Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I’m shakin’ it boss! I'm shakin' it!


Cyber security/defense is something fluid, there are ebbs and flows in attacks and countermeasures as networks adapt to evolving threats, and deal with users who do clueless things like leaving machines on, and logged on.

So, what occurs for those that do not either engage in cybercrime or display amazing negligence is that they are burdened with time consuming training (from multiple and not very well coordinated sources) or inconveniences that become onerous as they accrete.  Case in point from my institution:

A few days ago all users were sent an email to the effect that all computers, including those in classrooms, will now be rigged in such a way as to log off after 15 minutes of inactivity, more precisely, after 15 minutes of lack of input from the user. So, for instance, if I am showing a video or film (as I do) or should I not move to the next slide in a powerpoint or engage the machine in some other way that counts as input, the machine will log off.

This is obviously going to run up against the typical rhythm of a classroom. Say you are lecturing or running a discussion, while using a Ppt.  Should you NOT input during that time the machine will do this. Not quite a blue screen of death, but bloody inconvenient, and interrupting of the natural flow of discussion or lecture. You’ll have to log back in, call up the file, find your spot and resume. Not the end of the world, but disruptive.

If you are showing a film, ditto. You’ll have to log back in, find that film, then find the spot where you lost connection, and resume the show.

So, we receive an email informing us of this security measure. It suggests we wiggle the mouse periodically, in order to avoid the log off. A mouse wiggle counts as input. Inconvenient, and dare I say, something that will slip the mind of quite a few people in the middle of a class session.

Well, not too surprisingly, people began to look for ways to avoid this, some, while clever, not particularly wise, and word of this somehow made its way to the security team. A stern warning ensued, making clear to us that some of the methods under consideration,(brainchilds of the code-adept no doubt) in particular; writing “mouse jiggler programs,” fit the definition of “insider threat” that we have all seen in at least one of the pieces of required training. In no uncertain terms, this was forbidden. One can lose one’s account for  such things.

So adapt we much. 

 

No. No. That is not what I said. Resist we much not. We much not.

Why does all of this remind me of Cool Hand Luke?



I have this image in mind. It is a Tuesday or Thursday afternoon. Somewhere deep in the bowls of security central, there is a bank of monitors, each tied in with a classroom computer, one of which is mine. The monitors are being watched by a guy in aviator shades. It has been nearly fifteen minutes since my last input. He leans forward, the reflection of the monitor quite visibly reflected in the shades. You swear you can see him squinting, a hint of a smile.

14:58 ticks off. 14:59… then as I dutifully wiggle that mouse for the 5th time while showing a film, I mumble to myself, “shakin’ it boss, I’m shakin’ it.”

 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Sound of Cinema-Debut Episode

The Sound of Cinema-Debut Episode




My son, Alex Baker's show, focusing on music from cinematic scores, opened this week on HCC the Dragon Radio. Here is the podomatic version of the first episode, an hour with several major composers, including Bernard Hermann and John Williams.

Also, the second episode, focusing on the music choices of Stanley Kubrick, is up and running.

Good stuff!

Episodes will be added as they air.

The direct link to HCC Radio is HERE

Exit note: I am lobbying hard for an episode devoted to Jerry Goldsmith.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Command Performance Christmas, with Bob Hope

Various radio shows. First, 1942-46 and 1948. From the Internet Archive. You can download these via the columns link in the player.



And, a taste of what it was like to see a performance. You miss a lot of Hope's delivery on radio:




And 1968, Vietnam with Bob



1967 with Bob and company:



Friday, December 19, 2014

Li’l Li’l Kim takes on the Pansies.



The Sony-hacking state of NoKo made threats that 9/11 proportioned attacks would happen if The Interview was screened. Sony promptly cancelled all screenings. Some theatres promised to run Team America in its place. Paramount then nixed that idea. A movie in the works, starring the Office and Despicable Me star, Steve Carrel has been axed, because the script involves NoKo and Li’l Li’l Kim.  A swift wave of self-censorship by the movie industry.
Putting oneself in the shoes of the decision makers here, you can see that they would not want to be responsible for any bloodbath, even if the risk was small. Movie theatres are soft targets. Rather than run that risk, they decided to nix the trigger.

Carefully consider the likelihood of attack. We know NoKo was behind the hacks and the threat.  So, suppose, as is probably not the case, that they have sleeper cells, or even a single cell of agents/terrorists, that is poised to attack if Sony does screen the film. 

Now, Li’l Li’l Kim may be totalitarian scum who does unspeakable things to his own, but he is also a rational actor, in the very specific sense of being interested in his regime’s survival. He knows that should his regime topple, and he come into the hands of his populace, at least some of them would love to exact revenge for their friends and relatives in the concentration camps. Things would not be pleasant for Li’l Li’l Kim.
So, follow me here.  A few months back, Li’l Li’l Kim and his henchmen are sitting around in the NoKo War Room, considering contingences as the hacking attack planning begins to gel.

This line of conversation must have occurred: If we do attack so soon after making the threat, the only logical inference the Americans can make is that we carried through with our threats.  It’s a short step to the further inference that the Americans would react similarly to the way they reacted post 9/11 when Cowboy Bush was President. They do not take kindly to acts of war on their soil.
So, what would the likely result be for Li’l Li’l Kim and NoKo?  Yes, they have nukes. We would move to neutralize those first. Some missiles may make it out, but probably not, because we would move deliberately and publically, to shield our allies, before we would attack. And there would be a nice long buildup of forces to make him sweat, as the inevitable onslaught moves closer and closer.  Eventually, we would attack, some combo of conventional and cyber, crippling the regime in a week perhaps.

There is absolutely no chance that NoKo would prevail. There is absolutely no chance that Li’l Li’l Kim and his cronies would survive or escape.  We would probably attempt another nation building exercise with the help of the South Koreans and Japanese, maybe even the Chinese. If Li’l Li’l Kim thinks the Chinese would intervene on his behalf or allow him safe haven as he runs away, he’s a fool. But, that’s just it. He is no fool. He’s already thought all this through, hashed it out with his military and other cronies.   So, the end result is this plan:
He does what he does on an almost daily basis. Issue ridiculous hyperbolic threats, but this time only after a very thorough hacking of Sony, with attention grabbing tidbits dutifully taken up and promulgated by the intertubes and other media outlets. Given enough time, everyone and his third cousin will become aware of the source of the hack, and its depth and breadth as they chuckle at the email sniping between Hollywood folks, watch stolen films online, etc.

Only after this situation has fully blossomed does he issue the threat, making sure the 9/11 reference is included. He hopes that Sony develops weak knees and theatre chains likewise. If that happens, Li’l Li’l Kim has a win; a big precedent setting win.  If not, still a win, not quite as big, but he will have shown the capability of NoKo hacking skills, and an ability to control Hollywood’s choices from a distance.

So, now we see he has attained what is essentially the maximal outcome; a non-conventional attack on America that had little cost, and a better chance of success than any military options.
He knows we are already worried about the prospects of cyber-attacks on infrastructure and the like, once again, low cost non-conventional warfare within the reach of poor NoKo. Such serious cyberwarfare is now something we now know is within Li’l Li’l Kims ambit. He’s done such things to South Korea as recently as 2013. He has now managed to infiltrate Sony, at least, on the US net, as a sort of tease that he can do more. We now have to take seriously that possibility.

Yet this brings me back to my initial point. If he does do more, he knows we will only tolerate so much. Suppose he were to inflict serious damage to electrical or other infrastructure.  There would be consensus that this amounted to an act of war, an attack on the homeland on par with, or of greater magnitude than Pearl Harbor or the 9/11 attacks.  Hell would rain down upon his sorry sick ass.

So, let’s review:  If Li’l Li’l Kim carried out the 9/11 style threats, hell would rain down upon his ass. If Kim carried out serious cyber warfare, hell would rain down upon his ass.
He’s going to take another option.

Once again, HE KNOWS ALL THIS.  So, in the end, he will not undertake anything other than pin prick cyber-attacks against ourselves and SoKo.
To do anything more, including the carrying out the threats of the other day would be suicidal.

Therefore, Sony and others should reverse course and release and/or produce the films in question. In fact, they should go out of their way to produce more than they had initially planned. Add some Three Stooges to the Great Dictator as it were.

Don’t Let Li’l Li’l Kim dictate your choices
And speaking of Chaplain, here’s an interesting WaPo blog post on Chaplain’s the Great Dictator, and contemporary fears of release, which serves as an interesting comparison.
 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Brave Sir Julian Asschapeau commissioning statue of self.


A monument to self-regard, featuring most prominently himself, flanked by brave Sir Edward the Muscovite, and Brave Madam Manning the Ambiguous.




The campaign comes complete with a pledge drive:

A £5 donation will earn a “public thank you” on Facebook, £50 will buy an autographed picture of Mr Dormino (the sculptor) working on the project and £300 will buy a limited edition t-shirt bearing the statement: “Be courageous because courage is contagious.”


 
What? No Tote Bags, or 'Best of' CD or DVD?  Maybe Peter Paul and Mary could hold a fundraising concert?  There must be some way to weave homage to the 60s into this effort.
At least PBS and NPR have Tote Bags.

And the clock keeps ticking at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London




 


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Enhanced Interrogation Reports Flog a Dead Horse


 

A great deal of information to go over before you can make a good faith effort at a fair appraisal. Most of the coverage will relay details of the first report, and give brief mention to the second and third. The long and short of it, almost all aspects of the report are contested.

First, the Senate (Democrat) Feinstein Report, the 'case for the prosecution,' as it were:


Second, the 'case for the defense,' from the site CIA Saved Lives

Senate Minority (Republican) Report


and from the same site, the CIA’s Rebuttal to the Feinstein Report.
https://www.cia.gov/library/reports/CIAs_June2013_Response_to_the_SSCI_Study_on_the_Former_Detention_and_Interrogation_Program.pdf

Saturday, December 6, 2014

12/7/41 OTR Pearl Harbor Attack and Aftermath





A good overview from the Modesto Radio Museum


For most Americans, news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came as an interruption to their favorite radio programs on an otherwise tranquil Sunday afternoon on December 7th, 1941. An Associated Press bulletin at 2:22 PM Eastern Standard Time first reported the attack to mainland news organizations and radio networks. After confirming the initial bulletin with the government, the major radio networks interrupted regular programming beginning at 2:30 PM, bringing news of the attack which was still in progress.
 
In  New York City,  station WOR broke into the local broadcast of the Giants and Dodgers game while CBS informed listeners of the attack at 2:25 PM EST.  NBC broadcast their first bulletin nearly 4 minutes later at 2:29:50 PM . Within minutes the CBS radio network broke into normal programming with more information read by announcer John Daly. 
 
Honolulu NBC radio affiliate KGU, provided the first and most comprehensive radio coverage of the event. What was not known at the time was that Japanese planes, still swarming overhead in Honolulu, had used the station's signal to guide their planes to Hawaii.
 
While the attack was still in progress a reporter for KGU radio climbed to the roof of the Advertiser Building in downtown Honolulu with microphone in hand and called the NBC Blue Network on the phone with the first eyewitness account of the attack,  "This battle has been going on for nearly three hours... It's no joke, it's a real war" said the reporter.     Ironically, a Honolulu telephone operator interrupted the broadcast after 2 ½ minutes declaring a need for the line for an emergency call.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Annual Thanksgiving OTR collection




Various radio shows from OTR sources I regularly peruse. The first comes from "Homeschool Radio Shows" excellent source of historically themed OTR. This is a thanksgiving episode of the series Cavalcade of America, entitled:

Path of Praise

A history of how we came to have our holiday.

Also from HRS, we have a gem from the "You are There" series. YAT recreated history as if it were being covered by contemporary radio news. This episode:

The Sailing of the Pilgrims

In a lighter vein, the Life of Riley, a radio sitcom of the 40s presents:

Thanksgiving with the Gillises

And hard boiled private eye Sam Spade is on the..

Terrified Turkey Caper

And the Elgin Watch company sponsored annual Thanksgiving shows in..

1947 and 1948

Found this historically themed show at the always fascinating Internet Archive. It covers a lot of ground about the history of this holiday, but starts where it should FOOTBALL. An interview with Roger the Dodger begins things, then there is a nice discussion of the long relationship that had already existed between the King of All Sports and Turkey Day, well before the NFL got in on it. Then it's on to the origins of that other great spectacle, the Thanksgiving Parade.



Command Performance, Thanksgiving Edition Featuring Lionel Barrymore, Percy Faith, Baby Snooks, Dinah Shore, Harry Von Zell, and Frank Morgan. Command Performance was a show for American forces during WWII. These shows were not broadcast domestically, but over Armed Forces Radio Network, via shortwave.


Winston Churchill on 'America's Thanksgiving'





Get past the goofy 80s retro threads and hairdos, and marvel at Less Nessman's commentary from the Pinedale Shopping Mall. WKRP's Thanksgiving show.

"Oh the humanity!"



"God as my witness; I thought turkeys could fly."

Mr. Carlson


Jack Benny Turkey Day Episode, 1943 Click Here.

Episode info from the host site Old Time Radio Cat(alog):

"Jack Dreams He Is A Turkey" from November 21, 1943
Jack Benny is hosting Thanksgiving Dinner this year and needs a turkey for 15, but Turkeys are 55 cents a pound and Jack has a penny pinching dilemma. Jack's indecision makes him ponder about the life of the turkeys and their families in the butcher shop. Jack dreams he is a turkey and tries to catch a train out of town.

Detroit T-Day Parade from 1948






Jean Shepherd trapped with Turkeys 1973

Shep again, Thanksgiving Turkey 1968

Shep yet again Army Thanksgiving 1972




Friday, November 21, 2014

Nice try Salon

This over-wrought story about a recently passed bill on science advisory board sure sounds scary. The House (Republican controlled, natch) doesn't want scientific experts to serve on that board.

True?

The bill looks unobjectionable, if you read it, and don't uncritically rely on the Salon piece.

Consider this section:

  ``(E) Board members may not participate in advisory

        activities that directly or indirectly involve review or

        evaluation of their own work;

  And how that is portrayed by Salon:

In what might be the most ridiculous aspect of the whole thing, the bill forbids scientific experts from participating in “advisory activities” that either directly or indirectly involve their own work. In case that wasn’t clear: experts would be forbidden from sharing their expertise in their own research — the bizarre assumption, apparently, being that having conducted peer-reviewed studies on a topic would constitute a conflict of interest. “In other words,” wrote Union of Concerned Scientists director Andrew A. Rosenberg in an editorial for RollCall, “academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.”

 Emphases mine.

Notice the elided words:

Review or Evaluation.

This does not forbid a scientist from sharing expertise. What it does forbid is that scientist evaluating the scientific status or soundness of his own views on whatever topic may be under consideration.
This is nothing other than a requirement for peer review, as far as I can see.

We don’t usually count it as the best support for a theory or hypothesis if the originator of that same theory or hypothesis judges that his own work is scientifically sound.

That’s self-congratulation, not science.
No, we usually consider better support to come from others versed in the field, carefully evaluating or reviewing the work, attempting to replicate it, putting it to the test, and finding the theory or hypothesis surviving that test.

As to the other main charge:
“The bill is being framed as a play for transparency: Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, argued that the board’s current structure is problematic because it  “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” The inclusion of industry experts, he said, would right this injustice.

But the White House, which threatened to veto the bill, said it would “negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.”

Consult the text of the bill itself. Is there anything there that supports this charge?

Maybe here (the full context within which section E above appears):

Each member of the Board shall be qualified by education,

training, and experience to evaluate scientific and technical

information on matters referred to the Board under this section. The

Administrator shall ensure that--

            ``(A) the scientific and technical points of view

        represented on and the functions to be performed by the Board

        are fairly balanced among the members of the Board;

            ``(B) at least ten percent of the membership of the Board

        are from State, local, or tribal governments;

            ``(C) persons with substantial and relevant expertise are

        not excluded from the Board due to affiliation with or

        representation of entities that may have a potential interest

        in the Board's advisory activities, so long as that interest is

        fully disclosed to the Administrator and the public and

        appointment to the Board complies with section 208 of title 18,

        United States Code;

            ``(D) in the case of a Board advisory activity on a

        particular matter involving a specific party, no Board member

        having an interest in the specific party shall participate in

        that activity;

            ``(E) Board members may not participate in advisory

        activities that directly or indirectly involve review or

        evaluation of their own work;

            ``(F) Board members shall be designated as special

        Government employees; and

            ``(G) no federally registered lobbyist is appointed to the

        Board.

 

A couple things of note:

C could be read as opening the back door for corporate scientist for hire. I suppose this is the source for concern from Salon. But, I would point out that it opens the front, side, and the basement doors to other interested and expert parties as well. Corporations are not necessarily and exclusively the only “entities that may have a potential interest in the Board’s advisory activities” 

State and local governments, universities, colleges, environmental groups, interested scientists, activists of other sorts and foreign entities of similar types, all would fit this bill. Why? There is money involved in science. It is big business. Where money is involved, claims to objectivity are rightly suspect. To counteract such biases C serves the “balance” required in A.

By bringing in known experts with conflicting “affiliations” you get robust debate and a full airing of the best arguments from both sides, along with the narrower requirement for peer review handled earlier. What is more, with the transparency requirement stated in C, you know what, or rather, who you are getting in doing so. You know who is coming to the party, and what possible extra-scientific motivations they may have. What is more D would limit any corporate scientist “shill” from being on the Board that considers any matter for which that shill has been hired to sway the results. G has similar import, in its banning of lobbyists from service.

Not seeing anything so troubling as the Salon Solon paints, so far. In fact, we see a very stringent requirement to make public all possible information that might indicate financial motivations that could compromise the work of the advisory committee:

The Administrator shall--

            ``(A) solicit public nominations for the Board by

        publishing a notification in the Federal Register;

            ``(B) solicit nominations from relevant Federal agencies,

        including the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, the

        Interior, and Health and Human Services;

            ``(C) make public the list of nominees, including the

        identity of the entities that nominated each, and shall accept

        public comment on the nominees;

            ``(D) require that, upon their provisional nomination,

        nominees shall file a written report disclosing financial

        relationships and interests, including Environmental Protection

        Agency grants, contracts, cooperative agreements, or other

        financial assistance, that are relevant to the Board's advisory

        activities for the three-year period prior to the date of their

        nomination, and relevant professional activities and public

        statements for the five-year period prior to the date of their

        nomination; and

            ``(E) make such reports public, with the exception of

        specific dollar amounts, for each member of the Board upon such

        member's selection.

    ``(4) Disclosure of relevant professional activities under

paragraph (3)(D) shall include all representational work, expert

testimony, and contract work as well as identifying the party for which

the work was done.

    ``(5) Except when specifically prohibited by law, the Agency shall

make all conflict of interest waivers granted to members of the Board,

member committees, or investigative panels publicly available.

    ``(6) Any recusal agreement made by a member of the Board, a member

committee, or an investigative panel, or any recusal known to the

Agency that occurs during the course of a meeting or other work of the

Board, member committee, or investigative panel shall promptly be made

public by the Administrator.

In short, although the Salon Solon wants badly to find the bill to be shilling for eevil corporations, by their running dog anti-science lackies in the science-hatin’ Republican party, I ain’t a seein’ it pahdnah.
 
Nice try though..

 

 

 




Monday, November 17, 2014

David Ignatius’s handy-dandy Iraq checklist


From the WaPo, David Ignatius provides a checklist for the U.S. as it goes forward with the state of “Iraq.”

The strategy from the WH according to Ignatius:

 “President Obama’s basic strategic framework seems right, in theory. Obama reiterated Monday in Beijing: “It’s not our folks who are going to be doing the fighting. Iraqis ultimately have to fight [the Islamic State] and they have to determine their own security.”

A Sanka Freeze Dried version of the checklist, something to which we should refer as we measure levels of success in this strategy, along with Ig’s prognostications for success over the long haul:

1. New Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi must  bend down the corruption curve.

Does it look like it will happen?

Nope

2. Abadi must bend down the Shia/Sunni sectarianism curve.

Gonna happen? 


3. The U.S. must bend up the probability of success in military training. 

Likely?

As in the past, there is plenty o’ reason to be skeptical.

4. Iraqi ‘government’ must share lucre with Kurds and ‘outreach’ in other ways to those grownups to their north.

Gonna happen? 

Nope.

5. Abadi must outreach to other Gulf (Suni) states, not just Iran. 

Gonna happen? 

Nope

6. The U.S. can’t just give “Iraq” piles of money with no oversight. 

Gonna happen?

Yep, likely. This is completely within our control. Won’t make that mistake again.

 

That’s 4/4 ‘not gonna happens’ on things that are in Abadi’s control, a doubtful on the training question, and #6 essentially boils down to the U.S. having to ask and answer the question in #1. Given that the answer is a ‘nope’ it seems we should not and will not give large scale help to “Iraq” again. It’s going to be a waste of money, and any men and time we also ‘invest.’

Now, consider what the answers to these questions would be if we asked them about the Grups up North (Kurds).

1. Far less corrupt governance to begin with. Promising future.

2. Little sectarianism in KRG. Promising future.

3. Peshmurga forces are pretty effective militarily as is. Our presence, equipment and training would only improve their postition. Good gamble militarily and geo-politically. Promising not only for the Grups, but for us.

4. N/A

5. Kurds already effective at outreach not only to Gulf States, but world. Promising future

6. Because #1 is not a large scale endemic problem, oversight would be easier, and the Kurds would be open to oversight. Funding would be used for purposes intended, not stolen by corrupt leaders.

The strategy should be to make the Kurds full allies, generously fund their military, encourage trade with  and develop their business, and put the weight of the U.S. toward complete independence for them. While doing this we provide aid to “Iraq” at levels not much greater than present, primarily military training, in order to prevent complete dissolution in the short term.  However, most of our military operations/partnership aimed toward eliminating ISIS-IS-ISIL would be carried out with the Kurds and from KRG. We should base there as much as they would allow. For the long term, we aim to treat them as we presently treat our friends the Saudis and other autocracies in the region, but with the intent to wean ourselves off those states, and make do without them, while we maintain substantial and increased ties to Kurdistan. Eventually we can tell the Saudis and others what they can go do with themselves