Tractor Hacking

I haven’t seen much discussion of this issue outside of the intellectual property community, though no doubt it’s being discussed among tractor owners. John Deere has effectively locked down its tractors, making it difficult for farmers to repair or modify the tractors they have purchased on their own. Fortunately, there’s a carveout in the onerous DMCA that keeps jailbreaking the tractors from being criminal, but the farmers are still potentially liable in a civil suit, and as in any situation with running unauthorized firmware, are in a constant arms race with the manufacturer to keep up with the latest releases, not to mention vulnerable to security issues.

John Deere today, GM tomorrow? Not impossible to imagine. As automobiles get more and more sophisticated and software controlled, car manufacturers will want to limit what customers can do to the software, for good reasons: safety and security can be compromised with changes that don’t go well. However, the temptation will also be there to protect that investment and recoup the cost by forcing customers to stay within their infrastructure for add-on parts and repairs. Tires that have to be licensed by GM to be recognized by the vehicle, for example, or the car won’t operate. Oil changes that can only be performed at GM-certified garages. When the ability of the engine to start and run is controlled by software, almost anything is possible. We’re already seeing used car dealers adding after-market devices that disable vehicles if too many payments are missed. What if car companies decide to stop supporting cars that are more than 10 years old?

Regulation is going to be way behind reality here.

Shadow Government

Remember that everything the trumpers complain about is projection? “Obama has a shadow government?” There is a shadow government, but it isn’t Obama’s.


-Ivanka now has a West Wing office and a security clearance and will have access to “some” classified documents, though she won’t be an employee. She will “voluntarily” follow WH ethics rules. She regularly sits in on meetings with foreign leaders. (Imagine if this were Chelsea Clinton…)

-trump has commissars in place at departments to keep an eye on things and make sure everyone stays loyal. You think Scott Pruitt is bad at EPA? His commissar is Don Benton, a former state senator from Washington who is dumber than a box of rocks. The spokesman commissar at EPA, who is responsible for the gag rules that have gone in place, so Doug Erickson, a current state senator from Washington. (The Washington legelislature is currently in session, but Erickson won’t resign as senator because that would lose the Republicans their senate majority and education might get funded without gutting other parts of the budget.)

-there are over 500 jobs in the administration that require Senate confirmation. We can argue over whether that number is too big, but trump hasn’t nominated anyone for even 10% of those jobs. Most cabinet secretaries don’t have nominees for deputies, but they do have commissars.

-cabinet secretaries seem cut out of the loop regularly. They aren’t consulted on key decisions, they don’t meet with foreign leaders, they find out what’s going on second hand. Tillerson isn’t the real Secretary of State, Kushner is. 

-and, of course, there’s Shadow President Bannon.

Kelsey Plum

My husband and I watched Kelsey Plum score 57 points yesterday in Washington’s win over Utah to set the all-time career scoring record for women’s NCAA D1 basketball. Women’s basketball has come far enough that this was actually the lead story on Sportscenter last night, and probably the only reason the game wasn’t sold out was no one really expected Plum to set the record yesterday. She was 53 points short of tying the record, which seemed too high a barrier for one game. We went because we thought there was a chance, because Plum is a magical player.

Many of the stories about Plum have mentioned that only one player has scored more points than she has, Pete Maravich of LSU. It is true that Pistol Pete is the only other NCAA player who has outscored Plum, but it overlooks an important piece of history and yes, until politics. You see, until several years after the federal government instituted Title IX, requiring that men’s and women’s sports be treated the same, the NCAA did not administer women’s sports, so the history of NCAA women’s basketball only goes  back to 1982.

Women did play intercollegiate basketball before then. Some of the giants of the coaching world, like Pat Summitt and Tara VanDerveer, got their start in their era. The US sent a women’s basketball team to the 1976 Olympics, and would have sent another to the 1980 Olympics if not for the boycott. And there were stars, like Anne Myers of UCLA and Lynette Woodard of Kansas.

Woodard played at the tail end of the AIAW days, and she was a more prolific scorer than Jackie Stiles. She scored 3649 points, just 18 shy of Maravich’s 3667, and still 252 more than Plum. It’s not impossible for Plum to catch either Woodard or Maravich, but she wools need to maintain or exceed her scoring average of 30 points per game and have UW play close to the max number of games in the PAC-12 and NCAA tournaments. If UW were to make it to the finals of both tournaments, Plum would play an additional 9 games, which would give her a decent shot at 270 points. Any fewer games, and she has to score more points per game. Neither is impossible, though neither is likely. But records are broken because the unlikely happens, so I’ll be at the PAC-12 tournament enjoying Plum’s artistry and hoping for a long tournament run for her to extend her college career as long as possible.

Thank you, Ms. Plum. It’s been a pleasure watching you work.

Flip a seat!

Actually, two-one locally, one in Congress.

Tom Price, the HHS Secretary, was formerly the Representative from GA-06. There’s a special election underway to fill his seat. trump only won this district by +1, even though Price won reelection easily. The special election is a top two primary, so the two two vote getters in the April primary will move on. There are a bunch of Republicans, and Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is explicityly running against Trump. I’ve donated to his campaign, and encourage you to the same.

Locally, there’s a special election to fill the senate seat for the 45th district. It’s currently held by Republican Dino Rossi, who was appointed when Andy Hill died in office. Democrat Manka Dhingra, a highly qualified Redmond resident who works in the King County Prosecuter’s office. This seat could tip the balance of the state senate, so it will be an expensive race. You can donate to her campaign here.


The news gets crazier every day, but even if trump disappeared in a puff of smoke tomorrow, we’d still have lots of work to do. So, how do you know what to do?

First stop is the Indivisible Guide. Written by former Hill staffers, the guide tells you how to take action effectively. One thing you’ll learn from the guide is that calling your members of Congress is effective, so I suggest putting their numbers into your phone to make calling easy. I use the numbers for the local offices, rather than the D.C. office, and if one local office is busy, try another one. Calls are easy to make; you don’t really need a script, just tell them your name and where you live, and what you want your member to do. Or you can call to thank them for something they’ve done; positive strokes are good too. 

Should you call if your represented by a Democrat? Absolutely. Democrats need some spine-stiffening, and it will only come from us. They need to know that if they take a bolder approach, their voters want it. If you’re represented by a  Republican, call away. Yes, you might live in a safely red district, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t enough people like you to make him reconsider whether he really wants to defund Planned Parenthood. If you’re going to be complaining about something on social media or bitching about it to your friends, make the call first.

Hard to keep with everything, isn’t it? There are a number of email lists you can sign up for that will send you daily or weekly ideas for actions to take, with options for different time commitments. My Civic Workout, Do A Thing, and Wall of Us are three that I’m subscribed to. There are numerous Facebook groups that I can’t point you to because I have an aversion to Facebook, but they’re out there, and several of these sites will help you find them. Another big list of resources is here, highlighted by the Town Hall Project, which tracks Congressional town halls and other availabilities. 

And give! Time or money. The ACLU got the biggest chunk of my money soon after the election, because we had already been regular donors there, but we gave a much bigger chunk. Decide what aspect of all the terrible things happening is the most important to you, and focus there.

Now, let’s talk local. trump and the R’s won not because we were mean to conservatives or because we live in a bubble, trump and the R’s won because we got complacent. We didn’t pay enough attention to legislatures and downballot. Our values matter even more at the neighborhood level than at the state level. Lots of city council seats and school board seats will be up for election this year. Is your council or board implementing your values? Does the composition of the board or council resemble the city or district they represent? If not, what are you going to do about it? Run? Identify an ally and her run? Either way, time to get to work.

I just got my first invite for a kickoff fundraiser for my congressmember’s re-election campaign in 2018, so the battle to take the House is underway. Consider donating to a campaign, even if you don’t have a lot to donate. Attend an event, get a chance to meet your representative and ask a question. 

Volunteer for a campaign. Go to your local Democratic organization meeting, and connect with like-minded souls. You’ll never be an apathetic voter again; your ballot will be turned in first thing. Next thing you know, you’ll be sitting through city council meetings,

Any other ideas people have, share them in comments.

Washington v. Trump

The Ninth Circuit unanimously smacked down the trump administration today in denying their request for a stay of the TRO stopping their immoral and unConstitutional Muslim ban. The administration could appeal it to the Supreme Court, but it’s not even clear they could get five votes for cert, much less five votes to overturn. The 9CA didn’t accept every single one of Washington’s arguments, but it didn’t buy a single one of the administration’s, and was particularly scathing about the requirements for judicial review and due process. 

The usual voices have cried out that American lives have been put at risk, even though no one from the banned countries has committed an act of terror on US soil. Those same voices are silent in the face of the 30000 US lives lost every year due to guns, the equivalent of 10 9/11 attacks. They protest at any hint of a limitation on sales or possession of guns, and never accuse the NRA of putting American lives at risk, even as the NRA insists that the answer to the deaths by guns in America is more guns. An American is more likely to die at the hands of a toddler with a gun than at the hands of an Islamic terrorist. 

People aren’t bigoted because they want to ban Muslims. They just want to be safe. They only want to be safe from certain kinds of dangers, it seems.

The Munich Post

The NYTimes brings us a story of the chaotic process of the fist few weeks of the trump administration. There are many little tidbits in it, most utterly predictable. trump is obsessed with his image, his ratings, as it were. He had the (mistaken) impression that everything was going just fine, that he was a resounding success, until someone changed the channel away from Fox, I guess. He watches TV all the time. He’s inordinately proud of the changes he’s made to the Oval, especially after he found out that taxpayers pay for them. He’s worn out about 6:30, so he goes to the residence to greet and watch TV and call friends to boost his mood.

Meanwhile, the small group of people running the country are working, assuming they can turn the lights on. Either way, they’re keeping everybody else in the dark, eschewing the normal sort of interagency review for speed. trump will sign what they put in front of them. Shadow President Bannon managed to get himself appointed to the NSC without trump even understanding what he was signing. When Bannon’s rumpled mug appeared on Time this week, it reminded trump that he’s angry about Bannon, so maybe Bannon reached too far.

In he meantime, Bannon sure seemed to be running things, and he likes the chaos. While everybody wonders what’s pgking on, he executes his plan.

Another leader who loved to creat chaos and take advantage of was Hitler. Trump hasn’t called for a Final Solution yet, and so far, there is still resistance to normalizing trump. But how long will it hold? As Ron Rosenbaum argues in the LA review of Books, our norms and isstituions won’t save us, only our people standing up can save us. 

And I remembered the Munich Post, defending Weimar Germany. I reflected on how fragile democratic institutions could be in the face of organized hatred. Hitler had been tricky about his plans until he got the position and the power to enact them. Trump had been tricky, neither accepting nor rejecting the endorsement of KKK leader David Duke. David Duke! The KKK! In this century! He claimed he didn’t know who he was. He couldn’t be disqualified because of someone he didn’t know. That’s where we all went wrong, thinking he was stupid and outrageous, not canny and savvy and able to play the media like Paganini. The election demonstrated the weakness of a weak democracy, where basic liberties could be abolished by demagoguery and voter suppression.

Our institutions aren’t designed to keep out trump, welcomed in through  the front door. It’s our duty , if we’re to save our way of live, to make Trumpism does not become normal.