Donald Trump: Still Not Convinced?

This morning’s headline: Code associated with Russia hacking found on Vermont utility computer.

Russian (and any others) hacking is a national security risk that shouldn’t be taken lightly. As I have posted previously the incoming Congress should work towards strengthening American cyber-defenses across the board.

A code associated with a broad Russian hacking campaign dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected on a laptop associated with a Vermont electric utility but not connected to the grid, the utility said on Friday.

“We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding,” the Burlington Electric Department said in a statement.

“Our team is working with federal officials to trace this malware and prevent any other attempts to infiltrate utility systems. We have briefed state officials and will support the investigation fully.”

The Department of Homeland Security alerted utilities on Thursday night about a malware code used in Grizzly Steppe, the Burlington Electric Department said.

The article goes on to mention that his might not be a direct attempt to access the Vermont grid. That the laptop may have been infected by visiting a rogue site of some sort. But considering Ukraine has accused Russia of accessing their electrical grid and shutting parts of it down, this isn’t a laughing matter.

btw: Now I have to wonder if I may be hacked…when researching yesterday’s posts: Trump Shrugs Over Russian Hacking Accusations and Oh Cripes: Twitter Diplomacy!, I at two points ended up on a website of the Russian embassy UK and after that my laptop crashed…hmmm.

Ceding Federal Lands to the States

Over the last decade or so…as a part of the Bundy federal lands grazing incidents and their takeover of federal lands in Oregon…the subplot was state’s rights and federal lands should be ceded to the states. Well those conversations seem to be coming up again since the Donald Trump win on November 8th.

First, ceding federal lands to the states under these conditions is giving into terrorists…something that the US have vowed never to do.

But on what I perceive to be legal and historical grounds, the state’s have no rights to the federal lands within their borders. Because they are federal lands. They belong to me and you and every other citizen of the United States and not just to the residents of Oregon or Wyoming or South Dakota. They are held to benefit all of us as a nation not to the individual states.

And then there is the fact that most of those federal lands have been owned by the United States before any of those states even came into existence. What right do the states have to pre-existing domain?

But I fear that this will come to the forefront sometime during a Trump regime…and it must not be permitted to happen. Federal lands should be held in perpetuity for the common good.

Added 12/21/16: From the NY Times: It’s Our Land. Let’s Keep It That Way.

Immigrants Need To Assimilate!

During the campaign and since the election of President-elect Donald Trump…as part of the undercurrent of the anti-immigrant rhetoric there has been the continued story that immigrants need to assimilate. That they don’t do that. But they do…they do it very effectively…even if it isn’t on the schedule that the right thinks is normal.

My paternal grandfather spoke German when he came to this country…but none of his children or grandchildren did (in retrospect I wish he had allowed a bilingual family). My maternal great-grandparents spoke German and Irish but none of their children or grandchildren did.

In the early 20th Century there were dozens of foreign language newspapers across the nation and I believe at one time Milwaukee had more German language papers than English. Those are all gone now.

So what is the fuss? Our memory is short. Many of the new immigrants will take on American culture as they add unique new aspects to it. It just might not happen as quickly as someone thinks it should.

But immigrants haven’t always been so good at assimilation. If they had you’d be reading this in Ojibwe right now!

They aren’t migrants!

For those of you who haven’t seen the news lately…or haven’t visited news sites that carry such news…the French government is tearing down a refugee camp in Calais and moving its residents to other facilities in France. Many of the residents are upset because they would like to reach Great Britain and feel that being moved from Calais will make that move more difficult. This despite the fact that the camp is described as a squalid jungle. So there has been some rioting and violence.

I don’t know what we can do about it directly but there is something about they way it is being reported in much of the America press the really bothers me. As we’ve seen in this campaign, words matter. And NPR and other outlets have repeatedly called the residents of these camps: migrants.

They aren’t migrants. Migrants follow the crops and harvest them. Migrants move from their home to a new home to find work. Migrants came to America to find a better life. Migrants settled the west and the plains by moving from the east. Migrants moved from the rural south to the north and Midwest to find factory jobs. Migrants abandoned the dust bowl and moved to California in the depression. Those are migrants.

The people in France are refugees. They have been violently driven from their homes by war. I think it is important that we don’t lose sight of that. They have left behind everything they knew for the unknown to literally keep from being killed.

This is an important distinction and I don’t know why the media is trying to soft pedal this by using the term migrant. As I said NPR has used the term migrant the past two days. Good Morning America got it right in a title: “France Begins Removing Thousands From Squalid ‘Jungle’ Refugee Camp“, but used migrant in the story a time or two. And the Associated Press uses migrants: “France moving more than 6,000 migrants, destroying huge camp” (an article reprinted in the October 26, 2016 print edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel where the subheading read: “Thousands of migrants still await relocation”).

I won’t go on with other examples…but it is really important that we use refugees…it denotes their existence and their presence resulting from violence, an involuntary movement from their former homes. The label migrant makes it sound voluntary and implies less urgency for their situation.

Let’s call refugees…refugees.

This Might Not Be Possible In Five Years:

Here’s a feel good human interest story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A curious Wisconsinite follows up on family stories to track down the deep woods northern Wisconsin crash site of a Cold War era B-52 bomber.

Fifty years ago this November, a B-52 Stratofortress bomber crashed into a hill in Wisconsin’s Northwoods, killing all nine people on board.

Residents and hunters gathering for the gun-deer opener the next morning heard and felt the low rumble and crash. A forest fire watcher named Roger Langham, whose farm was just west of the site, climbed a lookout tower to help searchers locate the wreckage.

Langham’s great-nephew, Tom Sybert, wasn’t born until six years later, but he grew up hearing stories about the tragic crash when he visited family living near Hauer in Sawyer County. Sybert is still curious about the plane crash of the gigantic bomber but couldn’t find anyone who remembered exactly where the B-52 skidded into the earth.

After years of searching the internet and scouring Google Earth, Sybert, of Northbrook, Ill., filled out an online request form for a map library in Madison.

It took Jaime Martindale just two hours to do what Sybert couldn’t — find the crash site.

The Arthur H. Robinson Map Library in Science Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus has a half million items in its print collection, including maps, globes, charts and atlases. The print collection includes 250,000 aerial photographs dating to the 1930s.

When Sybert emailed a Google map with a rectangle of the general area, Martindale, a map and geospatial data librarian, requested more information. As she waited for a response, she began to do what librarians do best — dig.

“I found some newspaper articles that had been scanned online and local histories of Sawyer County that all described the event and provided details, not only the details of the location but what happened,” Martindale said in a phone interview.

Sybert was ecstatic to learn Martindale had solved the mystery. The remote spot where the plane skidded and crashed is partly owned by a friend of Sybert’s family and partly Lac Courte Oreilles tribal land.

Sybert paid for a plaque honoring the Air Force members who lost their lives: Capt. Curtis E. Robertson, pilot; 1st Lt. Darrick R. Negron, co-pilot; Capt. Edward E. Kamph, radar navigator; 1st Lt. Jerome P. Calligari, navigator; Capt. Michael J. Dunlap, electronic warfare officer; Airman 1st Class Gerald D. Turney, gunner; Lt. Col. Jack Atherton, instructor pilot; Maj. James H. Crook, instructor navigator; and Master Sgt. Lonnie Woodard, electronics and maintenance engineer.

The map library is named after a professor who taught cartography at UW-Madison from 1947 to 1980. Arthur H. Robinson was director of the map division for the Office of Strategic Services, predecessor of the CIA, during World War II, and the library has a nice collection of World War II intelligence maps.

The service Sybert used is popular among members of the public who may not be able to drive to the Robinson Map Library in Madison, said Martindale, who has been a map librarian at UW for 13 years.

But this might not be possible in five more years…why yes the technology will still be there if not even better than what we have today.

But the online archives for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and its predecessor papers the Milwaukee Journal and the Milwaukee Sentinel just went behind a pay wall…and even the Milwaukee Public Library is being asked to cough up $1+ million dollars to have access…a library who provided 30% of the source material for the Sentinel archives. So how much longer before all of the newspaper archives on the internet disappear in a similar manner…when only the wealthy can access knowledge online. How would Ms. Martindale have faired without access to those local papers. (How can a newspaper retain rights to articles that have already been in the public domain…or that are decades old?)

Then we have the Robinson Map Library…how many more budget cuts will the University of Wisconsin endure before services like these get cut or become inaccessible because of staff reductions? Will Ms. Martindale or someone like her even hold a map librarian position in 5 years? How much many more cuts can UW sustain before auxiliary sources like this begin to disappear?

Don’t Like How The Democrats Pick Their Presidential Candidate?

So over the past 9 or 10 months of the primary season there has been a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth on how the Democratic Party selects their candidate for president. Many people and a candidate have complained about the rigged process and the unfairness of super delegates and closed primaries and caucuses and debates and such…on and on and on…although these things have been a known quantity in one form or another for decades.

Now let me repeat part of this with emphasis added: “…how the Democratic Party selects “their” candidate for president”. And let me stress one more time: CANDIDATE

Should the process be reviewed? Are there places for improvement? Sure, without a doubt. But be careful what you wish for…

The one overreaching complaint of course is that the process isn’t democratic (well it is within the party but for the overall population not so much…but that’s how it should be). But compare the American process for selecting a candidate to the British process of actually electing the next leader of their nation, the Prime Minister!

First, the Conservative Party holds the majority in Parliament. Three Conservative Party members wanted to be Prime Minister…so a primary was held to narrow the field down to two. Did the great population of Great Britain vote in the primary? No, it came down to the 329 Conservative Party members of Parliament…they voted the first round:

Britain is on course to get its second female prime minister, after Conservative lawmakers chose Home Secretary Theresa May and Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom on Thursday to fight a runoff contest for leadership of the country’s governing party.

May received 199 votes in a ballot of Conservative members of Parliament, while Leadsom received 84. Justice Secretary Michael Gove got 46 votes and was eliminated from the race.

Incredibly democratic so for, hey?

So the Conservative Party has their candidates…what about the other parties? Well they get no say whatsoever. None, nil, nada. So who gets to vote? Well the 150,000 members of the Conservative Party:

Some 150,000 Conservative Party members will now vote by postal ballot on the two candidates, with the result announced Sept. 9.

The winner will replace Prime Minister David Cameron…

Wait, what? No other parties get to put forward candidates? Labor Party can’t vote? Wha?

So despite the fact that millions of Americans got to vote for the Democratic candidate for president…it’s not democratic…well compared to what? A nation that is sometimes held up as an example of the democratic process is going to elect their Prime Minister on the backs of 150,000 members of one single party just because they currently hold the majority in Parliament. Suppose we had something like that here and now in the US. Would you want Rep. Paul Ryan’s cabal selecting your next president.

Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it!

If This Doesn’t Put Noah In the Classification as Fable:

A gentleman by the name of Ken Ham is having an ark built in Williamstown KY using the proportions and descriptions set down in the Bible. He hopes to bring the Bible story alive but if his efforts using moderns cranes and power tools and $100 million don’t suggest that Noah and his family couldn’t possibly have done this…I don’t know what will:

Ken Ham had the massive ship built to match the dimensions set out in the Bible. The entire project is expected to cost $100 million.

“The message that we have — it’s making the Bible come alive, really. By building Noah’s Ark, we’re saying, ‘This really happened. This is plausible,'” Ham told “Nightline.”

According to Ham, his ark is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high. “It gets bigger and bigger. When you get inside, it gets bigger again,” he said.

And the $$ isn’t just out of Mr. Ham’s pocket…some tax dollars are involved as well:

Ham’s Noah’s Ark project took advantage of $18 million in tax benefits and tourism incentives.

The state of Kentucky attempted to block the project from receiving public funding, but Ham took his case to court and won. “Christians pay taxes in this world. We live in this world. We’re not second-class citizens. The federal judge rule in our favor,” he said.

Needless to say, I am not the only skeptic around:

“There’s a lot of people that scoff,” Ham said. “We get a lot of attacks by some of the aggressive secularists. Sometimes I feel a bit like Noah.”

But as we’ve seen, faith in the Bible doesn’t come cheap…$100 million to build this thing…wonder what that translates into Old Testament dollars? But Mr. Ham hopes to make it back on the wallets of true believers:

Admission to Ark Encounter will be $40 for adults and $28 for children, and Ham said he expects that fascination with Noah and his ark will result in 1 million to 2 million visitors in the first year.

But really, please watch the video. Could one man and his family, no matter how determined, build this with hand tools and their own wherewithal? Of course as Mr. Ham says in the video, we don’t know what Noah had.

Private Communication for Government Business Since The Revolution:

A lot going on and not enough energy to get into anything too deep tonight. So I thought I would just share this little bit of twisted insight and snark! From an article from Foreign Policy .com about the devious machinations of our founding fathers during the Revolutionary War and the creation of our nation, I pulled this little bit of a quote:

In one instance, in 1804, Jefferson used a private citizen to carry a secret letter to an American envoy in France, which contained an elaborate cipher and a statement in support of using private channels for public business.

So citizen couriers…private channels for public business…to private email servers. Nothing to see here…just business as usual for 240 years!

When is 49% Good Enough and 50% Isn’t

I know that I ragged on the voter turn out already last week. How everyone was extolling the high turnout yet only 49% of eligible voters turned out. So the minority of voters made some pretty important decisions about local governments and of course the biggy…the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. So even though a candidate needed to win 50% of the votes cast…they actually logged far less than a majority of the citizenry that they are going to represent.

I hope I made my point last week…but it comes to mind again as I’ve read a number of articles recently about the issues with keeping qualified teachers in public education. It’s not a case of how do you keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree…its an issue with why should they teach when they are being attacked at every opportunity. And as teachers leave the profession, there are fewer and fewer candidates in our universities who are pursuing education degrees. Again why pursue a job that may feel rewarding…that you know is important to our future…when you will be demeaned and demoralized at every turn.

And then my mind wanders to teachers unions. Because they have been effectively neutered and can’t provide the kind of protection and representation that professional teachers are entitled to. Thank you Governor Walker and Act 10.

But speaking of Act 10 (I am working from memory here and not looking all of this up so please correct me where I am wrong), for a union to recertify it has to take a vote every year (?) and the membership has to vote in favor of continued representation…and it has to carry with greater than 50% of the total membership in favor. Not 50% of those voting…50% of the total membership.

Think about that for a moment…we elected a supreme court judge with far less that 50% of those voting…no where near 50% of all eligible voters…but a union needs more than 50% of total membership.

We seem pretty cavalier with electing officials who may have longstanding effects on our lives and livelihoods and futures…compared to the onerous requirements to do something as simple as recertifying a union. I just don’t get it.