Posts from the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Solution To Pre-Existing Conditions

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With a possible repeal of Obamacare finally cresting the horizon, people are beginning agitating to keep pieces of it or taking positions more based on PR than sensible medical or legislative goals.

One of the big issues is, of course, pre-existing conditions. Some people, ostensibly on both sides, are saying “repeal and replace’’, with demands that the replacement includes the provision for covering pre-existing conditions.

What these people either don’t understand or hope we don’t understand, is that the requirement for covering pre-existing conditions is the primary poison pill killing Obamacare.

So, is there a better way? Yes.

It came to me as a product of a piece of simple snark. We should worry about Post-Existing Conditions. I sat with that for a few minutes and realized there’s an actual solution in there. Consider:

A person, let’s call them A, is working at company B which provides health care through company C. To be clear, that means that A has insurance with C, and some fraction of the cost of that insurance is paid by B (with the balance paid by the employee via payroll deductions.

Unfortunately, employee A (or a dependent) is diagnosed with nasty disease D during their employment. They retain their health coverage. But, should they ever want to change to a job at company E, they would then receive health care from F. But F would think of disease D as a pre-existing condition, and so will not cover it.

Let me put some tangible, though not realistic numbers on some of this.

A has insurance with C.
Say cost of insurance is 8000. B pays 5000 of it, and A pays the remaining 3000
If A goes to E, they will have insurance with F. That insurance might cost 6000, of which E would pay 4000 and A would pay the remaining 2000.

Now, imagine that our employee had the option to retain their insurance with C, under B’s plan, though working for E.

E is willing to pay 4000 towards insurance. Insurance with C is 8000, so now A would pay the 4000 difference, rather than the 3000 they were previously paying. However, they would be on the same plan and disease D would not be a pre-existing condition.

This creates a notion that insurance is like roulette. Whoever is covering you when you are diagnosed is perpetually on the hook after that point. While this is a bit distasteful, it is effectively the condition we find ourselves in with handcuffed clients rather than clients with choice.

Looking further down the road if such a scheme were put into place, every insurance company would have legacy patients they might be wishing to pass forward to new employers. This then presents the opportunity for insurance companies to barter their legacies back and forth, bringing employees into the plans actually provided by their current employers. This bartering could be a monetary buy-out to persuade company F to accept pre-existing condition D. Or it could take the form of swapping legacy A from C to F in exchange for swapping some other legacy G from F to C.

All in all, there’s room for this technique to grow in positive ways as insurance companies look to quantify and stabilize the effect of Post-Existing Conditions.

The Scourge of Pre-News

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It’s been nearly 2 decades since I first noticed a phenomenon I came to call Pre-News.  It was the day before Bill Clinton was to be impeached.  I was weary from the many dramas of the scandals leading to the impeachment and eager to see it finished.  So I was tuned in to a 24/7 news channel to be ready.  At that time, there were 2 such channels available to me: CNN and CNN Headline News.  I was on the Headline News channels and watched, repeated every 30 minutes, as Lynn Russell introduced the report.

So this is what CNN wanted us to know the day before impeachment:

As soon as the vote is done, congressional democrats will form up and march out of the House.  They will exit the capitol and march down the street to <somewhere, I don’t remember, maybe Al Gore’s home?>.  There they will meet with other democrats to show solidarity for President Clinton.

There was no detail on the vote, except on assumption it would pass.  What CNN wanted everyone to know was the top-down importance of protesting the impeachment…because all right-thinking people opposed the impeachment, don’t ya know.

Pre-News started innocently enough, I expect.  From media outlets racing to get a scoop, to live reports, to let’s get that scoop by reporting before it happens, just a bit.

But in the example I gave, they were up to a 24 hour lead time on news, and the trend has continued.

The thing about Pre-News is that, since it hasn’t happened, you can tell the story however you want.  You can put in your slant and bias with little or no complaint because there’s no counter-story yet—there can’t be, there isn’t a story yet.

In our recent election, citizen reporters used social media to bypass the mainstream media lock on information.  The MSM is very unhappy about this and has begun branding this new competition as Fake News.  Social media giants, being deeply embedded with democrats, are looking at censoring things deemed Fake News.  But which news is really fake?

The MSM fed us endless polls guaranteeing a Clinton win.  Frank Luntz even tweeted in the first hour of returns that from that moment on, Trump would never be closer to Hillary in Electoral Votes than he was at that moment.  In the coming days, he ate crow, more gracefully than most in the MSM.

His news, like all the MSM reports on expected election results, was Pre-News and so by definition was also Fake News.  The MSM is going to try to defend themselves by attacking alternative news sources.  They’ve settled on the Fake News attack and will, I expect,  use that until either it works or they get laughed off-stage.

As always, Laughter is the best medicine

An Open Letter To Time Warner

Years ago it became clear to me that CNN had a liberal bias.  But they were owned by Ted Turner and I expected his warped political view to infect their behavior.  When they were bought out by you, not much changed, and for a long time I just let things be.  But now, they have gone too far.

In the wikileaks dump last week it was made clear that both Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper were preparing for interviews with Donald Trump by soliciting questions from the DNC.  This is outrageous bias and election tampering.  In a news organization worried about its credibility, these two men would have been fired the next day.  But they were not.  Even Donna Brazille was not fired, she was allowed to resign.

These facts indicate that you support this bias.  Therefore, I am ending my boycott of CNN and beginning a boycott of Time Warner.

You are quite the conglomerate–have your fingers everywhere.  Well, you’ll no longer have box office revenue from me.  You’ll no longer have book sales from me.  Music sales, television viewership, HBO premiums, cable payments.  Nothing.

And in this day of  social media, I don’t need CNN to report on a boycott to help it gain steam.

Goodbye, forever.

Why Mop Secret Matters

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A Guest Commentary, because I could not have said it better:

Why YOU, an American, Should Care About Hillary’s Email Server
Again? It’s just email. It’s just politics as usual. It’s just a right wing conspiracy making a big deal over nothing. It’s just a tempest in a teapot. All politically motived. Not really important.

Yes, it is important. You may not understand why it is important, and why so many people who hold clearances are so upset about this email thing. So I’m going to try to explain it to you, because you really probably don’t understand. If, after understanding you still don’t care – that’s your choice, but still, you should understand.

You see, getting clearances is not a casual thing. There are Executive Orders that cover that – specifically Executive Order 13526. You can look it up online if you want. It governs everything that has to do with classified material.

For instance, when someone gets a clearance, they have to sign a paper. That paper says it is a federal crime punishable by imprisonment to improperly handle classified material. It tells you that you will lose your clearance and your employment if you leak or mishandle classified. Every single year that you hold that clearance you take training that tells you taking classified home, or putting it on a computer that has not been approved and isolated for processing classified, or sharing your password with someone else is a security violation. In fact, Ms. Clinton according to this Executive Order had to take the super heavy duty version of that training every year as she had the authority to determine what was classified for the State Department in regards to foreign negotiations with international officials, and if she was late, the President had to grant the exemption. Every workplace has security posters all over reminding you not to mishandle classified data. Every time you log into your computer, you are reminded of your responsibilities to not mishandle classified and agree that you have no right of privacy and your email and files are not yours and can be searched any time the government chooses to search them. Your responsibility to safeguard classified is an inescapable fact of your daily existence when you hold a clearance. You often can’t have a cell phone at work, you usually can’t have an unclassified computer at your desk, you usually have to worry about people overhearing your conversations when they are having an unclassified conversation on a phone in the next cubical. You have to take training and sign over and over that you know and are abiding by the rules. You may be asked to take polygraph tests and when you do, they ask you if you have ever done things like take classified out of a classified facility, reveal it to unauthorized people or process it on unclassified computers or share your password. If you know someone who holds a clearance they have probably told you that they would be in prison if they did what Hillary did. And odds are, they are probably right – there’s a guy in MD that just got arrested for it a couple weeks ago. There is no question they absolutely would have permanently lost their clearances, and they would be unemployed with no possibility of re-instatement.

The rules against being careless with classified aren’t arbitrary or casual. You see, protecting classified data is very expensive, it requires a lot of processes and extra computers and special facilities, so there’s a lot of resistance to classifying data unless it absolutely needs to be classified. Some people think that classifying data is just a way of hiding dirty government behavior (in fact such hiding of embarrassing information is explicitly forbidden in section 1.7 of EO 13526), and that classified data isn’t really actually all that important, but that is completely wrong.

The truth is, most classified data is classified for good reason under one of several justification clauses. Either the data is protecting military operations security, foreign government data, or it is protecting a technology, technology advantage or vulnerability (like weapon systems details, or cryptography, or nuclear materials stores, or weapons of mass destruction), or it is protecting intelligence sources and methods.

Military plans and operations security is what you think of when you hear the famous WW2 phrase “Loose Lips Sink Ships”. Operations security is transitory – it protects our soldiers who get put in harms way during military operations by ensuring that the enemy isn’t aware of what they are doing and are prepared for them. Protecting this data means fewer American soldiers are hurt or killed – the secrets we keep protect our soldiers from undue risks and can mean the difference between winning and losing a battle or a war. Leaking this kind of classified gets our people killed. After military actions complete, often this data is declassified and released to the public because the risk to our soldiers and operations is past.

Technology based classification is pretty obvious and pretty universally practiced in military, government, and even commercial sectors. The US government spends a significant amount of money trying to get a technology advantage over other countries so our soldiers will have better, more accurate, more effective warfighting abilities compared to other countries. This data is classified to preserve the investment of government dollars in new capabilities and the technology edge we have over other nations. Again – this type of classified data can make the difference between our soldiers coming home whole or injured or dead – or the difference between winning and losing a battle or a war. A famous case of this type of data classification is stealth technology, and most commercial companies like HP, Intel, even KFC (secret spices?) have parallel sensitive data that they protect in order to protect their competitive edge.

Sources and Methods is something different entirely. Data that was classified for sources and methods reasons is speculatively the most likely type of classified that would have been on Hillary’s email server. The reason sources and methods are protected is that if the data that is classified is leaked, the sources will be compromised and will no longer be an effective source of data. If the information comes from a person, that person will almost certainly be killed, our adversary will know that we had access to their data or plans, and other potential human sources of information will not talk to us because they can’t trust us to keep our mouths shut well enough that they won’t get killed. If the information comes from a foreign government source, then that government – and possibly other governments – will no longer share what they know because we can’t be trusted to keep our mouths shut or protect our sources. If the data comes from a technical collection method (think hacking computers for example), the method of data gathering can be denied because they now know how we get our data because we can’t keep our mouths shut. Leaking these sources and methods can make a data collection system completely obsolete overnight. And that can cost big bucks. Like millions or even billions of taxpayer dollars that YOU are shelling out to buy systems to make sure that we have the information that the President needs to make the best decisions for our country’s benefit and security. Sources and methods classification protects the investments that the government has made in collection capabilities and ensures that we can continue to have an information edge on the people who want to destroy us.

For any classification reason, the level of classification – CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, or TOP SECRET relates to the degree of harm the nation, our soldiers, or our collection methods will incur if the information is lost to an adversary.

The thing that infuriates people with clearances about the whole email server thing (besides the double standard of consequences that has been applied) is how completely unnecessary it was, and the arrogant systematic irresponsible recklessness of the mindset that permeates what happened. Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State, and by Executive Order she was required to know the rules inside and out. The two highest value targets for foreign intelligence collection in the world are the President of the USA, and the Secretary of State of the USA. Number 1, and Number 2. Every single foreign intelligence agency in the world, to the best of their ability, is listening to every phone call, reading every email they can from these two people. They have their very best hackers working on getting into these people’s computer systems every opportunity they get (note: Hillary has never said the Russians don’t have her emails – she knows they do). So – of all the people who needed to follow the rules – the rules that protect our taxpayer dollars, our soldiers’ lives, our international relationships – the Secretary of State is the one person who needs to follow the rules the MOST of anyone because she is the biggest target at the highest level of risk. And Hillary believed – and apparently continues to believe – that she didn’t have to follow the rules – the rules were for others, not for her. She has very reluctantly stated that she made a mistake – but this is wrong. There was no mistake here – there was irresponsible and reckless disregard for the security of our nation and peoples lives for her convenience.

There is no place to cut her slack either. The Secretary of State can have a classified communications connection and computer in a room that is properly protected to safeguard that data in his/her house including mobile connections just for asking – the President does, and so do others – all Hillary needed to do was say she wanted it and it would have been priority 1 – a matter of weeks to get it installed and operating. But for whatever reason, she didn’t do that, and classified data was compromised because of her very bad judgement.

So now you understand. Take your (possibly) new understanding and think about what it will mean to our nation to have a president who has been proven to practice reckless disregard for our national security and people’s lives.

One Person, Two Votes

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This needs bumping for those battleground states:

You no doubt are familiar with the phrase “One Person, One Vote.” And when you vote in November, or in your primaries, or any special election, you of course get precisely one vote (barring some form of voter fraud, which I think is one of the worst crimes in our Republic).

 But as a consequence of having a two (major) party system, the math actually works out that you have two votes.  Let’s look at it through the lens of the 2008 election in Minnesota.  Minnesota is a liberal-heavy state and there was little doubt Obama would win the state.  But the Democrat Party in Minnesota did the numbers and found that their Senate candidate (Al Franken) was losing a squeaker of a race.  Note that for this to happen a sizeable number of voters had to vote for Obama but not vote for Franken.
So the Obama campaign sent out social media calls saying that Obama was in danger of losing. A bunch more people rushed to the polls to vote for Obama, and along the way enough of them voted for Franken that he won as well.  This table shows the results after the obligatory recount.
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3rd party candidates garnered 460,225 votes.  No doubt, every single one of those people voted their conscience and had a reason for picking their candidate over Coleman.  But at least two of those parties lean conservative and would have preferred Coleman to Franken.  And no doubt many of their voters would have changed their vote if they’d known it was going to be that close.
So here it is.  460,225 votes went 3rd party, and Franken won the election by 312.
If 313 of those 460,225 voters had gone for Coleman, Franken would not have won (that’s less than 0.1% of the voters).  At the same time, if Obama’s emergency call had brought in 313 fewer last minute voters, Franken would have lost.
And finally, if 157 of those Franken voters had  gone for Coleman instead, Franken would have lost.
Did you see that last one?  157 instead of 313.  Why?  Because in a 2 party system, your vote counts twice.  You register a vote for one person and against the other.  The second candidate has to find a vote to match yours and then another vote to pull ahead 2 votes.
This has been an unconventional election cycle all around, and post-primary healing is not complete.  People who are strongly anti-Hillary have declared themselves #NeverTrump and it’s hard to go back on #Never.
But as I listen and read these #NeverTrump people, I can feel how strongly they oppose Hillary and much of their upset is a belief (or fear) that Trump won’t beat her.  Some even express it as a belief Trump ran to lose, paving the way for Hillary.
Some Republican candidates, after the primaries, have skipped the convention or refused to endorse Trump.  As I write this there’s a furor over Cruz’s speech for not endorsing.  Trump supporters are outraged, Cruz supporters are proud and emboldened.  I take the middle on this.  Cruz gave a good speech supporting the party in general and the down-ballot candidates.  He cannot be faulted for not endorsing Trump after the attacks he withstood.  The Trump supporters should not have booed him as he left, nor been harsh to him or his family after the speech.
However, I have a message for the #NeverTrump people:
Use both of your 2 votes! I understand that you have strong reasons to oppose him.  But if you stay home or vote 3rd party, you’re wasting one of your two votes.  If you really truly don’t want Hillary, I implore you to vote for the Trump/Pence ticket. If this entreaty fails to sway you, please go vote anyway and vote for the  down-ballot Republicans.  Whoever is President, we are going to need them.

Advertisers of Biased News

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Here is a list of national news shows and their advertisers.  This list will be completed and then updated as needed.  Please alert me if there are changes I have not captured

ABC

World News Tonight
pending

20/20
pending

This Week
pending

Good Morning America
pending

CBS

CBS Evening News
Viberzi (Allergen)
Prudential
Poligrip
Boost (Nestle)
Xeljanz (Pfizer)
Edward Jones
Ford
Mirafiber (Miralax)
Consumer Cellular
Trulicity (Lilly)
Voya

60 Minutes
pending

48 Hours
pending

Face The Nation
pending

This Morning
pending

NBC

NBC Nightly News
Eliquis (Pfizer)
Prevagen (Quincy Bioscience)
Geico
Capital One
Advil
Farmers Insurance
Zostavax (Merck)
Amazon
Progressive
Sunsweet Prune Juice
Edward Jones
Xeljanz (Pfizer)

Meet The Press
pending

Dateline
pending

Today
pending

 

An Ongoing Denial of Service Attack

 

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Late last night, the media came out with reports of 4 women who allege that Donald Trump touched them in some sexual way.

12 hours later, people looking into it (not actual reporters), have found that:

Some of the claims match text from previous recorded sexual harassment or assault claims, as though borrowing verbiage to make them credible
One of the claims uses lyrics from a Velvet Underground song
One of the accusers is a Secretary employed by one of the Clinton’s organizations
The claims themselves defy logic—4 victims of a billionaire keep quiet for a decade or 3, skipping out on possible paydays from lawsuits, but then all come forward on the exact same day less than a month before the election

It is, of course, impossible to prove a negative and the clock is ticking on an effort to establish or discredit these claims before election day.  I’ll wager now that if they are all discredited before election day, more women will show up.  I will also wager that comments about the opening of the new Smithsonian Museum focusing on African Americans, which features Anita Hill and ignores Clarence Thomas, was some sort of reassurance to these women as they prepared to make their allegations.

But, it’s a week or two early for a proper October surprise.  Why now?  Well, there’ve been at least 6 different drops of email leaks related to the Clinton campaign in the last few days.  I have not scoured the leaked emails, but it certainly seems to include a number of ethical, and maybe criminal, lapses.

How to stop that getting reported?  With a Denial of Service (DoS) attack.

If you already know what a DoS attack is, skip ahead to the next one-line paragraph.

A DoS is an internet attack on a particular site, for example a web server.  Could be a big server like Microsoft or Google, or a small server like a local pizza restaurant.  The smaller the server, the easier the DoS attack.  Now, every time anyone visits that server, asking for a particular web page, the server notices the request, reads the request, finds the referenced web page, then starts sending it back to the originator of the request.  The process that does this is called a daemon.  It sits on the server waiting for requests.  Usually  many such daemons are waiting there, like taxis at the airport.  Each request is grabbed by a daemon and the next daemon steps forward ready for the next one.

While there is no theoretical maximum number of daemons, there are practical maximums to the number of file requests that can be examined at a time, and the amount of data entering and exiting the server.  So, if enough requests hit a server at the same time, the server will be momentarily too busy to respond to all the requests.  If the high number of requests continues, this becomes a problem.

When the high number of requests is intentional and orchestrated, this is an attack, specifically a Denial of Service attack—so named because a regular user of the web site, trying to reach it during the attack, will be unable to.  The web site is still up.  The attacker may be on a different continent.  But he or she has effectively shut down the server.

If you skipped the DoS description, re-join the discussion here.

The owner of the attacked server has tools to combat a DoS attack, but they take some technical skills and, of course, the owner has to want to.  Well, what owner of an internet server would not want to combat a DoS attack aimed at them?

Before I continue, let me recount a joke from the old British TV show Dave Allen At Large:

A Cardinal rushes up to the Pope and announces that Jesus has just entered Saint Peter’s Square, riding on a donkey.  “What should we do?” he finishes.
The Pope calmly replies, “Look busy”.

So far, over 6000 emails from Hillary crony John Podesta have leaked.  They are news.  But they are getting almost no air-time because the claims against Trump are all that’s being covered (in fact, some at MSNBC and other outlets have come on-air and said, ‘Nothing major in the emails, back to the Trump story.’)  This is, in essence, a Denial of Service attack on the media

As with the owner of the attacked web server, the media has the perfect tool to counteract this DoS attack.  It could simply give equal time to both stories.  But of course, they do not.  They have a story they can grind on to ‘Look Busy’ while burying the stories coming out of the emails.

Is it alarmist to suggest the media is complicit in this?  Well, the leaked emails are showing endless forms of complicity between the Clinton campaign and most every major media outlet there is.  And it’s naming names.  You might think CNN would welcome a chance to cut down its competition a little.  But they are just as vulnerable to the criticism.  So each organization ends up covering for all the others as it covers for itself.

One more thought on the DoS aspect of this.  We usually refer to the server-owner as the victim of a DoS, because their business is being attacked.  The attack takes the form of refusing service to existing or potential customers.  So in another sense, the victim is the customer.

And so it is in the DoS attack with the complicity of the attacked entities.  They still have their business.  They’re selling advertising and people are watching.   They can say they’re just doing their job.

But the customers, the news consumer, is being attacked.  They are being denied the full story of what’s going on.  Most of them don’t even know it, which is how the media wants it (there’s even an email among the leaked group saying precisely that!).

There used to be a time when an oppositional news media challenged and confronted all government agencies, effectively acting as an extra set of checks and balances, in addition to the three branches of Government overseeing each other.  That paradigm is dead—at least so long as the people leading the government share the values of the people managing the media.

To Be Continued….