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VIDEO: The Government is a Horrendous Private Sector Prognosticator

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 - by Seton Motley

We have before us – and the government – Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

Which the Leviathan and the Left view as an opportunity to outright blockade the free market.  Or, barring that, unilaterally impose many, many a la carte regulations – that they otherwise can’t get imposed – in exchange for Mother-May-I government-transaction-approval.

These are known as regulatory “concessions.”  Absurdly called that because we pretend the imposed-upon companies happily concede to these regulations – the same way I happily concede my wallet to the guys with the masks and the guns.

These “concessions” are imposed – they claim – to try to mitigate what they think will be market harm resulting from the transaction.

But really – who is LESS qualified to prognosticate what will happen in the market…than bureaucrats?

Sadly, this is where we currently stand.

In this video, we assess the situation – and implore the government to not yet again try to guess what’s going to happen, and preemptively regulate predicated thereon.

Soothsayers they ain’t.

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That Terrible, No Good, Horrible Internet Security Flaw You’ve been Hearing About? The NSA Exploited it.

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Well, this is just great. The Heartbleed security flaw impacts a whole lot of web sites that everyone believed were secure. The NSA knew about it at least two years ago, but rather than alert Americans (and the rest of the world, of course) about it so that we could protect ourselves, No Such Agency decided that the flaw was a feature, and not a bug.

Heartbleed appears to be one of the biggest glitches in the Internet’s history, a flaw in the basic security of as many as two-thirds of the world’s websites. Its discovery and the creation of a fix by researchers five days ago prompted consumers to change their passwords, the Canadian government to suspend electronic tax filing and computer companies including Cisco Systems Inc. to Juniper Networks Inc. to provide patches for their systems.

Putting the Heartbleed bug in its arsenal, the NSA was able to obtain passwords and other basic data that are the building blocks of the sophisticated hacking operations at the core of its mission, but at a cost. Millions of ordinary users were left vulnerable to attack from other nations’ intelligence arms and criminal hackers.

What’s our government supposed to do? Oh right, provide for the common defense of its citizens. One would think that defending citizens against criminal hackers and who knows who internationally would have been part of that. Apparently not.

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Another $30 Million In Stimulus Money Down The Failed Green Company Drain

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Lather. Fail. Repeat.

Critics of Democrats calling for additional subsidies for electric vehicles are pointing to the financial troubles of one stimulus-backed car producer that just announced it is closing its U.S. plant.

Missouri-based Smith Electric Vehicles said this week that it is suspending operations in the United States due to a “tight cash-flow situation.”

Its financial troubles came despite nearly $30 million in funds from the Department of Energy (DOE) granted to the company through President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus package.

“You’re setting a model for what we need to be across this country,” Obama said when he visited Smith’s Kansas City production facilities in 2010.

“You’re doing more than just building new vehicles,” Obama said. “You are helping to fight our way through a vicious recession and you are building the economy of America’s future.”

In the minds of the politicians who support these taxpayer funded greendoggles, these businesses should work simply because they want them to work. The Democrats are the anti-economics and anti-real world party and just can’t factor in the presence of reality to any of their legislative lunacy. If you’re propping an industry that has no firm foundation, you’re going to have to continue to do so (not that I want to give them any ideas) indefinitely or market realities show up.

“We didn’t see value in continuing to build a small number of vehicles at the price point we were,” said Hansel, who noted that despite federal support the company was manufacturing vehicles at a loss.

Of course when things like price points and production costs are mentioned, the average Democrat legislator-and especially this president-don’t understand a single word.

Because hey-free money, right?

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Kickstarter Bullied Conservatives, Too

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Kirsten Powers’ USA Today column today is a must-read:

Kickstarter, the nation’s biggest crowd-funding site,refused to accept a film about convicted abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell unless descriptions of his crimes were removed.

After producers Phelim McAleer and his wife, Ann McElhinney, complained publicly, embarrassed Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler claimed on Twitter that the allegation was false. Strickler released an e-mail accepting the Gosnell film, but failed to mention that it was accepted only after the filmmakers withdrew in frustration. The producers released e-mails from Kickstarter demanding that references to stabbing babies and “similar language” be removed. The “acceptance letter” came March 28, the day after the producers withdrew their proposal.

Kickstarter explained its reasoning for blocking the movie by writing, “We understand your convictions … however … our Community Guidelines outline that we encourage and enforce a culture of respect and consideration, and we ask that that language specifically be modified.”

Somehow, making a movie recounting the crimes of a convicted abortion doctor is disrespectful and inconsiderate. Kickstarter would only speak off the record, but its explanations were dissembling and contradictory. That might be because Kickstarter’s standards aren’t exactly rigorously enforced. An album titled Incest is the Highest Form of Flattery was fine. The movie Die Sluts Die telling “the story of … sex crazed friends … murdered in unusual and creative ways,” ditto.

Read the rest.

Progressives censor and bully conservatives in the name of tolerance or whatever other weapon happens to be at hand, then lie about it. Sun rises in the east, sets in the west.

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Energy Exec: The ‘Future’ Is Still Coal, Nuclear And Natural Gas

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

If it ain’t broke

In this century, power companies are facing “far more intrusive and disruptive” interference from government than ever before, Anderson said Tuesday. The Chamber event came in advance of Thursday’s Senate Energy Committee hearing on the reliability of the electric grid.

Anderson heads the Akron-based holding company that can trace its lineage to the 1893 founding of Akron Electric Light and Power Co.

Unlike the past, “electricity is under attack in our country,” he said. “I believe state and federal policymakers are manipulating the supply and demand and distorting markets for electricity to further advance the ‘war on coal,’” he said.

Anderson said energy efficiency, renewable power, distributed generation, micro grids, roof-top solar and demand reduction may play “some role” in the future, but “they are not substitutes for what has worked.”

What works are the 19th and 20th centuries’ “real generating assets such as coal, nuclear and natural gas,” he said.

The Party of Science is hell-bent on making everyone use renewable energy sources that are expensive, inefficient or, most of the time, both. And they don’t care how broke it makes you.

So…science but ignore economics, technology and history.

Wait…they’re ignoring the science too.

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NASA Rover Sees ‘Bright Light’ Coming from the Surface of Mars

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

The Houston Chronicle reports that one of NASA’s Mars rovers has spotted something odd: a bright light coming up from beneath the planet’s surface.

A NASA camera on Mars has captured what appears to be artificial light emanating outward from the planet’s surface.

The photo, beamed millions of miles from Mars to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., was taken last week, apparently by one of two NASA rovers on the red planet.

Although the space agency hasn’t issued any official statement yet about the phenomenon, bloggers and NASA enthusiasts have started chiming in.

Scott C. Waring, who maintains the website UFO Sightings Daily, posted the photo April 6.

Waring noted that the light shines upward, as if from the ground, and is very flat across the bottom.

“This could indicate there there is intelligent life below the ground and uses light as we do,” Waring wrote on his website. “This is not a glare from the sun, nor is it an artifact of the photo process.”

Here’s the original photo, which was captured by Curiosity with its Navcam via visible light in a region that the rover scientists call the Kimberley.

mars-light-one

 

Close-up:

mars-light-two

 

I’d like to know more about the time of day, scale of the image, and overall brightness conditions when the rover captured this. Whatever it is, to me it doesn’t look like a light. It looks like gas escaping from beneath the surface. Or, a dust devil at distance that looks bright due to contrast enhancement. I don’t see why a light’s reach would be so defined and limited at the top. It could also be a processing artifact that wasn’t properly cleaned up.

What do you think?

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VIDEO — Sen. Barbara Boxer Sprints to Avoid Question About Whether Insurance Should Cover Viagra

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Viagra and other similar drugs are not widely covered by health insurance plans. That’s why the companies that make them air a billion ads a day to sell them, embarrassing everyone in the room when those ads show up while you’re trying to watch sports or River Monsters.

But that fact didn’t stop Barbara Boxer aka “Senator Ma’am” from going on MSNBC last week and accusing Hobby Lobby of having a double standard because its owners refuse to cover three out of about 16 contraceptive methods. Those specific methods end a life. Viagra — which most insurance policies don’t even cover — doesn’t end a life. That difference is so obvious that even MSNBC pointed it out to Boxer.

The Daily Surge sent its 60-year-old intern, Robb, into the halls of power to ask Senator Ma’am about all this. Apparently Boxer has been training for an Olympic sprinting berth. She’s got some wheels.

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Exit question: When Boxer compared Viagra to abortifacient drugs, was she being ignorant, dishonest, or both?

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Crony Socialism: Let’s Not (Yet Again) Emulate Europe

Monday, April 7th, 2014 - by Seton Motley

Crony Socialism is private companies using Big Government’s enormous power to better themselves – or to hobble their competition.

It is free market success stories – bailing on the free market once they’ve achieved a comfortable share of the marketplace.  Choosing instead to remain in sclerotic stasis, and have Big Government save them from themselves – and others.

Which is terrible for we consumers.  It is far better to have an unfettered market – where every company strives every day to improve.  It constantly makes things far better and much cheaper.

When some companies get Big Government to warp the market to protect their status quo, the market sags and lags – and we all lose.

Staying ahead of the curve is hard.  Continuing to create and innovate in the ways that first made you successful is a lot of work.  Long term, it is far easier to cop out and cozy up to Big Government as your protector – to become a remora on the bureaucracy shark.

Almost inherently, Crony Socialism is only a possibility for Big Companies – because only big companies have the financial wherewithal to entice the Leviathan to favor them with its largess.

By and large, the Mom & Pop Shops don’t have enough coin to get the government to do their bidding.  They are in fact often the targets of Crony Socialism.

Mom & Pops threaten the Big Cos – through their creation and innovation, which the latter have forsaken.  So the Big Cos have Big Gov tie them in knots – with miles and miles of regulatory red tape.

But Mom & Pops aren’t Crony Socialism’s only victims.  No one is safe when Big Gov plays favorites.

Netflix is looking to get Big Govs the world over to impose a whole new, ridiculously expansive definition of Network Neutrality.

Netflix Blasts Comcast and Verizon on Net Neutrality

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says that “net neutrality must be defended and strengthened,” calling out giants like Comcast and Verizon for bad behavior.

Charging Netflix for their exorbitant bandwidth use isn’t “bad behavior” – it’s basic economics.  Imagine the government mandating that gas stations charge the same to fill up Escorts and Escalades.

If Netflix doesn’t pay for what it uses, all the rest of us do – in the form of higher prices for our Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Why should a grandmother who only emails her grandkids pay substantially more – to subsidize Netflix Ned and his twenty-movie-a-day download habit?

In Europe, Netflix just had their Crony Socialist wish granted.  Behold Escalade-for-Escort Net Neutrality:

Google, Netflix Protected from Telecoms Charges in EU

The European Union has ruled that telecoms operators cannot make data-intensive services such as Google and Netflix pay more for using their network.

And as promised:

Net Neutrality ‘Victory’ Could See Broadband Price Rises

(I)t could have the unintended consequence of higher prices for consumers – either through their ISPs or through services such as Netflix, because someone has to pay for traffic.

Someone does indeed – right, Grandma?

Our government has already twice imposed Net Neutrality.  And twice had it unanimously thrown out by courts.

President Barack Obama-appointee Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler remains undaunted – he has pledged to impose it yet again.

Thankfully, Wheeler appears unwilling to expand Net Neutrality to Netflix’s ridiculous limitlessness.

FCC Shoots Down Netflix’s Call to Expand the Scope of Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission made clear today that it won’t heed Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ call to expand the scope of net neutrality to regulate the way companies connect across the physical infrastructure of the internet.

We have spent the last half-decade emulating poorly-functioning Europe in myriad ways.

Glad to hear we’re not going to do it yet again with Net Neutrality – at least not down to the bizarre anti-free market levels those across the Pond are mining.

It would be better still if our Big Gov finally just gave up the Internet-uber-regulation ghost once and for all.

We already have more than enough Crony Socialism going on.

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Surprise! OkCupid’s Board Includes At Least Two Democrat Donors

Friday, April 4th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

OkCupid launched the campaign against Brendan Eich at Mozilla. Today, the White House declined to give an opinion on whether Mr. Eich ought to have become unemployable for holding a position that Barack Obama held at the same time.

Perhaps the question should be re-asked on Monday.

Here is the OkCupid board of founders. They are, from left to right, Chris Coyne, Sam Yagan, Max Krohn and Christian Rudder.

Given the nature of the current debate, Mr. Rudder would be well advised to just have people call him “Chris.”

okcupid-founders

A quick donor look-up on OpenSecrets.org is revealing. Two of the four founders have donated money to political operations in recent years. Both donors gave money on a similar scale to Brendan Eich, the man they are responsible for getting ousted at a company they don’t even work for and is not a rival of their company. In fact, Eich developed a tool that OkCupid probably could not exist without.

According to OpenSecrets, Mr. Yagan donated to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign twice, once in 2007 and once in 2008. Humor Rainbow used to own OkCupid.

okcupid-yagan

 

At the time Yagan made both donations, Barack Obama was publicly opposed to same-sex marriage.

OkCupid’s other political donor appears to be Max Krohn. According to OpenSecrets, Krohn donated to the Democratic National Committee twice in 2004.

okcupid-krohn

 

Circumstantial evidence suggests that this Maxwell Krohn is the same one who co-founded OkCupid. Note that he lists MIT as his employer. OkCupid’s Max Krohn was a grad student at MIT from 2003, and co-founded OkCupid in 2004.

At that point, 2004, the Democratic Party as a whole opposed same-sex marriage. The majority of Democrats in Congress, and President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, had passed and signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which supposedly enshrined the traditional definition of marriage into federal law.

Let’s throw this in just for irony’s sake.

okcupid-zhi

 

Mr. Zhi did not come up in an OpenSecrets record search. I have no idea what his politics are, or if he even has any. But he works for a company that wanted strangers to quit using Firefox because Brendan Eich was Mozilla’s CEO. Well, Brendan Eich invented JavaScript.

For consistency’s sake, shouldn’t OkCupid demand that Morley Zhi and anyone else who works for their dating site stop using JavaScript immediately?

Or was this whole thing just a game to them?

Evidently, whatever the game is, it goes on even after OkCupid have kicked Eich’s head around.

Sam Yagan retweeted both of those tweets on his personal Twitter account. What “further steps” does he want Mozilla to take?

You know who is probably living in fear today? Anyone who works at OkCupid –a dating site — and supports traditional marriage.

I’m not a fan of boycotts, traditional marriage supporters should consider steering clear of OkCupid.

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With a Little Patience, Conservatives Could Score a Huge Victory on Immigration

Friday, April 4th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

The congressional GOP leadership always seems to be about a nanometer away from surrendering on “comprehensive immigration reform.” But if Byron York’s take on the state of play is accurate — and I can’t recall a time when he got anything wrong — then it’s time for both conservatives and tech immigration reform backers to be just a little bit patient.

It wouldn’t take much to break the [pro-comprehensive immigration reform] coalition apart. And if that happens, the effort to enact comprehensive immigration reform could blow up, not just for the moment, but for some time to come. And there are signs that is exactly what is occurring now.

Compete America is a group that calls itself the “leading advocate for reform of U.S. immigration policy for highly educated foreign professionals.” Its members are some of the biggest names in the tech world: Amazon, Facebook, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft and many others.

The companies, as well as other high-profile groups, like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s FWD.us, have given millions to the cause of comprehensive immigration reform. The main reason is that they want an expansion of the H-1B visa program that allows high-skilled immigrants into the United States, thus expanding the labor pool for tech companies.

They understand economics. Broadening the labor pool makes more talent available, and reduces upward pressure on wages at the same time. The same is true for workers outside the tech fields, but Democrats and the media never acknowledge that. They never acknowledge that, in their political pursuit of legalizing millions of illegal workers, they are knowingly forcing wages down.

Of course, comprehensive immigration reform involves much more than H-1B visas. But the tech giants supported comprehensive reform, with its increases in unskilled immigration, its legalization of currently illegal immigrants, its path to citizenship, its byzantine agricultural provisions and much, much more because they wanted the H-1B boost.

Read the rest. For conservatives, the tactics should be straightforward. Democrats oppose breaking the tech visas off from the rest of “comprehensive” “reform.” The GOP is on track to capture the Senate this fall. H1-B visas aren’t controversial. Those who use them to attract talent, and to get to the US, are following the law and they’re contributing to the economy without draining it. Increasing H1-B visas does not turn on any magnets that attract more illegal immigration. The GOP could tell the tech community leaders that it will send an H1-B bill through both houses of Congress and to the president’s desk if it captures the Senate this year. The GOP needs their help to win the Senate. That should give the tech community reason enough to, if not support the GOP, then at least not pour money into efforts to help Democrats this year. Then the president would face pressure from the wealthy tech community to sign the bill.

The Democrats will cry about the rest of the “comprehensive” mess and charge racism, whatever they think they can get to stick to the wall. They always do. But they’re already showing desperation over Obamacare. That’s what’s driving the president to make ever more ridiculous statements on raising the minimum wage — which many in the business community don’t support anyway.

Overall, this could break some of the Silicon Valley set off from the increasingly anti-business Democrats, while bringing more needed tech talent into the US from around the world, and cracking the “comprehensive” coalition.

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Need To Visualize Your Junk Science Climate Hysteria? There’s An App For That

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Sad little people.

A prototype app called Looking Glass brings the issue of climate change home, allowing smartphone users to see projected sea-level rise in their own town.

The app is not yet ready for the public and currently only works for people in the coastal village of Wickford, RI. But creator Eli Kintisch is hoping to expand its reach. We definitely think this needs to be done.

There is something deliciously mock-worthy about a zillion oh-so-concerned climate evangelists getting panicky about “ZOMG-TEH SEA LEVELZZZZZZZ!” by looking at a smartphone app. One can almost imaging Bloato the Gore sharing this ominous view of the future with other passengers on one of his many fossil fuel gorging airplane jaunts around the globe.

Hey, if it scares a hippie long enough for him to stop bothering me for a Greenpeace donation, I’m in.

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The Fascist Thugs Win One: Firefox CEO Steps Down (Update: IRS Role Exposed)

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Brendan Eich committed a thoughtcrime. He supports the traditional definition of marriage. For that, he has now joined the ranks of the unemployed.

Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.

We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.

Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community.

Yeah. He’s “made this decision” after thugs forced him into it.

Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.

Obviously Mozilla does not believe in equality or freedom of speech. If it did, it would have defended its CEO and noted that many of its employees agree with him, not just the other side. It would have asserted that both sides deserve a hearing.

Firefox surrendered to the OKCupid mob, which loves free speech so much that it has successfully deprived a man of his income because of his beliefs — beliefs which are not fringe, but are shared by roughly half the country or more. Beliefs which he once shared with the left’s own champion, Barack Obama.

I know many readers here and many writers here support gay marriage. Are y’all cool with depriving someone of their ability to work if they disagree? That’s where we are right now. They tried it with Chick-Fil-A and bombed. But they have succeeded in the tech field, which drives much of our culture forward. Into what?

Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all.

Another lie.

We have employees with a wide diversity of views. Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public. This is meant to distinguish Mozilla from most organizations and hold us to a higher standard. But this time we failed to listen, to engage, and to be guided by our community.

While painful, the events of the last week show exactly why we need the web. So all of us can engage freely in the tough conversations we need to make the world better.

“Freely.” That word no longer means what it once did. You’re free to agree with the mob. You’re not free to disagree with the mob.

Update: GLAAD responds with a lie of its own.

Mozilla’s strong statement in favor of equality today reflects where corporate America is: inclusive, safe, and welcoming to all.

“…welcoming to all.” Unless you disagree with us, in which case, you might as well be dead.

GLAAD also gives something away. Mozilla claims that Eich stepped down on his own. GLAAD says Mozilla has made a “strong statement.” That can only be true if Mozilla forced him to step down.

So either GLAAD are projecting, or Mozilla is lying.

Update: Check this out. The IRS abuse scandal started the process that got Eich ousted.

Why, then, the ruckus? Amazingly enough, it is entirely due to the fact that Eich made a $1,000 donation to the campaign urging a ‘yes’ vote on California’s Proposition 8. When this fact first came to light in 2012, after the Internal Revenue Service leaked a copy of the National Organization for Marriage’s 2008 tax return to a gay-advocacy group, Eich, who was then CTO of Mozilla, published a post on his personal blog stating that his donation was not motivated by any sort of animosity towards gays or lesbians, and challenging those who did not believe this to cite any “incident where I displayed hatred, or ever treated someone less than respectfully because of group affinity or individual identity.”

To whom did the IRS leak NOM’s files? The Human Rights Campaign.

The HRC evidently engineered Eich’s ouster, in the name of equality and tolerance.

The IRS actions create a serious chilling effect. Your donations to any group can be leaked by a hostile operative within the government, to your enemies, for use against you — up to and now including costing you your job.

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Progress: A Wind Turbine That Provides Power And WiFi

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Wind power finally takes off.

We might be seeing wind turbines in the skies instead of fields soon. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology startup has come up with a new type of floating turbine that’s more efficient — and can deliver power and WiFi connectivity to remote areas.

The invention could have a major impact in places like Alaska, with vast swaths of land that are off the grid, and without traditional sources of power and internet access.

The startup, Altaeros Energies, developed the BAT-Buoyant Airborne Turbine, which is filled with helium and can rise to 1,000 to 2,000 feet to generate power from strong, high-altitude winds. Because the turbines can access these high-altitude winds, they generate roughly double the energy of standard turbines.

It took all this time for someone to decide to bring the turbine to the wind rather than vice-versa. Anything that gets me closer to my dream of having a shack in the middle of the desert where I can still get online gets tacit preliminary approval from me. Here is a video about the thing:

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Think of the Children! BBC Threatens to Axe Kids’ Shows if Britons Aren’t Jailed for Dodging TV Tax

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 - by Mike McNally

The reputation of the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), the UK’s state broadcaster, for liberal bias is such that U.S. conservatives are as familiar with its anti-Republican, anti-Israel, pro-big government, multicultralist agenda, and its tendency to subject Christianity to skepticism and ridicule while giving Islam the benefit of the doubt, as they are with Monty Python, The Benny Hill Show and its other successful transatlantic exports.

And while American conservatives rightly complain about the liberal bias in their own country’s media, at least they’re not forced to pay for it (aside from their share of the relatively meagre federal subsidy for PBS and NPR). Their British counterparts are not so fortunate.

The BBC is funded by the TV licence fee, a £145.50 ($240) compulsory tax on households that own a television – so even if you’ve never watched a BBC program in your life, if you have a TV set you have to pay. And if you don’t like the relentless stream of pro-immigration, pro-European Union propaganda on its news programs, or the non-stop jokes at the expense of (Republican) U.S. politicians on its comedy shows, or the thrillers in which the bad guys turn out to be Mossad agents or anti-abortion fanatics, you have to pay (if you think I’m exaggerating about the bias in entertainment shows, an upcoming Doctor Who episode will feature an “intergalactic banker” as a villain).

Non-payment of the licence fee is currently a criminal offence. Offenders can be hauled into court, and ultimately jailed. Such compulsion sits uneasily with the BBC’s image, carefully cultivated by its supporters in the wider liberal establishment, as the country’s “favorite broadcaster” and a “much loved” national institution (similarly emotive language is used to attack critics of the beleaguered National Health Service).

As a more practical matter, it’s also putting a strain on Britain’s courts; around one in ten criminal cases are prosecutions for licence fee evasion. In 2012, 190,000 people were prosecuted for non-payment, and 165,000 were convicted and given a criminal record – two-thirds of them women, and many of them low-income single parents and the elderly (you don’t qualify for a free licence until you’re 75). Fifty-one were jailed.

The current licence fee agreement is up for renewal in 2017, and ahead of negotiations the government has floated a proposal, which has attracted cross-party support, to decriminalise licence fee evasion; non-payment would instead be treated as civil offence, and offenders would no longer face the threat of imprisonment.

The BBC has responded by warning that if the proposals are implemented non-payment will increase, and the cost of the licence fee for those who do pay will rise. Furthermore, one of its directors (a former Labour government minister, in case you were still in any doubt about the left-wing bias) has warned that the BBC would be forced to axe some channels – and first for the chop would be those dedicated to children’s programming.

Think of the children! If the BBC’s threat has a familiar ring to it, it’s because liberals employed very similar scare tactics during the 2012 presidential election campaign, claiming that Republicans wanted to kill off Big Bird and Sesame Street after Mitt Romney said he’d end the federal subsidy for PBS.

But let that sink in for a moment: Britain’s state broadcaster is threatening to take children’s shows off the air if members of the public are no longer jailed for refusing to fund it. And this from an organization that, back in the days when it actually did command the respect and affection of a majority of the British public, was nicknamed “Auntie” in recognition of the benevolent role it was felt to play in the life of the nation – these days it’s more of a wicked stepmother.

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Democrat Tells Americans: You’re Too Stupid to Use Our Wonderful Healthcare.gov Website

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

When it debuted in October 2013, Healthcare.gov wasn’t finished. The backend that verifies payments didn’t even work. It had major security flaws. It could not handle even a trickle of the traffic that its designers, the U.S. federal government, should have anticipated.

But Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has a message for Americans who’ve had trouble using that site: It’s your fault.

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“We have hundreds of thousands of people who tried to sign up who didn’t get through,” he said. “There are some people who are not like my grandchildren who can handle everything so easily on the Internet, and these people need a little extra time. It’s not — the example they gave us is a 63-year-old woman came into the store and said, ‘I almost got it. Every time I just about got there, it would cut me off.’ We have a lot of people just like this through no fault of the Internet, but because people are not educated on how to use the Internet.” Emphasis added.

“…through no fault of the Internet…”? Well, no, the entire Internet was not to blame for Healthcare.gov’s spectacular suckitude. That, according to Harry Reid, was the fault of anyone who had trouble with the site. And older people. He blamed older people in there too.

Previously, Reid called everyone who has reported having problems with their healthcare due to Obamacare liars. So if you’ve had insurance problems and you’ve had trouble using the government’s wonderful Healthcare.gov, according to Harry Reid, you’re a stupid liar.

The only surprise here is that Reid didn’t find a way to blame all this the Koch brothers. He’ll probably get to that next week.

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Bipartisan Effort To Export Natural Gas To Europe

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

No-brainer.

Calls to begin U.S. natural gas exports to Europe to counter Russian influence across the continent grew louder Tuesday amid concerns that Russia will move deeper into Ukraine.

Lithuania’s energy minister, Jaroslav Neverovic, pleaded in emotional terms for U.S. help, saying his country is “100 percent” dependent on Russia for natural gas and has to pay 30 percent higher prices for it than other countries in Europe.

“This is not just unfair, this is abuse,” Neverovic told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Lawmakers from both parties used the hearing to urge the Obama administration to speed up natural gas exports as a hedge against the possibility that Russia could cut off its supply of gas to Ukraine and other countries.

Team Lightbringer is always slow to move on anything involving natural gas because it is beholden to the insane hippies from Big Green and their misinformation campaign about fracking.

It should be noted that the president was a big fan of natural gas production during the 2012 election whenever he campaigned in a state that benefited financially from it. You would have thought he invented fracking then.

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VIDEO: Big Government Caused This – Bigger Government Doesn’t Fix It

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 - by Seton Motley

The solution to government – isn’t more government.  But that’s exactly what governments proffer all the time.

Local governments have imposed ridiculously high and expensive impediments to private broadband companies providing their residents service.

The federal government then decries the resulting local-government-created dearth of competition.  And uses it as an excuse to jam more government — government-provided broadband — down states’ throats.  Including the twenty states that have passed laws proscribing government broadband.

ObamaCare, anyone?  Federalism, anyone?

All of which, and more, we explain in the visual and audio medium located herein.

Please, enjoy.

YouTube Preview Image

(And for more of this in the printed word, please go here.)

 

 

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Is This Mission Creep or Something Worse?

Friday, March 21st, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

The US Navy built its LinX system in 2003, supposedly to help conduct counterterrorism. But that’s not what it’s doing, according to the Washington Examiner. It’s engaged in an activity that crosses the posse comitatus line.

A parking ticket, traffic citation or involvement in a minor fender-bender are enough to get a person’s name and other personal information logged into a massive, obscure federal database run by the U.S. military.

The Law Enforcement Information Exchange, or LinX, has already amassed 506.3 million law enforcement records ranging from criminal histories and arrest reports to field information cards filled out by cops on the beat even when no crime has occurred.

LinX is a national information-sharing hub for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. It is run by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, raising concerns among some military law experts that putting such detailed data about ordinary citizens in the hands of military officials crosses the line that generally prohibits the armed forces from conducting civilian law enforcement operations.

It seems that everywhere we turn, the US government is crossing lines and gathering up information on ordinary Americans. These government agencies are doing this despite President Obama’s promise that the government isn’t spying on ordinary Americans.

This bit is interesting.

The number of records in the system has mushroomed from about 50 million in 2007 to more than 10 times that number today.

Background checks for gun sales and applications for concealed weapons permits are not included in the system, according to NCIS officials and representatives of major state and local agencies contacted by the Examiner.

How can we be sure of that? Or, more accurately, while LinX may not be collecting gun background check pings, how can we be sure that some other government agency out there isn’t? How can we be sure that some obscure agency or program out there hasn’t scooped up all of the gun background checks, and all of the state records on concealed carry, and is just storing it all somewhere? NSA supposedly can record every phone call placed in a given country. If it can do that, it’s probably child’s play to tap into the NICS lines.

Can we be sure they or another agency isn’t doing that? I don’t see how. The FBI has its own version of LinX, called the National Data Exchange, or N-Dex. So together the military and the politicized DOJ have a database of about 500 million records of our ordinary interactions with law enforcement. Along with what else?

It’s surely tempting for government officials to find a way to amass firearm background check and purchase records, along with state carry permits.

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Google Encrypts Gmail Between Its Servers To Keep NSA At Bay

Thursday, March 20th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

It’s a start.

Google just announced that as of today, Gmail is more secure than ever before. And the company isn’t hiding the fact that it’s actively trying to stop the government from spying on your email activity. Google says that Gmail will now use a secure HTTPS connection whenever you check or send email, regardless of where you’re accessing Gmail from — be it your home network or public Wi-Fi — or what device you’re using. Google made HTTPS encryption the default for its users back in 2010, but it’s continually making improvements wherever possible to keep out prying eyes.

As an added barrier between you and the NSA, Google is making another change: every single email message Gmail users send or receive will now be encrypted as it moves internally between the company’s data centers. That would seem to defeat a popular strategy of the NSA, which involves the agency intercepting email messages as they move between data centers and servers.

I just found a stationery store and bought a nice pen and some letter writing stock to communicate with some members of my family. That’s where I’m at with the trust issues these days.

Still, this is a good step to keep the NSA slightly out of the way in one area of our lives. Of course, Google is probably doing this because it prefers to be the Number One Creeper in your daily existence. Think of it as more of a Fatal Attraction concern for your privacy.

Better get home and check the pet rabbit.

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Open Thread: Step Away From Your Computer To Be More Productive…On Your Computer

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Suspicions confirmed.

Everyone makes mistakes when it comes to technology. Some are terrible at doing regular data back-ups because it’s not a high priority (you know who you are). Many have hundreds (thousands?) of emails sitting in an inbox right now. And, as I’ve mentioned before, there are those who skip using any form of virus protection — which means, you’re living on a razor’s edge.

Yet, there’s one mistake you’re probably making right now that is much more serious. It’s one that could be causing serious health problems like depression and anxiety. And, someday — in the not too distant future — it could play a role in workplace lawsuits, new employment laws and technical restrictions.

The problem: You’re not taking enough breaks from the computer.

This is something I have been actively working on recently. I have been on the road doing stand-up for almost all of my adult life and never had to worry about regular workplace things too much. In the past year, I began doing a lot of freelance writing which means I am staying home working at my computer.

A host of nagging orthopedic ills immediately presented themselves, so I began forcing myself to get up and move around more. That helped…a little.

I was still spending far too many hours staring at the computer. When you’re self employed it’s easy to make excuses for living at your desk. So I have been setting strict time limits for how long I should be there each day (while keeping up the breaks to move around). As if by magic, I am getting my work done in around half the time.

Full disclosure: giving up all non work related social media for Lent has helped a lot.

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Yeah Sure, The NSA Is Really Reining It In…

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Yay team.

America’s National Security Agency has technology that is capable of recording the phone calls of an entire country and replaying them later, a report based on leaked documents said Tuesday.

The Washington Post, citing papers released by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, said the eavesdropping agency’s equipment functions like a time machine by being able to reach into the past.

The report said the NSA can collect 100 percent of the calls of a target country, reaching as far back as one month with tools called MYSTIC and RETRO.

The leaked documents say the technology can “retrieve audio of interest that was not tasked at the time of the original call.”

There is a lot of lip service being paid these days to a new way of doing things over at Spies R Us but why would they back off on all of the investments made thus far? And how much do we actually want them to? It’s the classic, “Mmmm, this sausage is good but just hush about how it was made…” scenario.

Do we really want a field trip to the slaughterhouse?

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Snowden Marks Russia’s Aggression by Disclosing Another American Intel Operation

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

For the second time since Russia’s offensive against Ukraine began, NSA leaker Edward Snowden has taken aim at the United States from Russian soil. The first occurred when he addressed SXSW via web video from an undisclosed location within Russia, where he has been granted asylum. That chat signaled to the world that President Obama and the United States are impotent to stop Snowden, and strongly suggested that Putin is controlling him. The latest disclosure, reported by the Washington Post, is about to cause a massive diplomatic headache for the United States.

The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden.

A senior manager for the program compares it to a time machine — one that can replay the voices from any call without requiring that a person be identified in advance for surveillance.

The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for “retrospective retrieval,” and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere.

In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary.

The call buffer opens a door “into the past,” the summary says, enabling users to “retrieve audio of interest that was not tasked at the time of the original call.” Analysts listen to only a fraction of 1 percent of the calls, but the absolute numbers are high. Each month, they send millions of voice clippings, or “cuts,” for processing and long-term storage.

At the request of U.S. officials, The Washington Post is withholding details that could be used to identify the country where the system is being employed or other countries where its use was envisioned.

The most likely targets are North Korea and Iran. Both are dangerous enemies bent on developing nuclear arsenals, and both are determined to cause havoc and destroy U.S. allies if not the U.S. itself. However, both North Korea and Iran are capable of surprising us with nuclear tests, missile launches and the like, so they may not be the targets, at least not yet. NSA might have developed the technology by targeting a much smaller and less governed country, say Yemen, with an eye to replicating it on a larger scale once the technology was sufficient. The U.S. does seem to find high numbers of terrorists to drone in Yemen.

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Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations Need to Lead to Fully Free Trade

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 - by Seton Motley

The United States and Japan are at the trade negotiation table – for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The 2005 Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPSEP or P4) is a trade agreement among Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore….

(T)he US joined the TPP in 2011…. The Obama Administration has begun talks with Asian and Latin American nations to enter into the Trans-Pacific Strategic and Economic Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The talks with Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam were originally initiated by the Bush Administration.

Absolutely excellent.  The freer the trade the better – the more the merrier.

Not everyone agrees.  Here is the nearly-always-ridiculous New York Times – proffering Joseph Stiglitz.

On the Wrong Side of Globalization

The conflicting views about the agreements are actually tearing at the fabric of the Democratic Party….

Good to see Mr. Stiglitz and the Times have their priorities in order.  “It may be great for the nation – but it really hurts our domestic politics.”

In his State of the Union address, for example, (President Barack Obama) blandly referred to “new trade partnerships” that would “create more jobs.

Most immediately at issue is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which would bring together 12 countries along the Pacific Rim in what would be the largest free trade area in the world.

Negotiations for the TPP began in 2010, for the purpose, according to the United States Trade Representative, of increasing trade and investment, through lowering tariffs and other trade barriers among participating countries.

That all sounds very good to me.  Protectionism has been a problem for decades, both abroad – and here.

For years, (America’s) ridiculous, bloated subsidy-and-tax farm law was only terrible domestic policy.  But as a global farm market developed, it became yet another free trade impediment.

And it led other farm-exporting countries to erect their own free trade impediments.  Lather-rinse-repeat – decades later the we have turned the global market into an a la carte protectionism nightmare mess.

So far in TPP negotiations, Japan has been resistant to rolling back some of the government policies that impede free trade.

U.S. Fails to Get Japan to Budge on Tariffs for ‘Sacred’ Produce Items

The U.S. side has strongly demanded Japan remove tariffs on beef and pork in past negotiations. The other four products are rice, wheat, dairy products and sugar.

Which is not entirely non-understandable, given the terribleness our government just extruded.

After the Heinous Farm Bill – What Next?

What we need to do is go tit-for-tat with Japan.  Very vocally offer to axe protectionisms in our just-passed nightmare mess – and beyond – in exchange for the Japanese axing theirs.  Oh look – some key domestic players are looking to do exactly that:

US Farm Groups Puts More Pressure on TPP Talks with Japan  

While strong opposition to the TPP exists in President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party,…several farm industry groups are pushing for its approval.

There again is the always helpful Democrat Party.

Ag Groups Want Japan Trade Concessions

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and representatives of several leading farm groups said Thursday that the U.S. should not agree to a Japanese proposal to leave agricultural products out of the current negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that would reduce tariffs among 12 nations.

“If they get their way, then every other country will suddenly have a list of sacred products that can’t be touched,” said Grassley….

They’re right – piecemeal freer trade is not free trade.

S.Korea Can’t Join Pacific Trade Talks Until U.S. Issues Fixed

South Korea will not be welcomed into a planned Pacific free-trade pact until all problems are resolved in carrying out an existing trade deal with the United States, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday.

Two years after the agreement came into force, the United States was still trying to make sure promises to ease the path for U.S. exports into South Korea were fully met, the official said, pointing to problems with customs regulations and autos.

So let’s have everyone open up every possible free trade avenue – and let innumerable blossoms of capitalism bloom all over the world.

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Air Force Brass Defends Retirement of A-10 ‘Warthog’ Plane

Friday, March 14th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Too soon?

The Pentagon’s decision to retire the entire U.S. fleet of popular A-10 “Warthog” aircraft is painful but necessary as the military is forced to save money now to develop tomorrow’s weapons, Air Force leaders said on Friday.

General Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, told a panel in the House of Representatives that eliminating the 283 tank-killer jets would save $3.7 billion over the next five years plus another $500 million in planned aircraft upgrades.

The money saved would in turn be used to bolster current Air Force readiness, which has slipped in recent years because of budget cuts, and to focus on priorities for the future, such as the radar-evading F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a new aerial refueling tanker and a new long-range bomber.

The planes are a fixture at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, which is my hometown. They have been on the bureaucratic chopping block before but have always survived because they’re very popular with the people who actually fight wars.

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Open Thread: Happy 30th Anniversary To Commercial Cell Phones

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Price tag? A cool four grand. But you got free weekend minutes.

It was a beauty.
motorola_dynatac

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Money in Politics: Zuckerberg Calls Obama to Complain About NSA

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

POTUS and I are Twitter friends, so I usually just DM him.

Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg blasted the U.S. government’s electronic surveillance practices on Thursday, saying he’d personally called President Barack Obama to voice his displeasure.

“When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government,” Zuckerberg said in a post on his personal Facebook page.

“I’ve called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future. Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform,” the 29-year-old Zuckerberg continued.

The phone call and Zuckerberg’s 300-word missive on Thursday come amid a series of revelations about controversial government surveillance practices that were leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

“The president spoke last night with Mark Zuckerberg about recent reports in the press about alleged activities by the U.S. intelligence community,” a White House official said.

Facebook is a serial invader of personal privacy, so it is nice to see that Zuckerberg draws the line at his being violated. He is still probably having his staff work on ways to scan your retinas without you knowing about it when you’re on Facebook.

By the way…shouldn’t a tech wiz know better than to complain about the NSA via telephone?

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Open Thread: The Tech To Make Mobile Internet 1000x Faster

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Hurry up with this, already.

Founded in 2011, Artemis is a startup working on pCell, a new wireless standard that it thinks could leapfrog 4G altogether.

Like any new, potentially disruptive technology, pCell has a ton of hype and uncertainty around it. We’ve put together the following guide to pCell for those who want to know more without any of the confusion or tricky marketing language.

What is pCell?

Cell towers as we know them today can be visualized as giant umbrella tops. You deploy them, and they broadcast a bubble of reception that gets weaker as you get farther away. They have to be far enough away from each other so as to not cause interference, but close enough together that you can move between their areas of coverage and still have cell service. If you have too many people in one place, their data use can bog down a tower for everyone.

Artemis’ technology takes a very different direction. Rather than carefully spacing out a relatively small number of towers, Artemis wants to deploy a massive number of boxes the size of routers — called “pWaves” — that will provide much better service to a much smaller area.

Rather than working against interference, pCell embraces the collision of radio waves. By combining the incoming signals from several of the pWave base stations, each pCell user is given the equivalent of their own “personal cell” (hence the name) — which basically means getting full bars of LTE at all times becomes the new standard, while “good” signal strength means getting a signal that’s as much as 1,000 times faster than what we’re all used to.

Of course, this means nothing until I get my Jetsons Hover Car.
George_Jetson_Wide

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NSA Nominee To Senate: ‘Trust Me’

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Forecast: Heavy Snowden clouds.

President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the National Security Agency pledged on Tuesday to look for ways to build confidence in the beleaguered spy agency and, in a possible shift, stopped short of calling former contractor Edward Snowden a traitor.

Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, now the Navy’s top cyber warrior, was cautious during often terse exchanges at a Senate hearing on his confirmation to also lead the U.S. Cyber Command that saw critics and supporters prod him about the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records, a program exposed by Snowden.

Rogers spoke about the need for NSA transparency and accountability.

Spy agencies are always eager to pay lip service to pleasing the public when they’ve been caught with their little spy hands in the privacy cookie jar. And exactly what does greater transparency from a spy agency look like? There’s a fine line between one that does whatever it needs to in order to keep the bad guys at bay and an Orwellian nightmare that is archiving video footage of every shower you take.

No, that’s not a loofah but thanks for keeping that dude from blowing up my office.

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Sen. Tim Kaine Says He Opposes the Keystone Because Tar Sands Oil is ‘Dirtier.’ But Is It?

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Earlier today on MSNBC, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) insisted that he bases his opposition to the widely popular Keystone XL Pipeline on science. That pipeline, if completed, would bring Canadian tar sands oil across the United States to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas.

Kaine says his problem with the pipeline project isn’t the pipeline itself, but the oil it would transport.

Chuck Todd asks Kaine, “Where do you stand on Keystone?”

“I’m against it,” Kaine replies, “not because of the pipeline”

“I don’t think we should be exploiting the oil…Tar sands oil is dirtier.”

Shawn Martini of the Consumer Energy Alliance says the science isn’t with Kaine on this.

“It’s one of things that sounds good,” Martini says, “But there’s no context.”

Martini continued: “GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions from oil sands crude account for 0.0016% of global emissions. Oil sands crude, on a wheels to wheels basis, is just as GHG intensive as Californian or Venezuelan crude. The plus side being that KXL will offset almost all of U.S. imports from Venezuela, further reducing the GHG footprint on a lifecycle basis due to lower emissions from transporting the oil.

“Moreover, since the oilsands in Canada will be developed even if KXL is not build ( a fact affirmed by the State Department’s EIS), it would be better to refine said crude oil here in the states where we have pollution controls, and high tech refineries that can get the most refined product out of every barrel. As opposed to incurring the GHG footprint of shipping the oil across the Pacific to China, where it will be refined without the benefit of environmental protections and air quality standards found in the US.

“Our policy continues to support the development of the Keystone XL pipeline as a way to lower emissions, increase energy security, and grow our economy,” Martini said in a statement provided to the PJ Tatler.

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that about 65% of Americans approve building the pipeline, but President Barack Obama and some Democrats have dragged out construction for several years now.

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Anytime is a Good Time to Remove Ridiculous Regulations

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 - by Seton Motley

Wednesday brings us a House Communications Subcommittee hearing on the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA).

You hear STELA, you think Marlon Brando.  But this mandatory renewal – the old law expires December 31 – is crucial to keeping satellite television subscribers connected to the shows they like.

And is a skirmish in a broader Crony Socialism war.  STELA in part addresses what is called Retransmission Consent.

Retransmission consent is a provision of the 1992 United States Cable Television Protection and Competition Act. 

(It) requires cable operators and other…distributors (like satellite) to obtain permission from broadcasters before carrying their programming.

In exchange, a broadcaster may propose that the operator pay cash to carry the station or ask for any other form of consideration.

As written, Retransmission Consent is hopelessly tilted in favor of the Broadcasters.

Balancing Retransmission: And the Data Says… Advantage Broadcasters

This go round, STELA’s renewal includes a provision to remove but one of these many advantages – the mandate that Providers cannot during Sweeps Weeks pull shows as a last-ditch part of Retransmission negotiations.

Don’t know when Sweeps Weeks are?  Neither do I.  Meanwhile, look what the Broadcasters can do:

Fox-Cablevision Dispute May Obstruct Customers’ View of World Series

The feud between Cablevision and the News Corporation has already resulted in an extraordinarily long blackout of programming. Now it threatens to shut Cablevision customers out of the World Series.

Get that?  Providers can’t block Sweeps Weeks – whenever they are – but Broadcasters can block things like the World Series and the Super Bowl.  They can – and they do.

Cablevision, Fox Continue Blackout Spat to World Series Start

At whom do customers get angry when they can’t watch what they want?  Hint: it ain’t the Broadcasters.  The Broadcasters know this – and they use it in negotiations to fleece the Providers.

And when the Broadcasters fleece the Providers – they fleece us.  The more the Providers pay for shows – the more we pay for shows.

So a little more balance would be helpful for everyone – except the Broadcasters, who want to keep every Crony Socialist break they have.

House STELA Draft Would Do Some Video Marketplace Remaking

…House Republicans are working on a rewrite of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act that would not be as “clean” as broadcasters would like….

You mean “clean” – like this?

Senate Democrats Warn Republicans Against Debt-Ceiling Wish List

House Approves ‘Clean’ Debt Ceiling Extension

Senate Passes ‘Clean’ Debt Ceiling Bill

Policy to emulate, to be sure.  But how “clean” is this?

After fierce lobbying by broadcasters, lawmakers abandoned the most controversial provision, which would have allowed cable providers to drop broadcast channels from their “basic tier” of programming.

Allowing cable providers to move broadcast channels into pricier tiers would give them more leverage in programming fights….

Only in Washington, D.C. is it “controversial” to not have the government mandate which channels go where.  Only in DC are all these one-sided government mandates considered capitalism – as the Broadcasters claim:

Allow Broadcasters to Continue Negotiating in the Free Market

The Broadcasters are actually the beneficiaries of decades of government good grace – well beyond the uber-tilted Retransmission laws.

They received free from government charge their spectrum – the airwaves they use to broadcast.  Surely something the cellular phone companies have eyed as they’ve paid the government tens of billions of dollars for their spectrum.

And now we have the looming spectrum incentive auction.  Where Broadcasters get to sell their spectrum – that they, again, received for free – to the cell phone companies (via the government middle man).

I’m sure a company like Verizon -  a cell phone company who with Fios is also a television Provider – is thrilled to pay Broadcasters for the spectrum the latter received for free, while also having the government tilt the Retransmission rules against them, in the Broadcasters’ favor.

The Broadcasters have a pretty sweet omni-directional Crony Socialist deal going.  Little wonder they are fighting so hard against even the tiniest of changes to it.

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#SXSW Forward: Austin, It’s Time to Stop Playing with Trains and Grow Up

Monday, March 10th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Having attended major trade conventions like SIGGRAPH and NAB in the past, I’ll say this about SXSW. It’s one of the best conventions/festivals/trade shows to be found anywhere in the world. It’s well organized, well run (well, except for the wifi) and it’s mindblowingly diverse and forward-thinking. But it may have already outgrown its host city, Austin. We have the conventions space and the rentable venues and hotel space (barely, in the latter). What do not have are the roads to keep the festival from becoming a major irritant for the people who actually live and work in Austin.

When SXSW isn’t in town, Austin’s population is about 850,000. When SXSW is in town, that number swells to about 1,050,000. Those people bring a lot of money to town, so there’s no question in the grand scheme things that SXSW’s visitors are welcome.

The roads around the city aren’t even built to handle its everyday population. When the city swells by about 25% for SXSW’s fortnight, the city’s infrastructure simply cannot handle the influx. Despite the fact that Austin’s total footpring — about 272 square miles — dwarfs Manhattan’s 23 square miles, there just isn’t room on the roads to deal with such a sudden population surge. And city decisions are making things worse, not better.

Today was a good case in point. I-35 is the main artery running through Austin north to south. It doesn’t just serve Austin, it leads north to Waco and eventually to Dallas and beyond. South, it hits San Antonio and other arteries that lead to points south including the Texas-Mexico border in Hidalgo County. It’s a major trade artery for the state and nation, 24/7/365. But because it only gets to eight lanes maximum as it goes through Austin, and four of those lanes are in the dark, dangerous Death Star trench on the bottom deck, 35 is far too easy to disrupt. Today a pair of what appeared to be minor fender benders shut the whole thing down southbound, backing up traffic and trade for miles.

Now, I-35 is federal/state and Austin isn’t solely to blame for its thinness. But Austin is to blame for leaving drivers up on 35 with nowhere to go. The city has already been shutting down some of its interior road lanes for bus and bike traffic. Those shutdowns have in turn closed off some parking lots. And with SXSW in town, the city shut down even more interior roads to create a street festival atmosphere. The gridlock on 35 soon became gridlock downtown. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to park. SXSW on-foot attendees probably had little idea that the town around them had gone sclerotic, but for locals who already tend to resent the traffic increase, gridlock became misery.

I-35 clearly needs to be dealt with, but so does Austin’s habit of going left and fooling around with old ideas. Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s big idea is to keep adding bike paths and bus lanes plus “Rail or Fail,” essentially, expanding Austin’s Metro rail system. Whether you build roads or rails taxpayer dollars will be used and public debt will be increased, but rail is a favorite, and very expensive, rolling obsession of folks of a leftist bent like Leffingwell. Once you build trains, unless they become efficient systems (which they hardly ever do — see AMTRAC), they become a permanent public expense over and above the roads. Never mind that this is Texas, a sprawling state with sprawling cities where rail tends to be under-used, and never mind that nearly every time a city gets going on a rail project, they go way over budget and end up getting years behind schedule, just to build something that relatively few people use. And never mind that Austin’s Metro has been both over budget and behind schedule and still doesn’t offer much in the way of flexibility or speed. Or just getting you from Point A to Point B in the time that the rail system promises. Never mind that rail hasn’t really worked in either Houston or Austin, at least not yet, both because of the culture here but also because the cities are just so physically spread. Austin’s leaders see none of these problems, they just think they haven’t told their dazzling story about trains (a 19th Century way of thinking, to be honest) articulately enough.

Never mind all that. Austin is already host to major events like SXSW, Austin City Limits and every Longhorn home football game. It’s also now the host for F1 racing, though the Circuit of the Americas is located far enough outside downtown to produce less of an impact than events like SXSW. It’s the capital of Texas, which is larger than most countries by itself. Austin needs to stop shutting down roads meant for cars in favor of turning them into bike paths or giving them over to bus use as a means of forcing residents and visitors onto public transportation. It should also stop kowtowing to the taxi industry via its misguided crackdown on Uber. If it wants to be a major destination and a big star on the map, then Austin really needs to grow up.

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Edward Snowden @ SXSW: ‘The Public and Government Have Benefited’ from Disclosures

Monday, March 10th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

With little fanfare and quite a bit of applause, NSA leaker Edward Snowden virtually took the stage and addressed the attendees of SXSW and the world. Snowden appeared live via satellite from an undisclosed location in Russia, using a greenscreen background evidently to conceal his whereabouts in Russia where he has been granted asylum since August 2013. Instead of revealing his location, Snowden used a graphic of the Declaration of Independence as his backdrop. The conversation was hosted via Google Hangouts.

The event began with a question: Why did Snowden choose to address SXSW? He answered that the technological leaders and developers represented at SXSW could enforce our privacy rights via technological standards.

Snowden advocated using end to end software encryption to defeat the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance. The aim, he said, is to make mass surveillance too expensive and difficult for government agencies to engage in.

Much of the conversation with Snowden veered off into the weeds of discussing the use of personal security apps to defeat the NSA. The technical ability to find, install and use those apps is beyond probably 98% or more Internet users at this point. One of the hosts suggested that Internet service companies could offer encrypted communications for an additional charge. Snowden countered that companies like Google could also elect not to hold the data they gather on users once that data’s business purpose has been fulfilled. Disposing of that data would render mass surveillance more difficult.

Snowden accused two American officials of doing more damage to national security via surveillance than anyone else: NSA directors Michael Hayden and Keith Alexander. Snowden said that both are guilty of reorienting the NSA from cyber defense to attack, compromising America’s edge in intellectual property and cyber security. Snowden argued that his leaks have not harmed national secuity, but have improved national security. Snowden and the ACLU chief technologist on the stage, Chris Soghoian, agreed that the U.S. government has prioritized data gathering over cyber security. This weakens our cyber security against geopolitical foes with extensive hacking and cyber attack capabilities, like China.

Snowden brought up two cases in which mass surveillance ended up missing obvious, reported terror threats. While the NSA was hacking Google to get at metadata, Snowden said, U.S. intelligence missed both the Boston bombers and the underwear bomber. In both of those cases, U.S. intelligence had been warned that the specific individuals were a threat. Yet no action was taken against them  to prevent their attacks. Meanwhile, NSA was scooping up metadata from Americans’ cell phones and Internet use. Soghoian said that the NSA knows who has called an abortion clinic or gay book store, but misses terrorists plotting attacks.

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Edward Snowden Addresses #SXSW

Monday, March 10th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

NSA leaker Edward Snowden will speak to SXSW in Austin, TX live via satellite at 11 am central. You can watch a livestream here.

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#SXSW14 Future and Weird Tech

Sunday, March 9th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Along with being one of the country’s largest film and music festivals, SXSW is one of the world’s largest technology trade shows.

This panorama of the trade show floor gives some idea of the scope of the place. Click on it to enlarge.

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Wearable tech is one of this year’s themes. Items like these glasses at the Epson booth are here now and may be coming to your home soon.

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They may not seem like much, but the wearer sees his social media feeds displayed off to the left and right edges of the lenses, far enough off to the edges that you can watch a movie without the virtual feeds getting in the way. If you see a tweet or Facebook post that you’d like to take a closer look at, you just reach out and grab it in virtual space and move it to the middle of your field of view to see it. When you’re done with it, flick it back off to the edge to clear your view.

More wearable tech. This Ring sports bluetooth technology. It uses gestures for control, like writing in air. Wearers can use it to control just about anything that has bluetooth — your phone, appliances, anything.

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These developers from Japan brought their Skeletonics exoskeleton gear. Less than $50k and you can have your own robotic exoskeleton.

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These guys were singing about something. I have no idea what. The implications of their tagline are…not good.

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The URB-E is an electric vehicle. Prototypes of them were pretty popular on the street in front of the convention center.

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They fold up to a tiny size. They’re intended to help commuters get around dense urban environments. They’ll probably help lawyers build personal injury lawsuits, too. But they’re fun to zip around on.

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#SXSW14: Edward Snowden Becomes Putin’s Puppet. Does He Know That?

Saturday, March 8th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Russia’s Vladimir Putin is on quite a run in 2014. His country just finished hosting the successful Sochi Winter Olympics. No sooner than Mischa the bear left the stadium, Putin dispatched 16,000 troops in unmarked uniforms to take the strategic Crimean peninsula, which belongs to neighboring Ukraine. Putin’s troops took their prize without firing a shot, and while the surprised U.S. and EU have scrambled for a response, Putin has consolidated his hold on Crimea in two ways. One, he has sent in more troops — as many as 30,000, along with helicopters and armored vehicles — to warn off the weak Ukrainian army against any attack. Two, Crimea’s parliament voted unanimously to break off from Ukraine and formally join Russia. Putin has a third move in the works, which is as purely a Soviet move as he as ever made during either of his reigns in the Kremlin. Crimea will have a referendum on the question of joining Russia. The ballot that will be used on March 16 for that vote offers voters two choices — yes now, or yes later. There is no “no” available, even if Crimea’s majority ethic Russians should want it. So the outcome of that vote is a done deal unless Putin is somehow forced to force a ballot change, and that doesn’t seem likely.

On Monday, Putin will strike right at the heart of American prestige and security. Exiled NSA leaker Edward Snowden will address SXSW 2014 in Austin from wherever Putin is protecting/holding him in Russia. Snowden’s address by web video link is already controversial enough that Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) wants SXSW to uninvite him. That doesn’t seem any more likely than anyone forcing a ballot change in Crimea.

While probably only Snowden knows what he will say on Monday, the content of his address may not matter a lot. The mere fact of his address is another knife twisted into President Barack Obama’s side. Snowden fled the United States after leaking a massive amount of information regarding the Obama administration’s surveillance of Americans’ online and cell phone activities in the name of stopping terrorists. The Obama administration tried in vain to catch him, and then when he arrived in Russia, petitioned Putin to hand him over to American authorities. That has not happened, obviously. Putin granted Snowden a year’s asylum in Russia. Meanwhile, the massive American surveillance effort missed signs that Putin was about to invade Crimea. That’s a pretty big miss.

Now, as Putin ignores the West over Crimea, Snowden will address SXSW and, via video streams, the rest of the world. Given Russia’s massive surveillance state, it is clear that Snowden’s address is not only known to Putin, but has been sanctioned by him. Snowden thus becomes, through Monday’s address, yet another unmistakable snub to Obama. Putin is saying to Obama, “Here’s your most wanted man. I have him. And I am letting him speak to your people in the heart of your country.” There’s no getting around the symbolism. Obama has the choice to look impotent, or try shutting Snowden’s feed down, and look tyrannical. Either way, Putin wins.

The question ahead of Monday is, does Snowden understand that he is being used against the United States by a strongman whose own surveillance state is even worse than ours? Does he understand that he is being made a puppet for Putin? If he doesn’t understand that, then his is a naif and a fool. If he does, then he has truly become an agent of our geopoligical foe and an enemy of the American people. Either way, while some of his leaks have been good for the cause of disclosure and rolling back our overpowering government, ultimately Edward Snowden is no hero at all.

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