2017-02-03 01:50 am

California and secession

 So, a quick comment about a proposed California secession:

If it happened it would be an unmitigated disaster. California is a deeply red state outside of its very blue cities. So, sure, let's say the blue urban centers win a referendum on secession.

Immediately, the red counties would tell Congress "we're not with them any more." This has happened before. When Virginia attempted to secede in 1860, the western portion of the state decided not to join that suicide pact and broke off. That's how we got the state of West Virginia.

There are a lot of reasons why rural California would refuse to go along. First, they're highly agrarian and have significant water needs -- so losing access to the rivers flowing into California would be a huge hit for them. (And you better believe the USG would do it, too -- and the citizens of Nevada and Colorado would be cheering at being given California's share of the water allocations.)

Second, look at the electoral results. You'll see a handful of red spots and some weak blue spots. These are not counties predisposed to sign onto what they consider "progressive nonsense from San Francisco".

So -- the western edge of California secedes; everything more than 100km inland refuses to go along.

Now for the pain.

Secession proponents like to talk about how California is a wealth-generating machine -- and it is! Cities are economic powerhouses in the general case, and Secessionist California has a lot of them. But look at how cities generate that wealth: they overwhelmingly due it by processing raw materials from rural America. Rural America is vast and bountiful but produces few finished goods; urban America is small and phenomenally good at the task of adding value to the resources it receives from the rural areas...

... you know, the rural areas which have just invited massive numbers of federal troops to come in, in order to stave off Secessionist California occupying them by force in order to ensure the resources flow.

Resources *stop flowing* from rural CA to the cities. They now flow east to Nevada.

So, already, the CA economic powerhouse -- and it is a powerhouse, I want to give it proper credit -- gets derailed by losing the resources it's dependent on. And that's a huge problem, because they now have what is conservatively an immediate $50 billion infrastructure task:

Desalinization.

Thirty seconds after Loyalist CA refuses to join Secessionist CA, the federal government rewards Loyalist CA by not only letting them keep their water allocation, but SHUTTING OFF WATER TO LOS ANGELES.

Four million Angelenos now have an urgent task: don't die of dehydration in the first week of secession. Secessionist CA government begins a crash program of building desalinization plants (none of which would be ready for months), and serving Los Angeles with 40 million liters of drinking water each day.

Keep in mind that you can't drink ocean water. Secessionist CA will be forced to buy drinking water, in huge quantities, and then distribute it to cities.

How quickly do you think they could get that program operational and running at full capacity?

Remember: after three days Angelenos will be drinking their own urine to survive. After five they'll be dead. Given how fast the California Legislature acts, I think there'd be over a million dead before the Secessionist Legislature finished buying chairs for the conference room.

The prospect of the USG shutting off water to Los Angeles is literally horrifying. It is so beyond-awful that if one nation were to do it to another, it would be called a war crime. But international norms are very quiet about civil wars.

Go ahead: ask the citizens of Atlanta or Savannah what their experiences were like. Ask them how Abraham Lincoln treated cities in rebellion.

The idea of a secessionist California succeeding is the political equivalent of a Monty Python sketch -- it's so implausible and surreal that it entertains. But just as the How Not To Be Seen sketch, if done in real life, would immediately result in a lot of people with guns swarming the scene and terrible consequences for all, a California secession, if done in real life, would ... do the exact same thing.
2017-02-02 06:11 pm

Garland and Gorsuch

 Regarding Garland and Gorsuch --
 
The claim that the Senate blocking Garland's ascent to the bench is somehow un-American is, simply, crazy.  The Framers in their wisdom made appointment of justices a game where both sides had to cooperate.  The Senate can't nominate candidates and the President can't approve them.
 
The idea the Framers somehow intended for every nominee to get a floor vote is nuts.  The Framers were veterans of parliamentary process and knew it wasn't just possible but likely for nominees to never reach the floor.  They could've put a clause in guaranteeing the right to a floor vote.  They didn't.
 
This doesn't mean blocking Garland was wise or prudent.  (I think it was foolish and prideful, myself.)  But it does mean that neither side can honestly invoke highminded American ideals when it comes to SCOTUS nominees and floor votes.
 
The Senate blocked Garland, as was their right, and the voters made their pleasure and displeasure known in the elections.  Will the Senate block Gorsuch?  I don't know.  I hope not, but if they do, you won't hear me blathering like an idiot about how this undermines American government.
2017-01-22 01:12 am

(no subject)

 Listen up, you primitive screwheads:

You have got to get off the outrage machine. You're going down a bad road and one you don't have to go down.

There's something in the human heart, something dark and sticky, which loves nothing so much as to have something to hate. And there's never enough hate for it; it always clamors for more. It's whispering to you right now and impersonating principle. "Trump's a racist. A good person would oppose that. A good person gets angry at racists. Get angry at him. It's okay. You're angry at him because he deserves your anger. He's brought it on himself. You're a good person to feel such rage."

When I put it like that, of course it's obvious you shouldn't listen to that voice. But that voice is patient and manipulative and it knows you better than you know yourself. It is subtle, it is pernicious, and it is tricky.

It is also counterproductive. What it wants most is your hate, *not* for you to actually fix the problem. After all, if you fixed the problem, what would you hate? The dark, sticky thing would be denied its food, and it is a glutton for hate.

You don't have to be outraged to stand up against outrages.

Outrage in response to outrage is not a necessity. It is a choice. Sometimes it's a good choice. That dark and sticky thing can be useful to you if it's disciplined, brought under control, put on a strict diet.

But this gluttony so many of you seem to be indulging in, where you latch onto every outrage Trump commits and feed it to the dark and sticky thing ...

Please.

You are going down a bad road.

Please stop.
2017-01-20 04:46 pm

(no subject)

So, a comment about honorifics:

Dad occupies a pretty august seat in government. No, he's not retired, federal judges do not retire; their job lasts their lifetime. Even now, when he's in what's called "inactive status" and enjoying life on our farm, he's still a fully-vested member of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Going above him requires talking to someone who gets addressed as "Justice".

And yet, despite all this, you know what the overwhelming majority of people call him? "Dave." (Which gets on his nerves, actually: he prefers "David", unless you're one of his nieces or nephews. As he once told me, family gets to call him by the familiar.)

Many years ago when I was a kid I asked him if it bothered him so few people called him "Judge Hansen". He didn't even need to think before he answered. No, he said, it didn't bother him a bit. His honorific was a reflection of his standing in court, not his standing in society. We fought a war to rid ourselves of the cancer of aristocracy, and he wasn't going to see that great revolution be undone by government functionaries insisting on their honorifics being turned into noble titles. If his fellow citizen voluntarily called him "Your Honor" or "Judge Hansen", he would be honored to answer to that, and would hope to conduct himself in a manner worthy of that; but he would never expect his fellow citizen would, except in court. He was, is, a servant of the people, and servants do not get to demand titles or honors.

I admired, and still admire, the living daylights out of the Old Man for such a republican (small-r) outlook on society and his role within it. The Old Man was, and is, right.

So no, please, don't feel it's in any way disrespectful to Barack Obama to call him Barack. He's no longer our President. He's been returned to us as a fellow citizen. He's just Barack.

If you *want* to call him "Mr. President", or "President Obama", well, feel free. If that's what's in your heart, do so.

But don't knock people who call him Barack, either. He's our fellow citizen. We're allowed. :)
2017-01-20 04:17 pm

(no subject)

(Note: the Almighty has been elided here not because I think it's necessary, but because some of the people who would like to comment and/or share this feel it's necessary.  I do so out of convenience to my neighbors, not personal conviction.)

Had to correct someone's misconception today that the Old Testament is about a fire-and-brimstone G-d who sends plagues and pestilences and smites people, and the New Testament is about a loving G-d who forgives.

It's inaccurate, of course.  The two Testaments are much more alike than they are different.  If you're going to condemn the Old Testament for condoning slavery, you also need to condemn the New Testament on the same grounds (c.f. Paul's Epistle to Philemon).  And if you're going to praise the beauty of the Beatitudes, you also need to note the beauty of the Song of Songs.

Christ was not a pacifist: he explicitly advised his followers that if they should own swords, even going so far as to sell their cloaks in order to get them.  And if you're going to complain the Old Testament G-d did a fair bit of smiting, what are we to make of Jesus chasing the moneychangers out of the temple with a whip?

More than that ... there's more than a whiff of outright anti-Semitism in the false distinction between them.  There's some sort of inherent claim that the Old Testament is a butcher's manual, and that only the unenlightened or bloody-minded would look to it for moral guidance.  That implication is offensive in many different ways.

I don't think all the people who make this claim are anti-Semites.  But I do believe they've failed to read the books they're talking about, and are instead parroting an anti-Semitic interpretation of the Bible without ever realizing they've signed on to a falsehood.
2017-01-19 10:43 pm

New phone

My old phone has gone missing.  I'm not worried about the data; I know just how hard it is to crack a modern Android device, and thieves would rather just sell it to be wiped and used with a new account than try to recover my info.   However, you may get warnings from Signal and other secure messaging apps that my cryptographic keys have changed.  This is normal.  Don't freak out.  :)
2017-01-17 03:20 am

Gripes with Facebook

 So, a short list of why Facebook is no longer a place I want to spend much time:
  1. People share memes without doing any critical thought or fact-checking, and think my good opinion of their reasoning faculties should be unaffected. (No, just no: while anybody can get taken in now and again, if I'm telling you "that meme is demonstrably, provably false" more than once or twice a year, my respect for your acumen is plummeting, and that's on you.)
  2. People share clickbait. Oh God the clickbait. "I bet I won't get a single share." "Who thinks this young disabled woman is beautiful?" "Like if you X, share if you Y." No. No. Just please *no*. Stop that already.
  3. Curiously attractive women who have no friends, no posts, no history, yet have added me to their friends list. Sigh. No, please, no bait.
  4. Echo-chambering. People overwhelmingly talk to people who already agree with them. I despise echo-chambering.
  5. Trolling.
  6. Virtue-signaling.
  7. Facebook's bizarre criteria for what posts are against community standards. I've literally submitted complaints about photos of a decapitated woman lying in a pool of her own blood with her detached head lying face-up near her and had FB say "nah, not a violation", but God help you if you post a picture of a naked woman. Newsflash, FB: I, like most people, consider one of these far more inappropriate than another.
  8. FB's continued lack of support for high-quality private messaging.

... Of my big-eight gripes with Facebook, six of them are actually gripes about us. About humanity. About people. I don't expect FB to fix us, I don't think FB can fix us, I don't want FB to try to fix us.

And that's why I think FB will never get better.
2017-01-14 10:51 pm

(no subject)

President-Elect Trump's inauguration is coming up, and boy howdy do I have mixed feelings.  The news media is treating this as if it's the Imminent Apocalypse, which it is not, and the Trump-aligned outlets like Breitbart are being cheerfully over-the-top, which is just as bad.

Look, Trump is terrible.  But the unified voice of mass media having the high vapors over him, and millions of Americans screaming "not my President!", aren't doing anyone any favors.  As unbelievable as it is to say, Trump won a fair (enough) election.  When millions of Americans scream the 60-odd million people who voted for Trump and won should have their choice ignored, discarded, delegitimized, it just feeds into the opinion those 60-odd million Trump voters have of "those coastal liberals hate us and think we shouldn't be allowed to win elections, even when we play by the rules".

And that's profoundly anti-democratic, and deeply to the detriment of the country.

I plan on opposing Trump in just about any way I can.  But to the Trump voters?  Y'all won.  I get that.  I don't like the outcome, not even a little bit, but ... I get it.
2017-01-10 02:46 pm

Long time no see.

For the last few years I've been making life updates over at Facebook (and to a slightly lesser extent Google+), mostly because of the network effects.  There are a lot of people there; it's an easy way to reach a decently large audience.

Unfortunately, most of the social networks are for the most part ruled by people who believe reason and education are against their religious convictions.  The level of discourse is so de minimis that it staggers my imagination.  My average post there is about three paragraphs, and is longer than 99% of the stuff in my feed.  I don't know how to function in that environment, much less thrive.

So, it's back here, at least as an emergency measure.  For God's sake, won't you please make me think?

Some brief updates:
  • My nephew shot himself in the foot with a shotgun in late December.  He's keeping the foot but has a long rehabilitation ahead of him.  Whether he's learned anything about the importance of proper firearms safety remains to be seen.
  • I almost died in a fire in December, when my upstairs neighbors decided to extinguish hot fireplace coals by bagging them and putting them on the balcony, thinking the winter weather would quench the coals.  Needless to say the bag was paper and the balcony made of creosote-impregnated wood.
  • My Uncle Lou died sometime in the night between January 5 and January 6.
  • I turned 42 the morning of January 6.  The celebration was short-lived.
Anyway.  Talk to me.  Make me think.  Or if you can't make me think, just speak up and let me know you're reading what I'm writing.

2016-02-23 04:04 am

Spain

I know, I know. I rarely post here anymore. There are reasons for that: the DW/LJ communities are increasingly ghost towns, which means fewer people are around, which sets up the self-perpetuating cycle of abandonment.

On the other hand, there are also fewer idiots here than there are at Facebook or G+, and I like the DreamWidth privacy settings a lot more.

In other news, I'm off to Spain again soon. If you're reading this and you'd like a postcard from Spain, leave a comment and get me your address somehow. :)

2015-02-11 09:23 pm

Spain

[taps mike] This thing on? Still work? Anyone reading?

I'll be in Valencia, Spain in about three weeks. If you'd like a postcard from there, let me know. :)

2012-01-19 01:01 pm

Lies, Damn Lies, and Performance Benchmarks

nsrlquery has been split off into two subprojects, nsrlsvr and nsrllookup. I finally realized that putting both applications in the same tarball made about as much sense as bundling a web browser with every download of a web server — which is to say, none at all.

The project website hasn’t changed: it’s just that there are now two different tarballs you can download. Both are currently at version 1.0.6, and some substantial improvements have been made since 1.0.


One question I’ve had from a few people is, “so how much will this affect my workflow?” I hate to sound snarky, but I don’t know what your workflow is and I’m unable to answer that question. Likewise, “How fast is it compared to md5deep?” isn’t a fair question: the two of them are so vastly different that all comparisons are suspect. We’re not talking apples and oranges, we’re talking salt and single-malt Scotch.

md5deep reads a lot of data. As such, it’s primarily limited by the speed of your disk I/O. Given the I/O differences between slow hard drives and lightning-fast SSDs, md5deep’s performance can easily vary by more than an order of magnitude.

By comparison, nsrllookup reads only a very small amount of data, but it has to push it across a network connection that’s probably considerably slower than a hard drive. If you’re querying a server on your local subnet that’s connected by gigabit Ethernet you’ll have much different performance than if you’re in Kandahar querying a server in Japan over a network connection where the packets at one point have to be carried through the Khyber Pass by a Tajik courier called Anxious Jack.

The lesson to draw here is that there are lies, damn lies, and performance benchmarks. All results are suspect, and none of them should be considered to apply to your system. Yours will quite likely be a lot different.

All this being said, here’s a hint for how fast nsrllookup acts. On an Asus U56E laptop, running md5deep 4.0.0 over my 3Gb home directory spanning 6,146 files took just over four minutes. Piping that output through nsrllookup over a consumer-grade cable connection to a remote server off my local network but still nearby took three seconds.

So, if you’re wondering, “can I integrate nsrllookup into my forensics toolchain without introducing delays,” the best advice I can give you is to try it for yourself. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how it performs.

2011-12-30 09:54 pm

Memory

Twelve years ago this evening — more or less: twelve years ago December 31, 1999 was a Friday night, and the corresponding Friday this year is December 30, 2011 — I was in Bettendorf, Iowa with Doug getting ready to celebrate Y2K. It’s a little weird to remember how concerned so many people were about the Imminent Collapse of Civilization, but yes, lots of intelligent, well-reasoned people had those concerns. Doug’s mother had about thirty gallons of drinking water set aside in case a serious crisis ensued.

He and I spent that day enjoying cigars with his father, solving all the world’s problems from our comfortable chairs in the basement. We went out to a shooting range, where I rented a Glock for the first — and only — time in my life. It was a well-used range weapon. The sear broke like a soda cracker on the second round of the magazine, and the next thing I knew my Glock 19 became a Glock 18 firing at twelve hundred rounds per minute. Doug can affirm just how white my face was: that was, is, the greatest moment of stark terror I’ve ever experienced on a shooting range. Of course, it was all over in under a second and a half: by the time I fully recognized what had happened it was all over save for the sound of a fountain of brass falling down around me like a rain of pennies.

We left the range after finishing our ammunition, then returned to his parents’ place. We rang in the Year 2000 by watching Strange Days on DVD, a movie set on December 31, 1999, and ending right at the year 2000.

I look back on that now and it seems so new to me, as if it was only a year or so ago. And yet, look at all that’s gone on since then. We each moved to California, enjoyed the boom and were damned by the bust, returned to the Midwest. I went to graduate school and he got married, he moved to Colorado and I headed out East. There have been jobs taken with optimism and left with the wreckage of cynicism, there have been failed relationships, triumphs, tragedies, all of that.

The more I think about what matters in life, the more I realize there is nothing more precious than a friendship which has aged well. Nothing.

May we all be so blessed as to have well-aged friendships. May those of us who are married be so fortunate as to say we’re married to a friend of many years. May those of us with children be so lucky as to say our children are not just our children but also our friends.

And may we all have a prosperous and joyful year ahead.

Thanks much, y’all. :)

2011-12-30 06:15 pm

nsrlquery 1.0

Feel free to share this with whomever you feel might benefit from it.

nsrlquery-1.0

I've just released nsrlquery-1.0.

Read more... )
2011-12-04 03:53 am

Then and Now

NSFW. )

If that’s the then-and-now of beauty, then all I have to say is this: I’ll take the then. Happily. Cheerfully.

2011-11-24 12:43 am

Fundraising

My friend Adrian Preston will be missing the next two weeks of work due to some life-saving emergency surgery. Between having no health insurance and missing that much work, well — it’s fair to say he’s currently in a state of financial emergency.

His partner Andrea is running a fundraiser over at her LiveJournal page. Anything you can to to help them will be appreciated, not just by them but by me. Everything helps. Thanks a lot, guys.

2011-11-21 09:01 am

Gosnell

As most of you know, I’ve been following the alleged barbarities of Kermit Gosnell with horrified interest. The allegations against him are truly stomach-churning. I’m pleased to report two people have already plead guilty to murder charges in connection with Gosnell’s “clinic,” and a trial for Gosnell himself will soon commence.

[Edit:] Here are my previous remarks on Gosnell.

2011-11-16 12:43 pm

Automotive emergency kit

A hat tip to [livejournal.com profile] fireba11 for his help with this list. Any major brainos are mine, not his.


Now that I have trunk space worth talking about, I'm in the process of putting together an automotive emergency kit worth talking about.

Cut for length )

So, what are y'all's thoughts? Have you put together your own automotive emergency kits? Are they similar to this, different?

2011-11-04 04:36 pm

Dave Freer and Save the Dragons

A year or so ago, I reposted Dave Freer’s begging for funding to support his family’s move from dangerous South Africa to the safer havens of Australia. In exchange for this, he was offering to insert people’s names and whatnot into his new novel, Save the Dragons, which he was making available online as a free etext.

Well, the original website for Save the Dragons is defunct and I can’t find the novel anywhere. To say the least, this annoys me. It’s as if the earlier promises made are no longer operational, but the money collected is in his hands.

If anyone knows what’s up with Save the Dragons, would y’all please let me know?

[Edit:] Dave Freer is in touch with me, and all is satisfactorily and politely resolved.