Attention Supreme Court Justices

Attention liberal justices worried about Trump.

Attention conservative justices who don’t want to see the Second Amendment eviscerated.

My earlier prediction here is looking increasingly correct. Your choice in the upcoming matter of Trump’s executive order is if you really want to set an extremely dangerous precedent, one likely to turn the USA into a full dictatorship in a decade or less, or not. Please rule accordingly.

Meet the Candidates

Mr. Establishment (a.k.a. Joe Biden) is, well, Mr. Establishment. That’s not the sort of person I want. Yes, I realize whomever the Dems nominate is, is going to be nauseatingly pro-Establishment to me. I’m an anarchist, after all. Of course, anarchists are not even 1% of the US population, so I’m not a very representative voter. But the success of Trump and Sanders in 2016 shows there’s lots of pissed voters sick of the Establishment out there. So color me skeptical about Mr. Establishment’s electoral viability.

Phony Baloney (a.k.a. Pete Buttigieg) is not as overtly a creature of the Establishment as Mr. Establishment, but if you look at his campaign material, or his autobiography, it’s very hard to find evidence of him actually standing for anything of consequence. It’s all platitudes and no policy with this one.

The Schoolmarm (a.k.a. Elizabeth Warren) has some of the best policy proposals one could expect from a Democrat (and plenty of them, in refreshing contrast to Phony Baloney), but do voters really want to be lectured to by The Schoolmarm? Is that a winning sales strategy (and that’s really the vibe she tends to put out, sorry, Schoolmarm fans)? I think not.

The Mummy (a.k.a. Bernie Sanders) may look dead, but he’s apparently still alive and taking another crack at the presidency, despite being almost an octogenarian. Yes, his policies are about as good as The Schoolmarm’s, but for some reason he’s never been able to get much support from African-Americans, despite having a pretty damn good record on racial equality (going way back to his college days when he led sit-ins to protest racist housing policies in Chicago). (But hey, if people chose their candidates rationally, Trump wouldn’t have gotten within a hundred miles of the White House.) Worse, The Mummy has spent years tweaking the noses of the Democratic Party Establishment. Yes, they deserved it. But they don’t think they deserved it, and they would rather have Trump be a two-term president than to see their old nemesis in the Oval Office. They’re that spiteful. I doubt a candidate with two big strikes against him can prevail in November of next year.

So, of the above, who actually would have the best chance of winning against Trump? Phony Baloney might be that person. The most important thing in politics is authenticity, and if you can fake that (and Phony Baloney sure can), you’ve got it made. Mind you, he’ll be better than Trump. Also mind you, “better than Trump” is the mother of faint praise.

It’s Establishment politics, after all. You were expecting, perhaps, something other than a sack of shit from it?

Assange and Wikileaks Worked for the Trump Campaign

The Mueller report makes that crystal-clear. Wikileaks directly communicated with Donald Trump, Jr. and deliberately timed its releases to benefit its preferred candidate.

Wikileaks also worked to actively deny that the GRU, Russia’s state intelligence agency, was the ultimate source of the information being passed on to them by “DC Leaks” and “Guccifer 2.0” (two sources later shown to be GRU pseudonyms).

Whether or not Wikileaks knew that Guccifer 2.0 and DC Leaks were the GRU is a different story. I have found no definitive evidence for this proposition in the report, though it’s a lengthy document and thus entirely possible my searching has missed something.

I will note, however, that Wikileaks has to the best of my knowledge never leaked damning inside information on the Russian state. Curious, isn’t it, that a self-professed “transparency” organization is so uninterested in blowing the whistle on a secretive, right-wing dictatorship yet at the same time is so persistently interested in blowing it on more open and free societies?

Just makes one wonder.

So, the Report is Out

And it has some pretty bad stuff in it. Remember, this is the redacted report, and the redaction was done by an Attorney General who was appointed because he believes Dear Leader can do no wrong.

It is a common censorship technique to deliberately include some bad stuff about your own side in a censored document. This lets those consuming the censored news believe they are getting both sides of the story, enabling the censorship to ultimately be more effective than that which excludes all unfavorable information.

Keep that in mind over the coming days.

On the “Threat” of G5

I started writing a long rant on this, but I just don’t have the time to do something super-comprehensive. Hence this shorter, less-comprehensive rant.

Suffice it to say that the professed concern about radiation from G5 cellular networks has all the hallmarks of pseudoscience. Radiation is harmful primarily if it is what is called ionizing radiation, and radio frequencies are so far from being ionizing that it’s not even funny. (Radio waves are some of the longest, lowest-frequency electromagnetic waves around; it is the shortest, highest-frequency waves that are ionizing.)

Because of how radiation-induced ionization works at the quantum level, you simply must have waves of a sufficiently high frequency to get ionization. The quanta of electromagnetic energy, photons, have an energy value proportional to their frequency, and ionization happens when a single photon interacts with a single electron. So low-energy, non-ionizing photons simply can’t ionize things, no matter how many of them you have. Physicists have amassed over 100 years of evidence which testifies to this fact.

Sure, there could theoretically be something as of yet undiscovered that makes non-ionizing radiation harmful, but so far there really isn’t much evidence in favor of this. Moreover, most of the alarmist propaganda about G5 is obviously written by those ignorant of the basic physics of electromagnetic radiation, given how much it confuses ionizing and non-ionizing radiation.

By far, the man-made non-ionizing radiation most harmful to life is… visible light from various forms of electric lighting! It’s known to have an adverse impact on many animal and plant species, including us humans, whose circadian rhythms it is prone to disrupt. But you don’t hear much concern about that, because visible light is a normal, everyday phenomenon. It’s less mysterious than radio waves, which lend themselves much better to unscientific fear-mongering by and for the gullible.

On top of that, the G5 fear-mongering I’ve run across is without exception about the base stations. None of it is about radiation from consumer handsets, and that is responsible for subjecting people to by far the strongest fields, for the simple reason your phone’s transmitter is so much physically closer to you than the transmitter on the cell tower. Again, your own phone is a familiar everyday object, making it harder to engage in fear-mongering about.

In other words, all available evidence points to the whole thing being driven by emotion and ignorance, not science. Mind you, I’m certainly open to a science-based critique of G5 technology from a health and safety standpoint. It’s just that so far, I haven’t seen one.

Apple Mail Searching: Still Broken

It’s pretty pathetic. It was back in 2013 that I gave up on Apple Mail, in part because its searching function had gotten more and more broken as the years passed.

The other day I had a chance to use Apple Mail, mainly because while searching works OK in Thunderbird, printing is broken. Well, it works fine if you think it’s acceptable to waste a page of paper printing every damn header in your message in a ridiculously small font.

Really, now: just what’s their problem? It’s a trivial operation to filter out all but the most significant headers before printing. Do most people care about seeing every relay hop the message went through, and its antispam heuristics? No, of course not; most of us just want the message body and a few of the most important headers (time stamp, subject, origination address, and destination address, primarily). Make that the default and have the option of also printing with full headers. Is that so hard?

But I digress. I wanted to print a message without all that extra header crap so decided to print it from Apple Mail. Of course, that meant finding it. No problem: it contained some pretty unique keywords; searching should uncover it in a snap. No dice.

Again: Just what’s their problem? It’s not as if searching for a substring in a file is that difficult a problem to code. Is there some “intelligent” indexing at work? Is there a “smart” search heuristic deciding that my keyword isn’t “important” enough to merit reporting as a match? Who knows, but it’s enough to keep me away from Apple Mail for another five years.

I’ll point out that even Thunderbird is somewhat broken when it comes to searching. The default search function is one of those useless “smart” searches that is always hiding messages because it decides they are not “relevant” enough to match (even though they do). Thankfully, Thunderbird has a Quick Filter option that has a good old-fashioned plain vanilla search. No stupid indexing or “smart” heuristic to get in the way.

Really, if I can remember an unusual keyword or two, I should be able to use it to find a message. Anything that gets in the way of this is a huge step backwards. Come the revolution, software developers who make “smart” searches the only possible option get the guillotine.  They will not be missed.

Frum: Dead Wrong on Immigration

In a provocatively-titled article published in this month’s Atlantic, David Frum (himself am immigrant to the USA) claims that “If Liberals Won’t Enforce Borders, Fascists Will.”

He points out (correctly) that the current level of immigration in the USA is historically high, then starts using lots of rhetorical hand-waving to imply that this is certain to cause all sorts of problems and resulting discontent in the voting public. And then, if liberals refuse to clamp down on the immigration, the scenario in the article’s title will presumably play out.

The problem with Frum’s contention is, what statistical evidence there is doesn’t precisely support the presumptions of his hand-waving very well. (That probably explains why hand-waving and not hard evidence is used in his article.) In fact, what evidence there is directly contradicts most of Frum’s assertions.

The Cato Institute recently published an article showing that public support for more immigration has actually increased since a fascist administration (and yes, Trump, is a fascist) took office in the USA. Actually, it’s been increasing since the mid-1990’s. Then, roughly 65% wanted immigration to be decreased. Now only about 30% do.

That’s right, roughly 70% want immigration kept the same or increased. And that’s after a decade of high levels of immigration! In a country with a fascist president who uses his bully pulpit to regularly promote xenophobia! There is, simply put, no evidence of growing public support for reducing immigration.

And let’s consider who tends to support restricting immigration? Republicans, that’s who. Where do Republicans tend to live? Away from the big cities. Likewise, Democrats (who support continued or increased immigration) tend to live in or near big cities. Where do immigrants tend to live? Also in or near big cities. That’s right, those who live near immigrants tend to view immigration in a positive light. Exactly the opposite situation one would expect if the mere presence of immigrants produced unease about immigration.

This goes for the border wall, too. The closer a person lives to the US/Mexico border, the less likely he or she is to support building Trump’s wall.

Finally, the Pew Research Center has done comparative surveys on immigration in multiple countries. Here’s the most recent one. Note that, compared to the world as a whole:

  • Americans are more likely to believe immigrants are a source of national strength.
  • Americans are less likely to associate immigrants with crime.
  • Americans are less likely to associate immigrants with terrorism.
  • Americans are less likely to support the deportation of illegal immigrants.

In short, there’s simply not much evidence in favor of Frum’s contention.

Quite the contrary, I would say. Support for fascism in the USA comes primarily from rural right-wingers who have little or no regular interaction with immigrants. Simply put, they fear that which they don’t know.

Newly-naturalized citizens naturally see such fascist proclivities as personal threats and as such oppose them. Therefore, increasing the number of immigrant voters will improve the quality of the electorate, by increasing the fraction of it that has a profound revulsion to fascist politics.

And it’s not just the situation on the electoral battlefield that will be helped by the presence of more immigrants. The electoral battle itself will tend to be less fought and more conceded in the pro-immigration, pro-diversity direction. Remember, the mere presence of immigrants tends to cause a more positive attitude towards immigrants.

“You’re promoting immigration because you want to destroy America,” the fascists say. And on this one, they are right; or rather, we should act in ways that make this accusation correct. When fascists say “America” they are referring not to what actually is but their fascist vision of what they believe it ought to be. That vision is evil and should be destroyed.

Politics is war by other means. Fight it. Support continued and even increased immigration.

New Software Won’t Fix the 737 Max

Disclaimer: I am not an aircraft engineer. But I am a software engineer, one who looks at my own field with a critical enough eye to see how software is often used inappropriately, and I see the signs of the latter all over the place in this latest story.

The original software didn’t fix its fundamental unairworthiness, so why should new software be able to? The problem with the 737 Max isn’t that it has buggy software, it’s that it should never have been built in the first place. Its safety should come from its airframe being compatible with its engines. It can’t come from a software-and-sensor kludge that tries to compensate for an unsafe physical design.

In an article in today’s Washington Post:

Boeing said it would take about an hour for technicians to load a software update for the planes. The company’s software fixes will change the way the MCAS receives information, requiring feeds from both outside “angle of attack” sensors, rather than one, before it is triggered.

The system will also have more limits on how often it will engage, and Boeing will make changes that prevent the anti-stall feature from angling the plane’s nose too far downward in its attempts to correct for a possible stall.

Let’s take the fix of requiring both sensors to concur. We know the angle of attack sensors are unreliable, because they sometimes falsely indicate an excessive angle of attack. Being unreliable, it seems reasonable to presume that they also sometimes fail to indicate an excessive angle of attack. So this “fix” will actually fix nothing. It will merely trade one form of unsafe behavior for another.

The second fix is in fundamentally the same category as the first: like the former, it makes the system more conservative in deciding when to engage. That system was put there for a reason: the attempt to compensate for an unairworthy plane, whose airframe mismatches its engine size and placement. The physical plane will remain as unairworthy as before, only with less software compensation for it. Again, one problem is merely being traded for another.

Instead of tragedies caused by planes falling out of the sky because MCAS engaged in error, we will have tragedies caused by planes falling out of the sky because MCAS didn’t engage and they stalled.

I strongly suspect the only fix for these planes will be to scrap them and sell their bodies to recyclers, who will turn them into new metal stock from which fundamentally safe planes can be built. Those “fundamentally safe planes” will mostly be Airbus A320neo’s. Boeing’s attempt to get out of the corner they found themselves in the cheap and devious way is going to end up costing that company a lot.