August 12, 2013

Town Considers Drone Hunting Licenes

The Colorado town of Deer Trail, pop. 548, is considering an ordinance that would allow people to pay $25 for a license to shoot down drones in the town limits. The Mayor, Frank Fields, says the ordinance is, "kind of real, kind of tongue-and-cheek."

It is intended, in part, to raise awareness of the potential for abuse of drones by federal, state and local authorities. It is also a potential fund raiser for the town.

“We need business, we need money,” Fields said. The mayor is considering holding drone hunting events if the new ordinance passes.

CBS Denver, Ordinance Would Allow For Drone Hunting In Deer Trail, August 5, 2013.


June 26, 2013

I Have Nothing to Hide

"I have nothing to hide. Why should I care if the NSA has my phone records?”

This post is a prompt for others to craft story lines that explain "why" people should care about the FBI & NSA mass data collection and storage programs exposed by Edward Snowden and others. Here are a few rough sketches as examples. I don't even touch on political dissent. Hopefully similar stories can be produced in more compelling videos by someone with such talents.

Financial Executive:  Joe, an executive with a major Wall Street firm, has been known to take long lunches on occasion. What he has done those few times is his own business; he even has an 'agreement' with his wife about it. But his own business is about to become the business of a lot of other people. 

You see, the FBI is investigating one of Joe's colleagues, Tom, with whom Joe likes to have an occasional drink and plays golf. Tom has caught the FBI's attention and Joe is about to be identified in a 'suspicious activity report' (SAR). You see, Tom has also taken similar long lunches; that's how Joe learned about the lunch-time stress relievers if you will. 

The FBI is going to be making visits to other people who know Joe and ask them some... embarrassing questions. Joe will probably keep his job as a result of all of this, but his lunchtime exploits will no longer simply be his own business. 

A Simple Gardener:  Carl is a gardener for well-to-do people. Two of Carl's clients are under investigation by the FBI. One of the clients under investigation, Mr. Elliot, has been kind enough to allow Carl and his family use the family beach house. Carl is well read and Mr. Elliot enjoys conversations with Carl, so their communications are more frequent than would be expected for a gardener/client relationship. Carl's son has taken an interest in the Elliot's daughter, they occasionally exchange text messages, and though they aren't exactly 'friends' they are certainly acquainted. This raises the FBI's interest.

The FBI looks into Carl's records and takes a look at his son's records too. Carl's son has not been very care about what he says in texts and emails. Apparently, Carl's son has a few skeletons in his closet that are now about to make his life, and Carl's life, miserable. Most people think that small-time marijuana sales isn't a big deal; Carl's son sells just enough so that he gets his own for free. Carl is about to spend tens-of-thousands of dollars on lawyer bills. 

You get the idea... just because you think you don't have anything to hide, you might be surprised.

November 4, 2011

Open Letter from Harvard Econ 10 Students

The following letter was sent to Greg Mankiw by the organizers of today’s Economics 10 walkout.

Wednesday November 2, 2011

Dear Professor Mankiw—

Today, we are walking out of your class, Economics 10, in order to express our discontent with the bias inherent in this introductory economics course. We are deeply concerned about the way that this bias affects students, the University, and our greater society.

As Harvard undergraduates, we enrolled in Economics 10 hoping to gain a broad and introductory foundation of economic theory that would assist us in our various intellectual pursuits and diverse disciplines, which range from Economics, to Government, to Environmental Sciences and Public Policy, and beyond. Instead, we found a course that espouses a specific—and limited—view of economics that we believe perpetuates problematic and inefficient systems of economic inequality in our society today.

A legitimate academic study of economics must include a critical discussion of both the benefits and flaws of different economic simplifying models. As your class does not include primary sources and rarely features articles from academic journals, we have very little access to alternative approaches to economics. There is no justification for presenting Adam Smith’s economic theories as more fundamental or basic than, for example, Keynesian theory.

Care in presenting an unbiased perspective on economics is particularly important for an introductory course of 700 students that nominally provides a sound foundation for further study in economics. Many Harvard students do not have the ability to opt out of Economics 10. This class is required for Economics and Environmental Science and Public Policy concentrators, while Social Studies concentrators must take an introductory economics course—and the only other eligible class, Professor Steven Margolin’s class Critical Perspectives on Economics, is only offered every other year (and not this year). Many other students simply desire an analytic understanding of economics as part of a quality liberal arts education. Furthermore, Economics 10 makes it difficult for subsequent economics courses to teach effectively as it offers only one heavily skewed perspective rather than a solid grounding on which other courses can expand. Students should not be expected to avoid this class—or the whole discipline of economics—as a method of expressing discontent.

Harvard graduates play major roles in the financial institutions and in shaping public policy around the world. If Harvard fails to equip its students with a broad and critical understanding of economics, their actions are likely to harm the global financial system. The last five years of economic turmoil have been proof enough of this.

We are walking out today to join a Boston-wide march protesting the corporatization of higher education as part of the global Occupy movement. Since the biased nature of Economics 10 contributes to and symbolizes the increasing economic inequality in America, we are walking out of your class today both to protest your inadequate discussion of basic economic theory and to lend our support to a movement that is changing American discourse on economic injustice. Professor Mankiw, we ask that you take our concerns and our walk-out seriously.


Concerned students of Economics 10


Thanks to William Black's Blog for the lead on this.


October 15, 2011

Murdoch Pattern of Misconduct

Open Letter to the Federal Communications Commission:

Dear FCC members:

Forget the political implications for a moment and envision what you'd LIKE to do to the Murdoch media syndicate.

The Occupy movement is your signal that the time has come to act on visions like that prompted above.

Paul Krugman is right, again: Pattern of Misconduct

Now it's time for the FCC to act.

To Contact the Commissioners via E-mail

Chairman Julius Genachowski:
Commissioner Michael J. Copps:
Commissioner Robert McDowell:
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn:


October 8, 2011

End Corporate Personhood

Take it from a Tennis Ball, we need to end corporate personhood. This could be a tangible demand of the #Occupy movement, that is, amend the constitution to Get Corporate Money Out of our elections.

The following 4-min video is a remake of the VlogBrothers 2007 YouTube call-to-action ala the Nerdfighters "Project for Awesome".


September 21, 2011


To let Troy Anthony Davis be executed.


September 20, 2011

Banking Establishment Ripoff Exposed in MSM

Thinking Americans know the sordid story:

Since the financial crisis, Bank profits are UP 136%... But Bank lending is down 9%.

Perhaps a more interesting story is that this is featured in a mainstream media article; Time Magazine, September 26, 2011, "After Three Years and Trillions of Dollars, Our Banks Still Don't Work."

I could take issue with the phrase "our banks;" yes, we should "own" them having bailed them out, but frankly, instead of we owning the banks, the banks turned the US Treasury and Federal Reserve into lending institutions for the benefit of the banks and the people reaping profits from those corporations.

But, don't let me tarnish the good news with side issues. Time Magazine deserves credit where it is due.