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My proposed debate format

(1) The candidates are put in soundproof booths. They can hear all that goes on, but the mic is controlled

(2) Only one candidate's mic is live at a time. A candidate can signal the moderators that he or she would like to respond to something.

(3) When a candidate starts throwing around insults, or saying something known to be false, the microphone is shut off.

(4) If the microphone has to be shut off three times, the booth is lowered from the stage and the debate continues without that candidate.

(5) Any candidate refusing to participate will be the subject of at least 5 prime-time television ads describing them as a coward who apparently doesn't have the self-control to think they'll be able to handle the debate format.

Posted on February 28, 2016, 6:52 am

Donald Brown

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Are you for America or not?

I've been arguing in various forums the pro-rights side with regards to the Apple vs. FBI disagreement. Someone responded with "It's Principle. Are you for America or not?"

Here's my reply:

Oh yeah. "Are you now, or have you ever been a communist" "America, Love it Or Leave It" - Sonny, I'm 56 years old and I've seen that felgercarb thrown around time and time again by people who don't have an actual argument but hope they can scare people into supporting them.

Oh, and yes, I am for America. A country founded on the idea that citizens are not serfs or the property of the state, but free individuals with inalienable rights. Some of those rights are listed in the Bill of Rights, but as the Bill of Rights itself points out, it is not an enumeration of the rights of the citizens but a few called out for special concern.

Privacy is key to those rights. Self-determination is also at the core. The FBI is asking the court to take away the self-determination of those at Apple to create the code they choose to build reflecting the values of Apple and its employees and instead create a tool that Apple considers immoral and dangerous, one that endangers the privacy of every Apple customer - and insists that Apple give it their approval by digitally signing it.

I say NO! NO! This is America. This is a land of rights. This is wrong.

Does that mean some bad guys may escape justice, even very very bad guys? Perhaps (though it should be a message to the FBI to pursue other leads, which they are doing). But we have many protections for individuals that sometimes let bad guys escape justice. We don't let the police beat confessions out of people. We let people talk to lawyers, doctors, and priests and have those conversations beyond the reach of the law. We allow companies to sell and individuals to buy paper shredders. We do this because the horrific acts of bad people, even terrorist attacks like San Bernadino or even 9/11, do not change who are unless we let it. We remain America after attacked. But if we turn our back on our heritage and our fierce determination to protect our liberty, we would no longer be America.

It's principle. Are you for America or not?

Posted on February 25, 2016, 9:01 am

Donald Brown

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It's not a great night for Trump

First, yes, it's a good night for Trump - any win is a good night. But I don't think it is as great as it seems.

This is a weird year. Normally, after Iowa, a third to half of the field is ready to fold their tents. Then New Hampshire puts the final nail in the coffins of the weaker candidates, we're down to two or three candidates with potential and maybe another dead man walking. I was sure that was what would happen after Iowa, but after tonight's result, there are five or six candidates who still see a chance - only Carson and Fiorina are clearly out of it. (And even they might see a reason to keep going.)

But eventually the winnowing will happen. We'll be down to two or three candidates. And those supporting the candidates leaving the race will switch to other candidates. And with the possible exception of Carson - I don't see any non-Trump candidate whose followers would gravitate to Trump.

If the winnowing happens in time. South Carolina will be like New Hampshire, Trump won't get close to 50% but the other candidates will split the non-Trump vote and so it will look like a significant win. The important date is March 15th - primaries after that date are "winner takes all" so even a 33% win gets all delegates.


Posted on February 9, 2016, 5:43 pm
Last updated on February 9, 2016, 6:06 pm

Donald Brown

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About the Iowa Caucuses - it's about the tickets, not the winners

People are talking about who won Iowa, who lost Iowa, etc. - and it really doesn't matter.

Iowa's caucuses serves two purposes. First, although it's less true than it used to be, it's small size is the equivalent of opening a play off Broadway. You have a chance to get attention for less than it would cost in California, etc. Someone who doesn't have a chance can make a splash and get attention.

Second, we kick people out of the race. You don't have to win in Iowa, being #1 is just bragging rights. But you have to show you're serious and can get some following, or your run is over. This is usually called "earning a ticket out of Iowa". There's always two tickets out of Iowa, usually three tickets, rarely four. If you got a ticket, that's a win. If you didn't get a ticket, that's a loss. Whether you got the #1, #2, or #3 ticket really doesn't matter.

So Cruz, Trump, and Rubio continue their campaigns, and maybe Carson convinces himself "I've still got a chance". Everyone else goes home, disappointed but without the debts from a full campaign. On the other side - Clinton and Sanders fight on, and O'Malley probably folds his tent soon.

Does this mean that some candidates get weeded out who shouldn't? Depends on the meaning of "shouldn't". Neither Cruz nor Trump nor Rubio would've been my choice if I'd still lived in Iowa (but then, none of the candidates had my enthusiastic support). But it's no surprise that the others would be sad today, or any real reason to think they'd do really well elsewhere, the only surprise tonight is how well Rubio did.


Posted on February 1, 2016, 9:14 pm

Donald Brown

The HTTPS mandate - annoying, overreaching, not the apocalypse

Google's Chrome browser and Mozilla's Firefox browser will soon be flagging sites that aren't encrypted. This is a minor annoyance to me, a greater annoyance to Dave Winer, and from what I've read, confusion with others. So here's my take on it:

First, the basics, what is HTTPS (skip ahead if you know this) - much of the web's core systems were designed when the Internet was used by a small group of relatively trustworthy academic types. One of the side effects is that data is sent unencrypted. So when you go to a website and either see a kitten picture, or discuss your medical conditions, or do online banking, anyone on the network could see whatever you do and capture anything you type. So yes, anyone on your network can see that you're reading this blog.

HTTPS is an improvement to encrypt everything between your browser and the web server. Not only can others not see what you're typing or reading, they can't even see what pages you're visiting. This is important for a number of activities like online banking or buying stuff online, and great for things you want to keep private. There are those who want to keep everything private, and wish every site was HTTPS - but can't because many websites don't support it.

To support HTTPS with your website, you need to buy a certificate from a place like SSLs.com, set it up on your website, and start giving out URLs with https:// instead of http:// - this has gotten a lot cheaper in the past few years, and easier. But it is an expense, and something you need to keep updated on the server.

BTW, there are two types of SSL certificates. There are verified certificates, where they make sure that I am indeed the one and only GadgetDon, doing business as gadgetdon. These are more expensive, and you have to jump through a number of hoops to qualify for it. Apple Computer has done this, as has Google, so when you visit those sites you know it's the real thing. Unverified certificates say nothing about who owns the site and just encrypts. And that's plenty for the vast, vast majority of sites.

Until recently, unencrypted was the norm, encrypted sites using https were less common and marked with a "lock" in the URL address bar. And a generation of education about "before you enter sensitive data, look for the lock!"

What's changing now

Firefox and Chrome browsers are going to put up a symbol on unencrypted sites, in part to warn users when their data isn't being encrypted and in part to push more websites into using https.

(1) They aren't blocking unencrypted sites, they aren't putting up a big warning saying "WARNING! THIS SITE IS DANGEROUS" (like they do with sites with known malware), it's just a small icon.

(2) I'm not sold on the need of this. But I'm a pretty advanced user and once every few months I do encounter a website where I think "damn, this should be encrypted". So what's the tradeoff between warnings on the vast majority of unencrypted sites that really don't matter that they're unencrypted vs. the few that REALLY need warnings on them? Google and Chrome came down on "warn"

(3) If you're on the fence of whether to encrypt your site, I'd say "go for it". I'm not encrypting, but there are a few articles I didn't write because it could be sensitive. Side effect - if you are getting email from the same server, your email gets encrypted too, and some of that CAN be sensitive. And it's never been cheaper or easier to encrypt it.

(4) After all these years seeing how few people notice a "lock" icon or favicons - I doubt that many people will even notice the icon. Those who do, most will understand "oh it's just saying it's not encrypted" - and if it doesn't matter, won't care.

Posted on January 31, 2016, 4:30 pm
Last updated on January 31, 2016, 4:41 pm

Donald Brown

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