Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 11th, 2020

Yet another Mandelbrot zoom, and a fun one at that

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From the comment:

The happiest ultra-deep Mandelbrot ever made! An enormous amount of CPU time went into producing this Mandelbrot zoom, diving to a depth of 1.2e1077 in stunning 4k 60fps! I hope you enjoy it! I find bright and vibrant colours to be a personal challenge to create. Please hit subscribe!

Matching music to this was also challenging, I think it will work for most people, but if not please load up Spotify and play your own in the background. This video is has some really nice parts, so it is worth sticking around. (Please refrain from complaining about music, I simply can’t cater to everyone’s taste).

Some people ask what happens when you go past a minibrot, well today you can find out. We cruise past a minbrot at a depth of 2e68 (07:30). Passing this minibrot has an effect on the rest of the zoom, and we occasionally pass really dense areas as a result (like 21:15). We drop into out first spiral at a depth of 3e121 (13:22). Of course, as with any Ultra deep zoom, things get pretty towards the end.

Location information.

@dumbledog has named the final minibrot “Rupert”. Leave a comment if you make it all the way to meet him.

The Mandelbrot Set Explained.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2020 at 7:12 pm

Posted in Math, Video

Another look at “Giant Steps”

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Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2020 at 6:41 pm

Posted in Jazz, Video

How many state secrets will Trump sell to pay his debts?

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Of course, in the past he has simply given away state secrets — and directly to Russian officials, cutting out any middlemen. But now, with time running out and default drawing closer, it may seem to him a good time to cash in on what he’s learned over the past four years. Bess Levin writes in Vanity Fair:

Despite the fact that Donald Trump and his allies have cranked their delusions re: a second term to an 11, the most likely scenario on January 20, 2021, is that Joe Biden is inaugurated the next president of the United States. At that point, Trump will just be another civilian. But the difference between him and your average guy on the street is that he, by his own admission, is in debt for $421 million. And also, that he’s been privy to four years of highly classified information, the kind assorted parties would be thrilled to get their hands on, and which a known con man who thinks he’s been cheated would probably have little issue parting with for the right price.

Of course, that might sound crazy and delusional if not for the fact that Trump has spent nearly his entire term in office making the solid case that he’s a national security risk, a threat that would seemingly become more acute once he leaves office. Per the Washington Post:

As president, Donald Trump selectively revealed highly classified information to attack his adversaries, gain political advantage, and to impress or intimidate foreign governments, in some cases jeopardizing U.S. intelligence capabilities. As an ex-president, there’s every reason to worry he will do the same, thus posing a unique national security dilemma for the Biden administration, current and former officials and analysts said.… Not only does Trump have a history of disclosures, he checks the boxes of a classic counterintelligence risk: He is deeply in debt and angry at the U.S. government, particularly what he describes as the “deep state” conspiracy that he believes tried to stop him from winning the White House in 2016 and what he falsely claims is an illegal effort to rob him of reelection.

“Anyone who is disgruntled, dissatisfied, or aggrieved is a risk of disclosing classified information, whether as a current or former officeholder. Trump certainly fits that profile,” David Priess, a former CIA officer and author of The President’s Book of Secrets, an accounting of the top secret intelligence briefings that presidents receive while in office, told the Post. While experts noted to the Post that Trump reportedly ignored most of his intelligence briefings and has never demonstrated he actually has any idea how the national security apparatus works—“The only saving grace here is that he hasn’t been paying attention,” said Jack Goldsmith, who ran the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel under George W. Bushsome details presumably penetrated the thick layer of concrete surrounding his brain.

The chances are low that Trump knows the fine details of intelligence, such as the name of a spy or where an intelligence agency may have planted a surveillance device. But he almost certainly knows significant facts about the process of gathering intelligence that would be valuable to adversaries. “The president is going to run into and possibly absorb a lot of the capacity and capabilities that you have in intelligence,” said John Fitzpatrick, a former intelligence officer and expert on the security systems used to protect classified information, including after a president leaves office. The kinds of information Trump is likely to know, Fitzpatrick said, include special military capabilities, details about cyber weapons and espionage, the kinds of satellites the United States uses, and the parameters of any covert actions that, as president, only Trump had the power to authorize.

He also knows the information that came from U.S. spies and collection platforms, which could expose sources even if he did not know precisely how the information was obtained. In a now infamous Oval Office meeting in 2017, Trump told Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador to the United States about highly classified information the United States had received from an ally about Islamic State threats to aviation, which jeopardized the source, according to people familiar with the incident.

Intelligence officials are reasonably concerned that Trump could spill state secrets at a rally in an attempt to brag about all the information he was privy to as president, or, in a scenario that the country has never had to worry about before, that he might do so in an effort to pay off his mountain of debt:

Experts agreed that the biggest risk Trump poses out of office is the clumsy release of information. But they didn’t rule out that he might trade secrets, perhaps in exchange for favors, to ingratiate himself with prospective clients in foreign countries or to get back at his perceived enemies.

“People with significant debt are always of grave concern to security professionals,” said Larry Pfeiffer, a veteran intelligence officer and former chief of staff to CIA Director Michael V. Hayden. “The human condition is a frail one. And people in dire situations make dire decisions. Many of the individuals who’ve committed espionage against our country are people who are financially vulnerable.”

Unfortunately, there’s little the Biden administration can do to prevent Trump from spilling national secrets because, unlike many a Trump employeemedical professional, or woman he paid to keep quiet about an alleged affair he says never happened, presidents don’t sign nondisclosure agreements. Biden could refuse to give Trump intelligence briefings, which former presidents have historically received before meetings with foreign leaders or other diplomatic missions. “I think that tradition ends with Trump,” Priess said. “It’s based on courtesy and the idea that presidents may call on their predecessors for frank advice. I don’t see Joe Biden calling up Trump to talk about intricate national security and intelligence issues. And I don’t think Biden will send him anywhere as an emissary.”

And then, there’s the ultimate deterrent:

The last line of defense, like so many chapters in Trump’s presidency, would pose unprecedented considerations: criminal prosecution. The Espionage Act has been successfully used to convict current and former government officials who disclose information that damages U.S. national security. It has never been used against a former president. But as of January 20, 2021, Trump becomes a private citizen, and the immunity he enjoys from criminal prosecution vanishes.

Of course, the odds of the government going after Trump via the Espionage Act are probably slim to none, it likely all depends on how desperate he gets!

On the other hand, maybe he’ll just remain a security risk from the inside

In addition to threatening to fire anyone found looking for a new job and refusing to release funds to the Biden transition team, the Trump administration is reportedly vetting people to serve in a second term, which is exactly as insane as it sounds:

According to two sources familiar with the situation, as well as written communications reviewed by the Daily Beast, the White House Presidential Personnel Office (PPO) is still in the process of vetting candidates for job openings in various parts of the federal government, positions that the White House intended to fill by early next year. The office, which is tasked with staffing the federal agencies, is headed by Trump uber-loyalist and purge-overseer John McEntee. And it is still contacting listed references and conducting background checks, even though major networks called the 2020 presidential election for Biden on Saturday.

Also from the Department of WTF, the White House has apparently told federal agencies to continue preparing the Trump administration’s budget proposal for the 2022 fiscal year, according to the Washington Post, despite the fact that it’s a colossal waste of time since Biden will have already been in office when it would be sent to Congress in February. “They’re pretending nothing happened,” one official said. “We’re all supposed to pretend this is normal, and do all this work, while we know we’re just going to have to throw it away.”

And in related news, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2020 at 2:55 pm

The Real Threat of Trump’s Ridiculous Coup Attempt

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Dahlia Lithwick writes at Slate:

With news that Mitch McConnell has decided to embrace Donald Trump’s use of patently frivolous litigation to deny the results of the 2020 election, and that Attorney General William Barr has authorized the Justice Department to lend a hand by issuing a bizarre memo giving federal prosecutors approval to pursue “vote tabulation irregularities”—violating the Justice Department’s own long-standing practice of waiting until states certify their election results—we find ourselves trapped inside the same Möbius strip that has confounded us since 2016. On the one hand, this is all just a tantrum, a giant roll-around-on-the-floor-in-the-Pop-Tarts-aisle baby-fit by the world’s oldest living captive of Piaget’s first stage of cognitive development. And at the same time, when that tantrum involves the firing of the secretary of defense (via Twitter), threats of future firings that expose the national security apparatus to genuine instability and risk, and concerted and purposeful GOP attacks on the legitimacy of voting and the very concept of respecting election results, it is hard to dismiss it as mere empty theater. After a weekend of thinking we might be free of this, it turns out that the feeling that we’re teetering on an existential brink is not yet gone.

So here we go again. It’s either a creeping authoritarian coup, or just a really annoying sequel to a horror movie that seems never to end. We’re either experiencing something really profoundly worrisome, or this is just the coddling of a narcissist who just needs a cozy offramp. My own impulse, as it has been for the past four years, is to contend that both can be true at once. Like Will Bunch, I find myself in the camp of yes/and fretters, who can rationally acknowledge that Mitch McConnell is riling up the base for a runoff in Georgia, and that Trump himself is engaged in little more than grifting the night away, and also that watching the putative machinery of democracy turned again toward the horrific spectacle of delegitimizing democracy itself is pretty freaking chilling.

It’s true and has always been true that Trump and his whims and moods and ego are a distraction. But one thing it’s always distracted us from is the irreparable damage he has done to norms. Some of those norms—your adult kids and business do not profit off the office of the presidency; you don’t use the White House to stage campaign events—are Trump-specific, and they will either end with him or could be legislatively corrected in time. But some of those norms have nothing to do with this president’s cravenness, his tantrums, and his disregard for the rule of law. Norms around what U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can lawfully do, what the Justice Department can now attempt, and how truth can be distorted and upended—those are not just Trump norms. They are power norms, and the reason the past few days have felt so menacing is that the power norm now being fanatically embraced by Mitch McConnell, two sitting senators from Georgia, and several prestigious law firms, is that Republicans can maintain minority rule by getting a court to agree to throwing out legally cast ballots. Donald Trump and Lindsey Graham have said as much out loud: Republicans cannot win if every vote is to be tabulated. They know that, and they are trying to win anyway. And all this is despite the cumulative advantages conferred upon the GOP by partisan gerrymandering, redistricting, the Electoral College, and the structure of the Senate. So the notion that the GOP, alongside Donald Trump, has now either tacitly or expressly adopted the position that they get to decide who wins despite what the votes say is ghastly, whether they are doing so for their own transactional reasons or not.

We tend to get bogged down in abstract norms. This is the first time we have witnessed a refusal to peacefully accede to a transition. This is the first time the losing party has quite deliberately fomented mistrust of elections officials and elections themselves. These are certainly norms that are being shattered, though they are obscured and made comedic by the wild-haired Lear figure begging only to be loved. But more importantly, this is a piece of signaling from the party, which has come to believe that Democrats can never legitimately hold power, that they really mean it, and oh, they will gladly use the collected apparatus of the courts, Big Law, social media, state legislatures, the Justice Department (with the notable exception of those who will not tolerate it), the media (with the notable exception of most reliable news organizations and some parts of Fox News), assorted Trump hacks, the Republican National Committee, and Senate Republicans (with the notable exceptions of Ben Sasse and Mitt Romney) to make farcical claims about the need to throw out “tens of thousands of illegal ballots,” which, as best as I can tell, are only “illegal” because they have been cast by Democrats.

Consider, too, the nature of many of the election challenges that have been filed thus far. A good many rest in claims that pervasive cheating and fraud are everywhere—the whole system is rigged—and Republicans needed more access to ferret it out, by way of closer election monitors or more records. Those aren’t actual harms; they are paranoid delusions. Yet in the span of a week, this kind of allegation has poisoned significant quadrants of the population against the election results. No evidence is needed, under this theory. The mere conviction that it probably happened is sufficient.

Those of us who live most comfortably on the cheerful side of the Möbius strip are assured that this is just some pathetic Hail Mary–ing, a little humoring of the sad strongman that will be shut down once the courts come face to face with the reality that these cases are laughable and their evidence is nonexistent, as the courts that have seen these cases have consistently done. But for those of us who contend that the abiding harm here isn’t to Donald Trump, his campaign, or his fortunes, but rather to the country, its integrity, and the continued functioning of its institutions, the concern here isn’t merely that Trump is cleaning house at vital agencies or installing loyalists or sullenly blockading an orderly transition. This flirtation with nihilism and anti-democratic themes, as Aaron Blake argues, “would seem to be pretty high on the things you should approach with extreme caution.” These claims—that some votes are “legal” and some are “illegal” (just as some people are legal and some are illegal)—are quickly metastasized not just into the public discourse or the internet memes, but into . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2020 at 12:27 pm

Trump seems to be moving toward a coup attempt — seriously

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Kevin Drum includes this in a post this morning:

https://twitter.com/rabrowne75/status/1326284851268489217

Why does Donald Trump suddenly want a bunch of loyalists in charge of the Pentagon? It’s a little hard to come up with benign answers, isn’t it?

And on Facebook, David Troy writes:

We have an emergency underway in the Department of Defense and in the intelligence community. There is a coup attempt in progress. Multiple staff changes at the Pentagon have replaced career professionals with people loyal to Gen. Michael Flynn, and ultimately Putin. The intention appears to be to replace the heads of multiple agencies (Haspel, Wray, Nakasone) and facilitate coordinated dumps of classified information, thus causing chaos and damaging US interests globally.

This is not a drill. Ezra Cohen-Watnick (age 34) is a Flynn loyalist and a psychopath; he was just made acting undersecretary of intelligence at DoD. He is part of the QAnon operation. This needs to accelerate to the front pages of every newspaper immediately. I’m working on that but I’m not waiting for this story to filter through the press. If you are in a position to do something about this, please do so. If nothing happens, this will seem like an overreaction; but it will be because we intercepted this

And see in Politico “‘Devastating’: Top Pentagon leadership gutted as fears rise over national security.

The situation seems quite ominous to me.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2020 at 12:12 pm

GOP claims of “voter fraud” shown to be fraudulent

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Aaron Blake reports in the Washington Post:

By now, it’s well-established that most of the arguments put forward by President Trump’s reelection campaign in its challenge of the results of the 2020 election are baseless and highly speculative. Even Trump allies, as The Washington Post reported late Tuesday, acknowledge the apparent futility of the effort. Others have reasoned that there’s no harm in going through the motions, with one anonymous GOP official asking, “What’s the downside for humoring him” for a little while?

But as scenes in courtrooms nationwide in recent days have shown, there is indeed a downside for those tasked with pursuing these claims. Repeatedly now, they have been rebuked by judges for how thin their arguments have been.

The most famous scene came in Pennsylvania, where a Trump lawyer strained to avoid acknowledging that their people were, in fact, allowed to observe the vote-counting process in Philadelphia:

At the city’s federal courthouse on Thursday evening, attorneys for Trump asked a judge to issue an emergency order to stop the count, alleging that all Republican observers had been barred. Under sharp questioning from Judge Paul S. Diamond, however, they conceded that Trump in fact had “a nonzero number of people in the room,” leaving Diamond audibly exasperated. “I’m sorry, then what’s your problem?” asked Diamond, who was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush. Denying Trump’s request, Diamond struck a deal for 60 observers from each party to be allowed inside. At one point on Friday afternoon, 12 Republican observers and five Democrats were watching the count, according to a ballot counter who was working.

After that “nonzero” answer, Diamond pressed the Trump campaign lawyer to be more explicit — and he suggestively invoked their standing with the bar: “I’m asking you as a member of the bar of this court: Are people representing the plaintiffs in the room?” The lawyer responded more directly: “Yes.” By the end of the hearing, Diamond invoked his right to make sure lawyers in his courtroom acted in good faith.

Another Trump lawyer, Jonathan S. Goldstein, was also grilled by a Pennsylvania judge this week. Under questioning, he acknowledged that, contrary to Trump’s claims about rampant voter fraud, he wasn’t alleging fraud in the 592 ballots he sought to disqualify in Montgomery County, Pa.

Again, Trump’s lawyer strained to avoid directly answering the question but was ultimately forced to acknowledge it:

THE COURT: In your petition, which is right before me — and I read it several times — you don’t claim that any electors or the Board of the County were guilty of fraud, correct? That’s correct?

GOLDSTEIN: Your Honor, accusing people of fraud is a pretty big step. And it is rare that I call somebody a liar, and I am not calling the Board of the [Democratic National Committee] or anybody else involved in this a liar. Everybody is coming to this with good faith. The DNC is coming with good faith. We’re all just trying to get an election done. We think these were a mistake, but we think they are a fatal mistake, and these ballots ought not be counted.

THE COURT: I understand. I am asking you a specific question, and I am looking for a specific answer. Are you claiming that there is any fraud in connection with these 592 disputed ballots?

GOLDSTEIN: To my knowledge at present, no.

THE COURT: Are you claiming that there is any undue or improper influence upon the elector with respect to these 592 ballots?

GOLDSTEIN: To my knowledge at present, no.

The Trump campaign also sought to temporarily stop counting some ballots in Detroit. It cited a GOP poll watcher who had said she had been told by an unidentified person that late mail ballots were being predated to before Election Day, so they would be considered valid.

The judge repeatedly asserted this was hearsay, but Trump campaign lawyer Thor Hearne sought to argue that it wasn’t — despite it having been someone who said they heard about something they weren’t personally involved in. He pointed to a vague note the poll watcher produced — which said “entered receive date as 11/2/20 on 11/4/20” — as evidence:

STEPHENS: So I want to make sure I understand you. The affiant is not the person who had knowledge of this. Is that correct?

HEARNE: The affiant had direct firsthand knowledge of the communication with the elections inspector and the document they provided them.

STEPHENS: Okay, which is generally known as hearsay, right?

HEARNE: I would not think that’s hearsay, Your Honor. That’s firsthand personal knowledge by the affiant of what she physically observed. And we included an exhibit which is a physical copy of the note that she was provided.

The two later returned to the point, after Stephens reviewed the note, and Stephens echoed Judge Diamond’s exasperation:

STEPHENS: I’m still trying to understand why this isn’t hearsay.

HEARNE: Well, it’s, it, I – . . .

Continue reading.

I sort of like how the lawyer kept saying “a nonzero number of people,” leaving open the possibility of a negative number of people.

GOP, party of putzes.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2020 at 11:59 am

Milksteak not so thirsty after all — it was the brush

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Yesterday I commented that Phoenix Artisan’s CK-6 soap seemed much less thirsty than the Declaration Grooming Milksteak formula I had used the day before, but speculated that the difference might be due to the difference in brushes: with Milksteak, a Vie-Long horsehair brush (fairly coarse) and with CK-6, a Simpson Super Silvertip badger brush (fairly fine).

So today I returned to a Milksteak soap and used another Simpson Emperor Super Silvertip brush: yesterday I used the 3, today the 2. And indeed the soap today didn’t seem thirsty at all. I did add one driblet of water as I loaded, but I had done the same with the CK-6 just to ensure the brush was very well loaded.

Excellent lather and, with the Mekur Progress, an excellent shave. This is the modern adjustable I would recommend for those who want an adjustable razor.

A splash of No. 4711 (a street address, I beliieve) finished the job. And a happy Remembrance Day to all.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2020 at 11:07 am

Posted in Shaving

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