2016-02-29

Old, but came up in a search for turboecnabulator

One of these days I'll post one of the many videos that inspired my handle, but for now there's this (I first saw it back when it was new, but had forgotten about it until now).


Removing All Doubt

I guess Alito is making him speak in exchange for telling him how to vote.

All those moments will be lost, like a jumbuck in a tucker bag

I've written about the Borderlands series of games before.  On the surface, they seem like mindless first-person shooter action, but there's a really a great deal of depth to the writing, if you're willing to look for it.

(well maybe that's the wrong way to put it.  A great deal of the humor is referential, so like the adult jokes that are embedded here and there in Disney films, some of the best parts are lost on the groundlings in the audience)

So over the weekend I was playing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, the third game in the series (set chronologically between Borderlands and Borderlands 2), and I came across something very interesting.

The game is set on a moon called Elpis, which orbits the planet Pandora, the setting for the first two games.  Elpis has a decidedly Australian feel to it, which is fitting since the game was developed by 2K Australia; the characters, for the most part, have Australian accents, and the humor is derived from Australian sources, though not exclusively.

So when I came across Peepot, the mission reminded me of two things.   First, when I came across the ECHO (personal recorder in game) of the Swagman, the recording said:

Jolly Swagman (on ECHO): Oooh, the things I've seen! I've gone walkabout, all the way to Vorago Solitude! I've seen an enormous giant billabong -- a giant empty billabong with bright purple light shooting out of it, and I heard the deafening silent prayers of an ancient people ringing out from the depths of it! I camped by it, and I sang as I watched as my billy boiled. Then up leapt a jumbuck! I grabbed him with glee, and shoved it in my tuckerbag. But then I returned from the distant land, and I went, and lost it camped not far from here. Blasted kraggons attacked me! Go find it, Peepot. Then you'll know I speaketh the truth. Check yer ECHO. I'm plum tuckered out. Reckon I might die now. 

If this seems like a mash up of  Blade Runner and Waltzing Matilda, it's probably because it is.  It's most definitely Waltzing Matilda, but the whole "I've seen things...Reckon I might dies now." feel of the soliloquy has a very strong Roy Batty taste to it.

(incidentally, the tears in rain monologue is more directly referenced at a later point in the game when the player is leading a military A.I. through a robot factory and facing resistance from bandits.  The deuteragonist comments on how the A.I., occupying a robot body at the time, turned the bandits into puddles, to which she replies everything is lost, like tears in a puddle.  but I digress)

Besides the obscurity of the reference to an American audience, I appreciated Peepot's recitation of the Swagman's Echo recording.  It's something that really needs to be seen, since I lack the vocabulary to adequately describe it.

Here's a video taken by somebody upon whom the references were totally lost.   The actual mission begins about 2 minutes in.  Then save yourself the idiotic ramblings of the player and skip to 4:10 to see the finding of the ECHO.   Then suffer until 6:30 when the tucker bag is found, and then skip to 8:20 or so for the finale.


(now words cannot really convey how mindbogglingly dumb--if only--this gamer is, this is case in point for how the depth of this particular game series is lost on a great deal of its audience)


2016-02-28

Robocop screened at washington think tank

Via NYT (of course).  
Autonomous weapons have a qualitatively different degree of risk than equivalent semi-autonomous weapons that would retain a human in the loop. The consequences of a failure that causes the weapon to engage an inappropriate target could be far greater with an autonomous weapon. The result could be fratricide, civilian casualties, or unintended escalation in a crisis.
(quote from executive summary of actual report).  

The report was written by the guy who failed to prevent this type of system from being considered by the pentagon.

The missile is controversial because, although a human operator will initially select a target, it is designed to fly for several hundred miles while out of contact with the controller and then automatically identify and attack an enemy ship.
Where was this report when it mattered?  It's like the guy just saw the below, and realized that maybe autonomous systems can fail.

 

Shouting Fire in a Crowded Theater

The Klan is provocative.  I'm not going to pretend they have some first amendment right to gather and hold rallies; given their history of violence, doing so is basically instigating a conflict.

So when they want to throw a little tea party in Anaheim, they were rightly attacked by counter protesters.

Clashes broke out as soon as members of the Klan arrived at Pearson Park in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday, said Sgt. Daron Wyatt, a spokesman for the Anaheim Police Department. He said the group had planned to stage an anti-immigration rally with the theme “white lives matter.”

“Immediately as the K.K.K. guys got out of their vehicle they were attacked by the counter-protesters,” he said. “That soon developed into several different fights between the two groups that were spread along the length of a city block.”
The Klan members, behaving exactly as one might expect a mob of violent racists, responded by stabbing three of the counter protesters.
 
Sergeant Wyatt said Klansmen stabbed three protesters, including one who was stabbed with “the decorative end of a flagpole” and rushed to a nearby hospital in critical condition. The banner attached to the pole may have been a Confederate battle flag, he said.

A police officer found a knife-wielding member of the Klan standing over a bleeding protester who he claimed to have stabbed in self-defense, Sergeant Wyatt said.
Right, self defense...Maybe the counter protestors, scared of the violence that the KKK has proven throughout its history to be willing to inflict on minorities, were the ones acting in self defense?

This is an organization that is notorious for violence.  If this was in almost any other state, the Klansmen would have been armed, and many more than three counter protesters would have been shot, and killed.

And just look at the map of where they would get away with murdering counter protesters.

We, as a society, need to stamp out (literally, and figuratively) the KKK and similar violent organizations.  It needs to be socially unacceptable to freely associate with such an organization.  The reaction of the counter protesters in Anaheim is heartening, because it represents a forceful rejection of such hate.

2016-02-26

Gravitational Waves

When they announced the discovery of gravitational waves, I reacted like a tween girl catching a glimpse of Justin Bieber.   Last night Stephen Colbert had on Brian Greene to talk about the discovery.

 It's amazing, and a very approachable explanation of how the LIGO experiment works.


In which PZ is wrong

I'm sorry, I'm going to have to disagree with PZ on this one (quote from the link within the link).

The origin story for Idiocracy’s future world of half-wits is that uneducated people in the early 2000s are having kids and smart people don’t reproduce enough. It’s clear from the film that the intelligent people are wealthy, while the uneducated people are poor. So we’re starting from a position of believing that wealthy people are inherently more intelligent and, by extension, deserve their wealth. This link between intelligence and wealth is perhaps the most dangerous idea of the film and pretty quickly slips into advocating for some form of soft eugenics to build a better world.

The original author uses a sample size of 2 (one family each of intelligent and stupid) and extrapolates that to imply that there is some class based correlation of wealth and intelligence.  That's not a conclusion that can be drawn by just one example on each side.

If the movie had portrayed a careless wealthy playboy, aka Upper-Class twit trope, or a Southern Fried Genius family to represent the poor, then it wouldn't have changed the resulting society in the slightest.  The future 500 years hence represented a culture of crassness and vulgarity, where Fuddruckers devolves into Buttfuckers, and HR Block gives blowjobs.  I don't see how poverty implies these changes, rather than immature humor and poor impulse control (In fact, the upper class twit phenomenon may be why there is still HR Block, and Starbucks in the dystopian future).

If only we could get rid of the uneducated Americans (read: redneck poors) and we’ll have the opportunity to live in a utopian world filled with smart and civilized people. Of course, everyone here in 2014 making a reference to Idiocracy as a pseudo-documentary identifies with the soon-to-be-extinct intelligent class. They believe it’s the “others” — the dumb, impoverished people — that are ruining America with their binging on crap TV and crap internet and crap food.

No, it's a stretch to imply that the message of Idiocracy was that one solution is sterilization of the poor.  Seriously, has the author actually seen the movie?  And as a pseudo documentary.  It's called irony.  It's the same as people referencing this article from The Onion, during W's failure of a presidency.

Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over' 

 WASHINGTON, DC–Mere days from assuming the presidency and closing the door on eight years of Bill Clinton, president-elect George W. Bush assured the nation in a televised address Tuesday that "our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over."

So that implies that we should have shot W and his entire family, right?

Noticing that we're on the wrong path is a good thing.  Finding irony, and humor in life imitating art is a coping mechanism.  It is not a slippery slope towards eugenics.

"Wisdom" of Crowds.

Couple things, cuz it's a slow day so far.

First, the aphorism: A person is smart, people are stupid.  This neglects the phenomenon of the Trump voter, and the wisdom of the crowd.  Granted, nothing in the either clause implies a universal quantification, so fwiw:

It was in 1906 that Galton made his discovery of what is known as the wisdom of crowds. He attended a farmers' fair in Plymouth where he was intrigued by a weight guessing contest. The goal was to guess the weight of an ox when it was butchered and dressed. Around 800 people entered the contest and wrote their guesses on tickets. The person who guessed closest to the butchered weight of the ox won a prize.

After the contest Galton took the tickets and ran a statistical analysis on them. He discovered that the average guess of all the entrants was remarkably close to the actual weight of the butchered ox. In fact it was under by only 1lb for an ox that weighed 1,198 lbs. This collective guess was not only better than the actual winner of the contest but also better than the guesses made by cattle experts at the fair. It seemed that democracy of thought could produce amazing results.
Derrin Brown goes on to point out that in order to obtain the crowd's wisdom, each person must have their own source of information, and there must be a mechanism to collate the results.

It's compelling, slightly, until one thinks of a bell curve.  We can probably assume that the guesses formed a normal distribution about the mean, and that each particularly stupid guess that was way over, or way under, was cancelled out by another equally stupid guess in the opposite direction.

I guess it's debatable whether coming to the right conclusion for the wrong reason counts as wisdom, but it's a neat little anecdote nonetheless.

Activist Uses 'Ted Cruz Was The Zodiac' Meme To Raise $35K To Fund Abortions

Actual headline.

Faust said he hasn’t heard from the Cruz camp and doesn’t expect to (The campaign did not respond Thursday to TPM's request for comment on this story). But until Cruz denies any link to the murders, he said it all remains “a bit ambiguous.”

“Saying he wasn’t born yet is a pretty good alibi, maybe one that I would use if I was the Zodiac Killer, which I’m not,” he said. “It’s a dumb joke, but an attempt...to help out some women in West Texas and make him sweat a little bit.”

TPM owes me a new monitor, my current one is drenched in coffee.

Online Dating

Courtesy of Reuters.

head asplode

Fucking NYT:


That's pretty harmless, right?  Now here's the caption:

A team of physicists recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, fulfilling a 100-year-old Einstein prophecy.

BLARRRGH!!!!

gazpacho anyone?
gazpacho anyone?

It's not a fucking prophecy!  It's a theory!  It predicts that something might happen, not when it would happen!

That's like saying that Tuzo Wilson's 50 year old prophecy of plate tectonics was fulfilled by the recent earthquake in Taiwan.  If only the Taiwanese had taken continental drift seriously...  (of course the scientific community's accepting of plate tectonics involved many more scientists and data collection going back another 50 years prior to the general consensus emerging in the mid 1960's, but to say that these theories predict the dates and times of specific phenomena they explain is the problem here).

2016-02-25

Ugh

Nova appears to have aired a 52 minute google commercial last night.  Maybe it's not so bad, but it depends on how biased towards Boston Dynamics it ends up being.

I think I'll save this one for a very rainy day.

I'm slightly wrong.

So they actually want to fire lasers into giant space sails and accelerate slowly.  That's less far fetched, but each photon would impart such a minuscule amount of energy into motion.

This article doesn't make the idea seem as stupid as the last one.  Plus:


I'm not quite ready to invest in this technology

Interesting idea on how to get to Mars more quickly.  Wrong, though.  Obviously, and hilariously wrong.

The technology that professor Lubin is proposing would take the astronauts there in only three days. The problem is that his idea is purely theoretical, yet [sic].

The professor of physics and NASA scientist developed a system that would make use of laser technology instead of the traditional rocket fuel.

The advantages of such a propulsion method would be the fact that while lasers generate momentum and energy, they are void of mass. This means that the spacecraft would be significantly lighter in the absence of fuel and fuel reserves.
Wait, "purely theoretical, yet?"  What does that even mean?

So they're proposing to fire a giant laser out the ass end of the spaceship, hoping that Newton's second and third laws don't give a shit.

So nobody notices that firing massless particles out of a spaceship (or at it from a space station, if that's the proposal) would do absolutely jack and squat, because:

F = MA

Photons don't have mass.  The speed of light is also constant, so they aren't accelerating either.  So FAIL.

Furthermore, how would they power the laser?  Wishes and good intentions?

The write also gives us this little gem of idiocy:

For example, there is the twin paradox that could affect the members of the mission. According to it, if one twin goes to space and travels at a great speed, while the other remains on Earth, the latter will be significantly older when the first one returns.

Yes.  That's technically true, as the movie Interstellar portrayed so compellingly.  The problem is 3 days isn't a significant difference in age.

Mars is between 4 and 24 light minutes away from Earth, depending on the positions of the two planets in their respective orbits.  Let's call this 14 minutes (averaging the 2).   Assuming the force generated by non-accelerating, massless particles can propel the vessel to a velocity 0.3% of the speed of light, the speed at which to an observer on Earth, the trip to Mars would appear to take 3 days, the travellers would register the trip as taking only 2.999985 days!

Significant! 

Incidentally, this is about 30 times faster than the orbital velocity of the planet Earth, so it's pretty fast, but not fast enough for the twin paradox to become a "thing."

Of course, as the theory of relativity and the principle of time dilation, the twin paradox is just another theory. But it still raises some questions regarding the effects that such a high-speed journey could have on the astronauts.
It's a theory, only in the sense of a scientific theory. Not just another theory.  It is necessary to factor in time dilation for GPS to be accurate.

The combination of these two relativitic effects means that the clocks on-board each satellite should tick faster than identical clocks on the ground by about 38 microseconds per day (45-7=38)! This sounds small, but the high-precision required of the GPS system requires nanosecond accuracy, and 38 microseconds is 38,000 nanoseconds. If these effects were not properly taken into account, a navigational fix based on the GPS constellation would be false after only 2 minutes, and errors in global positions would continue to accumulate at a rate of about 10 kilometers each day! The whole system would be utterly worthless for navigation in a very short time. This kind of accumulated error is akin to measuring my location while standing on my front porch in Columbus, Ohio one day, and then making the same measurement a week later and having my GPS receiver tell me that my porch and I are currently somewhere in the air kilometers away.

So aside from relying on force generated by massless particles that aren't accelerating, and for the twin paradox to result in a difference .000015 days (or about .2 seconds) between the stationary observer and the traveller, and then declaring this stuff just a theory, I must say, I'm disappointed in this article.

Negligence

I've been poking around, and apparently Apple has created management software for businesses, governments and educators that issue iOS devices to employees.

When a device is managed, an MDM server can perform a wide variety of administrative commands, 
including changing configuration settings automatically without user interaction, locking or wiping a 
device remotely, or clearing the passcode lock so users can reset forgotten passwords.
The San Bernardino shooter's phone did not have this MDM software installed.

So in essence, the FBI is trying to make Apple pay for San Bernardino county's negligence.

Apple is right.

Apple is going to close the loophole the courts have ordered them to exploit.  So sayeth the NYT.

The company first raised the prospect of a security update last week in a phone call with reporters, who asked why the company would allow firmware — the software at the heart of the iPhone — to be modified without requiring a user password.

One senior executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity, replied that it was safe to bet that security would continue to improve. Separately, a person close to the company, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed this week that Apple engineers had begun work on a solution even before the San Bernardino attack. A company spokeswoman declined to comment on what she called rumors and speculation.
Given that this function is intended to be a last ditch effort to restore non-functioning (bricked, non-booting, however you want to put it) phone to a functional state, part of that hardware resurrection process needs to completely render any data unreadable.

It should be the same factory reset that would get triggered in the 10 wrong passwords case.

While 3 decades of "GUBMINT BAD!" propaganda from the right have rendered most people more or less mistrusting of law enforcement's efforts to access the data--those that side with Apple anyway--precious little about allowing corporations to access personal data on these devices is being said.

I absolutely don't want Apple, or anybody else accessing my personal data.  I don't use iCloud (well, only for contacts), I don't use Google, other than this shitty blog, and otherwise I'm careful to keep my important data local.

This whole debate has been so sidetracked by terrorism fearmongering, that people completely overlook a corporation's power to make our lives hell if they don't like what we're doing.   They're not accountable in the same way law enforcement, or government is.

Let's examine Microsoft's smartphone offering to see an example of what law enforcement wants.

First of all, a quick description for the unfamiliar. Users signing in to a new shiny device using a Microsoft account will have their devices automatically encrypted by Windows behind the scene, after which the encryption key will be stored automatically on OneDrive. Automatic is the keyword here: users don’t need to use an ounce of effort for all this. They also may not ever know about it happening, either.

So with Windows phones, Microsoft has the ability to unlock the data, because they're in possession of the key via their OneDrive cloud platform.

Now what happens when Microsoft discovers it can monetize this ability by using the key to scan the data on a phone, and selling advertising based on the content they find there.

Or imagine they want to punish customers who use services that compete with Microsoft offerings.

Apple is right to design their systems so that even they can't access user data.   If law enforcement can't compel a suspect to unlock a phone via a warrant, then that data is off limits.  A dead suspect can't testify.

2016-02-23

Priorities

Salon idiocy.

We have at this time a constitutional crisis in which Republicans are refusing to even maintain the appearance of working with a president, whose term they believe ended in mid 2015 (876 days, or 3/5's of a 4 year term)....

And Salon finds time to defend Hitler's penis.

Thank you, Salon, for your reporting on a topic that is of the utmost relevance to the challenges we face today. 

In a way Salon is like a runaway train hauling dumpster fires barrelling down on school bus and a bus full of nuns, which, having collided head on, now rest at the center of the railroad crossing.


Ouch

So at the end of 2014 I broke one of my wisdom teeth eating a salad of all things.  One of the cusps broke off of the crown, years after having been weakened by a crooked dentist who decided it needed a filling because he needed the fee.

Anyway, as a result I needed to have the two wisdom teeth on the left side removed.  (and because yanking a broken vestigial molar out of my jaw because it fucking hurts isn't an "emergency" per whatever cockamamie definition of emergency that my dental plan covers, I had to pay about a grand out of pocket for the pleasure).

Since then it has always felt very sharp around the extraction site.  It healed normally, but a couple of days ago started hurting, intensely.  I can feel a spur of bone protruding from the gum.   Back to the oral surgeon this Friday for what is bound to be a kickass time!

In the meantime, I've got this stuck in my head for some reason.  Maybe because it's the only think I'll be able to eat between now and then.

Incidentally, my wisdom teeth grew in normally because I had my 4 premolars removed when I was 11 or 12 and got braces. 

Pointless

Gitmo has tarnished the USA's image abroad.  It is a betrayal of American principles.  Bla bla bla.  We've read this stuff online and heard in on the news. 

So Obama wants to close it down.

Good, but it's not going to matter one whit as far as our international reputation is concerned, because the problem isn't where we're unconstitutionally detaining foreign suspects for years without trial, but that we're unconstitutionally detaining foreign suspects without trial.

Think of it this way:  If I fuck a toddler in the ass, does it matter whether I do so in the privacy of my own home, or in the ball pit at Chuck E Cheeze?  I fucked a toddler in the ass!  The toddler fucking is the moral outrage, not the venue.

Closing down Guantanamo is just opting to fuck the toddler at home.  Until we actually charge, try, and convict the terror "suspects," we're just venue shopping for our morally outrageous actions.

At least we know Republicans want to fuck their toddlers in the ball pit.

Supercomputing

This is a fantastic article about what supercomputing installations are all about.   It is very similar to how my client does things, but that's as much as I'm allowed to say about it. 

The article itself is quite long, but it contains a great deal of detail that applies to other supercomputer installations as well.  We all have to manage user experience, account for projects, handle a diverse workload and design and maintain a nest of interconnected supporting infrastructure that makes this all possible.

So, while I don't work at the Zuse Institute in Berlin (as awesome as that would be!), this is what I do for a living.

NYT comment

Maybe instead of killing the suspect and then beating up a vendor to provide access to the data, they should capture the suspect alive and then compel them via a warrant to unlock the device? Just a thought.

The police tendency to shoot first and then construct post-hoc justification is the driving factor behind this action. They don't _want_ to have to actually get the warrant and compel a live suspect to unlock the phone when it's easier to just shoot the shady looking black guy and then dig through his phone for incriminating evidence.

Oh, and nice one Bratton, you dickhead.

 The ramifications of this fight extend beyond San Bernardino. Brittany Mills was a 29-year-old woman who was eight months pregnant when she was murdered in Baton Rouge, La. Apple says it can’t comply with a search warrant and open her iPhone even though the police believe the identity of the killer is contained in her device.
Oh to wonder how the police ever managed to catch murderers before smartphones were ubiquitous.

The next iteration of the iphone needs to discard the key when firmware is applied in DFU mode.  Simple as that.

And furthermore, Bratton lost all credibility as a public servant when he declined to fire any of the officers who disgracefully turned their backs on de Blasio.

2016-02-22

Nice one NPR!

Just caught this on All Things Considered about a malware attack on a Hospital in LA.  Audio isn't up yet but guess what they used as the bumper music...


So they use a song by Massive Attack to close out a story about the same.  Nice one NPR!

(I'll double check once the audio is available to make sure that I've got the right song).

Also too, House M.D. fans should check out Teardrop on the same album.  It might sound familiar.

EDIT: Right band, wrong song. NPR actually used Exchange as the bumper music.  I've updated the video to the correct song, but otherwise left this post as is.

Apple FBI update.

When I wrote about this before, I wondered how Apple would install a firmware update on a locked iphone without the passcode.  Here's how.
DFU mode is a state that you can put your iPhone into where it can interface with iTunes but does not load the iPhone operating system or boot loader (this is what really differs DFU mode from recovery mode). DFU stands for Device Firmware Update.

This effectively allows the firmware on the phone to be updated while bypassing the usual passcode entry. 

Updating the phone in this manner wouldn't decrypt the data thereon, but with the modifications requested by the FBI, it would allow brute-force attacks against the 4-digit pin.

What Apple needs to do now is make future revisions of the Iphone discard the encryption keys when firmware is updated via DFU mode.

DFU mode really exists to "unbrick" phones that don't successfully boot.  Apple can easily manage user expectations that the process of restoring the device to a functional state necessarily deletes all of the data from it.

How's that saying go?

Inexpensiveness is fleeting, but cheapness is forever?

Suddenly, there was a series of pops followed by several loud booms, and flames completely consumed the back half of the bus. Alexei O’Brien, a student at the University of St. Thomas, was despondent, yelling to someone on the phone, “I lost all my schoolwork and textbooks. What am I supposed to do?”

Well here's what you do, Alex:

Another hotly discussed topic among the passengers was that of reimbursement. Several people called up Megabus’s terms and conditions on their phones. It unfortunately states: “Our maximum liability to you for any loss or damage to your luggage is US $250 per passenger for any such loss or damage to luggage, and megabus.com will only be responsible to reimburse passengers up to the maximum liability limit in the event of negligence on the part of megabus.com.” That information caused quite a bit of distress. “I’m just devastated,” said Alice Taylor, who estimated she lost $1,700 worth of belongings in the fire, including a laptop.

Oh wait. I'm pretty sure buses don't catch fire if they're properly maintained. 

This is not the first problem with Megabus.

This isn’t the worst fate to befall Megabus passengers. It has had, in its relatively brief existence, several high-profile accidents. In 2010, a double-decker Megabus crashed into a railroad overpass in upstate New York, killing four on the top deck. In 2014, 26 people were injured when a bus traveling from Atlanta to Chicago overturned. Again in 2014, 24 passengers were hurt when a Megabus rolled over near Seymour, Ind. It is unclear how many incidents like the fire have happened. (Megabus, for its part, said that they’re cooperating with the authorities investigating it.)
The property liability damage cap makes me suspicious that Megabus is operating without sufficient insurance on the personal injury side as well.

Anybody willing to wager the buses themselves are registered in states with no, or lax vehicle inspection laws?

EDIT: Looks like Illinois.  From what find, that state doesn't require safety inspections at all (they're not mentioned), and only certain areas and categories would require emissions tests.  If the bus was diesel, then it wouldn't be subject to the emissions test either.

And after:


Stupid Ars, Do Better Next Time!

Ars headline:

Does it violate federal export law if a website publishes CAD files of firearms?

Yes. Yes, it does. Subtitle:


 And does it matter if those files are already available on BitTorrent?
No. No, it doesn't.

So an avid Annie Oakley cosplayer published a set of executable (in the sense that they can be used directly by the appropriate machinery) CAD files describing the "liberator," a 3d-printed handgun.  Not surprising to anybody who deals with export controlled commercial data, the State Department wasn't too happy about this.

Within months, Defense Distributed received a letter from the United States Department of State’s Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance, stating that 10 files, including the designs of the Liberator, were in violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). This is despite the fact that these files had already been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times and continue to circulate online.

Defense Distributed removed the files for fear of criminal and civil liability. The group then re-submitted a "commodity jurisdiction request" to the Department of State, which they hoped would clear the way for the publication of the files. After waiting for two years, Defense Distributed, along with the Second Amendment Foundation, sued the Department of State and argued that the government’s action constituted "prior restraint"—preventing publication before it occurs. In the United States, the Supreme Court has generally rejected the concept of prior restraint.
No shit. ITAR is from the 1970's, so the fact that the files in question have been downloaded hundreds of times is immaterial.  There's no ex-post-facto here.  Exporting said files was already illegal.

Exporting in the context of data classification is a very broad term.  It is literally any dissemination of information to a non-US person, by any means.  Email, conversation, showing plans with detailed dimensions and materials, or passively making the data available publicly.

Curiously, the case seems to turn on whether the files in question are available to people outside the United States.

No, not curiously!  That's how export restrictions WORK.  They absolutely are entirely about certain information not falling into the hands of non-US persons.  This isn't that complicated.

The State Department filing is a simple statement of the status quo, which oddly, the firearm fetishists interpret as a victory for their side?

So far as the State Department is concerned, Defense Distributed may transfer such files, including by making the files available for U.S. citizens to download on the Internet. This may be accomplished by verifying the citizenship status of those interested in the files, or by any other means adequate to ensure that the files are not disseminated to foreign nationals.

And that declaration, according to Wilson, is nearly tantamount to a victory for his side.
"The government is almost giving away the farm in what you’re recognizing to be admissions that maybe we could post the files on a semi-restricted website," he told Ars, adding that he had spent "half a million dollars" on this lawsuit.
"I’m waiting for a judge to say that on paper, and even if I lose, then I still win," he added. "I’m literally just waiting to have something on paper from an authority that gives me cover so that I can continue to do what I’ve always wanted to do."
It is in no way giving away the farm to require the gun nuts to perform the minimal data classification and controls that the rest of the commercial world has to do.  And they seem to pretend that once an interested US-person downloads the data, that person may then export that information freely, and that is most certainly not the case.  Subsequent exports of the data would also violate ITAR in the same way Defense Distributed did.

Edit:  No idea as to the reputation of the source, but this is a very decent overview of ITAR compliance in a commercial setting.   There's nothing in here that my own Corporate Overlord's internal training on the matter doesn't cover.


2016-02-21

Be very afraid

This guy is a real piece of work.  No audio or transcript yet, but a couple of things stood out.

He claims that at the end of 2014, Apple said it would require warrants to unlock iphones.  That was really the Supreme Court, not Apple.  So why can't the DA get the necessary warrant to compel the suspect to unlock the 167 (I think the number was) phones?

And then there's this.

A Virginia state trial court held that a suspect “cannot be compelled [by the police] to produce his passcode to access his smartphone but he can be compelled to produce his fingerprint to do the same.” Id. at 4. The analysis turned on whether a passcode or a fingerprint is “testimonial communication.” Id. at 2.
This ruling makes no sense, but there it is.  It's another avenue through which data on a phone may be accessed by law enforcement.

So there is recourse for prosecutors who need to access smartphone data.  If they have a warrant, they can compel the owner of the phone to unlock it.   There's no need to pretend that Apple and Google are aiding and abetting criminal activity by encrypting data by default. 

I seriously question this guy's competence as a DA if he has so many phones he can't access.  Does he really have the probable cause necessary for a warrant?  If not, then why does he really need the data?

And as to the FBI bitchfest, if Apple unlocks the phone, it doesn't make the suspect any less dead. 

On the technical side, how would apple install the desired software on the locked phone? IOS updates require the password.

On a lighter note

Offered without comment.

Guns don't kill people...

Responsible gun owners do.

At least seven people in the Kalamazoo, Mich., area were killed and several were critically injured Saturday night by a gunman who the police said randomly opened fire as he drove around the city and its suburbs.
Granted, the Cracker Barrel patrons probably won't be missed, but I hardly think dining there deserves a death sentence.

Now the obvious connection between all of the shootings in recent years is the shooters all used guns.  It's long past time that we recognize advocacy of open (and concealed) carry as the disqualifying mental illness it so obviously is.

Concealed carry is for on-duty undercover cops, and nobody else.

Good guy with a gun, bad guy with a gun, at the end of the day, they're all just guys with guns.  If any gun owners read this: do the world a favor and shoot yourselves.

Via the BBC:

2016-02-20

Netflix on notice

They just started blocking my VPN, which is in the US, so isn't being used to bypass geographical content restrictions.

I don't pay Verizon $95/month for a 75/75 connection so I can watch SD streams.  The ONLY way to get HD is through a VPN.  If Netflix insists on blocking VPN access, then I will drop them.

I'll call their customer service tomorrow.  If we can't work it out, fuck them.

2016-02-19

fortasburger

MMMM....fortasburger.

So the deal with Lyndon Johnson's attempt to elevate Abe Fortas to chief justice in 1968 was this:

When Chief Justice Earl Warren announced his retirement in June 1968, Johnson nominated Fortas to replace Warren as Chief Justice. However, the Warren Court's form of jurisprudence had angered many conservative members of the Senate, and the nomination of Fortas provided the first opportunity for these senators to register their disenchantment with the direction of the Court; they planned to filibuster Fortas's nomination.[10] Senate Judiciary Committee chair James Eastland told Johnson he "had never seen so much feeling against a man as against Fortas".[5] Fortas was the first nominee for Chief Justice ever to appear before the Senate and faced hostile questioning about his relationship with President Johnson, who had consulted with Fortas about political matters frequently while Fortas was on the Supreme Court.[10]


Thank you wikipedia.

So this might seem kind of like a precedent for what Republicans are proposing the do to Obama's eventual nominee.  The problem is: Warren didn't die.   He held onto his seat until his replacement, Warren Burger (nominated by Nixon in 1969), could be confirmed.

If anything, this episode does more to justify the democrat's treatment of Robert Bork, than it does to bolster the republican "it's tradition!" argument.

You keep saying that word...

Please stop, my eye rolling muscles are getting strained.

"This is a tradition that both parties have lived by for over 80 years where in the last year, if there was a vacancy in the last year of a lame duck president, you don't move forward."

Now I think the actual "tradition" is for the sitting justices not to die in the president's last year ("Lame Duck" refers specifically to the period between the election in November and the swearing in of the new president in January, it does not refer to the entire last year of the second term).

So not tradition, and not lame duck (yet).

Incidentally, a very important development occurred between the confirmation of Benjamin Cardozo: The 22nd Amendment:

Section 1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.
Section 2. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states within seven years from the date of its submission to the states by the Congress.
Referring to the NY Times graphic, Murphy didn't count, because the 22nd amendment wasn't ratified until 1951, so FDR wasn't a lame duck.  

There weren't any lame ducks prior to this, because is was constitutionally allowed for a president to seek more than two terms.  It didn't happen before FDR in deference to George Washington's decision not to seek a third term.

Term limits are a solution in search of a problem.  I'll write about them later.  Now we are seeing one of their many downsides, though.

I'll dig into WTF happened with Thornberry/Fortas, because that seems to be the only time that a vacancy occurred during the last year of the final term.  Kennedy was nominated on the heels of the rightfully rejected Bork, to a vacancy that opened up in 1987.

Either way, just because something doesn't happen often, it not happening isn't a tradition.  It's like saying that prior to 1980, Mt St. Helens had a tradition of not blanketing the northwest with ash.

But what I want to know is...

Was the pilot Japanese?

 Tourists Witness Helicopter Fall From The Sky Into Pearl Harbor

One ticket please.

2016-02-18

Two Corinthians

I couldn't possibly give a shit if the title is spelled right.

Pope Francis Suggests Donald Trump Is ‘Not Christian’

A bit slow on the update there, Frankie.

Update:  The Donald thoughtfully delivers a carefully prepared response.

Myopia

What strikes me about Scalia's decision to finally do the right thing for a change, is the stunning myopia of those who would block any replacement from even getting a hearing.

“We’ve known this was coming for while. We set aside resources for this fight because everyone knows the next president is likely to have maybe three nominations to make,” Severino said. She wouldn’t go into details about her group’s next moves when it comes to halting the Obama nominee, but said “we’re totally prepared for it,” including financing the effort.

Or two nominations, once Scalia's seat is sanitized and filled.

Think about that for two seconds.  Republicans are going to blow up their chances at the presidency and senate majority by fighting the supreme court nomination and lose three seats for certain, rather than cut one loose now, and try and behave like rational adults for the next 9 months and eventually get 2.

This makes no sense.  Two vacancies, one of which is most certainly Notorious RBG,  would insure a conservative court regardless of who Obama nominates to replace Scalia.

Not that republicans are smart enough to realize this, or have the discipline to execute something that needs to be thought out in advanced.


2016-02-17

Update on the Hobbits.

Remember a couple of  years ago, when anthropologists discovered hobbit-like human remains on an Indonesian island?



Well, further study of the sculls reveals that they are not members of the species Homo sapiens.

Fossils of Homo floresiensis—dubbed "the hobbits" due to their tiny stature—were discovered on the island of Flores in 2003. 

Controversy has raged ever since as to whether they are an unknown branch of early humans or specimens of modern man deformed by disease.

The new study, based on an analysis of the skull bones, shows once and for all that the pint-sized people were not Homo sapiens, according to the researchers.
The researchers determined this by comparing the thickness of the skull bone of Homo floresiensis to those to be expected of a Homo sapiens with dwarf cretinism, or a suspected genetic disorder.   Ultimately, the study ruled out the possibility of  Homo floresiensis being a sub species of Homo sapiens.

That discovery aside, whether H. floresiensis is a diminutive H. erectus or its own species is still to be determined.

MGS5

So on a whim I picked up a copy of Metal Gear Solid 5.  Well, maybe for two reasons: 1) to get me off of Fallout 4, and 2) because it is very well reviewed.


There are some problems with it, and after the first major mission, I'm done.

First problem: the game begins with an exceedingly lengthy and seemingly unskippable cut scene of the protagonist awakening from a coma in a hospital somewhere.  I say seemingly, because to skip cut scenes one needs to touch the left side of the "pad" on the ps4 controller, which isn't discoverable; I found it after getting frustrated with the delay and googling it (I had tried literally every other button on the controller).

I skip the rest of the cut scenes whenever I can.  They are numerous and lengthy.   Often the sequence is loading screen->cut scene->loading screen->cut scene-> loading screen->gameplay->cutscene->gameplay.

It's annoying.  Just let me play the damn game!

So I wake up in the hospital, but why do I care what happens to this character?  Why is the hospital under attack by soldiers?  Who's the flying kid with the gas mask and flamethrower arms?  Why am I being chased on a horse by a guy made of fire?

Why am I now in Afghanistan?

The game is so invested in making me feel what the character is going through that they forget to tell me why I need to care about it.   Often games use in game dialogue for this type of exposition; a NPC explains the situation to the protagonist, and/or fills in any background details relevant to establishing the character.

While the player is actively playing the game.

I massacre three villages, occupied exclusively by Soviet guards, and sheep.   I steal a truck.  I gather crafting materials and rough diamonds, both of which I appear to have infinite inventory slots for, but can carry only two weapons.

So I rescue Butthole, or Fox, or whatever his name is, and the helicopter can't land because...gas.  Seriously?  Doesn't the rotor wash kinda blow gas away?

Then these skull guys show up.  More cutscenes, and I'm done.  This is a game that tries very hard to prevent the player from actually playing it.  It succeeded.

2016-02-16

Charlie has a point.

More relevant to our current circumstances is what went on in 1800, after Thomas Jefferson defeated Adams badly in what still stands as one of the most brutal presidential campaigns in the country's history. Adams was roundly unpopular. His support in Congress was dwindling. What was left of the Federalist congressional caucus jumped the fence and at first rejected the treaty that the administration had negotiated with France. (Later, they came back into camp and passed it, largely because it was popular out in the country.) Adams and his party then rammed through the Judiciary Act of 1801—Remember, back at that time, new presidents were not sworn in until March—which drove president-elect Jefferson up the wall. However, as James Simon points out in his lucid What Kind Of Nation, Jefferson's concentration on the Judiciary Act caused him to take the eye off the ball regarding what would become one of the most consequential appointments in American history. John Adams went out and nominated John Marshall to be chief justice of the United States. This was an oversight that President Jefferson—and, later, President James Madison—would come to regret over the next couple of decades.
Adams sent Marshall's name to the Congress. Briefly, the renegade high Federalists held up the nomination of one of their own because there was another candidate they liked better. But, on January 27, 1801, Marshall was unanimously confirmed; the man who virtually invented the current role of the Supreme Court as an equal branch of the government was himself  the nominee of a lame duck president. If you're going to argue what the Founders "would have done" in a certain situation, it's helpful to look at what they actually did.
Nothing more original than what the originals did.

Fucking Shelves, part 2.

Replacement arrived today. Hopefully these won't collapse (they shouldn't the shelves are not movable).


One of these days I'll sort the books by something other than size.

2016-02-15

Oh Snap!

I'd love for David McRaney to interrupt his series on logical fallacies in order to interview this guy.


Road rage is just one example of what neurobiologist Douglas Fields calls “snapping.” From domestic violence to mass shootings, the news is full of stories of seemingly “normal” people suddenly going berserk. The easy availability of guns only compounds the problem.
But how and why does this happen? The traditional explanation is that these outbreaks of rage and violence are aberrations: the result of moral and psychological defects. But in his timely new book, Why We Snap: Understanding the Rage Circuit in Your Brain, Fields shows that violent behavior is often the result of the clash between the modern world and the evolutionary hardwiring of our brains—and that, unless we understand its triggers, we are all capable of snapping.
I find this discussion compelling, having snapped myself once or twice.  I just wish this particular interview had outlined all of the triggers.

BORK BORK BORK

If you're in the USA you're probably going to be hearing the word "Bork" a great deal in the near future.  Those throwing it out will make as much sense as our Muppet friend above.

Bork was, to put it kindly, batshit insane, and didn't think the Constitution guaranteed a general right to privacy.  This is a radical idea, and counter to the fundamental assumption underlying the document:  the idea of inalienable rights.  This is a common defect of pretty much any strict constructionist, textualist, originalist, etc.

Back during ratification days, Federalists and Anti-federalists debated the need of a Bill of Rights.  The Federalist position was that such amendments were unnecessary because:

I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed?
The underlying assumption of the document is that rights are natural, they are a result of being born, not conferred on a population by the government.

The Anti-Federalist position is that rulers are imperfect creatures too, and that strong boundaries need to be established.

 The same reasons which at first induced mankind to associate and institute government, will operate to influence them to observe this precaution. If they had been disposed to conform themselves to the rule of immutable righteousness, government would not have been requisite. It was because one part exercised fraud, oppression, and violence on the other, that men came together, and agreed that certain rules should be formed, to regulate the conduct of all, and the power of the whole community lodged in the hands of rulers to enforce an obedience to them. But rulers have the same propensities as other men; they are as likely to use the power with which they are vested for private purposes, and to the injury and oppression of those over whom they are placed, as individuals in a state of nature are to injure and oppress one another. It is therefore as proper that bounds should be set to their authority, as that government should have at first been instituted to restrain private injuries.

Ultimately the Federalists and Anti-Federalists were able to compromise and include a bill of rights.  This passage of Anti-Federalist #2 is the common understanding that made the agreement possible.

The common good, therefore, is the end of civil government, and common consent, the foundation on which it is established. To effect this end, it was necessary that a certain portion of natural liberty should be surrendered, in order, that what remained should be preserved: . . . But it is not necessary, for this purpose, that individuals should relinquish all their natural rights. Some are of such a nature that they cannot be surrendered. Of this kind are the rights of conscience, the right of enjoying and defending life, etc. Others are not necessary to be resigned, in order to attain the end for which government is instituted, these therefore ought not to be given up...

The ninth amendment more succinctly expresses the compromise position on the Bill of Rights:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
(read the wikipedia entry for the 9th amendment because it gives a pretty good primer of the f/af debate w/r/t the bor).

So having said all of that, the idea that because the word privacy doesn't appear in the constitution, there is no implicit granting of such a right by the document is radical, and counter to the philosophical underpinnings of the document itself.  And its plain text.

Ergo: Batshit insane.

So Senate Democrats were mean to him, and the Judiciary Committee rejected the nomination.  Despite all of this, Bork got his vote in front of the full Senate.   He was rejected by a 42-58 vote.

Since then the verb "Borked" has been used to refer to the incident, and over time, has come to mean "broken." That's not what it means, so stop using the word.

So we will see apologists for McConnell, Grassley and the Senate Republicans start to cite the Borkening as the beginning of partisan politicking of the nomination process.  The problem with this argument is, as we see, Bork actually got his vote, so it doesn't make any sense when used as a justification for denying a vote to an as yet unnamed nominee.

An that vote was held at a time when Democrats controlled the Senate.

The successor to Bork's rejected nomination was Anthony Kennedy, who may have something to say about opposition parties confirming judicial appointments in an election year.

2016-02-14

What's that Senate Majority Leader Impotent Turtle?

Back in 2005, you had something to say about judicial appointments.

“Any President’s judicial nominees should receive careful consideration.  But after that debate, they deserve a simple up-or-down vote. . . . It’s time to move away from advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent.  The stakes are high . . . . The Constitution of the United States is at stake.  Article II, Section 2 clearly provides that the President, and the President alone, nominates judges.  The Senate is empowered to give advice and consent.  But my Democratic colleagues want to change the rules.  They want to reinterpret the Constitution to require a supermajority for confirmation.  In effect, they would take away the power to nominate from the President and grant it to a minority of 41 Senators.”  (States News Service, May 19, 2005)

Also this:

"Let's get back to the way the Senate operated for over 200 years, up or down votes on the president's nominee, no matter who the president is, no matter who's in control of the Senate. That's the way we need to operate." [Los Angeles Times, "The Nation; Clock Ticks on Effort to Defuse Senate Battle," 5/23/05]

This is a far cry from his current position (note the timing of the statement, the rent boy's semen in Scalia's anus couldn't have been dry yet).

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate should not confirm a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia until after the 2016 election — an historic rebuke of President Obama’s authority and an extraordinary challenge to the practice of considering each nominee on his or her individual merits.

The swiftness of McConnell’s statement — coming about an hour after Scalia’s death in Texas had been confirmed — stunned White House officials who had expected the Kentucky Republican to block their nominee with every tool at his disposal, but didn't imagine the combative GOP leader would issue an instant, categorical rejection of anyone Obama chose to nominate.
 

It's finally winter


2016-02-13

Oh Happy Day!

Scalia finally gets something right.

San Antonio News-Telegram and local station ABC7 are both reporting that Scalia at the age of 79 died while at Cibolo Creek Ranch.

Of course, the Senate won't bother to act on anybody (or anything) Obama appoints.  I'd settle for Posner, if it must be a republican appointee to even get considered by the impotent turtle.  But of course, it's suddenly going to be unprecedented for a lame duck to attempt any appointments to the federal judiciary.

Might as well appoint me.  I've got the same chance as anybody else given reflexive republican obstruction.

And to those who fret over whether or not Clarence Thomas will know how to vote now, I'm sure Scalia had the good sense to bequeath his chattel justice to Alito. 

I'm going in.

If I don't make it, tell my parents I don't resent being born.

2016-02-12

Still Just No

Ferguson renegs:
The Justice Department worked diligently with the city for months to come up with a consent decree with an achievable reform plan that took cost into account. At the heart of the decree is a broad set of measures intended to “ensure that officers have the knowledge, skills, and direction necessary to police constitutionally, effectively, and in a manner that promotes both officer and public safety.” The decree included a provision requiring the city to pay police officers “competitive” salaries.

City negotiators understood that Ferguson would land in court if it did not approve the plan as negotiated. The City Council did exactly that on Tuesday night, making several unilateral amendments that the Justice Department rightly finds unacceptable.
That, in itself is bad enough.  But this is the kicker:
The Council has also demanded that the consent decree not apply to any agency that the city might hire to take over police services. But if the Justice Department allowed that, cities with abusive, unconstitutional policing systems would escape accountability by outsourcing policing services.
Policing is one of those things that only government can do, for the very reason in bold.

Although a privatized police force may decide it's more profitable to target white people for nuisance fines, which would be a hilarious reversal of the current status quo.


DRINK!

Announcing the Maddowblog drinking game.  Rules:
  1. Take a shot every time too fine a point isn't put on something.
Seriously, come up with a new idiom.  It's in every freaking post there.

Crowds are just mentally ill people

Errr...well..not exactly, but:

The previous post about the shooting of a mental patient by an off-duty police officer moonlighting as a mercenary thug reminds me of a particular episode of YANSS.

More specifically, how one would best handle a delirious patient.   That uniforms and visible weapons are unhelpful at best, and exacerbate the problem at worst.

If we think about how certain mental states effectively separate one's behavior from their higher reasoning ability, then an individual does behave as a crowd in some instances.

Absent a transcript that I can quote directly, the guest talks about crowd control techniques and compares the GI-Joe dress-up (my words) approach taken by Ferguson Police last year, to a different approach that tries to more tightly integrate the police force with the crowd.

The idea is that the crowd will remain more calm if it doesn't collectively feel there is an opposing force attempting to shut it down.

This is basically the two-crowd theory from the Army Manual for Dealing with Civil Unrest (there is such a thing!).

1-23. The two-crowd theory is based around the belief that at civil disturbance events there are two crowdspresent, one is civilians that have gathered (protesters, agitators, on-lookers) and the other is the uniformed personnel (control force, law enforcement officials). According to the  two-crowd theory, the outbreak of violence is not due to aspects of the contagion theory, but instead due to the action, reaction, and counteraction of both crowds that are present, known as circular reaction.
And a little later.

 1-25. The interaction between the two crowds can be described using the metaphor of a dance, complete with well understood rules of dance etiquette. The escalation of tension and the potential for violence begins when one side or the other violates these rules. Through the violation of the implicit rules of dance etiquette, one crowd or the other triggers entry of both into an ever-escalating cycle of action, reaction, and counteraction. Dependent on preexisting expectations and on the present response, escalation of tension and violence may ensue

We saw this exact scenario play out in Ferguson when Ronald Johnson took over the police response.  It became this.


 When previously, it had been this.

(now please note, that I'm aware it wasn't all peace and love after Ronald Johnson took over, just that they dynamic changed instantly, if not permanently.  I also don't know if these two images were taken in the chronological order that I imply.  I'm using them to illustrate the two-crowd theory)

Patients with psychological problems who are a danger to themselves and others need to be handled differently than rational people in the same situation.   Just like the militant approach may be ideal to make a dangerous individual to comply, it isn't the best tactic when dealing with a crowd, because the alienation exacerbates the tension.

Just No


Like many other security firms, Criterion encourages applicants with law enforcement or military backgrounds, who are trained to use weapons and to deal with volatile situations. But working in health care settings requires a different mind-set, security experts emphasize.

The private sector should not be allowed to use lethal force.  Period.  Ever.  End of discussion.

Police, as agents of state, are granted by the social contract the authority to use lethal force, while on duty,  under certain circumstances.

And moonlighting police officers should be treated as regular civilians when they're not on duty.  They should not have authority to use lethal force under any circumstances, even if their actions place them in harms way.

So what's this about?  Some off duty cop, apparently moonlighting for the above, shoots a mental patient seeking treatment at a hospital.

The student, 26-year-old Alan Pean, had come to the hospital for treatment of possible bipolar disorder, accidentally striking several cars while pulling into the parking lot. Kept overnight for monitoring of minor injuries, he never saw a psychiatrist and became increasingly delusional. He sang and danced naked in his room, occasionally drifting into the hall. When two nurses coaxed him into a gown, he refused to have it fastened. Following protocol, a nurse summoned security, even though he was not aggressive or threatening.

Soon, from inside the room, there was shouting, sounds of a scuffle and a loud pop. During an altercation, two off-duty Houston police officers, moonlighting as security guards, had shocked Mr. Pean with a Taser, fired a bullet into his chest, then handcuffed him.
Fire the cops and prosecute them for attempted murder.


Uniforms and weapons may, in fact, exacerbate delusions, since many psychotic patients are paranoid and, like Alan Pean, believe they are being pursued. Anthony O’Brien, a researcher at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, said, “That’s not a good thing, pointing something that looks like a gun at a patient with mental health issues.”

When the two Houston officers arrived on St. Joseph’s eighth floor, they headed for Room 834. Unannounced, and unaccompanied by doctors, nurses or social workers, they went in, the door closing behind them.

And, seriously, fuck these guys.


An ambiguity in Medicare rules allowed Alan Pean’s conversion from delusional patient to felony suspect. If a patient throws a tray at a nurse and the staff responds with restraints, it can be considered a health care incident. If the same patient throws the same tray at a police officer, even one off-duty, who shoots in response, the encounter is subject to a criminal investigation.

While Mr. Pean was in the intensive care unit, he was handcuffed to his bed, even though he was heavily sedated, with a Houston police officer standing guard. His family had to post $60,000 bail days later so he could be discharged from the hospital.

Mr. Pean’s felony case is likely to go before a grand jury in the coming months. Under the care of a psychiatrist and on medication, Mr. Pean left Texas behind. Living with his brother in New York, he is finishing his degree at Hunter College and planning to go to graduate school in public health.

But the day before Christmas, Mr. Pean learned that prosecutors had brought a new charge — reckless driving — against him, referring to his race to the hospital.
Sort of like the city of Cleveland seeking payment from the family of Tamir Rice for the justice they dispensed.

2016-02-11

Stolen from elsewhere


Science!

This is huge.

That faint rising tone, physicists say, is the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago (Listen to it here.). And it is a ringing (pun intended) confirmation of the nature of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits from which not even light can escape, which were the most foreboding (and unwelcome) part of his theory.

Watch the video that accompanies the NY Times link, it does a better job explaining what this is all about than I'll be able to do here.

I'm not enamoured with the term "Gravity Waves," though.  That makes it seem too much like our understanding of light waves, which have a pretty straightforward, if psychedelic, dual wave/particle nature.

But maybe that is the right understanding for Gravity Waves, with the Higgs Boson being the particle counterpart to the waves discovered just now. (This is just my laymind thinking that since the Higgs Boson is the particle that confers mass, and mass is what bend space time, then they're linked, but this is a simplistic understanding, and likely about as useful to physicists as prayer is for cancer patients...)

Anywho, what scientists have detected are waves propagating though the medium of REALITY ITSELF!

Think of sound waves in air.  They are the propagation of air pressure fluctuations (compression waves).  These gravity waves are the same thing, in spacetime.  So, like somebody dropping a rock into a smooth pond (those are also compression waves), the collision of two black holes sent ripples through something like this.

The waves literally made reality oscillate between larger and slower; and smaller and faster.   The interferometers could measure this, because the speed of light is constant regardless of the reference frame, so as physical reality changed size around the travelling photons, the distance of the photons' journeys (and thus the amount of time taken, given the constant speed) changes with the oscillation causing the light to go out of phase.

"Hey, let's create a machine that will detect when the reality jiggles!"

Mindblowing stuff!

I want to end with a little bit of praise for the stuff Interstellar got right.  First, the wormhole is probably the most accurate answer to the "What would a hole in spacetime look like?'


The gravitational time dilation idea in the movie is also consistent with this discovery.

Smarter people than me will explain it better than I have.  I doubt they'll think it's as awesome as I do.