Monthly Archives: October 2013

If bosses really believed…

…that shared workspaces increased productivity, then why do they all have their own offices?

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Filed under Personal, Work

The NSA Doesn’t Quite Deny Illegal Activity

Gen. Keith Alexander addressed some of the allegations against the NSA at a cybersecurity conference today. Here’s the money quote. Ok, it’s really the only quote, but you get the idea:

“NSA does collect information on terrorists and our national intelligence priorities but we are not authorized to go into a U.S. company’s servers and take data.”

That seems like a blanket denial, doesn’t it? I mean, how could it possibly mean anything else?

I’m glad you asked!

Let’s start by saying that he doesn’t deny that Google and Yahoo were compromised. That seems like a pretty big deal.

He says they’re not authorized to go into a U.S. company’s server, not that they didn’t do it.

He specifies “a U.S. company.” Google is headquartered in California….and Ireland (their money lives in Bermuda). There’s no such thing as a strictly “U.S. company” on this scale.

He says that the NSA is not authorized to “take” data. That says nothing about data or access freely (or less-than-freely) given.

He says that the NSA is not authorized to do this, but he does not say that the NSA couldn’t build the tools to compromise the servers and then outsource that actual effort.

I’m not saying that any of these scenarios are necessarily likely; I’m just pointing out that his denial is far more narrow than he and the headline-writer would like for you to believe. The leaks regarding the NSA have proven to be quite accurate thus far, so anyone speaking for the NSA has an uphill task in establishing credibility.

Of course, the biggest hole in my scenarios is this: If the NSA really is just stealing this shit wholesale, why don’t they just lie about it rather than use a narrow, misleading truth? I mean, in for a penny, in for a pound, right?

I’m so far beyond cynical right now it just isn’t funny.

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Filed under Law Enforcement, Politics

And they said the Wall Street Journal doesn’t have a comics page


You know, there was a time when I thought that the Wall Street Journal was a dull and stuffy publication that chronicled the comings and goings in high finance. It was a staid, responsible periodical that could be counted on to accurately recount the previous day’s trading on the stock exchange, but offered little in the way of amusement.

Boy, was I missing out!

Over the last few years, I’ve come to realize that the WSJ is home to what is one of the most intellectually dishonest op-ed pages in the newspaper business. I guess that stands to figure since the Journal is owned by Rupert Murdoch and his companies are notorious for serving as bullhorns for his agenda.

Did you ever see the episode of “The Simpsons” where the Movementarian cult come to Springfield? Under the influence of the cult, the teachers tell the students that all good things come from “The Leader.” All facts are bent to support that conclusion. Even events that couldn’t possibly be attributed to The Leader are said to be His works.

That’s the WSJ, writing about The Market. Anything that supports The Market is good; anything that would seek to regulate The Market is bad. In this respect they’re most single minded and make less sense than Westboro Baptist. It’s a source of near-endless amusement to read them try to twist whatever event is at hand into a narrative that serves their needs. It’s like watching a mediocre but extremely persistent contortionist doing requests from the crowd.

Which brings me to the link that brought on the uncontrolled laughter at the top of this post. The WSJ usually employs columnists who have the patina of academic or intellectual standing. So, it’s unusual to see are writer like Suzanne Somers tapped to write for the Journal. That said, it’s a bad idea to judge the piece by the writer; better to read it and then determine its merits.

Did you read it? I’m sorry. It’s not very good, is it? She cites a couple of anecdotes that are scary, but they’re not convincing or necessarily representative. Plus, there’s ample reason to suspect that she hasn’t been wholly honest. Take a look at the retractions at the bottom. She misquotes a couple of world leaders in what I think is supposed to be an ad hominem attack, but misses the mark by a mile. She’s factually wrong about the costs. She warns us of the Canadian health care, which is both a) not what the ACA is, and b) by most qualitative measures, better than American health care and much cheaper. 

TL/DR: She gets her facts wrong and uses logical fallacies to attack the ACA.

The WSJ has been a turd for a long time, but this is a new low for them. When I read their op-ed page, I expect to read well-written rationalizations and not-quite-lies. This falls well short of both standards. Shame on the Wall Street Journal.

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Filed under Politics, Writing

Rogue Archivist

On one hand, it’s a little thrilling to see anyone described as a “rogue archivist.” On the other hand, the idea that such a thing would be needed is kind of terrifying, isn’t it? Carl Malamud’s rogue activities are restricted to publishing laws. And by “laws”, I mean things like “building codes.” The idea that you should have to pay to find out what the law is is an absurdity.  It’s very “Harry Tuttle” and we all know what the state tried to do to him.

I don’t think the fix for this is very complicated. Laws, and that includes building codes with the force of law, need to be available to everyone at no cost. That’s a very legitimate use of tax dollars. I suspecct even the Tea Party types would agree with me on that one (minus a few Randians, but I doubt I’ll ever make them happy). While we’re at it, let’s go ahead an make secret laws illegal. And, how about “making laws in secret” too.

This is fun. A lot more fun than living in a country where a “rogue archivist” has to break the law to make laws public.

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Filed under Blogging, Other Stuff

I’ll Lose My Snark Card For This…

…but I’m glad I live in a world where there’s a show on Animal Planet called “Too Cute.” They even have a kitten cam.

“The following program contains material that is just too cute.”


Filed under Other Stuff, Personal

Silver Linings (Google+ edition)

Well, still no joy on the G+ front, but I can at least recommend the Google+ help community.  They’ve been more responsive and more informative than any of the responses my names policy violation appeals. I still don’t have much hope for my appeal. The actual Google+ names policy is apparently somewhat different from the published Google+ names policy. While the published policy states that “real” names are merely recommended, they appear to be mandatory unless you’re a celebrity.  And, for the purposes of measuring your online presence under a particular pseudonym, your community on Google+ doesn’t count.

If they’re judging names by a policy that’s different than the published one, then I don’t have much hope for my appeal. But, at least some nice folks have taken some time to talk to me, and I appreciate that.

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Filed under Blogging, Google, Personal

Google+ Is Not Amused

So, in an attempt to prove to Google+ that I am, in fact, a real person, I produced the following documents.

Google+ did not find them convincing.

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Filed under Blogging, Google, Personal

Cop Fails At Life, Gets $38,000 Settlement

As I’m sure you’re already aware, John Pike, the former University of California at Davis campus policeman, just received a $38,000 settlement for the trauma he suffered in the line of duty.  Normally, I’m all for compensating police for trauma suffered in carrying out their difficult, dangerous, and thankless job.

Of course, in this particular case, the “line of duty” was callously pepper-spraying a bunch of sitting protestors. Don’t feel obligated to watch the video again. I’m sure you’ve seen it too many times already. What’s striking, to me, about it is the utterly casual way he goes about spraying these protestors, directly in the face, and in a much larger application than is recommended.

Pike was fired from his job, as you might imagine, as he had performed it about as badly as is possible. He didn’t kill anyone, and as far as I know, he didn’t take bribes, but the utter disregard he had for the students, spraying them like you’d spray insects, gets him a special place in the “Bad Cop Hall of Fame.”

As I said, the police have a difficult, dangerous, and thankless job. It’s a job I wouldn’t want to do and I’m not sure that I could. But, if they’re given the job of upholding the law, they need to actually obey the laws they’re enforcing. That’s the tradeoff. In exchange for the trust of enforcing the law, you are even more accountable than the average civilian. You break that trust, you pay dearly.

Awarding the poster child for what is wrong with law enforcement more money than his victims received is not paying dearly.

Pike was fired, and that’s a good start. He should not have received any sort of settlement for being a failure as a policeman and a human being. He should be in jail. He should be held up as an example of what happens when cops do a crap job of being cops. Even if he’s not in jail, he should be an object of ridicule. When someone is so bad at their job that a mere facepalm is not enough, that person should be called a “John Pike.”

Instead, we pay him? Yes, that’s the message we want to send: “Abuse the crap out of people and we’ll give you a friggin’ bonus.”

I swear its enough to make me want to bring back tar and feathers.




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Filed under Law Enforcement

PSA – Comments Edition

Ok, for the time being, I’m moderating comments. I will probably open itt up at some point, but since the volume is still really low, I’m using the moderate function just to ensure that I don’t miss anything.

Pretty much any comment will be approved so long as it relates to the post. For example, comments deriding me for my Thomas Sowell post are fun, but not when they’re left on a thread discussing Hall and Oates. Doing that will get your comment tossed in the bin every time. As you may have gleaned, this actually happened. I welcome the comment, but please keep it on the correct thread, ok?




Filed under Blogging, Personal

Hall and Oates for the Hall and, er, of Fame.

The Wall Street Journal has a nice article explaining why Hall and Oates belong in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It’s “nice”, but, except for a solid quote from Letters to Cleo’s Kay Hanley, it’s not terribly illuminating even if it does reach the correct conclusion. The tone of the article is defensive and makes it sound like they deserve induction in spite of their career, rather than because of it.

As an unabashed Hall and Oates fan, I say  Hall and Oates are amazing and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame isn’t worthy of the title without Hall and Oates. Rather than go through their career album by album, I’ll point to their greatest hits album, Rock N Soul Part 1. Take a look at that track listing and try to tell me that this isn’t one of the strongest compilation albums out there, and then remember that this album came out before one of their most popular albums, Big Bam Boom!

If you give it a listen, you’ll be struck by several things:

* You probably know all of the songs

* The songs have aged better than they have any right to.

* The performances, both vocal and instrumental, are immaculate.

Sure, Hall and Oates were popular to the point of being ubiquitous. For some reason, there are people who hold that against them. I have never understood that line of thinking regarding any popular artist. I understand taking pride in having broad and idiosyncratic tastes in music, but blowing off great music just because its popular seems kind of willfully self-defeating, not to mention silly.

I’ll link a few of their best-known tunes just to remind you, but I would like to leave you with this. Hall and Oates were and are great, they were popular, they were influential (listen to “Billy Jean” again and see if that beat sounds familiar), and they’ve great guys too. Liking Hall and Oates is no more ironic than liking great music.

Hint: Here’s why Billy Jean sounds familiar

This is how you build to a chorus (thank you, John Oates):

This is one of my all time favorite, not just one of my favorite H&O tunes. The outchorus is otherworldly.

As a bonus, here’s the official promotional video for She’s Gone. All by itself, this is worthy of the Hall of Fame:



Filed under Blogging, Music, Personal