Posts tagged ‘Secret Service’

A Modest Proposal to Improve Elections - CBO Scoring Resources for Candidates

At some point in the election, based on some criteria I do not understand, a Presidential candidate crosses some threshold of seriousness and they are given Secret Service protection.

I have a similar idea.  At some point in the election, candidates should have the ability to have a certain number of their proposals (spending, regulatory, tax plans) scored by the CBO, just as legislation is scored.  Use of such services would not be mandatory, but I would assume that there would be a certain pressure to get one's own plan scored if one's opponent is waving around a scored plan.

CBO scoring has all sorts of problems, not least of which is the common trick of spending like crazy for 9 years and then inserting some huge imaginary savings in year 10 that makes the whole thing score as budget neutral.  But folks will be able to see that (if they want to) and I think the advantage of being able to see actual costs and revenues of candidate plans in the same way they would be viewed as legislation  (which presumably is the goal of candidate proposals, to turn them into real legislation) would outweigh these shortcomings.

Scandal for Engaging in Legal Activity

The Secret Service prostitution scandal in Columbia is interesting.  My understanding is that prostitution is legal in the particular area where this occurred.  So in effect we have a scandal here about engaging in a legal activity.  Things that would convert this to an actual scandal in my mind:

  • The officers were on duty, or were on call in some way that there are rules about what they can be doing which they violated (in which case I would be more worried about the drinking)
  • The call girls were hired with taxpayer money  (it is only legal to give taxpayer money to corporate whores like Solyndra, not Columbian whores).  Bobby Patrino might have survived the adultery scandal if he hadn't paid her with his employer's money.

The most likely issue is one  of representation.  "You can do whatever you want on your own time, but not when you are representing us."    As in most scandals, the biggest crime will turn out to be bringing negative attention to one's employer.  With which I can sympathize.  If these bozos brought negative attention to me when they were travelling on business representing me, I'd fire them in a second.

Which gets me thinking that I could easily get sued for doing so.  I am pretty sure I don't have a rule in the employee manual that says you can be fired after getting in the papers for haggling with prostitutes.    Even though common sense says that by embarrassing the company they are putting their jobs at risk, common sense does not rule the legal world of employer law.   In my experience, the whole legal process is tilted against the employer, with the presumption being that the employer is a rapacious asshole firing people for no reason unless proven otherwise  (you are saying your employees are "at will?"  I laugh at your naivete).   The employee would just say that there was no rule against getting negative publicity for hiring prostitutes on a business trip and that their activity was entirely legal where it occurred.

Since it is entirely unlikely I will add a morality clause to our employee manual, I think I will add something about actions that bring harm or disrepute to the company.

I Thought This Was Just A Lame Conspiracy Theory at First...

I had seen some Internet posts on this before, but I thought it was from the "Aliens were behind the 9/11 attacks" crowd.  But it does appear to really be Big Brother at work:

The pages coming out of your color printer may contain hidden information that
could be used to track you down if you ever cross the U.S.

Last year, an article in PC World magazine pointed out that printouts
from many color laser printers contained yellow dots scattered across the page,
viewable only with a special kind of flashlight. The article quoted a senior
researcher at Xerox Corp. as saying the dots contain information useful to
law-enforcement authorities, a secret digital "license tag" for tracking down

Yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco consumer privacy
group, said it had cracked the code used in a widely used line of Xerox
printers, an invisible bar code of sorts that contains the serial number of the
printer as well as the date and time a document was printed...

The EFF said it has identified similar coding on pages printed from
nearly every major printer manufacturer, including Hewlett-Packard Co., though
its team has so far cracked the codes for only one type of Xerox

The U.S. Secret Service acknowledged yesterday that the markings, which
are not visible to the human eye, are there, but it played down the use for
invading privacy.

This kind of stuff really scares me.  Is there anyone out there that thinks that this won't be used to trace a leak, track down a whistle-blower, or identify an anonymous political critic?  And, even if you are able to conjure up trust that the US government will not use these codes for anything other than fighting counterfeiting, what about use of these codes by private parties?  Or, even more depressing, remember that these printers are being sold today in China, Syria, Iran, Zimbabwe, etc.  Does anyone at all doubt that these governments will use the print codes to identify and silence dissent?

Shame on the government for instituting this program.  Double shame on HP and Xerox for going along in silence, joining the ranks of Microsoft, Cisco, and Yahoo in making adjustments to their technology to make government surveillance and censorship easier.  I don't know of any legislative mandate that requires these printer companies to go along with this, so they are doing this voluntarily - sort of (see below).

For those on the left feeling smug that this is solely a right-wing Bush-is-a-fascist problem, shame also on those who built the economic regulatory state that we live in.  In a truly free economy, HP and Xerox would likely have told the government to take a hike.  However, the government holds a huge regulatory hammer over corporations' head in so many realms that companies in our society find it difficult to tell the government off when they get this type of request.  Its the same story with airlines and banks, who feel compelled to share otherwise private customer data with Homeland Security under the threat of having government retribution fall on them from any number of directions.  We have got to start realizing that government control of economic activity is just as much an imposition as government control of speech or the press.  Freedom of expression does not become voided just because money changes hands.

Many thanks to Marginal Revolution for the link.  Their comment:

Would the Berlin Wall have fallen if East European governments had access to
this kind of technology twenty years ago?