Really Bad Record Reviews

I’ve worked on a few lately, had lots of fun. Here’s a link to one of four I did in the last 3 days:¬†https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3M8BN7FNT0A

My inspiration came from Rolling Stone record reviews where it was clear that the reviewer either had an axe to grind, wanted to review a different record, or hadn’t bothered to listen to the album at all.

As it turns out, it is very easy to put out a bad review. When one disposes of the entire listening process, all that’s left is the cover and the track list, and those can get knocked out in a matter of minutes.

For me, the trick is in making a connection back to Pink Floyd that reveals my complete ignorance of the band I’m being all pretentious and elitist about. Sometimes I can, and that’s the delivery on the musical joke.

Heartbreaker

Dr. Borden exhaled and dabbed the sweat from her forehead before proceeding into the most critical part of the operation. She drew a deep, competitive breath and moved the precision mouse to aim the laser directly at the point of incision. With a click, the aorta would-

The screen went black, then a logon screen appeared.

“What the plokha budding spore?!?! What the spore just happened?”

Dr. Borden regained her composure and typed in her username and password – the patient was undergoing open heart surgery, there was no time to lose!

Agony of ages as the dots blinked in their circular path.

Username and/or password incorrect. Next login attempt in 00:05.

“SPORE SPORE BUDDING SPORE BUDDING EFFDISKING BUDDING K’CHORTU BUDDING SPORE!”

Dr. Borden didn’t want this to be the first patient she would lose on the table, but it was looking increasingly that way. He was somewhere in Alberta, wherever the meddrone landed, and she was in Atlanta, where the workstation ran in her Midtown apartment. She was doing everything to keep her mind down-to-earth and focused, but found that rage did all it could to take over.

Her mind raced – how long had it been since things went dark? Would the meddrone AI be able to abort the operation in time to save the patient’s life? Oh God, he is so effdisked if that AI doesn’t figure out there’s no doctor on the other end.

Because this was the third time Dr. Borden tried to log on to her workstation and the third time it kicked her back, this time with a caution she only had one shot left and that maybe she ought to call tech support before using that chance.

There was no way to call the meddrone, as those things were sealed off as far as comms went. There was only one way to talk to the meddrone directly, and for Dr. Borden, it was on the other side of a logon screen.

She called the number for her hospital’s tech support. Ringing. Well, at least it’s not down. Chortu, but that’s a lot of ringing. Well, let it ring, someone might die today if Dr. Borden shrugs her shoulders and becomes fatalistic in philosophy. She waits out the machine-induced stress.

And a machine answers. On an emergency line, it takes time to explain how the options may have changed recently and offers up a universe of choices, all a press of a digit away. Effdisk that, Dr. Borden presses zero. A human eventually speaks.

“Aetilus Medical Solutions help desk, this is Raj. May I get your employee username?”

“Eborden. E as in echo, b as in bravo, o as in oscar, r as in Romeo, d as in delta, e as in echo, n as in November.” Dr. Borden hated it whenever eborden sounded like edorgom. Spelling was usually faster than going over it twice.

“Dr. Elizabeth Borden, is this correct?”

“Yes. A man may be dying, please check if meddrone A as in alpha, 3447-”

“I’m sorry, Dr. Borden, I’m not able to contact meddrones. I’d have to escalate for that.”

“Please escalate, za’chortu.”

“There will be a, uh… oh, spore, a 30-minute wait.”

What the budding spore? 30 budding minutes? Might as well be 30 budding years! Even so… “Chortu, just get me in that queue.”

46 minutes later, a human spoke to Dr. Borden. “Hello, Dr. Borden? You there?”

“Yes. Contact meddrone A as in alpha, 3447-1369-0003.”

“A as in alpha, 3447-1369-0003. Got it. One moment… I’m sorry, I’m not getting a status, I’ll try again.”

“Do you know what’s going on?”

“Some kind of outage, that’s all I know.”

“Chortu… I desoxy-ed for this. All right, that meddrone number I gave you, it’s involved in a heart operation in Alberta. I need verification that it aborted the operation successfully and the patient status. Text me as soon as you got that info. I can’t log on to my workstation.”

“Yeah, none of the remote staff can log on. I’ve got the status query queued up for the drone and your number associated with it. Can I do anything else?”

“Nope. I’m needled. Cheers.” Dr. Borden touched her phone and the call ended.

Hopped up on the desoxy, Dr. Borden started to shake as she lost anything specific to focus on. Suddenly, she became aware of her heart rate and the blood being shoved pell-mell through her circulatory system. Don’t panic, Dr. Borden. You know how to ride out this part of the desoxy run.

The door opened and closed. Dr. Borden brought herself out of her trance state to see her boyfriend Teddy. “Hey babe.”

Teddy set stuff down on the table, even though he wasn’t supposed to. “Hey Lizzie. How’d the operation go?”

“Pffft.”

“Oh God.”

“No idea how the patient is, everything just cut out on me.”

Teddy pulled up a chair near Dr. Borden. The workstation screen was dark. A light blinked on Dr. Borden’s phone. Teddy didn’t know what to say. Someone, somewhere, connected to his girlfriend, could be dead.

Dr. Borden picked up her phone, but the light was just for a FriendFace notification. Apparently, one of her associates was a real slug and had gone fascist, from the content in his post. She unfriended him. “Budding fascist loser.” No word from Aetilus tech support.

“Budding what?”

Dr. Borden shook her head, “Nothing. Someone I went to high school with is now a fascist and dead to me. Hey, I did desoxy for this operation and I need something to focus on, or I’m gonna lose it.”

Teddy reached for the string of prayer beads Dr. Borden kept by her keyboard. She grabbed them and began to run them through her fingers like there was no tomorrow. Once you give a soxer something to do, they’ll do it. They just can’t give themselves something to do.

After a few minutes with the beads, Dr. Borden felt like she could talk and manipulate them at the same time. “What do you think caused the outage?” Teddy was a nerd. He knew answers to questions like that. He was a really cute nerd and fun to have around.

“Did it affect just you or a bigger group?”

“Guy said it took all the budding remote users out. No comms to meddrones.”

“Wow. That’s big.”

“You think it was terrorists?”

“Could be. More likely, it was someone stupid.”

Dr. Borden laughed. Teddy elaborated on the stupid. “So… it could be that someone turned off your time server. That would kill off your ability to log on remotely. Or maybe your computer cert expired. No, stupider, the root cert expired.”

Dr. Borden laughed even more. “I have no budding clue what that means! God, I love you!”

Yeah, she wasn’t doing any more operations today, system restoration or not. “Well, a root cert, that-”

“Shhhh! Explaining is boring! Just list off all the stupid stuff.”

Teddy knew better than to try and argue with a soxer. Last thing you want a soxer to focus on is a budding¬†argument. “Um, OK, the VPN hub could be offline, uh… the directory service got swamped and went down… date field problem, oh spore! Do you know if your IT guys took care of your Y38 problem?”

Dr. Borden laughed harder, kinda maniacally now. It was time for the bell-1. She needed to come down off of this before she broke down.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Dr. Borden opened her eyes and looked around. There was a little drool on her cheek, which was typical of a bell-1 cooldown. She sat up on the sofa and saw the blinking light on her phone. She reached over to the desk and picked up her phone. A swipe later, then a code, then a DNA pulsecheck, and she was in. The light was for a text.

The text was from tech support Raj. Spore, it was 7 hours ago! Must have texted Dr. Borden right after Teddy gave her the bell-1 dose.

Oh, chortu. The guy died. Dr. Borden sighed and scrolled. OK, so the meddrone did shut things down gracefully, so it was just his heart failing post-op, which was always a risk, regardless of how the operation went. Poor old dude and his now-dead carcass.

Dr. Borden texted back to Raj, what was cause of outage?

Company cert expired, sorry¬†was Raj’s response.

Dr. Borden wondered why “cert expired” made her laugh a little.

Time to even things out with some zebra and ibuprofen. And some mango juice.

Teddy was in the kitchen. “Hey, I’m up.”

“Sleep ok?”

“Pffft. That spore’s not sleep.” She got the juice and then rummaged in the cabinet for the zebra and ibuprofen.

“How did the patient do, if I could ask?”

Dr. Borden downed the drugs and took a shot of mango juice. “Operation ended OK, but he died post-op. Not my fault, still sad. I’m taking zebra to even things out.”

“You also took something for the headaches, right?”

“I’m not an¬†idiot, Teddy.”

“Hey, just checking. They say what caused the outage?”

“Cert expired, whatever that means.” Dr. Borden laughed again and felt weird about laughing. Was she going psychotic?

“It means nobody was checking one of the most important pieces of computer security, the thing probably being used to establish your VPNs and channels back to the drones and stuff. And the time on it ran out right in the middle of your operation.”

Dr. Borden was level enough to want to understand that. “Hold on. You mean to tell me that a company that knows precisely how long I’m functional on a dose of desoxy and how long it takes to do an operation and how long it takes to run drones over seven continents can’t keep time on the¬†one thing¬†that’s gonna tie them all together? Holy budding spore.”

“Well, that’s how you guys make money. Nobody makes a dime watching a calendar for a cert to expire. They know when licenses are due because someone else makes money with those. But certs?”

“Pffft.”

“Yeah, Pffft. That’s when they call me up. You remember when Charleston had that power outage last month?”

“That was an expired cert?”

“Yep. So was the Athens Supermax Riot. Cert expired, all the doors opened.”

Dr. Borden shuddered at that thought. That was too close to home. She still worked remotely, but those meddrones were trauma center models, only 60 miles away. And that was just three months ago. Images of the carnage still popped up in her mind if she wasn’t vigilant about her thoughts.

Now she had a question.

“Teddy?”

“Yeah?”

“Tell me… What is a cert and how does it expire?”

Again, Dr. Borden laughed for a reason she did not know.

Spirituality and Suffering

As I read more about Rabbi Kalonymous Shapira, who served as a rabbi in the Warsaw Ghetto during the years of Nazi occupation, “The Years of Wrath”, I arrive at his thoughts regarding the connections between spirituality and suffering. This is a man who was forced to experience not just a depth of human suffering, but, as he put it, a depth within a depth. I would do well to pay close attention to what he has to teach.

To begin with, he makes the connection between hearing or reading about suffering and actually experiencing it. The two are completely different. This I know from my own experience, so I know that the kinds of suffering I have not endured are academic only to me. Nevertheless, those who endure those sufferings can describe methods they used to cope with it. Should I face that suffering, I can rely upon their teaching in order to pass through it myself, with my soul and identity intact.

I know this because of how I used those methods and teachings to help me through my times of deep loss and crisis. When Rabbi Shapira speaks about areas of his sufferings in common with my experience and how he worked through them, I find that what worked for me also worked for him. So, when he speaks of areas where I do not have common experience with him, I trust in what worked for him. Heaven forbid, should I have to endure such things as he did, I will strive to endure them in the way he endured them.

While there are discussions about how sufferings can make us more spiritual once we have finished with that suffering and can reflect upon it, a sort of reflection upon answered prayers and tiny miracles, what do we do when our prayers for deliverance are answered with deeper suffering, the depth within the depth? What do we do when we think we can go no further, and then the road before us appears to be longer than we think we can survive? What do we do, to put it in raw setting, when we find ourselves in the Warsaw Ghetto on the eve of its liquidation, after having passed through plagues of Typhus, starvation on rations of a hundred calories a day, brutal murders in plain sight, horrors of the unrestrained and unfiltered brutality and hatred expressed by the Nazis? What do we do?

Rabbi Shapira’s answer is that we not consider the worldly end of the suffering. He turned to the martyrdom of Akiva, which happened in the Roman persecutions after the Bar Kochba revolt: Akiva said that he had always been willing to give his life for God – why should he turn away when that moment actually arrives?

More than that, Rabbi Shapira wrestled with questions about the existence of evil. While some have felt that evil is incompatible with the idea of a just and loving God, or even a God at all, Rabbi Shapira passed through that very evil and was able to state that evil did not matter. There is still a God, and it matters not what choices others may have made: those choices and their horrific impact do not negate or invalidate the existence of God. Nor do they invalidate the existence of a just and loving God. He is who he is, and we await the day of His judgment.

Rabbi Shapira taught that as persecution deepens, we must ourselves deepen our study and commitment to God. He noted that such deepening of study and commitment was next to impossible, especially as the repeated atrocities numbed the soul. It was to fight against that numbness that he encouraged the study and the commitment. Who is left to save if the body has become just a shell for the inner organs, the spirit within having perished from the psychic battering of repeated, unrelenting horrors?

No, we read more, we pray more, we make our observances more. We must fight that darkness that seeks to encompass us, in our depths within our depths. Even if we know we are to go to our deaths, we go to our death with our soul intact.

Will I go through such things as Rabbi Shapira endured? Maybe. I’m a member of a religious minority in a nation flirting with fascism. Such things could come to pass, where I cry out for rescue and deliverance, only to be faced with depth within depth of suffering. But if I can cry out from a depth, I can cry out from the depths, but I must prepare myself now, that I might have the spirituality developed in a time of peace to draw upon during years of wrath.

Spirituality does not end suffering. It does not mitigate the pain. It can, in fact, sharpen the pain and make us more aware of what we are enduring. But it does give us a path to draw ourselves up to face that suffering with dignity and faith. It gives us the ability to be patient and long-suffering. It gives us the ability to see to the eventual end of that suffering, even if it is in a day that comes after our own physical death. As long as we go to our death with our spirits still alive in faith, we are victorious over that suffering.

I believe in God, and I trust Him to be just and loving. I have had too many spiritual experiences in my life to believe otherwise. Yes, I have lost a son in a senseless tragedy. But my faith teaches me where he is, who he is with, and how to get there. Why should I refrain from finding joy in God’s mercy, even when I endure such a depth? Even so, if I am plunged into a depth within a depth, why should I be any less of a man than Rabbi Shapira or even Akiva? Their example, their wisdom, and their teaching, may that all be part of my life and how I endure all things.

It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More

When I was in Boy Scouts, I learned a song that has stuck with me for the rest of my years thus far. It’s called “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More”, and it’s a rousing, irreverent tune that’s a load of fun to sing. The chorus is simple:

It ain’t gonna rain no more no more
It ain’t gonna rain no more
How in the heck can I wash my neck
If it ain’t gonna rain no more

Since I’m a Cubmaster once more, I thought I’d collect the verses I liked best and compose some ones of my own. Here goes:

Bullfrog sitting on a lily pad
He looked up at the sky
The lily pad broke and the frog fell in
He got water all in his eye

Skeeter he fly high
And skeeter he fly low
Skeeter he land on my arm
(smack your arm) He ain’t gonna fly no mo’!

Peanut sitting on the railroad track
Its heart was all a-flutter
Around the bend came Number four
Toot! Toot! Peanut butter

Noah built himself an ark
Got animals two by two
And pretty soon he had himself
The world’s first floating zoo

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
If he held a saw in his little paw
A ton of wood he could

The Grand Old Duke of York
He had ten thousand mens
But when he counted chickens
He had ten thousand hens

Man lived by the sewer
And by the sewer he died
They couldn’t call it murder
So they called it sewercide

The mice are very quiet
As they skitter all about
But if you ask, “Who wants some cheese?”
Then you’ll hear them shout

A cow walked on the railroad track
The train was coming fast.
The train got off the railroad track
To let the cow go past

I found myself a new pet dog
A strangely-shaped old fella
He’s wide and flat, his tail won’t bend
He makes a fine umbrella

A pig and a hen went for a walk
Just to stretch their legs,
A motorcar came round the bend,
Toot! Toot! Ham and eggs.

I never saw a purple cow
I never hope to see one
But I can tell you anyhow
I’d rather see than be one.

 

The Nah’wadass Sourcebook: The Wisdom of the Binyaelim People

The Binyaelim were a minority group in many Nah’wadass cities, primarily engaged in trade ventures, particularly those in the textile industry. In the countryside along the banks of the rivers of the land, there were a number of Binyaelim villages where they were able to assert their own laws on a local level, as per tradition under most of the Law-Kings of the Nah’wadass. It is known that the Binyaelim themselves arrived within the lands of the Nah’wadass early in the years of their written history. Binyaelim records speak of their flight from a powerful empire to the far south of the Nah’wadass, most likely the Early Dynasty of the Koss Empire. As one of many minority groups within the lands of the Nah’wadass, we can learn from their writings what the Nah’wadass would – and would not – tolerate among their subject peoples.

These writings, part of the Binyaelim Thalmadh, were most likely compiled around the zenith of Nah’wadass prosperity, 500-700 years after their earliest writings. These were selected from different parts of the Thalmadh and illustrate Binyaelim attitudes regarding the Nah’wadass. It is to be understood that, in the matter of a question-answer or debate section, the final opinion is the wisdom to be followed.

Teacher Ismar, Son of Elmar, said, “We sell cloth and clothing, that we may not put weapons in the hands of our enemies.” Teacher Ofed, Son of Paman, asked, “Is it right, then, that we are made to serve in the iron trade for the Nah’wadass?” Teacher Ismar, Son of Elmar answered, “They give us protection, to procure iron for the Nah’wadass is like unto giving a meal to a brother.”

Teacher Elmar, Son of Oferan, said, “The Nah’wadass revere the green under the snows. Truly, they look to the same hope of life after life that we revere. Therefore, it is not wrong to give unto them that which they ask for their rites.”

Teacher Oferan, Son of Afermar, said, “When a man of the Nah’wadass comes unto us and asks to be numbered among us, we must bring him before the Law-Master for his judgment in the matter. When a woman or child of the Nah’wadass comes unto us and asks to be numbered among us, we must bring them before the husband or father for his judgment in the matter. When a slave of the Nah’wadass comes unto us and asks to be numbered among us, we shall first purchase him and then take him as before the Law-Master for his judgment in the matter. If he is granted leave to join with our number, he shall be set free as a captive of our people is set free. If he is not granted leave, then he shall serve our people and we shall petition each year for leave, that we might move the heart of the Law-Master with our many entreaties.”

Teacher Ofrain, Son of Elmar, asked, “And what of those who we set free as captives that stay not numbered with our people, who sin and transgress our laws?” Teacher Oferan, Son of Afermar, answered, “What do we do with our own number who sin and transgress our laws? They are as the same if they have entered into our number with our ceremonies.” Teacher Ofrain, Son of Elmar, said, “We do not set them free until they have entered into our number with our ceremonies.”

Teacher Oferan, Son of Afermar, said, “Wear not the masks and the robes, as the Nah’wadass do.” Teacher Belermar, Son of Belermar, asked, “What then if the Nah’wadass wish one of us to be a student?” Teacher Oferan, Son of Afermar replied, “We are not taught by the Nah’wadass, for we are an older people and have already been taught by tyrants in the infancy of our nation.” Teacher Ofrain, Son of Elmar, asked, “What, are we not to be esteemed in the lands of our exile? Are not to show our worthiness as servants of our rulers?” Teacher Oferan, Son of Afermar, said, “When the Nah’wadass have a matter for us, are they so foolish as to not know who our teachers are? Even among strangers, the wise man shall find his brother.”

Teacher Belermar, Son of Belermar, said, “Truly we are as blessed as the Nah’wadass. Their ancestors speak through their masks, and ours speak through our writings.”

Teacher Ismar, Son of Elmar, said, “When a Master or King asks a teacher among us to lend a shoulder to a King’s task, count it as an honor and go and serve.”

Teacher Ismar, Son of Elmar, said, “When the Priest-Master of the Nah’wadass asks for a sacrifice of earth, do not give that which has been trod upon. When the Priest-Master of the Nah’wadass asks for a sacrifice of water, do not give that which is downstream or which comes from our baths. When the Priest Master of the Nah’wadass asks for a sacrifice of fire, do not give that which comes from our altars.” Teacher Ofed, Son of Paman, said, “We show respect with what we offer, but we must respect first our own baths and altars, then we respect those of our friends.”

Teacher Oferan, Son of Afermar, said, “When we are compelled to share a meal with a Master or King, eat not the meat offered, and we sin not.”

Teacher Elmar, Son of Oferan, said, “If a woman has issue, forbid her from the baths and the altars, but forbid her not from the market or the congregation. For the law of our people rules over the baths and the altars, but the law of the friend and protector rules over the market and congregation.”

Teacher Ismar, Son of Elmar, said, “When we receive money for the purchase of slaves for to free them, let us free our own people with our own money. But when our neighbor gives unto us money and says, ‘Here, go forth and purchase the freedom of my kinsmen with this money,’ then let us go forth and purchase the freedom of his kinsmen as if they were our own.”

Teacher Ofed, Son of Paman, said, “Mock not the ways of the righteous neighbor, who does good to our people. Our neighbor has not our law, he is free to do as he pleases. Teach the First Law to all those not of our people, and let that suffice.”

The Law-King Odetamewe Edatawess said, “Behold, Teacher Ofed, Son of Paman, I protect you with my laws.” Teacher Ofed, Son of Paman, said, “I protect you, Law-King Odetamewe Edatawess, with my righteous obedience to your laws.” The Law-King Odetamewe Edatawess said, “Behold, it is as you and I have spoken.”

The Law-King Odetamewe Edatawess said, “Teacher Ismar, Son of Elmar, give unto me a sacrifice worthy of my station.” Teacher Ismar, Son of Elmar, said, “Here, O Law-King Odetamewe Edatawess, is my heart which does serve thee, my mind which doth obey thee, my hands that do work for thee in thy lands, and my mouth that does teach the law in thy lands.”¬†The Law-King Odetamewe Edatawess said, “Surely, these four sacrifices that flow from thee unto me are worthy of my station, would that all my people were like unto Teacher Ismar, Son of Elmar.”

BlacKKKlansman Reaction

Saw “BlacKKKlansman” last night. Very powerful drama, very timely film. Spike Lee’s script takes the right-wing white-supremacist wink-wink phrases and places them in their full context. When someone buys into one or two of the lines they use, it’s easier to start going with the rest of their hateful flow.
 
If you think you’re not a racist, and you don’t see where Donald Trump is being a racist, then you need to re-think about whether or not you’re a racist. Why? Because I plan to call it out even more so than I’ve done in the past. I don’t care if it makes you uncomfortable. Racism should not be a comfortable position.
 
I think there is a place for conservative views in America. I’m very sympathetic towards many of them. But I’m not going to stand on the same side as racists. I’m going to call them out and denounce them. If you want to speak out against the excesses of liberals, please do. But first, denounce the racism that has infected so much of the conservative movement in the USA. Conservatives have needed to clean house since 1964, when the racists began to move like roaches from the Democratic party to the Republican one. Instead of accepting those votes, they need to turn them away.
 
The saying “Make America Great Again” applies only if you think a Black president was a disaster. It logically equates with turning back the clock on Civil Rights. If you believe that all people are created equal and that every adult in the USA deserves the right to vote, and to have those votes fairly counted and not gerrymandered, then you need to step away from that racist MAGA falsehood.
 
America’s greatness is in its principles of equality, rights, and freedoms. Racism, intolerance, and authoritarianism take away from our greatness as a nation. Trump and his most dedicated supporters promote racism, intolerance, and authoritarianism. If you’re not a racist, not intolerant, and not a jackbooted authoritarian, I don’t see how you can maintain those positions with an uncritical support of Trump.
 
And if you think you can maintain those positions with an uncritical support of Trump, then what is keeping you from joining the Klan? Or the American Nazi Party? The Aryan Nation? The League of the South? The Holocaust Deniers? What keeps you from joining with them? Ask carefully, because *they* have joined *you*.

Blind Spot

Nick Vendor poked his head into the office, via a door left open. Nobody was in the office, but the time was 10:00, and Nick had a 10 o’clock meeting in Cecil Oh’s office, so Nick went in and got comfortable.

Getting comfortable meant sitting in the chair closest to the wall and angling it so that he could see both Cecil’s desk and the door to the office. Nick was a security pro, and was paid to be paranoid.

A few minutes after ten, Cecil Oh bustled in and smiled at Nick, “Sorry I’m late, but you know how it is.”

Nick nodded. Everyone from manager on up was always running late, everywhere he went. A CISO at big company was certainly no exception.

Just behind Cecil was Dirk Rector, the IT Director, and Cissy Tantisso, the assistant CISO. Cissy closed the door behind her and all sat in chairs around Cecil’s desk.

Cecil answered two emails and then said, “OK, sorry about that delay, but here we go. We’re here to meet with Nick Vendor here, who is going to give us his network health check assessment. He’s been scanning and probing for a few days, so we’re all eager to hear what he’s found.”

Nick smiled through that “eager to hear” part. Everyone’s eager to hear, but not everyone is so eager to have had heard. There was always at least some bad news in a network health check assessment. Today, the amount of bad news was somewhat more than just “some”.

Cecil held his hands towards Nick and said, “It’s all yours, sir.”

Nick nodded, smiled, and did his best to front-load the cushiony stuff. “Thanks very much, Cecil, and thanks of course to Cissy and Dirk for all the cooperation you and your teams have provided me in this past week. I really do appreciate all the work they’ve done to help me. They certainly helped me to have a little fun as I did my assessment and they were more than helpful in providing me with information about different device types and systems you have installed here at Amalgamated Potrzebie. They’ve been a great help.”

Cissy, Dirk, and Cecil all nodded in appreciation of Nick’s thanks.

Nick shifted in his chair. “So, let’s get to the numbers. About 70% or so of your Windows PCs are managed in SCCM and a similar percentage are up to date on their AV. Dirk’s got the action to follow up with the desktop team to close the gap with the other 30%.

“Macintosh systems, there’s only a few hundred of those, but they’re all pretty much managed centrally. There were, like, 10, that weren’t. We know where they are and Dirk’s Mac team will follow up on those. It’s just a small office, right?”

Dirk agreed. “It’s a marketing team in our Pittsburgh campus, that’s correct.”

“Thanks. Linux.”

Everyone took a deep breath for Linux. They all knew they had a problem there, but they still had to hear about it.

“Linux… well, these developers have not yet embraced the idea that they have to install a security client on their test boxes.”

Dirk objected. “Well, hold on there. That client doesn’t work on all flavors of Linux.”

Cissy said, “We need to stop using those flavors, then. We can’t have developers deciding what risks we accept.”

Cecil grinned, “Yeah, if someone else says ‘I’ll accept the risk’, what am I here for?”

As she finished chuckling, Cissy said, “I’ll take the to-do for getting dev to standardize on Linux.”

Nick said, “Good. That will go a long way towards getting Linux in line.” He took a deep breath, deeper than the one for Linux. “That brings us to embedded devices. We’ll start with embedded Windows, the badge readers at the entrances first. Those devices are active on the O-Sheet Botnet, nearly all of them. The botnet software listens on port 80, HTTP, and determines if it’s botnet communications or if it should hand off to the legit software that uses HTTP. So, if we block port 80, we block both the botnet and the device, which means nobody gets in at that location.”

Cecil sat forward. “Wait, what? A botnet?”

“Yes sir. A botnet in practically all your badge readers. It can infect other devices from those badge readers, as well. That’s basically where the local command and control software is located. Your IPS will block north-south traffic, so it won’t get to the data center, but the east-west stuff is wide open.”

Cecil sat back. “Recommendation?”

Nick grimaced. “Honestly? Rip them all out and get a new system, one that either doesn’t use port 80 or one that doesn’t use a network connection at all. These were all installed with the vendor’s default admin credentials still active, which is probably how they were able to be compromised.”

“Any way to remediate in place?”

Nick shook his head. “It’s embedded legacy Windows. No way to really get in there and make any changes unless we’ve got our own red team to write custom code to pop the devices and clean out the malware. Even then, there could be another zero-day exploit that comes to light and then you’re back to where you are now. And this is just the start.”

Cecil had a panicky tone to his voice. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa – give me the big numbers, let’s start with that.”

“Amalgamated Potrzebie has a large number of industrial and security control devices that show indicators of compromise. Close to 40% of your IoT devices are showing signs of compromise.”

Dirk asked, “How many of those are on our production floors?”

Nick looked at his spreadsheet, did a quick bit of math in his head. “Maybe 20-25% of your production systems are compromised, but the compromised devices tend to be concentrated in certain facilities. You’ve got most that are still clean, but a good chunk that are shot through-” Nick corrected his language. “- showing about 80-90% compromised.” It was important to leave out hyperbolic adjectives when delivering news of this magnitude.

Dirk’s next question: “Any of those compromised lines in Council Bluffs or Little Rock?” Cecil and Cissy looked at each other with trepidation. Those were the facilities with Defense contracts.

“Yes, both.”

Dirk spoke to Cecil and Cissy. “We have got to get those cleaned out, as soon as possible. We can’t keep our contracts with that kind of threat active in the environment.”

Cissy responded, “Hold on, we don’t even know what’s compromised in those locations. Nick?”

Nick looked over the list. “Temperature gauges, badge readers, security cameras, the time clocks, well time clocks just in Council Bluffs – Little Rock clocks are fine, um… the digital signage is infected, as are the smart light bulbs in the Woodbridge building in Little Rock… ummm… oh, crap.”

Cecil didn’t like that. “Excuse me?”

“I didn’t see this earlier, and I apologize for that oversight, but all your Philly switches on the production floors are basically being run by a group outside of AP.”

“What?”

“There’s a feature on those models to allow for easier automatic upgrading, but it’s vulnerable to an attack. Basically, send a packet to the port used for auto-upgrade and you get a root prompt. We can’t access the devices, but there’s a stream of traffic running between those boxes and a TOR node.”

Cecil didn’t believe it. “No way, we block all manufacturing traffic from the Internet. It’s a segmented environment.”

Nick held up his hand. “It’s not segmented. There’s a vendor-owned Windows 2008 server that bridges traffic between those lines and the Internet. It’s basically on a DSL line and hasn’t been patched since 2010.”

“Who’s paying for the DSL line?”

Nick shrugged his shoulders. “Probably whoever paid for it in 2010 and then never did a budget review since then. At any rate, we recommend not turning off the server, since we don’t know what happens when the communication line is severed. You could wind up losing your switches and maybe other production line equipment that’s connected to them. As for the Philly switches, I do have a note here to check the rest of your sites for this issue. I just didn’t have enough time to finish that part before our meeting here.”

“OK, well, I’m going to want you to follow up our discussion here with a complete check of those Philly switches.” Cecil felt a pit opening up in his stomach.

Dirk and Cissy looked at him for guidance, with Cissy asking, “So what do we do about the compromised Defense lines?”

Cecil looked at his desk. “We need to go up the chain on this one. We have to let DoD know that the lines are compromised, but at the same time, they may accept the risk and let us keep producing parts. We’ve got a lot of pressure to fill the quotas they’ve set for us.”

Nick asked, “Should I still be in this room for that discussion?”

Cecil thought about what the lines in Council Bluffs and Little Rock were turning out. On the one hand, the independent, armed, unmanned aerial vehicles were some seriously top secret items. Nick shouldn’t be privy to that information.

On the other hand, Cecil felt like he had to know if those IAUAVs were themselves compromised… “Well, Nick, that depends. Do you have a security clearance?”

“No.”

Dirk looked a little aghast. “How was he able to do this survey, then?”

Cecil flopped back in his chair. “Apparently, we’ve got a few blind spots around here as regards security…”

The Blind Crusaders of the GOP

Is the forlorn hope of getting a shot at having a Supreme Court that *might* overturn Roe v Wade worth selling out to the Russians?

We have to face facts, President Trump is not just a bull in a China shop – he’s a wild boar in a Kosher deli. So far, his foreign policy has been to antagonize the closest, most democratic allies of the USA and then cozy up to murderous dictators like they were teddy bears. His actions at the G7 and NATO meetings provided deep challenges to our allies’ resolve to ride out his presidency in the hope that he’s just a one-termer. His actions at the Singapore summit with North Korea’s fratricidal dictator were worse than Chamberlain’s at Munich. Trump didn’t even get one concession or formal commitment from North Korea to back up his “nuclear peace in our time” declaration.

When that anti-semitic, white supremacist, child molester was running for the GOP in the recent Alabama Senate race, the justification given for abandoning all moral principles and to vote for him was blunt realpolitik: He will be a vote in the Senate that will help nominate a judge to the Supreme Court who might tip the balance of the court to overturning the established precedent of Roe v Wade.

Given that the GOP majority of one (1) in the Senate is possible because of at least two senators that have said they will not nominate a justice that does not view Roe v Wade as established precedent, one can understand why the anti-reproductive rights base of the GOP was willing to go with an anti-semitic white supremacist child molester to build out that majority to where it would not depend upon those two moderates.

It also explains why they’re going with a blustering, gauche Trump who seems to be doing his level best to somehow become Vladimir Putin’s best friend in the whole wide world. While I argue that a US strategy that encircles Russia with military bases is needlessly antagonistic, I’ve never said that we should give Putin a free pass to do all the things that he’s done.

Trump asked for Putin to get back into the G7, completely glossing over the reasons Russia was ejected from the then-G8. Russia invaded Ukraine and sponsored rebels in the Donbass region. As if to remind us about how nasty a person Putin is, a British citizen recently passed away after unintentionally handling debris associated with Russia’s nerve gas attack against two dissidents in the UK.

Why is this not a big deal to the GOP? Is the long shot of overturning Roe such a goal that you would keep a leader in office that antagonizes our allies while ignoring actual foreign policy threats? There’s also the matter of the trade war with China (which war also takes shots at the aforementioned US allies), which could lead to a very real war.

Is the need to restrict women’s reproductive rights so overriding that you want to support leaders that are racist child molesters (the Alabama Senate candidate) or foreign policy disasters (the current President)?

If yes, I don’t need any more explanation. You’ve made a deal with the Devil, in spite of your professed love of God. You have to live with the psychological doubling that will destroy your soul, as surely as it did the souls of the German doctors that agreed to work in Nazi murder camps. Not saying you’re Nazis. I’m just saying that you’re going to wind up with the same mental problems that they had. I recommend Robert J. Lifton’s work “The Nazi Doctors” as an excellent read to help prepare you for the nightmares you’re going to experience in later life.

If no, then why aren’t there more people in the party doing something about it? I used to lean Republican, but I can’t any more. There is no way that I, or a lot of independent-undecided-Libertarian type voters can lean towards a party that puts forward the candidates it does simply because they might be a vote to get a judge through to the Supreme Court who might overturn Roe v Wade.

This blind crusade within the GOP is leaving it as a party that can not govern effectively, that can not conduct foreign policy in a way that will benefit the USA, and that can do no more than say “no”.