Monthly Archives: January 2018

Worker Who Sent Hawaii False Alert Thought Missile Attack Was Imminent

NPR has the article Worker Who Sent Hawaii False Alert Thought Missile Attack Was Imminent.

The midnight shift supervisor played a recording over the phone that includes the correct drill language “EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE” — but also erroneously contained the text of an Emergency Alert System message for a live ballistic missile alert, including the language “THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” The recording ended by saying “EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE.”

This could have been an episode of the old Art Linkletter show “People Do the Funniest Things”. (I know that wasn’t the real name of that show, look it up.)

Imagine what would happen if the system got completely automated, and a robot had to decide what to do with the conflicts in the recorded message. Do you think the people programming the robot would have thought about this possibility?

Kids Say the Darndest Things.

The show’s best-remembered segment was “Kids Say the Darndest Things”, in which Linkletter interviewed schoolchildren between the ages of five and ten. During the segment’s 27-year run, Linkletter interviewed an estimated 23,000 children.[3] The popularity of the segment led to a TV series with the same title hosted by Bill Cosby on CBS-TV from January 1998 to June 2000.

Just think about the midnight shift supervisor who wanted to do a training exercise. The proper response to an exercise was to not send a message to the public. So did the supervisor expect that the workers were supposed to do nothing in response to the exercise? Would the workers pass the tests by ignoring the exercise? Would the workers have failed the test by sending a false message to the public? What was the supervisor prepared to do in case the workers failed the test?

Pentagon Papers – Mistakes of Ho Chi Minh

In my reading of Pentagon Papers up to this point it has been all about the blunders of the French and Americans. However, I have now come to a reference to some problems on the North Vietnam side.

It starts with something that Eisenhower said.

President Eisenhower is widely quoted to the effect that in 1954 as many as 80% of the Vietnamese people would have voted for Ho Chi Minh, as the popular hero of their liberation, in an election against Bao Dai. In October 1955, Diem ran against Bao Dai in a referendum and won—by a dubiously overwhelming vote, but he plainly won nevertheless. It is almost certain that by 1956 the proportion which might have voted for Ho—in a free election against Diem—would have been much smaller than 80%.

The explanation for the smaller vote for Ho Chi Minh comes in this excerpt.

The North Vietnamese themselves furnished damning descriptions of conditions within the DRV in 1955 and 1956. Vo Nguyen Giap, in a public statement to his communist party colleagues, admitted in autumn, 1956, that:

“We made too many deviations and executed too many honest people. We attacked on too large a front and, seeing enemies everywhere, resorted to terror, which became far too widespread. . . . Whilst carrying out our land reform program we failed to respect the principles of freedom of faith and worship in many areas . . . in regions inhabited by minority tribes we have attacked tribal chiefs too strongly, thus injuring, instead of respecting, local customs and manners. . . . When reorganizing the party, we paid too much importance to the notion of social class instead of adhering firmly to political qualifications alone. Instead of recognizing education to be the first essential, we resorted exclusively to organizational measures such as disciplinary punishments, expulsion from the party, executions, dissolution of party branches and calls. Worse still, torture came to be regarded as a normal practice during party reorganization.”

I remember back to a book that I had read around 2009. (See my previous post War Fever at the Times: A Five-Day Log). In this post, I talk about the book Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter and Vietnamese Communist Agent.

Another thing that I learned from this book. When you see a local government figure carrying out policies that are clearly antithetical to the cause, maybe you don’t understand what cause the person is working for.

On page 148, “… Thao operated as one of the most trusted aides to Diem and was generally hailed as one of the South’s most successful anti-Communist crusaders. …”

On page 149, “Thao became one of the strongest advocates for agrovilles, self-contained modern villages aimed at separating insurgents from the rural population by moving peasants into large, well-defended villages that would allow the government to protect them. Thao knew the program would alienate peasants, and that is why he became its strongest proponent. The peasants hated agrovilles for many reasons, beginning with the fact that they were required to help build them and then move from their homes. The program produced protests and alienation toward Diem. When it was disbanded, Thao focused on strategic hamlets, convincing Diem to move quickly rather than slowly, which would elevate hostility and alienate the peasants. …”

How could Thao do that, you ask? Here is the part that I left out. On page 148, “Perhaps the most intriguing case of espionage involved Colonel Pham Ngoc Thao, whose mission was to destabilize the anti-Communist government of South Vietnam. …”

What I didn’t know about when I read this book was the quote above from General Giap from the Pentagon Papers. Perhaps the idea for the use of agrovilles by Diem in the south was born of what the spy learned from mistakes that were made in the north. By the way, I do not think that the authors of the Pentagon Papers had access to the information about the spy Colonel Pham Ngoc Thao.

Elizabeth Warren Evades Answering The Obvious Question

YouTube has the video Senator Elizabeth Warren Interview with Cenk Uygur on The Young Turks. Let me cut to the chase, and start you off with her most maddening evasion.

Cenk never puts it to her directly by mentioning that she could have changed the course of history, but she decided not to take a stand when it mattered.

By the way, here is the link to the TYT Network’s original posting Cenk Uygur hosts an interview with Senator Elizabeth Warren to discuss her new book. Buy Sen. Warren’s new book.

WATCH: Joe Biden Brags About Rigging The Ukranian Political System

YouTube has the video WATCH: Joe Biden Brags About Rigging The Ukranian Political System.

Yes, this is exactly what frustrates me about USA actions.

Admittedly, I should do some more investigation of the background of this story. Who was the prosecutor that got fired, and what did he do to merit firing? However, I think the meddling complaint would hold up no matter what the answers to these questions are.

OK, so after a miniscule amount of poking around, I came up with this Russia Feed article Joe Biden brags he got key Ukrainian official fired in exchange for money

The prosecutor general at the time, Viktor Shokin, was previously supported by the US and much of the EU, but as The New Yorker described, “after initially supporting Shokin, U.S. and E.U. officials soured on him.” Washington suddenly viewed Shokin, who had served two decades within the Prosecutor General’s office as corrupt and unwilling to initiate crackdown in major financial scandal cases involving high profile figures.

Considering the Obama administration’s record on (the absence of) prosecuting Wall Street fraud, this may be even more ironic than the claims in the video.

Of course, one could do even more digging to find out what’s the real story to who Viktor Shokin really is and why we really took a sudden dislike to him. A real investigative reporter with a sufficient amount of skepticism would not stop where I have.

Children are tech addicts – and schools are the pushers

A Facebook friend posted The Guardian opinion piece Children are tech addicts – and schools are the pushers.

When Silicon Valley bosses send their children to screen-free schools, why do we believe the claims of the ‘ed tech’ industry?

I will reproduce the thread of the discussion below. However, first I will give you the conclusion I came to after thinking about this some more.

The recent spate of oligarchs who have tried to convince us that social media is evil, and that the computer billionaires that have foisted this on us are now repenting has an ulterior motive that they are hiding. The oligarchs have come to realize how powerful social media has become as a tool for disrupting the control by the ruling class. They now feel the need to put a stop to this before the olicarchy is overthrown by the people. Hence the battle to get rid of net neutrality, the attempt to censor “fake news” from the internet, and the spate of articles convincing us that the little people should pay less attention to the internet.

You don’t really think that the people who have become billionaires from computer based enterprises really want to shield their progeny from computer education, do you? I don’t see that their repentance for making billions from their enterprises is resulting in their offering to give all their billions back to us, do you? No, they want to keep their ill-gotten gains, and take away our freedom to learn about other cultures and other economic systems by talking to each other in an unrestricted way on the internet.

My initial reaction
There is only so much baloney like this that I can read. I used to study and I was an electrical engineer at the start of the computer age. I am amazed at how much more information is available to me now with computers than there was when I started. I still have a collection of slide rules, but I am amazed that we actually used to depend on those. For my bachelor’s degree thesis, I used a mechanical adding machine to do a lot of design work. Oh what I could have done if I had had a computer.

I have decades worth of technical magazines that I collected over my career. It was 20 or more years ago when I realized that even if I had the magazine in my collection, I could find an article online faster than I could find it in my library.

I made a career out of developing, supporting, and instructing about computer simulation of electrical circuits. I could get better insight into how circuits worked by simulating them than I could get in the laboratory.

Brian Leonard
The myth of technological progress is a utopian fantasy. I work with children who are addicted to these machines, don’t know how to communicate, and suffer all kinds of social problems related. Look what technological progress gave us: depleted uranium bombs, drones, nukes, automation and computer management systems, Google, Facebook, and corporate surveillance– technology is not going to save us– it’s more likely to destroy social relationships and possibly even life on earth. It’s thanks to so-called progress that we face a mass extinction, nuclear and oil and all other kinds of toxic contamination of the environmental, machines made in Chinese slave shops and using metals mined by slaves in Africa…. I’d rather not cheer for that progress which is destruction. But you can believe your utopian fantasy…. The evidence all around me shows destruction, not progress. We need Ludd, not a brave new world!
Steve Greenberg
You can cherry pick the problems and ignore the advances, but you are not doing a fair assessment. Society is free to make good use or ill of technology. If the society has made some bad decisions, try to correct those. It is silly to think that getting rid of technology will solve societal problems.

If you look at your personal experience, but keep a blind eye to other experiences, then you will not be a good teacher to your students. If you can’t see that oligrachic ascendancy is the real problem, but you focus on technology instead, you will be wasting your energy. You are more likely to send us back to the dark ages than you will be able to lead us to a better life.

If you think of only “Chinese slave” shops, but don’t see the advancement in standard of living in developing countries, then you are swallowing the oligarchy’s propaganda that tries to make you think that people in advancing countries are your enemy.

People in India, China, and other advancing countries have a right to do jobs they are capable of doing to better their lives. Don’t be so quick to think that forcing them to stay on the farms is fair treatment. It is not ordained that Americans have a right to a superior lifestyle to the rest of the world.

Remember the history of the industrial revolution. At first, people were attracted from the farms into industry because it promised them a better life. Soon the factory owners started to take advantage of these workers. Unbridled competition caused the oligarchs to drive down the wages and worsen working conditions. Eventually workers rebelled, formed unions, and solved many of the problems of urban work. We have backslid in recent years, but that doesn’t mean that workers won’t rise to the occasion again to put us back on the right track.

In the past, workers didn’t overcome their problems by giving up. I know it is hard for middle-class people to think of goiing through the struggles that the workers of the past did. That is why it may depend on the younger generation to save us.

The Dutch were a secret U.S. ally in war against Russian hackers, local media reveal

The Washington Post has the story The Dutch were a secret U.S. ally in war against Russian hackers, local media reveal.

You can read the article to see for yourself what is claimed. Here is one statement I have chosen to highlight.

Even though American intelligence agencies agree that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election and have stood by their assessment, Trump has sent out mixed messages.

The American corporate press has lied to us before about the agreement among intelligence agencies. Perhaps they aren’t lying this time. Just remember that The Washington Post is nothing like the organization that the movie “The Post” is all about. The company and people that the movie is about didn’t have lucrative contracts with our intelligence agencies. For a hint of what I am talking about with the new ownership of the newspaper read the article Amazon, WikiLeaks, the Washington Post and the CIA from August 6, 2013.

Rethinking Putin: A Talk by Professor Stephen F. Cohen

The Nation has the video Rethinking Putin: A Talk by Professor Stephen F. Cohen.

I found this to be an amazingly well balanced assessment of Putin and Russia. I was not at all surprised by what he said because I have been able to develop a well balanced idea of Putin by reading and listening to sources outside the USA corporate press. By watching videos and reading translations I have personally heard some of the things that Professor Cohen said that Putin has said.

‘Reckless’: Trump Deals Blow to Renewable Transition With Solar Panel Tariff

Common Dreams has the article ‘Reckless’: Trump Deals Blow to Renewable Transition With Solar Panel Tariff.

Dealing a serious blow to the U.S. solar industry and despite protests from experts and a national trade group, President Donald Trump has approved a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panel materials.

Responding to recommendations from the U.S. International Trade Commission, which was lobbied by two foreign-owned U.S.-based companies that argued they couldn’t compete with cheap materials from Asia, Trump on Monday authorized a 30 percent tariff on solar cells and modules that will drop by 5 percent annually over the next four years.

Just to add a little more fodder to the discussion.

China’s breathtaking transformation into a scientific superpower

The Washington Post has the article China’s breathtaking transformation into a scientific superpower.

I have cut out the bad ideas and kept the good ideas in the excerpt below.

The best response to this technological competition is to reinvigorate America’s own technological base. … increase other federal spending on “basic research.” (Government provides most of the money for this research, which is the quest for knowledge for its own sake, and amazingly has cut spending in recent years).
It is hardly surprising that China has hitched its economic wagon to advanced technologies. What is less clear and more momentous is our willingness and ability to recognize this and do something about it.

If you don’t like the outcome when you play by your strategy, perhaps it is time to consider why the opponent’s strategy is working so well. It is silly to claim that the other side is cheating because they have come up with a better strategy. Of course they don’t want to play by your rules. Your rules are designed to make you win.

Trump imposes tariffs on solar panels and washing machines in first major trade action of 2018

The Washington Post has the article Trump imposes tariffs on solar panels and washing machines in first major trade action of 2018.

The Suniva-SolarWorld request for protection was opposed by much of the domestic U.S. solar industry. Tariffs make solar panels more expensive, and thus discourage their use, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The trade association said the tariffs would cause 23,000 installers, engineers and project managers to lose their jobs this year as billions of dollars in planned investment evaporates. Up to one third of the 260,000 Americans currently employed in the industry are at risk because of the tariffs over the longer term, the group said.

Unlike Tonya Harding, I thought most USA residents believed that kneecapping your opponent is not their idea of fair play.

Before I retired, when faced competition from another business I preferred the challenge of outperforming the competition rather than trying to impede the competition. I had professional pride in trying to do a better job as an engineer.

I did not feel that there was an unwritten law that said I had to be paid well for my job when there were others who could do it better and for less money. What I preferred was to do my job so well, that I deserved what I was paid. When I couldn’t do that anymore, I retired.