Odds and Ends Vol 4

Odds and EndsAgain, I will be out for the day. In fact, I will likely not be back until very late so I doubt anything will be put up for the rest of the day. You should check out Andrea’s blog, Curiously Clever, she’s putting up a lot of stuff these days. She also just started a new website, Nice Atheist Girl. We just got the basics set up, but you can at least see the header—assuming the NFS is working. Otherwise, you’re on your own.

It does seem that I’ve gotten caught up on the major stuff that was cluttering up my browser. Now I’ll have to start drilling down into my “ideas” folder. For now, we have these:

  1. Josh Barro wrote a great article at Business Insider, Here’s the Conversation We Should Really Be Having About Obamacare and Part-Time Work. In it, he argues for a repeal of the employer mandate. He indicates that it would actually make the law more progressive. I am with him on this, but there is a larger issue that his pro-business orientation blinds him to. All the government subsidies for low wage workers simply give the businesses with the worst treatment of workers a bit of a competitive advantage. This is one of the reasons why I think we should have a single payer system. It would level the business playing field.

    Regardless of the details, it is harder and harder to see Barro as having any overlap with the Republican Party. To me, he’s slightly more liberal than the New Democrats. Check out what he has to say about how the Republican Party approaches Obamacare:

    Republicans like to warn that Obamacare is pushing droves of people into part-time work.

    House Speaker John Boehner has said “millions” of Americans can only find part-time work because of the law. Majority Leader Eric Cantor says America’s economy is now a “part-time job economy.” Sen. Ted Cruz used the talking point over and over again during his long Senate floor speech about defunding Obamacare.

    This talking point is a lie…

    The irony of this discussion is that some of the biggest beneficiaries from the ACA are the same low-wage, uninsured workers whose interests Republicans purport to defend when they complain about the law’s effects on work hours…

    A conversation about improving Obamacare—perhaps someday, Republicans will be interested in having that conversation, instead of undermining and demagoguing the law at every turn—should include repealing the employer mandate so the law can have a positive effect on labor markets instead of a modest negative one. But even if the mandate isn’t repealed, America won’t turn into a “part-time work economy.”

    I couldn’t have said it more forcefully myself.

  2. Charles Pierce has a great comment over at Esquire, Uh-Oh, Toto:
    As you may have gathered, I’m a serious agnostic on this whole “Republican civil war” business. I believe it’s merely a fight over tactics; the whole party shares the same crackpot ideas that got the country into the mess out of which the current president has had to pull it in the first place. I do not believe that there are Republican “moderates” of substantial power to make any difference, or to change that fundamental dynamic. I think Steve LaTourette’s new kick-the-Tea-Party-In-The-Balls PAC is little more than a way to attempt to empower supply-side fantasts and deregulation junkies and privatization fanatics without bothering Jesus with the whole business.

    I always think people who agree with me are smart.

  3. I’m sure you’ve seen North Carolina GOP precinct chairman Don Yelton on The Daily Show this week. If not, check out, GOP Precinct Chairman Says Voter ID Will Hurt “Lazy Blacks,” Then Resigns, which includes the original clip. But I feel sorry for Yelton. I’m sure in the extremely homogeneous environment in which he lives, what he said was perfectly fine. It calls into question the entire North Carolina Republican Party establishment, regardless of how much they may now wish to deny it. If that kind of behavior was unacceptable with them, he never would have felt it was acceptable on national television. Anyway, I think this skit from That Mitchell and Web Look might be helpful to Yelton in determining what exactly is racist:
  4. I came upon a great Latin phrase recently, Inter arma enim silent leges. It means, “In times of war, the law falls silent.” Like so many great things, it was first written by Cicero, although in the slightly different form, Silent enim leges inter arma. I think it is an important phrase for our country because we are now always at war. I think we can all accept that during trying times we might have to put up with things that we normally wouldn’t stand for. During World War II, for example, there was rationing. Fine. But should our rights to privacy and security in our own homes be brushed aside because we are now and forever more dropping bombs on civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

Have a good day!

Judy Johnson and Baseball’s Checkered Past

Judy JohnsonOn this day in 1842, the great Russian war painter Vasily Vereshchagin was born. You know all those really cool war photojournalists who we see to this day? Well, before there were cameras, there were men like Vereshchagin. Of course, they were more like the great war poets of old. They were there to document the heroic acts of the men who manage wars. He did really beautiful work. I’m sure he romanticized it. How could you not? But I don’t know that much about him. I just wanted to present the following painting to you. It is called The Apotheosis of War and is dedicated “to all conquerors, past, present and to come”:

The Apotheosis of War

The great character actor Jackie Coogan was born in 1914. He is known for two things. First, he was the original Uncle Fester in The Addams Family. Second, he was the title character in Charlie Chaplin’s film The Kid, which he made when he was 7 years old. He was absolutely adorable:

The great singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant is 50 today. I love her work, but she is a bit over-serious. I know, I know, life is a vale of tears. But there are other things: kittens, carnations, and hand puppets. But there is more than enough to be depressed about:

Other birthdays: Baroque composer Domenico Scarlatti (1685); philosopher and popularizer of Kant, Karl Leonhard Reinhold (1757); another mathematician who I don’t understand Ferdinand Georg Frobenius (1849); Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran (1919); actor Bob Hoskins (71); terrible game show host Pat Sajak (67); Hillary Clinton (66); Bolivian President Evo Morales (54); and actor Cary Elwes (51).

The day, however, belongs to the great third baseman Judy Johnson who was born on this day in 1899. Two years ago, I became obsessed with him and to a lesser extent the Negro League. I wrote this at the time:

For whatever reason, I became really interested in the great third baseman Judy Johnson. You can find out more about him at the Negro League Baseball Players Association, if you are interested. Probably the most important thing about him is that he was the first manager to break the color-barrier in Major League Baseball, when he coached for the Philadelphia Athletics. He was later a renowned talent scout, having discovered a number of great players including Dick Allen, who hit 351 home runs in his career.

As much as it is exciting and edifying to learn about Johnson and the many other great black players of his time, it is heartbreaking to read about what these men went through. The opportunity cost of baseball segregation was horrible for black players (and great for marginal white players). And as I think of it now, I suspect that when Judy Johnson was consistently batting over .300 (even though he was most know for his fielding skills) while making just a dollar a day, people were claiming there was no racism in the United States because he wasn’t a slave. It reminds me now of the belief that there is no racism because we have a black president.

Since I was reading about Johnson, this great video about him was posted on YouTube. It is really great to see:

Happy birthday Judy Johnson!

Crypto Locker and Other Ransomeware

CryptoLockerLet’s start this by stating the obvious: Back up all your important files, NOW! Being more specific… Just backing up your files sounds simple enough but some aspects of correctly doing so are not so obvious… and if you are competent in doing so, it’s not likely to be the case for your neighbor, family member or co-worker. Please warn them and help them with the process.

Your files that really matter to you: Taxes, spreadsheets, the photos of dead Aunt Edna (referencing N.L.’s Family Vacation), the best resume you ever wrote… All should be manually copied over to an EXTERNAL hard drive AND that drive needs to be kept a safe distance from your PC. OK, viruses of the computer varieties cannot be transmitted by mere close proximity, but they are easily spread and conveyed and can be activated/launched/etc at any inopportune moment. In other words, DO NOT keep your backup drive, or your main backup drive, connected to any of your PC’s. This is for many reasons, but above all, is the fact that any connected drive, when infections launch, will likely suffer the same damage as your primary system drive.

The worst of these malwares, right now, seems to be the famed Crypto Locker, which does actually ‘lock’ your files away with monstrously effective encryption. This means you will NOT be able to open, access, edit, print your files. Even if you are fortunate enough to eradicate the actual infection and prevent its resurfacing, any damage previously done is essentially PERMANENT! Yikes and yikes again.

As of yet, there is no fix for this infestation. No antivirus application has been shown to be effective in prevention or removal. Articles about Crypto Locker really started to crop up in September of this year, 2013. Now, in late October, the stuff has really hit the fan.

The term Ransomeware refers to any malwayre which demands funds to correct, remove or unlock your system or files. In this case, Crypto Locked files will supposedly be unlocked for you, once the proof of payment is confirmed…..but don’t count on it. Check out this safe link from BleepingComputer:

Where do we pick up computer viruses? Well, the point of infection is almost an endless list. The old way, convincing the user to download, unzip and execute files, has been replaced by drive-by infestation… visiting a polluted website or following a seemingly innocent link to say a UPS tracking number.

Other common transports of malware are media files, such as music or video downloads. It is assumed that clicking boarder adds on popular sites, such as Facebook, can lead to infestation.

I cannot promise this posting will be followed with a later one, offering a comprehensive solution. Furthermore, I don’t know if the false comfort offered by that type of information would truly be helpful. Consider this a wake-up call for your own diligence in being prepared for a worst-case scenario.