Crowdstrike Hubris

(CNN) Global tech outage disrupts airlines, banks, hospitals, 911 services.

Frank Sprague,  an early developer and manufacturer of electrical equipment has been credited with the dead man’s switch, a safety device for electric trolley cars, rail locomotives , elevators, and buses. The operator is required to keep his foot on a pedal or hand on a grip.  If the operator is incapacitated or dies, his foot or grip relaxes, which causes the vehicle to automatically stop. Analogous hardware would have prevented global meltdown.

Crowdstrike undoubtedly has a software analog of the above, detecting loss of functionality.  If the analog runs on the same machine it protects, it cannot report all kinds of failure. Sometimes the murder victim manages to leave a note;  usually not. So this massive update kept running without informing Crowdstrike it was killing machines.

There used to be a simple way of checking whether a remote machine was still alive. The ping network utility causes a dialog with a remote machine a little like the  dialog  of harmoniums in Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan:

Query; “Here I am, Here I am, Here I am.”

Response: “Yes you are, Yes you are, Yes you are.”

Now days, with computers protectively hidden behind routers with complex routing rules, it is not advisable to expose to pinging from outside connections. Given the large size of most Crowdstrike clients, it is entirely feasible for an organization to have a dedicated hardware box that reports to Crowdstrike if their automatically pushed update is causing mass death.

The absence of dedicated dead-man hardware  is technological hubris.

Trump Assassination Attempt Notes

The perimeter of the Butler, PA venue was incorrectly defined, so it was not properly secured.  The perimeter should have been defined by a rigid, yet practical set of rules, which were disarmed by erroneous intuition of low risk. What is the root of this mistake?

The root of the error is as old the Renaissance, the rebirth of intellectual freedom after the  thousand years of  the religious hegemony of the Dark Ages. The Modern Era was born in the cities, which fermented social philosophies of radical social change. Even  movements with substantial rural presence  incubated first in the cities. The reasons:

  • Anonymity, living next to neighbors with completely impersonal relationships, is viable. This allows nonconformity with  issues that, as cores to social order, carry the potential  of violence.
  • Social networks are not reliant on blood and kin.
  • Speed of communication was formerly critical. The revolutions of 1848 coincided with the development of high speed printing presses.

Yet even after 600 years of modernity,   social patterns of the past, of the “village”, persist in rural America, in the form of the small town:

  • Anonymity is impossible, which induces conformity.
  • In-person social networks continue to function, even in the acid bath of social media.
  • Conservatism dominates. Social change is strictly an import. Notables do not find their personal fire in the cradle of the small town.  Intellectual ignition occurs during some period  of urban relocation.

Butler is a small town, the American approximation of a village. It may not be the place where everybody knows everybody, but it tends in that direction. With village culture comes the definition of the outsider, and the misplaced confidence that one would be recognized if he showed up. When Thomas Matthew Crooks showed up, he was similar enough to disarm the instincts of law enforcement. Had he not been so similar, he might have been stopped for any number of pretexts, most notably, hanging around the magnetometers.

The would-be assassin has inspired astonishment for:

  • The current lack of discovery of even traces of social media disclosure.
  • The absence of prior acting out.
  • The seeming total encapsulation of means and motive in a single individual.
  • The ability to  circumvent the innate defenses of village culture and the formal competences of the U.S. Secret Service.

As with Lee Harvey Oswald, this is perfect brew for conspiracy theories. The brew  is weak; Thomas Matthew Crooks was well within the variability of nature and nurture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump’s Would-be Assassin; Evil, Stupid, and Brave

The man on the roof,  Thomas Matthew Crooks, will, in innumerable references, be labeled a coward. This misnomer, associating evil with cowardice, detours  from consequences that follow by a brutal but impeccable logic. The man on the roof was evil, stupid, and brave.

The extreme right will also label the man on the roof a coward. But it will start an itch in some of their inferior minds. The man on the roof did not merely talk the talk, if, indeed, he talked at all. He walked the walk. This event will jar some small but significant statistical fraction of the extreme right from the obsessive comfort of their hates, to reciprocal acts that prove that they, too, can walk the walk.

We were introduced to this misnomer, “coward”, on 9/11, when terrorists first hurt us beyond comprehension. Terrorists and assassins willing to die for their evil beliefs are not cowards. They inspire loathing beyond words. Exceptions may be made for GRU/KGB poisoners.

Courtesy of the man on the roof, the risk of political violence is now enhanced. I am at a loss for an appropriate label. If you need a description that elevates the rest of us by comparison,  try animal.

 

 

Sloppy CNN; Earth’s core has slowed so much it’s moving backward, scientists confirm. Here’s what it could mean

(CNN) Earth’s core has slowed so much it’s moving backward, scientists confirm. Here’s what it could mean. The headline is false. The core is not moving backwards.

See (CNN) Earth’s inner core may have stopped turning and could go into reverse, study suggests. Quoting,

This is baloney. The cited study, Multidecadal variation of the Earth’s inner-core rotation, claims no such thing. Quoting from the abstract,

Differential rotation of Earth’s inner core relative to the mantle is thought to occur under the effects of the geodynamo on core dynamics and gravitational core–mantle coupling.

The word in red is omitted. CNN, you could have used “relative.”

The difference in the speeds of rotation of the inner  core and the mantle, regardless of direction, is about that of a near-frozen inchworm. If you were looking at it, you would see nothing.

How much must be lost in translation?

The body of the new article contains the error. Quoting,

This inner core has intrigued researchers since its discovery by Danish seismologist Inge Lehmann in 1936, and how it moves — its rotation speed and direction — has been at the center of a decades-long debate.

The direction of rotation has never changed or been the subject of inquiry, only the speed relative to the mantle. The difference is very small, a few hundred yards per year at the core/mantle boundary, which the article fails to mention. Contradicting itself, the article also  contains a correct statement:

“Differential rotation of the inner core was proposed as a phenomenon in the 1970s and ’80s, but it wasn’t until the ‘90s that seismological evidence was published,” said Dr. Lauren Waszek, a senior lecturer of physical sciences at James Cook University in Australia.

Differential  is key. Do the article authors understand how key it is?

This reporting, with the repetitive propagation of scientific falsity, stands in stark contrast to  CNN’s impeccable politics.  Perhaps it echoes the conceit of Socrates, who, as one of the first humanists, claimed he  could learn every thing of  importance from “the man in the city.”

The world inhabited by Socrates was nontechnical, powered by slaves, animals, and war. Our world is highly technical. Errors such as the above are not as harmless as they seem. In the minds of the public,  such errors corrode the scientific concept of objective truth.

We last paid the price with COVID.

 

 

 

 

The 6/27/2024 Presidential Debate; Allow Notes

Neither participant did very well. There was a lack of substance, as both candidates were forced to rely on memory to an extent that would stress even a professional media presenter.

While debating skills are often associated with general intelligence, emphasis on style over substance voids this. Style can come from acting a script. Substance lacks theatricality;  presentation of substance can be almost perfectly flat unless you’re trying to connect. Politics demands theatricality; there is eternal tension between fact and emotion.

The participants are entitled to sell substance with moderate theatricality.  More is deceptive, dragging the appeal for votes where it should not go.

For the next debate, the debate organizers should consider allowing notes, aligning the skills of debate with the actual work environment. Upping the level of substance, informing the electorate,  is paramount. Theatricality, the appeal to emotion, can come along for the ride.

 

 

 

 

(CNN) Prosecutors urge Justice Department to file criminal charges against Boeing over 737 Max; Prosecute Boeing!

(CNN) Prosecutors urge Justice Department to file criminal charges against Boeing over 737 Max.

Five years of documentation, preceded  by earlier, weaker signals, and a CEO in denial, indicate  entrenched behavior, undeterred by the threat of federal felony prosecution. While the entire company culture is degraded, some employees of Boeing are so morally compromised, their behavior so entrenched, that only the force of law can effect reform at Boeing.

Federal prosecution is the only way to restore international confidence in this iconic American enterprise. Absent this action, Boeing will slowly sink beneath the waves.

NASA should take a hard look at the troubled StarlinerAdvances in core technologies make it technically easy compared to the Apollo program a half a century prior. Persistent technical problems in this space capsule design, which has strong legacy roots, are indicative of design and specification problems, which are indicative of people problems — an unwelcome spinoff of bad safety culture.

Prosecute Boeing!

(CNN) Priest and six law enforcement officers killed in attacks on synagogues and church in Russia’s Dagestan

(CNN) Priest and six law enforcement officers killed in attacks on synagogues and church in Russia’s Dagestan.

On March 22, Tajik recruits to ISIS-K perpetrated the Crocus City Hall attack. This blog responded with (CNN) ISIS claims responsibility for attack in busy Moscow-area concert venue that left at least 60 dead. Quoting,

This will force action by Kadyrov, with troops withdrawn from Ukraine.

This deserves explanation. What does Ramzan Kadyrov have to do with Tajiks? What do Tajiks, who entered Russia through Kyrgyzstan in close proximity to the lower Volga, have to do with Chechnya and the Caucasus as a whole? There are two major concentrations of Islam in Russia, in the lower Volga, and the Caucasus. Surveys from 20 years ago indicated that, in contrast to the Caucasus, the lower Volga was not radicalized, with apathy towards issues outside of Russia.

The explanation manifests in (CNN) Russia accuses Ukraine of mounting ‘sabotage’ attack across border. Quoting,

The Freedom for Russia Legion, Russian Volunteer Corps, and associated groups are inspirational to ethnic secession.  In the near term, the [typo corrected] Caucasus will become restive, awakening old   memories and yearnings.

The degraded Russian army is incapable  of a  third Chechen or first Dagestan war. Only Kadyrov has a credible chance of nipping a conflict in the bud, though even this is doubtful.

The Tajik connection is not based on geography, though radicalization may be creeping through the lower Volga. It is based on information, which inherently supports non-local connections.

Dagestan is potentially a greater threat to Russia than Chechnya. It is much larger, and much of it is covered by the North Caucasus mountains. Across the Caspian, only a sliver of land blocks it from Tajikistan.

A factor not explicitly part of Crane Brinton’s criteria in The Anatomy of Revolution is geographic sanctuary for revolutionists. Quoting Revolution in Venezuela,

As noted, the accession of the extremists would be facilitated by rural sanctuary. But “melting away” of the rebels into the countryside may be hindered by rural majorities of Maduro supporters. Open sources do not illuminate. This exhausts Brinton analogies.

Dagestan is potentially that sanctuary. There has been much speculation on how Russia might disintegrate. This mechanism has renewed attraction:

  • An alignment of disparate interests coalesces. They are not predominantly Muslim, though the initial refuge is the North Caucasus mountains.
  • Scattered throughout Russia, the  interests are peripheral, far from the center of power, eluding the most pervasive surveillance.
  • The flash point is the conscription of Muslim men.
  • The magnitude of the inciting event could be as small as the Tunisian fruit seller.
  • The peripheral interests dig their way towards the center. Russia has been called a country of one city; the center is Moscow.

Putin is not completely unaware of this problem, though his confidence it can be managed is likely misplaced. The demotion of Nikolai Patrushev must be considered in this context. (Reuters) Putin to keep demoted ally Patrushev on Russia’s Security Council. Patrushev is personally dangerous to Putin, which is precisely why Patrushev remains a member of the security council.

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bird Flu, Part 1

If the story was told in logical order, we would begin with sialic acid, and end with public health policy.  We choose instead an approach based on how a potential threat focuses interest, with increasing demand for detail as the threat evolves. So we begin with a synoptic view of the major questions.

Is a pandemic inevitable?  The evidence is highly suggestive of a yes. Despite all the advances in computational biology, the question cannot be answered like a mathematical proof. There are two types of suggestive evidence:

  • Lab studies which have modified the genomes of H5N1 and similar viruses, pinpointing changes which enhance lethality and transmission in specific animal models. The  transfer of the result to a conclusion about the human adapted virus could be  frustrated by a fitness defect, which would nullify the proposed adaptation. Don’t bank on it.
  • Widespread adaptation of H5N1 to  mammals has already occurred.  This implies that the genetic instability of H5N1, characteristic of an RNA virus, is actually engaged in Darwinian evolution on a massive scale. Why should  humans be the exception? Don’t bank on it.

Over the past 20 years, bird flu has killed half of the known human cases, which have been clustered in China and southeast Asia. Is this the kind of mortality we should expect?

Paracelsus, the first toxicologist, said “The dose makes the poison”.  He observed that how poisonous a substance is depends upon the quantity. Viruses are pathogens, which resemble poisons with the added ability to replicate within the body. To some extent, the quote of Paracelsus applies to pathogens. While some viruses are infective in near zero numbers, most infections require a minimum number of virus particles to cause disease, while severity often depends on quantity.

Unlike poisons, which are substances lacking the power of replication,  viral load grows roughly exponentially from the initial exposure, but only in the absence of immune system response. This is never the case. The immune system has two major logical divisions, the adaptive, and the innate. While the adaptive response takes days, weeks, or longer to respond,  the innate immune system responds immediately, reducing the growth of viral load, possibly allowing the individual to survive until the adaptive system kicks in.

This is why “The dose makes the poison” has relevance.  Asian cases likely involved the consumption or preparation of infected poultry. This may constitute much higher exposure  than human-to-human droplets and aerosols, which may imply much lower human mortality in  a pandemic. The 50% could also be confounded if H5N1 is common in these regions as a mild, under-diagnosed disease. Don’t count on it.

The complexity of the question is highlighted  on a Texas dairy farm. (CBS) Cats died after drinking raw milk from bird flu-infected cows.  The cows were sickened by H5N1, but most did not become critically ill. The farm had 24 cats, which were fed unpasteurized milk from the cows. Half of the cats died within several days. Despite all the analytic tools of modern biology, it is not feasible to answer, in the short term, whether humans resemble cats or cows.

Has surveillance been adequate? With so many mammalian vectors, it’s an  impossible problem. Cows eat hay, potentially contaminated by rodents, which caught it from birds…feel free to explore  the endless permutations.

Are pandemic preparations inadequate? (CNN) We aren’t doing enough about the risk of bird flu – but we can. Quoting,

Even today, the United States doesn’t know the extent of spread among animals or humans due to insufficient testing and tracking. The 7-1-7 target for outbreak detection and response should be our guiding principle…My organization’s latest Epidemics That Didn’t Happen report highlights how countries with responsive health systems prevent outbreaks from becoming epidemics through careful planning, early detection, and swift action.

I am extremely skeptical. Rather than niggle each point, note that:

  • Excepting Finland’s H5N1, the diseases mentioned in Epidemics That Didn’t Happen have not manifested, in the past 50  years, as more than regional epidemics. They lack the adversarial capabilities of flu.
  • Quoting,  “If one country responds to H5N1 well, that’s not enough. Microbes know no borders.” This is true, but human stupidity has unfathomable depth.
  • H5N1 is now a worldwide, pan-animal-class zoonosis. It could jump to humans in myriad ways beyond any realistic, achievable monitoring.
  • No influenza pandemic has ever been  stopped.

Can we be immunized now? Original antigenic sin is an obstacle for flu immunization in absence of the actual strain.  It makes this strategy questionable. Curiously, COVID seems to be unaffected by this phenomenon.

My recommendations:

  • Quadruple cell-based vaccine manufacturing capacity. 140 million doses in six months is woefully inadequate. Diversify suppliers and technologies. Abandon egg-based production.
  • Re-examine every aspect of public health messaging, which in the case of COVID resulted in a wide swath of irrational behavior.
  • Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

 

 

 

(CNN) US and Ukraine sign new security agreement; America, Arsenal of Democracy; Europe, Step Up!

(CNN) US and Ukraine sign new security agreement on G7 sidelines.

The agreement is not a treaty, and is not binding on the U.S. Let us hope that it will serve as an potent piece of symbolism, as did FDR’s fireside chat on December 29, 1940, which gave birth to the phrase, “arsenal of democracy.” Entering the real world as figuration, as many phrases do, the arsenal became an aspiration. A year later, when Pearl Harbor thrust America into war, aspiration became fact. Quoting,

“We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself. We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as we would show were we at war.”

Joining the Arsenal, Europe has made great strides in proactive support for Ukraine; this is the occasion to ask for more. See For Techies Only: (CNN) Ukraine is burning through ammunition faster than the US and NATO can produce it. Inside the Pentagon’s plan to close the gap.

The process of making dumb artillery shells has changed little since 1939, when the documentary was filmed in Philadelphia. It requires little or no automation. How many shells could they make by such a primitive process? (Wikipedia) Second Battle of El Alamein is instructive. Quoting,

…The fire plan had been arranged so that the first rounds from the 882 guns from the field and medium batteries would land along the 40 mi (64 km) front at the same time.[43] … The shelling plan continued for five and a half hours, by the end of which each gun had fired about 600 rounds, about 529,000 shells.

529,000 shells in a single battle. The provision by the U.S. and/or Europe of a million shells in a year to Ukraine becomes a mere token. Perhaps a reminder is in order, courtesy of (full text of speech) American Rhetoric:

“This is not a fireside chat on war. It is a talk on national security; because the nub of the whole purpose of your President is to keep you now, and your children later, and your grandchildren much later, out of a last-ditch war for the preservation of American independence, and all of the things that American independence means to you and to me and to ours.

The only things holding us back from providing Ukraine with Russian shell parity are costs, regulations which are petty against the fight for life, and bureaucratic sloth.  All of these can be swept aside with economic war powers. Europeans, step up! You have nothing to lose but a future in chains!

(CNN) US intelligence assesses Houthis in Yemen in talks to provide weapons to al-Shabaab in Somalia, officials say

(CNN) US intelligence assesses Houthis in Yemen in talks to provide weapons to al-Shabaab in Somalia, officials say.  Quoting,

The intelligence raises the alarming possibility that a marriage of convenience could make things worse both in Somalia and in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, where the Houthis have launched regular attacks on commercial shipping and US military assets since the war in Gaza began.

A specific motive was anticipated in US official: Iran has moved missiles to Persian Gulf. Quoting,

Where could missiles be emplaced and launched in a deniable way? A locale must be lawless, buyable, and deniable. It must adjoin the Red Sea,  which must be transited by the U.S. forces that use the Suez Canal. Lawless locations are implied by pirate activity. Most of the pirate havens have been cleaned out. Pirate activity  persisted in  the Galmudug region of Somalia  till at least 2017. (FP)  Somalia’s Pirates Are Back in Business. This shows what is possible. perhaps further up the coast towards Bab el Mandeb.

Eritrea, inside the Red Sea, above and adjacent to the strait Bab el Mandeb, is geographically perfect.  The Eritrean Islamic Jihad implies contested territory that Iran could rent for missile emplacements, which can be effectively camouflaged.

With missile emplacements on both shores of the Red Sea, the Houthis might hope for absolute interdiction  of maritime traffic. Quoting from CNN,

A potential deal could offer a new stream of financing for the Houthis, at a time when US officials say there are signs that the group’s primary patron, Iran, has some concerns about the group’s attack strategy. “Being able to sell some weapons would bring them much needed income,” the senior administration official said.

Highlighting the emergence of the Houthis as an independent actor, there are multiple hazards for Iran:

  • The ejection of French influence and Western militaries  from the Sahel was accompanied  by the substitution of Russian influence and mercenaries, considered more effective by the current crop of despots against Al-Shabaab. The Russians, allies of  Iran, are likely victims of Houthi weapon sales.
  • The effective closure of the Red Sea would be unacceptable to what used to be called the Third World.
  • The likely result of Houthi success would be a broader and more effective sanctions regime against Iran, which would indirectly diminish the Houthis and inconvenience major trading partner Russia.

In consequence, the Houthi problem will fester, going up, down, and sideways. It might motivate the West to empower ECOWAS.

 

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