Monthly Archives: March 2020

Trump admits voting hurts Republicans

Some of that candor he’s known for. Discussing Democratic proposals for ensuring that the election in November goes ahead, things like universal vote-by-mail, he said

“The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” Trump said during an appearance on Fox & Friends.


Back in the day, Douglas and I were speculating about password replacements (!) We ended up thinking about physical tokens that could be embedded in, say, jewelry, that could be used to authenticate you to some computer system the background, without you explicitly doing anything. Now, there’s Token, about to go mainstream (

Another idea that we dreamed up was that of using the entire history of a person’s interaction with the web, hashed, as a way of proving who they were. Only a person who had a history of the same interactions, all performed in the same sequence over the same time, would be able to authenticate as you. And I’m reading about exactly that in a sci-fi book at the moment, The Fall, by Neal Stephenson. He calls it PURDAH, “Personal Unseperable Registered Designator for Anonymous Holography”.

State v Federal response

I am disappointed that the state of California has not taken the initiative and stepped up to lead the response in the US to the coronavirus epidemic.

It’s been clear for weeks that citizens of CA (and WA, and OR, and …) will need support while we all weather this pandemic. Hospitals will need to ramp up. There’ll be a need for testing, for contact following, for basic support including food and shelter while people are unable to work. There will need to be scientific work on vaccine development, and development of testing methodologies that return results quickly.

It’s also been clear for years that the Federal administration has been steadily destroying the ability of federal departments, including those responsible for these things, to do their jobs. From the fabulist in charge, through the suck-ups whose entire function is to kowtow to the fabulist, through the heads of departments whose publicly-stated function is to shut down or make ineffectual the departments they are put in place to lead, including the NIH and CDC, it’s been clear that expecting a well-planned and well-executed response to a national or international emergency from the Federal government is no longer reasonable.

Given these facts, the states have chosen to carp at the Feds about what they’re not doing, rather than stepping up and doing the work themselves. California in particular has financial and academic resources equal or greater than most countries on the planet, and could have, weeks ago, instigated a program to ensure that every UC campus medical center be ready to function as a regional pandemic control facility, with all the resources needed to test, quarantine and treat the general population, funded by the state government. They could then have shared that knowledge and those resources with WA, OR and any other state that needed them.

The Federal government is broken. It is simply not capable of responding well to a national emergency with anything other than rhetoric, misinformation and finger-pointing. Rather than participate in those games, state governments have an obligation and an opportunity to take the reins.

Update: they figured it out (“California exceptionalism is the new American exceptionalism”, Todd Purdam, Atlantic Monthly Better a month and a half late than not.

Dear Governor Inslee

I just heard on the radio that you’d asked people to “self-quarantine” in the event that they exhibit symptoms of CoVid-19. I’d like to suggest that this is impractical for those of us who are not salaried, nor have paid sick leave included in their terms of employment.

If you’d like us to perform the service of not infecting our fellow citizens, perhaps you might urge the legislature to make cash grants to those of us who find themselves in this situation, so that we don’t compound the problem of contracting a life-threatening illness with that of going bankrupt.

Regards, etc.

Update: of course, within a week or so the state was gearing up to do exactly this. Strange times, but in a lot of respects things that used to be problems with government just … aren’t … any more. Our governor, our bureaucracy and our legislature is handling things exceptionally well, IMHO, so I apologize for the irritation in the above post. We’ve all moved past the finger-pointing to the what-can-I-help-with phase, which is great.