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January 12, 2015

So, to be clear, I’m not Charlie Hebdo.  I think that deliberately pissing off people to sell subscriptions is a fine strategy, I’m just not up for playing it.  I definitely defend the right of the people to do stuff like that — it’s just not my gig — and I’m infuriated that there’s a whole culture of people who don’t have a sense of humor.

But that wasn’t why I felt like posting.  I’m more posting on the fact that so many people are shocked, SHOCKED! that nobody important in the US government showed up to the march in France yesterday.  I get that people are unhappy that we couldn’t stand with the world in a too-late display of solidarity against said people with no sense of humor.  But I’m not.

Mostly I’m not because, if there was anything to show yesterday, it was that no nation or people is above any other when it comes to certain issues.  Well, America should be above.  We should be the benchmark against which all nations hold freedoms of speech, assembly, and the like.  And I don’t necessarily think that showing sorrow at an after-the-fact demonstration of people who risk severe consequences over free speech makes a ton of sense.

But more to the point, if anyone in the administration had decided to show, it would have been about the administration, not about the US being represented.  That would have been even more infuriating to me.

I know I’m not being entirely cogent about things, but I just wanted to make the point that we can’t be better than everyone else if we’re either just like everyone else, or worse, if we’re just being about ourselves.

While We Fiddle

December 30, 2014

Remember Ebola?  Yea, that dread disease that was coming over from Africa that was going to spread across the US?  Anyone remember that there was a lung disease that actually killed more people at the same time?  Anyone want to remember that we annually get a pretty bad disease that sweeps through the nation and kills our weakest members?

The CDC has today declared a national flu epidemic as virulent mutated versions of this years H3N2 virus sweep the country.

Twenty-two states have reported a high number of flu cases, centered mainly around the Midwest and southeast of the country.

Since the start of the flu season on October 1 and December 20, CDC figures show that 15 children have died from the virus and four in the week before Christmas.

Adults over 65 are also particularly vulnerable, though news agencies prefer to prop up children as victims before the elderly.  Either way, this is a real disease that is easily communicable.  In a good year, the vaccine for it is about 50% effective (and this is not a good year, admits the CDC).  And it claims about 24 thousand people a year.

Now, I generally don’t believe people who say, “I have the flu,” when they have a cold.  You know when you have the flu, trust me.  But I’m also usually the one who will mention that if you have the flu, you should contact a doctor.  This might be a tough year, and those of us who travel extensively have to take precautions and still be prepared to react before things get too bad.

Be careful out there, folks.  Don’t let it change your life, but do take precautions.  You’ll be better off than all those times you scream, “EBOLA!”

Merry Christmas

December 24, 2014

It’s been a rough year for our little blog, and both Lynn and I have been swamped at work.  Thanks for reading, and we’d like to wish all of you the best of the holiday season.  Both of us are strong Christmas fanatics, so Merry Christmas.  if you’re celebrating something else, that’s cool, and enjoy it.

Christmas is my second-favorite day of the year (Good Friday is #1, and I’ve posted on that).  Our Lord came to earth to save us, and gave up everything that made Him God in the process.  I’m humbled, and I’m unworthy.  It’s not my choice.  You have a choice, so check into the story of Christ to see it.

Jim and Lynn

Politics, Not Ethics

December 10, 2014

I’ve generally stayed away from the whole debate around our government using coercive methods to get information from terrorist detainees.  However, Andy McCarthy makes a valid point in this post that is similar to some of the thoughts I’ve had in the past… of course, he articulates them much better.  That’s why he’s a great writer, and I blog for six people.

If you were to take everyone in America who is serving a minor jail sentence of say, 6 to 18 months, and you were to ask them whether they’d rather serve the rest of their time or be waterboarded in the manner practiced by the CIA post 9/11 (i.e., not in the manner practiced by the Japanese in World War II), how many would choose waterboarding? I am guessing, conservatively, that over 95 percent would choose waterboarding.

Now, if you take the same group of inmates and ask them whether they’d prefer to serve the remainder of their time or be subjected to Obama’s drone program (where we kill rather than capture terrorists, therefore get no intelligence from the people in the best position to provide actionable intelligence, and kill bystanders – including some children – in addition to the target), how many would choose the drone program? I am guessing that it would be … zero.

Long before any details of the OBL raid came out, I commented that there was never any intent to bring him back alive.  Alive he’d be too much of a political football for the current administration to stomach, and it was a lot easier to knock him off, claim a great victory, and then remind people about it for years.  Let me see, what was one of the 2012 campaign slogans again…?

What I think most people forget is that we’re at war with a shadow entity that is not a nation, plays by no standard rules, and is uninterested in traditional victory.  I can’t tell you how to fight back, but it’s not through random strikes that leave us further in the dark.

I’m Insulted, You’re Hacked

December 10, 2014

You want to know how easy hacking is these days?  All you have to do is be mad enough, and have money, and you’re in.  Want to get mad, have someone make a movie about assassinating your boss.  He’ll get mad enough to have you hack the offender.

Federal officials ‘warned’ Sony that their planned film about an assassination attempt on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un could provoke retaliation from the hermit state.

It is claimed that officials in the Department of Homeland Security held a secret off-the-record briefing with senior executives from the film company about the comedy ‘The Interview’.

Sony has been the victim of a number of high profile cyber attacks in recent weeks with some of their movies leaked online, while confidential information on employees and stars has also been placed on the internet.

At this point, I think it’s best to just hack the Tea Party.  They’ll get dismissed by the press as dangerous, and they’re mostly too civil to go destroy you.  Despotic communist regimes?  Not so much.  My general take is that it’s a bad idea to mess with any form of government, because it can redirect your own funds — and those of all your neighbors — to make your life suck.

And really, who takes North Korea seriously?  Well, anyone who makes a couple awful movies about taking them down.  And with the sophistication of hacking tools that I’ve talked about in various posts… well, Sony didn’t have a chance.  While the revelations coming out aren’t on the Snowden level of embarrassing and infuriating, I’d bet they’re going to get quite a bit of egg on the face over some of the things that come out.

Oh, and the DHS, “briefing?”  Wanna’ bet that someone in the US Government was watching the chatter, or maybe even the start of the probes, to see what was about to happen?

So North Korea is one thing.  I wonder what happens when ISIS decides to stop knocking off everyone who might be innovative and decides instead to pay them to wage a real cyber-jihad?  The world might not be a very safe place.  We’re only lucky that those guys are this generations Khmer Rouge so far.  Let’s be optimistic and assume they just knock themselves back to the stone age.

You Provide Your Employee Benefits

December 9, 2014

I thought this post from the Reg was interesting.  The popularity of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in the IT world is getting big enough that companies are building products to enable it.

A new service piggybacks a company number on the back of the employee’s personal number to save money for both and make Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) easier.

The idea of people wanting to use their own mobile but have work pay for calls opens a can of worms. The spectre of BYOD brings with it the issue of who pays for calls and who owns the number.

This is an IT cycle that happened really fast.  It was probably less than five years ago that many people were carrying multiple phones because work required one thing, and they personally wanted something different.  And this led to all sorts of confusion as they would gradually abandon the work phone for the nicer personal phone they would buy.  So the solution: let people buy whatever they want, and then drop some company-owned apps on it so that the personal phone becomes useful for work.

I have to admit, I find this somewhat cynical and opportunistic on the part of the companies that do it.  When this first hit, I made the comment that it wouldn’t take long before the company required the employee to buy a personal device for work, and I also wondered just how long it might take before the company got to dictate what things the person could do on their own device.

We’re not quite there yet, but just watch… But the employee base only has itself to blame.  The demand to use whatever tech you can in the job is making it hard for the company to really own anything.  So the company responds by doing what it can as cheaply as it can to make the employees think they’re happy.

Of course, I abandoned all hope of having a productive relationship with my company regarding ways to access me easier when I wasn’t in front of the computer.  It was probably six years ago that I took my phone off the corporate plan and took the number out of the company directory.  Yes, it means I have to pay for my own phone, but it also means that it’s my choice as to how it’s then used for work.  But then again, I’m a total Luddite, and I still use my PC exclusively to do work stuff.

So, I’m an interested observer to what’s going to happen.  And I’m waiting to see how this blows up next.

Tripping Silently Into Debt

December 2, 2014

As I’ve noted, I’ve been pretty busy lately, so maybe I just missed it.  But last year I saw all sorts of news programs highlighting every time we’d cross a debt milestone.  Now I have to notice it on a blog?

Congratulations, America! You, or rather your elected officials, smashed through the $18 trillion ceiling last week, raising the United States government’s total outstanding public debt to new heights and leaving shards of devalued greenbacks scattered around the place.

Congratulations, J.D. Tuccille, for caring.

I remember getting into an argument with my dad about 12 years ago when George W. Bush was in office.  My take was that he was not being a decent conservative in that he had no concerns about the national debt.  If you look around, you’ll find a video of him jousting with a reporter during his campaign about it, so he had always been on that track.  My dad didn’t appear concerned, saying it was mostly a problem for a future generation.

Well, that was about one third of the problem ago.  We’re now at $18T in debt with no budgetary end in sight.  In the least, the Republican congress is likely to actually, you know, do their freaking job and submit a budget next year, rather than just letting what’s already killing us slide on.  But I don’t expect significant cuts in the budget, and I also don’t expect any significant change in tax revenues.  So, we’ll borrow.

It’s really odd.  The “good economic progress” that we have is really all smoke and mirrors.  Unemployment is down more because large portions of people stopped looking for work, and they’re only slowly coming back into the picture.  Interest rates are low because we’ve been engaging in QE for most of this period. Even if that’s ended, we tried to print our way out of the mess.

I’m not hoarding up my canned goods and ammo because we’re so far in debt. (I might be getting better prepared, but not because of the debt.)  But I’m still very non-pony-finding-like in my concerns for the future when we’re ignoring key indicators that make us very unhealthy.