Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Mommy blogger attracts national attention blaming men for all abortions and unwanted pregnancies, with possible draconian actions

While I’m “on the road”, a mommy blogger Gabrielle Blair seems to have captured the media’s attention this morning with her Twitter thread blaming men for all unwanted pregnancies and for the moral outrages over abortion (in view of concerns that a Trump Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade). 

Here is her kernel blog post  and here is her Twitter thread

The Independent in the UK has a sample commentary .
Some sensational media reports suggest that she has said all men should have vasectomies in early adulthood or even face castration.  I don’t think Trump would agree.
Ironically, for this Mormon mom, it would be fair to ask if why cis gay men share any blame.
I don’t know what Heather Armstrong’s "firehose of flaming condemnation" (“dooce”) has said about this matter yet, but I can imagine.  
I would wonder if the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and now the accusations against him have helped feed the controversy this week.  

Picture: Albuquerque NM from the air: mine

Monday, September 17, 2018

Kavanugh situation with ancient accusations creates an irony in political combativeness: Justice v Power

Dan Rather made an important comment to Chris Cuomo right now, that this whole question about the accusations against Kavanaugh, and the GOP rush to confirm him, is really about the balance of Power and Justice in our culture.

This is about combativeness, the need to win for your tribe to have control of things.

But it’s quite possible that the Left is pulling this off this time.  How can somebody refute a story of what happened 40 years ago in a dorm?  As for the deadly triad, there is double irony, or maybe double jeopardy here.
Of course the Catholic Church often faces the same dilemma these days.  Almost anyone can be accused of something that happened  in very young adulthood.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

NYTimes editorial discusses weighing the "risk" of kids playing football -- when POC kids need it as a chance for prosperity

Andrew Hart has run an op-ed in the Sunday New York Times, “The Kids Who Still Need Football”, link (paywall).

There is a tagline: “America is moving away from this dangerous sport. But some families will decide the risks are worth it.”

Of course, he is talking about the concussion risk, which is appearing in previous pro-football players as leading to progressive brain damage in later years.  Generally, we haven’t heard about this a lot in previous college and high school players.  But Malcom Gladwell has written that being a football fan is morally questionable.

You can guess where the article goes.  Children of color are more likely to get a ticket out of poverty with sports, and the most promising is American football.

Baseball, soccer, ice hockey, and basketball all seem much mess hazardous generally.  Soccer might have the heading issue. 

Here’s another piece, by Edwin Rios, in Mother Jones, May 2018. The risk to high schoolers is worse than scientists thought. 
And it’s true, the real “Young People Will Win” crowd – all of the kids are articulate, bright, and don’t play contact sports. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Why are Americans repeatedly ill prepared for natural disasters?

USA Today on Monday ran a story about Americans as a “go bag” people, not prepared for natural disasters.  The story by Rick Hampson is here.

There is a story of a woman in LA whose family survived a 1961 fire, who rebuilt in the area when it was ash and had another fire.

Several places I have lived have had disasters after I left.  An apartment complex in New Jersey would be flooded by the Raritan River.  In Dallas, an apartment I had lived in burned after I left (drug lab, supposedly) in the late 80s.

It is very difficult for most people of average means to live in areas that are “safer”.  Yet, our building in coastal areas and on exurban interface areas makes it a lot worse.

Here’s a Facebook video up-close of a huge tornado in Wray, Co (northeastern part of state). 

Friday, September 07, 2018

Trump administration plans to take Flores settlement out of court supervision

There are different spins offered on the Trump administration’s plan to outflank the Flores settlement and keep families together – but by building more detention centers or supervised housing – which it will self-license.

Truth-out, in an article by Candice Bernd, puts the leftist spin on is here

From the right, we have Stephen Dinan in The Washington Times.  It’s important that the plan would stop court scrutiny and allow the administration to do “what it wants” in not releasing people it considers here illegally.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

"The New Socialism" claims to make you freer

Corey Rubins takes up the balance point for “The New Socialists” in an op-ed Aug. 24 in the New York Times, here. The tagline is “Why the pitch from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders resonates in 2018.

He says that the new socialism is about being “free”.

Rather like one of FDR’s “four freedoms” – freedom from want. You don’t have any freedom if you have to take orders from a boss and can’t make enough to qualify for an apartment.

But, it might be that the best way to protect your freedom is to use it. There is something about this freedom of speech thing – if you like to be respected for knowing it all and getting everything right before agreeing to fight for anything, but don’t really care about the people who policy affects, up close and personal.  The answers to this dilemma might be to join group activism, perform service, and actually enter a relationship you wouldn’t have considered before, to fit in somewhere.  That’s going to be experienced as a loss of self, at first, but that may not be the same as loss of freedom.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Interview with a cybersecurity excerpt on how air-gapping of infrastructure components could be compromised, so a major cyberthreat

On a day with a riotous morning in the Senate starting the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh – it was “back to school”.  We’ll get back to that again.

I did a phone interview of John Gomez from Sensato (Spanish for “sensible”), a cyber security company in Red Bank, NJ.  We talked about my Medium essay on media coverage of the varied threats to the US power grid (solar storms, EMP – E1 and E3, and cyber) – which I mentioned and linked on Aug. 30 on my “BillBoushka” blog (q.v., through the Blogger Profile). 

I will follow up on this in a lot more detail on Wordpress in the next few days.

But I wanted to mention the “air gap” issue.  The “air gap” is what is supposed to keep electric utility control centers (controlling power loads through transformers) and other infrastructure components (pipelines, water purification, etc) topologically separated from the public Internet.  That is, it’s not supposed to be possible for a hacker to reach any such system from the computer I type on at home, anymore than it could reach military systems.

But there are “jump machines” which can connect the controllers briefly for updates.  Furthermore, there are ways USB ports can be compromised.  So a worm might be able to wait until connection happens.  You would think there could me more defenses, such as blockchain ideas – how does the Pentagon or NSA protect itself?

I’ll watch his videos tomorrow but share one of them now (above), about the Orangeworm, which can target healthcare systems. 

I can remember, when working for Sperry Univac in 1972-1973, that I worked in downtown Newark NJ at Public Service Electric and Gas (right next to Penn Station), as a site rep supporting the (Univac 1106/1108/1110)  Fortran applications.  Some of these did power grid calculations, although I don't know how the results would have been loaded to the control equipment then. This was a curious experience to remember given today's interview. 
This is a developing story.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Complete hypocrisy in the immigration debate with undocumented farm workers

Mollie Tibbetts’s death may have driven inappropriate right wing “told you so” comments, but it has alwo unveiled a not so secret practice: large farms hired undocumented immigrants and get away with it.  According to the story by Alan Gomez, 47% of agricultural workers are undocumented.

The policy debate is, if you want to implement e-Verify everywhere, you need a legal guest worker program.

It seems hard to believe that Trump’s base, in so many farm and agricultural states, doesn’t get this.

But other manufacturers are also affected, as with this truck trailer manufacturer in Texas (NBC

There is also a problem in that US citizens are often detained by ICE, and given the physical circumstances often they can’t find the documentation proving citizenship (Cato). 

In fact, citizens born near the border are being investigated for possible "citizenship fraud" when they apply for passports (Washington Post story). 
And how about this case of “family separation”, Detroit metro story. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

USA Today reinforces the fact: undocumented immigrants have lower crime rates than Native born Americans, despite individual cases (Tibbetts)

Given the death of Mollie Tibbetts and the arrest of an undocumented immigrant for her murder, it’s well to reiterate the statistics.  Alan Gomez runs it in USA Today.
The headline: “No, immigrants don’t commit more crimes than US born people.”

The incarceration rate for undocumented immigrants in jail outside of immigration violations is 0.5%.
For native-born Americans it is 1.53%.

The story in USA today is here.

OK, Breitbart has this story for its echo chambers. 
The biggest problem is assessing risk.  Yes, the nature of risk may be different, and the likelihood if affects an “ordinary American” in a fat tail “Black Swan” catastrophe may be different. That’s what makes the moralizing difficult.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Trump further loosens federal rules on coal to please his base

The Trump administration has announced a new coal ash policy that will relax federal enforcement of anti-pollution standards and turn responsibility back to the states.
The Verge has a story by Rachel Becker, about the implementation of an Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE), which replaces Obama’s clean power plan.
There is no doubt that this move placates Trump’s base in coal states, and can result in weaker regulation of mountaintop removal, also (which doesn’t help coal miners keep jobs much).

The New York Times’s Lisa Friedman reports on the projected increase in deaths from subvisible particulate matter released near coal facilities, up to 1400 more deaths a year story.
CNN (Jeremy Diamond and Ellie Kaufman) reports that Trump heads to West Virginia to rally his base, while Dr. Sanja Gupta discusses the medical risks to people in the region.  

Trump just wants to let his base have fun at everyone else's expense -- and their own expense -- for two terms of payback. 
Yes, we'll come back to Cohen and Manafort soon. And Stormy Who??? 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

At UNC in Chapel Hill, protesters take down "Silent Sam" confederate soldier statue

Various media report Tuesday morning that protesters took down the “Silent Sam” confederate statue on the University of North Carolina (UNC) campus in Chapel Hill.

I’ve never viewed the focus on public sculptures or paintings associated with past racism or with the inclusion of confederate names in schools (like Washington-Lee High School in Arlington VA, which I graduated from in 1961) as particularly effective.   For example, some groups want to remove all the confederate statues on Monument Blvd in Richmond.  I think a better solution is to add more statues (like Arthur Ashe) of prominent African-Americans not necessarily connected to the War Between the States.  Or, one can spend more effort focusing on real policy issues. 

I do know people connected to UNC but see no evidence of any such person’s involvement. Many protesters seem to have come from off campus. 

Video above by Julia Wall.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Fox News is pushing a Convention of States for a balanced budget amendment

A Fox News late Sunday night Aug. 19 talked about the “Convention of States” under Article V of the Constitution.
This is the less common method to amend the Constitution.  It was attempted with the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1980s. It requires that 34 states (two thirds of legislatures) call for Congress to call a convention to make certain amendments. (Interesting question: does it require both houses of each state if not unicameral).  An amendment must be ratified by three fourths of states (now 38).

Conservatives want to use this method to propose a balanced budget amendment, particularly in the context of possible cuts in entitlements (that could affect Social Security, for example). 

Conservatives do not believe Congress will do this by itself (first method).

Some activists fear that such a method could be used to overturn abortion (Roe v Wade) or even gay marriage (Obergefell). Norquist will probably engage this effort. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Virginia libertarian columnist discusses Trump's auto tariffs

Rick Sincere, who runs a libertarian podcast from Charlottesville VA called “The Score” and also published with a group called Bearing Drift, has an interesting op-ed in the Richmond Times Dispatch on auto tariffs in Donald Trump’s “trade war”.

This isn’t just auto tariffs.  In general, tariffs may help workers in a few selected companies in Trump’s midwestern and southern voter base, but at the expense of many other manufacturing workers who also voted for Trump in these states in 2016.


Trump seems to be arguing for a kind of national autarky, where “America” can somehow play its own Truman Show and cut itself off from the rest of the planet.
Rick Sincere had also organized Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty (GLIL) in Washington DC in the 1990s.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A return visit to a Virginia nuclear power plant visitor center, and a sobering discussion about power grid security

Yesterday, I paid followup “house call” on the Visitor’s Information Center at the North Anna Power Station, one of Dominion Power’s two nuclear power stations in Virginia (the other is Surrey, across the James River from Williamsburg).   I had previously visited in April 2011, and been in the area in 2012 returning back from the intentional community Twin Oaks.

There was a lot of information on how nuclear waste is handled, and also an interesting hands-on regarding how different states of generation (from baseload to peak) tend to depend on different fuel sources. 

I was able to talk to a guide about the various security threats.  He seemed at first to think that the threat from a solar storm came from the flare – it actually comes two days later from the coronal mass ejection.  Utilities could prepare for extreme events by disconnecting some transformers to prevent overloads.  The perception of how to deter EMP is left over from the Cold War and is based on old models for MAD to stop nuclear war. 

I had reported on Wordpress Jan. 15 that Dan Beyer (D-VA, 8th District) had said in a townhall that DHS and utilities were mitigating the transformer overload threat and that Virginia had authorized Dominion Power to spend a lot on security upgrades especially against cyber intrusions. 

At the information center, however, the host pointed out that transformer overload mitigation would not help in an EMP attack that also knocks out electronics, because apparently utilities cannot put faraday cages around all their equipment the way the military can.  The host did reinforce what Beyer had said in the town hall:  since Dominion Power was a regulated monopoly, it needs state approval for major security upgrade spending.

On the Faraday cage issue, it would appear that utilities need to approach military physical security.  Cloud storage companies and finance companies could mitigate by making copies in far-flung geographical locations.   Strategic security of infrastructure could mitigate the potential hand that rogue states like North Korea might have as they remain deceptive in denuclearization.

A thermonuclear weapon produces an EMP that resembles an extreme solar storm (E3 component). It presumably also produces an E1.  A nuclear attack from a rogue state like North Korea would be more likely to include fission weapons, which produce E1.

It is true that the actual power generation components are not connected to the Internet. And there are security rules that prevent external hard drives and thumb drives from being mounted on DOM computers.
There is no indication in public that power stations in Virginia had been compromised by malware, which has been reported (mainly by conservative media websites) among various smaller utilities to have happened since about 2012.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Can states ban militias from public assembly?

Mary McCord, a visiting law professor at Georgetown University, and Michael Singer, on the Charlottesville city council, recommend a simple legal strategy for dealing with many hate groups, in an op-ed Aug. 10 in the Washington Post. 

They are referring to the fact that many states (including Virginia) have laws against paramilitary activities.  The state needs to have a monopoly on the use of organized force in a democracy. 
Obviously, the greatest "threat" right now comes from the extreme right (including white supremacy or neo-Nazism) but it could conceivably apply to the extreme Left as well (the disruptions of conservative speakers on some campuses). 

Of course, I guess you could try to invoke older invocations of the Second Amendment.
I recall the various militia (like the Michigan Militia) in the mid 1990s after Timothy McVeigh’s attack on Oklahoma City in 1995.
This article refers mainly to organized training activity and demonstrations.  To an extent, it would affect freedom of assembly in the First Amendment.  There could be associated issues on free speech – publication – if the point of the speech was to threaten violence or intimidation by others, or essentially plot terrorism.  That, of course, is not protected by the First Amendment.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Aviation Week has major report on fire safety of lithium batteries in flight; quick work on safer batteries is needed

Aviation Week has an important article by Bill Carey on the risks of allowing lithium ion batteries in checked luggage.   The site is a bit of a pain to log on to, with the way the free membership sign on works. There are also a lot of popups. (Why isn't it https?) 

The article explains the incident where some airlines overseas banned onflight airlines larger than cellphones because of intelligence suggesting terrorists could conceal plastic weapons in laptops.
The problem in checked luggage is if a larger number of devices with lithium batteries are in the same small volume of space.

The article also discusses the development of new fire retardants on planes to replace Halon because of ozone layer depletion.

There is no industry to rent secure computer equipment and access or phones on the group comparable to car rental. That’s because everyone carries their own laptops and phone and often hotspots.

I usually take a high-end but small windows-based ASUS laptop for air travel, and I have TSA’s registered traveler. 

So far I’ve had very good connectivity when traveling when I use a Verizon hotspot. 
There is work to test magnesium batteries as safer. There is also a new dual carbon battery.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

GOP has lost interest in "voluntarism"; more on national service, even conscription

In the Washington Post Sunday Outlook section, Benjamin Soskis discusses the erosion of conservative ideas of volunteerism.  In print, it is “Any Volunteers?” Online, “Republicans used to celebrate voluntarism and service. What happened?” The short answer is Trump, with cuts in federally sponsored service programs. 

Yet at a local level the social pressures remain strong (to build cross-cultural social capital).

The article discusses the Service Year Alliance, which is trying to create the impulse for all young adults to spend one year in minimally compensated service, like the military.  This is a case of a private group trying to have the force of a public institution. Should older adults be included and be expected to do tours after retirement? 
David Hogg tweeted that he would be registered for the draft at 18, but actually he has to take the step to register.  The Selective Service page on “Why Register?” describes SS as a “relatively low cost insurance policy for our nation”.  Yes, if you’re a male.  (That is a birth male, if trans.)  High cost for you if you are killed or maimed.  But, as Hogg knows, civilians are exposed to hostility too.   In any case, an actual draft (which could include women if the law were changed) seems unlikely – unless we have something like a nuclear or EMP/cyber attack.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Washington DC Metro has to anticipate possible "United the Right" rally when unions balk

Washington DC is getting concerned about plans for a “United the Right” rally that would apparently take place on Sunday Aug. 12, 2018 at 5:30 PM.  Martine Powers, in a story on the Saturday morning Washington Post, reports that Metro is even considering separate trains for this group of demonstrators.  (The Metro later denied that there would be separate cars.) 
The Orange and Silver Lines would have extremely limited service at those times.

But the transit union says it will not accommodate the hate group, Forbes reports, meaning that a complete system shutdown over the weekend would be possible. There are emergency plans in place to shut down the Metro for any public safety threat. 

Friday, August 03, 2018

Split between Trump and his own intelligence chiefs seems unprecedented, as Russia menaces power grid

Trump called for investigations of Russian meddling to end, and soon Trump’s own national security chiefs were pushing back at POTUS, as in the CBSN video here
CNN has been particularly vociferous in noting that intelligence chiefs don’t know what happened in the meeting between Trump and Putin in Helsinki. 

And intelligence chiefs also sound skittish on how much of a handle Trump has on North Korea.  Some experts think Trump may abandon the idea of denuclearizing Kim Jong Un.
But most alarming are increasing reports that Russians have gotten past air-gaps and have placed even more malware in our power grid components, or other infrastructure, even as the possibility of manipulation of voter rolls seems like the biggest hacking threat.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Harvard newspaper urges libertarians to support Democratic Socialists in the short term, out of "consequentialism"

Trevor Levin has an odd article in the Harvard Crimson urging libertarians to ally themselves at least temporarily with the Democratic Socialists of America, article here

The reasoning has to do with a belief that the economic agenda will not be perceived as that extreme but pragmatic (Charles Murray has proposed universal basic income, for example, which Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez have not yet); more pertinent, the DSA platform seems to embrace a libertarian principle: that every individual has a right to migrate to where he/she can earn a living.

The article mentions some disturbing facts. It claims that the Trump administration has tried to deport legal residents and especially naturalized citizens by “denaturalization”.  It refers to deportation of foreign journalists but it isn’t clear if these journalists were actually here legally.

But the most interesting reference is to an essay connecting libertarianism to consequentialism, especially “utilitarian consequentialism”, laying out the circumstances when government coercion is permissible. I had taken up a little of this in my DADT-1 book (Chapter 5) and will cover it on another post soon (Wordpress).  I remember that concept had some attention in 1997 right after I arrived in Minnesota.

I think it's pretty silly to demand "abolishing ICE", when the function it performs is necessary, however questionable some of its actions may have been.  And the border problems really aren't about ICE per se. 

Update: Aug. 2

The Cato Institute reminds us that open legal immigration was part of the 1980 Libertarian Party platform, tweet