Web links related to the Back of the Book program of December 25, 2010

All right, it's Friday, October 14, 2011, 23:39, and I've updated this page with the Wikileaks stuff I was talking about on this program. This Web page is finished. The original top of this page follows the arrow. ⇒ Well a merry Bah! Humbug to all! Today we'll be celebrating the birth of Isaac Newton. This program has aired on Isaac Newton's birthday before. Perhaps the most tense and odd one of those occurred on December 25, 2000. You can read more about that below. We should have the Saddle pals, and maybe all of the Saddle Gals, on this program. That means that we have no idea how this one's going to turn out.

Did you know that I've got a brief synopsis of many of the WBAI LSB meetings? Well, I do.

The next regular WBAI LSB meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 12, 2011, at a location to be announced.

There was a regular LSB meeting on Wednesday, December 8, 2010, the Sixth WBAI LSB was seated. The former Program Director is on this LSB, and he had sent out robo-calls telling his faithful to attend this meeting. Given his publicity campaign, and how long he was dominating WBAI's air, the turnout wasn't impressive. They disrupted though. We got to the elections but then there arose a dispute over the election of the Chair. The faction didn't want a re-vote, and their claque disrupted the meeting. So the meeting ended, but then the faction operatives held a little tea party meeting of their own. If they think they can get away with forming a rump LSB they are in for a surprise. The Chair of the LSB was physically assaulted at one point by a faction operative.

At a previous meeting the WBAI LSB voted to hold its meetings on the second Wednesday of every month and/or the last Thursday of that month, subject to change by the LSB, which gives us the following schedule:

All of these meetings are set to begin at 7:00 PM.

WBAI has a program schedule up on its Web site. The site has gotten many of the individual program pages together to provide links and such, so check it out.

WBAI has an official Web stream of what's on the air at any time! You can go here and pick which type of stream you want! If this stream isn't working let me know. And you can see the status of the streams at any time by clicking here. The stream was working at 12:27 AM this morning. The station has a Flash stream here, make sure you enable Javascript so it can work for you.

WBAI is archiving the programs! Just go here and you'll be able to listen to this program any time for the next couple of months. You may need to scroll up one line to see the audio archive. Let me know if you find this feature useful.

If you want to listen to any part of the WBAI archive click here to go right to the archives. When you first go to the Web page you'll only see the WBAI programs for the past 7 days. If you want to see older programs you can click on one of the “See ALL Shows” buttons. Or to see only the two shows in this time slot click here. The archives of our programs in our previous time slot are here.

For legal reasons, WBAI stopped making podcasts available as of June 28, 2010.

Back of the Book is one of the programs that you can download, as well as listen to on line.

In the table on the archive Web page Back of the Book and Carrier Wave are both in the “Show” column. The “Date and Category” column shows the date of the program. After the program I go in and write the details of the program and say which program it is. Of course I'd recommend that you just listen to both programs in this time slot!

Last year there was a Pacifica National Board meeting held in New York. Here's the Web page I did about this PNB meeting and the amazing things that went on at it.

And the PNB has also met in Houston from Friday October 9th, through Sunday October 11th, 2009. The official audio archive of that meeting is here. It was not disrupted as the New York meeting was, although some of the same miscreants got out there to say stupid things.

The Pacifica National Board (PNB) met in Manhattan the weekend of October 1-3, 2010. I guess those of us who didn't attend will hear about what happened at it some day.

The Executive Director of Pacifica, Arlene Engleheart, appointed another new interim General Manager of WBAI on June 24. So far there's been a Staff meeting to introduce Berthold Reimers as the new iGM, but Pacifica Management has not issued anything in writing yet. When they do I'll post a link to it.

The 2010 Local Station Board Elections Are Over!

And the results are in!

Here is the list of those elected in order of their finish:



Here's the full list of who finished in what place in the listener election.

Here's the full list of who finished in what place in the Staff election.

Thanks to all who voted for independent candidates. The Sixth WBAI LSB is almost evenly split the independents and the former Program Director's faction operatives.

UPDATE: Voting in the WBAI listener election is officially over. The WBAI Staff election failed to meet quorum. It turns out that this was not true. The WBAI Staff election met quorum on September 30th. Why, then did the Election Supervisors extend the WBAI Staff election by two weeks? This is an unanswered question. Also, the National Election Supervisor, Renee Asteria,, wrote to me that “Approximately 200 staff ballots have been cast.” by September 30th. But the voting tally shows a total of only 89 ballots counted. We still don't know if the screwup of sending many of the ballots to the wrong ZIP code has resulted in a lot of those ballots not getting to the proper P.O. Box.

The official Web site of this election was here.

There are a lot of questions about this election. Some of those questions are: who didn't bother to proof read the ZIP codes on the return envelopes? What was the real reason why the Staff election was extended? Why were the so-called Justice and Unity Campaign listener candidates given such preferential treatment, especially when it came to on-air campaign time? There also may have been people who weren't eligible to vote as Staff who were allowed to vote in this election.

Here is a reproduction of the official E-mail from the Election Supervisors as issued on October 4, 2010.

Here is a reproduction of the official E-mail from the Election Supervisors as issued on October 13, 2010.

The 2010, election campaign has officially ended. Pickles of the North only got her ballot as of the middle of September. The ballot arrived with no booklet about the elections. And the return envelope had no stamp on it. The lack of a stamp on the envelope will affect both the Staff and listener elections, but it will potentially really affect the listener election. This, I think, favors the former Program Director's faction on the listener side a lot.

Many listeners may not even realize that they've gotten a ballot! And then they will not know who the candidates are at all, but there will be at least two names that they'd have heard on the air. And those are faction candidates.

The lack of a stamp on the envelope probably got a lot of people to NOT bother voting at all.

Okay, this election is now thoroughly screwed up like the others were.

We've Sort of Moved

Back of the Book has been moved to this time slot. We'll see how this move works.

The interim Program Director has issued notice of program changes. The evolving, relevant documents are below. We are hearing from other producers who have been told they are being moved to other time slots and having their time cut in half. One producer has been told he's off the air entirely and another producer has decided that he would rather resign than be treated in a way that he can't abide.

Some producers are lobbying heavily to retain their current time slots, and some have lobbied to get better time slots amid the chaos of this sudden program shakeup. One producer got moved, accepted it, and then got pushed out of the new time slot by another producer who had publicly quit and then successfully lobbied the interim Program Director, with the aid of four supporters, for a better time slot. The producer who got pushed out has quit WBAI.

We got a call on our answering machine from WBAI interim Program Director Tony Bates at 5:17 in the afternoon on November 1st. He said that the grid was changing and that Back of the Book would be affected. When I called back at 7:15 that evening I got his voice mail and the voice mail was full so I couldn't leave a message.

I called the interim Program Director about this again the next day. He told me that he was moving Back of the Book to 5:00 AM on Saturdays! And in this new time slot the program is only one hour long. Let's just say that we are not jumping for joy about this change in the program. It's quite a change for us, and for our listeners. And, yes, Uncle Sidney has moved his program Carrier Wave, or whatever he's calling it lately, to this same time slot and will continue alternating with us.

Here are the latest documents from Management about the programming shakeup:

Management's Original FormatsWeb Friendly Formats
First letter from WBAI ManagementFirst letter from WBAI Management
Second letter from WBAI ManagementSecond letter from WBAI Management
The new WBAI program gridThe new WBAI program grid
 The new WBAI program grid in HTML format
 Updated schedule as of 11/15/10

In the grid I do not know whose picture that is to the right of the data. Even now I don't know that these program changes are fully settled.

Of course I've had something to say about all of this. I sent this out as an E-mail on November 11th. If we don't get more listeners soon WBAI will cease to exist.

The last time Back of the Book aired on Isaac Newton's Birthday was on December 25, 2000. Oh, that was one odd radio program. It happened mere days after the Midnight Coup of December 22, 2000, when corrupt, incompetent and malfeasant WBAI Management was given notice by an incompetent, corrupt and malfeasant Pacifica Management and PNB. What replaced them wasn't exactly an improvement. I've gone over the details of the Pacifica civil war of that time where Pacifica Management switched allegiance and by doing so actually saved the jobs of that corrupt, incompetent and malfeasant WBAI Management, albeit after they'd been ousted for 13 months. Well, these days we have some people, including some of those same corrupt, incompetent and malfeasant Management personnel, fantasizing that they'll be coming back again. Not this time.

Saddle Pal R. Paul
R. Paul

We had all three of the Saddle Pals on this program, along, of course, with Pickles of the North, who took these photographs.

In this photograph I'm wearing a paper crown that came with the Xmas cracker that Pickles gave to each of us. The cracker is a traditional party favor that consists of three cardboard cylinders with paper wrapped around the middle cylinder. That middle cylinder contains the prizes that are half of what make crackers famous. The other part is the way you open the crackers. You pull on the two outer cylinders and they pop, as a very small firework goes off inside the middle cylinder. We all opened our crackers on the air simultaneously.

There were also some little toys, probably whatever was left over on the floor of a Chinese schlock factory, in the middle cylinder, along with some printed games, riddles or jokes on some very thin paper.

Saddle pals Max and Sidney
Max and Sidney

Maxwell J, Schmid and Uncle Sidney Smith joined us on the air for this program. They were also at the above mentioned Isaac Newton's Birthday program in 2000. Max brought his own Santa claus hat.

Someone had sent Sidney a gift, a bunch of toy soldiers. He really lked that. We looked at his gifts and he described them in some detail.

So we all reminisced and regaled the listeners with tales of the holiday and the station.

The motion to repeal the anti-gay law called “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” actually passed, by a vote of 65 to 31! It had failed just before our last program, and it looked like it was going to take years of grinding the issue through the courts to knock it down. But the Obama Administration and the Democrats, along with an independent or two, were able to get eight Republicans on board and the whole thing got passed.

Typically the resentful Republicans then threatened to keep the arms limitation treaty from coming to a vote as revenge. Jeez, and they like to call themselves patriots.

lunar eclipse 20101221 gray
Lunar eclipse looking gray

As Pickles of the North mentioned on the last program, there was a lunar eclipse on the same say as the Winter Solstice this past fortnight.

The lunar eclipse occurred in the wee hours of the morning and the Solstice occurred at 6:38 PM (ET).

Well, we just had to get out in those wee hours and watch some of the eclipse. The last time a total lunar eclipse occurred on the same day as the Winter solstice was 1638! Isaac Newton hadn't been born yet, and Galileo Galilei was still under house arrest by order of the Pope when that one happened.

So we bundled up and got out there right as the lunar eclipse entered totality. Oh, it was cold. And it was windy.

We were both very bundled up, I had at least six layers on, and of course Pickles being from the North Pole really knows how to dress for cold weather, she's done it for weather a hell of a lot colder than what we had in Brooklyn on December 21st.

lunar eclipse 20101221 red
Lunar eclipse looking red

So were weren't in too bad a shape. But we were indeed viewing the lunar eclipse from the streets of Brooklyn. And we had to walk a little ways to an area where the street lamps don't quite light up one spot on the sidewalk as much as they do everywhere else.

And there we stood. Pickles was really impressed with this lunar eclipse. It was a classic.

I had to take photographs. I'd brought my new, cut rate monopod along, but that was just too short to get a comfortable viewing angle on the Moon. So I took some free handed shots of the Moon. Well, in the first place I'm no photographer. In the second place it was windy, I couldn't work the camera with my gloves on and I had to hold my hands up above my head to get the shots and the third factor was that it was bloody cold, with a wind chill that was truly painful!

All of this combined to make most of the shots I took of the lunar eclipse shaky. My little camera does not have any image stabilization capabilities. But after a bit I went over to a traffic light and put the camera on the box that controls it. The box is made of steel and I had to have my hands in contact with it in order to position the camera. So while these are not exactly photographs that will ever grace the covers of any of the astronomy magazines at least I got something. I tried various settings on the camera and then I increased the brightness and contrast on the computer. I think the big difference was that the gray looking photograph had an exposure of 1/30 of a second while the red looking one had the shutter open for a full second.

We didn't stay out there looking at the eclipse for more than half an hour, although Pickles could have stayed there for much longer. I was getting cold despite the layers and my hands were painful from the wind chill and they were getting so stiff that they couldn't work the camera anymore. But we had the experience. Maybe the next lunar eclipse we'll see will happen on the day of the Summer Solstice!

Pickles' Nativity scene Pickles of the North's Nativity Scene

I say Bah! Humbug! to these holidays, and I'm really into things being plain. Pickles of the North likes to decorate things, and she likes the holidays. So she has her tree, whether it's an Xmas tree or an Isaac Newton's Birthday tree we just don't get into.

Pickles' tree
Pickles' tree in the dark

Above you can see the Nativity Scene that she put together at the base of her tree this year. The center of it is a little Nativity Scene that I got as a gift one year in grammar school. It was a Catholic school and they gave out some gifts sometimes, in the days before they had to watch their money more. This little thing was my gift one year.

So Pickles of the North has clustered some really famous other supernatural or fictitious entities around Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Rolling up on the scene in their 1949 Buick Roadmaster are two instances of Polly Pocket and something called Beadboy. In back of their car is a Lunar Lander, in back of that is a snow globe containing the Emerald City, which has a lot of New York City landmarks in it. Assaulting the manger on the left is Wonder Woman. Behind her you can just see Robby the Robot. Assailing the manger on the right is Superman, although he's somewhat weakened by the big chunk of glowing green Kryptonite nearby. In back of Superman is Godzilla (aka Gojira) holding a mermaid in his paws. Behind him is a large Dalek. We're not sure whose side the Dalek is on.

Yes, in the Martin household we have all sorts of things going on that you don't see elsewhere, at least not in an apartment occupied exclusively by adults.

On the left is a photograph of Pickles of the North tree, in the dark. You can see the Emerald City getting lit up by some of the white LEDs. There are a couple of presents underneath it from a little party we had to celebrate the solstice.

The Wikileaks Files

Wikileaks logo

On this program we got into a discussion of the Wikileaks controversy. They have released some of the formerly secret U.S. diplomatic cables to certain select media.

One thing that I've found interesting is that they have also posted links to a large file in which some claim they have stored all of the diplomatic cables that they've obtained.

This file, named insurance.aes256, is publicly accessible and it is said to be encrypted with a 256 bit AES key.

What's interesting to me about this encrypted file is that it could just possibly be a sort of sub rosa communication with the United States Government.

AES stands for the Advanced Encryption Standard, a file encryption standard adopted by the United States government, but used all over the world. AES is approved by the National Security Agency (NSA) for top secret information, which means that it's used by governmental agencies and lots of companies in order to keep their files secret. It's the first encryption standard that the NSA has ever endorsed.

The thing is, some have been speculating for years that the U.S. Government has a back door into the AES encryption. A back door would mean that no matter how strong your encryption key is the NSA could open the encrypted file. Most think this speculation is nonsense, but there is controversy about it.

If, and that's a big, speculative if, AES is really compromised by a back door that the NSA has then the Wikileaks group may, by putting the encrypted insurance.aes256 file out there where anyone can download it, be telling the U.S. government to back off because look what they could release if they wanted to. This would assume that the NSA would have downloaded the file, as so many of us have, and has used its back door to open it. Would the government be adequately horrified by seeing what's in the file that they'd really back off?

And now that the encrypted file has been released there are newbies on USENET and the Web showing up asking about the key. As if it's just floating out there. I speculated on the air that Wikileaks' insurance.aes256 file might have a key that's hidden in plain sight. This would allow the Wikileaks folks to just announce the source of the key and everyone in the world could go get it and decrypt the insurance.aes256 file.

What the hell is a 256 bit key and how would one get such a thing?

Okay this will get just a little bit technical. It is said that Julian Assange has used a 256 bit key to encrypt the insurance.aes256 file. The strength of a key is measured by how much randomness it can represent, which is also referred to as entropy. The more the better for an encryption key.

PC Magazine's 10
most common passwords

(your first name)

The choice of an encryption key is a lot like the choice of a password. The easier it is to guess the less useful it is. So you want an encryption key that is hard to guess. The hardest keys to guess are ones that are totally random. But those are also very difficult for most people to remember. And if you've encrypted a file with a key using AES and then you forget the key you can no longer access your data. (I suppose that you could ask the NSA to help you out with their back door on that, but they're unlikely to do much for you.)

The passwords listed to the left would be very weak passwords, since they are so common that an attacker would try those first. The same is true of encryption keys. People use the same weak keys over and over again.

The randomness or entropy of an encryption key, or password, is measured by a formula that takes into account the number of characters that are possible to be used and how many of them there are. The formula is randomness = L x (log a/log 2) where L is the number of characters and a is how many characters can be used. The randomness, also called entropy, is measured in bits.

For example, hexadecimal numbers are frequently used for encryption keys. There are 16 possible numbers per hexadecimal digit. So if you have a hexadecimal password that's eight digits long, such as 167acc89, you would have 8 x (log 16/log 2) = 32. So 167acc89 would be a 32 bit encryption key or password. That is a very weak password, so it's not so useful as an encryption key, either. If you just used the lower case alphabet for your encryption key, e.g. bujykune, you'd get 8 x (log 26/log 2) ≈ 38 bits, again not so good. There are all sorts of different combinations of numbers, upper and lower case letters and computer symbols that can be used for encryption keys. If you're using hexadecimal hashes you can get a 256 bit encryption key by using 64 digits.

A way around the problem of remembering huge encryption keys for the Wikileaks people would be to use a program that uses a “secure hash algorithm” to generate a robust encryption key.

You can get freeware secure hash algorithm generators all over the place. Here's a typical Google search result for them. All you need to do is to variously enter a phrase or the name and location of a file and these applications will generate a hexadecimal hash for you.

Now using a phrase can be all right, but you have to be careful. For example, if you were to be lazy and enter “password” as the phrase to be hashed you'd end up with e3b0c44298fc1c149afbf4c8996fb92427ae41e4649b934ca495991b7852b855 as the 256 bit hexadecimal result. That looks nice and secure, but it's not. The reason is that the word “password” is too well known as a lazy encryption key or password. There are things called “rainbow tables” that contain enormous lists of passwords or encryption keys and their hashes. Here's a site about using rainbow tables.

Luckily, you are not restricted to just using words or phrases for generating your cryptographic hashes. You can also use the various utilities to work over a file on your computer and generate a hash from that. If you have a decent size file that isn't commonly available around the Internet (like the Vogon poetry you've written) you can get a hash from that and it'll probably be pretty good.

So Wikileaks could just at any time tell the world that the encryption key is a SHA-256 hash of some well known thing on the Web, like the graphic for the White House, or the graphic for Wikileaks, which would probably not be too good an idea, and people could hash that and have the password.

Here's an example. They could say that the encryption key is the SHA-256 hash of the New York Times logo on their home page. That file is named nytlogo379x64.gif and its SHA-256 hash is ccef60ab86df2ceeebc5460d763894ba8a4a24a31c380026fa0fb342e2434a7c. No, that's not the real key, I've tried it.

So we'll wait around and see what happens with this entire Wikileaks thing and their files.

There are a lot of issues that are considered hazardous to talk about on the air at WBAI, even now that the gag rule has been lifted. However, there is the Internet! There are mailing lists which you can subscribe to and Web based message boards devoted to WBAI and Pacifica issues. Many controversial WBAI/Pacifica issues are discussed on these lists.

Probably the most popular list that's sprung up is the “NewPacifica” mailing list. This one is very lively and currently includes over 400 subscribers coast to coast.

Being lively, of course, it sometimes also gets a bit nasty. All sorts of things are happening on this list and official announcements are frequently posted there.

You can look at the NewPacifica list here, and you can join the list from that Web page too. If you subscribe to the “NewPacifica” mailing list you will receive, via E-mail, all of the messages which are sent to that list.

There is the option to receive a “digest” version of the list, which means that a bunch of messages are bundled into one E-mail and sent to you at regular intervals, this cuts down on the number of E-mails you get from the list. You will also be able to send messages to the list.

This list also has a Web based interface where you can read messages and from which you can post your own messages.

There is also the more WBAI specific “Goodlight” Web based message board. It is sometimes referred to on Back of the Book as “the bleepin' blue board,” owing to the blue background used on its Web pages. This one has many people posting anonymously and there's also an ancillary “WBAI people” board that's just totally out of hand. UPDATE: The bleepin' blue board has had to add a step for folks to get onto it because it's under attack by spambots. When you click on the above link you may be asked for a username and password. Type in Username: poster Password: enternow

When the computer in Master Control is working we sometimes have live interaction with people posting on the “Goodlight Board” during the program.

Our very own Uncle Sidney Smith, whose program Carrier Wave alternates with us, has a blog these days. You can reach his blog here.

My voice mail number at WBAI is 212-209-2996. Leave a message.

You can also send me E-mail.

WBAI related links

WBAI Listeners' Web page

WBAI Management's official Web site

Back to the Back of the Book page

Back to my home page.

The contents of this Web page are copyright © 2011, R. Paul Martin.