GadgetMania RSB The thoughts and musings of Donald Brown longer than 140 characters A deal to be made, @realDonaldTrump Sun, 13 Jan 2019 10:44:39 -0800 OK, here's a deal that could happen.

First, government would have to be reopened while details worked out. When that happens, one bill that does the following:

$5B for fencing on public lands that are not ecologically sensitive.

$20B for non-barrier border security, with at least $10B to be spent on staffing for border patrol and immigration courts

Dream Act passed. Ideally with path to citizenship, but one gets what one can get.


Mr. Trump, Put up or shut up Mon, 17 Dec 2018 07:40:44 -0800 It's common during political campaigns, and Trump did a lot of it. "I will solve this problem and it will be GREAT!" It's not totally useless, it at least is recognizing where there is a problem in need of a solution. Some general details would help, but no concept survives completely intact as it becomes law. So, during a campaign, you can forgive some vagueness on details.

But the campain is over, Mr. Trump. It was over more than two years ago. You can't just promise a "great solution" without saying what that solution will be. So Trump's morning tweet about "We need the Supreme Court to kill the ACA so we can replace it with something better" is particularly enraging to those like me who depend on the ACA's protections for those with pre-existing condition. You've HAD two years to come up with something better, and everything you proposed would make things WORSE. Fewer people getting coverage. Much weaker protections.

It's the same thing with immigration. "We need to kill the diversity lottery and family reunification visas in order to replace it with a merit based system" - WHAT is the merit based system? Is it really about merit, or is it "people who look like me have merit".

You are the President, Mr. Trump. Time for details.

A pro-life bill Sat, 27 Jan 2018 18:55:25 -0800 I am pro life. Here is what I think needs to be law.

Support for mothers and children

  • Full prenatal care provided for mothers who cannot afford it.
  • 6 months paid maternal leave with guaranteed access to job afterwards
  • Child care for those who need help.
  • Fully fund five star public education for every child
  • If needed, full funding of nutrious food for kids growing up and health care.

Other forms of supporting life

  • Mandatory blood donation unless doctor certification that they cannot donate.
  • Mandatory bone marrow donation if needed.
  • Mandatory organ donation upon death.
  • Universal registry and mandatory live kidney donation when needed.

Everyone will support that right? Because they believe in supporting life. They aren't really punishing women for getting pregnant, are they?

I'm working on my health and it's going great Thu, 25 Jan 2018 23:21:48 -0800 4 years ago I got off the diet merry-go-round and I've never been healthier or happier. There were a few who assumed that meant I was going to go crazy eating and gain hundreds of pounds, but nope - that's part of the merry-go-round ride. Here's what I'm doing.

Step one. Love your body. I've got a MAGNIFICENT body. It's a gift. With it, I can walk, run, dance (not well but who cares). I can lift things, move things. When I'm upset, I can breath deeply and it helps calm me down. I love this body. And it deserves taking care of.

Step two. My body deserves to be feed good stuff. It needs vegetables, it needs good lean meat, it needs grains, it needs to be fed properly so it can do all those wonderful things. So, eating better is a goal in itself. I've developed a fondness for carrots and bananas (separately, one attempt combining the two did NOT go well). No taste for brocolli, but that's fine, so many wonderful things to eat that I love.

Step three. My body deserves to be active, because that makes it stronger. So far, I've been going for long walks. Would love to scrape together the money for an adult trike (balance isn't that great for a bike). I do this because my body gets stronger and because I enjoy it.

"But wait", some say, "What about your weight goals? What weight do you want to get down to?"

There are none. I treat my body well, the weight will take care of itself. According to the doctors I've lost a little weight, but that's irrelevant. It's not to change the shape or size of my body. It's to make my life and my body even better than it is now.

No, it's not easy and there are slips. I've got 40+ years of programming. My body is my enemy. There's a skinny person inside that fat shell struggling to get out. The size of your body means you have FAILED, and you must punish it into something else. Count calories to make sure your body is getting less than it needs to maintain itself. And every bite you eat, you need EXERCISE as punishment for eating it.

But I recognize the programming, and I understand the slips, and I get back on the dance as soon as I can.

Will this turn me into a skinny person? No, but 40+ years of yo-yo dieting didn't do that either. This is to become the best me I can be.

If only we taught kids this. Love your body. Good food is a reward to your great body. Being active is fun and make you stronger. Instead it's clothing size and weight, they get very messed up relationships with their body, and mentally and physically they suffer.

Why businesses hire people Tue, 28 Nov 2017 08:49:00 -0800 There are two reasons businesses want to hire people.

First, "I need more people but I just can't afford them" -Jobs are constrained by money

Second, "I see an opportunity to make a great profit by meeting consumers' demand for some product, and I need to hire people to meet that demand" - Jobs constrained by demand: if there are customers for Gizmos® I'll hire people, if there aren't customers for Gizmos® I won't.

In the current climate, most large corporations aren't really constrained by money. Many have cash just sitting around in liquid assets. Those that don't have assets that can be used for loans. So, if they say the opportunity to meet demand, they'd already be hiring the people to meet it. A tax cut for them won't create jobs, because it won't change demand.

Small businesses ARE constrained by money, they have limited cash flow and limited ability to borrow. So yes, tax cuts for them CAN create jobs.

And, of course, tax cuts for consumers are the best bang for the buck, because consumers buy stuff. Put more money in their hands, they'll buy more stuff, creating demand which creates jobs.

The current Republican Tax plan gives some consumers a small tax break - for now. Not all. If you have significant expenses for healthcare, or education/student loans, or morgage interest rates, or other deductions that are going away - your taxes may go UP. And those who are getting a small tax break, those are all temporary. The doubled standard deduction gets phased out. Tax cut rates, phased out. The Republicans are doing that to get under an arbitrary increase in the deficit - and are trusting future Congresses to make them permanent (thus increasing the deficit even more) but that may not happen. So this bill does NOTHING to boost demand and to some degree reduces it.

The part that is permanent is a HUGE tax giveaway to the large corporations and benefits for very rich people (by sheer coincidence, Donald Trump). Who aren't constrained by money before the tax cut so no jobs will be created.

If we were in a crashing economy, where even large corporations were cash constrained, a tax cut like this might make sense. Reagan and Bush tax cuts were made in troubled economic times. It's questionable how much they actually helped, but it was a time where "We've got to do something" was obvious. But, as Trump tweets every morning, we've got a strong economy. Huge profits. Soaring stock market. Low unemployment. Workers may not be doing so well, the jobs that are available aren't great and don't pay enough, but for the corporations who get the big tax cut - things are GREAT. The tax bill will just move more money out of the hands of most of us and into the hands of the rich guys.

Which is the goal - but not what they're saying. They are LYING.

In defense of Vernon Dursley Sun, 15 Oct 2017 08:58:03 -0700 Vernon Dursley is one of the cruelist characters in the Harry Potter series. He treated Harry horribly, he hates magic, doesn't like anything that isn't "normal". JKR has said that Dudley couldn't have a child that is a Wizard because nothing related to magic could flow from his lineage.

Forgive me, but I think she's wrong. Because he's got one redeeming factor. It's a huge redeeming factor in this universe. It's love.

Vernon loves his wife greatly, and she loves him. He loves his son, though he expresses it poorly and spoils the boy. In the first volume, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, when Hagrid breaks into the hut on the island, Mr. Dursley stands in front of his family, hiding them from this apparently threat (not quite successfully for Dudley). He fears magic, but he wants to make sure that anything done hits him first.

Let's turn the story around Vernon's standpoint. He met this woman, and fell in love with her. He lives a quiet normal life and expects to continue living it. Yet when Petunia tells him about her very very non-normal sister, he doesn't storm out demanding Petunia never see him again. He accepts Petunia. Meeting the husband of her sister goes badly, he doesn't understand what is going on in this man's life (and I find it unlikely the leader of the Marauders wouldn't have pulled off something on him). He loves Petunia, but he hates magic, he finds it terrible. And he really hates James.

Then, on November 1, the day after Halloween - a child is left at their doorway. The son of Petunia's weird sister and her terrible husband. There's a note included saying that their parents were killed by magic (magic's no good, just like I always thought) and that the boy will grow up to be a wizard. The rational thing for Vernon to do is insist that the boy be dropped off at an orphanage, let them deal with the risks of a magical boy. But no, it is Petunia's relative, so they raise him.

Strange things do happen around the boy growing up, the boy was becoming one of those terrible wizards. He made the window go away and risked the life of their dear boy! And soon after the boy uses his magic to threaten his boy, letters come to ask the boy to come to Hogwarts. No, absolutely not.

They try to avoid the letters (why can't they accept NO for an answer), go to an island, and this giant breaks down their door, threatens the family, gives Dudley a pig's tail, and then takes their boat leaving them stranded on the island. Nothing there to make him feel better about magic.

Then there's a FLYING CAR AT HIS PROPERTY that can be SEEN, ripping out the bars he put in. Destructive magic.

His nephew turns his sister into a balloon and THREATENS HIM!

In Goblet of Fire, the ruddy magicians blow apart his living room!

There's nothing in Vernon Dursley's life to make him think better of magic in all of his encounters. (Conceivably, that could change while he's on the run with his family in Deathly Hallows, just as Dudley came around once he realized Harry had saved his life.) That nephew has been a constant problem, disordering his nice ordered life and causing problem after problem.

And he keeps his nephew anyway. Probably at the insistance of Petunia, but he keeps his nephew. He puts up with all of it.

That is love.

No, I am not saying he is a good man. He can be cruel, he has very little imagination. He has no tolerance for things that don't fit in his ordered life. But he has love. Tom Riddle's story makes it clear that the ability to love is what makes one redeemable.

If I could talk/bribe JKR into writing one more story in the Harry Potter timeline, it would be to know what happened in Deathly Hallows when they were on the run. He'd have to see magic being used to protect, to serve, to do good things. He'd have close and continuing contact with two wizards who were risking their lives to protect his family. I think he'd still like his ordered life (without magic, thank you very much), but I think he'd also appreciate that there are good wizards who kept his family alive.

Tax Plan (revised) Sun, 08 Oct 2017 16:12:54 -0700 Trump's minions are out lying about his tax plan. So here's one that would do much of what he's claiming.

First, double standard deduction. That can simplify a lot of people's taxes. As for other deductions, we can discuss, but they were put in place because standard deductions don't always accurately reflect someone's available income. State and Local tax deduction stays - no one should be required to pay a tax on a tax.

Corporate Tax Rates - Right now federate corporate tax rates vary from 15% to 35%. I'm very much open to changing the income levels where the the various rates hit (if you're earning less than 100,000 in a business, 15% is very reasonable). But cutting them all to 20% is unreasonable, and excessive. Politics being the art of the possible, I'd be willing to cut it to 32%/33%, something in that range.

Non-corporate business taxes, also known as "pass-through" rates. Trump actually has a bit of a point, that small businesses often use pass-through rates and that they can be a real impediment to doing business. But, not all pass-through businesses are small. So, have a special tax table for pass-through businesses. Simple solution: same tax table as Corporate tax Rates.

Alternate Minimum Tax - it says, though I wouldn't be opposed to tweaking the income levels and rates.

Capital Gains: Long Term gains will be defined as capital goods purchased more than 5 years ago - this will be phased in (2 years in 2018, 3 in 2019, etc). Long term rate remains at 15%. Short term gains are treated as normal income.

Personal Tax Rates: (This is changed from the first publication). All current tax rates are cut by 20% (rounding up to a tenth of a percentage point). So the 35% tax rate goes to 28%, current top rate of of 39.6% becomes 31.7%.  BUT...

  • New bracket, for income over $600,000 - 50% - relive the great old days of Reagan
  • Another, for income over $1,000,000 - 70% - remember the great days of Camelot?
  • Final bracket, income over 10,000,000 - 90% - Everyone loved the 50s!

(Note: for those not aware, this means 50% of income AFTER the first $600,000, 70% of income AFTER the first million, etc.)

Also, three huge new tax deductions.

  1. Money invested in a new business in a way that they cannot take it back is fully deductable INCLUDING from AMT calculations. If you pay a year's rent for a building, purchase equipment, etc. - both a personal deduction AND a company deduction.
  2. For the first ten years of a new company doing regular business, the tax is prorated: 0% first year, 10% second, 20% third, etc.
  3. Major expansions/new divisions can apply for the same discounted tax of that portion of the business as above for new businesses. 

(Those will require technical skill in writing to be sure that it cannot be abused by creating a "new business" that is actually an old business)

Estate Tax: Covered elsewhere. Converts tax on estate into income for recipients, capital goods are acquired with a basis of 0. Taxes paid when sold, but nothing need be sold to pay taxes.

Great deal of negotiation to be done, and neither side is getting everything they want. But this would be a rational bit of tax reform without throwing money at the rich.

Immigration Plan Thu, 14 Sep 2017 22:16:45 -0700 McConnell challenged Trump to provide his plan. Well, I'm not him (a fact I think the Lord for daily), but how's this.

(1) We restore DACA as it was under the executive branch, with one exception. On the fifth renewal, they get a green card and can apply for citizenship. This means that, five times, they've passed the background check that they don't have a criminal background. They aren't living on the public dime. They've shown themselves to be good productive citizens, so let's make them that.

(1a) We can put in some public service into the plan if necessary. Serve in the military or some other system of giving to the community with service. Oh, those who were out rescuing people from Hurricanes in Harvey and Florida - they've fullfilled that requirement.

(2) We do a significant boost to the budgets for the border patrol and coast guard, and determine if ICE needs a budgetary boost. (Yes, immigrants do come in boats.)

(3) We budget one million dollars towards the development of a virtual wall. Cameras, radar, ground sensors - and stations for quick response. This should be FAR more cost-effective than the physical wall, won't interfere with migration, can share land with ranchers whos land would be taken away for the wall, and actually be more actually effective against things like ladders, tunnels, balloons, drones, and so forth. We'll still call it a wall, so you know who can brag that he did build a wall.

(3a) Anyone suggesting land-mines shall go to the nearest blackboard and write one million times, "I will not be evil".

Simple. Win win win. Anti-immigration people get increased budgets to stop it, and a cost-effective way to catch them without wrecking the economy, the ecology, or stealing people's land. Pro-immigration people get DACA, no budget-busting physical wall - and something to build upon.

And the third win? Trump gets a win to notch in his pocket, gets a practical wall so that's another success, and actually looks human.

Let's compare private vs. public Fri, 21 Jul 2017 16:01:55 -0700 Whenever universal or single payer health care is mentioned, those on the right always say "Oh, it'll be terrible, free market always better!". So let's do a test. Here's my replacement for the ACA

(a) We're going to start with doubling the expansion of Medicaid, paid for with other savings from ACA and, if necessary, excise taxes on pharmaceutical company profits. This doubling may not be necessary going forward, but we're priming the pump.

(b) Under the ACA, those up to 250% of the poverty line are eligible for Medicaid coverage. Those people will remain covered. For those above 250% of the poverty line, people may purchase Medicaid coverage. The rate will be the average cost for covering per person, plus 10%. However, a person's (or family's) premium will be capped at 10% of their after-tax income.

(c) Six months after this program is enacted, much of the ACA (other than the expansion of Medicaid) ends. No more subsidies, no more required benefits, no more requirement to set premiums based on cost.

(d) Two requirements will be added to nationwide private health insurance policies. (1) Every plan must have a consumer-friendly clear-text description of exactly what is and isn't covered. (2) No more lifetime caps. Instead, insurance companies may specify a cap (cannot be less than one million dollars) which, when reached, increases the normal premium (up to an additional 100%).

(e) After a year, additional services will be added to Medicaid to cover missing aspects (dental care, eyeglasses, etc.)

It won't be a full check of single payer (no mandates so those temporarily healthy may not by in at all), but at least a check of "can the government provide good health care". So what do you say, Republicans, want to prove what you've claimed?

It's time to federalize elections Wed, 25 Jan 2017 14:55:26 -0800 OK, the Resident in the White House is all concerned about voter fraud because that special snowflake just couldn't have gotten fewer votes than Hillary, he just couldn't have!

Very well, time to federalize elections involving candidates for the US Government (President, Senator, House of Representatives) - and might as well have the state elections handled as well. Here's what I'd do.

(1) National ID card, done in a way that any citizen can get one. By that I mean, in every community, there will be opportunities to get the card without losing a day or two of wages, liberal proof needed to get one (basically, needs to be proven you aren't a citizen to be denied one, rather than you must prove you are a citizen to get one). Frankly, I'd do without it, but that's not going to fly so we need an ID done right in a way that isn't discriminatory.

(1a) The National ID card has a strip readable by a computer. You can vote anywhere and you will get your local ballot, at least for the federal offices. This system will make sure that the same card can't be used in multiple places. If someone moves, a simple system of changing their stored "home" location will be provided.

(1b) Should a holder of a National ID card later be determined not to be a legal voter, their card will be voided and no longer able to be used for voting.

(2) Every community gets enough voting places that nobody has to take a long trip to get to their voting place, enough that long lines aren't required. The polls will be open from Sunday at 6pm local time through Tuesday at 6pm local time. All voting at booths will be done with marked paper ballots which are electronically read and counted. The paper ballots must be preserved for 5 years after an election. Early voting will be provided at times appropriate to the communities served. Absentee voting will also be allowed.

(3) For the Presidency, electoral college votes will be distributed in this way: The person winning the most votes in the state gets two electors. Each congressional district is counted separately and the candidate getting the most votes in that district gets one elector.

(4) The US Geological Survey will be responsible for the drawing of all Congressional districts, to ensure that all districts are drawn without political bias. A set of standards will be drawn up and approved by a bipartisan commission, the USGS will apply those standards to draw the districts.

See? All possibility of voter fraud removed. And in the process we get fairer elections. Exactly what Trump and the Republicans want, right?

Trump - time for some debates Fri, 11 Nov 2016 08:56:27 -0800 One of the many concerns about Trump being President is his willfull ignorance. That won't do. He needs to learn a lot about a number of issues, and not just from his echo chamber. So here's an idea that won't happen, but would be good at any time of transition.

Hold some debates.

Pick issues where there are people who disagree. Climate Change, Fracking, Trade, whatever. Find the experts on both sides (and let the advocates of a side pick their experts and presenters) and hold debates. Each side gets 45 minutes to make their best case, uninterrupted by the other. No in-studio audience (but air it on the web and C-SPAN). Then, 15 minutes of back and forth discussion, asking questions of each other and letting the other side answer. A moderator only exists to keep time and stop overtalking. Each side also prepares a website with their presentation and additional data supporting it.

Even if the President-Elect ignores what he heard and goes with his echo chamber, there'd have been a chance for new information to seep in. And should the President-Elect choose to reverse course on a policy, he's got things to point to about WHY.

I still support the Electoral College Fri, 11 Nov 2016 08:46:12 -0800 As anyone who knows me in person or followed me on any social media site, I'm not happy with how the election turned out. (Better descriptions would be infuriated, appalled, and scared shitless.)  Since Hillary won the popular vote, many people are saying "Do away with the electoral college" and there's even an end-run being tried to effectively do away with it without the public debate and messiness of actually amending the constitution.

I disagree. I support the Electoral College. Not to say it can't be improved, but I think it's good for the country. Why?

(1) We are a geographically and economically diverse nation. It IS important that the rural states with their different needs than big population urban centers get listened to. Without the Electoral College, candidates will go where the people are, the big cities, and pay little to no attention of the rest.

(2) We are a very closely divided country on the right and the left. The differences in popular vote are always, as a porportion of the total vote, very small. Elections are like trials - their most important task is to render a decision, give some finality to the process so we can move on.

(3) We are unfortunately diverse in how we count votes, and there are errors in how they are counted. You know when pollsters talk, they give "bounds of error" meaning that they know their numbers are near reality but probably not exactly right. Well... vote counts are like that too. That's why we do recounts in close elections, and even those recounts are open to error. A standardized voting system would have real advantages (particularly one setting forth number of voting areas needed per capita, number of booths, etc.) though potentially be more subject to hanky panky - and in any case I don't see that happening soon. The times when the Electoral College "got it wrong" is when the popular vote difference was VERY small. Yes, I'd say within the bounds of error.

Here's my fear if the Electoral College was ended. Right now, the election is over. My side lost and a horribly wrong person was elected, but it's a fact. Now we make plans for how to deal with the next four years, how to put pressure on Trump to limit the damage he'll do. Without the electoral college, we'd see recounts and challenges and court cases until January. It wouldn't even matter if, within a district, if the election was close. Picking up a few thousand more votes is just as good in a district where your candidate won in a blowout as a tight district or where you lost in a blowout. No candidate would be able to start a transition plan. At some point the courts would have to step in and say "The election results stand as they are" and won't THAT be a popular decision for the losing side.

Again, I don't think the Electoral College is perfect. Every state gets one EC voter per congressional district plus two for the two senators. I think ending winner-take-all is a fine idea, instead have two votes go based on the state-wide popular vote and then have each district pick a EC vote.

But if we're going to get incised about how we do elections, I'm MUCH more interested in standardizing and fixing the way we do it.

First, any required ID has to be easy to get, whether you're a middle class person who has had a driver's license all his life and a birth certificate in a safe deposit box, or a poor person who has never had a driver's license, the birth certificate was lost in a fire or maybe your parents never got one and the DMV is two bus rides away meaning you have to take a day off work to get it.

Set standards for vote by mail, number of polling places per capita, early voting so EVERYONE has a chance to vote. And an idea to consider - make it a voting week, 7 days. In high population areas, consider 24/7 voting. Nobody should have to choose between voting and working. Nobody should have to spend hours in line to vote. Nobody should have to stand in a half-mile long line to vote. We're better than that.

Use a computerized national system to track any instance of double-voting. Make that a felony. It'll be a huge waste of money for a problem that doesn't exist, but if I can get the rest I'll throw the right a bone.

And... END GERRYMANDERING. Put every redistricting plan to a non-partisan commission with a judge having to approve them. Every congressional district needs to be poportional to the state's population, as geometrically even as possible, and where possible make the political and ethnic diversity within the districts match the state as a whole.

But DONALD, I hear some whine, that will cost money for the states who can't afford it. OK, make the feds pay it. Feds pay for it, Feds run it. Our elections are worth it.

Two from Earth-2 - Macgyver and Lethal Weapon Sat, 15 Oct 2016 14:39:03 -0700 There are two reboots this season. I like to think of reboots as the "Earth-2" version. (If you don't know, in the DC universe, there are multiple earths with slightly or significant differences of the heroes we know - and if you don't know, I'm curious why you find my stuff interesting.) Both of these shows have some of the same touchstones - but only one really gets the feel.

First, the good - Lethal Weapon. No, this show is not high thoughtful drama, but neither were the movies. They've created a new arc for the characters, but the same interplay, the same chemistry - and the same tendency for things to go horribly wrong resulting in car crashes, windows blown out, and usually an explosion. It's just for popcorn munching - FUN popcorn munching.

Then the bad - Macgyver. I really want to like this, and I haven't completely given up on it. The guy playing Macgyver, he's got the patter right, he shows the confidence when pulling off a Macgyver trick. But... Mistake #1 - he's got a team as opposed to Mac going into a situation alone. Mistake #2 - Mac hates guns, won't use them. In one episode of the old series, he got a gun and disassembled it to use the parts. Earth-2's Mac doesn't like guns either - but that's OK, one of his teammates is a young Jack Dalton who always carries multiple guns and uses them with abandon.

But biggest mistake - in the pilot his girlfriend is on the team, but things go wrong and she's shot - except whoops, she wasn't really, she was in on the plot and so Mac's got a tragic backstory and is looking to track her down. Wrong. Mac has a settled mind, usually, so sees the solutions no one else does, how to put things together no one else can. He's got some history that on rare ocassions arises - but it's the exception as opposed to the norm. The real Mac is a happy geek making things happen.

And yet... there are bits where they get it just right. When recruiting a hacker from jail, he describes his role as "That stuff you do with computers? I do it with everything else." So I'm still watching it. But the towel waiting to be thrown in.

Just WTF does Trump think the Generals have been doing Thu, 08 Sep 2016 01:40:40 -0700 OK, I have HAD it with Trump's stupidity.

"I'll ask the generals to give me a plan within 30 days to destroy ISIS." IDIOT! You think until the Great Snakeoil Salesman gives they order they haven't worked on plans to destroy ISIS????

Here's my guess what they'll say:

Sir, we do not need 30 days, we do not need 30 minutes, here are the plans that represent our best thinking.

Plan 1 - Invasion. Massive numbers of boots on the ground. We take all of the ISIS controlled territories. Casualties will be significant. One issue will be separating out the ISIS members, can't even say it's a combatants vs. non-combatants because there's also a civil war going on. We almost certainly will wind up in a fight with the Syrian forces, Assad would not stand for another army in his country. There will almost certainly be massive civilian casualties which will radicalize the survivors creating the next terrorist threat.

Plan 2 - Massive bombing runs. Flatten all ISIS controlled territories. The ordinance required will probably require manned bomber runs and so will have some casualties, though less than Plan 1. Massive civilian deaths, survivors and relatives radicalized and quite ready to inflict what damage they can do to us - and to be honest, if someone did that to our country trying to take out some group, I'd feel the same.

Plan 3 - What we're doing now. Targetted drone attacks on leaders, provide support for armies in the area, and work to negotiate a resolution for the revolution in Syria. It's not fast, but it's working, ISIS has been forced out of most of the territory they had held. Minimizes civilian deaths, because the armed forces are neighbors may be viewed less as an invasion force and any desires for revenge will focus on the countries supplying troups.

On the nature of dictators Thu, 04 Aug 2016 02:17:43 -0700 Was having a discussion with someone on Twitter about whether dictatorships were left or right and things got past the 140 character limit. So I'll put my arguments together here.

Dictatorships can be recognized by an assumption of absolute power. No opposition is allowed. The population only has what rights the ruling person/party allows (and usually can withdraw those "rights" as desired). But there are several paths to dictatorship in our modern world, and no, they aren't all leftist. (I'm leaving out more historical methods like conquering territory or hereditary kingships/emperors)

Communist Dictators

These gain power with a message that the common man gets a raw deal because the rich have all the money and own all the businesses and treat everyone else as serfs to be abused. Lenin and Mao are the best examples. Once given power, they have the ability to seize anything and parcel it out "for the common good" that tends to be for the rulers' good. No opposition is allowed because the Party is the worker's party so any other party would be against the workers. (Yeah right). These dictatorships are strong left wing. Under them, while the common man's condition may improve from prior conditions (if you were poor and don't offend The Party), only members of The Party will thrive. Absolute top-down economic plans just don't work.

Side note: not all leftists are working towards communism or a dictatorship. No, socialism is not a synonym for communism.

Strong Man Dictatorships

In these cases, the general populace feels put upon but rather than a primary economics argument, the dictator promises to protect the people. They'll bring "Law and Order". They'll make the country great again. Often, they'll also talk about rebuilding the military and make the country strong. There will often be a scapegoat to blame for the country's problems (Jews, Communists, whatever) and they promise to crack down on that group. Opposition parties are "discouraged" and eventually banned because Our Fearless Leader is the one who knows where our country must go so anyone challenging him wants to take the country in the wrong direction.

Once in power, these dictators often don't fiddle much with economics and those with property can keep it (unless you're a member of the scapegoated groups). Businesses may thrive under the new regime, so they support it's continued existence. And even the general populace may prosper (again, the general populace not in the scapegoated groups) and the dictator may be popular for quite a while. But eventually the despotic nature asserts itself, Lord Acton is proven right again, and they're set for revolution.

Under the normal classification of political philosophies, these dictators are right because they aren't trying to run the economy and support capitalism (within limits). Examples of strong man dictators include Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, and Pinochet. (And yes, Hitler was a classic right-wing strong man dictator. The fact that he called his movement National Socialism has as much meaning as The Democratic Republic of Vietnam which was neither Democratic nor a Republic.

Religious Dictatorships

Or for a shorter word, theocracy. We must live under the rules of God as the ruling party believes them to be. No opposition is allowed because they want to take the country away from God. The economical system is dependent upon the religious belief system, though usually restricted capitalism will take place.

In modern times, these dictatorships are almost completely Muslim. But there have been Christian dictatorships (and there are those who speak as if they want to institute it here.

Is Israel a religious dictatorship? I don't believe so, because while it does identify as a Jewish State and many laws clearly favor jews (particularly orthodox jews), one can be a citizen in good standing and yet be in a member of another religion.

In theory, theocracies are neither inherently left or right. They are almost always the more conservative wing of the religion, but that's not the same as economic conservatism.

After the revolution

Once a dictatorship is in firm control, they do start to resemble each other. Whatever the initial justification for seizing power, holding onto that power becomes the top priority. Informers, harsh punishment for those who threaten the state, etc. The early ideals (if they were ideals as opposed to just political points) become less important than staying in power. As Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt and abbsolute power corrupts absolutely."



Three Good Trailers from SDCC Tue, 02 Aug 2016 14:23:54 -0700 As the three regular readers of my blog know, I was at San Diego Comic Con last year. Probably won't go back, I knew going in that I dislike crowds and long lines and learned I really hate crowds and long lines. But it does have some of the geekiest stuff released there. A bunch of trailers came out this weekend:

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

This is my "Must See" movie of the year. It's in the Harry Potter Universe, but placed several years ahead of the stories in the books and has a plotline completely separate from the books. First, I'm a big Harry Potter fan, love the world she created. Love the books but thought the films suffered a bit, because they just couldn't put all that stuff in the movies. J.K. Rowling wrote this screenplay, so it's designed for the screen. It's part one of a trilogy and looks like a lot of fun.

Justice League

I've been REALLY skeptical of this movie. I hated Man of Steel and didn't like Batman v. Superman much more. So the news of building into a Justice League movie sounded bad. But... this trailer gives me hope. It's not nearly as dark as the first two, either in the color scheme or in tone. And yet they're clearly preparing for an epic fight. And yes, Aquaman is a badass as the King of the 7 Seas should be. It's just a trailer so plenty of time to mess it up, but there's some hope.

Wonder Woman

Similarly, as part of the fruit of the poisoned tree of Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman, I've been skeptical but the buzz has said that this would set its own tone. This trailer sets that. I'm loving that the Amazons are WARRIORS. Yes, they go into war in completely inappropriate garb, but it's a comic book. As for Wonder Woman herself, I like the way the costume works in action. And the shield standing up to the rifle shots, great. (Probably made of vibranium) I hope the glow on the magic lasso gets toned down a bit as they finish production, but other than that, look and feel is spot on.

And it also does have it's lighter side. Etta Candy was always good for a laugh and it's now a laugh with some snap. Steve Trevor is properly confused and off his game dealing with the Amazon Princess.

Gun Control - taking shit seriously Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:26:17 -0700 OK, it's time for some serious gun control. Here's my plan. No, the NRA won't like it. This is a feature, not a bug.


For the purpose of this act, a gun is defined as any weapon that fires projectiles at high speed with the potential to kill. This includes handguns, rifles, semi-automatics, etc.

Regulation of sales

#1 Anyone who sells more than one gun in a year (other than to a registered and licensed gun seller) must be registered and licensed as a gun seller. An unlicensed seller can only sell a gun owned for over a year. Licensed gun sellers must be licensed by the federal government and the state government. ANY infraction of laws concerning gun sales will result in a permanent loss of the license to sell guns. As part of the licensing, a gun seller must post a bond which will be forfeit if the license is revoked for cause.

#1a A gun sold by a non-registered gun seller must have been owned for one year. The seller is responsible for ensurring that the new owner register the gun to avoid the implications of Section 5.

#2 A registered and licensed gun seller must submit a potential buyer to a full and complete investigation. This will explore (a) criminal convictions, (b) mental health issues, (c) restraining orders, (d) recent passage of gun safety program, (e) inclusion in the terrorist watch list, (f) whether a gun has been purchased in the past 60 days. This investigation may take up to two months.

#3 Any individual can only purchase one guy every 60 days. Exceptions will be made for registered gun clubs, security companies, or other organizations as set forth by Congress.

#4 Anyone purchasing a gun or getting a carry license must have taken an approved gun safety course. This course will include graphic depictions of the victims of gun violence, safety issues, the law, and passing a “shoot/don’t shoot” simulation (the simulation can be done on a computer). A 51% score will be considered passing to purchase a gun, a 95% score will be considered passing to get a carry license.

#4a Every gun will be sold with a locked case. The code for the case will be sent to the owner 12 hours after the purchase, by SMS message, email, or paper mail.

Responsibility of gun ownership

#5 If a gun owned by a person is used to kill or seriously wound someone else in any situation other than self-defense, the gun owner is subject to negligent homicide charges. This includes the gun being stolen, a child finding the gun and accidentally killing someone, suicide by other than the owner, other accidental shots, etc. If the owner is a corporation, the president of the company will be subject to those charges. Exceptions can be made for on-site use at gun clubs or training organizations provided the person shot had signed a waiver.

#5a All guns must be registered with the weapon type, serial number, picture, owner name, address, social security number.

Carry restrictions

#6 Within the boundaries of a city with a population over (size to be determined), all guns taken out of the owner’s property must be carried within a locked gun safe. Anyone caught with an unlocked gun will have that gun seized and be arrested for 30 days. Individuals can apply for a license to carry up to two handguns. Applications must include reason for carrying the gun, passage of a gun safety course with a 95% score within the past six months. Any carry license shall be suspended while under a restraining order, and for one year after hospitalization for mental issues. States and/or cities can add additional requirements for receiving the license. In 2020, these carried guns must be equipped with smart technology ensuring that only the owner can operate the gun.

#6a Members of security organizations can issue more powerful weapons to members on duty. These guns must be collected from security officers at the end of shift. The responsibilities and penalties of Section 5 still apply.

#7 Outside of the the cities listed in #6 - Any state, county, municipality, or property owner can demand that the same limitations on carrying be upheld. Clear signs must be posted telling gun owners of this fact, unclear signage can be used as a defense. Additionally, property owners can ban the carrying of guns even with license. Again, clear signage is required.

#8 No limitation is placed on guns kept on the owner’s property. Those who feel the need to build a large collection of weapons for hunting or protection or other reasons may do so, albeit very slowly. However, the penalties of Section 5 would apply even on the gun owner's private property.


#9 In the first six months of this act, gun owners may turn in their guns for a tax deduction equal to the market value of the gun prior to the passing of this act. These guns must be turned into a recognized law enforcement agency that must ensure the destruction of the weapons. Any guns turned in that were not destroyed and used under circumstances listed in #5 will subject the leader of the law enforcement agency to the penalties listed therein. Guns not turned in or sold to a licensed gun seller must either be registered within these six months or be made permanently inoperative.

#10 In the first twelve months of this act, the license requirement is waived under Section 6 (though restriction on weapon types still applies).

My proposed debate format Sun, 28 Feb 2016 06:52:02 -0800 (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.

Are you for America or not? Thu, 25 Feb 2016 09:01:26 -0800 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?

It's not a great night for Trump Tue, 09 Feb 2016 18:06:55 -0800 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.


About the Iowa Caucuses - it's about the tickets, not the winners Mon, 01 Feb 2016 21:14:09 -0800 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.


The HTTPS mandate - annoying, overreaching, not the apocalypse Sun, 31 Jan 2016 16:41:40 -0800 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, 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.

T-Mobile's Binge On is a Net Neutrality violation. Which is Net Neutrality's fatal flaw Wed, 11 Nov 2015 00:42:05 -0800 Samsung has a deal where if you buy a 4K Samsung TV, you get a free Samsung Galaxy 6. While I'm not in the market for a 4K TV of any brand nor particularly interested in a Galaxy 6, this is considered a good thing for the customer. On a much smaller stage, this past summer, the local grocery store offered a tub of free Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream with purchase of some frozen pizzas (and yes, I took advantage of the deal, the pizza was OK but the ice cream was great).

Apparently, I conspired to a violation of Ice Cream Neutrality, the grocery store picking winners and losers in the ice cream market. Except nobody talks about Ice Cream Neutrality. And what's considered acceptable behavior in every other market, make customers happy and thus loyal by giving them FREE STUFF, is an attempt to control the Internet.

There are some potential risks of bad behavior by ISPs that justify many parts of Net Neutrality regulation. ISPs should NOT be allowed to block or artificially slow down traffic to sites they don't like or are in competition with services they provide. And if they get in bed with one provider, maybe that's iffy (really iffy there's any connection between that provider and the ISP).

But what T-Mobile has done with their music products and now video is provide free access to all the major players without counting against the monthly data limit. Does this put Joe's Video Shoppe at a disadvantage? Maybe. But they're already at a great disadvantage. And it's not like people only use one service. So for the three T-Mobile customers who do use Joe's Video Shoppe, they haven't been charged for the bandwidth used watching Netflix and Amazon Prime so it's easier to decide to stream stuff from Joe's Video Shoppe because you have more room.

More importantly - T-Mobile is providing FREE STUFF. Customers usually like regulations because they benefit them directly. They get protected from faulty stuff sold to them, they make sure prices are properly labelled, etc. (Yes, there are arguments that some regulations make things worse, make prices go up, etc. - but that's a side issue.) If those who are arguing that what T-Mobile does is a violation of Net Neutrality and the FCC must stop them get their way, the public is going to ask "what are we getting out of this? And legitimately so.


Why I don't want sequels to movies I love like Inside Out Sat, 07 Nov 2015 18:50:20 -0800 Just rewatched Inside Out. It has become my favorite Pixar movie. And one I pray will never get a sequel. Why?

I read something once, I think it was from David Gerrole, two basic rules of story-telling. The first is that it must be the most important story ever in the main character's life (or why are you telling THIS story instead of the other one?). The second is that there always has to be a lesson to be learned. There's no place like home, value you're friends, a hero is someone who keeps people safe. It doesn't HAVE to be learned, that's one thing that makes many tales into tragedies, but we as the audience should see someone not learning it.

Obviously these can't be taken as absolutes or as the only rules that matter. As I recall, he was pointing out how episodic TV like Star Trek had to break it (with many stories each season, and they could be aired in any order so characters had to end pretty much where they were). But when I look at the movies and books I love most, there's a lot of truth in it.

Sometimes, books are written as series (the Harry Potter series is one story, broken up into episodes). And sometimes, you get a great sequel by changing the focus of the story. (The Godfather Part II is largely the story of the son, and how it differs.) And sometimes, you can just break the rules and do great stuff.

But still, they aren't bad rules. And Inside Out is a great example. SPOILERS BELOW.

The main character of the movie is Joy, the main emotion of a girl named Riley. There's also Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, but it's pretty much accepted that Joy is in charge, and a good day is when the memories are mostly joyful. A bad day is when Sadness gets near the memories or the console and Riley is sad.

Things go badly wrong, Joy and Sadness are sucked out of Headquarters with the core memories that make up Riley's personality, and the movie is mostly about the struggle to get back there (plus the problems that the other emotions have trying to run the show and the effect on Riley's life). In the process, Joy realizes that she's hurting, not helping Riley by keeping sadness locked away and not allowing her to work through the times she's unhappy. When Joy and Sadness return to Headquarters, she has Sadness take control, letting Riley cry out her troubles and have her parents see her unhappy and help her rather than relying on Riley to cheer everything up. Moving on, they now have a control where all emotions have a role to play, and the memories developed have twinges of multiple emotions.

It was a really great movie, the kind Pixar used to do but slipped a bit recently. It's also been financially successful and a critical hit. So I'm sure that Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, is thinking "sequel!"

Don't do it, Bob, don't do it.

This clearly was Joy and Sadness's most important story, that journey back. In the world they've created, the emotions never leave HQ, it's unheard of. So a story of another trip out just isn't reasonable. There will never be another story as big as this for the emotions. Yes, Riley will go on to bigger adventures, but Inside Out isn't about her except as the effect of the story that the emotions go through.

And more important - Joy has learned her lesson. She will want Riley to be happy and give her lots of happy memories, but she knows now that it's more complicated than that, that the other emotions have a role to play in Riley's development and mental health. To do a new story where she's unlearned that lesson, well, that's just going to make a very weak sequel.

That's not to say that I won't enjoy little shorts, like "Riley's First Date?", they can be short and cute and just for fun. Just no sequel.

BTW, I have very similar concerns about a sequel to The Incredibles. Mr. Incredible had to learn about living in the present, caring for his family and people around him. That's what lifted it from Just Another Superhero movie (and I say that as someone who often likes Just Another Superhero movie). Not sure where to go with a sequel, and apparently that question is what has delayed it. I trust Brad Byrd when he says that they got the right story for the sequel, but it's why I'm glad they did let it go so long.

Dear Sigmund - Man, I've missed M*A*S*H Thu, 05 Nov 2015 22:02:59 -0800 Was flipping through channels, and happened upon an old rerun of M*A*S*H. The episode was Dear Sigmund, where psychiatrist Sidney Freedman deals with depression by a visit to the 4077 MASH unit. I'd forgotten how good they mixed comedy and drama in 30 minutes.

I'm not sure I buy it, though, someone able to deal with depression by visiting the 4077. No, it's not clinical depression, it's experiential, so other experiences and ways of thinking can help one get out of it.  But as someone in a situation that's sometimes not so good, not sure experiencing people deal with it will help.

But don't overthink it. If you haven't seen it for a while, apparently it's on YouTube. Definitely worth a rewatch.