Nothing is Gonna Bring Him Back

Fandango asks, “Do you think Donald Trump should be allowed back on social media now that he’s no longer in office?”, which surely is a provocative question.  If he were to ask, “Should pedophiles be allowed around children?”, everybody would say unanimously, “No, of course not”, and that would be the end of it.   Trump is gone, but not before he brought shame to the whole nation, and the only thing that will ever bring him back is a social media presence, so if there is any justice in the world, he should never have a platform that allows him to spew his lies anymore.  People are dead because of him (Covid-19 mishandling and the insurrection) and our country has never been so divided before.  While Trump was in office, he behaved with complete disregard for Democracy and the norms that have held our country together.

He was and is a disgrace of a man, sucking up to Kim Jong Un and showing his love for the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.  He is the only president to ever be impeached twice and we must learn a lesson from this, being that if the country suffered so badly under Trump once, that it is possible for him to return again and even be worse the next time.  Personally, I don’t have a social media presence, so it wouldn’t really bother me, if he was allowed back on, as I would never listen to him, but the radical right is still looking for his supposed leadership, and it won’t take that much to rile them up again.  My hope is that he will be put on trial and never allowed to run for any office again.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #105.

Math History

I think that in order for students to be able to comprehend mathematics, that they should know how this subject developed.  If students knew why people started counting things, this would help grasp, why they need to know the number line.  History is a lot easier to teach than math, because some students get bored with numbers, but if they were taught how the great breakthroughs came about, this would help to gain their interest, instead of just throwing all of these numbers and complicated terms at them.

I did this in my third, as yet still unpublished book titled So You Want To Learn Calculus, because there are a lot of bad math teachers out there.  I had three semesters of Calculus in College and although I could solve the problems because I was able to see the patterns, I never really knew what this subject was about.  If Math is taught correctly, it can be a fascinating subject.  My book is not for everyone and nobody has ever read it and it is possible that nobody ever will, but you can’t just throw students into this ocean of information, before they know how to swim.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #104 which asks, “What do you think is the one subject (or thing) that should be taught in school that isn’t?”

If I Catch You Talking to That Boy Again

People get jealous over stupid things, but it mostly comes from a lack of trust of what is going on in their own life, or in their partner, or in themselves.  A little bit of jealousy is normal and it can be healthy from time to time, as it is good to deal with your emotions.  If someone is flirting with your partner and you feel like you have become the third wheel, this could become a motivator that drives you to improve your social skills, so that next time you will get more attention in the conversations.  If the situation is reversed and you feel like your partner is flirting with somebody that would make you feel threatened and this might drive you to pull your partner away from this person making you come off as being a strong protective partner, which certain people might enjoy, because you are focusing on them.

By encountering jealousy in your life, this can let you learn about yourself so you can build good relationships.  Jealousy can make you aware of your emotions and by understanding your emotions you will get better at relating to other people, knowing what you want, and in turn this will allow you to make better choices.  If jealous sentiments are handled properly, instead of feeling of discontented or resentful, you can use these emotions to build a strong desire to know or learn something and this might make your dreams come true.  If you never have to deal with jealousy, then you will not be able to see all the possibilities you have in life.  The grass is not always greener on the other side, it only gets greener when it gets watered, so express all of your feelings to your partner and even jealousy has value.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #103 which asks, “Is jealousy purely a negative and potentially destructive emotion, or does jealousy have any value as a motivator to drive people to improve themselves?”

Leave Well Enough Alone

Trump can still do a lot of damage with just three weeks left to his presidency, but Biden will take over on January 20, 2021.  Getting rid of Trump won’t fix America’s broken democracy, but it is a good start.  If the Democrats can win the Georgia Senate races, things should go much smoother for the new administration.  The big cry baby who only seems to care about himself is holding up important legislation because Twitter and Facebook took down a few of his posts.  Mitch McConnell tied three bills together, putting off the vote till next year.  He has combined the vote on increasing COVID-19 relief checks from $600 to $2,000 with the repeal of section 230 and another bill that Trump wants which would appoint a special committee to investigate election fraud.  The Democrats won’t be having any of that, because Trump has already wasted too much time with this election fraud nonsense.  McConnell did urge senators to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a defense bill.  Sen. Bernie Sanders is making this more difficult by staging a filibuster on the override of President Donald Trump’s defense bill veto, unless the Senate holds a vote on providing $2,000 direct payments to Americans.  America stands divided!

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a 26-word portion of the 1996 law that created the Internet as we know it.  The Court ruled the CDA to be unconstitutionally overbroad because it suppressed a significant amount of protected adult speech in the effort to protect minors from potentially harmful speech, thus violating the First Amendment, as removing pornography from the internet contrasts with freedom of speech.  Congress then passed the Child Online Protection Act of 1998 (COPA) with the intent of preventing minors (under 17 years of age) from accessing obscene material on commercial Web sites, which targeted the Internet transmission of material harmful to minors distributed for commercial purposes.  Heated political arguments over censorship and misinformation on this issue still continue as Democrats want companies like Facebook to do more to police disinformation, while Republicans claiming censorship of conservative views want to make internet companies do less policing.  Section 230 is controversial, but it allows people to post what they want online, and the websites don’t get sued for it, because of their legal shield.

Section 230 in conjunction with Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) enable the modern internet to function by allowing everyone to post content online, and by providing intermediary liability protections to websites and apps to allow them to remove or moderate inappropriate content.  Politicians on both sides of the aisle, including President-elect Joe Biden have voiced their complaints about Section 230, but many Democrats disagree with this and the prospect of repealing Section 230 is most likely a deal breaker for many lawmakers, as some of its protections are important for the continued function of an open and relatively safe internet.

When the law was written, site owners worried they could be sued if they exercised any control over what appeared on their sites, so the law includes a provision that says that, so long as sites act in “good faith”, they can remove content that is offensive or otherwise objectionable.  In July, Twitter removed a tweet that had been retweeted by President Donald Trump that falsely said that there was a cure for the coronavirus.  Twitter has become much more aggressive in recent months in either removing tweets posted by the president, fact-checking them in real time or even placing warning labels over them and they temporarily locked out Donald Trump Jr. Twitter account after he posted a controversial video that promoted hydroxychloroquine.  President Trump contends that Section 230 gives big internet companies too much legal protection and allows them to escape responsibility for their actions.

Trump has called to repeal the law and signed an executive order attempting to curb some of its protections, though the order has been challenged in court.  More recently, he threatened to veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual defense funding bill, if it does not revoke Section 230.  Trump seized on the once-obscure legal provision after wrangling with Twitter back in May.  The social media platform put fact-checking labels on some of his tweets that claimed, without evidence, that mail-in ballots were fraudulent.  Trump then signed an executive order seeking to peel away the sweeping legal immunity social media companies and other online sites have long used as a shield against an avalanche of lawsuits.

I hope that our legislators refrain from changing, disturbing, or becoming involved in section 230 as this will cause more problems or worsen the problem that we have.  Just because Trump is a cry baby, that is no reason to upset the apple cart and I am afraid that if we don’t leave well enough alone, that we will only end up with a lot of lawsuits and that will just benefit the rich.  My biggest fear is that America may never recover from all the damage that Trump has done over the last four years.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #102 which asks, “What do you fear the most?”

The Dark Side Became My Pathway

Melanie once asked if we ever dined and dashed, or left the scene of an accident, or stole or shoplifted and I had to admit yes to all of those things.  I told Melanie that I used to smoke, I used to drink and I liked to dance the hoochie-coo, but that is not my dark side, that was just being normal.  Most of my problems came from not having a girlfriend, so I ended up in a bad crowd and I did a whole lot of drugs.  I smoked pot, hash, hash oil, angle dust, snorted cocaine, inhaled nitrous oxide, amyl nitrate, ate mushrooms, peyote buttons, did mescaline, dropped acid, dabbled in uppers and downers, and drank methadone.  Hey I may have left something out, but that pretty much sums this up, as getting high was a way of life for me.

I had girlfriends, but none of them ever stuck around for very long.  One day in High School when I was a senior, I was dating a Freshman and we were on split sessions.  They were building a new High School because there were too many students, but it was not ready yet.  The overcrowding solution was solved by having the Juniors and Seniors go to school in the mornings and then the Sophomores and Freshmen would be in school in the afternoons.  I said that this girl was my girlfriend, but she was actually more like a good friend, although I did make out with her a few times and maybe she and her friends considered me to be her boyfriend.

One morning all of these freshman girls got together to party and they drank, but Monica my girl indulged a bit too much and she was wasted.  I was 17 and she was 14 and because I didn’t have my own car yet, I took the bus to school.  Anyway, all of Monica’s friends came up to me in the Cafeteria after my school session was over and before theirs started and they told me that I needed to take care of her today.  She was a mess stumbling around, but I had no place to take her except to my parent’s house and in her condition, I didn’t think that she would be allowed to ride on the bus.  A group of my friends volunteered to drive Monica and I to my place and we squeezed into the back seat of Kenny’s car and Monica sat on my lap.  I took her into my bedroom and she passed out.  I had no idea what to do with her and it was a lot like that scene in Animal House and the devil won.  Certainly not my proudest moment, but I have since made peace with myself.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #100 which asks, “How do we make peace with ourselves, knowing that, being the basically good people we are, we also have a side to us which we know isn’t the best — our ‘dark side’? Can we overcome these parts of our lives that we may not be proud of? Or do we simply accept them, learn to live with them, and move on?”

Must Be Dealt With

The US needs a stimulus deal, and this must be done before the legislators go on vacation again, as they will not be in session after December 18th.  Unless Congress acts soon, millions of Americans will face eviction, a loss of unemployment benefits, or both.  The U.S. economy is recovering but there’s still a long way to go before it comes back to even and there is a big difference between Wall Street and Main Street, as Main Street describes the average American investors, small independent businesses and investment institutions, or the real economy.  Many Americans were in a precarious financial position even before the pandemic hit, living from paycheck to paycheck with no emergency savings and due to the pandemic, many Americans are now out of work.

People must continue social distancing and wearing masks and when the vaccine is available people must get it.  There is good news on the horizon, but we have to remain diligent and do the right things so life can eventually return to normal.  These new vaccines will not be like the Tuskegee experiments, as they are coming with unprecedented levels of transparency and we need to trust them, to finally put an end to this situation that we are in.

America has never been this divided before and American politics have become one ugly mess, with no clear solution.  The poisonous effects of partisanship are making us either Red Americans, or Blue Americans and there does not seem to be any middle ground.  The two major parties are split on so many issues and this is causing explosive fights and irreconcilable conflicts which are paving the way so that nothing ever gets accomplished.  This polarization between the two camps is creating turmoil in the United States and the deep differences are not getting closer to any solution.  Fear of Trump got out the Democratic vote out, and Biden won the recent election, but Trump lives in his own reality and he will continue to deny that he lost.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #99 which asks, “What do you think are the three most pressing issues facing us today?”

Not About Me

In Bob Dylan’s ‘Queen Jane Approximately’ Queen Jane lets others take advantage of her, turning the other cheek to all of the bandits and their complaints.  She needs all the drama in her life to end, but she is tired of talking.
“Now, when all of the bandits that you turn your other cheek to
All lay down their bandannas and complain
And you want somebody you don’t have to speak to”

I don’t have any friends, a spouse, a significant other and I don’t really talk to my family, so Fandango’s question is hard for me to answer.  To confront, or not to confront others, that is the question, whether or not is it better to suffer small indignities or to speak your mind, should probably be left up to Shakespeare, or some other philosopher that knows more than I do.  Sometimes being diplomatic is the prudent thing to do, but it is also necessary to air out your frustrations, as only the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  At certain times, it may be better to vent than to let something ruin your life.  Queen Jane avoided uncomfortable situations because of fear, or maybe she just didn’t want to hurt other people’s feelings and although her life was a mess, this helped her to be at peace.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #98 which asks, “When it comes to your friends, your spouse, your significant other, or members of your family, is it better to confront them about things they say or do that bother or upset you or is it better to try to ignore those things in order to maintain peace in your relationship?”

God Helps Those

The phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is used to underscore the necessity for people to take self-initiative.  Many have attributed its origin to Benjamin Franklin but the roots of this idea go all the way back to ancient Greece.  Though it has ancient origins, the actual English version of this quote we use today was first penned by Algernon Sydney, an English politician who lived in the 1600s and wrote Discourses Concerning Government in response to Sir Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha.  This expression said to show you believe that if you make an effort to achieve something, you will be successful.

Thanksgiving is coming and I am looking forward to second helpings, but like it says in that Ricky Nelson song ‘Garden Party’, “ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself”.  If you don’t help yourself, then you become a burden to others and the last thing that I want is to be dependent on other people for things that I can do myself.  Sure, that will probably happen someday, as I get older and become more decrepit, but as long as I can bathe myself, dress myself and feed myself, I can retain my independence.  I’ll never be your burden and I am only as heavy as I feel inside.  Taking care of your own needs is never a bad thing and it is OK to be a little bit selfish.  Putting yourself first improves your happiness and when you are happy, the rest of the world is better off.

As far as helping your family goes, that should be your second concern after you help yourself.  The ability to put others’ needs in front of your own is important, but it can be inconvenient at times and the demand that it puts on you to sacrifice your own happiness may make you wonder if it is worth the effort.  A mother’s love matters so much to her children and it is like nothing else in the world.  If the mother does not take care of her own needs, then she will not be able to give unconditional love to her offspring, which could result in the child suffering emotional damage.

Helping your friends, helping society, and helping the world all sound like good things, but what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits himself in the process.  What else can a man be but who they are.  A person can only do so much and if they take on large responsibilities and ignore the ones that are close to them because of this, they will end up being hated.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #97 which asks, “Is it more important to you to be able to help yourself, help your family, help your friends, help your society, or help the world?”

Research Practices

Digging into something a mile wide and an inch deep means that you have only scratched the surface, concerning a particular area of expertise, although you have covered a lot of ground, which could be a good thing.  Researching a topic an inch wide and a mile deep suggests that you have gained specific knowledge and expertise, because you have specialized or stayed focused on a precise area, but perhaps your focus was not on the right area.  Six Sigma is an Analytical Methodology that focuses on reducing process variation by utilizing a set of techniques that strive to greatly reduce the rate of defects, maintains a surgical focus on the inch wide and a mile-deep strategy to effectively investigate and resolve problems.  Lean is another manufacturing systematic way of eliminating waste and creating flow in the production process that removes unnecessary steps of the production process that do not add value to the finished product, and Lean looks at a process an inch deep and a mile wide.

There is something called Lean Six Sigma which combines both of these methodologies together with Six Sigma being used to reduce variation, defects and errors in a process and Lean helping to make a product or service faster and more efficient by identifying and eliminating waste.  Fandango asked us today, “Do you think it’s better to have a broad knowledge base or a deep knowledge base?” and I feel that it is best to have a combination of the two, as that way you can cover a lot of ground and provide a concentrated focus on the problem.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #96.

Privacy Versus Security

The National Security Agency’s mass surveillance has greatly expanded in the years since September 11, 2001 and our leaders and institutions are no longer being held accountable to the promises of democracy.  Ever since the whistleblower Edward Snowden copied and leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA), proponents of government surveillance argue that security is more important than privacy, so government surveillance programs were put in place to infiltrate most of the communications technologies, thus enabling the government to try to stop terrorism before it happens.  Our government has regularly tracked the calls of hundreds of millions of Americans, and it continues to spy on a vast but unknown number of Americans’ international calls, text messages, web-browsing activities, and emails.  The opponents of government surveillance claim that bulk data collection infringes upon individual rights.

The Darknet exists, which are portions of the internet that are not easily accessible by the public at large, without dedicated expertise.  The dark web constitutes a subset of what’s called the “deep web” and it is useful for anything that requires greater privacy.  This area of the Internet consists of anything that Google and other search engines have not previously indexed.  Content on the deep web, which is estimated to comprise as much as 99% of the Internet, is therefore not accessible via these familiar “surface web” search engines.  The deep web refers to non-indexed pages, while the dark web refers to pages which are both non-indexed and involved illegal activities.  The dark web is the part of the deep web that is intentionally hidden for the sake of privacy, but it’s not very large and is probably only about 5% of the total internet.

Data leaks aren’t the only type of malicious activity in which nefarious individuals seek to engage on the dark web.  Malware authors can leverage the privacy afforded by the dark web to offer various types of attack tools that they sell.  Cybercriminals offer phishing kits, ransomware, remote access trojans, exploits, botnets and other emerging threats.  Many terrorists and extremists use the Darknet to mask their communication and propaganda efforts, recruit and radicalize, and gain material benefits in the form of illicit goods, such as weapons and fraudulent documents.  They also use the dark web for drugs, child pornography, counterfeit goods and/or sex trafficking.

Malware is a catch-all term for any type of malicious software designed to harm or exploit any programmable device, service or network.  Phishing is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information or data, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.  Ransomware is a type of malware from cryptovirology that threatens to publish the victim’s data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid.  A Remote Access Trojan (RAT), is a form of malware which allows a hacker to control your device remotely.  Exploits are programs or code that are designed to leverage a software weakness and cause unintended effects.  A botnet is a number of Internet-connected devices, each of which is running one or more bots.  Botnets can be used to perform Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks, steal data, send spam, and allow the attacker to access the device and its connection.

There needs to be a balance between reducing opportunities for terrorists to exploit people connected to the internet, and a way to protect the communication and privacy of ordinary citizens.  I get ransomware emails from what I guess are Russian hackers, telling me that they have all of my passwords and that unless I send them money in bitcoins, they are going to destroy my life.  I also get a lot of what I figure are phishing scams, from people claiming that my last Netflix payment was not received.  I always ignore all of these emails and consider them to be spam.  Any technological innovation can be exploited for sinister purposes, and these lazy bastards that don’t want to get a real job will keep trying to extort everyone, as that is their nature.

A firewall acts as a gatekeeper, monitoring attempts to gain access to your operating system and blocking unwanted traffic or unrecognized sources.  Firewalls provide protection against outside cyber attackers by shielding your computer or network from malicious or unnecessary network traffic.  Firewalls can also prevent malicious software from accessing a computer or network via the internet.  I have a software firewall from iSoft Repair, which I feel helps to protect my network by filtering traffic and blocking outsiders from gaining unauthorized access to the private data on my computer, but firewalls can also be hardware devices.  I bought a three-year plan and it makes me feel comfortable, but I also have a McAfee LiveSafe 36-month subscription.  McAfee LiveSafe antivirus protection defends against viruses, online threats, and ransomware with online and offline protection.  I also have Malwarebytes, an anti-malware software that finds and removes malware.  It is better to be safe than sorry.

Today Fandango asks, “Which is more important to you, privacy or security?  How much privacy are you willing to give up for security?”  Those damn Russian hackers got me a while back and I got hit with a Trojan ransom virus.  I guess I was doing research and somehow accidently ended up on a porn site, at least that is the story that I am going with.  All of my MS Office files and all of my pictures were infected with a malicious encryption making them useless to me.  I got a message on my screen that asked me to pay a nominal amount, if I remember correctly it was about $300 in Bitcoins in order for them to restore my infected files.  Those f-in bastards even had the nerve to send me another message stating that I only had two hours left before they would raise the ransom.  I never paid them and all of my files were lost forever, as I had nothing backed up.  This type of stuff has made security my prime concern, but I do feel that my privacy is being invaded.

I have a paid WordPress site and it is free of advertisements, but many of the bloggers that I follow have free sites containing these irritating commercials.  If I buy something on Amazon, then everywhere I go, these annoying adds seem to follow me around.  They sniff me out and track me down and I know this isn’t spyware, and it’s probably not malicious, but it is a little creepy, and I have nothing to blame other than marketing.  Whenever I visit a shopping site, they place a cookie on my computer and I feel like cookies should be made for eating, not for tracking my shopping habits, but this is a basic part of how the Internet works.  I feel that there should be some type of alert, before anyone can store a cookie on my computer, because my privacy is important to me.  To answer Fandango, I like security, and I guess I can deal with cookies, but I just wish that all the hackers would drop dead, as they serve no useful purpose.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #95.