Iowa Caucus Day…We Are So Screwed

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Neither party speak to me; a social liberal, fiscal radical, who opposes empire in all of its forms. With that said, I could probably get behind Sanders if he weren’t so old. Despite Bernie’s supporters excitement, if he loses today in Iowa then he will only win New Hampshire, Clinton will sweep the rest. It seems highly likely from today’s vantage point that the election will boil down to Hillary against Trump. While they both have supporters within their parties, they also have large negative ratings. This raises the question, at what level is voter turnout so low that the election is deemed illegitimate?

Trumps negatives sit at 60% and Hillary is not far behind at 52% while a whopping 70% view her as being dishonest. Nobody has ever been elected (or re-elected) president with negatives above half. With Hillary against Trump, this election year will be the first as it appears that one of these lying conniving dishonest people will be president…whether the majority likes it or not. My prognostications: Trump wins the first four states quite handily and goes on to get the nomination. Bernie comes close in Iowa, wins New Hampshire, and never reaches 30% in any other state. Trump and Hillary slug it out in the general election…negatives for each increase…and voter turnout barely exceeds 40%. (Lowest turnout ever was 49% in both 1996 and 1924.)

So the question remains, if 6 out of 10 voters stay home on election day, can the election be deemed legitimate? What do you think?

Guns, gun control, and their discontents

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I’ll be up front; I don’t give a fuck about folks’ right to own guns. I do, however, care a lot for a little old thing called the Bill of Rights. To weaken any of its protections is to weaken them all. The Second Amendment has already been weakened to mean only guns. 2nd Amendment crusaders are effectively gun crusaders. The 2nd Amendment refers to “Arms” with no reference to guns. The gun nuts stood by while daggers, spears, blow-guns, swords, nunchuks, crossbows, switchblades, blackjacks, throwing stars, etc… were made illegal (this short, off the top of my head, list  are all illegal in the US or parts of the US.)

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

No mention of guns, but if arms includes guns, logic dictates that it also means every arm less lethal than the most deadly firearm that we qualify for protection. With this understanding, it is clear that we have already lost 99% of our 2nd Amendment protections. Gun nuts do not care about the 2nd Amendment, they care about guns, machismo, and a pseudo-patriotism (which serves to justify the other two.)

That leaves me very little sympathy for the NRA and its minions.

On the other hand, behind the histrionics of the other side of the debate, is little else other than anti-ruralism.

Some numbers may help to illustrate this. Guns account for approximately 36000 deaths, 60% of these are suicides and 3 percent are accidental. This leaves around 13500 gun homicides a year.  As many people die from automobiles, falls, or accidental poisoning as die from all of guns and suicide exceeds them all. All of these other dangers can be lessened without infringing further on the Bill of Rights. If you really cared about saving lives, why not reach for the low baring fruit? Mostly because the anti-gun folks aren’t as anti-gun as they are anti-gun culture.

So, neither side really garners sympathy while both support the Orwellian concept of a national database of the mentally ill. This leaves me in the awkward position of not caring about guns while simultaneously opposing further restrictions on them.

In short, gun nuts need to become weapons nuts to gain my sympathy, while anti-gun nuts need to amend the Constitution to gain my sympathy. Until then, I can only feel contempt for both sides of the debate.

Short Note on Terrorism and Encryption

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When the Paris attacks occurred, “security” agencies on both sides of the Atlantic jumped into the media spotlight to declare that encryption had helped the terrorist planning remain secret. Their spokespeople in the media (see NYTimes, etc…) were quick to jump in making unfounded claims based on secret sources. As time went on these early stories were retracted, or as the case of the NYTimes, simply pulled without comment.

Then a text was found on a terrorist’s phone in clear text. The tech privacy/security community was quick to jump out with their own claims that the terrorists did not use encryption.

Both sides are wrong and both of their arguments are red herrings, they both do a dis-service to those they claim to represent.

Let’s start with the privacy advocates’ arguments. All that we know is that the terrorists sent at least one message unencrypted, we do not know anything of the (probably many) messages sent previously. To focus on the fact that they did not use encryption (when logic tells us that they probably did) makes it seem that if they had used encryption then it would be alright to call for governmental back doors to its use. Refusing to enter the sty with the 3 letter agencies would have been the better course, for when it is eventually proven that the terrorists did in fact use encryption for some communications, the argument is lost.

The NSA/GCHQ/FBI arguments for back doors is based on a false dilemma. When these agencies make  claims that terrorists used encryption the correct response is not “did not”, but instead “so what!”. So what if they did use encryption? That does not lead to the conclusion that no one else can use secure communications.  Without privacy there can be no freedom, each is contingent upon the other. These terrorists traveled by train, should we make travel by train illegal? These terrorists had passports, they could not have accomplished their deed without these passports, should we outlaw passports? This is preposterous, it is as preposterous as the claims that secure communications should be banned because the terrorists used it.

I have a right to secure communication and privacy. If I choose to encrypt the data on my phone, my tablet, my computer; then that is my choice [edit: same as whether I choose to lock my house and car]. The government does not have a right to a back door to that data [nor keys to my house]. The privacy advocates argue that any governmental back door could be exploited by bad actors and should therefore not be mandated. I would take a different tack, and argue that the government has no right or authority to demand a back door, even if it could be proven that others could not exploit it. It is my nature endowed right to privacy to have my data secured and my communications private, period.

I recommend Wickr for secure communications. Wickr is encrypted messaging and is available for Windows, Linux, OSX, Android, and iOS. It is easy to use and free for personal use. You can message me at user “foggytown”

Favorite New Music, 2015 Edition

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Welcome to my 7th annual list of favorite albums of the year. My musical taste tends towards alt-country, southern rock, and related genres; if that is not your thing then you may not enjoy this list. That’s fine, there are lots of other lists out there that you may enjoy.

This year I am going to do something differently, rather than attempting to put this list in order counting down to my favorite amongst favorites, I am going to list them in alphabetical order by artist name. To be up front, my far and away favorite album of 2015 is Blackberry Smoke’s Holding All the Roses. Click play and scroll down to see the list.

2015 was a great year for music, here are my favorite 10 albums from this year.

Anne McCue: Blue Sky Thinkin’. This singer songwriter from Australia channels Patsy Cline’s voice with the jazz instrumentation of Billy Holliday. Think smoke filled bar room and a sultry band with a sexy singer on a Saturday night maybe 70 years ago. Yes, it is that good.

Blackberry Smoke: Holding All the Roses. I’ve been following this southern rock outfit for a few years and finally got a chance to see them live last year in Missouri. They continue to impress with their tight lyrics and tighter instrumentation, I consider Blackberry Smoke to be the epitome of southern rock in the modern era.

The Bottle Rockets: South Broadway Athletic Club. Is this band really 23 years old? That means I’ve been listening to them for over 20 years and they have a sound that never grows stale. This is classic Bottle Rockets and an impressive release from Bloodshot Records.

Corb Lund: Things That Can’t Be Undone. Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertins are country from Canada’s hinterlands. This is their most accessible album to date, a vast array of music showing the bands versatility.

The Deslondes: The Deslondes. This debut album is a style that I am really appreciating these days, hardcore country with nary a hint of western. Looking forward to more from this band.

Ryan Bingham: Fear and Saturday Night. This cowboy is back with another Americana album that leaves you shaken. His raspy voice and erudite lyrics are some of the best currently being recorded.

Shakey Graves: Nobody’s Fool. This Americana band out of Austin continues to carry the torch for America’s music city.

Sugarcane Jane: Dirt Road’s End. This tight American band will leave you gasping for more, give a listen and you will see what I mean.

Turnpike Troubadours: The Turnpike Troubadours. Today’s preeminent red dirt band out of, where else, Oklahoma.

Wrinkle Neck Mules: I Never Thought it Would Go This Far. The 6th album from this Virginia based roots country band is well worth listening to…go check it out.

If you like this year end wrap up, you might be interested in one of the previous lists:  2009, 2010, 2011, 20122013, and 2014.

Presidential Election Turning Point

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Much has been made of big money in politics, the bigger the election the bigger the money. You get the backing of the biggest billionaires, he who has the most money wins, that’s politics in the good ol’ US of A.

This year, things are just a little bit different. This year big media is helping to eliminate candidates before a single ballot has been cast. Whether for political patronage or simply for a ratings boost, this is a major turning point in American presidential elections. During the second republican debates, CNN massaged the rules for entry to gain admittance to Carly Fiorina. For Fiorina it was like winning the lottery, for the one who was removed to make room for her, too bad. This isn’t limited to republicans. The DNC changed the debate rules to exclude Lessig from the debates, assumably to aid the Hillary in her march to confirmation.

What is up with big money and big media colluding with the parties to choose our president all without a single ballot being cast?

Still, folks will shake their head solemnly and wonder why it is that voting rates continue to drop.  Perhaps it is cynicism instigated by the knowledge that it is not the votes cast that choose our leaders, but the money spent.

Firefox 42, Major Improvements

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Firefox 42 was just released with major improvements for both Android and desktop. Firefox now has tracking blocking built in! By default it is only on during private browsing, to enable it for general use go to about:config and scroll down to privacy.trackingprotection.enabled and set the value to true. This works on both mobile and desktop. It will block many ads and most trackers and works similarly to Ghostery or Privacy Badger.

For desktop use, Firefox also now includes an icon to show which tab is playing audio and the ability to mute it without leaving the current tab. This is a catch up feature that has been available in Chrome for some time. Still a welcome addition.

Firefox usage is in decline and that is a shame. The one browser coded by a non-profit with keeping the web open as its stated goal. Safari, IE/Edge, and Chrome are all made by large corporations concerned more with molding the web to their own needs/profits that with the fate of their users. Even after Edward Snowden’s revelations, many still cling to these locked down proprietary browsers. I honestly do not understand it.

Windows 10…What’s Up With That?

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A couple of days ago I formatted Windows 10 and installed Kubuntu on my desktop. More on that in just a moment.

Anandtech has it’s comprehensive Windows 10 review up. If you are considering Win10, you should check out the review.

I took part in the Win10 Consumer Preview program from the day it was announced. I was more than happy to dump Windows 8.1…even for beta software. While some of the preview builds were a bit on the buggy side, my general impressions of Win10 were favorable. I knew the consumer preview was hovering up a fair amount of data by and about me, but I figured it was a beta and MS deserved all the telemetry they could get to make Win10 a solid release. My computer originally came with Win7, I upgraded it to Win8 and then to 8.1 and then installed the Win10 previews and the final release. I never once had a catastrophic failure. After Win10 final was released I did a clean install…hey I liked the OS and wanted the optimum experience. Shortly after that my problems started. First Windows Update installed a bad graphics driver and borked my system. I had to go back to a restore point to make my computer usable. Then MS pushed the faulty driver again, forcing me  to roll back the driver and disconnect from the internet while I figured out how to stop the automatic update. I finally found a setting to stop driver updates, it was in the old “System Settings” a leftover from Win95…you know the one that was re-labeled “Advanced System Settings” in XP or Vista. Talk about having to drill down. A pain in the behind to be sure and defensive computing should not be a requirement against your OS vendor.

And then the privacy hullabaloo broke. If you are unaware of the privacy controversy, let me Bing that for you.

Then the clincher happened. I use a tv as a second monitor and speakers, it is connected through hdmi. Every time the computer slept I would lose audio which required a reboot to fix. Once again, none of the preview releases had this problem…but there it was in the final.

So just as I was getting excited about the imminent release of Cortana for Android and the improved integration that would bring, I decided to bail on Windows once again. I still don’t know what made me go back to Windows last time…I am like the battered spouse returning to the abuser time and time again. I’d like to say that I learned my lesson for good this time…but…time will tell.

Computing’s Big Birthday

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Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of Windows 95. An operating system that changed the very fabric of society. Hyperbole? No. Pre-Win95, computers were for business, the elite, and a handful of geeks. Win95 along with (comparatively) cheap Intel processors introduced the era of the $1000 PC and began bringing to fruition Gates’ vision of a PC on every desktop.

A monumental release it was. However, today marks an even bigger anniversary in computing history. Today is the 24th anniversary of Linus Torvalds’ unveiling of his eponymous OS, Linux.

While Linux never gained traction on the desktop, it has taken the rest of the computing environment by storm. Powering most of the internet infrastructure, the vast majority of smart phones, it is running in everything from satellites to automobiles to air traffic control to nuclear submarines.

While most of us toil away on Windows PCs or iOS tablets, it is Linux which has become the foundation upon which our entire computing experience relies. Today each of us should raise a toast to the little OS that can did.

Windows 10 Release Imminent

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Tomorrow is the big day! The roll out of Microsoft’s newest flagship OS begins. Free for users of Windows 7, 8, and 8.1; it really is a no-brainer update. If you hated Windows 8 and stayed on Windows 7, it is time that you got the benefits of that OS as well as the new one…it is faster, boots quicker, the transparency has been removed, and it has a cleaner UI. If you are currently on 8 or 8.1, you get your start menu back!

For everyone, there is the personal assistant Cortana, a new web browser, improved multi-tasking, and updated Windows Snap and multi-monitor support. Windows 10 may be the achievement of Microsoft’s decade plus plan to have one Windows run everywhere.

There are plenty of good reviews out there (hint: use google), so I won’t do one here. The OS is solid with great backward support and is a must upgrade for anyone….and the price is right.

Reddit is Still Supporting the Rape of Dogs (and other animals)

Two years ago, I wrote an open letter to users of Reddit. I recommend reading that post to gain the context for this follow-up post.

Reddit has many subreddits on varying subjects, they range from the humorous to the informative to the gross and beyond. A couple of these subreddits glorify and promote the rape of animals.

A few days ago the new CEO of Reddit outlined new content guidelines for Reddit, those guidelines do not address, and do not ban, the subreddits glorifying and promoting animal abuse. These will continue to be allowed and to generate income for Conde Nast and its owner Advance Publications, Inc.

I would think that rational folks can agree that animal rape is not an innocent pastime? The ASPCA has taken a strong stance against this aberrant behavior:

The ASPCA is opposed to bestiality, defined as any sexual contact with an animal by a human. The ASPCA believes that any sexual practice or contact between humans and animals for the sexual gratification of any person is animal exploitation, regardless of the human perpetrators’ beliefs or intentions. (taken from ASPCA position statement.)

When I wrote the original blog post, I also sent 8 letters to advertisers advising them that their ads were appearing on a site that also hosted dog rape propaganda. Two bothered to respond and one of these agreed to re-evaluate their relationship with Reddit.

Today, with the publication of this post, I am also opening a new WordPress blog called Stop Dog Rape. The intent of this blog will be to publish the contact information of Reddit, Conde Nast, Advance Publications, and their advertisers  to promote people to contact them and put pressure on Reddit to reform its practices.

I request that you read the new blog, follow it, and occasionally write a Reddit advertiser to request that they end their relationship until such time as Reddit has taken steps to Stop Dog Rape.

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