Category Archives: Things that matter

Conservatives respond to DHS report on “right wing extremists”

Very interesting video compilation of various conservative commentators on the report issued by the Department of Homeland Security earlier this month regarding risks of right wing extremists:

What is particularly interesting is the last 10-15 seconds of the report.  This is the part almost no one seems to be reporting when expressing their false outrage over this report:

. . . this is an element of the story which has largely gone unreported.  There are two assessments.  One looks at right wing groups as you mentioned, and a second focuses on left wing groups.  Significantly, both were requested by the Bush administration, but not finished until President Bush left office.

But of course, that’s the kind of information entertainers like O’Reilly and Limbaugh wouldn’t want you to hear.

[tags]Right wing extremists, Conservative faux outrage, Faux News, More political lies[/tags]

Dental care in the UK?

I don’t know if the story I am about to link to is a very widespread issue or not, but if you believe the article it would seem that it is, and growing worse.  This is an article about a young lady who could not find proper dental care under the new national program put in place in April 2006 by the British government.  I am neither in support of nor opposed to nationalized healthcare here in the US.  I believe both sides of this debate make some preposterous claims as well as some viable claims.    Setting aside your own beliefs over whether nationalized healthcare is good or bad, read at the Daily Mail about a young lady who had to have all her teeth removed due to long-term gum disease issues that she could not find a dentist to help resolve.

Like so many young women, Amy King always took great pride in her appearance.

Standing in front of the mirror to check her make-up before a night out, the 21-year-old would always try a smile – friends told her they loved the way it lit up her face.

Eight weeks ago, all that changed. The student from Plymouth was admitted to hospital where, in a single operation, she had every tooth in her mouth removed.

Amy, whose dental problems were caused by untreated gum disease, does not go out any more. And when she looks in the mirror she hardly recognises the face staring back at her.

This is absolutely an extreme case.  It is not indicative of how nationalized medicine does or does not work.  The problem here appears to be over the management of the nationalized dental care, not the mere fact that it is nationalized.  I point this out, because one cannot look at this one case and claim nationalized care programs do not work.  On the other hand, proponents of nationalized healthcare cannot wave this away as a complete aberration that should not be evaluated when discussing nationalized coverage.

According to the article, teeth extractions in the hospital are up a statistically significant amount.  There is also an increase in the time it takes to get dental care, as well as suggestions that more advanced problem cases are not getting proper treatment due to how the national dental contract works.  Furthermore, there is an increase in home-care for dental issues.  This article even mentions a specific case of a woman pulling her own teeth when she couldn’t get to see a national provider.  Ouch.

As I said above – I’m neither for nor against national healthcare programs.  I see problems and benefits for providing universal coverage as well as for staying with what we have now.  I don’t think it’s a simple problem, and anyone who tells you one side or the other is clearly correct can only say that because they haven’t studied the cost and benefits well enough.  I do believe there is a true push toward nationalized care here in the US that will eventually succeed.  I do believe there will be benefits for many people as a result.  I also believe that some people will be left worse than what they have now, and that while some people will pay less overall for this coverage, many will also pay more.  I think it’s an important discussion to have, but I also think that knowing more than just the facts that support your own side are vital.

And a final note – the story says that Ms. King doesn’t like to go out any more, nor to smile.  But honestly, looking at her picture I still think she looks great.

[tags]UK, England, Nationalized healthcare, Dentist, Teeth extraction[/tags]

OSSTMM version 3 coming soon?

In a previous life, I was a computer security specialist.  I had a really cool job, and worked with really, really damn cool people (hi Gerald, Doug, Jon, et al).  I read (a tiny fraction of) all the cool security news.  I kept up to date on as many security topics as I could.  I read security books.  I studied a lot of security web sites.  I took training from SANS.  I subscribed to a few security mailing lists, although much of the detail in many vulnerability announcements messages was above my understanding.

But in all that reading, research, study, training, and other learning, one of the coolest things I ever consumed was the OSSTMM project. Rather than try to explain this project, I’ll just snag the introductory text from the project home site:

The Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual (OSSTMM) is a peer-reviewed methodology for performing security tests and metrics. The OSSTMM test cases are divided into five channels (sections) which collectively test: information and data controls, personnel security awareness levels, fraud and social engineering control levels, computer and telecommunications networks, wireless devices, mobile devices, physical security access controls, security processes, and physical locations such as buildings, perimeters, and military bases.

The OSSTMM focuses on the technical details of exactly which items need to be tested, what to do before, during, and after a security test, and how to measure the results. New tests for international best practices, laws, regulations, and ethical concerns are regularly added and updated.

The version I read when I first found this was 2.2.  It has been years since I used it, and I periodically check in for updates on the version 3.0 release.  I haven’t seen an update on the web site, and I’m not a team member/subscriber to the service, so I didn’t expect I would know unless I checked in on my own.  Well tonight, while catching up on email, I get this message from the project:

Continue reading OSSTMM version 3 coming soon?

Chicago returns to its political roots

Hell yes! This, dear reader, is how a political corruption scandal should break. None of this suspicion of vote fraud, no question of people kept away from the booth, no question of “Well maybe he didn’t really do that.”

On December 9, federal agents arrested Democratic Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich on charges that he had put president-elect Barack Obama’s senate seat up for sale–though not on eBay, which probably would have made things a lot easier. The Blagojevich portrayed in the 76-page criminal complaint is, according to the New York Times, a “[d]elusional, narcissistic, vengeful, and profane” man who has been under investigation for years. They’re not kidding.

You want corruption?  They did it old-school in Chicago.  “Here’s a powerful position.  How much you pay me to get it?”  Plain.  Simple.  Direct.  Like was done in Capone’s time.

The really touching thing about this scandal is we also get to find out what kind of family the Blagojevichs have.

111 a. On or about November 27, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH, his wife and daughters, and BLAGOJEVICH’s chief of staff JOHN HARRIS ate Thanksgiving dinner together. BLAGOJEVICH’s wife asked BLAGOJEVICH to “please pass the potatoes.” BLAGOJEVICH asked what his wife was willing to give him for “the f—ing potatoes” because “these f—ing things aren’t f—ing cheap.” HARRIS said that BLAGOJEVICH’s wife might donate $250,000 to Friends of Blagojevich in exchange for the potatoes. BLAGOJEVICH’s wife said she thought that was a high price for a spoonful of mashed potatoes and asked BLAGOJEVICH to carve the turkey instead. BLAGOJEVICH said “What am I, your f—ing butler?” and reminded her that “I don’t f—ing work for free.” HARRIS asked BLAGOJEVICH to consider carving the turkey in exchange for a helping of BLAGOJEVICH’s wife’s cranberry sauce. BLAGOJEVICH said he “hated f—ing cranberry sauce, you stupid f–k,” and reminded his wife that the “only reason we have this f—ing turkey in the first place” was because Senate Candidate 5 had personally delivered it to the BLAGOJEVICH residence that morning. BLAGOJEVICH’s wife said BLAGOJEVICH could take Senate Candidate 5’s turkey and “shove it up your a–.” BLAGOJEVICH said she could have the turkey “but if you feel like you can do this and not f—ing give me anything, then I’ll f—ing go.” HARRIS volunteered to carve the turkey if BLAGOJEVICH did not want to and the group returned to eating in silence.

Not only is he an inspiring, honest, upright public servant, he also is a loving, caring, good-natured provider for his family.  Most areas of the country have tiny little bribery or abuse of power corruptions going on.  In Chicago, they show the rest of the country what a government employee should do to abuse power and stamp out democracy.

[tags]Blagojevich, Old school corruption, Chicago, Capone’s way, Family man[/tags]

Would you take a job where you were paid *NOT* to work?

Would you take a job where you were paid *NOT* to work?

In recent discussions on the future viability of US auto manufacturers, one of the topics to come up was the UAW job bank program.

According to that document, the basic guarantee from the 1987 agreement is that no eligible employee will be laid off over the term of the agreement, except under the following specific circumstances. 1)Reduced customer demand, a maximum of 42 weeks over the life of the agreement (commonly known as loss of marketshare); 2)Acts of God or other conditions beyond the control of management; 3)Conclusion of an assignment known in advance to be temporary; and 4) Plant rearrangement or model changeover.

Eligible employees can not be laid off because of new technology (robots), sourcing decisions, or company-implimented efficiency actions. There are generally three states of layoff: temporary layoffs where workers know their return date, indefinite layoffs where workers get 48 weeks of unemployment benefits and a supplemental from their employer equal to 100 percent of your salary. After 48 weeks workers are reemployed by the Job Bank, at which time they receive 95 percent of their salary.

Now if you are like me, you’ve never heard of this program before very recently. Ultimately, what the program is used for is to keep paying some number of UAW union members a worker’s salary while they don’t work. This is part of a program implemented in the 80s as a concession by auto manufacturers to the union to get support for productivity improvement efforts. In other words, the union realized that improving worker efficiency would mean fewer workers needed, so brought in this program as a way to keep paying some of the people who lost their jobs as a result.

How much does this cost the auto manufacturers? Well, we don’t know for certain, but looking back a few years gives us at least some idea:

Continue reading Would you take a job where you were paid *NOT* to work?

Rep. Michelle Bachmann and the Urban Legend

Today, we have a video daily double.  Play along at home and see if you can win the prize.

In early October of this year, Rep. Michelle Bachmann said The news media should do a penetrating exposé and take a look.  I wish they would.  I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out are they pro-America or are they anti-America?  I think people would love to see an exposé like that. (view video clip starting at about 1 minute and 50 seconds)

To me, this leaves no doubt that she believes some Congress-critters are anti-American, and that with investigation Americans could find out who these critters are.

Cue up an interview last week on Hannity and Colmes in which she was asked about this, and she claims she never said it – it is an urban legend.  Responding to a quote read by Alan Colmes taken word-for-word from the above-viewable video, she says Actually, that’s not what I said at all.  Actually that’s not what I said.  It’s an urban legend that was created.  That isn’t what I said at all. (about 15 seconds in)

I didn’t say the media needs to investigate Congress-critters and find the anti-Americans!

Whatever.  I get that we all sometimes say things we don’t mean, have a slip of the tongue/brain and say something wrong, or say things we shouldn’t have (e.g., Obama’s 57 states or McCain’s my fellow prisoners).  But let’s at least ask that she own up to what she said and at least apologize or stand behind her suggestion that President-elect Obama and some Congress-critters are anti-American.  The first two times I ever listened to Rush Limbaugh, he did the exact same thing and wouldn’t stand behind the comments he made when his listeners called him out on them just 2-3 minutes later.  I realized then that he doesn’t really believe what he says, and now I know the same about Rep. Bachmann.

[tags]Bachmann, Lies, Urban Legend, Colmes, That’s not what I said[/tags]

Protected speech?

Should betting on predicted Presidential assassination date be legal?

Is betting on the assassination date of a newly elected President free speech? I would say yes, although it sure is poor taste. Is offering a betting pool on the assassination date and then saying Let’s hope someone wins similarly protected? I would argue that it is not. This changes expressing an expectation that an assassination will occur to something that instead looks to incite violence in a manner long ruled illegal. Or at least to be dangerously close to that. To me, the betting alone seems legal and protected, even if offensive and remarkably stupid. Including the indication of hoping for a successful assassination does not seem reasonably protected speech.

The Town Council in Standish condemned the sign on Thursday in a 6-0 vote and declared it reprehensible at a meeting where some residents defended the store owner, saying he had a right to free speech even if in bad taste, local authorities said.

. . .

The sign in the Oak Hill General Store asked customers to place a $1 bet on the date of Obama’s assassination, and said “Let’s hope someone wins,” the Portland Press Herald reported. It was called the “Osama Obama Shotgun Pool.”

Am I way off here? Is this something that should be allowed? If you say yes, would you believe the same if this had happened 4 years ago, and the betting were instead for what date President Bush would be assassinated? If you say no, am I being too lenient in believing that the betting pool itself is legal without the Let’s hope someone wins quote? Where is the line on talk about expected/anticipated assassinations of our leaders?

[tags]Obama, Assassination, 1st amendment, Betting pool, Inciting violence, Free speech[/tags]

One man’s tragic tale documenting the horrors of WWII concentration camp life from the inside

We all know there are terrible tales of military heroism that we don’t get to hear until far, far later. One recent example of this that has come out is the tale of Anthony Acevedo, military medic assigned to a satellite camp of Buchenwald with others in his tropp because they looked like Jews. Because of how the military handles many sensitive incidents, particularly during war, this is a story that was never intended to be known to the general public.

Acevedo’s story is one that was never supposed to be told. “We had to sign an affidavit … [saying] we never went through what we went through. We weren’t supposed to say a word,” he says.

The U.S. Army Center of Military History provided CNN a copy of the document signed by soldiers at the camp before they were sent back home. “You must be particularly on your guard with persons representing the press,” it says. “You must give no account of your experience in books, newspapers, periodicals, or in broadcasts or in lectures.”

I am not here to question silencing those who have suffered through such events. I have worked in a classified environment, and I fully understand and respect the need to initially treat sensitive matters as classified. The military says the reason for secrecy is to protect escape and evasion techniques and the names of personnel who helped POW escapees, and I have absolutely no reason to question that. I do, however, think there is a need for an office responsible for reviewing
these cases after the fact. This is a story that is well worth knowing, and the events Mr. Acevedo describes seem to have no impact on the need to protect that the military says is the case. Certainly, 60 years after the war, I would can’t imagine why he needs to be kept under confidentiality agreement. Understand I’m not saying I know that it is fine for him to talk – I just can’t come up with a reason based on what I’ve read and learned that would support keeping confidentiality in effect.

That said, see some more below the break about Mr. Avecedo’s experience, and learn a little about how his agreement hurt him in the shortterm.

Continue reading One man’s tragic tale documenting the horrors of WWII concentration camp life from the inside

The Kudos Society – My take on the Open Source community

I am working on a set of posts in which I want to talk about Open Source products. Given how long just my introduction to these has grown, I will probably move them over to separate pages on the Blahg. To begin, I am writing a bit on why I am such a fan of Open Source, what tools I use and what tools I recommend for others, and why I try to participate in parts of the Open Source movement. The overall community of Open Source developers, users, and other contributors is something I call “The Kudos Society,” which may deserve at least a small bit of explanation as well.

All that said, what follows below the break is some of my personal history in joining this movement, which hopefully sheds some light on why I care so much about the status and health of Open Source overall.

Continue reading The Kudos Society – My take on the Open Source community

Presidential debate results – 2008-09-27

Interesting results in the debate last night – at least, according to the New York Post. Turns out John McCain won this first debate:

Two exceptional presidential candidates turned in strong performances. Neither man committed a major gaffe or scored a big hit.

But John McCain bettered Barack Obama.

Additionally, Barrack Obama won the first debate:

But it was not a draw – because the economy is the most important issue right now.

Plus, a great many people watched only the first half of the debate. Unlike a horse race, it is the opening, not the finish, that is the most important.

And I must confess myself a little surprised to find out that the New York Post calls the debate a draw:

I’m not sure last night’s debate changed a single vote. It was a quiet clash of styles, and of world views. Of muted temperaments that often agreed.

No huge mess-ups. No real flare-ups.

And no clear winner.

I know – all different writer’s opinions, and not necessarily a reflection of the paper’s general political opinion (for values of opinion relevant to non-entities such as a newspaper). I just found it funny to see all three as I was looking for online commentary about the election.