The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Travel day; link round-up

I'm heading back to the East Coast tonight to continue research for my current project, so my time today is very constrained. I hope I remember to keep these browser windows open for the plane:

So much to do today...and then a short, relaxing, upgraded flight to BWI.

How to destroy democracy through bad software

Via Bruce Schneier, last week the hacker convention DefCon hosted an event at which every single electronic voting machine tested got pwned within minutes:

Also, organizers revealed that many of these machines arrived with their voter records intact, sold on by county voting authorities who hadn't wiped them first.

While many people at the Voter Hacking Village zeroed in on the weak mechanical lock covering access to the machine's USB port, Synack worked on two open USB ports right on the back. No lock picking was necessary.

The team plugged in a mouse and a keyboard -- which didn't require authentication -- and got out of the voting software to standard Windows XP just by pressing "control-alt-delete." The same thing you do to force close a program can be used to hack an election.

Remember, Russian interference in the 2016 election wasn't designed to throw the election to Trump (though that was a "nice to have" for them), it was designed to reduce the public's faith in the entire Democratic system. I'm glad American voting machine manufacturers are helping them.

If Clinton had won

Nate Silver dives into a parallel universe with a thoughtful examination of alternative facts:

Clinton did manage one significant political accomplishment: getting Merrick Garland appointed to the Supreme Court. With the court set to consider a slate of landmark cases this year on matters including redistricting and abortion, the importance of that achievement should not be understated. But it came at a price. The deal she struck with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which gave him input on several Cabinet appointments in exchange for his finding a few Republicans to back Garland, has come back to haunt her. The McConnell-approved choices, such as Attorney General Joe Lieberman and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, have often seemed to side more with congressional Republicans than with the White House. Furthermore, the deal meant Clinton paid for something — the Senate’s approval of well-qualified Cabinet and court picks — that other presidents have gotten for free.

Despite the roadblocks in Congress, Clinton does have the powers of the executive branch and all that entails. But since Democrats had already held the White House for eight years, there aren’t many presidential actions Clinton can take that Obama didn’t pursue already. Mostly, she’s been left to preserve his legacy, which Trump or another Republican president surely would have attempted to dismantle, especially in areas such as immigration, drug policy and criminal justice — and perhaps most importantly, Obamacare, which Trump repeatedly pledged to “repeal and replace” on the campaign trail. Fairly or not, it’s been hard for Clinton to get a lot of credit from the Democratic base for not undoing things as opposed to doing new things, and although she remains broadly popular with Democrats (with an 85 percent approval rating), her enthusiasm numbers are tepid.

The whole thing is worth a read.

Evidence of things unseen

Some stories from today:

And, hey! It's Friday afternoon already.

Post-posted

High above the North Atlantic, our hero reads the articles he downloaded before take-off:

  • Releasing to Production the day before a holdiay weekend? No. Just, no. OMFG no.
  • American Airlines just won a lawsuit started by US Airways that opens up competition in airfare consolidation—maybe. Bear with it, because this one article explains a lot of what's wrong with competition in any endeavor today. (I'll find a link to the Economist print article I just read on this topic when I land.)
  • The Washington Post helpfully provides 94 questions we Democrats are asking as we slouch towards a Trump presidency. Thanks, guys.
  • In the spirit of Christmas, Citylab remembers when Manhattan had the El. (How is this about Christmas, you ask? No El.) It's interesting to me that only now, more than 60 years later, is New York replacing the east-side transit options with the Second Avenue Subway.
  • Also from Citylab, an interview with Costas Spirou and Dennis R. Judd about their new book Building the City of Spectacle, how Mayor Richord M. Daley remade the city. (Note to self: buy their book.)
  • Finally, the Deeply Trivial blog compiles a couple of videos every Star Wars fan should watch. I know for a fact that the author was born well past the Ewok Divide, and yet seems to have a good bead on the Star Wars universe. Perhaps there is hope for the galaxy.

Today's flight is remarkably fast. We caught the jet stream off the Labrador coast, and with about an hour to go, we're hurtling 1,074 km/h off the west coast of Ireland. This could end up the fastest trans-Atlantic flight I've ever been on, in fact. Details later.

N.B.: Most of the entries on this blog since 2011, and a good number of them going back to 1998, have location bugs that show approximately where I was when I wrote the entry. Click the globe icon directly below and it will call up Google Maps.

If I write an entry at my house, I use a street intersection a few hundred meters away for an approximate location. In a city of three (or, in 1998, seven) million, I feel that's enough privacy. Otherwise, I try to be accurate, even going so far as to whip out my mobile phone to get a GPS fix in flight, as I've just done. Why, you ask? Because it's cool, I reply.

The republic staggers

Krugman's column from yesterday—the day Donald Trump was actually elected our next President—echoes a concern I've had for years:

I couldn’t help noticing the contemporary resonances of some Roman history — specifically, the tale of how the Roman Republic fell.

Here’s what I learned: Republican institutions don’t protect against tyranny when powerful people start defying political norms. And tyranny, when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade.

Famously, on paper the transformation of Rome from republic to empire never happened. Officially, imperial Rome was still ruled by a Senate that just happened to defer to the emperor, whose title originally just meant “commander,” on everything that mattered. We may not go down exactly the same route — although are we even sure of that? — but the process of destroying democratic substance while preserving forms is already underway.

... [T]he sickness of American politics didn’t begin with Donald Trump, any more than the sickness of the Roman Republic began with Caesar. The erosion of democratic foundations has been underway for decades, and there’s no guarantee that we will ever be able to recover.

Meanwhile, Trump set another new low yesterday when 7 electors voted for someone other than who they were pledged to vote, the largest such group since the 12th Amendment essentially enshrined two-party politics into our system.

The constant drumbeat of stupidity and cupidity

Tales in the war against reality waged by Trump and his party:

And yet, James Fallows sees cause for optimism (assuming Trump doesn't blow up the world):

In [the election's] calamitous effects—for climate change, in what might happen in a nuclear standoff, for race relations—this could indeed be as consequential a “change” election as the United States has had since 1860. But nothing about the voting patterns suggests that much of the population intended upheaval on this scale. “Change” elections drive waves of incumbents from office. This time only two senators, both Republicans, lost their seats.

[C]ity by city, and at the level of politics where people’s judgments are based on direct observation rather than media-fueled fear, Americans still trust democratic processes and observe long-respected norms. As I argued in a cover story last year, most American communities still manage to compromise, invest and innovate, make long-term plans.

Given the atrophy of old-line media with their quaint regard for truth, the addictive strength of social media and their unprecedented capacity to spread lies, and the cynicism of modern politics, will we ever be able to accurately match image with reality? The answer to that question will determine the answer to another: whether this election will be a dire but survivable challenge to American institutions or an irreversible step toward something else.

Only 698 days until the 2018 election...

Articles to read this weekend

So many meetings today, so many articles in my queue:

Tired of all this Trump crap? Have some chocolate-truffle brownies. They look delicious.

> 2.5 million

That, as of today, is the number of votes that Clinton won more than Trump:

Hillary Clinton's popular vote lead has now reached 2.52 million votes. In percentage terms that's a 1.9 percentage point margin. It will rise at least a bit more. We can likely be confident that her final margin will be at least 2 percentage points. To compare, that's 5 times the margin of Al Gore's popular vote win in raw vote terms and 4 times his margin in percentage terms. At this point, not only did Clinton win the popular vote. It wasn't even all that close. When George W. Bush had another bite at the electoral apple in 2004 and finally did win the popular vote it was by 2.5 percentage points. Barack Obama's margin in 2012 was 3.9 percentage points.

Thank you, James Madison.