stevenpiziks: (Default)
I see a lot of discussion about whether it's a good idea to use--or just be =ready= to use--violence against Nazis and other white supremacists.  Anti-violence people want to take the way of Gandhi: no violence ever.

Those who know me may be surprised to hear that I think it's foolish to avoid violence.  Violence works.

Violence is sometimes the best way to end a conflict, and the threat of violence can stop a conflict from beginning.  I know as a teacher I'm required to say that school children should avoid hitting bullies, but you know what?  Sometimes the fastest way to stop a bully is to punch one in the face. 

When we first moved to Wherever with Aran, no one in school knew him.  He was a six-foot tall seventh grader who had odd mannerisms and speech patterns.  A kid on Aran's bus took it on himself to bully Aran about it.  (Why the hell anyone would bully someone who's more than a foot taller than they are, I don't know.)  The kid bugged Aran and bugged him and bugged him.  Nothing Aran said would stop him.  Finally, Aran hit his break point and smashed him in the face in full view of a bunch of other kids.  The kids stared.  The bully scrambled away.  No one ever bullied Aran again for the rest of his school career in Wherever.

This is the way bullies operate.  They go after people they think are smaller, weaker, or otherwise less powerful than they are.  They go after such people because they figure such people won't hurt them.  I can hit you all I want, and you won't do a damn thing.

Nazis and white supremacists are extreme bullies.  They go after minority groups they perceive as weak or ineffective.

You'll notice that under the Obama administration, Nazis and supremacists didn't say much.  They didn't march much.  But under bully Trump, they've become bolder.  They figure no one will hurt them.  They've started their shouting and demonstrating and the GOP in charge isn't saying anything against them, which makes them bolder.  This is how the Nazi party got going in Germany.

Words don't stop these people.  Words do nothing at all.  They see people who use words as weak, wimpy, and soft, people they can bulldoze right over.  And they have.  Trump has helped them.  Words won't get these people to change their minds, either.  By the time they're so hyped up that they're out on the street demonstrating, they're past the point of persuasion.

There's only one way to stop them.

The police use it.  When a demonstration gets out of hand, the police have no compunctions about breaking out the hoses, night sticks, and pepper spray.  Violence.  Though this didn't help poor Heather Meyer.

The kid who bullied Aran stopped because he knew if he continued, he'd get physical pain.  It was the only language he understood.  It's sad, but true.  Nazis and supremacists are exactly the same.  They understand violence.  They understand pain.  They want to dish it out, but when it comes to taking it, they'll flee.  Why?  Because, just like Aran's bully, Nazis and supremacists only pick on people they perceive as weak.  And for them, "weak" means "non-violent."  If they know a group will hit them, punch them, smash them, they'll slink away--or not even show up in the first place.  This is why the anti-Nazis and anti-supremacists should be perfectly willing to use their own methods against them.  It's a powerful method that works.

The anti-violencers have said that using violence only gives the alt-right protesters a grievance.  The alt-right will claim they've been unjustly hurt by those awful left-wingers and antifa people. 

This is a ridiculous argument.  The Nazis and supremacists ALREADY believe they're victims of the left.  They ALREADY think the left has been hitting them.  Just listen to Fox "News" for ten minutes.  The victim mentality of the right becomes apparent within seconds.  America has become anti-Christian, anti-white, anti-man, they moan.  We're going to disappear!  They're hurting us!  They're crushing us!  There's nothing the left, including the antifa, can do that will change this mentality.  Look at the scenarios this way:

1. NO VIOLENCE FROM THE LEFT: The right continue to bitch and moan about how they've been victimized by the left, and Nazis demonstrate in the street, unmolested.

2.  VIOLENCE FROM THE LEFT: The right continue to bitch and moan about how they've been victimized by the left, and Nazis think twice before demonstrating.

Which one is better?  The right will bitch no matter what.  At least with #2, we shut up the Nazis.

The anti-violencers like to say that violence drives the Nazis and supremacists underground.  We need to keep them out in the open, where we can see them and know who they are.

No.

Nazis who are out in the open, demonstrating in the streets, are automatically granted a certain legitimacy.  They're recognized as a movement.  People who are on the fence or who might keep quiet about their Nazi views are encouraged to open up about them, perhaps demonstrate themselves, swell the ranks.  The Nazis become BOLD.  They ACT instead of just demonstrate, as Heather Meyer tragically discovered.  An open movement receives support.  It expands and grows more easily.  How would Hitler and his new Nazis have taken over Germany if they had remained a small underground movement?  Answer: they would not have done it.  They would have faded away and died.

An underground movement is harder to find.  People who have vague feelings of sympathy for it don't know where to get to it or find like-minded people.  They have hunt for it, take risks to find it, rather than just walk down the street or turn on the news.  An underground group remains smaller, less powerful.  If you don't believe it, ask yourself how much you knew about American Nazis until two months ago.  The fact that you're reading this blog says quite a lot.

The gay community has benefited from coming out of the underground.  LGBT people demonstrated in the streets, held parades, gave interviews on the news as neighbors, family, and co-workers, and started showing up as characters in movies, television, and in books.  It happened more and more and more, and LGBT people have become more accepted as a result.  LGBT people who were in the closet felt more comfortable about coming out and swelling the public ranks.  Straight people discovered they had friends, family, and co-workers who were LGBT, and more of them supported the LGBT movement.  We have a long ways to go, but we've made enormous strides forward in the last 20 years.  And it all happened because of VISIBILITY.

This is a positive.  However, Nazis and white supremacists are now trying to use the same strategy.  Become more visible, swell the ranks, become more accepted.

How different would world history be if anti-Nazi supporters had used a little violence against Hitler and his ilk back when they were small and just getting started?  How different would the world be if a town had smacked up Mussolini back when he only had 100 supporters?  Gandhi may have gotten the British out of India--eventually--but his methods wouldn't have been able to stop World War II.

If Nazis and supremacists know they run the risk of having their signs shoved up their asses the moment they starting heiling Trump, they'll back off.  They'll stay underground. 

If the bullies know their target isn't weak, they'll slink away.  Aran's bully knew this.  And so do we.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
At a street fair today, a woman approached and asked if I would sign a petition to let So-and-So run for governor in 2018, since Snyder is term-limited.

"What party is he?" I asked.

"Republican," she said. "And he--"

"No, thank you" I interrupted.  "I'm married to a man, and the Republican party isn't supportive of that. I can't sign your petition."

"Oh."  She looked taken aback.  "Er . . . yes.  I support civil unions."

"I don't," Darwin put in.

"Thank you," I added, and we walked away.


stevenpiziks: (Default)
Saturday, Darwin and I drove down to Ypsilanti for a late evening.  We were scheduled to join an after-dark cemetery tour, and we had decided to have supper down there beforehand.

We ate at Bona Sera, a relatively new restaurant in downtown Ypsi that's in kind of a cursed spot.  Since I first moved to Ypsilanti 20 years ago, there have been four or five different restaurants in that location, and all of them have died. 

The name made me think this was an Italian restaurant, but it wasn't.  It was an upscale fusion restaurant, with a variety of dishes.  I ordered an appetizer plate of sweet chevre with fruit and nuts, with baguette to spread it on.  Darwin, to my despair, refused to try even a bite.  But I liked it very much.

The salads were spring greens with an olive oil and vinegar based dressing.  Darwin liked it, but I found the greens bitter and the dressing too heavy.

For the entre, I ordered the shepherd's pie (chicken), and Darwin decided to try their version of four-cheese macaroni and cheese.  Both were wonderful.  And filling!  We could only eat half.  We took the rest home.

I pointed out to Darwin the variety of the people in the restaurant around us.  The server had blue hair and pierced cheeks.  The other waiter, rake thin, wore all black with huge glasses and had the sides of his head shaved.  The couple a few tables away was mixed race, with the woman's hair done up outrageously white and fluffy, her clothes high-end, while her companion wore a baseball cap and workman's clothes.  The young man and woman at the bar--he from the Middle East, she from India--wore casual business attire.  The foursome behind us--one straight couple, one gay couple--wore a variety of outfits.  One of the men stepped out of a J. Crew catalog.  His husband was a Brooks Brothers man.  The woman wore purple from head to foot, while her husband dressed in cargo shorts and a polo shirt.  Outside, a woman walked past carrying the World's Biggest Shopping Bag (tm) and looking unhappy about it while a white college student with sculpted everything jogged by.

"If we were up in Oakland County," I said, "everyone would look much the same.  Down here, it's a variety."

Darwin agreed.

The foursome, incidentally, loudly discussed politics at their table.  They castigated Donald Trump, his administration, and his trip abroad.  They mused how long it would take him to be impeached and whether the country would be better or worse off under Pence.  Darwin and I eavesdropped with amusement.

"It's like coming home," Darwin said.

On our way out, I stopped at their table and leaned in.  "Your political discussion sound just like ours," I said.

They burst out laughing and applauded a little.  We made ten-second friends. :)

More . . .
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
A little background:

The Rockettes were asked to perform at Trump's inauguration. Horrified, many of the women refused. The company that employs the Rockettes at first seemed to be saying the dancers were required to dance for His Dictatorship's pleasure, but later recanted and said no dancer was ever required to dance at any gig they didn't like.  In the end, it turned out only about 18 of the dancers were willing to turn an ankle for the Dumpster.  Progressives everywhere laughed their heads off.  What a delight!

Immediately, right-wing death Nazis took up the clarion call.  How hypocritical! We've had all these lawsuits about bakeries and photographers and florists being required to provide services to same-sex weddings, and those intolerant, fascist gays and lesbians always won, forcing those poor, downtrodden religious Nazis to serve people they hated.  Why aren't progressives putting the same yardstick to the Rockettes?  Why aren't (those fascist) progressives demanding the Rockettes dance for someone they hate, too?

Please stop, honey. You're embarrassing yourself.  (Actually, no--I love it when righties embarrass themselves.)

In the states where such lawsuits took place, state law forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.  That's why the lawsuits even happened.  In Michigan, for example, discrimination based on sexual orientation is perfectly legal, and a bakery can legally say, "Same sex wedding?  We don't serve your kind here. Get out!"  However, the same isn't true in Colorado and Oregon.

It's illegal IN NO STATE to discriminate based on political affiliation.  Any business is perfectly free to say, "We don't serve Democrats."  It's not recommended, since an awful lot of Americans identify as Democrats, but hey--it's your business.  Do as you like.

And it's perfectly legal for a Rockette to say, "I don't dance for this piece of shit because he's a Republican."

Got it?  So shut up and bake me a wedding cake.  Because I'll force you to, and make you like it.  But I'm not dancing for you, and you can't make me.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Amazon is opening a new store:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/05/technology/amazon-moves-to-cut-checkout-line-promoting-a-grab-and-go-experience.html

They call it "grab and go."  You walk in, grab what you want off a shelf, and walk out.  Ta da!  No lines, no waiting.

No human beings.  No jobs.

It's not that simple, of course.  A chip in each item sends out a wifi signal that notices when an item is moved, which theoreticallhy prevents shoplifting.  The shopper stops at a subway-style exit area, scans a smartphone app which alerts the store to his or her credit card information, and a computer totals up the items the shopper is carrying.  The shopper's card is debited and a receipt comes by email.

So far it's one store, but you can see Wal-Mart hopping on this bandwagon, can't you just?  No cashiers or baggers to hire.  Just people stock shelves and be as unavailable as possible to customers who want to ask where the bananas are.

This spells the end of retail workers.  You can see this coming to store after store after store.  Retail jobs will be as dead as coal mining, and millions of jobs will vanish.

The conservatives I reluctantly follow are snarking that all the minimum wage workers who have been advocating for a $15 hourly wage are responsible for this.  Rather than pay a higher wage, you see, the stores have decided to develop technology that lets them avoid paying wages altogether.  So it's the fault of those bleeding-heart liberals.

No.  Not at all.

It's the fault of rapacious, unchecked capitalism and the lawmakers who allow it to continue.

Amazon (and McDonald's, which has put order kiosks in some restaurants) was working on this technology long before the $15 movement came to light.  And this would have happened with or without the $15 movement.  Ask a corporation this question: "Would you rather pay your workers A) $15 per hour, B) $7 per hour, or C) nothing?"  Which answer are you going to get every time?

Yeah.

This has nothing to do with raising the minimum wage and everything to do with CEOs wanting to increase their own salaries.

If you're in retail, get out now.  Unless you're the owner.  Then you're sitting fine.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
So I'm curious. Are all the third-party supporters now going to get off their butts and keep working to make a third party truly viable for 2020 or 2024?  Will the third party people demonstrate daily--or at least weekly--and donate money to third party offices and themselves run for local office as viable third party candidates or support local third party candidates with cash and votes and volunteer work?

Or will their demands for a third party vanish, destined to reappear only at the presidential elections, when it's too late to make anyone viable?

Third party people, what are =you= doing right now to get your party ready for the next election?

Fear

Nov. 11th, 2016 08:58 am
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
On Tuesday, the high school where I teach is holding a series of assemblies for all students. Why? Because so many of our students have been terrified by Trump's election. Our Muslim students have been asked, "Are you being deported?" Our administrators have received dozens and dozens and dozens of emails and phone calls from parents reporting that their students are frightened by the election and the talk they hear in the hall from other students. The administrators and counselors decided we needed to have an assembly to help the student body deal with this.
This didn't happen when Obama was elected. It didn't happen when any other president was elected, in fact. This is a first. I've never seen my students so frightened.
At lunch today, I was talking with a fellow teacher who was moved to tears because he was so upset over impending issues that will affect his family because of this election. I was half crying with him.
And I live in a Republican county in a Republican state. Let me repeat that: I live in a REPUBLICAN county in a REPUBLICAN state. Trump's own party is horrified at this.
When people say we need to be unified behind the president, that we need to respect him because he's in the White House and he won, I respond, "In no way!" I have never seen so much fear, horror, and outright terror among my students. Trump is not a figure of respect. He is a figure of hatred and fear. And we must find ways to fight him.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
http://abcnews.go.com/US/hundreds-high-school-students-san-francisco-area-stage/story?id=43449217

Not even 48 hours after his election, Trump is showing his thin skin. A presidential response would be "Let's all work together for our great country" or even, "The protesters are exercising their First Amendment Rights, and we respect that." Calling them names and whining that they're being unfair to him is the epitome of childish behavior. Not the behavior of a president.

Voted!

Oct. 11th, 2016 08:55 am
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I applied for and received an absentee ballot.  It came in the mail a few days ago.  One advantage of the absentee ballot is that you can fill it out with your computer next to you--very easy to look up those judges and other minor candidates to see who they are and what they're up to.

Darwin got his, too.  We have filled ours out and they've gone back to the clerk.  The voting process has begun!
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
After Trump's dreadful apology for his filth-laden "grab them by the [!!!]" video, we have this:

Trump's campaign has drastically scaled back its advertising in the battleground states Ohio and Florida, two states he desperately needs to win the election.

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/10/trump-cancels-ad-buys-229291

http://www.politicususa.com/2016/10/07/trump-collapse-campaign-cancels-ads-florida-ohio-north-carolina.html

You don't cut your advertising in states you need unless you're terminally stupid or running out of money.  While either one easily applies to Trump, it seems more likely our blond billionaire bombshell is running out of money.

Meanwhile, fivethirtyeight.com currently has Clinton's chances of winning the election at 81.4%, up yesterday from 80.1%.  It puts Clinton's chances of winning the "battleground" states of Ohio and Florida at 58.3% and 68.7%, respectively.  Her chances of winning Pennsylvania (another so-called battleground state)? 84.3%.

Trump's campaign is dead. We're just watching the final convulsions.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
The following letter appeared in a "Dear Abby" column this week:

DEAR ABBY: I have a question for you and your readers. Why have baby boomers failed in the way they raised their children?

We were raised with honor, respect for authority (even a little fear), integrity, a hard work ethic, honesty, etc. The millennial generation, for the most part, lacks all of those qualities. They don't want to work, can't get off their mobile devices and don't want to leave home. They expect their parents to take care of them, and have no appreciation and no respect.

I'm not saying they are all that way, but the majority I have encountered are. I blame it on parents who didn't raise them with the same values they grew up with. What's your take on this, Dear Abby? How do we fix it? -- ANONYMOUS IN CALIFORNIA


I was struck by the hypocrisy of this letter.  I'm looking at the current election and wondering where in the world the writer got this idea?

I see a lot of baby boomers at Donald Trump rallies. These are people who support a racist, misogynistic man who boasts about how he cheated on at least two out of three wives--but baby boomers were raised with honor and integrity?  Donald Trump's father handed an enormous fortune to him, and Trump proceeded to wipe it out in a trail of bankruptcies, but baby boomers were raised with a hard work ethic?  Donald Trump makes fun of the handicapped and of women, he yells at babies, and he advocates violence against his opponents, but baby boomers were raised to respect authority, while millennials have none?

Let's be clear here.  Donald Trump has shown us that a large segment of the American population are crass, bigoted, selfish, racist, close-minded people including the above-mentioned baby boomers.

Not all baby boomers are like this, certainly.  But to claim that all baby boomers are saints while all millennials are lazy, slack-jawed dullards is ludicrous and short-sighted.

Abby was kinder than I would have been.  She responded:

DEAR ANONYMOUS: There is no one-size-fits-all answer to your question, and frankly, whether the millennial generation lacks the qualities you listed is a matter of perspective. I would hesitate to paint a picture of an entire generation with one brushstroke. Readers, what do you think?

I'm interested in seeing what she publishes in a few weeks.

Voting

Aug. 3rd, 2016 09:35 am
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I made a minor scene at the Michigan primary polls yesterday.

Michigan law requires you to prove your identity at the polls in one of two ways: show photo ID or sign an affidavit on the back of the ballot registration stating you are who you say you are.  The latter came about because a few years ago, Michigan's GOP tried to sneak a voter ID law onto the books, but were told by the courts, "You better not!" at the last minute.  However, a lot of people still think you need ID at the polls.

I refuse to show my ID to exercise my Constitutional right to vote.  So I always show up without my ID on me.

When Darwin and I went down to the local elementary school to vote, the poll worker handed us the little form to fill out.  I automatically flipped mine over to sign the affidavit on the back.

Darwin said to the poll worker, "Does Michigan law require me to show ID to vote?"

"Yes," said the poll worker.

"No," I said firmly, still filling out my form.

"Yes," said the affronted poll worker.

"No," I repeated.  "You can fill out the affidavit on the back like I'm doing right now."

There was a bit of a kerfluffle, and the supervisor came over.  He acknowledged that the affidavit was acceptable. I took my ballot to the booth.

Darwin, who ended up showing his ID, got delayed. The poll workers messed something up and had to discard and redo a couple-three ballots, including his.  This meant I had to wait around for considerable time while Darwin voted.

"Does Michigan law require me to show ID to vote?" asked a lady in line.

"Yes," said the same poll worker.

"Really?" said the woman.

"Absolutely," said the poll worker.

At this point, I stepped forward and said, "You can sign the affidavit on the back if you don't have ID with you."

"That's what I thought," the woman said, and signed the affidavit.

A moment later, I noticed the supervisor standing alone, so I approached him.

"You know," I said, "Michigan law definitely doesn't require ID to vote."

"Yes, it does," he said.

"No, it doesn't," I said, feeling like I had stepped into Monty Python's Argument Clinic.  "I just voted without it."

"Well, you have to show ID, and if you don't have it, you can sign the affidavit."

"Which means you don't need ID," I said.  "But your poll worker just told me =and= that woman over there that we're required to show ID."

"No, he didn't."  (I swear he said exactly this.)

"Yes, he did.  That's why we had the argument a moment ago.  After you clarified that I could sign the affidavit, the worker knew ID isn't required, but he told that woman she needed it anyway.  Your poll workers are lying to people.  They shouldn't be allowed to do that, yeah?"

Pause.  "Agreed.  I'll talk to them."

A bit later, he came over to me with a piece of paper that had Michigan's voter ID law on it.  "You can see here," he said, "that ID is required by law."

"But down here," I said, pointing, "it says that if you don't have ID, you can get a ballot by signing an affidavit."  Here my teaching instincits kicked it.  "A better way to say this might be, 'May I see your ID? It's not required, but it helps us.' "

He thought about that.  "Okay, yeah."  And he walked over to the ballot worker table.

Eventually, Darwin finished with his ballot and we left.

Changing the world one ballot worker at a time.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Paul Ryan posted a selfie on Instagram:



He said it was the most Capitol Hill interns ever to appear in a selfie. Clearly he failed to notice the problem with the photo, and the fact that he failed to notice this problem shows quite a lot about Paul Ryan.

The sea of white faces from top to bottom and side to side is a problem.  (In the world's worst game of Where's Waldo, there's one African-American woman in the photo--can you find her?)

There are any number of ways Ryan could have gone with this. He could have said, "Look at these smiling faces. It's great to have these young people here. However, we need more diversity in our interns!  Can it be you?"  Or, "I love working with these fantastic young people.  We need more of you, especially young people of color, and Hispanic people, and Asian people. Help us make Capitol Hill reflect America!"  But no, instead he went for, "This is a record!"  I doubt it was deliberate.  He was looking for an interesting photo op, and he was blinded to the lack of diversity because he doesn't want to see it.  It's what I call "clueless racism," which is racism that isn't deliberate, but is racism nonetheless.

And then we had the RNC elevators problem:



Again, I doubt anyone intended this to be racist.  It was probably part of a wider color-coding system. Red elevators, green elevators, gold elevators, and so on.  But considering what's been happening with the Black Lives Matter movement lately, and considering that Jim Crow laws requiring "white" and "colored" facilities are well within living memory, and considering that the GOP has a reputation for racism, the choice to label a bank of elevators "white" was tone deaf and foolish.  There seems to be a lot of that in the GOP these days.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
WalMart and Tyson lost with SCOTUS today.  In Pennsylvania, a group of Tyson meat workers sued because the company didn't give them adequate breaks during their time on the cutting floor--it took a long time for them to remove and re-don their protective clothing and to get to and from their work stations, and Tyson refused to pay them for the time it took for them to climb in and out of their work gear and walk to their stations, so their breaks were effectively zero minutes long.

The Pennsylvania court ruled for the meat workers and awarded them back pay and damages.  Tyson appealed to SCOTUS.  SCOTUS refused to hear the case.

WalMart, meanwhile, wrote in its employee handbook that employees were to receive short, paid breaks if they worked more than certain length of time.  However, two employees sued because, they said, they either didn't get the breaks or they didn't get paid for them.  WalMart claimed the law didn't require breaks or payment for them.  (This is sort-of true--the law requires breaks, but they need not be paid.)  The employees said Pennsylvania law clearly states that an employee handbook constitutes a contract.  WalMart shot back that two people didn't have standing to sue on behalf of an entire group of employees.  The Pennsylvania court ruled for the workers on all points and ordered WalMart to pay back wages and damages to ALL affected employees.  WalMart appealed to SCOTUS.  SCOTUS turned them down.

DING DONG, SCALIA'S DEAD! It's a great day for labor.  I love this court!

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-court-wal-mart-idUSKCN0X11ES

As an afterthought, a while ago SCOTUS ruled that Amazon was not required to pay its employees for the time they spent waiting in line before and after work to get through Amazon's security check, a wait that often lengthens the work day by an hour.  I wonder if this would be a good time for them to sue again on slightly different grounds . . .
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)

I was wondering how this would work:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/18/technology/apple-encryption-engineers-if-ordered-to-unlock-iphone-might-resist.html

Short version: Apple engineers are murmuring among themselves that there's no way in hell they'll spend weeks working for the FBI to create a code that'll destroy iPhone security.  A number have said they'll quit first.  And since this kind of engineer can basically walk into any computer company and name a price, finding a new paycheck isn't any kind of problem.

I kind of thought something like this might happen.  I mean, the government might--MIGHT--be able to force Apple into complying iwth its demand, but how can you force people to create computer code that doesn't yet exist?  How would you enforce it?  If the engineers quit and Apple said, "Sorry--we have no one qualified to fuflill the court order. You may as well order us to fly--all the ordering in the world can't force us to do the impossible."

How would the government know Apple can't do it?

Or, even more simply, how would the government know if the engineers worked and worked and worked and nothing came of it?

"Hey!" says the FBI.  "It's been two months!  Where's that code?"

"Sorry," says the engineer.  "We're still working on it.  Lots of bugs, you know."

"When will it be ready?"

Engineer shrugs.  "When it's ready."

A year later, the FBI comes back, angry now.  "Where's the freakin' code?"

"Sorry.  It still doesn't work."

"Let me see that code!"

"If you want."  Engineer shows a screenful of code that looks like utter gobbledygook.  "So. Can you read computer code?"

FBI agent, hesitantly, "A little."

"Well, then, you'll no doubt be able to see where we're running into problems.  Here, here, and here the bugs keep showing up.  You can understand how difficult the solution is."

" . . . sure . . . "

"We'll let you know when we've made progress."

The FBI agent slouches out. The engineer laughs behind his hand, clears the screen of gobbledygood, and goes back to his Candy Crush game.

I mean, how can the government force anyone to create something that government agents don't understand?  It would be like the government ordering me to write a transcendentalist novel.  Yeah, they could order me to do so, but if I said it would take twenty years to do it, how would they know?

stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
It's been over 140 days--four and a half months--since the Snyder administration admitted it knew the city's water pipes have been leaching lead into residents' water supply.  The only solution at this point is replace the bad pipes.  How many lines have been replaced?

Zero.  As in none.  Not one.

Why is this?

Lt. Governor Brian Calley had a virtual town meeting and one of Flint's residents asked that very question. His response?

"To eliminate the risk we really do need to replace the pipes," said Calley. "One of the challenges with that is many of the pipes we don't know which ones are lead or which ones are not."

Calley said it's important to identify the lines first, citing 55,000 properties in Flint, with property records showing 5,000 with lead services lines, 25,000 with a different form of lines.


So they have definite knowledge of 5,000 lead lines.  WHY AREN'T THESE LINES BEING REPLACED RIGHT NOW?  There's no need to wait until all the other lines are identified.  That's like saying, "Well, we know there's a fire in the house, but we don't want to turn the hoses on until we've examined the entire house for flames."

When you think the Snyder administration can't get worse, it proves you wrong every time.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
The FBI wants Apple to crack open an iPhone to help the FBI to investigate a case.  The judge who wrote the order doesn't seem to understand everything that goes into such a thing. She seems to think all Apple has to do is click a few mice and POOF! They're in.  This is not the case.

In order to crack the phone, Apple needs to assemble an entire team of engineers.  These engineers would then spend their entire work day writing code to bypass the phone's security system WITHOUT damaging the data that the phone contains, and it must be done in such a way that the findings will hold up in court.  ("Your Honor, how can we know that the code-breaking software didn't destroy evidence that would prove my clients innocence?  All we have is the word of these engineers--and they work for the prosecution!")

This would take a LOT of work and time and money.  And since when does a judge have the power to compel a private person or organization to spend enormous amounts of time and money to help the police?  Does a judge have the power to order a locksmith to crack a safe?  To require a car company to design and build a new car so the FBI can catch a fleeing criminal?  But this judge seems to think it's fine to require Apple to spend millions of dollars in time and money on this little project.

And this is without considering the privacy implications.  If Apple cracks this phone in a way acceptable in court, the genie is out of the bottle.  The software to do so MUST be reviewed by independent third parties AND by the government AND the system must be entered into the court (public) record.  In other words, even if Apple destroys the program, it'll still be out there, ready for the government, hackers, criminals, or anyone else to pick up and use.

For a full explanation of this aspect, I urge you to read this: http://www.zdziarski.com/blog/?p=5645

The government has greatly overreached itself.  Apple should, with the support of Senators and Representatives, fight this horrifying order or, at worst, simply claim the judge's order can't be done.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
When the news of Tony Scalia's death flashed across my screen in our home office, I shouted for Darwin.  "You have to come in here right now!  Right now!"

Darwin wouldn't come in from whatever he was doing, so I dashed out and dragged him into the office.  "No way!" he said

Darwin isn't one for celebrating the death of someone else, no matter how horrible the person might be, but I feel no such compunctions.  Scalia's death and his impact on US law has been endlessly dissected elsewhere, so I won't do it again here except to say that a number of Scalia's rulings and pronouncements have had touched and hurt me and my family personally.  So I shouted for joy when I saw he was dead, Dead, DEAD.  It was a great relief to know that he would never, ever again make a ruling that hurt me, or use his position to make a hurtful speech that got national attention.

His death put me in a good mood for days.  I sang "Schadenfreude" from AVENUE Q and laughed several times over the thought of his funeral.  He was a terrible, cruel man.  I don't care in the slightest that he and Ruth Ginsberg were fond of each other or that he had a family.  He also probably kissed puppies.  So what?  He damaged me and mine in palpable, painful ways.  When an abuser dies, his victims are under no compunction to say nice things about him just because he took Grandma shopping on Sundays.

I am pleased at his passing and look forward to reading about his funeral service.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
A while ago, I got a speeding ticket.  I was driving at a time of day that rarely finds me on the road, and my route took me past a school, a place where the speed limit drops sharply for about an hour on school days.  I didn't notice the time or the abrupt drop in limit, so I didn't slow down, and that's what the police officer (lying in wait on a side street) was waiting for.  He pulled me over and issued a ticket.  I feel I should note that there was about five minutes left on the speed limit reducion time, and all school-related traffic had long since cleared away, and the officer was waiting for people exactly like me to grab, but the law is the law, and I had nothing to cite in my favor.

At any rate, since I have a clean driving record and (presumably) since I didn't snarl at the police officer, he wrote me a smaller ticket and additionally pointed out that if I took it in to traffic court within a month, I could have the speeding citation reduced to "obstruction of traffic," which puts no points on my license and wouldn't raise my insurance rates.

At home, I looked up the ticket on-line.  I could pay it there or I could go down to the courthouse in Novi, a twelve-minute drive away in good traffic.  I didn't see any references to a reduction of infraction, however, and the officer said I would have to appear personally for that.  Did I have to talk to a judge or something?  I didn't know.

I found a phone number on the ticket and called it to ask.  The very nice lady who picked up said I could indeed pay on-line or by mail, but if I wanted the reduction of infraction, I needed to appear in person.  No, I didn't need to see a judge or make an appointment--just come down to the ticket window at the courthouse and pay the fine between 8:30 and 4:00, when the courthouse was open.

Oh.  Okay.  So this afternoon I hopped in the truck, drove down to the courthouse, and went to the window marked TICKETS, where the whole deal was handled in seconds.

On the way back, I realized that I had enjoyed major privilege. My relative wealth allowed me to reduce a moving violation to a minor infraction.

How?  I have a job that allows me the time off to go down to the courthouse during business hours to handle this.  If I were in a lower socio-economic status and had a job that didn't allow me to duck out of work--factory work, labor, food industry, retail--while so I could deal with this, I would be stuck with points on my license and a higher fine.

My privilege allows me to save money.  Ironically, the difference is about $20, which I won't miss.  I saved money I can afford to lose.  I'll bet a number of people out there, people for whom $20 is a lot of money indeed, have been smacked by this because they couldn't get down to the courthouse.

Yes, the solution is not to speed--or get caught doing so--but when a privileged person and a non-privileged person do the same thing, the privileged person pays a small penalty, even though he can afford a larger one, and the non-privileged person pays a higher one, a penalty he can't afford.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I find myself cast in the role of political husband.  It's a strange place to stand.

Darwin manages the village of Lake Orion, north of us, and his job carries with it a number of public appearances.  A huge new restaurant opens downtown and the owner throws a reception for various local people connected to the project, including Darwin.  Every year, the village puts on a firework display that draws people all the way up from Detroit, and Darwin must attend.  A charity puts on a Christmas fundraiser, at which the police department buys an entire table, and the chief invites Darwin.  Every summer, the downtown businesses put on a flower show and art fair, and Darwin must go.

With all these events comes the unspoken rule that spouses come along.  This never occurred to me when Darwin and I started dating.  It sort of snuck up on me.  Darwin casually mentioned the flower and art fair one day.  "I have to put in an appearance," he said.  "You should come with me as my partner."

"Oh," I said, a little nonplused.  "Sure.  I can do that."

At the fair, I followed Darwin around like a duckling and quickly learned the art of standing around with a look of polite interest on my face while various people (LOTS of various people) came up to Darwin for this or that.  He always made introductions, of course.  And I did know how to schmooze.  Every mid-list author learns it as a survival skill.  I schmoozed with Darwin from one end of the fair to the other.

"I'm becoming a political spouse," I declared at the end of it.

And lo, so it has come to pass. I've attended a number of events (including some unexpected Independence Day yachting on Lake Orion) and met a number of local celebrities.  (Here my author training came into play--I've met lots of celebrities already and don't get babbly or star-struck.)  It's weird.  I'm a teacher and a novelist, about as far from the political arena as you can get, but here I am, learning to navigate the odd political waters of municipal government.

The places life will take you!

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