Brief Issue Analysis: The Special Counsel’s Findings and Impeachment

With all the purported complexity and confusion out there on this subject, perhaps someone could correct me if I am incorrect.  Being a layperson in terms of the law, I would be entirely unsurprised if I am incorrect, but here is my position for any who might stumble along it and have some better knowledge of the matter which they could offer:

Mueller has determined, out of respect for the official position of the Department of Justice regarding its inability to charge a sitting President with criminal behavior, that the conclusion of whether or not the facts his investigation uncovered merit official proceedings against the President of the United States lies outside the scope of his responsibilities.

It seems pretty clear to me that Mueller is correct: the responsibility to choose whether or not to pursue official action against the President of the United States regarding crimes accused of him is that of Congress.

It seems also pretty clear to me that Mueller expects his findings are sufficient to warrant at least an official determination by Congress as to whether or not they merit an impeachment.

And if all that is the case, the Department of Justice must turn over any subpoenaed documents to Congress for their review such that the formal decision may be rendered.

I don’t see how any of this requires in-depth legal expertise about what’s going on. I could be overlooking some sort of complexity here, but I don’t see any, myself. Things are more complex when determining the validity of the official Department of Justice position, but if we simply accept it as Mueller has, I don’t know what’s confusing here.

The Republicans are abhorrently hypocritical cowards who now find themselves supporting an unfit, disgusting man semi-arbitrarily assigned membership with their party purely because he has that membership and is in power.  The Democrats are inept buffoons slowly succumbing to a cancerous and tyrannical “politically correct” nonsense with a similar degree of cowardice compelling them to behave in the most politically advantageous manner rather than the correct manner.

So we have a logjam.

It all seems quite simple to me, to be honest. Congress should render a formal decision regarding impeachment and pursue it or not, depending on the decision. The merits of the decision can then be made clear to all interested parties.

If anyone can point me to any information indicating that what I put forth above is incorrect, I would gladly accept it and amend this post so that it might be a resource to other interested parties.

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Posted in Brief Issue Analyses, Politics | Leave a comment

Fedora 29 / pgadmin4.3 Bug: ‘psycopg2.extensions.Column’ object has no attribute ‘_asdict’

There’s a bit of a lag in the Fedora RPMs from PostgreSQL’s repositories, so I thought I’d post this up in case anyone else out there runs into the error message in the subject of this post.

To fix it quickly (until the RPMs are updated), simply patch a single file (/usr/lib/python3.7/site-packages/pgadmin4-web/pgadmin/utils/driver/psycopg2/cursor.py) as follows:

1.  Right after the following lines (lines 18-19 in the file):

except ImportError:
    from ordereddict import OrderedDict

Add:

import psycopg2

2.  Replace the line (originally line 91 in the file):

        ores = OrderedDict(self.orig_col._asdict())
With:

        if psycopg2.__version__.find('2.8') != -1:
            ores = OrderedDict()
            ores['name'] = self.orig_col.name
            ores['type_code'] = self.orig_col.type_code
            ores['display_size'] = self.orig_col.display_size
            ores['internal_size'] = self.orig_col.internal_size
            ores['precision'] = self.orig_col.precision
            ores['scale'] = self.orig_col.scale
            ores['null_ok'] = self.orig_col.null_ok
            ores['table_oid'] = self.orig_col.table_oid
            ores['table_column'] = self.orig_col.table_column
       else:
            ores = OrderedDict(self.orig_col._asdict())

That’s it!  Careful about the line spacing; it’s python, so it’s quite sensitive to it.  If you use vim or some other python-aware editor, it should flag any incorrect spacing in your edits.

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The Messiah

General Etymology and Significance

Across all major denominations, modern Christianity proclaims that Jesus is the “Christ,” (Χριστός, “Christos” in Greek).  The term was used to translate the Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ (Mašíaḥ, messiah), which designates one who is “anointed.”  This anointing is a reference to a ritual which was performed to consecrate a human being, typically as an important leader.  While many were literally anointed in oil during a ceremony (e.g. David, by Samuel), the term was also used to refer to one who is favored significantly by God.  While most were ethnically Jewish, at least one was not, as the example of Cyrus the Great demonstrates.  He was declared, figuratively (no literal anointing is documented in the scripture), by Isaiah to be God’s messiah.

In the Tanakh, numerous individuals were granted this designation:

  • Aaron and his sons (anointed by Moses to consecrate them as priests, at God’s direction)
  • Saul (anointed by Samuel, to consecrate him as ruler over Israel, at God’s direction)
  • David (anointed by Samuel, to consecrate him as ruler over Israel, at God’s direction)
  • Solomon (anointed by Zadok, to consecrate him as ruler over Israel)
  • Hazael (anointed by Elijah as king over Aram, at God’s direction)
  • Jehu (anointed by Elijah as king over Israel, at God’s direction)
  • Elisha (anointed by Elijah as a prophet, at God’s direction)

And so on.

Eschatological Significance

The term became a reference to a future salvific figure in Judaism during the Rabbinic period.  The Talmud includes numerous discussions of this eschatological figure whose future arrival is inferred principally from the prophecies of Ezekiel and Isaiah who describe a coming king of Israel who will restore the Jewish homeland, return the Jewish people to that homeland, and rebuild the Jewish Temple.  This king will usher in the “messianic era” in which human beings will unite in worship of God, evil and tyranny will be dispensed with, all of the dead will rise again, death will cease, and eternal joy and gladness will reign on earth.

A Brief Critique of the Modern Christian Position

Given this rudimentary introduction, it is probably clear why modern Jews don’t exactly accept the Christian claim that Jesus is this salvific figure.  Jesus failed to meet any of the requirements typically considered to be necessary in order for one to be identified as such.  Modern Christians, of course, await a promised “second coming” of Jesus wherein it is expected that he will meet those requirements (though most modern Christians don’t exactly consider the full ramifications of those various prophecies and their conflicts with typical modern Christian beliefs, such as Heaven; if the dead rise and death is eradicated, with eternal joy and peace on earth, that sorta leaves Heaven out of the picture).

However, as the Christian understanding of his life goes, Jesus is unable to meet one commonly-accepted, critical criterium for his recognition as the eschatological messiah: Jesus is not a descendant of David.  The reason for this, of course, is that Jesus is considered to have been conceived immaculately, and his mother’s lineage is not provided in the scriptures.  Regardless, the Talmud makes clear that such lineage is strictly patrilineal, and Mary’s lineage would not suffice the prophecy according to that understanding.

In fact, the only synoptic gospels which include the story of Mary’s virginity prior to Jesus’ conception (Matthew and Luke) are also the only gospels to specifically establish Joseph’s Davidic lineage, seemingly failing to anticipate the issue.  In addition, the lineages given by those gospels are dramatically incommensurable.  Some fairly elaborate rhetorical gymnastics have been conducted in attempts to reconcile this obvious issue, but as far as I can tell, all require the dismissal of interpretive rigor in favor of desperate speculation.

It seems fairly obvious that the strongest hand is that of the Rabbis; Jesus cannot qualify as the eschatological Messiah in accordance with the Hebrew prophecies on which the concept is based.  To whatever extent this identity is critical to the modern Christian movement, it is a lost cause.

Posted in Of Abraham, Original Theology | Tagged | Leave a comment

Pre-Mueller Report Position and Analysis

I was going to write this in response to a post over at the illustrious philosoraptor’s digs, but it is just too long to post in a series of comments.  Also, I’ve been stewing over the general points for a while and so I thought I might put them up on this long-neglected blog (work has been completely insane, but I am finally enjoying a day off).  So here ya go:

On Assessing Investigations Outside One’s Subject Matter Expertise

So, I work in a field where unlikely hypotheses are tested and confirmed or rejected on a regular basis with an immediacy which, perhaps, other fields do not as thoroughly enjoy.

For example: in a recent incident which disrupted productivity rather massively at my organization, I was the lone proponent of a particular root cause hypothesis. The part about my job I enjoy the most is being able to use my lifetime of nerddom to investigate issues where many folks do not have the breadth of knowledge that I have about the subject matter (all those man pages and IT textbooks have not been in vain!) and therefore do not initially arrive at the same hypotheses I yield with a high rate of frequency. The most important thing I’ve learned through it, however, is that while deep knowledge of the subject matter is an essential component of those conclusions, it isn’t the sole reason they are reached; plain old critical thinking skills which can be expected of any adult human at this point in life are almost always a key difference as well.  Having the courage and work ethic required to perform the analyses and organize the myriad pieces of evidence in the hypothesis-neutral manner required for objective analysis, and then to write that analysis, is often more of an obstacle to reaching those hypotheses than the absence of knowledge regarding the critical evidence, itself.  For, even when presented with that critical evidence, it is often the case that my interlocutors do not observe (or wish to endorse) that evidence’s support for the hypotheses I present.

So when I look at analogous situations in other fields, such as, say, this Russiagate thing, I try to accept the criticality of both of these elements and give them rather equal weight. Importantly: when available analyses seem to lead in a certain direction while consistently ignoring various components of apparently-relevant evidence, the person providing the analysis is probably biased (and not simply neglectful) for some reason or other.  It seems to me that I am more willing than most to challenge these situations even when working outside of my principal areas of knowledge, as I have seen just how frequently this occurs.  Others may be more willing to grant those recognized as superior (in regards to themselves) subject matter experts too much benefit of the doubt insofar as the assumption (it seems to me) goes on behalf of these outside analysts: “Well, they probably already know why I’m wrong, so I’ll just keep quiet.”

But I can tell you: don’t be cowed.  Honestly pursue the inquiry.  Maintain your fallibility, but don’t just assume (or be concerned by the thought) that their superior knowledge of the problem domain renders your observations invalid.  Organize your thoughts, build your case, and focus like a laser on those refutations made available to you.  If you find that you are wrong, happily accept it (and the accompanying education on the subject matter) and move on in support of more likely alternatives.  Often, in my experience, this turns out in your favor if you’re inquiring honestly, diligently, and most importantly, congenially.

This I render to you as sound advice all the more so when those available analyses offer hypotheses which, independently of situational evidence, run statistically higher likelihood of success.  My experience in my official capacity has led me to become hard-pressed not to suspect the individuals offering the analyses are sandbagging and hoping the statistics will play out in their favor, able to ultimately proclaim they were right all along in the face of those who wagered on the generally-less-likely, yet situationally-reasonable, alternatives.  These are the opportunities in which those willing to go out on a limb, so to speak, can become the heroes which all those teevee medical shows glorify on a weekly basis.  If you can accomplish that without the ubiquitous character flaws, well then you might just be too uninteresting for teevee, but too damn interested to be unworthy of note.

And I say all of this as a preface to what I am about to write below, using a particular article from Douthat as an example in which I observe this trend to be operating against those like myself who believe there is an unprecedented degree of strength of evidence being offered to the public at this point that Trump et. al. did, in fact, conspire significantly against the United States with the Russian government.  I admit the long-shot nature of the claim and its general statistical unlikeliness, but unlike Douthat, I am willing to say not merely that “I maintain my official agnosticism,” but that there is good reason at this point for the public to lean strongly in a positive direction; at this point, I would be genuinely surprised if Mueller’s investigation did not return unprecedentedly strong (if not reaching the insanely conclusive degree required to bring charges against the most powerful office in the United States) evidence that our President and his administration engaged in conspiracy with a foreign power to better themselves at the expense of the nation.

Douthat’s Representative Analysis

So as I alluded above: with Russiagate, obviously it’s a hell of a lot less likely that Trump et. al. conspired with Russia to steal the 2016 election. How often has such an act been proven throughout history?  Never?  If so, I would say it’s generally a much safer bet for a career analyst to conclude that it did not happen. If true, the current situation is, in fact, the kind faced by career analysts which I describe in the preface above.

So how does Douthat do in his recent article? In my estimate, he does exactly what I see others do in my field: play up the evidence promoting the safe hypothesis and ignore or downplay the evidence against it. For example:

Douthat Asserts The Public Ought to have Less Confidence Now than Ever

Douthat concludes that the Steele Dossier’s interpretation as “a narrative primarily grounded in Russian disinformation” now faces “odds…as low as they’ve been since this whole affair started” that it (the interpretation) is incorrect. Despite this,

  1. He admits that the first big possibility in the Steele dossier is now known with reasonable confidence to be accurate; Russian intelligence was behind the hacks of the DNC and the release of stolen emails through Wikileaks. When this whole affair started, this was not known. Does that not indicate that the Dossier has, at the very least, better odds of being accurate than when we started?
  2. His counter-evidence for the remainder of the Dossier’s claims are rooted solely in a single testimony from Cohen in which Cohen disputes part of one of the Dossier’s principal claims.

I just don’t get that analysis. It seems quite wrong. To suggest we ought to believe more strongly that the Dossier is largely inaccurate because:

  1. One of its major claims has been validated and
  2. One of its major claims is facing a partial refutation from a single testimony

reeks to me of stretching to reach that safe hypothesis. We don’t, by any means, have any sort of evidence leading to a super-high confidence in the Dossier’s credibility, but it is absolutely false to assert that the available evidence indicates we ought to view it as having the lowest chance of probability for being accurate since it was initially seen by the public.

Further, this point ignores the fact that:

  1. We, the public, do not have access to all the information available to those who initially viewed the Dossier with a degree of severity that, at the very least, warranted its further investigation.
  2. We have heard numerous times (and, of course, must expect) that there are additional corroborating pieces of evidence which we still have yet to hear.

Despite those obviously-relevant facts omitted by Douthat, here Douthat pretends as though that single testimony by Cohen brings the whole thing down to the lowest level of likelihood for accuracy we’ve yet seen.

As I said: does that mean we, the public, ought to have a high degree of confidence that Mueller will conclude the Dossier was 100% accurate? Absolutely not. But does it mean that Douthat et. al. are obviously correct in painting those who have significantly more confidence in Mueller’s report lending more support to its principal “possibilities” as holding obviously-weaker positions than he? No. Not at all. And to do so, in my estimate, is to aggressively play it safe with a generally-more-likely hypothesis for the purpose of being able to say “see, I told you so.”

Douthat Leverages Evidence Against His Position as Though it Were For It

Douthat seems to share the common (and well-justified, in my opinion) belief that Trump et. al. are the kind of folks likely to seek to engage incompetently in conspiracy with the Russian government as evidence that… they are probably too inept to have done so? This seems wrongheaded to me for a couple of reasons:

  1. Rather than taking the fact (that his readers will agree without hesitation) that they are “fools and wannabes, who might have been willing to play games with spies and hackers, but who mostly just bumbled around haplessly on the sidelines” as evidence FOR the hypothesis that this particular administration is more likely than most others to have actually conspired with a foreign power against the American democratic process, he twists it to turn it against the hypothesis.
  2. Surely, Douthat knows as well as any that conspiracy (the closest criminal analogue to “collusion” that could come from this) does not require that either side effectively carry any of it out; it requires only that both sides intended to do so.

If we all agree this administration is a group of bumbling fools who were willing “to play games with spies and hackers”, then we all agree they were more likely than others throughout history to have attempted to do so.

What is going on here? This seems like straightforward debate-101 rhetorical shenanigans to me. Again, Douthat looks to be sandbagging and hoping for his conclusion, painted far more strongly than it ought to be, to turn out correct so that he could act as though he were the totally sane one all along and others who disagreed were just totally obviously wrong.

Sidebar:  I see this in my official capacities all the time. Perhaps I am fortunate to get the confidence from my job to fight against it as I get to see frequently that the evidence, when it leads to improbable conclusions, often turns out to be representative of an improbable situation. With that confidence, I won’t be (and neither should anyone be) disparaged if I lay all this out in this very manner and continue to support what is ultimately revealed to be an incorrect hypothesis. With sufficient evidence, I will of course own my fallibility, but my point in this article is that, thus far, I do not see any good reason to believe that my position is less rational than Douthat’s safe lean towards a big nothingburger, as it were.  And most importantly: it is the set of insidious repeated suggestions which drip with anticipation of future safe-bet confirmation streaming from his super-strong-support-for-one-side-while-riding-the-middle-of-the-fence approach that irks me so.

So, if we’re all being reasonable so far, it looks to me like Douthat is 0 for 2 on his major points while acting as though his position is super plain and obvious (but totally “officially maintaining” his “agnosticism”! Can’t critique him later if you’re right! He’ll totally pwn you endlessly later if his generally-safe bet is right, though).

Douthat Claims Cohen’s Testimony Substantially Damages the Likelihood of Conspiracy

Douthat’s leading analysis of Cohen’s testimony in defense of his view that the testimony contributes substantially to lowering the likelihood of accuracy in the Steele Dossier is that, upon receiving a call and being informed of the hacked emails’ impending dump, Trump said “something to the effect of stating ‘wouldn’t that be great.'” Douthat claims, weirdly, that “This doesn’t seem like how a years-long collaboration with Russian intelligence would unfold.” And yet:

  1. Cohen’s testimony indicates that Stone, who is now indicted for lying to the FBI on this very matter, claimed to have learned from a conversation he had with Assange of Wikileaks, about this matter and did inform Trump about it. This would strengthen the credibility of the Dossier, not detract from it.
  2. Why would Douthat seem to act as though this simple paraphrase from Cohen would fail to resemble something that might happen during collaboration with Russian intelligence? If it is true that Trump did manage to do this and hide it from Cohen, wouldn’t this sort of snide remark be exactly the kind of wink-wink admission to Cohen of Trump’s involvement that we WOULD expect?

I’m not saying this is strong evidence in support of the Steele Dossier’s content. I’m just saying it’s in no way at all, as far as I can see, any evidence against it. But, here again, Douthat is presenting it in an unwarranted “C’mon, really?” tone. It makes no sense to me (minus my hypothetical explanation of his ulterior motive, of course).

However, one thing Douthat gets right, of course, is that Cohen’s assertions that he:

  1. Never went to Pargue to meet with Russian intelligence
  2. Never heard anything about Kompromat
  3. Never had any direct evidence of conspiracy (or “collusion”) between Trump et. al. and the Russian government

Certainly provide some counter-evidence to at least one part of one principal claim in the Steele Dossier.  Of course, the testimony also supports (in conjunction with the FBI indictment against him) the hypothesis that Stone was actively involved in discussions regarding the hacked email content with Wikileaks (now understood to have been coordinating with the Russian government).  It doesn’t offer a lot of support, but it is some, and it corroborates information contained in the FBI indictment.  Swapping out Cohen for Stone really doesn’t do much damage to the Dossier at all.

In fact, Cohen’s refutation of his involvement tying in corroborating evidence for that accusation being made against Stone, whom we now know with a pretty high degree of confidence did lie about his contacts with Wikileaks (and he did formerly admit to having a “perfectly-legal back-channel” with Assange AND that he and Assange discussed the emails), pretty much serves merely to remind us that we have two huge justifications for anticipating that the Mueller report will include some very substantial and damaging information:

  1. Stone first publicly claimed, and then subsequently denied to the FBI, that he communicated with Assange regarding the hacked DNC emails.  The FBI acquired documentation from a raid against him which he said did not exist.
  2. Stone lied about this for a reason.  In my mind, it is unlikely that this reason is for any reason other than Stone’s expectation that the nature of these contacts would land him in significant criminal jeopardy.
  3. The FBI has provided ample evidence that Stone lied in its indictment.
  4. The FBI has even further evidence not yet made available to us regarding just what he was hiding through his lies about this.
  5. If 1, 2, 3, and 4, well then..

Again, not conclusive, of course, on the collusion/conspiracy front, but certainly this section of my post seems again to indicate that Douthat’s assessment inappropriately weakens expectations of the Mueller report’s content rather than, well, strengthens them a significant and appropriate bit.

Ignoring the extremely significant developments already made known to the public (e.g. Stone) which advance expectations of the Dossier’s credibility and the manner in which this testimony corroborates them in favor of harping on the testifying individual’s denial of involvement amounting to a refutation of one part of one principal claim made by that Dossier which still has very strong support (below) from other sources… all to conclude that we should now have the lowest-expectations ever based on the available evidence..

wat.

Douthat Seemingly Ignores Known Evidence About Manifort’s Russian Contacts

Douthat glosses the fact that we know Manafort shared campaign polling data with a Russian-intelligence-linked figure.  He proceeds from that gloss directly into a series of nothing-but-assertion sentences that we ought to view the Dossier more skeptically.

What the heck?  Why on EARTH would Manafort share campaign polling data with anyone linked to the Russian government?  How is that NOT massively curious evidence that, alone, strengthens the expectation that Trump et. al. engaged in conspiracy or collusion with the Russians in ways that directly involve the 2016 election?  All the more so when we also heard in Cohen’s testimony (which Douthat completely ignored) that Trump actually paid and directed Cohen to rig online polls in his favor.

So we have as-yet-unrefuted evidence that:

  1. [From Cohen’s testimony] Trump directed Cohen to rig online polls in his favor in an attempt to cause the American public to believe more support existed for Trump than actually did.
  2. [From the Dossier, the FBI, and the CIA] Russia did spend massive resources on a large-scale information war in an attempt to cause the American public to believe more support existed for Trump than actually did.
  3. [From the Dossier] Paul Manafort worked directly with the Russians to further the acts alleged in (2).
  4. [From the FBI] Paul Manafort is known to have shared polling data with individuals known to be connected to Russian intelligence.
  5. If Manafort were supporting the acts alleged in (2) which Manafort is accused of supporting in (3), we would expect him to do exactly the kind of thing alleged in (4).

Again, how anyone can view all of this and think there’s just not much of a chance that Trump et. al. conspired with the Russians to engage in that information war, I just do not understand.  It is obviously true to anyone that Trump is a horrible, horrible liar.  He exaggerates and lies whenever he can to his benefit.  He specifically does this in a way that generates a false appearance of support for his lies.  “EVERYONE believes X!”  “ALL THE PEOPLE ARE SAYING Y!!”  He does this because he understands that creating a public impression of agreement regarding those lies ramps up support for them.  It’s how he runs his businesses:

  1. Build a mediocre product (i.e. any trump property)
  2. Ensure the public thinks EVERYONE thinks those properties ARE THE GREATEST EVER.
  3. Attract folks to his business by (2) in spite of (1).

We have tons of evidence that this has occurred.  And this is exactly the kind of scheme in which the American Intelligence Community believes Russia to have engaged.  And Paul Manafort was caught sharing polling data with them.  AND Paul Manafort has a history of political shenanigans exactly like this.  AND Paul Manafort’s history has been sufficiently suspect to warrant FBI wiretaps against him even before his involvement with Trump!

I just don’t get how a reasonable person looks at this and thinks: “Eh, they probably weren’t involved in Russia’s information wars.”

Douthat Ignored Tons of Other Supporting Evidence

Just a brief run-down because I’m kinda done with this:

  1. Trump has been bailed out of financial trouble by payments from Russian-based entities which have attracted the interest of the US Government on account of their similarity to money-laundering schemes.
  2. Trump ran the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2016 amid all this, claiming to have received gifts from Putin.
  3. Manafort worked for a decade for a Ukrainian political party which was supported by the Kremlin.
  4. Both prior to AND after his work with Trump, the FBI was granted surveillance warrants against Manafort (first for (3), then during his work with Trump).

I dunno.  I’m done.  There’s a whole crapload more, but there’s some of the most significant stuff that wasn’t included in this article thus far.

So In Conclusion… Why is it so Outlandish to Believe a Russian Conspiracy Likely Took Place?

Point is: I don’t know why so many very rational people are acting as though it’s so wildly irrational to believe and expect that the Mueller report will include extremely damning evidence in support of the hypothesis that Trump and his team conspired with the Russian government to benefit Trump and his team at the expense of the United States of America.

Posted in Brief Issue Analyses, Politics | Leave a comment

Possible Bug: lvm2-2.02.175-1.fc27

So I just updated this package and rebooted my system.  I encountered an interesting issue where one of my guest domain refused to start.  Initial investigation of the system journal revealed messages like:

systemd-udevd[775]:  seq 3711 '/devices/virtual/block/dm-21' is taking a long time
systemd-udevd[775]:  seq 3710 '/devices/virtual/block/dm-23' is taking a long time

I use logical volumes for some of my guest domains’ storage.  The guest domain refusing to start is one of them.  Looking into the matter, I found that a process from the system startup routines was hung:

usr/bin/lvm pvscan --cache --activate ay 8:12

When I attached strace to the process (strace -p <PID>), I saw that it was stuck with a semaphore operation like:

semop(262144, [{0, 0, 0}], 1

If I attempted any lvm commands which required obtaining locks on the logical volumes and volume groups (e.g. vgscan, lvscan, etc.), they would hang indefinitely.  Interrupting them would yield messages such as:

“Giving up waiting on lock”

So, I checked into /run/lock/lvm/ and found four outstanding lock files.  Two of them referenced the UUID of the unresponsive guest domain logical volume (which had since been suspended by LVM due to its obstinate behavior), one was a global lock for the physical volume hosting the logical volume, and one was a global lock for the volume group.

After a bit of research, and being fairly convinced that the pvscan operation was merely awaiting the removal of these lock files (whose removal had failed somewhere prior, and that is possibly the fault of a hypothetical bug) and that it would not muck up my system with a firm SIGKILL (SIGTERM would not work), I executed kill -9 against the process, manually removed the empty lock files (all of them), and rebooted the system.

The shutdown portion of the reboot did not go smoothly (the other lvm2-pvscan@whatever.service processes all required SIGKILL from systemd during the shutdown), but when the system came back up, it was error free and the guest domain started without hesitation.

It may be that this bug involves the handling of logical volumes with snapshots (as this was the only logical volume on my system which had an active snapshot during the lvm2 package upgrade procedure), or it may be something else, but seeing no reference to similar incidents on the Interwebs, I thought I’d put it up here in case anyone goes looking for others facing the same issue.  If that happens, perhaps we can file a bug report.

Posted in Information Technology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Actual Statistics: Seeing Through The Partisan “Gun Violence” Haze

So, just to be clear (though it’s not really relevant), I’m a gun owner.  I have a single pistol.  I don’t really understand why people often seem to own huge numbers of firearms, as it only seems to increase risk and administrative overhead, but whatever.  So while I’m not against firearm ownership, I’m also not in favor of keeping firearm laws as they are.  I don’t like the nanny state, and I really want to move carefully with such matters, but it does seem to me that firearms are becoming increasingly lethal and, as such, regulation ought to be revisited and adjusted accordingly.  We can’t let everyone have Flak Cannons and ASMD Shock Rifles, after all.

I am, however, against false-claim-driven alarmism.  Every time a horrifying thing happens, it seems, Americans (especially our media) largely just can’t seem to help themselves from betraying just how poor they are at reasoning under even the slightest degree of duress (which might explain our current President, but I digress..) by immediately demanding agreement with their often ill-informed views and ostracizing those who disagree (which also might explain our current President).

So even though I’ve been greatly enjoying my time away from public discourse, this particular issue is one about which I’m fairly well-informed as a result of my attraction to statistics and reason.  This issue, in fact, is a truly excellent example of how statistical sleight-of-hand works and how prevalent it is.  Allow me to demonstrate by taking apart a highly representative article from Vox:  https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/10/2/16399418/us-gun-violence-statistics-maps-charts.

Answers to Obvious Questions Up Front

So, I’ll use 2016 as a benchmark year, here, since it’s the last year for which we have fully processed FBI data.   I will consider only homicides for which supplemental data exists; this rules out about 2,000 homicides from consideration, but this will not likely adversely impact the import of the statistical determinations below (except for Alabama, which doesn’t seem to report adequate supplemental data to the FBI).

How many firearm-facilitated homicides occured in the United States during the year of 2016?

  1. Firearms facilitated 11,004 out of 15,070 total homicides.
  2. Of those, 435 were justifiable homicides by law enforcement officers.
  3. Additionally, 331 were justifiable homicides by private citizens.

So:

  • 10,338 murders facilitated by firearms took place in 2016.
    • Using a population size of 323,127,513, that means any given citizen in the United States, disregarding other relevant factors, has a 0.0031994% chance of being murdered with a firearm each year.
  • 331 aggressors were successfully defeated by private citizens in 2016.

What kinds of firearms are used in these murders?

Screenshot from 2018-03-04 08-49-02

So, immediately, we can see that “assault rifles” aren’t the primary concern, here.

Where do firearm-facilitated murders take place in the United States?

Screenshot from 2018-03-04 08-41-36

Clearly there is not an even distribution across states.  Let’s control for population size to compare rates of such murders’ occurrence between states:

Screenshot from 2018-03-04 10-00-18

So there’s yer problem areas.

What does that look like if we control for population size and sort states by gun legislation grades given by gun control advocates?

So let’s take the lawcenter.giffords.org scores for those states and sort by that:

Screenshot from 2018-03-04 09-03-16

Well then.  There doesn’t appear to be much of a trend when it comes to tight gun control regulations and firearm-facilitated murders.  California, ranked as the best state for gun control legislation, leads the pack in murders.  Now, granted, California also has one of the largest population sizes, so let’s control for population size:

Screenshot from 2018-03-04 09-45-44

So, while California is a lot safer than the absolute numbers make it appear to be, there is still no obvious correlation between gun control stringency and firearm-facilitated murders.  In fact, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, and Illinois all have gun control law rankings of B+ or above, and yet, they are four of the top seven states for firearm-facilitated homicide rates.

What About Mass Shootings?

Using the FBI’s definition of an “active shooter” incident (which best describes the kind of event we’re interested in, here; read more below for details), here’s a count (which is presently off by 18 shooting incidents because I had to parse out state counts from an FBI PDF file – I’ll try to fix that later) of incidents in each state, ordered by gun control legislation ratings and normalized on a per-million-capita basis:

Screenshot from 2018-03-04 10-58-30

Again, according to gun control advocates, one would expect to see a trend in which states nearer to the bottom of the list have greater numbers of incidents, but that does not appear to be the case.

What Qualities Might Best Explain Active Shooter Incidents?

Well, here’s my initial stab at it:

Screenshot from 2018-03-04 11-34-11.png

That’s a lot more trendy now, ain’t it?  I’m guessing that some better controls and measurements will show a pretty convincing correlation between (my guess: socioeconomic) quality of life and active shooter incidents.

Which is what everyone should expect, really.  Everyone should be aware that they’re fighting over the wrong things here.  America routinely convinces itself that silly answers to obvious problems should be pursued, when in reality, our quality of life, particularly in terms of the amount of work we do for such little compensation, is diminishing and people are going nuts.  We are an extraordinarily wealthy nation which is increasingly dominated by a very, very few gluttons among us, and this is destroying society in many, many ways.  Politicians are all too happy to have these distractions bandied about as the primary concern of the American people, ’cause actually addressing the incredible income disparity in America (with the disgustingly gluttonous top 1% of income-earners taking 50% of all income – just think about that) is going to run afoul of their political income generators.

Anyhoo, this section is still a work in progress, so I’ll update it as I have time.

So Back To All Those Misleading Stats…

Now, let’s proceed to scrutinize common claims thrown about in the debate over gun laws:

Claim 1:  “America has six times as many firearm homicides as Canada, and nearly 16 times as many as Germany”

The source being used to make this claim is The United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crimes’ Small Arms Survey, as reported upon by The Guardian.

One initial point to make, though it may be a bit premature, is that statistical sleight-of-hand often occurs by cherry-picking conclusions from separate sources.  That is, when one dataset fails to prove an assertion (or even offers evidence against it), simply find another source and use it instead.  A good piece of advice is: beware of arguments which make several related points by drawing from entirely different datasets; always ask the question “Why didn’t they just use the same dataset to make that claim?”  It’s not that there are never valid reasons to do this, of course, but that it should be a little red flag for you when you see it.

Another sleight-of-hand method often employed (as seen here) is to portray data using an order of magnitude which represents it to suit the argument at hand.  The data says that the United States sees 29.7 firearm homicides per million people.  That means, excluding all other relevant facts about you, your chance of being murdered by a firearm-wielding assailant on account of your living in the United States of America is 0.00297 out of one hundred, or 0.00297%. 

That’s probably a hell of a lot less bad than you thought, eh?  It certainly is a lot less bad than I thought it would be before I saw the data, myself.

So, is the number correct?  Yeah, it’s probably in the ballpark.  Is it alarming given relevant facts about life in the US as compared to the other nations on that list?  Call me a pessimist, but I actually think it’s impressively low, myself.

Claim 2:  America has 4.4 percent of the world’s population, but almost half of the civilian-owned guns around the world

This is a great example of another pair of common sleight-of-hand methods: 

  1. Use the same queries against datasets of fundamentally dissimilar qualities.  You see, we already know that the majority of the world’s citizens don’t have access to firearms in the same way that the United States citizens do.  So, asking “How many civilian-owned guns are in the United States” and then “How many civilian-owned guns are in the world?” is a pretty dishonest strategy, as the billions of people living in absolute squalor (and thereby made disproportionately likely to own firearms on that account, alone) by the United States’ living conditions standards are being dishonestly used to drive home a point.  Here are some relatively important considerations:
    1. In many other countries, citizens are explicitly forbidden the right to own firearms.  In those countries where weapon ownership is permitted, the citizenry is often comparatively disadvantaged when it comes to the financial capacity and availability of social infrastructure which would permit gun ownership on the same scale as the United States.
    2. In many other countries (for example, Israel and Sweden), citizens keep firearms at home which are technically owned by the military, and therefore these firearms are discounted from the statistics provided.  That doesn’t really help us when it comes to determining whether or not access to weapons drives mass shooting incidents, as these military-owned weapons could just as easily be used in such events.
  2. Use aggregate numbers to describe distribution where distribution is not normal.  When asking the question of how thoroughly firearms are distributed among the American population, one is most likely to intuitively ask a good question: “How many people own guns?”  Notice that this question is conspicuously unanswered by the Vox piece.  Instead, the figure in Claim 2 is offered: WE HAZ HALF ALL WORLD GUNZ!  In reality, only 30% of Americans own firearms.   Obviously, many of them have what I would consider to be serious problems (or at least very strange proclivities) and own a huge number of them.  At Pew Research (linked above), you can see that about 10% of Americans own more than five firearms.  So really, in America, that objective count of civilian-owned firearms does not give a good idea of how proliferate firearms are in America.

Claim 3:  There have been more than 1,500 mass shootings since Sandy Hook

Ah, a classic.  If you want to be completely intellectually dishonest, use misleading definitions.  I will say that I am pleased to see Vox at least admitting that dishonestly in the plain print (despite publishing in bold the misleading claim):

The tracker uses a fairly broad definition of “mass shooting”: It includes not just shootings in which four or more people were murdered, but shootings in which four or more people were shot at all (excluding the shooter).

Even under this broad definition, it’s worth noting that mass shootings make up a tiny portion of America’s firearm deaths, which totaled more than 33,000 in 2014.

(Be sure to read on below about that “firearm deaths” number)

Yes, when discussing “mass shootings” after a gunman has killed 17 people and wounded 15, and including all shootings where four or more people were struck by gunfire, you are being incredibly intellectually honest to the point where your statistic is meaningless.  But how dramatic is this intellectual dishonesty?  Well, let’s start by establishing a more reasonable defintion of “mass shooting”, like so:

Federal agencies define a mass casualty shooting as the murder of three or more individuals. Due to the rarity of these events, federal agencies do not collect data on mass shootings, but they do collect data on “active shooters.” Active shooter incidents are defined as incidents where “one or more individuals actively engage in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.”A This definition does not include gang- or drug-related incidents, the accidental discharge of a firearm, or family- and intimate partner-related shootings

Ok, that sounds more like what we want to know.  How many of those incidents occurred in 2016?

Six.  From 2000 through 2016, a period of 16 years (including the majority of the timeframe used by Vox’s resource), there have been 220.  Vox’s (and basically every major news network’s) intellectual dishonesty is this dramatic.  Without looking up the exact difference, I can confidently say the claim that there have been 1,500 mass shootings since Sandy Hook (December 14, 2012) is off by about 1,400 (that’d be an error margin of 93%).

That number proclaimed by Vox includes EVERY INCIDENT wherein four people were struck by gunfire (not even murdered, necessarily).  When whittled down to the more reasonable definition of what we understand as a “mass shooting” (that is given by the National Center for Victims of Crime above), it’s down to under 20 per year.

Is that great?  No.  Is that number rising?  Yes.  Does something need to be done?  Absolutely.  Is lying one’s ass off about it one of the things that might plausibly help?  No.  Is the real data unbelievably staggering for a country of 323 million people where it’s lawful to own firearms?  Not even close, in my book.

Claim 4:  On average, there is more than one mass shooting for each day in America

As with the above claim, this is obviously an enormous lie.  Notice that the only “mass shootings” directly referenced beneath this claim in the Vox article is an actual mass shooting (perpetrated by Dylann Roof).  In fact, the kind of shooting which makes up the extreme bulk of the numbers peddled in that article (that’d be the kind where a family member or intimate partner kills multiple relatives and them himself) isn’t even mentioned once.  For all their claims to care sooo much, they sure don’t seem to give a crap when it won’t net them those precious, precious Interwebs clicks.

Actual fact:  In 2015 (the year shown in the Vox article), there were 20 active shooter incidents (or what we think of when we say “mass shootings”), not 355.

Claim 5:  States with more guns have more gun deaths

Well, it looks like the dishonesty continues.  Fortunately, perhaps they’re running out of new methods, as this is just another example of using a misleading definition.  You see, they now say “gun deaths”.  Nice.  I’ll give you a single guess as to what driving factor most massively inflates the numbers they will now use.

Yes, it’s suicide.  And yes, though we’re talking about mass shootings, Vox is now throwing suicides at you in their numbers.  Why?  Probably because actual victim counts from mass shootings would make absolutely zero sense when compared with the outrageous counts they’ve offered of those incidents.  I guess just using firearms-based homicide counts (see the FBI link below) isn’t impressive enough, so you gotta rope in the suicide rate.  It does, after all, roughly double the numbers.  Even the CDC is in on this one, using the term “Firearm Mortality” as though they are unaware of the real answer being sought.  Finding the actual data from them is proving difficult at the moment (though I believe I saw it before), so I’ll just go with a Time article which cites the figures:

In 2016, there were more than 38,000 gun-related deaths in the U.S. — 4,000 more than 2015, the new CDC report on preliminary mortality data shows. Most gun-related deaths — about two-thirds —in America are suicides

So yeah, firearms-based homicides alone are around 12,000 per year (out of roughly 323,100,000, meaning about 0.0037% of the population is murdered with firearms annually).  It’s a lot better for Vox and co.’s arguments if they quietly triple that figure.  I mean, it’s still extremely small, but most people don’t seem to do any math, so I guess it works anyway.  In fact, given that apparent fact, why do they bother with the deceit, at this point, really?

 

Whelp, I lasted longer than I thought I would based on my unwillingness to allow dumbassery to persist unabated on the Interwebs (as you can see, I allow myself to indulge in the fantasy that what I say or do here will in any way mitigate said dumbassery), but I think I’m done for now.  Maybe I’ll come back and do the rest of these things, but at least I’ve hopefully provided any readers there may be out there with at least an understanding of the gravity and proliferation of this sort of intellectual dishonesty at work in this particular debate.  Maybe anyone who was unaware of this (at least specifically how it works) can use this information to provoke future discretion where they may have been too lax in the past.

I dunno, whatever.  </rant>

(and yes, I’m leaving my rant stanza malformed on account of lacking an open tag.  I’m that done.)

Important Sources:

https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/

 

 

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Installing Discord on Fedora 27

This guy solved the blank screen issue.

Just thought I’d throw another pointer out there on the Interwebs.

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