Monthly Archives: May 2012

Schneier on Security: The Trouble with Airport Profiling

Bruce Schneier waxes logical on the idiotic yet hopeful notion that it’s somehow possible to pick out the terrorists at the airport just by looking at them and relying on that funny feeling strangers create in your gut.

But given that there are so many passengers and so few terrorists, the strategy is as doomed to failure as anything else the TSA pays its sexual predators to do.

Schneier wraps up the discussion with:

The proper reaction to screening horror stories isn’t to subject only “those people” to it; it’s to subject no one to it. (Can anyone even explain what hypothetical terrorist plot could successfully evade normal security, but would be discovered during secondary screening?) Invasive TSA screening is nothing more than security theater. It doesn’t make us safer, and it’s not worth the cost. Even more strongly, security isn’t our society’s only value. Do we really want the full power of government to act out our stereotypes and prejudices? Have we Americans ever done something like this and not been ashamed later? This is what we have a Constitution for: to help us live up to our values and not down to our fears.

Well said.

via Schneier on Security: The Trouble with Airport Profiling.

A Dell Ubuntu Ultrabook that might not suck

Dell has launched an experimental project called Sputnik to produce a Linux laptop that is tailored to meet the needs of software developers. The first stage of the project is a six-month exploratory effort that will pair Dell’s XPS13 Ultrabook with Ubuntu 12.04.

These could be really cool, as long as Dell builds them with standard parts so that it’s possible to upgrade them to newer releases of Ubuntu, or even to other versions of Linux.

Their last Dell Mini 10 with Ubuntu had a funky video device which required a proprietary driver, and it only worked with the specific release of Ubuntu it shipped with.


via New Dell Ubuntu ultrabooks a step in the right direction for Linux support | Ars Technica.

Lessons from the Paul vs. Paul Debate by Vedran Vuk

A few days ago, I saw this really funny “debate” between Ron Paul and Paul Krugman.  It wasn’t really a debate because of the time lag between when each would talk and the other could hear it, and because Krugman has no idea what he’s talking about and just makes it up as he goes.  Even I could see holes in his arguments.

Vedran Vuk wrote up a good debunking of Krugman’s arguments, and I have a few more to add.

Early on in the debate, Krugman says, “You know you can’t leave the government out of monetary policy …. The central bank is always going to be in the business of managing monetary policy. If you think that you can avoid that, you’re living in some – you’re living in the world as it was 150 years ago.”

Either Krugman has been hanging around Joe Biden too long and has completely lost track of time, or he does not know that the Federal Reserve is barely 99 years old.  The United States did not have a central bank from 1833 through 1913

And times were good!  Without monster central banks controlling the currency and inflation, booms and busts were limited to small geographic regions, and involved very few banks.  When banks acted foolishly, they went bankrupt and were replaced by more responsible banks.

But Krugman has to pretend that was not the case, and insists:

Krugman goes on: “And look, history tells us that in fact a completely unmanaged economy is subject to extreme volatility – subject to extreme downturns. I know that there’s legends that people, probably like you Congressman, have, that the Great Depression was somehow caused by the government – caused by the Federal Reserve – but it’s not true. The reality is that was a market economy run amok. Which happens. It happened repeatedly over the past couple of centuries.”

The Oblivious Economist has to pretend like it wasn’t the central bank’s market policies that have caused every nationwide boom and bust since its inception, and has to be both ignorant and dumb to imagine that our completely managed economy hasn’t been subject to extreme volatility.

And since he’s an idiot, he doesn’t have to reconcile the contradictions in his assertions: that the Fed is required in order to eliminate extreme market volatility and to prevent market economies from running amok, while both ignoring that all this has happened on the Fed’s watch — which means it’s a failure — and the Fed’s contributions to every boom and bust since its inception — which also means it is a failure.

I like how Vuk wraps up:

And here, Krugman completely verifies the validity of Paul’s criticism. It’s impossible for central planners to figure out the perfect interest rate. Similarly, Krugman doesn’t know what the limit to the debt should be. And I don’t blame him for having a tough time – who does know the solution to these problems? Maybe our national debt as a percentage of GDP can reach 200%, 150%, or maybe it’s approaching Armageddon at 130%. It’s impossible to say for sure. In the same way, it’s impossible for the Federal Reserve to set an appropriate interest rate. Is zero too low for inflation? Is raising it to 4% too high? What are the consequences to finding some middle ground?

These are truly unanswerable questions. Without the Fed, the market would find the interest rate itself. You can fill a whole room with Nobel-Prize-winning economists, and they still won’t be able to figure out what the market would do with interest rates. If they knew, most would be millionaires and running their own hedge funds – not employees of quasi-governmental agencies and universities.

Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge doesn’t stop economists from making policy decisions much like what Krugman advocates. He admits to not knowing the limit to our national debt, but at the same time advocates pushing the debt to 130%. What if that’s too high and the result is the start of a final death spiral for the US economy? “Whoops; sorry America.”

This is the general problem with the Fed and all central planners. They try to guide the economy, but more often than not, they create the very recessions that the system is supposed to prevent. The Federal Reserve either leaves rates too low for too long, or it raises them so high as to create an economic slowdown of its own. The Federal Reserve isn’t the wonderful safety net economic idealists imagine. Instead, it’s much closer to driving a car while blindfolded. Unfortunately, people like Krugman are more than willing to take the keys knowing full well the dangers of driving blindfolded. And when these Fed economists inevitably crash into a brick wall, it is the passenger – the American worker – who gets creamed.

via Lessons from the Paul vs. Paul Debate by Vedran Vuk.

FBI Masterminds, Funds, Plans, and Helps Execute May Day OWS Terror Plot In Order To Foil It

And we have to ask again: Would there even be any domestic terror without the FBI?

But like the vast majority of the “terror” plots supposedly foiled by the federal government in recent years, there is little doubt thus far that the alleged plot to blow up the bridge was cultivated from start to finish by the FBI. In fact, just a few days before the anarchists were arrested, author David Shipler, who wrote the book Rights at Risk: The Limits of Liberty in Modern America, discussed the absurdity of manufacturing terrorists to stop terror in a piece for the New York Times.

“Without the F.B.I., would the culprits commit violence on their own? Is cultivating potential terrorists the best use of the manpower designed to find the real ones?” wondered Shipler. “Judging by their official answers, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department are sure of themselves — too sure, perhaps.”

According to Shipler and the sources he cited in the Times piece, government agents normally target people for their speech at first. When they find somebody dumb or naïve enough to play along, the FBI often prods the vulnerable individuals into working with the government to hatch a half-baked plot. Government agents, of course, run the show from the beginning — even providing the bogus bombs and sometimes offering huge cash payments.

via FBI Dupes May Day Anarchists into Bogus Terror Plot.