SEIU Eating Their Own Dogfood – Or Not

I have a dark sense of humor, to be sure…but this is just funny:

As it helps push for legislation that would make it easier for workers to organize, the country’s fastest-growing union is engaged in its own labor dispute with employees it is seeking to lay off.

The Service Employees International Union, considered the most influential union in the nation, has notified the union that represents about 220 of its national field staff and organizers that 75 of them are being laid off. In return, the workers’ union, which goes by the somewhat postmodern name of the Union of Union Representatives, has filed unfair labor practices charges against SEIU with the National Labor Relations Board. The staff union’s leaders say that SEIU is engaging in the same kind of practices that some businesses use — laying off workers without proper notice, contracting out work to temp firms, banning union activities and reclassifying workers to reduce union numbers.

There’s a key learning to be had here, though. And it goes to the real challenge in life – living your values.

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Diebold – Again

I thought I’d done my last post on Diebold except as an object of fun – but no.

Back when there was controversy about whether we voting machine alarmists were wearing tinfoil hats or not, one thing I frequently heard was the claim that “They make ATM’s and those are secure…”

Today’s news:

Diebold has released a security fix for its Opteva automated teller machines after cyber criminals apparently broke into the systems at one or more businesses in Russia and installed malicious software.

Diebold learned of the incident in January and sent out a global security update to its ATM customers using the Windows operating system. It is not releasing full details of what happened, including which businesses were affected, but said criminals had gained physical access to the machines to install their malicious program.

“Criminals gained physical access to the inside of the affected ATMs,” Diebold said in its security update. “This criminal activity resulted in the operation of unauthorized software and devices on the ATMs, which was used to intercept sensitive information.”

The break-in occurred in Russia and affected “a number” of machines, said DeAnn Zackeroff, a company spokeswoman. “The incident was a low-tech break-in to the ATM, but they had a high-tech knowledge of how to install the virus,” she said.

THEIR ATMS USE THE WINDOWS-FREAKING-OPERATING SYSTEM? The biggest virus and hack-magnet on the planet? What genius made that architectural decision, and how in the Wide, Wide World of Sports did any sane bank IT risk manager sign off on it?

That’s just … insanely stupid. Look I use Windows on my home machines, I work with clients who use windows, we’ve even used Windows for nontransactional kiosks. But it’s damn risky to put Windows out on remote transactional systems, period.

And, as a last fillip…when we argued about whether the Diebold machines were awful or criminally awful?

From the California Secretary of State (pdf):

The attached California Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s Report to the Election Assistance Commission Concerning Errors and Deficiencies in Diebold/Premier GEMS Version 1.18.19 (“Report”) identifies software flaws in the GEMS version 1.18.19 software that led Humboldt County to initially inaccurately certify results (which were subsequently corrected) for the November 4, 2008, General Election. The flaws also led to inaccurate or missing audit trail information that was pertinent to the investigation into the cause of the inaccurate results. The Secretary of State’s investigation identified the following errors and deficiencies in GEMS version 1.18.19, all of which are discussed in the Report:

1. The “Deck 0″ software error caused the deletion of 197 tallied ballots.
2. GEMS version 1.18.19 audit logs fail to record important events.
3. “Clear” buttons on the GEMS Poster Log and Central Count Log permit deletion of important audit records.
4. Date and time stamp on audit trail entries are inaccurate.

“Clear” buttons delete audit logs? Who knew? I wonder if my bank’s accounting software has a feature like that…a big button that says “clear”. Hmmm.

Per a Higher Authority, corrected my Slim Pickens quote above…

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This Month’s Reading

I’m reading my way through the Counterinsurgency Reading List over on Abu Muquama’s site, as well as some other books that catch my eye, and thought I’d make quick comments on this month’s reading.

The Lost Revolution, by Robert Shaplen

I have a litmus test for books about Vietnam; if they suggest that the 1956 elections were put off because of corruption in the South and don’t at least equally emphasize the brutal repression in the North, I don’t think much of them. This is one of those books. The most interesting thing about it is that it was written by a leading Asia journalist and staff writer for the New Yorker. His core point is much better made in Rufus Phillips’ book below.

Prosperity & Violence: The Political economy of Development by Robert Bates

Interesting book, but I think he’s missing a few key points. I’ll do a longer review when I get some time. Don’t rush out and buy it, but it you trip over it and are interested in this stuff it’s an interesting read.

Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop by Antonio Giustozzi

GREAT BOOK ON AFGHANISTAN. Did I say it was great? I bought a copy and loaned it to Biggest Guy. Buy and read this book.

This Man’s Army by Andrew Exum (abu muquama himself)

We’re about to see an interesting stream of memoirs by young, well-educated veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. This book, and ‘The Unforgiving Minute’ below are two great examples of them. They give a real sense of what today’s military is like and when it’s like to step off a plane in Kabul and go into combat. Also sent this to Biggest Guy.

Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux

Depressing. The ruins of Africa, after all that hope and aid. All the cynical NGO’s. Just depressing.

The Terrorist Identity by Michael Arena and Bruce Arrigo

Interesting specialist book. Tells more about the origins of the IRA, RAF, and other terrorist organizations than I’d known – so pretty good history and sociology of these groups. Worth the read, for sure.

On Suicide Bombing by Talal Asad

A key ‘Bad Philosophy’ book. I’ll also have a longer review on this. Don’t read it unless you enjoy Baudrillard.

The Unforgiving Minute by Craig Mullaney

Like Andy Exum’s book, it gave me a window into my son’s life. Well-written, smart, really interesting. I’d strongly recommend it as well – and a copy went out to BG as well.

Why Vietnam Matters, by Rufus Phillips

I saved the best for last. If you read any book on this list, read this one. In fact, if you’re planning on reading a book and care at all about American foreign policy, read this book. A clear-eyed look at the history of American involvement in Vietnam from someone who was there (he was Lansdale’s protege and Richard Holbrooke’s boss). I’ll be writing – a lot – about this book, and encourage you all to go and get a copy.

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Peasants With Pitchforks

…speaking of pitchforks, here’s the NY Times:

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is increasingly concerned about a populist backlash against banks and Wall Street, worried that anger at financial institutions could also end up being directed at Congress and the White House and could complicate President Obama’s agenda.

Ya think??

Look it’s been an wonderful party up in the skyboxes, with the well-connected getting favorable regulation (or lack of regulation) in return for the occasional real estate deal or cottage in Ireland.
I’ve been beating this drum for a while, and the Democrats and Republicans should be competing to see who can hang their own worst offenders (Jim Moran? John Murtha? Alphonso Jackson? Don Young?). the party that had done that by now would be standing tall on the rubble of their opposition. Instead, both parties (sadly, the GOP slightly less than the Democrats) circled the wagons and defended the Charles Rangels and Jerry Lewises.

So now, the fiscal collapse and crisis in confidence in our institutions is being met by a bunch of cowering apparatchniks who are desperate for one more turn at the giant rice bowl. And when the people do finally lose patience, the problem is that the political class will have done more than enough to justify the collateral damage they will take.

It’s not too late. Obama could get up tomorrow and start throwing elbows at Rangel, Jefferson, and Dodd for starters. Few would buy that it’s a really moral position, and many would see it as more cynical tossing ‘under the bus’.

But it will be better than the alternative.

For all his political skills and his capturing of the nation’s desire for change in the 2008 election, Mr. Obama, a product of Harvard Law School who calls upscale Hyde Park in Chicago home, has shown little inclination to strike a more populist tone. The danger, aides said, is that if he were to become identified as an advocate for the banks and Wall Street, people could take out their anger on him.

“The change now is you have a free-floating economic anxiety that has expressed itself in a kind of lashing out at those being bailed out and people who are bailing out,” Michael Kazin, a professor at Georgetown University who has written extensively on populism. “There’s not really a sense of what the solution is.”

“I do think there’s a potential for a ‘damn everybody in power’ kind of sentiment,” Mr. Kazin said.

I wonder if he drinks tea.

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That’s My Money You’re Effing Around With, People…

I will yield to few people in my tubthumping (great disc, btw) populism, and my belief that we’re as screwed up as we are because of regulatory capture by the wealthy and powerful.

And yet I want to take most of the commentariat [who are breathless over the AIG bonuses] out behind the woodshed with my 1-3/4″ Kramer horsehide belt and see that some attention is paid.

Why?

Because they are, collectively being idiots. And when I hear about Obama being “sick” over it, he’s being an idiot too. Look, it’s like this.
When you’re doing a workout, you have two choices. Close the doors and let the creditors collect what they can, or do a workout. When you do a workout, you accept the obligations of the entity and work to negotiate what you can, accept what you must, and try and either arrange an orderly dissolution or the transformation of the company into a viable ongoing entity.

Now I’ve been involved in a lot of workouts, and I know a lot of people who do workouts for a living, and there’s always a key problem – which is how you preserve key assets (or defend against key liabilities) which usually involves spending money on things that you might not otherwise do.

In the case of AIG, the case made by the CEO who was put in to clean the place up seems pretty compelling to me. If you simply break all the contracts, you have two problems – you’ve now broken a lot of enforceable contracts, and you’ve pissed off the human capital that you need to work things though without doing a firesale liquidation.

You can always break or remake contracts – simply threaten to go out of business otherwise.

But the reality is that even in this market, a bunch of the people we need to unwind the mess will probably take a hike – and that’s going to cost me money. You too, if you care.

There is, of course a fine line between paying what you have to in order to keep the wheels turning and looting. I’d like to see a case that someone makes, with real data, that supports looting.

And even if there is looting to the tune of forty or fifty million – how do you balance that against the $100 billion or so that we’re all at risk??

And to people who crow about automaker union concessions, I’ll suggest two points: 1) that there is a small but important difference between prospective and retrospective changes in contracts; and 2) that the prospective pay of the AIG employees is being cut as well.

Fewer pitchforks, more calculators please.

edited for clarity

And go see Tom McGuire’s great posts on the subject (ht Tim Oren).

First, Glenn Beck Is An Ass.

Just sat down and read the blogs, and discovered the transcript of Glenn Beck’s discussion with O’Reilly about the Alabama shooting. Beck apparently suggested that “political correctness” might have been one of the pressures that caused the shooter to snap.

What a crock. Thankfully, O’Reilly flatly and publicly disagreed. And Beck deserves to be publicly shamed for hanging this tragedy as a frame on his cause du jour.

Here’s my take on it, in which I think I can guarantee I’ll piss off all sides in this debate – and in doing so, I hope get them to stop and think about their knee jerk reactions for just a bit.
First, most of the reactions to this have been bull***t. The Brady folks have jumped in before the blood has been washed away and waved the victims as tokens in their political game – just as awful as Beck, in my view. Then Instapundit linked to a Reason piece that attempted a fisking of the Brady Campaign by Jacob Sullum at Reason.

I’ve already backhanded the Brady folks as bloodthirsty opportunists; let me take a moment and bust Sullum for being disingenuous.

It’s not clear what Helmke means by “firepower.” The AR-15 fires a small (.223-caliber) cartridge, and the SKS fires an intermediate (.30-caliber) cartridge. The guns identified as “assault weapons” are chosen based on their “military-style” appearance, not the size of their ammunition, and many large-caliber guns were not covered by the federal ban. Maybe Helmke is really talking about magazine capacity, since the federal “assault weapon” law also banned magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. But this has nothing to do with “assault weapons” per se; many guns that don’t fall into that arbitrary category accept large-capacity magazines.

Here, it’s Sullum who’s not being clear or correct. The Wikipedia definition of ‘firepower‘ pretty closely approximates what I’ve been taught:

Fire power is a military capability to direct force at an enemy. It is not to be confused with the concept of rate of fire which describes cycling of the firing mechanism in a weapon system. The concept is taught as one of the key principles of modern warfare wherein the enemy forces are destroyed or have their will to fight negated by sufficient and preferably overwhelming use of force as a result of combat operations.

Look, to suggest that a .223 fires a “small” cartridge is absurd and ignorant – the destructive capability of a .223 is “good enough” in the overall range of ballistics, which is why the Army still uses it. A “small” cartridge is a .22 LR, and a lot of game and people have been killed by .22’s. To handwave, as Sullum does, and claim that “they are all the same” or that firepower is measured by narrowly testing the destructive capabilities of the bullets isn’t true in any meaningful way.

Let’s look in my gun safe, and compare two long guns.

A bolt-action .308 (a Savage Scout), with a detachable 5-round magazine.

A semiautomatic .308 (a Springfield M1A Scout), with a detachable 10-round magazine (note that there are 20- and 30- round magazines widely available for this).

There is no question – ought to be no question – that if I was headed out into combat, I’d pick the Springfield over the Savage. Why? Because it packs more ‘firepower’ – the ability to direct more sustained force downrange because I can shoot it more quickly, reload less often, and reload faster.

Yes, I can buy large-capacity magazines for all kids of weapons…they sell them for Glocks and for 1911’s, as an example. But past a certain point, the gun becomes so unwieldy as to be useless. Trust me, I’ve tried. The reality is that some weapons – the M1A in the case above – are designed to be handled with large-capacity magazines, and so are more effective militarily. And so more dangerous.

Gun-rights advocates need to get past handwaving rationalizations like this. First, because they are dishonest, and the public is smart enough to tell. Second, because they obscure the real point we all should be making, which is the point drummed into me when I first started shooting seriously.

“Guns are damn dangerous. But the ability to manage dangerous tools will make you a better and safer person.” And exactly in parallel, the fact that we live in a society where people can handle dangerous tools makes us – overall – a better and safer society than we would be otherwise.

But it comes at a sad, bloody price. And this month, a lot of people paid it.

If you want to know what I really believe, go read “Stand on Zanzibar” (actually, another Brunner book – “The Sheep Look Up” ought to be on your list as well), and think about muckers. I did a post about them after another shooting back in 2007. And what I said then still holds…“There is something dark and bloody in the human heart.”

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OK, This Is Odd – Troops Patrol Alabama Town

I’m putting a post together on the three muckers we’ve had this week – two here in the US, and one in Europe. Someone on one of my mailing lists pointed out this Reuters picture:


Reuters_Soldiers.JPG
Captioned:

18 hours ago: U.S. Army soldiers from Ft. Rucker patrol the downtown area of Samson, Alabama after a shooting spree March 10, 2009. At least 10 people including the suspected gunman and his mother were killed in the shooting spree and car chase in southern Alabama on Tuesday, authorities said.

It’s kind of weird to me that the local LEO’s didn’t call for reinforcements (I assume they are neck-deep in investigating the horrible crime) from neighboring counties under mutual aid. Any thoughts of the non-black helicopter kind?

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Dodging A Bullet – In Chas Freeman’s Own Disgusting Words

See the update below…

Laura Rozen has his own response to the controversy and explanation of his withdrawal. And I’ll tell you that based on this one paragraph alone, we dodged a major bullet today:

The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East. The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors.

I received no emails from AIPAC nor any Israli or Jewish organizations. I’m perfectly capable of reading the man’s recdord and raising my own concerns.

Even when he tries to exculpate himself – as he does in this ‘explanation’ of his comments on Tienamin Square – he presents himself as a tireless courtier for typrants wherever they may be.

For myself, I side on this — if not on numerous other issues — with Gen. Douglas MacArthur. I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be. Such folk, whether they represent a veterans’ “Bonus Army” or a “student uprising” on behalf of “the goddess of democracy” should expect to be displaced with despatch from the ground they occupy.

I hope Obama gets a genuine iconoclast in the role. But I’d like one not in the pocket of other countries, please – especially of other countries led by murderous tyrants. We must, by necessity, share a planet with them. But I’d rather not share my government with them.

Update: … it just gets better and better. Go check out Martin Kramer’s blog and read about how Freeman flatly misrepresented Saudi interviews with jihadi who – Freeman claimed in Congressional testimony – joined the jihad to fight Israel and then were diverted to Afghanistan (or Iraq, it implies). Kramer check the source, and…not so much.