Back of the Book — November 8, 2014

It's Friday night, November 21, 2014, 23:58, and I've updated this Web page with some stuff about my new GPG key and a link to that public key on this Web site. Yeah, it's just something I've hardly ever used, but if I ever need it, or if you do, it's there. If it's not interesting you can just skip it. Previously I'd updated this page with a link to the archive of this program, and with full segments about the malware that's being used to spy on people by law enforcement, among others; I've also posted something about the huge sunspot that's visible on the Sun right now. There should be more updates here at some point. The original top of this page follows the arrow. ⇒ We're pitching again, but this should be the last pitching session till next year. We hope we're around after this 'thon to bother pitching next year. We plan to cover the below and more on this program. We hope folks will call pledges in, and we hope that we can get to the shuttle bus we'll have to take on time. yeah, more MTA monkey wrenches are being thrown into our commute during the wee hours. Check back for updates.

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

I have also posted a whole lot of the minutes of the Pacifica National Finance Committee. I'm a member of that committee because I'm the WBAI LSB Treasurer.

The next WBAI LSB meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 12, 2014, at 7:00 PM at The Theater for the New City, in the “Johnson theater,” at 155 1st Ave. between East 9th and East 10th Sts. in Manhattan.

The WBAI LSB met on Wednesday, October 8, 2014, at 7:00 PM at The Theater for the New City, at 155 1st Ave. between East 9th and East 10th Sts. on the lower east side of Manhattan. Yes, we met in “the Cino room.”

We had an LSB meeting this past Wednesday night. We got to the budget and actually passed it! We had some pretty poor rulings from the Chair. And then we had an executive session where the LSB, “... discussed a confidential personnel matter.”

I actually got to give a Treasurer's Report at this meeting! The Chair had mixed it up with the General Manager's Report, and I did an eight minute version of a report. Better than nothing, I suppose. As usual I put out a written Treasurer's Report for all to read.

At a previous meeting the WBAI LSB voted to hold its regular 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.

Here is WBAI's current Internet stream. The stream does appear to be working at this time.

WBAI is archiving the programs! Unfortunately, WBAI appears to have permanently switched to a new archive Web page. I don't know if it's possible to get an archive blurb up there, so far I haven't been able to. Try this page and see if you can find the archive of this radio program. Or, if you don't want to root about through a great many listings on a rather unorganized Web page, try clicking on this link to get to a page of links to the audio of whatever has been airing in this time slot for the past couple of months. There's no program description, but at least you can hear the program this way.

The Pacifica National Board (PNB) met in Manhattan the weekend of October 1-3, 2010. The audio has been posted for the first day of the meeting, the second day of the meeting and the third day of the meeting.

The Pacifica National Board (PNB) met in Washington, D.C. February 7-10, 2014. The big news is that they have mandated that there be no negotiations with the four candidates for the PSOA for 60 days.

Given that the PNB has had a change in its membership that has affected the balance of power, this postponement of any negotiations may actually be a ploy by the people who want to sell WBAI to make that sale more likely. It is possible that a PSOA would allow WBAI to come back after a few years, but it would also not result in a big cash influx to the rest of Pacifica, and that is what some people at other Pacifica stations want. Well, things are pretty much up in the air with WBAI right now.

You can listen to the public parts of the quarterly PNB meeting by clicking on the below links:

The Friday session
The Saturday session
The Sunday session
The Monday session

Chaos and fighting continues on the PNB and at the Pacifica National Office a number of workers have quit their jobs in disgust. The people who want to sell off WBAI started on their destructive path with the firing of the Executive Director at a critical time. The Executive Director, Summer Reese, said she had a contract with Pacifica and that the PNB can't just violate that and fire her the way that they did. So the Executive Director barricaded herself and the National Office workers in the National Office along with some supporters. Yeah, Pacifica got some great publicity from all of this.

The disputed Executive Director issued a press release giving her side of this episode. Here is her press release. Luckily for the Pacifica stations Ms. Reese worked to get the CPB filings done by the March 14, deadline despite having been fired the day before. Had she not done this work Pacifica, and all of its radio stations, would have been ineligible for CPB funds, which have been a significant part of every station's budget.

UPDATE: There have been lawsuits filed, and judgments rendered in the cases brought by the minority PNB members against the actions of the majority PNB Directors. I'll keep this running battle updated on the appropriate Web page.

Bring Back Uncle Sidney!

Our friend, fellow WBAI producer and Saddle Pal Uncle Sidney Smith has been banned from WBAI by General Manager Berthold Reimers. The General Manager will not say why. He won't even tell Sidney why he's banned! This is grossly unfair to Sidney. Why did Berthold ban Sidney?

There's a posting here about it. More to come.


This is another pitching program. We raised $125 the last time we pitched. The interim Program Director will be looking to see what programs give evidence of having listeners. I hope we raise some money for the station this time.

So for this WBAI Fall 'thon, if you can, please call 1-212-209-2950 during the radio program and pledge some amount of money to help keep Back of the Book on WBAI and help keep WBAI on the air.

If you want to pledge to the program via the Web it's best to do so while we're on the air, you need to go here and pick the amount you want to donate, then click on “Add to cart,” and then be sure to pick Back of the Book as the favorite show from the drop down menu. Otherwise your pledge won't be counted towards the program.

WBAI is fighting for its life right now, and the amount of money raised in this 'thon will be crucial for the station's survival.

The Web site The Intercept has published what they say are the secret operation manuals for the malicious software that law enforcement and dictators worldwide use to violate people's privacy rights.

Front cover of malware administrator's guide.
Malware Used by Law Enforcement and Others

The malware package is produced by an Italian company calling itself “The Hacking Team” which sells the intrusive software to the American and foreign law enforcement entities, dictators around the world and anybody else who'll pay them.

A couple of months ago Apple and Google announced that their next mobile operating systems would encrypt users' data by default, as opposed to people trusting Apple and Google to be the exclusive gate keepers of their privacy.

While encryption had been available to users of Google's Android and Apple's iOS mobile operating systems in the past most users didn't know about it and didn't enable encryption of their data. By making the encryption something that's automatic and based on pass phrases that the user knows but doesn't share with Apple or Google the big companies have essentially removed the possibility that law enforcement could issue secret subpoenas requiring that Apple or Google hand over the data, which is what's been done a lot in the past.

FBI Director James Comey attacked Apple and Google for thus enabling their users saying, “But it [default encryption] will have very serious consequences for law enforcement and national security agencies at all levels.” He is even reportedly lobbying Congress to pass laws which would outlaw encryption protection for mobile users' private data.

Yeah, the surveillance society is really with us here. Hacking Team explicitly promises on its Web site that its software can “defeat encryption.”

The Intercept said, “Publishing the manuals in their entirety here will give the public a better understanding of the sophistication of these relatively low-cost and increasingly prevalent surveillance tools. That sort of understanding is particularly important at a time when digital monitoring has spread from large federal agencies to local police departments and as more national governments gain the once-rarified ability to deploy digital implants across borders. Turnkey solutions like [the hacking software] effectively multiply the online threats faced by activists, dissidents, lawyers, businessmen, journalists, and any number of other computer users.”

The article about the malware manuals, and links to the manuals themselves, is here.

The basic idea behind the Hacking Team company's software is that the person using that software can install malware on the target device which, among other activities, records keystrokes and essentially steals the pass phrase and anything else that's typed on the device, thus allowing whoever is using the malware to decrypt data after the malware downloads it to the customer, whether that customer is law enforcement, dictators looking to crack down on dissent, large companies looking to spy on others, or people looking to grab others' private data for personal gain.

Another thing to keep in mind is that law enforcement doesn't always play by the rule of law. How tempting is it for a prosecutor to use such malware to glean information from the mobile device or computer of the lawyer of someone the prosecutor can't get enough evidence on to prosecute? And what about revenge on others by those connected to law enforcement, or attempts to stanch criticism? I'm thinking of the Nixon administration and Daniel Ellsberg here. Lawyers and psychiatrists associated with dissidents can get victimized by people misusing government power too.

It needs to be pointed out that this malware from The Hacking Team doesn't have geographical or political boundaries. If some foreign law enforcement agency wants to use it against an American, they can do so. This could have quite a chilling effect, or worse, on people who are critical of foreign governments. It is known that The Hacking Team sells their malware to the governments of Azerbaijan, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Panama, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, and Uzbekistan, and that's only a list of the known clients.

So the FBI Director is making claims that might seem odd. On the one hand he wants the Apple and Google mobile operating system users to remain vulnerable to attacks, and yet law enforcement already has tools that can get around encryption. I have to wonder if the FBI needs to meet higher criteria for unleashing the malware on individuals than they have to meet in order to get a secret court order to just snoop on the unencrypted data contained on targeted devices? Yeah, the real reason behind FBI Director Comey's consternation is that his agency, and others, may not be able to so easily pluck the low hanging fruit that most people make of their private data.

I'm sure there will be more on this in the future.

closed envelope
Privacy is Good

On the program I talked about having let my GNU Privacy Guard (GPG) public key expire. I was able to extend its expiration date and then sign it with my newest public keys, and sign my newest public keys with it. Yeah, esoteric stuff.

I've posted my new GPG public key here.

Don't know about GPG? Go here and find out about it. If you want to use GPG for encryption you'll need to look around for a version that works on your operating system. GPG for Windows is here.

Sunspot AR 12192.
Huge Sunspot AR 12192
Image Credit: NASA/SDO

On a previous program Pickles of the North told all about two eclipses that were happening in October. One was a lunar eclipse and the other was a partial solar eclipse. As it turned out the weather was uncooperative and neither celestial event was visible from Brooklyn, and probably not from anywhere in Greater New York. Well, that's just life.

We looked at some photographs of both eclipses on-line and what struck me the most was that the photographs of the partial solar eclipse also showed a large sunspot.

Well, this turns out to be one remarkably huge sunspot. It's named AR 12192, and it's almost 80,000 miles across! The Earth, by contrast, is a mere 7,926 miles in diameter at the Equator. Our home planet would very easily fit into this sunspot, about ten times.

The image of AR 12192 that we have on this page is from NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory.

Sunspots are usually quite active areas on the Sun's surface, and AR 12192 is no exception. It has produced a number of solar flares, including some X-class flares, the ones with the highest intensity.

Solar flares can give rise to coronal mass ejections (CMEs) which can cause a lot of problems for technology on Earth, and in the vicinity.

AR 12192 is the largest sunspot region seen in 24 years. On a previous program we talked about a CME that occurred in 2012, but which was only analyzed recently. That CME did not hit the Earth, it went off in another direction. However, the analysis indicates that had that CME hit the Earth squarely it had the potential to have destroyed a lot of the electronics currently in use, along with the electrical power grid due to the electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) that would have swept across the globe, frying computers, cell phones, radios, satellites, and even modern motor vehicles. Had that thing hit, the EMP from it could easily have caused the end of civilization as we know it, and a lot of us would be dead by now.

So we have to hope that AR 12192 doesn't cause a CME of the magnitude of the one in 2012, which I think it could do, at any time when it's aimed directly at us. Fierce universe we live in.

Filthy table at Nathan's
One of Many Filthy Tables at Nathan's

So when we go to Coney Island we usually eat at Nathan's. Sometimes it's a bit brisk to sit outside, and for the past two years they have not set up the tables and chairs inside during October, which used to be when they did that.

We were not pleased to find on our recent outing to Nathan's that they had not bothered to clean off the tables and seats of the prodigious amount of gull poop that had accumulated on them. It really looks like they had not cleaned the area in days. When the season is over they take in the large, plastic umbrellas that tend to keep the gulls from colonizing the tables. But they usually clean the tables then.

Well, the bird poop was deep and ubiquitous all over the Nathan's outdoor patio area when we went down there at the end of October. They eventually sent a guy out to “clean” the tables. But all he had was a rag and a bucket. The cleaning solution he was using was very weak, and he didn't rub very hard. They should be blasting the bird dung off the tables with high pressure hoses when they can, and not just sending some guy out to slowly rub a wet rag over the poop, which doesn't actually clean it off.

This is pretty disgusting, and we hope that this doesn't signal a new era of not caring by the Management of Nathan's.

St. Nicholas Park in mid-Autumn
St. Nicholas Park After the Last Program

Yeah, here's a shot I took after the last program when we got to St. Nicholas Park. Nice lighting in mid-Autumn.

There are a lot of issues that are considered hazardous to talk about on the air at WBAI, even though the gag rule was lifted in 2002. 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.

One popular list the “NewPacifica” mailing list. Founded October 31, 2000, this list is sometimes lively and as of November 2014, has 694 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 Saturday Morning With the Radio On alternates with us, has a blog these days. You can reach his blog here.

We like to stay interactive with our listeners. Here are the various options for you to get in touch with us.

You can also send me E-mail.

And now you can even reach me on Twitter Twitter logo

WBAI related links

WBAI Listeners' Web page

WBAI Management's official Web site

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The contents of this Web page are copyright © 2014, R. Paul Martin.