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Crony Capitalism

Ars TechnicaAT&T has struck a deal with the US government to get nearly $428 million per year to bring 10Mbps Internet service to parts of rural America after protesting that it shouldn't have to provide speeds that fast.

The government takes the money and hands it out to favored corporations who won't do anything with it, subsidizing their pissant efforts in rural areas while also blocking competition from startups who might do better.

Mind you, I say that despite probably being one of the people who benefit from the spending.

2015-09-14 09:58:13.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

How the NSA fakes out the courts

Ars TechnicaIn order to obtain a copy of the NSA's main XKeyscore software, whose existence was first revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013, Germany's domestic intelligence agency agreed to hand over metadata of German citizens it spies on. According to documents seen by the German newspaper Die Zeit, after 18 months of negotiations the US and Germany signed an agreement that would allow the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamtes für Verfassungsschutz—BfV) to obtain a copy of the NSA's most important program, and to adopt it for the analysis of data gathered in Germany. This was a lower level of access compared to the non-US "Five Eyes" nations—the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand—which had direct access to the main XKeyscore system. In return for the software, the BfV would "to the maximum extent possible share all data relevant to NSA's mission."

In other words, NSA made a deal with German intelligence to provide software in return for access to data retrieved using that software. And I am pretty sure that software isn't being provided to Germany on a CD; instead, it sounds like they are adding German intelligence sources to the existing NSA installation. Meaning they have access to US data just like we get access to German data. And this is hardly news; the NSA has been making intelligence data deals with foreign governments for decades to get around constitutional limits on spying on Americans. Because if the NSA wants to spy on an American and for some reason a court objects (they never do, but hypothetically) the NSA can simply ask German intelligence to run their queries and share the results; German intelligence has different limitations.

They've been doing this all the way back to the Clinton administration.

2015-09-13 09:58:13.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Does free speech offend you?

2015-09-09 09:03:03.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Why we're losing liberty

2015-09-08 09:03:03.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Another private email address and hard drive crash

Wall Street Journal via TaxProfThe Lerner and North cases also highlight the Administration’s sloppy, or willfully obstructionist, approach to recordkeeping. Recall the crash of Ms. Lerner’s hard drive, and the IRS’s claim for months it had no backup of her work. Treasury’s Inspector General would later find some. Mr. North’s hard drive also crashed, and Pebble claims that key North emails and documents have gone missing from EPA’s official record.

Remember, it wasn't just Lerner's hard drive that crashed. Hers was simply the most central. About 20 of her coworkers also lost computer data in some form or another and were unable to provide it to Congress, including coworkers who visited the White House extensively while the targeting was going on.

The EPA has already had issues with its director, Lisa Jackson, having a separate email address under her dog's name and evading FOIA requests. Now we have another person at the EPA communicating with political groups privately, and the records have gone missing in a hard drive crash.

How credulous does this administration think we are?

2015-09-04 09:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

EPA now ignoring Congressional subpeonas on toxic waste spill

Gateway PunditThe EPA was subpoenaed on August 10th to provide documents by August 24th concerning the agency’s involvement in the Gold King Mine spill. The EPA ignored the Congressional subpoena. They have not turned over any documents.

The IRS has been doing this a lot lately, too. It's like they think they are above the law.

2015-09-03 09:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Hillary email server admin to plead 5th

Gateway PunditThe Washington Post reported Wednesday night that a former Hillary Clinton State Department staffer who reportedly set up her home brew server will invoke his Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to testify to Congressional committees investigating Clinton’s home email system.

That's a very interesting stance for him to take. The thing is, normally setting up an email server wouldn't be at all criminal. In the narrative as we understand it, the criminal liability would attach to actually transferring the classified materials to the insecure location (ie, sending an email to an address on Hillary's server) or receiving such an email knowing the contents were classified.

Unless Hillary was emailing her server admin with classified information (unlikely, though as the admin he could probably access the emails on the server, something that strikes me as a likely grey area in the law of classified material), he wouldn't have liability just for setting it up.

He might be concerned about setting it up knowing Hillary intended to receive classified information on it. He might be concerned about wiping the server to delete evidence of wrongdoing or evade FOIA. He might also be concerned about conspiracy charges.

And he's probably looking to what happened to Lerner as an example of the treatment he will get. Since Hillary is on the outside now, I doubt he will get anything like that. However, given the potential exposure he has, I would expect a deal to get negotiated where he tells the FBI everything he knows, admits wiping the server, gets immunity for it, and what he tells the FBI doesn't help them much since he can't unwipe the server if he did it halfway competently.

Other than the massive implied corruption and embarrassment of a 5th amendment plea, I don't think we're going to advance the case against Hillary much here.

2015-09-03 01:00:09.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

A cure for no-hope zombie apocalypse fiction

McThagRealizing that it's a zombie apocalypse show also made me realize why I generally dislike zombie fiction. There's zero hope. While the main characters may solve the immediate problem, eventually sickness, injury or infirmity will eventually let the zombies get them and win. Real life is full enough of no-win scenarios that I don't want them in my fiction where I go to escape the no-win scenarios of my real life.

Are you going to let a 13-year-old girl with a teddy bear out-oorah! you, Marine?

2015-09-02 13:39:16.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

IRS can't hide White House tax records requests

Daily CallerWhite House emails to the IRS about individual tax returns cannot be exempted by the embattled agency under the Freedom of Information Act, a federal judge ruled Friday.

United States District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Section 6103 of the tax code does not justify the IRS from withholding from FOIA requesters by refusing to say whether the records exist. She ordered the IRS to respond properly to an FOIA request submitted by the non-profit watchdog group Cause of Action.

Good and bad news, here. The good news is, there likely are records of White House requests to the IRS for specific tax records. If there were none, the IRS would not be trying so hard to hide them. The bad news is, such requests may be legal; there is in fact a formal procedure for requesting them that is authorized by law. Whether that law is a good idea or not is a different matter, and if that authority was somehow abused for political targeting as seems likely, that would demonstrate a direct link to the White House and also potentially implicate the White House in any criminal activity that took place against those individuals.

Which is why we will find out, in a few minutes, that the IRS doesn't keep records of those requests. Oops.

2015-09-02 09:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Just a hypothetical scenario

Suppose you are someone with the resources of a large, technologically-advanced government and you want to be able to influence the actions of the US government without being part of its political structure or accountable to the voters in any way. How might you go about this process?

Well, first you need to know who to influence for any particular decision point. In order to maximize your influence across multiple political cycles, you need to control not the politicians alone but also a substantial fraction of the civil servants, and it's a bonus if you can get information on people with security clearances. You need to obtain the list of federal employees, what they work on, what their clearance is. So, you hack the database of the Office of Personnel Management and that gets you the list of people to influence, and whatever information came up in their security investigations.

Next you need to acquire dirt on these people. So you hack the Ashley Madison affair-dating site and see who shows up on both lists. Anyone who does is probably blackmailable. Anyone who wasn't on both lists before that you really wanted to target can suddenly be on both lists when you release the AM data publicly. Maybe you remove the people willing to play ball from the AM data first. Maybe you salt the AM data with some fake data as misdirection.

It's all circumstantial, of course. But you see what I'm getting at.

I'll probably never know if I'm right, but I see a potential connection here.

That said... anyone willing to give a credit card number to an adultery site is stupid enough to deserve the results.

2015-09-01 09:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

A primary opponent for McCain

Gateway PunditALIPAC is also endorsing Kelli Ward for US Senate in Arizona. Dr. Ward is challenging Senator John McCain who recently polled as the most despised member of the US Senate. John McCain defeated challenger JD Hayworth in 2010 by promising Arizona’s GOP voters that he would no longer support amnesty for illegal aliens. Then, upon returning to DC, McCain supported and voted to pass Amnesty bill S. 744 completely betraying his promise. Dr. Kelli Ward is an Arizona state senator with the campaign experience necessary to defeat John McCain whose notorious negative campaign tactics are likely to backfire when he attacks a respected Arizona woman.

We need to get McCain out of the Senate. This is the way to do it without giving up his seat to the left for a cycle.

2015-08-31 09:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Another model of doom

Ars TechnicaThe latest IPCC report estimated our remaining “carbon budget” that would give us a chance of reaching the goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius this century. That estimate was created using a simpler class of climate model that can crank out long or repeated simulations without tying up a supercomputer for a week. A new study using one of the most complex models, however, suggests that the simpler models get a key issue wrong: they overestimate how much carbon we can emit if we actually want to stay below 2 degrees Celsius over the centuries that follow.

I'll start paying attention when their models can correctly predict future temperatures and they stop faking the temperature record.

But if you read the article, guess what it says? It says we must cut carbon emissions even more if we want to survive thermogeddon. In other words, we must destroy industrial civilization and return to living in grass huts.

No thanks. I'd rather make the north and south pole bikini territory than give up industry. Especially since the earth is prone to regular ice ages that are a bit harder to deal with than a few extra degrees.

2015-08-29 09:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

A primary opponent for Boehner: JD Winteregg

Gateway PunditALIPAC is formally endorsing J.D. Winteregg who is running again against John Boehner in Ohio’s 8th District. In 2014, Winteregg ran against John Boehner who is a top target on ALIPAC’s “Cantor List” due to his overt and covert support for Obama’s illegal immigrant amnesty executive actions that 26 states are suing to stop. Americans concerned about illegal immigration and immigration reform amnesty that further undermines America’s border and laws are encouraged to volunteer, vote for, donate to, and support J.D. Winteregg for Congress at

We need to get Boehner out of the House Speakership. This is one way to do it.

2015-08-28 09:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The Great Unlearning

2015-08-27 09:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

So, Lerner's secret email account was named after her dog.

Lerner's secret email account "Toby Miles" was named after her dog. So was Lisa Jackson's secret account ("Richard Windsor"). It sounds almost systematic, doesn't it? Like someone handed out a tip sheet to mid-level officials that said "Create a secret email account using a name that is unlikely to be connected with you, such as the name of a pet, and use it for government-related but unofficial correspondence so it is protected from FOIA requests." Only Hillary didn't get the memo because she was being kept Outside even though she was officially Inside, and implemented her own solution.

Anyways, according to that article, the address was previously discovered by the House investigation, so presumably it has already been searched as much as the IRS was willing and able to search. By which I mean it has been thoroughly shredded, degaussed, scratched, and erased.

2015-08-26 09:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Lois Lerner had private email account under fake name

The IRS is now admitting, via a status report filed in one of the FOIA lawsuits by Judicial Watch, that Lois Lerner had a private email address under the name Toby Miles which may contain emails that have not yet been searched.

The name seems vaguely familiar to me, but I can't remember for sure if this address was revealed in any of the hearings so far or not.

If this address wasn't searched when Congress inquired, it could be a big deal. Or it might explain why email addresses were sometimes redacted from the released documents (IIRC). More later when I get a chance to catch up on the reports.

2015-08-25 14:13:05.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Not the ideal gun rights case...

Gateway PunditPolice have arrested a 32-year-old city man for allegedly firing at the vehicle in last week’s drive-by shooting at the Boys & Girls club on Genesee Street.

He shot in self-defense, and isn't accused of hitting anyone in the crowd. But he's a felon in possession, so he got arrested.

2015-08-24 11:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The stupid, it burns...

So someone -- probably instapundit, but I forget exactly -- linked to this piece about losing internet freedom. It makes some good points, particularly about government control of content and surveillance of users. But it also says some absolutely, staggeringly stupid things, things that have basically zero to do with internet freedom.

The End of the Internet DreamRacism and sexism have proven resilient enough to thrive in the digital world. There are many, many examples of this, but let me use statistics, and anecdotes to make the point.

Statistically: At Google, women make up 30 percent of the company’s overall workforce, but hold only 17 percent of the company’s tech jobs. At Facebook, 15 percent of tech roles are staffed by women. At Twitter, 10 percent.

Anecdotally: Look around you at your fellow audience members. How very male and white this field is.

Taking her statistical claims at face value, let's stop and consider. All of these companies are left-leaning. It is unlikely they are run by people who want to exclude women from tech roles. It is, in fact, precisely the opposite. Google would like very much to improve their diversity statistics. But Google's 17% of women in tech jobs is matched by the percentage of women who took degrees in computer science -- 18%. That doesn't sound like Google, or anyone else for that matter, is excluding women; it sounds like women don't want to study computer science.

So, to put it kindly, what the fuck is this innumerate politicized feminist propaganda doing in a lecture about internet freedom?

(Read More...)

2015-08-24 10:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

EPA was warned about blowout risk for mine contamination

Yep, they were warned of the risk ahead of time and chose to go ahead with the operation anyway -- with the results we have seen.

2015-08-24 09:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Not my usual beat, but...

USA TodayThe tech industry threatens to cannibalize itself, forcing its talented and young workforce to pursue work over life with the inevitable end result being compromised results and miserable employees.

The truth is that working in IT is a high-stress, high-skill, and high-demand job that is coupled with decades of flat wage growth and the constant threat of replacement by H1-B or outright foreign outsourcing companies. Employees are expected to exercise a combination of creative and technical problem-solving skills while wrapped in management-dictated "process" requirements designed, literally, to make it harder to make changes to the products being worked on. I have worked in organizations where making a one line change to a text file can take all day. Literally. And on top of that, every few years a new industry buzzword gets popular with the people who stopped writing code years ago and all the people who are still writing code waste even more time changing HOW they work instead of DOING the work.

People burn out, and they do it mostly because the people managing the businesses in the industry don't have a clue what they are doing.

I don't know what the right answer is, but I can tell when something hurts, and I know that when it hurts you should stop doing it.

2015-08-22 09:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

EPA caused second toxic chemical spill this year

Yeah, the one in Colorado wasn't the first such disaster this year. The argument that these are deliberate disasters intended to open the door for EPA regulatory activity and larger cleanup budgets is beginning to take on significant weight. The alternative, simple incompetence, is hardly better for the agency.

2015-08-21 09:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Obama sending letters to foreign governments promising no penalties for dropping Iran sanctions

Free BeaconTwo leading U.S. senators are calling on the Obama administration to release secret letters to foreign governments assuring them that they will not be legally penalized for doing business with the Iranian government, according to a copy of a letter sent Wednesday to the State Department and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

He really is on the other side. He's keeping these letters, which are being sent out on the purported behalf of a sovereign people, secret from the people -- because he knows the people would oppose them if they knew.

2015-08-20 09:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

2016: Why I don't support Kasich for President

He's running to split the vote and make it easier for Jeb Bush to buy the Republican primary. No thanks.

2015-08-19 12:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

What, with a cloth or something?

That's a prepared line, it's not spontaneous. She knew she would be asked this, and someone gave her a joke about it to deflect the question. Just like the snapchat joke.

2015-08-19 11:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Seattle passes lost-and-stolen law, gun and bullet tax

Some details here.

The major provisions appear to be:
1) $25/gun tax
2) $0.05/bullet tax
3) Mandatory reporting of lost-and-stolen guns

I think this is likely to violate Washington State preemption laws, but it's useful to analyze anyway, because it's pretty revealing about the anti-gun motivations.

In particular, the tax on bullets is a tax targeted at those ordinary people who are involved in the shooting sports and like to shoot frequently for practice. Hunters don't need to shoot often. People interested in armed self-defense usually practice at least monthly. People interested in target shooting often do so with .22lr ammunition, a common and very cheap type of practice ammunition. A $0.05/bullet tax on that ammunition will nearly double the price. Criminals, on the other hand, don't generally bother to practice shooting much. For a criminal, getting caught at a range with a gun is itself a crime. And you don't need a lot of ammunition to hold up a store. Really, you don't need any ammunition or even a real gun; a realistic toy gun will be enough in most cases.

So the bullet tax is targeted at people who shoot a lot, and the gun tax is targeted at people who buy a lot of guns through legal sources. Neither of those groups are composed of criminals. They are, however, the people who are likely to push for gun rights. In my opinion, this is a political targeting operation disguised as a tax.

The same applies to the lost-and-stolen law. It's not going to solve any crimes, it's just going to get innocent people whose guns were stolen charged with crimes for being victimized by a criminal. More importantly to politicians, though, it closes the last "registration loophole"; if you buy a gun in Seattle you need to pass a background check or the sale is illegal (including private sales now), and you can be charged with a crime if you don't have a gun that you are bought (with background check) and haven't sold (with background check) and haven't reported lost or stolen.

And for people who bought and then sold guns before the lost-and-stolen rule came into effect, they are now in a catch-22. When they sold the gun without a background check, before *that* rule was in place, it was legal. But they can now be charged with a crime if they can't prove the same took place before the background check requirement for private sales, under either the background check law or the lost and stolen reporting law.

The simplest solution is probably to leave Seattle, which I'm sure the Seattle politicians would be quite happy with.

2015-08-18 09:13:55.0 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]
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