When cops and robbers are one and the same

I have taken the stance, on many occasions, that those in charge of enforcing the law, should not be above the law. When law enforcement reduces itself to the level of the thugs it’s supposed to be ridding us of, we all lose. And such is the case here.

The BBC reports on the takedown of a credit card fraud suspect where the suspect was actually mugged by the police, with the target of the mugging being a mobile phone that they feared would be inaccessible if they arrested him normally.

This is despicable. The ends do not justify the means. I believe law enforcement is supposed to set an example, and truly be “the finest” of the jurisdiction they serve. What they did in this case clearly isn’t. Imagine the civil suits that would result if they get the wrong target.

In fact, this tactic was so despicable I’m not even sure it would be appropriate to solve a murder case. I would be more apt to blame laziness on the part of the cops assigned to this case, as I’m sure they had other ways to get evidence than to violently steal it, and basically break the very laws they were assigned to enforce (at least the spirit of them, if not in letter). Even if they didn’t, I would think it better to abandon the case and not risk the terrible PR.

I don’t condone crime, but the only thing worse than crime by those dressed in black and wearing masks, is crime by those dressed in blue and carrying badges.

Today we celebrate the Twenty-First Amendment to the US Constitution

I haven’t posted about this in years past, though to be fair I haven’t really partaken of alcoholic beverages as much in more recent years. But today is the day that the Twenty-First Amendment of the US Constitution was passed, repealing the Eighteenth Amendment which established Prohibition. Or, as some call it, simply “Repeal Day.”

Thankfully we have learned in more recent years that the Constitution is just not the place for this kind of fleeting, knee-jerk reactions to the social mores of the time. It is a huge pain in the ass to pass a Constitutional amendment, and just as big to pass another one to repeal it if it turns out to be a mistake.

I’m going to try to find an appropriate time today to drink from my rather small stock of alcoholic beverages (an unopened bottle of wine from a couple of years ago, and two stronger-than-average “Double IPA” cans of beer). If you don’t drink alcohol–and I know there are a few of you out there–you can celebrate freedom of choice instead, however you choose. In a broader sense that’s really what the Twenty-First Amendment was about, though it was also about ending a policy that was in effect “dead on arrival.”

The Wikipedia article “Prohibition in the United States” describes how Prohibition came to be to begin with. And, unfortunately, not much has changed today: faith-based organizations and movements haven’t tried to ban alcohol in most locales, but have turned instead to other things like abortion and school curricula.

This quote from the above article is of particular note, as there is a direct parallel to what is happening with drug prohibition today:

In October 1930, just two weeks before the congressional midterm elections, bootlegger George Cassiday—”the man in the green hat”—came forward and told how he had bootlegged for ten years for members of Congress. One of the few bootleggers ever to tell his story, Cassiday wrote five front-page articles for The Washington Post, in which he estimated that 80% of congressmen and senators drank. The Democrats in the North were mostly wets, and in the 1932 election, they made major gains. The wets argued that prohibition was not stopping crime, and was actually causing the creation of large-scale, well-funded and well-armed criminal syndicates. As Prohibition became increasingly unpopular, especially in urban areas, its repeal was eagerly anticipated.

Indeed, George Santayana was spot on: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” As it looks like we are doing just that (repeating the past) regarding drug prohibition. Outlawing alcoholic beverages didn’t work then, and outlawing drugs (a.k.a. the “War on Some Drugs”) hasn’t worked in modern times.

“WordPress’s implementation of SSL is kind of a botch” but I managed to get it working

TL;DR: The site is now SSL, but it was a real pain in the donkey to get there.

Long version: As of about an hour ago, Rant Roulette is now accessible via SSL. You may have noticed today that the URL now starts with https instead of http. This is for many reasons, but the main one is so that Google won’t start down-ranking search results starting in January. Even if I were to say “to hell with Google” (which, for the reason I’m about to explain, I came damned close to doing) it’s likely that most other search engines out there will eventually follow suit.

I have often made the joke that I know two languages: clean English, and profanity in English. (Technically, I know a small amount of Spanish as well, including some profanity, but I don’t normally mention this.)

So here’s a summary of what I went through to get here:

December 1, around 19:00 or so: I start looking into Certbot on the EFF site. The main obstacle before is that Certbot really wants to run on the web server, and it also wants root. This makes getting SSL on shared hosting mostly a non-starter, until I find out there’s a way to run it on my own machines and upload the certificates manually. I do this and find out my host (nearlyfreespeech.net) now has a way to just upload all the certificates into a web form. (Turns out there was an even easier CLI tool for doing this which I didn’t find out about until later.) I do this, and realize even though technically the site still comes up, I’m getting no stylesheet and no images. Changing the Project Wonderful ad banners over to https doesn’t help (but it needed to be done anyway).

The next couple hours, off and on: I start by changing the URLs in WordPress to https instead of http. I’m greeted by a redirect loop. Even worse, it’s a redirect loop that affects the entire site, including the WordPress dashboard. So I have to manually go in and edit the URLs back to http using phpMyAdmin. I utter some profanity and chug the half glass of Coca-Cola I had poured a few minutes prior, then go edit the database. Site is at least back up but still half-broken. I ask in two different IRC channels, one of them being #wordpress on Freenode. Nobody has any useful advice.

(Somewhere in here I also fix the botched upgrading of the Project Wonderful ad box code, but that’s kind of a minor thing compared to the whole site being down.)

Later: I try disabling NFSN’s “canonical SSL” redirect, as well as the canonical name redirect, in an attempt to break the redirect loops. No joy. I have to manually edit the database several more times, but I don’t utter nearly as much profanity upon doing so because I’m getting fast at it. The profanity is reserved strictly for my frustrations, and for the moment I run out of Coke.

Early morning hours of December 2, from midnight up until about 02:00 or so: I try putting in a redirect in .htaccess, which still brings up the redirect loop. Finally, I stumble upon this gem in the NFSN forums, posted by someone using the forum name ‘lovekylie’:

if ($_SERVER['HTTP_X_FORWARDED_PROTO'] == 'https')
        $_SERVER['HTTPS']='on';

Adding this right above the “That’s all, stop editing!” comment in wp-config.php fixes everything. I’m able to change the URLs to start with https like they should be, and most everything appears to work. I am still getting the little yellow triangle with the padlock, but that’s because some images in posts are not https links.

I’ve already added that code snippet to my other WordPress blog at skqrecordquest.com even though I have not upgraded it to SSL yet (it does nothing if it’s not forwarding an SSL request, and arguably should be part of the WordPress internals).

Anyway, the title quote comes from later in the post from ‘lovekylie’ which I, unfortunately, kind of agree with after going through all that. Going forward, of course I hope that it’s no longer true. At the time I write this, 4.6.1 is current with 4.7 in “release candidate” status, meaning it’s going to be an actual release Sometime Really Soon. For all I know, that fix is already in there, but after all the downtime this week (there was a few hours of downtime a couple of days ago due to another blunder I made) I’m a bit leery of installing a version of WordPress that’s not an actual release (as opposed to beta or release candidate).

Starbucks shuts down criticism of its holiday cup design

Well, looks like I goofed. In a previous post I called the Starbucks cup design the holiday re-design and apparently it was not. That design was more election-related, though most of what I wrote about Starbucks being in the center of controversy stands.

Grubstreet recently reported on the real Starbucks holiday cup design, and while “critic-proof” is by no means an absolute, it is interesting how they arrived at the 2016 holiday season designs.

Those who wanted to saw the gradient/ombre cups of 2015 as a “war on Christmas.” They even discarded the reality that most of the symbols people associate with Christmas were appropriated from earlier pagan festivals such as Saturnalia to arrive at this conclusion. I think I’ve said plenty about the alleged “war on Christmas” already but I think some of it bears repeating. There are many different observances between the American Thanksgiving and the beginning of the new year: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Grav-mass/Newtonmas, Yule, Yalda, Boxing Day, Dongzhi Festival, Quaid-e-Azam’s Day, Chalica, Soyal, Pancha Ganapati, Festivus… just to name a few.

Anyway, before I go too far off on that tangent, Starbucks took 13 of the best designs drawn on the 2015 cups, and used them as designs for the 2016 cups. The 2016 cups don’t appear to have the actual ombre/gradient background from 2015, though (I happen to be at a Starbucks as I write this so I can glance over and look). Even more interesting, Starbucks has made a winter design for the clear plastic cups used for cold drinks, since those still get ordered down south in cities like Houston (and not just the weirdo geek writing this that orders iced tea at Starbucks 10½ to 11 months out of the year).

The assertion of “critic-proof” has yet to be proven. But to those who are going to call a “war on Christmas” based on not including things like snowflakes, trees, or other symbols of wintertime: make a note of where they come from. Even Santa Claus has his origins in Yule, not Christmas.

Maybe it’s time I call a “war on Yule and Saturnalia” given that so much “Christmas” decorations have been appropriated from those two holidays.

The reaction to the results of the 2016 election: protests and more

The Daily Kos reports on protests in response to the election results. Admittedly, protests of some sort are something we don’t see that often in the US.

Given how divisive this election was, we were virtually guaranteed a reaction of this sort regardless of the eventual winner. If there was an ever an election where I felt like I was choosing “the lesser of two evils” this was it. I voted for Hillary Clinton, but it was a more of a vote against Donald Trump. I toyed with the idea of voting third-party but that went out the window the moment some polls indicated Texas was a toss-up state (our 38 electoral votes wound up going to Trump, alas).

So, personally, it’s hard to blame all these people who (presumably) voted for Hillary Clinton (or someone else) who are out there protesting. The preliminary popular vote totals indicate that Hillary actually won the popular vote–meaningless in the grand scheme of things because it’s the Electoral College vote that really matters, but symbolic in that there were more actual people who wanted Hillary to be our next president. Given a lot of the things that Donald Trump said during the campaign, and some things that came to light including blatant misogyny in the form of the “grab ‘em by the (vaginal area)” recording with Billy Bush (which eventually cost the latter his most recent job as host of Today despite the fact the recording was from over a decade ago), the protests aren’t much of a surprise to me.

The First Amendment is a powerful thing. It protects many vital freedoms, including freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. These include the right to protest peacefully, and it is this last point that protesters must remember. Once violence is added to the mix, it’s not really a protest anymore, but a riot. I get that people are pissed off. Heck, I’m still pretty pissed off, and the election was three days ago.

That said, violence won’t solve anything. The problem is definitely not that too few people think that everyone who voted for Clinton (or Johnson, Stein, McMullin, etc), and who is upset enough to protest, has the intelligence and temper of an uncaged wild animal. In addition, there’s just no need for violence to establish that you are unhappy with the election of Donald Trump and all that he stands for. Violence also gives law enforcement a quite legitimate reason to arrest someone.