Shared posts

23 Sep 18:51

The White House's Solution To Deranged Assailants

by Tyler Durden

I guess they figure since this system worked so well keeping veterans out of the world war II monument during the government shut down, so it will do a bang up job of keeping people off of the white house lawn...

That a "knife-wielding veteran sniper rushes White House to warn Obama 'atmosphere is collapsing'" should surprise most Americans, but, as The Washington Post reports, that he tried, and where he tried from, should surprise absolutely no one.


Via The Washington Post...

There are at least 32 similar incidents that have been reported since the mid-1970s, according to an assessment conducted by the Post. We included a few other interesting incidents in our total tally, but, regardless, that number is almost certainly too low. A report in 1994 indicated that the Secret Service had cataloged 23 people climbing the fence between 1989 and that year; news reports only covered a handful.


We took the incidents that were covered by the media and mapped them according to the point of entry -- and, in some cases, point of capture -- of the perpetrators.



The incidents cover a wide range of culprits and motivations, from homeless people to anti-war protestors to one remarkably drunk guy.


So - in response to all that...

35 breaches of The White House perimeter... "don't worry, we got this!"

Additional security fence now in place at the WH to prevent any further fence jumping incidents.

— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) September 23, 2014

So, as long as the next 'deranged assailant' is shorter than 3 feet tall and unable to climb, the President appears safe (especially if he 'resorts' to further vacations away from The 'endangered' White House.)

23 Sep 18:03

America's Politicians Earn $608 Per Hour

by Tyler Durden

On the surface, earning $174,000 per year, while putting one solidly in the top 10% of all US earners, does not sound like much. This happens to be the 2014 allocated wage of America's elected political representatives, the members of the House of Representatives. And indeed, in the grand scheme of things it isn't much... until one considers that in the 102-day period between August 1 and November 12, this wage will be "earned" for just working a paltry 8 days, which, presuming 10 hour workdays, amounts to a whopping $608 per hour, on par with what some of America's most prominent lawyers earn. It is also several times the hourly compensation of anesthesiologists, one of the highest-earning professions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at $113 an hour on average.

According to The Hill, liberal activist Ralph Nader worked out the eye-popping calculation in an angry letter he sent to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday. From The Hill:

“While millions of Americans are working more and more for less and less, you and your House of Representatives seem to have no problem working less and less for more and more,” he wrote.


Nader calculated that Boehner, who earns $223,500 a year as Speaker, will earn roughly $781 per hour over a three-and-half month span, given Congress worked only eight days. Boehner has a higher salary than rank-and-file members.


Lawmakers and their aides rebut Nader’s claim by arguing that time spent in Washington is only part of their job. The other part is meeting with and serving constituents back in their home districts and states. That’s why they call the time away state and district “work periods.”


But critics, including President Obama, aren’t buying it. Obama scolded lawmakers on Aug. 2 for going “on vacation” without passing legislation to raise the minimum wage or reduce interest on student loans. 

Yes, we too find it ironic for Obama to be bashing others' vacation practices, but in this case he happens to be right: because if there is one job that is more useless than that of the US GOTUS, it is that of a US politican, whose "work" is laid out as follows:

The House left for a five-week vacation from Washington on Aug. 1 and didn’t return until Sept. 8. After two four-day workweeks, it left again Thursday and is not due to return until Nov. 12.


The Senate worked a similar schedule. It took the same break as the House in August and also worked only two weeks in September before leaving Washington to campaign for the midterm elections.


Some lawmakers admit they should probably be working harder.


Rep. David Jolly, a Republican from Florida, sent a letter to the House Rules Committee asking for the House to adopt a rule that would require it to stay in session longer.


“I write to strongly advocate for a permanent rule change that would formally require the House to be in session significantly more days during the 114th Congress, which will convene in January 2015,” he wrote. “The House of Representatives, the ‘People’s House,’ simply cannot address the many priorities of the nation if we are not in session more days,” he added.

And while it is easy to be furious with America's worthless landed political class - whose only contribution to society is being voted out or resigning - a logical question arises - why should the House, or the Senate, or even the President for that matter, work any hours in a world in which all the heavy lifting, or any lifting, is borne by the monetary authority, i.e., the Fed, which makes sure nobody in power has to make any decisions ever again just by pressing CTRL-P a few billion times every day.

Finally, while we are amused by the naive thinking that members of the House earn "only" $174,000 per year or however much per hour, it is not their wages that make most members of Congress millionaires. In fact, as the following chart shows, the 50 richest members of Congress all have a net worth of $7.5 million or higher!

They did not earn this money by collecting a paltry salary. Instead, they made it through kickbacks, bribes, and other "lobbying" funds. All of which, of course, are perfectly legal in the circus that passes for US government.

It is that which should be the target of public ire, not how much Congressmen make on an hourly basis. Because when one factors in all the undisclosed sources of funds, it is then that one would get a per hour number that would rival some of the best paid hedge fund managers in the US.

23 Sep 17:27

University Orders Fraternities To Begin Accepting Women...


I wonder if their sororities will begin accepting men...?

University Orders Fraternities To Begin Accepting Women...

(Second column, 15th story, link)

23 Sep 15:57

Targeting the Constitution

by Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz

Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz

[Cross-posted from The Volokh Conspiracy]

It is now well known that the IRS targeted tea party organizations. What is less well known, but perhaps even more scandalous, is that the IRS also targeted those who would educate their fellow citizens about the United States Constitution.

According to the inspector general’s report (pp. 30 & 38), this particular IRS targeting commenced on Jan. 25, 2012 — the beginning of the election year for President Obama’s second campaign. On that date: “the BOLO [‘be on the lookout’] criteria were again updated.” The revised criteria included “political action type organizations involved in … educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

Grass-roots organizations around the country, such as the Linchpins of Liberty (Tennessee), the Spirit of Freedom Institute (Wyoming), and the Constitutional Organization of Liberty (Pennsylvania), allege that they were singled out for special scrutiny at least in part for their work in constitutional education. There may have been many more.

The tea party is viewed with general suspicion in some quarters, and it is not difficult, alas, to imagine the mindset of the officials who decided to target tea party organizations for special scrutiny. But federal officers swear an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” It is chilling to think that these same officials who are suspicious of the tea party are equally suspicious of the Constitution itself.

What is most corrosive about this IRS tripwire is that it is triggered by a particular point of view; it is not, as First Amendment scholars say, viewpoint-neutral. It does not include obfuscating or denigrating the Constitution; only those “involved in … educating on the Constitution” are captured by this criterion. This viewpoint targeting potentially skews every national debate about politics or government. And the skew in not strictly liberal; indeed, it should trouble liberals as much as conservatives. The ultimate checks on executive power are to be found in the United States Constitution. Insidiously, then, suppressing those “involved in … educating on the Constitution” actually skews national debate in favor of unchecked executive power.

For example, this IRS tripwire would not be triggered by arguing that the NSA should collect the phone records of every American citizen. But it would be triggered by teaching that the Fourth Amendment forbids “unreasonable searches and seizures.” This tripwire would not be triggered by arguing that the president should unilaterally suspend politically inconvenient provisions of federal law, like ObamaCare. But it would be triggered by teaching that, under Article II, section 3, the president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” This tripwire would not be triggered by arguing that the president should appoint NLRB members unilaterally. But it would be triggered by teaching that, under Article II, section 2, such appointments require “the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” This tripwire would not be triggered by arguing that the president should target and kill U.S. citizens abroad. But it would be triggered by teaching that, per the Fifth Amendment, no person shall “be deprived of life … without due process of law.” This tripwire would not be triggered by arguing that the president should declare war unilaterally. But it would be triggered by teaching that, under Article I, section 8, “Congress shall have Power … To declare War.” In short, the IRS was “on the lookout,” not for those who preach unlimited executive power, but for those who would teach about constitutional constraints.

Even more to the point, perhaps, this IRS tripwire would not be triggered by arguing that the IRS should discriminate against the tea party. But it would be triggered by teaching that such discrimination constitutes unfaithful execution of the tax laws. And thus, alas, there is a perverse logic to targeting constitutional educators alongside tea party organizations. Political discrimination in the administration of the tax laws is not merely “outrageous,” as President Obama has said; it is an assault on our constitutional structure itself. For an official who has chosen to go down this road and target the tea party, there is an Orwellian logic to targeting constitutional educators as well. After all, they are the ones who might shed light on this very point.

This is a new low for American government — targeting those who would teach others about its founding document. Forty years ago, President Richard Nixon went to great lengths to try to conceal the facts of his constitutional violations, but it never occurred to him to conceal the meaning of the Constitution itself, by targeting its teachers. Politicians have always been tempted to try to censor their political adversaries; but none has been so bold as to try to suppress constitutional education directly. Presidents have always sought to push against the constitutional limits of their power; but never have they targeted those who merely teach about such limits. In short, never before has the federal government singled out for special scrutiny those who would teach their fellow citizens about our magnificent Constitution. This is the new innovation of Obama’s IRS.

“We the People” do not yet know who first decided to target “political action type organizations involved in … educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.” But there is at least one person who does know. Ironically, though, Lois Lerner, former director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS, is making full use of her own constitutional education: “I have been advised by my counsel to assert my constitutional right not to testify …. One of the basic functions of the Fifth Amendment is to protect innocent individuals, and that is the protection I’m invoking today.”

Five years ago, President Obama, our constitutional law professor-in-chief, presented his first, ringing Constitution Day proclamation: “To succeed, the democracy established in our Constitution requires the active participation of its citizenry. Each of us has a responsibility to learn about our Constitution and teach younger generations about its contents and history.” Quite so. Perhaps this year, Obama could explain why his IRS would target those who answered this call.

23 Sep 14:27

FBI gags state and local police on capabilities of cellphone spy gear...

FBI gags state and local police on capabilities of cellphone spy gear...

(Third column, 10th story, link)

23 Sep 03:41

Selective disenfranchisement: Ferguson residents must present photo ID to get into DOJ town hall

by Doug Powers

**Written by Doug Powers

Photo IDs are being required in order for people to perform a civic function? Paging Eric Holde… wait, never mind:

An obscure arm of the Justice Department known as “America’s peacemaker” banned reporters and non-residents from two town hall meetings Monday in Ferguson, Missouri. The ban was enforced by Ferguson police officers, even though a city spokesman said local officials wouldn’t prevent outsiders from attending.

DOJ’s Community Relations Service, or CRS, a small government agency charged with conflict resolution, is mediating a series of meetings in the St. Louis suburb, which was rocked by protests after a police officer shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown last month.
Photos from one of the events, however, showed Ferguson police checking IDs at the door. Authorities also ejected a Ferguson resident for recording the meeting, but allowed him to return when he promised to stop. A local Democratic committeewoman was temporarily barred.

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

22 Sep 17:24

Book: USA Spending 30 Times More Per Capita than China on Social Programs

Financial expert and author, Joe Hoft, told Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon that America’s exorbitant spending on social programs is a disaster waiting to happen, on par with or greater than the bank meltdown in 2008.

Appearing on Breitbart News Sunday, on Sirius XM Patriot Radio 125 to discuss his book, Falling Eagle Rising Tiger, Hoft explained that when the Great Depression paralyzed America in the 1930’s, President Franklin Roosevelt did not let the crisis go to waste and pushed for social change with his New Deal.

Joe, the identical twin brother of the controversial purveyor of Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoft, contends that over the past century the United States has become increasingly a socialist state. Yet, according to Hoft, social change in America has not gone very well.

The enormous welfare handouts, which Hoft relates are now in excess of $1 trillion annually, are unsustainable. Contrarily, he contends that Asia Pacific, including Australia, Japan, and China, are prospering by increasing their reliance on capitalism, creating smart tax policy, and spending substantially less than the U.S. on social programs.

When you compare China’s population to the U.S., Hoft points out that they have about four times as many people as the U.S. However, the U.S. is spending about “30 times more per capita than China is on social programs, and spending seven times more overall,” he asserts.

Hoft submits that many of the federal social programs, like Fannie Mae and FHA under FDR, and the Community Reinvestment Act under Jimmy Carter, shifted financial risk onto the American taxpayer and contributed greatly to the bank failures in 2008. So, too, social programs from the 1930s, like social security, are ticking time bombs, ready to explode.

According to Hoft, China has changed its policies drastically since the late 1970s, and they are now more capitalistic. “Because of their more capitalistic approaches, they have become the second largest economy in the world. Five hundred million people have been lifted out of poverty.”

22 Sep 14:51 Is A Security Disaster... And Those Working On It Knew It, And Tried To Stop Independent Security Review To Hide It

by Mike Masnick
We've written before about how problematic the technology is behind the federal website, pointing out that the federal government hired political cronies rather than web development experts to build it. There was an effort to open source the code, but after the feds put the code on github, they removed it after people started pointing out just how bad it was. Then, just about a month ago, we noted that the government turned down a FOIA request from the Associated Press concerning the site's security practices, arguing that it might "give hackers enough information to break into the service." As we noted at the time, if revealing the basic security you have in place will give hackers a road map to breaking into the site, the site is not secure at all.

A damning new report from the Goverment Accountability Office (GAO) more or less confirms this is the case. This is further backed up by an even more astounding "Behind the Curtain of the Rollout" released by the House Oversight Committee. To be fair, the GAO is non-partisan and known to be even-handed and fair. That's not always the case with Congressional committee reports. Still, the two are worth reading together. The level of mess behind the project is rather astounding and it appears that the site still is not particularly secure, which obviously explains the refusal to do that FOIA release.

Here's the GAO basic summary of the security situation for the site:
While CMS has taken steps to protect the security and privacy of data processed and maintained by the complex set of systems and interconnections that support, weaknesses remain both in the processes used for managing information security and privacy as well as the technical implementation of IT security controls. CMS took many steps to protect security and privacy, including developing required security program policies and procedures, establishing interconnection security agreements with its federal and commercial partners, and instituting required privacy protections. However, had weaknesses when it was first deployed, including incomplete security plans and privacy documentation, incomplete security tests, and the lack of an alternate processing site to avoid major service disruptions. While CMS has taken steps to address some of these weaknesses, it has not yet fully mitigated all of them. In addition, GAO identified weaknesses in the technical controls protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the FFM. Specifically, CMS had not: always required or enforced strong password controls, adequately restricted access to the Internet, consistently implemented software patches, and properly configured an administrative network. An important reason that all of these weaknesses occurred and some remain is that CMS did not and has not yet ensured a shared understanding of how security was implemented for the FFM among all entities involved in its development. Until these weaknesses are fully addressed, increased and unnecessary risks remain of unauthorized access, disclosure, or modification of the information collected and maintained by and related systems, and the disruption of service provided by the systems.
That failure to restrict access to the internet was for test servers, one of which got infected with malware recently.

But the really damning story is that CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which was in charge of the product, seemed totally incompetent throughout this process -- and directly chose to kill off an independent security review by MITRE, knowing the results would be bad and that they might get out:
Once MITRE completed their September Security Assessment, Mr. Schankweiler’s FFM development team was unhappy with the report and sought to have it changed. On September 26, 2013, Darren Lyles, one of the IT security officials assigned to the FFM development team, wrote Ms. Fryer:
The Draft SCA [security control assessment] Report has been called into question by CGI [primary contractor building the FFM] and CIISG [Consumer Information Insurance Group, the team within CMS that works with contractors to develop the FFM and other components] Stakeholders. There are assertions made in the report that are deemed to be erroneous and misrepresentative of what actually occurred. I have attached the report that has been commented on by CGI and would like to submit this for your review.
Michael Mellor, Ms. Fryer’s deputy, responded to Mr. Lyles: “Keep in mind – that the purpose of the SCA is to provide an independent assessment of the security posture of a system. As part of that independent assessment, the maintainer of the system likely will not agree with all of the findings and the SCA report.”

Mr. Schankweiler, Mr. Lyles’ superior, then responded to Mr. Mellor, insisting that the report should be reviewed by senior CMS officials and worried the report would be seen by others outside CMS: “We need to hit the pause button on this report and have an internal meeting about it later next week. It is important to look at this within the context of the decision memos and ATO memo that is going up for Tony [Trenkle, CMS Chief Information Officer] and Michelle [Snyder, CMS Chief Operating Officer] to sign.” Mr. Schankweiler then wrote the report was “only partially accurate, and extremely opinionated, false, misrepresentative, and inflammatory.” Mr. Schankweiller noted that “It is very possible that this report will be reviewed at some point by OIG, and could see the light of day in other ways.” Mr. Schankweiler offered to “look at the report from the government perspective and provide ... analysis.”

On October 7, 2013, the lead security tester for MITRE, Milton Shomo, wrote Jane Kim, a CMS official on Ms. Fryer’s EISG team, “CCIIO [Centers for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, one of the divisions at CMS responsible for running the exchange] and CGI Federal had some issues with some of the information in our Marketplace … draft SCA report from the assessment we did in August and September. MITRE stands behind everything in our report as an accurate description of the assessment.
There were a number of other similar problems, but it becomes clear that choices were made for political reasons, rather than technological or security reasons.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

22 Sep 09:45

Escalating #GamerGate

by (Vox)
A veteran game developer, Brad Wardell, who unlike Zoe Quinn actually has a fair amount of game development experience, weighs in on #GamerGate:
In my mind, the balance of wrongdoing is heavily weighted on the opponents of #gamergate.  Mainly, because its opponents have had a long head start of character assassination and harassment. I know some of my friends in the media will be appalled by that but that’s mainly because they haven’t seen the shit storm directed at anyone who dares not support the “social justice” narrative for the past few years.

Without the August 28th mass “gamers are dead” article series on multiple sites, none of this would have happened. Let’s remember that.  It was a tempest in a teapot before that.

Every major escalation I’ve seen in this industry conflict has begun with one side mass misrepresenting others with a very broad brush.

The anti #gamergate people are the ones who brought me in

One thing to make clear here: The pro-#gamergate people didn’t ask me to stand up for them. They made no demands on me.  All I did was, as game developer, was tweet that I like gamers and don’t like seeing gamers misrepresented.  For that, the anti-#gamergate people started smearing me. (SJW logic: Make up allegations, use allegations as evidence, repeat).

In other words, I was not/am not trying to use #gamergate to get a pound of flesh. You want me to quit throwing in the misdeeds of the SJW crowd in SJW faces? Then tell them to quit character assassinating me.  Because, let’s face it, I have a large, heavy, blunt instrument in the form of having been falsely accused of sexual harassment and having won that case so thoroughly that the plaintiff had to publicly apologize. You don’t get more clear cut than that in the legal world.  I’d be delighted to just talk about games, tech, etc. But if you’re going to suggest I’m some sort of misogynist or rapist or sexual harasser then yea, I’m going to use the 800 pound mace that SJWs carelessly crafted for me.

And for those truly concerned in the gaming media: If you want to do “the right thing” (even if it’s two years late): Feel free to have the articles and threads that smear me set to just not be indexed by search engines. Is that really asking for a lot? No censorship. No retractions. No apologies.  Just make it so that new harassers aren’t born every time someone looks at the first page of Google results on us. I’ve been doing stuff 20 years, I’ve helped invent a number of the technologies you guys use on your PCs every day. But it’s all crowded out because the media chose to use me as a cartoon villain to push forward an agenda. Thanks for that. I just love having to discuss the Kotaku article every few weeks with some investment banker or enterprise customer. I really enjoy having to answer awkward questions by extended family. And the occasional random “You fucking shit lord, I hope you die in a fire!” emails I get are just..well they’re just so heart warming. Thank you for that.

The double standards

When I see a Ben Kuchera arguing for the deletion of threads because they might encourage harassment of game developers, I ask, where was he when I was taking a beating on nearly every gaming forum for something I didn’t even do? Oh that’s right, he was helping spread it!  Yea, thanks for using an image that shows a claim that I asked my female employees if they enjoyed tasting semen. And you know what? I didn’t hold any of this against anyone. I didn’t send PR people to demand threads removed. No DMCA messages. But it’s pretty infuriating to see calls to censor discussion based on “harassment” when they had no problem when I was the target.

Except, of course, in my case, I hadn’t actually done any of the things I was alleged to have done. No, I’ve gotten to fry for the past couple years in countless threads across the net.  I also want to point out that even though we won, and we got a public apology, some don’t consider that enough because apparently we were supposed to demand the plaintiff admit in writing to committing perjury. So even mercy is frowned upon by these people....

Let me preface this: NO ONE can survive detailed scrutiny. This is doubly true if the person doing the scrutiny is not giving you the benefit of the doubt.

Historically, the activist columnists in other industries have gotten away with trashing their opponents. It’s easy to lampoon the Tea Party people, for instance because their core base aren’t very technical and have no real means to strike back.  Same was true of the Occupy movement which got overrun by SJWs and was easily dismissed soon after.

But gamers are technical. They do have the means to fight back.  I’m sure it never occurred to the columnists who wrote “gamers are dead” that their targets would be able to effectively return the favor. Those who have had great success cherry picking and editing quotes/emails/tweets to create a false narrative of their opponents never dreamed that doing so would come back to haunt them.
I am very loosely acquainted with Brad, having spoken to him a few times when he was at Stardock. He's a smart guy and he's perceptive too. However, I think he's making one mistake here, the same mistake that most people in the SF/F community have made over time, which is thinking that being reasonable and moderate and fair to the other side is an option. It is not. There is absolutely no evidence supporting that belief... one can't even call it a conclusion. Fantasy would perhaps be the better term.

We're not dealing with reasonable people here, we are dealing with psychologically damaged people who want to utterly trash and destroy the things we love due to their envy, their mental instability and their evil, twisted ideology. They're not going to stop simply because they've been shot down once or twice. Failure doesn't demoralize them because it is their natural state. They're simply never going to stop until you have submitted to them and they have destroyed yet another predominantly male bastion.

Understand that I'm not considered an extremist because I'm a hot-tempered angry person given to historically unusual positions, but because the Social Justice Whores all realize that I am immune to their influence and I am therefore a threat to them by demonstrating that their victory is not inevitable Progress and one need to cower before them. Unlike most of their targets, I can take every accusation of sexism and racism and homophobism and religionism and inequalism and bigotism, laugh at it, and refuse to be swayed by it. What they call an extremist is nothing more than an individual who will not submit to them and dutifully confess that black is white and gay is good and two plus two is five on command.

As Instapundit says, we have to punch back twice as hard. Trash back twice as hard. They're not used to it. They can't take it. They freak out when we simply point out the observable fact that Zoe Quinn aka Chelsea Van Valkenburg is a slut, and, allegedly, a whore. They go ballistic when we observe that Anita Sarkeesian is a complete fraud who knows virtually nothing about games. They are furious when we note that very few people read most of their award-winning works and that there is little science in their "science fiction". We don't have to assassinate their characters because they don't have any. And they can't handle the truth, which makes it our most potent weapon.

But only for those with the courage to stand up for it and wield it. So stop temporizing and thinking you're going to somehow straddle the fence. Stop thinking that perhaps you can keep your head down and escape notice. You're not. That's the first step towards ultimate submission. Choose consciously and courageously, don't let your fear of rejection make up your mind for you.

After all, being rejected by this collection of delusional neurotics is an absolute badge of distinction and good sense.

UPDATE: The SJW are now launching attacks on The Escapist due to its refusal to fall in line:
This is an attack by the Anti-Gamergate side. Kuchera was unable to browbeat Greg Tito into censoring the discussion, now that the corrupt journalists are losing this debate rapidly, the Anti-GG side is desperate to shut down the discussion.

They've already begun censoring on 4chan. They've turned it into a SJW hugbox, to the point where being politically incorrect in /b/ (the bloody POLITICALLY INCORRECT FORUM) is a ban worthy offense.

If you wonder why the Anti-GG side is doing this, the answer is simple:

They're bloody terrified of losing their power.

For about 3 years now, they've had the privilege to attack, patronize, and demean others. They could insult people sarcastically, insinuate that all attempts to disagree with them were based on "racism" or "misogyny" rather than logic. Now with Gamergate being more popular and them being shown for who they are, they are absolutely desperate to end the discussion.

They've been painting us as the harassers, us as the doxxers and the "hackers". You can all see now, that this is a lie. They're a group founded on hatred, a clique desperate to retain their power and trying to censor the opposing side's discussion.

Say what you will of us, but we haven't been attempting to bring down sites for allowing the opposing side to speak.

So the next time someone says "We aren't trying to silence you" or "we aren't trying to take your games or websites away!" just know that it is a lie. It happened to 4chan. It's attempting to happen here. We wont let them silence us.

Posted by Vox Day.
22 Sep 11:24

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

… is from a speech given by James Madison to the constitutional convention in Philadelphia on June 29, 1787:

In time of actual war, great discretionary powers are constantly given to the Executive Magistrate.  Constant apprehension of War, has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body.  A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.  The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.  Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended.  Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.

This quotation appears on page 25 of the Independent Institute’s 2010 re-issue of the 1972 edition of the late Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr.’s, excellent 1956 volume, The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition.

20 Sep 14:46

Uncle Sam’s ‘War on Poverty’: A Snapshot History

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

Look at the graph below (which I get from this Heritage Foundation page).  (To enlarge this graph, just click on it.)  You tell me if the revving-up of Uncle Sam’s welfare-state activities in the mid-1960s can be considered, by any scientific criterion, to have been clearly successful at reducing officially measured rates of poverty in the U.S.

Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 10.37.12 AM

Can anyone say Losing Ground?

19 Sep 20:31

44,107,000 Reasons Why NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Has "Not Considered Resigning"

by Tyler Durden


Moments ago NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell concluded a press conference in which he discussed NFL player conduct, domestic violence, sexual assaults, sponsorships, and other things. The one thing that caught our attention is that when he was asked if he had considered resigning, his answer was a resounding "No." For all those wondering why the commissioner of this non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(6) organization has not considered calling it quits despite the ongoing public opinion firestorm, here is the reason. Or rather 44,107,000 reasons.


19 Sep 18:27

DOJ, Newark Miss Deadline to Agree on Police Reforms, No New Deadline Set

by Ed Krayewski

Newark Mayor with policeIn late July, officials from the city of Newark, New Jersey, and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into an "agreement in principle" that would lead to negotiations over specific reforms of and a federal monitor for the Newark Police Department (NPD). The DOJ found that 75 percent of pedestrian stops by the NPD were unconstitutional, and the process concludes several years of investigation by the DOJ that found evidence of wide-scale abuse at the NPD. The DOJ first decided to place Newark under a federal monitor in February, but no monitor has yet been appointed.

Last summer the NPD began to release data on stop and frisks it performs, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Jersey complained in a letter dated last month but reported as having been sent earlier this month that the department's release of data didn't include the reason for stops or their resolution. The ACLU also noted that the NPD often posted the data late and some not at all.

According to the Star Ledger, a spokesperson for the local U.S. Attorney said there was no new timetable for when negotiations over the reforms and the monitor, in the form of a consent decree, would be complete.

I actually lived in Newark most of my life. I was stopped and frisked by cops once, in mid-2008. They spit my description back at me as the reason I was stopped. They didn't find anything.

Related: suggestions for police reforms

19 Sep 15:36

State Inspectors Get Run Of California Worksites—At Business Groups' Behest

by Walter Olson

Walter Olson

That workman from Craigslist who dropped by to install a set of office cabinets for you “off the books” is now more likely to be headed to jail, no matter how happy you are with the quality of his work, thanks to the California legislature:

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed S.B. 315, described by its sponsor, Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Beverly Hills), as a measure “to help curb California’s underground economy.” The measure would step up penalties and enforcement against persons who advertise for, or perform, repair and construction work with a value of $500 or more, counting parts and material as well as labor. … First offenses are subject to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine, and subsequent offenses are treated yet more harshly.

There’s more. The bill, according to its legislative summary, “would additionally require that the enforcement division, when participating in the activities of the Joint Enforcement Strike Force on the Underground Economy, be granted free access to all places of labor,” at least in business locations. (Yes, “all”; you only thought your property was private.) 

A special touch: the customer who ordered the work will now be legally classed as a “victim of crime” entitled to restitution and other benefits, even if the work was done exactly as ordered, and even if (the law is explicit) the customer was fully aware the job was unlicensed. 

How could the California legislature have unanimously (as it did) passed a measure curtailing property rights by giving more state inspectors access to places of labor against owners’ will? Simple: it was framed as a pro-business measure. Among its backers were the sponsoring Contractors State License Board and such groups as the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors Association, the electrical contractors, the landscape contractors, the plumbing and heating contractors, and so forth.   

The costs of occupational licensure are many. Not least is that it gives established businesses a stake in making government more powerful and invasive.  

P.S.: Possibly unrelated, or possibly not: California issued massive fines that closed down a small winery whose owners were allowing volunteers to do some work, in violation of state law; a state spokesman said permitting volunteer labor “isn’t fair” to competing wineries with all-professional staff. 

19 Sep 14:58

Two Top Intelligence Officials, Both Of Whom Admitted To Lying In The Past, Now Try To Rewrite History And Deny The Lies

by Mike Masnick
Apparently the US intelligence community has decided that they should start trying to totally rewrite the history of two of its top officials directly lying to Congress. First up: Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper. This lie is the famous one, in which while testifying before Congress, Senator Ron Wyden engaged in this exchange:
Wyden: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?

Clapper: No sir.

Wyden: It does not?

Clapper: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect—but not wittingly.
At first, Clapper denied lying, saying he merely misunderstood the question, and thought it was about "voyeuristically" poring through emails. But the question is pretty explicit: "any type of data at all." Later, Clapper changed his story to claim that he did understand the question, but was taken off guard by it and gave "the least untruthful answer" he could. At that point, Wyden pointed out that he had actually given Clapper the questions a day earlier and then reached out to his office after to confirm that his answers were accurate, leaving Clapper plenty of opportunity to correct his error -- but Clapper did not. At that point, Clapper finally admitted he had lied and gave a semi-apology to Wyden, saying: "mistakes will happen, and when I make one, I correct it."

Except, now, over a year later, Clapper is back to denying that he lied. Before a "friendly" audience of defense and intelligence contractors (one of the questions to him started out, "You have a very supportive private sector in front of you..."), Clapper again pretended that he never lied to Congress at all. Even worse, he did so while introducing new "principles of professional ethics" for the intelligence community, and arguing that he did so because of the awful situation he endured when he was falsely accused of lying:
“When I got accused of lying to congress because of a mistake ... I had to answer on the spot about a specific classified program in a general, unsecure setting.”
Except, almost none of that is true. It wasn't on the spot. Wyden gave him the questions a day earlier. He didn't have to answer the question (before and since that questioning, Clapper and others have responded to nearly identical questions by saying they could only give details in a classified setting). And, again, Wyden gave Clapper a chance to correct the answer via a letter, and Clapper stood by the original letter. In other words, he lied. He flat out lied. And then he stood by it afterwards when he had a chance to correct the lie. And now he's lying about the lying. Oh, and as for the new "ethics" principles? 1) mission; 2) truth; 3) lawfulness; 4) integrity; 5) stewardship; 6) excellence; and 7) diversity.

And just to add to this mess, Clapper also claimed that the intelligence community has not been shown to have violated the law. That's also flat out false. Both a federal judge and the federal government's privacy and civil liberties oversight board (PCLOB) found the program unconstitutional and illegal.

Moving on, we've got CIA director John Brennan. After the big mess with Senator Dianne Feinstein accusing the CIA of spying on Senate staffers, Brennan tried to deny it (while his denials more or less confirmed the facts). However, he specifically told reporters:
"Let me assure you the CIA was in no way spying on [the Senate Intelligence Committee] or the Senate."
He also claimed that "when the facts come out on this," those who claimed that there was "spying" by the CIA "will be proved wrong." Fast forward a few months and the CIA's Inspector General confirmed everything in Feinstein's story, leading Brennan to apologize to Feinstein. In fact, the full CIA report revealed that the spying was even worse than Feinstein initially detailed.

And... guess what? Brennan is now denying he lied. At the very same conference he pulled a "who, me?" routine:
"Thwart the investigation? Hacking in? We did not."
Note that he's parsing words carefully. He's focusing on "thwarting the investigation" and "hacking" in -- though that depends on your definition of hacking. Under the DOJ's definition, what the CIA did was clearly hacking. It's why Senators Wyden and Udall asked Brennan about whether or not the US hacking statute, the CFAA, applied to the CIA. Because the CIA clearly was unauthorized to access the Senate staffers' network, based on a previous fight with the Senate Intelligence Committee, as detailed by Feinstein when she revealed the details:
Per an exchange of letters in 2009, then-Vice Chairman Bond, then-Director Panetta, and I agreed in an exchange of letters that the CIA was to provide a “stand-alone computer system” with a “network drive” “segregated from CIA networks” for the committee that would only be accessed by information technology personnel at the CIA—who would “not be permitted to” “share information from the system with other [CIA] personnel, except as otherwise authorized by the committee.”
Yet, now Brennan is twisting the story, to say that there was no hacking because they were the CIA's computers all along:
On Thursday, he pointed out the computers technically belonged to the CIA, even though they had been partitioned to create private work space for the Senate staffers.

There was more hairsplitting when he explained his apology. “I apologized then to them for any improper access that was done, despite the fact that we didn’t have a memorandum of understanding.”
Again, that directly contradicts reality. We'll see if Feinstein decides to respond to all of this, but Senator Wyden already has with a bit of internet slang in this hilarious tweet: If you can't see it, that's Wyden's press office linking to one of these stories, saying "smh" which is internet shorthand for "shaking my head."

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19 Sep 15:00

Federal Regulators Botch Oversight of GM’s Killer Cobalts, Demand More Money

by Shikha Dalmia

Same thing happened at the VA they killed a bunch of vets via negligence and got a massive funding increase...

The House Energy and Committee issued the findings of its months-long investigation of NHTSA’s (National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration) handling of GM’s ignition switch debacle and they are damning!

It turns out the agency missed the true cause of why GM’s 2005 Cobalt and its sister cars were sometimes suddenly stopping and crashing because it did not understand the workings of the advanced airbag systems that it had itself mandated.

NHTSA is supposed to be command central for the auto industry. It constantly monitors information about vehicles Cobalt Crashon the road from multiple sources, launches investigations when it detects a trend involving particular models, and orders remedies.

Because NHTSA is motivated neither by bottom-line considerations nor hampered by informational gaps, the theory goes, it can monitor automakers better than they can themselves, I note in my column in The Week this morning. But the reality is that NHTSA is way in over its head and the Congressional investigation illustrates that perfectly. "NHTSA's safety defect investigators' understanding of the systems failed to keep pace with the evolution of the technology," the report said. Hence the agency for years misinterpreted the data at its disposal. Meanwhile, according to GM's own admission 19 people were killed in 30-plus crashes.

Yet, instead, of dropping on the ground and genuflecting for its manifest ineptitude in protecting the drivers in whose name it exists, its chief went before Congress this week and demanded more money for more staff.

Go here to read the whole thing.

19 Sep 11:13

The Scotland Referendum: Who Voted How And Why?

by Tyler Durden

The following post-referendum poll from Lord Ashcroft does a good summary of who voted how and why. However, the most telling distinction is the following:

  • Voters aged 16-17: YES: 71%; NO: 29%
  • Voters aged 65+: YES: 27%; NO: 73%

How will last night's vote look like in 5, 10 or 15 years when today's 17 year olds are Scotland's prime demographic?


18 Sep 20:00

Of fraudulent lists and fake "bestsellers"

by (Vox)
File 770 sounds a little disappointed to discover that an SF "bestseller" on the NYT Bestsellers List doesn't necessarily indicate the mainstream adoption of SF:
I’m a science fiction fan, yet I’m constantly being surprised to discover how that shapes my thinking. Although I know bestseller lists are artificial constructs, I also know they are constructs dominated by mainstream fiction and literary biases. Consequently, when a science fiction writer appears on the New York Times bestseller list I don’t ask how, I just shout “Hooray!” But now a Higher Critic has explained why I should be dissatisfied and suspicious about how they got there.

And now I am.

Vox Day unfavorably compared John Scalzi to Larry Correia based on alleged manipulation of the bestseller list. But isn’t Correia’s status as a bestselling author the same reason people believe Correia is the gold standard?

Even here, all Larry Correia ever did was point out two times when his books made the New York Times best seller list. Which they did. But both times the books disappeared from the list the following week. One and done....

I’m perfectly happy that Larry Correia is an NYT bestselling author. (Which I said in the post.) But since Correia and Scalzi both have experienced the same one-and-done pattern, then why would anybody doubt that Scalzi’s listings are also the result of real sales, Vox Day notwithstanding?
Actually, I didn't compare them. I merely referenced Scalzi's own comments on the subject. As always, Larry Correia is perfectly capable of speaking for himself. As for me, I answered Mr. Glyer on his own blog as follows: There are two reasons for the difference between Scalzi's one-week showings and Mr. Correia's. 1. Correia’s Amazon rankings at the time correlated correctly with his NYT bestseller listing. Scalzi’s Amazon rankings aren’t egregiously off, but they’re not high enough to be credible. 2. Baen Books is not known for attempting to game various awards and bestseller lists. Tor Books, which has won the Locus Award for Best Publisher 27 years in a row, among other things, is.

Does anyone really and truly believe that whereas OLD MAN’S WAR and THE GHOST BRIGADES did not sell well enough to make the NYT Bestseller list, FUZZY NATION did?

All one had to do was look at the Amazon rankings to see that LOCK IN was not selling well enough to have made the bestseller list without a bulk-sale marketing campaign. And as noted on File 770, I had an inkling LOCK IN would not only be on the NYT bestseller list, but be there for a single week before disappearing.

These faux bestsellers aren’t any great secret. It’s just one of the ways the Big Five publishers promote their favored authors. Talk to a top editor or a publishing executive if you don’t believe me; I’m not making this stuff up. Tor is simply trying to massage public perceptions to bump a high mid-list writer into reliable bestseller status.

And then, as it happened, the Washington Examiner happened to address the issue of the unreliability of this particular list today:
The New York Times Book Review, which has a history of belatedly recognizing conservative bestsellers, has banished conservative legal author David Limbaugh’s latest, Jesus on Trial, from its upcoming best seller list despite having sales better than 17 other books on the list.

According to publishing sources, Limbaugh’s probe into the accuracy of the Bible sold 9,660 in its first week out, according to Nielsen BookScan. That should have made it No. 4 on the NYT print hardcover sales list.

Instead, Henry Kissinger’s World Order, praised by Hillary Clinton in the Washington Post, is No. 4 despite weekly sales of 6,607....

The September 28 list of the top 20 print hardcover best sellers includes one book that sold just 1,570 copies.

Limbaugh, published by Regnery, has been a New York Times best seller, so the newspaper should have been looking out for his high sales numbers. And as a hint, they could have looked at Amazon, where Limbaugh’s Jesus hit No. 1 recently. On Thursday, it ranked No. 6 in books sold on Amazon.
Note first that Mr. Scalzi's LOCK IN is presently ranked #3,566 on Amazon and did not make the September 28th list. The #20 book to which the Examiner presumably refers is I AM MALALA which is presently ranked #992 on Amazon. Keep in mind that there are two different lists and that non-fiction usually sells more than fiction.

The New York Times bestseller list is simply not what it claims to be. It's mostly a marketing device manipulated by media ideologues and marketing departments. Some books make it legitimately. Others don't. Fortunately, Amazon gives us a means of distinguishing between the two.

Posted by Vox Day.
18 Sep 20:01

Bankers Advise Fed to Regulate Bitcoin

by Mark A. Calabria

Mark A. Calabria

Four times a year members of the Federal Reserve Board are scheduled to meet with members of the banking industry, as represented by the Fed’s Federal Advisory Council.  This, of course, does not include all the many other occasions that the Fed meets with bankers.  These meetings allow the banking industry to express its views to the Fed on a wide range of issues.  Summarized records of those meetings are released to the public.  In the most recent meeting, bankers raised, among other topics, the issue of Bitcoin. 

While the bankers did not yet view Bitcoin as a viable competitor to their role in the payments system, the bankers did express that Bitcoin “regulation is advisable.”  Those soft-hearted bankers expressed a concern that without adquate consumer protections, users of Bitcoin would be vulnerable to fraud and theft.  Bankers also suggested, presumably out of a concern for national security, that Bitcoin be subject to the same anti-money-laundering procedures, including Know-Your-Consumer, that banks are subjected to.  Bankers explicitly suggested that Bitcoin be subjected to the suspicious activities reports (SARs) that banks must currently file. Personally, this all sounds like an attempt at “raising rivals’ costs” to me.

Interestingly banks also suggested that in “an economy hypothetically dominated by Bitcoin, its finite number (21 million) would prevent the application of traditional monetary policy tools to provide support…” In other words banks are concerned that a Bitcoin world would be one where bank bailouts and assistance were more difficult to achieve.  I guess one man’s bug is another man’s feature.

18 Sep 14:30

Is The Foreign Policy Elite Clueless?

by Sheldon Richman

The American foreign-policy elite seems to have no idea what it’s doing.

Americans may believe the government — especially the foreign-policy side — is at least minimally competent, but when one surveys decisions from the last few decades, one has to wonder.

The current crop of policymakers, like earlier ones, know what they want to do: make the world safe for American leadership — or, less euphemistically, American hegemony: No rivals for American influence or access to resources and markets can be tolerated. As President George H.W. Bush said, “What we say goes.”

Even by that standard, the policy architects and executors look incompetent — or unbelievably cynical.

No better evidence exists than the policies that led to the so-called Islamic State and President Barack Obama’s response to it.

Let’s begin with March 2003. President George W. Bush, citing imaginary weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s fictitious connection to Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks, sent the military to invade Iraq, overthrow the government, and occupy the country. Saddam’s regime was secular, but he was a Sunni Muslim and the majority Shi’ites were especially oppressed under his dictatorship. With Saddam gone, the Shi’ites have dominated, and the emerging successor regime predictably moved close to Iran, the large Persian Shi’ite country next door. (Saddam, assisted by the U.S. government, launched a devastating eight-year war against Iran in the 1980s.) In response, Al Qaeda (which is Sunni) arose in Iraq for the first time and participated in an anti-U.S. and anti-Shi’ite insurgency, until the CIA paid the local Sunni tribal leaders to turn on Al Qaeda, whom they disliked anyway.

Thus Bush alienated the Sunnis and created a Shi’ite ally for Iran. Yet since 1979 (when the Islamic revolution overthrew the dictatorial monarchy of long-time U.S. client Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi) Iran has been demonized (falsely) by U.S. administrations as one of America’s mortal enemies.

What was the Bush brain trust thinking when it did its favor for Iran? Was the plan to overthrow Iran’s government next or merely to have a perpetual crisis? Crisis, like war, is the health of the state, after all.

Under the American occupation and the U.S./Iran-installed regime of Nouri al-Maliki, the Sunnis were shut out of the army and civil service, not to mention repressed — so much so that when the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) came along, the Sunnis were willing to tolerate its brutality rather than continue suffering under Shi’ite rule. Maliki is out now, but institutionalized sectarianism is not over.

Meanwhile, next door in Syria, the brutal Iran-backed dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad became even more egregious in 2011 in response to growing protests. Assad’s regime is also secular, but his and his cronies’ religion is related to Shi’ism, putting the majority Sunnis at a disadvantage. Obama, with the help of then secretary of state Hillary Clinton and British Prime Minister David Cameron, made a bad situation worse by declaring that Assad must give up power. Thus compromise would be suicidal for Assad, and Al Qaeda-type fighters from the region (such as next-door Iraq) were encouraged to flock to Syria because Assad’s days were apparently numbered. ISIS was born when a capable and especially fanatical group of foreign fighters in Syria had strategic differences with the al-Qaeda affiliate.

So here we are. ISIS, a product of idiotic U.S. actions, controls large parts of Syria and Iraq, effectively erasing the border between them.

In response, Obama wants to obliterate ISIS (by air) without helping Iran or Assad or alienating Sunnis. Talk about squaring the circle! If recent history is any guide, arming the Iraqi army and the phantom moderate rebels against Assad amounts to arming ISIS. The nonaggression pact among ISIS and other anti-Assad groups, along with the U.S.-blessed Free Syrian Army’s announcement that it would not join Obama’s anti-ISIS coalition, seems to sink the president’s plan.

Obama warns that ISIS could threaten Americans at home, yet American airstrikes make that more likely; the murders by ISIS of two American journalists were committed in retaliation for the first U.S. strikes.

If any part of Obama’s plan makes sense to you, you might have a future in the foreign policy establishment.

This article originally appeared at the Future of Freedom Foundation

18 Sep 11:43

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

… is from page 128 of Roger Koppl’s outstandingly good 2014 monograph, From Crisis to Confidence: Macroeconomics after the Crash (link added):

[I]f regulators are human, their decisions may be biased towards self-serving ends.  An obvious bias to fear and expect is one towards greater centralisation and greater state control over the decisions of financial institutions (Higgs 1987: 159-95).  Such control serves the bureaucratic interests of the regulators in general.  Thus regulators may have an interest in more control, as well as a cognitive bias in that direction that develops regardless of any particular self-interest.  Moreover, regulators will be loath to blame themselves when things go wrong.  They will sincerely protest that they need more tools, more power and more control in order to prevent future problems.

18 Sep 07:51



(Second column, 20th story, link)
Related stories:
17 Sep 19:19

Bitcoin Charts, Finally

by Steve H. Hanke

Steve H. Hanke

Bitcoin, the new digital currency, remains a mystery to many. There is no better way to lift the fog surrounding bitcoin than to let the data speak. And data speaks loudest through charts. Yes, topological analysis is often the best route to comprehension.

I have constructed – with my assistant, Mazin Al-Rayes – a series of charts that contain illuminating data about bitcoins and brief directions for use following each chart.

How to interpret: Currently there are 13.235 million bitcoins in circulation. The issuance of new bitcoins will halt when the total number of bitcoins “mined” (read: in circulation) reaches 21 million.

How to interpret: This chart shows the total revenue in USD of bitcoin miners (See: the formula at the bottom of the chart for the calculation). A bitcoin miner can be anyone with a computer and a connection to the internet. Miners lend their computers’ processing power to the bitcoin network and are compensated with new bitcoins.  Many miners use hardware designed specifically for mining, others simply use their home computers - pooling their processing power via the internet and sharing the rewards. 

How to interpret: This chart shows the estimated number of giga-hashes per second that the bitcoin network is performing. It’s clear that the processing power of the bitcoin network increased over time. The hash rate increased for a myriad of reasons: an increased number of miners, collaboration of miners in pools and hardware capacity.  

How to interpret: New bitcoins are created at a predictable rate. This rate is a function of both the difficulty level of a bitcoin miner’s mathematical operation and the processing power of a miner’s hardware. 

How to interpret: This chart shows the bitcoin market capitalization. This is calculated by multiplying the total number of bitcoins by the market price of a bitcoin in USD.

How to interpret: This chart shows the trade volume in USD from the largest bitcoin exchanges.

How to Interpret: This chart shows the price and volatility of the bitcoin. Volatility is calculated by annualizing the standard deviation of the daily returns of the past 14 days. If the price behavior over the past 14 days remains the same for one year, the volatility charted above can be interpreted as the expected price change range (+ or -) at the end of the year. 

How to Interpret: Each day the volatility of bitcoins (as calculated in Chart 7) is plotted against the return on bitcoins that day. In the chart, the number of days above the 0% line is greater than the number of days below the 0% line, because the price of bitcoins has been trending upward since 1 January 2013.

How to interpret: A simple moving average (SMA) is the average of the price over the past X days. When a short-term moving average crosses over and exceeds a long-term moving average, price momentum in the market is accelerating. When a short-term moving average falls below a long-term moving average, price momentum in the market is decelerating.

How to interpret: We have chosen to measure long-term trends with 50- and 100-day simple moving averages, and short-term trends with 10- and 20-day simple moving averages. When the 50-day simple moving average is greater than the 100-day moving average, the long-term position is indicated in red. When the 10-day simple moving average is greater than the 20-day simple moving average, the short-term position is indicated in green.

17 Sep 16:21

Top U.S. Military Official: Our Arab “Allies” Support ISIS

by George Washington

America’s top military official – the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E. Dempsey – just admitted in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing what we’ve been saying for months … America’s closest allies are supporting ISIS:



GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I know major Arab allies who fund them.


GRAHAM: Yeah, but do they embrace them? They fund them because the Free Syrian Army couldn’t fight Assad. They were trying to beat Assad. I think they realized the folly of their ways.

Maybe a good start for defeating ISIS would be to stop funding them and their BFFs?

Call your Congress Critter TODAY: Vote ‘NO’ on Military Aid to Syrian ‘Rebels’


17 Sep 16:00

Make Legal Immigration Easier

by John Stossel

Conservatives rightly point out that America is a nation of laws. No one should be exempt. That's why many oppose amnesty and other paths to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are here now. "If they want to be in America," the argument goes, "they ought to return to their own countries and apply for a visa legally. America should not reward law breaking."

That sounds sensible—but what happens when the immigrant does that, goes to the U.S. embassy and says, I'd like to work in America legally? He gets paperwork to fill out and is told to go home to wait. And wait. A Forbes investigation found that a computer programmer from India must wait, on average, 35 years. A high school graduate from Mexico must wait an average 130 years!

We tell eager workers, "Do it legally; just wait 130 years"? This makes no sense. We should make legal immigration easier, relax the rules, issue work permits. Conservatives usually understand that complex regulations make life hard for people. Immigration bureaucracy makes life harder not just for the immigrants but for the rest of us.

America needs immigrants. Immigrants co-founded most of Silicon Valley's start-ups. The Patent Office says immigrants invent things at twice the rate of native-born Americans.

Immigrants are special people, people with the ambition and guts to leave their home to pursue an American dream. We ought to let more of them in. And not just PhD's. Half of America's agricultural workers are here illegally, according to the Department of Agriculture. But without them, the government says food would cost much more. Milk would cost 61 percent more.

Some people say, well, maybe immigrants in the past were a boon to America, but now there are just too many. They make up 12 percent of the population! True. But in 1915, it was 15 percent.

Others complain that immigrants once worked hard and tried to assimilate, but today's immigrants are different: less educated, more likely to collect welfare, less likely to adopt the American work ethic. Maybe. But I doubt it. Every new immigrant group has been derided as backward, unclean, or criminal. Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge (R-Mass.) called Slovaks "illiterate and ignorant in the extreme." He called Italians "the lowest type as to character and intelligence." Irish immigrants had such a bad reputation that in job advertisements businesses posted job notices: "No Irish need apply."

Fears about newcomers weren't totally unfounded. It took them time to assimilate and accumulate wealth. But they did. The Irish, Italians, and other once-vilified groups are now leaders in America.

People say that immigrants steal "our" jobs. And yes, they do take some. But they create new jobs, too, lots. When people move to another country and encounter a different culture, they see things in new ways. Some pick the best from each culture and create useful things.

Imagine your life without Google searches, cheap Ikea furniture, YouTube, bicycles, blenders, ATM's. All came from immigrants. New Americans also gave us blow dryers, basketball, football, the first shopping mall, comfortable jeans, even the American hot dog (that came from Germany's frankfurter).

Immigration enriches our language. Jewish immigrants gave us the word "glitch." "Gee whiz" came from the Irish. The song "God Bless America" was written by an immigrant—the prolific Irving Berlin, born in Russia.

The TV network on which my weekly show is broadcast exists only because an immigrant from Australia saw the need for Fox News. And I'm only here because my parents left Germany in 1930, a year when immigration rules were still pretty lax (if you weren't Chinese, since there were racist quotas).

Today, we'd solve many problems if work permits were available and legal immigration easier. If people can come here legally, fewer sneak in. It will be easier to secure the border because police can focus on actual criminals and terrorists. As Lao-tzu said, "the greater the number of laws and enactments, the more thieves and robbers there will be."

America should say yes to immigration.

17 Sep 14:47

New Study Says There's No Evidence That Terrorists Changed How They Communicate Post-Snowden

by Mike Masnick
One of the standard talking points right after the Ed Snowden revelations first started coming out was that the leaks were causing terrorists to change how they communicated, meaning that US intelligence was somehow "losing track" of important information on the whereabouts and plans of terrorists. The most obvious example of this was from CNN "reporter" Barbara Starr (who has a long track record of repeating Defense Department talking points) who directly claimed: "terrorists are trying to change the way they communicate because of what they learned from Edward Snowden's admitted leaks of classified information about government surveillance programs." We questioned this claim on a number of points -- in part because there was plenty of evidence that most terrorists already suspected such surveillance and acted accordingly. Meanwhile, in private, James Clapper (who publicly was claiming massive damage from terrorists changing how they communicate) admitted that he really wasn't that worried.
Clapper has said repeatedly in public that the leaks did great damage, but in private he has taken a more nuanced stance. A review of early damage assessments in previous espionage cases, he said in one closed-door briefing this fall, found that dire forecasts of harm were seldom borne out.
So it should come as no surprise at all that a new research report more or less confirms that there is no evidence of terrorists changing how they communicate post-Snowden. You can read the full report from Flashpoint Partners yourself, but it's pretty clear:
  • The underlying public encryption methods employed by online jihadists do not appear to have significantly changed since the emergence of Edward Snowden. Major recent technological advancements have focused primarily on expanding the use of encryption to instant messenger and mobile communications mediums.
  • Aside from warning of tampered copies of “Asrar al-Mujahideen” that were deliberately infected with spyware, none of the prominent jihadi logistical units have expressed any public doubt as to the continued effectiveness of encryption methods employed in their software packages that were released prior to the Snowden leaks.
  • The actual release of new jihadi-themed encryption software packages, like “Asrar al-Dardashah,” seems to have had a far more noticeable impact in terms of driving waves of interest in the subject of encryption among users of jihadi web forums than the publication of the Snowden NSA revelations in June 2013.
  • Well prior to Edward Snowden, online jihadists were already aware that law enforcement and intelligence agencies were attempting to monitor them. As a result, the Snowden revelations likely merely confirmed the suspicions of many of these actors, the more advanced of which were already making use of – and developing –secure communications software.
In other words, as we said, most terrorists already assumed their electronic communications were at risk and acted accordingly. There is little to no evidence that Snowden's leaks had any significant impact at all. The report shows that encryption packages were popular well before the Snowden leaks, and little seems to have changed after the Snowden leaks.

The report also looked at forum discussions on various encryption techniques on forums frequented by terrorist groups. As you can see from the following two charts, there doesn't appear to be any bump in discussions about encryption or related software post Snowden (the leaks began in June of 2013). If anything there was much more discussion before the Snowden revelations started:

The full report is quite interesting, though I doubt we'll see any NSA defenders/Snowden haters admitting that their doom and gloom claims turned out to be false.

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17 Sep 14:43

Google Donates $1 Million in Supplies to Los Angeles Public School Teachers

On Monday, Google surprised hundreds of teachers from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) with donations of pencils, books, printers, and other school supplies, totaling nearly $1 million, says local ABC news affiliate ABC7.

The donations came via a nonprofit website called Donors Choose, which allows public school teachers to post classroom project requests that can range from pencils to microscopes. Donors can give any amount to the project of their choice. When a project reaches its funding goal, the materials are shipped to the school.

Donors Choose states it serves as an online charity to public schools and public charter schools in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., and vets every classroom project request. Donors Choose partners include Google, Chevron, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Disney, Staples, Horace Mann, and the National Education Association Foundation (NEA).

"Anything from pencils to technology, it's going to help the kids in the classroom. Any professional with a well-supplied toolbox will be more effective," said history teacher David George. "I'm blown away by the generosity. It's super cool."

As ABC7 reports, Google’s nearly $1 million donation assisted each of the 769 LAUSD teachers who used Donors Choose for financial help. In total, the company covered 1,071 requests, including funding for an eighth-grade class trip to Washington, D.C.

"We know it can be a lot of hard work. We're happy to help when we can," said Thomas Williams, senior director of engineering at Google.

Actor Kevin McHale of Glee, a graduate of LAUSD, joined Mayor Eric Garcetti at the donation event held at Marina Del Rey Middle School in Los Angeles.

"Go on and see the work that they're doing, because I don't think people realize how much money teachers spend out of their own pocket to provide for their students," said McHale.

17 Sep 15:05

Texas Wants to Execute Man Who Killed Home Intruder Who Turned Out to Be SWAT Member

by Scott Shackford

Marvin Louis GuyAttempting to serve a search warrant by entering a house through a window got Killeen, Texas, Police Detective Charles Dinwiddie shot in the face and killed last May.  It was yet another SWAT raid organized for a purpose other than the reason they were invented. The police had a search warrant looking for narcotics at the home of Marvin Louis Guy, 49. They decided to serve this warrant at 5:30 in the morning and without knocking on his door. He opened fire on them, killing Dinwiddie and injuring three others.

Though they found a glass pipe, a grinder, and a pistol, they did not find any drugs. Former Reason Editor Radley Balko took note of the deadly raid in May at The Washington Post. A police informant apparently told them there were bags of cocaine inside the house, which sounds a lot like another familiar drug raid in Virginia that got an officer killed.

The Virginia case ended with Ryan Frederick in prison for 10 years despite his insistence he thought he was defending himself against in home intruders. He may end up lucky compared to Guy. Prosecutors in Texas are going to seek the death penalty against him. KWTX offers a dreadfully written summary that says next to nothing about the circumstances of the raid but gives Dinwiddie’s whole life story. Guy faces three additional charges of attempted capital murder for shooting the other officers. The story mentions the no-knock raid but fails to explain why it happened or the failure to find any drugs.

A search for Guy in the jail inmate locator for Bell County, Texas, shows that he is being charged only for the shootings. There are no drug-related charges listed. He is being held on a bond totaling $4.5 million.

17 Sep 13:37

Scottish Independence Will Kill Socialism on Both Sides of the Border

by Marian L. Tupy

Marian L. Tupy

Much has been said about the impact of Scottish independence on British politics. With the predominantly socialist parliamentarians from Scotland gone, the Conservative Party would likely come to dominate British politics for the foreseeable future. The much needed economic reforms and, perhaps, withdrawal from the European Union would become very likely. 

What about the impact of independence on Scotland? The breakup of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic some 21 years ago provides an interesting example.

The 1992 elections produced dramatically different results in the two parts of the former Czechoslovak federation. In the Czech Republic, the election was won by the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) led by Vaclav Klaus. Klaus was a highly regarded former federal Finance Minister, who later became Prime Minister and President of the independent Czech Republic. The ODS was dominated by economic reformers whose main goal was a speedy transition of the Czech Republic from a centrally planned economy to capitalism.

In Slovakia, the election was won by the left-leaning Movement for Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) led by Vladimir Meciar. Meciar, a former communist who instinctively opposed dramatic economic reforms favored by Klaus, won by promising the increasingly nationalistic Slovaks some type of a confederal arrangement with the Czechs, but not outright independence. Since the HZDS, with support of smaller Slovak National Party, had enough votes to block all legislation in the Federal Parliament, the future of the federation would depend on an agreement between the ODS and the HZDS.

While demanding an increased autonomy for Slovakia, the Slovak leadership did not bother to find out how far the Czechs were prepared to go. The Slovak leadership seemed to believe that the Czechs, who were more emotionally attached to the continuation of the Czechoslovak federation than the Slovaks, would simply accede to whatever demands the Slovaks chose to make. That turned out to be a colossal miscalculation.

The Czechs were determined not to have their economic reforms hindered by the more socialist Slovaks. If the federal government in Prague were to be rendered ineffective by the Slovak veto and thus prevented from reforming the socialist economies of both parts of the federation, then the two nations would have to go their separate ways. As such, the Czechs flatly rejected a confederal arrangement that would provide for a common currency, but autonomy of economic decision-making in the two parts of the federation. As the Czechs saw it, Slovak statism would destabilize the Czechoslovak crown, and thus harm the Czech economic prospects.

The Czechs called the Slovak bluff and the two republics went their separate ways. 

It turned out that many of the concerns that the anti-independence Slovaks had were well founded. Slovakia was not ready for independence. Virtually all the ministries of government were in Prague and the Slovaks working there did not return to Slovakia. While the Czechs simply “repainted” the signs on government buildings from “Czechoslovak” to “Czech,” the Slovaks would have to do everything from the scratch.

The Czechoslovak federation was dissolved on January 31, 1993. In the Czech Republic, Klaus introduced his far-reaching economic reforms. The Czech Republic pulled ahead and became one of the early post-communist success stories. Even better, the Czechs no longer had to feel that they were subsidizing their “younger sibling.” 

Slovakia, in contrast, suffered years of economic and political decline. Meciar’s style of government became increasingly authoritarian, leading the U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright refer to Slovakia as the “black hole in the heart of Europe.” The Slovak economy remained unreformed. While some of the more lucrative enterprises were sold off to Meciar’s friends (who, in turn, financed his political campaigns), most of the obsolete state-owned firms kept on losing money. By 1998, when Meciar left office, Slovakia was near bankruptcy. 

Following the change of government, Slovakia returned to a full-fledged democracy and embraced far-reaching economic reforms. The Slovaks partially privatized their pension system, introduced a flat income tax and reduced regulation. In recognition of those improvements, the World Bank’s “Doing Business in 2005” report declared Slovakia the world’s leading reformer and ranked it among the top 20 countries with the best business conditions. By 2006, the Slovak economy was growing at 10 percent per annum and Slovakia was the world’s largest exporter of cars per capita. 

Independence forced Slovaks to realize that they had no one to blame for their misfortunes but themselves. Likewise, the success of the “Tatra Tiger,” as Slovakia came to be known in the mid-2000s, imbued the Slovaks with optimism and confidence. As for the relationship between the Czechs and Slovaks: it has never been better.

Since Scottish devolution in 1997, the socialists in the Scottish National and Labor parties have been busily over-regulating those parts of the Scottish economy that were unfortunate enough to fall under their control. According to the 2010 United Kingdom Competitiveness Index, the region with “the largest fall in relative competitiveness” between 1997 and 2010 was Scotland. 

Scotland’s greater statism and, ironically for the birth place of Adam Smith, suspicion of capitalism, is a potent obstacle to reform in England and Wales. It is also a serious danger to economic prosperity north of the border. Sooner or later, Scotland will need to introduce reforms that it would never accept from a Westminster government. The end of the Union maybe a high price to pay for the end of socialism on the British isles, but the rewards from a more robust, long-term economic growth are not negligible either. 

16 Sep 21:29

Decrying "Wishful Science" on NPR(!)

by Patrick J. Michaels

Patrick J. Michaels

Global Science Report is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science, where we highlight one or two important new items in the scientific literature or the popular media. For broader and more technical perspectives, consult our monthly “Current Wisdom.”

First, a disclaimer. I don’t listen to NPR. “State radio” bugs me. But I have friends who do, and I was bowled over when one sent me a seemingly innocuous story about the search for a pharmaceutical treatment for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis [ALS], the horrific ailment also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

I knew something big was about to happen when correspondent Richard Harris led off with this zinger:

There’s a funding crunch for biomedical research in the United States—and it’s not just causing pain for scientists and universities.  It’s also creating incentives for researchers to cut corners—and that’s affecting people who are seriously ill.

Predictably, NPR, itself a federally (and privately) funded creature, said the problem was a lack of funding, even titling the piece, “Patients Vulnerable When Cash-Strapped Scientists Cut Corners.”

Allow NPR its sins, because what’s in the article is one key to a very disturbing trend, not just in biomedical science, but in “most disciplines and countries.” It seems that negative results are systematically disappearing from science. Those words appear in the title of a blockbuster 2012 article by University of Montreal’s Daniele Fanelli, more completely, “Negative Results are Disappearing from Most Disciplines and Countries.”

Memo to NPR:  Scientists  are always “cash-strapped.” Just ask one. The reason is very simple, and can be illustrated by my area, climate science.

There are actually very few people formally trained at the doctoral level in this field (yours truly being one of them).  One reason was that, prior to the specter of anthropogenerated climate change, there wasn’t very much money from the federal government. It was about a $50 million a year operation, if that much. We didn’t have enough research dough. 

Now the federal outlay is $2.3 billion. Guess what: we’re all climate scientists now. So ecologists, plant biologists, and even psychologists hitched their wagons to this gravy train. Today’s shocker: we don’t have enough research dough.

What Harris found out about ALS really does apply in a Fanelli-like fashion. It seems that drugs that work fine on mice and rats flop miserably when tested on humans. It turns out that the animal studies were all pretty shoddy.

Story Landis, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, explained why.  According to NPR, “There is no single answer, she says, but part of the explanation relates to a growing issue in biomedical science: the mad scramble for scarce research dollars.”  She went on: “The field has become hypercompetitive,” and NPR added, “Many excellent grant proposals get turned down, simply because there’s not enough money to go around. So Landis says scientists are tempted to oversell weak results.”  

“Getting a grant requires that you have an exciting story to tell, that you have preliminary data and you have published”, she says. “In the rush, to be perfectly honest, to get a wonderful story out on the street in a journal, and preferably with some publicity to match, scientists can cut corners.”

According to a research paper published earlier this year, corner-cutting turned out to be the rule, rather than the exception, in animal studies of ALS.

Stefano Bertuzzi, the executive director of the American Society for Cell Biology, says that’s because there is little incentive for scientists to take the time to go back and verify results from other labs;

“You want to be the first one to show something”, he says—not the one to verify or dispute a finding, “because you won’t get a big prize for that.”

Landis noted that “ALS is not the only example of this type of wishful science [emphasis added].”  She found similar problems with other drugs for other diseases.

It’s too bad that NPR didn’t then go to Montreal’s Fanelli, because they would have found that similar problems are infecting science everywhere, which is why Cato now has a Center for the Study of Science.

Coming up: I’ll be posting soon on what this does to science itself.  Teaser: if there’s little incentive to publish negative results, whatever reigning paradigm is operating in a given field will be very resistant to change. As the Center for the Study of Science’s Richard Lindzen has observed, there has been a remarkable lack of paradigm substitution in overall science as research budgets ballooned. Ironically, the more we spend on science, the more science can be harmed.