Friday, April 21, 2017

Electronic Gaming Monthly – August 1997

Electronic Gaming Monthly – August 1997






Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hoggetowne Medieval Faire 2013 – Just Desserts

Hoggetowne Medieval Faire 2013 – Just Desserts



Just Desserts at the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire in Gainesville, Florida.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5RI7fl6swY

States Introduce Dubious Anti-Pornography Legislation to Ransom the Internet

States Introduce Dubious Anti-Pornography Legislation to Ransom the Internet

More than a dozen state legislatures are considering a bill called the “Human Trafficking Prevention Act,” which has nothing to do with human trafficking and all to do with one man’s crusade against pornography at the expense of free speech.

At its heart, the model bill would require device manufacturers to pre-install “obscenity” filters on devices like cell phones, tablets, and computers. Consumers would be forced to pony up $20 per device in order to surf the Internet without state censorship.  The legislation is not only technologically unworkable, it violates the First Amendment and significantly burdens consumers and businesses.

Perhaps more shocking is the bill’s provenance. The driving force behind the legislation is a man named Mark Sevier, who has been using the alias “Chris Severe” to contact legislators. According to the Daily Beast, Sevier is a disbarred attorney who has sued major tech companies, blaming them for his pornography addiction, and sued states for the right to marry his laptop.  Reporters Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny uncovered a lengthy legal history for Sevier, including an open arrest warrant and stalking convictions, as well as evidence that Sevier misrepresented his own experience working with anti-trafficking non-profits.

The bill has been introduced in some form Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming (list here). We recommend that any legislator who has to consider this bill read the Daily Beast’s investigation.

But that’s not why they should vote against the Human Trafficking Prevention Act. They should kill this legislation because it’s just plain, awful policy.  Obviously, each version of the legislation varies, but here is the general gist.



Read EFF's opposition letter against H.3003, South Carolina's iteration of the Human Trafficking Prevention Act. 

Pre-installed Filters

Manufacturers of Internet-connected devices would have to pre-install filters to block pornography, including “revenge porn.” Companies would also have to ensure that all child pornography, “revenge pornography,” and “any hub that facilitates prostitution” are rendered inaccessible. Most iterations of the bill require this filtering technology to be turned on and locked in the on position, by default.

This is terrible for consumer choice because it forces people to purchase a software product they don’t necessarily want. It’s also terrible for free speech because it restrains what you can see. Because of the risk of legal liability, companies are more likely to over-censor, blocking content by default rather than giving websites the benefit of the doubt.  The proscriptions are also technologically unworkable: for example, an algorithm can hardly determine whether an item of pornography is “revenge” or consensual or whether a site is a hub for prostitution.

To be clear, unlocking such filters would not just be about accessing pornography.  A user could be seeking to improve the performance of their computer by deleting unnecessary software.  A parent may want to install premium child safety software, which may not play well with the default software. And, of course, many users will simply want to freely surf the Internet without repeatedly being denied access to sites mistakenly swept up in the censorship net.

A Censorship Tax

The model bills would require consumers to pay a $20 fee to unlock each of their devices to exercise their First Amendment rights to look at legal content. Consumers could end up paying a small fortune to unlock their routers, smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers.

Data Collection

Anyone who wants to unlock the filters on their devices would have to put their request in writing. Then they’d be required to show ID, be subjected to a “written warning regarding the potential dangers” of removing the obscenity filter, and then would have to sign a form acknowledging they were shown that warning. That means stores would be maintaining private records on everyone who wanted their “Human Trafficking” filters removed.

The Censorship Machine

The bill would force the companies we rely upon to ensure open access to the Internet to create a massive censorship apparatus that is easily abused.

Under the bill, tech companies would be required to operate call centers or online reporting centers to monitor complaints that a particular site isn’t included in the filter or complaints that a site isn’t being properly filtered. Not only that, but the bill specifically says they must “ensure that all child pornography and revenge pornography is inaccessible on the product” putting immense pressure on companies to aggressively and preemptively block websites to avoid legal liability out of fear of just one illegal or forbidden image making it past their filters. Social media sites would only be immune if they also create a reporting center and “remain reasonably proactive in removing reported obscene content.”

It’s unfortunate that the Human Trafficking Prevention Act has gained traction in so many states, but we're pleased to see that some, such as Wyoming and North Dakota, have already rejected it. Legislators should do the right thing: uphold the Constitution, protect consumers, and not use the problem of human trafficking as an excuse to promote this individual’s agenda against pornography.

Source: States Introduce Dubious Anti-Pornography Legislation to Ransom the Internet | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Taxes Are Worse than You Thought

Taxes Are Worse than You Thought

Taxes Are Worse than You Thought

We are quickly approaching the deadline for filing (and paying) our federal and state income taxes (extended to April 18 this year because of Emancipation Day), and that means it’s time for my annual post at tax time to help put things in perspective.

1. Some Historical Perspective. “In the beginning” when the US federal income tax was first introduced in 1913, it used to be a lot, lot simpler and a lot easier to file taxes; so easy in fact that it was basically like filling out your federal tax return on a postcard.



For example, page 1 of the original IRS 1040 income tax form from 1913 appears above. There were only four pages in the original 1040 form, including two pages of worksheets, the actual one-page 1040 form above, and only one page of instructions (view all four pages here). In contrast, just the current 1040 instructions for 2016, without any forms, runs 106 pages.

Individual federal income tax rates started at 1% in 1913, and the maximum marginal income tax rate was only 7% on incomes above $500,000 (more than $12 million in today’s dollars). The personal exemption in 1913 was $3,000 for individuals ($72,850 in today’s dollars) and $4,000 for married couples ($97,000 in today’s dollars), meaning that very few Americans had to pay federal income tax since the average income in 1913 was only about $750. The Tax Foundation has historical federal income tax rates for every year between 1913 and 2013 here for tax brackets expressed in both nominal dollars and inflation-adjusted dollars.

2. Tax Graphic of the Day (above). Some more historical perspective…

3. Opportunity Cost. In a 2012 report to Congress (most recent data available), the National Taxpayer Advocate estimated that American taxpayers and businesses spend 6.1 billion hours every year complying with the income tax code, based on IRS estimates of how much time taxpayers (both individual and businesses) spend collecting data for, and filling out their tax forms. In addition, Americans will spend an estimated $10 billion for the services of tax preparation firms and $2 billion on tax-preparation software programs like TurboTax that still require many hours of time.

The amount of time spent on income tax compliance – 6.1 billion hours – would be the equivalent of more than 3 million Americans working full-time, year-round (or 2.1% of total US payrolls of 145.9 million). By way of comparison, the federal government currently employs 2.8 million full-time workers, and Wal-Mart, the world’s largest private employer, currently employs 2.2 million workers worldwide and 1.3 million workers in the US (both full-time and part-time). At the current average hourly wage of $21.90 an hour, the dollar value of the opportunity cost associated with tax filing would be more than $131 billion, slightly more than the 2016 GDP of Washington, D.C. ($127 billion).

As T.R. Reid pointed out recently in a New York Times op-ed, it really doesn’t have to be that way. For example:
In Japan, you get a postcard in early spring from Kokuzeicho (Japan’s IRS) that says how much you earned last year, how much tax you owed, and how much was withheld. If you disagree, you go into the tax office to work it out. For nearly everybody, though, the numbers are correct, so you never have to file a return.

4. Tax Progressivity. And just how progressive is the US federal income tax system? Very, very progressive, see the chart above showing average effective tax rates by various income groups in 2014 (most recent year available). That pattern of income tax progressivity explains why almost all federal income taxes are paid by the top income groups (see next few items).

5. Tax Progressivity and Tax Burden. According to the most recent IRS data, the federal income tax shares by six different income groups are displayed in the chart above. Almost all federal income taxes (97.3%) are paid by the top 50%, more than 2/3 of income taxes are paid for by the top 10% and nearly 40% of taxes are paid by the top 1% of taxpayers. For all of the criticism and negative publicity the “Top 1%” get, I’d like to personally thank that group this year at tax time for shouldering such a disproportionate share of our collective tax burden. It’s a form of “disparate impact” on the 1% that we all benefit from! So, I say “Thank You Top 1%” from all of us in the bottom 99% for your valuable and significant contribution to our nation’s tax burden.

 

6. Tax Burden of the Top 1% vs. the Bottom 95%. The chart above gives us another perspective on the tax burden of the top 1% over time, and compares the tax share of that group to the tax burden of the bottom 95% in every year between 1980 and 2014 (most recent year available). In 2014, the top 1% earned 20.6% of the total income reported to the IRS and paid 39.4% of all federal income taxes collected ($543 billion). The bottom 95% of US taxpayers earned 64% of total income (almost three times as much as the top 1%) and paid only 40.5% of the total income taxes collected ($550 billion). So once again, to the 1.395 million taxpayers in the top 1%, I say “Thank You” for paying almost as much in federal income taxes in 2013 as the 132.6 million taxpayers in the bottom 95% by income.

7. Bowling vs. Taxes. Speaking of the progressivity of income taxes, here’s a thought about the way we tax income vs. the way we score bowling. Under the scoring rules of bowling, you get rewarded, not penalized, for being successful. If you get a spare, the scoring system rewards you by adding the pins from the next ball into the current frame, and if you get a strike you get rewarded by adding your next 2 balls into the current frame.

Under our progressive income tax system with seven tax rates in 2015 increasing from 10% to 39.6%, you get penalized, not rewarded, for being successful, productive and entrepreneurial, because the more you earn, the higher the tax rate you pay. The top marginal income tax rate has been as high as 91% in the 1950s and 1960s, and 70% in the 1970s. If we scored bowling the way we tax income, we would subtract, not add pins for a spare or strike, i.e., penalize successful bowling. If we taxed income the way we score bowling, we would have lower, not higher, tax rates on our most successful income-earners.

8. Coincidence? Why are Tax Day (April 15) and Voting Day (first Tuesday in November) so far apart? Couldn’t we move Tax Day to the first Monday in November, or Voting Day to the first Tuesday following April 15?

9. What’s in a Name? Why do we call the IRS a “service?” Couldn’t it have been named a department like Labor, a bureau like the BLS or the FBI, a commission like the FTC, an administration like FDA, an agency like EPA, etc.?

10. 20 Inspirational Quotes about Taxes from Forbes, here are a few good ones:
“The taxpayer: that’s someone who works for the federal government, but doesn’t have to take a civil service examination.” – Ronald Reagan

“We have what it takes to take what you have.” – Suggested IRS Motto 

“It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low, and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the tax rates.” – John F. Kennedy

I am proud to be paying taxes in the United States. The only thing is I could be just as proud for half of the money.” – Arthur Godfrey

“A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.” – G. Gordon Liddy
Happy Tax Day!

Republished from AEI.



Mark J. Perry
Mark J. Perry is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

The Bill of Rights at the Border: Fifth Amendment Protections for Account Passwords and Device Passcodes

The Bill of Rights at the Border: Fifth Amendment Protections for Account Passwords and Device Passcodes



This is the third and final installment in our series on the Constitution at the border. Today, we’ll focus on the Fifth Amendment and passwords. Click here for Part 1 on the First Amendment or Part 2 on the Fourth Amendment.

Lately, a big question on everyone's mind has been: Do I have to give my password to customs agents?

As anyone who’s ever watched any cop show knows, the Fifth Amendment gives you the right to remain silent and to refuse to provide evidence against yourself – even at the border. If a CBP agent asks you a question, you can tell them you choose to remain silent and want to speak to an attorney, even if you don’t have one retained yet. That choice may not stop CBP agents from pressuring you to “voluntarily” talk to them, but they are supposed to stop questioning you once you ask for a lawyer. Also, beware that government agents are permitted to lie to you in order to convince you to waive your right to remain silent, but you can be criminally prosecuted if you lie to them.

CBP agents are unlikely to advise you that you have this choice because the government generally argues that such warnings are only required if you are taken into “custody” and subjected to a criminal prosecution. And at least one federal court of appeals has determined that secondary inspection – the separate interview area you get referred to if the CBP officer can’t readily verify your information at the initial port of entry – doesn’t qualify as “custody.”

But you don’t have to be in custody or subject to a criminal prosecution before you choose to invoke your Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent or to object to being deprived of your property without due process of law. For example, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a person’s request for an attorney is enough to invoke the privilege against self-incrimination, even at the border.

And that privilege includes refusing to provide the password to your device. For example, in 2015, a Pennsylvania court held that you may properly invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege to avoid giving up your cell phone passcode – even to an employer’s phone – because your passcode is personal in nature and producing it requires you to speak or testify against yourself.

Some courts have been less protective, overriding Fifth Amendment protections where the information sought is a so-called “foregone conclusion.” In 2012, a Colorado court ordered a defendant to provide the password to her laptop, only after the government had obtained a search warrant based on the defendant’s admission that there was specific content on her laptop and that the laptop belonged to her. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit clarified that the government "must [first] show with some reasonable particularity that it seeks a certain file and is aware, based on other information, that . . . the file exists in some specified location" and that the individual has access to the desired file or is capable of decrypting it.

So, Fifth Amendment protections do apply at the border, and they protect your right to refuse to reveal your password in most circumstances. That said, individuals passing through the border sometimes choose to surrender their account information and passwords anyway, in order to avoid consequences like missing their flight, being made subject to more constrictive or prolonged detention, or being denied entry to the US.

As we have noted in our Digital Border Search Whitepaper, the consequences for refusing to provide your password(s) are different for different classes of individuals. If you are a U.S. citizen, CBP cannot detain you indefinitely as you have a right to re-enter the country. However, agents may escalate the encounter (for example, by detaining you for more time), or flag you for heightened screening during future border crossings. If you are a lawful permanent resident, agents may also raise complicated questions about your continued status as a resident. If you are a foreign visitor, agents might deny you entry to the country entirely.

But whatever your status, whether you choose to provide your passwords or not, border agents may decide to seize your digital devices. While CBP guidelines set a five-day deadline for agents to return detained devices unless a CBP supervisor approves a lengthier detention, in practice, device detentions commonly last many months.

Source: The Bill of Rights at the Border: Fifth Amendment Protections for Account Passwords and Device Passcodes | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Antic – September 1986

Antic – September 1986