Linky Friday #154: Whisky, Sexy, Freedom


Book of Mormon photo

Image by ImNotQuiteJack

[R1] When looking at religious observance and engagement, nobody beats the Mormons. In 2006, Will Wilkinson wondered if Objectivists should become Mormons.

[R2] Conservatives beware: Actually reading the Bible may make you more liberal.

[R3] Amber Lapp says that religions are not doing a good job of making people in non-prescribed family formations welcome, which she says is a problem because that’s where it could be most needed.

[R4] A bible professor believes that the Bible actually says that Eve was created from Adam’s privates.


manatee photo

Image by psyberartist

[N1] Some romances are not meant to be, I’m afraid.

[N2] Check out the sea cow convention.

[N3] While you may be able to eat alligators for Lent, you should not throw alligators through drive-thru windows.

[N4] When polar bears get frisky.

[N5] RIP, 150,000 penguins and a dolphin. {via Chris}


democracy photo

Image by pipcallas

[D1] “On subjects like this in our intellectual world, usually there just is no “debate”; there are just different sides who separately market their points of view.”

[D2] The Cultural Cognition Project looks at fact polarization and how it trumps value polarization. The question is… are people interpreting factual questions as an invitation for a value response? {Tweet}

[D3] Another brick on the wall of cocooning ideologies. Now made even easier!

[D4] Todd Seavey writes of The Triumph of the Insult and the failure of the mainstream political system, while Michael Brendan Dougherty argues that Trump rises because conservatives have failed his supporters.

[D5] Who should Obama nominate to the Supreme Court? How about himself?

[D6] For a guy who elevated himself to the Speaker of the House, John Boehner has some weirdly off political instincts.


Kanye West photo

Image by iShot71

[E1] Bethany Mandel says that we shouldn’t laugh at Kanye West and other celebrities cracking up, and to an extent I agree… but I still laughed at this.

[E2] The inheritability – and lack of predictive power – of “grit.”

[E3] Freddie deBoer looked at Purdue University’s newest pretty (and very empty) building, and contrasts it with important existing facilities, putting in a good word for cost-conscious alternatives. I’m personally a little bummed because I found out they’re tearing down the dorm I lived in for four years, and replacing it with more luxurious accommodations. They won’t be empty, at least.

[E4] Karl Miller argues that we need to stop looking at technical schools as some sort of consolation prize, while Sarah Grant looks at coding boot camps, and attempts to ascertain their effectiveness for loan purposes.


sex photo

Image by ndanger

[S1] There will apparently be a referendum on the ballot in California to require pornography actors to wear condoms. This was just shot down by state regulators, and Scott Weiner explains why it’s a bad idea. It remains the law in Los Angeles

[S2] Desde La Fe attempts to make the case for saving sex until marriage. Relatedly, here are some facts about waiting.

[S3] Shedding some light on the long-term implications of short-tenure sex.

[S4] The perils of being casual about sex and serious about consent and Rebecca Traister argues that we need to be talking about the ways that sex can be both consensual and bad.

[S5] Well, these blokes seem like right-fine gentlemen. (And that title. Ugh.)

[S6] Economists investigated the notion that sex tends to make people happy by trying to encourage some couples to have more sex, and it did not make them happier.

[S7] Sex myths!


freedom photo

Image by Moyan_Brenn

[F1] Actor Waris Ahluawalia was allegedly banned from a Mexico City to New York flight on account of his turban and Aaron Saltzman says that he was interrogated for reading an article about Daesh.

[F2] Refugee girls dressing up as what they want to be when they grow up.

[F3] Some Cubans aren’t so sure about normalization with the United States.

[F4] Jason Brennan argues that closed border advocacy arguments lend themselves to anti-liberty arguments.

[F5] Is there really any way that gun control can work in the age of 3D printers?


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119 thoughts on “Linky Friday #154: Whisky, Sexy, Freedom

  1. R1 – For objectivists to become Mormons would require them to approve of charity for the unfortunate, which goes against their core principle of smugly watching the suffering of those who are inferior.


  2. Regarding E3 I do find the destruction and corporatization of colleges and the surrounding towns to be a sad phenomenon. My alma mater (UMD) never had what I’d call a great college town (being tucked inside the beltway in DC sprawl limits it) but over the last 10 years its rapidly changed from greasy diners and dive student bars to squeaky clean private high rise housing and chain restaurants.

    I never thought I’d be such an old man in my 30s but whatever happened to living in a shitty rented room, trying to make rent while studying and drinking swill? No wonder kids today can’t adult without a safe space.


  3. N5- another story has it less Penguin Sodom & Gomorrah and more Penguin Virginia City. There’s the distinct possibility that birds just moved when the prospects dried up.

    S1: Weiner covers condoms.


    standing proudly just across the street from the $92 million gym we built at the height of an employment depression

    Remember when left wingers believed in Keynesian economics? Or at least putting money into construction projects when unemployment, esp in the building trades, was high?

    F4: couldn’t get through to the article for some reason, but the idea is similar to how one person in a Republican debate (and I think it was Rand Paul, of all fishin people), said something like “we need to track the cellphones of the terrorists, not Americans” All the measures to identify ‘the other’ beg the question on how one distinguishes the other from real ‘muricans that deserve freedom and the government not being all up in their bidness.


    • Re Keynes: We still do. It’s just smarter to put construction dollars to thoughtful use, like deferred maintenance. Politicians hate maintenance. There’s no ribbon-cutting ceremony. But investment (via borrowing) into maintenance of roads & bridges, rehabbing old buildings with modern lighting/HVAC systems pays off enormously while putting people to work.

      Just how low are interest rates these days for government agencies?


  4. R2: Either the study is flawed or many people who say they read the Bible are lying.

    N1: At least this isn’t one of those relationships where you get eaten by your mate after sex like certain insect species.

    S1: Is the condom industry behind this? They have profit motive.

    S2: If you want people to wait to have sex before marriage, you need to also have early marriage. Telling people to remain celibate until their late twenties or early thirties, where many marriages occur these days because of economics and social change, seems unlikely even though it does happen.

    S3: Man, the adjunct crisis is effecting sex and our colleges.

    S4: I ran out of free Washington Post articles for a month so I couldn’t read the article but if you want people to be very sure about sex than casual sex will be well, a casualty. Casual sex implies a certain easiness about having sex that doesn’t necessarily mean that communication is clear.

    F5: Seems plausible.


    • R2: I am always skeptical of studies that rely on people self-reporting on some activity that is commonly praised or denigrated. That being said, I’m not sure about this one, one way or the other. Subjectively it makes sense: Jesus was a long-haired hippie. He would have worn Birkenstocks, had they existed in the first century. Paul, apart from some sexual hang-ups, had some distinctly hippie-like tendencies as well.

      The usual Evangelical strategy to deal with potential awkwardness is to be very carefully selective in the reading. The most extreme are the dispensationalists, who have constructed a theology to ignore all that hippie crap and concentrate on the important stuff, i.e. Revelation and Daniel and a few odds and ends from other books. Most churches don’t take it to this extreme, but a bastardized dispensationalism with its assumptions is a sort of low-level background noise in much of modern Evangelicalism.

      What is utterly mainstream within Evangelicalism is the pastor preaching on whatever he damn well feels like preaching on that week. This might or might not have any connection to scripture, but even if it does, this typically will be a mere snippet–a verse or two–which he then riffs off of for however long he thinks the congregation will tolerate. Even that snippet is freely selected by him. There is no need for him or his congregation to ever wrestle with a “difficult” passage. (Why yes, I am a big fan of the common lectionary. Why do you ask?)

      The final step is that much of Evangelicalism today doesn’t push systematic Bible reading like it used to. Thirty or forty years ago this was a staple of Evangelicalism, and there still are pockets that do this. But in this era of megachurch entertainment, that is too much of a commitment for most–and face it: even people who go in with the best intentions tend to get bogged down in Numbers. What you get instead is the weekly Bible study. At best this implies selectivity about what is studied. Even when entered into in good faith, what bits are studied will depend on what the leader considers most relevant. (Again: Numbers.) This allows all those parts where Jesus drones on endlessly with that hippie crap to be quietly overlooked without anyone consciously realizing it.

      The upshot is that in modern Evangelicalism it is entirely possible to be a regular participant while having only the vaguest notion of what is and is not in the Bible. This isn’t true everywhere, but it is true often enough that I don’t assume that a church-going, God-fearing, Republican-voting Evangelical could find the Book of Psalms in the Bible without checking the table of contents.


    • I tried to click past the link to the source article… but that content is blocked.

      But, even just reading the first article, it seems to me a pretty clear case of flubbing the whole left, liberal, right, conservative definitions when applied to Christians (or is it just Evangelicals?)… which is a sort of methodology error.

      The actual claims are not all that illuminating; reading the bible purportedly:

      [increases] Support for abolishing the death penalty
      religion and science as incompatible decrease[s]
      seek social and economic justice in order to be a good person [increases]
      support for the Patriot Act decreased

      I can say with certitude that many Christians who vote for Republicans would also support all those things.

      So, I don’t know if the secondary reporting is uninformed or actively spinning the material… but in either case, it is a poorly executed job.


      • Kind of?

        The passages the Guardian objects to appear to be these near the start of the article:

        In 2014, the former director of both the CIA and NSA proclaimed that “we kill people based on metadata.” Now, a new examination of previously published Snowden documents suggests that many of those people may have been innocent.


        In the years that have followed, thousands of innocent people in Pakistan may have been mislabelled as terrorists by that “scientifically unsound” algorithm, possibly resulting in their untimely demise.

        Those are a bit hyperbolic, but the Guardian’s representation of them as, “a killer AI has gone on a rampage through Pakistan, slaughtering perhaps thousands of people” is a remarkable strawmanning of the article, most of which discusses the ethical and technical questions nodded at near the end of the Guardian article. In fact, the heart of the Ars Technica piece, the allegation of flaws in the model’s training, goes completely unacknowledged in a response ostensibly about Ars failing to discuss technical issues. This is bizarre.

        The stronger criticism regards the deployment status: Ars rests their case for the use either of this system or something like it in the field entirely on the “we kill people based on metadata” quote. This is not “zero evidence” as the Guardian claims, but it is a fairly slim indication. Given the secrecy surrounding these programs, it is pretty much all we have, though. The slide deck does read as a report on an experimental system rather than an one in use, but it is also several years old (two years prior to the quote), so we don’t have a current snapshot of the efforts on this front.


        • “Ars rests their case for the use either of this system or something like it in the field entirely on the “we kill people based on metadata” quote. This is not “zero evidence” as the Guardian claims, but it is a fairly slim indication. ”

          But…but…but drones! DRONES! Don’t you understand that this is DRONES?!


          • There is one thing Ars Technica does, reliably – thorough and solid technical reporting.

            The Guardian is a pretty decent general newspaper, but they’re highly unlikely to be the ones catching out AT on technical flimsiness.


  5. F5 Technically that is a desktop CNC mill, not a 3D printer, but the larger point stands. To date, rifled barrels remain the one part that can’t be easily made in a garage or basement, but if long range accuracy is not desired, rifling is not important.


    • That came up in a recent sci-fi book….KSR’s Aurora, maybe? Generation ships heading to another star, and midway through there was a bit of a kerfluffle and 3D guns were printed.

      Unfortunately for the people who made the guns, this wasn’t the FIRST kerfluffle (the first had been carefully edited out of the colonists history — generation ship, after all), and safeguards had been put into place.

      Most people aren’t good enough to engineer a gun from basic principles, even a simple one, so selective design flaws were introduced. Small stuff, that would take an engineer or someone really familiar with guns (which none of them were) to notice would cause said gun to catastrophically fail.

      Honestly, I suspect 3D guns won’t be a problem for very long — after all, DRM is going to choke the ever-loving crap out of 3D printers PDQ, and piggybacking on that to prevent certain critical gun pieces from being machined won’t take long for someone to think up. The truly dedicated will manage, but they always have. The masses will shrug and buy from a store.


      • DRM is only going to bother the MakerBots, etc. Give me some COTS microcontrollers and stepper motors and I can build my own in short order.

        But, that falls under the “truly dedicated”. Most will buy from a store, as long as that is an option. If it isn’t much of an option, the “truly dedicated” will help fill the gap in demand.


        • Pretty much.

          But speaking for myself, I have no plans to fire a 3D printed gun any time soon. Even one worked in metal. I like having two hands, and I don’t trust a gun slapped together by a non-professional and fabricated using a home setup.

          In any case, all the DRM stuff will do is make copying protected stuff (and whatever else is deemed ‘crap we don’t want you making in your home) difficult enough to deter casual people. And frankly, that’s most people.


          • I might play with such a thing, but then I am an engineer and I know how to do stress analysis (mechanical stress analysis of a gun was one of our exercises in Mechanics of Materials). I’d encourage most people to not do such a thing.

            …enough to deter casual people. And frankly, that’s most people.

            This is truth, and at the heart of what bugs me. 99.~% of people won’t be building desktop CNCs or 3D printers so they can build a “ghost gun” for use in a crime, but people seem to think that the <1% who will are enough of a problem that we need aggressive regulation to control manufacture &/or ownership. When the reality is the best move is to treat it the same way we treat people who commit a crime with a weapon whose identifying marks have been defaced.


            • Nah, seriously increase it and probably add a sizable penalty for unintentional injury.

              Look, let’s admit that the last thing we want is even well-meaning hobbyists to make homemade guns that explode, even for fun. But in the interests of Freedom And Liberty and the Only Amendment That Matters, let’s say we can’t stop them.

              So we apply standard patent and copyright law (“No, you cannot print up your own Glock without paying the license fee. You’ll get sued into the ground”), and then we say “If you homebrew a gun and use it in a crime, we will hit you with a ton of extra bricks made special just for you because we’d prefer you not to do that, thanks.”. And then for sanity’s sake, we say “if you homebrew a gun and someone BESIDES you gets hurt we take another bag of extra bricks and hit you with them, because firearms are dangerous and what you’re playing with here is less ‘well designed firearm’ and more ‘Russian Roulette Pipe Bomb'”.

              But then again, I’m of the mind that instead of gun control we’d be better off with far stricter liability laws concerning firearms and insurance requirements. Extending those to 3D printed guns — if you’re gonna make one, better get it insured, and homebrew stuff is more costly because it may be a gun or it may be an amputation device with extra burning — and if people get hurt because you can’t be responsible with your gun, you get smacked by the law.

              Which is what I’ve always said: You want to own a gun? Own all you want, but by God you will be responsible — criminally and civilly — for whatever the heck happens with that gun. There are no ‘accidental shootings’ — there is just criminal and civil irresponsibility on an owner’s part.


              • My understanding is that defacing the identifying marks on a gun is an extra ton of bricks one can get hit with. Which in my mind boils down to, “using a gun that is deliberately untraceable in a crime is extra bad”, so amending the law to formerly reflect it wouldn’t be a stretch.

                We pretty much agree on everything else.


                • I’d prefer to make sure hobbyists playing with home-made guns are at least monetarily aware of the risks they’re playing with.

                  That might flow naturally — a design flaw in a handgun that tended to blow people’s hands up would make them civilly liable for damages. (Possibly criminally, depending on if they’d broken laws hiding it and if they knew ahead of time their guns had an explode-y quality).

                  A design flaw in my personally designed, 3-D printed handgun probably does open me up to some degree of liability if I hand to Bob (now known as “One Handed Bob”) and Bad Things occur.

                  My net worth isn’t enough to compensate Bob for having to adjust to being solely left-handed. And we, as a society, tend to let a lot of ‘accidents’ slide when it comes to guns.

                  So we’re back to insurance, which I think is even more critical for home-made guns. And since they’re not purchased, and registration would clearly be optional, you’d probably have to put some nasty teeth in there.

                  All of this against a backdrop of a country where I have heard — with my own ears — a gun-owner tell me “guns aren’t dangerous”. He literally told me that. Given he kills multiple animals a year with his guns AND is aware of what we arm soldiers and police with, I can’t grok that statement.

                  Of course guns are dangerous. They’re designed to be. Very efficiently designed, even when idiots load them down with stupid “tactical” accessories. Hundreds of years of evolution, of metallurgy and chemistry and experience go into one of those things, all revolving around making the most efficient, man-portable murder machine all of mankind’s ingenuity and skill at killing things can come up with.

                  Why we don’t TREAT them as dangerous I don’t get. I can understand the notion that danger isn’t sufficient to ban them. I just truly don’t get the weird way people can both embrace and deny their lethality simultaneously.

                  Which just gets back to me saying “Screw gun control, for the most part. Lay it aside for some other day, and let’s just get practical about gun ownership. It’s a ridiculously dangerous tool. You want it? Insure it. It hurts someone? You’re liable. No “Oh, let’s not charge the owner because his toddler shot mommy with Daddy’s gun.”. No, you charge the hell out of Daddy. You hit him with the book so hard that unborn children come into the world unwilling to compromise on gun safety rules.

                  If Tommy gets Uncle Bobby’s gun and goes and shoots up a school, Tommy goes to jail for all the murder, and Bobby joins him as an accessory unless they jury feels Uncle Bobby took serious precautions against unauthorized use.


          • In any case, all the DRM stuff will do is make copying protected stuff (and whatever else is deemed ‘crap we don’t want you making in your home) difficult enough to deter casual people. And frankly, that’s most people.

            Uh, no.

            DRM makes it hard for 99% of people to make copies of their stuff and hand it out.

            The problem is, of course, that last 1% copies it, and then *everyone* can download it. What is stopping that isn’t DRM, it’s chasing down distributors…and, of course, it’s not actually ‘stopping’ it at all, as if you *want* to download any slightly popular TV shows, you can.

            But we’re not even *talking* about DRM. No one is worried about *pirated* guns.

            We are talking about one of two things:

            1) Locking the ecosystem of 3D printers down where they can only print approved things, from the Google 3D Store or whatever. This, rather obviously, completely ruins half the concept of 3D printers…and I point to all the jailbroken and rooted phones out there to demonstrate why that wouldn’t work anyway.

            2) Building 3D printers where they can somehow recognize guns and refuse to make them, sorta like how copiers refuse to copy currency. First, see the whole ‘jailbroken and rooted’ comment previously, second, realize that recognizing things like that is literally impossible for a computer. (Paper money is a specific pattern, and it’s actually designed to be recognized by machine.) They could be taught specific patterns, but that just means the patterns would be tweaked slightly. They’d have to be constantly updated, and they’d only be updated once the pattern got out there and was discovered.

            Neither of those actually works. The entire idea we can ‘lock down’ 3D printers is DOA.


  6. [N3] New Orleanians generally think gator tastes like carrion picked-up off the side of the road, so the Lent ruling here is really that it is OK for Yankees to eat gator for Lent.


  7. I find it hard to be too judgmental about the British sex tourists in S5. Seems to me their partners are getting what they want out of the hookups too — they’re not bad-looking blokes at all, they don’t talk down to their hookups (at least according to their own understanding) and if I think a British accent is sexy for a woman it’s easy to see how a woman could think a British accent is sexy for a man. Doesn’t sound like they’re doing anything all that wrong.

    The flirty lies I don’t really get behind. But as sins go, that’s pretty venal.

    So… They take vacations in the States and get laid a lot because (at least for them) American girls are easy. Umm… Good for them.


  8. R1: The Mormons seem surprisingly good at having fewer apostates compared to other strict sects.

    R2: Well there is lots of liberalism in the Bible!!

    R3: This is pretty true. I think lots of people drift away from religion during their single years but having kids often makes them drift back.

    D1-D3: Were these ever in doubt? We live in a post-modern world now.

    D4: MBD’s argument is not that new and has been going around for months. What is not going around is architects and advocates for globalization coming up with any solutions to this problem. Either they don’t care or they don’t have anything. Same on the left in the HRC v. Sanders fight re globalization and finance.

    E3: Edifice complex is a hell of a problem to solve and whoever solves it should win several noble prizes.

    S2: I am with Lee here. You need to give people release valves. It is unreasonably to expect people to wait until their 30s for sex. Also this is probably a place where the right-wing just needs to give up the ghost. This fight has been lost for a long, long time. If you look at history, people were having a lot of pre-marital sex before the 1960s. There were always happy accidents and “premature” births where the kid was born four to six months after marriage. There was never an age when the good masses waited until marriage to have sex. Wicked cosmopolitan liberals did not change this despite the crying pleas of conservatives.


    • For white women married between 1960 and 1964, 52.6 percent waited until marriage to have sex. For the next cohort – women married between 1965 and 1969 – the number declined only a little, to 45.1 percent. The Pill was reaching market saturation by the end of the 1960s. For the next cohort – women married between 1970 and 1974 – the percentage that waited until marriage to have sex plummeted to 29.5 percent.

      At the same time, the number of women who began having sex not just before tying the knot, but long before marriage, began increasing. For the group of white women married from 1960 to 194, only 1.6 of them had sex for the first time five years or more before they walked down the aisle. For white women married between 1975 and 1979, 21.9 percent first had sex at least five years before saying “I do.”

      What was happening here? Well, between 1960 and 1975, the average age of first marriage for women moved barely at all, going from 20.3 years to 21.1 years. Which means that after the Pill was released, women started having sex earlier. And they began to push marriage further back on the horizon.

      -Jonathan V Last, “What To Expect When No One’s Expecting.”


    • S2: I’d also like to know if my spouse’s kinks before marriage. If one spouse likes BDSM and the other spouse has severe moral reservations about it than there might be issues that lead to divorce.


      • That is something that can be talked about!

        I’m personally not an advocate of abstinence. Some of the concerns I have do actually match somewhat. Not in terms of BDSM, though, but more in terms of of the questions one doesn’t think to ask, and the ones that you can only see in practice (how often one is in the mood, how they respond if they’re not especially in the mood, how they respond if you’re not especially in the mood, and so on).

        That being said, to the extent that there are indications, premarital sex (like premarital cohabitaiton) provides a bad filter for marital lack-of-success. Which leaves me in a bit of an odd position, wondering if my views on premarital sex are mostly influenced by my own personal lack of regret about having had premarital sex.


      • Even if the reservations aren’t moral, folks might just not be into a certain thing. And there is always tension around who gives in a particular scenario… Does the person with the kink sacrifice it for the other? Or does the other agree to something they aren’t really comfortable with/don’t enjoy?

        Dan Savage talks a good amount about this on his podcast. He calls it “the price of admission”. If something is so important to you… a “must” in the relationship, than you need to identify it as such and communicate this to your partner. They can then decide if they are willing to pay it or not. Now, people change over time so it is far from an assured thing. But if a “price of admission” for you is sex 3-4 times a week and your partner just isn’t going to be able to meet that, better to find that out earlier than later.

        I’m curious what you mean by “…premarital sex (like premarital cohabitaiton) provides a bad filter for marital lack-of-success.” Can you elaborate?


          • Got it. Thanks.

            Does it lead to greater rates of divorce? Or does it just have no bearing?

            I’m curious how much of that might be a selection bias issue… the folks more willing to cohabitate before marriage might also be more willing to divorce?


            • On cohabitation, by teasing out every variable imaginable, the most cohabitation-positive result they’ve come to is “Makes no difference” and this is with teasing out controls that I would consider mechanisms*

              On sex, as far as I know they’ve not been able to tease out variables to account for the differences between those with more sex partners and fewer.

              Now, in both cases you’re going to have intangiable variables that can’t be measured. Which is a valid criticism and why I would definitely stop short of saying “premarital sex/cohabitation makes divorce more likely” because it’s too messy to know that. What I do feel more comfortable saying, though, is that there is not much basis, in the aggregate, for the notion that premarital sex and cohabitation are an effective filtering mechanism for relationships preventing people from marrying the wrong person.

              (If you’re wondering why premarital cohabitation and sex might negatively influence marital success rates, the most common theory is “sliding vs deciding” (video). Instead of contemplating long-term commitment in a single decision, they end up locking themselves in with the wrong person and slide into a marriage as a path of lesser resistence. Which accounts for why there appears to be no difference between couples who do not cohabitate and those who cohabitate after making the decision that marriage is something they want to do.)

              * – This – which doesn’t involve cohabitation – is the sort of thing I am talking about with regard to controls and mechanism. By filtering out cases where one of the partners had previously lived with someone else… that actually speaks to whether cohabitation helps people find the right partner.


  9. [D5] — Big believer that a payoff of some good schadenfreude is never a good reason to root for major outcomes in government. But the thought of the GOP refusing any Obama nomination only to have Prez Clinton put Obama on SCOTUS comes pretty damn close.


    • True. And while I think it’s a pretty bad idea for several reasons (and I think Obama wouldn’t want the job, honestly) it’d be a nice change to have some different viewpoints on the court.

      I wouldn’t mind if a justice or two was less from the practice side and more from the philosophical side.

      If I was going to pick a judicial or Constitutional scholar, I’d probably pick someone else — but a former President or Senator would also have a pretty unique perspective that would probably be useful when the Courts wrestle with stuff like “intent of Congress”.


  10. F5: With tongue somewhat in cheek… It’s the age of connected computers, so the government will just require that the control software for 3D printers and CNC milling machines compare the part they’re making to a set of templates and report lower receivers. Completely home made guns will be limited to people with sufficient skills to make the parts on manual machine tools. That’s not a horrible hurdle — the Danish resistance in WWII fabricated fully automatic STEN guns in bicycle repair shops.

    Interesting timing, since we’re into the fight now on whether it will be legal to sell honest strong encryption to consumers in the US. The same argument applies — the algorithms are well known, so a reasonably intelligent person can acquire the skills to write the code and encrypt their data files. I suppose the day will come when the government will attempt to imprison someone who refuses to give up encryption keys using the “I’m sorry, I forgot them” defense.

    It won’t be the first time the US government has been this stupid. I’m old enough to have owned a t-shirt with RSA encryption source code printed on it, which made it an “export-restricted munition” for legal purposes.


    • WIth the understanding that your tongue is getting friendly with your cheek, I can think of at least three different ways around that restriction and I’m not even done with my first cup of coffee.

      This hearkens back to my big question: What is it “Gun Control” is trying to accomplish?


      • So can I. Engineers and former-technologists are inherently dangerous people, at least in the realm of gadgetry. I always thought it was somewhat insightful of Heinlein in If This Goes On— to have the theocracy keep close control over engineering training (Dept of Applied Miracles).

        In a country of >300M people, with >200M guns already loose, worrying about the ability of someone to print (or mill) critical parts for a gun doesn’t seem like it would gain you a lot.


    • It’ll be the same as it is with piracy. The DRM tools that WILL get added for everything else will be used to cut down the obvious paths, and only the truly dedicated will bother.

      And they’ll probably add law with nasty penalties for using a home-made gun like that during commission of a crime, and call it a day.

      So in general — if you’re a hobbyist and not a criminal, you’ll be mostly ignored and really bitter you can’t do everything you want without a huge hassle. A very few will be sued because they were idiots who decided to 3D print an exact replica of a Glock or something and don’t understand “patents” and “copyright”.

      95% of Americans won’t give a crap, and a few people will get doubled jail sentences for using a 3D printed gun instead of getting one of the tens of millions floating around.


        • Yes, and the electoral college sucks and the Hugo nomination system was gameable as crap and everyone knew it for fifty years.

          Nonetheless, people stick with it until they’re forced to change. And DRM works…well enough for the main players.


            • Given a gun is an assemblage of random parts, it’d be impossible to prevent 3D printers from making the pieces, at least.

              What you can do is make it a PITA (and bluntly speaking, the more capable the 3D printer the more PITA you can make it, because recognizing gun bits is pretty easy to teach a computer) and then add extra penalties for being stupid and/or criminal with home-grown guns, as it were.

              This will drive the masses towards “legitimate” gun plans, much like music has ended up working. People still pirate, but given the choice most people apparently are happier paying.

              Then again, I rather favor heavy liability laws on guns anyways. I’m really sick of seeing about someone getting shot in a “tragic accident” because what that means is “negligent gun-owner gets someone hurt or killed, will not suffer any consequences because FREEDOM”. Drown in my pool and apparently I’m liable. Get shot with my gun because a toddler picked it up and it’s a tragic accident that for some reason doesn’t automatically come equipped with criminal charges and civil liability.


  11. [S6] Needs to be double blind to be credible – some subjects have sex, others are told they are having sex but instead get a sugar pill.


  12. Confused about this FBI/Apple thing. Is this the same FBI who spent a day and a half searching the apartment of the shooters before allowing the press in to touch everything?

    Are they pretty sure that the iPhone password wasn’t written down on something they might have accidentally left behind in the apartment?

    And now they’re telling Apple to create a back door?


    • I’m really struggling to understand on what grounds the government can compel Apple to do anything in this case.

      The phone doesn’t belong to Apple (unless the ToS somehow treats the phones as loaned or leased but I’m pretty sure that isn’t the case given how many third party sellers exist). What obligation do they have to open it? Furthermore, why does the government assume they can? I saw a quote today in which a government official was criticizing Apple for saying they couldn’t open it. Like, “Come on, guys… we know you have computers in there!”


      • I’m pretty sure that Apple has unlocked phones for the gummint before.

        If anything, I’m all paranoid that this case provides the closest thing to a “yeah, we understand why the gummint is pressuring Apple to do this” for the public to justify (in some cases retroactively) the policy.


        • They have. But, per Apple, the circumstances are different. Prior to (I believe) the iOs8 update, they could do one-time unlocks. The new Os would require a “key” of some sort that the government could (would?) keep access to and which they could use to unlock and access any phone any where at anytime.

          This isn’t a landlord opening an apartment door. This is giving the cops a key to every home in the city with the promise that they’ll only use it if they REALLY need to.

          And yet, even that analogy is lacking. This isn’t the government asking the landlord to open a door. It is asking the architect of the building to knock down a wall. At least as I understand it.

          All that said, I agree with your point about the precedent this sets and the public perception of the issue. Has the government even made the case for why they need access to the phone?

          Semi-related: What does it say about our government’s capabilities that they can’t find a way into the phone? And that they suspect (perhaps rightly) that Apple can? How would we feel if the government made Godfather offers to Apple’s top programmers and got them to invent the ‘key’ on their own?


          • The government isn’t asking Apple to open the door; Apple does not have that capability. The government wants Apple to use the software update feature to turn off an auto-erase function that would be activated in the event of incorrect password entries. It’s more like asking the landlord to turn-off the security system in the building so that the police can safely knock down a door.


            • Thanks, .

              Do you think that is a fair request of the government?

              Does Apple’s contention that doing it this one time would empower the government to do this at will hold water?


              • Law enforcement has the power to ask courts to enter such orders as necessary for a criminal investigation. The Court entered the order already, but has given Apple time to respond with its objections or requests for modifications. I think its all going to come down to what is “reasonable.”

                It seems to me that the order allowed Apple to retain its product in its own possession if it wants. I suspect the concern for Apple is that once they have done this, the inconvenience will be less in future cases, it will be even more “reasonable” for Apple to assist in the future.


            • It’s more like asking the landlord to turn-off the security system in the building

              …using a tool that currently does not exist, and that the landlord must build specifically for this use, and that could be very dangerous to his other tenants.

              If Apple’s claims are to be believed.


              • The technological issues are beyond me. Someone more savvy than me seems to think that by making (or is it allowing) this software update feature, they’ve already done enough to cross some line. The order suggests that Apple be reimbursed its reasonable costs for this service, so it doesn’t sound like simply flipping a switch.


                • They are beyond me as well to be honest, and I wasn’t trying to argue with you. I just wanted to point out that, if Apple’s claims are to be believed, it’s not as simple as a landlord turning off a switch that already exists or he has access to. He has to build a tool of some kind to access or flip the switch (again, if their claims are to be believed).

                  And that’s where this whole thing seems hinky to me; a step beyond “provide us evidence you already possess”, or “give us access that you already control”.

                  “Give us the key you already have” or “Let us in” seems different from “Make us a key.”


            • As pointed out to me, the firmware update process doesn’t wipe data stored on the device. It has been reported this morning that the firmware update for the new A7 and A8 processors don’t wipe out the encryption keys stored in the security hardware. So even in the newest phones, it’s still a matter of Apple “won’t” rather than the “can’t” message Apple has been implicitly sending.

              I would love to be able to listen in on Apple’s internal discussions when they compare the upside of changing the design so it really is “can’t” versus the inconvenience for customers that files must be backed up and restored for certain kinds of updates in order to avoid losing the data.


      • The phone doesn’t belong to Apple (unless the ToS somehow treats the phones as loaned or leased but I’m pretty sure that isn’t the case given how many third party sellers exist). What obligation do they have to open it?

        This is something I’ve wondered about also, but if the “door” is in the software (which Apple owns, and per law you don’t) and not the hardware, the govt. might correctly perceive Apple as the “owner” of the “door”.

        Which might set an interesting precedent to software companies also.

        At least when I sell you [physical object], its ownership is fully transferred to you, and any crimes you commit while using [physical object], and their consequences are on you; I am under no obligation to do anything.

        If software companies want to retain ownership of the software and “lease” it to people, they will have to deal with the consequences when the leased/loaned items are misused.


        • The ownership issues are strange because the phone was owned by the dead terrorist’s employer and the employer has consented to the search. I think the main point though will be that Apple designed (or misdesigned) its system to give itself an exclusive ability that is necessary for law enforcement to perform a search approved by warrant.


          • Add to that, Apple provides the capability for iPhones to be placed in “supervised” mode by the employer, which records the pass code picked by the employer and keeps the employee from changing it. Obviously not done in this case.


    • The FBI may have a number of good leads on a password, but what they want Apple to do is de-activate the self-destruct feature that would destroy the evidence if too many incorrect passwords are tried. (Barring that, the FBI will use brute force)


    • In the Mirror Universe, Spock has a beard, Uhura wears even less clothing but is much better versed with kitchen implements, and George Takei is straight but still surprisingly fabulous.

      And the Mirror Universe linky is “Obama abandons Cuba negotiations to shamelessly pander at Scalia funeral”.


  13. Polling from South Carolina includes the critical question of barbecue sauce preference.

    * Overall, tomato based leads with 31%, with vinegar and mustard tied at 26% and 17% undecided. Something is deeply wrong with both the tomato advocates and the undecideds.
    * Trump, Rubio, and Cruz voters are disproportionately likely to have a preference, with under 15% undecided for each, while more than 25% of each of the other candidates’ supporters are sauce-agnostic
    * Rubio, Kasich, and Trump supporters are most likely to prefer a tomato base, Cruz supporters are most likely to prefer mustard, Bush supporters vinegar, and Carson supporters are most likely to be undecided
    * Undecided voters break heavily towards tomato (41%) and vinegar (32%). Mustard is the big loser in this group, with only 11%.
    * If we rank candidates by the percent of their supporters with defensible (mustard or vinegar) sauce preferences, we find that Cruz leads with 57%, followed by Bush and Trump with 55%, Rubio with 52%, Carson with 48%, and Kasich with 42%. This makes me look more favorably on Cruz.


    • Those are all for Republican likely voters. The Democrats show better taste, with vinegar leading the preferences. Sanders supporters are very likely to prefer vinegar (35%); sadly, most of this support comes at the expense of mustard rather than tomato.


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