Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Core Beliefs

On December 5th of last year, yet another mass shooting took place in San Bernardino, California. Fourteen people were killed, and the shooters were chased down and killed as well. The tragedy was labeled terrorism.

Although much incriminating evidence was destroyed in advance, a working cellphone was left behind which authorities believe may contain clues. Unfortunately, it was locked by a 4-digit passcode.

The Captain has always wondered just how secure a 4-digit number could be.

Much to my surprise, it turns out there are 10,000 possible combinations!

But that’s nothing, what with computer programs able to run through 10,000 different combinations in a matter of seconds, right?


After the 2013 leak of information by Edward Snowden demonstrating how our National Security Agency has been spying on U.S. citizens, international corporations, and even world governments, primarily through cellphone and internet transactions, Apple decided to create layers of security to protect the privacy of its customers.

One security feature is that after 10 failed attempts to enter a passcode, all data is irretrievably scrambled.

The Captain does not lock up his cellphone for that very reason! 

Memory issues... 'It was too much tequila or not quite enough...'

Another security feature is that passcodes and data are encrypted so that even Apple does not have access to our personal information.

Thus, the current stand-off between Apple and the FBI.

Apple says it can’t access the cellphone.

The FBI wants Apple to create a way to by-pass its own security features so the agency can peek into the cellphone of this terrorist. The hope is that the phone can provide clues that might lead to the arrest of other terrorists and/or prevent the next such shooting.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is resisting the FBI’s request, insisting that creating a “back door” would open a veritable Pandora’s Box.

In a memo to the company, Cook explained his position: “The order would set a legal precedent that would expand the powers of the government and we simply don’t know where that would lead us. Should the government be allowed to order us to create other capabilities for surveillance purposes, such as recording conversations or location tracking? This would set a very dangerous precedent.”

The request today is about terrorism. But what will initiate the next request?

What’s more, Apple conducts business in countries around the world. Should it give in to requests by the U.S. government, it would also be obligated to give in to similar requests from other governments as well.

As the New York Times has pointed out, we don’t know how other countries would use such access. For example, in Pakistan a person can be imprisoned for being a homosexual; in Saudi Arabia, adultery is punishable by lashing or stoning. Access to personal information on a cellphone could put many people in jeopardy.

And how might China use access to the 10 million iPhones sold there in the last quarter of 2015?

The Captain wonders in what other ways might the U.S. government use such access. Our hands are not clean.

Remember that after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. government ordered Japanese-Americans into detention camps for fear they might aid the enemy.

Remember that Senator Joseph McCarthy held numerous hearings in the 1950s using U.S. intelligence to ferret out Communists and Communist sympathizers.

Remember that the National Security Agency spied on and kept files on American citizens protesting the Vietnam War.

I’m pretty sure they have a file on your beloved Captain.

Remember that since 2001 – following the terrorist attacks in New York – the President granted the NSA permission to listen in on cellphone conversations around the world without an appropriate warrant, spying on American citizens, international corporations, and foreign governments.

Even our allies.

Some of that information made its way to other government agencies like the DEA and the IRS.

Do you want the U.S. government to have access to your cellphone?

Check your photos, messages, and internet search history before answering that…

But doesn’t Apple want to help combat terrorism?

Sure. We all do.

And Apple has cooperated in the past. In fact, in this current debate Apple has granted the FBI access to whatever the shooter stored in “iCloud”. But Cook refuses to create a software that would thwart Apple’s own security features.

And other tech giants are siding with Apple.

The FBI has launched a shameless publicity tour against Apple, pretending that they only want access to this one cellphone. However, other federal and local police agencies are following this case closely for the precedent it will set.

A U.S. judge last week ordered Apple to “offer reasonable technical assistance” to the FBI.

So far, Apple has not responded.

Apple wants the courts to struggle with the issue, even the Supreme Court if necessary.

But the issue to be discussed is not terrorism. It is about our right to privacy. More importantly, it’s about the eroding of the core beliefs of our nation.

Remember all those documents our Founding Fathers left for us? The Declaration of Independence… the Constitution… the Bill of Rights...? Do they still mean anything to American citizens today? Do they mean anything to the U.S. government today?

Or have they been reduced to mere movie props?

Whatever happened to our “inalienable right” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”?

Whatever happened to our right “to be secure in [our] persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…”

Mostly all we hear about today is our right to bear arms. And oddly, proponents of the Second Amendment don’t want the government to know who has those guns.

A right to privacy…

Since 9/11 the U.S. government – and to a large extend the American people – has been operating out of fear rather than freedom. The looming spectre of terrorism has caused us to give away our freedoms in exchange for a false sense of security. Warrantless wiretaps, the endless detention of possible “enemy combatants” in Guantanamo without right to trial, and now this pressure on Apple to weaken the security of its product for the sake of government spying, are all the product of a people living in fear.

Simply put, the terrorists have won!

As the New York Times editorial has noted, it’s sad to see that it is a corporation valiantly defending our right to privacy instead of the government whose job it is supposed to be.

Apple is correct. We need to have this conversation. About freedom. About privacy. About the ideals this nation was founded upon.

Monday, February 22, 2016

O Happy Day!

Happy Margarita Day!


Monday, February 15, 2016

Destination Addiction?

CAPTAIN’S NOTE: It seems that many of the Captain’s recent commentaries here center around something I have read on Facebook. The reason for that is simple: Facebook is a public forum where every dumbass with a computer can express her/his opinion to the world, regardless of whether it makes any sense or not.

Yes, the Captain is sometimes one of those dumbasses.

This public exposure creates easy targets for commentary. And what pirate doesn’t like an easy target?

I could be boring you right now with my thoughts on Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, the death of Antonin Scalia, or a host of other hot topics.

You’re welcome.

So a friend on Facebook recently tried to harsh the Captain’s buzz. It might not have been a personal attack, but there it was:

Suffering through yet another cold and snowy winter in America’s heartland, the Captain yearns for warmer climes. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that I will frequently re-post to Facebook the beautiful beach scenes that other world travelers have shared.

And yes, right now I would love to be sitting on a bar stool with a fruity drink in hand, sand under my bare feet, a blue ocean in front of me, and a warm tropical breeze caressing my tanned and relaxed face.

Is there anything wrong with that? As the thermometer here struggles to climb out of a deep freeze, is there anything wrong with yearning to be someplace warm?

But I get the theory behind Destination Addiction.

And it has nothing to do with wanting to be warm. Or necessarily at the beach.

Destination Addiction refers to a person’s dissatisfaction with her/his current condition, who believes their happiness is just around the corner.

Dr. Robert Holden, PhD, is the director of the Happiness Project.

No, really.

It’s a real thing.

Yes, he gets paid for that.

Dr. Holden posits that some people believe success / happiness / “heaven” is “out there”, always just around the corner, somewhere in the future. So we rush through the “now” hoping to arrive sooner at that future point that contains our presumed bliss.

Sadly, this accurately describes some peoples’ understanding of Christianity – that we are just struggling through the trials and tribulations of this world in order to attain ultimate joy in the world to come.

Such theology makes Jesus weep.

For some, happiness will be that next job… or that next house… or that new city. ‘If I can just achieve that, I will be happy.’

Dr. Holden likens it to a package travel tour in which one gets to visit eight European capitals in eight days.

The Captain understands this, having just last year taken such a tour. We were herded like cattle from one city to another, given only a couple hours at each stop to absorb the magnificence of cities with thousands of years of history. Then back on the boat to the next stop.

I can say I have been there, done that… but didn’t really get a chance to buy the T-shirt.

Life is not meant to be like that, Dr. Holden insists. Life is not about who can accomplish her/his checklist the fastest. It is not about the child in the backseat, demanding, “Are we there yet?”

As Aerosmith sang several years ago, “Life’s a journey, not a destination.”

Okay, yes, others said it before Steven Tyler.

Rushing through life simply trying to reach a desired destination (real or imagined) causes us to miss golden opportunities along the way – opportunities of grace and betterment.

The Captain was feeling pretty good about himself – “That’s not me” – until I read through the self-inventory Dr. Holden posted:

-Whatever you are doing, you are always thinking about what comes next.
-You cannot afford to stop because you always have to be somewhere else.
-You are always in a hurry even when you don’t need to be.
-You always promise that next year you will be less busy.
-Your dream home is always the next home you plan to buy.
-You don’t like your job but it has good prospects for the future.
-You never commit fully to anything in case something better comes along.
-You hope the next big success will finally make you happy.
-You always think you should be further ahead of where you are now.
-You have so many forecasts, projections, and targets that you never enjoy your life.


On the other hand, the Captain’s yearning to find a nice secluded beach on a tropical island somewhere and just sit and soak up the rum sun is really just therapy to work on some of these problems.

No. Really.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Historically Accurate?

It is an historic battle. The epic fight over historical accuracy among modern day “pirate” crews.

The battle rages on several pirate interest groups on Facebook, where one member will call out another pirate for not having an historically accurate costume.

Oops! Sorry. You’re not supposed to call it a “costume”.

“Costume” suggest we’re just play-acting, when in reality…

We’re just play-acting!

Of course, in admitting such, the Captain is setting himself up for much grief from among the brethren.

Liken it to when Jerry “The King” Lawler publicly admitted that TV wrestling is fake…

Not long ago an “authentic” Facebook pirate captain challenged other self-proclaimed pirate captains to prove they are the real deal – like he claims to be. By his criteria, first you have to have a boat.

I suppose pillaging and plundering and wenching and general mayhem don’t count for anything unless one has a boat!


Anyway, the arguments usually go like this:

“Those boots are not historically accurate.”



“That pistol is not true 18th century weaponry.”

“Is too.”

“Is not.”

“Pirates never wore earrings and eye patches.”

“Yes, they did.”

“No, they didn’t.”

Mates, lean in for a moment. If even one 18th century pirate got his eye poked out (which the Captain suspects could have happened) and he put a patch over it, then yes, an eye patch is authentic.Now shut the F*** up!

SO into this fray wades an “authority” – credentials unknown, but “time-traveling pirate" is probably not one of them – who stirs it all up again with a rather lengthy “editorial” about how the Captain’s favorite television show, “Black Sails”, is not historically accurate.

Did I mention it is a television show?

For those who haven’t seen it, “Black Sails” is in its third season on STARZ network. It is a pirate drama set on Nassau in the early 18th century – the Golden Age of Piracy – and features a combination of historical pirates and fictional pirates. It has been likened to a prequel of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”.

So this critic points out that a particular pistol used in the first episode did not exist until the early 1800s. While he expressed gratitude for the lack of tricorns and bandanas in the show, he criticized the color and texture of the fabrics the actors wore. The pirates don’t have enough scars, they are way too clean, and the prostitutes are WAAAY too healthy… and too fashion-model skinny for the 18th century.

Oh, and the main characters still have perfect rows of white, shiny teeth!

Historically inaccurate!

Captain's Note: The Captain did have a problem seeing Jack Rackham wearing sunglasses in a couple episodes, but the Chinese had a version of sunglasses as early as the 12th century, and the precursor to modern sunglasses was developed around 1750. So it's not too much of a stretch for Calico Jack to have a pair before he died in 1720.

Did I mention this is a television show?

Here’s the thing. It’s not being broadcast on the History Channel! It is fiction. But whether historically accurate or not, the show is engaging and entertaining. Adult in nature, it doesn’t back down from language, violence, or nudity, which adds an air of authenticity to it.

Who cares if the real Captain Flint would not be wearing a leather jacket on a sailing ship in 1715? It looks good on Toby Stephens!

Frankly, the Captain doubts anyone would watch if the characters looked like real 18th century pirates and prostitutes.  

But if you want real pirates today, here’s what they look like:

Historically accurate!

Personally, the Captain has spent a good deal of money on what would undoubtedly be considered an historically inaccurate pirate kit gear ensemble get-up

Oh hell! What am I supposed to call it?

I don’t care for the “polyester pirates” who buy the $24.99 pirate costume at Halloween Express, and I’m getting real tired of all the “Jack Sparrow” wannabes. 

But who am I to judge?

Most of the time I look close enough to what people think an 18th century pirate looked like.

Of course, sometimes scallywags will ask if I’m dressed as Paul Revere.

Roughly the same period in history, just the wrong team.

But again, it’s all play-acting. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Why can’t you just let us make-believe pirates have our fun?

For that matter, we should extend that same courtesy to everyone else as well.