Opinionated @ CFE

Irrational Self-interest


“I’m not poor. Why should I care about poverty?”

“I’m not black. Why should I care about racism?”

“I’m not sick. Why should I care about cancer?”

“I have nothing to hide. Why should I care about privacy?”

What do these four statements have in common?


Google and Facebook Tell the Dishonest Truth


While the NSA has been engaged in a lot of data collection since, well, forever, the press has recently decided to let them have it. It’s been disclosed that they collect the phone records of everyone in the country. They also collect the credit card transactions of everyone in the country. To top it all off, a leaked presentation brags that they have direct access to data from a variety of online service providers including Google and Facebook. Larry Page denies that Google is doing this. Mark Zuckerberg does the same on behalf of Facebook. I think they’re both telling carefully crafted truths to deflect from the one they don’t want you to know.

Both make pains to point out that they do not provide any direct access to use data. Direct. Nothing about indirect access, you see. The NSA is most likely conducting some man-in-the-middle attacks to provide some kind of plausible deniability. If this is the case, then it would be true, and yet dishonest, to insist that no request for bulk data has been received. Why would they need to make a request for the data they’re already getting?

Then there’s the line about following the law. It’s no secret that Google has fought back on national security letters and related requests that prevent them from even talking about the existence of the request. If they’re under a Fight Club rule to not talk about it, how do we know it isn’t the case? After all, those are technically legal.

Then there’s the urging from both for governments to be more transparent about their data collection efforts. Given the rest of the facts, it almost reads as a pleading to please confess to doing it so that they don’t have to.

At the end of the day, I’m not accepting what either company has to say about these allegations, either because they are scared to implicate themselves or found face legal consequences for opening up. Maybe a little of both. This is why the national security state is terrifying.

What makes a great argument in favor of the caucus? John Swallow


If you aren’t familiar with how deep the trouble Utah Attorney General John Swallow finds himself in, Daniel Burton has a great summary for you. In a nutshell, it seems that he’s been involved in numerous shady business deals, campaign donations, and pay-to-play schemes for several years and has dragged his former boss, Mark Shurtleff, into it as well. A lot of people are using it to indict the caucus and convention system used to nominate candidates. When faced with the facts, however, we should see that the converse is true.

In the primary election, John Swallow beat challenger Sean Reyes for the GOP nomination almost 70% to 30%. Swallow had a mountain of campaign cash, the endorsement of outgoing Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, and name recognition from being a previous lawmaker and candidate for various offices. Reyes was heavily handicapped in the primary game, one that requires an expensive marketing campaign to win.

Compare this to the results of the GOP convention. Swallow barely managed a 9-point lead, nowhere near enough to prevent a primary. Despite it taking many more months before Swallow’s skeletons came crashing out his closet into the lead story of every media outlet in the state, it seems that a much higher percentage of the delegates knew something we didn’t. It’s almost as if the delegates were better-informed than the general voting public.

The next time you get the urge to trash the current nominating process, maybe you should keep in mind that it was caucus attendees that did a better job at trying to prevent the Swallow debacle than the voting public at large.

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