Mad As A Hatter

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‘Have you guessed the riddle yet?’ the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
‘No, I give it up,’ Alice replied: ‘what’s the answer?’
‘I haven’t the slightest idea,’ said the Hatter.

Who do you think of when you think of Cyber Security? Do you think of anyone? How much do you know about Cyber Security? It’s an important question, one worth exploring as our future becomes our present

When I think of that particular term I think of a number of people. Steve Gibson of Gibson Research, for one. John McAfee, not trustworthy and clearly not sane, but knowledgeable. But there aren’t a lot of people the average guy or gal on the street can name as being big in the industry. Most coding and cyber security work is done in the shadows. Kinda has to be.

When I want to read up on the subject, which admittedly is not all that often, I have turned to a number of sources, the latest of which is the f-secure blog (click here to go there) So all of my knowledge of the subject is second hand and thanks to writers who write about the subject and only really from Steve Gibson from an actual technical angle.

With all that I can only sit here in stunned amazement at who our fearless (aka mindless) leader has picked to be his Cyber Security advisor.

Rudy Giuliani.

Holy shit. Does he even know what Dos Shell is? Would he be able to tell the difference between Sql and Java if stuff in either of those languages crossed his computer screen? How much work has he done with Ruby On Rails?

And he knows about security how? Because he was mayor of New York City on 9/11? Because he prosecuted John Gotti? Because he talks on Fox news a lot? Because that is the extent of his knowledge of security. Seeing terrorism first hand?  I was there too, Do I get a shot at this gig? Nailing a few bad guys in court thirty some odd years ago?

Being On Tv?

Well… That’s how Trump got where he is. Maybe that’s it…

And you thought 2016 was the year of the dumpster fire.

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One cannot suppress a certain indignation when one sees men’s actions on the great world-stage and finds, beside the wisdom that appears here and there among individuals, everything in the large woven together from folly, childish vanity, even from childish malice and destructiveness. ~ Immanuel Kant, Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View ,1784

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Let’s look at a few of President-Elect Oompah Loompah’s other picks

Ben Carson: head of HUD.  Now I will admit that while Ben may have come off as a kooky son of a bitch during the Primaries, he is a not unintelligent man. The man was after all an actual brain surgeon who did some pioneering work in the field, though not all the surgeries he did were successful. But Housing and urban development? For a brain surgeon? Not exactly his field of expertise, and if he wasn’t perfect with his chosen vocation, one wonders how well he’ll do in a completely unrelated field that he has never worked in. I wish him success, but I just don’t see this working out. Even the most intelligent man on earth would make mistakes in a field entirely new to him, and while smart, Ben is not quite that smart.

Jeff Sessions, Attorney General: A man who is purported to have said that he thought the KKK was alright until he found out they smoked pot and liked to throw around the word Ni**** casually, which has lead to accusations of racism to follow him throughout his political career.  He is also a climate change denier and has fought legal immigration including the guest worker programs and visa programs for foreign workers. Xenophobe seems to be the proper term for our future A.G.

Rick Perry, Energy Secretary: Yes a man who said he wanted to abolish the Department of Energy and two others, and the man who could not remember the name of this department when asked the names of the three departments he wanted to abolish in a debate in 2012 is now head of the Energy Department. I don’t know what to do with this, except to look at our collective future in gibbering fear.

Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator: Just a  thought here. The man who is going to run the EPA is, not was, IS, suing the EPA along with other state AG’S (He’s currently the A.G. of Oklahoma) to stop the EPA’s Clean Power plan.

And their Methane emissions regulations.

Oh and there is Mitch McConnell’s wife heading up the department of Transportation. She’s got experience at the job at least. But still… No wonder Mitch went to talk to him as soon as The Orange one was named winner.

The world has gone mad. Mad as a hatter.

Have a good night, America.

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And How do you Plan to Pay for That, Sir?

If you know anything about finances, there are a few basics that must be paid attention to. Among the most important is a very simple concept: Don’t spend more than you make.  Now when you have a bureaucracy as huge as the United States government, that is an amazingly difficult thing to do on the best of days.

When you spend more than you make, that is called deficit spending, it creates debt.  The Obama administration was somewhat successful in fighting the deficit. He inherited an economy that was hemorrhaging cash and jobs at a rate that was as alarming as it was dangerous.

It took some serious work, but he, along with the OMB, Ben Bernanke (Who also bears some responsibility FOR the Financial crisis of 2007-08) and legislation (Frank-Dodd and in particular the Volcker rule, among other pieces of legislation) that successfully regulated the shadow banking system (It’s not that shadowy, but the subject will get additional scrutiny in future) managed to stop the bleeding.

But with a price that will be paid for in future. The deficit will rise again later. It cannot be helped. It is a ripple effect of the amount of damage that the unregulated economy did back in 2007-08, and the trillions of dollars that bled out of the system. The Obama administration has done all they could to mitigate that, with some success.

The deficit, year on year has dropped every year he has been in office, and thanks to the efforts of everyone in and around the economy, the deficit over the next ten years will never go, if things stay on track, over 4%. Not great, but given the circumstances, not too shabby.

Enter Donald Trump.

His plan is to cut taxes, increase the size of the military, spend billions on infrastructure.

And build a wall.

Let me explain something here about this.  Cutting taxes feels good. No one likes paying taxes, especially if they don’t like government programs that pay for things people don’t like, like ANYTHING  they think of as being wasteful or going to people who don’t deserve it. Both laughable concepts, but people think these things and they must be taken into account. So yeah, lower taxes puts more money in your pocket today so you can do more today.

But it increases the bill for later. Decreasing the taxes the government needs to pay for things while increasing government services, like border security and a larger armed forces will do nothing more than make the next financial crisis, and there will be one, count on that, that much worse.

Check the Links section for the pertinent information.

I would love nothing more than to have something that approaches a secure financial future. That future was nearly terminated by unregulated excess and improper financial decisions both in the private and public sectors, in particular by  Hank Paulson, Christopher Cox, and George W. Bush. The Obama Administration did much to ameliorate the situation, but it seems that we are headed back to the same place we were at before the Democrats came in and saved the nations bacon.

Republican decision making nearly threw it, and us with it, into a fire,  and thanks to Donald Trump and out of control spending and thoughtless tax cuts seemingly will send the economy reeling back into that same economic death spiral. Trump and his plan are darkening a future that was, while not bright, clearly not as dark as it is with Republicans back in fiscal control of the nation.

Expect inflation, deficit spending, and the debt to skyrocket over the next two years. So much for a secure financial future.

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Quote of the day: I was aware that the loosening of mortgage credit terms for subprime borrowers increased financial risk. But I believed then, as now, that the benefits of broadened home ownership are worth the risk. ~Alan Greenspan, September 2007

Plausible Deniability

The President has put out a list that presents specific amounts of financial cuts in a state by state list that shows exactly the damage that sequestration will wreak on them.  Being from New York, and being the curious type, I decided to read exactly what kind of effect the state can expect to feel when the shit hits the fan come Friday.

According to the President, New York alone can expect to see over 42 million dollars in cuts to primary and secondary education funding.  That would put 590 teachers and teachers aides jobs at risk.  There is even more daunting news as far as education is concerned.   Enough funding will be lost to to cut several hundred teachers job for kids with disabilities.  Which means, bluntly stated, that if your kid has autism or some other disability, you or someone just like you will be shit out of luck.

Click here for links

But the fun doesn’t stop there, ladies and gentlemen.  No sirree bob it does not.  12,000 civilian DoD employees would be furloughed; and the total amount of cuts to military base funding?  One hundred and eight million dollars just for this year.

The stop violence against women program would lose the capacity to assist over 1,500 women.

Want help from Workforce one?  Good luck.  Funding for them gets cut drastically enough to effect over 45,000 job seekers.  That’s 45,000 people who wont get the help they need finding work so they can stand up on their own two feet.

Fun, huh?

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So, with the President basically telling the entire nation that IT is about to hit the fan and that everyone is gonna feel it, how do the house republicans respond?  By planning on giving the President greater discretion on where to cut.

Just amazing the chutzpah of these bastards. Rather than lightening the load, putting forth something that might actually do something for the people affected, they’re basically saying “Cut where you like Mr President, we’re washing our hands of the entire thing.” Note that it doesn’t say the amount cut will shrink. Nope.  They don’t want that.  Lazy America hating conservative bastards.

It gives them an out, a way for them to say”We gave him the budget ax! He did the cutting! See!  It wasn’t us!” or more accurately put gives them a level of plausible deniability that they can take back to their constituents.  And then call it the Obamaquester, a stupid name if I’ve ever heard one.  But the only problem is that it is not  plausible on any level.

Sure as hell not in mine, or anyone else who knows what exactly is going on here.  This is a cheap ploy from lazy conservatives trying to make it look like they are doing something while doing nothing.

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The aims of both sides here are simple, at least as far as I can tell.  The Republicans want the sequester to look like it’s no big deal, something we can handle easily and whatever is a big deal gets blamed on the President.  The Democrats is to make the sequester look like hell on earth, and everything is to be blamed on the Republicans.

So rather than actually do something here, we see them play politics with our money that we pay into our system for our benefit, and risk it all in the name of partisanship.  On top of damaging the country, this makes a mockery of “We The People” by putting partisan politics ahead of prosperity and our future.

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My advice?  We can’t do anything about what these people do, so let’s just watch it happen.  I for one plan to be in front of a television on Thursday night, watching c-span as the whole thing either goes to pieces, or gets temporarily fixed and basically put off for another day, when we can do all over again!

No Real Shot for the Assault Weapons Ban

Don’t expect any realistically workable assault weapons ban legislation to get off of the floor of the Senate anytime soon.  There is simply, despite the clarion call by the bulk of the American people for sensible legislation in this area, not enough support from the Senate Democrats in order to pull that off.  Mark Begich, Kay Hagan, and several other Senate Democrats are in the process of starting up their 2014 re-election campaigns, and as we all know in the age of the perpetual campaign that is an important element.  And since a number of them live in red states, their votes simply cannot be counted on to be there to vote for the assault weapons ban.

There is much more to the Democratic Senators not backing the assault weapons ban than the perpetual election cycle. Some of these people genuinely dislike the thought of an assault weapons ban.  A few examples would be Montana Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester, and Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor.

Mark Pryor gets a D from the NRA, but a closer look at his stances reveals a man who is pro-gun in a great many ways, from voting to prohibit lawsuits against gun manufacturers to voting yes on prohibiting aid to organizations and entities that require the registration of , or taxes guns owned by American citizens. I cannot find any real serious attempt on Sen. Pryor’s part to in any way vote against the gun lobby in any way whatsoever.

Max Baucus a number of years ago voted for loosening gun licensing restrictions at gun shows, and has stated that he is for repealing federal restrictions on the purchase  and possession of guns.  Jon Tester has much the same record as his two compatriots, and on top of that voted to ban gun restrictions in Washington DC.

On top of these three senators, there are the several other democrats in the Senate who are similar in their voting records.  Which points as far as I can see it to a large Democratic roadblock to any assault weapons ban.

Everywhere I have looked on the Internet, and I have looked in a great number of places, I cannot find a single article that points to any realistic possibility of there even being a Democratic majority in the Senate.  And if there is no possibility there, then there isn’t a snowballs chance in hell of there being enough votes to get past the now obligatory cloture vote that the senate now has to go through.

From this vantage point, and frankly from any realistic vantage point in the story of the assault weapons ban, there is only one salient point to drive home;  it is done.  It cannot pass.  That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t.  But sadly, the NRA has won another round against people who want nothing more than to live their lives in peace.  It is sad to think that the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have been overridden by lobbyists working for gun manufacturers.

Sad but true.

(Minor edit,  2/24/13 11:30 pm edt)

Hope On The Horizon?

We are nearly out of the woods after years in one of the most debilitating economic crises this nation has faced in its history.  Congress’  response to it?

Let’s do it again!

The possibility of sequestration with layoffs and furloughs for thousands of workers across this great nation will take all the effort and hard work that has gone on over the last few years and flush it down the toilet is a hard one to swallow from this group of do-nothing Republicans.  Forced to deal with that because our President, in order to get some kind of deal done back in 2011, had to make a deal with the devil, aka the House Republicans, to avert a complete disaster with the debt ceiling.

But there is some hope on the horizon.  Click here for links

A deal is still on the table, put their by the President that would avert the looming doom that is sequestration.  The deal includes the chained CPI, a hard but necessary step to take. It has smaller more palatable cuts to non-discretionary spending, with cuts in drug company payments as well as fee restructuring in a number of key areas. It also has within it a limitation in tax deductions for the wealthy that will generate well over half a trillion dollars.

Given that the alternative puts tens of thousands of people in harms way unnecessarily, I am hoping that the Republicans come t their senses and accept this deal, or perhaps some modified version of it, if this is unpalatable.

There are those on the other side of the aisle, most notably mr. P90x himself, Paul Ryan, who seem to think that sequestration is in some way acceptable.

I would ask him is furloughing police officers, firefighters, teachers, corrections officers, and the national guard  acceptable? I would ask him if all the pain and misery created by letting his friends in the defense industry lose money because of cuts in government spending, is that acceptable?  I would ask him if letting people suffering through no fault of their own because of being unemployed because their benefits would expire, is that acceptable?

I hope it isn’t, because America can’t take much more of this stupid decision-making on the part of the Republicans. They are leading America down a dark and ugly road towards economic disaster, and we’ve had enough of that already.  We’re done with that.

The deal that the President has laid on the table here takes into account our future in a way that is forward-looking, makes good use of our present to prepare for our future without causing too much discomfort, and shines a light on the right way to be fiscally responsible while at the same time helping those who need that help the most.

I for one could use some time off from all the histrionics that these Republicans keep creating.  Accept the deal and let us go on with our lives, please.  Thank you.

Solutions Are Not Easy

Pic of the day:  The Cow Boy, by John C.H. Grabill (1888)

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Conservative, n. A statesman enamored of existing evils, as opposed to a Liberal, who wants to replace them with others.

Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)

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There are a great many ideas that are good in this nation, but not all of them.  There are ideas that are well, just plain stupid that need to be rooted out.  It is this second group which gets my attention here. Among the less intelligent ones out there is an idea that I wish to speak on at length here.  The lie that was best asserted by Ronald Reagan, when he said “Government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem.”  or some such similar diatribe against reality.

To say that government is the problem is to put the cart before the horse, to use an old axiom.  Any “problem” government actually has (or is) should be run through a few filters before we decide to believe it or not.

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First:  “What part?”

A government that has existed for over 225 years and is both an economic and military superpower with 300,000,000 people living under it’s protection and being part of a social contract with those 300,000,000 people, and with as many moving parts as must exist to keep such a large machine running cannot by any reasonable definition be anything but imperfect.

To be so blind as to put down the entire thing without stating what specifically is wrong with it is entirely unethical.

So, to those who think that government is the problem I ask “What part?”  It can’t be the whole thing.  If it was the damn thing would have collapsed of it’s own weight before any of us were born.

I know you don’t like medicare’s costs, or social security costs,or taxes or the deficit.  Are they the problem? Let’s look.  Medicare is there as a safety net for those elder citizens (and a few other groups) who cannot pay for health care themselves.

And as such it is necessary. Now, anything that is expensive but necessary might be a problem, but not one that can be solved by pointing at it and saying it’s a problem.  Soc. Sec. is much the same, created as social insurance for those elder citizens who were then living in poverty.  Half of those over the 65 were under the poverty line when it was enacted.  And is still necessary even though the number is not what it was back then.

Taxes?  They have gone down across the board for almost everyone.  A multitude of companies paid no taxes last year.  A great number of tax shelters exist that keep money from government coffers that pay for the things this society needs to function properly.

The deficit?  A major issue, but one that has been growing since well before the first trillion dollar budget put together by Dubya, and necessarily grown by this President.  The deficit numbers that are attributed to the sitting President are inflated by the press and those who are more interested in getting rid of him rather than any real spending on his part.

What does that mean?  It means that many very expensive programs exist, but the means to pay for it seems to be disappearing.  Ever shrinking taxes mean less money to pay for all the things we actually need. So government isn’t the real problem, paying for it is.

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So, let’s say that we now know what the problem is.  Not enough money coming in while costs of necessary programs continuously rise .  Great, nothing no one wasn’t already aware of, but that’s no big deal.  Stating the obvious is sometimes necessary to make sure an understanding of it exists.  So…

“How do we solve it?”

From 2001 to the dawn of the financial crisis in 2007 I heard very little  from the right about our financial problems, except from one guy. Douglas Holtz-Eagin when he was head of the CBO.  He was the architect of the Bush tax cuts, and even he stated in 2005 that there would be a need to increase taxes to deal with the burden of deficit spending created by those tax cuts, because the deficits would be massive.

Which means a few people knew deficit spending was a problem well before President Obama came to office.

Let’s look at the numbers.  Looking at the difference between the 2001 budget projections for 2011 and the actual 2011 numbers you will see that the problems come from many sources.

Cost of Lower tax revenue, recession of 2007/2008: $3,500,000,000,000 (3.5 trillion)

Cost of Bush tax cuts:  $1,600,000,000,000 (1.6 trillion)

Cost of Increased non-defense discretionary spending: $1,500,000,000,000 (1.5 trillion)

Cost of Iraq and Afghanistan wars: $1,400,000,000,000 (1.4 trillion)

Interest on the debt:  $1,400,000,000,000 (1.4 trillion)

Cost of Obama Stimulus: $900,000,000,000 (.9 trillion)

Which means that most of the debt was in fact built up between the years 2001 and 2008, between 80 and 90% of it in fact.

And what that means is that the person who is being blamed for it isn’t the real culprit, at least as far as the bulk of the debt is concerned.

It means that government was the problem.  In particular Republican government from 2001 to 2008 anyway.  And the policy that most who view government as the problem would put in place would be to starve the beast.  Which is to cut government spending.  Which would simply increase our debt, and our deficit.  Spending will not, and frankly cannot be cut drastically enough to actually make starving the beast work.

America, If you elect Mitt Romney, you will make government the problem again.  Right now under our sitting President it is solving the problems that it faces as best it can.  Maybe not as fast as some would like, or the way that they would like, but that can’t be helped.  Bad government is a problem, and it can be avoided.  Mitt would bring us back to bad governance.

It is a simple fact that too many tax cuts on the wealthy elite of this nation, who can actually afford to pay them, have depleted this nations finite resources to the point of nearly crippling the economy.

Lose the Bush tax cuts, increase tax revenue, fix the problem.

That simple.

You might not like that answer America, but just because it isn’t palatable doesn’t mean it isn’t the right answer.  No one said solutions are easy.  Not anyone worth listening to anyway.

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That’s it from here, America.  G’night.

Bit Of An Obsession

Pic of the day:  Autumn, by Guiseppe Archimboldo

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Who said I was wise? I’m a professional bad example. You can learn a lot by watching me. Or listening to me. Either one.

Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

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I’m just a man, just an ordinary man.   I work when I can.  When I can seems to me all the time, so I work seemingly every day, every hour I’m awake.  Work at something.  At home, when at my job, wherever I am.  Work is a man’s life it seems to me, and all life should have some element of toil in it.  A man who does not sweat every day is not a man, he’s a boy playing at manhood.

Politics is as important as oxygen, so I take an interest.  I’m a liberal, but I don’t know that that matters all that much.  Liberal to my mind means that caring enough about people to put the needs of others who need help ahead of my own needs. It means that government has a place in the everyday life of men and women.  It means all people are important, not just people who look like me or talk like me or think like me.  Society is too overfull of people who are different from me to think any differently.  And if caring for those who cannot do for themselves means life costs a little more, then so be it.  We’re all in this together, we help one another along or we all fall together.

I was taught to care about people growing up, and I see no reason to stop that now that I’m an adult.  And no I don’t think that conservatives don’t care, but I simply could not hold those political views and speak about caring about people and mean it.

I pay my taxes and I expect them to buy something.  Something good for the people.  Feed someone who would otherwise not be able to eat, shelter someone who would otherwise be homeless.  I don’t want to pay a ton in taxes and not see any good done.  And there are plenty who abuse the system, but there are plenty who need the help.  I will not complain about helping those who could help themselves if those who need help are helped.  Better to help those who need help and some who don’t then to leave everyone high and dry to insure no one abuses the system.  That is inhumane.

That is wrong.

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Man, as a social animal, can no more escape government than the individual can escape bondage to his bowels.

Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

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I don’t want to see my taxes pay to kill my own people.  Iraq went on too long, but that war is thankfully over. Afghanistan has gone on too long, and we’ll be out of there soon enough, and that is great.  We pay too much for defense.  Who are we defending ourselves from?  Where is the threat?  Terrorism is a threat but not enough of one to justify our defense spending.

Or our insane security complex.  Our rights get trampled there daily.  We have rights, or we should.  But the law allows warrantless wiretaps.  The courts have been circumvented to protect us.  From what, terrorism?  Hell no, it is to make sure we don’t stray from the path those who run the industry want us to walk.

And it will be a cold day in Aruba before I let that go unopposed.  I am secure in my person.  I need no security apparatus to help me there.  We had apparatus already in place that did the job, and did it at less cost and was equally effective. Our security apparatus has not made us more secure, it has made us broke when we have no money.

I have no money either, but I never have.  Doesn’t bother me overmuch.  Poverty, or more aptly put the constant feeling that I have nothing has shaped much of my mindset about the world around me.  It has guided my thoughts about security, about people, about the constitution and the law and taxes, about terrorism and our military, about work and all that goes with all of the above.

And all that is important.  But I tell you this; none of it matters, not a single belief makes a shit of difference if I can’t keep my wife and myself fed and sheltered.  All my strength means not a damn thing if I don’t have enough money coming in to pay the bills.  And with work coming to an end sometime in the next week or two has me thinking much on the thoughts of survival.  It’s a bit of an obsession with me.

Beliefs are important, but money and work are the most important things in this society, and therefore are the most important things to me, for without them I cannot live, so I work.  When I can.  It starts and ends with work.  And work is ending soon.

I’ll make it, just wish it was a hair easier.

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That’s it from here, America.  G’night.