Don’t touch that dial: on police cameras

There was an ‘incident’ in the USA where a police camera documented police officers planting evidence. They had forgotten something about their police camera:

apparently, these cameras always keep the last thirty seconds, and when activated, keep that plus further footage. Thus the officer thought he was controlling when recording started, but inadvertently captured the previous thirty seconds as well.

Unfortunately, it appears to this blogger that police frequently get off either very lightly or scot-free. The Forcillo case in Toronto is going back on appeal.

Here’s what I think the rules should be for police cameras:

  • always on.
  • always streamed to cloud storage which is audited daily for no gaps.
  • always available to all parties in cases of possible police action being questionable.
  • always directly identifiable as to what officer is wearing the source of footage.

In an ideal world, all officers appearing on police camera would be automatically identified. Chip implant? Facial recognition? Permanent log of who was where?

Police forces will scream that this puts them at a disadvantage. I beg to disagree:

  • Police are armed, can make arrests, have a lot of discretionary power.
  • Full disclosure of police actions will create, eventually, public trust.
  • Officers who cannot earn public trust should not be armed nor badged.

Comments, anyone? Anyone willing to put their real eMail and make a real comment here?
That’s today’s dumb question.

Acronis gets my back up

I am updating this post partly in fairness to Acronis.

They did not respond quickly to my problem with Acronis 2018. I had decided to un-install it and try for a refund. They called me on my cell phone about ten minutes after I’d done the un-install and installed a competitive product. I asked for a refund and got it on my credit card a few days later.

What follows is my original post, unaltered, until you get to the bottom where I will mention Paragon. Original post continues right here.

I claim to ‘look after’ five different computers in this house.

I acquired Acronis 2018 to use as backup for the newest computer,  a Zenbook for my wife. She can watch useful videos in her art/sewing/ studio instead of lugging subsets of equipment to the desktop downstairs.

Acronis 2018 made exactly one backup on a 3 terabyte Mybook Live, USB 3. It refused to make a second backup on the same drive connected the same way. It gave an error to the effect that the backup location could not be found.

Acronis 2018 could not make a recovery bootable USB because the screen was too big (mostly blank white space) with no scroll bar.

I overcame this by un-locking the taskbar (to get one extra screen line) and created a bootable USB. This machine has a different bios from what I’m used to, but it’s rather easy to choose a USB boot if one is available.

The boot leads to a blue screen from which a recovery canNot be launched.

I am considering my options with regard to this purchase. I think that if I solemnly swear that the product does not work my credit card company will reverse the charge.

Acronis 2017 was an oops moment. I wanted to increase my 2016 3-license agreement, but despite promises via eMail of a deal, the site would not make it cheaper than purchasing one new license. Not being prescient, I did not realize I’d need more than one more seat, so I got a 1-license Acronis 2017.

2017 has one bug. From time to time a window pops up saying ‘operation failed.’ There is no clue as to what operation. I think this happens when there is no Internet and it tries to find updates. This message seems to come up shortly after a cold start. 2017 is installed on an Acer Switch Alpha 12.

Acronis 2016 is a 3-license deal and is on two desktops and the older Zenbook. It works fine. I built recovery USBs on each machine separately and tested, getting to the point where it was asking: ‘do a full recovery’ or ‘what files?’ So I assume this would work if I needed it to.

There was a problem with 2016, however. On my wife’s desktop (after it had been used several times) it said I had installed it on more than three machines and I had 30 days to fix this. After some discussion Acronis allowed that it was legally installed after all.

I have no idea why Acronis would think it was on another machine. I have no idea why Acronis picked this particular computer out of three to complain about. It makes no sense.

So, today I downloaded (and paid for) a competitor’s backup product. This on the newer Zenbook. Sadly the install seems to need two executables so I guess I’ll actually have to read the manual. Sigh. There seems to be no rest for the wicked, or for sysadmin’s.

So, Acronis has my backup on four machines, and my back up on 2018 which I can solemnly swear is, on my installation, c..p.

I should mention that Acronis did give me a refund and did offer a fix. However I needed to back up my wife’s laptop ASAP and so got Paragon, an alternative. I downloaded the free version to discover that it does not support rescue media creation. So I deleted that and got the paid version.

I can Not create rescue media with this package either. It needed a Massive download from Microsoft, which had an error message; then rescue media creation fails every time. I have submitted a ticket to Paragon. I am hoping my wife won’t do something Very Dumb and we won’t need rescue media. But I want to build it anyway.

backup. sigh.

NAFTA and ‘renegotiation’

NAFTA is not a trade agreement. It is an owners’ agreement.

NAFTA allows the means of production to be moved to wherever labour is cheaper, environmental controls laxer, taxation slacker, or even corruption more lucrative.

The move of Canadian jobs to Mexico was predicted. The subsequent moves to China, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, etc etc were predicted.

NAFTA benefits large corporations and by direct effect, their top executives: those in the bonus pool.

Don’t expect major concessions from these corporate executives. They are not altruistic. They are not nationalistic. They fancy themselves as being an independent species, superior to the mere peons who work for them, and customers who chase the lowest price.

Expect the POTUS to do a lot of in-USA manufacturing posturing. Don’t expect him to get many concessions from his loyal Wall Street ‘friends.’

You were scrolling for the dumb question? Here it is.

What do you think? Are you as cynical as this blogger?

Pope Francis: Challenges

There are four persons of interest here. Let me start at the top, with Pope Francis.

I am not Catholic, although I volunteered twice a week at a Catholic charity. For twelve years. I respect the faith of others. I deeply appreciate this Pope’s rapprochement where others want to exclude, to use Francis’ own words, the less perfect.

We may not remember the scandal at the Vatican Bank, where it was actually claimed that money launderers used that facility to conceal and move ill-gotten gains. From what I recall in the news, those claims likely had merit. And, to fix the problem, Francis installed Cardinal Pell as his top financial adviser – the third most powerful Catholic in the world.

Pell is our second Person of Interest. He did seem to be cleaning up the Bank quite nicely. There is a problem, though, and Pell is being accused of turning a blind eye to sexual abuse, and apparently lately, to perhaps having committed some himself.

A year ago Pell refused to travel back to Australia where he was Archbishop at the time of the alleged offences and coverups. His health prevented this. Apparently his health could prevent him from attending the preliminary hearing as well (see above hotlink.)

Our third person of interest is Tim Minchin, who over a year ago posted a video of a song which he wrote challenging Pell to ‘Come Home’ to Ballarat in Australia. Apparently Minchin donated proceeds to help the abused and their relatives to travel to Italy to watch the proceedings. My memory is, they weren’t allowed in and watched via closed circuit TV.

Our fourth person of interest is another Catholic. Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller will not have his five-year mandate as Catholicism’s chief theologian renewed. Müller was appointed by Benedict in 2012 and needs (and won’t get) renewal when five years is up.

Apparently (read the hotlinked article, eh?) Müller has been a bit of a thorn in Francis’ side. Here’s a few quotes from the article. Emphasis mine.

The two did not see eye-to-eye, with Cardinal Müller questioning Pope Francis’s attempts to being more open to “imperfect” Catholics, like those who are divorced.

Earlier this year, a victim of sexual abuse within the Church accused Cardinal Müller’s department of impeding the Pontiff’s efforts to stop internal cover-ups of abuse.

Müller is (was, actually) the second most powerful Catholic in the world.

Tim Minchin is still Tim Minchin.

Luckily, Francis is still, so far as I can tell, exactly what he’s always claimed to be:

  • the front face of reconciliation for Catholics who are imperfect.
  • financially incorruptible, and trying to clean house where needed.
  • sensitive to abuse: it should be stopped, and covering it up prevents that.

May God have mercy on us all. Pope Francis could use a little help here, too, imho.

Drones in America

Apparently, the US courts have decided that drones small enough, and used like hobby aircraft, are in fact model airplanes and thus Not subject to licensing. The logic seems to be, small hobby aircraft operated ‘for fun’ in line of sight were not regulated before, and a drone is essentially the same thing if operated in the same way, so long as it isn’t really big.

OK. But I think the USA (and Canada and all sensible governments everywhere) should insist that drones have a serial number on them, in several places, that can be recovered in the case of a crash (I’m thinking airplane crash here.)

My cameras all have serial numbers in them. My laptop has one. I’m pretty sure the manufacturer could track that serial number to a specific outlet, and I’m pretty sure that outlet could track that serial number to a specific purchase. Most of us pay for medium-expensive stuff by credit card, so that tracking would come right back to the purchaser.

The good news is, supposedly a stolen camera or laptop could be proven to belong to the original purchaser.

Even better, a drone involved in an accident or in criminal activity, could be tracked to the original purchaser.

Why doesn’t the USA put that into law: serial numbers. Almost everything of serious lasting value has one: the VIN on my car, your refrigerator.

Drone on.

What does the New Yorker think about Canada?

Here you will find a fascinating article about Canada versus the United States of America.

I will quote the opening two paragraphs, and encourage you to read the rest – slowly. As always, emphasis mine.

Title: We Could Have Been Canada. Here goes:

And what if it was a mistake from the start? The Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, the creation of the United States of America—what if all this was a terrible idea, and what if the injustices and madness of American life since then have occurred not in spite of the virtues of the Founding Fathers but because of them? The Revolution, this argument might run, was a needless and brutal bit of slaveholders’ panic mixed with Enlightenment argle-bargle, producing a country that was always marked for violence and disruption and demagogy. Look north to Canada, or south to Australia, and you will see different possibilities of peaceful evolution away from Britain, toward sane and whole, more equitable and less sanguinary countries. No revolution, and slavery might have ended, as it did elsewhere in the British Empire, more peacefully and sooner. No “peculiar institution,” no hideous Civil War and appalling aftermath. Instead, an orderly development of the interior—less violent, and less inclined to celebrate the desperado over the peaceful peasant. We could have ended with a social-democratic commonwealth that stretched from north to south, a near-continent-wide Canada.

The thought is taboo, the Revolution being still sacred in its self-directed propaganda. One can grasp the scale and strangeness of this sanctity only by leaving America for a country with a different attitude toward its past and its founding. As it happened, my own childhood was neatly divided between what I learned to call “the States” and Canada. In my Philadelphia grade school, we paraded with flags, singing “The Marines’ Hymn” and “Here Comes the Flag!” (“Fathers shall bless it / Children caress it / All shall maintain it / No one shall stain it.”) We were taught that the brave Americans hid behind trees to fight the redcoats—though why this made them brave was left unexplained. In Canada, ninth grade disclosed a history of uneasy compromise duality, and the constant search for temporary nonviolent solutions to intractable divides. The world wars, in which Canadians had played a large part, passed by mostly in solemn sadness. (That the Canadians had marched beyond their beach on D Day with aplomb while the Americans struggled on Omaha was never boasted about.) Patriotic pageantry arose only from actual accomplishments: when Team Canada won its eight-game series against the Russians, in 1972, the entire nation sang “O Canada”—but they sang it as a hockey anthem as much as a nationalist hymn.

There is more, much more, in the New Yorker article. I take no pleasure in reading it, but wonder if the much-touted American Revolution, and slavery, did (as the article reasons through) set up the malaise in my southern neighbour country.

And now we have Trump.

Pass the maple syrup. Have a nice day.

For once, then something (???)

The title refers to a poem by Robert Frost. You can have a look for free.

What I’d really like you to read is a BBC News page about Donald Trump.

He’s considering renewing something like the Glass-Steagall act. This was, perhaps, the last piece of legislation to be removed (in 1999) that led to the crash of 2008.

Paradoxically, while on the campaign trail, Trump threatened to revoke Dodd-Frank, which was put in by Obama to fix things a bit during the crisis.

You can read the BBC page for yourself; I’ll content myself with quotes, emphasis mine:

Mr McDonald said there are good political reasons why the president might want to take a tough line on the banking industry. “The average little guy loves to hear this, so he’s going to score points with his base and it may not hurt him politically at all because it may not get done,” he said.

Dodd-Frank was designed in part to protect consumer banking operations from riskier investment banking business. Among other provisions, it required banks keep money in reserve at levels the president has said he thinks are onerous on smaller operations.

Finally, on this administration’s ability to promise, measure, and deliver:

Earlier, US Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin said he believed the American economy could be growing at a rate of three percent within two years, thanks to the administrations proposed tax reforms. On the campaign trail Trump promised growth of 4% a year. The economy is currently growing at a rate of 0.7%.

Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something?

That’s the dumb question.

A Telling Show

Today we have two persons of interest.

I am a writer. One thing all writers should think about is ‘Show not Tell.’ For a fine explanation of that, go here and see how Shirley Jump explains it.

The second person of interest, fascination even, is Donald Trump.

Here is one place where some of Trump’s tweets have been gathered. I’ll select just a few words to show that Trump is telling.

  • Mainstream (FAKE) media
  • China & its highly respected President
  • We are making tremendous progress
  • Terrible!
  • Relationships are good-deal very possible!
  • Sad!
  • The U.S. recorded its slowest economic growth in five years (2016). GDP up only 1.6%. Trade deficits hurt the economy very badly.
  • First the Ninth Circuit rules against the ban & now it hits again on sanctuary cities-both ridiculous rulings. See you in the Supreme Court!

I could go on, but if you go through the above list, you’ll probably agree that most, if not all, the italicized words (emphasis mine) are not substantiated with any facts.

We’ve been told. It’s a telling show.

Evil and Corruption

Invulnerability corrupts. Power can convey invulnerability, and thus is often credited with corruption of individuals. However, the H.G.Wells story, The Invisible Man, had an intro which pointed out that the invisible man wasn’t specially powerful, but he could get away with things – was in a sense invulnerable, not liable to be taken to account for his actions.

Invulnerability corrupts.

Evil is, imho, the exercise of power without oversight. For a normal individual, that oversight is called conscience. However, many powerful forces in a society are controlled not by the consciences of individuals, but by oversight bodies charged with reining in those powers.

There are checks and balances within governments. Sometimes.

Between powerful coalitions, nations being an example, power versus oversight becomes a challenge for diplomacy. Carrot and stick, deal and threat, gift and sanction.

North Korea is a scary example of power challenging diplomacy.

So is the United States of America under President Donald J Trump. Large bomb in Afghanistan. Missiles in Syria. Trade threats. Walls. Discrimination.

Now for the dumb questions:

  • Is Trump invulnerable?
  • Does that slightly scare you?

Have a nice day.

Bankrupt.

Here you will find a fine article on Donald Trump’s brilliant new tax plan for the United States of America.

It will bankrupt the country. First, corporate taxes are going to be reduced from 35% to 15%. The trillions in deficits that mere economists predict won’t happen, according to Steven Mnuchin, because growth in reported income will cover it. I think a bit of simple math here is in order: 35% divided by 15% is seven over three. That’s more than double. So to make up for the tax break, American companies will have to report, and pay tax on,more than double their current net profit levels.

Sound likely? Guess not.

That this would save the Donald considerable (?? we don’t see his tax returns, eh??) tax money himself seems to trouble him not a whit.

In addition, this tax reform would do the following:

  • some sort of repatriation tax, giving big companies an incentive to bring back money they hold overseas
  • tax breaks for childcare expenses
  • doubling the amount of standard tax deduction
  • a cut in individual rates, although few details expected yet
  • more tax rate cuts for hedge funds, and other enterprises that pay taxes at individual rates
  • easing the tax form process

And in all of this there is no new tax revenue source:

Mr Trump’s blueprint is not expected to include any proposals for raising new revenue.

The much-discussed border tax that would put a tariff on imports – favoured by House Speaker Paul Ryan – will not be in the plan.

When Mr. Trump got in personal financial trouble in the past, he declared bankruptcy and went on living.

There is the odd voice of sanity in the wings, for example:

Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown called the 15% rate workable only “if you want to blow a hole in the federal budget and cut a whole lot of things like Meals on Wheels and Lake Erie restoration and then lie about the growth rate of the economy”.

Bankrupt. The US Federal Government is going to be bankrupt.

No dumb questions this time. Have a nice day.