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 instinctually 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.

 

Qualification for President

The office of President of the United States is an enormous one. This is a person who in order to run the government has to appoint over a thousand positions. The senior advisers number over a hundred.

Being able to locate and retain the services of high quality people is a huge challenge. Throw in the winner has less than 3 months from election to occupancy to get a good start. And the longer it takes, the more people question your ability to do the job.

Looking at the current administration, it strikes me that painfully obvious issues are starting to bear fruit.

  1. The President was picked by voters to shake up Washington elites. People like the Speaker of the House and Senate Leader are having to acclimate to change. This is why PotUS hates the legislation, but has to sign anyway to preserve the symbiosis.
  2. As an non-politician outsider, his inital advisers were limited to early supporters who tended to be fringe elements who burned their normal bridges. Or hacks no one else would hire. These are people without power or influence who suddenly have to figure out how to wield it. They were fringe because no one trusted them. They are why scary policy keeps getting retracted.
  3. Later advisers are elites whe saw the winds of change (sycophants). They are there because power is there. These are the people getting fired within a year because of corrupt instincts.
  4. Once everyone saw who would be President, longtime political operatives who disagree with most instincts of the president but love country and party signed on. These are the people trying to restore the status quo from the hacks and sycophants.
  5. The Deep State are career government employees of all parties. They provide the inertia that is the reason why presidential candidates usually to cause much actual change. The government needs them to function and there are millions compared to the thousand appointees.

The anonymous Opinion piece about the Republican Resistance is part of #4. There probably has always been elements of the above in administrations. Other administrations appointed almost all political operatives or people mentored to become one. Is it better? It worked smoother as these people were aligned with the bosses and easily replaced when not. It gets stuff done and allows the PotUS to focus on policy instead of little fires every day.

Talk about a Constitutional crisis is probably overblown. As is calling people keeping the status quo traitors. Their oath of office is to the country not the President. Many people are going to do their best for the country.

Next time, perhaps people will better consider whether a candidate has shown the experience of setting up a government. How they run their campaign is a useful way. Establishing functional headquarters in states who run a strong ground game talking to voters and being able to bring on advisers with strong connections shows what kind of government they will build.

GA Voter Registrations Increase

I was reading an article about how the two candidates for governor represent two sides of voter registrations. One ran an organization who went around getting people registered to vote. The other ran an organization who got legislation to make it easier to remove registered voters and make it harder for people to prove their identity to cast a vote.

Kemp said his record proves he has increased voting access.

The number of registered voters in Georgia increased from 5.8 million when he took office in 2010 to 6.7 million today.

The way this is stated suggests he increased the number of voters by 15% which is impressive.

But, then I remembered that the Georgia population over the same period increased by a significant amount. Maybe a similar amount of people became registered voters? From 2010 to 2017, the adult population was 7.4 million and increased to 7.9 million. So the adult population increased by 0.5 million and the number of voters increased by 0.9 million. That seems like maybe the registration efforts have been successful.

Next, I thought maybe as a percentage of the adult population would better reflect the true state. In 2010, about 78.9% of the adult population were registered to vote. (Used the 5.8 million registered voters above and the Census numbers for adults in 2010.) The Census doesn’t have a 2018 estimate yet, but the registered voters from the quote are for current (August) in 2018. I went looking for historical registered voters records on the Secretary of State website, but they have only as recent up to 2014. Next, I looked at 2017 election results in hopes of finding one. Interestingly, the May 2018 primary claimed there were 6.1 million registered voters. So, I looked at the August 1 number in Kemp’s own website which is: 6,176,672.

Going back to the original, the Georgia population increased by 0.5 million and the number of voters by 0.3 million. As a percentage, it was 78.9% in 2010 and using the 2017 population and 2018 number of voters, the percentage was 78%. So the percentage of adults registered to vote dropped by almost a full percent. (The Georgia population is probably higher in July 2018 than it was in July 2017, so the percentage of adults registered to vote is probably lower.)

Not as good. And the AJC needs to fact check numbers like this. And, the Secretary of State needs to not inflate the number of registered voters by 10%.

Georgia Campus Carry Year One

AJC TL;DR: 27 violations; no shootings.

Basically, the AJC says that some students seem to have some issues understanding this pretty complicated law and run into situations where they are in violation. They are unaware that concealed means it needs to be out of sight. (Some supporters really want Open Carry.) Some people are negligent, such as the people at UGA who left guns in gym lockers, the conference center hotel room, or at a bus stop. This is still better than Georgia K-12 school teachers who accidentally discharged their gun or left it in places for a student to find them.

Supporters, in general, want a simpler law that allows guns everywhere as the existing one is pretty complicated to comply with given all the exceptions. Opponents, in general, want it repealed. Faculty supporters of campus carry feel the law discriminates against them because they can carry in their classroom but not their office. Faculty opponents see themselves under a more severe disadvantage to angry students still developing their executive function in the brain.

Somewhat surprised the AJC failed to add a few related things from their own reporting:

It doesn’t really look like campus carry ended shootings on campus. Nor did it spur a Wild West constant shootout situation or a rampage of mass shootings. Students are still getting robbed near campuses. So, it made some students feel safer that they are carrying a gun. Well, until they are held up and someone steals their $500 gun.

 

 

Why Trump should counter Russian meddling in 2018 elections

A common complaint the PotUS has is that Democrats should agree with him. He rails on Twitter about this lack of support.

The Russian meddling in the 2016 elections was designed to target certain groups of people to discourage them from voting. We were already divided. The meddling exacerbated it. So, Democrats would hate Trump even more because of it.

If he wants a real chance at getting Democratic voters to agree with him, then he needs to reverse the effects of the Russian Effect.

United States v. Microsoft Corp

I found this case interesting:

The facts of the case are pretty simple: The cops have a warrant for an e-mail account for someone they suspect is involved in selling drugs. They go to Microsoft to get the information. Microsoft says they’ll give law enforcement the information they have stored in Washington [State], but the e-mails for that account are stored in Ireland and the warrant doesn’t apply to their Irish data center. The Supreme Court will decide whether the facts of this case are foreign or domestic and, based on that, whether the law can be applied to information stored in another country.

The SCOTUSBlog summary:

Issue: Whether a United States provider of email services must comply with a probable-cause-based warrant issued under 18 U.S.C. § 2703 by making disclosure in the United States of electronic communications within that provider’s control, even if the provider has decided to store that material abroad.

Working for state government, in contracting a company to host our services, we have to demand that our data remain in the United States. One of the DOJ claims is that someone in Microsoft headquarters can, with the click of a button, moved the data from Ireland to the US and remove this issue. Which is why I find our lawyer demanding our data not ever go overseas hilarious. With a click of a button, it or a copy could go there and we would never know or be able to prove that it did.

Ireland filed an amicus brief that Microsoft handing over the data would not violate Irish privacy law. So, moving the goal posts, the MS argument is now that other countries will demand access to data of US citizens stored in the US. Of course, they would also like to be protected from the US government.

Of course, there is the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act that is the legislative “fix”.

It would specify that an order under the SCA applies to all data that is in the “possession, custody, or control” of the provider, regardless of where that data is stored, and it would pave the way for executive agreements—such as the contemplated U.S.-U.K. agreement—to allow foreign governments to request content directly from American providers.

 

Firearm stocks under Trump

Talking about gun regulation causes increased gun sales. People buy out store stocks seeking to get them while they still can. So in that regard, President Obama was terrific for gun stores and manufacturers. For all the talk needing to do something, there was little done. The talk was enough to spike gun sales.

Sales and stock prices of firearms makers slumped after Trump’s unexpected election victory was seen as reducing prospects for curbs on gun ownership… But tweets and comments by Trump on Wednesday and Thursday that he supported raising the age limit for purchases of some kinds of guns, as well as other measures, turned up the heat on the gun control debate, and boosted gunmakers’ shares.” (Reuters) Trump also advocates arming some schoolteachers, which would also likely boost gun sales.

This chart is interesting. There were about 3 million a year manufactured under President George W Bush. There were about 8 million a year under President Obama.

Statistic: Number of firearms manufactured in the U.S. from 1986 to 2015 | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Fell through the cracks

In terms of dealing with Nikolas Cruz, there were lots and lots of opportunity for early intervention. People “saw something, said something” multiple times over the past four years.

  • 2014: Cruz was accused of shooting a chicken four years ago. It was confirmed he owned and used an airsoft rifle, but he denied shooting chickens.
  • 2016: The sheriff’s office for Broward County, Florida, was told third-hand that Cruz had guns. They determined he had knives and a BB gun. The School Resource Officer was a sheriff’s deputy assigned to the school was informed.
  • 2016: Cruz was investigated by the SRO for ingesting gasoline and cutting himself in a suicide attempt. A counselor advised he did not meet criteria for involuntary commitment for the mentally ill.
  • 2016: Florida’s social services agency looked into Cruz after he posted on social media about self-harm and assessed him not at risk of harming either himself or others.
  • 2017: The FBI got a tip five months ago about a profession school shooter comment on Youtube. There are dozens of people with this name all over the country and almost a dozen in Florida. I’d think the only way to pursue it would be to get a warrant, but before the incident, this is not a warrant many judges would grant.
  • 2018: The FBI got a tip one month ago about Cruz specifically talked of committing a school shooting which it did not investigate.
  • 2018: The SRO deputy was not near the building when Cruz started shooting. And waited outside.

It seems like for every person claiming this kid was bad news there were a couple dismissing the concerns as overblown. I mean, his mother died a couple months after the Youtube “profession school shooter” comment. The couple who took him in knew he owned multiple guns but felt he was safe and happy and thought they had the only key to the gun safe. They also had no idea about his social media use.