The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Calm down, folks

Yes, the Democratic Party had a bad week. But those of us paying attention knew we would.

Now, I couldn't have predicted the unconscionable fuck-up (no other word for it) perpetrated on the national party by its Iowa subsidiary. In future, I hope Iowa's quirky, exclusionary method of selecting delegates either goes away entirely or gets moved so late in the year that no one cares anymore. Or simply that no one cares anymore, full stop. The idiots running the IDP deserve nothing better for at least two election cycles.

But despite this week's stumbles, I believe that our party will take both houses of Congress and the White House in November. The revulsion that people feel throughout the country at the President and the Republican trolls supporting him bodes well for a correction back to previous norms. And I think that at least three of the five "moderate" Republican trolls in the Senate who voted for acquittal will get turfed out of office. Plus, we are well on our way to winning even more state legislatures, which brings the possibility of undoing the damage that radical Republican trolls have done to the states in the last 10 years. (Not to mention, the census and reapportionment.)

Of course I could be wrong; no one knows the future. I'm just not losing sleep over it.

I'm not buying into the punditry's rending of garments. We still have to select about 99% of our delegates for the July convention; we know the President will loose what remaining shackles he had on his behavior, increasing the center's revulsion of him; and we also know that people have built up antibodies against the massive disinformation campaign that Republican trolls have run since 2015. We also have strong evidence that Monday's "lower-than-expected" turnout (actually about the same as 2016) and lack of a clear winner came not from voter indifference in general, but from voters being generally OK with all of the Democratic candidates.

That disinformation campaign will get much, much worse over the next seven months, of course. Our job is to sit tight, refute the bullshit that needs refuting, and pull a Reagan on the rest of the crap ("There you go again."). People know most of what the President and other Republican trolls say is utter nonsense. Let's not lose our minds over it.

In other words: you know the problem with mud-wrestling with a pig? You both get covered in shit, but the pig likes it. So let it be with those guys.

And let's not get all bent out of shape about one Rasmussen poll that shows the President's approval rating is 49% and "going up." It's not. The actual poll of polls shows a squiggle around 43% consistently since September. Since January 2017, Trump has had less approval from voters than any other president who got re-elected. Consistently.

We had a bad week. So what. We've got 39 more to go before November 3rd.

So, David Brooks: chill out. Monica Bauerlein: keep cool. EJ Dionne: rock on.

We have the facts, and we have the law. We don't need to pound the table—or worse, hide under it.

In other news...

The week keeps getting more fun:

For the next 9 months, I'm considering changing the official style of this blog to refer to "Republican trolls" whenever the party comes up. Because at this point, they're really the party of nihilistic trolls. And we have actual problems that need solving.

Three strikes against impeachment

Welp, the Senate has acquitted President Trump almost entirely along party lines, as everyone knew it would. Only Mitt Romney (R-UT) crossed the aisle to vote for conviction. Here's a roundup of the news in the last few hours:

About yesterday:

  • The Washington Post has an annotated SOTU.
  • Alexandra Petri clutched every pearl she owned, "and also the pearls of strangers, and some oysters that may contain pearls in the future" after Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) ripped up her copy of the SOTU.
  • NBC called the address Trump's "victory lap." Oh no, NBC; he's got more lapping in him.

In other news:

And it's snowing.

My Facebook live-posting last night

You'll just have to imagine the context for all of these comments I posted on my Facebook feed last night. At least I put them in chronological order:

  • Watching the State of the Union with the sound off, and PBS closed captions. And a big martini.—at Agami Contemporary Sushi.
  • I don't know if I can do this. I thought without the sound my skin wouldn't crawl as much. But the words could have come from the Politburo. And Mike Pence is so creepy.
  • OK, I need a non-trivial truthful statement. Just one. Please.
  • If all these groups have record employment, how come everyone feels poor? Maybe because having 3 jobs doesn't feel great?
  • Yeah, you kicked 7 of those 10 million off food stamps. Not a win.
  • Juan F'ing Guaidó? Wow. Talk about a stopped clock being right twice a day. Except Trump actually prefers Maduro, so...
  • Watching him without hearing him, you get a real sense of the insincerity. Go back and watch when everyone was applauding Guaidó. What a weird affect Trump had.
  • "Failing government school?" STFU you illiterate dullard.
  • Interesting how he's only using the stage-left (Republican side) teleprompter.
  • "We will never let socialism destroy American healthcare!" Obviously, because you're happy with capitalism doing it first.
  • Free healthcare to illegal aliens, oh my! (SOTU live vomiting post #2)
  • And there goes the Medal of Freedom. Which Melania just happened to have in her pocket. To place on a man who has done more to destroy political comity in this country than anyone else. I really didn't think anything about this SOTU could shock me. I was wrong.
  • Second martini delivered. Thank you, sir.
  • OMG. He's pulling a Willie Horton in the SOTU.
  • OMG. He's pulling a second... Third... How many Willie Hortons can one bring into one speech? We get it: you hate brown people. Move on.
  • What's this weird shoulder thing he's doing?
  • 187 Federal judges. Remember that. 187. About a quarter of them.
  • Wow. That was an epic take-down of the Establishment Clause.
  • Emotional frisson right now: watching SOTU with closed captions and Agami's sound system is playing "Shake It Off."
  • WTF "our warfighters?"
  • Wow. You brought SFC Williams home from a deployment so you could turn the SOTU into a reality-television special. Of course you did.
  • "The beautiful, beautiful, Alamo." There's no basement in the President's knowledge!

At this point, two martinis in, I stopped posting. At least I didn't start sobbing.

More ridiculousness in the world

Did someone get trapped in a closed time loop on Sunday? Did I? Because this week just brought all kinds of insanity:

Well, one of those is good news...

Fast, Cheap, Good: pick two

I don't often use profanity on this blog, but this morning I am moved to call the Iowa Democratic Party's leaders a bunch of fucking morons. Last night we saw the results of the IDP picking "fast" and "cheap" for critical infrastructure in the most important election cycle in a generation. Now the national Party will go into New Hampshire with a black eye and no end of razzing from the Tweeter in Chief.

It's not just that the IDP chose "fast and cheap" instead of, you know, "good." It's also that everyone in the Democratic Party, from Puerto Rico to Nome, knows what a fucking big deal this election is. Presumably someone involved in this debacle might have done some contingency planning. Like, for example, having enough volunteers on the phones in case something happened with the app.

We've had years to prepare for last night's Iowa Caucuses. Perhaps not a full four years—they changed caucus rules a bit and added verification steps to prevent fraud—but certainly longer than two months. That's how long it took to write the mobile app the Party commissioned to make this the smoothest Caucuses ever, according to reports in NPR and the New York Times. That and $60,000, which gets you two junior developers and a journeyman team lead for two months, tops.

I've run multi-million-dollar software projects (including one in Des Moines 15 years ago), and my back-of-the-envelope estimate for an app to tabulate caucus results that needs to run perfectly on election night came to about $300,000 for a fast project (4-5 months) or $200,000 if it could take 9-10 months. A budget of $60,000 might, perhaps, cover just the coding, not UI testing, app distribution, security testing, project management, integration testing, API deployment, load testing, or testing the testing (i.e., test validation). And the $200k budget doesn't include $20,000 in infrastructure charges to ensure adequate capacity on election night.

In other words, any competent person would have chosen "fast and good" or "cheap and good."

Plus, media outlets also report that the IDP kept the app's origins and code a secret, in complete contravention of basic principles of secure software design. Had they put the code up for review on GitHub, outside reviewers could have caught any technical problems far, far earlier.

So once again, the state of Iowa, a technology hub renowned the world over as a serious rival to Palo Alto, New York, and Bangalore, demonstrated exactly why they need to conduct a primary election on the same day as a few other states a bit later on in the season.

This election is ours to lose. And with this own-goal, you, the Iowa Democratic Party, are fucking making it happen.

Is Alexandra Petri single?

(Asking for a friend.)

Because today she flayed Alan Dershowitz's laughable argument about presidential power by laughing at it:

The will of the voters found its highest and best expression in the election of President Trump, and anything that seems likely to remove him from power or even just inconvenience him a little goes against their will. If the Founders had wanted it to be possible to legitimately remove from office a president the people had selected, they would have made three equal branches of government and devised a specific mechanism for this to occur by a two-thirds vote, or something!

This is why the prospect of another election fills me with so much alarm. We know the voters want Donald J. Trump! They said so, resoundingly, with a minority of their votes, in 2016. Dare we risk overturning that election by holding another? Suppose he were not to win it! That would certainly go against the will of the voters. It would be just as much an overturning of 2016′s results as this impeachment is — perhaps more so, because Mike Pence would not immediately get to become president afterward.

The argument gets even sillier under scrutiny.

(No, she's not, by the way.)

Britain leaves the EU

At midnight Central European Time about five hours from now (23:00 UTC), the United Kingdom will no longer be a European Union member state.

It will take years to learn whether the bare-majority of voters in the UK who wanted this were right or wrong. My guess: a bit of both, but more wrong than right.

It will also take years to fully understand why the developed world collectively decided to throw out the institutions that brought us the longest period of peace and economic growth in the history of the planet.

It might be like how an airplane actually flies. Until recently, people understood the Bernoulli effect as the mechanism for lift. New research (sub. req.) suggests that lift actually has four different components that work together to keep 200-tonne airplanes airborne.

Increasing wealth inequality, the apex of political power for the Baby Boomer generation (possibly the most selfish and whiny generation in American history), psychological warfare of unprecedented sophistication designed specifically to fracture Western politics...they all go together. And those of us who believe that democratic, liberal government is the best force for making the world a better place despair a little more every day.

Things of interest when I have the time to spend on them

Not just articles today, but also a whole HBO mini-series:

For yet another thing to worry about today, after this post and the one before it, the New Yorker has started a series about the last time democracy almost died. (Hint: it got better.)

In case you didn't have enough to worry about

Via Bruce Schneier, two Harvard undergraduates have demonstrated that the volume of easily-obtainable information from multiple, large-scale data breaches makes targeting people for cybercrime easier than you could have guessed:

The students found a dataset from a breach of credit reporting company Experian, which didn’t get much news coverage when it occurred in 2015. It contained personal information on six million individuals. The dataset was divided by state, so [students Dasha] Metropolitansky and [Kian] Attari decided to focus on Washington D.C. The data included 69 variables—everything from a person’s home address and phone number to their credit score, history of political donations, and even how many children they have.

But this was data from just one leak in isolation. Metropolitansky and Attari wondered if they could identify an individual across all other leaks that have occurred, combining stolen personal information from perhaps hundreds of sources.

There are sites on the dark web that archive data leaks, allowing an individual to enter an email and view all leaks in which the email appears. Attari built a tool that performs this look-up at scale.

“We also showed that a cyber criminal doesn’t have to have a specific victim in mind. They can now search for victims who meet a certain set of criteria,” Metropolitansky said.

For example, in less than 10 seconds she produced a dataset with more than 1,000 people who have high net worth, are married, have children, and also have a username or password on a cheating website. Another query pulled up a list of senior-level politicians, revealing the credit scores, phone numbers, and addresses of three U.S. senators, three U.S. representatives, the mayor of Washington, D.C., and a Cabinet member.

"We're two college students. If someone really wanted to do some damage, I'm sure they could use these same techniques to do something horrible," [Metropolitansky said].

As Schneier points out, "you can be sure that the world's major intelligence organizations have already done all of this."

This is also why we need government regulation or stricter liability laws around data breaches. Experian's sloppiness imperiled six million people, and has probably resulted in crime already. But they have no incentive to fix their issues. In fact, they didn't even reveal the breach for years.