Home Sick

I’m recovering from some sort of virus. As I lay down to take a nap on Monday I felt perfectly fine, when I got up from the nap I felt poorly. I worked a half day on Tuesday, then went home and huddled under a pile of blankets for the next 24+ hours, sweating and shivering. Because I had slept so late Wednesday, I didn’t get to sleep that night until Thursday morning – after I would normally be at work, though I still feel rather crappy. I woke up at 6:30 AM because I forgot to turn off the ringer to the damn phone before I finally got to sleep. I stayed awake because I want to call work to tell them I won’t be in today. An hour later my mother-in-law is _still_ on the phone, so I figured I’d put out a blog post to kill time and update my reader(s) on what has been going on.

Three weeks after I started my new job, back in May (I was hired onto overhead in April, so got nearly a month paid before I was back in the vault), the agency I work for announced that they were no longer going to support the product I was working on. At that time, the prime contractor (yes, it is a rather silly way to do things, as a tax payer I am mortally offended at the waste) said that we had enough funds to last at least until the end of October, most likely until the end of December, given how fast the rats were likely to abandon the sinking ship. As such, since we were in the middle of refinancing our mortgages, I decided I’d just sit back and let my new company try and find me another position somewhere. That lasted for about six weeks, then we got a ‘correction’ in what they meant to say was we would have until the end of September. Since it can trivially take 4-6 weeks to switch to a new job even after acceptance all around (what with clearance transfers and whatnot), I decided I couldn’t rely just on my new employer any longer, so revived many of my previous job search contacts. I have had some positive steps, but no official offers yet, so may get to be unemployed all over again.

Regarding the refinances, we are supposed to sign those docs on Monday (which is 5 days away as I type this). Though tings didn’t work out entirely to our expectations (the appraisal of our house in the Va countryside wound up significantly lower than I had expected, fortunately we could get a much higher loan-to-value rate on our house in Maryland to compensate) the end result is satisfactory. We will wind up with just two mortgages, about $500 more expensive each, but no other debt at all. All credit cards, student debt, etc. all paid off in two interest deductible loans. Of course, that also means we will be paying our Va mortgage until we are 81. However, at 3.5% actual interest rate, closer to 2.4% once interest tax deductions are factored in, I figure we are far and away better off putting any money we might have to prepay the loan into investments.

Refinancing dramatically reduces our fixed monthly expenses, by over $4K, which makes my job search immensely more flexible. According to our budget spreadsheet I could take a pay cut of 60% and still cover all our bills. Since I was making only 35% less when I was last working in the uncleared world (yes, there really is a 35% premium for putting up with this nonsense!), that means I have the potential to find a job on the ‘outside’ if things don’t work out on the ‘inside’. Of course, I’d rather keep my current pay, our plan is to put that extra money into investments so we can retire in 6 years. Six _long_ years…

After the refinance seemed in the bag my wife allowed me to schedule a professional editor to go over my first book. He is busy (beware professionals that aren’t!) and won’t be able to look at it until mid Sept, so I probably won’t get feedback until Oct. It is ‘only’ $750 to give a detailed appraisal of my work, including the most important to me: is it worth a damn. Depending on his feedback I should be able to make a clear decision on whether to pursue this dream (fantasy) or not. I’ve approached nearly 30 agents with none asking to view the manuscript. I’ve also submitted the manuscript to Tor/Forge (one of the few mainstream publishers that will consider unagented submissions) and got rejected. Now, it might be simply that my writing is crap, despite the encouraging words I’ve been given, but it also might be I’m selling my work incorrectly, for instance by targeting the wrong genre. The editor should be able to help sort that out as well, and perhaps even provide some input on my ‘query’ letter, maybe that sucks as well.

Though this post wasn’t triggered by any specific article I’ve read, I did read a couple recently I think my reader(s) might find interesting. This one:

Growing Organs on Apples
The future of regenerative medicine may be plants.
http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/07/growing-organs-on-apples/493265/

Is quite fascinating as it talks about some ‘low tech’ ways of engineering organs for humans.

On a more political note is this one in a theme I’ve ranted about a few times before:

FBI Agent Goaded Garland Shooter to “Tear Up Texas,” Raising New Alarms About Bureau’s Methods
https://theintercept.com/2016/08/09/fbi-agent-goaded-garland-shooter-to-tear-up-texas-raising-new-alarms-about-bureaus-methods/

Yes, it really seems that, on purpose or not, the FBI is involved in ‘false flag‘ attacks on our own nation.

According to Scott Adams, Clinton now has a ‘master persuader’ in her own camp, which is why she is no longer getting roundly beaten in the court of public opinion. This doesn’t mean that she is a shoe-in for the elections, though, as the difference is that Trump is his own advisor, so will always take his advice and Clinton is likely to ignore her advice at some critical juncture. While I buy into Adams’ master persuader hypothesis, I’m rather upset that the only way to win an election now is to start enough fires to burn down the nation. This idiot nonsense with Trump ‘dog whistle‘ of encouraging gun toting morons to go after Clinton and any SCOTUS appointments is pure and simple idiocy. With the two sides working so hard to make the other into non-human aliens who aren’t fit to exist, it seems like any success will result in half the nation actively working against the winner. I had expected Trump to moderate his attacks and go back to show that the Main Stream Media (MSM) had misinterpreted his earlier inflammatory comments, yet he seems to be doubling down. Of course, if you go look at his actual quotes they are no where as inflammatory as reported, yet in the vast majority of the cases he is perfectly happy with the MSM interpretation. For a while I thought I might get off the fence and vote for Trump just to see what would happen, now I’m starting to think of voting for Hillary because I hate so much how Trump is dividing the country. Not that Hillary would be a ‘good’ president, we are well and truly in the situation of ‘death by hanging’ vs ‘death by firing squad’, all outcomes are going to suck.

I’ve spent an hour writing this post, so my mother-in-law has been on the phone for two hours and seems to be going strong. I had to use my cell phone to call in to work!

Now that I seem to be awake, I may get something to eat and watch some Olympics before going back to bed…

Victimless punishment

Eric Holder, Wall Street Double Agent, Comes in From the Cold
Barack Obama’s former top cop cashes in after six years of letting banks run wild
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/eric-holder-wall-street-double-agent-comes-in-from-the-cold-20150708

Funny, you don’t hear any libertarians or Tea Partiers carping about this, just dyed in the wool progressives like Matt. Why is that? Why is it that one of the harshest critics (excepting, of course, the frothing-at-the-mouth morons that will hate any democrat, particularly a _black_ one) is a progressive liberal? Him and Glenn Greenwald, another progressive. Here we are winding up Bush’s fourth term. Cheney should be proud, his policies have been in place now for almost 16 years. If Hillary gets elected, another 4-8 years!

I plan on voting for Bernie any chance I get. I view him as the only realistic way to turn the tide, or heck, get it to stop rising!

Making bail unattainable

Jailed for Being Broke
A broken bail system makes poor defendants collateral damage in modern policing strategies
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/jailed-for-being-broke-20150623

More proof of the great country we all live in. Matt, once again, has an excellent article that should be required reading for all. I am sure, though, that there are plenty of people incapable of realizing what a crime against society this bail business is. As he points out, bail is supposed to _only_ be to ensure the defendant shows up at trial or if there is clear and compelling evidence that the defendant is a danger to society. I haven’t personally had any dealings with the arcana of the bail system, but I have had friends and coworkers who have. In one occasion a coworker’s son had a minor charge in Virgina that, because he is a young stupid punk, he had been ignoring and for which an arrest warrant was made. He was pulled over for some infraction in Maryland where they saw the Virginia warrant and he wound up in jail for a couple of weeks while being extradited. Then several more weeks before bail could be negotiated (in his case the bail was needed because he had already demonstrated he was a dickhead). I left before I could see the resolution, but I expect that he spent well over a month in jail for a minor crime he had yet to be convicted of, all because he was too lazy/stupid to follow the rules. In this case, at least, he brought it all on himself, but the story that Matt describes it seems clear that the problems were all because of our dysfunctional ‘justice’ system.

It has come to this: in America it is now a crime to be poor!

Ten Percent of Canadian Women Raped on Campus Every Year!

Women trained to resist sexual assault far less likely to be raped: study
http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/women-trained-to-resist-sexual-assault-far-less-likely-to-be-raped-study-1.2416122

My jaw fell open when I read this:

One year later, those who took the EAAA had experienced 46 per cent fewer completed rapes (5.2 per cent versus 9.8 per cent) and 63 per cent fewer attempted rapes (3.4 per cent versus 9.3 per cent) than the control group.

I am flabbergasted that this hasn’t got elevated into the news cycle! I had a class on statistics and what the above sentence is telling me is that nearly 10% of the ‘control’ group (and ‘only’ 5% of the ‘treatment’ group) were raped in the year period of the test. So that means, what, a 40% chance of being raped while getting a degree? I had no idea it was so dangerous for women on campus! If I had a daughter I doubt I would let her go to college now!

Seriously: if these figures are accurate and not typoes, we really, REALLY, REALLY have a problem at colleges. There is no way that Canadian campuses are somehow more dangerous than US campuses, if anything I would put money on the opposite, so it has to be at least as bad here, yet all we get is one fucked-up, poorly researched story in Rolling Stone? I believe most rational people would accept that blacks have real reasons to be angry, why the hell aren’t women angry at this? I know if I were a woman I would be mad as hell. Heck, being married to a woman, being a son of a woman and a brother to a woman has me angry and I never once gave rape an instance thought in the 10 or so years I spent on campus.

Being Muslim in America

Major Questions Remain Unanswered in Boston Killing of Alleged ISIS Beheading Plotter
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/06/10/major-questions-remain-unanswered-killing-alleged-boston-isis-beheading-plotter/

I have been on the verge of commenting on this several times. It is interesting to me that the only place I am seeing this sort of commentary is on the The Intercept. When I first saw commentary on this whilst watching TV my radar pricked up a bit. The vast amount of ‘corroborating’ information that this guy was an ISIS terrorist was amazing, a flood of it, almost all from anonymous sources. In my recollection when something like this happens ‘for real’ the information trickles out over a long period, there is lots of contradictory statements and generally the authorities are upset when information is leaked. This situation was/is almost the exact opposite which makes me very suspicious. Reading the article which details the details (which you rarely get on a 30 second TV spot) and it is clear that there is a whitewash going on.

  • The supposed damning video is as far from damning as it is possible to get, there is not a shred of confirmation you can get from viewing it
  • If, as the police claim, they wanted to question the guy, why aren’t they wearing uniforms and identifying themselves as police? (based on what I have heard from witnesses, they never identified themselves, just started shooting)
  • The ‘evidence’ that the guy is a radical Islamic terrorist is a joke, to put it in its best possible light
  • The idea that he has been under surveillance supposedly radicalized to the point the FBI is convinced he is running around wanting to behead cops only further makes a mockery of their suggestion they only wanted to question him

Read the article for more, then there is this interesting one:

Florida Imam Who Claimed to Be Covert Government Operative Is Accused of Terrorism
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/06/09/abu-taubah-case/

Our government actually wants to tack on 20 years to an already spurious charge based on the “Islamist” books he possessed. That’s right, boys and girls, our great government wants to imprison this guy because he has a book!

Do you really think this will stop with Muslims? Do you really think the conservative right-wing Tea Party nut jobs won’t use this exact same fucked up logic to ‘disappear’ people they don’t like? Our government already kills US citizens with charges, trial or conviction! This is going to get far worse if we don’t decided to give a damn, guaranteed!

Why inner city blacks are so damn angry

Two interesting articles by Matt Taibbi that explain in detail why inner city people, particularly blacks, but I am sure also Latinos and likely even whites who live in those neighborhoods, are so damn angry with the cops. The first:

A Bad Arrest, on Video
If this incident hadn’t been captured on tape, Jaleel Fields might be another black male convicted for no good reason
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/videos/a-bad-arrest-on-video-jaleel-fields-20150526

Is specifically about a single incident that, had it not been for video, would no doubt have been forgotten. Luckily for the plaintiff in this case, his lawyer was able to get the video and the prosecution promptly dropped the charges. Interestingly, nothing happened to the cops, where the second story gets all the more interesting:

Why Baltimore Blew Up
It wasn’t just the killing of Freddie Gray. Inside the complex legal infrastructure that encourages — and covers up — police violence
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-baltimore-blew-up-20150526

I strongly urge my reader(s) to take a look at the whole article, this excerpt is just one of many instances detailed (out of no doubt 10’s of thousands of events that happen _every year_):

Of course, where bureaucracy fails to cover things up, simple racism often steps in. Just ask Makia Smith, a 33-year-old accountant who grew up not far from where the Baltimore protests broke out. “I was on my way back from Wendy’s,” she says, recounting an incident in East Baltimore from March 2012. “My two-year-old daughter was in the back, in a car seat.”

Caught in traffic, Smith noticed a commotion, with a gang of police officers surrounding a young suspect. As she later alleged in a civil complaint, the boy was on the ground and one of the cops seemed to be getting dangerously aggressive. Concerned, Smith opened the door of her car and held up her phone as though filming the scene. “I was hoping that if they saw me,” she says, “then maybe they would stop doing what they were doing.”

Instead, she alleges, the following took place: An officer, later identified as Nathan Church, rushed at her, screaming, she says, “You want to film something, bitch? Film this!” Frightened, Smith tried to get back in her car. Church took her phone, smashed it on the ground and kicked it down the street. Then he dragged her out by her hair, at which point she momentarily blacked out. Eventually, she claims, police threw her on the hood of her Saturn, where she snapped awake and saw her two-year-old wailing in the back seat. She began to panic: If she got arrested, who would take care of the baby?

According to Smith’s complaint, police told her, in about the least reassuring manner possible, that child protective services was coming to take her daughter. It’s an example of how completely black America distrusts the police and the government that Smith chose to allow a little girl standing on the side of the road, a stranger, to take her baby for her, rather than give the child to CPS. As she was dragged off to that seemingly omnipresent paddy wagon, Smith called out her mother’s cellphone number, so that the little girl could get in touch with the baby’s grandmother.

Smith ended up in jail overnight and didn’t reunite with her daughter until 24 hours later. Playing the usual game of police-abuse chicken, authorities hit her with a list of charges, ranging from assault in the second degree against a police officer (“They say I took on four healthy male officers,” she says), to resisting, to a host of traffic offenses.

Smith, an educated young woman, did everything right after the incident, hiring a lawyer and successfully navigating the traps and land mines designed to make cases like hers go away. She never signed away her right to sue, never allowed the case to be expunged, never took a pennies-on-the-dollar deal that would have let the police off the hook.

And what happened? The police denied her allegations, claiming the arrest was legitimate, and she watched her case implode in what’s supposed to be the corruption-proof stage of the process, a trial by a jury of her “peers.”

“The cops’ defense team struck every black witness,” she says, and her case was heard by an all-white jury, which ultimately found the police innocent of misconduct.

Some of the stats are amazing:

So when O’Malley started his version of Broken Windows, he had a mandate, and it’s not surprising that Baltimore’s program was wildly aggressive. At its peak, in 2005, an incredible 108,000 of the city’s 600,000 residents were arrested.

So, that year you had nearly a 2 in 10 chance getting arrested in that area. No matter what color or socioeconomic status you are, that is enough to make you angry as hell. As detailed in the article, each arrest (many, if not the majority, are never prosecuted!) costs you several days, so a huge interruption in your life and potentially costing you your job. The wonder is these people have put up with this so long, but the rest of America is so quick to dismiss their anger and resentment you have to live there or have friends/relatives live there to even be aware of it. So sad that it took the death of people to even get the attention of the rest of the country, but I have to assume things will get worse before they get better.

Ain’t it great to be an American?!

Burn it! Burn it all down!

How to demolish the oligarchy in 3 easy steps
American democracy has been tainted by lobbying and corporate interests. How do we fix it? Blow it all up
http://www.salon.com/2015/04/24/how_to_demolish_the_oligarchy_in_3_easy_steps/

This is a nice clean summary of some of the pivotal sources of inequality in our ‘great nation’. This doesn’t require that the rich pay higher taxes (though they certainly should), it only requires that parasites on our dysfunctional system get shed for the greatest good for the greatest number…

We have six separate, major American health care programs, with different streams of revenue and based on different systems

America’s health care policies are a dog’s breakfast. America’s retirement policies are a dog’s breakfast that a dog barfed up later.

By my count, that’s four distinct major retirement systems in the U.S.

Education? We have public provision: public K-12 and public community colleges and state universities. Outside of this system of direct public educational provision, we have a separate system of federal student loans. And a third system of federal grants. And because three incompatible systems of aiding higher education are not enough—this is America!—we have yet a fourth, completely different system of tax-favored college savings accounts. America’s system of funding higher education is not quite as insanely complicated as our health care and retirement systems. But we’re getting there!

The political scientist Steven Teles calls this kind of baroque public policy “kludgeocracy.” Another way to describe it would be that Rube Goldberg gets elected and promotes various goals—health care, retirement security, educational access—by means of needlessly elaborate contraptions involving candles, levers, and gerbils running on wheels.

Who benefits from this complexity? Lobbyists, tax preparers, accountants, and rent-seeking parasites in the private sector who figure out how to game these needlessly elaborate systems to skim money from taxpayers and rate payers. Complexity is the friend of corruption. Simplicity, on the other hand, promotes democracy.

Equal rights for all, special privileges for none.

Fantasy? In the short term, sure. The well-paid parasites who profit from complexity will see to that. But there are two kinds of politics: Moving the ball and moving the goal-posts. This is about moving the goal-posts. This is about the next generation, not the next election.

Rome was not built in a day, and the antiquated, crumbling, rat-infested fire hazard that is American public policy will not be condemned, demolished and replaced by a clean, modern, solid structure overnight. But the sooner we start the demolition, the better. In the meantime, “Equal rights for all, special privileges for none” would make a good campaign slogan in 2016.

Big Data Analysis to find Nuclear Submarines?

Are Submarines About to Become Obsolete?
http://nationalinterest.org/feature/are-submarines-about-become-obsolete-12253

I got to admit I was skeptical when I first read the title. People have been trying for decades to find a way to easily locate submarines with little to show for it, but the idea as described sounds more plausible. I found this article via a post at Schneier’s blog and the comments (as is quite typical) are very interesting. Several pointed out that simply knowing where something is doesn’t necessarily provide much utility, essentially all of our bombers and missile silos are known to the inch, yet they largely remain ‘safe’ because to take them on is to start a full-scale war. However, as I have attempted to show before, if we are to be involved in a war with a sophisticated adversary, we are not likely to be attacked in any conventional sense, so conventional weapons/systems are likely to be totally useless and represent an incredibly expensive drag on our economy.

Anyway, I thought my reader(s) might find this interesting. Computer hardware is getting so cheap today (they are just about ready to come out with computers with close to 100 cores (assuming quad CPU) likely for under $50K) that doing this sort of analysis just requires the willingness to commit to hiring a few people like me for a year or two…

Our ‘Justice’ system is even more corrupt than I thought!

Will HSBC Deal Come Back to Haunt Loretta Lynch?
Deal to save HSBC’s American office looks very bad in retrospect
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/will-hsbc-deal-come-back-to-haunt-loretta-lynch-20150209

Got to be read to be believed, but the gist of the matter is the ‘punishment’ that our so-called Justice system meted out to HSBC for laundering money for drug cartels (!), a joke at the time, is even more inexplicable given that our government already knew that HSBC was also acting as an illegal tax haven for the wealthy.

And oh, by the way, our soon-to-be new Attorney General Loretta Lynch was instrumental behind it. No question she is a perfect for for Obama, she clearly knows where all sorts of bodies are buried.

So NICE to be an American!

Wow! Email encryption relies on just ONE guy!

The World’s Email Encryption Software Relies on One Guy, Who is Going Broke
Werner Koch’s code powers the email encryption programs around the world. If only somebody would pay him for the work.
http://www.propublica.org/article/the-worlds-email-encryption-software-relies-on-one-guy-who-is-going-broke

Also interesting comments here.

It is amazing how many fundamental pieces of open source software are dependent on a handful (or just one) person. There are a few that are supported by large groups, for instance Linux, Apache, gcc, but so many are hanging by a thread. It would be nice to see some process whereby these people could be compensated, but I am not holding my breath.