Is this something?

Sharyl Attkisson, a former investigative reporter for CBS News, has a book coming out next week that makes some particularly troubling allegations. Attkisson claims that in 2012, when she was investigating various Obama scandals including Benghazi, somebody hacked into her computer, and the hacking can be traced back to a government ISP. Attkisson quotes an anonymous expert who examined her computer as saying that the spying was “worse than anything Nixon ever did.” Erik Wemple got hold of an advance copy of Attkisson’s book, and excerpts many of the key details on his blog at the Washington Post.

The breaches on Attkisson’s computer, says this source, are coming from a “sophisticated entity that used commercial, nonattributable spyware that’s proprietary to a government agency: either the CIA, FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, or the National Security Agency (NSA).” Attkisson learns from “Number One” that one intrusion was launched from the WiFi at a Ritz Carlton Hotel and the “intruders discovered my Skype account handle, stole the password, activated the audio, and made heavy use of it, presumably as a listening tool.”

As a result of this evidence, CBS reportedly hires its own expert to examine her computer. This expert finds “a massive amount of suspicious activity in the computer, including the removal of all kinds of log messages.”

Now fast forward to September, 2013.

As White House officials pressure CBS News executives over Attkisson’s Benghazi reporting, something goes haywire with her computer. “That very night, with [White House spokesman Eric] Schultz, [White House Press Secretary Jay] Carney and company freshly steaming over my Benghazi reporting, I’m home doing final research and crafting questions for the next day’s interview with [Thomas] Pickering. Suddenly data in my computer file begins wiping at hyperspeed before my very eyes. Deleted line by line in a split second: it’s gone, gone, gone.” Attkisson grabbed her iPhone to record the madness.

Don Allison, a security specialist at Kore Logic, takes a close look at Attkisson’s iMac. The results turn up scandalous, as Attkisson writes: “While a great deal of data has been expertly wiped in an attempt to cover-up the deed, Don is able to find remnants of what was once there. There’s key evidence of a government computer connection to my computer. A sort of backdoor link that leads to an ISP address for a government computer that can’t be accessed by the general public on the Web. It’s an undeniable link to the U.S. government.”

The expert explains to Attkisson: “This ISP address is better evidence of the government being in your computer than the government had when it accused China of hacking into computers in the U.S.”

If true, the story is pretty remarkable, but the most chilling part is this.

To round out the revelations of “Number One,” he informs Attkisson that he’d found three classified documents deep inside her operating system, such that she’d never know they were even there. “Why? To frame me?” Attkisson asks in the book.

Planting evidence? Yikes. Very scary.

The oddities are not limited to Attkisson’s computer. There’s also a mysterious cable attached to the outside of her house.

Phone, TV and computer service chez Attkisson all run on Verizon’s FiOS service. “Jeff” asks to inspect the exterior of the house in a check for anything suspicious. He finds a “stray cable dangling from the FiOS box attached to the brick wall on the outside of my house. It doesn’t belong.” “Jeff” says the cable in question is an “extra” fiber-optic line that could be used to download data and then send it off to another spot.

Attkisson takes a picture of the cable. Then she calls Verizon, which tells her that it’s not something they would have installed; they refer her to law enforcement. Attkisson doesn’t feel its [sic] a matter for the cops, and in any case Verizon calls back to say that they want to have a look for themselves as soon as possible — on New Year’s Day, no less. “Yeah, that shouldn’t be there,” the Verizon technician tells Attkisson.

The technician removes the cable and prepares to take it with him. Attkisson stops him and instructs him to leave it; he “seems hesitant but puts down the cable on top of the air-conditioning fan next to us.”

Days later, on her commute to work, Attkisson remembers that cable on top of the fan and calls her husband to go out and collect it. “It’s gone,” reports the husband.

Now maybe there’s no sinister government activity here and Attkisson is merely embellishing the story in order to sell books. But on the other hand there are numerous witnesses to events–at least three independent computer security experts, the Verizon technician, and others. A thorough investigation should be able to refute or verify Attkisson’s allegations. And those allegations are serious enough to warrant an investigation by Congress and high-profile coverage from the major media. As a country, we need to get to the bottom of this.

The United States fought and won a protracted Cold War struggle against Soviet tyranny so that people would not be subjected to arbitrary surveillance by the state. Let’s hope we have not won the war only to lose the peace.

Here is Attkisson’s iPhone video of her laptop being hacked in real time.

 

Taxi Association President Compares UberX To ISIS Terrorists

Via the Business Insider:

It’s not often you hear ride-sharing compared to a terrorist group.

But that’s exactly what happened at a Philadelphia Parking Authority board meeting on Tuesday when President of the Pennsylvania Taxi Association Alex Friedman had some choice words about their competitor.

“I try to equate this illegal operation of UberX as a terroristic act like ISIS invading the Middle East,” said Friedman. “It is exactly the same menace.”

Free market competition vs. Islamic Caliphate? It seems like a stretch, but then again, if anyone knows about the effective use of terror tactics it’s a union rep.

Schilling, three others, reach proposed settlement in federal bankruptcy of 38 Studios

Here is the sad story from the Providence Journal:

WILMINGTON, Del. –  Curt Schilling and three other former executives of 38 Studios have reached a proposed financial settlement in the federal bankruptcy case of the defunct Providence videogame company.

The lawyer handling the 38 Studios’ bankruptcy case in Delaware has agreed to accept $300,000, in total, from the insurance company that covered the quartet of 38 Studios’ executives to settle financial claims against them, according to federal court documents

The proposed payment falls far short of millions of dollars Rhode Island taxpayers would pay if the state honors the bonds sold to back the company’s short-lived operation in Providence.

The deal, if approved by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Wilmington, Del., is the latest move by Jeoffrey L. Burtch to collect money to pay the bills left behind by 38 Studios.

When 38 Studios filed for federal bankruptcy in Delaware in June 2012, court filings showed that it owed $150 million and had just $21 million in assets — including $12.7 million then held in reserve by Rhode Island in public bond proceeds.

The largest creditor is the State of Rhode Island. Taxpayers were put on the hook for $115.9 million in principal, interest and fees stemming from a $75-million loan guarantee for 38 Studios arranged by the R.I. Economic Development Corporation.

This, once again, goes to show that crony capitalism doesn’t pay.  Sadly, states are too quick to lend money to upstart businesses in the hopes of gaining jobs (and votes) for the local economy. In most cases, the money the state gives away in grants or tax relief is never recouped and the taxpayers end up on the hook.  As for Schilling; our advice to former jocks is to protect their money by keeping it under the mattress or invested in CD’s.

50 Years Ago Today

Ronald Reagan, in the closing days of the 1964 election campaign, delivered one of the greatest political speeches in human history. Entitled “A Time for Choosing,” the speech is remembered as much more than just a political endorsement of Barry Goldwater; the speech remains a timeless classic and ringing defense of human liberty. Reagan’s themes are indeed eternal–the need to defend human liberty and human dignity from external threats as well as from the domestic threat posed by ever-expanding and encroaching government.

Reagan wrote the speech himself, and although his themes still seem remarkably fresh and relevant, in terms of style and content the speech appears to come from another world, like a lost and ancient civilization. The speech achieves a level of literacy and of moral seriousness unlike anything we hear in political speeches today.

Millenials–watch this speech and see for the first time that a political speech can consist of more than just phony promises and smarmy, semi-literate pandering to the base material and tribalistic motives of a venal and degraded people.

Now, it doesn’t require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed to the—or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.

[...]

This idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people is still the newest and most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relationship to man. This is the issue of this election. Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told increasingly we have to chose between a left or a right. I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or a right. There’s only an up or down. Man’s age old dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security, have embarked on this downward course.

 

Law Lets I.R.S. Seize Accounts on Suspicion, No Crime Required

No, we are not making this up.  Here is a New York Times story showing that the I.R.S., although seemingly hapless in retrieving computer files, is really good at extortion:

ARNOLDS PARK, Iowa — For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.

The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.

“How can this happen?” Ms. Hinders said in a recent interview. “Who takes your money before they prove that you’ve done anything wrong with it?”

The federal government does.

Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up.

Government’s War on Cheese Dovetails with its War on Jobs

We’ve been following closely the federal government’s ongoing War on Cheese. See here and here. The casualties in that war now include 50 people in Iowa who have lost their jobs. They worked at a cheese factory, a fixture of the community for nearly 70 years, that has been forced to shut down due to burdensome government regulations.034

The cheese factory near Kalona will no longer produce its well-known “squeaky” fresh cheese curds. Officials announced Thursday Twin County Dairy Inc. — also known as the Kalona Cheese Factory — has closed its production facility.

[...]

“From advanced food safety and quality assurance requirements to more stringent environmental regulations that would require substantial capital investment,” said Gary Weihs, president of Proliant Dairy Ingredients, in a news release. “As a result of the changing environment, we have decided to close the Kalona facility. This is a difficult decision and we will continue to explore other opportunities for the facility.”

The facility employed 50 people. Impacted [sic] employees will receive compensation, severance pay and job placement assistance, the release said.

[...]

A group of Amish and Mennonite farmers established the operation as co-op in 1946, according to the website. The farmers hired Swiss immigrant John Roetlin, Sr. to run the factory, which opened in 1947.

When Kathy Scheuerman first heard the factory might close, her heart sank. The Iowa City resident has long family connection to the facility where her grandmother, mother and sister worked. The 62-year-old remembers as a child visiting her grandma and watching her slice up cheese at the factory.

The Kalona factory processed more than 1.2 million pounds of milk per day to make white cheddar cheese, according to Proliant’s website.

When news of the factory’s demise spread, devoted fans flocked to social media to express their sadness. Iowa City resident Katy Brown created a “Save the Kalona Cheese Factory” Facebook page in solidarity. The page had more than 2,000 likes by Thursday afternoon. Posts promoted the hashtag: “Save the Squeak.”

“I’m so sad about this,” said one Facebook commenter. “I’m seriously going to cry. These curds have been present at very single family get together that I can remember.”

The cheese factory and store wasn’t just a business but a fixture in the community and a unique attraction, Scheuerman said. The factory’s location along Highway 1 meant travelers — both regulars and new visitors — could hop out of their car and grab some cheese.

“It was an integral part of the Kalona community,” she said.

Goodness only knows how many jobs are lost, or never created in the first place, all across America, due to burdensome taxes and regulations. And then the people who promulgate the job-destroying laws–bureaucrats and politicians who face no bottom line and have no idea how hard it is to run a business–have the audacity to claim that, by spending other peoples’ money, they create jobs. Adding insult to injury, they even deny (see the post below) that private businesses create jobs.

In truth, private businesses are the source of nearly all meaningful and productive jobs, and in order to create those jobs, businesses must overcome significant hurdles placed in their way by arrogant bureaucrats and politicians.

Private business is the productive sector. Government is the obstructive sector.

Fitzgerald and Football

Kevin Helliker writes a fascinating article in the WSJ about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s lifelong devotion to Princeton football.  Although I don’t buy into the idea that Fitzgerald was responsible for the adaption of “two-platoon” college football, the entire piece is beautifully written and, rather eerily, tends to bring you back in time.  For those who don’t have full access this is how it starts:

You don’t need to know about the literary backdrop of Princeton University football to take an interest in Saturday’s game against Harvard. For two years running this storied rivalry has produced thrillers that came down to the final seconds—last year in triple overtime. At stake once again is the Ivy League title.

It’s safe to say that this weekend’s game would have mattered a lot to F. Scott Fitzgerald. As a prep-school student in the stands for the 1911 installment of the rivalry, Fitzgerald watched Princeton pull off an improbable late victory. At that instant, his biographers say, he vowed to enroll at Princeton. Once there, he tried out for the team—but got cut on the first day, a well-chronicled disappointment that some scholars believe explains the sense of rejection that permeates his novels, especially “The Great Gatsby.”

Government Incompetence Invalidates Progressive Vision

The progressive vision, dominant among our society’s elites for more than 100 years now, is that we can empower experts within government to make rules and to direct resources in order to solve all our social problems. A major flaw with this view is that people who find their way to the top levels of government are usually not very competent at solving problems. Their primary area of competence is practicing the type of politics necessary to secure for themselves those top government jobs.

Take the current head of the CDC, Dr. Thomas Frieden. He may be perfectly well qualified on paper, but his performance in government, particularly during the recent Ebola crisis, does not inspire confidence. On this score, much can be said, and Steven Malanga provides a useful summary at City Journal.

[U]nder Frieden’s leadership, the CDC has underestimated the Ebola virus’s ability to infect those who come in contact with it and ineffectively communicated to health-care workers the proper protocols for dealing with sick patients. The agency told Amber Vinson, a Dallas nurse who had cared for Ebola patient Thomas Duncan, that it was okay to board a plane with a low-grade fever; Frieden later said that Vinson, who is now being treated for Ebola, never should have done so. When President Obama told Africans in a video message that they couldn’t get Ebola from sitting next to someone on a bus, Frieden was asked to clarify. His response only confused matters further: “If you’re a member of the traveling public and are healthy, should you be worried that you might have gotten it by sitting next to someone? And the answer is no. Second, if you are sick and you may have Ebola, should you get on a bus? And the answer to that is also no. You might become ill, you might have a problem that exposes someone around you.”

So, no possibility of catching Ebola by sitting next to someone on a bus. But if you have Ebola, don’t get on a bus, because you might infect someone. Got that?

Apparently, a lot of the American people have noticed, like us, that Frieden does not inspire confidence.

In May, a Gallup poll found that 60 percent of Americans thought that the CDC was doing an “excellent/good” job — making it the highest-rated agency — above the FBI, NASA and the CIA.

That was back in May. A separate CBS poll taken in the midst of the Ebola crisis found that the percentage giving the CDC a rating of good or excellent had fallen to only 37.

This reminds us of how, before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, polls showed that FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers got high marks from the public. Then the hurricane revealed both agencies to be less than competent. Government agencies are generally well regarded until they actually have to do their jobs, at which point their ineptitude is exposed.

But getting back to Frieden, his own shortcomings did not start with Ebola, but were already in evidence during the 2009 outbreak of swine flu. At that time, Frieden was health commissioner for New York City.

The situation quickly spun out of control. The city kept open schools where students had contracted the swine flu, and it spread rapidly among kids and staff. One victim, a 55-year-old assistant principal at a hard-hit Queens school, slipped into critical condition and died in mid-May. The victim’s wife criticized the city for underestimating the severity of the outbreak, and some of the school’s staffers told the press that they had pushed the city to close it for a week. But “nobody listened. We had kids dropping like flies,” a school official told the New York Post. Even the Times weighted in with the troubling headline, NO GUIDANCE ON HOW TO REIN IN THE FLU. City officials defended their decisions, saying that they had deferred to the CDC’s guidelines on when to close a school after an outbreak, but Mayor Bloomberg told the Times, “There’s no right answer.” In an accompanying story, the Times said that the outbreak tested “Bloomberg’s political skills” but said nothing about the role of the point man on the issue, the health commissioner it had so effusively praised a few weeks earlier. The city eventually estimated that somewhere between 750,000 and 1 million New Yorkers caught the swine flu; 54 people died from it.

NO GUIDANCE ON HOW TO REIN IN THE FLU. As health commissioner, that responsibility was Dr. Frieden’s.

Notice, however, that Frieden’s failure in New York did not stop President Obama from promoting him to head of the CDC. Frieden failed upwards.

In government, incompetence is never an impediment to advancement. The only impediments are insufficient political connections or holding the wrong political views.