On Focus and Desired Outcomes

This post slightly piggy backs Jake’s last post, in which he quotes a friend’s thoughts on the current goals of the Occupy Wall Street movement. As I read it I really understood, and agreed with, what Bill was saying. But after taking a step back, I realized that I wasn’t entirely sure that’s what Occupy Wall Street was all about.

The more I read, be it in mainstream media, small blogs like ours, leftist or conservative, it dawns on me that there is no one goal or focus of the movement. This is something I think will ultimately hurt it. As a computer programmer, I recognized this potential for failure from my own experiences. Many technical teams have been assembled with a litany of great concepts placed in front of them and backed with hundreds of thousands of dollars in budgets. But, with no focus or goal, the same result is inevitable. Failure.

For the record, I’m not exactly pleased with large corporations getting billions of taxpayer dollars to hand out as bonuses to officers. Nor am I happy with how closely wound industry lobbies are with our governing politicians. But perhaps the reason I’m not prepared to don a Guy Fawkes mask and hit the streets is simply because,  well I’m not sure what the hell the movement is trying to accomplish.

And then I came by an article that eloquently stated all of the above. Entitled Dear Occupy Wall Street …, finance author and radio personality Dave Ramsey gives some advice to the folks participating in the protests. From the article:

A lot of people on Twitter are saying I totally agree with the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demands and goals. The only problem is that I have no idea what their demands and goals are. And neither does anyone else. If all you ever do is stomp around, yell and hold up signs protesting a million different things, sure you’ll get some attention, but over time, you’ll just look foolish. You end up coming across like a three-year-old having a temper tantrum.

His proposed goals are well thought out and I’d recommend you read the entire article.

As an experiment, feel free to explain exactly what Occupy Wall Street is trying to accomplish. We’ll see if all of our readers agree.

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Someone Else’s Ramble

I have a good friend named Bill who is a very intelligent, hard working man.  I say this to preempt my next statement, that we hotly disagree very often on matters of politics and economics.  However, we always have stimulating (not that way you sickos) and thought provoking discourse.  So I wanted to share something that he posted on Facebook after a long, multi poster discussion about Occupy Wall Street.  I hope you enjoy it and that it expands your thinking.

Guys, I have thought about this a lot and the following are my own words (except the Aristotle thing). There are a lot of people talking about the inequality of wealth where some people acquire a lot more than others and this is definitely true. The weirdness starts when the proposed remedies are revealed like abandoning the principal equality under the law, confiscation of property for redistribution at the behest of an all powerful government which can only be justified when we are told that our fundamental liberty are derived from an omniscient government rather than a creator. I think that this is what Aristotle meant when he said, “The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.” As a just society we need to ensure equality of opportunity. We can definitely do a better job of this than we are right now. By dedicating ourselves to the concept of self determination, that we all possess the freedom to pursue a diversity of personal choices is a sacred and wonderful thing but we need to remember that there will also a diversity of outcomes based on the merit of our personal choices. I believe that a mandate of equality of outcome is destructive of freedom. We need to have a reasonable and compassionate safety net for children, the infirm, and the elderly but able-bodied and competent people in their 20s and thirties need to develop the opportunity before them of being the lucky 1% of the world’s population who were lucky enough to be born in the United States. There are billions of people elsewhere who truly live in abject (rather than relative) poverty who no doubt would literally give their right arm to have the opportunity just to be able to work in the lowliest job in our country. They know exactly what our ancestors knew that you have to start somewhere and if you work hard and smart and live virtuously in America that great things can be achieved. I believe that his is the American dream. It should never be given but it can be earned.

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Being A Success

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am unabashedly a liberal minded individual.  Therefore, according to many conservative minded people, I hate successful people due to my belief that the ultra-rich are not paying their fair share of taxes.  This assertion makes me chuckle and while also wanting to scream my head off at the stupidity of people.

For those of you who need this lesson, here it is.  Being successful is much, MUCH different than having so much money/property/material goods that you don’t know about all that you own.  A perfect example is my father.  He started a business, he’s run it for over 35 years, and has built it to a multimillion dollar company.  My parents personally own two cars, a 10 acre lot with a home, a summer place, a boat, and are building a new home to retire to as well as the property that our family business sits on.  To me, that is very successful!

But he, NOR ANY OTHER SMALL BUSINESS OWNER, will be affected by the taxes I’m in favor of.  No one that any of us personally know will be affected by these taxes, not even my neighbors at my family’s summer home that stay the summer in a mansion valued at over 3 million dollars.  Who I’m talking about are the men and women whose worth is akin to Richie Rich and Scrooge McDuck.  I’m talking about the officers of multibillion dollar corporations that have taken millions in “bonuses” and then failed to pay taxes on them.

These people are not successful.  They are greedy, money-grubbing whores.  I view success not as the pure attainment of more but as a pursuit health, happiness, material prosperity, love of family and friends, wisdom, influence, and fulfillment.

I can say unequivocally that I love my life, love the people in, and feel that I’ve accomplished positive things for myself and others.  Maybe I’m misguided in believing that this is a great way to measure success but I sure know I’m happier than many people who are chasing the “all-mighty” dollar.

And to those of you who respond to my call for stricter enforcement and higher rates of taxes on the ultra rich by claiming that we all have the chance to be the ultra rich I will respond with the immortal words of a certain French Knight.

I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough whopper! I fart in your general direction! You mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.

I think I’d fit right in at the next Republican Debate.

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USAF Drones Had a Virus? Who Knew?

Apparently, not the correct people in the US Air Force, that’s who. According to a follow up on Wired’s Danger Room, the team in charge of the infected military UAVs failed to send the message up the chain of command. While the technical team at that base is allowed to attempt to fix it themselves, they’re still supposed to inform their ranking officers. Which, ehhh, makes sense.

The article also discusses some other fairly concerning issues regarding the technology running these drone operations:

“We’d never managed the entire Air Force network as a single enterprise,” Vince Ross, the program manager of the Air Force Electronic Systems Center’s Cyber Integration Division, said in March. “That meant there was no centralized management of the network, that systems and hardware weren’t standardized, and that top-level commanders didn’t have complete situational awareness.”

Read the rest of the article here.

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NFL Picks Week 6

Here’s my Week 6 Quick Picks.

Panthers at Falcons: Falcons 24-17.

Eagles at Redskins: Redskins 21-17.

Bills at Giants: Bills 24-14.

Colts at Bengals: Bengals 21-14.

Jaguars at Steelers: Steelers 24-14.

49ers at Lions: Lions 28-17.

Rams at Packers: Packers 35-14.

Texans at Ravens: Ravens 21-17.

Browns at Raiders: Raiders 24-14.

Saints at Buccaneers: Saints 28-14.

Cowboys at Patriots: Patriots 38-14.

Vikings at Bears: Bears 21-17.

Dolphins at Jets: Jets 28-10.

Last Week: 9-4.

Season: 49-28.

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Herman Cain is a Blathering Idiot

Folks, while there may be some of you out there that love Herman Cain’s schtick, remember this, he’s an idiot! Why Jake, how can you say that you may want to ask? A couple of reasons jump to mind right away.  Cain gave an interview on ‘The Situation Room’ and claimed that blacks “have been brainwashed into not voting for conservatives.”  That’s the way to convince people that you’re an intelligent and competent choice for president!  Take an entire group and lump them all together with a bold statement.  So Mr. Cain, if all African Americans (my change, not his) have been brainwashed, does that make you better than them? Are you putting yourself on a pedestal?

Second, Cain made an insane comment that he wouldn’t allow any bill to pass his desk that was longer than three pages.  Here’s his exact quote.

Engage the people. Don’t try to pass a 2,700 page bill — and even they didn’t read it! You and I didn’t have time to read it. We’re too busy trying to live — send our kids to school. That’s why I am only going to allow small bills — three pages. You’ll have time to read that one over the dinner table. What does Herman Cain, President Cain talking about in this particular bill?

So Mr. Cain, you wouldn’t have signed the Civil Rights Act? Or the treaty ending WWII? Or the Patriot Act? Or any of the Appropriations bills that keep the government running? And you surely wouldn’t sign your own 9-9-9 Tax Bill if you were elected? (More on the 9-9-9 in a minute.)

John Stewart immediately called him out on this inane statement.  (His is much funnier than mine.)  As usual, John was firmly sticking to his perfected tongue in cheek routine.  Wingnut Cain immediately retaliated with a ridiculous claim that Stewart is a racist that hates black conservatives.  Here’s the quote in it’s entirety.

I said, well, Sean [Hannity], first of all if [Stewart] really thinks that I’m serious about a bill only being three pages the joke’s on him. And I said secondly as far as him mocking me look I’ve been called every name in the book because I’m a conservative, because I’m black.

Sticks and stone may break my bones, words are not going to hurt me. I was on that radio show because I happen to be an American black conservative. I labeled myself. I’m an American Black Conservative, an A-B-C. They keep trying to put labels on me. I have been called “Uncle Tom,” “sell out,” “Oreo,” “shameless.” So the fact that he wants to mock me because I happen to be a black conservative, in the words of my Grandfather, “I does not care. I does not care.”

Without touching on the horrible grammar and sentence structure, what the fuck is he trying to say here? He’s really accusing John Stewart of being a racist? Has he ever watched The Daily Show? Did he even listen to John’s rant or his own inane comment?

Lastly, his much discussed 9-9-9 plan.  This is short for 9% income tax, 9% national sales tax and 9% corporate income tax.  To begin with, 9% income tax is a tax cut for people who make over $1 million a year as on average, they pay an 18% income tax.  And a flat 9% income tax is an increase for middle class and poorer Americans as today, the average for us 99% is a 7% income tax.  His “simple” plan will of course also get rid of tax credits for everyone.

While I favor tax reform, I need some substantive evidence of the real workings of any plan before I give my seal of approval.  My figures above are just a guess by me and other people on what he means as Cain has steadfastly refused to elaborate on his plan.  His response for more detailed information is a classic of rhetoric right alongside his three page bills comment.

“Well, see, the critics are already trying to try and prove why 9-9-9 is not a good idea,” he said. “When you see some of these reports talking about it won’t do this and it won’t do that and it won’t do this and it won’t do that, they have changed the assumptions. If you want to know what the assumptions are, why don’t you come to me and my people, and we’ll explain to you what the assumptions are. But they don’t want to do that.”

When his camp was contacted for comment by USA Today, they did not return the request.  Ladies and Gentlemen, your Republican Front Runner, Herman Cain! What a bumbling blowhard.

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U.S. Drones and Digital Security

Originally conceptualized around 1915, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) has been used by the United States military since the early 60s. During the Vietnam War, we deployed roughly 3400 of these aircraft, only losing about 550. [Wikipedia]

More recently UAVs, also referred to as drones, have been very actively used in both military combat and surveillance. It was even reported that a drone killed top terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki. The obvious advantage to their use is that no soldier is harmed if anything goes wrong. Generally, they’re piloted by joystick and keyboard by pilots in unmarked buildings in undisclosed locations. The worse case scenario would normally be that we lose a physical machine. That is, until recently.

In a report from Wired Magazine’s ‘The Danger Room’, our country’s Predator and Reaper drones have been infected with a keylogging virus. For those wondering, a keylogging virus does one simple task, it listens for and stores all keystrokes on a computer, UAVs included.

This would seem like a pretty small problem, right? Run military grade Norton Antivirus and be done with it. As a last ditch effort, call Best Buy’s Geek Squad to clean the drones up. Though officials report the virus as being benign, they can’t seem to get rid of it.

“We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus.

I don’t know about you, but benign or not, if a virus CAN NOT be removed from a closed, military operated computer system, doesn’t that sound like a pretty big deal?

And how in the hell did they even get on there in the first place. It’s policy that no systems interacting with the drones be connected to the public Internet. It seems that the current system of loading new maps and mission information on the system is using, external hard drives. This practice has since been stopped, but officials are suggesting that this was the source.

So, to review: Our military has armed drones, currently operating while having a keylogger virus on them. They’re not sure if it’s benign or not, and their current solution is to wipe the drone hard drives and reload from scratch.

I wonder if anyone has considered that if someone was smart enough to get the virus on the drones in the first place, and make it near impossible to remove, they might have a plan for logging keystrokes? And that they might already have some pretty important data? I’m not trying to stoke the FUD fire here, but isn’t it reasonable to be a little concerned?

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