Why do we restrict the use of nuclear technology?

The Flynn pushed to share nuclear tech with Saudis story seems like something people are likely to overlook. The story is about:

Lawmakers from both parties have expressed concerns that Saudi Arabia could develop nuclear weapons if the U.S. technology were transferred without proper safeguards.

But, why?

  1. The Middle East turmoil is in part over what kind of Islam will prevail. Iran is controlled by Shi’a sect clerics (Baptist) while Saudi Arabia is controlled by followers of the Sunni (Catholic) sect.
  2. Both countries manipulate others in the region. Much of the fighting in the region is proxy fighting. Yemen has a Saudi-backed government. The opposition forces that almost took over are backed by Iran. Syria has an Iranian-backed government. Some of the opposition forces are backed by the Saudis.
  3. Saudi Arabia wants the potential capability of nuclear weapons because Iran is far ahead of them towards that.
  4. The Atomic Energy Act section 123 stipulates how the US may cooperatively work with other countries to have safeguards to prevent the development of weapons from nuclear reactors.
  5. The United States (and Europe) helped Iran with the start of nuclear reactors in the 70s. See, the Shah was our friend. The conflict has to do with him being overthrown and the clerics taking charge. The current government HATES us.

Sure, the plan is to build nuclear reactors, not weapons, but the normal deal includes safeguards to prevent the development of nuclear weapons from them. This Middle East Marshall Plan is also interesting given the Saudis extract so much oil, but realize these fossil fuels face lowering demand as people switch.

I get it. The Saudis are our allies (like the Shah was). But, the current decision maker, MSM is just as bad as the Shah was. He locks up people for speaking bad about him. A woman publicly drove a car before he was ready to allow women to do so. He had her imprisoned for it, let his sister do it, and still has the first woman locked up years later.

We’ve been here before. We gave nuclear technologies to Israel who exacerbates the Middle East turmoil. Everyone is worried Pakistan and India the clash in Kashmir is going to result in a nuclear exchange. China is still peeved at us giving the tech to Taiwan who it considers its territory. Our choices to help countries have this technology embroils already tense situations. The safeguards are supposed to make it more palatable to the world, so giving it to Saudi Arabia without them is an open provocation.

Dream: Corporate VP of Junk

I dreamt I was called into a meeting without knowing why I was there. (That is typical.) The meeting was about a company VP being in the hospital with a heart attack so they were going to make me the acting. Which was confusing because I have no idea who that guy was, what was his portfolio, or even how things are done there.

I leave the meeting and learn he sells junk on eBay and Amazon. Literal junk. The company’s other areas hand over broken or unusable objects. We list and sell them and write off the loss.

America’s experiment in democracy

A friend mentioned the above phrase General Mad-Dog Mattis often uses in posting about the death of the badass Cryptologic Technician. This happened on Facebook and it being Facebook, it spurred a troll who completely misunderstood the phrase. He took it to mean the United States attempting nation building.

Here is an example of Mattis’ usage in a paper on the national defense strategy:

“Increasing the lethality of our troops, supported by our defense civilians, requires us to reshape our approach that managing our outstanding talent, reinvigorating our military education and honing civilian workforce expertise.

“The creativity and talent of the department is our deepest wellspring of strength, and one that warrants greater investment.

“And to those who would threaten America’s experiment in democracy, they must know: If you challenge us it will be your longest and your worst day. Work with our diplomats; you don’t want to fight the Department of Defense.”

He is using the phrase to talk about attacking the United States. Not Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, or Yemen.

Mattis, having read far more about history, the founding of the US, and Constitutional scholarship uses this phrase to indicate that the democracy we have is pretty fragile. Democracies can fail. The United States has somehow lasted over two centuries as a republic, but it is still possible for our country to fail. We have to protect it. We have to be wise in our choices. Or we might find ourselves beholden to Putin-like totalitarianism. He viewed his job as more than just protecting the country, but as protecting something special in the world that deserves to survive.

And, that is why he had to go. His loyalty was primarily to democracy, not the Commander-in-Chief who demanded personal loyalty.

Read more about how democracies fall into totalitarianism:

Facebook should honor those privacy notice hoaxes

I’ve seen several friends post the new variant of the notice saying that in order to have privacy, you have to post the note that does not give Facebook permission to use your photos or status updates.

Here is the thing. Taking away that permission makes Facebook unusable as no one can see them even people you want to see them. If Facebook cannot use them, then it cannot show them to others on your behalf.

I think Facebook should start:

  1. Programmatically look to see if these statuses are posted by a user.
  2. Disable access to photos and status updates for any user who has posted it and not allow them to make new ones.
  3. Let them see the posts of others who have not posted it.
  4. Highlight to the user that no one can see their stuff due to having that post. Give them the option of deleting the post to restore access.

My guess is if Facebook did this, then these posts would disappear from Facebook pretty quickly.

Book Review Backlash

It started with a tweet about how a new Congresswoman is dressed. There was a backlash on Twitter. I’ve seen several stories about that.

Less noticed, it seems to me, is the tweeter promotes his book on Twitter.

People clicked over to Amazon to give the book 1-star reviews. You can see that when he posted it, the grab from Amazon showed 21 reviews with an average of around 4-stars. Now, it has an average of 2.7-stars with 36 reviews. He basically tanked his own book by his behavior on his own marketing tool.

How can he help me?

Got an email subject of “How can I help you?” from my U.S. Senator. This is a first in the over 3 years of emails I have from his office. Most communicate his party’s stance on an issue. Some are advisory like “Preparing For Hurricane Irma”. The closest to this seemingly change in approach is the one email just days after the 2016 election disclosing mobile office locations about 2 hour drives from me.

So, I checked Ballotpedia and noticed he was elected in 2014. Add 6 and he will be up for re-election in 2020. Guess that means there is no reprieve from the 2018 election. The campaign for the next one has already started.

Good guy with a gun

I’ve seen security kick plenty of people out of bars. They sometimes come back wanting to start something with security. In this case, one shot at security from outside who returned fire and apprehended one of them and held him at gunpoint for authorities. A police officer who showed up killed the security guard.

When I was an “emergency coordinator”, we once had a session about what to do during an active shooter situation. Guns were not allowed then. (Unclear now.) It was the Hide, Run, Fight philosophy which was hole up in a secure room if you can, get out if you can, fight back as only a last resort. The trainer’s point was when a police officer shows up, if you are armed, then you might get shot because they will not know who is a good vs bad. They see a weapon and might shoot before they know.

Same Day Registration

Same Day Registration (SDR) gives voters the opportunity to register to vote or update their registration when voting early and on Election Day. Voter turnout in states with SDR was seven points higher than non-SDR states.

Somehow I missed this for the Quasi-Mandatory Voting post. If you achieve automatic registration, then you don’t need SDR because it ought to already be handled. But, maybe a voter got the license on the day prior to the election and the automatic process takes up to a week, so SDR would help someone vote.

 

 

Politics as storytelling

Two decades ago, during my biweekly game in Berkeley, the black, white, and Latino players engaged in a series of long, heated debates about O.J. Simpson’s guilt or innocence. We didn’t necessarily change each other’s opinions about the case, but we gained a far deeper understanding of each other—and our respective group’s experiences—in the process. This surely affected our political perspectives too.

I’ve been mulling this scene. I think the reason I like to discuss politics with people of all perspectives is peeking under the onion layers. Prod someone into talking about something they are passionate about, and they tell stories. They describe how something makes them feel by talking about how it relates to a past event.

Okay, some people are going to be purely factual about a position. That is boring to the human brain. A story engages us. So people eventually fall into telling stories that make their point.

Most people fall near the center of a spectrum on a random issue. And, how they are asked about something can influence how they respond. Ask about abortion and someone is either for or against. Ask about different types and some people who are against turn out to be okay with allowing some types. Tell different stories about a certain type and depending on the details some people can flip their stance depending on the elements it contains.

We do this without really being aware. And I love to notice people not being aware of these inconsistencies.

And these stories reveal far more about them than just the stance. The stories we tell reflect an attempt at shaping how a person wants to be perceived. We instinctively leave out the parts that we don’t want others to know, but others who have experienced the same event know those details. Those omissions also over time get lost as we forget them.

USB Drives to Move Election Malware

From “Can Georgia’s electronic voting machines be trusted?“:

Though voting machines aren’t directly connected to the internet, witnesses testified last week that USB drives are used to transfer election data from internet-connected computers to election servers.

So, computers that are connected to the Internet are used to move data to the election servers. Malware can be used to reach those computers. The theory here is the election servers by not being on the Internet are more secure because they are “air-gapped.” However, Stuxnet eight years ago taught us: Not as much as once thought.

Stuxnet was never intended to spread beyond the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz. The facility was air-gapped and not connected to the internet. That meant that it had to be infected via USB sticks transported inside by intelligence agents or unwilling dupes, but also meant the infection should have been easy to contain.

USB drives are the prime vector to contaminate air-gapped computers. It sounds like the election officials are aware because they added this claim to the article:

Election officials say security precautions protect voting machines from tampering. For example, a USB drive is reformatted every time before it’s plugged into an election server.

I find it unlikely they download data onto a USB drive, delete that data by formatting the USB drive, and only then insert the blank USB drive into an election server. It would be easier just to not use a USB drive at all. They probably mean they format the USB drive while it is in the potentially infected Internet-connected computer, which would not prevent malware from inserting itself onto the USB drive at the time the GEMs data is copied onto the USB drive.