Welcome to Delicate template
Header
Just another WordPress site
Header

Politicians, bah.    Gods, Hope n’ Change is wearing thin these days.

Folks did not like the NeoCon rule.  The excessive fearmongering, Iraq, excess spending, infringements on civil liberties, creation of entire new beaucracies, etc.  It ended up with Bush having an extraordinarily low popularity, and with Congress having even less popularity.  Comes the election.  Change is promised.  It sells, the bums are thrown out.  Not much changes.  Few if any of the Bush era excesses are repealed.  Certain Republicans are shocked (shocked!) that now the shoe is on the other foot.  They are actually surprised when their base is declared the enemy.  DHS is declaring right wing extremists, primarily veterans, are the most significant threat to the United States.

The difference between Democrats and Republicans is little more than rhetoric and a few unimportant wedge issues.  Both love spending, taxing, controlling and economically destroying US citizens.  The only significant advancements in civil liberties are those that the citizens take for themselves.  Either through the courts or forming special interest groups powerful enough to threaten the politicians.

The US Constitution was written to strictly limit the role and abilities of the federal government to specific activities.  If an activity is not enumerated in the Constitution, they are not allowed to do said activity.  This has been strongly ignored since FDR.  Now, the view is the federal government is allowed to do anything which is not strictly forbidden.  The Bill of Rights is only marginally enforced by the courts.  The Executive and Legislative branch have given up nearly all respect for the Amendments enumerating specific civil liberties, and only bow to it when forced to do so by special interest groups.

A lot of folks in the media are giving the NRA flack for actually trying to have the Second Amendment respected and enforced.  They claim that the NRA is manipulating Congress and the courts for malicious purposes.  The Second Amendment is very clear in its intentions.  The Constitutional arguments that it applies only to the National Guard or only allows government entities to be armed is beyond tortured logic.  There is no government on this planet that has ever existed that has denied itself weapons. None.  Even the Vatican grants weapons to some of its employees.  The sole purpose of the Second Amendment is to ensure the right of the people to keep and bear arms.  Why this is necessary is interesting philosophic debate, but is not essential to the central point.  Folks are allowed to have guns and the government bears a heavy burden in any restrictions they may wish to impose.

My point isn’t to rehash the Second Amendment or RKBA.  It is to point out that the government has a very strong desire to disarm its citizenry.  It is significantly more difficult to oppress a minority group if they are well armed.  It gives the potential for the government to answer to its citizenry.  It’s not a magic wand that grants freedom, liberty and prosperity to all.  It merely gives you a chance.  One you must maintain.  All governments become more restrictive and oppressive as they age.  It is the nature of all governments, as far back as human records go.  The citizenry must hold their own against their own government.  The most intelligent way to do so is to band together for a common goal.  Even if I disagree with the individual actions of a special interest group such as the ACLU or the NRA, I very much agree with the sentiment.  Banding together for mutual protection is the only way to hold your ground, and possibly retake some.

In the last few decades, think of what ordinary citizens have accomplished.  Concealed carry reform has spread.  Obscenity laws have been dismantled.  Income taxes are merely crushing instead of blatantly confiscatory.  The Internet has taken mass information dissemination away from the hands of the few and has given the chance for any one person to get information out to millions.

Despite the plethoria of infringements, there have been a few advances in civil rights directly in spite of our politicians.  Some of these are minor, some are significant.  It grants one hope.  Real hope, not the plandering of a Chicago politician who has never held honest employment in his life.  Get involved, do what you can.  Don’t protest to ‘feel good’, be effective.  Law suits, bribery (the legal kind, campaign contributions), networking, etc.  If what you are doing is not effective, drop it and try a new set of tactics.

Scars

May 20th, 2009 | Posted by revdisk in Personal - (1 Comments)

I was talking to Strings the other day. One thing that came up was “you save who you can”. The stuff afterwards is the difficult part. Strings is part of a group called Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA). Good folks. He explained to me that they do check up on the kids after they do their Guardian Angel routine. That was something I’ve never been able to do. Saving a life is easy. Helping them heal and pick up the pieces isn’t. I’ve met a couple natural healers. I’m not talking about putting broken bodies back together, but rather broken minds. Mental wounds cut infinitely deeper than mere physical wounds. Someone who can heal the mind is a gift. Not ‘gifted’, a gift. To show you that hope still exists for humanity.

Once upon a time, I got a call from a friend of mine. Chick had tried to off herself. Cut the wrists and swallowed some pills. I did what I could physically. She didn’t cut that deeply. Ordinarily I’d have appended “thankfully”, but in this case, I don’t know. To keep her awake (so she could metabolise the sleeping pills and alcohol), I asked her about her life and such.

Parents pimped her out for drug money. Started at 10 or 11, she physically couldn’t remember, until she ran at 15. She managed to find a relative who would let her stay. The relative allegedly never verbally blamed her for her parents’ activities, but a kid picks up on it pretty quick. They can read the world through your eyes. Though hard work, the kid manages to get her GED and get a student loan for college. She did ok in college, but still fought depression, suicidal thoughts, night terrors, etc. The usual a kid would go through when they’re old enough to finally truly understand that they were raped for years upon years so that their parents could make a buck. She decided to go to a school shrink and try to work out her issues. She poured her heart out.

Instead of deciding to help the girl, the shrink decided she was a suicide risk and had her involuntarily committed. Apparently, that’s what you’re supposed to do. Proper procedure and just following the check boxes. If the person offs themselves after they’re deemed a suicide risk, the shrink might get sued. The police picked her up. Took her to a state psychiatric facility. It was apparently a living nightmare. Worse than being 12 and raped by random strangers so your parents could get a couple bucks for their next fix. She lied to a board of shrinks convincingly enough to escape. She denied ever being ‘molested’, claimed that her thoughts of suicide were ‘just calling for attention because she was lonely being away from home for the first time’, etc. The facility was enough of a living nightmare that she was willing to torture herself in any way to just get out. I don’t know for certain, but I had a feeling that she may have managed to buy an exit by letting an administrator or shrink have physical relations with her. It was just a feeling and she never specifically said so… Maybe I’m wrong. But I doubt it.

Once she escaped, she had nowhere to go and nowhere to turn. Everyone in her life that was ever supposed to care for her abused her in horrible ways. Her parents, her guardian, her shrink, the state ‘health care’, everyone. She thought it over. Rationally and logically. She decided she would rather die than ever go back. So she tried to off herself.

I was a young soldier back then. I’d seen some horrors in my time. Couple of them worse, but not many. I got her physical trauma under control. But I had no way of healing her. To this day, I don’t honestly think a person ever would heal from such experiences. Maybe learn how to manage their emotions enough to be ‘functional’, but…

While treating her, she came onto me. Gods know why. Maybe because that’s been the only currency that ever bought her survival. Maybe because I was one of the few people that was ‘nice’ to her. At the time, I just wrote it off as being part of her OD’ing. I gently declined as well as I could. It was the ‘right thing to do’, but I could tell the instant I did that another part of her soul died. I only saw it for an instant, only understood it years later when I lost part of my own. It was a no win situation. There is a greater chance that I will grow wings and fly to Siberia than I’d put the moves on a lady who was still an inch away from dying of an overdose. But in doing so, she saw another door slam closed. That she wasn’t worthy of being loved or cared for. I did my best. There was no ‘trying’, I did the best I could. It was not good enough.

I left her in the care of my buddy. They had known each other for a while. He had a crush on her. He was very emotional that she tried to make a pass at me, but knew I was just trying to help her.

I don’t know what happened to her after that. Never heard from or about the girl again. Couple months after the incident, I came home from a couple weeks in the field to find out my friend was sleeping with my girlfriend at the time. I found out on a Friday. He left practically everything he owned and moved a thousand miles away by Monday. It was for the best.

You can’t save everyone. You do what you can with what you have. You always work to improve what you have and what you can do. But most things in this world are out of your hands. This girl was beautiful, intelligent and had such a spark of life in her. The world crushed her soul, it ate her alive. You couldn’t write off her life as being destroyed by one crazy lunatic or a deranged freak. Everyone in her life who should have cared for her ended up betraying her. For personal gain, for sexual gratification, for following procedure, for whatever.

Self Suffiency

May 11th, 2009 | Posted by revdisk in Outdoors - (0 Comments)

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
- Robert Heinlein

I’m often amazed by folks. I always grew up believing that everyone should logically know how to do a number of activities, or failing that, know exactly who to go to when you need to know. I really do believe that one should be able do roughly do everything in Heinlein’s quote, and more. You don’t have to master a number of skills, just be good enough to get by. Nothing wrong with mastering a skill, of course.

Cooking

Apparently, tons of people don’t know how to cook. They can usually follow the instructions printed on a box that the food came in, which is essentially just how to reheat pre-cooked meals.

There’s a simple way to learn how to cook. Buy a handful of recipe books or visit recipe web sites. Find 20 to 30 recipes that look simple, have a relatively short ingredient lists and sound like they might be tasty. Try each and every recipe. If it’s overly difficult or a pain to do, drop it off the list. Feel free to experiment with the recipes as much or as little as you please. You should weed out roughly half the list.

Once you have 10 to 15 recipes, stick to it. Eventually you’ll be able to do them in your sleep. If you get bored, carefully archive your foolproof recipes and start over again. Or just experiment with preparation or side dishes.

Sewing

Sewing is easy to learn and hard to master. You need very steady hands and good precision to do excellent sewing, but it’s not very difficult to learn the basics. Just buy a complete sewing kit from Walmart, a sewing store or a nearby PX. They should only be a couple bucks. Go to a fabric store and buy whatever cloth is on sale. Practice sewing (by hand) straight lines. Rip out the thread and do it a couple times.

To experiment, go find an old pair of jeans or pants. Cut out the front pockets, leave an inch of material. If you want to go the extra mile, cuff the material that’s left. Bend it back and sew a straight line all the way around. Now go grab some cloth. Cut out two roughly identical squares. Sew a big U through both squares. Put two lines of thread in the U. Once you’re done, cut off all the material around the U. Turn it inside out. Now attach it to the material still attached to the pants.

Also practice attaching buttons to random scraps of cloth.

First aid

You always want to keep a basic first aid kit handy. I don’t mean a handful of band aids. At a minimum, buy a pressure bandage, some gauze (both rolls and squares), an ace bandage, and some medical tape. Practice putting bandages on someone. Have them move around a bit. It shouldn’t be so tight it cuts off blood, but it shouldn’t shake loose either. It’s also worth practicing with tourniquets. You can use belts, rope, etc. I prefer dropping a few dollars and keeping a few real ones around.

I noticed that most first aid kits don’t have anything other than comfort items. Anti-itching gels, band aids, aspirin, etc. It’s nice to have that kind of stuff around, of course. But not much of it is really life saving. With trauma injury, time really does count. The faster you start doing something, the better the overall results. I’ve met tons of wonderful EMT’s, nurses and docs. They’re wonderful people for the most part, and often do an excellent job. But they can’t break the laws of physics. If an ambulance is 30 minutes away, it is 30 minutes away. Nothing can change that factor. The entire point of a good first aid kit is to hopefully keep you or another person alive long enough for that ambulance to arrive.

Making a fire

If you’re a hiker or spend any amount of time out of line of sight of civilization, you need to learn how to make a proper fire. To survive for less than 3 days, you just need heat and water. Food is nice, but not completely essential.

You always need a starter, tinder and kindling. A way to pre-fashion a small fire is to get a cardboard egg carton, fill all of the holes with saw dust, put a wad of laundry lint at the top. Cover the entire thing with a light coat paraffin. Cut out each “egg”. Go buy a Swedish FireSteel and keep it handy. To light, cut the paraffin cover off the laundry lint and land some sparks on it. Partially covering the ‘egg’ with wood shavings and twigs. Add slightly larger sticks.

In a pitch, wood shavings, very dry leaves and twigs will do you fine. If the wood is slightly damp, you can shave off the damp layer and it will dry itself out fairly quickly.

If you need one, go get a fire permit. Practice making fires with the least amount of newspaper, lighter fluid or whatnot possible. Another art is making a fire circle. At a minimum, it’s a safety thing. You obviously don’t want to start a forest fire. Just making a fire won’t necessarily keep you warm. Unless it’s pretty big. You want to make the smallest fire you can manage that does the job. You should arrange rocks to redirect heat towards you and hopefully keeping any smoke away. Some people use a dedicated heat reflector or just put a sheet of tin foil on the opposite side of the fire ring.

Gods, where to start.

Anything important is on a SCADA network. Little critical infrastructure is on Internet accessible networks. The most critical stuff is only monitored by SCADA networks but cannot be given commands over SCADA. Yes, SCADA networks need to be updated to keep in line with advances made in network defense that internet facing networks almost always have.

The NSA and DISA publish good white papers and specifications for securing OS’s, network devices, some applications, etc. They also cooperate with private sector manufacturers and software publishers to promote Information Assurance concepts and resources. They have a good reputation, remain strictly neutral, and usually only advise. DISA is responsible for the overwhelming amount of US military networks, and a surprising number of general government networks. DISA handles the bulk of the hands on information security on defense and national security networks. A lot of server stuff too. NSA does some stuff, but not as much hands on stuff as you’d think. Probably for the best.

I’m not convinced that the USAF’s Cyber Command is little more than a money sink. What can they do that the NSA or DISA is not doing? I suspect their primary mission will be to suck up funds and maybe protect a very few number of networks. On the plus side, maybe they will do some improvements on embedded networks specific to the USAF. That’d be nice. But not critical to the security of the US infrastructure, as they run only more or less internal networks. They turn over more and more of those networks to DISA each year.

While there is a lot of improvement needed in the information security field, it’s not catastrophically bad. Consumers need better security. That’s the biggest threat at the moment. Millions of ordinary desktops and laptops. Infrastructure and corporate wise, infosec is getting better. Govt always needs to get better, but is good enough by and large. The only advice I can give that crosses private and public sector is, more applicable user training. Not the boring CYA legal-ese crap, but short good information. Put your written passwords in your wallet, don’t share them, shred papers you don’t need, if in doubt ask IT, don’t click on stuff you think is off, if something sounds odd ask your security department, etc etc.

IT and IT Security departments need to expand beyond technical issues and also regularly interface with the users. Yes, I bloody well know how problematic this can be. But most users don’t want to work around standard procedures, they just want to do their job in a way that isn’t too painstaking. IT personnel should try to make their user solutions as streamlined as possible.

Some folks in the Obama administration and Congress kicked around kind of national computer security agency to ‘own’ all the networks and make them safe.

A centralized body governing network security is such a bad idea I’m not sure I can make a proper analogy. “You might as well shoot yourself in the head to save time” would be the closest I can come to explaining how bad of an idea it is. Any hypercentralized NSOC (Network Security Operations Center) with legal powers to control every network in the US would be the worst security threat I can imagine. If you find a way into such a NSOC, you can take down everything. As it stands now, if somehow you could take down… say a specific hospital, that didn’t mean you could automatically also take down a nuclear power plant, a jet liner or a Mom’n'Pop small business network. Decentralization means you have a wide variety of different environments. The more diverse and decentralized you make the entire US IT infrastructure, the less likely any one attack vector can do damage to a bunch of different networks using the same trick.

If you wanted to do the same thing in a somewhat secure manner, which is a bad idea, give the central telecoms a right to blacklist IP traffic without legal repercussion and the ability to void their obligation to completing contracts at their leisure but still get paid anyways. The idea is major telecommunication companies could cut off clients that are infected or attacking other networks. Also, legally make the client liable for the costs of the downtime so that the telecommunication company does not have a financial incentive to ignore the attacks. Sounds like a bad idea? It is. But it’s much more secure than the hypercentralized NSOC idea.

Some folks commented that Conficker was a really nasty worm and the media played it up like it was Ragnarök. Also, IT folks were running scared.

Really? Must be a different part of the IT community than I regularly communicate with. Oh sure, we’re all very concerned with users installing malware. Any one worm? Not so much. If you patch your systems regularly, have a good AV solution and hopefully a half decent firewall, there isn’t a worm made yet that the IT community is overly concerned over. Never confuse secondary effects (rush to patch an exploit, or dealing with an upsurge in spam traffic) with the worm or malware itself.

Hell, I was amazed at how much the media was playing up Conficker. The persons that designed Conficker were either really stupid, or didn’t care. If you upgrade to nmap 4.85Beta7 and run the command ” nmap -PN -d -p 445 –script=smb-check-vulns –script-args=safe=1 12.34.56.78 “, you can determine if the host is infected or not. (12.34.56.78 being the target IP, and obviously removing the quotes.) Why? NetpwPathCanonicalize() gives a nonstandard answer to queries. So you ask the worm if it has infected a host, and it accurately says “Yes, I did.”

I’ll grant you, worms are becoming more sophisticated. Storm was designed by someone with a glancing knowledge of secure programming. Not a professional level, of course. Almost, but not quite, respectable. Conficker is worrisome not because it was well written or well designed, but rather because it exploited a nasty hole in all relevant versions of Windows (See MS08-067), which is a hole that gives system level access with no authentication over a network. That’s as bad as an security hole gets. If you’re patched, no problem. If you’re running an AV, somewhat no problem.

Instead of saying “ZOMG! Killer worm! All the geeks are in a panic and predict end of the world”, the media should say “Yo, a routine worm is making it around the internet exploiting a hole patched on Oct 8th, 2008. If you haven’t patched your desktop in SIX MONTHS, please do so. Go to whatever.com for details on how to do so.”

As we all know, rational dissemination of information ain’t the media’s strong point.

Disclosure: I formerly worked for the US Army and DISA.

Quarantine

April 21st, 2009 | Posted by revdisk in Movies | Rants - (0 Comments)

Just saw Quarantine with some friends… Quick overview? Movie was actually half decent, but the characters are dumb as a box of bricks.

This entire rant is basically a spoiler, but it really doesn’t matter too much.

It was shot handheld, which I normally hate. It’s no longer clever. Cloverfield vastly overdid it, making plenty of people nauseous. I could try to be clever, and claim it was a tossup between the characters themselves or the shaky camera that made people want to puke. But anyways, back to this movie. The camera work was just bumpy enough to remind you it was handheld, but not every five seconds nor in an excessive manner. Pretty well done, actually. As I can recall, there was no background music. It’s a subtle thing, but I think it helped set the viewer on edge if you heard various backgrounds sounds rather than creepy music.

The movie starts off with a reporter (Jennifer Carpenter) following LA fire fighters around for a night. Pretty plausible, and the intro gets you using and liking the main characters. One could say the intro was slow, but it worked quite well for character background without being too obvious.

The firefighters get a call, and the crew goes to an apartment building. The building has an interesting layout, and looks like it was rather nice when it was built in the ’50′s but has gone downhill since. Firefighters knock down the door to see a very pale old lady with blood all over her and drooling quite profusely. Ah, zombie, alien parasite or evil disease. My bet’s on zombie!

Well, after biting a couple folks, and getting shot twice, she’s down. Not a zombie. Dang it. I had $1 riding on zombie. The officer put one round in the shoulder, and the second center of mass. If evil looking, shuffling, biting, pale, blood laden, drooling hag ripped a chunk of my partner’s neck out, I’d personally be putting at least one round through the brain. Just to be sure.

Up till this point, all was more or less tactically sound. But after your partner has his neck ripped out by evil looking hag, everything starts going downhill.

At this point, everyone seems to still be possessing some degree of intelligence, because they more or less unanimously say “**** this, I’m out of here!” Wise and prudent. Unless of course, the US Army is in the middle of sealing you in and politely asking you to remain inside for a bit. When half a dozen M4′s are aimed at you by soldiers in MOPP gear, suddenly evil zombie looking hags seem preferable. No gloves, shame on them, someone’s training NCO forgot a class on FM 3-3!

WTF Moment 1 : Ok, there’s a dead cop on the lobby floor. Is ANYONE going to grab his 92 series Beretta and spare mags? No? Sigh…

WTF Moment 2 : Let’s grab everyone in the building and throw them into the lobby with two bodies. Another extremely obviously sick and drooling lady found? Let’s bring her on down as well! That’s the ticket. Because having someone’s neck ripped out isn’t blatant enough.

A handy vet acting as a doc pronounces it to likely be some kind of rabies. Ok, somewhat plausible. More plausible than zombies, so sure. Why not.

Two “CDC” guys come in. One with an M4, the other with an M9 in a thigh holster. Obviously not CDC, most likely USAMRIID but maybe they want to keep a low profile. Alleged CDC guys start doing their investigation, and get eaten. Talk about realism, they depict US government competency absolutely perfectly. Everyone runs away. Which would be normally a good idea, except:

WTF Moment 3 : They secure their only doctor, an M4 and an M9 in a room with infected. But, alas, their brilliant containment neglects the glass windows on the room.

Ok, if you were secured in a building with rabies infected Californians surrounded by a fair chunk of the US Army, would you run away from a single infected half dead dude with tons of broken bones, or beat the dude to death with ANYTHING within arms reach in order to secure weapons and a medical guy?

So all of the lights are out… They do make use of the light on the camera for illumination. WHY THE HELL AREN’T THEY MAKING TORCHES OR LOOKING FOR FLASHLIGHTS? Fire hazard or not, if I’m locked in a building with more rabid drooling Californians than an Al Gore rally, I’m NOT going to go running around in the dark, unarmed.

Now everyone starts dying in very short order. It’s hard to keep track, but soon enough everyone is turned except one firefighter and the reporters. The firefighter is the only person in the entire film who bothers using an improvised weapon, a sledgehammer. So they start running around the building. Then the firefighter dies. Then the camera light dies. Intelligently, the camera guy switches it to night vision mode. Then tries to hide from an infected.

WTF Moment 4 : If you can see and the other guy can’t, uh… Attack? Maybe? No?

Ok, both die. The end.

In fairness, most of the WTF’s happen in a relatively smooth fashion that is unfortunately very believable. No one stops to think at any point. People don’t adjust to their environment. No one really does any planning whatsoever. No one actually looks at their terrain and makes judgments based on it. No one bothers to kill anyone obviously infected before they turn. No one shows more survival instinct than a drunken lemming on quaaludes.

The film’s worth renting. Probably not worth buying. It’s entertaining in a “let’s watch stupid people die” kind of way. It’s a decent reminder that sometimes it’s worth taking a second to think things over.

If I was in such a situation?  The second you get the fact that it’s some kind of virus transmitted through biting or whatnot:  Don’t group everyone together, kill all of the pets, tell people to lock themselves in their apartments, tell everyone to get some kind of improvised weapon, and have whoever is armed patrol the common areas to shoot anything infected.

I’d really like to see a horror movie some day where the characters have a degree of common sense.  Dog Soldiers is the only one I can recall. The rest? Idiots banging on Darwin’s door screaming “Let me in!”