinton&#8221;</a>, &#8220;<a href=>Voting minor party is nothing but white, male privilege</a>&#8220;, &#8220;<a href=>Vote like it matters, because voting minor party is throwing away your vote</a>&#8220;, or &#8220;Minor Parties should focus on lesser elections, where they have a chance&#8221;.</p> <p>Of course, everything about those arguments is intellectually bankrupt: </p> <ul> <li><strong>Voting for one candidate is <em>NOT</em> voting for another candidate, by definition.</strong> There are two subtle lies in this argument. The first lie is the assumption that lost votes for the &#8220;less evil&#8221; constitute extra votes for the &#8220;more evil&#8221; candidate. Obviously, this one is wrong mathematically (since vote totals for one candidate are not a part of the vote totals for another) <em>and</em> practically, because of the next point. The second lie is the assumption that everyone voting for a minor party candidate would otherwise have voted for the &#8220;less evil&#8221; candidate, which is provably false. Most minor party votes come from people <em>not</em> registered as Democrat or Republican (a <a href=>larger group of US voters than <strong>either</strong> Democrats or Republicans</a>, FYI), and history shows they tend to <a href=>break about evenly</a> between the two major parties when no viable minor party candidates are available.</li> <li><strong>&#8220;White, male privilege&#8221; may insulate some from the effects of &#8220;the evil one&#8221;, but facts are facts, and <em>no one</em> is benefited by the duopoly in the long run but the duopoly and their funders.</strong> This is, of course, based on the same &#8220;voting for X is a vote for Y&#8221; fallacy, but even granted that fallacy, consider: There is no question that minorities would fare somewhat worse under a Trump administration than a Clinton administration, but by how much, and for how long would those differences last? Leaving the two parties in power means you&#8217;ll be facing this same risk again and again, <strong>forever</strong>. Things will never get better if you don&#8217;t ever act to make them so. Isn&#8217;t it worth a little risk now to move toward an eventual better system?</li> <li><strong>The vast majority of US voters live in states where statistically, no individual vote can affect the outcome, as one of the two major parties <em>always</em> wins.</strong> There are only about ten states where there is ever really a contest between Democratic or Republican winners, and those ten states only represent about 20% of our population. The other 80% of us will get what we&#8217;ve always got, regardless of how we vote. Ironically, despite the exhortations of these pundits, for most of us, the wasted vote is one cast for a major party candidate! The minor parties benefit from votes cast even if they don&#8217;t win, while the major parties don&#8217;t&#8230;</li> <li><strong>Minor parties do focus on &#8220;lesser&#8221;elections</strong>. In fact, there are <a href=>more minor party candidates running</a> in this election cycle than in the last ten decades. The problem is that those minor party candidates have to get on a ballot, and in most states, that doesn&#8217;t happen automatically unless they do well in the presidential election (more on that in the next point).</li> </ul> <p><strong>There are more important things than winning! (In the short term)</strong></p> <ol> <li><u><em>Ballot Access</em></u> &#8211; Minor parties have to spend millions every election cycle petitioning for their candidates to even be on the ballot, so they have no funds for actual campaigning. In most states, if they get even 5% of the presidential vote, they can stay on the ballot automatically next time. This frees up massive amounts of resources for actually winning the next time around. In addition, they qualify for matching federal funds, and become eligible to use &#8220;SuperPACs&#8221;.</li> <li><u><em>Visibility</em></u> &#8211; In races where minor parties make a good showing in the presidential race, their candidates for lesser offices at the federal, state, and local levels benefit from a huge advertising multiplication. This has already been seen, in the current cycle, for both the Libertarian and Green parties.</li> <li><u><em>Sending a message</em></u> &#8211; Whoever gets elected won&#8217;t be there long, but sending a message that whoever is currently proposed by the Republicans/Democrats is utterly unacceptable has long term effects. If nothing else, it raises the visibility of the minor parties in the public consciousness, and gives you the peace of mind of not having voted for the &#8220;lesser evil&#8221;, who you still despise.</li> <li><u><em>Spoiling is a good thing, in the long run</em></u> &#8211; Most times, minor party candidates do not split votes. They usually take more or less evenly from both parties&#8217; support. But even in the case they potentially *do* &#8216;spoil&#8217; for one of the parties (e.g. Nader 200, although even here, there is little evidence to support the popular prejudice), in the next cycle, major party candidates pick up the issues/policies of the last spoiler to win back those lost votes, which means your issues might at least nominally actually be addressed by an elected representative eventually.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> In 1912, former President Theodore Roosevelt abandoned the Republican Party and formed the Progressive Party, championing political reforms, women’s suffrage, and workers’ rights. He took twenty-seven percent of the popular vote, a higher percentage than any minor-party candidate in history, and in response, both the Democrats and the Republicans included most of the Progressives’ issues/positions in their platforms by the next Presidential election. During Ross Perot’s candidacy in the 1992 election, both Clinton and Bush adopted his views on deficit reduction before the election was even over.</li> </ol> <p><strong>The Goal</strong></p> <p>We need to end the two party system and get money out of politics, which is what makes that system so deeply entrenched. This is the only real issue in American politics right now. The only way this can happen is if our elected representatives can be convinved to change the rules. I&#8217;m sure you can see how unlikely this is, when nearly 100% of our &#8220;representatives&#8221; are part of the duopoly we need to defeat. Our only hope is to stop buying into their carefully orchestrated fear-mongering and start as individuals voting for candidates that <em>actually</em> represent our desires in government.</p> <p>If each voter votes their conscience, things won&#8217;t change immediately, it&#8217;s true, but slowly, one piece at a time, we <strong>can</strong> take back control of our government. The fact that there are not one, but two minor party candidates on the ballot in enough states to win the presidency, and that at least one state has <a href=>proposed legislation to eliminate plurality voting</a> is proof that change <em>can</em> come, if we constantly push for change every time we go to the polls. It only requires more of us to participate to be successful. We only need to elect enough representatives willing to change our voting structure to one that will not breed two-party dominance to make it a well visible issue. Once the legislation is in public view, the only way the two parties can oppose it is by admitting that they are trying to manipulate the system to their advantage. </p> <p>If you truly believe that the Democrat/Republican best represents your viewpoint of all the possible representatives out there, you should of course vote for them. If you are voting tactically, without looking past this one election, you are nothing more than a tool of the people who want to control you.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> <strong><em>THAT</em></strong> is wasting your vote!</p> <p>In closing, consider this quote from Douglas Adams&#8217; blisteringly funny satire, <em>So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish</em>:</p> <p><blockquote><div class="quote_start"><div></div></div><div class="quote_end"><div></div></div> </p><p>“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see&#8230;&#8221;<br /> &#8220;You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?&#8221;<br /> &#8220;No,&#8221; said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, &#8220;nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.&#8221;<br /> &#8220;Odd,&#8221; said Arthur, &#8220;I thought you said it was a democracy.&#8221;<br /> &#8220;I did,&#8221; said Ford. &#8220;It is.&#8221;<br /> &#8220;So,&#8221; said Arthur, hoping he wasn&#8217;t sounding ridiculously obtuse, &#8220;why don&#8217;t people get rid of the lizards?&#8221;<br /> &#8220;It honestly doesn&#8217;t occur to them,&#8221; said Ford. &#8220;They&#8217;ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they&#8217;ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.&#8221;<br /> &#8220;You mean they actually vote for the lizards?&#8221;<br /> &#8220;Oh yes,&#8221; said Ford with a shrug, &#8220;of course.&#8221;<br /> &#8220;But,&#8221; said Arthur, going for the big one again, &#8220;why?&#8221;<br /> &#8220;Because if they didn&#8217;t vote for a lizard,&#8221; said Ford, &#8220;the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?&#8221;<br /> &#8220;What?&#8221;<br /> &#8220;I said,&#8221; said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, &#8220;have you got any gin?&#8221;<br /> &#8220;I&#8217;ll look. Tell me about the lizards.&#8221;<br /> Ford shrugged again.<br /> &#8220;Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happenned to them,&#8221; he said. &#8220;They&#8217;re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone&#8217;s got to say it.&#8221;</p> <p></blockquote></p> <div class="field field-type-link field-field-source-url"> <div class="field-label">Original Post:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="" target="_blank"></a> </div> </div> </div> Tue, 18 Oct 2016 21:12:54 +0000 Blaise 2266 at One Law For Them, One Law For Us <p>If you&#8217;re a Facebook friend of mine, you saw a post like this yesterday, but I just needed to expand on the insane level of government misconduct as regards the Clinton email scandal. Understand that I&#8217;ve always thought the whole thing was a Republican snipe hunt, given that their people have done so much worse in the past, directly outing CIA agents and such, but facts are facts, and equality under the law is <em>supposed</em> to be the gold standard of our legal system.</p> <p><img src="" alt="Strangler Together" width="300" height="235" class="alignright size-medium wp-image-1205" srcset=" 300w, <a href="" title="" /> 630w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />Yesterday, the Director of the FBI, James Comey, announced that after a full investigation, the <a href=>FBI would not recommend prosecution</a> of the former Secretary of state for mishandled classified information she shared and stored via her private email server. If you want to see what&#8217;s wrong with our government, just consider this sequence of statements all from the same announcement. Forget the motivations and the players. Just read them out of context, and seriously consider what #4 says to you&#8230;</p> <ol> <li>“There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in X’s position, or in the position of those with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation,”</li> <li>“It is possible that hostile actors gained access to X’s personal email account.”</li> <li>“Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case”</li> <li>“To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.”</li> </ol> <p>Never mind for a moment that the purpose of this email server was likely to circumvent transparency laws. Never mind for a moment that the presence of classified information on her private server literally means either that a Secretary of State a) knew this material was classified, so purposely broke the law, or b) is completely incompetent, and should never have been trusted with classified information in the first place. Never mind that we probably can&#8217;t prove her intent to break the law either way. Just consider the actual law. </p> <p><a href=>US Code, Section 793.f</a>: &#8220;Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.&#8221;</p> <p>Notice how intent is not a part of this section of the law? Notice that incompetence is specifically called out as no excuse?</p> <p>Clearly the FBI is aware of this law, considering the case of <a href=>Bryan Nishimura </a> just last year, who while on deployment, copied several classified documents to personal devices, and kept the devices when he went home. &#8220;An FBI search of Nishimura&#8217;s home turned up classified materials, but did not reveal evidence he intended to distribute them. He was sentenced to two years of probation and a $7,500 fine, and was ordered to surrender his security clearance. He is barred from seeking a future security clearance.&#8221;</p> <p>So let&#8217;s look at Director Comey&#8217;s statement again: “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case”</p> <p>I&#8217;m sure it&#8217;s small comfort to Bryan that the FBI and his prosecutor were being &#8220;unreasonable&#8221; when they destroyed his career and robbed him, but have now learned to be more reasonable!</p> <p>Or maybe, considering how many times this has happened with politicians from <em>both</em> major parties, it&#8217;s just that our ruling class gets to live by a different interpretation of the law than the rest of us!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>[<em>ADDENDUM</em>] When I originally posted, an old friend from school who&#8217;s served in our military made a wonderful comment that makes an important secondary point about this, and I think it needs to be shared here: </p> <p>&#8220;I know Privates who can recognize classified materials if they come in without a header. Clinton&#8217;s defense was she didn&#8217;t know the material was supposed to be classified. The Democrat candidate for President is dumber than a Private&#8230; and Privates need to be reminded not to shit on the carpet or eat paint.&#8221;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="field field-type-link field-field-source-url"> <div class="field-label">Original Post:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="" target="_blank"></a> </div> </div> </div> Wed, 06 Jul 2016 13:13:51 +0000 Blaise 2265 at Keep Clear Of “WhatsApp”! <p><img src="" alt="NoWhatsApp" width="243" height="102" class="alignright size-full wp-image-1196" />Today, in a work-related panic to troubleshoot a technical problem with a colleague stuck overseas with only data-service, I broke my own rule to never install a phone app without researching it exhaustively. He needed help, and only had <a href=>WhatsApp</a> with which to send/receive text messages, so I just installed the app to get the job done, and put out the fire.</p> <p>Two hours later, I checked in on Facebook, and something caught my eye. It was a suggested friend. That&#8217;s pretty common, but what got my attention was that a) we had no friends in common, and b) he was someone I only know professionally. I confirmed from the profile that it was in fact that customer, and not someone who just happened to have the same name. It spooked me a little, like maybe he was stalking me, or something.</p> <p>After lunch, I checked in again, and saw two more suggested friends with whom I have no social connections, but who I know professionally. Now I was starting to worry about hackers, so I paid attention. The only risky thing I&#8217;ve done recently was install an un-vetted app, so I started with WhatsApp. I found <a href=,news-18342.html>this article</a>, and confirmed that, in fact, after Facebook bought WhatsApp, they changed terms, giving themselves the right to upload your entire contact list to their servers! </p> <p>So it seems that Facebook got hold of my extremely large and professionally sensitive contact database, scanned it for email addresses, and started suggesting connections to those contacts who used the same email for Facebook as they had given me. Due to a momentary lapse in judgement, I have handed over over a database of over 1000 people, with massive amounts of detailed personal information on many of them, and rather sensitive professional data on not a few. The bastards have my father&#8217;s social security number and bank account numbers! (If he weren&#8217;t two years gone, I&#8217;d be having a panic attack right now&#8230;)</p> <p>I apologize to all my friends and colleagues whose home addresses, personal phone numbers, and emails are now in the hands of Facebook&#8217;s marketers or worse. I was a fool, and I hope none of you will pay the price for that foolishness!</p> <p>Please learn from my example. Keep far away from this app (and Facebook&#8217;s app, which I just learned has this same condition of use!), and <strong>ALWAYS DO YOUR RESEARCH!</strong></p> <p>I am <em><b>furious</b></em> right now&#8230;</p> <div class="field field-type-link field-field-source-url"> <div class="field-label">Original Post:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="" target="_blank"></a> </div> </div> </div> Tue, 12 Jan 2016 05:22:16 +0000 Blaise 2257 at Take A Real Step in Resisting Government Overreach <p><img src="" alt="Government Spying" width="300" height="187" class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-1179" srcset=" 300w, <a href="" title="" /> 485w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />I think most Americans are finally starting to wake up to the fact that our government is an uncontrollable behemoth when it comes to our privacy. Time after time, we discover proof that yet another invasion has been going on, and rather than rectify the problem in response to public outcry, our government &#8220;makes it legal&#8221;, rather than eliminating it. Even when they <em>say</em> they&#8217;ve stopped doing something, we usually discover, in rather short order, that they have reconstituted a program almost identical to the rejected one rather than really addressing our concerns.</p> <p>They can take our records from <a href=> anyone we do business with</a>, and the one they take them from can&#8217;t even tell us. They help themselves to the info about who we call/text/email and when. Experts in the matter say that regardless of public statements to the contrary, there is strong evidence to suggest that <a href=>the NSA has everyone who uses electronic communications under constant surveillance</a>.</p> <p><a href="" rel="attachment wp-att-1172"><img src="" alt="NSA-Flowchart_Daily-Dot" width="100" class="alignright size-full wp-image-1172" hspace=20 /></a>History shows us that the people who &#8220;protect&#8221; us in this way <em>will not stop</em>, regardless of the law. The only thing that will stop them is if our citizens adopt technology that makes it impractical for them to continue. We don&#8217;t all need to become super-hacker-nerds, we just all have to make an honest attempt to be secure in our communications. </p> <p><strong>Signal</strong></p> <p>I&#8217;ve recently been experimenting with a tool from a company called <a href=>Open Whisper Systems</a>. It&#8217;s called &#8216;Signal&#8217;, and it&#8217;s actually pretty spectacular! It uses end-to-end encryption on all voice calls and text messages you initiate with it (assuming the other party is using it too), it&#8217;s secure enough that the government would have to be targeting you personally and break your communications with a dedicated supercomputer to get at your data, it&#8217;s free (but you should donate), it&#8217;s open source (so it&#8217;s been vetted for NSA backdoors by a stack of heavy-hitters), and it&#8217;s as easy to use as any standard voice or text app on your smartphone! It also comes in both iOS and Android flavors, so almost all of us can access it. The best part is that the servers that allow you to connect to others use your existing phone number, but store <strong>NO</strong> information about who or when you called/texted, so not only is all your data secure, but there&#8217;s not even a record of you sending or receiving it!</p> <p>My wife and I have been running <a href=>Signal</a> for a month, and it really works. Other than the process to download and configure it, which took about ten minutes, using Signal is as easy or easier than using our phones&#8217; default apps (in fact, on Android, you can set it up to simply become your default texting app!). Sending texts is identical to the default app, and calls are actually easier than usual, because you can make them right from inside a text conversation (or vice-versa). The texts are flawless, and the sound quality of the calls is almost always great. Communicating with someone who doesn&#8217;t use signal is seamless; The app switches back to the normal methods as needed, with no input from the user, and it even puts a little banner up telling you whether or not the person you are communicating with is using Signal, and giving you the option to send them a text with an invitation and instructions if you want to get them up and running.</p> <p>I&#8217;ve decided to start recommending <a href=>Signal</a> to all my friends and family. It&#8217;s free, it&#8217;s easy, and it doesn&#8217;t just keep the government out of your business, it keeps crooks (is that redundant?) and marketers out of it, too. Expect your invites, everyone! This won&#8217;t make you immune to a hardcore criminal investigation, but it might just save our society!</p> <div class="field field-type-link field-field-source-url"> <div class="field-label">Original Post:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="" target="_blank"></a> </div> </div> </div> Mon, 28 Dec 2015 23:25:47 +0000 Blaise 2254 at Shoving It Down Your Throat <p>Well, it finally happened! Someone on Facebook who had somehow found their way into my friends list sent me a message telling me they couldn&#8217;t bear to see any more of my &#8216;viscous&#8217; attacks on their faith, so they were going to unfriend me. It came with all the usual cliches, like how I was &#8220;shoving my beliefs down other people&#8217;s throats&#8221;, &#8220;freedom of religion doesn&#8217;t mean freedom <em>from</em> religion, &#8220;why can&#8217;t you just keep your opinions to yourself&#8221;, etc&#8230;</p> <p>I&#8217;ve been fuming for a couple of days over the sheer stupidity of this person, the unmitigated gall/hypocrisy of a believer making those statements about anyone else, etc&#8230; I&#8217;d planned to write a very long and detailed rebuttal, and was about three hundred words in when I saw this:</p> <p><img src="" alt="11401568_859334530817642_982185777804983971_n" width="569" height="720" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-1116" /></p> <p>It&#8217;s succinct, covers everything I wanted to say, and it&#8217;s much less likely to bore any of my remaining readers to death&#8230;</p> <div class="field field-type-link field-field-source-url"> <div class="field-label">Original Post:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="" target="_blank"></a> </div> </div> </div> Fri, 05 Jun 2015 04:16:10 +0000 Blaise 2249 at What’s Wrong With the Police? <p><img src="" alt="Caution: Police" width="227" height="300" class="alignright size-medium wp-image-1015" />Wherever you stand on any one case, it&#8217;s clear we have a police problem in this country. The police appear to consider themselves to be under siege. They don&#8217;t seem to see themselves as <em>part</em> of the public, but rather as an occupying force, charged with controlling the public &#8220;for their own good&#8221;.</p> <p>This is most evident in the treatment some police give to even the most trivial of interactions with us. Every single day, there are dozens of videos posted online of police verbally abusing those they question, venting at them the kind of invective that if a citizen ever used it at an officer, they&#8217;d likely be arrested for assault. At the very least, they get into a person&#8217;s physical space and yell at them loudly from inches away. Often, they make threats of arrest/imprisonment, physical abuse, or even death. </p> <p>I&#8217;m not just basing this on internet reports, either. On three different occasions in my life, I (as a &#8220;privileged, upper-middle-class, white, cis-gender, hetero male&#8221;, statistically the <strong>safest</strong> group to be in, in terms of police treatment) have experienced this treatment first hand. In two of those occasions, I was simply yelled at and verbally abused by an officer well within my personal space. On the third, I was threatened that the officer would (oddly specifically) beat me &#8220;so bad, you lose an eye&#8221;, then forced at gunpoint from my car, patted down, and made to stand in the rain with my hands on top of my car for nearly a half an hour. In not one of these cases was I even <em>accused</em> of a &#8220;crime&#8221; more serious than driving with a suspended license (that one was a clerk&#8217;s mistake). In fact, the most obscene treatment, the eye guy, occurred because I &#8220;hadn&#8217;t slowed down <em>enough</em>&#8221; at a blinking yellow light, and had the audacity to point out that I was already going significantly slower than the speed limit because of the rain, and had slowed down even further at the light.</p> <p><img src="" alt="police misconduct" width="208" height="300" class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-1016" />Almost universally, no matter the verbal assault/threats, physical beating, or death committed by these officers, whenever one of them finally gets enough interest to be a PR problem for a department, we are told that the officer was well within his rights, and did no wrong because he &#8220;<em>followed department policy</em>&#8220;. </p> <ul> <li>A man exchanges angry words with an officer while standing still and posing no physical threat. The officer waits a few moments, then begins punching and kicking the man. </li> <li>A teenager on a skateboard tells an officer to &#8220;fuck off&#8221;. The officer responds by standing over the teenager, screaming at the top of his lungs while his face is three inches from the teenager&#8217;s. </li> <li>A lone activist is taking video on a public street. An officer walks up to him and lies to him about what the law says regarding video of police, and when the activist demonstrates that he knows the officer is lying, the officer roughs him up and arrests him for &#8220;interfering&#8221; with police.</li> <li>A man is pulled over for &#8220;swerving in his lane&#8221; (as far as I can tell, this is code for &#8220;we&#8217;ve gotta earn some ticket points, so let&#8217;s pick a random car, use &#8216;swerving&#8217; as an excuse to pull them over, and see if we can get them on something.&#8221;). He&#8217;s asked to get out of his car, and does so in a manner the officer finds &#8220;aggressive&#8221;. The officer tasers the man four times, the last three after he is already crumpled on the ground, because he was &#8220;resisting arrest&#8221;.</li> </ul> <p>It seems to me that if any reasonable person looking at a video tape or reading the details can tell that the officer escalated a situation unnecessarily, or initiated the use of force without reasonable cause, but a strong case can be made that the officer was following department policy, the problem is with the department policy!</p> <p>Am I missing something here?</p> <div title='Diaspora*' id='diaspora-button-container'><a href="javascript:(function(){var url = '' ;var title = 'What&#8217;s Wrong With the Police?';''+encodeURIComponent(url)+'&amp;title='+encodeURIComponent(title),'post','location=no,links=no,scrollbars=no,toolbar=no,width=620,height=400')})()"> <div id='diaspora-button-box'><font>Share on Diaspora</font><br /> <div id='diaspora-button-inner'><img src='' /></div> </div> <p></p></a></div> <div class="field field-type-link field-field-source-url"> <div class="field-label">Original Post:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="" target="_blank"></a> </div> </div> </div> Sun, 30 Nov 2014 05:29:27 +0000 Blaise 2235 at