Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Three More Ways to Get Bitcoin

Three More Ways to Get Bitcoin

Three More Ways to Get Bitcoin

There are many trading platforms that people can use to purchase and sell bitcoin, but sometimes people don’t want to go through the hassle of registering with an exchange. On the other hand, some individuals also don’t want to use Localbitcoins as they may dislike the process of dealing with peer-to-peer traders. Many people don’t know that there are other types of methods individuals can use to purchase and sell bitcoin, and some of them may be at your local convenience store.

Liberty X

The company Liberty X (formally Liberty Teller) was founded in 2014 by launching the first bitcoin ATMs in the U.S. Since then the startup has grown into a different kind of business by operating as a “virtual” bitcoin ATM provider. In order to purchase bitcoin with Liberty X you have to download the app for either Android or iOS and register with your phone number.

Then you go onto the application’s map to find one of Liberty X’s local stores by typing in your zip code. Following this, a bunch of stores will pop up with red pendants, and you can choose the closest merchant near you. The highlighted store within the app will tell you the specific details on how much bitcoin you can buy and the fees associated with the purchase.

After you choose a store, you simply travel to the location to purchase a bitcoin voucher. On arrival, you buy a voucher from the cashier that enables you to redeem bitcoin to any address. Using Liberty X to purchase bitcoin is a different kind of buying experience, and people may appreciate purchasing from a convenience store.

Spare

Now if you want to sell bitcoin there’s another way to obtain cash for your BTC that’s similar to the Liberty X transaction above. Using an iOS-only app called Spare users can sell bitcoins at local convenience stores located in Washington DC, Colorado, New York, Philadelphia, and New Jersey with more locations to follow. Users sell bitcoins to the service and receive a one-time generated PIN to give to the nearest shop on their GPS map. The clerk at the local convenience store will then verify the Spare application’s PIN and pay cash in exchange. Spare began offering bitcoin for cash services this year, and the company believes it takes the hassle out of searching for a two-way bitcoin ATM.

“With Spare’s Bitcoin support, there will be no more wasting time searching for Bitcoin ATMs, as everything can be done directly from your iOS device. Alongside, inspired by a huge response in the domestic scene, we are now looking forward to pushing our game-changing service to international regions as well”, stated D’ontra Hughes, the founder of Spare.

Paxful

Another unconventional method to purchase and sell bitcoins is by using retail store gift cards. The peer-to-peer bitcoin exchange Paxful offers users the ability to trade gift cards for bitcoins from a wide variety of stores. Gift cards Paxful traders accept include cards for Amazon, Walmart, Vanilla Visa, Nintendo e-shop, Forever 21, Itunes, Footlocker, Fandango, and many more. To use Paxful’s gift card service just enter the type of card you have and the platform’s search engine will find traders that are willing to sell bitcoin for those cards.

The founders of Paxful, Ray Youssef, and Artur Schaback say the platform services a lot of customers as the two told Bitcoin.com the company processes 8,000 bitcoin transactions per day. Paxful operates in a similar fashion to Localbitcoins, but the trading platform does not facilitate in-person local trades. Youssef says bitcoin has allowed the marketplace to provide different feature sets like gift card sales and other ways to trade.

“The advent of an instantly transferable digital currency like bitcoin has opened the door to an era of escrow services each catering to different niches and with different feature sets,” Youssef explained to Bitcoin.com.

The Many Niche Bitcoin Markets

All of the services mentioned above have different benefits for those who would rather not trade on an online bitcoin exchange. But they also add other aspects to the equation like having to drive to physical locations to exchange. However, people may find themselves more comfortable purchasing and selling bitcoins with a store clerk in a public setting. Or maybe a person was given a few store gift cards for their birthday and would rather sell them for bitcoins.

The fact is, as the ecosystem has shown immense growth over the years, there are now many niche markets in 2017 that allow different ways to obtain bitcoin.

Republished from Bitcoin.com.


Jamie Redman


Jamie Redman is a financial tech journalist living in Florida. Redman has been an active member of the cryptocurrency community since 2011. He has a passion for Bitcoin, open source code, and decentralized applications. Redman has written hundreds of articles about the disruptive protocols emerging today.

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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

If We Step Up the Drug War, You’ll Be a Victim

If We Step Up the Drug War, You’ll Be a Victim

If We Step Up the Drug War, You'll Be a Victim

What word best describes the War on Drugs? Inane? Lunacy? Indecent? Harmful? Thuggery?

The right answer is All of the Above. Politicians have ruined lives and wasted money in a futile campaign to stop people from recreational drug use.

It may be true that people who use drugs are being stupid. Or even immoral. But the key thing to understand is that it’s a victimless crime.

Actually, that’s not true, there are victims. They’re called taxpayers, who have to finance the government’s drug war. And there are secondary victims thanks to bad laws (dealing with asset forfeiture and money laundering) that only exist because of the drug war.

Speaking of which, here’s another horror story from the drug war:
A report by the Justice Department Inspector General released Wednesday found that the DEA’s gargantuan amount of cash seizures often didn’t relate to any ongoing criminal investigations, and 82 percent of seizures it reviewed ended up being settled administratively—that is, without any judicial review—raising civil liberties concerns … the Inspector General reports the DEA seized $4.15 billion in cash since 2007, accounting for 80 percent of all Justice Department cash seizures.
Here’s the jaw-dropping part of the story:
… $3.2 billion of those seizures were never connected to any criminal charges.
In other words, the government took people’s money even if they weren’t charged with a crime, much less convicted of a crime.

Drug users also can be victims. Heck, sometimes people are victims even if they’re not users, as we see from this great moment in the drug war:
“They thought they had the biggest bust in Harris County,” Ross LeBeau said. “This was the bust of the year for them.” A traffic stop in early December led to the discovery of almost half a pound of what deputies believed to be methamphetamine. The deputies arrested LeBeau and sent out a press release, including a mug shot, describing the bust. According to authorities, the arrest was due to deputies finding a sock filled with what they believed to be methamphetamine … After the arrest, LeBeau was fingerprinted and booked into a jail where he spent three days before being released. The problem came after two field tests, performed by deputies, came back positive for meth. Later a third test was conducted by the county’s forensic lab which revealed that the kitty litter was not a controlled substance. The case was later dismissed.
And more bad things like this are probably going to happen because the Justice Department now wants a more punitive approach to victimless crimes.

C.J. Ciaramella of Reason reports on the grim details:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to seek the toughest charges and maximum possible sentences available, reversing an Obama-era policy that sought to avoid mandatory minimum sentences for certain low-level drug crimes … the overall message is clear: Federal prosecutors have the green light to go hard after any and all drug offenses … The shift marks the first significant return by the Trump administration to the drug war policies that the Obama administration tried to moderate. In 2013, former Attorney General Eric Holder ordered federal prosecutors to avoid charging certain low-level offenders with drug charges that triggered long mandatory sentences. The federal prison population dropped for the first time in three decades in 2014, and has continued to fall since.
Some Republicans are unhappy about this return to draconian policies:
“Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated too many minorities for too long,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said in a statement. “Attorney General Sessions’ new policy will accentuate that injustice … Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), although he did not directly criticize Sessions, wrote in a tweet Friday morning that “to be tough on crime we have to be smart on crime. That is why criminal justice reform is a conservative issue.”
For what it’s worth, Sessions isn’t the only one who deserves blame:
While it’s easy to point the finger at Sessions … Congress ultimately passed the laws the Justice Department is tasked with enforcing. Lawmakers in Congress had a golden window of opportunity over the past three years to revise federal sentencing laws—with bipartisan winds at their back and a friendly administration in White House—and failed miserably.
And there is a tiny bit of good news:
… the Office of National Drug Control Policy … Trump plans to reduce the agency’s budget by 95 percent … there are plenty of actual harm reduction advocates who would be happy to see the agency close up shop.
Though don’t get too excited:
… you know what federal agency with drug policy ramifications is not dormant? The Justice Department … In the grand scheme of the drug war, who might occupy the ONDCP’s bully pulpit matters less than the army Sessions is building.
So don’t hold your breath waiting for better policy.

Here’s another reason why the war on pot is so absurd. As reported by the Daily Caller, people without access to marijuana are more likely to get in trouble with opioids:
Opioids continue to claim 91 lives a day across the U.S., but new research shows medical marijuana programs are drastically cutting down on rates of painkiller abuse. Research from the Journal of the American Medical Association is adding to a growing body of evidence showing states with medical marijuana programs have lower rates of opioid related overdoses. Patients who are offered pot as an alternative treatment for chronic conditions are increasingly shifting off their prescription opioids entirely, reports WLBZ. The researchers found states with medical marijuana programs in 2014 had an opioid overdose rate roughly 25 percent lower than the national average.
Last but not least, an article in Reason explains how greedy politicians are undermining the otherwise successful pot legalization in Colorado:
Colorado … voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, transforming the popular stuff from a prohibited vice to a substance that could be produced, bought and sold without the hassle of hiding dealings from the authorities and the fear of arrest for voluntary transactions. Yet the marijuana black market is still going strong over four years later, with many sellers and customers willing to take a chance on legal consequences rather than make a risk-free deal … the driving force behind the black market … is taxes so sky high and regulations so burdensome that they make legal pot uncompetitive. “An ounce of pot on the black market can cost as little as 180 dollars,” according to PBS correspondent Rick Karr. “At the store Andy Williams owns, you have to pay around 240 dollars for an ounce. That’s partly because the price includes a 15 percent excise tax, a 10 percent marijuana tax, the state sales tax, and Denver’s marijuana sales tax.” Colorado also piles on expensive regulatory requirements to get a license.
This is not a surprise.

I wrote back in 2015 that the tax burden was excessive.

Indeed, I even wondered if legalization in Colorado was a good thing if the net result was a big pile of tax revenue that could be used to expand government.

The libertarian part of me says Colorado made the right decision, though the fiscal economist part of me definitely sees a downside.

And that downside may become an even bigger downer:
Governor John Hickenlooper wants to increase the marijuana sales tax from 10 percent to 12 percent. “It seems kind of odd that at the same time they’re trying to do something about the black and gray markets they’re going to ratchet up the taxes and drive more people to the black and gray markets,” state Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver) commented.
P.S. I wonder if Senator Steadman realizes he just embraced the Laffer Curve?

P.P.S. It’s worth noting that voices as diverse as John Stossel, Mona Charen, Gary Johnson, Pat Robertson, Cory Booker, John McCain, and Richard Branson all agree that it’s time to rethink marijuana prohibition.

Republished from International Liberty.


Daniel J. Mitchell


Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.

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


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hayek and Satoshi Meet in Vegas

Hayek and Satoshi Meet in Vegas

Hayek and Satoshi Meet in Vegas

F.A. Hayek is smiling, or perhaps blushing, if news has trickled up to where all great Austrian economists go. The Legends Room Gentlemen’s Club in Las Vegas has created its own virtual currency, known as LGD.





Todd Prince broke the story in the Las Vegas Review Journal that the soon-to-be-open club is “hoping a new marketing weapon – a virtual currency – will help them wrestle tech- and investment-savvy clients away from the strip club giants.”

Club owners are selling memberships to Legends for $5,000, which can be paid for with bitcoin as well as the US government’s legal tender or credit cards. “Members in return will receive 5,000 LGD, a virtual currency created by Legends Room, that can be used to pay for lap dances and drinks.”

Alert readers will notice that the club’s owners have set the LGD/$ exchange rate at par. One wonders whether it will remain there. After all, the aforementioned bitcoin has taken off yet again and it takes 1,994.42 of Uncle Sam’s bucks to buy a single Satoshi bitcoin.

A New Crypto

Non-members will be required to buy at least one LGD to enter the club’s VIP room, so the owners hope this will create a market for their cryptocurrency. If nothing else, they are dreaming big, with plans to display the daily price of their currency along with bitcoin on video monitors throughout the club.

Prince explains, “Members and other token-holders will be able to sell their LGD for bitcoin on the Bittrex cryptocurrency exchange or for cash through the club’s concierge to those seeking access to the VIP room.” LGD will be just one of the more than 190 cryptocurrencies Bittrex supports.

In a vast departure from typical strip club protocol, Legends will offer a Bloomberg terminal for patrons to monitor stock and bond prices during trading hours. No doubt some dancers will take advantage of the terminal to keep an eye on their investments. (The most remembered story I’ve told to all economics classes I’ve taught is about the worst stock tip I ever received – from a dancer in a strip club.)

A Fad No More

By coincidence, the May 19th issue of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer devotes its front page to bitcoin with the catchy title “I own tulips at 40 cents a bulb.” The folks at Grant’s queried a few investors in the bitcoin space. None poo-pooed the cryptocurrency as a bubbly fad: “It’s a stored value, a monetary asset that’s winning its place in the hearts and minds of the world’s financially repressed,” says Murray Stahl, speaking of Satoshi's handiwork.

 

Stahl went from not knowing what a bitcoin was two years ago to buying 20 computer servers and beginning a bitcoin mining operation. Besides Satoshi's technology, Stahl was impressed with the bitcoin founder’s theory. “He wanted to create a non-inflationary currency,” Stahl told Grant’s. “That is really what he wanted to do. The first one that ever existed that no government could ever tamper with, and he did it.”

By the way, Stahl says the cost to mine a bitcoin is about $1,200, but he’s not about to sell his. “I think that something has to replace the current monetary insanity.”

Another friend of Grant’s is buying other cryptocurrencies. The business plan of these currency creators is speculation, “and they all say the same thing,” Grant’s friend concludes. “It’s no problem, we’re just going to convert it into bitcoin.”

For Professor Hayek, competition in currencies was not about creating speculative vehicles, but instead, “under the proposed scheme, the managers of the bank would learn that its business depended on the unshaken confidence that it would continue to regulate its issue of ducats (etc.) so that their purchasing power remained approximately constant.”

In his book Denationalization of Money, Hayek anticipated the current monetary insanity Murray Stahl speaks of, explaining,
And it should be in the power of each issuer of a distinct currency to regulate its quantity so as to make it most acceptable to the public – and competition would force him to do so. Indeed, he would know that the penalty for failing to fulfill the expectations raised would be the prompt loss of the business. Successful entry into it would evidently be a very profitable venture, and success would depend on establishing the credibility and trust that the bank was able and determined to carry out its declared intentions. It would seem that in this situation sheer desire for gain would produce a better money than government has ever produced.
QR Codes

Besides its store of value potential, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have great advantages in ease of payment. Great wealth can be transmitted with the push of a button. Or, for the girls who will work at Legends, Mr. Prince writes, “Members would be able to scan QR bars either on the dancer’s phone or placed on her body rather than stuffing dollars into her stockings.”

While the number of bitcoin to be produced will stop just short of 21 million, the ambitious owners of Legends are giving themselves more running room, limiting the number of LGD to 30 million. Janet Yellen and Mario Draghi have no such constrictions.

Legends will open in June, and will be a great place for a field trip to see cryptocurrency in action during Freedomfest July 19th through July 22nd.


Douglas French

Douglas French is an Associated Scholar at the Johnson Center at Troy University and adjunct professor at Georgia Military College. He is the author of three books: Early Speculative Bubbles and Increases in the Supply of Money, Walk Away, and The Failure of Common Knowledge.

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

Government Has Done Nothing Good for Bitcoin

Government Has Done Nothing Good for Bitcoin

Government Has Done Nothing Good for Bitcoin

The dollar exchange ratio of Bitcoin has finally topped $2,000. This is thanks in part to new international demand for the currency, due to the great ransomware panic of 2017. It appears that this was a catalyzing event to get BTC to the new level.

The hackers demanded Bitcoin as payment for unlocking user files, and reportedly offered excellent customer service. Many people who had thus far eschewed Bitcoin were enticed into the ownership and exchange of this payment tool for the first time.

The story reminds me of Bernard Mandeville’s theory that vice can nurse ingenuity.
Do we not owe the Growth of Wine
To the dry shabby crooked Vine?
This newest turn is no different from many factors that have led to Bitcoin’s rise and rise over the last eight years. It was released as a safe haven from the financial crisis of 2008. If a decline in real estate values can really threaten the foundations of world finance, how good can our current money and payment systems really be? Our times were crying out for something new.

The Internet had shown us how to do almost everything better than before. Surely it could the same for money and payment systems. Money itself hadn’t been modernized in one hundred years. As for credit cards, they work today as they did just after World War II: third parties assess your trustworthiness and grant you trust based on your identity. We haven’t really advanced much beyond this basic model.

Disruptive Money

Then came Bitcoin. With its payment system, you exchange ownership rights to scarce digital goods (yes, goods, in this case, is a metaphor for a mathematical fiction) directly peer-to-peer with no third-party source of intermediation. In other words, it works exactly the way cash works when you buy milk at the convenience store. Your identity doesn’t matter. The paper is a proxy for the ownership of real goods.

But it’s even better because you don’t actually have to be there to make it happen. Any two people on the planet with access to the internet can transfer ownership rights to a digital thing. That makes Bitcoin – the numeraire that makes the ledger system work – a global currency.

Bitcoin never demanded that it be valued by virtue of its existence. It merely presented itself to market actors and asked them to judge. Ten months following its release, the first posted price of Bitcoin appeared: someone, somewhere found this thing valuable. The market itself – not a decree, not an imposition by intellectuals, and not some social consensus – is the source of Bitcoin's value.

Of course, it was the edgiest users in the early days that gave Bitcoin its most robust test runs. Initially, it was valuable for online trades of pot, and this was long before many uses of marijuana became legal for many Americans. Then it has been used for other nefarious purposes involving escort services and more.

I don’t see that this is a point of embarrassment for Bitcoin. It’s the path of many innovations. Mandeville again comes to mind.

Hackers Love It Too

You can see, then, why the hackers would choose it as a preferred currency. No exchange rates between countries. No third parties to block access. No limits on the people who can use and transfer the stuff. The hackers were pretty smart here: they preferred this currency to every other existing currency that is tracked, controlled, and limited in its development by governments.

Bitcoin was blessed in its early days by government officials who figured it was going nowhere. Years went by while it thrived in an atmosphere of benign neglect. That was the source of its rising sophistication and marketability. Bitcoin didn’t need government to become its champion; Bitcoin needed government to stay out of the way.

For the most part government didn't interfere until the dread day of March 18, 2013, on which the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network imposed strict rules for converting between Bitcoin and dollars. If you made a business out of this practice, FinCEN demanded (no Congressional mandate required) that you register as a money-exchange business, a very expensive and arduous process.

That regulatory imposition, only four-pages long, had a devastating effect on market development. Hundreds of entrepreneurs had seen an opportunity here. Suddenly they were all being told that if they go ahead with their plans, they would be treated as criminals. Many players just walked away. The only institutions that were left after this shake out were the largest ones that had the capital to weather the new costs of doing business. The free market of Bitcoin/dollar exchange was at an end.

A Pain in the Neck

It’s been this way for Bitcoin all along. So long as you stay within the cryptocurrency’s ecosphere, you are good and safe and there is innovation all around. Moving from dollars to Bitcoin and back again, however, presents some serious problems.

I don’t mean technological problems, of course. Bitcoin can handle that. The problem stems from government’s desire to make Bitcoin behave like an old-fashioned money and payment system, with know-your-customer rules and, inevitably, the desire of our rulers to wet their beaks in a new revenue pond. They want a cut of every new source of wealth, which means that they want to follow every monetary tool, especially that which is new and innovative.

Bitcoin is becoming a money? You have to give government its cut.

Fortune reports:
A closely-watched fight between the Internal Revenue Service and a popular bitcoin exchange took a new twist last week, as senior Republicans in Congress sent a sharply-worded letter that suggests the tax agency is overstepping its powers.

The letter concerns an IRS investigation into possible tax evasion by customers who use Coinbase, a San Francisco-based company that many people use to buy digital currencies. As part of the investigation, which began last year, officials demanded that Coinbase turn over information for every one of its accounts.
The letter opposing this move is actually pretty good:
We strongly question whether the IRS has actually established a reasonable basis to support the mass production of records for half of a million people, the vast majority of whom appear to not be conducting the volume of transactions needed to report them to the IRS. Based on the information before us, this summons seems overly broad, extremely burdensome, and highly intrusive to a large population of individuals. The IRS's actions in this case also set a dangerous precedent for companies facilitating virtual currency transactions that could be subject to a similar summons.
Few innovations have been met with such incredulity from the outset through the rise and development periods. Now Bitcoin is firmly rooted in modern finance, and is poised to be a leader in the future of currency and payment systems. No matter what government does now, Bitcoin has a brilliant future.

The Need Is There

We need a nongovernment, global currency that is reliable, secure, universally available, unmediated by financial authority, and tied to real ownership. We didn’t entirely know that we needed this – and we didn't know it was technically possible to do this entirely in a digital realm – until Bitcoin came along. Now we do and there is no going back.

It operates on its own just fine. All government can do – now just as in the past – is slow the growth and keep the future from happening as quickly as it should.

To be sure, many stakeholders in the Bitcoin space favor some government involvement, if only to end the legal uncertainty that continues to hold back the innovation and the infrastructure behind it. This is tragic but understandable in times when all human activity is either mandated or prohibited. Here’s to hoping that cryptocurrency itself makes strides in changing that presumption.

N.B.: FEE has been on the cutting edge of commentary on this important topic since the early days, and FEE's work surely could use donations in this currency.


Jeffrey A. Tucker


Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

GamePro – April 1996

GamePro – April 1996




Brevard Renaissance Fair 2017 – Pub Sing – The Limeybirds

Brevard Renaissance Fair 2017 – Pub Sing – The Limeybirds



Friday, May 19, 2017

A Century Later, Mises Is Still Being Validated

A Century Later, Mises Is Still Being Validated

A Century Later, Mises Is Still Being Validated

It has been said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” No one quite knows who first uttered this remark; it has been attributed to Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, and has even been said to be an Ancient Chinese Proverb. What is known is that this cliché has been repeated over and over again so often that its mere mention substantiates its own definition.


Several of the ladies and gentlemen above wanted to let us know that they’re merely eccentric, and if they want to do things all over again and again and again, we should let them…

Nonetheless, we repeat it again because it’s particularly fitting to today’s deliberations. Here we begin with a look back to the past in search of edification. For the miscalculations of the past continue to dictate the insanity of the present.

Many years ago, a bright minded and well intentioned Italian pursued a devious undertaking. His efforts aimed to conceive a pure theory of a socialist economy. His objective was to take the sordid teachings of Marx and pencil out the mechanics of how a centrally planned economy could bring a life of security and abundance for all. What follows is an approximation of how the dirty deed went down.

Seeing the Light



In 1908, Italian economist Enrico Barone suffered an abstraction. One late night he skipped a bite of his meatballs and marinara, and gazed into the outer frontiers of deep space. Looking around, he couldn’t believe his eyes. For in this far corner of absolute darkness, he saw something truly amazing. Out in the distant reaches of nothingness, peering into a black hole, he saw not the dark. Rather, he thought he saw the light.

Barone’s light was a socialist utopia achieved through “scientific management” of the economy, lorded over by the Ministry of Production. Through this endeavor, he imagined, an economy could attain something called “maximum collective welfare.”



Enrico Barone in the only photo of him we could find. Both Vilfredo Pareto (in 1897) and Barone (in 1908, in the monograph “The Ministry of Production” discussed above) used a system of simultaneous equations based on Walrasian general equilibrium theory in order to investigate whether there was some sort of theoretical/ mathematical solution available to central planners facing the problem of what to produce, how much of it to produce, how, when, and where to produce it, etc., what resources in what quantities to allocate to capital goods production, how much consumption to permit, etc., etc. – all the stuff socialist planners ultimately turned out to be really bad at. Anyway, we have to defend Barone and Pareto a bit, as neither of them seemed to really believe that the approach was actually viable in the real world.

After presenting all his nifty equations, Barone pointed out that the planners would ultimately still need all the things they thought they could abolish (prices, rent, profits, interest, savings, etc., which he averred would “probably return under different names”). He also noted that because no a priori determination of the “economically most viable technical coefficients” for the production system was conceivable (always assuming the goal of the planners was to maximize welfare), they would have to “experiment on a grand scale” – which would be far more wasteful than the so-called “anarchy of production” they wanted to replace.

In the final pages of his monograph Barone proceeded to lambast “collectivist writers…[who] simply show that they have no clear idea of what production really is”, and inter alia remarked that “to promise increased welfare and to propose to “organize” production and to preach about free love in the new regime is simply ridiculous nonsense.”

Pareto meanwhile noted along similar lines that it would simply be impossible to perform all the calculations needed for running a complex economy in time and recommended to “rather observe the practical solution given by the market”. The problem was that the Marxists were simply too dense to understand what they were trying to tell them – instead it ended up giving them ideas (further elaboration regarding the issue is in the caption under the Mises picture, below). [PT]

Swiss Cheese Rationale

The proposal was simple enough. If a bounty of academics were put to the task of determining the best prices for all goods and services, supply and demand could be optimized to produce an economy without poverty, without unemployment… and without possibility.

 

Of course, with all these number crunchers hammering out technical memorandums and white papers, projecting data into the future with the intention of fixing the optimal price of toothpaste and pizza, how could they account for a change beyond their control or imagination? What if a springtime heat wave resulted in a meager wheat harvest?

How would this affect their pre-determined price for a 16 inch pizza? Would government mandated thin crust be the solution? More than likely, before the data fabricators could re-optimize the price to the change in conditions, the pizzerias would be out of pizza dough because the price wasn’t allowed to naturally adjust upward by free market interactions. Government-induced shortages and artificial scarcity would result.

With just a little common sense, Barone’s ideas are quickly exposed as absurd.

From an academic standpoint, in his 1920 monograph, Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, poked so many holes through the rationale it was transformed to Swiss cheese.


Swiss cheese does indeed have holes – this reminds us of the other day, when we bought a piece of Swiss cheese at a local supermarket, only to find out at home that the wrapping paper was empty. Upon confronting the author of this transgression (the dweller behind the cheese counter) with his misdeed, he explained that it had been a Swiss cheese with particularly large holes, and the piece he had sold us simply was one of said holes.

We realized that if we were to time our future Swiss cheese purchases judiciously, we would be spared a lot of unnecessary calorie intake. In socialist Utopias one can afford sloppier timing… there they sell only the holes most of the time (a popular snack in Caracas these days is reportedly “Hole of Swiss Cheese with Rat”). [PT]

With exacting repudiation, Mises argued that in a socialist economy rational economic calculation is impossible; in the absence of private ownership of the means of production, attempts to allocate resources efficiently must fail.

Without market-determined prices for goods and services via free exchange it is impossible to establish prices that reflect actual conditions. Without prices that are grounded in reality, the production and consumption relationship becomes distorted. In the absence of the natural corrective mechanism of market-determined prices, oversupply and scarcity conditions extend out to absurdity.


Ludwig von Mises naturally refrained from wasting time by wrestling with general equilibrium equations. He realized right away what the core problem was, but was misunderstood and/ or misinterpreted by contemporary and later socialist economists, of whom frighteningly large numbers were uselessly occupying otherwise perfectly fine standing room in his heyday – there must have been a nest somewhere, considering how they suddenly proliferated (their large number did nothing to improve the quality of their ideas and arguments.

There were also a few interesting chameleons like the historicist Werner Sombart, a trust fund baby who started out as a radical Marxist, then joined the “socialists of the chair” who supported the Prussian dynasty of the Hohenzollern, and later on discovered his inner nationalist and became chummy with the Nazis without so much as batting an eyelid – just as long as he was in bed with vile statists he seemed to be happy!).

Anyway, after the publication of Mises’ monograph on the literal impossibility of a rational economy under socialism, Mises, Hayek and occasionally Lionel Robbins (a fellow fighter of the good fight on Hayek’s side before he defected for unfathomable reasons), proceeded to debate the leading socialist economists on the socialist calculation problem for decades (Menger and Boehm-Bawerk had debated the previous generation, except for those who invoked polylogism so as not to have to defend their ideas against “economists employing bourgeois logic”.Today’s identity-politics SJWs who have whole lists of topics white males are supposedly not allowed to speak or think about are a bit reminiscent of that).

Socialist economist Fred Taylor was apparently inspired by Barone’s remark that there would be no equations for the planners to sensibly solve if they didn’t do “experiments on a grand scale”. While Barone seemed to indicate that this rendered the entire exercise useless and they might as well stick with the market economy, Taylor shrugged and said “Why not? Let’s do that!” Consequently, he proposed the “trial and error” method of central planning, once again missing the essence of the problem.

Taylor then joined Oscar Lange with whom he wrote “On the Economic Theory of Socialism”. Two or three years later Henry Dickinson’s “Economics of Socialism” was published. This trio was in the process of conceding step by step that without prices for capital goods, rational resource allocation was indeed not possible, just as Mises had always pointed out.

Over the decades the debate had moved from “calculation in natura” propagated by Otto Bauer in the late 19th/early 20th century (a bizarre idea, we would have liked seeing him draw up a balance sheet), to the planners simply using the Pareto/ Barone equilibrium equations to “calculate” production, to the addition of the “trial and error” method as a refinement, until finally, they renamed their method “market socialism”, adding some additional ideas to Taylor’s trial and error shtick by which they hoped to successfully replicate the price system.

There would still be socialism, but the central planners and their subordinated factory managers would actually “play at market” – they would run a kind of make-believe market, a bit like little kids playing Monopoly. Given that they went as far as wanting to try that, one wonders why they didn’t just decide to simply stick with a market economy!

To this final pathetic attempt to save their tattered socialist economic theory Mises inter alia remarked later:


[…] the cardinal fallacy implied in [market socialist] proposals is that they look at the economic problem from the perspective of the subaltern clerk whose intellectual horizon does not extend beyond subordinate tasks. They consider the structure of industrial production and the allocation of capital to the various branches and production aggregates as rigid, and do not take into account the necessity of altering this structure in order to adjust it to changes in conditions. What they have in mind is a world in which no further changes occur and economic history has reached its final stage. They fail to realize that the operations of corporate officers consist merely in the loyal execution of the tasks entrusted to them by their bosses, the shareholders. The operations of managers, their buying and selling, are only a small segment of the totality of market operations. The market of the capitalist society also performs those operations which allocate capital goods to the various branches of industry. The entrepreneurs and capitalists establish corporations and other firms, enlarge or reduce their size, dissolve them or merge them with other enterprises; they buy and sell the shares and bonds of already existing and of new corporations; they grant, withdraw, and recover credits; in short they perform all those acts the totality of which is called the capital and money market. It is these financial transactions of promoters and speculators that direct production into those channels in which it satisfies the most urgent wants of the consumers in the best possible way. These transactions constitute the market as such. If one eliminates them, one does not preserve any part of the market. What remains is a fragment that cannot exist.”

Oh well... making favorable mention of speculators, promoters and entrepreneurs when explaining to the Reds what they are wrong about is probably a good way of getting them riled up…:) Mises’ remark above indirectly encompasses questions about the nature of knowledge and its distribution Hayek had begun to discuss in the early 40’s. The point being that what all these individual entrepreneurs, speculators, promoters etc. discover and know, their individual talents and the part of their knowledge that is tacit, which they cannot even verbalize themselves – all of these things a central planning agency can never learn and will therefore never know. Even if its bureaucrats were mind readers and did know about them, why would they ever care? In the socialist commonwealth going the extra mile has no rewards.

As a final remark to this highly condensed caption version of the socialist calculation debate: although Oscar Lange became a high-ranking communist official in Poland after WW2, the system of “market socialism” was never even tried there. They opted for old-fashioned Stalinist oppression instead (and the guy had sounded so reasonable while he was still in the US!). We know Lange had still not conceded a basic error in his in old age, as he made a gleeful remark in 1967 about computers soon being able to calculate all those equilibrium equations proposed by Barone rapidly enough that a perfect 5 year plan could finally be produced for the comrades. Good grief! [PT]


Polish-American socialist economist Oscar Lange

Ludwig von Mises’ Century of Validation

The planners are never able to get things quite right. In time, these absurdities become ubiquitous. For example, in a socialist economy you’ll find supermarkets with long lines of people and empty shelves. Another definitive gift of socialist economies is toilets without toilet seats. How is this even possible?

Still, the socialist visionaries loved Barone’s gibberish because it endorsed their conceit. Here was a marvelous way for the enlightened illuminati to play god, muck with people’s lives at large, and remake the world in their image. Conversely, the mainstream economists of the day greeted Mises’s truths like a five-year-old first greets word that Santa Clause isn’t real. They derided his efforts and attempted to marginalize his work. This still continues today.

The ideas of Barone, which were an attempt at defining a practical application of Marx, swept across Eastern Europe during the early 20th century like a medieval plague. Later, a somewhat altered derivative of these ideas resurfaced in France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Japan, among other places, within the intersection of Keynesian fiscal policies and Chicago school monetary policies.

Rather than having to directly fix the price of individual goods and services via a Central Planning Board, it was established that a Central Bank can crunch fabricated aggregate demand data and control the prices of an entire economy just by monkeying around with the price of credit. What’s more, governments could run perpetual deficits to remold things nearer to their heart’s desire.

Mises’ efforts to refute socialist economic proposals nearly a century ago were explicitly validated with the decline and fall of Soviet socialism. Presently, they are being openly validated again, with the utter chaos being heaped upon the people of Venezuela.



The somewhat diminished modern-day shopping experience in Venezuela – meet the latest attempt to make socialist economics “work” by finally “doing it right”.

Et Infinitum

Indeed, the results of government intervention are always the same. Stagnation, inflation, declining living standards, and widespread social disorder. No doubt, they’ll be repeated to insanity.

In closing, and although many refuse to recognize it, Mises’ truths are currently borne out in the United States, and other social and corporate welfare economies, where money, which is a form of private property, is covertly confiscated by the insidious effects of a centrally planned system that’s based on ever increasing issuance of debt.

Lengthy article-in-article captions by PT.

Reprinted from Acting-Man.



MN Gordon
MN Gordon is President and Founder of Direct Expressions LLC, an independent publishing company. He is the Editorial Director and Publisher of the Economic Prism – an E-Newsletter that tries to bring clarity to the muddy waters of economic policy and discusses interesting investment opportunities.

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

X-Files Season 11 Set For Midseason




X-Files Season 11 Set For Midseason


The truth is out there for at least 10 more episodes. The X-Files Season 11 will arrive in 2018, Fox confirmed. The fact that they’re offering fans a larger episode count than we got with Season 10, which only had six episodes, is a good sign. Here’s what we know so far:

X-Files Season 11 Release Date:

Ahead of Fox’s upfront presentation in New York, the network announced The X-Files season 11 will air midseason. The revival aired in the coveted post-NFC championship game slot in 2016 to big ratings. We’ll see if Fox chooses to go that route again.

X-Files Season 11 Writers

Aside from Chris Carter, it’s still too early to know who will be returning to The X-Files to write for the new season. We do know the season will shoot in the late summer, which frees up Glen Morgan, who is currently working on an adaptation of the popular Lore podcast for Amazon. Morgan wrote and directed “Home Again” in season 10.

As faith would have it, Den of Geek had the opportunity to speak with former X-Files executive producer and Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan the day after Fox confirmed an eleventh season of The X-Files. Despite his busy schedule, Gilligan said he would “love” to write for the X-Files again if he had the time. He confirmed that no one from the X-Files had contacted him about returning, though.

Read more:  http://www.megalextoria.com/wordpress/index.php/2017/05/19/x-files-season-11-set-for-midseason/



Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lisa & Christie from Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball

Lisa & Christie from Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball





Brevard Renaissance Fair 2017 – Pub Sing – Wolgemut & Hips of Destruction

Brevard Renaissance Fair 2017 – Pub Sing – Wolgemut & Hips of Destruction

The Log Tax Is Harming Both Americans and Canadians

The Log Tax Is Harming Both Americans and Canadians

The Log Tax Is Harming Both Americans and Canadians

In early May, Vancouver in Canada’s far western province of British Columbia is a beautiful place. Full-bloom dogwoods, rhododendron, and azaleas blanket the city against the backdrop of a sky-blue harbor and beckoning snow-capped peaks.

“What a contrast!” I thought as I walked the streets of Vancouver two weeks ago, “between the calming artistry of nature and the nastiness of politics."

I was there barely a week after President Trump’s imposition of 20% tariffs on logs imported from Canada. It was also just days before elections that would determine which party controlled the British Columbia Legislature and, thereby, who would serve as the province’s next Premier.

The timing was superb for enjoying the sites of Vancouver but not so good for Trump’s tariffs.

A Tax on Americans



As Mark Perry explained, the new duties were ushered in amid plenty of bluster about “unfair” and cheap, subsidized lumber from our northern neighbors but they are actually taxes levied on Americans who buy Canadian lumber, especially American home builders, bed-frame and pallet manufacturers, and picket-fence makers. All the time-honored logic of trade economics applies here, suggesting that not much good, and perhaps a lot of harm, would likely ensue for parties on both sides of the border.

I picked up a copy of the British Columbia edition of The Globe and Mail to see what the Canadians were saying about it all.

As you might imagine, nobody was cheering for Trump and the U.S. In fact, the incumbent Liberal Party of Premier Christy Clark, locked in a battle for votes with the decidedly more socialist NDP (New Democratic Party) and the equally socialist Green Party, felt compelled to prove that its generally trade-friendly posture only went so far. Clark suggested retaliation in the form of restrictions or an outright ban on thermal coal from the U.S. The other parties promised an even “tougher” stance.

Stooges

Protectionism is like a Three Stooges episode: You slap me, I poke you in the eye. The one difference is that when a government slaps and pokes another government, each one ends up assaulting its own citizens as consumers and producers.

Trump’s ill-timed tariffs were pushing all the major British Columbia political parties in the wrong direction. Voters ended up giving the Liberal Party a razor-thin plurality which may yet dissolve into a loss if the NDP and the Greens team up in a coalition. If that happens, both socialism and protectionism will get a boost in British Columbia while American lumber buyers get slammed.

But lest we dump all the blame on Trump, let’s understand that this is really a “pox on both your houses” conundrum. In the same newspaper in which I read about Premier Clark’s threatened tit-for-tat, Canadian columnist Barrie McKenna pointed his finger at Canada’s existing policies for prompting the Trump tariffs.

Export Restrictions

One such policy is the practice of federal and provincial governments in Canada charging below-market rates when they sell lumber from their vast land holdings. That’s a subsidy, and if the land were owned privately it’s hard to imagine that private firms would charge less than the market will bear and encourage over-use of their resources through underpricing simply to be charitable.

Likely more counter-productive than those subsidies, writes McKenna, are “log export restrictions that exist only in British Columbia.” (Though both British Columbia and the federal government in Ottawa restrict the export of logs from government land, British Columbia is the only government that restricts exports from private lands as well).

I had to read that two or three times. Log export restrictions? What? So governments subsidize logging on their lands and then stifle the sale of logs to the U.S.? Yes. This is government, mind you, so it doesn’t have to make sense to anybody but politicians and their politically-connected friends.

McKenna writes,
Those restrictions, in place since the 1880s, are an aberration in Canada’s generally open economy. Indeed, logging is a rare example where governments dictate to private interests what they can export, for reasons other than national security … Economists in Canada have warned for years that the policy lessens competition for logs, increases the supply of timber available to mills in British Columbia and suppresses prices by up to 50 percent. And that lowers the cost of finished lumber (emphasis mine), such as two-by-fours, destined for the U.S. market.
If that’s confusing, just think of it this way: What government gives loggers with one hand in British Columbia, it substantially takes with the other by telling them where they can sell their logs. Subsidized logs that can’t go to the U.S. because of export controls end up at Canadian mills at depressed prices. There, they are converted into planks and two-by-fours whose export is not restricted. And it’s those planks and two-by-fours that Trump just slapped a 20% tariff on.

A Better Path

You slap me, I poke you in the eye. Wouldn’t it be better for everybody if we all just stopped slapping and poking each other? Yes, and that’s called free trade. The problem is that even though “free trade” makes all the sense in the world, governments have both the power and the incentive, at least in the short term, to slap, poke, subsidize, and sell favors.

Moreover, log export restrictions are not unique to British Columbia. “The United States, for example, has an export-licensing regime for trees cut on federal and state lands,” says McKenna. “What’s unusual about Canada’s regime is that it also covers trees on private land in British Columbia.”

One of the reasons governments shouldn’t intervene in trade in the first place is that interventions become addictions. The benefits are targeted on a few at the expense of the many and when those benefits are offset by a government on the other side of the border, it’s hard to get the first government to call it quits. Intervention A leads to Intervention B, which provokes Intervention C, which in turn sparks Intervention D and so on, until the process is reversed or the alphabet and economic freedoms are exhausted.

From another city in Canada – Montréal, in the eastern province of Quebec – comes an intriguing proposal to scale back some of this nonsense. The Montreal Economic Institute suggests that trade negotiators for Canada and the U.S. should work out a “lumber for cheese” swap: the U.S. would dismantle its barriers on Canadian lumber and in exchange, Canada would get rid of its barriers on American dairy and poultry.

MEI says the crazy-quilt patchwork of subsidies, quotas, and export controls on both sides of the border cost consumers billions in higher prices. Since “supply management” by the two governments has been problematic from its inception, premised as it is on the insane notion that fines and penalties help the economy, let’s just negotiate them away. Tit-for-tat in the right direction, for a change.

Free traders like myself see many advantages to abolishing protectionist devices unilaterally, regardless of what the other side does. As Frederic Bastiat explained, we should be grateful when the sun shines its light for free, even if it means candlemakers sell fewer candles. Forcing everybody to paint their windows black to keep out the free sunlight only deprives everybody of value and convenience. We can apply the savings to some other endeavor, stimulating yet other industries in the bargain. If that’s unrealistic, it’s only because of politics, not because of economics.

Let’s rid ourselves of these senseless interventions as soon as we can, one way or the other.

Thinking about all this as I departed beautiful Vancouver, I found myself shaking my head as I’ve done so many times when contemplating the policies of government. What a ridiculous, self-defeating racket this protectionist stuff is!

Oddly enough, it was the 20th-century comedian Jimmy (“The Schnoz”) Durante who gave us a succinct answer to this recurring problem when he said, “Don't put no constrictions on da people. Leave 'em da hell alone.”

Additional recommended reading:
Lawrence W. Reed


Lawrence W. Reed is President of the Foundation for Economic Education and the author of the book Real Heroes: Inspiring True Stories of Courage, Character and Conviction. Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

California Authorities Are Failing to Track and Prevent Abuse of Police Databases

California Authorities Are Failing to Track and Prevent Abuse of Police Databases

Police in California have your data literally at their fingertips.

They can sit at a computer terminal or in their squad car and check your DMV records, your criminal records, your parking citations, any restraining orders you’ve filed or have been filed against you. They can search other state databases and even tap into the FBI’s trove. If you’ve got a snowmobile, they can look up that registration too. Much of this personal data they can access through a smartphone app.



Is there a name for this information network? Yes, it’s really boring: the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS). Most people pronounce it “Clets.”

Do police abuse their access to CLETS? You betcha. For example, they’ve used it to stalk their ex-partners, gain advantage in custody proceedings, and screen potential online dates. In one of the worst incidents, an officer allegedly attempted to leak records on witnesses to family of a convicted murderer. According to the latest data, 2016 was a record-breaking year: California hit a statewide, all-time high for police discipline involving CLETS; meanwhile the Oakland Police Department broke an all-time record for individual law enforcement agencies.

Is anybody doing anything about CLETS misuse? Yes and no. Certainly EFF has been making noise about privacy violations involving CLETS. The government, not so much.

For years, we’ve pushed for better data to track when California cops misuse CLETS data. We have filed request after request for misuse data under the California Public Records Act. We’ve sent letters, met with staff, assisted journalists, and spoken up during public meetings to demand state officials overseeing these databases take some sort of action. This is the third report we’ve published on misuse data.

Yet state officials have made zero progress in addressing widespread database misconduct. No hearings on misuse have been held, no disciplinary actions have been taken, and the horror stories continue to mount.

Who are these state officials? Get ready for another boring acronym: the CLETS Advisory Committee (CAC). Yes, CAC is an acronym containing an acronym. Most people pronounce it “Cack.”

CAC was created by the California legislature decades ago to oversee CLETS as part policy body, part disciplinary board.  It comes under the California Department of Justice and works hand in hand with CADOJ’s Criminal Justice Information Services department.  CAC has 11 members, with more than half being appointed by special interest groups that lobby for law enforcement and municipalities. That means CAC is controlled by groups that are predisposed to support—not punish—their members.  As a result, the body has gone out of its way to pass policies that police ask for, while simultaneously taking a largely hands-off approach to discipline.

It used to be that CADOJ and CAC investigated violations, but several years back they handed off that responsibility to the individual agencies that subscribe to CLETS.  Nowadays each of those agencies is required to file disclosures about each investigation they conduct, including an annual summary for CAC to review. Then CAC decides whether further administrative action is necessary

Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. CAC has not even looked at the misuse data in years, and consequently, they’ve taken no action whatsoever against anyone or any department—not even a “don’t do it again” warning letter.

What’s even worse is that they’ve been remarkably lax about whether agencies need to file anything about CLETS violations at all. This year some of the state’s largest law enforcement agencies failed to file the mandated paperwork. Meanwhile, agencies that do report often list investigations as “pending,” but never follow-up with the eventual outcome as required.

So, when EFF obtained the latest round of misuse data, we knew it would be bad. But we also knew it would be incomplete—the tip of a very large, blue iceberg.

Download the 2016 CLETS misuse data.  Previous data available: 2011-2014 (zip) and 2015 (xls)

Screen grabs from official CLETS training videos. Source: Lemoore Police Department

What the Misuse Data Told Us

Police agencies disclosed that a total of 159 misuse investigations were launched in 2016. Of those, 117 investigations found that police had in fact abused CLETS. Another 39 cases were listed as pending conclusion. That means there were only a small number of cases—potentially in single digits—where an investigation cleared the officer.

Let’s focus on those 117 cases of confirmed misuse. They represent a 14.5% increase over misuse in 2015, and a 50% increase over 2011.

In 27 cases, the misuse was so severe that the offending police officer either resigned or was terminated. Three cases resulted in a misdemeanor conviction, and three cases resulted in a felony conviction.

In 24 cases, no action was taken to discipline the offending officer at all. In 28 cases, the result was “counseling.” Another 21 mystery cases were listed as “other” action having been taken, leaving the public in the dark.

When we opened the data file, two agencies immediately jumped out as repeat offenders.

First, there was the Oakland Police Department, who for the first time since we’ve been collecting data, actually turned in their disclosures. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that they reported 17 cases of CLETS misuse—the highest number for any agency in at least seven years. These are likely related to the ongoing, expansive scandal in which at least one OPD officer is accused of providing CLETS records to a teenage sex worker whom he—and many other officers—allegedly sexually exploited.

The head of OPD’s internal affairs department filed the hard copy of the disclosure with CADOJ. However, when we called OPD’s public affairs division, a spokesperson challenged the numbers, staying that only 1 misuse case was found in 2016, while the remaining 16 are still pending. That’s still bad and possibly even worse, if it turns out OPD provided wildly inaccurate data to CADOJ.

The Yuba County Probation Department—a very small agency in central-northern California—also drew our attention. In 2015, they broke the record with 15 violations of CLETS policy, all of which resulted in only “counseling” for the officers who broke the rules. CADOJ ignored our request for a public hearing on this. Facing no action to deter further violations, Yuba reported another six cases of misuse in 2016—again with counseling as the only outcome.

What was missing from the data also jumped out at us. The Los Angeles Police Department for the seventh year in a row filed no misuse disclosures with the state.  Typically, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office conducts more investigations into CLETS misuse than any other agency. This time, they did not file anything at all.

Oversight on Hold

Will this be the year CADOJ and the CLETS Advisory Committee finally steps up to protect our privacy? Probably not.  In December, CADOJ failed to produce historical misuse statistics as requested by CAC, so the committee agreed to postpone discussion until its next meeting. However, since CAC reduced its meetings to the statutory minimum of two per year, it won’t meet again until this summer. The year will be half over and, if the trend continues, many, many more people will have had their privacy invaded by misbehaving police.

One thing you can count on: EFF will continue to pressure these state officials, and if we can’t get them to do their jobs, then it’s time for the legislature to find someone else who can.

A Note on CLETS and the California Values Act 

EFF has fielded a lot of questions recently about CLETS as legislators consider S.B. 54, the California Values Act. The bill, among other measures to protect immigrants, would limit the federal government’s access to California’s law enforcement databases for the purposes of immigration enforcement. CLETS would clearly fall into that category.

During the bill-making process, S.B. 54 was amended to allow immigration officials to access criminal history information via CLETS. EFF is very concerned that this CLETS provision would create a backdoor to the very data the bill was designed to protect. While S.B. 54 may still protect some Californians’ data accessible through CLETS from immigration officials, implementation of those protections would require an oversight body with the motivation to enforce the law.

That oversight body would be—you guessed it—the same CLETS Advisory Committee that refuses to take any action on database abuse by police officers. In fact, several of the organizations that have seats on CAC—including the California Peace Officers’ Association and the California State Sheriffs’ Association—are actively lobbying against S.B. 54.

EFF supports S.B. 54 and believes it will do much to protect the data of California residents. However, we hope that as lawmakers build a firewall against data misuse by the feds, they take a close look at the officials who would be watching the CLETS gateway.

Source: California Authorities Are Failing to Track and Prevent Abuse of Police Databases | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Culpability for this Ransomware Belongs to the NSA

Culpability for this Ransomware Belongs to the NSA

Culpability for this Ransomware Belongs to the NSA

In all the coverage of the recent ransomware attack shutting down computer systems around the world, one point has been buried and obscured. The focus has been on precisely who spread this horrid thing, what damage it has done, what to do once you have it, and how to prevent it.

All fascinating questions. But an equally, if not more, important question is: who created this weapon of mass computer destruction? What was its origin? How did it get released in the first place?

And here, the answer is as sure as it is alarming. The culpability belongs to the National Security Agency. That’s right. The government that claims to be protecting us against cybercrime both made the virus and failed to secure it from being stolen by malicious actors.

ComputerWorld explains
The tools, which security researchers suspect came from the NSA, include an exploit codenamed EternalBlue that makes hijacking older Windows systems easy. It specifically targets the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol in Windows, which is used for file-sharing purposes…. The developer of Wanna Decryptor appears to have added the suspected NSA hacking tools to the ransomware’s code, said Matthew Hickey, the director of security provider Hacker House, in an email.
ArsTechnica explains:
A highly virulent new strain of self-replicating ransomware shut down computers all over the world, in part by appropriating a National Security Agency exploit that was publicly released last month by the mysterious group calling itself Shadow Brokers…. Another cause for concern: wcry copies a weapons-grade exploit codenamed Eternalblue that the NSA used for years to remotely commandeer computers running Microsoft Windows. Eternalblue, which works reliably against computers running Microsoft Windows XP through Windows Server 2012, was one of several potent exploits published in the most recent Shadow Brokers release in mid-April.
The New York Times says:
The attacks on Friday appeared to be the first time a cyberweapon developed by the N.S.A., funded by American taxpayers and stolen by an adversary had been unleashed by cybercriminals against patients, hospitals, businesses, governments and ordinary citizens…. The United States has never confirmed that the tools posted by the Shadow Brokers belonged to the N.S.A. or other intelligence agencies, but former intelligence officials have said that the tools appeared to come from the N.S.A.’s “Tailored Access Operations” unit, which infiltrates foreign computer networks. (The unit has since been renamed.)
The furious president of Microsoft weighed in:
Starting first in the United Kingdom and Spain, the malicious “WannaCrypt” software quickly spread globally, blocking customers from their data unless they paid a ransom using Bitcoin. The WannaCrypt exploits used in the attack were drawn from the exploits stolen from the National Security Agency, or NSA, in the United States…. The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call. They need to take a different approach and adhere in cyberspace to the same rules applied to weapons in the physical world. We need governments to consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits. This is one reason we called in February for a new “Digital Geneva Convention” to govern these issues, including a new requirement for governments to report vulnerabilities to vendors, rather than stockpile, sell, or exploit them.
Cyberscoop interviewed several experts:
“In my view, there isn’t a policy problem, it’s an operational problem,” [former White House National Security Council cyber staffer Rob] Knake, now with the Council on Foreign Relations, told CyberScoop. “NSA should not have lost those tools. No way for policymakers to account for that problem other than to move quickly to get info on the vulnerabilities out, which they apparently did. Loss of the tools is an operational problem. The response was appropriate and timely.”
This is obviously terrible for the United States in terms of international relations. It is the equivalent of having built a weapon of mass destruction and inadvertently failing to secure it from access by criminals. Yes, the people who use such weapons are bad actors, but the bureaucracy that made the weapon and allowed its release in the first place bears primary responsibility.

And while the NSA’s responsibility is certainly being downplayed in the American mainstream media – NPR reported it but quietly and inauspiciously – you can bet it is all the talk in the 100 countries that are affected.

Yes, it would be very sweet if users around the world were forgiving and understanding. Everyone makes mistakes. Sadly, that is not the case. The NSA developed this virus to use against network systems of enemy countries and failed to secure it. The head of Microsoft is correct that this really is an outrage, and cries out for a fix.

Had a private company been responsible, its stock would now sit at nearly zero and the feds would be all over it for responsibility for cybercrime. Probably there would be jail time.

What will be the fallout from the NSA screw up? Watch for it: surely a bigger budget.


Jeffrey A. Tucker


Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

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