Real History of the NRA

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has an interesting origin story that is basically 180 degrees from its current incarnation.

We should begin by acknowledging that the current NRA is basically a slush-fund non-profit organization of white supremacists in America who export death for profit, as Hasan Manaj masterfully explains:

What Hasan misses in his segment, is the obvious ties to history. For example, a move by the current US regime leader to overturn a humanitarian rule that was meant to limit exports to regimes that violate human rights…that’s a straight repeat of what Reagan did in 1981.

In case you missed it, I wrote about this in a post called “RONALD REAGAN’S ‘SPECIAL UNIT’ SOLDIER SENTENCED TO 5,160 YEARS IN JAIL FOR MASS MURDER

Two months after news of the massacre Reagan un-blocked $3.2 million in military support to Guatemala’s army. The unblocking method used was crafty, as Reagan reclassified trucks and jeeps to transport Guatemalan soldiers to commit massacres. Military vehicles known to be used in the massacres no longer were under the human rights embargo.

Here’s another way to look at it.

We can tell a modern story about American gun manufacturers accelerating the destruction of endangered wildlife as they are secretly arming poachers today.

…precipitous decline in the worldwide rhino population from 500,000 in the early 20th century to fewer than 30,000 today, with the vast majority in South Africa.

A 2015 report by Small Arms Survey, a Switzerland-based research group, showed that the free flow of high-powered rifles and other weapons in Africa has significantly increased the scale of poaching. In turn, that has bolstered the illicit arms trade.

[…]

CZ and its American subsidiary, at a minimum, knew that the weapons it was selling were being used for poaching,” Ms. Austin said in an interview. “They knew and continued to look the other way as dozens, perhaps hundreds, of their weapons continued to show up in the hands of poachers.”

Or we can tell a very similar story about American history, where gun manufacturers accelerating civil wars in southern Africa, stoked by white supremacists who wanted to destabilize their neighboring states.

Note a buried detail in a 1996 news story about clandestine arms deals during apartheid:

The US indictment claims that Armscor, set up in 1977 to circumvent the United Nation’s arms embargo against South Africa and wholly owned by the South African government, smuggled military technology from the US in the late 1980s…South African ministers have threatened to reveal details of clandestine deals between the US and previous South African governments if the US does not drop the Armscor case

The episode by Hasan talks about America flooding Mexico with guns, and how the NRA strongly opposes the United Nation’s ability to embargo arms. Yet it doesn’t bring any history into the mix. I mean Oliver North is in the story and Iran-Contra gun smuggling isn’t even mentioned!

Seems like past events would help provide a lot of context for NRA positions today, especially given what we know today about past financial industry ties to the gun industry.

And now I’d like to end by pointing out what the NRA really was created for and meant to do. I never see this anywhere, so I may as well post it here.

NRA was founded 1871 to better prepare American freemen (e.g. emancipated slaves) for defense of their nation against rebellion (e.g. white supremacists).

From the start the NRA was “a quasi-governmental organization…a roster of Union commanders” who probably today are rolling in their grave because of what the NRA has become.

It was generally thought (pun intended) after the end of the Civil War that black men needed training with rifles to defend the country, and by that I mean defend themselves, families and their communities from terrorists. US General Shaler had noticed that on average it took nearly 1K rifle shots to stop each enemy soldier.

I think a lot of people have completely forgotten what made 1871 such a pivotal time for NRA establishment: blacks were defending themselves against active KKK mobs trying to perpetuate the Civil War through terror campaigns.

In other words, when talking about 1871 as a start date, “the situation shifted” for rifles in America because a pro-government black-lives-matter organization was founded and called the NRA.

This might seem crazy until you realize a man named Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (Jefferson and Beauregard were the failed leaders of pro-slavery rebellion) in modern times was appointed to head the DoJ, an agency created in 1870 by President Grant to fight the KKK.

It perhaps makes sense then that if the DoJ has become led by a third-generation Jefferson Beauregard…the NRA too now would be flipped and led by white supremacists. But that shouldn’t obscure the true civil rights origins of either NRA or DoJ.

A Sailor-Historian-Technologist Perspective on the Boeing 737 MAX Disaster

The tragedy of Boeing’s 737 product security decisions create a sad trifecta for someone interested in aeronautics, lessons from the past, and risk management.

First, there was a sailor’s warning.

We know Boeing moved a jet engine into a position that fundamentally changed handling. This was a result of Airbus ability to add a more efficient engine to their popular A320. The A320 has more ground clearance, so a larger engine didn’t change anything in terms of handling. The 737 sits lower to the ground, so changing to a more efficient engine suddenly became a huge design change.

Here’s how it unfolded. In 2011 Boeing saw a new Airbus design as a direct threat to profitability. A sales-driven rush meant efficiency became a critical feature for their aging 737 design. The Boeing perspective on the kind of race they were in was basically this:

Boeing had to solve for a plane much closer to the ground, while achieving the same marketing feat of Airbus, which said the efficiency didn’t change a thing (thus no costly pilot re-training). This is where Boeing made the critical decision to push their engine design forward and up on the wing,…while claiming that pilots did not need to know anything new about handling characteristics.

60 minutes in Australia illustrated the difference in their segment called “Rogue Boeing 737 Max planes ‘with minds of their own’” (look carefully on the left and it says TOO BIG next to the engine):


Don’t ask me why an Australian TV show didn’t call their segment “Mad Max”.

And that is basically why handling the plane was different, despite Boeing’s claims that their changes weren’t significant, let alone safety-related. The difference in handling was so severe (risk of stall) that Boeing then doubled-down with a clumsy software hack to flight control systems to hide the handling changes.

An odd twist to this story is that it was American Airlines who kicked off the Boeing panic about sales with a 2011 order for several hundred new A320. See if you can pick up a more forward and higher engine design in this illustration handed out to passengers.

I added this into the story because note again how Boeing wanted to emphasize “identical” planes yet marketed them heavily as different for even an in-flight magazine given to every passenger. It stands in contrast to how that same airline’s pilots were repeatedly told by Boeing the two planes held no differences in flight worth highlighting in documentation.

To make an even finer point, the Airbus A320 in that same airline magazine doesn’t have a sub-model.

While this engine placement clearly had been approved by highly-specialized engineering management thinking short-term (about racing through FAA compliance), who was thinking about serious instability long-term as a predictable cost?

The emerging safety problems led to a series of shortcut hacks and partial explanations that attempted to minimize talk about stabilizing or training for new flow characteristics, rather than admit huge long-term implications (deaths).

Boeing Knew About Safety-Alert Problem for a Year Before Telling FAA, Airlines

The Seattle Times posted clear evidence of pilots fighting against their own ship, unaware of reasons it was fighting with them.

Anyone who sails, let alone flies airplanes, immediately can see the problem in calling a 737 “Mad Max” the same as a prior 737 design, when flow handling has changed — one doesn’t just push a keel or mast around without direct tiller effects.

Some pilots say unofficially they knew the 737 “Mad Max” was not the same and, at least in America, were mentally preparing themselves for how to react to a defective system. Officially however pilots globally needed to be warned clearly and properly, as well as trained better on the faulty software that would fight with them for safe control of the aircraft.

Second, America has a “Widowmaker” precedent.

Years ago I wrote about pilot concerns with a plane of WWII, the crash-prone B-26.

The B-26 had a high rate of accidents in takeoff and landing until crews were trained better and the aspect ratio modified on its wings/rudder

That doesn’t tell the whole story, though. In terms of history repeating itself, evidence mounted this American airplane was manifestly unsafe to fly and the manufacturer wasn’t inclined to proactively fix and save lives.

A biographer of Truman gives us some details from 1942 Senate hearings, foreshadowing the situation today with Boeing.

Apparently crashes of the Martin B-26 were happening at least every month and sometimes every other day. Yes, crashes were literally happening 15 days out of 30 and the plane wasn’t grounded.

The Martin company in response to concerns started a PR campaign to gloat about how one of its aircraft actually didn’t kill everyone on board and received blessings from Churchill.

Promoting survivorship should be recognized today as a dangerously and infamously bad data tactic. Focusing on economics of Boeing is the right thing here. They haven’t stooped yet to Martin’s survivorship bias campaign, but it does seem that Boeing knowingly was putting lives at risk to win a marketing and sales battle with a rival, similar to what Tesla could be accused of doing.

Third, there are broad societal issues from profitable data integrity flaws.

Can we speak openly yet about the executives making money on big data technology with known integrity flaws that kill customers?

There’s really a strange element to this story from a product management decision flow. Nobody should want to end up where we are at today with this issue.

Boeing knew right away its design change impacted the handling of the product. They then added fixes in, without notifying their customers responsible for operating the product of the severity of a fix failure (crash).

I believe this is where and why the expanding number of investigations are being cited as “criminal” in nature.

  • Investigation of development and certification of the Boeing 737 MAX by the FAA and Boeing, by DoJ Fraud Section, with help from the FBI and the DoT Inspector General
  • Administrative investigation by the DoT Inspector General
  • DoT Inspector General hearings
  • FAA review panel on “certification of the automated flight-control system on the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, as well as its design and how pilots interact with it”
  • Congressional investigation of “status of the Boeing 737 MAX” for US House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

These investigations seem all to be getting at the sort of accountability I’ve been saying needs to happen for Facebook, which also suffered from integrity flaws in its product design. Will a top executive eventually be named? And will there be wider impact to engineering and manufacturing ethics in general? If the Grover Shoe Factory disaster is any indication, the answers should be yes.

In conclusion, if change in design is being deceptively presented, and the suffering of those impacted is minimized (because profits, duh), then we’re approaching a transportation regulatory moment that really is about software engineering. What may emerge is these software-based transportation risks, because fatalities, will bring regulation for software in general.

Even if regulation isn’t coming, the other new reality is buyers (airlines, especially outside the US and beyond the FAA) will do what Truman suggested in 1942: cancel contracts and buy from another supplier who can pass transparency/accountability tests.

Hockey News

Close family and friends played hockey and I have even been to a game as an observer, yet I fail to understand how hockey news ends up in my inbox. It’s really not something I’m ever interested in seeing.

That being said I have to admit that the Russian dictator attempting to show he is just as vulnerable and clumsy as any average person on ice, did catch my eye (he reportedly was too busy waving at the stands to notice a highly visible rug):

Human Rights Defenders Using WhatsApp

Facebook’s “secure” messaging app has been found vulnerable to compromise by a simple call.

…malicious code,…transmitted even if users did not answer their phones, and the calls often disappeared from call logs

The discovery was made by security researchers helping protect human rights defenders from targeted attacks by private firms. These private firms sell skills to highest-bidders, like mercenaries, which tends to correlate funding from targets of human-rights complaints.

And before we go too deeply into questions like “don’t these 0click vulnerabilities exist in other platforms that exist” let me suggest we ask why human rights defenders are using Facebook at all.

We can’t prove a teapot doesn’t exist in space, but we can say with certainty that atheist lawyers are less safe when using an app delivered by a church with a track record of denying the science of safety.

CIA Launches “Onion” Site

Headlines are popping up all over that the CIA has created an “Onion” site. If you are like me, you immediately think of things like this:

And on that note, the first story on the CIA Onion site might be something like “CIA Prototypes Real-life Wolverine Missile-claws”.

Then it would give examples of how a remote-controlled projectile can penetrate small armored spaces to murder anyone inside, as blades launch that won’t harm bystanders outside the boundary.

Oh, wait, that’s a real news disclosure.

The new missile, which has never been acknowledged publicly before today, is called the R9X and is a variant of the Hellfire missile. But unlike a traditional Hellfire, the R9X is designed with six long blades that only emerge from the missile seconds before impact. The R9X, nicknamed the “flying Ginsu” by insiders, doesn’t contain a warhead. The goal, according to anonymous U.S. officials speaking with the Journal, is to reduce unnecessary casualties and hopefully only kill the person who was targeted in the first place.

Saying “Ginsu” in that story reveals something about the age of those involved. I’d expect “vita-mix” if this were a younger research team.

Anyway, saying the CIA has an “Onion” news site is not really a good way to describe what is happening. It doesn’t disambiguate from or give some kind of shout out to “The Onion” news site, which we all know and love for its past reporting on the CIA.

Thankfully Wired posted a more clear (albeit yelling) headline with “CIA SETS UP SHOP ON TOR

…people around the world can browse the agency’s website anonymously…the US government can benefit from using the anonymity service…

Ohhhh, it’s a Torrent option for connecting to CIA information. And that begs the question why not use a headline like “CIA Offers Reader Privacy with New Information Service”?

Privacy is the real story here, and probably should go right in the headline. Not mine, though, as I’m trying to draw attention to The Onion.

The Facebook Trust Disaster Was Easily Predicted

Five years ago in 2014, the future of Facebook trust was in the balance. What happened?

‘When I joined Facebook in 2016, my mom was so proud of me, and I could walk around with my Facebook backpack all over the world and people would stop and say, ‘It’s so cool that you worked for Facebook.’ That’s not the case anymore,’ a former product manager says. ‘It made it hard to go home for Thanksgiving.’

First of all, Thanksgiving is literally a holiday created by Abraham Lincoln after the defeat of pro-slavery forces that had been aiming to break apart the United States. It’s supposed to be the easiest time to get back together with family, even for those unwilling to give up human slavery.

Second, 2016? Let’s talk about warnings as early as 2011, which are easy to find even in the public forums…and maybe the better question is what didn’t happen? Facebook didn’t hire a qualified CSO during these years, and didn’t have executive leadership committed to respect for human rights (e.g. privacy) let alone ethics.

Third, recent studies by the Eller College of Management, University of Arizona cited that only 14% of Facebook users deleted their account after Cambridge University researchers violated privacy. More importantly, the studies found that user behavior changed measurably and “sensitive words” were removed as users start self-censoring and encoding their meanings in a manner similar to slaves in American history.

The Oscillation Range of Human Languages

Being caught as a non-native speaker can have serious implications, like death. That probably is why a BBC article about overcoming the exact cause of accents is going to be of more than just casual interest.

Recent studies show that native speakers develop expertise with a specific oscillation range:

Every human language oscillates at a different range of frequencies, with British English fluctuating considerably between 2,000 to 12,000 Hz and French much less so between 15 to 250 Hz and 1,000 to 2,000 Hz. If French can be described as flat, English is very wavy. Russian fluctuates between an incredible 125 to 12,000 Hz. This means that some languages, like English and Russian, can go much higher and lower in pitch than say French.

There are many recent examples of risk to draw from. The BBC goes with an ancient history one to highlight why being identified by accent is so dangerous; why some work so hard to understand how to more easily jump into different ranges:

Speech has been used to segregate people for millennia. When the Tribe of Gilead defeated the Ephraimites in The Bible, they used accent as a means of identifying surviving Ephraimites trying to flee.

Anyone who claimed not to be a survivor was asked to say the Hebrew word “Shibboleth”, which means stream. People from Gilead pronounced it with a “sh” sound, whereas Ephraimites could not say “sh”, so anyone who said “Sibboleth” was killed on the spot: 42,000 people failed the test, according to the Old Testament.

Of course accent is just the beginning. Cultural meaning is another problem entirely. Take being happy, for example:

  • Chinese “Xingfu” – Sustainability and meaningfulness through sufficiency
  • Greek “Meraki” – Focused attention that achieves devoted precision to creative tasks
  • Japanese “Wabi Sabi” – Appreciation of the imperfection and complexity of reality
  • Brazilian “Saudade” – The longing for a happiness that once was or could be
  • Finnish “Kalsarikaanit” – Staying home wearing only your underwear and drinking

Karlsarikaanit

DHS Binding Operational Directive 19-02

The US government has just reduced the official critical vulnerability remediation timeline from 30 days after a report has been issued to 15 days after detection, according to the freshly published DHS BOD 19-02.

This announcement is significant not least of all because I don’t have to explain why a 30 day response timeline to critical vulnerabilities exists on the Internet. “It’s an outlier because government” only goes so far. Wonderful to see the change, even though it’s still far from the 24 hour turnaround expected in commercial space.

Legal Brief on Airstrikes That Destroyed Hamas Cyber Operations

Lawfare has posted a short analysis of why airstrikes to destroy a “cyber operations” facility are nothing new or special. To be precise, the analysis offers the reader two options:

Either the news is “descriptively true, but it is uninteresting” or “interesting if true, but it is not true”.

Spoiler alert…the author argues it’s the former, and therefore uninteresting.

It’s an excellent read, and the sentence that really stood out to me was characterizing a targeted facility as “civilian members of organized armed groups who have a continuous combat function“.