Sour Grapes
Of course we're Fair and Balanced!

2015-01-14

Confiscating the wealth of the overly and unduly enfranchised

Cartoon of special interest puppeteers control representatives While researching a Thomas Paine quote for my quote collection I came across the following in his treatise titled, "Dissertation on the First Principles of Government", (as quoted in William M. Van der Weyde's The Life and Works of Thomas Paine):
Personal rights, of which the right of voting for representatives is one, are a species of property of the most sacred kind: and he that would employ his pecuniary property, or presume upon the influence it gives him, to dispossess or rob another of his property or rights, uses that pecuniary property as he would use fire-arms, and merits to have it taken from him.
This immediately brought to mind the U. S. Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which, among other things, effectively eliminated limits on the amount of money that corporations—and thereby individuals—can spend on political campaigns. Then I began thinking of the myriad ways that our elected representatives—municipal, county, state, and Federal—and their appointed minions can be influenced by the deep-pocket "contributions" of the wealthiest among us.

I wonder how many of our founding fathers would have agreed with Paine. I suspect a fair number, though certainly not all. It seems clear that among them there was a great deal of respect for property.

I agree with Mr Paine: those that employ their pecuniary property (i.e., money) to infringe on our rights (e.g., most of all to liberty1, but also to rights such as those to the vote2, fair use, clean air and clean water) should surely have that money forcibly taken away from them. But I also know that it will never happen! And that is most unfortunate. Frankly I would be delighted to see this happen in just a few of the most egregious cases; most likely it will never happen, and if something were done in such egregious cases, based on long-established legal practice, it would likely amount to no more than a mere slap on the wrist.


1This is somewhat indirect but very important, in my opinion. We have a legal system in the United States—and I'm sure it's true elsewhere—that makes it overwhelmingly more likely that the convicted poor will go to jail and the convicted rich will not go to jail. The rich do not directly "rob" the poor of their right to liberty but, by putting up with a criminal justice system that gives such results, when their persistently indignant and vocal opposition would result in changing the system, the rich effectively allow this right to be taken from the poor.

2Note that in the U.S Republican-controlled state legislatures are currently erecting new impediments to suffrage.


2015-01-12


Woman cupping hand to her ear I use Google Calendar quite extensively, as it has many decent capabilities, is easily shareable, and operates nearly seamlessly across multiple systems and multiple platforms. In addition to creating entries for events that I know I'm going to attend, I also create entries for events I might attend or would like to attend. I want the people I share my calendar with to know which events I'm committed to going to and which I merely might attend and that can easily be supplanted with more important events. In other words I'd like to see a new feature added to Google Calendars: the ability to share both calendar events AND my availability; currently I can share one or the other, but not both.

So last July I searched the Google Calendar Help Forum and found this thread, which seemed like the best place to post my request, which I did.

The thread had been started in March as a renewal of "the discussion requesting the ability to set a Google Calendar default for Busy/Available for new calendar events" (another closely related feature I'd like to see). The next day one "KaileyK" responded,
Thank you for sharing your opinion with us here in our Calendar forum today, much appreciated. I can certainly see how this feature request makes sense, especially given your detailed example. I can surely note this down to share with my team. Again, thanks for the feedback and wishing you well.
Then in June, after four more posts by users, she added,
Thank you so much for all of your support for this request! I have made a note of this and plan to share this very soon!
As of today, there have been 46 posts by 43 different authors—most of them supporting this change, the others asking for a status update—without a single word from KaileyK, who has 2,772 posts in the Google Calendar Help Forum, or anyone else purporting to have anything to do with Google.

But it's worse than that. Note that the original post was to renew a prior discussion. There's a short thread from 2009 with the same request and another with 62 posts—many expressing frustration at the lack of response by Google—by 58 authors that started in April 2009. So users have been requesting something like this feature for almost six years!  In September, I added another post to the latest thread on the topic:
I can't help wondering if anything posted here has any effect at all at on what Google actually does. Maybe it's a just a place for us to vent....
It certainly doesn't appear that Google is paying any attention to these forums. If they were, I'd have thought they'd at least say they have no plans to implement such a capability. Instead, the silence has been pretty much deafening.





2014-12-25

Internet quotes
Portrait of Michel Eyquem de Montaigne
I collect quotes. I've been doing so for many years. So far, I've collected almost 13,000 of them. I keep them in a plain text file. I wrote a script that attaches a random quote to some of my several .sig files every minute. My email client then appends a .sig file to messages I send out from my email client.
Today I ran into the following quote:
We endeavor more that men should speak of us, than how and what they speak, and it sufficeth us that our name run in men's mouths, in what manner soever. It stemma that to be known is in some sort to have life and continuance in other men's keeping. — Michel Eyquem de Montaigne
I spent a few minutes trying to figure out what stemma might mean in this context, with no success.

Then I Googled the full quote, in quotes. Twenty-six results.  But whoops! only the first 32 words are searched for.

So then I Googled for "that to be known is in some sort to have life and continuance in other men's keeping." Thirty-two results. Four of them had seemeth rather than stemma, which makes a lot more sense to me.

The first of these was a Google book result for The Essayes of Michael Lord of Montaigne and included what I can only presume is the correct, original quote—as translated into English, by John Florio as it happens, and published in 1886—"It is an ordinary fault: we endeavor more that men shall speak of us than how and what they speak, and it sufficeth us that our name run in men's mouths, in what manner soever. It seemeth that to be known is in some sort to have life and continuance in other men's keeping." In other words, a variant on the proverbial "Bad publicity is better than no publicity at all."

The point is that there are a lot of incorrect quotes out there on the Internet and some of them seem to get rather widely duplicated.  In this case 28 of the last 32 results I got not only had the quote incorrect, but substituted a nonsensical word for the correct word!


2014-06-25

The Waning of War

Bar graph of world-wide battle deaths per 100,000 people from 1940s to 2000s

This graph says it all: Deaths due to war have declined since World War II to almost zero. But make no mistake, people are still dying in wars.



2014-05-09

In Praise of the Fifth Amendment

How to Talk to Police: 1) DON'T On YouTube, the title is Don't Talk to Police, which is actually a better title than mine, but something appeals to me about the one I chose (which is used in the body of the video.  It's almost 50 minutes long.  The first half is a talk by Professor James Duane of the Regent University School of Law, and former defense attorney; the second half comprises commentary by then Virginia Beach Police Department Officer George Bruch, now an Assistant Commonwealth Attorney for Virginia.  It's excellent!  Both entertaining and highly informative.  Here's a transcript of one interesting minute:

There was a local news story here in the Virginia Pilot just a couple months ago about an experienced criminal defense lawyer who ended up getting convicted of criminal assault because he talked to the police.  He was accused of having assaulted another attorney in the hallway.  There were no other witnesses to this.  A woman said he grabbed her by the throat during an argument over a case.  He denied it.  

At trial it was his word against hers.  He said, "I did not even touch her."  But unfortunately for him, when the police had approached him earlier and said, "Would you be willing to answer some questions?" he said, "Sure.  Why not?  I'm an attorney.  I'm a criminal defense attorney.  I'm savvy.  I'm sophisticated.  I've got oratorical prowess.  I'm accustomed to dealing with the police.  By all means."  And then there was a conversation that was not recorded.

When the case went to trial it was no longer his word against hers, because when he testified at trial, "I never touched her," the officer took to the stand and testified, "Well, when I met with him he said he did put his hand on her throat but just as a joke."

Then he had to take the stand again and say, "That's not true.  I never said that.  I never admitted to you that I did that."  Now it's his word against two people.  But who's telling the truth?  We'll never know for sure, but he was found guilt.
In summary, when should one voluntarily talk to police without an attorney present?  Never, NEVER, NEVER!!!


2014-04-09

My heart bleeds for the World-Wide Web

This sounds like a HUGE disaster. My brother Glenn, who does security for a living, alerted me to this posting from yesterday on ars technica:

Lest readers think "catastrophic" is too exaggerated a description for the critical defect affecting an estimated two-thirds of the Internet's Web servers, consider this: at the moment this article was being prepared, the so-called Heartbleed bug was exposing end-user passwords, the contents of confidential e-mails, and other sensitive data belonging to Yahoo Mail and almost certainly countless other services.

The current top two promoted comments combine to say:

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say 11....

Even 11 is an understatement....

It is not enough to do new certificates. All of the old certificates could now be used for man in the middle attacks! 2/3rds of the Internets certificates potentially need to be blacklisted! This is a MAJOR disaster....

EVERY existing CA used on the internet may have to be black listed, and every single SSL certificate re-issued.

IMO SSL/TLS is now completely broken....

There's a website devoted to this problem as well. Click on the Heartbleed image to see it.



2014-01-12

The Scale of the Universe: Interactive

This is very cool! The title link is a permanent link to today's Astronomy Picture of the Day, one of my all-time favorite websites. It interactively displays a continuum from 10-35 meters (0.00000000001 yactometers)—Depiction of quantum foamthe [theoretical] size of a single string or of the spactime or quantum foam—to 9.3×1028 meters (93 billion light-years)—the size of the observible universe.Microwave image of the visible universe How is it that we can see 46½ billion light-years away when the Universe itself is only 13.7 billion years old? The answer is embedded in the Flash linked to in the title.



2014-01-10

Strange email From: header

Headers and message of a message I received today, as displayed by claws-mail, except that I changed the ":" to "<colon>" so no one would accidentally click on the URI:

X-Claws-Bogosity: Spam, spamicity=1
Return-Path: <MAILER-DAEMON>
Received: from X177.bbn2-082.lipetsk.ru (X177.bbn2-082.lipetsk.ru [95.179.82.177] (may be forged))
 by sdf.lonestar.org (8.14.7/8.14.5) with SMTP id s0AAtmic017717
 for <hugh@freeshell.org>; Fri, 10 Jan 2014 10:55:50 GMT
Date: xRunnersPerQueue=20
Message-Id: <201401101055.s0AAtmic017717@sdf.lonestar.org>
Received: from unknown (HELO localhost) (andrew.fishman@richland.k12.la.us@170.240.165.94)
 by 95.179.82.177 with ESMTPA; Thu, 9 Jan 2014 14:48:20 +0300
From: andrew.fishman@richland.k12.la.us
To: hugh@freeshell.org
Subject: Become the girls' first-rate lover

Improve your acting in bed http<colon>//attractive.pbphgwbr.in/

Over the last six months, I've received 113 SPAM message—and no non-spam—with this content in the Date: header. As the Received: headers show, this one was probably mailed yesterday and I received it today.  What surprises me is that when I search the Web for the term "XRunnersPerQueue" I find nothing.  Nil.  Zip.  Nada. Nihil.  Maybe if someone else getting such spam gets curious, they'll find this post.  If so, and they have some idea where these messages come from, whence XRunnersPerQueue is derived, or what it means, I hope they'll let me know.


2013-10-25

No, the Supreme Court wasn’t joking about Citizens United

Today's Daily Beast reports on the ruling by a federal appeals court that there can be no limits on cash contributed to a conservative PAC support the Republican candidate for Mayor of New York City. The decision is unlikely to affect who will be Mayor, but the ruling confirms that the floodgates are wide open for legally influencing politicians with money.


2013-09-21

H-bombs away over North Carolina: 1961

According to The Guardian, in a story published yesterday, a recently declassified document...
...reveals that the US Air Force came dramatically close to detonating an atom bomb over North Carolina that would have been 260 times more powerful than the device that devastated Hiroshima.

The document, obtained by the investigative journalist Eric Schlosser under the Freedom of Information Act, gives the first conclusive evidence that the US was narrowly spared a disaster of monumental proportions when two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, North Carolina on 23 January 1961. The bombs fell to earth after a B-52 bomber broke up in mid-air, and one of the devices behaved precisely as a nuclear weapon was designed to behave in warfare: its parachute opened, its trigger mechanisms engaged, and only one low-voltage switch prevented untold carnage.


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