Just Try This Under Communism

Starting with one red paperclip, can someone trade up to a house? Kyle MacDonald thinks so. On the above link, you can see the chronology of his trades. Many of them were low and even negative NPV (net present value) trades as the future value of a keg of beer is much less than that of a generator, but it’s a free economy, man. The discussion on the about page is hilarious, lots of folks apparently jealous.

Great meme, and I hope Kyle gets his house.

Found at OTB.

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  • Filed in: Misc, Politics at 3:18 pm on Friday, December 30, 2005 TrackBack Speak Up

    NSA Go Home!

    Via CNN, the most trusted name in news:

    The National Security Agency’s Internet site has been placing files on visitors’ computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them.

    These files, known as “cookies,” disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week, and agency officials acknowledged Wednesday they had made a mistake.

    Nonetheless, the issue raises questions about privacy at a spy agency already on the defensive amid reports of a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States.

    Cookies! Hold me! I’m scared. A website has cookies on it that may tend to track my web surfing activity. And there are federal rules banning “most” cookies.

    It gets worse.

    This website, thanks to WordPress, also uses cookies.

    Even more astonishingly, my web browser currently has 18 cookies from CNN alone.

    The NSA site’s disclaimer reads, in part:

    For site security purposes and to ensure that this service remains available to all users, this government computer system employs software programs to monitor network traffic to identify unauthorized attempts to upload or change information, or otherwise cause damage.

    Except for authorized law enforcement, security, or counterintelligence investigations, no other attempts are made to identify individual users or their usage habits. Raw data logs are used for no other purposes and are scheduled for regular distribution in accordance with the National Archives and Records Administration Administrative and Management Records Disposition Schedule, Section 370-06ac. All data collection activities are in strict accordance with DoD Directive 5240.1.

    However, CNN collects much more data:

    We may use the information you provide about yourself to fulfill your requests for our products, programs, and services, to respond to your inquiries about our offerings, and to offer you other products, programs or services that we believe may be of interest to you.

    We use the information that you provide about others to enable us to send them your gifts or cards. From time to time, we also may use this information to offer our products, programs, or services to them.

    The information we collect in connection with our online forums and communities is used to provide an interactive experience. We use this information to facilitate participation in these online forums and communities and, from time to time, to offer you products, programs, or services.


    We sometimes use the non-personally identifiable information that we collect to improve the design and content of our site and to enable us to personalize your Internet experience. We also may use this information in the aggregate to analyze site usage, as well as to offer you products, programs, or services.

    We may disclose personally identifiable information in response to legal process, for example, in response to a court order or a subpoena. We also may disclose such information in response to a law enforcement agency’s request, or where we believe it is necessary to investigate, prevent, or take action regarding illegal activities, suspected fraud, situations involving potential threats to the physical safety of any person, violations of our terms of use, or as otherwise required by law. In addition, we may transfer information about you if we are acquired by or merged with another company.

    On the one hand, you have the NSA, collecting information via cookie, whose mission is to learn all it can about our enemies; on the other is Time Warner’s CNN whose mission is to offer you products, programs, or services.

    Is the NSA supposed to be collecting cookies? Probably not. Is it a big deal? Of course it isn’t. If the NSA wanted to spy on web browsers, I daresay they have more advanced technology than the cookie’s mid 1990s origins. So examine your browser. See any cookies you don’t like? Zap ‘em. Even the Politechnical ones, set by WordPress. See if I care.

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    Lord of the Blogs Indeed

    Everyone seems abuzz about Kathleen Parker’s TownHall article:

    Bloggers persist no matter their contributions or quality, though most would have little to occupy their time were the mainstream media to disappear tomorrow. Some bloggers do their own reporting, but most rely on mainstream reporters to do the heavy lifting. Some bloggers also offer superb commentary, but most babble, buzz and blurt like caffeinated adolescents competing for the Ritalin generation’s inevitable senior superlative: Most Obsessive-Compulsive.

    Even so, they hold the same megaphone as the adults and enjoy perceived credibility owing to membership in the larger world of blog grown-ups. These effete and often clever baby “bloggies” are rich in time and toys, but bereft of adult supervision. Spoiled and undisciplined, they have grabbed the mike and seized the stage, a privilege granted not by years in the trenches, but by virtue of a three-pronged plug and the miracle of WiFi.

    They play tag team with hyperlinks (”I’ll say you’re important if you’ll say I’m important) and shriek “Gotcha!” when they catch some weary wage earner in a mistake or oversight. Plenty smart but lacking in wisdom, they possess the power of a forum, but neither the maturity nor humility that years of experience impose.

    Each time I wander into blogdom, I’m reminded of the savage children stranded on an island in William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies.” Without adult supervision, they organize themselves into rival tribes, learn to hunt and kill, and eventually become murderous barbarians in the absence of a civilizing structure.

    What Golding demonstrated - and what we’re witnessing as the Blogosphere’s offspring multiply - is that people tend to abuse power when it is unearned and will bring down others to enhance themselves. Likewise, many bloggers seek the destruction of others for their own self-aggrandizement. When a mainstream journalist stumbles, they pile on like so many savages, hoisting his or her head on a bloody stick as Golding’s children did the fly-covered head of a butchered sow.

    Wow. Obsess much, Ms. Parker? Let’s go in reverse order: “When a mainstream journalist stumbles…” How about ‘When a public servant stumbles…”? Woodward and Bernstein got prizes, fame, and fortune for publishing Richard Nixon’s ’stumbles’. Is Dan Rather or any journo somehow above reproach?

    “Without adult supervision”- which MSM outfits provide adult supervision, again?

    Who’s “spoiled and undisciplined”? Certainly the MSM provides copious samples of each characteristic.

    Of course, Parker will hide behind her ’some bloggers are great’ caveat, when Michael Yon, Reynolds, Capt Ed, etc. are discussed. But if a call center manager like Ed can bring the Canadian government down in a corruption scandal, it shows the great rot of journalism more than the power of the blogosphere.

    If more MSM took its medicine from the blogs and directed its energies to reforming itself, it might make the blogosphere unnecessary and irrelevant. But at present, it’s the MSM that’s looking more and more unnecessary and irrelevant.

    Update: Mark Coffey finds some areas of agreement with Parker:

    She overstates things by a good margin (blogs didn’t invent the cynical armchair critic - witness CNN’s Crossfire and its ilk - and Spy magazine surely owned the crown of snark way before the World Wide Web came to prominence), but her larger point is a correct one.

    There is far too much ‘me, too’-ism, oneupmanship, and manufactured outrage out there, and many talentless, humorless, rabid partisans pervade both the left and right.

    How are the faults of the blogosphere unique? The MSM certainly shares those failings as well, without the redeeming features of the blogs, such as how the facts are ultimately discovered and most blogs’ willingness to update and correct mistakes.

    So yes, the blogosphere can act as a pack of hyenas, it also consists of a much more diverse set of viewpoints and competencies than the herd of journalism.

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    Ignorant Media?

    Reading this transcript of Hugh Hewitt’s interview with Bill Roggio about his experiences embedded with the Marines in Iraq begs several questions.

    HH: Do you think the mainstream media is simply ignorant of basic military vernacular in operations?

    BR: I do. I do. One of the questions they asked General Casey point blank, and I saw the expression on his face. I felt sorry for General Casey. They said we have 150,000 troops on the Syrian border. What makes you think that the Iraqi troops can stop infiltrators coming across.

    HH: Oh my gosh.

    BR: There’s no 150,000 massed on that border.

    Frequently, the MSM trumpets individuals as being experts or in the case of Maureen Dowd’s assessment of Cindy Sheehan, possessing “absolute moral authority”. The U.S. military has 150,000 troops on the border with Syria? That’s approximately the total for all of Iraq, including logistics, support, and command.

    What authority do these media incompetents claim to cover military matters? Why is it that although tech journalists typically know their dip switches from their SCSI interfaces, many journalists covering military matters don’t know a BDU from a MOAB? Is it simple ignorance?

    “The Paper of Record”, “The Most Trusted Name in News”; these are assertions of authority. When the people writing the stories have no expertise in the areas they purport to ‘cover’, the assumed credibility is a fraud.

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  • Filed in: Politics, War on Terror at 9:31 am on Wednesday, December 28, 2005 TrackBack Speak Up

    25 Attacks Thwarted Annually

    As AJ notes, this editorial in the Baltimore Sun says:

    According to the FBI and statistics provided by the Justice Department, there have been more than 100 instances of planned terrorist activities within the United States that have been thwarted by domestic surveillance. These include an attempt to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge, the Mall of America and the Holland Tunnel.

    Are YOU better off now than you were four years ago? You haven’t been blown up by any of the 100 disrupted attacks in the United States. But there’s a chance some NSA computer might have listened to your international phone call to see if the voices on the call matched those of known terrorists.

    AJ compares these NSA warrantless “searches” to roadblocks done by police in search of drunk drivers- and it’s an apt analogy.

    Every other week, George W. Bush’s spying thwarts terrorist plots, according to the numbers.

    What are Ted Kennedy, Dick “Dumbass” Durbin, and the rest of the Perpetually Outraged Community doing to keep America safe?

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    Yet Another Rove Leak

    When will Bush fire this guy? I’m outraged.

    Bush\'s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential

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    NSA Flap in a Nutshell

    Damn Bush if he does, damn him if he doesn’t.

    Coverage here.

    My question is “Why?” Why the leaks, the orchestrated headlines, and the relentless campaign to criminalize prosecuting the War on Terror?

    Update: Welcome Basil’s lunch-time diners!

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    RINO Sightings!

    RINO Sightings brought to you this week by Judith at KesherTalk. Nice work!

    She notes several interesting posts- In one, Louisiana Libertarian solves the Iranian problem.

    In another, Barry argues forcefully against torture.

    Lots more at KesherTalk- click already.

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    Ronald Shulz Murdered

    From the Jawa Report:

    DEBKAfile is reporting that the Islamic Army of Iraq posted a video on the Internet claiming the execution of American security consultant Ronald Shulz who was abducted Dec. 8. The 8 second video shows gunmen shooting a kneeling blindfolded figure whose face is hidden.

    Despicable. Those who seek to aid our Islamo-fascist enemies must answer this question: Which American, taken hostage by these hateful killers, has been freed by his captors? Name one.

    The stakes are clear: it’s us or them.

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  • Filed in: War on Terror at 8:31 am on Monday, December 19, 2005 TrackBack Speak Up

    Whistling Past the Mass Graveyard

    If an election is held, but liberal bloggers ignore it, are Iraqis still free?

    Allah comments in the thread: This whole election’s just a minstrel show, dude. They’re nothing but Stepin Fetchits. A proud, righteous Arab man would be setting off car bombs right now, not doing his softshoe voter routine for the Man.

    The Llamas give credit to Bill Clinton for Iraqi freedom. Rage on, McDuffers. Interesting reaction from Dick Armey and Trent Lott to Operation Desert Fox.

    Goldstein notes an almost complete lack of interest in today’s Iraqi elections from our friends on the left.

    I guess elections happen in Iraq so frequently now, they’re no longer noteworthy. As opposed to a suicide bomb, you know, which are so very rare.

    But at least the BBC is recognizing that something good is going on. We’ll see if the Bushitlerburton virus can spread to the rest of the gloom and doom media.

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