Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Category Archive: 'rant'

Audience Members! Awake From Your Slumber!

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Feb 16, 2015 @ 6:29 pm PDT

userpic=soapboxDo you attend live theatre in Los Angeles County? In particular, do you attend intimate (under 99 seat) theatre in Los Angeles County? If so, your quality of entertainment is being threatened by Actors Equity. Read on.

I touched on this issue in my write-up of Loch Ness, but I’d like to amplify it a bit, and ask you for your suggestions and help.

Theatre depends on a triad:

  1. Producers and Directors are required to provide the acting space, the infrastructure, and to bring together the technical components of a show. Often, they are required to program the show, in terms of selecting the script, choosing the technical staff, casting the show, providing the funding for the sets, the infrastructure for tickets, the rehearsal space.  Producers are also the ones that raise the money, pay for all the components they provide, and to pay the actors.
  2. Actors and Technical Artists are needed to create an interpret the art, to bring it to life on the stage. They are the people that get the “fame” and “glory” (such as it is). Some are lucky enough to make a living from the craft; others do the craft out of a need to create, not for the renumeration (although that’s nice).
  3. Audiences are required to receive the art, to provide the immediate feedback to the actors, to provide that energy that the actors live upon and for. Audiences are also required to buy the tickets, and provide the funds.

Recently, there has been loads of debate about the long standing “99 seat plan” in Los Angeles County. This plan, in essence, was a compromise to allow actors to create art. In particular, it was a plan that permitted actors that were part of the Actors Equity union to create art — without the plan, Equity actors would not be permitted to act in Los Angeles without giving up union status, union protection, and most importantly, union benefits such as healthcare and pensions. The plan severely limited the number of shows that could be done, required a certain number of “comp” tickets to permit the actors to promote themselves, set a cap on ticket prices. It provides rules regarding rehearsals and called for some minimum compensation (bus fare, free parking) to actors. Still, under the plan, theatre in Los Angeles thrived, and a number of under 99 seat companies were formed that do excellent work and permit the work of new authors to reach the stage. These companies often shared any surplus income with the actors.

Still, Actors Equity was unsatisfied and wanted to make a greater push into Los Angeles. Not being part of the union, I cannot know the reasons why. Whatever the reason, in late 2014 a move began to reform the 99 seat plan. Those in Los Angeles agreed reform was needed, and there were discussions exploring making changes based on the budget of a given production. As an audience member, this seemed reasonable to me. I should note that the website Bitter Lemons has been providing excellent coverage of all sides of this debate, and I urge those interested to go over to Bitter Lemons and to read and inform yourselves about it. AEA became interested as well, and at a town meeting they were told that reform was wanted, not scrapping the plan.

AEA has come back with a proposal that, essentially, scraps the plan. It provides for actor-mounted productions in theatres that do not have non-profit status. It allows for membership companies as of early February to remain, but to not have non-profit status, and to not admit additional Equity actors. For all other 99 seat and under productions in Los Angeles County, it requires that minimum wage be paid to all actors for all performances (3 hour minimum) and for all rehearsals. It removes the caps on the number of performances and ticket prices. If theatre want to continue to use Equity actors, this all but guarantees that prices will rise significantly; in the Los Angeles economy, that means — if theatres want to continue to use Equity actors — attendance will drop and theatres will close. Los Angeles is a price sensitive market. Just look at New York if you want to see the results — and the prices of Broadway and Off-Broadway theatre.

Will this kill theatre in Los Angeles. Likely not. It will make it so that the intimate theatres, to survive, refuse to employ Equity actors. This may affect show quality; it may also mean actors will be force to choose between their union and performing in Los Angeles. It may mean theatres will close. It may mean theatres will move to Ventura or Orange County to get away from the plan. It will hurt LA Theatre.

Remember I mentioned the triad above. Producers are mobilizing against this. Actors in Los Angeles are mobilizing against this. But I’m an audience member. I’m not an actor, I’m a computer scientist who attends theatre. What can we do as audience members, and is there any evidence that Equity even cares what audience members think? [Again, I think back to Sex and Education at the Colony — what can we say that will convince Equity that it is in their interest to drop this proposal… and that’s likely very different than what we want.]

I’m open to your suggestions. All I can think of is a threat to boycott Equity productions at intimate theatres if this goes through, but that doesn’t hurt anyone but the actors and producers, and means nothing to Equity. Perhaps letters to Equity indicating we will stick with our theatres if they choose to eschew the hiring of Equity actors? All I know is that without us, actors are shouting at an empty space. That isn’t theatre. That’s ranting — and that’s what we blog authors do.

(taps on the screen) Is anyone out there?



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The Drugs We Need

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Feb 04, 2015 @ 11:42 am PDT

userpic=progenitorivoxYesterday, when I got home and caught up on Facebook, I discovered that some Facebook friends had posted the image below, which was shared from the “National Vaccine Information Center” (an innocuous sounding group, until you visit their website and discover that they are against vaccination). This image, and the discussion that accompanied it, stuck in my craw. Trying to write a cogent response within the Facebook response limitations was difficult, so I decided to let it simmer and write something up over lunch. Here’s the image that prompted everything:

Anti-FDA Image for Discussion Purposes
Let’s start by acknowledging that the FDA isn’t perfect. There is clearly a problem with the approval process, because it often takes far too long to get approvals to bring drugs to market, especially when there is urgent need. There are also issues where the FDA does not detect fraudulent data submitted by the drug manufacturers and testers, and let’s drugs through that shouldn’t get through. Both of these are real problems, and both are partially addressed by the same solution: increase the funding to the FDA so that they may, in turn, increase staff to review reports and verify results. Many of the anti-Vac are also anti-government, however, and so they are leery of more government funding to do anything. Sorry, but independent review of drug testing results and protocols fits within the mandate to promote the general welfare, and is a task that must be free of any interference from drug manufacturers. That is a government function.

So let’s talk about the claim in the viral image. How does the FDA prove a drug safe and effective? They go through a multi-year process that involves modeling, animal testing, and eventually, testing in human subjects. The human testing is both for efficacy and to ensure the drug is not harmful. Any reaction identified by the human subjects is noted and goes into the list of potential side effects, just to be on the safe side (translation: there is no guarantee those effects will happen). However, because some conditions are rare and it is difficult to get a suitably sized statistical test pool, and given the wide variation in reactions in humans, problems do get missed. Additionally, testing time is also limited. This is especially true for cumulative side effects that might not be noticed in a 1 year or 2 year test… but only after 25 years of use (which is difficult to test).

So the FDA testing protocol isn’t perfect? What is the alternative? I don’t see the people knocking the FDA coming out and proposing an alternative better protocol. I don’t see them saying we should use drugs without any testing. As for other counties — most other countries don’t have a protocol as strong as the FDA. There are only a handful of countries — Canada, UK, Germany — where I would trust their testing protocols as a viable alternative.

This is all an area of risk mitigation, not 100% risk avoidance. Drug testing does not eliminate the risk, but reduces it substantially. Many things are not risk free, but we accept the risk tradeoff. Taking an airplane — actually, less risk than driving on the street. Have a pool in your home — there’s more risk there than having a gun in the house.  Are there risks with vaccines? Sure, but those risks are very small (and do not include autism — that link has been dis-proven). Anything you put in your body can harm you, from too much water to a single peanut. For the vast vast vast majority, there is no risk with vaccines. On the other hand, the risks of being unvaccinated (as we are currently seeing) are high, for it can expose other people at risk — the elderly, the immune impaired — and has a high likelihood of death for those people.

The summary: Do read and be informed about the drugs you take. Read the inserts with the drugs (which is something the FDA mandates, by the way, and contains information from testing). If you are worried, go to reputable sites to see the incidents of side-effects, and remember that more people are likely to complain when something doesn’t work than will comment when something does work. Talk your fears over with your doctor, but don’t be afraid of science, and despite what you see in the movies, don’t be afraid of government scientists. They actually are working for you and watching out for your best interest (which cannot always be said of corporate science). But in the end, don’t fall for wanting no risk: go for reasonable risk.

ETA: Epilogue: Here’s an interesting article recommended by Mark Evanier: “Rise Of The Know-Betters: Just The Facts About Anti-Vaxx“. It has a good collection of pointers that refute the supposed “facts” stated by the Anti-Vacc movement (I don’t use Vax; Vax is a computer system once manufactured by Digital Equipment, thank you, just as an E Ticket is something that was once used at Disneyland).

ETA № 2: Here’s more info from Vox, including a pro-vacc position from Benjamin Franklin.

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Mmm. And a Little Bit More….

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jan 17, 2015 @ 9:55 am PDT

userpic=lougrantAs I continue to clear out the collected links from the week, here are a few stories where I have a bit more to say on the articles:

  • Income and Public Schools. Scott Turner called my attention to this article, which notes that, for the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families. This is very troubling to me. Back when I went to public school (in the 1960s and 1970s), pretty much everyone sent their children to LA Unified — unless you were very very rich. Hollywood stars sent their kids to LAUSD (especially in the Palisades). Middle-class white folks in the valley sent their kids. Schools were a place where you could meet people from all groups, and learn that we were all — just people. You learned that everyone could be smart, and you made friends across the lines. In the 1980s as busing started, there “white flight” from the schools, and I believe that the findings in this article are a direct descendant of that. One of the best ways of breaking the privilege lines is bringing people together. You want to know where kids learn the notion of privilege — it is when the middle and high income are separated in their private schools (which are much more homogenized, just like milk from the store and white bread from the store). This is where income inequality takes us, and it is a bad thing.
  • Blog Comments. Hadass Evitar pointed me to this: An article on why blog comments are being pulled. Now I haven’t pulled comments from my blogs, but I do understand the dearth of comments and the spam. Over on the WordPress side, it seems the only comments I get these days are spam, which are deleted. In fact, I even did a whole post directed at the spammers. But I do want comments, and I miss the old days on LiveJournal where people would comment and we’d have discussions. Comments provided me a way to judge whether people were reading my blog; I really don’t want to resort to Google Analytics. Of course, here’s where I ask you to comment: what do you think? Have you stopped commenting on blogs? Why? Is it because of the trolls, the lack of community, or do new mechanisms make it much much harder. Should blogs get rid of comments, and just share the article on Facebook where the comments do occur?
  • Antisemitism in Europe. I forget who led me to the just-posted piece on Mrs. Wolowitz, but I started exploring the source, and found this recent piece by Dr. Deborah Lipstadt (one of my instructors when I was at UCLA, but that’s another story, nevermind, anyway) on Hypocracy after the Paris Attacks. The article essentially points out that the outrage is that journalists were attacked; the fact that they were Jews was secondary, and often other antisemitic attacks in France go on with rarely the outrage. In fact, antisemitic attacks go on regularly across Europe, and there is little outrage. Just think about this quote from her article: «European Jews have been under attack for more than a decade. But there were no marches after Halimi’s death, the Brussels murders, and numerous other incidents. There were some protests after Toulouse, most likely due to the general horror at a killer deliberately targeting children, but nothing on the scale of this past week. Many French Jews felt that those protests were quite muted, given the horror of the event. More troubling, nowhere have I heard an acknowledgement that Europeans have failed to take seriously these attacks on Jews. Instead, people have explained away the attacks by suggesting they’re a response to Israel’s actions in the Middle East. That argument telegraphs the message that, while killing Jews was wrong, it was understandable.» Even in the US, attitudes like this persist. We get up in arms about the privilege issues regarding blacks and other minorities, yet turn a blind eye as the Christian majority slowly attacks those who are non-Christian. We need to speak up — worldwide — that belief is like sexual orientation — a personal thing that people have the right to just be. People observing a religion should not be attacking others because of their religions, and people should be free to follow their faith. We must speak up when the right to do so is attacked, especially in countries that claim to have religious freedom.


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Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Nov 25, 2014 @ 6:32 am PDT

userpic=soapboxYesterday, a Grand Jury delivered an indictment. But, you say, the news says they decided not to indict. That may be the case regarding the officer, but that decision itself was an indictment of our legal system, and highlighted both its strengths and its failures. The reaction to it was a statement as well — a statement that many people don’t understand the legal system, and that many people do not understand the ways to bring about change.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: I was going to title this post “Guilty, Guilty, Guilty” (in deference to an old Doonesbury comic). It is clear the officer, Darren Wilson, shot Michael Brown. There is no disputing that fact.

However, the law does not view all shootings as equal. This goes back to biblical days — the commandments do not say “Do not kill”, but “Do not murder”, making that fine distinction between killing and murder. We kill every day in war, but do not prosecute the soldiers. We watch TV shows where cops kill clearly bad guys, and that is justified with no penalties. So “guilt”, at least for the killing, is only the first step.

The next step is determining which of the many crimes for which Wilson could be charged would have sufficient evidence to convince a jury to render a unanimous decision that he is guilty. First degree murder is out: you clearly couldn’t show premeditated intent. As this article noted, second-degree murder charges were theoretically possible, but this choice was unlikely if jurors decided that Wilson feared for his life when he killed Brown. If jurors concluded that Wilson was negligent when he shot Brown, they could have gone with a charge of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

Let’s look at that “feared for his life”, and add in the complicating factor. We’re dealing with a police officer here, not a normal civilian. Police officers, by definition of their role, are expected to carry guns and occasionally use deadly force, with justification, as part of their job. As a result, there are strict definitions of the conditions when such force is justified; if those conditions are met, murder charges cannot be substantiated. In this case, it isn’t “white privilege”, but “police officer privilege”. One of those conditions is “fear for your life” (and that is an internal judgement call, something slippery to disprove).  The other is to prevent a known felon from escaping.

Now, add to this that a Grand Jury’s function is not to judge guilt, but to decide if there appears to be sufficient evidence to convince a jury to render a guilty verdict (which must be unanimous). In other words, the Grand Jury needed to review all of the evidence provided, and make a determination that it convincingly and unambiguously demonstrated that the officer had no reason to fear for his life, no reason to believe that Brown was a likely felon, and no reason to believe he was trying to escape. From what I’ve read, the evidence wasn’t quite that clear.

This left the Grand Jury with a difficult meta-decision: Do they indict on weak evidence, and risk a Not Guilty version at the trial, or do they not send the case to trial unless it is clear that Guilty would be returned. If you think the reaction to non-indictment was bad, just imagine the reaction to a Not Guilty verdict.

Next, let’s explore the question of whether white privilege was involved. I believe that it was, but its involvement was subtle. A long history of such privilege probably led to a different quality in the evidence based on who gave the evidence (I wanted to say “race”, but that’s incorrect). There was also the impact of the skin color of the people who collected the evidence, and a judgement by the Grand Jury of how the skin color of the eventual jurors might judge the evidence. It was also present in the decision of whether the officer feared for his life — that fear was also the product of prejudice and privilege. This is all subtle, but present.

In the end, an indictment was delivered: an indictment of our criminal justice system. It is a system that ultimately does not judge guilt or innocence, but whether specific crimes can be proven. The standard of proving those crimes is harder if they were committed by a law officer in the performance of their job. It is complicated by the fact that, in the general sense, the legal system works very hard to keep the innocent out of jail, making standards of proof difficult. And yes, it is an indictment of the inherent privilege effects in that system, for subjective belief is involved, and the jurors eventually judge the evidence through the lenses of their biases. This isn’t CSI with purely factual evidence and a purely factual decision.

You’re probably asking, if you’re read this far, if I agree with the decision. That’s hard to answer. Do I feel the shooting was justified? Based on what I heard, no. Do I believe the Grand Jury decision was correct? Having not read all the evidence, I can’t answer whether it would be sufficient to convince a jury unanimously that the shooting was justified, because all jurors do not think as I do. I can believe that the Grand Jury might think the evidence was insufficient. That is the fault of the prosecutor, who had the responsibility to build a convincing case. This prosecutor did no such thing — he dumped the mounds of evidence on the Grand Jury and left it to them to build the case, connect the dots, and decide the charges. That poor performance probably led directly to the Grand Jury decision, which may have been what the prosecutor wanted.  Do I believe the system is biased towards the police? Yes, and we’re not helping by giving them former military equipment and creating the mindset of “them against the enemy”, as opposed to protecting the population. There are deep mindsets to change here.

In the beginning of this post, I talked about how to bring about change. I’ll note that looting is never the way to bring about change. Protesting can be, but not violent protests that result in creating biases against the protesters. King and Gandhi had it right — non-violent protest is the way to go, if one must protest. The best way to bring about change is from within, but it is often too slow for many people’s taste. Voting is important, but even more important is doing — getting people educated about the inherent biases and problems in the system, and then getting them to run for office to change the laws and the system to reduce or mitigate that bias.

Here’s the TL;DR summary: The system is broken. Most people don’t understand the system. The system worked, but didn’t give the answer the unwashed masses thought it should deliver. To fix the problem, violence is not the answer — get educated about the problems and work to fix the system from within.

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Religion’s Influence in America

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Sep 22, 2014 @ 11:54 am PDT

userpic=levysAs I sit here and eat my lunch, the headline in today’s LA Times screams “Americans fear religion losing influence, say churches should speak out more“. The article notes that only about three in 10 Americans see the Obama administration as “friendly to religion.” About four in 10 rate the administration as neutral and another three in 10 call it unfriendly. To me, I find the article infuriating. Here’s why.

We don’t have freedom from religion in the country; we have freedom of religion (and I consider atheism to be a religion as well — religion is a faith that cannot be proven or disproven without the use of miracles). Every individual in America has the right to practice whatever religion they wish, and to let it influence their lives and behaviors as they wish. Churches have the right to speak out as they wish (as long as they don’t endorse specific candidates). So, if religion is losing influence, it is because we the people have chosen to make it less influential. The government has nothing to do with it.

But, you say, there is a war against Christmas or against Christians. Sorry, there isn’t. You can personally be as Christian as you want. Wear your cross. Wish me Merry Christmas. What appears to be a “war” is one of two things: a government institution attempting to not show favoritism of one religion over another (as the constitution prohibits establishing a state religion), or bureaucrats going above and beyond to be “fair.”

Before you claim there is a war, put yourself in a minority religion’s shoes: I’ve had miss about 5 meetings scheduled by others, including an award lunch, because they were scheduled for this Thursday (which, if you look at your calendar, is Rosh Hashanah). But do they miss meetings because someone schedules them on Christmas or Easter?

Further, the same people that bemoan religion losing influence are equally quick to condemn those areas where religion has undue influence — especially when that religion isn’t theirs. Look at the fears of Sharia (Islamic Law) or the areas with Orthodox Jewish law. Alas, in American, fears of religion losing influence are actually fears of Christianity losing influence (which doesn’t even consider the fact that the type of Christianity often pushed by those wanting it to have more influence is not the type of compassionate Christianity this non-Christian believes Jesus would have taught).

For all the arguing about whether religion has influence, the truth is: religions still have a lot of influence. We all have a common moral code that eschews murder and encourages honesty. We all strive to make lives better for the poor, to help the hungry, to heal the fallen, to care for the widow and orphan. We all work for a society that emphasizes love and emphasizes that children should be raised in a loving family. These, my friends, are universal qualities found in all religions — I know them to exist in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. What no longer has influence is intolerance driven by religion, or arbitrary punitive codes anchored in practices from ages ago.

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I Come To Mourn a Click-Wheel…

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Sep 11, 2014 @ 11:48 am PDT

userpic=ipod…not to praise it. During its revamp of the Apple Store this week, Apple quietly and without ceremony removed the iPod Classic from the line up. There have been wistful reminiscences, but most have just been nostalgia. The belief from much of the world — especially the connected and early adopters — is that one no longer needs to carry all your music in your pocket. Who needs storage when you can have streaming. In my opinion, these folks have “drunken the kool-aide” of the music industry. Here’s why this is deluded thinking:

  • Not every location can stream. You can’t stream music when you’re on an airplane, in a subway, or far away from modern communications. Often, these are the times when you most want your music.
  • Not everyone has unlimited free bandwidth. Streaming often uses limited cellular bandwidth or requires you to pay for wireless (if free wireless is not available, such as on an airplane). This is one reason why the cellular providers don’t want phone manufacturers to put lots of storage on phone and to have bandwidth heavy apps. They make money off you.
  • You don’t physically possess your music. When your music is in the cloud or streamed, you don’t own it — you lease it. The cloud storage provider could delete that music at any time, and you would have no recourse. When you have the music stored on your device you possess it. You can copy it. You can make backups. You can make CDs or cassettes or other physical media. It is yours to edit and play with.

Further, the death of the iPod Classic is a movement away from the single purpose device. Single purpose devices can be devoted to doing one thing very well. Multi-function devices, such as phones, often do multiple things at varying levels. The 128GB of storage on your phone may sound large, but it means your music is competing for space with your photos, text messages, videos, and applications. So why don’t they give you more storage? They would rather you back up your data to the cloud (using bandwidth, possibly using storage you pay for, and making it susceptible to security breeches).

The iPod Classic was a simple device. It played music, video (and a few games). It had a simple interface which was notable less for the click wheel, and more for the fact that you didn’t have to look at it to use it. This made the device usable by the visually impared — something that is not true for smart phones today, which have no tactile feedback

Did the iPod Classic have its problems? Sure. There are those that complained about the hard disk, but the hard disk is suitably reliable if you realize it is a hard disk and treat it carefully. SSD may be more robust to vibrations, but it has more significant wear issues over time. There are iPods from its first introduction that are still being used. How long does your SSD device last?

There is a complaint about sound quality, but that comes from people who want lossless audio. You could store lossless audio on the iPod, but space limitations rapidly hit you. There is the Pono player coming out that encourages lossless, but it has a horrible form factor and doesn’t solve the space problem: you have 64G internal, and up to 128G on an SSD card that you can swap for different libraries.

Apple has written off the true music collector. Had they come up with a simple update to the iPod Classic that moved it to the lightning connector and a 500GB or 1TB drive, they would have had a significant sales bump as all those people currently owning Classics replaced them. They opted not to, because they see their future in streaming and leasing music, not selling music and supporting the listener.

As for me? I truly love having my entire music collection with me at all times. It allows me to listen to all of it — and to all of it I do (I have playlists that help). My iPod is with me on the van in the morning, in the background playing while I work, providing podcasts on the way home, and playing music to put me to sleep. It plays and is used in environments where a phone cannot stream — on the LA Metro underground, on an airplane, and in other isolated locations. As such, I’ve already got a backup iPod Classic 160GB in the shipping stream — I’ll alternate it with my current player, which I play 8-10 hours daily, and which has 34,606 songs (and 34,899 tracks overall). I’ll look into other players if they offer the same storage and can move my iTunes metadata. Of course, I could always just upgrade the drive to 240GB. Once I have a backup, that might be an option. That might just do me for a while…

…a few months, at least  :-).

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Believing in Untruths

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 22, 2014 @ 4:48 pm PDT

userpic=obama-supermanEarlier today, I wrote about a fundraising event for REP that occurred in response to an incident that happened earlier in June. In this event, a version of a story was spread that was exaggerated in ways to make people believe an untruth — in this case, they believed this untruth because it fit their conception of what likely happened, not what really happened. As someone who tries to look at things neutrally (although I have progressive leanings), I see this all the time. I especially see it on Facebook, where rabid partisans on both sides of the political spectrum spread their untruths about the other side in order to support their views. Yes, I said both. I see some of my very liberal friends constantly making fun of the conservatives; and I see conservatives spreading untruths about the liberal side.

The latest example of this flew across Facebook a little earlier today: a link to an article titled “This “Top 10 Reasons To Vote Democrat” List From Allen West Is One Of The Best Things On The Internet“, posted at The Federalist Papers.org. But when you look at this list from the perspective of the truth, you discover that each one of these things is actually based on a false belief about Democrats. Let’s look, shall we?

  • I’ll vote Democrat because I can’t wait for college football season to be delayed or cancelled because the student athletes are union employees.” When you think about it, unions are actually a pretty Tea Party concept: individuals deciding to dictate their own future instead of letting the government do it. Individuals collectively bargaining for better conditions, better wages, a better future. They are not depending on the government to achieve this goal: they are doing it themselves. So this builds on the misconception that unions are bad things. It also builds on the misconception that the Democrats specifically made student athletes union employees. This was a specific legal decision by a in a specific case interpreting law; it was based on a number of factors, including the time students devote to football (as many as 50 hours some weeks), the control exerted by coaches and their scholarships, which were equivalent to a contract for compensation.
  • I’ll vote Democrat because I believe oil company’s profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene, but the government taxing the same gallon of gas at 15% isn’t.” This plays on the conception of evil government taxing. But is this true. Companies are entitled to reasonable levels of profits; the usual assumption is that many of those profits will be returned to shareholders or into research and development. When profits go for other purposes — like insane executive salaries — people get upset. But more significantly, where does that government tax dollar go? It goes to pay for all those roads people drive upon. The gas companies pay nothing for the infrastructure upon which they depend. The 15% tax on fuel is not obscene.
  • I’ll vote Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would.” This is a common belief. The problem is that people would not spend money on common good. If you kept more of your tax dollar, would you pay for roads? Would you pay for the lighthouses? Would you pay for the air traffic controllers? Would you pay for the coast guard? Would you pay for the national clocks? Would you pay for the organizations that establish neutral and accurate national standards? In truth, in many areas, the government does do a better job at spending money than you do. One other note: Although you might spend money better, do you believe that is true for everyone?
  • I’ll vote Democrat because Freedom of Speech is fine as long as nobody is offended by it.” What’s funny here is that it is the Democrats that are usually at the forefront of defending the rights to free speech through the ACLU. On the other hand, who has attempted to limit magazines and subjects that they felt were offensive? Who has attempted to limit the presentation of non-Judeo-Christian religious views and symbols?
  • I’ll vote Democrat because I’m way too irresponsible to own a gun, and I know that my local police are all I need to protect me from murderers and thieves. I am also thankful that we have a 911 service that get police to your home in order to identify your body after a home invasion.” So many things here. First, it is not *you* owning a gun that is worrisome; it is that depressed psycho neighbor of yours. You’re fine. Second, the statement about the local police creates the implication that people use their personal firearms to protect themselves from murderers and thieves — which in really does not occur. Name 10 recent incidents where a murder or theft was stopped due to a local person using a handgun? As for 911, identification of the body is not done by first responders. The first responders are there to find the person who did the murder, and start collecting evidence. Don’t you watch CSI:?
  • I’ll vote Democrat because I’m not concerned about millions of babies being aborted so long as we keep all death row inmates alive and comfy.” Again, multiple issues here. No one is in favor of abortion; no one believes it should occur willy-nilly. The belief is that a woman should have the right to choose what happens to her body; if the conservative side is so in favor of a small government that doesn’t restrict them, they should be in favor of keeping the government out of telling women what they can or cannot do with their bodies. As for the death row inmates: the concern here is the same as with abortion: loss of innocent life. Mistakes happen, people lie or misinterpret evidence, and innocent people do land on death row. Why is it right to not kill an innocent when they are a baby, but OK when they are an adult. As for alive and comfy, you obviously haven’t been in prison — but there is also this little thing called the constitution that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
  • I’ll vote Democrat because I think illegal aliens have a right to free health care, education, and Social Security benefits, and we should take away the Social Security from those who paid into it.” Actually, the Democrats don’t believe illegal aliens have a right to free health care, education, and Social Security Benefits. They do believe they have a right to some health care, because if they are infectuous they can infect a citizen just as well as a non-citizen. Some of the rights that have been extended have been done by courts — consisting of both liberal and conservative judges — interpreting the law of the land. As for Social Security, you’ll find that it is the Democrats that have been defending Social Security against attempt to put it in the risky stock market and other investments.
  • I’ll vote Democrat because I believe that businesses should NOT be allowed to make profits for themselves. They need to break even and give the rest away to the government for redistribution as the Democrats see fit.” Democrats believe businesses should be able to make profits. They also believe — just like everyone else — that businesses should pay their fair share of taxes.
  • I’ll vote Democrat because I believe liberal judges need to rewrite the Constitution every few days to suit some fringe kooks who would never get their agendas past the voters.” Except, of course, when it is the conservative judges that rewrite the constitution through decisions such as Bush v. Gore and Citizens United. Fringe Kooks exist on both sides, boys and girls.
  • I’ll vote Democrat because I think that it’s better to pay billions for oil to people who hate us, but not drill our own because it might upset some endangered beetle, gopher, fish or frog.” Oil is a limited resource. It is best to use as little as possible, irrespective of where we get it, because we cannot make more. But in reality, the oil companies go where the profits are. If it was cheaper to sell domestic oil at the same price, they would. Imported oil is cheaper. Environmental protection is only one part of that. As for the endangered species (which were protected by a Republican administration), we never know what we might learn — what new scientific or health discoveries might be made from them. But more importantly, the reality is that endangered species don’t stop most oil drilling — it is people wanting to protect their water, their air, or their community from the pollution that comes with oil drilling — or the risk of an oil spill, which we all know never happens (and when it does, is cleaned up with nary a trace). Sometimes the easiest way to get a legal hook to stop the action is… you guessed it… the endangered species act.

I do this not to pick on the conservative side, but to urge people to look at partisan statements — from either side — neutrally. Find out the facts — don’t believe the sensational lies you read from either side. Get your news from multiple sources, and listen and attempt to understand — even if you don’t agree — from friends of all ilks.

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Bleeding All Over The Place

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 12, 2014 @ 8:52 am PDT

userpic=securityAll this week, I’ve been following the news of the Heartbleed Flaw. If you haven’t heard if it — or if you have heard and don’t understand it — XKCD gives a good explanation. Basically, the flaw was an “old-school” programming error: someone allocated a buffer without clearing it first. In Orange Book terms, this was an “Object Reuse” error; the Common Criteria called it “Residual Information Protection”. Problems like this were common in old MS-DOS, where you could create a file, move the file pointer to some far out place, write a single character, and close the file. What would be left in the middle was whatever was lying on the disk. Heartbleed was the same thing:

Heartbleed Explanation When Heartbleed was first reported, panic ensued. You probably remembered this. This was the “Death of Commerce on the Internet!!!” Bruce Schneier (who I normally respect) said, “”Catastrophic” is the right word. On the scale of 1 to 10, this is an 11.” I, however, felt that panic wasn’t warranted. I’m pleased to see that, as time goes on, others are realizing that as well.

Does that mean this isn’t a serious problem? Au Contraire! Rather, it is a problem on the system owners end, who need to change all potentially exposed certificates. It is a problem for all the hardware devices that embedded OpenSSL in firmware in an unchangable and un-updatable way. All those devices have to be trashed and replaced. It’s a problem for all those who depend on others to maintain their web site. For example, I’m on Westhost. Here are their instructions to site owners regarding Heartbleed.

Why was this problem so great? OpenSSL was free code, so everyone thought it was good and used it. Forbes thinks this is indicative of a big problem with open source and its funding — there were about 4 people who were charged with maintaining this, all volunteer. Again, I disagree. The problem is not the funding or the maintenance, but the fact that the authors were not thinking about security from the get-go. They hadn’t been inculcated with secure programming practices that would have eliminated any object reuse issue. Being aware of how to write secure code eliminates many problems: boundary errors, object reuse errors, mishandling of input errors. All showed up here, and all are techniques any secure programmer worth their salt would know.

So, again, should you worry about this? You certainly shouldn’t panic. If you have an account on an affected site, then you might change your password if you are really worried about your data (e.g., I don’t care about Yahoo; my mail account there is only for spam) or you use that password elsewhere. If, by rare chance, you have exposure on a financial website or a government website, then do change your password.

Most importantly, get a little perspective. Although this is a lot of work for site owners, this isn’t anywhere near the headache of a Target breach, or the breaches we hear about every day where this database or that database of credit card numbers is exposed, or major medical databases are exposed. Worry about those. Most importantly, continue to consciously think about cybersecurity in whatever you do, and whenever you authorized information. For example, does the Facebook android app really need all those permissions it asks for?



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