Why McAllen might have been overlooked for emergency immigration funds

There’s some surprising news that the city of McAllen was completely overlooked in President Obama’s recent Federal emergency immigration fund.

As it stands now, not one single penny from the $3.7 billion requested by President Obama in emergency funds to help stem the sudden immigration crisis will go to the city right at ground zero.

Of course, the mayor of McAllen had a few words about this for NBC.

What’s especially odd is that while President Obama is in Texas, he isn’t going to visit McAllen or any city in the Texas valley.

This really is an ongoing crisis. McAllen is literally pitching tents to help the flood of incoming immigrants coming across the border.

McAllen Tents
McAllen Tents

I took that photo yesterday. Me. That’s the church my wife and I got married at in the background. I can testify, firsthand, what is being reported in the news about the immigration flood really is happening.

So, back to the $3.7 billion dollar question. Why was McAllen given the red-headed-stepchild treatment?

This is thin. Real thin. Probably don’t mean anything. But it might have something to do with the fact that the Rio Grande Valley is a massive Clinton fundraising center.

Bear with me for a second.

An article in the Washington Post perfectly summarizes the valley fundraising juggernaut. Way back in 2007, Hillary raised $640,000 in the Texas valley region alone. Compare that with President Obama’s $2,086 total for the Texas valley region during that same time. That’s a difference of $637,914.

Jump ahead to 2013. $587,566 was raised for the Clintons, and again, in this region alone.

The not-so-big secret about all this money coming in for the Clintons is really the result of one very secretive man. Alonzo Cantu.

The local Brownsville Herald newspaper has a great article on Alonzo Cantu and confirms the 2013 fundraising number I mentioned above.

USA today has an additional article on him, saying back in 2008 he pulled in around $1 million cash for the Clintons, again, in the Texas valley region alone.

Consistently pulling in around $1 million a year? That’s a super powerful friend to have on your side.

The Clinton valley fundraising juggernaut is still going full steam. Hilary Clinton was “just” down here in March at a fundraiser not even 10 minutes North of downtown McAllen.

Let me change channels real quick to a second observation. The Texas valley is solid blue Democrat [NPR link].

Take a look at the last presidential election result. Everything below (and including) San Antonio is solid blue.

So, how do the Clintons getting major bank and the area being hardcore Democrat both tie to an emergency aid “oversight”?

Like I said, this is thin. Real thin. Probably don’t mean anything.

But maybe it has something to do with President Obama promising Senator Elizabeth Warren he would back her for president.

Not Hilary Clinton.

I seriously hope I’m just being a paranoid old fart. That none of these things tie in together and I just need to up my dosage.

I mean absolutely no disrespect to President Obama. I’m sure there’s a solid reason not to give McAllen any help despite the fact that every major news outlet reports on the crisis from McAllen and despite the fact the mainstream media is practically camping out down here and keeps writing story after story after story about it.

I’m also very sure things are going to get a lot worse if something isn’t done soon.

UPDATE 7/11/14 : From today’s New York Times G.O.P. Pushes Back on Approving Border Funds article : “Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, told the committee that “we can and we will stem this recent tide of illegal migration into the Rio Grande Valley sector.””   Again – it’s all focusing in McAllen.

A serious question to the NSA about Snowden and master passwords

If anybody from the NSA reads this, I have a serious question.

Have you all scanned what Snowden stole/liberated (whatever floats your boat) for government backdoor and/or “master password” references? Were there any government backdoor and/or “master password” references stored in the systems he had access to?

OK, in English now… for a long time there have been rumors of backdoor and/or “master passwords” for all computer systems. With a certain password for a certain system, an “authorized” person could get full access.

There really are “master passwords” currently in place for PC BIOS systems, all vehicle-embedded systems, and even on all iPhones. (Seriously. It’s not a secret that “alpine” works for full SSH access on all iPhones.)

To make things even more interesting, since 1984 there have been ways to put backdoor and/or “master passwords” into compilers so not even programmers who make applications on their own would know such a backdoor and/or “master password” was put into the app they just created.

Cool, huh?

You do need a specialized program to access each of these systems, sometimes you also need local access to the device, and most of the Google-able backdoor and/or “master passwords” that show up are for things like maintenance and root-level hijinks, not “watch what people are doing live” kinds of things.

Regardless, I would bet there’s just a few backdoor and/or “master passwords” reserved for the government that are already embedded in some critical systems. I would also bet with the right password combination, a “watch what people are doing live” kind of thing could be set up with no problem.

All theoretically, of course.

Snowden stole/liberated somewhere between “too much” and “oh dear God” levels of data from the NSA. Now all that data was classified information. Communications. Transfers. Notes. Reports. Stuff not meant to see the light of day for some reason or other (justified or not).

I’m thinking things like this were in the pile of data…

  • Senator John Doe thinks Ambassador Moe Howard has a funny haircut, smells bad and isn’t too smart. This should remain classified because we need to make nice with Ambassador Howard for now, but if it got out, no big deal. Doe and Howard could work it out over a golf game and some scotch.
  • Senator John Doe is on the top secret Kinetic Intelligent Satellite Striker (KISS) committee – well, that’s bad, but not world-ending. There’s not much hard proof about this project, the locations are all buttoned down, and there’s nothing other countries can act on directly.
  • Senator John Doe used the password “BOHONKUS” to access files from a Dell Latitude E5430 system on an ambassador’s laptop from a country currently designated as “hostile”.

That last one? Clearly naming the government backdoor and/or “master password” for a specific system and purpose?

If that gets out, it can be used by ANYONE. Anywhere. Anytime. You can kiss EVERYTHING that backdoor and/or “master password” is embedded in goodbye forever.

Plan on everyone using that backdoor password, and by everyone I mean especially…

  • The Chinese “we’re not hackers – we’re just curious” brigade
  • Russia
  • North Korea
  • ISIS
  • Bored Americans

As an extra bonus, there’s no resetting a backdoor and/or “master password” on most embedded systems without local “hands on” access. No way to erase it. No way to change it. No way to block it.

I don’t know if Snowden would or would not release something like this if he found it in his data pile, but I guarantee a hostile government with access to this information would use it without question.

Which brings me back around to my question for the NSA.

Has the NSA scanned what Snowden stole/liberated for government backdoor and/or “master password” references? Were there any government backdoor and/or “master password” references stored in the systems Snowden had access to?

Finally, if there are backdoor and/or “master password” references in the pile of data Snowden has, what is the worst case scenario if a hostile entity uses this password to access the system(s) it is embedded in?

It’s going to be a terrible thing to admit to the U.S., but if there is a backdoor and/or “master password” reference of any kind in Snowden’s data pile, we need to do something about it right now.

The alternative would be far, FAR worse.

Any compromised systems for private citizens or commercial businesses would need to be updated as soon as possible.

Any compromised military systems would need to be taken offline IMMEDIATELY and kept out of active service until they have all been secured.

And NSA, going forward, if you’re going to ignore that “unreasonable search and something or other” part of the Constitution and put in backdoor and/or “master passwords” on some systems, please install VERY secure backdoor and/or “master passwords” that require multi-factor authentication that can be changed or be deleted if necessary.

The back door needs to be more secure than the front door.

At the bare minimum, I suggest a DIFFERENT password for different series of devices and/or software with something like a random key fob authentication system for each.

For example…

  • The backdoor password for Dell laptops model A with serial numbers 00001-10500 would be DWW-TATANKA.BUFFALO synced to key fob series ALPHA-9.
  • The backdoor password for Dell laptops model G with serial numbers 00001 – 10500 would be CJLP-TEA.EARL.GREY.HOT synced to key fob series ALPHA-3.
  • The backdoor password for accessing everything the “Angry Birds” app sends to the NSA would be HONEY-WHERE.IS.MY.SUPER.SUIT synced to key fob series BETA-111
  • Etc.

Make a different password string for each manufacturer’s series and each manufacturer’s model numbers. Tie all of that into a version of a key fob multi-factor authentication generator for final access.

After this update, to access a system’s backdoor, you would not only need the “master password” embedded in the device, you would also need the randomly synced password that would be generated on the key fob to proceed.

Worst case – if a master backdoor password is compromised or stolen by a future Snowden, it would be useless in and of itself without the key fob generator to finish “opening the door” and it would only be valid on a limited set of systems. If both a master backdoor password and its’ correlating key fob system were compromised, you would only risk access to a limited series of systems.

That’s the minimum recommended civil-rights violations per serving. Seriously. No more single word passwords for an entire warehouse of systems or for all software made with compiler X.

I know there’s insanely more complex ways of implementing backdoor access, but depending on the “audience” using the backdoor passwords, the NSA guys need to keep it accessible by the non-tech-savant crowd and reasonably quick as well.

Systems from the 80s, 90s and 2000 era are still out there. Applications built and modified on top of existing systems in this time period are legion. Only the NSA knows if there’s really such a thing as backdoor single-word-passwords and where they might be installed at.

To quote Forrest Gump, “that’s all I got to say about that.”

Now back to silly cat photos, already in progress.

Courting a disaster with open-door immigration

I saw an article in the New York Times titled “Migrants Flow, As Do Rumors, In South Texas” (see the article scan following my rant).

I don’t think anyone has mentioned a massive problem with how this is playing out right now.

Since there is “no specific plan to monitor compliance” for those illegally crossing over the border, what is to stop an Al-Qaeda, ISIS or other terrorist agent with intent to harm the US from crossing into the US completely undetected and dispersing into America once they are released with their free “bus ticket to travel where they have relatives in the country”?

Humanitarian care must be provided for those that need it, and the current immigration policy desperately needs streamlining, but there must also be an accounting for every individual who crosses over during this de-facto open-door immigration policy.

Failure to do so is courting a national security disaster.

 

Migrants Flow NYT article
Migrants Flow NYT article

 

EDIT: Corrected ISS to ISIS

Somebody didn’t do their market research [PHOTO]

Whoever decided to try and sell something named KuKui near Mexico has either (a) never done any market research in their life or (b) has a particularly vicious sense of humor.

KuKui photo
KuKui photo

 

For the rest of the world that has no idea what a KuKui is, it’s a very famous folktale monster told to misbehaving kids around Mexico. “You better behave, or the KuKui will get you!”

The closest thing to a KuKui in the US is the “boogeyman”, but saying “you better behave, or the boogeyman will get you” isn’t even close to the kind of terror mentioning a KuKui can bring.

You know, now that I’m thinking about it, maybe I should have bought a bottle. For research purposes, of course.

GM seems to be racing toward something else

So if I understood everything correctly from the article in the 6/12 Wall Street Journal titled “Lawyers Race GM to find black boxes“…

* GM executives ordered their engineers to secretly change a core vehicle component for new vehicles after they discovered its’ critical failure rate, but did not disclose this critical failure rate on existing vehicles to the public or to the NHTSA.

* GM executives are currently ordering their employees and persons in their employ to search and recover evidence (“black boxes”) from multiple mortal accidents, but apparently are not returning this evidence to the accident victims or to the NHTSA.

* GM executives refused to allow the full disclosure of the data content of those “black boxes” involved in mortal accidents to the NHTSA until February of this year.

An organized activity sanctioned by upper management to obscure and withhold evidence? Evidence that could potentially tie the multiple deaths of individuals to the permissive knowledge that upper managers have?

Has GM ever heard of RICO?

Brooks County [Photos]

Brooks County 01

Brooks County 02

The plaque reads…

Brooks County. Formed from Hidalgo, Starr and Zapata counties. Created March 11, 1911. Organized September 2, 1911. Named in honor of JAMES ABIJAH BROOKS, Captain of Texas Rangers, 1882-1906, Member of Texas legislature, County Judge, Brooks County. Since 1911 Falfurrias, the county seat.

Where you can download Microsoft Office with an activation key card

Have you ever received in a bundled laptop package a piece of paper that says…

“DO NOT DISCARD – MICROSOFT PRODUCT IDENTIFIER. The manufacturer of your PC has licensed the Microsoft products listed in this document.”

…and a few paragraphs later…

“This card includes the ACTIVATION KEY for your MICROSOFT OFFICE product.”

It seems straightforward enough, right? There’s the serial number at the bottom (strategically covered by my “apparently plays in the dirt for a living” thumb), and a website link at the bottom to go download and register the software.

SerialCard

 
So here’s the happy happy joy joy part – the website listed on every one of these rat-bastard product cards say to go to microsoft.com/office

You go there, you swim in the abyss.

Microsoft.com/office takes you straight down into the “light don’t reach here” depths of Office sales, where you will be offered every iteration of Office 360, Office online, Office a-la-carte, Office with Cheese and dozens of other suites in every combination possible. Links to links to links to links, but nothing to take you to download your software or point you out of the maze.

Here’s what you need to do. If you have one of these activation cards for Office, go straight to Office’s other website…

office.com/setup

Once you’re there (and it automatically redirects you to officesetup.getmicrosoftkey.com) just type in the product key on that piece of paper in the “Enter Your Product Key” box and press GET STARTED.

That’s it.

You will then be prompted to download your Office Suite and tie it into one of your email accounts.

Just like that.

Who knew instructions on how to download and install your software should actually have a link so you can, oh I don’t know, ACTUALLY DOWNLOAD AND INSTALL YOUR SOFTWARE?!

Top 10 reasons why I still prefer print newspapers

Hello. My name is Royce Eddington, and I actually subscribe to print newspapers knowing full well there’s digital formats available for everything I’m reading.

Does this make me an evil forest killer? A heartless eco-monster? A knuckle-dragging throwback to days long gone?

Damn right.

Don’t get me wrong. I get the digital editions too, but I always start with the print edition. Here’s why…

  1. Ads mean something. An ad in the digital medium isn’t anywhere near as expensive as an ad in the print medium. So if someone takes out an ad in the print medium, it means something. Something important enough for someone to spend some serious MONEY on. Whether it’s a political statement, a fashion pitch, an obituary, or even congratulations for a job well done, I tend to find more meaning in newspaper ads than in some of the articles. For example, this last month there have been a flood of these ads… PAL photoPersonal Asset Loans? Well that’s a nice way of putting it. The thing is, this isn’t the only recurring ad with this kind of pitch. Not only is there now a market for the upper class to get “Personal Asset Loans”, but the newspapers now allow these ads because of the state of the economy.
  2. Prominent corrections and factual updates. In the digital editions, the mea culpas and the “oh, by the way, we should have mentioned…” parts are buried deep. The corrections and updates in the print editions? Always on page two and in the same font and point size as the print articles. Corrections can sometimes be just as important as the initial article. Take for example the corrections in the New York Times on March 17th … “While the safety agency (NHTSA) had received numerous complaints (for General Motors)… the NHTSA did not order the recall.” That one sentence alone puts a new light on GM’s motivations for the recall and also proves the NHTSA didn’t act on multiple consumer complaints in this particular instance.
  3. Stories in the print medium sometimes get cut from the digital version. A small article in the March 15th edition of The New York Times reported on how the restaurant / tourist attraction chain Buc-ee’s publicly came out and supported a particular southern Republican candidate. While a southern retail store supporting a southern Republican candidate is about as surprising as rain being wet, the fact that a retail chain put their entire corporate reputation and retail-level financial backing behind one candidate (of any party!) without any restrictions or sanctions is fairly important. Unfortunately, I didn’t see that article in the digital edition or in that day’s digest.
  4. Letters to the Editor and Op-Eds. To paraphrase the illustrious F. Gump, “You never know what you’re gonna get”. Sometimes it’s an unintentionally funny celebrity rant. Sometimes it’s the old “I know you are but what am I” give and take. Sometimes it’s an alien point of view coming in for a landing. And sometimes… sometimes it’s the stop-dead-in-your-tracks epic writing that should be framed in the Smithsonian and offered free with every birth certificate. Those two pages are dynamic. Infuriating. Genius. Hilarious. And completely missing in the digital edition.
  5. MOVIE POSTERS! FULL COLOR FULL PAGE GLORIOUS MOVIE POSTERS! THE WAY THE GOOD LORD INTENDED THEM TO LOOK! HALLELUJAH!! <ahem> Ok. Switching to decaf. Movie posters are not designed to be squished down in a corner underneath an ad for “Bubbas BBQ Special” in a newspaper or reduced to less than 1/10th its’ original size for digital presentation. There’s details in a good movie poster you won’t see when they’re shrunk-down, and there’s art in the very good movie posters you won’t see unless they’re full-sized. Don’t get me wrong – I love seeing previews and all the mini featurettes for a movie, but the movie poster is what’s the movie will be known as for forevermore. Its’ eternal portrait. Think of the Star Wars movie posters. How about O Brother Where Art Thou? Princess Bride? Reservoir Dogs? That’s what I mean. And that’s what I love seeing in print.
  6. The special Sunday edition. Sunday newspapers have always carried a stealthy implication with them: take it easy today. Right off the bat, Sunday editions are visibly bigger than anything that came earlier in the week. You can see you’re going to need time to digest it. You’re going to need a different pace today. Sunday newspapers also get specially wrapped for delivery, are printed on higher quality stock than the weekly editions, and even have a multi-page feature of some sort that would never appear during the week.  All of these little things quietly imply that since the newspaper is different today, maybe it should be for you too. The Sunday digital editions? There’s nothing special there to suggest a change of pace or to imply Sunday is different from any other day of the week. There’s no intro flash movie. No animated opening. No attempt at time shifting. Just business as usual.
  7. The scent of newsprint makes coffee taste better. Do I have any facts to back this up? Any brilliant anecdotes to make this notion take wing and go soaring with the angels? Nope. But it does lead me to my next valid point…
  8. You can leave it for someone else to enjoy. This is the easiest and most contagious reason of all. Bring a newspaper wherever you go eat or have a break somewhere. Even if it’s a day old newspaper, chances are anything you fold and put aside are going to be snatched up and read and re-read and re-re-read and re-re-re-read throughout the day. There is no “worst case” in this. You lose nothing by leaving a newspaper behind in a fast food restaurant, coffee shop or break area for others to enjoy. Any reasonably-intact newspaper is always appreciated.
  9. Mini illustrations that add to the story. Sometimes a simple illustration changes everything. Sure, you can describe Skylab to someone who hasn’t seen it with a few paragraphs, but seeing an illustration of the 1970’s space station hovering in-line with the article is a whole different ballgame. When you see a face to go with the name, when you see an illustration of a product, when you see an impression of the art in question, it all becomes more “real”.  I don’t see many inline illustrations with the digital articles, and I think it is because everyone assumes you can Google anything you want to see or know more about straight from the digital edition. That’s fine, but that also exactly the problem. Once you leave an article, with any search engine, there’s the rabbit-hole problem – one thing leads to another, and what started as a lookup for Skylab turns into a search for Russian Cosmonauts and who sells the best Russian vodka. The idea is to keep the reader focused on the article by giving them everything they need right there. Simple inline illustrations are a perfect way to do that, but due to the shrinkage of the digital edition, I just don’t see them making the transition.    And finally, the big reason of all big reasons I still prefer print newspapers…
  10. There’s no such thing as a foldable newspaper-sized tablet.