A machine made of wood, metal, paint, bone and magic
32861 words

The NSA is either useless, compromised, or both

In the month leading up to Trump's idiot coup attempt on the 6th of January 2020, the phrase 'storm the Capitol' was used 100,000 times on various forums. The NSA's job is

[...] global monitoring, collection, and processing of information and data for foreign and domestic intelligence and counterintelligence purposes, specializing in a discipline known as signals intelligence (SIGINT).

The US national intelligence program appropriation for 2020 was $62.7 billion: the NSA and related agencies are not short of funding.

So why on earth didn't they notice what was happening? Either they are, simply, useless at the job they are meant to do or they did notice what was happening and either decided not to tell anyone or were ignored when they did.

The second possibility is perhaps more frightening. It is very obvious that there has been infiltration of various US agencies by nazis1: if the entire intelligence system has been compromised then there is a very serious problem, something quite close to the denazification of Germany after the 1939-1945 war. Except this is much worse: the denazification of Germany was done by the allies, who could safely assume that they were not themselves significantly infested with nazis, while this time no such assumption is safe. Trying to denazify US institutions will be rather like what happens in a scanner darkly, where nothing and no-one can be trusted and no information can be assumed to be reliable.

In fact, this has to happen whether or not the NSA actually has been compromised by nazis, since other organisations certainly have been.

Alternatively, perhaps the NSA has not been compromised, in which case it is simply useless: missing something this obvious is a catastrophic error. Well, it was obvious when Snowden stole a vast trove of information from it that the NSA was an extremely expensive joke: perhaps, seven years later, it still is.

  1. Yes: nazis. Godwin's law does not apply when people actually are nazis, and that is what these people are. 

The end of a bad relationship

There's that moment when, suddenly, you realise that you're done with all the bullshit: it's stopped meaning anything and all that's left now is to leave.

Well, that's just happened with England1 and me. When the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016 I was, like many other people, heartbroken: the choice to burn the future of the nation's young people, and hence of the nation itself, on an alter of bigotry and invented nostalgia for a glorious past that never existed wasn't completely surprising, but it was still upsetting. Like other people I spent a long time trying to explain the result to myself in terms which both made some kind of sense – I refuse to believe the idea that all the people who voted for brexit were simply too stupid to understand what they were voting for because I don't believe that the people who voted were brexit were stupid. But I couldn't find another answer which didn't lead to horrible conclusions.

And, of course, the horrible conclusions are the right conclusions: the people who voted for brexit indeed were not stupid, but they did then and do now believe deeply horrible things. It took me a long time to accept this, but events in the US since late 2016 have really made it very clear that very many people – perhaps most people – perhaps me – are, simply, terrible human beings.

What wasn't clear at the time of the referendum was that the people who so desperately wanted to leave the EU considered it far beneath their dignity to spend any time thinking about what would be involved in doing so. Rather they assumed that other people would sort out the details for them. And when those other people turned out to be either imaginary, unwilling to do the brexiteers' work for them, or both, why they got on with what they do best: whining and blaming other people for the problems they have brought upon themselves.

And of course the catastrophe will never be their fault: nothing ever is. A succession of easily-identifiable groups are already being found to blame and more will follow: people who voted to remain, the Poles, the EU, the BBC, the metropolitan elite, the 'mainstream media', the judges, the intellectuals, the liberals, the gypsies, the gays, the Muslims, and, inevitably soon, somehow, the Jews. We know where this leads.

And still I was heartbroken, because I loved England, the country I where was born and where my ancestors have lived for a thousand years or more, and I could not bear to see it turn into this nationalist caricature of itself ruled over by a laughing clown prince who cares no more for his subjects than he cares for ants. And as the end approached I dreaded the final, irrevocable loss of the future and the real start of the journey that ends with camps, gas and mass graves.

And then, suddenly, at the start of January, I discovered I was free of it. Suddenly I realised I was done with the bullshit and the whining: that I no longer cared, and that all that is left now is to find somewhere to go, and to leave. Not yet physically – I have family & friends here still – and perhaps not ever physically if nowhere else will take me. But I am done with England's bullshit: the relationship is over. I am free of the dream of England. And I am so glad.

  1. Yes, England, not the UK. 

The nightmare after Christmas

So, two medical journals, the Health Service Journal and the British Medical Journal, have jointly written an editorial saying that

[...] Rather than lifting restrictions over Christmas as currently planned, the UK should follow the more cautious examples of Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.


This joint editorial is only the second in the more than 100 year histories of The BMJ and HSJ. We are publishing it because we believe the government is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives. If our political leaders fail to take swift and decisive action, they can no longer claim to be 'protecting the NHS.'

In the face of this the UK has decided that it will not tighten its rules around Christmas. The rules say that between 23rd and 27th December, three households in a 'Christmas bubble' can mix indoors and stay overnight, while Northern Ireland has a window of 22nd to 28th December, to allow time to travel between the nations.

Rather than tightening the rules our noble and illustrious leader has said that people must act responsibly, because 'we don't want to criminalise people's long-made plans'. Of course he does not: he thinks that it is better to let them die and risk the collapse of the NHS than to be seen to have changed his mind. The little people are, after all, rather less than cattle to him.

If the UK government ever again says that they are 'following the science' or 'protecting the NHS' you will know that they are lying: they don't care at all for the NHS, they don't understand what science is and if they did they certainly would not be following it.

The relaxation of the rules lasts from the 23rd to the 27th Of December. It's probably safe to assume that the peak transmission will be between the 24th and 26th of December. The incubation period for CV19 is about ten days, so between the 3rd and 5th of January 2021 people will start to get sick in significant numbers. There will no doubt be another big peak around the 10th of January, ten days after hogmanay, to make things worse. This is already at the worst possible time of year: the depths of winter, just after new year.

But this is just the start: the UK will finally effectively leave the EU overnight between the 31st December 2020 and the 1st January 2021. It is likely there will be no trade deal, with the resulting chaos possibly including food and medicine shortages. Supermarkets keep a few days of food, so things will be getting bad around the second week of January 2021.

These are the great and glorious works of the mighty Boris Johnson, laughing clown emperor of England: look on them and despair.


What's the difference between a brexiteer and a terrorist?

You can negotiate with a terrorist.


It seems appropriate that the national science foundation of a nation that, 51 years ago, put two humans on the Moon, is now proudly attaching its logo to footage of parts of the scientific infrastructure of the nation collapsing as a result of long-term neglect. What could be done at Arecibo can not be done anywhere now. If, in due course, another installation is built which can do what Arecibo could do, it will almost certainly be at FAST, in China. And Americans will continue to stare at their phones, lost in a dream world where they live in a country which is not rotting from within.

Test and trace

As with everything to do with the UK's wonderful government and its glorious leader – a man who, if not actually Churchill reborn for our times, certainly wants to be him – it is appropriate to compare current events to the second world war.

The UK entered that war on the first of September 1939, woefully ill-prepared for it. Ten months later they fought, and won, the battle of Britain. If we choose the start of February, 2020 as the date that it became clear that the CV19 pandemic was very serious indeed, then it is now nine months since that date.

In the ten months between the start of the second war and the start of the battle of Britain, the UK built up an air force – pilots, aeroplanes, ground crew, infrastructure, radar – which could and did defeat the Germans.

In the nine months from the start of February and now the UK government has entirely failed to build a track and trace system which could have kept infections under control, has actively encouraged people to do things such eating out and going back to work in offices which have make the pandemic worse and, finally, has failed to take heed of the advice of the scientists who were advocating for a short lockdown in September.

It is as if, between September 1939 and July 1940, the UK had thought about building some Spitfires and Hurricanes and doing everything else they needed to do not to lose the war, but somehow kept getting the wings on backwards and when they did manage to fit them the right way they fell off because they were made of cardboard. While doing this they would simultaneously be shouting down the scientists and engineers who kept talking to them about this silly 'radar' idea.

If the Cummings-Johnson government had been responsible for fighting the second world war, it would have ended with a Nazi victory in 1940.

Boris Johnson is an entitled clown, Dominic Cummings is a crank and an idiot, and the rest of them are no better. These fuckwit crypto-fascists are in the process of killing a huge number of the people they govern and blighting the lives of many, many others.

They must to be held to account for this.

The last chance for us all

If Donald Trump wins in November then this is clearly a disaster for world – whether he wins legitimately or, as seems more likely, by dismantling democracy. His victory will not only be a disaster in itself: it will also accelerate the slide from democracy to authoritarianism elsewhere in the world.

But, well, this has happened before, hasn't it? The free world did succeed, eventually, in defeating the Nazis, and it at least seems plausible that it1 will defeat this latter-day incarnation of fascism. Millions will die, appalling atrocities will be committed, but the world will recover. Won't it?

It probably won't. Because this time is not like what happened in the 1930s and 1940s. By the time Trump and his followers-on are defeated it will be too late: billions, not millions will probably die if Trump wins in November.

Why? Climate change. We have no more than a decade, and probably less, to deal with climate change. If we fail to take serious steps to address it that time it will be, simply, too late. The world will not end in a decade, but if nothing is done in that time then enough warming will already be committed that nothing we can do will prevent catastrophic levels of warming happening later in the 21st century and into the 22nd. This will almost certainly end any recognisably modern civilisation and very probably kill most humans then alive.

Trump and the other authoritarians either do not believe in anthropogenic climate change or simply do not care about it – either because they will be dead by the time it matters or because they believe they can extract enough wealth from their positions to isolate themselves from its effects, as other very rich people plan to do. This means that, if he wins, nothing will be done for at least another four years, and almost certainly nothing will be done until it is far too late.

It is not certain that, if Trump loses, enough will be done to deal with climate change. It is certain that, if he wins, it won't be.

This means that billions of lives are at stake in this election, not millions. It is, quite literally, probably the last chance for our civilisation.

  1. I would like to say 'we', but the country I live in is well down the slope to an authoritarian catastrophe of its own. 

Last post

My first post was on 1st May 2020, so this post marks 5 months of daily entries, most of which were done without faking the dates later.

That seems like enough, for now: it's been an interesting experience, but I don't think I have enough to say to justify a daily entry, and it's becoming repetitive.


It's just time, now: just waiting for the end.


Of course he paid his taxes; of course he doesn't owe half a billion dollars to the Russians unknown people, who now control him.


I really don't think there is.


Is there anything useful more to say?


From A new American Manifesto: a 2020 adaptation of something else.

He is lawless. He has no respect whatsoever for the rules of this country.

He has interfered with state Governors’ abilities to take care of their states in times of crisis, constantly breaking promises and being unreliable, just to wear them down so that they will do whatever he wants and then neglects them even when they do it.

He has abused the powers of the Presidency, leveraging people’s rights for business purposes.
He turns public events into personal campaign stunts, wearing all the rational people down with his antics and erratic behavior.

He has repeatedly fired the heads of critical agencies for refusing to support his illegal and abusive orders.

He routinely leaves these positions unfilled so that Congress doesn’t have a formal say in confirming nominations. This allows him to keep unconfirmed lackeys at the heads of agencies where Congress can’t touch them and they can sabotage and exploit the agencies without consequence, leaving the public without the safety those agencies provide. This causes chaos.

He has imposed harsh immigration laws and is directly attacking the economies of States and cities that allow people he doesn’t like into their borders.

He has rigged the Judicial system, conspiring with Congress to break rules to secure his judge appointments.

He has made shady deals with judicial appointees to influence them.

He is inventing personal secret police squads to terrorize and harass the population.

He has flooded our cities with militarized personnel against the wishes of local populations and their governments.

He glorifies violent law enforcement and elevates them above the rest of the humans in the country.

He has corrupted the Justice Department and Congress, using them to help him create a wholly unconstitutional set of policies.

He pardons and covers for crimes committed by these henchmen and refuses to allow any accountability for their treason.

He has started costly and economically damaging trade wars.

He supports extrajudicial killings and encourages a lack of due process by law enforcement.

He uses tax laws to steal from the poor and give to the rich.

He supports the use of black sites, torture and other brutal authoritarian measures.

He has leveraged the oversized jurisdiction of the Border Patrol to impose their power on areas and people they were never intended to.

He has trampled the rule of law, all protocol and policy. He shows no respect whatsoever for the institutions of government.

He is overreaching with Federal jurisdiction, overriding local jurisdictions with his own teams.

He isn’t protecting America, he’s waging war on us.

He has withdrawn us from crucial environmental treaties, deregulated industry, refused aid for wildfires, and has allowed over 200,000 people to die needlessly from a preventable pandemic.

His federal forces have been stockpiling weapons for use against the civilian populace.

He turns dissidents against each other, threatening them with high crimes if they don’t turn against their fellow protestors.

He starts riots and leverages those brutal, merciless folks embedded in our every community, the police, whose known rules of engagement are 'anyone who’s not a cop can die'.

Get rid of the ballots

Get rid of the ballots and we’ll have a very peaceful – there won’t be a transfer, frankly – there’ll be a continuation.

– Donald Trump

Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus. Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.

– Mitt Romney, Republican senator

Note 7

This was an answer to a Stack Overflow question that got closed.

(define-syntax nloop*
  ;; Nested numerical loop
  (syntax-rules ()
    [(_ () form ...)
     (begin form ...
    [(_ ((variable lower-inclusive upper-exclusive) more ...) form ...)
     (let loop ([variable lower-inclusive])
       (if (< variable upper-exclusive)
             (nloop* (more ...) form ...)
             (loop (+ variable 1)))
    [(_ ((variable start-inclusive end-exclusive step) more ...) form ...)
     (let ([cmp? (if (>= step 0) < >)])
       (let loop ([variable start-inclusive])
         (if (cmp? variable end-exclusive)
               (nloop* (more ...) form ...)
               (loop (+ variable step)))
> (nloop* ((i 10 0 -3)
           (j 0 3 2))
    (printf "~A ~A~%" i j))
10 0
10 2
7 0
7 2
4 0
4 2
1 0
1 2