Russia Mobilizes

Published at 09:56 on 25 September 2022

It’s a desperate act. Putin is doing it because he has suffered big losses on the battlefield, and he’s a stubborn old man who cannot admit defeat.

Odds disfavour it succeeding. The mobilized troops will have even less training than the already ill-prepared and ill-trained ones Putin has had to work with so far. They will have even lower morale. They will be working with stocks of materiel that have been damaged and depleted by six months of fighting. Unlike Ukraine, Russia does not have a bunch of powerful, well-equipped allies shoveling new materiel its way.

It is not popular at home, and this is probably significant. One of the reasons the Vietnam War started going badly for the USA was the level of conscription it eventually prompted, and the domestic opposition that conscription provoked. Nothing prompts interest in an issue like self-interest.

The war could still go on for an unpleasantly long time. Russia is a dictatorship, and can resist popular pressure in ways that the USA could not in the Vietnam Era (and the Vietnam War lasted for a painfully long time). That said, odds still favour Russia slinking out of Ukraine in defeat sooner or later. It’s just that it may well be later rather than sooner, and later might mean a significant amount of time.

iPhone First Impressions

Published at 07:44 on 13 September 2022

It’s Small

Not quite as small as a candy bar phone, but pretty small nonetheless. About as small as I’d want to use for looking at web sites and reviewing emails. Small enough to make previewing PDF’s quite painful. (Thankfully the latter is not as important as small size to me.) That is, of course, one of the reasons I got it.

Sadly, “masses” are 5/6 “asses,” so overall small phones do not sell well, and as such the “mini” phones are being phased out by Apple. Now, even the regular-sized iPhones are smaller than most Android devices, but I’m glad I got the opportunity to minimize size, and glad that I waited for the iPhone 14 so that I could get a 13 mini at a discounted price.

It’s Surprisingly Hard to Integrate with iCloud

It literally took hours to complete this task, which was not easy or simple. Part of this, I think, is that my iCloud account is something of a mess, as a result of being one of the earliest such accounts (I got its predecessor about 20 years ago, when I purchased my first Mac.) As such, it has been grandfathered from a account to a Mobile Me account to an iCloud account, and apparently there has been some accumulated cruft along the way.

I now have two Apple accounts, one named with my full original email address, and one named with just the username part of that address. The accounts are subtly connected in various ways I still do not fully comprehend. Everything I do is as a result something of a pain, made all the worse by how some of the prompts and diagnostics on are not very clear. For example, when it wanted a non-iCloud email address out of me for account recovery purposes, it simply asked me for an “email address,” no further explanation. So of course I entered my iCloud address, which had a “problem” and was rejected. Neither prompt nor error message mentioned the requirement that the address be external.

While this is not an iPhone problem per se, it is still an Apple problem, and integration with Macs and iCloud is supposed to be a selling point of iOS devices and Apple products in general.

It’s Both Oddly Familiar and Gratuitously Different

A lot of its user interface is so dead-on identical (or nearly so) to what Android does that it’s positively uncanny. At the same time, one is continually running into things that are strangely different, to the extent that I’ve had to do a number of web searches on how to do things.

I Can Kill the Touch Screen!

This feature is “Guided Access” and is buried under the “Accessibility” settings. It is a big deal for me, and is one of the reasons I got an iPhone. I could not put my Android phone in a shirt pocket with the headset connected and walk around the house doing chores while talking, because the touch screen would get randomly triggered, activating features like randomly putting the caller on hold, muting me, or hanging up. Actually, the touch screen itself seems a tad less sensitive, which might reduce the need to do this, but I still would not want a smartphone without this feature.

Apple’s Shipping Is Weird

For some reason they shipped the phone and the accessories (sold separately) that I ordered in two separate packages. The packages moved across Canada in tandem, leaving from the same address and arriving in Vancouver in the same day. So I was expecting the FedEx guy to have two packages when he knocked on my door. He only had one. He mentioned a rendezvous in an hour to collect more packages, and sure enough, I got to say “Hi!” to him again soon enough.

On the plus side, the order got to me yesterday (the 12th). Its estimated arrival date was the 16th. This is the first time since the pandemic that I have had an order arrive earlier than first estimated.

Some Thoughts on Canada’s New Head of State

Published at 11:32 on 11 September 2022

Yes, Monarchy is Silly and Old-Fashioned

Really, no disagreement there. If this move to Canada ends, as hoped, with my getting citizenship, I will probably become active in the republican movement.

Have Some Sympathy and Respect

I know a number of people who are monarchists, and being disrespectful during the time they are feeling a sense of loss won’t help you convince them of the merits of the republican position. Plus, have some respect for the members of the Royal Family who just lost their mother. They are still human, and still feeling a sense of loss. As someone who recently lost his own mother, I understand.

Have Some Perspective

First, while the British (and Canadian) monarchy is silly, it is also pretty harmless. I didn’t fear Elizabeth II would do anything to endanger my basic freedoms in an open society, and I don’t fear that Charles III will, either. Compare and contrast with ex-president Trump and the fascist and fascism-friendly followers and enablers has in the USA. Can we please spend our time worrying about actual serious threats to liberty?

Second, Elizabeth II didn’t have much to do with imperialism. Yes, some of her predecessors did, but the second Elizabethan era was one of decolonization. Moreover, Elizabeth II was a constitutional monarch. Unlike in earlier eras, the sovereign does not play a part in British politics. Any lingering imperialism during the second Elizabethan area has been the work of politicians, not the Queen.

Those Documents at Mar-a-Lago

Published at 08:20 on 5 September 2022

There is No Material Evidence Indicating Trump Actively Participated in Espionage

There is also no material evidence indicating otherwise, but guess what? That is not how the US criminal justice system works. It is the State’s job to demonstrate the accused are guilty; it is not the accused’s job to demonstrate his or her innocence. That the accused is a particularly unlikable character does not change this. The civil rights of others do not depend on your personal likes or dislikes.

Yes, Trump probably violated the Espionage Act. That is not the same thing as actively participating in espionage. Yes, participating actively in espionage opens one up to prosecution under the Espionage Act, but that Act prohibits more than just espionage. Pertinent to this case, it also prohibits conduct that might facilitate espionage by others, e.g. mishandling classified documents.

Those Empty Folders and Envelopes Are Worrying

Those special, distinctive folders and envelopes for classified documents exist for a good reason: they help such documents be recognized at a glance. This in turn helps those who work with them treat them with the care that they require. It helps co-workers recognize mishandled classified documents.

Early in my career, I held a government security clearance. I never worked with any classified information directly myself, but I did work with people who did. The reason I was cleared was in case any co-worker mishandled classified information: if so, my running across it would not constitute a security breach. Moreover, like all employees being granted a security clearance, I was given training in how to recognize classified documents (and the standard folders and envelopes used to contain them) at a glance, so that I could report the mishandling and it could be corrected.

Folders without documents imply the existence of documents without folders, documents that are significantly harder to recognize at a glance as classified. It is, therefore, quite likely that the FBI overlooked some classified documents in their raid last month. In other words, there are still probably stolen classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. Intelligence services of hostile powers know this, too. Mar-a-Lago is certain to be drawing their attention if it had not done so already.

Trump Still Broke the Law

He stole Federal property, including extremely sensitive classified documents. Those documents had strict standards for handling and storage. Those standards existed for a good reason: to protect them from unauthorized access by possibly hostile parties. After Trump stole them, those standards were not followed.

All available evidence indicates that Trump knew he stole the documents, and that he deliberately sought to frustrate efforts to recover them. Trump’s theft was intentional. As such mens rea exists. If the government were to prosecute, they would probably have a solid case.

Focusing on the Most Lurid Possible Scenarios Helps Trump

If the narrative becomes “Trump deliberately sold classified information for profit,” and it later becomes quite clear that he did not do that, Trump and his apologists can then go around proclaiming victory and accusing their opponents of being unfair to them (and of being authoritarians who want to use the power of the State to baselessly prosecute political opponents).

As such, it’s best to stick with what hard evidence indicates Trump actually did do. If later investigation uncovers actual hard evidence of active participation in espionage, additional charges can always be laid then.